Bring on the ladies…

From The Legal Genealogist:

Evelyn, handling the estate.

Or Shirley, leaving a will.

So… is Evelyn the deceased’s daughter, perhaps? Maybe a sister?

Is Shirley a single woman or a widow?

Do we even know if Evelyn or Shirley is male or female?


It depends.

We might have a clue if the specific position being filled or role being played in the record by Evelyn or Shirley is spelled out in full.

Because there’s a big difference between an administrator and an administratrix, or between an executor and and an executrix.

Or between a testator and a testatrix.

Or between a whole lot of words we see in legal documents where sometimes it ends in -or and other times it ends in -ix.

Because that difference may very well tell us whether Evelyn and Shirley are male or female.

Because the -ix ending is always going to be referencing a female.

If Evelyn was appointed by the court to handle the affairs of a deceased person who didn’t leave a will, any reference to Evelyn as an administratrix of that estate is telling us that’s a her, not a him. If Evelyn was named in the will to handle the estate, any reference to the executrix, ditto.

And if we see our will-writing Shirley described as a testatrix, ditto again.

There are a bunch of terms like this we may come across in historical records:

• Actor, actrix.
• Creditor, creditrix.
• Curator, curatrix.
• Debtor, debitrix.
• Disseisor, disseisitrix.
• Emtor, emtrix.
• Orator, oratrix.
• Procurator, procuratrix.
• Prosecutor, prosecutrix.
• Relator, relatrix.
• Tutor, tutrix.
• Vendor, venditrix.

Now… particularly as time goes on, when the word doesn’t have the -ix ending, we can’t be 100% sure whether Evelyn or Shirley is male or female. The gender distinction in words begins to fade in the 19th century

Link to the rest at The Legal Genealogist

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2 thoughts on “Bring on the ladies…”

  1. Lately the term “actor” has been deemed unisex in the media.
    There are no actresses left.

    Of course, in the STEM world there have always only been scientists, engineers, mathematicians, physicists, etc. The only thing to matter is the brain, not the plumbing.

    • Lately the term “actor” has been deemed unisex in the media. There are no actresses left.

      Correct. Just heard an NPR interview with a female “actor.” Also have female acquaintances in L.A. who are “actors” not “actresses.”

      But how about “Authorix”?!!!

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