Breaking the Mold of the Hidden Woman: Elizabeth Peden Ramsey (52 Ancestors #12)

The female half of the tree is harder to research. In most western cultures, a woman’s surname changes with each marriage, so you don’t always know what name to look for. She is often omitted from records because of her less-than-equal legal standing. Even a man’s will might leave a bequest “to my beloved wife” without actually listing her by name. Elizabeth Peden Ramsey, my 4th-great-grandmother, broke out of the mold of the hidden woman.

Elizabeth, daughter of Samuel Peden and wife of John Ramsey, left significantly more records than many woman of her time. In 1807, she began the purchase of the southeast 1/4 of section 28, township 18, range 17 (in present-day Thorn Township, Perry County, Ohio).[1] In doing so, she became the first woman to purchase land in present-day Perry County from the federal government.[2] What’s really neat about this — her husband was still living when she began the purchase.

When John died c1810, it was Elizabeth who was named as the administratrix of his estate.[3] She was also named the guardian of their two minor daughters Mary and Sarah.[4] It’s important to remember that the role a guardian was to protect the legal interests of the minors; it wasn’t to raise the minor. Although in this case, Elizabeth was doing that as well. What legal interests did Mary and Sarah have? Their portion of their father’s estate, including his land. They may also have been heirs to their grandfather’s estate, as there is a notation in John’s estate about money being paid to their sister Elizabeth receiving a bequest from it.

Elizabeth Ramsey appointed guardian of Mary and Sarah Ramsey. Case 1114, Fairfield County Probate Court, Lancaster, Ohio.

Elizabeth Ramsey appointed guardian of Mary and Sarah Ramsey. Case 1114, Fairfield County Probate Court, Lancaster, Ohio.

In another unusual move, Elizabeth actually left her own estate when she died in late 1832.[5] I still need to comb through the rest of her land records in Perry County, but apparently she died with enough property (or enough debts) to warrant opening an estate to settle it.

For all of the difficulties in tracing women, it is refreshing to have an ancestor who broke the mold.

[1] Land Grand Records, Chillicothe, Ohio Land Office. Ohio Historical Society, Columbus.
[2] L. Richard Kocher, A Listing of Entrymen on Lands in Perry Co, Ohio, Columbus: Woolkoch, 1993. [This book lists the original purchasers of land in present-day Perry County. The listing was read for female first name. Elizabeth Ramsey’s entry in 1807 is the earliest with a female first name.]
[3] John Ramsey estate, case 65, Fairfield County, Ohio Probate Court, Lancaster, Ohio. [Note: Thorn and Hopewell Townships, where John and Elizabeth lived and owned land, was part of Fairfield County in 1810.]
[4] Mary and Sarah Ramsey guardianship, case 1114, Fairfield County Probate Court, Lancaster, Ohio.
[5] Minute Book F, Perry County Probate Court, New Lexington, Ohio, page 66. [Robert Fullerton and James H. Ramsey were appointed administrators of her estate in the November term, 1832.]

4 thoughts on “Breaking the Mold of the Hidden Woman: Elizabeth Peden Ramsey (52 Ancestors #12)

  1. Helen Holshouser

    She is evidence of a strong woman when women were not thought strong! We know they were– but it is refreshing to read the story of one– especially one dealing with the legal system! Thanks for sharing her story. Helen

  2. Anita Richardson

    Wonderful story! My maiden name happens to be Ramsey and I happen to have a history of being one of many women who have been in charge of family, finances, etc. Love to know someone else was. Thanks Anita

    1. Amy Johnson Crow Post author

      Your Ramseys wouldn’t happen to be from Perry County, Ohio or Adams County, Pennsylvania, would they? (Never hurts to ask 😉 )


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