Why Are Female Ancestors Hard To Find?
For many families, it seems that finding information about your female ancestors is more complicated than finding information on your male ancestors – why is that?
For the most part, it’s because your female ancestors often take on their husbands’ last names when they get married. Most records before the 20th century were for men; this makes finding out your lineage harder because you have to do a bit of extra detective work for your female ancestors.
Why Should We Want To Find Out More About Our Female Ancestors?
For one, it’s important to know more about your family’s history as it can give you a greater sense of your identity and your lineage. Women in the past were usually erased in history, as you can rarely find a woman’s name in historical records, so finding a female ancestor is already an important achievement.
Searching for your female ancestors can also lead you to connecting with people who you didn’t know are living relatives, distant they may be.
What Information Can We Get When We Search For Our Female Ancestors?
You can unearth a lot of things from your past such as cultures and communities you didn’t know your ancestors were a part of. When going through records such as newspapers and obituaries, you may even find your ancestors accomplishments and contributions to their community.
Looking for your female ancestors may also help you uncover medical information such as a genetic predisposition to a certain disease or trait.
How Can I Search My Female Ancestors?
Going through your lineage is the first step in finding your female ancestors. Looking at your family tree and family history is a good place to start, as you can directly see the relations and connections each family member had. If you want to be more in-depth, you can use DNA genetic testing services to find out your lineage.
Where Can I Find My Female Ancestors?
Websites You Can Use
Websites such as Ancestry, Trace, and FamilySearch are good options if you want to know who you’re related to. These websites normally house birth and death records, while some may even have more obscure ones such as divorce records, so these websites are a good place to start.
If you want to be more thorough with your search, using a DNA testing service such as 23andMe can be of great help. This type of service not only tells you information about your ancestry but also provides a relatives pool so you can hopefully connect with people who share similar DNA, who might be your relatives.
What Are Some Strategies In Searching For My Female Ancestors?
Search For Maiden Names
Though your female ancestors may have taken on their husbands’ names in records, seeking out their maiden names in marriage records and the like is a good way to spread out your search. It may even help you in finding distant relatives such as a distant cousin, aunt, or grandmother.
If you have some old family photographs, you can comb through them to search for maiden names or initials that you can ask your relatives about. You can also check the records of their children for any clues, as there might be a possibility that the children’s middle names were their mothers’ maiden name.
Look Into Your Male Ancestors
Another way of tracing your female ancestors is to search for your male ancestors first. By searching for your male ancestors, you may find a wife, sister, mother, or relative of theirs that you can trace back to your family history. Looking at marriage records can help you find more female relatives, as marriage in the past united not just the husband and the wife, but their two families as well.
Look In Other Records
You can indirectly look for a female ancestor in the records of her husband, children, or siblings, as they may label her a guardian or an heir. You should also search in census records, as well – census records may be tedious to look through, but you may just happen to find a name that can be traced to your ancestry. Though not always available, census records can provide:
- Age when the census was taken
- Place of birth
- Names of parents
The best way to look through census records is by checking the latest census available and going backward. The more you comb through them, the more chance you can find female ancestors from earlier generations.
Look Into Your History And Culture
By taking note of the history of your community, you may find information such as immigration patterns or instances of relocation which can help you in tracing your ancestry.
Perhaps your ancestors may have gone by their cultural or old-world name rather than the more ‘common’ name or spelling found in newspapers or records. If you have ancestors who are immigrants, then perhaps they changed their name to appear more common or to assimilate, so it’s important to acknowledge your family’s culture when tracing your lineage.
Looking at obituaries and even cemetery records can aid you in looking for your ancestors. Be sure to check all the obituaries that were written for a deceased loved one, as the information these obituaries provide varies. One may include your ancestor’s maiden name, while another may include her siblings. This information can give you more clues into tracing your female ancestor and expanding your search.
Gravestones and cemetery records, though unusual, can also provide some information such as the year they were born, the year they died, and the last location where they lived. Families usually were also buried near each other, so be sure to check the records of who was buried in the cemetery you visited.
Check Your Female Ancestor’s Associates
While these people aren’t directly a part of your family tree, they may provide context on who your female ancestor was and the life she lived. If your female ancestor was an immigrant, you can also look into who the witnesses were in her naturalization, as they might be a relative or a family friend. Looking into wills or inheritance testimonies may also be a chance to find any lost siblings or children.