Did You See Gmail's Latest Addition?

You might remember that we talked about Gmail in my blog post, “What Else Can You Do With Your Email? Two Tips for Gmail. Google’s 20th birthday was September 27th and it seems fitting that we revisit this free Internet email program and check out two new enhancements that you may want to take advantage of.  

Smart Composing and Responding

The two new features are aimed at helping you answer emails quicker. We all could use time-saving help as we go about answering emails and Google has what they believe is part of the answer to your email routine. These two new features are Smart Compose and Smart Response.  

Smart Compose

Smart Compose might remind you of a Google search feature you’re probably already using. When you conduct a search on Google you may notice that Google tries to “guess” or anticipate what you want to search for. As you type, Google provides you a list of possibilities. This feature allows you to stop typing and simply click on the correct search term(s). This helps you to type less and get to searching quicker.


Google Search
Auto-fill as you type feature (click to enlarge)

The new Smart Compose feature in Gmail does something similar. According to Google's blog, The Keyword , Smart Compose is a "new machine learning-powered feature which suggests phrases to help you complete sentences in your emails so that you can draft them quicker."[1] So as you type, Gmail tries to anticipate what word or words you are going to type next. It shows the anticipated words in gray. If you want to accept what Gmail suggests, just click the Tab key. If you don’t want to use Google’s suggestions, just keep typing.

Smart Reply

Smart Reply also helps you to answer emails quicker by suggesting responses that you will find at the bottom of the email you are typing. This is a great feature when someone’s email just requires a quick reply such as “Thanks so much” or “That’s awesome.” If the appropriate response is suggested, simply click on the response you want and send your email. If you don’t like the suggestions, go ahead and reply as you normally would. 

Gmail responses
Sample Smart Replay Options in Gmail

It's important to note that these "canned" responses aren't available for every email reply you write. I'm sure as the technology is perfected we'll see more of these each time we reply to an email. 

Right now this technology doesn’t write your emails for you but with time it might provide you enough assistance that it can cut down on some of the repetitive responses you find yourself sending in emails.


[1] “5 ways the new Gmail can help you get more done,” The Keyword (https://www.blog.google/products/gmail/5-ways-new-gmail-can-help-you-get-more-done/: accessed 1 October 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.


4 Great Image Collections from the New York Public Library Digital Collections

4 Great Image Collections from New York Public Library Digital Collections

Let me just start off by admitting that I’m in love with the New York Public Library Digital Collections. Why? Because it’s in these web pages that you can find books, ephemera, maps, and images that would otherwise not be easily available. Like an online museum, I could get lost in studying these digitized items (don’t even get me started on Anna Atkin’s Photographs Of British Algae ) that help us better understand history and ultimately our ancestors.

The New York Public Library’s Digital Collections is a “living database with new materials added every day, featuring prints, photographs, maps, manuscripts, streaming video, and more.” For the family historian it is a place to discover materials to research your ancestor as well as add social history context. In some cases these items are grouped into a “collection” and in others they are just solitarily digitized items just waiting to be discovered. This collection of over 746,000 items is huge in scope and depth but the following items from the collection give you an idea of its value.

New York City Directories

New York City Directories found in the Digital Collections span the years 1786 to 1934. These are digitized books and the Digital Collection's  viewer allows you to page through the book, zoom, rotate, and even print. Each book’s page includes card catalog information as well as links to other websites with the same digitized content (such as the website Digital Public Library of America).

Yizkor Book Collection 

The genealogically rich memorial books in the Yizkor Book Collection document communities destroyed in the Holocaust. “Most often privately published and compiled through the collective efforts of former community residents, they describe daily life through essays and photographs and memorialize murdered residents.” The Yizkor Book  Collection’s About information states that the New York Public Library's holdings include about 730 books but fewer that number can be found in this digitized collection. Please note that these books are in Hebrew or Yiddish.

