Expand Your Research Options Using Catalog Subjects

Expand Your Research Options Using Catalog Subjects

The FamilySearch Catalog. Chances are you use it. But are you using all it offers? Case in point: subject headings.

Subject Headings are likely something you’ve encountered in other library catalogs. You will see subject headings in pretty much every library catalog you use, even the FamilySearch Catalog. So what are they? “Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) is a list of words and phrases – called headings – that are used to indicate the topics of library resources. It is used by most academic and research libraries in the United States, as well as by many public and school libraries. It is also used by libraries throughout the world....LCSH brings consistency to library collections by categorizing topics into logical arrangements, and by controlling synonyms, variant spellings, and homographs.”[1] So in a nutshell, subject headings are a way that library materials are cataloged. 

What this means for you is the opportunity to find other works that are similar to your item of interest. This doesn’t always work to our advantage, sometimes there simply aren’t other similar resources in the catalog, but in some cases, you might uncover additional resources. I find this especially helpful in cases where I have conducted a keyword search.

November 2021 FamilySearch Catalog

So let’s look at two examples from the FamilySearch Catalog. In this first example, I did a Place search on Spain, Madrid and then chose the category Civil Registration. This is the card catalog entry for the single result in this category.

FamilySearch Catalog Madrid

Notice under Subjects it says Locality Subjects and provides two links:

Spain, Madrid - Census

Spain, Madrid - Civil registration

In this case, the civil registration link is for this entry and no others exist in this category. The census link includes two resources, this entry and another.

Now let’s look at a different example, this time I conducted a keyword search on the phrase “women newspaper.” This is an example where my keyword phrase probably isn't the best so I could benefit from other suggestions. One of my results was the book, Index of references to American women in colonial newspapers through 1800. Notice that in this case not only are there more links but they are divided by Locality Subjects and Library of Congress Subjects.

FamilySearch Catalo American Women

Notice that these include Locality Subjects for Genealogy and Newspaper Indexes for the United States as well as Library of Congress Subjects for Women and American Newspapers. In this case, the LOC subjects lead me to no other resources. However, the Locality Subjects lead me to over 100 additional resources. This can be beneficial in helping me locate additional items for my research.

The FamilySearch Catalog is a vital resource for your genealogy. Don't stop at entering a search. Study your results to get the most from your research. Learn more about using the Catalog so your research can benefit. To start, read the FamilySearch Wiki page “Introduction to the FamilySearch Catalog.” 


[1] “Process for Adding and Revising Library of Congress Subject Headings,” Library of Congress (https://www.loc.gov/aba/cataloging/subject/lcsh-process.html: accessed 18 November 2021).


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.


Capturing Your Family's Food Memories


I just finished reading actor Stanley Tuccis’ new book Taste - My Life Through Food. In it, he recounts his life and the role food played from his childhood to his young adult years, his marriages and children, to his most recent bout with cancer. It’s more than an autobiography, it is peppered with recipes that he fondly recalls. Readers are privy to simple recipes like his father’s Pasta con Aglio e Oilio (pasta with garlic and olive oil) and Tomato Salad to the more complex Timpano, a special Christmas recipe in the Tucci family.

Reading this memoir is like sitting down with Stanley Tucci and talking, eating, and laughing. He comes across as a “real person” and not a celebrity. His love for Italian food is infectious. I devoured the book in one day.


But this isn’t a book review.

As I read and enjoyed this book I thought about what a great family history book it was and how we  should all consider writing something similar. So often it’s difficult to write a family history because you may not feel like you’re a writer and it can seem like an overwhelming task. But you can write about memories of food! You start with your memories and what you know. Those memories might encompass several generations (in my case I knew one of my paternal great-grandmothers, a cook, very well). You can start with documenting your family (you, parents, grandparents, etc) and your food history. Possible writing prompts include:

  • What was a special occasion at your house and what did you eat? 
  • What foods did you eat for the holidays (Thanksgiving, Easter, etc)?
  • What did you eat for birthdays?
  • What did your parents or grandparents serve when you were sick?
  • What was an after-school snack when you were young?
  • What foods did you eat at your grandparents and how was that different than what you ate at home?
  • Did anyone in your family have a garden? What did they grow? How did they use that food?
  • Did your family hunt or fish? What recipes were cooked to incorporate that food?
  • What are foods that come from your ethnic/heritage background?
  • Where did you buy food? 
  • What food was considered a treat?
  • What rules did your family have around eating (clean plate, have to try everything, etc)?
  • What did you eat for school lunches?
  • What’s the “weirdest” food your family ate?

