Finding Female Ancestors

Finding Female Ancestors

Happy Women's History Month! Let's take a moment to think about a major issue in genealogy: finding our female ancestors. We all know that women are just as important as men in genealogical research, but records are strongly skewed toward men. How can we address this disparity?

In practically any family history project, you will encounter a brick wall with a woman on your pedigree chart. Because of traditional surname changes, tracing women in our family trees can be much more difficult than tracing men. Lost maiden names and remarriages can pose challenges, but often, with a bit of dedication these challenges can be overcome.

The erasure of women in historical records has long been a problem in the field of genealogy. After the 20th century Women's Rights Movement, this is slowly changing. Women's roles in history are celebrated more, and consequently, our female relatives are recorded more. As women have moved into the public sphere more - purchasing land, maintaining bank accounts, running businesses, and entering into legal contracts - it has become easier to fill in gaps in our family trees. Nevertheless, tracing women in history still presents certain difficulties, but you shouldn't give up!

Although there's no magic trick for completing family trees, Lynnfield can help you find connections that lead to the missing women in your project. Contact us for a consultation to get started!

 

BHM 2017 - Jessie Redmon Fauset

A huge part of what we do here at Lynnfield is uncovering people that have fallen to the wayside in historical records. History is not as unchanging as you may think.  Finding new stories and new interpretations of old stories keeps things fresh. One Harlem Renaissance writer is a perfect example of this idea.

Many of us read Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God in high school. She was integral to the Harlem Renaissance, but she was not the only woman to contribute her literary talents to the movement. Jessie Redmon Fauset was another talented writer of this era. The New Yorker recently published a piece on her work. Read it for some perspective on some of the issues prevalent in the lives of Harlem Renaissance writers and activists.

Further Reading

In the meantime, Lynnfield wishes you a Happy Black History Month! We have just a week to go. We hope you've learned some new things during the last few weeks.

 

BHM 2017 - Freedom Colonies

FreedomColoniesBanner

We are nearing the halfway point of Black History Month 2017. I've had a few questions from people who are interested in genealogy based in historically Black communities. This is a fascinating topic! In recent years, we have seen several archeological discoveries that have taught us more about Black communities of the nineteenth century, called freedom colonies.

Freedom colonies were located across the country. Some, like Nicodemus, Kansas, were positioned outside white communities, and were completely self-sufficient towns. Others were sizeable neighborhoods within larger cities, like Seneca Village in NYC.

If you are in Texas, you might want to read Thad Sitton's and James Conrad's Freedom Colonies: Independent Black Texans in the Time of Jim Crow. It is a good starting place for anyone interested in Texas family histories, regardless of race.

If you have ancestors who lived in a freedom colony, this may be a great advantage for your genealogical research. Many of these communities now have a centralized historic society or records maintained by public parks or libraries. Contact Lynnfield if you need assistance getting started, or if you've hit a wall in your research. We are here to help!

BHM 2017 - Ida B. Wells

It is a special time here at Lynnfield. The new year is well underway, new projects are in the works, and we are steadily growing. Black History Month is a time for reflecting upon and celebrating the legacies of our families as well as well-known Black people across the Diaspora.

With everything happening in our world right now, I wanted to highlight the work of Ida B. Wells this month. She is the woman featured on our "Happy Black History Month" ad. Ida Bell Wells-Barnett (1862-1931) is probably most known for her work as a journalist and newspaper editor, but she was active in many arenas. She was a feminist, suffragist, and civil rights activist who help establish the NAACP in 1909. In 1884, she refused to give up her seat on a train, which resulted in a highly publicized court case. This event, along with many others, inspired her career as an investigative journalist. Her work was crucial in documenting lynchings in the United States.

I encourage you to read about her. Two great places to start are Ida: A Sword Among Lions by Paula J. Giddings and To Tell the Truth Freely by Mia Bay. You will also want to check out two of Wells' best-known works, Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases and The Red Record: Tabulated Statistics and Alleged Causes of Lynching in the United States. Ida B. Wells reminds us of the importance of truth-telling, journalistic integrity, and the power of information.

Happy Black History Month! As always, if you have any questions about your own history-related projects, genealogy or otherwise, contact us!

Ida B. Wells-Barnett with her four children.

Ida B. Wells-Barnett with her four children.