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Maiden and married names

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Maiden and married names

A married name is a family name or surname adopted by a person upon marriage.

When a person (in many cultures, traditionally, the wife) assumes the family name of his or her spouse. That name replaces the person's birth name, which in the case of the wife is sometimes called the maiden name. "Birth name" is also used as a gender-neutral or masculine substitute for "maiden name."

In some jurisdictions, changing one's name requires a legal procedure; however, in some, anyone who either marries or divorces may change his or her name. Due to increasing security and identification needs, even where it is legal, the common law method is rarely accepted any more except at marriage (especially for women). Traditionally, in the Anglophone West, only women do so, but in rare instances men may change their last names upon marriage as well.[1] In the United States, only eight states have an official name change for a man as part of their marriage process, others may petition a court, or, where not prohibited, use the common law method (though sometimes not recognized by government agencies for men). Due to the widespread practice of women changing their names at marriage, they encounter little difficulty using the common law method at marriage in those jurisdictions that permit it.[1][2]


  • Customs relating to maiden names in marriages 1
    • Canada 1.1
    • English-speaking world 1.2
      • Use husband's family name 1.2.1
      • Retaining the maiden name 1.2.2
      • Join both names 1.2.3
      • Name blending 1.2.4
      • Children 1.2.5
      • Birth name as middle name 1.2.6
      • Use as security question 1.2.7
    • France 1.3
    • Germany 1.4
    • Greece 1.5
    • Italy 1.6
    • Netherlands 1.7
    • Spanish-speaking world 1.8
    • Thailand 1.9
    • Eastern Asia 1.10
  • Legal status of name changes at marriage 2
  • Feminism and preserving one's personal name 3
  • Genealogy 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Customs relating to maiden names in marriages

In the remainder of this article, birth name, family name, surname, married name and maiden name refer to patrilineal surnames unless explicitly described as referring to matrilineal surnames.


In most of Canada, either gender may informally assume their spouse's surname after marriage, as long as it isn't for the purposes of fraud. The same is true for people in common-law relationships, in some provinces. This is not considered a legal name change.[3] For federal purposes, such as a Canadian passport, Canadians may also assume their partner's surname if they are in a common-law relationship.[4] In the province of British Columbia, people have to undergo a legal name change if they want to use a combined surname after marriage.[5] Their marriage certificate is considered proof of their new name.[6][7]

In Quebec, however, the custom until 1981 was similar to that in France. Women would traditionally go by their husbands' surname in daily life, but their maiden name remained their legal name.[8] Since the passage of a 1981 provincial law, intended to promote gender equality as outlined in the Quebec Charter of Rights, no change may be made to a person's name without the authorization of the registrar of civil status or the authorization of the court. Newlyweds who wish to change their names upon marriage must therefore go through the same procedure as those changing their names for other reasons. The registrar of civil status may authorize a name change if: 1) the name the person generally uses does not correspond to the name on their birth certificate, 2) where the name is of foreign origin or too difficult to pronounce or write in its original form, or 3) where the name invites ridicule or has become infamous.[9] This law does not allow a woman to immediately legally change her name upon marriage, as marriage is not listed among the reasons for a name change.[10]

English-speaking world

Use husband's family name

Historically, a woman in England would assume her new husband's family name (or surname) after marriage, and this remains common practice in the United Kingdom today as well as in common law countries and countries where English is spoken, including Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Gibraltar, Falkland Islands, Ireland, India, Philippines, the English-speaking provinces of Canada, and the United States. In Massachusetts, for instance, a Harvard study found approximately 87% of married college educated women take their husbands' name, down from a peak before 1975 of over 90% but up from about 80% in 1990. The same study found women with a college degree were "two to four times (depending on age) more likely to retain their surname" relative to those without a college degree.[11]

In the lowlands of Scotland in the 16th century, married women kept their maiden names, but today the practice of changing to the husband's family name is the norm.[12]

Usually, the children of these marriages are given their father's surname. Some families have a custom of using the mother's maiden name as a middle name for one of the children—Franklin Delano Roosevelt received his middle name in this way.[13]

Retaining the maiden name

Persons who keep their own surname after marriage do so for a number of reasons. Objection to the inequality of the tradition is one major reason.[14]

For many, the decision whether to keep or change their maiden name is a difficult one.[15] This process is expedited for newly married persons in that their marriage certificate, in combination with identification using their married name, is usually accepted as evidence of the change, due to the widespread custom, but the process still requires approaching every contact who uses the old name and asking them to use the new. Unless the statutes where the marriage occurred specify that a name change may occur at marriage (in which case the marriage certificate indicates the new name), the courts have officially recognized that such a change is a result of the common law right of a person (man, woman, and sometimes child) to change their name. Men, however, encounter more difficulties in changing their last names.[16] There were some early cases which held that under the common law, a woman was required (in the U.S.) to take her husband's name,[17] but newer cases overturned those.[18]

The American suffragist and abolitionist Lucy Stone (1818–1893), made a national issue of the right to keep one's own surname as part of her efforts for women's rights in the U.S. Because of her, women who choose not to use their husbands' surnames have been called "Lucy Stoners".[19]

Join both names

It is uncommon for women, especially in the U.S. and Canada, to combine their spouse's name with their own birth name.[1]

Name blending

Although less common than name joining, a growing trend is the blending of two surnames upon marriage.[20] An example is Dawn O'Porter who blended her husband's surname with her own.


