Saturday, July 28, 2012

Program Review - Gena Ortega's "Remember the Ladies"

The 25 July program meeting of the Chula Vista Genealogical Society featured Gena Philibert Ortega's presentation on "Remember the Ladies: Finding Female Ancestors."  There are links on Gena's blog to many of the online resources she mentioned - go to

Gena said that finding female ancestors is made difficult because of the name change when she marries, she spent most of her life inside the home, and is not mentioned in many documents or records.  There are, however, many types of records that might contain information about her life, but many of them are not online or are held by private persons or organizations.  

There are five ways to find women in historical records, and success requires all five.  They include researching the woman herself, researching the family, research the history of the time in which she lived, research the places that she lived, and research her FAN club - her family, associates and neighbors.

Gena offered four thoughts about doing research on your female ancestors - it does take a community to raise a family; go beyond government documents and online repositories; you have to visit libraries, archives and museums; and to consider the activities of the time and place where they lived.

Researchers need to be careful not to divorce genealogy from history.  Researchers need to know the laws (e.g., voting, citizenship); the social institutions of the time and place; and investigate oral, biographical, and academic records, videos, microforms and journals.  In other words, think outside the box.

She suggested using WorldCat ( and Google Books ( as online sites she checks first.  Gena searches for place, occupation, group names, quilts, samplers, artifacts, etc.  Other resources include ArchiveGrid ( and the National Union of Manuscript Collections ( for archival holdings.  Church records may have meeting notes, baptism records, membership lists, and women's group activities.  Pioneer, fraternal organization auxiliary, WCTU, Women's Relief Corps, and other women's organizations may be found in state archives or at universities.  Use city directories to determine which organizations were active in the time and place.  School records, yearbooks, newspapers, and local histories may provide information, and may be found online or in libraries, archives, or historical societies.  

Journals and diaries by other women may provide insight into the lives of females in the time and place.  One of Gena's  examples was a book about covered wagon women that helped readers understand the experiences and struggles of settling the West.

Gena recommended reading the book "hidden sources" by Laura Pfeiffer, "The Source" (which is on the Research Wiki), the Family History Library Catalog, historical and genealogical magazines and books, genealogy and history blogs, etc.

This was an outstanding discussion of the many ways to remember the ladies in our ancesty, and how to pursue their records and family stories.

No comments: