Book Review - Discovering Your Female Ancestors - NWA
A Genealogist's Guide to Discovering Your Female Ancestors: Special strategies for uncovering hard-to-find information about your female lineage. By Sharon DeBartolo Carmack. Published by Betterway Books, 1507 Dana Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45207. 1998. 152 pp. Appendices, Bibliography, Glossary, Index, Notes. Softcover. $17.99 plus $3.50 p. & h.Discover Your Female Ancestors

Book Review - by Susanne "Sam" Behling
(Originally Published in the FGS Forum, Winter, 1998, Volume 10 Number 4, pp. 31 - 32.
Reprinted with permission.)

Researching female ancestors remains uniquely challenging, but the task is surmountable and simpler than most of us imagine. While the book is not intended as a beginners' guide to research, beginners and experienced genealogists alike will find it a much needed and welcome compilation of research methods and resources for obtaining both genealogical and historical information on all female ancestors.

The first three chapters of the book cover a vast array of sources, all of which are fully cited in the bibliography: those generated by women such as letters and diaries; sources created about women like church or court records; and sources for ethnic women. Of particular interest are the inclusion of often overlooked sources, such as medical records which include doctors' and midwives' journals, insane asylums and tuberculin sanitariums. The fourth chapter deals with methods for determining maiden names and parents, often the most common problem in research, while the fifth chapter outlines strategies for using all sources to write about women ancestors.

The final chapter in the book is a case-study of one of the author's own female ancestors. Using all available sources, Sharon DeBartolo Carmack blends proven facts with extrapolations of social history, and the end result breathes life into a woman who was once no more that a name and a few vital statistics on a pedigree chart.

Three appendices provide additional information, among them an impressive Source Checklist for Researching Female Ancestors. This provides a listing of hundreds of items to fully document female ancestors such as: Woman's Suffrage and Voter Lists; Women's Organizations; Women's Prisons; and Women's Seminaries and Colleges.

While it was not the author's intent to include every conceivable resource or strategy pertaining to researching women, the book clearly shows there is no magic involved in the process. The author outlines several practical and readily understandable methodologies, both her own and cited examples, showing genealogists precisely what is needed to write a complete biography about any woman ancestor, even those with scanty or minimal information. The substantial bibliography reflects Carmack's solid background in this subject matter as well as offering the readers further avenues of research.

By using the guidelines and resources set forth in this book, genealogists of all levels can be successful in researching and writing about their foremothers. As Carmack herself states, "There are no more excuses for researchers to neglect their women ancestors."

Click here to order A Genealogist's Guide to Discovering Your Female Ancestors: Special strategies for uncovering hard-to-find information about your female lineage

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All comments welcomed by Susanne "Sam" Behling

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