Friday, March 27, 2009

Repositories of Primary Sources

As genealogists, we are always on the hunt for primary and secondary sources that can lead us to information about our ancestor's lives. When researching an area that you are not as familiar with, you may wonder where to find the documents that you need.

The website, Repositories of Primary Sources at is a listing of over 5000 websites of collections including manuscripts, photographs, rare books and other primary sources. And, not only is this linked for North American repositories but also Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Check out this site to find additional places to look for information about your ancestor, their neighbors, community and time period.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Hidden Side of Genealogy

Many of us who research our family history do so out of a curiosity, a deep need if you will, about who we are and where we come from. We join groups that tout our ancestor's achievement as soldiers, pioneers, and founders. We talk about our ancestor the inventor, the celebrity or the every day person who knew a celebrity. Yet there are aspects of genealogy that we don't talk as much about. Yes, there are the black sheep that some of us proudly claim. Maybe an ancestor was a thief, a pirate or spent time in jail. But there still are aspects of genealogy we tend to downplay.

The suicide of Sylvia Plath's son, Nicholas Hughes is a grim reminder that maybe aspects of mental health like, suicide and depression may have a genetic component. Nicholas was only 1 years old when his mother killed herself in the next room. Later, his father's girlfriend would kill herself and her child.

Nicholas isn't the only offspring of a celebrity that chose to end their lives just as those before them did. One of the more famous families affected by suicide is the Hemingway's. In the book, In My Blood, John Sedgwick details the Sedgwick family history of depression. One of their most famous members was the actress Edie Sedgwick.

Depression is typically suffered in silence. Shame and guilt make the sufferer unable to express what they are feeling. Those who do speak up to family and friends are usually labeled as crazy, or their torment is downplayed as just a phase.

Taking note of our family's health history is so important in our own preventative medicine. Letting your doctor know about close family members who have a history of cancer or heart disease can potentially save your life. We must also consider taking note of other health issues, including mental health, that our ancestors and family struggled with. Addressing these issues can help someone better deal with and seek treatment instead of seeing only one, final way out.

For a short discussion on the genetic link in suicide, see the Scientific American post at An article that reviews research on the connection between genetics and depression can be found at

Be a Census Taker!

The US Census Bureau is hiring, so if you need some extra income this might be the perfect job for a genealogist.

I think it could be very interesting to see the process up close and personal and get the inside scoop on census taking. I have known other genealogist who have worked as census takers and they have found the experience useful. However, I don't think it is a job for the faint of heart. If you are interested, time is of the essence. They hope to have everyone hired by May.

If you are interested, check out the US Census site at

or you can read some additional info, along with reader comments at

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Historical Research and your Genealogy

One of the ideas I have been harping about in my presentations, is that as genealogists we are historians. We care about history, but more specifically about history as experienced by individuals, usually our family members or ancestors. As historians, we should think about increasing our research tool box to include some of the techniques that historians use.

We are lucky in that genealogy really encompasses many fields. History, geography, social sciences, geology, real estate, medicine, law and so on all provide us with information that can help us learn about our ancestors.

The website, Research and Documentation Online,, has some great tips and small articles about researching in the humanities, social sciences, history and science. In the history section there is information about researching historical facts, places to find sources and how to document sources. There is even a sample paper.

Now, I know that you are not writing a history paper for a class, you are documenting your family history. However, this information can assist you in researching, documenting, and learning more about your ancestor. Making your ancestor more interesting than just some names and dates.

One of my favorite websites is DoHistory at The article, Stages of a Historical Research Project, is a great way to help you plan your next research project and get ideas for learning more about your ancestor.

Another website that I like, that has absolutely nothing to do with genealogy is William Cronon’s, Learning Historical Research at He provides an excellent basic introduction for anyone to use who wants to learn about the past. He also provides information on the research process and research sources. This is a great website with ideas that will help you in your genealogical research.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Church Record Sunday: United Methodist Church Archives

The General Commission on Archives and History for the United Methodist Church,, provides genealogists with a comprehensive website that allows one to learn more about different aspects of Methodism and research into the church’s records.

This website should be a first step in researching any church records for a Methodist ancestor. They include a section on genealogy and how to go about the research on your ancestor, including where to look for various sources.

