Thursday, February 4, 2016

January 27th Program Review – Gena Philibert-Ortega

Gena Philibert-Ortega was the program speaker on 27 January, presenting “Remember the Ladies: Finding Your Female Ancestors.”  

Gena noted that “Women are half the population but they also seem to be the hardest half to find in a family tree.”  Five aspects of a woman's life need to be researched – The woman herself, the woman's family, the locality where she lived, the time period she lived in, and the neighbors, organizations and the  community around her.

While we usually concentrate on government records (e.g., vital, census, land, etc.), women may be in records such as family papers or Bibles, church records, newspaper articles, journals, scrapbooks, cookbooks, school records. 

A list of names may be helpful in finding records and should consider spelling variations, middle names, initials, maiden names, married names,  husband's names, and prefixes like Miss, Mrs., widow, Grandma, etc.  Nicknames or diminutives should also be considered.  Use these names when you search in online databases or in books, articles or newspapers.  

Maiden names might be found on birth records, baptismal records, marriage records, death records, cemetery records, Social Security records, passenger list records, in newspaper articles, on land deeds, or on her father's probate records.  

If an American-born woman married an alien man after 1906, until the 1930s, she lost her American citizenship until her husband became a naturalized citizen.  If he never did, then she had to apply for citizenship again.

As you gather information about a woman's life, determine her religion, occupation, and organizations that she belonged to, and then use those to identify keywords to use in a search online, at a library or archives.  Library and archival catalogs usually will not be cataloged by names but will be cataloged by organizations or groups.

A timeline of the woman's life is helpful to determine when and where she resided in a specific place.  She also suggested making your own “guide” for each person to list the repositories and records that should be searched for in each family locality.  

Some online resources mentioned by Gena included Google,, Mocavo, FamilySearch, Live Roots, Genealogy Gophers (free books), Find A Grave,, ArchiveGrid (for manuscript collections), state or regional libraries, university libraries, and WorldCat (to find nearest location of a book, or article).  Contacting a librarian online or on the phone can often help a researcher find a work of interest.  The FamilySearch Library Catalog can provide information about holdings in the FamilySearch system, whether, books, periodicals, microfilm, microfiche, in digitized books, or in online databases.  Search for a town-county-state or county-state to determine what is available.  

Many, but not nearly all, newspapers have been digitized and are now searchable at GenealogyBank,,,, and Chronicling America, plus state digital newspaper websites.

This was an interesting and information-packed presentation on a very timely and appropriate subject.  

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