Friday, February 27, 2009

The History of Asprin

Maybe it's because I've had the same headache for 3 days but I thought this history of the invention of aspirin was interesting, You can also see a timeline having to do with aspirin on the Bayer aspirin website at

One of my great-great grandmothers talks about her headaches and the "wafers" she took to get rid of them in her diary. When I think about the pain relief choices we have now vs what our ancestors had, boy am I glad to live now!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Law Dictionaries

Oftentimes, our research in genealogy leads us to other professions where it can be helpful to learn a few definitions or terms. A good example is the law. To better understand the probates, wills, criminal and civil cases we are researching, you may want to have some websites that can help you with terms that you are not familiar with.

Law dictionaries and glossaries can be found at,,

A legal dictionary from 1856 can be found at

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Curiosity and Genealogy

Yesterday, while I was at the doctors I was reading this month's Reader's Digest and it had an interesting article about curiosity. The premise was that adults lose their curiosity because unlike children, they have pretty much figured out how life works and as a result are no longer curious. I thought this was interesting because as genealogists-we should have an enormous amount of curiosity. Otherwise, how can you find that brick wall ancestor.

Curiosity is what makes you ask questions, lots of questions. It helps you seek out new answers, learn new things-all important to doing genealogy. Plus, we all have been told that working the brain helps us in our latter years.

I looked at the Reader's Digest website and the article doesn't seem to be there, but here is another article on curiosity that you might be interested in.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

20 Social History Websites

As many of my regular readers might know, I am posting a different social history website each day on Twitter. I am up to 20 days of my 100 Days of Social History Websites. Social history helps you to better understand your ancestor in their time period.

So here are the first 20 days:

A Pictorial History of Kentucky Coal Mining

France in the Age of Les Miserables

Old Magazines

Sears Archive

What 19th Century Kids Read

Picture This” Depression Era

Agriculture and Farm Machinery

Digital Archive of American Architecture

Car History


Recipe Curio

What did you do in the war Grandma?

The Victorian Era Online

How to Make Moonshine

American Century Project

World War I and II Posters

National Museum of Civil War Medicine

America’s Quilting History

Working in the Lowell Mills

Victorian Calling Cards

Monday, February 23, 2009

Is your Family Bible on eBay?

Do you ever search eBay for your family? You should. You just never know when someone is selling your family history. I'll never forget the time I was researching a Civil War ancestor and found out through an online message board that his letters had been on eBay for sale 2 months prior. If only I would have known, I would have tried to acquire them.

Just today I did a search on the term "Family Bible". There were 302 results. Yikes, can you imagine how many people's Family Bible's must go on sale every month? Now, not all of these have genealogical value but on the list I looked at there was one listing that provided the surnames and that there was genealogy inside.

Please go to eBay, set up some search terms. Try your ancestor's hometown and their surname. Try phrases like "Family Bible" "Pictures" "Genealogy" "Family Letters".

Try checking out the Family Bibles blog at, it shows Bibles that are currently up for auction and then has posting about Bibles and family names in them.

You might also want to check out Bible Records Online,, for transcribed Bible records. Other websites that try to reunite Bibles with their owners are Family Bibles Website,; The Bible Archives, Also remember that many individuals and genealogical societies also try to reunite orphan Bibles with their families.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Church Record Sunday: Catholic Records

Those who have Catholic ancestors are very lucky. The Catholic Church has been keeping records since the Council of Trent (1547) decreed that records be kept on individual members.

What records might exist for an individual member?

First Communion
Vocation Records

Baptismal Records may provide name of the person being baptized, parent’s names (and sometimes mother’s maiden name), sponsor’s names, dates of birth and baptism.

Marriage Records may contain, bride and groom, name, parent’s names, (and sometimes mother’s maiden name), witness’s names, date of marriage, date of birth for bride and groom and church where they were baptized.

Burial Records may contain name of deceased, deceased age, death and burial dates, cause of death and place of burial.

Aside from Catholic Church records, there may be records associated with Catholic institutions like Hospitals, Orphanages, Schools, and Cemeteries. With each of these institutions you may find additional records. For example, school records may also include yearbooks, newspapers, and alumni associations.

Records may be found at a Parish, Diocese, Archdiocese, or Church Archive.

The Parish is where Catholics worship and receive Sacraments. Inquire about records on the Parish level first. Then try archives on the Diocese and/or Archdiocese level.

To find a Parish, Diocese or Archdiocese-

Check City Directories
Check Yellow Pages
Check with Diocese or Archdiocese website

Here are some links to help in your search and understanding of Catholic records:


Catholic Dictionary’s at

Catholic Encyclopedia at

Locating Catholic Church Records in New Mexico at

Catholic Record Society of the diocese of Columbus at

Catholic Archives of Texas at

Local Catholic Church and Family History at

The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives at

Catholic, Cyndi’s List at

Women of Vision, Index of Catholic Nuns in Australia at

In Family Search,, to find Catholic Records do a library catalog subject search for “Catholic”.

The Official Catholic Directory at


Humling, V. (1995). U.S. Catholic sources: a diocesan research guide. Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry.