Their website includes their holdings catalog which you can search for any records that might be of use.

Also check out their various articles on topics like Circuit Riders and Women in the Methodist tradition.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


I've been reading a lot about real estate lately, which got me thinking about mortgages. Not just the mortgages that are a result of our latest financial crisis-but mortgages that were taken out by your ancestors.

Tomorrow, my Social History website for the day, will be an article on the history of mortgages at (Daily, I post a social history website on Twitter. To see my postings on Twitter, follow me at genaortega).

Mortgages can be yet another way to track down information on your ancestor. It's just one more piece of paper in your family trees paper trail.

Using the Family Search catalog,, and conducting a subject search on the term 'mortgage' you will find listing fro mortgage records from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, New Mexico and Oklahoma. However, a keyword search for the term mortgage will bring up over 3,000 titles having to do with deeds and mortgages.

What type of information can you find in a mortgage. At the very least you will find your ancestor's name and the name of the lender. The address of the home/property that was being financed. This information helps you keep track of where your ancestor was in a place in time.

This information can also lead you to a county's grantor/grantee indexes with information on deeds and plat maps.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Today's Tent Cities

Today in the LA Times there was an article about a tent city in Sacramento that you can read at,0,4125317.story. It reminded me of the pictures taken by Dorthea Lange in the 1930's of migrant workers fleeing in the dust bowl.

It's mind boggling that we can live in a country of such wealth and there are people who have to live in tents due to our current economic conditions.

A recent presentation that I was listening to by an author who interviewed quilters who were quilting during the 1930's depression. She commented that in some parts of the country, people did not there was a depression going on because they had always been impoverished. While this could also be said of some people today, both the very poor and the wealthy-there are more and more middle class families suffering from the economic downturn.

40 Days of Social History Websites

I'm posting the first 40 days worth of links, of a total of 100 days, of Social History Websites. This is a series I am posting to Twitter daily. These websites are can help inform your knowledge of what life was like for our ancestors. Afterall, that's what makes genealogy fun!

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

Fashion Era

David Rumsey Map Collection

Medieval Technology and American History

National Museum of Funeral History

Past and Present Railroad Job Descriptions

Index of UK Portrait and Studio Photographers 1840-1950

History of Tinker Toys

History of Girl Scout Cookies

History of Furniture

Hairstyle History

Utopian Communities

Menu Collection

Old Catalogs

Sewer History

Brownie Camera History

Vintage Stuff

19th Century Sunday School Books

19th Century Inventions and Patents of African-Americans

19th Century Schoolbooks

18th and 19th Century Nicknames

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Increasing your Genealogical Knowledge

Yesterday, I spoke in Palm Desert at the Sun City Genealogy Society. We spoke about the above topic and the following are some additional websites that I mentioned but were not on the handout.

Society Hill

California State Genealogy alliance

You Tube


Genealogy Gems

BYU free genealogy classes

Google your Family Tree

The Family Tree Problem Solver by Marsha Hoffman Rising

How to do Everything with Your Genealogy by George G. Morgan

Rootsweb Newsletter


Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter

Encyclopedia of Genealogy

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Church Record Sunday: What Religion was my Ancestor?

Researching an ancestor’s religion can be so important to your family history. Your ancestor’s religion can not only provide you with additional records and documents to research but also can give you a glimpse into their beliefs and their life.

But what if you do not know what religion your ancestor was? Here are some ideas for determining what church your ancestor attended:

