Those of you who have read my posts know that I am always interested in the stories of my ancestors – the places they lived, the culture and circumstances they lived in and the historical context of their lives. One thing I have noticed is how difficult it is to find out about the stories of my female ancestors. These women seem to have been relegated to a name on my family tree and nothing more.
Take, for example, the Fircks family tree from the house of Nurmhusen (pictured above). I know a little bit about my paternal grandmother, Sophie Elisabeth Marie von Hohenastenberg-Wigandt (known as Marie), and I have written about the manor house where she was born. However, I hardly know anything of Marie’s stories.
But where are the stories about my great-great grandmother, Gabriele Anna Gertrude von Oelsen, who was my great-great grandfather’s second wife? I have written about my great-great grandfather Otto, but the only thing I know about Gabriele is that she was the younger sister of Otto’s first wife.
Going further back, to my 3 times great grandmother and the only thing I can tell you about her is that her name was Ernestine Julie Louise von Mirbach (known as Julie) and she married my 3 times great grandfather Friedrich on 11th January 1830. Their eldest child was my great-great grandfather, Otto.
My 4 times great grandmother was also a second wife. Her name was Agatha Elisabeth Sophia von Buttlar and she married my 4 times great grandfather, Friedrich, in May 1789. But I know absolutely nothing about her except that she died young, at 41 years of age.
I would almost be happy if I could find the stories of all of these great grandmothers, and I would be ecstatic if I could go all the way back to the first female entry on my family tree and find out more about her. But I know this would most likely be impossible. If nothing else, the fact that I do not have a good enough grasp of the German language will be a definite barrier to learning their stories.
It is a similar situation with the maternal side of my family tree. I know a bit about some of my great-grandmothers, but not a lot and I definitely do not know all their stories. Language is again a barrier for me, as I know almost nothing of Russian. And, in this case, accessibility is also an obstacle – I cannot see myself travelling to Russia any time soon!
I am a big fan of the television series Who Do You Think You Are and lately I have become aware of the way they trace ancestors through the female lines. Often they follow family trees almost exclusively through the maternal ancestors. I find the stories of the females to be some of the most interesting. I am sure that, if one day I can find the stories of my own female ancestors, they will be interesting too.