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What Was Her Name?

Have you had difficulty finding a female ancestor’s maiden name? Perhaps you cannot find her middle name either? Even though it may be more difficult to find this information, due to a variety of historical and social factors, it is not impossible! With a little determination and extra information, you may be able to find this information in conventional and non-conventional places.

In honor of Women’s History Month, we are lifting up and celebrating the women in our families who were instrumental parts of our heritage, but who may not have been given as much attention in records and historical resources. To find your female ancestors, it is essential to know more about the time periods in which they lived as well as the laws that were active. Both of these can provide context and give you hints about places to look as well as the types of records that were collected. Once you have gained a better understanding of these, you can then begin to search newspapers, personal/family papers, organizational records, and even military files. Of course, you will want to also scrutinize census and vital records to see if they contain any clues that may help solve the mystery. Finally, you will want to research all of her friends, associates, and neighbors, particularly her spouses and children. For those who are interested in DNA, mitochondrial DNA (passed from mother to child) may be a great resource for learning more about some of your female ancestors.

If you are interested in exploring additional possibilities, the library has several resources that provide additional tips and suggestions. Many are currently on display (through March 2024) on the Lower Level of Cook Park Library, across from the genealogy collection.

Photo of Women's Genealogy Books on Library Display Shelf

Also, check out this guide from the Library of Congress for even more information and tips. Be sure to explore the Tracing Women pages on the Family Search wiki, too. In addition, listen to Amy Johnson Crow’s podcast with several tips. Finally, check out these five strategies for finding female ancestors. Good luck with your search!

Categories: Genealogy

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