Posted by Ancestry Team on May 11, 2014 in Ask Ancestry Anne

I can take my tree back to Eve along my matrilineal line. Your matrilineal line starts with your mother and follows her mother and then her mother.

No, I don’t have any documentation that takes me back to Eve of Adam and Eve (I knew what you were thinking!), but I can get back to my 3rd great grandmother Eve/Eva Weaver. And it was no easy task getting back that far.

Fan Chart for my grandmother -- matrilineal line in pink.
Fan chart for my grandmother — matrilineal line in pink.

How often do you work on your matrilineal line?  I bet you work on your patrilineal line. In fact, I bet you go left in your tree more often than you go right. Men are easier to follow. They left more documents like wills and deeds and therefore left more clues. For the most part, they didn’t change their names.

But just because the ladies in your tree are often more challenging, doesn’t mean they aren’t worth searching. It’s the difficult ancestors that are the most fun. That’s what I keep telling myself. 🙂

The women in your tree are just as important as the men. You wouldn’t be here without them. Their stories need to be told. If you don’t do it, who will? So here is my Mother’s Day challenge for you: How far can you take your matrilineal line back? What will it take to take it back another generation?

Happy Mother’s Day! Happy Searching!



  1. Andrea Moore

    I have been trying for so long to figure out who my great great grandmother is on my mom’s side. It is almost impossible because I only know her first name. I have my great grandmothers death certificate, but it shows her married name and no father so I am at a stopping point until I can uncover a clue.

    I appreciate all the videos and information you publish for the public because I watch them and learn new ways of searching all the time. Thanks for all you do!

  2. Doug

    Ive gotten to Anna Arnold mother of Margaretha Langendorfer, Margaretha was born 26 March 1756 in Langenleiten, Bavaria. I mention daughter because I don’t know approx. date of birth for mother.

    Thank you for all your great articles 🙂

  3. Tien Le

    Johanna Jonsdotter 1826-1871 Sweden (6 generations). What would it take to go beyond that? Probably a trip to Sweden. Others in my extended family have gone there to connect with relatives who stayed in Sweden, and that is all they were able to find so far.

  4. Dorothy

    I have my 2nd great grandmother whose name was Hannah born in 1832. It was challenging because of slavery-but it is possible. Without the help of the ancestry community-I would not have made it back this far. Thanks,


  5. Kristin

    Tien Le, if you know where in Sweden she was born, there will be records. The Swedish records are very good. I’ve gone back to the 17th century using Swedish records.

  6. Mary Stetzel

    I have traced my maternal line as far back as my 3rd great grandmother, Catharine Javens who was born in Pennsylvania in 1817. I owe many thanks to the ancestry community for their help in getting me this far.

  7. Charlie

    I have gotten to Martin Friedrich Christian who was born in 1793, though I cannot get much further than that until I get my subscription bought this summer

  8. Mike

    my 6th great grandmother Elizabeth Snelling b. 1735 Virginia died after 1783 likely in Virginia.

  9. Marcelle

    I’ve traced my maternal line back to my 2nd great grandmother, Philomene Anne Perrine Robin. I’ve found her marriage record for Oct. 14, 1865 in Rennes, Ille-et-Vilaine, Bretagne, France, but haven’t found her birth or death records yet. What slows my progress is I’m having trouble reading the handwritten records and my limited knowledge of French.

  10. Jackie

    I’ve traced my maternal line back to my 3rd great grandmother, Abbie Cooper in our family tree. In my husband’s tree we have traced his maternal line back to his 4th great grandmother, Polly Matthews.

  11. Anne Midwinter

    My 5 x great grandmother, Elizabeth Wakerley. Or Walkeley. Or Wakeley. Which is why I’m a bit stuck. Born abt 1761, died 1841.

  12. Caroline Francis

    Have all 32 great great grandparents, 50 of 64 3x great and 8 or 9 generations on several lines (female as well as male) all in the UK which I guess might be easier to research. (I’m disabled so 99% is done online) best line is 15 generations back to 1510. Determined to get into the 1400s!

