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A birth certificate document (legal) asks for mom's maiden name; mom was adopted and never married, and her last name has changed. Which last name is her maiden name? The name before or after the change?

  • What sort of document is this? Generally, I'd only list the old last name if it specifies "birth name"... Is this something legal or just a form for a business or website or something unofficial? – Catija Jun 28 '16 at 19:21
  • ... it's not really as written asking for the legal definition... if this is just for some stupid form at a doctor's office or something like that, it's a matter of simple terminology. – Catija Jun 28 '16 at 20:42
  • @Catija The mother was legally adopted, she took her adopted family's last name. She has never married, so why did her last name change? OK, she went to a deed poll and chose a new last name. Her maiden name is the name she was first registered with. Does she have a birth certificate? We don't know. Her maiden name is the name she was born = registered with. – Mari-Lou A Jun 28 '16 at 21:23
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    This is a canonical example of a question that requires a specification of jurisdiction. – user6726 May 12 '18 at 0:22
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    @user6726 In theory, but in practice the phase "maiden name" is particular to the English language and the vital statistics records of English language speaking jurisdictions are all very similar to each other. – ohwilleke May 12 '18 at 2:19
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I would simply write "N/A". Maiden name is the name a married woman had before she got married so it is not applicable to her.

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    I see what you're saying but I'm thinking that the married name would be N/A, the maiden name would be the same as the current name. – Kristina Lopez Jun 28 '16 at 19:44
  • @KristinaLopez I guess it would depend on what the other fields on the forms were. If the other field was labelled "Married Name" I would go with what you said, but if it said "Last Name" I would go with what I said – Kevin Jun 28 '16 at 19:55
  • Normally the only fields asked about the mother's name is the mother's first name and maiden name. (The same is true on death certificates.) To say "NA" would be to say that you don't know who the mother is, which would be absurd in the case of a birth certificate and would probably cause the hospital or doctor to fill in a different answer editorially without your input. – ohwilleke May 12 '18 at 2:13
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A maiden name is "the name or surname of a woman before taking her husband's surname upon marriage." (OED Online)

In the case of a woman who has never married, any hypothetical marriage and taking of a husband's name would have to be in the future, so the name she legally has now is her "maiden" name.

However, this question is often asked as an informal identity-check, as a fact that only you (and presumably your other family members) are likely to know. For example, it may be used as a password-recovery question, or as a way to identify yourself over the phone when making inquiries about your credit card. In that case, your mother's birth name would presumably be less a part of public record, and a more secure option (that children of unmarried, non-adoptees don't have). Just don't forget that that's the choice you made!

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    The OED Online definition isn't really adequate for a multiple marriage society (not just now either, short life expectancies made multiple marriages common long before divorce was legalized). It should really say "before taking her FIRST husband's surname upon marriage", a concept implicit in the word "maiden" as a divorcee or widow is not a maiden. – ohwilleke May 12 '18 at 2:18
  • For a password recovery question, the "maiden name" is whatevery you entered. Since the real maiden name is something a hacker could find out to get at your password, and it has no legal significance, you should give a random fake name (that you write down) instead. – gnasher729 May 12 '18 at 6:25
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The name after the adoption should be used.

The purpose of including a maiden name on a birth certificate is to allow someone who wants to track the next of kin of a child for genealogy or inheritance purposes to link the mother's name in the child's birth certificate to the birth certificate and marriage certificate (if any) of the mother. (The same question is asked about the person's mother's maiden name on their death certificate.)

Upon adoption, the name of the mother on the birth certificate would have been changed.

So, if the original name of the mother were used, a records search for the mother based upon the name found in the birth certificate wouldn't locate the mother's birth certificate or other vital statistics records (for example, the birth certificates of maternal siblings of the child for whom the birth certificate is prepared).

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