The on-demand Women track consists of two lectures to assist you in fleshing out the lives of your female ancestors. Those lectures are highlighted below.

In Her Own Words – Lives of Women Through Diaries, Journals, Correspondence, and More – Diane L. Richard


We love to explore the lives of our ancestors. Documenting our female ancestors can often prove more challenging. They are less likely to appear in many public/government records created at the time – land, estate, court, tax records, and more. One excellent resource to learn more about our seemingly overshadowed female ancestors is via their own words. Personally written diaries, journals, correspondence, and more as found in private collections, a.k.a. manuscript collections are priceless and discoverable at many archives and library collections. With the advent of Archivegrid and online digitized finding aids, there are fewer challenges to identify and locate these types of records. Personally written records are now more accessible than ever to us due to finding aids and digitization. Let’s explore how you identify the existence of and then access these materials, which are incredibly relevant to your research. This session will examine glimpses of a few southern women’s lives through the personally written documents they created and which survive. These women provide unique perspectives on not only their lives and on those women living in their community.

And women had “voices” via other means. There are many unofficial records created which mention women. This session will explore many alternative records, as many as 20 different types, which are often not written by women and yet are a surrogate to materials expressing about their lives “in her own words.”

A related session is NGS2104-REC-05, Journey Through Ledgers, Where Genealogical Gems Abound, which discusses a particular type of record where women are documented. Though women do not write most of the surviving “ledgers,” their inclusion is a form of “voice” that details their activities and allows us to infer attributes of their lives – invaluable!

BIO: Diane L. Richard is a Professional researcher, author, and lecturer since 2004. Focuses on North Carolina, southern, and African American ancestors, and records. Since 2016 editor of the North Carolina Genealogical Society (NCGS) journal.


Reclaiming Their Rights: Female Legislative Petitions & Divorce – Alice Hoyt Veen, CG®

Alice Hoyt Veen, CG


Imagine being a married woman with no legal identity. Imagine a husband controlling your property, your ability to conduct business, and any wages you earn. Imagine having no legal claim to custody of your children. Our female ancestors confronted these challenges and more as they struggled to retain or restore their legal rights. At times, their only recourse was petitioning their colonial, state, or territorial legislature to enact a “private law” on their behalf.

Alice’s first experience with historical divorce came from information included in her ancestral grandmother’s Civil War widow’s pension file, which included a copy of her 1865 Indiana divorce decree from her first husband. It was a revelation—no evidence for Elmira’s life ever placed her in Indiana. Understanding the laws of Indiana, and of Iowa, where the marriage occurred in 1863, led to new insights and a desire to learn more.

The earliest known American divorce was granted in 1639 by the Massachusetts Bay Colony Court of Assistants, presided over by the colonial governor. Later divorces and petitions were processed by courts, governors, and legislatures. At one time or another, legislative divorce was offered across America. Delaware was the last state to discontinue the practice in 1897.

Petitions included requests for legal separation from “bed and board,” absolute divorce, financial support, restoration of property rights, name changes, child custody, and child legitimacy. Married women in troubled marriages were not the only ones to petition for legislative “relief.” Widows also confronted problems involving property, estate settlements, pensions, and legal status.

“Reclaiming Their Rights” explores the era of legislative petitions and divorce, and the records created by the process. It’s a rich resource that’s often overlooked. These records may reveal previously-unknown details for your female ancestor and perhaps solve some genealogical mysteries!

BIO: Alice Hoyt Veen is a Board-certified genealogist, professional researcher, and genealogical educator. She believes family history success lies in truly understanding the records our ancestors created. Alice is a past BCG Education Fund trustee.

Video sessions are closed captioned.


Every NGS conference has a new program top to bottom so there is always more to learn and discover. For more information about NGS 2021 OnDemand! or to register, visit