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  • Writer's pictureDevon Noel Lee

Find Your Female Ancestors By Researching Her Children

Are you struggling to find a female ancestor? Have you researched all the records of her children?

A frequent question in genealogy forums asks, "Should I attach this birth certificate about my grandfather to his mother?"

The answer should always be yes!

But how do we go about it?

1. Use Census Records to Identify Possible Children

Census records are often a gateway to further records. Additionally, they often suggest a family structure.

While searching for Cinderella Chambers, born about 1850 in Ohio, you will find a 1900 census record that includes three likely children: Nellie, Leona, and Harry.

It's uncertain if these are her children as the recorded relations is of these individuals is to the head of the household, Cinderella's husband, Oscar.

While looking at this document, we can see a clue that she has had eight children, and five are living. The eldest in the household is 25. The youngest is 7. Two more children may have left home for work, marriage, or another reason. Since she and Oscar have been married for 30 years, it's quite likely that the children in the home are hers.

However, what do you do next if you didn't know Cinderella's maiden surname or her parents' names?

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Find Every Census Record for the Female Ancestor

Once you have found your female ancestor in one census, find every census she appears with her family after marriage. Since Cinderella was married 30 years before the 1900 census, begin with that census. So, you'll look for:

Also, be sure to investigate the Iowa state census records for the years:

  • 1895

  • 1905

  • 1915

  • 1925

By so doing, you may discover more about her parents and her origins, but you'll also find other likely children.

  • Arthur, b. 1871

  • Nellie, b. 1875

  • Hattie, b. 1879

  • Leona, b. 1885

  • Harry, b. 1893

This list includes five children living in 1900, with Arthur and Hattie residing in different homes. How will you discover the names of the other three children?

Watch this video.

2. Search Vital Records Using the Spouse's Name(s)

Next, perform a vital record search using only the first and last name of the potential spouse indicated in the census records plus your female ancestor.

To conduct a Parental Name search on Ancestry, do the following

  • Click Search

  • Select Birth, Marriage & Death

When you see this search form, add Father and Mother's names to the relevant search fields to begin a broad search.

On FamilySearch,

  • Click Search

  • Select Records

  • When you see this search form, click on "More Options."

Then click on the plus signs beside Father and Mother to open the fields to add the parental names as follows.

Click on the Plus sign beside "Type" to see the options to filter results.

Click in the boxes beside:

  • Birth, Baptism, and Christening

  • Marriage

  • Death.

Leave the "Show Exact Search" slider in the off position (as seen below).

Then press "Search."

Review the search results paying particular attention to birth, marriage, and death records. For this research example, her likely maiden name is Cinderella C De Armon. De Armon and other surname variations appear on her children's birth, marriage, and death records.

If her name doesn't on these records, perhaps you'll see the full name of her children and notice a middle name that resembles a maiden name. Test out that theory.

Once we have the mother's maiden name, we can search for the female in her parents' home.

If a search of vital records for the parent's names does not return any results, attempt different search strategies or check the FamilySearch Research Wiki for the availability of vital records at the time and place you're researching. When you've exhausted these avenues, then attempt the following record searches.

If at any time you would like the assistance of an experienced heir hunter or forensic genealogist, check out our friends over at Legacy Tree Genealogists. and tell them Devon Noel Lee referred you.

3. Search For Children in Additional Records

After searching vital records, it's time to research the children in various other collections.

First, find the entries for all the potential children on a free gravestone website, such as Find A Grave. You may score big with a profile that links all of the children. It's also possible that the profile will list most children, like the one below.

From this website, we discover the names of two more children:

  • Arthur, b. 1871

  • Nellie, b. 1875

  • Esther, b. 1877 (new)

  • Hattie, b. 1879

  • Leona, b. 1885

  • Infant Daughter, b. 1890 (new)

  • Harry, b. 1893

From any of the children's profiles, you can click on the link to view Cinderella's profile, and you can find the following extended family members:

Not every research quest will be this detailed and easy. However, some searches of Find A Grave may provide essential clues to your female ancestor's lineage.

Next, research the children of the female ancestor in:

  • newspapers

  • wills

  • probate records

  • court records

  • land transactions

  • church records

After exhausting the records related to your ancestor's children, you will hopefully have the clues you need to research their mother's lineage.

4. Use the Clues to Search For Her

Whether you have clues collected on a genealogy research plan or in a clue web, begin using the clues to search for your female ancestor. From here, you might have to conduct a:

  • Search for additional records of her - Once you have the clues from her children, search the likely records again for your female ancestor. You might find her now that you know more about her from her kids.

  • Search for additional records of her husband - Sometimes, researching the men in her life will help you find the females you seek.

  • Same Name Rule Out Search where you look for every female that could possibly fit the profile you create for your ancestor. Then, you'll methodically rule out the ones that don't fit. I discussed this in my John Townley Brick Wall series.

  • Consult DNA Research - With a solid genealogical foundation, you can now utilize DNA Match research to determine your ancestor's family. ThruLines won't be helpful because it's based on family tree information. But you might figure things out using the Leeds Method, Cluster Research, and Triangulation.

More advanced genealogy techniques:

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