  • Look at the history of the area where your ancestor lived. A historical atlas can be helpful in checking out what religious groups were living in an area. Living in an area predominated by a religious group may be a clue but does not necessarily mean they were a member of that religious group. But it is a start!
  • Your ancestor may not have been part of a large religious community in their area but they may still be found in records from that religious community. Also, remember that people may have changed religions several times and can be found in the records of more than one church.
  • Read histories of the county where your ancestor was from. Take notice of what churches were in the area. Remember that even though your ancestor may have started out being of one faith they may have attended a church that was closer to where they lived.
  • Look at what you do know about your ancestor. Did they have a particular dress that might distinguish them as being from a certain religious group? Did they have certain beliefs that may be a result of being a member of a certain denomination? Religious beliefs may translate into political party affiliation, beliefs regarding military service, and social behaviors like perceived vices they shunned.
  • Who were your ancestor’s neighbors and friends? People tend, not always but they tend, to hang out with those most like themselves. This can include those who are the same religious affiliation.
  • Remember, that just because you, your parents and grandparent’s are a member of a particular religious affiliation-that doesn’t not mean great-grandma was of the same religion. I know quite a few people who have been surprised to find that their family was Mormon during the early days of the LDS church. Because their family left the LDS church-it was never spoken of and later generations didn’t even know their connection. This revelation can bring forth lots of religious records that can help them in their search. I’m sure you can think of other example where people found out their family was Jewish or another religion only through research.
  • And finally, just like now-not everyone went to church. So your ancestor may not have left behind religious records. They may have chosen not to be a part of an organized religion. They may have been part of a small home-grown religious movement that met at their home. They may have been part of something considered alternative, like 19th century Spiritualism. This probably did not result in any records keeping.

Really a big part of finding your ancestor’s religion is getting to know the area they lived in and their community as well as you can. Read county histories, check out historical atlases, look at newspapers, consult PERSI and NUCMC. Get a sense of what life was like for members of the community during the time period your ancestor lived there. You may just start to see trends and then you can use those trends as leads to finding your ancestor’s religious records.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Vintage Blogs

Ok, the title of this post is a little misleading. Blogs are new, not vintage. But I was checking out some blogs by people who love all things vintage.

It all started with my picking up a Mary Janes Farm magazine, at the bookstore today. I've loved her magazine from the beginning. She lives on a farm, grows organic foods and owns and operates an antique mill. She is very into old fashioned things like knitting, crafts, etc. (ok, maybe that isn't entirely old fashioned but you know what I mean). This time she even has an article about making an oilcloth tablecloth. And she doesn't have you buy the oilcloth, like I would do.

Anyway, there was a great article about this group of women who have vintage trailers and go camping-just women. All of their trailers are decked out in 1950's stuff-very cool. (see their website at

So I started looking at other blogs from people who are into vintage stuff and found this one, I Love Retro Things at

This blog is by a New Zealand woman who posts old catalogs, magazine, recipes, etc but she also has a genealogy post and even some cemetery pictures. She has a regular feature called "Vintage Thursday Thingies" where she spotlights some sort of vintage knick knack.

Just shows that you can find genealogy and history, even more recent history, in all sorts of places.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


How many genealogical journals or magazines do you read each month? Have you ever read a case study about a family and wish that you could find a similar one for your ancestor? Maybe a cemetery transcription would help you in finding the burial place for an ancestor. PERSI, the Periodical Source Index, could perhaps be one of the least used resources by genealogists. Although many people are unaware of its usefulness, it should be one of your first stops in looking for your ancestor or the history of the area they live in. It provides a service that allows you to read articles that may mention your ancestor or records that your ancestor is listed in.

PERSI is compiled by the Allen County Public Library in Indiana, With 1.7 million articles in 6,000 different periodicals, PERSI is the largest index of historical and genealogical articles in the world. This index covers articles written in English and French since 1800. While you cannot access PERSI from the Allen County Public Library site, you can access it through or Heritage Quest. To access it through Ancestry, go to their home page, and click on the search tab. If you scroll down, on the right hand side of the page there is a list of databases. PERSI is under the heading, “Reference & Finding Aids”.

Heritage Quest is available through some public libraries. Consult your library’s website or librarian to see if they have a subscription to Heritage Quest.

You can search PERSI by locality or surname. It’s important to note that those mentioned casually in an article will not appear in the index. For this reason it is a good idea to search both surname and locality. For example, articles listing cemetery transcriptions will be indexed under the locality, not by the individuals named in the transcription. By just conducting a surname search, you could miss out on important data.

When you search by locality you will be rewarded with anything from histories of towns and cities, to cemetery transcriptions, directories or pioneer family histories. When you search by locality you can also add a keyword. So for example, I conducted a search for San Bernardino County, California and added the keyword “Mormon”. Six articles were listed regarding the colonization of San Bernardino by the Mormons. The addition of a keyword to your search can help you narrow down your search.

