Dissapearing Females

Monty Wedding Picture

Monty Wedding Picture

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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42 Responses to Dissapearing Females

  1. Amy says:

    Great suggestions! It’s too bad women have changed their names to their husbands’ names or this would be much easier.

    • chmjr2 says:

      It would be different that’s for sure. I am not sure anything in genealogy is suppose to be easy. Thanks for taking the time to read and your comment.

  2. Melanie says:

    I have also found trouble with finding information about the females. Thanks for the tips and for sharing some of your own experiences!

  3. Catherine says:

    Thankyou so very much for all these tips to help us bring our female Ancestors into their rightful place, i.e. into “the light.” Some I knew about but some were a HUGE “eye-opener” 😯 Will be passing the info on. Thanks again.

  4. flamingdarts says:

    Thanks for the tips! I find that the big problem with the ladies is that when for any reason they remarry, they seem to vanish unless one knows whom they married.

    • chmjr2 says:

      Many of the hints will help even in this event. If they had children in their first marriage they may still leave a good trail to follow. Thanks for your comments and for reading my blog.

  5. those are great hints! I too have a “female brick wall” in my tree. And not even far back in time. It is my mothers grandmother. Nobody seems to even know her name.

    • chmjr2 says:

      Don’t give up. I am sure somewhere a piece of paper exists that has her name on it. Better yet a person who knows all about her. Keep looking and best of luck.

  6. Anna Hibbard says:

    Thanks for the info. Interesting and valuable information. I need to get back to my family tree soon.

  7. Great advice! I think it is one of the biggedt challenges on my own tree and of course finding Irish ancestors too! Getting a death cert on my great grandmother helped reveal her mother’s name.

  8. chmjr2 says:

    Thanks for reading my blog and your comment. I really think as a whole our female ancestors give us the most trouble. Best of luck in your research.

  9. Great advice and overview for budding family historians. Once I was in a huge auditorium, gathered together with hundreds of such “root diggers.” When the speaker asked for a show of hands from individuals who knew the maiden names of their females ancestors, I raised mine….because I really did. Believe you me, silence fell from the podium and skeptics from around. I was definitely outnumbered by those who struggled with female ancestors. You’ve done a commendable job with your summary in this post. Thanks also for your nice comments on my blog. Happy rooting!

  10. chmjr2 says:

    Thanks for taking the time to read and make a comment on my blog. My hand would have been up with yours in that auditorium. I have found that by tracing my female ancestors I have learned so much more about my family line. In fact if I had not traced back my female ancestors I never would know that I am a descendant of the first governor of Vermont. Best of luck with your family tree.

  11. EmilyAnn Frances says:

    Good suggestions. Sigh–The female relatives really do “fade away” especially if one does not know who they married and no one in the family even mentioned them. Most of the young women in my Dad’s line fade away after the teenage years. No death records have turned up and I’m happy so far to think they went on and got married and had a good life. But still it’s the not knowing how to tackle this that is frustrating.

    • chmjr2 says:

      Sometimes it seems like they run away, not just fade away. However I find that many can be found if you have the time and patients. I like you always think of the best story for the ancestors who are hiding. Thanks for your comments.

  12. gpcox says:

    May the magic of this season follow you and yours into 2014.

  13. Sheryl says:

    Thanks for the great tips and suggestions! I hope that you had a wonderful Christmas.

  14. Thanks for reaching out and encouraging me to get back to my blog, I needed that! I continue to love your posts, and find them very informative! I keep thinking ancestry.com SHOULD pay you to blog for them, your blog would br a great asset! I am currently ill with pneumonia, but that is not what has kept me away from my writing. I also submitted my DNA to ancestry and have been having the most fun searching my matches and meeting new cousins! It has been so much fun! I have made some progress on several “brick walls”, but it was not the easy key I expected! I have 13 pages of 50 each–650 matches to the Moore’s and less to Guyette, so we may be kin somewhere I have not explored my Moore family ties much. I am heavily involved in my Scottish Hogue’s/ Hoggs research right now, and find Moore’s with them and Hill, Wright, and young among others. My DNA match listing is hyholshouser as is my username ” old Virginia Families ” is my main tree. I,d love to know if we cross paths Maiden name Youngblood– Facebook, Helen Youngblood Holshouser , thanks, Helen

  15. K Wilson says:

    Great post and photos. Can you tell me how you store such old photos? Archival boxes or picture frames. Thanks.

