Mystery Women

Genealogy research isn’t always easy. Most of the time it takes some creative thinking to find new way to get to the answer of the question being asked, especially as you get further back in time. Records can become thin or non-existent due to war or natural disaster. Sometimes you only have a name, sometimes you just keep a placeholder for that ancestor whose name you can’t ferret out. There’s countless reasons an ancestor can be difficult to find.

Photo of an unknown woman from our family collection.

This is especially true when it comes to female ancestors. Often women’s maiden names weren’t recorded after they were married, thus filling our trees with women simply known as Mary, Elizabeth, Ann, Jane, or Margaret, among others. Other times records that would have shown a woman’s ancestors don’t get passed down. Let me tell you about two ancestors that illustrate these circumstances.

Katherin, my 9th great-grandmother, was born before 1640. She married Nicholas Moore and had at least one son, James, who was born in 1657. The only reason this information exists is because James was a member of the Quaker faith and the records kept from that time were quite detailed. Nothing else is known about Katherin, not where she was born, where she lived, where she died, or what her last name was.

Elizabeth Borland
Elizabeth was born about 1745. She came from the Ballyboyland townland in County Antrim in Ireland. She married John Adams in 1765. They had five daughters. The family lived in a home called Chequer Hall near the town of Ballymoney. After her husband died in 1807, she lived at Chequer Hall with her two blind daughters. Elizabeth died 8 February 1824 and was buried with her husband in Old Kilraughts Churchyard.

While there are lots of other Borlands in the same vicinity, there is no evidence to show how she is related to any of them. While DNA may help some day, her lineage remains a mystery.

Left with Questions
I’m left with lots of questions for these ancestors. While I know I’m luck even to have Katherin’s name, I wonder if she also was a Quaker, like her son. Did she have children other than James? Was she Irish or English?

For Elizabeth, I wonder how she and John Adams met. I wonder how she was educated and how she educated her daughters. I wonder if she worried for her blind, spinster daughters and how they would manage after she died. I wonder if the gaps between her daughters’ births mean she had other children in between.

Questions surround other female ancestors both named and unnamed. Sometimes it feels like they are hiding behind a curtain or standing just beyond where I can see clearly. I may never be able to uncover them, but it’s fun to try.

5 thoughts on “Mystery Women

  1. Eilene Lyon says:

    It is a shame how women have been so marginalized – like forever. At one point I thought I would keep my maiden name when I married, but then I changed it. Sometimes wish I hadn’t.

    Liked by 1 person

    • julie says:

      I’ve had similar thoughts. When I went to change my name at the social security office, I wanted to add my maiden name as a middle name (having two middle names). I was told it wouldn’t fit. In haste, I dropped my maiden name. If I were to do it now, I’d drop my middle name or insist that they could fit both.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Eilene Lyon says:

        I recently learned that Washington State now has a law that requires voters to show proof of all name changes. Great, another way to discriminate against women and suppress their votes. And this from a relatively liberal state!


  2. Virginia Allain says:

    I’ve even seen on Ancestry when they give the names from a death certificate, sometimes the maiden name is actually there for the mother, but on the info offered for me to match, it gives her married name. Now, I double-check the actual document.


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