In the United States, some states or areas have laws that restrict what surname a child may have. For example, Tennessee allows a child to be given a surname that does not include that of the father only upon "the concurrent submission of a sworn application to that effect signed by both parents."[21]

Birth name as middle name

An example is Hillary Rodham Clinton.[22]

Use as security question

One's mother's maiden name has been a common security question in American banking since at least the 1980s.[23]


Since the 1789 Revolution, the law stipulates that "no one may use another name than that given on his birth certificate".[24]

From 4 March 2002 to 4 December 2009, children given both parents' names had to have them separated by a double dash (ex: Dupont--Clairemont). On 4 December 2009, the Conseil d'État ruled that a space can be used instead of the double dash. As a result, forms asking for the family name ("nom de famille") does it on 2 lines ("1ère partie: ..... ", "2e partie....")[25]


In Germany, the name law has been ruled by sexual equality since 1994: a woman may adopt her husband's surname or a man may adopt his wife's surname. One of them may use a name combined from both surnames. The remaining single name is the "family name" (Ehename), which will be the surname of the children. If a man and woman decide to keep and use their birth names after the wedding (no combined name), they have to declare one of those names the "family name". A combined name is not possible as a family name, but, since 2005, it has been possible to have a double name as a family name if one already had a double name, and the partner adopts that name. Double names then must be hyphenated. All family members must use that double name.[26][27]


Since 1983, when Greece adopted a new marriage law which guaranteed gender equality between the spouses,[28] women in Greece are required to keep their birth names for their whole life.[29]


Spouses keep their original surnames. According to the Italian Civil Code (article 143 bis), a woman who marries keeps her surname and has the option of adding her husband's surname after hers. Non Italian Citizens getting married in Italy will not have their surname changed in Italy, brides or grooms can request for their surname change in their home country though.[30]


In the Netherlands, persons who have been married in the Netherlands or entered into a registered partnership will remain registered under their birth name. They are, however, permitted to use their partner's last name for social purposes or join both names. Upon marriage or registered partnership, one may also indicate how they would like to be addressed through the registration of their choice in the Municipal Basis Administration (Gemeentelijke Basis Administratie) (although their birth name does not change). One may choose to be called by one's own name, one's partner's name, one's own name followed by one's partner's name (hyphenated) or one's partner's name followed by their own name (hyphenated). Both men and women may make this choice upon registering to get married or entering into a registered partnership. Upon the end of the marriage or registered partnership, one person may continue to use their ex-partner's last surname unless the ex-partner disagrees and requests the court to forbid the use of the ex-partner's surname.[31]

Prior to the birth or adoption of a first child, married parents may choose by which surname the child will go (mother's or father's but not both). If no choice is made, the child automatically obtains the father's surname. Any further children will also go by this name. If the parents of the child are not married, the children will automatically obtain their mother's name unless otherwise indicated.[32]

Spanish-speaking world

Any children a couple have together take both surnames, so if the couple above had two children named "Andrés" and "Ana", then their names would be "Andrés Gómez Reyes" and "Ana Gómez Reyes". In Spain, a 1995 reform in the law allows the parents to choose whether the father's or the mother's surname goes first, although this order must be the same for all their children. For instance, the name of the son of the couple in the example above could be settled whether "Andrés Gómez Reyes" or "Andrés Reyes Gómez".[33]


A Thai wife that adopted her husband's surname due to the old law requiring it, can also change back to use her original surname.[34]

Eastern Asia

In China Mainland,North Korea and Vietnam since early in 1950s,every married Women in China Mainland or North Korea or Vietnam had no choice only must keep their father's family name after get married for the propaganda of gender equality forCommunism .Otherwise it will not be a legal marriage.[35] For example Kim Jeong-eun's wife is Ri Sol Ju,her family name is Ri.Kim Jeong-eun's mother is Ko Young-hee,her family name is Ko.By the influence of neighbors,in Taiwan(Chinese Taipei) and South Korea,Women were also most keep their father's family names after get married.The Japan government does not recognize the married couples who has a different surnames' marriage as legal marriage.Every Japanese married couples must have a common family name.[36]

Legal status of name changes at marriage

In 2007, Michael Buday and Diana Bijon enlisted the Hawaii, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York and North Dakota explicitly allow a man to change his name through marriage with the same ease as a woman. As a result of the lawsuit, a California state lawmaker introduced a bill to put a space on the marriage license for either spouse to change names.[16]

