Periodical Source Index (PERSI) Available for Free at ACPL

Have you used PERSI? If you have been using PERSI over the years, you may have searched it from a genealogy subscription website, but it was recently announced that PERSI is going back to its home at the Genealogy Center of the Allen County Public Library. You can now search PERSI from the Genealogy Center website for FREE.

Not sure what PERSI is? Let's start with an introduction.

The Periodical Source Index

The Genealogy Center explains that “PERSI is the premier subject index for genealogy and local history periodicals, and is produced by the staff of The Genealogy Center of the Allen County Public Library (ACPL). Using this valuable resource provides citations to readily-available periodical sources.”

PERSI is a periodical index of history and genealogy magazines, newsletters, and journals that span the 1800s to the present day. The majority of the periodicals are US-based, but it also includes publications in Canada, the British Isles, and other countries. The periodicals in PERSI are in the collection of the Allen County Public Library (Fort Wayne, Indiana), and they index the materials. However, it is not an every-name index. Instead, it is a subject index and includes indexed words such as record types, location, surnames as subject, and how-to articles.

Why Use PERSI?

You might be thinking, "why should I use PERSI? After all, it's an index!" Indexes provide us with a unique finding aid. In this case, these periodicals have articles of use to our research including histories, images, and indexes of local records that genealogy societies, historical societies, and individuals have published in newsletters, magazines, and journals. These articles can provide an ancestor's name or context for researching your ancestor's time and place. And they can point the way to unique record collections you didn’t know existed. It's vital to seek out and identify materials located in the place your ancestor lived. These periodical articles can provide a glimpse of what is available.

Searching PERSI

PERSI Homepage

How do you search PERSI? ACPL has the PERSI search page broken down so that you can search:

  • Surnames
  • United States
  • Canada
  • British Isles
  • Other Counties
  • Research Techniques
  • Article Title Keyword.

This search page is different than previous versions of PERSI. In the past, various genealogy websites have licensed the PERSI content and created their own search for the materials. This new version is slightly different. Also, the previous license holder, FindMyPast, started digitizing articles found in PERSI. Those digitized copies do not exist in this edition. 

Although there is a surname search, please don’t limit yourself to just that search. Genealogists are accustomed to searching by name, date, place on genealogy websites, but that's not the best way to search PERSI. You would be better served by doing a location search and exhausting what articles have to do with your ancestor’s location. I'm not saying don't search by your ancestor's surname under any circumstances. What I am saying is don't stop there.

PERSI location search

For example, once you click on the country you're interested in, you will come to a page that asks for, in the case of the United States, state, and county. Once you click the search button, you’ll receive a results page that includes categories and how many articles match that category for your location.

PERSI Location Results

Once you click on the category of your interest, you can see a list of articles.

PERSI Cemetery Results

So now what? You can order photocopies of the article from ACPL. Click on the link for Article Fulfillment found on the Our Services page. Use the information found in PERSI to complete the form and the fee. You will receive an envelope and bill for the per-page copy charge of your ordered articles in about six weeks.

Do you have to order copies from ACPL? No, you could see if the periodicals are at your local library, or you might be able to find them online or through an interlibrary loan. If you're planning a research trip to ACPL, you might want to have a list ready so that you can copy the articles yourself.

To learn more about searching PERSI, see the Genealogy Center's webinar at

What Will You Find?

I love PERSI because it's an easy way to find the information you may not be expecting. Some of my favorite finds have been articles with names from community cookbooks and signature quilts. Those articles had names I was researching but were not searchable by a name. Instead, I had to search by location. You don't know what you don't know, and PERSI is a great way to find treasures you aren't aware of.


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.


Can You Guess the Historical Object? - Answer

Can You Guess the Historical Object? - Answer
So did you figure out what that mystery item was? Chances are you did since it seemed that most blog readers knew exactly what this item is.

If you recall I gave you the following clues:

  • This item is made of a lightweight metal (aluminum or tin)
  • This was mostly used by women to complete chores in more than one room of the house.
  • You would find this for sale in catalogs in the early 20th
  • It could be used in the kitchen but it has nothing to do with food.
  • This item saved money
  • This one that I bought at an antique store is just one “look.” There are different versions including a version that is square instead of circular.

