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Tracing Your Female Ancestors (Paperback)

A Guide for Family Historians

Family History P&S History > Social History Women of History

By Adele Emm
Imprint: Pen & Sword Family History
Series: Tracing Your Ancestors
Pages: 220
Illustrations: 40
ISBN: 9781526730138
Published: 22nd May 2019


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Everyone has a mother and a line of female ancestors and often their paths through life are hard to trace. That is why this detailed, accessible handbook is of such value, for it explores the lives of female ancestors from the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 to the beginning of the First World War.

In 1815 a woman was the chattel of her husband; by 1914, when the menfolk were embarking on one of the most disastrous wars ever known, the women at home were taking on jobs and responsibilities never before imagined. Adèle Emm’s work is the ideal introduction to the role of women during this period of dramatic social change.

Chapters cover the quintessential experiences of birth, marriage and death, a woman’s working and daily life both middle and working class, through to crime and punishment, the acquisition of an education and the fight for equality. Each chapter gives advice on where further resources, archives, wills, newspapers and websites can be found, with plentiful common sense advice on how to use them.

Most family historians will struggle to find information about their female ancestors, especially when we get further back in time. Historical records about births of our ancestors concentrated on recording the name of a child’s father and the child’s mother was only mentioned by her first name, if at all, as she was seen as a mere chattel of her husband. It is refreshing to read a book that concentrates on the women in our past and is also written from the perspective of an experienced family historian.

This book concentrates on the nineteenth and early twentieth century but does not limit itself to birth, marriages and death records. There are chapters covering many aspects of education, health, crime and punishment, all full of interesting tips on more unusual sources to try in your research.

I found the chapters on daily life and employment particularly useful. When we see our ancestors were recorded as servants or charwomen on the census returns, this book provides fascinating facts on what that meant for the individual and paints a vivid picture of what their daily lives would have been.

In addition to the well-researched content, this book is very readable and now has a permanent place in my library.

Highly recommended.

Doncaster & District Family History Society

The tone of the book is friendly and inclusive and treats its readers with intelligence assuming we are aware of how life was for many of our female forbears, but at the same time revealing new facts and ideas on how to research our female ancestors. A very helpful and informative addition to the family researcher’s library.

Jean Fowlds, Glamorgan FHS, September 2020

"This is a masterly, detailed work that will delight battlefield visitors as well as the armchair reader who has a military interest."

Review by

Glasgow and West of Scotland Family History Society

As featured in

Cumbria Family History Society

As featured by

MOOR, 1st January 2020

Featured in

Northumberland and Durham FHS

Featured in

Glasgow and West Scotland Family History Society

Featured in

Clywd Family History Society

Not just a practical guide, it's an absorbing read too, with tips on further resources, archives and other places to visit to develop your understanding. So much so, you'll wonder why you never realised you needed it before.

Family Tree, September 2019 – reviewed by Karen Clare

This is a substantial and detailed volume which explores the period from 1815 to 1914. It is wide-ranging and informative, with much emphasis on the daily life and work of women during the period.

Bristol & Avon FHS

Adele Emm contributes to 'Peterloo massacre' feature

Family Tree, August 2019

Anyone with British ancestry is sure to find material of interest and relevance.

Read the full review here

Canada's Anglo-Celtic Connections, John D Reid

This book details the experiences of women living in a period of unprecedented change, between 1815 and 1914. Generally, of course the trend was towards greater equality and improved living conditions, but many alive in those years still suffered wretched lives. Chapters cover in detail such issues as birth, marriage and death, education, employment and emancipation. The chapter on crime and punishment, for example highlights that whilst only 180 women on the 1841 national census are recorded as prostitutes, one police estimate was for 80,000 in London alone. In the majority of instances, this was the only way a woman could survive if she had lost her partner or employment.
Whilst not every aspect of this work will relate directly to your female ancestors, there is almost certain to be material of interest. For example, don’t despair if your great-grandma is missing from the 1911 census; she could well have been a supporter of the suffragettes under their directive for non-compliance “No vote, no census!” The further references given after each chapter to online sources, local record offices, specialist museums and further reading are also very comprehensive.

Alnwick Family History

A unique and information packed instructional reference and guide, "Tracing Your Female Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians" is an extraordinary and thoroughly 'user friendly manual that is unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Genealogy collections and supplemental studies lists.

Read the full review here

Midwest Book Review

This is a book that stands readying at a single siting and subtly invites you to take a different world view. an absolute gem!

Alde Valley Suffolk Family History Group

As featured by

Family Tree, June 2019
 Adele Emm
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