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Article Published November 16, 2000

Sandra Devlin EAST COAST KIN (Canada)
By: Sandra Devlin, Biography & Archived Articles

More About Researching Female Ancestors

One might think that my earlier nine-part series about searching for your female ancestors would fairly well exhaust the available topics about which to write.

Think again.

Responses to my earlier series Women in Your Tree and new information just keeps adding up. They deserve another column. So this is it. A worthy topic tends to build on itself. Updates may become a regular part of East Coast Kin, especially if readers keep me informed of new ideas, sources and thoughts. Consider this your invitation to do so.

But first, an update and a correction to an earlier East Coast Kin columns about Irish queries.

My sincere apologies for a grave error which several readers pointed out. The newspaper which printed the columns Searching for Missing Friends beginning in 1831, was not the Boston Globe, as I wrote. It was the Archdiocese of Boston Roman Catholic newspaper, The Pilot.

I was also happy to be brought up to date about these books. There are eight, not four, volumes currently in print. They span the time frame 1831-1920.

Irish folk from all over North America sent queries to the Pilot in search of brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, father, mothers, husbands and wives who had become separated from them.

Published by the New England Historic Genealogical Society, the books are available through its book store or from Global Genealogy. Click here to inquire about buying the set or individual volumns from Global Genealogy & History Bookstore in Milton.

Now back to the Women in Your Tree.

In response to the column which challenged our longstanding tradition of patriarchal surnames, Rae Robertson writes: " “As a numerologist I believe a woman should keep her name because when you change names, you change your numbers, therefore you change yourself. But that aside, I think it would be workable for a woman to hyphenate when she marries, thereby connecting her with her mate but the children would still take the fathers name in the traditional manner. ... The hyphenation would still make the females easier to trace because each one maintains the maiden name throughout their lives. The hyphenation would still be carried through to headstones. I think this would making tracking those elusive females a bit easier. What do you think?

I asked Rae if adding letters by hyphenating would not also change the numerology. She answered: Hyphenation would change the numbers but you are not giving up the energies of the original numbers, only adding new energy. If you think about it you can actually see how much women change as compared to men after marriage. I was married 34 years ago so I DID give up my maiden name but many times over the years I have asked the question, ‘where did I go?’ I have always felt that I lost a bit of me somewhere along the line. My advice to the young women today is either keep your own name or hyphenate.

On the same subject, Marge Clark writes: “Just a point of information. I grew up in New York State, graduated from high school in 1955. I was taught in school that when you married, you kept your maiden name as your middle name - hence my legal name is Margaret Quackenbush Clark. I think I was lucky to have been taught this. I do get some very strange looks and comments but I carry my ancestors name proudly. I don't know why the practice faded but it sure should be continued or resurrected. My mother-in-law did the same thing, Christine Seabrook Clark. We used to joke about being from a different mould.

Vivien Martin in Toronto writes: “Genealogical researchers in the future will have little difficulty finding my maiden name and therefore my father and mother as my children (males) have been given my maiden name as a given name.

Vivien’s maiden name was Ord before she married Peter Martin. Both of her sons have the third given name of Ord

Vivien says: “This is an old tradition in the south and in some cases the north of England which my family has carried on for the last two to three hundred years. The male and/or female offspring were given mother’s/grandmothers’/great-grandmothers’ maiden name as part of their name. This also included the paternal mother/grandmother etc. maiden name as well as the maternal mother/grandmothers’/ etc. maiden name depending on the size of the family. So the maiden name of the female is only lost if she chooses to do so. I believe in other cultures this is not as big a problem as naming patterns are maternal as well as paternal (Scandinavian and Russian cultures to name two).”

Vivien is researching the surnames: Blagrave, Craven, Hutchinson, Jarvis/Jervis/Gervaise, Ord/Orde and Vincent.

James R. McKay" sounds quite typical of many of us in search of females in our tree. James writes: “ I heartily agree with your writing on the other half of the family. I am currently researching my wife's family throughout Newfoundland, Vancouver and Merry Old England.” James is frustrated in his search for the mysterious six of the seven daughters of William Davis in Freshwater, Nfld. and Swansea.

He has located Bertha, his wife’s grandmother. “... but the rest are a mystery. I know some of them - Beatrice (whom I thought was a twin to Bertha), Jane, Miriam, Florence, Anne, and then I'm lost. I don't know any of their married names. I know Miriam used to live in Corner Brook, Nfld. Florence used to live in Concord, New Hampshire. That's it. I have no place to start to discover just where they might be.” ...This proves “you are absolutely correct. Finding the women's names in a census, Miriam for instance, doesn't really tell me that the person named there used to be the Miriam Davis I'm looking for.

Responding to the invitation to recommend books about women, Sharon Haggerty , Chair of Graduate Education, University of Western Ontario, London suggests: “I would recommend reading the original Susanna Moodie rather than, or at least in addition to, the Atwood book. Works by Moodie's sister, Catherine Parr Traill, are also a good read. Sharon is a descendant of Batemans who originally settled on the Bay of Chaleur coast, Bathurst and area, New Brunswick.

Elizabeth Engle, in Edmonds, Washington recommends: By Snowshoe, Buckboard and Steamer: Women of the Frontier, by Kathryn Bridge (an archivist at the British Columbia Archives, Victoria, B.C.) published 1998 by Sono Nis Press, Victoria, B.C. ISBN 1-55039-086-4. (Global Genealogy can get this book for you: 613-257-7878)

Elizabeth says: “This book deals with the lives and times of four pioneer women in 19th century British Columbia, making use in each case of original diaries, journals, letters and/or memoirs written by the women themselves. The four women are: Margaret Eliza Florence Askin Agassiz (Florence Goodfellow, my grandmother); Eleanor Caroline Fellows, Sandra Kate Woods and Violet Emily Sillitoe. All four accounts make for very worthwhile reading and shed further light on conditions of the times and the people who lived through them.