You get the picture. From those questions you can write up short stories, maybe just a page or two long. You can add recipes when appropriate and even images of you cooking those recipes, or photos of your family cooking, in the kitchen, at the table, etc. This isn't a cookbook, this is a family food history featuring a handful of recipes.

Tucci’s food memoir isn’t just about him. He introduces us to his parents, siblings, grandparents, and extended family. He then discusses his friends, wives, children and stepchildren. It’s not the story of one man’s obsession with food (although, that’s part of it) it’s the story of ancestry, a homeland, family past and present, and his memories of them. He writes of his mom:

"Food, its preparation, serving, and ingesting, was the primary activity and the main topic of conversation in my household growing up. My mother insists that she was capable of little more than boiling water when she married my father. If this is true, she has more than made up for this shortcoming over the last century. I can honestly say that on the four-burner electric stove she used throughout my childhood and on the gas hob that replaced it many years later, she has never cooked a bad meal. Not once. The focus of her cooking is Italian, pimply recipes from her family or my father’s family.” [1]

Genealogy can be an act of gathering solely names and dates to make generational connections. But a family history narrative that includes memories of food is appealing to family members who are not interested in genealogy.

Thanksgiving is approaching in the United States, but no matter wherever you are, this is a great time to ask your family about their food memories, swap recipes, and document you family’s food history. 

What precious memories will your family food memoir recount?


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.



[1] Tucci, Stanley. Taste. My Life Through Food (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2021) p. 12-13.

3 Tips for Crowdsourcing Your Online Genealogy Question

3 Tips for Crowdsourcing Your Online Genealogy Question

When I started researching my family history, pre-Internet, I knew that if I wanted help I had a few options. I could attend a genealogy society meeting. I could go to the Family History Center. I could even write to Everton’s Genealogical Helper magazine and hope to connect with someone researching the same ancestor or ancestral line.

Fast forward to today and some of the ways we ask for help has changed. Everton’s magazine is gone (but you can see those old inquiries in the Everton’s Genealogical Helper database on MyHeritage). Many genealogy societies include virtual offerings due to the pandemic. Family History Centers still help patrons and the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah is also available for virtual assistance. Add to those tried-and-true options what is now available online: genealogy and history specific Facebook Groups, genealogy chats on Twitter, online family trees, message boards, and library chat features and the answer to your question could literally be a few keystrokes away.

All of these online options provide a way for your to crowdsource your problem. “Crowdsourcing” means to “obtain (information or input into a particular task or project) by enlisting the services of a large number of people, either paid or unpaid, typically via the internet.” It’s the way we answer questions about a variety of things in our day-to-day lives today from reading reviews of services to posting questions on Facebook. Genealogists use it as well and should in order to find the answers they need. 

So what’s the best way to utilize online help? A few things to keep in mind before you crowdsource your genealogy problem include: 

1. Choose the Right Place

Where’s the best place to ask your questions? Well, it depends. Is it something “simple” that you think other more experienced genealogists might know? Are you asking about what records were kept in Madrid, Spain in the 18th century? Are you wanting to know whether people had to have driver’s licenses in Florida in 1900? Your fellow genealogist might be able to answer that simple question but to learn more about Madrid you should probably seek out a genealogist who specializes in Spanish research, a society located in Madrid, or a nearby archive. A specific question about historical Florida driver’s licenses might be something for a librarian or archivist at a library in Florida.

If your question is specific to an area, you’re better off asking those familiar with the area (like a Facebook genealogy group for a specific location). Don’t assume that records everywhere are consistent, locations do differ and having someone in that location help you might be your best bet.

