Tracing Female Ancestors
At one time genealogy only focused on the paternal line, following son to father and so on; with the singular focus of a constant surname followed through time. While the contribution of women to the continuation of the species was recognized, it was sadly neglected in terms of genealogical research.
Following descent from the maternal line was considered to be of little account. Thankfully, those days are gone.
The Biggest Family Tree
Researching maternal lines is every bit as rewarding, important and deserving of recognition, it is after all half of your heritage.
Nothing makes this point more clear than the amazing research done by National Geographic and IBM on the Genographic Project. A study that began much the same way as any family tree project does. With the question, where do we come from? Of course, the question in this case is directed towards the human species as a whole.
The project, which focuses on tracing the migration, patterns of man from our earliest origins does it through the use of Mitochondrial DNA. DNA that can only be passed on from mother to child. Therefore, when it comes to the biggest family tree project of all it looks like the maternal line is finally getting the respect it deserves.
Genealogy Records for Women
In truth, more and more researchers are taking an interest in tracing their maternal roots. While researching female ancestors is rewarding it is also challenging, as women were virtually invisible in terms of leaving a paper trail.
Women did not:
- Own property in their own names
- Pay taxes
- Sign their names to legal documents
- Register to vote.
All these documents commonly used to trace male ancestors are of little use when hunting our elusive matriarchs. Despite this, our female ancestors did have records that were specific to women such as family bibles and diaries; additionally, they were registered either civilly or in a church at birth or baptism, marriage and death and they were recorded in the census. The main thing you need to know about researching your maternal line(s) is that it comes down to following an ever-changing trail of maiden names.
To take the tutorial “Tracing your female Ancestors: Documents and Research Techniques” join us on the Genealogy in General forum.
Image Credit: Ramona Hartley