4 Tips to Trace Female Ancestors in Your Family Tree

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Find Elusive Women in Your Family

4 Tips to Trace Female Ancestors of Your Family Tree

Photo Credit: Thoth, God of Knowledge via Compfight cc

If you’ve been digging through tangled up roots to discover female ancestors to add to your family tree, you’re not alone. While every family historian runs into brick walls during their research from time to time, stories about women from our familial past can be some of the most difficult to find. But while it’s a challenge for us all for a number of reasons, there are certainly tried-and-true tactics that can help you discover clues that lead to these elusive women.

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’ve compiled a list of a few tips that can help you trace female ancestors to reveal stories and names of the women in your family.

4 Research Tips

1. Search Male Ancestors First

It may seem strange to say that in order to find a female ancestor, you should look for men in your family first, but it’s a great research strategy for many reasons. For one, by fully documenting your male ancestors, you may be able to discover hidden clues about women in their lives. Probate records are the perfect place to begin looking for male ancestors. Don’t even try searching these records for female ancestors in probate records as you likely won’t find them this way. This is because back in the day if a woman’s husband died and he owned property or a business, she wouldn’t receive automatic guardianship of inherited estates or money. But once you discover estate records of men in your family, they can often reveal locations and even names of some of your female ancestors.

Tip: Head to FamilySearch to search probate records.

2. Research Maiden Names

Researching maiden names of your female ancestors is another great strategy to help you discover women family members to add to your family tree. This can also lead to the discovery of new surnames. But don’t go into the research blindly! There are some key, time-saving tactics to help you uncover your ancestors’ maiden names such as searching marriage records, historic newspapers, and more. These tips for finding maiden names will help you with your search.

Tip: Try using these 8 best resources.

3. Consider Culture While You Search

Sometimes researching first names, maiden names, and surnames of your ancestors can get a little tricky because of varying name spellings. Sometimes a female from your familial past might have actually gone by her Old World name, but was recorded in some ancestry records or newspapers by more common spellings. Your immigrant ancestors also often changed their names when they came to America for a variety of reasons. This is why it is always a good idea to consider the culture of your family members while searching.

Perhaps one of your female ancestors was named Amy. If she were of French decent, she may have gone by Aimée, or Amée (Old French version). If she were of Spanish decent, she may have gone by Amada. And so on.

Tip: English-speaking publications sometimes recorded names differently than foreign-language editions.

4. Dig Into Family Gravestones

A cemetery can offer a slew of hidden clues of who your female ancestors were. In fact, gravestones of family members can give you information on the last place female ancestors lived, what year they were born and died, unravel family relationships, as well as help you discover both middle and maiden names. Emblems found on gravestones can also give you clues about religious creeds and what your ancestors did for employment. Epitaphs can also show you even more details about how your ancestors lived. Sites like FindAGrave.com and Genealogists.com can help you find headstones and the whereabouts of your elusive female ancestors.

Tip: Look at the headstones near your ancestors. Relatives were often buried close to each other.

Do you have other research strategies for finding the women in your family? Let us know in the comments! Then add your female ancestors and their stories to your Crestleaf Family Tree!

This entry was posted inFamily Tree,Genealogy 101,Genealogy Records,Genealogy Tips,Surnamesand taggedancestors,genealogy tips, andmaiden namesonMarch 3, 2016byNatalie L..Like what you read? Subscribe to the Genealogists.com blog above and automatically receive our next article.

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March 8, 2016
Wesley is the founder of hello@traceyourpast.com.

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