5 Resources for World War I Research


2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. This four year war claimed over 8.5 million lives and wounded over 21 million.[1] On November 11, 1918 an armistice was reached ending the war.

What were your ancestors doing during the Great War? Even if your family did not count soldiers in its ranks, those left behind on the home front were also impacted. This anniversary year is a good time to document your family’s World War I story. The links below can help your write that narrative.

Internet Archive search on the “Great War” [2] 

Internet Archive has so many great resources from texts, to microfilm, to movies. Searching on the keywords “Great War” can help point the way to histories, poems, and personal accounts. It's important to keep in mind when searching for period accounts of World War I  to not search by the keywords “World War I.” This designation would not be used until 1939 when World War II was underway.

Two Thousand Questions and Answers About the War 

This book whose full title is Two Thousand Questions and Answers About the War: A Catechism of the Methods of Fighting, Travelling and Living; of the Armies, Navies and Air Fleets; of the Personalities, Politics and Geography of the Warring Countries. With seventeen new War Maps and a Pronouncing Dictionary of Names by the Review of Reviews is fully digitized on Internet Archive. Full color maps will be welcomed by family historians looking to learn more about the sites important to the war including a United States map marked with the locations of military training camps and schools. Written for Americans, the majority of the book is a Q & A about aspects of both the battle front and the home front and the countries involved. This is a must for learning more about the war and what your ancestor’s experience might have been.

WWI-2000 Questions

National WWI Museum

When I think of the best museums I’ve had the pleasure to visit, the National World War I Museum in Kansas City, Missouri is at the top of that list.  The exhibits I saw on my visit provided a real example of what life was like during the Great War. The Museum has a research library as well as a digital collection that you may search or browse from their website. “The National World War I Museum and Memorial's online collections database allows you to search digital records of our global collection that began in 1920.” The images in this online collection are just a small part of the Museum’s overall collections. A search for my great-grandfather’s navy ship, the USS New Mexico, produced only one image of the ship but a visit to the library would produce more information. Randomly browsing images will provide you an idea of the diversity of this image collection, even uncovering a photograph of identified American POWs .

WWI Museum

It should also be mentioned that other World War I museums exist worldwide. One hyperlinked list of such museums can be found on Wikipedia.

American Ancestors World War I & World War II U.S. Veteran Research 

This list of links compiled by David Allen Lambert of the New England Historic Genealogical Society provides resources including how-to guides, draft records, service records and websites. This is a good reference for starting your research for your American World War I (or World War II soldier).

National Archives – Researching Individuals in World War 1 Records 

This US National Archives web page on World War I gets you started researching your US soldier and includes information about service records, draft registration cards, deaths, and veterans homes. There's also a few links about African Americans in World War I. Service records for World War I will have to be ordered but draft registration cards are available online through a variety of genealogy websites. Because the United States didn't enter the war until 1917, some American men went to Canada and joined the military there. If your family member joined the Canadian military, make sure to check out the Library and Archives Personnel Records of the First World War database.

Researching your family during the First World War is much more than accessing military records. Finding images including maps, learning about life on the home front, and the history behind the war can help you tell the story of your family during this time. Other topics that could be woven in include the Influenza Pandemic, the women’s suffrage movement, and the aftermath of the war.


[1] “PBS: The Great War,” University of Wisconsin Oshkosh (http://www.uwosh.edu/faculty_staff/henson/188/WWI_Casualties%20and%20Deaths%20%20PBS.html: accessed 14 May 2018).

[2] Special thanks to Twitter account Century Past History (https://twitter.com/lienhart85) for posting these 2 first links from Internet Archive.


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.

Are You Using LibGuides for Genealogy Research?

Have you heard of LibGuides ? Unless you are a librarian or spend time poking around library websites, you may not be familiar with this research guide website. Officially, “LibGuides are a content management and information sharing system designed specifically for libraries.”[1]  What’s important for you to know is that LibGuides are research guides that provide information about  a repository or a topic  that aids the reader in finding resources, books, websites, and more. LibGuides are a tool to help you do better genealogy research.


Now you may be thinking, “but this isn’t a genealogy resource!” While this resource does not specifically target family historians,  it does include research guides covering topics important to researching your genealogy including history, African American studies, maps, periodicals, and yes, even genealogy. These guides are important for academic researchers as well as family historians.  Luana Darby, AG ,  LibGuide author and Legacy webinar speaker, points out that “LibGuides are essential for the family historian and genealogist. These organized subject guides, filled with information, links, and often videos, are key to becoming acquainted with the resources of a repository and accessing unique and vital collections.” Some of Luana’s favorite LibGuides for family historians  include the University of Maryland’s Maryland Genealogy and the State Library of North Carolina’s Beginning Genealogy Resources.


