Photo: Sandy Creek Girls Basketball 1929
March is Women’s History Month and at one time or another as family researchers we have met with a “brick wall” while researching the women in our family tree. Sources to check follow:
published family genealogies – be wary if you do find a published genealogy, or record on the internet as many are not documented and should only be used as clues
letters, diaries and journals
oral history from relatives and friends
family heirlooms and artifacts
military records and pensions – many women served in the military throughout history (as nurses, spies, disguised as men) and as regular service women in 19th century wars. Nearly 20,000 women served as camp followers during the Revolutionary War as cooks, doctors, nurses, guides, seamstresses and laundresses. It is estimated that 400-800 served in the Union and Confederate armies disguised as soldiers; there were also camp followers during this war
census records – the census between 1790 and 1840 list only the head of household, sometimes this is a woman – the 1840 census named Revolutionary War pensioners or their widows receiving pensions – starting in 1850, everyone in the household is listed
wills and probate records – the wills of fathers and husbands are important documents in tracing women
court records – colonial records hold fascinating facts on women ancestors
orphan’s and guardianship records – when a woman was left a widow with minor children, the children were considered orphans in need of a legal guardian; the guardian was almost always a male relative. Many guardianship records were recorded, often in probate court minutes
church records - these records may contain baptismal records and may even predate the recording of state birth certificates
divorce records – In the colonial period there were two types of divorce: absolute divorce giving both parties the right to remarry and a separation from bed and board, meaning neither party could remarry. Until the mid-1800s, divorces were legislative actions in many colonies and states.
voter lists and registrations – women were granted the right to vote when the 19th Amendment passed in 1920, prior to this time, however, some western states passed women’s suffrage in the mid to late 1800s
city directories – generally list names of adults, including adult children living with parents – the spouse is listed as a widow or widower the year following the death
cemetery records and tombstones – for young girls and unmarried women the stone may be inscribed “daughter of…” for a married woman, it will likely be inscribed “wife of…”if you see “Mary, consort of John Smith” this means she died before her husband and if you see “Mary, relict of John Smith” that would mean he died before her.
mortality schedules – your ancestor who died during the census year of 1850 or 1860
(1 June through 31 May in 1849-1850 or 1859-1860), check the mortality schedule for recorded names of people who died during that year.
Native American Women – along with traditional censuses that the Federal Government took every ten years, there are special “Indian” enumerations. The 1870 census was the first to designate Native Americans in the color column with an “I”. In the 1880 federal census they were enumerated just like the general population. The 1900 and 1910 census they were enumerated separately “Inquiries Relating to Indians” and in 1920 they were enumerated on the general population schedules and in a “Supplemental Schedule for Indian Population.”