Weekly Planner: Putting Great-Grandma in Perspective

Spend some time this week learning more about one of your female ancestor’s life. Check censuses for snippets of information like how many children she gave birth to and how many were still living (1900 and 1910 censuses), age at first marriage (1930 census), education and literacy, etc. Look at age and cause of death found on death records.Antoinette Fazzino, ten years old, makes Irish lace for collars and waists after school. (From LOC Photo Collection at Ancestry.com) Was it a prolonged illness through which she continued to take care of her family? Or perhaps one that meant they had to care for her? Compile an in-depth summary of what you know about her from the records you have, and then expand your search outward, documenting new information as you find it. Research the environment or environments she lived in, the climate, and historical events that may have impacted her and her family. Did she go from relative urban comforts to a new home in a frontier? What forms of transportation were available to her? By looking closer at what you have and doing some extra digging (check out Paula’s article for ideas), you can gain a better appreciation for the women in your family tree and throughout history.

Have you found an interesting tidbit about one of your female ancestors? Share your story in the comments section of this post.

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6 thoughts on “Weekly Planner: Putting Great-Grandma in Perspective

  1. My great grandmother was institutionalized in the Madison State Hospital of Indiana. I was able to get her records and learned quite a bit about her. Depression runs in my family so I was interested in her case. She lost a daughter who was 18 at the time and the next year, another daughter and her baby of 5 mos was killed in the great tornado of New Albany, Indiana. A few years later, she lost another grandchild, my grandmother’s oldest. She was reported as not wanting to wear clothing, was despondent, had no desire to live. Her son gave the medical information. I’ve been able to track where my great grandfather lived through censuses after she was committed. I was able to visit the hospital which is still used today. It was fairly new at the time she became a resident and their philosophy at that time was patients work and be outside as much as possible. The setting is beautiful, it sits atop the bluff of the Ohio River. Small cottages (small dormitories) are scattered about, it reminds one of a small college campus.

  2. My husbands g-g-grandmother, Nancy Shields, born in Nova Scotia, was the only woman awarded the privelege of voting in the early Colorado mining camps in the 1850’s because she panned the first gold ever taken out of Nevada Gulch, Colorado. Source: The Real Pioneers of Colorado by Maria Davies McGrath, Vol. 3, page 244.

  3. I found on-line references to my sister-in-law’s family in a volume of the Wisconsin Historical Society publications. Calling the Society, I gave them the volume and the referenced pages asking them to Xerox the pages; it cost a whole 20 cents a page and $1.00 postage!

    It was far more than I expected! This turned out to be excerpted pages from a book about working women in the early 1900’s. This portion specifically referenced my sister-in-law’s mother and Aunts, and told how and when they left their small town farm to find work in the “city”. They returned during the summer to work on the farm, and then returned to the city to find new jobs and living places. It records what sort of jobs they took, the hours and pay, why the store they worked for refused to pay the newly instated minimum wage, and what the working conditions were like for women.

    It is a wonderful picture of the lives and times in which these and other women lived and the conditions they faced! History is everything!
    Mitzi Allen

  4. I have my great grandmother’s diary for 1865. She tells of her husband-to-be “going off to join his regiment.” He was in the Ill 5th Cavalry. She talks of “candy pulling,” starting school (1/17/65…she was 19 years old), also “spelling school” and church. She lived on a farm near Bloomington, Ill. She talks about “walking to town” and going with her father to see “The Panorama of New York City.” She talks about cousins and aunts and uncles who come out and spend the night…friends, too. She mentions she lost her “little gold dollar broach” and was so sad…but her father found it a few days later. She talks about going to Wenona with cousin Will and seeing the Illinois River…the first river she had ever seen.

    She mentions the “bad news of Lincoln and Seward’s deaths and Lincoln being burried at Springfield and she wishes she could go to Springfield to see him.” She talks about going to town in the buggy and getting ice cream at the “ice cream saloon.” She talks about horseback riding and a boy bringing her home in a carriage.

    She mentions “Pa started for Kansas” in August. The family later moved there in 1866. She talks about “trimming new hats.” (Just like Jane Austin). She talks about her fiance’ getting mustered out of the service at Springfield in October…and says, “Thank God they are that near home.”

    After she moved to Irving, KS and married, she had three children…a son, my grandmother, and another daughter who died of spinal meningitis at age 17.

    Ed. You may condense this as you see fit. It’s a little long.

  5. Around 1930 my mother, a farm girl, was attending high school in Palo Alto, California. The school bus was provided only for the town children. So my mother staged what was probabhly one of the first sit-ins. She got the farm kids to fill up the bus so there was no room for the “town kids.” Within a few days there was bus service for all of the students. Mom went on to become the editor/publisher of a weekly newspaper in El Centro, California, always standing up for the rights of the down trodden.

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