When researching paternal or maternal lines, the tendency seems to be to place more value – and therefore time and effort – into the paternal lines. Is it true that following paternal lines is better than following maternal lines?


In my mind, no.

Turmaine and Emery maternal ancestors.
Turmaine and Emery maternal ancestors.

The other side of this question is: “Should genealogy research concentrate more on one to the exclusion of the other?

Again, I say “no”.

When I first started researching my family’s genealogy almost fifteen years ago, it was easier to concentrate on the paternal lines, and I did so based on my limited knowledge of genealogy, in which the paternal lines seemed to be valued more.

This may be a carryover from history where women were rarely recorded as anything other than their husband’s wives and/or father’s daughters. Unless they were particularly noteworthy, details of their own personal lives were unimportant.

This may also be a result of the difficulties that can arise when researching maternal lines. Because most research works back in time, we usually first encounter a female ancestor as a wife who has taken on her husband’s name. Since a great deal of the records don’t go into any detail about the women, it’s difficult to find even clues with which to research further to find out a woman’s maiden name and parentage.

It does change for the better in more modern records such as censuses, marriage records, etc., where more detailed information about a woman’s place of origin, and her parents and their places of origin can be found.

What a shame since one’s knowledge of one’s own ancestry increases exponentially when venturing into maternal lines.

Several of the individuals I have posted about on this blog were discovered by following maternal lines of both my husband and myself.

As a matter of fact, when going through posts to identify maternal lines for this article, it was apparent that those involving the paternal lines were a definite minority. This matters because I have consistently chosen those I find most interesting to write about.

The fact that there seems to be more from the maternal lines is perfectly understandable when the odds are considered. When restricting one’s research to only paternal lines, there is no branching off through the female spouses, therefore restricting the course back in family history through one straight line from father to father to father (and so on). Although some prefer to research in this way, I’m positive they are missing out as a result.

For the purposes of this post, I am using my parents: Gerard Ronald Joseph Turmaine and Patricia Gail Melanson; and Mark’s parents: Marshall Matthews Blythe and Beverley Gummeson as the root persons.

In all of the cases below, we would never have known our connection to these ancestors had I not explored the maternal lines.Bourg Ancestral Line

Antoine Bourg

The ancestral line to this 7th great grandfather of my mother follows her paternal line through six generations to Pierre Melanson and his wife Marie Josèphe Granger, then follows Marie Josèphe’s line the rest of the way back.

Antoine Bourg is one of the original Acadian pioneers to come over from France in the 17th century. Although Antoine Bourg is not the Acadian ancestor from our paternal line that we most associate with, we are related to him through three branching maternal lines leading to three of his sons.

Bevan Ancestral Line

John ap Evan (John Bevan) of Wales

John ap Evan (John Bevan) was 10th great grandfather to my husband’s father, Marshall Matthews Blythe. An early Welsh immigrant and pioneer of Pennsylvania, he was a Minister with the Friends’ Meeting, land trustee for several settlers, and later became a Justice and member of the Colonial Assembly.

Emily S. Shelby is a common maternal link in this ancestry, plus those of Robert William, the Stehle family, and of course the illustrious Shelbys (see below for all).

Shelby Ancestral LineEvan (Dhu) Isaac Shelby of Tregaron, Wales

Evan (Dhu) Shelby, 6th great grandfather to my father-in-law, Marshall Matthews Blythe, was the pioneer immigrant of the Shelby family to Pennsylvania from Wales. He, along with those already mentioned were persecuted for their Quaker religion and suffered terribly at the hands of their persecutors.

The Shelby family were among the few with six family members who participated in the Revolutionary War. Of these were Brigadier General Evan Shelby, John Shelby and Moses Shelby (sons to our Evan); Governor Isaac Shelby of Kentucky and Evan Shelby III, sons to Brigadier General Shelby; and another David Shelby, son of John Shelby above.

Stehle Ancestral LineUlrich Stehle (Steely)

This Ulrich Stehle was 5th great grandfather to my father-in-law and was the son of another Ulrich, an immigrant to Pennsylvania from Europe (possibly Germany) in 1732.

Ulrich Jr. is documented as the immigrant ancestor of President Barack Obama through his mother, Stanley Ann Dunham.

Emery Ancestral LinePte. Joseph Philias Albert Emery

Joseph Philias Albert Emery was my father’s uncle (brother to my grandmother).

Compared to some of the other ancestors above, he is fairly recent, but his life was remarkable in that he died so young in horribly tragic circumstances.

He was one of many soldiers involved in the preparations for the battle at Vimy Ridge. On March 1, 1917, the troops were misguidedly given the order to let off gas charges. This was a tragic decision because the winds were blowing the wrong way, causing the lethal gases to be blown back onto our Canadian troops.

As a result of the chaos, Pte. Emery was never found, was reported as missing in action and was later declared to have died in action.

There are a few more who occur further back in history, but I wanted to concentrate on those for whom I had the best documentary support.