Summer Excursions for 1874

 Ok, this book isn’t for everyone but I wanted to mention it because it is so unique and it’s a perfect example of what social history can be found in the Digital Collections. The Pennsylvania Railroad Company’s Summer Excursion Routes for 1874 appears to be incomplete (the introduction states that the book includes 300 routes)  on the website but this travel brochure  gives us a peek at what ephemera our ancestors may have had access to and, those with the funds, may have influenced them. We often think about our ancestor’s immigration or migration but don’t consider other travels that they could have taken including those to visit family or just for a holiday. As the introduction to this pamphlet concludes, "A glance through its pages cannot prove uninteresting, and may serve to guide summer travelers into pleasant, interesting, and profitable channels.”


Nypl.digitalcollections.510d47db-33ee-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99.001.w (2)

Of course you knew I couldn’t write about a website without pointing out what food history is available! The Digital Collections actually has more than one menu collection but the largest is the Buttolph Collection of Menus which has almost 19,000 menus. “The menu collection originated through the energetic efforts of Miss Frank E. Buttolph (1850-1924), a somewhat mysterious and passionate figure, whose mission in life was to collect menus. In 1899, she offered to donate her existing collection to the Library -- and to keep collecting on the Library's behalf” which she did until her death in 1924, amassing over 25,000 menus (not all have been digitized).

So why is this collection important for family history? Menus provide us information about what foods were eaten during a specific place and time, prices, as well as  food availability. Food history is an important part of family history and menus can provide some valuable information in that pursuit.

747,888 and Counting

No blog post could list every collection from the New York Public Library Digital Collections that I love. My hope is to  just to give you a taste of what’s available. Don’t ignore this digital gallery because you don’t have New York ancestors. Yes, there are New York specific items but there’s so much more than that including North American maps, US postcards, and social history items that can help you better understand your ancestor’s life.


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.

The Keyboard Shortcuts I Couldn’t Live Without


Everyone loves a shortcut, right? Whether it’s a shorter way to get home from work, an easy way to pay bills, or just a simpler way to get a dreaded task accomplished, shortcuts are great. The same is true for using the computer. Anything that can be done quicker and with ease gives us more time to research our family history! 

A keyboard shortcut is a series of one or more keys that “invokes a command that would otherwise be accessible only through a menu, a mouse, or an aspect of the user interface.”[1] Keyboard shortcuts are available for software programs as well as your Internet browser. You could find dozens or more shortcuts that exist for all the programs you use. I don’t use every keyboard shortcut available but there are a few that I consistently use that make my life a little easier.

Here are a few of my favorites when using Microsoft Word but keep in mind that they may work with other software programs and the Internet as well:

CTRL and C , CTRL and V, and CTRL and X: These are the commands to copy, paste, and cut. Probably the more well-known of the keyboard  shortcuts, I use these three on a daily basis. Highlight the text you want to copy or cut and then use CTRL and V to paste it wherever you want it to go. For me, I use this often when I decide that a sentence or a paragraph I just wrote in Microsoft Word should either be deleted or moved elsewhere in the document. Or when I want to copy text and insert it into another program. A great time saver when you are searching the Internet.

Shift and F4: This is probably my biggest time saver when looking at a website or a document and I’m searching for a specific word or phrase. Hold the Shift key and then press the F4 key to open a Find box. This box, will appear at the top right of the website you’re searching and allows you to search on a specific word or phrase. It’s perfect when searching a web page for a specific surname. I find this function saves me a ton of time and effort. If that doesn't work try the alternativeto this,  CTRL key and F.

CTRL and S: Ok, who hasn’t been typing away happily and something goes wrong like the electricity unexpectedly goes out or the cat hits your keyboard and  everything you just worked on suddenly vanishes? Use CTRL and S to save periodically. Anytime I have to get up and interrupt what I’m doing I hit CTRL S just to be safe.

