My First Jamboree — Part 3 (The Finale)

I was so torn as to which session to attend first thing Sunday morning. Megan Smolenyak? Stephen Morse? I opted for an update on RootsMagic 5 — I have RootsMagic, but admittedly don’t have a lot of time to devote to it. I selected it for maintaining a fully sourced family tree, so working with it is no quick exercise. I hoped the session would renew my  interest in the process. There were a lot of newbies in the crowd, so the discussion stayed pretty basic, but I was impressed nonetheless and was glad to hear that a reader is under development for the iPad, which should be released later this summer.

Next, I attended Thomas MacEntee’s session on Illinois ancestry. I didn’t get to go to FGS in Springfield, Ill., last year although I really wanted to because my Corley line called Illinois home for many years. His session was chock full of Illinois history and resources for seeking various kinds of records. I can’t wait to dig into all of the information he revealed to us.

The next session was by Curt Witcher and he was in full snark mode, which was really funny to watch. He gave us the perspective of the librarian/archivist on the receiving end of so many genealogists’ queries and their rambling stories. I’m not sure how many in the crowd were swayed to edit themselves next time they go to a repository seeking information, but his examples of research query letters (one 6 pages long!) were priceless.

The final session I attended was “The Frugal Curator” by Denise Levenick — I learned so much! Her how-tos for creating boxes and bags for preserving various family heirlooms will be so useful. I can’t wait for the release of her book later this summer.

Sadly, it was then time to finish packing and check out of my room. I made quick work of it, ordered room service for an early dinner and then turned in my room keys. I had about 2 hours before the shuttle would pick me up to return me to LAX. Luckily several genealogy bloggers remained in the lounge and so I had a great time hanging out with them until it was time to depart. Laughing with and learning from some great friends — what better way to end a conference?

Guest Post: Finding Community Cookbook Collections

Note from Missy: Below is a guest post by my friend Gena Philibert-Ortega on using community cookbooks to further your genealogical research. How fun it would be to discover a new-to-you recipe once cooked by an ancestor or relative. Enjoy!

By Gena Philibert-Ortega

(c) 2012 Gary Clark, http://www.PhotoTree.com. From the collection of Gena Philibert-Ortega

During this week of guest posting about food and family history, I’ve mentioned the importance of community cookbooks. In my opinion, community cookbooks are an important source that is overlooked in genealogical research. Researching these cookbooks can yield names, addresses, photos, ethnic origins and family history. In addition to the information about an individual family member you also glean clues about the organization that published the cookbook, their history, local business advertisements and other gems. In one church cookbook where I found a list of those buried in the church cemetery. This type of information can help you recreate your female ancestor’s community.

Community cookbooks like other genealogical documents do have their down side, they can be difficult to find.  Many repositories have not considered them worthy of archiving so to find a collection for your ancestor’s locality can be difficult.

To begin your search, as with any genealogical search, start with the homes of relatives. In some cases they may have a copy of a cookbook that they or another family member contributed to. From there consider checking available bibliographies, archival/library collections, digitized book sites and online auction websites. If you are in the area where your ancestor lived, you can expand your search to local library collections, used bookstores, antique and thrift stores.

Two bibliographies that may assist you are:

Cook, Margaret. America’s Charitable Cooks: A Bibliography of Fund-Raising Cook Books Published in the United States (1861-1915). Kent, Ohio, 1971.

Driver, Elizabeth. Culinary Landmarks: A Bibliography of Canadian Cookbooks, 1825-1949. Toronto [Ont.: University of Toronto Press, 2008. I

Collections of community cookbooks can be found in libraries.  I have links to these collections on my blog Food.Family.Epherma.  The following is a list of just a few of these collections:

Los Angeles Public Library

William L Clements Library, University of Michigan

University of Illinois Library

Radcliff Institute, Harvard University, Schlesinger Library

While a library or archive in your ancestor’s locality might hold the promise of a collection of community cookbooks, another place to search is an Internet auction site like eBay.  Community cookbooks are well represented on eBay.  These cookbooks run the gamut of church, school, and organizational books spanning the 19th and 20th century.

When searching on eBay, make sure to try various keywords so that you search can be as comprehensive as possible.  Some search terms to try include “community cookbook” “church cookbooks” or “charity cookbooks” “fundraising cookbooks.” You can also specify a type of cookbook in your search like “Grange Cookbook” or “Methodist Cookbook.” Consider creating an alert for an ancestor’s locality, church, membership organization  or a cookbook search to be notified by eBay when new items come up for sale.

One book that explores community cookbooks is the book, Recipes for Reading: Community Cookbooks, Stories, Histories edited by Anne L. Bower.  A preview of this book is available from Google Books.

(c) 2012 Gary Clark, http://www.PhotoTree.com

To read more about community cookbooks, please consult my new book From the Family Kitchen. I also spotlight recipes from community cookbooks weekly on my blog Food.Family.Ephemera

Changing with the Times

I’m going to wax philosophical after all of the talk since RootsTech about a genealogy technology revolution. I recently got to thinking how genealogy isn’t the only realm in which big changes are happening (and I’m not just talking about the Middle East either).

