Thursday, August 04, 2005

Genealogue Exclusive: New Website for Old Maids

A Genealogue Exclusive [What's That?]
A genealogist sometimes finds a woman in his family tree who refuses to be tracked down. Once she reaches adulthood, no other trace of her can be found—no marriage certificate, no death record, and no gravestone.

A new website—available by subscription at the end of August—aims to ferret out such lost ladies, and bring to light their unique contributions to American history.

AuntsHistory.com—part of the popular HiFamily.com network—promises to "draw needed attention to maidens, spinsters, and old maids" neglected by ordinary genealogy websites.

"These woman often left little record of their existence," says AuntsHistory.com founder Amos O. Jenness. "They didn't work outside the home, didn't own land, and sometimes they show up in a different boarding-house each census. In some cases, they were passed around to family members. It's sad."

The new website will include census indexes listing only unmarried women, and membership lists of prominent 19th-century groups advocating celibacy and knitting. Jenness is especially proud of the "Bad Intentions" database, featuring records of engagements which ended badly.

"Take the case of Mary Blake of Londonderry, New Hampshire," he says. "She was engaged to marry one William Bowker, but the intentions were taken down by Bowker when he discovered that she had tried to vote in the 1880 presidential election. This is great stuff!"

Jenness also points to the "Was She or Wasn't She?" database, which he says heralds "a revolution in genealogical research." The database lists pairs of unrelated spinsters living together in more than one census year. Any conclusions about the pair's lifestyle, Jenness notes, are left to the researcher.

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