2. Be Specific

When I present genealogy brick wall lectures, I invite the audience to ask me a question about their brick wall. I always ask them to tell me their problem in 2 sentences. In those 2 sentences I want them to tell me the problem and where they’ve looked. This helps me get a sense of the problem and where they have searched for an answer so I know how to best help.

The same method is useful for asking for help online. Be specific, don’t get into a long story. Most people are used to scrolling through social media posts and not reading longer, detailed posts (in the case of social media). So briefly explain what you are trying to find, the location, and date. You might also want to explain briefly where you’ve looked. That way you don’t get multiple suggestions for the same places you’ve already searched. Responders can then ask you additional questions that will help them help you. 

3. Be Patient

Patience is a virtue and family historians need to have more than their share. I don’t know about you but I’ve had some genealogy problems I’ve been working on, on-and-off for decades. Sometimes online assistance, or getting the right answer, isn’t as instantaneous as we would like. Keep in mind that it might be worthwhile to ask for help in more than one place. A message board is an old tried-and-true way to get help. But you might have something posted on a message board and not get an answer for years. A Facebook genealogy group might not be as active and it might take some time. So be patient. 

I know this article is titled 3 Tips, but I want to provide one more for you to consider.

4. Not Everything is Free

I know we like free genealogy. Lucky for us, the genealogy world is filled with volunteers who give freely of their time and talents. However, at a certain point you may have to pay for that record lookup or that expertise. Your best bet for finding information in a specific place, might be to ask the local society to do some research. However, you’ll need to pay a fee or donation to do so. But remember, it’s definitely worth it to get the information you need and probably much less expensive than if you were traveling to that place.

What’s Your Question?

Crowdsourcing your genealogy question is a wonderful way to get the answers you need. But it takes more than just asking online. You need to carefully consider your question, what you need, and who might be able to give you that information.


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.


5 Places to Look for Your Ancestor's Burial Location

The Simsbury Cemetery in Simsbury, Connecticut. Copyright Marian Pierre-Louis

Sure, you know the BIG cemetery websites. Chances are, you use them all the time. You may have even uploaded gravestone photos to those websites. But what are the websites with cemetery and burial information that you don't use? Below are 5 to consider as you research your ancestors.

1. Genuki


GENUKI "provides a virtual reference library of genealogical information of particular relevance to the UK and Ireland." Volunteer supported, this website provides all kinds of links and information you need to research the UK or Ireland. Once you locate the place you are researching, you can choose a Cemeteries link, or you can search using the name of the location and the word "cemeteries." This will provide you with links and information about cemeteries in the area, steering you towards cemetery transcription projects.

2. US GenWeb Tombstone Transcription Project


US GenWebTombstone

I think old books and websites are sometimes forgotten or discarded because they don't have all the bells and whistles. The US GenWeb Tombstone Transcription project was once one of the few free websites providing researchers with genealogical content. When they began, they had a novel idea. "We need to record these tombstone inscriptions now---before they are lost forever to the winds and the rains. However, many cemeteries have already been recorded by various Genealogical Societies, just as many have not. And, of those recorded, how accessible is that data to the world? If we join together and do this recording, we will guarantee that our ancestors are not forgotten----that their memorials will live on so that future generations may remember then as well as we do."

Today, some of what they provided in terms of indexes can be found elsewhere as digitized materials. However, it still worth checking. The USGenWeb Tombstone Transcription Project can easily be regarded as something you wouldn't need considering what cemetery content is available online. Still, as a volunteer project, you never know what they captured vs. what was perhaps captured afterward. It's still a place to exhaust before giving up on finding a burial. Transcriptions and some photos can be found on the website. It's a pretty basic search and browse but is a must for exhausting US online cemetery information.

3. CanadaGenWeb's Cemetery Project


CanadaGenWeb's Cemetery Project "currently offers a free and searchable listing of over 18,000 known Canadian cemeteries. We are continuously adding new information provided by volunteers." You can search the website by a person or a cemetery. Currently, the website is undergoing some maintenance. Those interested in the website should also join their Facebook page. Joining the Facebook group will help you receive information about updates to the site.