Once you have searched PERSI and found the articles you are interested in, you can download an order form from the Allen County Public Library website at (you can also get a copy off of Ancestry). Fill out the order form you will need the name of the article, title of the journal, volume number, month and year. The cost to order articles is $7.50 per order , up to 6 articles per order form. Allen County will charge you .20 cents per page for photocopying. You can expect to receive your photocopied articles in 6-8 weeks.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The History of Health Insurance

I started wondering today about the history of health insurance. One reason is that I have a cousin who when she was a little girl, in the 1940's, her brother became very ill and was in the hospital for a while and then passed away. Because her parent's didn't have medical insurance, they both had to get jobs and worked and worked and worked til they could pay off the medical bills.

So many people today go without medical insurance because of cost. It made me wonder about this system. An article, The History of Health Insurance in the United States is at . I think what surprised me the most was that the first health insurance plans began during the Civil War. But it appears that health insurance having health insurance wasn't as common until 100 years later.

Another article can be found at, Lecture slides on the topics can be found at

That just shows that there could be another document your ancestor singed, their application for health insurance.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday: Mission San Luis Rey

Last week we took a field trip over to Oceanside and toured the Mission San Luis Rey, the King of the Missions. Saw some great stuff. I just had to snap pictures of the older gravestones at the mission. Here is one of them.

Monday, March 09, 2009

The Works Progress Administration and Genealogy

The Works Progress Administration was one of the programs that made up President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal” in 1933. This was a time of high unemployment and the hopelessness that comes with the despair that unemployment brings. The Works Progress Administration employed out of work Americans in various trades to do diverse work projects. Although only in existence for 8 years, the WPA employed approximately 8.5 million workers.

The WPA was responsible for a multitude of projects including building roads, bridges and other infrastructures. My own grandfather was part of the WPA in Arizona and helped pour cement for sidewalks around the town he lived in. Humanities projects were also part of the WPA, hiring artists and writers. The WPA was also responsible for documenting and cataloging resources vital to American history. One such project was the indexing of the 1920 U. S. Federal Census. Other indexes compiled by the WPA, include cemetery internments, military records, vital statistics, and newspapers.

Genealogists benefit from these WPA indexes and may not even know it. Microfilmed records and some online transcriptions originate from the work of WPA employers. According to Steve Paul Johnson’s article on the WPA, entitled, WPA Historical Records Surveys at, the US Genweb Census Project is a result of volunteers utilizing WPA census indexes. This census project can be found at

To look for WPA interviews and records, consult state and university libraries, state archives, and state historical societies. Also consult the Family History Library Catalog and Google.

A keyword search on the term “WPA” in the Family History Library Catalog, , provides a list of 167 titles of microfilmed records that are the result of the WPA and its indexing projects. These records include, indexes to cemeteries, historical records surveys, court records, and marriage indexes. One interesting entry is that of the Kentucky Medical History, that was a WPA project that includes health professional’s biographies, information on medical schools, and the development of medical services in Kentucky since the Civil War. This is listed as “Kentucky medical history, WPA research project records, 1801-1940” in the online catalog. This resource does not circulate to Family History Centers; it must be looked at the Library in Salt Lake City.

In Arizona, and other places, the WPA interviewed “pioneers” of the state. Arizona pioneer interviews are available through the Arizona State Library Archives and Public Records. An index of the names of those Arizona pioneers interviewed is found on Jean Carhart’s website at I ordered a copy of my great-great grandmother’s interview, which was about 2 pages long and detailed her life in early Arizona. There are a few of the interviews online on Jean’s website, just look at the index and click on the hyperlinked names, that can help you get a sense of what information was included on the interviews. Another place to search for interviews is on the Library of Congress website, American Life Histories, These stories are listed by state, and then indexed by first name. There is also a search engine available. You can then click on the name of a person and read their interview. States included in this database are Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin and Washington. The number of interviews vary greatly in this collection. There is only 1 for Utah and over 440 for Texas.

