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Genealogy and Family History: Suffragist

A guide to assist those interested in starting a family history project.

In August 2020 America Will Celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Women's Right to Vote. Was Your Female Ancestor a Suffragette?

Before 1920, woment did not have the right to vote in the U.S. The suffragist movement fought for these rights, and the people who were part of that movement were suffragists.

The word suffrage means the right to vote in elections. It does not have to do with suffering. In America, the individual states determine who may vote. However, the U.S. Constitution states in the 19th Amendment that women shall not be denied the vote based upon their sex. Suffragists fought hard to bring this constitutional amendment about. Back then, female suffragists were known as suffragettes.

Nevada and the 19th Amendment

Genealogy and Nevada Suffrage

Frances Tryon, President of the Hillside Cemetery Preservation Foundation in Reno is working hard to preserve the heritage and history of our community. She contributed the following biography of one of our local suffragettes buried there named Elda Ann Williams Simpson Orr.

Elda Ann Williams Simpson Orr (1846, Indiana - 1916 Reno, Nv). She is buried in the Simpson Plot.  She came to the Truckee Meadows in 1870 with her first husband Jeptha Elmir Simpson, (1846-1877). He was an apothecary in Reno, he was laid to rest next to three of their children Mabel Simpson, Elmir Simpson and Elda A Simpson (all preceded their father in death).  She remarried John Thomas Francis Orr (1833-1903), a well known miner of Scottish ancestry.  Elda Ann was the great grand daughter of Richard William - an American Revolutionary War Patriot. Elda was a member of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and served as the Nevada Association President at the Thirtieth Annual Convention in 1898. She is mentioned in Sam P Davis book A History of Nevada for serving in the Nevada State Equal Suffrage Association in 1895 along with Mrs. CB Norcoross* (Peckham Plot), Miss Martha Wright* (Wright Plot), Mrs. VanBuren* (I believe the VanBuren Plot), Miss Eva Burns*, and Mrs. CA Richardson*. As reported by her family, she was outspoken not only for a woman's right to vote but equal rights in property ownership, a woman's right to teach once married, and equal rights in divorce.  She owned a number of properties in Reno - one being a store that survied the fire of 1879 which she quickly had cleaned and opened as a grocery store. She died, as a result of an automobil accident where she was thrown from "the machine when it collided with another" in California, she fractured her femur. She was a founding member of Trinity Church and an active member of the Women's Relief Corps. She was laid to rest next to her husbands and four of her babies in Hillside Cemetery, all that remains of the beautiful monument to her family is the name plate and step (we have found many broken pieces of marble tiles).  She was survied by three daughters (Iva Simpson Orr, wife of Judge John S Orr; Alameda Simpson Orr, wife of H W Orr; and Mrs Elda A Orr Glicrease, wife of L L Gilcrease); six grandchildren; two brother and two sisters.


Internet Archive and Google Books: Find Your Female Ancestor Suffragette

National Women's History Museum

Library of Congress Web Guide

What Was A Poll Tax?

Was Your Ancestor Registered to Vote?

Internet Archive:

The Internet Archive website offers you access to many free digitized list of historical registers of voters. Here are some suggestions on how to search the Internet Archive:

Search Suggestions:

List of registered voters

poll tax

Click here for a sample of a return to a search using register of voters.


WordCat also offers you an easy way to locate historical registers of voters in libraries all around the United States. Click here for a sample.

Using a Library to Locate Voting Registers:

Libraries located in the city, county and state in which your ancestor lived are also a great place to search for historical registers of voters. Here is an example of searching for voter registers in the San Francisco Public Library website.

TMCC Library Books: History of the Women's Right to Vote

National Endowment of the Humanities

TMCC Library Books: How to Locate Women's Suffrage Ancestral Records

Advice: How to Find Your Female Ancestors

Cyndi's List: Finding Your Suffragist Records

Women Suffrage Movement in the U.S.