Warner, M. D. L. W., Munnick, H. D., Beckham, S. D., & Munnick, A. R. (1972). Catholic Church records of the Pacific Northwest. St. Paul, Or: French Prairie Press.

Catholic Church Records

American Catholic Historical Society at

University of Notre Dame Archives at

Early California Population Project at

California Libraries Catalog at

Online Archive of California at

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Google Scholar

Today, I spoke to the Computer Genealogy Society of San Diego ( on Using Google for your Genealogy. I love speaking on this subject because Google is one of those websites that is so important to genealogical research yet it isn't a genealogical website.

There just isn't enough time to go over everything Google does in the span of 1 hour , but one important part of Google that I forgot to mention was Google Scholar.

Google Scholar allows you to search for "scholarly literature". Their "about" page explains that "From one place, you can search across many disciplines and sources: peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, abstracts and articles, from academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories, universities and other scholarly organizations. " To read more about Google Scholar check out

So what does this have to do with you, the family historian? Everything. This is yet one more tool that can assist you in searching for information about your family. Now, true you probably won't find info specifically on your surname but when researching you should be looking at the era that your ancestor lived (to better know what other resources would be available to you), the community, and aspects of their lives like occupation. Remember these scholarly articles are going to be by historians, those in the field of religion, economics, etc-they are going to be histories that will provide you more understand of your ancestor's time period and life experiences.

Now in some cases, the articles might be available through services that are subscription based. That's ok-just jot down the name of the article, author, publication title, volume and number and pages. Then go to your local library and explain that you need an inter library loan on an article. Basically, they can then find the article and ask a library that has that journal to copy the appropriate pages for you.

I conducted a search on Google Scholar on the term "Coal Mining" and "Coal Mining History" and below I've pasted in some of the results. All of these article would provide some great background information on an ancestor that would help you better understand their life as a coal miner.

[BOOK] Coal is Our Life: An Analysis of a Yorkshire Mining CommunityN Dennis, F Henriques, C Slaughter - 1969 - Tavistock Publications LtdCited by 76 - Web Search - Library Search

BOOK] History of the Coal-mining Industry in OhioDL Crowell - 1995 - Ohio Dept. of Natural
Resources, Division of Geological SurveyCited by 18 - Related articles - Web Search - Library

[BOOK] The History of the British Coal IndustryMW Flinn - 1984 - Clarendon PressCited by 17 - Web Search - Library Search

[BOOK] The Coal Industry of the Eighteenth CenturyTS Ashton, J Sykes - 1929 - Manchester University PressCited by 31 - Related articles - Web Search - Library Search

BOOK] Where the Sun Never Shines: A History of America's Bloody Coal IndustryP Long - 1989 - Paragon House PublishersCited by 17 - Web Search - Library Search

[BOOK] Economic Development of the British Coal Industry, 1800-1914BR Mitchell - 1984 - Cambridge University PressCited by 31 - Related articles - Web Search - Library Search

There is so many other great histories that you can find using these two search terms. While Google Scholar is not specifically a genealogical source it can definitely help you gain some knowledge about your ancestors occupation, religion, circumstances or era.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Thanks for the Award!

Julie Cahill Tarr over at Gen Blog by Julie,, awarded me, and 4 others, the Kreativ Blogger award. Thanks so much Julie! I really appreciate it. (People like me-they really like me;)

The Rules:

1. Copy the award to your site.

2. Link to the person for whom you received the award.

3. Nominate 5 other bloggers.

4. Link to those sites on your blog.

5. Leave a message on the blogs you nominate.

Well, this is tough because I enjoy so many and I know that many of those have already been awarded. But my choices are:

Randy @

Bill @

Chris @

Cheryle @

Paul @

If you don't read these blogs-check them out. You can also click on Julie's blog and see who else she awarded the award to and then go back to the person that nominated her and so on. Then you could be introduced to lots of geneabloggers!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Genea-Musings: Gena Ortega at CGSSD Meeting on Saturday 2/21

I'm going to be out and about on Saturday, speaking at the Computer Genealogy Society of San Diego. My topic is Using Google for Your Genealogy. If you have heard this presentation before, please now that I have added even more to it.

To read more about this, check out Randy Seaver's blog at :

Genea-Musings: Gena Ortega at CGSSD Meeting on Saturday 2/21

You can also check out the Computer Genealogy Society of San Diego at

See you then!

Man's Best Friend

Dog lovers and the things they will do for their dog's is not a new phenomena. Yes, people may go over board with trust funds and diamond studded collars for their dogs, but overall people, even our ancestors, have had dogs as pets and have given them something special.

As I was unloading the groceries today I noticed that the Milk-Bone Dog Biscuits I bought had a history of the company on the back of the box. It states:

"Back in the early 1900's, there was a little bakery on the Lower East Side of New York City. Although it was known as a biscuit company by trade, the bakers there began to develop a snack that catered to the tastes of all dogs, both large and small. From the starts, the recipe for their bone shaped treat was made with only the most nutritious ingredients for a dog: meat products, minerals and milk. Eventually, as derived from the recipe, the name Milk-Bone naturally came into being and has remained since. Now after 100 years, the Milk-Bone continues to bring the joy of snack time to dogs everywhere."

