Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Female Ancestors... Elusive... Mysterious... Unknown... And it's time to change that

4 Unknown Female Ancestors
Female ancestors... we have just as many of them, as we do male ancestors... but I bet you know less about these women! Well, you are not alone -- I, like many (or perhaps most?) researchers face this same dilemma. Not only is it unfair to the legacy of women known only as 'Mrs. John Smith' or 'Ann, wife of John Smith', it leaves a huge void in our research! Each female ancestor (herein referred to as 'FA') brings with her a new family name of her own and a connection to yet another, via her mother, and we can only imagine what great things these potential additions to our pedigrees could have to offer.
Female research 'Bible'
by a genius in our field!

I won't bore you with endless 'hints' and 'tips' on how to research for our FAs, partly because I don't have any great tricks that haven't been written about at length already - but mostly because the purpose of this article was to remind people of the importance of our female lines and to encourage you not to give up and to keep trying! If what drew you here was the hope of research ideas, I will recommend to you the great book, Discovering Your Female Ancestors written by the equally as great Sharon DeBartolo Carmack! Not only does the great SDC offer up some of the best (if not the best!?) research techniques for FAs -- but she is a gifted writer, who essentially tells a story versus a how-to that feels like stereo system instructions. So please - add this book to your research library -- or Nook  -- or Kindle -- or however you are reading books these days! You'll be happy you did.  And if you've already read this book and are still looking for more ideas... you're on your own and currently in the wrong place to find these ideas... but feel free to read on!

For me, and I doubt I'm alone, the research of FAs gets exceedingly more difficult for those married prior to 1850 -- Why you ask? Well... the 1850 census is the first federal census that lists all members of a household by first name... Luckily for me, every one of my 3x great-grandmothers were single in 1850 and those living in the USA, can be found living with their families.... How handy is that!

The next generation for me is what gets tricky! Of course I still have a hard time even processing the fact that we have 32 pairs of 4x great-grandparents! WOW. Oddly, until this moment I never really figured that out -- I'm also very fortunate (not bragging here, just stating a fact!), that I know the identities (ie- names at least) of all but 8 sets of these grandparents! So that is 24 FAs who were married in 1850 -- which is why I suppose that of those 24 FAs, 13 of them remain a mystery prior to their marriages -- UGH -- my percentages just keep getting lower... but I promise to be done with the numbers now! I'm getting as bored with this math lesson as you are (I've been using scratch paper and counting/recounting my pedigree like mad!).  Essentially, there are many women to research and fewere records in which to find them....

Statue honoring Mary Dyer
Statue honoring Anne Hutchinson
The point I've been working up to (see- aren't you glad that you hung in here) is that if you can plug away through your pedigree and get back to the early days of 'America' or to colonial days --  there are some very amazing women you could potentially lay claim to as ancestors!

I, myself, can claim two early religious reformers - Anne Marbury Hutchinson  & Mary Dyer - both are fascinating historical figures... if you are in the mood for a history lesson, I suggest you google them... and be prepared to be amazed! [And if you are a fellow descendant, please drop me a note.... while probably only distantly connected, we should at least talk!]  

Among other famous FAs, I descend from two 'witches' who were murdered at Salem and, one of my personal favorites, Frances Harvey Beckwith... who apparently still remains here on earth as a ghostly presence... [Please check out this great blog entry for a realy ghost story http://fairweatherlewis.wordpress.com/2010/06/21/the-lovers-of-beckwith-manor/  ]

While the lives and deaths (or in some cases afterlives) of these women are well publicized, they are no less important to my pedigree than the "Mrs John Smith", but they sure add a lot of meat to the genealogy story -- and it's all the impetus I need to try and give Mrs. Smith the identity she earned and so deserves!

If anyone has any great resources or research 'trick' for locating FA data... please share! The same goes for your amazing success stories or famous (or infamous) FAs... or the brick wall that won't crumble....

So I encourage everyone to review those pedigrees -- try some new found resource -- or just repost the same 'help me' query -- make a plan and reach out to other researchers -- in my case, I'm  going to try to blog about one of my FA mysteries on a regular basis, and have already set my sights on a couple of mysteries to solve next -- so join me and together let's try and smash down that Female Ancestor brick wall!


  1. Nicholas,

    I want to let you know that your blog is listed in today's Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2013/04/follow-friday-fab-finds-for-april-25.html

    Have a great weekend!

    1. Thanks, Jana! I really appreciate you reading my blog and sharing it with all of your readers!

      Enjoy your weekend!