Sunday, 31 October 2010

The Female Line

I am Jane the daughter of Doreen who was the daughter of Phyllis who was the daughter of Nellie who was the Daughter of Charlotte who was the Daughter of Margaret.

I am also the daughter of Alan who was the son of Elizabeth who was the daughter of Ellen who was the daughter of Emma.

How far can you go back in your female ancestral lines? How much do you know about their families?

Most family history researchers concentrate on the male line and with good reason. The men in a family are often so much easier to trace, they were thought of as the head of families on the census, the breadwinners of the family, went to wars, won medals, but does the same not apply to the women. The answer is of course it does, but women are often only listed as mothers or wife on the documents the family historian will reach for, it can take more digging (and a lot more time) to find out about the lives of your female ancestors, but the effort is so worth while.

Our female ancestors bore the children, raised them, and told them the family stories. The looked after the old and sick, kept the family together, wrote the letters and cards and store these away with precious photos. They were the ones who knew the family secrets and who married who. They also worked outside and inside the home, my grandmother Phyllis in service, her grandmother Charlotte worked in the mills. Great great grandmother Catherine on my father’s side worked until her 80’s as a pillow lace maker, an occupation at the time which would have brought more money in to the family then her husband’s job as Agriculture labourer, she was the families bread winner. And the women worked and served in wartime, my grandmother Elizabeth was in a munitions factory, in WW2 and I remember her stories of her hiding in allotments when the zeppelins came over in the WW1. All these women and their lives deserved to be remembered and their stories preserved but so often they are the strong but invisible roots of your family tree.

Looking for them and there stories may take a bit more time, the starting point is the documents that show them as wives and mothers but then you need to become a detective. Women often changed their surnames they start mainly with their fathers names, then that changes to husbands if they separate does she return to her maiden name or keep her husbands, remarriage will bring another change or even taking the name of a man without marriage is not something that is modern, nor are children born out of marriage a new phenomenon.  Where did they come from? What were their lives like? Their sisters who did not marry or have children will have been airbrushed out of history in most cases, find them, give them  life and a voice again by writing down their stories. They are part of you.

I have always said that I came from a long line of strong minded determinded bunch of women, I'm proud of my female ancestors.


Phyllis on right with her sister Irene

Elizabeth with my dad
My mum. Doreen


If you would like to look further in to your research of your female line, an excellent book to help is 'The Female Line' by Margaret Ward. 


  1. Fantastic post. It's up on my blog now (sorry was out last night) So interesting that these women did so much, yet labeled themselves simply as wives and mothers. There's something very powerful about that - no need to get others approval in order to feel valued. You did what you did and did it as well as you could. I wish more people today were like this. "Hi I'm so and so and I'm an certified this and that. ugh. I love the pictures!!

  2. I've recently been bitten by the genealogy bug and while it is all satisfying to puzzle together, it is the women who capture my imagination. I want to know more about them and they are the biggest challenges. We women are the glue that holds the world together and yet we've been so easily forgotten. You've expressed my thoughts beautifully. Thanks for the book recommendation and your ideas.

  3. Thank you so much for this fantastic post! We should not be forgetting the females in our geneology we should be liberating and sharing them keeping them alive! What an amazing post.
    Happy Samhain
    Blessings to you on these chilly magical days of the year, may the passing of the old year sweep aside all your fears and worries and the coming of the new bring you joy, happiness & honour.

  4. The female line is the most difficult. I've developed little ways of discovery of maiden names, but many of my lines, alas, will end where they are now. Sadly, I've not been able to get past my grandmother from Ireland on my dad's maternal side. The fire destroyed everything. Blessings to you and yours on this special day.

  5. OHH my amazing, I love your photos as well, thanks for visiting my blog, you are very inspiring, I would love to find out much more about my own family but as incredible as it might sound, other people's families feel like my own once I start to read about them, I can sit here and just read and explore :) (may be, because at the core of everything, we are all One?)

  6. What a wonderful post, I loved seeing all the wonderful photos, thank you for sharing them. Happy Halloween and thank you for joining my online Haunted House party. Kat x


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