Friday, February 18, 2011

Researching Women in Family History

Most people who have done family history research, whether for themselves or for someone else, know that it can be difficult to research women. In many countries, when a woman marries she changes her name to that of her husband, and records showing her original name may be few and far between. So when I read that Legacy Family Tree was going to have a Webinar on finding female ancestors (and for free, no less!), I immediately registered.

"Chasing Women: Finding Your Female Ancestors" was presented by Leland K. Meitzler, of Family Roots Publishing Company and There was a glitch with his PowerPoint presentation, which would not work properly in slide show mode. But we were able to view it in editing mode, and away we went.

Mr. Meitzler covered a wide range of records in which you might find pointers to a woman's maiden name, including many I have worked with before: marriage indices, family bibles, censuses (if in-laws are living with the family), birth and death certificates, probates and wills, heritage society applications, Social Security applications, pension files, and others. Two less common sources he discussed were records of consent to marry if the bride was underage, and the 1911 Arkansas Veterans Census.

(I want to find a reason to do some research in Arkansas. Apparently the 1911 Veterans Census asked for the names of the soldier's parents and grandparents, his wife's maiden name, when they were married, and the names of her parents. It reminds me of the three-page 1925 Iowa State Census, which asked for the wife's maiden name, where the couple married, names of each of their parents, and where they married, along with many other questions. State censuses rock.)

Mr. Meitzler said that he had recently discovered a consent to marry that solved a maiden name problem he had been working on. He mentioned that he "wouldn't have known to look for consent because it hadn't been filmed." This is a trap many people fall into, similar to thinking that if it isn't on the Internet, it isn't available. It's good something pointed him to the record and he found his answer.

Along with discussing the different sources, he also talked about how reliable they were and what problems each was likely to have. It was a useful presentation, and I always like to learn about new research sources.

The Webinar is available on the Legacy Family Tree Webinar page for viewing until March 16. On the same page are links to other archived Webinars, and registration information for upcoming presentations. I wasn't able to attend the newspaper presentation by Thomas Kemp when it happened, and I plan to view the archived file. Legacy Family Tree Webinars are a great resource, and I really appreciate the fact that they put them on for free.  It is a great service to the world of genealogy.

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