CTRL and P: There’s no easier way to print than hitting CTRL and P. Whether in Word or on the Internet, a printer dialogue box comes up and you are ready to print. I even use this command when I want to save something as a PDF since one of the choices in my print command box is to save a document as a PDF. Saving as a PDF is perfect when I run out of ink, paper, or am not quite ready to print out that document.

Wait There’s More!

There’s no way I could list every possible keyboard shortcut that exists for your favorite software, browser, or websites. Did you know that even Twitter has a list of keyboard shortcuts? To find them go to your Twitter account and in the top right side you will see your photo, click on that and a drop-down menu will appear with a link to  “Keyboard shortcuts.”

Twitter shortcuts 1

Twitter Shortcuts
Do you have some keyboard shortcuts you use? Seek out the shortcuts for the website, software, or browser you use the most and start using some of those shortcuts to make the most of your time on the computer.


[1] "Keyboard Shortcuts and System Commands for Popular Programs," TurboFuture (https://turbofuture.com/computers/keyboard-shortcut-keys: accessed 9 September 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.


Researching Family History in Hathi Trust

It’s no secret that I love digitized book websites. I literally beg people to use them when I give presentations. It makes sense that I would be passionate about them. These websites provide researchers access to genealogical rich information at home, 24 hours a day/7 days a week. What’s not to love about that?

What can you find on a digitized book website? Plenty. Consider just some of the books that might aid your family history research:

  • City Directories
  • Local Histories
  • Histories
  • Encyclopedias
  • Family Histories
  • Indexes

In addition, these websites have all types of periodicals including those that were published for membership organizations, labor unions, and community groups. So yes, digitized book websites are truly the place where you “don’t have to know what you’re looking for” and still find what you need.


One digitized book website, not as familiar to researchers is Hathi Trust. Hathi Trust  is “a partnership of academic & research institutions, offering a collection of millions of titles digitized from libraries around the world.” What this amounts to is 120 participating institutions providing 16,385,034 volumes in which 38% are public domain works. In some cases the materials you find on Hathi Trust can only be viewed at a participating institution, for many of the public domain materials you would be interested in, you can view them from home.

If you have used other digitized book websites like Google Books, Hathi Trust’s interface will be somewhat familiar. Search by keyword in the search engine box found on the homepage. You can either search by  “full text” or catalog. A catalog search allows you to specify whether the search term can be found in the title, author, subject, publisher, ISBN/ISSN, publisher, or series title fields. A full text search (also available as an advanced search) will find your search term anywhere in the digitized text.  

To get started, I decided to do a search for the keyword phrase, “Quaker women.” This search only resulted in 23 hits. But if we look at some of those hits, it’s easy to see that they could be very useful to my research. They include histories as well as writings of early Quaker women.

Hsearch for the keyword phrase, “Quaker women.”
Click to englarge

Now, if I were to receive hundreds or thousands of hits for my search, I could use the tools on the left-hand side of my results to narrow my search and focus it according to what I needed such as a date of publication.

Once I find what I need, I can click on either Catalog Record or Full View. Catalog Record is just that, it’s a card catalog view of the item. Full view, if available, provides you a digitized copy. In this example, we are looking at the book, Memoir of Martha C Thomas, late, of Baltimore, Maryland (1837). 

card catalog view of the item
Click to enlarge


A Full View not only provides you the ability to read the digitized images but you can search within that specific book for names or keywords. You can also download a single page or the book as a PDF; embed a link to the book on your website, blog, or social media; or share what you found on social media websites like Facebook and Twitter.

 the book, Memoir of Martha C Thomas, late, of Baltimore, Maryland (1837)
Click to enlarge

As you can see this,  is an important tool for research. I suggest not only looking for books that might help you with the gathering of names, dates, and places related to your personal family history but also search for books that provide a social history background, for example, an occupation or an early homekeeping or recipe text.


One last feature of Hathi Trust that family historians will appreciate is their Collections. Collections are virtual bookshelves that users curate that can be public or private. By clicking on Collections at the top of the page, you will have the ability to search or browse various collections. Many of these are historical in nature an may help you find books that will be helpful researching an ancestor such as:

As you can see there’s a lot for family historians at Hathi Trust. Make sure to add it to your list of websites to search for your 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.


