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Discovering Female Ancestors > 5 Writing about Women Ancestors (Nov 5-11)

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message 1: by Liz (new)

Liz | 379 comments This is the thread where you can post comments on Chapter 5. The reading schedule is only a suggestion. It is a slow read allowing folks to apply the reading to their research. You do not need to be reading the book to make comments.


message 2: by Liz (new)

Liz | 379 comments Have you found any particularly helpful sources of social history?


message 4: by Liz (new)

Liz | 379 comments How can we tell if our ancestors lives were 'typical'? What pieces of folklore or social history are most likely to apply? Is using speculative words enough (probably, likely, possibly, no doubt)? How do you ensure clarity between the factual and speculative elements of your biography?


message 5: by Liz (new)

Liz (straea) | 25 comments I'm not sure if I've even heard of any of the books on her list, but I've found plenty of useful sources for social history...


message 6: by Liz (new)

Liz | 379 comments Liz wrote: "I'm not sure if I've even heard of any of the books on her list, but I've found plenty of useful sources for social history..."

What sources have you found useful?


message 7: by Liz (new)

Liz (straea) | 25 comments What topic are you interested in?


message 8: by Liz (new)

Liz (straea) | 25 comments How can we tell if our ancestors lives were 'typical'?

I'm not sure there's really a way to fully answer that for things that are by their very nature historical. However one thing that I like to do is try to compare the records they generated to the same record types of others, and to see what records they generated vs. what records others at that same/similar time and place did. I've found that sometimes what is different is what's most telling about a record or about a person's general record trail.

How about you?


message 9: by Liz (new)

Liz | 379 comments Liz wrote: "How can we tell if our ancestors lives were 'typical'?

I'm not sure there's really a way to fully answer that for things that are by their very nature historical. However one thing that I like ..."


I also compare records of the same type but I also find that historical reading can be helpful to set context and even provide additional research options.

For example, most officers in the War of 1812 were court marshaled 5-6 times during the course of their career (per Eric Johnson, War of 1812 expert). That context is critical to correctly interpreting court marshal records and should definitely be included in a biographical sketch that includes court marshal information.

Carmack uses social history to explain actions of her female ancestors. For example in one biography, she includes a paragraph or more about the experience of black women in the South even though she has no information about what the particular woman's experience was. That seems to be crossing the line from biography to history.

I felt that some of her examples were reaching a bit too far.


message 10: by Mallory (new)

Mallory | 8 comments Sorry I've been away.. but I want to comment - I really hated that final narrative/case study she did. I was all excited about incorporating social history into my ancestors narratives, then I read that and thought - yikes, I really don't want to hash up all those issues especially since I have no idea if they are true or not!


message 11: by Liz (new)

Liz | 379 comments Mallory wrote: "I really hated that final narrative/case study she did. I was all excited about incorporating social history into my ancestors narratives, then I read..."

It was a bit frightening! Even some of the assumptions in the early chapters were a bit alarming. I know of a contemporary woman who had a pattern of births like the ones Carmack implied might be due to contraception or abortion. My friend definitely did NOT practice contraception or abortion but did have multiple miscarriages. She would be appalled if someone even remotely implied that these losses were intentional.

I think that including social perspective can be beneficial to the reader of a genealogy but even then, we need to be very careful what we are implying.


message 12: by Liz (new)

Liz (straea) | 25 comments I haven't logged in in a while, so I wanted to belatedly comment. I haven't read the book you guys just read (at least in part because it got some bad reviews based exactly on the issues you discuss in the last couple of posts), but my great-grandparents' child pattern was of the sort that might be open to this kind of interpretation. The family had thought the child that had died as an infant had been much closer in birth to my grandfather's and that it had taken the parents a while to recover, hence the much later births of my great-aunts. But in my research I discovered that the sister that died was born 8 years after my grandfather, very shortly before my great-aunts were born. I think an overly creative researcher can easily speculate as to why this was the case, but frankly, without any documentation none of us know for sure, and without any reasons at all surviving in any papers from the people who lived through it, we can't even really begin to guess what the cause(s) was/were.


message 13: by Liz (new)

Liz (straea) | 25 comments I also compare records of the same type but I also find that historical reading can be helpful to set context and even provide additional research options.

For example, most officers in the War of 1812 were court marshaled 5-6 times during the course of their career (per Eric Johnson, War of 1812 expert). That context is critical to correctly interpreting court marshal records and should definitely be included in a biographical sketch that includes court marshal information.


I agree that context is vital for interpreting records. I have often wondered if there is some site or book that generally gives what is typical for record sets. Because personally I find it vital to know, as best I can, when a particular record is typical for the entire record set, and when it is abnormal. As an example I have recently been working on: I ordered the mother's pension file for my g-g-grandfather's brother who died during the CW. I know from my friend who specializes in military records that these files almost always include letters from the deceased son talking about sending money back home, to prove the monetary supporting of the parent that was generally critical to a mother's pension being included. (Very sadly for the mother, the government kept the letters.) So the fact that the pension file I received instead includes testimony from community members talking about how they know that the son had been supporting the mother since he was 12 years old, instead of letters from the son himself, means that this pension file is very unusual for its record set.


message 14: by Kim (last edited Aug 06, 2015 11:41AM) (new)

Kim Burkhardt | 6 comments Is this a discussion where we can post about actual writing we are doing about female ancestors?

After compiling a family genealogy book last year (a joy to do!), a relative and I have been writing a book about my Irish great-great grandmother, Harriet Susannah Ellis.

Harriet was born in "Yeats Country" two years ahead of Yeats himself, married in Dublin the same year that James Joyce was born in that city, spent forty years raising ten surviving children with her blind husband, crossed the Atlantic a year after the Titanic sank, and died on the same day that the Soviets invaded Poland. Two of her grandsons participated in D-Day, while a third participated in the invasion of Japan.

If anyone would like information about this book as it develops, and be notified when it's published, here is Harriet's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Harrie...

Thank you.


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