Women are from Venus: Practical Strategies for Research

Finding the Maiden Name of your female ancestors is challenging at best. All too often the records list the woman by only her first name. Sometimes she is known as “Mrs. Walter Johnson,” though she certainly had individual influence on her posterity. With only a given name “Mary” it is impossible to find a woman’s parents. Birth or christening records that may also list the names of her parents. Census records are no help, unless it happens her mother is residing in the household with her daughter. Let us hope a widowed mother hadn’t remarried with a different surname.

WHY? Perhaps this is a hold-over from the days when women didn’t have the legal rights men enjoyed. Women couldn’t even vote until the 20th century. Christina K. Schaefer explains in The Hidden Half of the Family (1999, reprinted 2003. www.genealogical.com ), some idiosyncrasies of the law affecting women:
• In 1660, Connecticut required all married men to live with their wives.
• In 1895, in 14 of 46 states, a wife's wages still belonged to her husband.
• In 1895, Louisiana prohibited the defendant in a divorce from ever remarrying.
• In 37 states a married women had no legal right over her children. • In 1932, The National Recovery Act limited the number of federal workers in a family to one, causing many women to lose their jobs.
• In 1924, one state had a law that allowed a father to will a child away from the mother, whether that child was born yet or not.
Remember that typically prior to 1900, if a man died, his children were considered “orphans” and the court had to approve a legal guardian, even though the mother was clearly present. She just was not considered “capable” under the law.

There are two useful strategies for finding female ancestors:
1. Following the paper trail.
2. Studying the social history of the time period and locality

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This is the recording for the Top of the World Genealogy group in Florida held 20 Sept 2021.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
Your friend in genealogy.
Twitter: @DearMYRTLE
Second Life: Clarise Beaumont
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