Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Foremothers: Genealogy and Gender

In a lecture entitled Foremothers: Genealogy and Gender,” presented on October 8, 2011, for the Dane County Area Genealogical Society, Cora Lee Kluge outlined—using as her example a family that lived in the latter part of the nineteenth century in Janesville, Wisconsin––special difficulties researchers encounter when looking into female ancestors. It is often difficult to find out about their backgrounds, since their names may be subsumed under those of their husbands. Furthermore, they lived their lives for the most part in the private rather than the public sphere, so that official documents and records relating to them may not exist at all. Even death notices, obituaries, and grave markers may be of no help, and the records they left—including diaries, letters, or autobiographical writings—tend to belittle their own contributions and achievements. Cora Lee pointed out that such problems confront all genealogists and researchers, but particularly those looking for immigrant forebears. After outlining resources and approaches that are easily overlooked, she asked whether information about these “anonymous” women would be of interest, concluding that without them, their perspectives, and their interactions with others, we are missing a large and equally valid part of the story.

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