You can read more about the Milk-Bone history at

Our ancestors also had to obtain dog licenses for their pets. These licenses were issued by cities as a way to acquire funds, just like now. But back then it was not uncommon for dogs to attack livestock, thus leaving angry farmers wanting reimbursement. Thus the idea of charging dog owners for a license.

As you research, check out city records for dog licenses, they may provide some information on your ancestor and his/her best friend.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Researching your Family History at the Museum

One valuable source for researching a family history might surprise you. The word, “museum” might remind you of dinosaur bones and miniature displays of events and places. But museums can be much more than a place to learn about natural and local history on an afternoon trip. Often times, museums also hold information on local people including resources of genealogical value. Museums are institutions where families donate heirlooms, pictures, letters and other genealogical treasures as well as being the keeper of information about the community which can include holdings like census records, local government or business records, and cemetery records. Some museums include libraries that include books, manuscripts, photographs, and periodicals. In addition, museums might feature exhibits that can help you tell the story of your ancestor.

When researching a locality, consult the online yellow pages at or consider checking out museum specific websites such as MuseumsUSA,, Virtual Library Museums Pages,, the American Association of Museums at or the Museum Directory published by National Register Publishing. Also make sure to check out the county page from the U.S. Genweb,, for area museums that have collections of interest to genealogical researchers.

Once you find the name of a museum, check out their website, if they have one, and see if any of their genealogical or local history collections are online or are listed in an online catalog. You may want to call or email the museum and explain your research question and inquire to what information they have that may be of value. Keep your request short and concise, “I am researching the Johns family that came to the area in 1860." Museums and their archives handle a large number of requests and won’t generally do your research for you but will help you answer a question that you may have.

The following is a list of just some of the offerings that museums have for the genealogist.

The San Bernardino County Museum’s, collections include county coroner’s records and cemetery records, for the Agua Mansa Cemetery in Colton, San Bernardino, California. This cemetery database is available online but a call to the archivist will also net you family history information on some of those buried in Agua Mansa.

The Mormon Church’s, Museum of Church History and Art at features exhibits that provides a visitor with the experiences of immigrants, including a replica of a ship bunk. One online exhibit features the tragic story of the Willie and Martin Handcart Company.

The Prairie Museum of Art and History,, in Colby, Thomas, Kansas, provides information on their genealogical and historical resources on their website. These resources include a library, newspapers, photographs, histories and census records.

The Western Reserve Historical Society ( includes a museum and a library that may be useful for those researching Ohio families. Online you can search a 1907 Voter Registration Index for Cleveland, Bible Records Index, Biographical Sketch Name Index, and their library catalog.

Museum of the City of New York,, website includes a database with over 22,000 images of New York City taken between 1890 and 1942. This database is searchable by date, subject or topic.

The Connecticut Valley Historical Museum, part of the Springfield Museums in Springfield, Massachusetts, , includes a genealogy library with, 20,000 genealogy books, 6,000 microfilms, 1.3 million archival documents, diaries, photos, deeds, account books, and land transfer documents. It boasts the largest collection of French Canadian records outside of Quebec.

As you research museums that may be of assistance to you, consider looking at all types of museums that may exist in a county or region. Sometimes a non-traditional local history museum has surprises for the genealogist. The Western Center for Archaeology and Paleontology in Hemet, Riverside, California,, is dedicated to displaying and educating the public about the Ice Age Mammals found in the area that was excavated and became the Diamond Valley Lake in Hemet. One of the exhibits at the museum is of the archaeological findings from the 19th century settlers that lived in the area. An important exhibit for descendants of this one family.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Lessons from 1930's Depression

There was a great front page article in the Los Angeles Times on Sunday by P. J. Huffstutter, entitled Depression lessons last for a lifetime. You can read it online at,0,2273147.story.

Great oral history interviews, from those who were children in the 1930's. They talk about eating endless gallons of soup, wearing the same dress everyday, and storing food-just in case.

Many of the lessons are things we should be doing in our own lives. Storing food can be helpful in all types of hard times, financial or even when a natural disaster strikes. Some of the stories, are a good reminder that even with the hardships we face now, we probably have more than they did during the depression era. That doesn't make our struggles now any easier. It's just a good reminder of what our families endured. They got through it-and so will we.

California Dreamin': Resources for your California Ancestors

California is a state rich in history and genealogical resources. Whether you conduct research in one of its museums, historical societies, archives or libraries, you’re bound to find something that will bring your ancestor to life. The following are some ideas for resources that may help you better understand your California ancestor.

Although the California Republic began in 1846, it did not achieve statehood until 1850. Prior to being a state, California was the territory of various countries including Spain, Mexico, and Russia. One of the biggest draws for pioneers was the gold rush of 1848, which helped to increase California’s population.

To get an idea of the transformation of California counties over time, check out the California State Association of Counties website, for maps of California counties and maps of county seats from 1850 to the present. The website also includes a history of the counties and when they were formed.

The U. S. federal census first included the residents of California in 1850. Only one state census was done and that was in 1852. This census and an every name index is available through the Family History Library. For those with early Los Angeles area ancestors, the 1836 Mexican census for the Los Angeles and Orange County area is available through the Family History Library.