  13. Carol Iddon

    Ive finished my research…or as much as I want to after 30 + years of research…have gone back on several of my matrilineal lines to mid 1500’s…recently completed my family history book for my family only…English lines only…I now reside in Australia…loved every minute of my research years…have no qualifications…just done it for love…

  14. Ken Hinds

    My maternal line now goes 12 generations, to Mary Wooten born about 1653 in VA. I know her father’s name, but no clue on her mother.


    I actually started my tree with my matrilineal line, because it was the one I knew the most about in the first place, thanks to my mum, nana and great-aunt who all talked about the family a lot. I can get back to Hannah Wade, b. 1812, and I know her mother was Mary, but don’t have any further information on here. My favourite thing about this line is that from that generation to this we were all born to parents living in my home village (if not actually born there, as my mum and I were both born in local hospitals) – my matrilineal line is the one that connects me most deeply to my home, even though I don’t live there any more!

  16. nancy

    I have a name for 3G grandmother – and that she was born & died in “Germany.” Which of course wasn’t called Germany in the early 1800s. Locality info is unclear, so I am more than a bit “stuck” at this point.

  17. robert teague

    I have gotten back to at least one 10th great grandmother on my mother’s side. I have run into some road blocks on some grandmothers due to lack of documents available but maybe something will show up later to help on them.

  18. Penuel Ellis-Brown

    In fact I started my Family History research on my Scottish father’s maternal lines as I was trying to discover when my christian name came into use in our family It has been handed down to the first girl of each generation. So far I have taken it back to around 1788 in the MEEK family of Whitburn,West Lothian, Scotland.
    Then I started on my mother’s family and her maternal line which takes me back to Mary MARSHALL nee Robson b.1801 in Gosforth, Northumberland,England.
    I find searching all lines absolutely fascinating and in fact, searching side lines helps with the main paternal lines.

  19. Frances Thornton

    I have run across several stumbling blocks in maternal sides. Both my own mother and my husbands. My mother is of Cherokee descent, but can’t find a link. I can go back 3 generations, but haven’t found any “indian” names or heritage.
    Souses mother is first generation American. Originally from Chechoslovakia. Anna Sochor? I believe. Her husband, Vaclav Josef Cerny also from there both lead to a dead end. There are literally hundred’s of Vaclav Josef Cerny’s in New York City in the era that he immigrated.
    Any help with these would be appreciated…….

  20. Sharon Freebury

    I have gone back to my 5th great Grandmother & I have visited her grave tomb. She is buried with her daughter & granddaughter. I am very proud of my matrilineal line.

  21. Josie Surridge

    I have gone back to Henry 1 “Beauclerc” King of England* his wife Matilda Plantagenant is my lead back to Adam and Eve. They are both my 25 times Great Grandparents, I never believed I could be right but now I’me wondering. Nice to see it is possible, Josie

  22. Adriana

    Patience Congdon, born about 1740, wife of Sylvester Sweet, is my direct matrilineal line. I can’t trace most of my ancestral lines that far, but I lucked out that my matrilineal line was documented by my great-grandmother.

  23. Teri Beach

    Annie,do you have family originating in Ireland on the Gillespie side. My gr-grandmother re-married a Gillespie after her first husband died in Belfast at the age of 27. She married James Gillespie and had 2 Dtr’s from him. He died at sea during the war on Jan. 23,1942. He was 42 yrs old. His wife Mary Blair is where I’m really stuck on going forward. I will be traveling to Ireland/England next Spring and hope to discover whatever comes my way!

  24. Judy Brown Durocher

    My paternal line was relatively easy. My Grandfather Brown had started research, maybe in the 50’s or 60’s. My grandmother Edna (Howard) Brown has the most interesting line although, as you say, there are mystery grandmothers with little or no info recorded. My matrilineal line is difficult since it leaves Rhode Island, USA and goes to the UK. Is there a special name for following the mothers of my fathers family?

  25. Ann

    I have full documentation on my 3rd GGM. I have names and places, but not full dates on my 4th and 5th.