There are two ways to search for LibGuides. The first is to go to the LibGuides  website and search by topic, library, or even librarian (author). Libraries with LibGuides run the gamut from those serving  grade schools to public and academic institutions. Academic institutions use LibGuides to accompany courses as well as serve as finding aids for their library and archival collections. Browse the list of libraries on the LibGuides website  to get a sense of what might be helpful to your research. You can also check a library’s website for their collection of LibGuides which may be referred to as “guides” or “research guides.”


If you choose to search by keyword on the LibGuides website think about keywords that might describe the resources you need to fill in the gaps of your ancestor's life, such as the name of your ancestor’s occupation, their religion or a war they served in. Don’t forget to search on the name of an historical event your ancestor lived through or they name of the place they lived. You can also just search on words describing resources for family history such as newspapers. With 580,000 guides from over 4,700 institutions in 58 countries, you’re bound to find a LibGuide that can help you with the resources you need.


[1] “LibGuides @ Pitt - A Faculty Resource: What is a LibGuide?,” University of Pittsburgh (http://pitt.libguides.com/faculty: accessed 20 April 2018).


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.

Using the Quilt Index to Find Female Ancestors

Using the Quilt Index to Find Female Ancestors

The Quilt Index  “aims to be a central resource that incorporates a wide variety of sources and information on quilts, quiltmakers and quiltmaking.” What does this website database have to do with  genealogy? One of the biggest issues with researching female ancestors has to do with the lack of records. This is especially true when we focus our family history research on records that document men’s experiences rather than women’s lives. How do we find female ancestors? Researching female ancestors using what they left behind is a start. As you research, don't forget to take into consideration materials that document women like cookbooks, diaries, needlework samplers, and quilts. In some cases, there are databases that can help. 

Quilt Index home page
The Quilt Index website http://www.quiltindex.org/

The Quilt Index takes information and images from 90,000 vintage quilts and makes them available via a searchable database. Similar to genealogical databases, you can find  names, dates, and places recorded on The Quilt Index.

Information found on the Quilt Index is  from:

  • “...privately held quilts compiled by state and regional quilt documentation projects in the United States and internationally
  • ... museums, libraries, and private collections…”

Over 250 museums are represented on this website including  the Daughters of the American Revolution Museum, the Royal Albert Museum, and the International Quilt Study Center and Museum, just to name a few.

The Quilt Index provides the ability to search and browse their collection. Search for a quilt by clicking on Search in the top toolbar and then in the drop-down menu, select Quilts. In this search engine you can include terms such as name and place or even quilt specific information like fabric pattern. Results can be viewed by “basic info” or “full record.” “Basic Info”  includes the following fields:

  • Quilter group (or the name of the person who pieced the top and quilted it)
  • Period
  • Date
  • Location made
  • Project name
  • Contributor
  • Layout Format
  • Quilt Size
  • Fabrics
  • Constructions
  • Quilting techniques
  • Purpose or function (such as fundraising)
  • Notes
  • Inscription
Quilt Index Search
The Quilt Index Search Screen http://www.quiltindex.org/

The Full Record version provides more details including specifics about the construction of the quilt. Both versions include photos of the quilt.

The Quilt Index also allows you to browse by category or to view the entire index. 

This is a good example of a database where you should conduct multiple searches.  Don't just search on your female ancestor's name, conduct a search on the name of the place she lived, the name of a church or group she belonged to. She could have been a member of a group who created a quilt, but the individuals involved are not named.  

Consider reading The Quilt Index FAQs and About page  to learn more about the project. The website also has a wiki and essays about quilt topics that you might be interested in. If you find a quilt from your family history and want to use The Quilt Index image, keep in mind that you’ll need to contact the quilt contributor for permission.


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.


Using ArchiveGrid for Your Genealogy

ArchiveGrid homepage

ArchiveGrid. Have you used this worldwide archive catalog? If you haven’t, you’ll want to start. ArchiveGrid provides a way for you to search for archival materials for your family history no matter where in the world your ancestors came from. ArchiveGrid is a must-have resource for genealogists and with a few tips on how to use the website, you will find genealogically relevant collections in archives worldwide.

What is Available on ArchiveGrid?

First it’s important to understand what’s available on ArchiveGrid. ArchiveGrid’s website explain that it has “over 5 million records describing archival materials, bringing together information about historical documents, personal papers, family histories, and more.”

