I have jumped on board the ancestry dot com train, and as a result, have uncovered hundreds of my forebears, going back to the 1200s on just one long, meandering line, and back to 9th great grandparents on a dozen or more lines. I have discovered at least a hundred family surnames ; all of those lost matriarchal monikers. 
The endeavour is intoxicating, the ancestry dot com algorithm affords an addictive attainability to it’s historical records and corresponding family trees. Previous generations of genealogists had to spend years of meticulous research to access this kind of information, and even then, the idea of being able to trace quite as many individual lines would have been impossible without a dedicated team. 
Even programmes like Who Do You Think You Are on SBS choose to focus on just one or 2 branches, because the mind boggling maths of our genealogy is that we come from the tangled lines of thousands upon thousands of direct forebears. My husband said that his family history had already been thoroughly examined and made into a book, as his great something matriarch was the first free white woman in Australia, but I countered that that was just one family name, and he had no knowledge of all of the others. In fact, upon first typing his mothers (relatively unusual) maiden name into the powerful engines of the behemoth ancestry site, the results related to the ancient family trees of the Plantagenets.
My own lineage is an almost even split between English and highland Scottish origins, with just a little Irish in the mix. One great great great grandmother had emigrated to Australia via Lord Earl Grey’s scheme to send the orphan children of Ireland’s potato famine from the workhouses to the colonies. These were her beautiful daughters.

 I found another website with this same branch of my family, and it entailed much deeper research than just names and birth/death dates. So I learned that her son in law (my great great grandfather) was a scoundrel by anyone’s standards, appearing numerous times before a magistrate for beating his mother in law (the afore mentioned workhouse emigree), fathering a daughter on his wife’s 14 year old sister, and eventually going to gaol for arson after burning down the temptingly named Phoenix Hotel in Corowa that he was licensee of. His wife Johanna (last on the right in the photo) took up with a man called Monagan, with whom she had many more children, covertly out of wedlock. She and Monagan actually married many, many years later.

On the line that goes back to the 12th century, I finally struck illustrious roots of ‘nobility’ in the form of Sir Otho “Sherrif of Devonshire” Gilbert and his Baroness. These were my 17th great grandparents on a maternal line (the forebears of Adelaide Weston, who married into the Anderson clan). It was bound to happen eventually when you consider the fact that in that generation of ancestry, we all ostensibly have almost half a million direct grandparents, and this doubles every generation you go back. We really are all related to each other. Of course, none of us actually have that many forebears, because if we all did, it would equal many more humans than were on the planet at the time, so the theory is that gene pools were much smaller, and people married first and second cousins, thereby dramatically impacting on the number of distinct ancestors.
I will never know much about these hundreds of people in my families far past, but it got me to thinking about all of those lost matriarchal surnames (Aylett; Strange; Lovely; Marvel; Champernon; Asher; de Compton. It goes on and on into infinity) and how any one of them is just as much mine as my (fathers) name. It also got me delving into the concept that it is truly a miracle of ‘fate’ that any one of us exists, considering that everything depended upon the whims and fortunes of these many thousands of people,conceiving just one link in the intricate webs that came to any one of us getting to have our time on earth. If not for these hazy figures of time gone by, I would not be here, and nor would my babies .
Thank you, found and lost grandmothers, for your buried names, and thank you, grandfathers and grandmothers for bringing me here. 
Linking up with Essentially Jess for #IBOT http://www.essentiallyjess.com/ripper-ibot/