Monday, March 28, 2022

6 Tips to Researching our Female Ancestors

The Missouri Republican, St. Louis, MO,25 Aug 1873, Page 1


The Women Who Paved the Roads

As we close Women’s History Month, the one month we celebrate one half (or more) of the population, I hope that you had a chance to research your female ancestors that paved the roads for us. Were they housewives and mothers, were they teachers or schoolmarms, were they wet nurses or midwives, were they the maids, the slaves, the cooks? Did they attend suffrage movements, civil rights movements? Were the abolitionists, prohibitionists, or fighting for unwed mothers? Our female ancestors influenced change. When I felt disempowered at work or at home, my mother would proclaim “the woman was the neck, that turned the head.” 

When looking for women ancestors, though, it can be challenging. The majority changed their name, their identity, with marriage. But remember all did not! Was your female ancestor one of the stage performers that held their maiden name? 

There are other tricks to looking up your female ancestor

  1.  Women Organizations. 

 The National Association of Colored Women’s Club, Inc.
founded Washington, D.C. in July 1896

 These groups may have been for ethnic socializing, divided by class, or designed to promote “worldliness” like an education curriculum for women on par with men. They were for women to vent, mingle, chart out their children’s social circle, and to influence politics often through their husbands.

2.  Local community and political activities.
Be sure to plot out your female’s ancestor’s timeframe, along with community and political issues. It’s overwhelming how many groups of women met in “secret” to fight for their agenda. These groups may have been for an ethnic group, divided by class, promoting “worldliness” like an education curriculum for women on par with men.

 3. Women School Records.

The Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Mississippi) 7 Jul 1870, pg.1

Men didn’t seem to bulk at women reading the Bible and taking darning and sewing classes.  But often the line was drawn at philosophical, the maths, and “brainy knowledge.” Although 1800 education was seen as a way of making women better wives and mothers, there were some progressives that moved the educational rod to encourage education for women to be transformative. I’m a proud alumna of Stephens College, 1333, Columbia MO, a women’s college. By the way, they have an amazing archive filled with history. During the WWII, they housed and educated orphan teenagers from across the nation - children of war veterans. 

4. Church Minutes / Records. 

Have you read these gossip-filled accounts of the congregants?  Oh my…we have found records from Quakers, the women, who held important positions in conducting the Underground Railroad, to the public shaming of those in infidelity in the German churches of Missouri. Contrary to common belief, these records are not just filled with sacraments dates.   

5.  Immigrant Societies. 

Women were activists.  They helped with the immigrant societies. This was not just in port cities, but inland also. They were active in the Volga – Germans, Irish, German, Italian, etc. communities.  Again, scour the society books for familiar names. Review newspaper articles on the local immigrant societies. Discover which roles the women played. They were like matchmakers of old.  They connected wives and children to housing. They were thanked for holiday meals and performances. They fought for the poor and monished “the wicked!”

6.  Delayed birth records of the community

         

At a brick wall, try reviewing early birth records, especially delayed birth records of the community. We have uncovered over a half dozen female ancestors for clients as they were midwives.  Yes, you have to conduct the research, but if Louise was her name, research the Louise midwives on birth records and delayed birth records. On delayed birth records, they come with affidavits that may assist in identifying your “Louise.”  

    Be Historically Correct
Kathleen Brandt
a3genealogy.com
Accurate Accessible Answers
a3genealogy@gmail.com

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