The 4th of June is Old Maids’ Day for all unmarried women over the age of 35 years. It has been celebrated since 1948 in Norristown PA–just for fun with humor and roses or daisies (the happiest flower in the garden). Think of all the jokes you have heard since childhood about old maids.
And card games–Old Maid, Dirty Sue, etc.
The single women in your family tree over the age of 35 are one of the most awesome genealogy assets you have:
- One daughter in the family, often the youngest, was expected to remain unmarried, live at home, and care for aging parents. Some times the father’s will acknowledged this “sacrifice” by allotting her extra income or property from his estate. This ensured that she was named in the will. Or her upkeep was provided for through the oldest son in the family from his legacy.
- Quakers and Roman Catholics are two religious backgrounds that encouraged at least one daughter in the family to remain unmarried. These daughters became teachers and nurses or missionaries giving their lives to service of others, through the church.
- Maiden aunts are often responsible for the traditions and folklore of the family. They gather the information from family members and share it with the next generations. Cultural values and beliefs, myths and superstitions are learned at their knees by young children–usually girls. And family members often expect these maiden ladies to record and pass the lore along.
- Old maids, especially those who pursue a career or spend their lives in the workplace, write wills that name many relatives. Family members and in-laws, even close friends of the family, are named. With legacies and relationships spelled out in detail, from their personal knowledge, that you would not otherwise know.
Some genealogists carefully account for the males–for family and ethnic naming patterns, for identification of land-holdings, and to ensure that the family unit is complete.
I recommend that you expend the same effort to identify all the daughters in the family. And track each one to their deaths–searching cemeteries and probate files as well as obituaries for the genealogy gems these ladies leave behind. Break your losing streak!
Be sure you collect all the family evidence your old maids left behind. Your favorite genealogy evidence guru, Arlene Eakle. http://www.arleneeakle.com