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.

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