Friday, March 26, 2021

Women's History Month 2021: Another look at Finding Aids and Catalogs

Image by DreamQuest via Pixabay

There are museum finding aids and catalogs all over the Internet. Sometimes it's just a matter of knowing how to find them or the pure luck of stumbling upon one that holds the key to your research.

We discussed ArchiveGrid yesterday but there are other smaller regional catalogs that might also provide you what you need. These include (but are not limited to):

These online catalogs make it easier to find information about your female ancestor. But, once again, don't just search by her name and assume because there are no results that she isn't represented in a collection.

Here's an example. I went to the Mountain West Digital Library and searched for the keyword "quilt." Over 700 results were returned so  I narrowed it down to a result from the Murray City (Utah) Museum.

So here's a great result, a group of women sitting in front of a quilt. The title states that it is the Murray Stake Relief Society Board circa 1954. So right away I know that these women are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and they hold a leadership position in the church in the stake Relief Society (a woman's organization).

Ok so that's great. None of the women are named in the photo description so searching by name in the catalog would do you absolutely no good.

Now take a look at that quilt. That quilt is a Friendship Quilt (or also known as a Signature Quilt). 

Copyright Murray City Corporation. Digitized copy available at

What does that mean for genealogists? Names!

Look closely and you'll notice that the quilt has a ton of names (or because it's small it looks like a bunch of words). Obviously, not readable from this view. The description states that there are names on the back of the photo. My guess is that those are the names of the women pictured but maybe the names on the quilt are also documented or the quilt has been donated to a museum.

So museums have items that can tell us about our ancestor's lives and may even a mention by name. Why would you care if your female family member was on this quilt? The quilt and its history can tell you about her life. It gives you location in time, religion, and depending on the purpose of the quilt, that might also provide you details. It also speaks to her FAN Club.

Searching online catalogs to see what is out there for a female ancestor at the museum. Definitely!

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