4. Interment.net


Interment.net boasts 25+ million "cemetery records, transcripts, and burial registers, from tens of thousands of cemeteries across the world, all contributed by genealogists, cemeteries, government agencies, and private organizations." You can search and browse by region or special collections (including U.S. veterans burials and mining disasters). This collection is a single-source worldwide collection, which is different than similar websites. They define single-source as "Each transcription we publish comes from a single-source, be it the cemetery office, government office, church office, archived document, a tombstone transcriber. Other websites already do an excellent job of crowd-sourcing a single cemetery together. But genealogists also need to see the original records from a single source. That's what we offer." However, there is something else it lacks that the other big cemetery websites have, photographs. Keep in mind that as you browse, you will need to scroll down the page to find various links to places and cemeteries. For those searching for U.S. ancestors, you may want to read a previous Interment.net blog post, WPA Historical Records Survey about the WPA and its role in the cemetery indexes we use today.

5. Genealogy Society Websites

Obviously, this isn't one website. This is a reminder to check the local genealogical society where your ancestor lived and died (because they could have died in a different location). Genealogy societies conduct cemetery transcription projects that they publish online and in book form. In some cases, they may have this information behind a member paywall. Joining the society and having access to members-only content can be worthwhile. In addition, they are the experts on that location. So even if they haven't conducted a cemetery project, they may have information that can help you in your search. Don't forget they may also research for a fee.

Where is Your Ancestor Buried?

There's nothing wrong with using the BIG cemetery websites but don't forget that they all rely on volunteers, so they may not have what you need. Other volunteer projects might be focused on the history of that locale, have access to historical materials, or conducted transcriptions earlier before destruction to a gravestone made it impossible to read or view. If you don't initially find what you need, remember to check older websites to exhaust your online search. 


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.


An Elizabeth Shown Mills Bibliography

An Elizabeth Shown Mills Bibliography

On October 8, 2021, genealogist Elizabeth Shown Mills retired, giving her last presentation, a webinar hosted by Legacy Webinars as part of the 2021 Joy Reisinger Memorial Lecture Series sponsored by the Board for the Certification of Genealogists (BCG). A much-needed discussion about context, I’m sure listeners learned lessons to incorporate into their research, many of which can be game-changers to their genealogy.

Context A Powerful Tool for Problem Solving by Elizabeth Shown Mills
Context A Powerful Tool for Problem Solving by Elizabeth Shown Mills
(free through 10/31/2021)

Elizabeth Shown MillsElizabeth's 50-year career has touched so many, and it got me thinking about some of the educational opportunities available to genealogists that continue even in her retirement. I'm a big fan of the written word, and this brief bibliography provides some links and ideas for continuing education. This bibliography doesn't include everything, it excludes works such as her QuickSheets (laminated guides) and her National Genealogical Society Quarterly articles. However, these suggestions will help you start a personal genealogical study.


When I started my genealogy journey I did so by reading. I read stacks upon stacks of genealogy books. I’m of the belief that reading is a must in order to conduct thorough, exhaustive, and knowledgeable genealogical research. Elizabeth Shown Mills has had a prolific writing career, and some of her works are well known and often referred to. Below are some of my favorites and those that I refer to most frequently, listed in chronological order.

Mills, Elizabeth Shown. “Ethnicity and the Southern Genealogist Myths and Misconceptions, Resources and Opportunities.” Robert M. Taylor Jr. and Ralph J. Crandall, eds. Generations and Change: Genealogical Perspectives in Social History. Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1986.

Mills, Elizabeth Shown, ed. Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2001.

Mills, Elizabeth Shown. Isle of Canes (Provo: Ancestry, 2004).

Mills, Elizabeth Shown. Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace. 3d ed., rev. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2017.

Mills, Elizabeth Shown, ed. Professional Genealogy: Preparation, Practice & Standards. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2018.

To view a more comprehensive bibliography of her work, consult the Book web page on the Historic Pathways website.


I love Elizabeth Shown Mills’ websites. Her Evidence Explained website has a series of QuickLessons that are a must for serious genealogists. These QuickLessons explain concepts like layered citations and the Evidence Analysis Process Map. I refer genealogy students to these lessons often.

Her Historical Pathways website has over 70 articles that you can study to learn more about the genealogical research process. The website’s homepage explains that it is “A portfolio of research drawing forgotten women, yeoman farmers, and the enslaved out from the shadows of history.”

That’s Just the Beginning

I hope that gives you some ideas for books to add to your personal library and web pages to bookmark as you continue your genealogical education. The Legacy Webinars website
includes three webinars from Elizabeth Shown Mills, including the latest on Context. See her Legacy Webinars speaker page to watch her webinars:

  • Reasonably Exhaustive Research: The First Criteria for Genealogical Proof
  • FAN + GPS + DNA: The Problem-Solver's Great Trifecta.

Whether you enjoy listening to her presentations or reading her writings, Elizabeth’s long career provides an opportunity to focus on studying the works she has created that can make us better researchers.


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.


Learning from Others

Learning from Others

The other day I presented a lecture on searching newspaper websites. During my hour-long presentation, I discussed different tips and methods for using digitized newspaper search engines. I talked about tools that these websites provide that filter results to reveal relevant hits. All of the information I presented was vital to understanding how to use digitized newspaper websites for genealogy research. But, even after all the techniques, I discussed there was one thing I left out—the importance of learning from other genealogist’s experiences.

Can Anyone Help?

The great thing about genealogy in an age of technology and massive amounts of online information is that genealogists, whether researching for clients or themselves, utilize social media, blogs, and websites to document their research experience. Their articles and posts include what they found or didn’t find, as they review the steps and tips they use to search genealogy search engines.

One example of a free newspaper website is Fulton History (also known as Old Fulton Postcards). This free digitized newspaper website provides various search options beyond just entering a name in a search engine. Options include using stemming, fuzzy searches, and synonyms that help you expand your search and find ancestors even if their names are misspelled.

As I searched for more information about the Fulton website, I noticed blog posts that described users' search experiences. For example, Cliff Lamere's web page titled Using the Fulton History Newspaper Site provides some valuable tips, including how to adjust for OCR errors. Vital information for searching any digitized newspaper website.

The Genealogical Society of Bergen County's web page provides information about Boolean searches as well as proximity searches. Once again, helpful for the Fulton website but also significant when searching others.

Look for Help Outside of the Website

Genealogy relevant websites provide FAQs and educational tutorials to help their users make the most of their search. However, there is a benefit to learning from the experiences of independent users who have navigated the website successfully and make that information available online. By conducting a Google search with the name of the website or database, joining a Facebook group for website users, or asking other genealogists via your social media web page, at a genealogy event, or in a genealogy society, you may learn more about how to search a website successfully.

That's the type of information we all need to find our ancestors in online databases.


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.


How Do You Make Family History Interesting?

How Do You Make Family History Interesting?

I recently had a genealogist write to me about a dilemma that many of us face. He was the organizer of a recent church-sponsored event and wondered how to make family history interesting to the community. He had suggested that maybe asking event participants to tell stories about their ancestors might help, but he wondered what other suggestions I had.

Good question. As the keepers of the family history, we are charged with not only remembering our ancestors but making their stories available and accessible. But this can be a challenging task. After all, not everyone likes history, let alone family history.

The idea of storytelling, which has been stressed in the last decade or so in the family history world, is good. After all, everyone likes a good story. Making family history less about words and numbers on a chart and more illustrative is vital.

I’ve had this issue of making family history interesting come up anytime I’ve been asked to teach family history to a non-family history group such as the Boy Scouts or church groups. How do you get people interested in family history? How do you get your family interested in their family history? (which can be just as challenging.) When I brainstorm how to do this, I think in terms of types of activities, games, art, interviews, food, and technology. Yes, giving a talk is an obvious way to teach family history to those not initiated into our pursuit, but what other ways can you interest people of all ages?

Some ideas I have are:

Games: Cards with an ancestor’s names/bio on them, Family history inspired bingo cards, scavenger hunts.

Art: Large family history wallcharts and markers to color branches, add information and drawings. Family history inspired decorations, photo albums, coloring books made from family photos.

