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Digital Subscriptions > Family Tree > Family Tree July 2018 > The sum of all parts

The sum of all parts

Chris Paton describes how pursuing the stories of his female ancestors may often be difficult, but never any less important


It is often the case that our female ancestors and relatives are not particularly well recorded in documentary records, but for me, this can make pursuing their life stories a far more interesting task than those of their male counterparts. Being described as wives and mothers in vital records certainly tells us a little about them, but how can we dig deeper to learn more about their lives?

Building up a picture

In the records of a society which was seemingly so male-dominated historically, it is still often possible to try to put together a picture of their circumstances. My grandmother Martha Graham (née Smyth), for example, was a ‘doffer’ at Edenderry linen mill in Belfast. As part of an industry in which thousands of Irish women earned a living, it is not difficult to find oral histories and written accounts describing the daily lives of those so engaged, such as an interview uploaded to the BBC’s Legacies archives site in 2004 at

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About Family Tree

Join us as we celebrate the mothers, grandmothers, aunts and more on your family tree. It's vital to research the female ancestors, otherwise you're only learning half of your family history. This issue we have plenty to help and inspire your research into women's history and so gain a fuller understanding of your family members and their lives in times gone by.