The most recent copy of American Libraries from the American Library Association includes an article titled “Is ALA Ripe for Rebellion?” (January/February 2011, page 84). The Special Libraries Association recently went through an “alignment” process that included an attempt to change the name of the association.

In both of the above instances, the associations are struggling to keep up with the times and the needs of their members. Technology is playing a big role in the challenges they are facing and the solutions available to them. I think genealogy is experiencing a similar shift and the RootsTech conference brought the issue front and center.

When change is on the horizon, it can be frightening and it’s natural to want to batten down the hatches and try to weather the storm, but change also can be a good thing. Consider this quote from Thomas Jefferson included in the above American Libraries article:

“A little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical… It is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government.” (p. 85)

Indeed, when a thunderstom rolls through, it usually clears the air and leaves the ground ripe for new things to grow. Many in genealogy may view the recent talk since Rootstech as a disruptive thunderstorm, but the changes brewing will lead to many new possibilities and opportunities.

52 Weeks to a Better Genealogy: Online Databases at Your Public Library

I’m just squeezing in this week’s challenge:

“Online databases at your public library. Search your library’s web site and see if your card grants you access to online databases. Libraries (even small ones) often have wonderful online tools including genealogy databases, historical newspapers and more! Take some time and play with these little perks that come with a library card. You just may get some help in your own genealogy research and gain some free research tools to boot. If you don’t know how to access online library databases or you’re not sure if your branch has them, ask a librarian for guidance. If you have a blog, discuss which databases (if any) to which your library subscribes.”

I constantly turn to the online databases available through the Talbot County Free Library, especially their genealogy and newspaper databases, most of which I can access from the comfort of my own home using my library card number.

Here are my go-to resources offered by TCFL:

  • HeritageQuest Online: provides access to census records, books and articles, Revolutionary War files, Freedman’s Bank records and the U.S. Serials Set.
  • Sanborn Maps of Maryland: great resource for viewing historical maps of towns across Maryland.
  • Archives of the Easton Star-Democrat newspaper via Newsbank (I only wish these went back further).
  • Archives of the Baltimore Sun via ProQuest.

I also can access the databases available through the Caroline County Public Library. When I did research in their Maryland Room, I registered my TCFL library card with them so I could access their databases too.

Their archives of the Denton Journal through Newspaper Archive are spectacular and have provided much needed clues for some of my research projects.

52 Weeks to a Better Genealogy, Week 5: WorldCat

Ha! Finally caught up. I must profess my love for WorldCat — I use it all the time when helping patrons at the Internet Public Library because it’s the easiest way for me to tell what libraries are closest to them (if they’ve given me their location). It’s easy enough to show folks how to look up a book on this service and locate the closest copy, even if they haven’t given me their location.

If you find a book on Google Books, you can click through from there (use the “Find in a library” link) to see the book’s WorldCat results including which libraries near you may have it. Often when I stumble upon a book this way, I check out the subject headings for the book (see the red box below; click on the image for a larger version):

If you’re really lucky, the subject headings for your book will include surnames — click on the related headings for more titles focused on these subjects. It’s a serendipitous way to discover new resources.

52 Weeks to a Better Genealogy: Inter-Library Loan

I’m late (again) for this weekly series, but I’m also going to take a different spin on the original mission from We Tree:
“Learn about your local public library’s inter-library loan (ILL) policy. Pick a genealogy-related book that you want to read that is not in your library’s collection. Ask the librarian how to request the book from another library. Find the different library systems from which you can request books through your own library, as this can dramatically increase the number of genealogy books to which you have access. If you have a genealogy blog, write about your experience with requesting items through your library’s ILL service.”

I’ve used and am a huge proponent of inter-library loan (ILL) services. Through my volunteer work with the Internet Public Library, I constantly refer patrons to their local libraries because even if their library doesn’t have a particular book that they may need or want, they usually can request it via inter-library loan.

The state of Maryland actually maintains a fleet of vehicles for this purpose (and if I could find my spring 2008 class notes, I could tell you exactly how many). The other morning, I saw a van belonging to the Eastern Shore Regional Library heading west on Route 50 here on the Shore. I wonder if they were transporting books for the ILL program.

Here’s how the ILL loan process works at my library: once I determine that a book I need is not available in my library’s catalog, but is available at another library in the system (either via WorldCat [more on this in a future post] or on Marina, the state’s library holdings database), I simply call or email the library and ask them to request the book for me. They also can request books from out-of-state institutions, but there is a $5 charge for this (still cheaper than having to buy your own copy of most books!). The hitch is that if a book is in high demand, you may have to wait a while before it becomes available to send your way.

I’ve also used the ILL system within the University System of Maryland libraries. I work on the College Park campus, but when I needed a book at one of the campuses in Baltimore, I was able to request that it be sent to one of the libraries on the College Park campus for me to pick up. Way more convenient!