Feminism and preserving one's personal name

Jane Grant, of the United States, wrote in 1943 of her efforts to keep her name despite her marriage, as well as other women's experiences with military service, passports, voting, and business. She and others formed the Lucy Stone League, named for Lucy Stone, who had earlier won her fight to keep her name. "We [in the League] . . . made ourselves generally troublesome", with legal cases, mass meetings, signing into hotels openly, and going to Washington, D.C.[38]


Genealogists often also make note of all surnames used by a person during his or her lifetime (such as those acquired from birth parents, those assigned at birth when the father is unknown or not acknowledged, those acquired at marriage, and those acquired at a remarriage). For example, an illegitimate male child abandoned at birth in Italy or in other European countries will receive no surname from either of his birth parents but, instead, will be assigned a surname—often invented from one of the three kingdoms of nature, e.g., mineral ("Pietra"), vegetable ("Rosa") or animal ("Leoni"), or otherwise according to custom within a locality, such as "Esposito" (meaning "abandoned") or "Casa Grande" (referring to the "Domo Magna," e.g., the ospizio [hospital] where abandoned).[39]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "More men taking wives' last names".  
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Gleanings from the mails; Maiden names. How an old Québec law annoys married women, lawyers, and tax-collectors, from the Montreal Witness, reprinted by The New York Times, 10 August 1880. Retrieved 1 April 2008.
  9. ^ Civil Code of Québec, 14 March 2008. Retrieved 3 April 2008.
  10. ^ Québec newlywed furious she can't take her husband's name, by Marianne White, CanWest News Service, 8 August 2007. Retrieved 1 April 2008.
  11. ^ Making a Name: Women's Surnames at Marriage and Beyond by Claudia Goldin and Maria Shim, Journal of Economic Perspectives.
  12. ^ Krossa, Sharon L. "Early 16th Century Scottish Lowland Names". Retrieved 29 July 2010. 
  13. ^ Burns, James MacGregor (1956). 'Roosevelt' (vol. 1). Easton Press.  
  14. ^ Spender, Dale. Man-Made Language (1980), pp 24-25 of 1985 2nd Ed.
  15. ^ The Maiden Name Change Debate
  16. ^ a b "Man files lawsuit to take wife's name". Archived from the original on 2007-01-14. 
  17. ^ Stannard, Una (1977). Mrs Man. GermainBooks, San Francisco. ISBN 0-914142-02-X, pp. 239-277.
  18. ^ Stannard, Una (1977). Mrs Man. GermainBooks, San Francisco. ISBN 0-914142-02-X, pp. 277-282.
  19. ^ Roiphe, Katie (24 March 2004). "The Maiden Name Debate". Slate. 
  20. ^ Emma Barnett, "Couples fuse surnames in new trend: ‘I now pronounce you Mr and Mrs Puffin’", The Telegraph (9 November 2012).
  21. ^ Tennessee State Code. Title 68. Chapter 3. Part 3. 68-3-305. Father's name on birth certificate. -Surname of child.
  22. ^ Hillary Drops Her Maiden Name, The Brisbane Times, 30 April 2007. Retrieved 31 August 2008.
  23. ^ Levin, Josh (2008-01-30). "In What City Did You Honeymoon? And other monstrously stupid bank security questions". Slate. 
  24. ^ "Une femme mariée est-elle obligée de remplacer son nom de jeune fille par le nom de son mari à la suite de son mariage ? -". 2010-01-06. Retrieved 29 July 2010. 
  25. ^
  26. ^ BGB - Einzelnorm( article in German)
  27. ^ Doppelname als Familienname(article in German)
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^ "Name change by effect of a marriage in Italy". wedding in Italy. Retrieved 6 March 2013. 
  31. ^ "Wanneer mag ik de achternaam van mijn partner gebruiken?". 2010-06-01. Retrieved 29 July 2010. 
  32. ^ "De keuze van de achternaam". 2009-06-24. Retrieved 29 July 2010. 
  33. ^ - Civil Register LawArt. 55 Ley de Registro Civil (article in Spanish)
  34. ^ Royal Thai Consulate-General,  
  35. ^ Marriage law of People's Republic of China. (article in Chinese)
  36. ^ The debates for legalization of no common family name marriage in Japan. (article in Japanese)
  37. ^ ABC News: ABC News
  38. ^ Grant, Jane, Confession of a Feminist, in The American Mercury, vol. LVII, no. 240, Dec., 1943 (microfilm), pp. 684–691, esp. pp. 687–688 (quoting p. 687).
  39. ^ See David I. Kertzer, Sacrificed for Honor: Italian Infant Abandonment and the Politics of Reproductive Control (Boston: Beacon Press, 1993), at pp. 55-56, 113-122.

External links

  • Why should women change their names on getting married?-a history of name changing upon marriage in the UK and in the US
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