I was particularly moved by a note from Joseph C. Dorsey" in Houston, Texas. Joseph writes: “ Thanks a million for the recent issue of Global Gazette. You have helped move my stagnated brain into motion again with your article on checking old newspapers, especially the social items. I also sent e-mail to Daniel Johnson requesting a quote for researching Dorsey and Moran ... I was so excited to read about his service and I cannot thank you enough for mentioning him. “ You know, you really have a wonderful web site, and you greatly contribute to helping all of us out here trying to find those Missing Links in our family history. I am so thankful I found you. Each year we celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving here at my home in Houston. We have a dear friend that is from Edmonton, Alberta. She has only her daughter here and is unable to go home for the holiday, so we celebrate at our house. It all started when we accompanied her home on vacation in October, 1993. We celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving with her mother and all of the other relatives at the home of one of her sisters. It was just like ours, so now we have two to enjoy and celebrate each year. Our friends and neighbors always hint for an invitation to Canadian Thanksgiving. So, from now on I will remember you as well when we give thanks.

Lyn Winters, in Ottawa ( who, by the way, was the instigator of the fight to have 1911 and subsequent census released to the public domain) writes: “Just tuned in to Global Genealogy and read your article on East Coast Kin (Canada). Well thought out -- well presented. ... “I, too, have experienced the surname appearing as a given name. In my wife's family (Cameron), the father's name (Scottish ancestor) was known: Hugh Cameron, but the mother's name was unknown. My wife's grandfather was Alexander Fisher Cameron. By searching the Old Scottish Records at the Family History Centre, I surfaced a Hugh Cameron who married a Mary Fisher. I am reasonably sure that this is my wife's ancestors in Scotland. Now I have to convince the remainder of the family that this is so.

In addition to letters from readers, I have discovered some new sources, an eclectic range from an ambitious Rootsweb effort to collect biographies about women to an old autograph book which once belonged to an Amherst, N.S. girl.

  • SPOTLIGHT ON WOMEN Submit a biography of your own notable woman ancestor and read the articles submitted by others at Spotlight on Women sponsored by Rootsweb One of the stories you will find is a brief biography of the first woman licensed to practice medicine in Canada, Jennie Kidd Gowanlock, born on April 21, 1841 in Wooden Mills, Parish of Kelso, Scotland and immigrated to Canada in 1847 with her parents Andrew and Elizabeth (Kidd) Gowanlock.

  • P.E.I. WILLS-PROBATES - Newest addition to Island Registry on line is a Prince Edward Island Wills and Probate database. Web site: Webmaster David Hunter also maintains databases for family Bibles and land records. The wills and probates include both men and women. For example, the Last Will and Testament of Elizabeth Florence McBeath of Marshfield Township, Lot 34 (P.E.I.) filed Aug. 30,1898. Her will identifies her mother, three brothers and a sister. In the family Bible database, you might find a family link in the good book which belonged Martha Jane (Chappell) Mellish. Other surnames mentioned: Brown, Blandy, Burns, Hutton, McCallum and Reed. Other locations, besides P.E.I.: Halifax and Amherst, N.S.; Sackville, N.B.; Vancouver, Victoria, Alberni and Harrison Hot Springs, B.C.; Banff, Alta.; Yukon and England.

  • BANK RECORDS - Emigrant Saving Bank of New York (opened 1850), searchable database of account records. Contains genealogical information, maiden names abound, mostly Irish immigrants, some with Maritime connections. Records contain details about the place, date of birth, relatives, arrival dates and ship names. Web page: Following are two examples:
    Ann Fitzpatrick, born Raheen, Queens County, Ireland, daughter of William and Ann (Dorlin) Fitzpatrick (both deceased before November 1853, when Ann of Manhattan opened her account with New York Emigrant Savings Bank.) Ann arrived in Quebec aboard the ship George in July 1849. Two brothers Daniel and Michael in Quebec (1853). Two sisters: Eliza, in New York and Ellen, in U.S.
    James Law, born County Antrim, Ireland, son of John and Peggy (Madden) Law. Townland of birth about 21 miles from Belfast. James left Ireland when 18 months with parents and lived in Saint John, New Brunswick until June 1849, when he arrived in New York. In August 1851, James was earning his living as a ships carpenter. His mother was by then deceased. His father remarried widow Jane Patterson. Two brothers and one sister also dead.

  • AIRWOMEN’S REUNION - An RCAF Airwomen's reunion will be held June 8-10, 2001 at Saint Mary's University, Halifax. This is for airwomen who served from 1951 to present. Webpage: Contact: Kern Alward, 40 Stewart Harris Dr., Dartmouth, N.S., B2W 3Z5; telephone: (902) 434-9164; e-mail:

  • WOMEN’S HISTORY - The National Women's History Project, 7738 Bell Rd., Windsor, California, 95492; web site: Among the things this project does are: maintains the clearinghouse for U.S. women's history information and issues a seasonal catalogue of women's history posters, books and materials.

  • AUTOGRAPHS - Autograph book presumably from the Amherst area about 1889. Family names include Chapman, Black, Freeman and McKinnon. It mentions Elmwood Farm, if anyone might know where this was? Cover and 11 pages. Web page:

  • Click here to read Sandra Devlin's series on researching female ancestors

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    Norway Bay United & Anglican Cemetery
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