The Library of Virginia also has an online search engine to search through 1,350 life histories and 50 interviews with former slaves done by the WPA at

Other websites include WPA interviews such as the website entitled, American Slave Narratives: An Online Anthology at which includes a handful of interviews done with former slaves and includes a picture of many of those interviewed. This website also include a bibliography that would be helpful in researching further American slave narratives. The Special Collections section of the University of Arkansas has uploaded pdf files of transcripts of WPA interview forms for interviews done with 17 African Americans at There are also books that provide information on WPA former slave interviews. Consult Barnes and Noble ( or Amazon and conduct a search for the term “WPA”.

One source for records of people who worked for the WPA in Los Angeles, is found through the University of Southern California (USC) Digital Archives at You can look at the 248 digitized employee census cards at this website.

For more information on the WPA and its genealogical connections check out the article , WPA Telling Living History at .

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Church Record Sunday: Archives of the Billy Graham Center

This is a resource for the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. This archive is different in that it is not an archive of a particular denomination but instead is an archive of an activity-that of evangelism. The Archive includes oral histories, papers of individuals and records of organizations.

This is an interesting eclectic collection of items, numbering 500 collections, that may be of interest to those whose ancestors were missionaries or were involved in some sort of evangelical endeavor for a Christian church.

For more information about the Archives check out,

Friday, March 06, 2009

From the Last Meeting of the Temecula Genealogy Society

One of the highlights of speaking at different genealogy societies is how much I benefit from hearing their announcements, projects, and other speakers that may provide a mini-class prior to my presentation. I always like attending the meetings of different societies and getting to see what they do, how they do it and get ideas.

Last month I was able to go to my local society, Temecula Valley Genealogy Society. I was excited to hear Norma Storrs Keating talk on the subject of Using Maps Effectively. She provided a lot of information about books with maps and history that may be useful to your research. When I returned home, I went on eBay and picked up some of these books rather inexpensively, like for under $5.00.

One of the books,actually a series, she recommended was The Shaping of America. A Geographical Perspective on 500 Years of History by D. W. Meinig. The back cover of volume 1 states:

"This entirely fresh interpretation of American history by a renowned historical geographer is the first in a... series. Meinig here focuses on colonial America examining how an immense diversity of ethnic and religious groups-Europeans, Africans, American Indians-ultimately created a set of distinct regional societies. Richly illustrated with more than forty specially prepared maps and contemporary illustrations, this volume prompts us to rethink the settling of America."

Another of her recommendations was The Atlas of American History, James Truslow Adams, Editor. This is an older book, mine is copywrited in 1943, but what great maps it contains that would be useful in your research. The original dust jacket made the point,

"Thus much of our history is concerned with places; and to understand what happened, we must also know where it happened."

64 historians surprised the drawing of the 147 maps included in this book. In this books are maps as diverse as places important to the War of 1812 to what Detroit looked like in the late 1700's. The book starts with the topography of America in 1491 and proceeds to early explorations, colonies, and maps of individual states and so much more. One of the treasures in this book can be found on page 27 where there is a land patents and manors map for the 18th and 19th century New York. The last map is the United States as it was in 1912.

Maps can really help us better understand our ancestor's place and time. I would highly recommend the above two books as a way of better understanding your American ancestor's life.

Organizing as you Research

I know I have been guilty of it, and maybe you are too. I love the thrill of the hunt. I will start a family history research project and find all kinds of great information including, births, marriages, even a few skeletons and then that gets me excited to look for more stuff. Pretty soon I’ve made a lot of copies of websites, census lists, pedigree charts and other documents. I neatly pile that somewhere; half way forget about it and then start the process all over a week or so later because I haven’t documented anything and I forget what I have already found. It’s so exciting to do the research that we all sometimes forget to organize it so we don’t duplicate our efforts. Here are some ideas that may help you organize as you research.

Utilize your Genealogy Database

As I research a family, I always keep open two windows on my computer. One is my active window with whatever website I am researching and the other is a window I have minimized with my PAF file. (To minimize a window just click on the first button with the little line _ on it on the top right of your computer). This way I can enter information as I find it. Sometimes I am entering dates and places that I find as I research. This also allows me to add in the source, fairly easily and while I can remember! It also provides me the option to “cut and paste” information that I find that I may want to check out later or read more about. By keeping two windows open on you computer you are saving yourself time, you don’t need to print out all your findings and then enter them into your database.

Utilize a Research Calendar

Some sort of research calendar, one that you like and will use, can help keep your research organized and help you remember what you have looked at and what you haven’t yet found. You can find pre-made forms on websites like www.familytreemagazine or from the website for the BYU TV series Ancestors,

I tend to only use forms that I can type in and can use on my computer. A form that I use that I learned about from a presentation at the FGS conference is to create a table (you can do this in Microsoft Word or another word processing program) with 4-5 columns. The first column is for a document number. This is a number that you give a document in your file, for your reference. The second column is for the date you searched the resource. The third column is the name of the resource. The fourth column is for the name of the repository and call number for the resource. Finally the last column is where you state the purpose for the search and the results of the search.

Now you can personalize this form in whatever way makes most sense for you. You could add a column to use as a timeline of the person’s life. Also, I go to “page setup” found under my file menu in Microsoft Word and I choose the landscape orientation so that the form “fits” better on the page. I also insert a header that gives the name of the family and the date. To insert a header in Microsoft Word, go to the View Menu and click on “Header and Footer”.

Using Spreadsheets

Spreadsheet programs allow you to organize your family history in ways that can help you track the family through time. Spreadsheets can help you look at a family as they are enumerated in the various U.S. Federal Censuses and you can even add the appropriate state census. With a spreadsheet you can create a timeline for an individual or a family. Spreadsheet programs also allow you to ‘manipulate’ your data, meaning you can sort the columns so they are alphabetical or by date. If spreadsheet programs like Excel intimidate you, you can set up a table in your word processing program-you just won’t be able to sort the data like you can in a spreadsheet program.

Beau Sharbrough shows on his Roots Works website how to organize your genealogy using Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, He provides examples of Excel spreadsheets and how they can be used to track land records, vital records and the U. S. Federal Census. You can be inspired form his example to then create your own.

Another great site that provides downloads of Microsoft Excel spreadsheets that you can use to track everything from the federal census, state census, cemetery logs, passenger records and other data is found on the website Census Tools, One of my favorite spreadsheets is the Research Log, which serves as a great checklist to remind you of what resources you have looked into and what resources you need to look at next. This website is free but you may consider sending a donating to keep this website free and available.

Colleen Fitzpatrick’s book, Forensic Genealogy, includes a chapter entitled “The Database Detective”, where she illustrates using tables and/or spreadsheets to document families and search for patterns. She covers everything from setting up a database to examples of spreadsheets that utilize primary record research and common genealogical resources like city directories. To find out about ordering Forensic Genealogy, check out Colleen’s website at, .

I have been working with spreadsheets to help get a better perspective of the research I am working on. In one large scale project I am conducting which revolves around 100 women who are listed on a friendship quilt, I have created a spreadsheet that lists the women’s names down the first column and then each column after that helps me track each woman in the 1880-1930 censuses, then I have included additional columns for resources including an online newspaper index, an online obituary index and an additional column for indicating relationships between the women and comments. So each woman is listed on her own row within the spreadsheet with information about her. I can use this as a timeline for her life and to look at similarities and difference between the women in this community. For example, since I do not know who made the quilt, I am trying to see what the commonalities are between the women hoping this will provide with a clue to the maker. The spreadsheet has allowed me to track how many of the women work at the same cigar factory and what their occupations are inside of the factory. It allows me to get a visual representation of the research and the women involved.

Using Forms

Other forms exist on the Internet for organizing your genealogy. Cyndi’s List provides links to charts and forms both free and for sale at A great form for using when researching deeds can be found at This website, Do History, also includes a toolkit where you can learn more about 18th century writing, probate research, and “reading a cemetery.” The goal of the site is “A site that shows you how to piece together the past from fragments that have survived.” The case study used for this website is that of Martha Ballard, a midwife whose diary was published by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich in A Midwife’s Tale.

Another website that includes forms to stay organized is Family Tree Magazine, Forms available for download as either a PDF file or a Text file include Research Repository Checklist, Note Taking Form, Research Journal, Statewide Marriage index, Research Calendar, and Deed Index Forms. With 38 forms in total, there should be at least one from on this website that you can use in your research.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

30 Days of Social History Websites

Many of my regular readers are aware that I am posting a link to a different social history website each day for 100 days, on Twitter. I posted the first 20 days on this blog and thought I would go ahead and post the first 30 days here also. I hope some of these help give you ideas about your family history research.