If you are interested in a particular book or resource and want to verify its availability, check out the California Libraries Catalog at Through this site, you can either conduct a search through all of the California public libraries or through California libraries that include the private, public, academic and government. Once you conduct your search, you will receive relevant “hits” for books, musical scores, sound recordings, visual media (photos, VHS, DVD programs), serials and maps. You can then choose what medium you are interested in and look over the hits. A search on the keyword “Manzanar” brings up 23 archival items including a 1993 oral history interview with Brieuc Bouche where he discusses his experience as a teacher at Manzanar, the Japanese Internment Camp in the Owens Valley. Other materials include a collection of Ansel Adams’ letters and ephemera having to do with Manzanar. This is a great first step to looking for what material is available on your subject of interest, whether it be a name, a place or an event, and where you can locate it. This information might then be used to acquire the item through interlibrary loan.

The Online Archive of California (OAC),, is a collection of historical documents and photos from various California institutions. Their website states that their collection includes 120,000 images and 50,000 pages of documents, letters, and oral histories. You can search the archive by type of resource, either images or texts, or you can conduct a “finding aid search”. This search allows you to view the different collection affiliated with your topic of interest. For example, I searched on the phrase “gold rush” in the finding aids search. I was rewarded with hits from 191 collections that are available through the OAC. Images are available for printing on your home printer and information is included about copyright restrictions. This is a wonderful resource for locating pictures of events or places frequented by your ancestors.

The California State Archives located in Sacramento offers many otherwise difficult records that may help you research your ancestor, a sampling of these records include: Mental Health Records from 1856-1972 (from State Hospitals in Stockton, DeWitt, Modesto, Mendocino and Sonoma); Prison Records 1856-1972 from San Quentin, Folsom and the Youth Authority; school reports and professional and vocational licenses for architectural examiners, engineers, cosmetologists, dental examiners, medical examiners, pharmacy board, and social work examiners. They also have census records, military records and various county records. In addition they have a Mexican land grant maps 1855-1875 with an online index. The Archives have an online question form to use in corresponding with the archivists or you may visit in person. The Archives website is at

The California History Room of the California State Library, includes an online guide to using the resources found at the History Room including the California state census, the California Great Register, DAR compilations, city directories, newspapers, and the Pioneer Card File. Various other indexes are available at the History Room.

Another library that is part of the California State Library is the Sutro Library. The Sutro Library, located on the campus of the San Francisco State University, is said to have the greatest genealogy collection west of Utah. While the Sutro does not have its own website, it’s collections can be searched through the main catalogue of the California State Library located at

Several California genealogy societies also include genealogical databases on their websites. The California State Genealogical Alliance website includes a search engine for California genealogy and historical societies at Another resource for finding the websites for California genealogy societies is through Census Finder at

Monday, February 16, 2009


I am starting to upload articles to a website called HubPages, This is sort of like the website Squidoo, where anyone can write and publish articles online.

I am working on a series about Confederates and the Civil War. So feel free to check these articles out. You can find my profile by using my email or my user name Gena Ortega.

I have 2 articles posted as of right now, Confederate Pension Records at


Was your Ancestor in the Civil War? at

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Church Record Sunday: The Baptist Church

The Baptist Church has different branches with varying philosophies. A thorough look at this church would take more space than I have allotted here, but the following resources are just some of the websites that may help you in your search for ancestors who were members of the Baptist church.

At Baptist Church History and Genealogy,, you can find websites having to do with Baptists as well links to online databases. By clicking on the Collections and Depositories link, you can peruse libraries and other archives that house manuscript collections having to do with the Baptist church.

Baptist Studies Online at is the website of the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. According to their website, Baptist Studies Online is dedicated to the study of Baptist history and thought…Currently there are 2 volumes, 2007 and 2008 of the Journal online at Under the link Primary Sources, there are a few additional links for historical articles involving Baptists and various topics. The link Baptist Studies Online,, provides links to archives, libraries and historical societies that can assist in your search for manuscript collections, records and documents.

Ancestry has the database, South Carolina Baptist Marriages and Deaths, 1835-65, The Family History Library has quite a few Baptist church records. To find them, go to the Family History Library (, click on ‘Library’, then on ‘Library Catalog’. Then do a subject search for ‘Baptist’.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Beware of the Meat Casserole!

I think the food our ancestors ate and how they ate and everything to do with the kitchen can really enrich our family history. Afterall, who just wants to look at the dates and places for dead people?

One funny story involving my paternal great-grandparents and food is that one day my great-grandfather came home and looked through the refrigerator for something to eat. He found a Tupperware container with some sort of meat casserole in it and sat down and proceeded to eat it. My great-grandmother walked into the room and he commented to her about how tasty the casserole was.

She looked at him and said “what casserole?” When she saw the container he was eating out of she let him know that he was eating leftover dog food that she had put in the refrigerator. That didn’t stop my great-grandfather-he just kept eating it.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Casting the Genealogical Net II: Home Sources

This is a follow up to my earlier posting, Casting the Genealogical Net found at

One of the places to look for your family history, which I did not mention earlier, is home sources. Now homes sources can be a hit or miss. For many of us who weren’t lucky enough to inherit the family Bible or documents, home sources can seem to be something that we should just forget. But I think that it’s important to evaluate anything and everything that may have been from or referred to a previous generation.

A good case in point is my grandmother's elementary school math book. It was given to me by my grandparents when I was a young teenager. My grandmother was born with one surname and than changed to a different surname after her parent’s divorce, and then appears to use the original surname as she gets older, prior to her marriage. I had heard that her mother had wanted to keep her away from her father and so may have changed her surname so he couldn't’t find them. Well, some evidence to that point can be found in the math book, where she printed her name on the inside cover using this alternate surname. This is a small clue in a math book, something you would not expect.

So, yes it would be nice if you have vital records, family Bibles or genealogical data at home. But if you do not, here are some other ideas for home sources to look for in your home, your parent’s home or maybe even a cousin’s.

List of Possible Home Sources
  • Scrapbooks (The Victorians loved to scrapbook and pasted in cards, newspaper articles, any info about their family and their neighbors)
  • Baby Books (Can provide information not only on the child but on the parents and grandparents, other family members and neighbors)
  • Guest Books (From weddings, baby showers, funerals, etc)
  • Photo Albums and Framed Photos (Always look on the back and inside the frame for information. In one photo frame I inherited, there was actually a picture behind the original picture-I wouldn't have found it if I hadn't taken the original picture out of the frame)
  • Journals/Diaries (You may not have these but maybe a relative does or it is in a Manuscript Collection)
  • Letters
  • Financial Records (Taxes, bills, receipts, bank statements, etc..)
  • Yearbooks (Look at what was written by others in the yearbook, as well as checking for information about your ancestor in the index and through each page)
  • Religious Memorabilia (Awards, books, certificates, etc. In one case in our family, a letter that was only 3 lines long , it looked more like a small note, was used by our ancestor when she "lettered into" a church)
  • Books (Look for any writing that may have been done on various pages or for items stuck into the book)
  • Announcements (For weddings, baptisms, baby's, graduations, etc.)
  • Greeting Cards (Christmas, birthday, graduation, anniversary, etc.)
  • Health Records
  • Newspaper Articles
  • Legal Papers
  • Military Papers
  • Immigration Papers
  • Professional and Business Licenses
  • School Records
  • Textiles (Quilts, needlework samplers-these may include names or the maker, their family or friends, dates and places)
  • Funeral Cards
These are just some ideas. Obviously, home sources can be different for you based on what your family kept and preserved.

A great home source is living family members. We often think of only interviewing the oldest members, which is important. But don't forget that younger members may have important information and stories to pass on. In some cases, it may be younger family member that hung out with the old people and listened to their stories. So starting conversations with all family members can help in determining who knows what or has access to information in their own home.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Searching Women's Manuscript Collections

Women's Manuscript Collections can serve as a place to find the writings of women who was a part of your ancestor's community. While many of us won't be lucky enough to have an female ancestor who kept a journal or left her letters and writings behind to be donated to a repository, someone in her community may have done just that.

One important aspect of family history research is to research the neighbors. While it may not seem as fun to research people who aren't your family, those people can lead to information about your own family. Remember, our ancestors didn't have the celebrity culture we do now with gossipy magazines and shows about the comings and goings of the rich and famous. What they did have was their neighbors, friends, and associates whom they knew, observed, judged and even wrote about.

A good example of why manuscript collections are so vital to your research can be found in an example found in the Women's Manuscript Collection at BYU, A search in that collection for the place Snowflake (a small town in Arizona) provides a hit for a collection of the papers of May Louise Hunt Larson. In this collection is a series of papers where May wrote out the names of teachers, students and principals of the Snowflake Academy. In addition, she wrote the names and birth dates of people in the Snowflake Stake (people who were members of the Mormon Church there.) Imagine what a goldmine this would be if you had family members from this small town. Although this woman may not be a family member, she may have written about your family members.

Women's manuscript collections are often held in the special collections sections of university libraries. Most universities have a women's manuscript collection. Each repository will have different policies on using manuscript collections. While some may look up an item within the collection for you, others require that you look at the collection on site. Unlike books in a library that circulate, manuscript collections are a special collection for which there is no interlibrary loan. When I have needed something copied out of a manuscript collection and was unable to visit the library, I have paid a nominal fee for a student to copy the pages for me.

One way to search manuscript collections is through the NUCMC,, a cooperative cataloging program developed by the Library of Congress. The NUCMC web site provides information on how to search the catalog. Another resource for a listing of women's collections is found at H Net which provides a list of repositories of women's manuscript collections at Some of the libraries featured include Duke University, University of Iowa, Virginia Tech, and Georgetown.

A comprehensive listing of women's manuscript collections categorized by state can be found at the web site for the University of Texas at San Antonio's web site, Another way to find a specific women's manuscript collection is to Google the phrase "women's manuscript collection" and the name of the university you are interested in or the state.

University Libraries are not the only places that house women's manuscript collections. The Indiana Historical Society has manuscript collections include a women's history collection. While this collection is searchable online, there is also an, that outlines the individuals and families as well as the organizations and projects featured in the collections. There is also a guide to women's oral history interviews included on this web site.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Eastern Sierra Cemeteries Blog

Many of you might know that in 2007 I wrote a book, published by Arcadia, entitled Cemeteries of the Eastern Sierra. It has always been my intention to take all of the research I did for that book and continue to do about the area, much of which was not featured in the book, and make it available in some format.

So I have put together a blog, Eastern Sierra Cemeteries. This blog will feature genealogy, history, and new information about the people, history and cemeteries of the Eastern Sierra. You can check out this new blog at

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

This Pickled Life

I love pickles of all kinds. I went to a deli the other day with members of the Palm Springs Genealogy Society and the deli served small plates of sauerkraut, pickles and pickled green tomatoes. I could have sat there all day just eating that.

It seems that countries all over the world have some sort of version of sauerkraut and/or pickles. Wikipedia,, provides a long list of countries that serve a version of sauerkraut, everything from kimchi in Korea to a sour cabbage dish served in Serbia. So it seems that wherever your ancestor came from-they may have used a form of sauerkraut or pickled something. I know my own maternal grandmother use to take pickled beet juice and pickle eggs with it. Boy am I getting hungry....

Sauerkraut also is believed to have some healthful properties. Everything from providing you vitamins to settling your stomach to curing avian flu in birds.
The website, I Love Pickles,, provides ideas and facts about all types of pickles and pickled dishes. There's a whole website devoted to recipes with sauerkraut at A pickle history timeline can be found through the New York Food Museum website at And a vintage recipe, straight from the newspaper, can be found here,

(Image from Wikipedia)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday

This tombstone is from a small cemetery in Texas. About 5 years ago, I and a cousin went to Texas to research our Chatham line. On our quest to find graves of various Chathams and their kin, we stumbled on a small town and talked to some people enjoying an afternoon luncheon at a church.
One of the gentlemen there offered to lead us to a small, forgotten cemetery down the road. It happened that this cemetery was in the middle of a field, the only way to get to it was to open a gate, get past the cattle and there it was. It was covered in long grasses and hadn't been tended in a long time.

Somewhere in my notes, is the name of this town but for the life of me I can't find it now. But as I walked this cemetery, it struck me how many of these forgotten burial places there are.

Monday, February 09, 2009

American Music History

One of the good things about watching the Grammy’s last night was that it really gives you the opportunity to listen to different types of music. You may not appreciate today’s Rap or Rock but the Grammy’a provides the opportunity to hear different recording artists singing their hits and some interesting duets.

I always enjoy hearing music of all different time periods. Lone Star College-Kingwood has a great website that is a chronology of American Music. Music before 1900 is highlighted at Music from 1900-1950 is at and then music from 1950 to the present is Links include lyrics, books, biographies, and histories.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Church Record Sunday: United Church of Christ

The United Church of Christ (UCC)was formed when the Evangelical and Reformed Church as well as the Congregational Christian Churches merged. UCC is a Protestant denomination formed in 1957, so its history is very recent.

The UCC Archives includes documents from 1957 forward. The Archive includes records such as UCC Yearbooks, General Synod Minutes, Executive Council Minutes, UCC Historical Council, written histories of local churches, associations, conferences, and other UCC related ministries. They also work closely with other archives that hold the documents/records of the denominations that formed the UCC. While the actual website does not have any digitized records, you can contact the archives at the address listed on this page,

Saturday, February 07, 2009

The American Historical Association Archives Wiki

The American Historical Association,, was founded in 1889 and has a website that includes items that would be of interest to the genealogist. One resource is an index of history journals with links to their websites. Although meant for writers to find a forum for their work, this can also be a tool for genealogists who need to know about history journals for the locality they are researching. Journals can provide articles about places, eras and famous people. The AHA blog includes entries with links to history podcasts and a regular feature “what we are reading” that can introduce you to new history books, periodicals and websites. One blog topic was Women and War,, which provided various links to websites that looked at women’s roles in war throughout American history.

Another important resource on the AHA website is the Archives Wiki, Archives are an important part of any historical or genealogical research. Part of our research must include finding and using primary documents. Part of the value of an archive is that it is a place that contains primary documents as well as secondary sources such as newspapers, books, and periodicals.

It can be difficult to find archives in the locality or that cover the subject area you are researching. Some archives do not an internet presence; those who are unfamiliar with types of archives may have difficulty finding the one they need. The American Historical Association has taken a step to providing a place to find archives and information about them, The Archives Wiki at

According to it’s homepage, The Archives Wiki is “intended to be a clearinghouse of information about archival resources throughout the world.” This free resource has information about U.S. archives and numerous countries, although not comprehensive it does provide a good starting point for finding information about archives that might assist you in your research. Because the nature of a Wiki is that it is a collaborative work, not all US states are covered here-about 15 states are blank, waiting for someone to provide the information. This is an active Wiki, the day I checked it changes had been made as recently as that day.

The Wiki is organized by states or country. Once you choose the locality you are interested in, a list of archives will be listed. Choose an archive and the information, depending on the contributor will include everything from logistics, date, time and address the archive is open, to a description of the facility and helpful information for researchers. This helpful information can include places to eat, and information about lodging.

One example of an archives listing can be found at This listing is for the Huntington Library in San Marino, California. The listing begins by explaining the address, telephone, internet site and directors names. It goes on to explain who can research there. There is a good size summary of the collection followed by helpful tips about food and lodging for those who planning on researching at the library for a length of time.

Contributor Guidelines dictate that information follows a nine step outline for each archive entered that include: institution name, address and contact info, hours and usage restrictions, online catalogs and finding aids, collection summary, usage discussion, fellowship and funding opportunities, major topic areas, and categories.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

War Department Papers

I was reading the latest issue of the Corona Genealogy Society newsletter,, edited by Len Enlow and found a website I thought I would pass on.

War Department Papers,, is a website that provides War Department documents from 1784-1800. These documents were previously believed to have been destroyed in a 1800 fire, but through searching archives around the country, this collection has been pieced together. The documents are digitized and fully searchable.

Genealogy and the Hardy Boys

You never now where you can get some genealogical education. I mentioned yesterday that I was reading a Hardy Boys book to my kids. The book, The Arctic Patrol Mystery, explains Scandinavian naming patters. My notes are in parenthesis.

"Hey, what's all this crazy name business in Iceland?" he asked Gummi. "We can't find anybody by the name of Hallbjornson (surname) under H." (in the phone book)

Gummi laughed loudly. "People are listed by their first names in the telephone book," he said, and explained that the last name changed with every generation.

"Take me, for example," he said. "My father's name is Bergs Anderson. That makes my last name Bergsson. If I have a son, he'd be called Gudmundurson, and my daughter Gudmundurdottir. It's a holdover from the ancient Scandinavian. We still use it here."

-The Arctic Patrol Mystery by Franklin W. Dixon, page 51.

Casting the Genealogical Net

When doing family history, one of the important things to remember is that the evidence about your family (documents, photos, letters, applications, government records, church records, etc) can be in many different places. Your research needs to exhaust all these places in order to be comprehensive.

Most of us are familiar with the regular cast of characters in searching for our family, U.S. Federal Census, Vital Records, etc...but there are documents out there that we may not be familiar with. So you need to be open to all kinds of items that document the history of the time period that you are searching.

Remember, you are not just researching a person or family. You are researching collateral relatives, a locality, a historical era, and the neighbors.

Where should you be looking for information? Here are just some ideas:
  • Family History Library (order microfilm as well as search on website)

  • Other big genealogy libraries (Sutro in California and Allen County Public Library)

  • Ancestry and other websites

  • Public Library (both your and the one where your ancestor lived)

  • University Library

  • State Library and/or Archives

  • County Archives

  • Museum



  • Newspapers
  • ebay
  • Church Archives
  • Membership Societies
  • Genealogy Society ( local, regional and state)
  • Historical Society (local, regional, state)

Documents about your family could be almost anywhere. I've been reminded about that through various speakers presentations but also just today when I was reading a book to my kids. One of my kids pulled out a Hardy Boys' book that was mine when I was younger. I had bought it at a library book sale. The book, a library discard, still had the check out card in it. One that card was the names and dates of the kids who checked out this book back in the mid 1970's. These 'kids' would now be in their late 40's now.

Now, you may not be able to track down you grandfather's library check out card but you never know what could be out there until you look. Just think of all the different types of things that you sign, put your name and address on, etc, and remember, your grandparents put their name on more than a land deed and vital record forms.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Sign of the Times

I received an email today that the Genealogy Society of Riverside is cancelling their annual seminar due to a lack of pre-registrations. If you were planning on attending, the announcement is at

I think this is just a sign of our times. Everytime I talk to people I hear about layoffs, furlough days, and bills piling up. I am not an economics expert but it does remind me of the situation during the 1930's Depression.

This is the time that our local, regional and national societies need us the most. They often work on very small budgets where there is little to no flexibility. We may be in situations where we can't support all the societies that we have in the past but it is important to lend our support to the ones that we can.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

100 Social History Websites in 100 Days

I thought I would try something new with my Twitter postings. I will be posting a social history website url each day for the next 100 days. Each link will be something that you can use to better understand your ancestor's life.

So come check me out on Twitter, my page is at genaortega. Every so often I will go ahead and include the links here.

1901 Buffalo Pan-American Exposition

The website Illuminations: Revisiting the Buffalo Pan-American Exposition 1901,, is a great site for learning more about this time period in American history. You can read about what was popular and look at documents and ephemera including maps of the Exposition, advertisements, and articles about innovations. You can get an idea of what the Exposition grounds looked like through a souvenir booklet digitized at

Lots of different kinds of documents can be seen at this website. A menu for the Pabst restaurant can be found here If you’re curious about what things cost during 1901 and how much people made during this time, you can look at this link

Of course, the big event at this Exposition was the assassination of President William McKinley. This website has materials about the assassination including an offsite link to a booklet entitled, The True Story of the Assassination of President McKinley at Buffalo from 1901 at

Other websites that have information about the Pan-American Exposition can be found at and

Monday, February 02, 2009

Groundhog Day

Well I am a little late getting this post out today but I would be remiss if I didn't mention that today was Groundhog Day. Although, my kids tried to convince me that it was a federal holiday, it is simply just a fun day. And one that your ancestors celebrated, or at least may have known about, since 1887.

The history of Groundhog Day is this, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica Online:

The beginning of February, which falls roughly halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, has long been a significant time of the year in many cultures. Among the Celts, for example, it was the time of Imbolc, observed in anticipation of the birth of farm animals and the planting of crops, and February 2 is also the date of the Christian festival of Candlemas, also called the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin.

During the Middle Ages there arose the belief that animals such as the badger and the bear interrupted their hibernation to appear on this day. If the day was sunny and the animal saw its shadow, six more weeks of winter weather remained. If, however, the day was cloudy, it was a sign that the weather during the following weeks would be mild, leading to an early spring.

German immigrants to the United States carried the legend with them, and in Pennsylvania the groundhog came to be substituted for the badger. Since 1887, an animal in Punxsutawney, in the west-central part of Pennsylvania, has been the center of a staged appearance each February 2.

If you want to see the official website of Punxsutawney Phil, check out this link And if you missed this morning's announcement, there will be 6 more weeks of winter.
Interesting, since it was 80 degrees here in Southern California today.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Church Record Sunday: Quakers

History of the Quaker Church (Society of Friends)

George Fox founded The Quakers, or the Society of Friends, in 17th century England. Fox, like many of his time, did not like the policies or practices of the Church of England. He wanted a more spiritual religion that believed in God making His will known to men and women without the interference of priests or ministers. Quakers were persecuted for the refusal to attend Church of England meetings and to pay church tithes. Quakers did not suffer persecution just in England. Massachusetts Puritans, between 1659 and 1661 hung three Quakers who insisted on joining their colony.

By the time William Penn helped establish the colony of New Jersey and later Pennsylvania, there were approximately 50,000 Quakers in America. The Quakers ruled Pennsylvania as a "Holy Experiment" until 1756 when the military policies associated with the French-Indian War made it difficult if not impossible for the peace loving Quakers to continue to govern.


As with many religious groups it's hard to provide information about Quaker beliefs in a few sentences. In the United States, there are four branches of Friends and their beliefs differ along several lines including the way they worship, theological emphasis, evangelism and what organizations they align themselves with. Overall, the Friends believe in a "direct, unmediated, communion with the Divine and a commitment to living lives that outwardly attest to this experience." For more information about the beliefs of the Quakers, consult the Quaker Information Center at

Quaker Genealogy

A good online primer for Quaker research is found at This guide explains that Quakers did not maintain a centralized archive of membership records. The Monthly Meeting they attended holds records for Quakers, including vital records. For a list of Quaker Archives, see the web site Quaker Information Center at

The Quaker Corner at, provides researchers with lists of Quaker surnames, links to online Quaker records, and is the archive for the Quaker roots e-mail list archive.

Just like any group, Quaker research can be a little different than non-Quaker ancestors you have traced. One example of this is their calendar system. For an explanation on this, see a reprint of a section of Berry's Our Quaker Ancestors at For a glossary on uniquely Quaker terms, consult the Quaker glossary at This web site is in English and French.

The American Friend Obituary Index available on the Earlham College Libraries web site at, is an index of obituaries found in the periodical the American Friend which was published from 1894 to 1960. The majority of obituaries are Friends belonging to the Five Years Meeting. This index is alphabetical by surname and includes the deceased name, death date, place of death, age or year of birth. This index does not contain the actual text of the obituary. If you would like the actual page you can request a photocopy from Earlham College for $5.00 per obituary.

An important book on Quaker Genealogy is Hinshaw's Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy. A guide to using this reference work is available online through Guilford College web site at
This one-page guide not only explains how to use the Encyclopedia but also what the abbreviations used throughout the work, stand for. The Encyclopedia is available through Genealogical Publishing Company or may be available at a public or university library near you. An online version can be found through To search the Encyclopedia through Ancestry, click on the "Search" tab, then click on "Search Resources," which is the card catalog for resources. On the search page, type the word "Quaker" in the keyword search box. Ancestry has over 48 different Quaker records available for searching.

Another book that can help with your research is Genealogical Publishing Company's 1996 book, Our Quaker Ancestors: Finding them in Quaker Records authored by Ellen Thomas and David Berry. A keyword search for "Quaker" on Genealogical Publishing Company's web site,, shows 73 hits that include research how-to books, record transcriptions and histories.

A subject search through the Family History Library Catalog (, for the term "Quaker" brings up various resources, including histories and records. Resources include Quakers in the United States as well as England, Australia, Canada, China, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, Scotland and Wales.


The Quaker Information Center,, includes a listing of Quaker archives and libraries. One such facility is the Earlham College Libraries Friends Collection at This library includes a manuscript collection that is indexed online by surname. It also has the American Friend Obituary Index mentioned above. I would also recommend its Quaker Genealogy link,, which includes some information about Quaker research as well as what materials are available for research.

Other libraries and archives listed on the Quaker Information Center site include, the Henry J. Cadbury Library, Swarthmore College, Haverford College, Guilford College, Malone College, the University of Michigan, Wilmington College, Whittier College, and the Friends University Library in Kansas. Two libraries in Great Britain are also listed.