January 13, 2022
Happy birthday to two of my favorite (famous) female role models, Dolly Parton and Betty White! Dolly will turn 76 on January 19, and Betty White would have been 100 on January 17. No, I’ve never met either of these women. Yet, despite never meeting them, they have influenced my life. In fact, as cultural icons, I’m sure they’ve made an impact on many. Their influence spans many facets—from their countless contributions to philanthropic causes, such as Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and Betty’s donations to numerous animal rights charities, to their ability to entertain the masses for decades, their wit, and their tendency to not take themselves too seriously.
Ok, so I may be a bit partial to these two, but I do have a point! If I can be influenced and aspire to share some of the qualities of two people I’ve never met, how much have the female ancestors in my family tree influenced the way I am? How much of my mother’s hard work and persistence are generational? (Hint: I know from having been close to my grandmother and great-grandmother that these qualities existed in them as well!)
What kind of confidence or desire did my grandmother—having just graduated college with her teaching degree—have to possess in order to travel by horseback into the mountains in the mid-1930s to teach children who would not otherwise be able to attend school? How did my great-grandmother manage to raise all 11 of her children to adulthood, while living far away from any kind of neighbor, town, or medical help? Well, that’s not a complete wonder—I am living proof that her medicinal and homeopathic treatments, which have been passed from generation to generation, do work!
I digress. There are many glimpses of our ancestors in ourselves. As we further our research, finding our female ancestors becomes more of a challenge. Their identities, on paper at least, are heavily influenced by the males associated with them and not the women themselves. So, if you get stuck researching the female ancestors in your family tree, might I recommend some of our reference materials to help get you “un-stuck”? Try Tracing Your Female Ancestors or A Genealogist's Guide to Discovering Your Female Ancestors. Maybe you’ll break some of those “brick walls” down and discover a glimpse of yourself in their histories!
What aspects of yourself have you—or will you—discover that are directly inherited from your foremothers?
Midwest Genealogy Center
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