Lesson 1: Introduction


I have always been intrigued by the changing historical roles played by men and women in American society over time. One of the fascinating aspects of genealogical research in the United States is learning about laws that affected women and how those laws evolved. Certainly, women’s lives were governed over the centuries by the concerns of English common law that were brought by the colonists. women’s activities, and particularly their rights to own and convey property where subject to laws passed and implemented in the different colonies and states over time.

When we encounter a widowed female ancestor, particularly in the 19th century or before, we are always interested in her status after her spouse’s death, and often the family group changed. Did the husband leave a will? If so, what property did he leave to his wife? What if he died intestate? Where would the widow live? What would happen to the couple’s children?

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