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

Fashion Era

David Rumsey Map Collection

Medieval Technology and American History

National Museum of Funeral History

Past and Present Railroad Job Descriptions

Index of UK Portrait and Studio Photographers 1840-1950

History of Tinker Toys

History of Girl Scout Cookies

History of Furniture

Hairstyle History

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Eating Weeds

My dad had told me that my maternal grandmother took him out to the backyard once and starting naming off the various weeds that grew there and told him how to prepare them in recipes. Although my father has never fed me or anyone else weeds, it is because my grandmother had parents who were pioneers that she knew about this. Some pioneers, and others, have had to eat weeds to survive.

Now, I'm not advising you to go out in your yard and make a salad from your weeds. Some weeds are hallucinogenics and poisonous and you certainly don't want to pick one that your husband sprayed with weed killer.

A new blog I discovered is the Mormon Pioneer Foodways Blog, This blog has interesting food related articles about pioneer foods, doesn't have to necessarily be just what the Mormons ate. One reader commented on his ancestor eating weeds when they were sent to a new area to live.

It must be cautioned again that eating weeds is not a good idea if you do not know what you are eating. Consider this NY Times article from 1883 ,

Other peoples have a history of foraging and eating weeds also. Some people have resorted to eating weeds as a way to stem off starvation. In the book, We Band of Angels by Elizabeth Norman, available at Google books at, she talks of nurses choosing to eat weeds when rations by their Japanese prison guards was cut.

The Internet has recipes for weeds, such as Dandelion Salad,

So if you would like to try a pioneer experience, make sure you know your weeds and then look on the Internet and you just mind find a delicious recipe!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The History of the Girl Scout Cookie

Yummmm. Girl Scout cookies. This yearly treat is a favorite among many. And everyone has an opinion about which one is the best.

Girl Scout cookies have been around since 1917. So if your grandma or great-grandma was a girl scout, chances are she helped sell these delicious treats. When the idea started, the girls baked the cookies at their house and then sold them. an early cookie recipe can be found at This site also provides a history of the cookies from their beginning through the decades. During the World War II years when there was rationing and shortages, the Girl Scouts had to sell calenders instead of cookies. Another history of the cookies, including a picture of two girls baking those early creations can be found at

If you would like to reminisce about old cookie flavors, the Little Brownie Baker, an official baker of Girl Scout Cookies has a timeline with the what cookies they were baking during those years. The timeline starts in 1974 and continues to present day,

The Wikipedia article on Girl Scout Cookies,, even has a list of movies and TV shows that Girl Scout cookies have been featured in.

Monday, March 02, 2009

A Genealogical Hero

While researching websites for my series, Social History Website of the Day, I stumbled on a blog with a story that I thought would be of interest. HistoryMom wrote back in January about some Civil War soldiers were to be moved for progress in Pima County, Arizona. Their remains were going to be placed in cardboard banana boxes.

Now, who is the person who thought that one up? Anyway-a man volunteered to make coffins for the soldiers.

Now that is a genealogy hero. Here is the link to the story,

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Church Record Sunday: Salvation Army

For many people, the phrase ‘Salvation Army’ conjures up images of bell ringers at Christmas time or a place to take donations of unwanted stuff. When I was telling a friend about my search for an ancestor who was a member of the Salvation Army church, she said to me, “The Salvation Army is a church?” Her question is one that many people might have.

In the Beginning

The Salvation Army, founded by William Booth, began its ministries as the Christian Mission in England in 1865. The name was eventually changed to the Salvation Army to reflect the new religion’s somewhat military style. The Salvation Army’s theology was radical for its time. Booth believed that people who were homeless and poor needed the gospel of Jesus Christ but churches of the time did not welcome these people in, so Booth decided he would. His mission to minister to those less fortunate began a religion that is based on a mixing of the gospel of Jesus Christ and social service. The Army spread into America in 1879 when teenager Eliza Shirley held the first meeting of the Salvation Army in Philadelphia. Her father, who had previously immigrated to the United States, had written her about the need in America for the Army due to the ungodliness found here.