What Else Can You Do With Your Email? Two Tips for Gmail

What Else Can You Do With Your Email? Two Tips for Gmail


Sure, email is great for sending and receiving messages but did you know there’s much more you can do as a Gmail  user?  Google’s Gmail has features that can help the family history researcher plan and be productive. A whole webinar could explore Gmails many features but for now let’s focus on two.

1. Keep a To-Do List

Did you know that Gmail offers a multi-functional to-do list, called Tasks?  The instructions for using this feature differ depending on the version of Gmail you are using. In the classic version of Gmail, click on the word Gmail found in the upper left-hand column and a drop-down menu will appear. Click on Tasks.


Once you do that, a simple box will appear at the bottom of your screen. In that box you can add to-do items and they will appear with a check box. To-Do items can also be given a due date by clicking on the arrow to the right of the task. Once you have completed one of those items, you can check the box and it will remain there but show a strikethrough across that particular task until you delete it. This to-do list can contain tasks as well as subtasks.


You can email or print your tasks by clicking on the Actions link at the bottom left of the Tasks box. The Actions’ drop-down menu also has a Tips link to learn more about the service.



One last thing about Tasks: besides typing your to-do list in Tasks, you can also send an email to Tasks. This might be useful when someone emails you about your family history research and you want to remember to follow-up with their suggestions or reply to their email. To send an email to Tasks, open the email you want to send to Tasks and click on the More button at the top. A drop-down menu will provide you the option to Add to Tasks.

Please Note:

If you are using the new version of Gmail, you will notice on the right-hand side of your screen there are three icons. These icons represent Google Calendar, Google Keep, and Google Tasks. Click on the third icon (it looks like a circle with a pen). A panel will appear which will allow you to create Task lists and add to-do items.

New Gmail Tasks

Delegate Someone

I have a lot of emails saved in my Gmail account. Gmail gives users 15GB for free and I take advantage of that.  I save anything that has to do with genealogy or family. But one thing I do worry about is what happens to those important emails should I depart this life sooner than expected ? Who will have access to that part of my family history?

Gmail has an answer. With Gmail you can delegate someone to have control over your Gmail account. This can be beneficial for the genealogist in a variety of ways including if you want to share an account for a family history or genealogy society project  as well as planning for a digital afterlife. Gmail’s ability to delegate someone helps with that planning.

To access this feature, open Gmail and click on the gear icon at the top right of your screen. A drop-down menu will appear, click on Settings. In Settings, one of the headings is Accounts and Import, click on that. Now scroll down to the end of that page and you will see on the left-hand side “Grant access to your account.” Click on Add Another Account to add a delegate to your account. That person must be using a Google Account in order to be designated a delegate. If they aren't, encourage them to sign up for one, it's free.

What can your delegate do? According to Gmail Help, they can:

  • Send and Reply to emails. However, their email will show as the sender. So your email contact will know that someone sent the email on your behalf
  • Read your email messages
  • Delete your email messages
  • Manage your contacts

But don’t worry, the person you delegate  cannot change your Gmail password and you can revoke their access to your account should you decide to.

Gmail Does Much More

Those are just a few of the things Gmail can do besides sending and receiving emails. Explore your Gmail Settings for other features you might be interested in including vacation responders, the ability to unsend, and filter emails.


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.


My 5 Favorite LibGuides

It’s no secret that I love LibGuides and as a family historian, you should too. LibGuides are research guides on topics and repositories that span a wide range of subjects including genealogy.

I’m certain that if you start searching on the LibGuides website you’ll find something to help you research  your genealogy. To get you started, here are 5 of my favorite LibGuides that I think you will want to take a look at and add to your own list of must-have resources.

