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Archived Articles
Formerly published by

Published October 29, 1999

Women in Your Tree, Part IV - October is women's history month
By Sandra Devlin

This nine part series was the winning entry in the 2000 Online Columns/Articles category of the Council of Genealogy Columnists (since renamed the International Society of Family History Writers and Editors). The award was presented at the National Genealogy Society annual convention in Providence, Rhode Island, USA

So to begin this, the fourth in a series of columns dealing with the female side of your genealogical record, I point out some biographies/stories/journals of famous, infamous and not-so-well known Canadian women. Although they may not be your direct relatives, reading one or more could serve up insights into the historic context of your family or give you a general feeling of women's history in Canada.

(Doing some early Christmas shopping? One of these might make great gift for the history or genealogy buff on your list!):

The arguably grandest matriarch of the Maritimes is Lucy M. Montgomery, author of Anne of Green Gables, so I will begin with three suggestions which will enlighten you about this woman (be prepared for surprises)

  • Selected Journals of L. M. Montgomery (1988); Selected Journals ... 1921-1929; and Selected Journals ... 1929-1935; all by Mary Rubio and Elizabeth Waterston, all published by Oxford University Press.

  • Victory Harvest: Diary of a Canadian in the Women's Land Army by Marion Kelsey. McGill-Queens University Press (1997). ISBN 0773516638

  • Mrs. King, The Life and Times of Isabel MacKenzie King by Charlotte Gray.Penguin Books Canada. ISBN: 0-670-86674-1.

  • Gabrielle Roy: A Life by Francois Ricard, Patricia Claxton. McClelland & Stewart (1999) ISBN 0771074514.

  • Buckskin and Broadcloth: A Celebration Of E. Pauline Johnson-Tekahionwake, 1861-1913 by Shelia Johnson. Natural Heritage Books. ISBN 1896219209.

  • The Journals of Susanna Moodie by Margaret Atwood, Charles Pachter. Macfarlane Walter & Toss (1997). ISBN 155199013X.

  • Hen Frigates: Wives Of Merchant Captains Under Sail by Joan Druett. G. K. Hall (1999). ISBN 0783804180

  • No Daughter of Mine: The Women and History of the Canadian Women's Press Club, 1904-1971 by Kay Rex, Elda Hauschildt , Sandy Peic and Betty Kennedy. Cedar Cave Books (1995). ISBN 0920403085.

Have you run across a book which would be particularly helpful to others researching their female ancestors? Let me know the title, author, ISBN number - if known, and include a paragraph of two explaining how the book would help others or how it helped you.

So on with the column.

Digging out clues to women in your tree is admittedly an often less straightforward path than the search for information about their male partners and counterparts.Therein lies the challenge which makes each new discovery all the more sweet for the additional sleuthing involved.

Newspapers are a fabulous resource for uncovering clues to your female heritage. But, never be content to scan only the birth, marriage or death notices. From known dates you might already have, you may zero in on newspaper features or social notes which can be the key to learning a maiden name, lifetime hobbies, social interests, missing names for siblings or children and other unique miscellany. In recent decades 50th wedding anniversary; 80th, 90th and 100th birthday and death memorial writeups in newspaper sections devoted to "women's news" or classifieds have been commonplace.

Using the following scenario, customize your search and be prepared to discover. You know the wedding date in the 1870s of your great-grandparents from the family Bible, but have been unable to discover your great-grandmother's maiden name; her parents and/or all or any of her siblings. Do the math to discover from their death dates, if both were still living at their 50th wedding anniversary in the 1920s. If so, go to the newspaper files and/or appropriate religious periodicals -- selecting first the month of the anniversary; then if unsuccessful there, check the four months on either side. These writeups, particularly in weekly papers and small daily papers, were often extremely detailed, earning their own headline and several column inches of type.

But, don't restrict yourself to looking only at stand-alone stories. Also scan the social notes because even if there was no big celebration, perhaps a cousin, brother or sister-in-law dropped by to offer congratulations and the area social correspondent made note of it for the newspaper.

Anyone reading this who lives in a large Canadian cities might not know what social notes are because big-city newspapers dropped them from the mix many years ago. But social notes, I am happy to say, are alive and well even today in rural Canada. The Bridgewater Bulletin, one example of many, in Queens County, Nova Scotia continues to publish, as it has since 1877, tidbits like: "Mrs. Thelma Wold of Orange, Mass., also Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Bell of Arizona spent several days with Thelma's brother Mr. Wilton Bolivar and Diana." ( published Aug. 18, 1999). Eureka! A maiden name and geographic address for Thelma or a sibling for Wilton, depending on what was missing from your data, all wrapped up in one sentence in the social notes.

There are hundreds of years of daily and weekly personals on microfilm just waiting to be mined for information about your female relatives like the following from The Maple Leaf, Jan. 8, 1891: "The little daughter of the late Rev. J. Embree of Albert County, adopted by A. Y. Clarke of Moncton, was named Catherine Embree and her name was changed on application to Judge Palmer to Beulah Catherine Clarke." The Maple Leaf was a weekly newspaper published on Thursdays in Albert County, N.B. between 1880-1901. The microfilmed originals are at the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, Fredericton Reel F11328.

Newspapers in Canada began in the Maritimes, in Halifax, N.S. to be precise when The Gazette was first published in March 1752. Provincial newspapers microfilmed and held at the Nova Scotia Archives and their years in publication are listed in Genealogist's Handbook for Atlantic Canada Research by Terrence M. Punch and George F. Sanborn Jr. (1997-second edition) ISBN: 0-88082-067-5. To pinpoint relative New Brunswick newspapers refer to: Historical Directory of New Brunswick Newspapers by J. Russell Harper (Fredericton, 1961).

Published extract of birth, death, marriage and articles with names from provincial newspapers are continuing projects in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

The Genealogy Association of Nova Scotia, Box 641, Station Central, Halifax, B3J 2T3 have compiled and indexed several volumes of extracted deaths, marriages and births.

Back editions of many newspapers Canada-wide are microfilmed and available through inter-library loan from the National Archives, where they are unavailable locally, check your library, many have at least their local newspapers available.

Next time: Target Ottawa, In Person Or On-line, In Your Search For Female Kin.

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