1920's photo of women in history
Female Ancestors,  Genealogy Research

Women In History – Overcoming the “Just a Housewife” Myth

Female ancestsors and women in history lived full and engaging lives! Learn what genealogy clues can be found for women in the family tree.

In this episode of the Are You My Cousin? weekly Youtube Live, Melissa Barker, AKA The Archive Lady, joins me to talk about finding our female ancestors. 

Yes, researching the women in our family tree can be tough, BUT….Melissa and I are here to tell you that you DO HAVE Options! Your research will take some effort. That’s okay, though, because we are genealogy researchers and know how to sitck with a search.

Just a reminder you will find other articles on finding your female ancestors here at Are You My Cousin?


Bust the “She Was Just A Housewife” Myth  – Women in History Led Full Lives!

Often as researchers, we think of the women in our famly tree in terms of when they were married. We research their married lives including their husbands thoroughly. s

Let me ask you this. Have you ever considered her life before she got married? When she was single?

What about later in life? Have you considered what she might have done once the children were grown.

Have you considered what was important to her? Her faith? Or perhaps a local cause?

Your Goreat great great grandmother was living a life engaged in her community and her activities may have well left records to find.

women in history group of women sitting on a lawn
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Women As Volunteers & Club Members

Women were commonly volunteers in their communities! Many organizations and clubs existed where they could participate and socialize with other women.

Potential Types of Volunteer Groups include:

  • The local chapter of the American Red Cross
  • Women’s ministry at their church
  • Food Pantry at their church or in their community
  • School Volunteer
  • Historical Societies
  • The Garden Club
  • The Sewing Club or Quilting Group

Many of these organizations kept record or produced newsletters where members were listed.

Women As Cooks

Our female ancestors were often cooks. Whether a good cook or a not-so-good-cook, cooking often fell to the women. 

Many churches and communities created cookbooks  where women contributed a recipe or two. Do not overlook the genealogical value of a local cookbook! (Learn more about how to use cookbooks in your genealogy research in this post.)

Consider any food stories or favorite food memories in your family? Do you know the story behind that food or meal tradition? Is it indicative of a specific cultural heritage? You’ll want to find out!

Women as “Late Bloomers”

Melissa reminded us in the video not to ignore the later lives of our female ancestors. After raising a family and/or becoming widowed, she may have pursued a hobby or an occupation . 

My great grandmother ran a grocery store, and Melissa’s grandmother started her own beauty salon.  

Anna Mary Moses, also known as Grandma Moses did not start painting until she was 78!

[Our female ancestors ROCKED!]

antique photo of a woman

Where To Find These Records and Resources On Our Women in History?

The #1 place you want to start looking for your female ancestors in these records is the newspaper. The community newspaper is crucial to learning more about your female ancestors.

You may need to do a bit of looking to find pertinent newspapers. Check:

  • The local library – these may be on microfilm or orignal newspapers
  • State and county archives – I usually ask staff to show me their catalog system and ask for their search recommendations. This saves valuable reading time.
  • Chronicling America
  • Genealogy Databases: Ancestry.com, FindMyPast, MyHeritage, and FamilySearch
  • GenealogyBank – I regularly include this one in my newspaper research. 
  • Newspapers.com – This has become one of my favorite sites for newspaper research!

Melissa encouraged us to read those local papers page by page. Learn about the community itself and pay attention to the gossip columns and local events sections. These are gold mines for genealogy researchers.

Also, be sure to include a search of state and local library vertical files! These often hold newspaper clippings, club newsletters, and church histories. Read Explore Vertical Files to learn more about using information in vertical files in your research. 

Local museums are another great source of information on women in history!

Now It’s Your Turn!

Pick one area of your female ancestor’s life you want to focus on and start searching! 

Have you found your female ancestor in a unique or unusual record? Let us know in the comments below!

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  • Bonnie Steele

    I have to tell you I love this website. I have been telling my Genealogy club about it at every one at our meetings. Please keep up your great work. And Thank You for your hard work.

  • Martha Mooney

    Found a picture of my aunt as the school secretary in the school year book. she did it for that one year and then got married. Her sons knew nothing about this.

  • Veronica B Vale

    I love doing genealogy. Thanks for this info.

    I am in Concord, CA. but have lived in IL and WI.
    I enjoy ancestry.com videos too.

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