Harriett Sanders Capps walked down the steps of the courthouse, smiling as she peered at the land deed in her hand. The document freshly signed and stamped, she read her name outloud as an official landowner. Burying three husbands during and after the Civil War, Harriett glowed with the satisfaction of land ownership.

Euceba Rolston Jones turned the key, locking the front door to the home where she raised her children. The wife of an iron mill worker in Boonton, New Jersey, Euceba spent each evening sweeping the black dust from her floors. But as a recent widow, she felt she needed change. And so, Euceba left the iron mill town and boarded the train to New York, hoping her new life would create the spark of happiness she craved.

Jennie Knowlten wiped the kitchen table clean, placed the last rhubarb pie in the oven and hung her freshly washed laundry on the line. A normal day filled with canning, milking, cooking and cleaning; Jennie untied her apron and brushed the wisp of hair from her eyes. A real pioneer woman, when pioneer meant twelve-hour workdays filled with dirty hands, wrinkled faces and sweat-drenched foreheads. Jennie settled into her chair; a well-earned respite before bed.

March is Women's History Month: a celebration of women and their accomplishments. But the female ancestors in my family were not famous educators, artists or activists. They were wives and widows, yet seemingly built with grit, steadfastness and endurance.

Celebrate the history of the women in your family tree. If like mine, they have been your family's foundation, molding each generation. They were the teachers, mothers and wives that bonded all of us together.

They were all pioneer women; whether they buried husbands in the Civil war; cleaned and cooked for husbands blackened from grimy mills, or hard working household managers, cooking and cleaning from morning until dusk.

Our female ancestor's history is worthy of recognition and we should feel grateful for the roads they paved, making ours easier to travel.

The Library of Congress website has pages dedicated to Women's History Month, providing volumes of articles on women's accomplishments in art, culture, government, military and women's rights.

Celebrate the women in your family tree. Write a book with their stories or gather their recipes for heirloom gifts handed out during family celebrations.

And remember, your ancestor did not have be a great artist, writer or politician to be celebrated; she just had to be herself.

The real pioneer women of history: our female ancestors.

Keep searching for answers,

Roots Ireland
St. Patrick's Day has again risen its head and tipped its hat but many of us searching our Irish roots still long for clearer details of our ancestor's origins. It is ironic that a culture aspired and loved by so many, has genealogical records that are difficult to reach. The Dublin fires in the 1920's, a result of the Civil War, destroyed many records precious to the genealogist. But with the old saying: "what doesn't kill us, makes us stronger," the struggle of the search may bring a pot-o-gold at the end.

This year's celebration of St. Patrick's Day spurned my genealogical spark, curious to find tidbits of new and recently released records. Scanning my own Irish Records Page, I was pleased to find that the site Irish Genealogy has added church records for Dublin City, Carlow, Cork and Kerry. Also, they seem to have a good searchable database for Roman Catholic records of County Monaghan.

I am enthralled with the Free Irish Gene Books website. Mr. Peter J. Clarke has compiled digital books of Irish family surnames, making it easy for a researcher of Irish families to locate all on one website. Mr. Clarke wisely spotlights an "Irish e-book of the month" along with almanacs, directories and journals.

The Roots Ireland site (Family History Foundation), is growing with the largest records database in Ireland. The not-for-profit organization has free searchable census, marriage, death, baptismal, passenger lists and Griffiths Valuation Records; at a cost of five Euros per record for purchase. And I am impressed with the Public Record of Northern Ireland website. They, also, have free searchable records for Freeholder Records, street directories, Ulster Covenant, along with a general name search engine.

I continue to struggle with my search for my Irish ancestors. Though I have a world of information on their lives in the States; none have surfaced in Ireland. But that will not stop my search.

Perhaps the best tool is the census records of your Irish ancestors within America. I found mine living within an Irish community in Michigan. One by one, I am looking at details of my ancestor's neighbors. Searching their records will one day lead me to my ancestor's county of origin, I am certain of it.

Though the search is often tiresome and tedious, my desire continues. The flame is sparked every time I notice a hint. And then I continue on...digging for that ultimate pot-o-gold: my Irish ancestor's origins.

keep searching for answers,

I flung open the screen door and ran barefooted through the porch and into my grandmother's little kitchen. I felt lighthearted with the warmth of summer and my stomach rolled with hunger. Flopping into a chair at the kitchen table, I eyed the pots on the stove to spy their savory contents.

The squeak of the screen door drew my attention and another hungry soul sauntered inside Bertha's unofficial family cafe.

