We get so caught up looking at our direct lines that we don\’t always look at our ancestors\’ siblings. There\’s almost certainly siblings who didn\’t marry, or married and didn\’t have children. With no direct descendants, their stories get lost, and that\’s a shame. We\’re always looking for interesting ancestors, and sometimes these forgotten ancestors led interesting lives.
Take for instance, my maternal grandmother\’s oldest brother Jules Mallais. He died in the influenza pandemic in 1918 after being a soldier in World War I. He died a few months shy of his 19th birthday, when my grandmother was only 5 years old. She would have barely remembered him herself, so his story could have been lost. He never got the chance to marry, or have children.
On my paternal side there\’s my great uncle Hector McDonald. A veteran of Korea, he was a big influence in my dad\’s life. He married, but never had children. Thankfully, I have my dad and aunt and uncle to tell me stories about what a character he was.
The further back you go through the generations though, you\’re not going to have people still alive to share their stories. So where can we find information on our \”spinster aunts\” and \”bachelor uncles\”?
Following records for unmarried women can often be easier than searching for married women. Because they are not attached to a spouse, they owned assets in their right, and you never have to figure out if that \”Mrs. John Smith\” is the one your looking for.
Check census records for when your grandparent couples were older. In many cases it was the unmarried daughter who cared for them the last years of their lives. And once their parents passed, many of these women moved in with a sibling. The same can also hold true for the uncles. Also for uncles check the entries on the same page as your direct ancestors to see if they are a neighbour. For that matter, check the pages before and after. Many families stayed very close to each other. A few years ago I wrote a two part blog post on Canadian census records. See here for Part 1, and here for Part 2.
Land records can be useful in tracing those unmarried aunties. They accumulated property in their own name, and not a husband\’s. The uncles were sometimes given a piece of the main homestead. I haven\’t yet written a series of posts relating to land records. Because of the complexity and differences between provinces, it\’s been one that I haven\’t been able to devote enough time to in order to give it justice. I\’ve provided a link to each province to get you started.
- Service NL- Registry of Deeds
- Public Archives and Record Office for Prince Edward Island
- Nova Scotia Achives
- Provincial Archives of New Brunswick
- Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources of Quebec
- Archives of Ontario Guide to Land Records. This was updated just last month.
- Archives of Manitoba
- Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan
- Provincial Archives of Alberta
- Land Title and Survey Authority of British Columbia
- Yukon Land Titles Office
- Northwest Territories Government
- Government of Nunavut Legal Registries Department
2 thoughts on “52 Ancestors Week 10: Records for Spinster Aunts and Bachelor Uncles”
I've found one or two unmarried siblings who became nuns! Hard to track down because of the religious names they took, but happening upon death records allowed me to verify parentage.
I'd forgotten about the nuns and priests. Which I shouldn't have, considering may maternal side is exclusively Catholic! Thanks for pointing that out Jackie 🙂