107 NE Monroe Peoria, Illinois 61602-1070

The Case of the Missing Females

By Amber Lowery

There is a significant amount of grumping and grousing among genealogists concerning the common case of lost females in their family history.

Historically, among Western culture, it is tradition that when a child is born, they are given their father’s surname, and if they are female, when they marry, she changes her last name to her spouse’s surname instead. While this is not a problem, per se, it does make tracking a woman through history a bit harder.

Consider this: when you read an obituary from the early 1900’s, the woman is often referred to as Mrs. (insert husband’s name). If you’re lucky, or her family was well-known, you might find a mention of her parents, but that’s not always the case. Further, the farther you go back, the less likely you are to find the names you are seeking. Add in the difficulties of migrating families and those that had common last names and it becomes a major headache and a road block in your research.

Then we have the rippling effect of the lost census of 1890. Want to goad a genealogist? Ask them about the 1890 census. Be prepared for a reaction. It’s not just the loss of the information the census held, but also the fact that between 1880 and 1900 is an ENTIRE generation. Children who were born around 1880-1882 may never appear with their families if they were married by the age of 18. DNA tests can be exceptionally helpful here if testers have a well-built tree with documentation.

But still, our trees will be waiting for the lost information of those who “disappeared” in the records under a different name.

Are you currently stuck on a family line with lost females? Come by the Peoria Public Library Main Library and peruse our stacks! It could be the information you seek is waiting for you here. Ask our staff if they have research ideas to help you go over your brick wall.


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