Researching your Salvation Army Ancestor

Whether your ancestor was in the Salvation Army in America, England or perhaps New Zealand, the Salvation Army has a website that can be of use. One of the more disappointing pieces of news I learned as I was researching my ancestor is that the Salvation Army was not as diligent about membership records as some other Christian traditions. It was common for individual Salvation Army churches to throw away records when a new officer took over. So if your ancestor was only a member and not working on becoming an officer, you may find little to nothing. But if you ancestor traveled with the Salvation Army or was trying to become an officer, you may have better luck.


The Salvation Army Archives and Research Center,, is a 10,000 square feet facility in Alexandria, Virginia that holds records, periodicals, and photographs documenting the history of the Salvation Army in the United States. While they don’t hold membership records for all of those involved in the Salvation Army, they do have some. They also have the official Salvation Army periodical, The War Cry. Microfilmed copies of The War Cry dating back to 1884 are available through interlibrary loan. This periodical most likely will not mention your ancestor, but it can provide you with information about what it was like to be in the Salvation Army during your ancestor’s time. In searching for my 2nd great grandfather I found a small mention of when he worked in the Salvation Army ministry.

The Salvation Army’s Southern Historical Center located in Atlanta, Georgia is a museum and research facility that showcases the work of the Salvation Army in the Southern Untied States. While the museum showcases over 3,500 square feet of historical displays, the research library and the services offered through that library can help the family researcher possibly learn more about their ancestor. Periodicals, both current and out-of-print, records and photographs are part of this archive. Research inquiries can be sent via mail, phone, fax or email. The Historical Center’s website can be found at

United Kingdom

Unfortunately because of poor record keeping and the devastating loses during World War II, many early records from the Salvation Army have been destroyed. The archivist at the Salvation Army International Heritage Center in London holds what records still remain. This archive has everything from uniforms, to books and periodicals dealing with the Salvation Army. The Heritage Center will reply to research requests by letter, phone, email and fax. I would suggest calling and discussing with the archivist what you would like to find out about your ancestor so you can get a sense of whether they even have the records you need. Check out the International Salvation Army website at

It is important to know if your ancestor was an officer or a soldier. Officers were full time workers for the Salvation Army, very similar to full-time missionaries. There is a chance that the Officer Career Card may still exist, if it was not destroyed during World War II. This card details appointments and promotions that they had. You will also want to check Salvation Army periodicals for mentions of promotions, reports or tributes.

For Salvation Army soldiers, some membership rolls and history books have survived but most information about soldiers would be held with the local church they belonged to and not the archives. These also may have been destroyed.

When all else fails…try eBay

Ok, now it may seem absurd but one of the useful tools in my search for more information about my great-great grandfather and his Salvation Army life was eBay. From looking at Salvation Army photographs for sale, I was able to identify the era his Salvation Army uniform was from because I was able to match to pictures being sold on eBay of Salvation Army members. I was also able to identify some of the buttons on his lapel from the pictures on eBay. EBay also provided me with an opportunity to purchase some books to help me better understand the Salvation Army historically.

Salvation Army records and research is not going to record events that will help you go back a generation in your family tree but it might just give you some great background information that will help fill in the missing years of an ancestor’s life.


A few books to consider using in your social history research on the Salvation Army include:

Hallelujah Lads and Lassies: Remaking the Salvation Army in America 1880-1930 by Lillian Taiz, published by the University of North Carolina Press, 2001.

Sweeping Through the Land: A History of the Salvation Army in the Southern United States by Allen Satterlee, published by The Salvation Army Supplies, 1989.

Women in God’s Army: Gender and Equality in the Early Salvation Army by Andrew Mark Eason, published by Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2003.

Pulling the Devil’s Kingdom Down: The Salvation Army in Victorian Britain by Pamela J Walker, published by University of California Press, 2001.

Red Hot and Righteous: The Urban Religion of the Salvation Army by Diane H Winston, published by Harvard University Press, 2000

William and Catherine: The Life and Legacy of the Booths, the Founders of the Salvation Army by Trevor Yaxley, published by Bethany House Publishers, 2003.