One of the most fascinating chapters in the Fourth Edition of The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy, by Val D. Greenwood, concerns women’s property rights. Chapter 23, “Property Rights of Women as a Consideration,” while not specifically focused on finding records relating to women, nonetheless explores “the legal considerations that will help you better understand and apply whatever evidence you find in your research.”
For example, according to William Blackstone, the 18th-century author of Commentaries on the Laws of England, “ By marriage, the husband and wife are one person in law: that is, the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband: under whose wing, protection and cover, she performs everything . . . .” On the other hand, as Mr. Greenwood shows, “Though the laws relating to the unity of person of a husband and wife robbed the wife of her separate identity, they prevented the husband from selling real property without his wife’s consent.” For this reason, land records are often a very good source for identifying wives.
The following is a brief excerpt from Chapter 23 which, we trust, underlines the importance for genealogists of knowing the laws surrounding women’s property rights. View The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy