Sunday, August 26, 2012

Church Record Sunday: United Methodist Church

Have Methodist ancestors in the United States? You may be interested in this source.

Researching Your United Methodist Ancestors: A Brief Guide is found on the website for the United Methodist Church General Commission on Archives and History. They also have a genealogy page found here. One of the databases on this website is the Annual Conference Journal Memoirs Index which includes obituaries for those who were ordained ministers.

Thanks to my friend Teresa who passed along this information.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Thank You Grandma!: Forgotten Home Sources

(c) 2012 Gena Philibert-Ortega
There is no doubt that home sources are important to family history research. Unfortunately, not everyone is home source rich. I have friends who have inherited fabulous archives of family materials like vintage photos, letters, and other heirlooms. In my case, I have been lucky to be given a few items.

Home sources can be those genealogically rich items found in your home, the home of a close family member or even a distant cousin. Over 10 years ago I met a distant cousin who had a letter written in the 1800s by one of my 5th great-grandfathers. This letter included information about his children and their birth dates. A genealogy touchdown for sure.

Home sources are elusive  in that they can easily become  forgotten because they are often just a part of the stuff we have in our homes. They may not be archived or curated in a manner that reminds us of the value they really possess.

Case in point is two Air Letters, dated 1960 and 1964, I found this week hidden in my childhood stamp collection. These letters were written to a friend of my maternal grandmothers from a genealogist in England. As I started reading them I realized they provided source information for my maternal line. My grandmother was also a genealogist and would hire researchers in England to pursue sources. These two letters addressed to her friend in care of the Genealogical Society in Salt Lake City (now known as FamilySearch) provides references to parish records  and the name and dates found therein.

So how did this genealogy information end up in my stamp collection? My paternal grandfather encouraged my stamp collecting interest as a child. He and others helped supply me with stamps, including my grandmother who must have given me these two Air Letters because of their sixpence postage stamps. She was probably done with the information and thought I would be interested in the stamps. Because the stamps were not the typical stamp affixed to an envelope, I chose to keep the entire letter whole and not cut the stamp out. Now, what was once a cool stamp given to me is a home source I need for my genealogy.

Home sources can be anywhere. I would have never guessed that my grandma would be helping me with genealogy 20 years after her death.

A funny side note is what non-genealogically information is in the letters. This English researcher would receive requests from Salt Lake and she would go searching for parish registers and then send the information back. From the sounds of the letter she had quite the bustling business. But as all working moms can attest to , it was difficult to balance work and kids.

From the collection of Gena Philibert-Ortega
Seems life for genealogist moms hasn't changed.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Food Friday: Scripture Cake

In some cases a recipe isn't a recipe for food. Sometimes "recipes" were meant to convey ideas for happier living or even to remind the reader what is most  important. They typically have names like "How to Cook a Husband" or in this example "Recipe for Housekeeping" and "Scripture Cake."

Community cookbooks have long featured non-food recipes including these two from the  1935 cookbook compiled by the Ladies' Auxiliary of the Illinois Rural Letter Carriers Association. (I have featured this cookbook previously in  Food Friday: Sandwich Spread. )

Scripture Cake is a recipe many will be familiar with. There are many different versions of this recipe, including one I found on the website Allrecipes and a version I found that was used by one of my favorite authors, Sharyn McCrumb for her book The Rosewood Casket.

I remember reading this recipe as a child. I didn't know anyone who actually made it, it was more about using it as  a way to encourage everyone to look up scriptures to solve the puzzle, or what the true ingredients  are for the cake.

Do you have memories of Scripture Cake?

Friday, August 17, 2012

When I was Young or How I Survived that 5 Mile Walk to School in the Snow

(c) 2012 Gena Philibert-Ortega
Do you ever ponder how much technology has changed since you were younger? My kids can't believe that I didn't have cable TV or a remote control growing up. (Like most people the remote was my brother or I getting up and changing the television channels, all eight of them).  They really start wondering about me when I tell them that we didn't have color TV until I was a teenager.

But today I started thinking about other technologies that are different. When I went to high school I typed my papers on a manual typewriter. As a college student I bought an electric typewriter which seemed like a luxury. I learned to type in junior high, the same time I learned to take shorthand.

When I graduated from college, I used  a word processor for work. Boy, that seemed like the best thing ever. Not only could you type, but you could correct mistakes prior to pushing the print button. Then your text would be printed on a piece of paper (dot matrix). I was so grateful to have that and not have to mess with correction fluid or ribbons.

In my brief time on this earth (well not too brief) I have seen technologies come and go. Items that were essential when I was younger (telephone booths, typewriters, carbon paper, mimeograph machines) are now antiques. So if that is true for me, imagine how it is for my parents or grandparents.

So what does this have to do with genealogy? Everything.

Need help writing your life story? Think about how life has changed since you were young and write about that. Write about what you used  a typewriter for and include a photo since no one will know what that is in 100 years. Write about your trek to school each day and  include a map. Talk about what you did for entertainment. Help your descendents have a visual picture of life back in the 'old days' circa 1980 or even 1940.

Write what life was like for you. Write like you wish your ancestors  had written.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Join me for a FREE Webinar Where I Reveal all of my Genealogy Secrets

Well, not really.

But now that I have your attention, please join me on Wednesday, August 15th at 6:00pm PDT to talk about Women's Work. This webinar is part of the  Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree  Extension Series.

From the collection of Gena Philibert-Ortega

As most of you know, one of my favorite topics is researching female ancestors. My webinar Women's Work will look at the types of work women have done. Now, before you say my ancestress was just a housewife, come learn more about where to find resources, some occupations that were common to women and much more. We will be looking at all kinds of "work" including volunteer work.

I promise you will hear information you have not heard before.

Thanks to the Southern California Genealogical Society for providing me this opportunity. I hope to see you there!

Register now by clicking here.

Revisiting Church Record Sunday: Religion in American History

**Author's Note: Church Record Sunday first debuted in 2009. Originally, I wanted to help researchers find religious resources  for their genealogy. Since I have a degree in Religion, it seemed like a perfect fit. 

Sometimes when you blog, a post isn't visited as much as you thought it would be. Maybe it's not popular because of the topic. Maybe because it wasn't "advertised" readers didn't find it.  In any case, some blog posts deserve a second chance. 

This blog post from May 2009 has something for everyone with American ancestors. This website is a great way to learn more about your ancestor and religion.

A website that might be of use in learning more about religion and its place in American history can be found at Divining America: Religion in American History . This website is part of a National Humanities Center TeacherServe project. It provides essays by scholars on different topics related to American religion from the 17th century through the 20th century.

While this is not a standard genealogy site with data about individuals, it will provide you with information that will help you better understand your ancestor's place in time.

Some of the articles about American religion in the 19th century include:
Essays about American religion in the 17th and 18th centuries can be found at The 19th century can be found at and the 20th century can be found at

Each centuries 'page' also includes additional website links to accompany each essay.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

100 Social History Websites

How can you incorporate social history into genealogy? Start thinking about how to better describe the time, events and activities your ancestor was a part of. This list of social history websites will provide you with a start to telling the story of your ancestor's life.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Hurry! Discount to Family Tree University Conference

I'm excited to be presenting two sessions at the Family Tree University Virtual Genealogy Conference happening September 14-16. I will be presenting Top 10 Tools for Social History and Cook Up Answers About Immigrant Ancestors. You can check out the conference schedule here.

To take advantage of the early bird pricing, attendees should click this  Register link at  and enter discount code FTUVCEARLY at checkout.

Hurry! This offer ends soon. The early bird registration period for the conference ends this Friday, August 10, at 11:59 p.m. Early bird registration costs $159.99, and is a savings of $50 over the regular registration fee. 

Monday, August 06, 2012

Where in the World: My Presentations for August

August started with some presentations at the Corona Family History Seminar, a great event put on by the Corona Genealogy Society. The month is still young and I have other presentations this month including one that everyone can attend.

August 15: Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree Extension Series. Topic: Women's Work.
This is going to be a great webinar. There's no doubt that tracing female ancestors can be difficult. We make a lot of assumptions about the lives of women, some of which may not be true. In this presentation we will look at the occupations, including volunteer work, women held in 19th century America and what records they left behind. Whether your ancestress was employed or not, the repositories and collections we discuss will help you research your female ancestor. Your ancestress was just a housewife? You might be surprised.

August 17: San Fernando Valley Genealogical Society. Topic: Elusive Genealogy Sources. Oh how I love talking about interesting seldom used sources. Hit a brick wall? Maybe some new sources will help you knock it down.

August 18: Ventura County Genealogical Society. Mini-Seminar: Social History Websites That Bring Your Family History to Life and Finding Images to Tell the Story of Your Ancestor. Come join us for some social history. Plus you can enjoy the beach afterwards!

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Church Record Sunday: Navajos in the Catholic Church Records of New Mexico 1694-1875

In some cases, searching out books written by academics can help you not only find records but learn more about your ancestor. Navajos in Catholic Church Records of New Mexico 1694-1875 by David M Brugge is an  example of seeking out non-fiction works about the lives of our ancestors. Though it was once out of print it is now available via print on demand from the School for Advanced Research's Press.

This is a good example of how using the bibliography and end notes will also lead you to records that might be of use to your research.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Gregg, Pitman, and Me: The Death of Shorthand

When I was in the 8th grade, our junior high had various after school activities you could participate in. Of course there were sports teams and cheerleading. Being a nerdy type I was a member of the Reading Club (oh, how I loved that club) and a special shorthand class.

Yes, I said shorthand.

My mom thought it would be a good idea for me to learn shorthand to help in any future career aspirations. Now, I don't remember much from that class. In fact I would say I remember nothing except that I did incorporate some dashes into my everyday writing that I still use today. I'm assuming this was learned  from that class.

Shorthand is like a secret code. Throughout history and possibly your genealogy, people have written in codes. I've seen postcards between lovers that include seemingly random numbers. The early Mormon settlers in Utah had their own alphabet. The Deseret Alphabet was an attempt at incorporating a phonetic alphabet but it never gained much of a following.

Shorthand evolved into  a secret language of women. This was the language of women who worked as secretaries and had to possess the skills of not only typing fast but also for "taking letters" which meant writing fast. Shorthand ensured that women were able to get down every word that was spoken and not have to ask for anything to be repeated.

Did someone in your family keep notes or diaries written in shorthand? Our family has inherited such encrypted notes. Notes written in shorthand  so no one else could read them.

When I think about the current controversies about cursive and how soon no one will be able to read or write in  cursive, how it will become a dinosaur, I think of shorthand. In the near future very few people will have the knowledge to unlock that secret handwriting we call shorthand. To read one history of shorthand check out the website Shorthand Shorthand Shorthand.