Interviews: Offering the space and equipment to allow people to interview family. Include prepared questions to help get the conversation going. Also, encourage individuals (even children) to tell their stories and document their lives.

Food: Let's face it, we all eat, so sponsor a potluck, food contest, or a bakeoff using ancestral recipes. Teach participants how to create a family cookbook, pass out recipe cards, swap family recipes, and offer cooking lessons with grandma.

Tech Center: Have computers set up and teach how to find a relative in the 1940 census. Make available pedigree charts, family group records, and blank census forms. Hold contests for the most exciting occupation, the most family members in the same household, or the youngest/oldest family member in the 1940 census.

I believe that people like not just to hear stories; they want to see images, interact, and try something new. Engaging in only storytelling can be difficult, so having a variety of activities, whether a community event, a family reunion, or Thanksgiving, can be helpful.

So readers, what do you suggest? I want to hear your ideas about how do you make family history "fun" for the non-genealogist? 


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.


You Still Need to Leave The House

You Still Need to Leave The House

FamilySearch made an incredible announcement this week. They’ve digitized all of their microfilm collection. What an achievement and gift to the genealogical community. I’m looking forward to this increased access to online records.

Despite how wonderful this is, it doesn’t mean you can do all your genealogy research from home.

Far from it.

In the case of FamilySearch, the benefit of a visit to the Family History Library is that you can research in books, maps, subscription websites, and microforms that are not available for at-home use (some digitized records have restrictions and can only be viewed at the Family History Library, a Family History Center, or Affiliate Library). A visit to the Family History Library allows you to benefit from staff and volunteers expertise, whether it's a research question or a language translation. I was with a friend at the Library recently, where we not only researched his family history and made significant discoveries in their book collection, but his online FamilySearch tree was printed into a large fan chart. A very visual representation of what we had learned about his family. Those discoveries could not have been made from home.

FamilySearch Tree print

A few months back, I traveled to Allen County Public Library and interviewed the director, Curt Witcher. One of the points he stressed to me was that digitization does not make a library visit irrelevant. There will always be materials that are not digitized, and the library’s collection is constantly evolving. There will always be a need for repositories and in-person research.

Now, I'm not denying that digitizing has a considerable benefit, and I'm grateful for it. Digitization means we can start our research from home as we exhaust what is easily available and create a research plan. Online research is vital for those who have to research from home because they are primary caretakers of children or other family members, those who work long hours and have little time off, those who have health or financial issues that make travel impossible. Digitization has made the world smaller and more accessible.

Exhaustive research often requires us to go beyond the digitized. It requires us to write letters to government agencies, pull records in person, and ask other genealogists, librarians, and archivists questions. Not everything is digitized, and good research requires a variety of sources.

It use to be that genealogy research meant we would go a nearby Family History Center and order microfilmed records for the location we were researching. We would exhaust the resources of FamilySearch. As technology advanced and microfilm rentals were discontinued, many researchers stopped exhausting FamilySearch. I’m a huge supporter of exhausting FamilySearch’s free resources and then continuing the search to other online sources and repositories. With this recent digitization announcement, we have that option again.

But the new announcement doesn’t mean you should cancel your next trip to Salt Lake City (or any other library). What it does means is that we have more access to records and more opportunity to research. And we all benefit from that.


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.


Your Ancestor’s Many Names

Your Ancestor’s Many Names

This is not a blog post about cookbooks or food history. But it does use a cookbook as an example.

This is a blog post with an important search reminder. That reminder is: You need to search for your ancestor using more than one name for that ancestor.

Whenever I give presentations, I stress the importance of searching websites using name variations for an ancestor. These name variations could include initials, creative spellings (misspellings), abbreviations, and nicknames. If it is a married female ancestor, you must consider not only her birth name but also variations of her husband's name/s. During certain time periods women, but not all women worldwide, went by Mrs. [his name].

Sometimes as we search one database or record set and find our ancestor, we assume that’s it and there’s no need to continue our search. After all, we found what we need. But in reality, when we think of a database that contains something like court records or historical newspapers, it’s possible that our ancestor could be mentioned more than once and in different ways.

