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Invisible Women Ancestors

How to Research the Women in Your Family Tree


Invisible Women Ancestors
The individual identities of women who lived prior to the twentieth century are often very tangled in those of their husbands, both by law and by custom. In many places, women were not allowed to own real estate in their name, to sign legal documents, or to participate in government. Men wrote the histories, paid the taxes, participated in the military and left wills. Men were also the ones whose surname was carried into the next generation by the children. As a result, female ancestors are often neglected in family histories and genealogies—listed with only a first name and approximate dates for birth and death. They are our "invisible ancestors."

This neglect, while understandable, is still inexcusable. Half of all of our ancestors were women. Each female in our family tree provides us with a new surname to research and an entire branch of new ancestors to discover. Women were the ones who bore the children, carried on family traditions, and ran the household. They were teachers, nurses, mothers, wives, neighbors and friends. They deserve to have their stories told - to be more than just a name on a family tree.

"Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors."
-- Abigail Adams, March 1776

So how can you, as a genealogist, locate someone who is "invisible?" Tracing the female side of your family tree can be a bit difficult and frustrating, but is also one of the most rewarding challenges of genealogy research. By following a few basic research methods, with an added measure of patience and creativity, you'll soon be learning about all of the women who passed their genes down to you. Just remember, don't give up! If your female ancestors had given up, you might not be here today.

Next > Women in Marriage & Divorce Records

More of this Article

Intro: Invisible Women Ancestors
Women in Marriage & Divorce Records
Women in Cemeteries
Women in Census Records
Women in Land Records
Other Records to Search for Female Ancestors

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