1) Short History of Military Nursing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison 

Short History of Military Nursing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison

For those researching a war time nurse, this LibGuide on military nursing is a must. Spanning World War I to the Vietnam War, readers are provided with resources, books, and videos on historic nursing. Make sure to explore the drop-down menus found by hovering your mouse on each tab, to uncover additional books and videos for each conflict. In some cases these videos include interviews and historic footage such as World War II era training videos for US Navy nurses. On the US Cadet Nursing Corps page are links to Ancestry.com records collection for the Nursing Corps and dissertations written about these nurses. These resources will undoubtedly help you bring your military nurses’ service to life.

2) Maps, Atlases and Gazetteers: General Info from the BYU Library

  Maps, Atlases and Gazetteers: General Info from the BYU Library

Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah includes genealogical relevant resources and their more than 400 LibGuides reflect that. The Maps, Atlases and Gazetteers: General Info guide includes map links for historical and modern-day maps and gazetteers. A tab labeled Genealogy Aids includes maps from the US, England, Scotland, Germany and Denmark some of which are housed in digitized books. The Most Popular tab reveals a link to the BYU Map Collection on Internet Archive with over 300 maps. While a few of the resources mentioned in this guide are only available to users of the BYU library, there’s more than enough free mapping resources here to help you with your genealogy. Do yourself a favor and spend some time perusing the other BYU Subject Guides including the Family History/Genealogy Subject Guide  for more resources.

3) Archives and Archival Resources from the University of Notre Dame

Archives and Archival Resources from the University of Notre Dame

This Archives and Archival Resources guide is HUGE! It is packed with all kinds of materials about researching archives, archival locations and more. The downside is that some pages were either not working or not complete when I last looked at it but, nevertheless, I wanted to turn your attention to the Paleography section of this guide. This section explains that “Paleography (or Paleography) is the study and analysis of handwriting in order to read old texts with accuracy and fluency. It focuses on studying letter forms and conventions used, such as abbreviations. In addition, paleography also involves dating manuscripts and identifying the location of, called ‘localizing’, the writing used.” Paleography tutorials are essential as you get further back in your family history research. Notice that the Online Tutorial and Resources section includes tutorials for reading English, French, German, Irish, Italian, Latin, Portuguese and Spanish & Latin America texts. This is a great starting point for learning more about reading historical texts and documents you come across as you research.

4) History, U.S. & Canada: Primary Sources by Century from University of Southern California (USC)

History, U.S. & Canada: Primary Sources by Century from University of Southern California (USC)

This list of “primary sources” (genealogists use the term original sources) from the 17th to the 20th century in the United States and Canada is a section of the History, U.S. & Canada Research Guide. The downside of this wonderful list of sources is that many are found in subscription websites found only  at academic institutions (a good reason to plan a field trip!). When viewing this page, make sure to click on the Primary Sources tab to reveal a drop-down menu with lists of primary sources by century, events, topics & subject, and region. The Event & Era resources provide rich social history websites that explore the topics of  African American Pamphlets, Salem Witch Trial, and America in the 1930s. There is so much here to explore and add to the story of your ancestor’s life.

5) Genealogy by the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Libraries

Genealogy by the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Libraries

While this last LibGuide won’t be useful to everyone, I wanted to mention it to give you a sense of what genealogy information you might find in a LibGuide. For those with New England ancestors, this genealogy LibGuide from the University of Massachusetts is a must. Topics covered include Cemeteries, Church Records, City Directories, Cookbooks, Land Records, Marriage Records, Massachusetts Archives, Mayflower Records, US Newspapers, Probate Records, Photography, Tax Records, and Vital Records. While this LibGuide focuses on the collection of the W.E.B. Du Bois Library,  you may find similar titles available at other libraries or online including the University’s Internet Archive account with 14, 500 digitized titles.

What Will You Explore First?

LibGuides provide everything family history researchers need including resources, tips, and information. Enhance your research by searching for a LibGuide on the subject, place, or repository you'd like to visit. There's so much 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.

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 (https://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 (https://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 https://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 https://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.