June 4th: Old Maids Day

Happy Old Maids Day!  Pull out a pack of cards and play a game or two.

Remember, when we sat around the kitchen or dining room table and played Old Maid?  Remember, when we had the time to play Old Maid?  Somewhere I still have a pack of Old Maid cards that I played with my children.

Old Maids and Your Genealogy

Single men were considered a threat to society for a wide variety of reasons. In Plymouth Colony, someone had to be responsible for a single man. Someone to answer for him.  Someone to pay his taxes if he didn’t or couldn’t.

Not so with a single woman.  She was a valued member of society.  And you will want to watch for single women connected to your pedigree for a variety of reasons:

  1.  Often, the youngest daughter (especially in families of  Scandinavian descent) was expected to care for her aging parents–mother and father.  So she did not marry, or if she eventually did, she waited until her parents had died.  Sometimes her duties then carried over to take care of other siblings.  Watch for adult single women buried in the family cemetery plot, near father and mother.
  2. The will of an unmarried woman names many relatives with inlaw bequests that you would not get otherwise.  Persons with different surnames connected with your family.  Analysis of English and Irish wills shows that upwards of 25% of wills were written by single women –spinsters (never been married) and widows (no longer married). Some bequeathed as little as 5 pounds worth of treasured goods to beloved family members.  Just one long and informative “last will and testament” may be all it takes to add 2-3 proven generations to your ancestry. 
  3. Quaker families expected at least one daughter to remain unmarried and become a teacher or a nurse, so the family collectively, might provide service to their local community.  Roman Catholic families often dedicated at least one daughter to the Church.  If you come from these religious backgrounds, be sure you have accounted for these family women.
  4. Unmarried daughters became governesses for young children and companions to the elderly.  Watch for them in census records residing in the homes of other families.  And sometimes the census taker dittos the surname instead of writing it out.  To find these relatives, you have to search by given name.
  5. Single women are genealogy assets.  They are the ones who often pass along the family traditions to the next generations–folklore, beliefs, values, myths, fallacies, superstitions.  Some of the best family stories come from them down through the younger family members.  

Surname searches are really important; no, essential!  With our expanded access to indexes both in print and online, research has become specific. You look for persons by name rather than examining everyone by the surname residing in that jurisdiction or place.

And you still have hard-to-find ancestors.  Watch for the single women in your family and break your losing streak!  They are the connectors to fill in many gaps on family charts.  Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle  http://www.arleneeakle.com

PS  Event Countdowns:  The countdown to the Colorado Family History Expo in Loveland CO 12-13 June 2009 (http://www.fhexpos.com) and the countdown to the Southern California Jamboree in Burbank CA 26-28 June 2006 (http://www.scgsgenealogy.com/jamboree.htm).  I’m speaking both places–so if you haven’t registered yet, please sign up and come!  Lots of new stuff in genealogy and these conferences are the place to discover what’s new.

PPS  June 4th was also my mother-in-law’s birthday.  Each year I bought her a Chocolate Eclair–her very favorite thing to eat.  Now, finding one in the grocery store bakery is almost impossible.  Like Hot Cross Buns, they are something of the past to be remembered with pleasure.

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