A cookbook that I’m studying reinforced the need for exhaustive searching when we conduct genealogy searches. The 1916 Eastern Star Cookbook from Huntington Park, California includes the names of women and men who contributed recipes.

As I went through the cookbook, I noticed that some women were mentioned multiple times and by different versions of her name.

Consider recipes submitted under these names:

  • Laura Brewer
  • Laura M Brewer
  • Miss Brewer

Now Laura and Laura M might very well be the same woman or it could be two different women. Miss Brewer is still a possibility for Laura. But I would need to research all three to verify. If it’s not the same woman, it could be a relative. That too would need to be further researched.


One woman is listed four different ways in this cookbook:

  • Ollie Cowdin
  • Ollie I. Cowdin
  • Mrs. Ollie Cowdin
  • O. C.

One name variation that is missing is her husband’s name, Mrs. [His name] Cowdin. Now if I were to continue this research on a genealogy website, I would also want to search for her using these and her other name variations based on her maiden name.


Why does this cookbook example matter? Although most of us for the most part go by one name throughout our lives we need to consider that a name can appear in any number of ways for various reasons or no reason at all. Taking that into consideration, we need to keep a list of name variations for our ancestors and use that to search for them in genealogically relevant records.


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.


5 Online Genealogy Freebies You’re Missing

5 Online Genealogy Freebies You’re Missing

There is no doubt that genealogists like free stuff. While not everything is free in genealogy (nor should it be), you can access some excellent guides, articles, and other genealogically relevant items at no cost.

Aside from free genealogy websites, there are other freebies that you can download or view online to enhance your genealogical education or provide tips and resources to find that brick-wall ancestor. Most of us are familiar with free websites such as Cyndi’s List and Linkpendium but what else is out there that you might not have considered? Here are a few items I’ve found that you might want to bookmark.

1. The National Genealogical Society Free Resources



Are you a member of NGS (the National Genealogical Society)? If you are, you know that they provide membership benefits including their publications. But do they offer anything for free to the genealogy community? Yes! And those free resources benefit all genealogists. First, go to their webpage, Free Genealogy Resources. Two items to pay special attention to are the NGS Magazine Complimentary Articles and the NGS Monthly Complimentary Articles. These articles can help you with everything from research methodology to learning more about reading an NGSQ article.

2. The Ancestor Hunt QuickSheets

Ancestor hunt

The Ancestor Hunt is a great place to find links to online newspapers, but in actuality, the man behind the website, Kenneth R Marks, offers more than just links and videos about newspapers. Check out his Quick Reference Guide link for "quicksheets" on genealogical records such as probate, pensions, naturalization, and cemetery records, to name a few, as well as lots of historical newspaper information. He currently has 40 of these guides to help you with your genealogy.

3. The National Archives Palaeography Tutorials


One aspect of research that can be difficult is reading older handwriting. If this is one of your stumbling blocks, you'll want to check out the National Archives (UK)'s palaeography tutorials. Their webpage explains that “This web tutorial will help you learn to read the handwriting found in documents written in English between 1500 and 1800." Tips, tutorials, practice documents, and reference sheets for money and measurements make this a must-have for genealogists.

4. PhotoTree One-page Guides


Have vintage photos that you are trying to date? Not sure if they show great-grandma or her mother? PhotoTree.com's Identifying Photographic Types webpage includes 1-page guides to identify 19th-century photographs. Scroll down to the Photograph Characteristics section and click on the photograph type to learn more. This page with information about Daguerreotypes includes the various components of the framed photo so that you can understand everything about it, including what you can’t see in the photograph case.

5. The Newberry Library Research Guides


Make sure to check library websites for guides that can benefit your research—case in point, Chicago's Newberry Library's Research Guides. Although the library is in Chicago, these guides are a variety of genealogically relevant topics from Adoption records to Catalog Search Strategies, Germanic Genealogy, Jewish Genealogy, and Royal Lines. Most likely, a search through the approximately 80 guides will reveal at least one guide you could use to enhance your research.

Yes, there's no such thing as a free lunch, but some generous genealogists and organizations provide free content that benefits the genealogy community. These five examples are just a few to explore.


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.