A little herstory
If your ancestors gave birth in America before the 1800s, they almost certainly did so at home under the care of a midwife and with support from female family and friends. This it-takes-a-village practice is often called “social birth.”
Records that deliver
The most famous midwife diary is that of Martha Ballard, a midwife and healer who recorded details on the 816 births she attended. Her work is published in A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich (Vintage). You can read, download and search the original diary online at <www.dohistory.org/diary>. A search of the local historical society may yield records of lesser-known—but no less prolific—midwives. For example, the diary of Jennet Catlin Boardman (1765-1849), a Hartford, Conn., midwife who delivered more than 1,200 babies over 34 years, survives in readable condition in the archives of the Connecticut Historical Society.
From the March 2010 Family Tree Magazine