Friday, May 8, 2015

The Hidden Half of the Family

Celebrate your female ancestors this Mother's Day and track down those maiden names!

One of my favorite reference books is The Hidden Half of the Family: A Sourcebook for Women's Genealogy. This excellent resource will help you find the records you need to find maiden names and other genealogical records of women.

Women have not always had the same legal standing in the US as men so they do not show up in government records the same way as your male ancestors. This book explains the changing legal status of women throughout the years and how these laws differed state by state.  By understanding how your female ancestors interacted with the government, you can figure out which government records are likely to mention her.

For instance, a woman was not allowed to devise a will in Illinois until 1872 so don't look for female ancestors' wills in Illinois before that date.

Aside from the history of women's legal status in the US, The Hidden Half of the Family also provides an excellent bibliography of women's resources for each state, lists where to find marriage records, and provides a directory of important archives. This is an essential resource for women's genealogy!

If you need more help with search strategies, see A Genealogist's Guide to Discovering Your Female Ancestors.

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