The Hidden Half of the Family: A Sourcebook for Women’s Genealogy by Christina Kassabian Schaefer is actually not new (1999) but it is new to us. Over half of the population are women so it doesn’t require too much of a leap in thinking to know that they have played an important part in the social history of the United States, yet their identities, throughout most of our history, have been subjugated by their husbands. This makes it harder to find out where they came from on many of the primary records used by historians and genealogists.
The author’s supposition is that the best ways to find a feme covert is through the various means that women were allowed to interact with the government and the legal system. In these records all parties are required to identify themselves and are therefore invaluable resources for tracking the lives of the wives, sisters and daughters residing in the US through time.
The records that she singles out for their power in revealing the hidden women of the past are:
- Land Records
- Guardianship Records
- Probate and Will Records
- Affidavits of witnesses, all types of records.
- Public Welfare Records
- License Applications
- Sheriff’s Records
North Carolina has its own section in the book and she lists important dates in the history of the state and a useful bibliography of publications which I have listed a few:
- Clemens, William M. North and South Carolina Marriage Records: From the Earliest Colonial Days to the Civil War (1927. Reprint. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1981).
- White, Barnetta M. Somebody Knows my Name: Marriages of Freed Slaves in North Carolina, County by County. 3 vols. (Athens, GA: Iberian Publishing Co., 1995).
- Anderson, Lucy L. North Carolina Women of the Confederacy (Charlotte: The United Daughters of the Confederacy, 1926).
- Coates, Albert. By Her Own Bootstraps: A Saga of Women in North Carolina (n.p.: The Author, 1975).
- Leary, Helen F.M. “The Better Half: North Carolina Women’s Genealogy.” On to Richmond! FGS/VGS Conference, 1994.
- “Marriage, Divorce a, and Widowhood: A Study of North Carolina Law Governing the Property and Person of Married Women, 1663-1869.” North Carolina Genealogical Society Journal 16 (August 1990).