  26. Carolyn Foster

    It appears that multiple members of my Foster line married into Cherokee families of Cherokee Nation East (shown most often as Georgia) and that is where my information gets confusing. I don’t know where to go for documentation to sort out the facts. The information I have so far seems to jumble some names, and duplicate others showing some names married to multiple other family members. It is such a tangle. Several of my GG+ Grandmothers show the name of Ga Ho Ga and the Deer Clan, along with last names of Lightfoot and Foster. Any data and documentation resources would be greatly appreciated.

  27. Ruth Mason

    In my strictly maternal line, I can definitely go back to my great-great-grandmother, Susan (possibly Shannon), who was born ~1815 somewhere in Co. Cork. Her daughter, Mary Ann Hall emigrated to Canada in 1852 as a 5-year-old and was living with (possibly her maternal grandparents) Mary b. ~1787 and John Shannon in 1861. Have not proved or disproved the link to Mary, who might be my GGG grandmother.

  28. Paula Tillman

    I can trace my maternal line directly back to my 7th great grandmother, Ruth Fifield (maiden name unknown) 1698-1777 from New Hampshire. Now I am curious to find out more about her!

    When I started researching my family history in 1993, I did focus on the paternal lines and wanted direct lineage only. Fast forward to now, I have a huge extended family tree and this has helped me find out more about my maternal and paternal lines.

  29. Pamela Marie Galvan Tamez

    It is virtually impossible to find any info on my G Grandmother Alvira Sisneros (This is her married name, maiden name unknown) She was born in Santa Fe del Rio Penjamillo Michoacan Mexico, Alvira died in child birth of my grandmother Esther. Esther never really knew anything about her. I say Mexico’s records are the hardest to find. All I want to know is what Alvira’s Surname was.
    Thank you
    Pamela Buffalo Woman

  30. straight through my mom’s line, i’ve only been able to go back to 2nd great-grandmother Rachel Ewing/Young Kelly (born before 1866). i’m working on my dad’s side of the tree too, and there are parts of his line that recently exploded with information on his female ancestors. early this year, i confirmed the identity of the family who owned a minimum of four of my ancestors, including my 3rd (Jane Blackwell Evans), 4th (Mary Blackwell Calhoun), 5th (Violet Davidson Blackwell Ledbetter), and 6th (Saline Davidson) great-grandmothers.

  31. Jennifer

    I started thinking about this when I took the National Geographic DNA test, which traces only the matrilineal line. I’m fortunate to have a well-documented line of mothers back through my 3rd great-grandmother, Elizabeth Dodd, b. 1813, who came from England to the US in 1849; somewhat skimpier evidence for 3 more generations back in Lincolnshire, petering out somewhere in the early 1700s. Would love to know more.

  32. Marie

    I just made a breakthrough on my matrilineal line and have it back to my 4th Great Grandmother Mary Heather, who was b. abt 1745 Hampshire, England and d. 1804 Hayling Island, Hampshire. Now I am in a quandry because there seems to be several “Mary Heather’s” who were born about the same time in Hampshire. Sure wish their parents were more creative with names!

  33. Penny Beel James

    I can only get back to my 3rd g grandmother b1806 in Gravesend, Kent. She was a widow,with no children when she married my 3x g grandfather in 1830,so I’ve no idea of her maiden name.
    More success with dads line- back 12 generations to 1549 and they lived in the same village in Somerset, England up until the 1960s

  34. Mary Buhr

    It took 175 generations, starting with my grandmother to reach Eve, yes, of Adam and Eve.

  35. Penny Beel James

    Did you do this with a DNA test?
    I had my brother do one for our father-line and was very disappointed with the results. If you happen to have an unusual result that dos’nt fit in with anybody else’s, you are no further forward.

  36. Andrew Martin Kolstee

    My matrilineal line goes back to 1856, the least far of all my lines. Maria (LoPorto) LaBarbera, my great-great-great grandmother, was born in Villarosa, Sicily in 1856. Unfortunately, I cannot go back further than her on my matrilinel line!

  37. On my matrilineal line I am stuck on my GG grandmother who was called Annie. She was born in Ireland in about 1830 but I have no idea where and no idea who her parents or siblings were. On a brighter note I traced my paternal GG grandmother back to the Norse sagas….at which point I stopped as I thought things were getting a bit fanciful…

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