Archive collections tend to be underutilized in family history research. Why? Primarily because it  involves onsite research. These are collections that cannot be searched with a few words in an online database search box. But the treasures they hold are integral to an exhaustive search and can include facts that place your ancestor in a time and location.

ArchiveGrid result

Crafting a Keyword Search

The most important thing to remember about searching ArchiveGrid is that it’s done with a keyword search. Unlike a genealogy website where information is largely indexed by an ancestors’ name, date, and place, ArchiveGrid is cataloged by a keyword.

So what’s a keyword? It’s a word or phrase that you use to search for information for your ancestor. So consider these descriptions:

  • Where they lived
  • Their religion
  • The organizations they belonged to
  • An occupation and/or employer
  • An historical event they were a part of

Searching by place should be an important part of your search, so let me explain that a little more. Think about where your ancestor lived. Maybe they lived in Bishop, California. That’s one way to describe that place, by city and state. But you could also call it Inyo County, California. That area also has a regional nickname so you could describe it as the Owens Valley or the Eastern Sierra. As I craft my search I would want to try various searches using each of those location names.

Narrowing Your Search

When I searched ArchiveGrid for “Owens Valley, California” I received over 900 result hits. I can look at these results hits in a List View or a Summary View. The List View is just that, a list of the results. The Summary View groups hits by category, allowing me to narrow those results. These categories are People, Group, Place, Archives, Archive Locations, and Topics. If I’m planning a research trip, I might want to choose the category Archive Locations to just see the results for that location I’m traveling to. These categories can help narrow a general result list like Methodist Church to a specific archive or location to help you find relevant church records

ArchiveGrid Results List

To learn more about broadening or narrowing a search see the ArchiveGrid web page, How to Search.

On-Site Research Versus Researching from Home

ArchiveGrid is an important tool to learn more about what sources are out there and what is available when you plan a research trip. When we consider expanding our research to include our ancestor’s FAN Club (friends, associates, and neighbors) searching ArchiveGrid by the place our ancestor lived will help us locate materials written by those people and groups in our ancestor’s community that they interacted with or were a part of.

By conducting a search on ArchiveGrid you can find extant records.  In some cases these materials, while about a specific place, may be located in an entirely different place. Archival materials aren't  always donated to repositories in the  location they originated.

As you find relevant information, be sure to click on the green Read More button for that collection. This will help you evaluate whether that material is pertinent to your research. From there, you may consider emailing the repository to ask questions. If the collection is far from you, consider either hiring a researcher or making the trip to view it.

If you are already planning a trip, make sure you learn about what is available in the archives where you are headed. This can be done via the Summary View on ArchiveGrid, as described above, or by searching a specific archive from the home page. While ArchiveGrid is a catalog of a 1,000 archives worldwide it does not house every archival collection. However, the catalog is being added to so it’s important to check back often.

Incorporate Archives in Your Family History

Archives hold valuable records that can help you break through those ancestral brick walls. ArchiveGrid is just one way to find those 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.

Women’s History Month: Tips Worth Remembering

Women’s History Month: Tips Worth Remembering


March marks Women’s History Month and what better time to remember some of the research tips Legacy Family Tree Webinars has provided for researching female ancestors? Which webinars have helped you the most in learning more about the women in your family tree? Here are four webinars to help you research the story of their lives.

Remember History

Michael L. Strauss, AG says the contributions of women in the armed forces and on the home front during World War II have been underestimated in his webinar Researching Your World War II Ancestors: Part 4 - War on the Home Front & Post-War Years. In this webinar he provides ideas for researching World War II era women including nurses who served in the United States Cadet Nurse Corps." By the end of the war in 1945 nearly 124,000 nurses served in this capacity.” Strauss points out that Ancestry.com has a database, U.S., World War II Cadet Nursing Corps Card Files, 1942-1948 which allows you to research your World War II nurse.

Historical time period is important in considering what records document your female ancestor. Make sure that you use a timeline and identify what historical events might result in additional records.

Remember Resources that Document Women

In my webinar Researching Women - Community Cookbooks and What They Tell Us About Our Ancestors,  I point out the importance of community or fundraising cookbooks in researching women’s lives. Community cookbooks serve as a city directory of women and help you confirm an ancestor’s location at a specific time. In addition, community cookbooks at the very least provide membership affiliation which can lead to additional records.

It’s important to remember the types of sources women are more likely to appear in. Don’t limit your search to only the familiar government sources, expand it to include sources that document her everyday life.

