Honor the women in your family


CINCINNATI – Women’s History Month spotlights famous females of the past, but it can also be a time to celebrate the women in your own family’s history – if you can find them.

Tough to find.

With male-dominated records and changing maiden names, details about your own grandmother or great-grandmother may be a mystery.

In the March-April issue of Family Tree Magazine, America’s leading family history magazine, Sharon DeBartolo Carmack offers tips for finding your female ancestors.

Carmack is the author of A Genealogist’s Guide to Discovering Your Female Ancestors (Betterway Books, $17.99). She lists books, Web sites and other resources to start tracing your female side.

“Your female ancestors are simply tougher to trace than the men in your family,” Carmack said. “Women led private lives, unlike their husbands who led public lives.

“When a woman married, everything she owned became her husband’s. She couldn’t enter into any legal contracts without her husband’s consent.”

Research tips.

But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to fill in the female blanks in your family tree. Here are some of Carmack’s tips:

* Check all the federal censuses for your female ancestor’s lifetime.

* Look for vital records, such as births, marriages and deaths.

* Seek possible published family histories.

* Often you need to trace your female ancestors by first tracing their husbands and fathers, simply because men left more written records.

* Also try researching other family members and even neighbors-a technique called “cluster genealogy.”

* You can find clues in family items typically created and kept by women, such as needlework, quilts, diaries, letters, family Bibles, recipe books and household ledgers.

Learning experience.

Whether or not you find family tree facts about your female ancestors, Carmack says, you can still get a glimpse into their lives by learning more about the time they lived and women’s daily lives in history.


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