  16. Wonderful post! I just skimmed through a great book on this subject, “The Hidden Half of the Family: A Sourcebook for Women’s Genealogy” by Christina K. Schaefer. Perhaps this is the year our missing family members will come out of hiding!

    • chmjr2 says:

      We can hope they will come out from hiding, but I fear that it will be by our hard work we will find them. Thank you for reading my blog and your comment.

  17. daja283 says:

    Great post! As one who is searching a family of seven children with only one of them male, I can appreciate the struggle. So far I’ve only found one of them, but with the one my mother found back in the 60’s and I grew up knowing, that is three of six down, so that leaves just three girls to go. When I look at it like that, it doesn’t sound so bad! It’s wonderful to meet another who is searching for Moore’s, and I really enjoyed reading your blog. Off to read some more of your postings 🙂

  18. jacidawn says:

    Thank you! I am coming up dry with several female ancestors and it is frustrating. I have photos of them, but nothing beyond who they were when they married into the family (I even have maiden names). It’s as if they disappeared into history… I will have to follow some of your suggestions to see what I can come up with.

  19. Researching female ancestors does present it’s challenges. I have a Scottish line in my tree. I LOVE Scottish records. The records since about 1855 include the mother’s maiden name and date and place of marriage. It makes the research much easier! Of course the records before 1855 are a very different story.

    • chmjr2 says:

      Thank you for reading my blog and your comments. So far I have not had any Scottish lines to trace. But as you know that could change very quickly. But I do envy your records back to 1855. I wish more were like that.

  20. Pingback: You’ve Finally Found that Elusive Relative, but….. | Old Bones Genealogy of New England

  21. phillipkay says:

    You’ve covered all the bases, and it all needs to be said, simply because it is so easy to give up. The information can be there, but hidden away in some of the places you mention. Have you ever found the mother’s family name as a second given name for one of her children? This happens every now and then in my tree, which is largely Irish. I have a great grandfather called Robert Knowles Waters whose mother was Susannah Knowles, for example. A family name as a given name is not always the mother’s family name of course, but it is a clue that can uncover family connections that were hidden.

    • chmjr2 says:

      What a great point! I also had the maiden name used as a middle name for one of the children. I have had it used as a first name several times also. Thank you for your comment. You may have just helped someone find their missing female ancestor.

  22. Pingback: What do you want to know? | Voila!

  23. innatejames says:

    I’ve never thought to look for funeral parlor records. Thanks for the idea!

  24. nanacathy2 says:

    Interesting post. Another tip I found is on the census records look at the names of the boys, very often one will have an odd second name, maybe the spelling will give it away, it could just be Mum’s maiden name. I found a surname Russell that way. Worth giving it a try.

    • chmjr2 says:

      I have done this myself with good results. Thanks for putting this good idea forward. I am sure it will help someone out there. Also thanks for reading my blog.

  25. blstroud says:

    I too have females in my family tree that are difficult to learn about. Maiden names are frequently unknown and without some clue here or there it’s a long hard row to hoe to glean information to round out that family tree.

    One of my biggest pet peeves in doing research is to find a post or family tree by someone researching the same family lines as me, only to see that they have entered a woman’s name as Mrs. John Doe, or Mrs. Doe. It both diminishes her individuality and makes it much harder for others to trace the family.

    You’re so right about death certificates; they’re only as accurate as the people involved in giving the information, or in recording it. Most of the errors I’ve come across deal with men, their fathers names as completely incorrect, or adding a name that doesn’t belong. Example: I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that great great grandaddy’s name was John Doe. His son was named after him, and his wife’s grandfather, David Public, hence the name John David Doe. The information on the death certificate shows the deceased as John David Doe. Father’s name John David Doe. Information given by the son of John David Doe. Why did he give that information? Good question. Maybe perhaps in the aftermath of dealing with an unexpected death in the family somebody blurted out ‘he was named after his daddy’. Well, that was partially true.

    Thanks for the great blog.

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