"Oh good," mother said to Bertha as she stepped into the kitchen. "You made boiled cabbage and red potatoes for lunch."

I sunk in to my chair. Boiled cabbage and red potatoes...yuk, I thought to myself: not a nine-year-old's favorite treat.


Cherished family recipes passed to each generation are not only heirlooms; they are genealogical goldmines. Dishes you remember as a child, prepared by your parents and grandparents, likely reflect a smidgen of ethnic traditions. And though tweaked, pinched and improvised by each generation; favorite family recipes whisper hints of your immigrant ancestry.

My grandmother Bertha's kitchen  floated with the aromas of pies, puddings, stews and yes, boiled cabbage and red Irish potatoes. Apprenticed by a mother of Irish customs, Bertha's dishes reflected her heritage. And though ethnic hints were subtle, I now understand the legacy of her cooking.

Study your family's cherished recipes and you will find sparks of immigrant cultures passed to you. Rice pudding, crumb cake and chicken and dumplings are favorites of the Pennsylvania Dutch and Germans.

The British and Scots gave us chicken and beef pot pies; the Hungarians gave us recipes of hearty goulash, and French cooking is heavily reflected in Creole dishes.

An then there are our Irish ancestors. Grandma's big cast iron pots boiling with cabbage and red Irish potatoes; chunky beef stew simmering on a lazy Saturday afternoon and home baked soda bread and butter spread across the kitchen table. It all feels like home and yet; grounded in a culture a thousand miles away.

Sift through your favorite family recipes and you will likely find a glimpse of your ethnic inheritance: A genealogical landmine stuffed within your grandmother's old recipe box.

As a child, on days my grandmother served plates of boiled cabbage and red Irish potatoes, I twisted my nose and quietly retreated. But strangely, as I have grown older, I find myself craving the dish: perhaps derived from a need to feel wrapped by home or just my Irish heritage sprouting its head.

Either way, my stomach and I have come full circle, cherishing the recipes passed by my Irish ancestors, on to my grandmother, and then on to me.

Keep searching for answers,

Undertaking genealogical research involves more than growing a family tree. It means gaining a deeper understanding of traditions, not just of our own family but the culture we are rooted in. Because as we grasp how our customs have evolved through the centuries, we gain insight into our own family's history and way of life. And learning a bit about Colonial marriage traditions can be both enlightening and intriguing.

The original settlers of Jamestown, Virginia of 1607 were all men, no women among their crew. And the approximately 100 Mayflower passengers included only 28 women, making the task of obtaining a wife difficult at best for the early 17th century colonial male.

Eager and perhaps desperate for male colonists to marry, approximately 150 "pure and spotless" women arrived in Virginia between 1620 and 1622 to be auctioned for 80 pounds of tobacco to future husbands. Many other women were brought to the Southern colonies as indentured servants, marrying the men who purchased their contracts.

The colonists established laws pertaining to the rights of husbands and their wives. The wives had few rights to land or to their children; the children were granted legal guardians upon the passing of their fathers, even when their mothers were still alive. Women had the responsibility of clothing and feeding their children but the guardians addressed legal matters, such as the child's property.

The wedding traditions varied, depending on ethnicity. The Dutch and Germans performed wedding ceremonies in their native languages, and the Quaker's weddings were held in their meetinghouses without a clergyman. Southerner's and New Englander's wedding ceremonies were also quite different: the Southern weddings often held in the bride's home with a pastor and lavish parties; whereas New Englanders often perceived a wedding not as a religious rite but as a civil affair conducted by a magistrate.

And not only were marriage customs dissimilar depending on the culture one lived, but divorce and grounds for divorce varied between New England and the South. If a wife alleged physical assault by her husband in Massachusetts in the 1600's she had grounds for divorce, but in the Southern colonies her husband was only restricted from "inflicting permanent injury or death" (all other atrocities on a wife must have been fair game).

Many of the colonial churches maintained marriage books. And institutions, such as the New England Historic Genealogical Society, offers free searchable records of colonial churches of Massachusetts and Connecticut.

For leads into locating archived marriage certificates and church records, you may find the Genwed website helpful, providing links for all 50 states along with Ireland, the U.K and Canada.

It can all sound silly when learnng about the marriage traditions of the colonists but they eventually evolved into our present customs and gaining insight into your own ancestor's marriage traditions based on their ethnicity and location where they lived can provide clues to further your research.

So have some fun and learn about the marriage customs of your ancestor's religion and culture and you will establish a good foundation for your quest.

Possibly leading you to the ultimate discovery: their marriage records.

Keep searching for answers,

(Source: GenealogyMagazine.com)