Five Strategies for Finding Female Ancestors

For the month of March (National Women’s History Month) I have focused pretty exclusively on researching the females in my family tree. Here are some tips:

Having trouble locating your female ancestors? Women are often harder to find. Prior to the twentieth century, most historical records were created for and about men. Property was usually listed under the man’s name, and men ran the majority of the businesses and controlled the government. Few women left diaries or letters, especially immigrant women who spoke little or no English.

1.Check all records for her husband, especially tax, property, and naturalization records. Also check records for siblings. Look for clues in photographs, newspapers, yearbooks, bridal books, employment, convent, military, and other records.

2. Consider the possibility of more than one marriage and multiple burial markers.

3. Learn naming practices and patterns and note regional, cultural, and religious influences. For example, Elizabeth (English) vs. Alzebeta (Czech & Slovak) vs. Erzébet (Hungarian). Investigate different endings for female surnames (e.g. in for Slovaks, add an –ova, to a woman’s name when searching databases or European records).

4. Be aware of spelling variations, and handwriting/transcription errors when searching census, immigration or vital records.

5. Create a timeline to place the woman’s life in historical context. Specialty software programs such as Genelines can assist with this task: .