Remember the Men in Her Life

Bernice Bennett's United States Colored Troops Civil War Widows' Pension Applications: Tell the Story points out that Civil War widows, both black and white, were required to provide proof of marriage. That proof may include documents like marriage certificates, birth and death records, bible records, family letters and depositions from witnesses. What's unique to the United States Colored Troops’ pension records  is the inclusion of the name and location of the slave owner and information about slave marriages. It’s through the information found in these pension records that you can find her story including facts that are difficult to prove like a slave’s marriage.

Remember that in order to do an exhaustive research on female ancestors we need to take into consideration what records document her family and we need to consider her FAN Club (friends, associates and neighbors).

Remember the Law

It’s important to remember that paper trail for women is influenced by the law and its impact on women during the historical time she lived. Legacy webinar presenter Judy Russell, JD, CG, CGL emphasizes the importance of the law in her webinars and helps researchers better understand how to research with the law in mind. Family historians should take note of laws that affected the ability of women to own property, vote, and exercise their rights of citizenship. Judy’s webinar Martha Benschura - Enemy Alien  reminds us that citizenship, or the lack or,  can lead to records that go beyond naturalization.  

One book that will help you better understand laws that affected American women is Christina Schaefer's The Hidden Half of the Family: A Sourcebook for Women's Genealogy.

What Has Legacy Taught You About Female Ancestors?

Many of the over 600 webinars Legacy now offers in its library holds lessons for researching female ancestors. The above are just some webinars you may want to watch or re-watch. What has Legacy Family Tree Webinars taught you about researching your female ancestors?


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.


4 Great Collections from American Memory

4 Great Collections from American Memory

American Memory is the digital collection portal for the Library of Congress. The mission of the website is to provide “free and open access through the Internet to written and spoken words, sound recordings, still and moving images, prints, maps, and sheet music that document the American experience. It is a digital record of American history and creativity. These materials, from the collections of the Library of Congress and other institutions, chronicle historical events, people, places, and ideas that continue to shape America, serving the public as a resource for education and lifelong learning.” For the genealogist, American Memory is an opportunity to read, hear, and view life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  


There’s so much I love about American Memory but let me share four of my favorite collections as an introduction to what can be found.

Panoramic Maps                                                                                           

American Memory features all kinds of maps including transportation, military, and Sanborn maps but my favorites are the panoramic views. These maps, also known as Bird’s Eye View maps, provide a unique look at familiar cities. From an elevated perspective, these maps provide a detailed look at a section of a city, include specific landmarks, services, businesses, and homes. This collection of over 1500 panoramic maps lack the scale accuracy of more familiar maps but they provide a great way to learn more about the lay of the land and what that city looked like in an earlier time.

California, As I Saw It                                                                                       

One of the strengths of American Memory is their collection of first-hand accounts via books and correspondence that tell the story of pioneer lives.

“California as I Saw It: First-Person Narratives of California's Early Years, 1849-1900 is the Library of Congress's first digital collection building on the exceptional holdings in the Library's General Collections and Rare Book and Special Collections Division in the area of state and local history.” This collection of first person narratives date from the Gold Rush (1849) to the turn of the 20th century. While it lacks the perspective of the diverse population found in early California, the collection is a starting place for learning more about California’s rich history.

Other regional collections available from American Memory include: Nebraska, the Ohio River Valley, and the Upper Midwest.

Early Virginia Religious Petitions                                         

Not all American Memory collections are housed on the American Memory website. In the case of the Early Virginia Religious Petitions, a link redirects you to the Library of Virginia, Virginia Memory Legislative Petitions Digital Collection web page. Documents spanning 1776 to 1865 include wills, naturalizations, deeds, and manumissions of slaves.  A valuable Tip Sheet on the homepage provides information about finding African American names. 

The Life of a City: Early Films of New York, 1898 to 1906                                

American Memory provides researchers the opportunity to view historic images, read 19th century texts, listen to interviews and watch very early films. Those films help us better visualize life generations ago. The Life of a City: Early Films of New York documents immigrants arrival at Ellis Island, families shopping for fish at an outdoor market, and everyday life along 23rd street in New York City (watch until the end  for an incident  reminiscent of a much later Marilyn Monroe movie). Make sure to click on the Articles and Essays link at the top of the collection to read more about New York and early film making. Other films found on American Memory include America at Work, America at Leisure: Motion Pictures from 1894 to 1915 and Inside an American Factory: Films of the Westinghouse Works, 1904.

American Memory

Genealogy is about telling the stories of our ancestor’s lives and what better way to do that than experiencing materials created during their lifetime? Use American Memory to read and view materials from generations past to better understand your family’s history. To learn more about American Memory make sure to watch Shannon Combs Bennett’s webinar The American Memory Collection at the Library of Congress.


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.