Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Women's History Month 2015: Reconstructing Women's Lives

It's March 31st and we are at the end of Women's History Month 2015. Over 31 days of different resources for researching female ancestors. But that's just a small amount compared to all the different sources, repositories, and methodology you could incorporate into your family history.

So want some more resources for researching your female ancestors? Here's some Pinterest boards to get you started.

Look for the links, to the right side of this blog, for posts from past Women's History Months.

Good luck with your research and enjoy your discoveries!


Monday, March 30, 2015

Women's History Month 2015: The Deviled Egg Scenerio

Looks (and documents) can be deceiving. Take for instance this photo.

Now if I were to ask you what is this photo of, you would say "it's a deviled egg on a plate." You would base that observation on the fact that it has the characteristics of a deviled egg (sliced egg with yolk filling and paprika sprinkled on the top) and it's resting on a deviled egg plate. You might even say although the plate it's resting on is an antique,  this is  a more recent photo since it's in color, it was taken with a digital camera, and I added the date 2015 in the caption.

Photo by David Ortega Photography. 2015. Used with permission.

But look closely. Yes, it's a deviled egg but not a real deviled egg.

It's a candy.

Researching reminds me of this deviled egg. We gather documents and we think we understand them but it's through thorough, careful analysis that we can gain a better understanding of the research we have gathered.

Consider this. A cousin of mine pre-planned her funeral. She went to the funeral home, purchased a cremation package and everything that goes with that. They allowed her to fill out some of the information on her future death certificate. This seems like a great idea, right? Afterall, except for the information about her death, she at that point in her life should be a pretty good informant for information about her life.


She happened to incorrectly (on purpose) state where she was born. This had to do with her positive feeling for the city she named. But she wasn't born there. Not even close. Like 3000 miles away.

Now, fast forward a hundred years. If she had been named on the final death certificate as the informant, a researcher may take for granted that the information was correct and not double check that.

Always double check. Don't take documents at face value. Conduct careful analysis.

Need help honing your analysis skills? Here's some links to start you off.

Evidence Explained Quick Lesson 17: The Evidence Analysis Process Map.
Think Genealogy - Genealogy Research Process Map
Cyndi's List - Evidence Analysis & Evaluation

The National Institute for Genealogical Studies has a series of three courses on Analysis.

What's the take away from the deviled egg? Make sure that you are researching your Mary Smith, Emma Jones, or Jemima Johnson not someone else's.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Women's History Month 2015: Institutions and Your Ancestor

From the collection of Gena Philibert-Ortega
Let's face it, institutions were a part of our ancestor's lives. Whether its schools, hospitals, poor farms or asylums, you need to consider these types of records.

Institutions have sometimes been a harsh reality for women. Women who didn't fit in or suffered depression might find themselves locked away in an asylum. Girls may have attended school but not for long. So many researchers have a story to tell about that unfortunate female ancestor that ended up in the poor house.

Two tips for researching women and institutions:

  • One, learn as much as you can about that institution, this will assist you in finding and understanding records. Try histories or even research done by academics. To do this use WorldCat, JSTOR and Google Scholar.

  • Two, search archival collections, and area repositories for possible records. Now in some cases you may not gain access to records, like in the case of asylums (hint: try the courthouse, don't just focus on the asylum itself). But you have to at least look. To do this start with ArchiveGrid and Repositories of Primary Sources.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Women's History Month 2015: Cookbooks

You didn't think I could get through a Women's History Month without talking about cookbooks, right?

From the collection of Gena Philibert-Ortega
Community cookbooks seem to me like an obvious source for researching female ancestors. Community cookbooks also known as charity, church or fundraising cookbooks were published by churches, schools, social movements and non-profit organizations. Community cookbooks have been around since the time of the American Civil War. These cookbooks were generally used as a way for women to raise funds for their causes. These cookbooks still exist and continue to fund the concerns and activities of women.

But, they do have their drawbacks such as difficulty in finding them and not all are archived.

Sure those are some drawbacks but that doesn't mean it's impossible.

What do these directories of women tell us? Like many genealogical sources, community cookbooks are at the very least a “names list.” They provide a name and a place. Community cookbooks vary on what information can be found in the cookbook. The standard is to have pages of recipes with the name of the woman who submitted that recipe. That name may include a notation of Mrs. and a husband’s name or initials, leaving only unmarried women identified by their full given names.

While that type of listing does happen, there are many cookbooks that include additional information ranging from just the name of the recipe contributor to family history information explaining the significance of the recipe to the family. Depending on the group who organized the cookbook you can find occupations, personal histories and even clues to ethnic backgrounds. I’ve seen church community cookbooks that include a detailed history of the church, names and dates of service of ministers and a list of the burials in the church cemetery. In some cases women from outside the community may have been invited to submit recipes.  This can provide you with additional family names.

Your ancestor’s community may be reconstructed from information found in the cookbook. Advertisements may have been sold to help offset the cost of printing. A benefit to both the advertiser and the women publishing the cookbook, advertisements can help you learn more about what existed in your ancestor’s community including ads for funeral homes and physicians.

So where can you find them? Start with digitized book websites like Google Books, Internet Archive and Hathi Trust. Search library catalogs and even eBay

Oh and check out my blog, Food.Family.Ephemera for more about community cookbooks.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Women's History Month 2015: Manuscripts

Ok, there's a lot of things I love about research. But one of my favorite sources is manuscript collections.
Brooklin, Maine OES. In possession of Gena Philibert-Ortega

I've written about these collections before and I want to encourage everyone to make it a goal to visit an archive and look at a manuscript collection for the place your ancestor lived. These collections hold such great information that gets overlooked in our focus on researching via the Internet.

Now I love research on the Internet but there's nothing like going to an archive, smelling that old paper smell, and reading the writing of someone from a much earlier time.

My favorite place to find manuscript collections? ArchiveGrid. Search on your ancestor's city or county first then try their religion, occupation, or membership group.

Honestly, research in manuscript collections and you will be hooked.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Women's History Month 2015: Images of her Life

Library Company of Philadelphia https://flic.kr/p/niQoRG
I love adding images to narratives about female ancestors. Photos help tell a story and they make it more interesting for those who aren't big fans of genealogy (I know it's hard to believe such people exist). But we aren't always so lucky to have inherited photographs to tell that story. So what then?

Think about using images of the place she lived, maps, activities she enjoyed, photos of events. Get creative with how you tell the story of her life. My resource for today is one of my favorite websites, Flickr the Commons.

Now, I didn't say Flickr. Flickr the Commons is a part of Flickr but its goal is to share public domain photos from  the world's institutions.

The tagline for Flickr:The Commons   is “Help us catalog the world’s public photo archives.” While this does describe the social media aspect of The Commons, it is far more than that. The Commons currently has digitized photos from archives around the world including The Royal Library, Denmark;  National Library of Ireland;  the National Archives UK, State Library of Queensland, Australia; National Archives of Norway; as well as United States repositories such as The Library of Congress; Center for Jewish History, NYC; New York Public Library; Library of Virginia and the George Eastman House.

Photos uploaded to The Commons have no known copyright restrictions. Library of Virginia explains the term “no known copyright restrictions” on their website as:

…the Library is unaware of any current copyright restrictions on the works so designated, either because the term of copyright may have expired without being renewed or because no evidence has been found that copyright restrictions apply. The user of the images must understand that the Library of Virginia cannot guarantee that private or commercial use of the images shared on The Commons will not violate the rights of unidentified copyright holders, and the Library cannot be responsible for any liability resulting from the use of these images. (http://www.lva.virginia.gov/about/copyright.htm).

The Commons provides a way for you to search  photographs that can help to tell the story of an ancestor's military experience, what the place they came from looked like, or even how people dressed during that time. Search by keyword or by institution. There's so much to be found.

To get started, consider searching on an event that took place during your ancestor's lifetime like World War I for example.

Take a look and the find images to tell her story.