The above photograph shows my wife’s grandparents, Edward Monty and Ruby Gonya, on their wedding day. I offer my apologies to Grandmother Monty as she was not the type to fade away in the background, in fact, just the opposite. I would also like to thank my granddaughter Nicole for her work on the above photograph to get the desired fading effect.
A comment made by a reader of this blog is the inspiration for this posting. They had written that they have had difficulty in tracing their female ancestors. Something that I have also had to deal with and I am sure many of you also have had this problem. So I am going to give some hints and advice on what I have done to trace my disappearing female ancestors. Everything listed below I have used with different degrees of success.
Lets face it in the not to distant past females left very little records to chronicle their life story. Many never stepped out of their homes except to attend to the needs of the family. But many held sway with their husbands and most of all were a great influence on the children. Without a doubt when we discover their family line we will discover much new history and stories to enhance our family narrative. The first place we should look is at our home and the homes of our living relatives. Search out photograph albums, pictures. Record the names that you find. Also, old letters and greeting cards are items to seek out and study. While doing this once, I found an address book over 50 years old. Not only were many long past relatives named but birth and wedding dates were noted for many. You never know what will turn up. You might even find a family bible with all sorts of family information. Once again on whatever you do find make careful notes on the names you find. You maybe surprised where these names could take you.
Death can produce many records in which we can use to gather information on our female ancestors. Death certificates can hold much information. The information that is given in the death certificate is only as accurate as the person giving the information. Below is a partial death certificate for my great grandmother. The information that I needed as you can see was not provided. The person giving the information was her son. I find it surprising that he did not know the answers.
Many funeral homes have extensive records about the funerals they have handled. However, the condition in which they take and keep the records can vary to a great degree. I was lucky to find that the funeral home that serviced my great grandfather printed much of their early records and even gave copies to a local genealogy society. Here is part of the page that my Great Grandfather Charles Dakin is listed. Even though this is a funeral for a male look at the information you gather in search of your female ancestor.
Obituaries can often be a great source of information. Both the obituary for the husband and wife should be checked out. Most will give the maiden name of your ancestor or list the names of her brothers. That could be a good lead for you to follow. Many old obituaries may look like this one. This is for my Great Aunt. This would be enough to make you bang your head against a wall.
Cemeteries are a great place to get information on your female ancestors. Some gravestones will show the maiden name. You should also make notes on the nearby gravestones as families tended to be buried together. These names could be a great help later. Check with the cemetery office as they may be able to give additional information about your ancestors.
Check the Social Security Death Index. this also may be of some help. The Social Security application for a card is a document that you can request. They do charge a fee for this service. The last time I did this it cost I believe about $25.00. The cost has gone up I am told.
Birth can also produce many records for us to investigate. Birth Certificates can give us much information. If you can get your hands on your female ancestor’s birth certificate that would be great. But that might not be possible to do. How about her children’s birth certificate? Most of the ones I have shown the mother’s maiden name. Do not give up if the information is missing on one child’s certificate, try another sibling. The information you want could be on that one. Birth announcements in newspapers may give you the information you’re looking for. In many newspapers if the parents are married they give the maiden name of the mother.
Marriage records such as a marriage license or marriage certificate may contain the information that you are looking for. This is part of a marriage record for my Grandparents. As you can see the information, it gives could solve the mystery of your female ancestor.
Church records are another important place to research. You could find marriage records, baptism records, membership records, confirmation records, burial records, (if buried in the church’s cemetery) and even Sunday school records. This is part of my baptism record which once more shows why you should research the children of your ancestor.
Census records are also a gold mine for information on your female ancestors. Her mother or sibling may be living in the same household. Look at the names of the neighbors, any familiar names? Every census taken during their life should be studied for information concerning her family. Make copies or detailed notes as you never know when they could come in handy.
Another helpful source is court records. Here you can find wills, probate records, deeds, property records, divorce, marriage and criminal records can be found at the county court house. I have gathered much information for my family research at the county court house.
Newspaper searches are a great way to add to your family history and to find out more about your female ancestors. Society pages were at one time a very big part of the local newspaper. This was a place where your ancestors would be mentioned, especially your female ancestors. Many newspapers have digitized their old newspapers. Also, some libraries have started to do this. Many of their web sites are free and easy to navigate. But you should also strongly consider using at least one paid national newspaper web site. Also do not just look up your female ancestor but her husband and children. By doing this you may be able to break through that brick wall. Here is just part of a long newspaper article about my wife’s father. It is in the end that much information is given about the family and in someone’s case could have been a big breakthrough.
Military records are another place to search for your female ancestor. They could file on her husband’s or unmarried son’s military service when they died as a result of their military service. They would have to prove the marriage and such records had to be sent in. The applications can be obtained through some subscription sites and at the National Archives. http://www.archives.gov/
Ancestry.com and Family Search.org are two great places to do research. Family Search is free and open to all. Ancestry.com is a paid subscription site that many libraries have free access for their members. If you do not use these sites, you are short changing yourself in your genealogy efforts. Also use search engines to search out your ancestors. Try different wordings and arrangements when your search these engines. By this, I mean use initials; link name and places lived. Use with husband or children also. This could give you better results. Research other relatives living at the same time as your female relative and keep moving toward the current time. You may find a new cousin that has all the information that you are seeking.
Finally if your efforts come up short and you are no closer to having your questions answered, put your notes away for a month. Then take them out again and start all over. Genealogy is not easy, so you must be willing to do the work. I have some ancestors that I have been working on for decades. But the satisfaction you get when at last you have found the answers is incredible. So don’t be discouraged as new information is coming to light every day.