This is the final blog in a series written by members of the Manchester and Lancashire Family History Society.

Over the past eleven months our members have written about all sorts of women and looked at a variety of topics; such as the boycott of the census by women in 1911, the roles of women on the home front and in the military, plus discovering more about some of Grt. Manchester’s heroines in more detail.  Many benefited from the enfranchisement of women because of the Representation of the People’s Act in 1918.

However, for the vast majority of us, none of this directly touched our grandmother’s lives.  The beating heart of the family – her world would have been fairly mundane encountering daily hardships, strife, health concerns and the enormous task of looking out for the general welfare of her family. This is what drove her forward.

Top up tips and reminders

  • You can supplement the genealogical research of your female ancestors by purchasing birth and marriage certificates in order to discover her maiden name. It can be a false economy if you decide not to invest in certain key certificates.  These can be ordered online via the General Register Office.
  • It is also worth remembering that many women reverted to using their maiden name if divorced.
  • Was your female ancestor married more than once? Don’t forget to track down any previous marriage information.  This is especially important for those looking for female ancestors who were made widows during the First World War.
  • It is also worth remembering that you may find maiden surnames closer to home; written in old letters, diaries, in a family bible, on the back of old photographs, in autograph albums, on paintings and drawings, stitched into needlework handicrafts or samplers.
  • Obituaries of a female ancestor can also offer clues. Even if her parents aren’t named, a male relative might be, therefore this may provide you with evidence of a maiden name.
  • Was your ancestor a Scot? Unlike England and Wales, in Scotland women used to keep their maiden names for legal purposes. You may well find this name mentioned in wills and testaments, parish registers, or on gravestones. You may even discover that she gave her maiden surname on early census enumerations.
  • It is particularly useful to scrutinise any middle names given by your female ancestors to their children. Male children often carried their mother’s maiden names as their own middle name.

I hope that over the year you have managed to learn more about your female ancestors and discovered (or rediscovered) various archival resources and data sets highlighted by our members.

Remember the most remarkable testament your female ancestors have left behind is us, their descendants – strong, resilient people moving forward into the 21st century.

Pankhurst statue
Unveiled in St Peters Square, Manchester on Friday 14th December,  a statue of Emmeline Pankhurst, which marks the end to a  year in which we have been able to acknowledge some famous women and events.

We wish all our fellow family historians much success in their continuing research.

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Useful websites:



General Register Office

British Newspaper Archive