Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Searching for the ‘Hidden Half’ of our Family

Searching for the ‘Hidden Half’ of our Family

March is Women’s History Month and it’s soon coming to an end.  Women’s History Month is an observance and celebration of the vital role of women in American history.  As a family historian, I am glad we celebrate Women’s History.  But in some ways, the phrase "Women’s History" is an oxymoron.  Throughout the early part of America’s history, most women are not only difficult to find, their history is almost non-existent.

Finding female ancestors is challenging at the best and almost impossible at other times.  Women changed their name when they married and took their husband’s name.  So, unless a marriage record can be found, a woman's maiden name is often elusive.   Laws, legal rights, and social mores further complicates the finding of information about our female ancestors.  Under common law, a husband controlled everything – even land or money given to a woman by her father.  

Prior to 1850, the United States census only listed the head of household.  So, if a woman was married, only her husband would be listed by name, while the wife and other household residents were enumerated by tick-marks in columns.   Obituaries are wonderful sources of genealogical information, but women were often referred to by their husband’s name -- such as “Mrs John Doe”.  This would happen even in their own obituary!  In their husband’s will, women were often referred to as “my wife”, or in a probate she might simply be called the “Widow”. It was not until 1920 when the 19th Amendment was ratified that women were granted the right to vote.  Prior to that time women did not even show up on voter lists or in poll books. 

My goal is to remember the women in our family history and try to find their stories.  Below are photos of the grandmothers in my family.  They were the very heart 💗 and soul of their families.  They settled new lands, traveled in wagons, gave birth at home with only their husband or neighbor to help, cooked over wood stoves, washed clothes on a washboard, grew gardens, made bread, preserved their own food, buried their children and husbands, and most of all they loved their families.  We would not be here without their strength and courage.
3 generations of grandmothers from my family tree
I have spent countless hours searching for the “hidden half” of our family.  Many of our female ancestors have stories written and/or photos posted on this blog.  They are listed below by generation.  Just click on their name to go to their story.



2nd Great-Grandmothers:
Anna Maria Heim Weiss

3rd and 4th Great-Grandmothers
Rebecca ‘Beckie’Morgan Medlin
SarahGilbert Stewart

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