The item in question is called a soap saver. Its purpose is probably obvious from its name. It held pieces of left-over soap (you know, those small pieces that no one wants to use). You add those pieces to the wire mesh basket and then when doing laundry you could swish the basket in the water and use up that leftover soap. This helped families save money by using all of the soap and would have been used when doing laundry pre-washing machines.

Did you get it right?

How did I figure it out? Well, it took a bit of researching in old retail catalogs. I assumed it dated somewhere around the early 20th century. I first thought it was a kitchen gadget and in a way it could be, but not for cooking. So I looked through catalogs until I found a photo of it.

Once I had the name, I looked in Google Patents for examples of it. Here’s one that I found.

Soap saver patent

From there I Googled “soap saver” and found other examples. Because there are modern-day “soap savers” I sometimes added a keyword like “metal” to my search. One article I found from the website Love to Know, included a photo of my soap saver.


Love to know screenshot
Love to know screenshot

Readers figured out the mystery item in any number of ways. There were those who knew what it was because they had a family member who owned one themselves. Like this comment by Anthony Grace:

"I believe this is a device to use up small soap remnants. By agitating it (with a piece or pieces of soap) in washing up water, the user could generate soapy water solution for cleaning pots and pans. I occasionally used one of these items as a child (70+ years ago!) so the answer was in my memory!"

But there were others who figured it out using various online tools including online retailers like Etsy, Google, and Google Lens. In one case a reader commented that she learned how to search using an image and that helped her find the answer (Geoff did a TechZone video about searching using a reverse image search.) In some cases readers even found modern-day examples that you could buy. Edwina Shooter found one for sale in Australia at this website.

It was a lot of fun to read everyone's comments. The reason we didn't publish them as you submitted them is we wanted everyone to have a guess without the correct answering showing up in the comments. One of my favorite comments was from Judy Conklin who wrote, 

"The object presented is a SOAP SAVER. I just Googled the words "old soap saver" and a picture of the object popped up. We had one at home - many years ago. Now, if only birth, death and marriage records were as easy to find!!"

I agree Judy! But any type of research can help improve your overall research skills.

The most common wrong answer was a tea infuser. While they are similar, the metal mesh on this item is too wide and the whole thing is too big for a tea cup. The photo below shows the difference in size compared to my butter dish. It does occur to me I should have provided something to show the scale and I have found tea infusers online that do look similar so that was a good guess. 


Tea infuser and soap saver

Did you figure out what the item was? All those who left a comment with the right answer were put in a random drawing for a free month subscription to Legacy Webinars. The winner of a one-month Legacy Webinar subscription is Ruth Taylor!

Thanks to everyone who participated! 


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.


Can you Guess the Historical Object?

Ready for something new for 2022? Let's take a look at a historical object. The goal is to identify and research the item using the image and the clues I provide.

What sources should you use for your research? Familiar genealogical sources probably won’t help. Concentrate on websites with retail catalogs, periodicals, books, really anywhere you think you can find the answer. You can find these items by using Wikipedia, Google search, Google Patent search,  digitized book websites, and digitized newspaper website.

Once you know the answer, post in the comments what the item is and what sources you used. [Answers must be posted in the blog post comments (not various social media feeds) by Thursday, February 4, 2022 to qualify for the prize]. Feel free to add any other information about the item. We are all here to learn.

After a week, I’ll post the answer and more information about the item. Those who have posted the right answer will be put in a drawing to receive a 1-month subscription to Legacy Webinars. Already a subscriber? That’s ok, one month will be added to your subscription.


January item 1

January item 2

January item 3

Your clues are:

  • This item is made of a lightweight metal (aluminum or tin)
  • This was mostly used by women to complete chores in more than one room of the house.
  • You would find this for sale in catalogs in the early 20th
  • It could be used in the kitchen but it has nothing to do with food.
  • This item saved money
  • Though this item has a round "cage-like" shape, not all of these looked like this. 



  1. What is it?
  2. Where did you find the answer?


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.


Your Genealogy Webinar Action Plan for 2022

Your Genealogy Webinar Action Plan for 2022

Happy New Year! In January, our thoughts turn to new beginnings and plans. Geoff Rasmussen recently announced the 2022 Legacy webinar schedule. That schedule always gets me thinking about all the education opportunities coming up for the year. So my question is, what do you plan to learn?

It’s easy to respond with an enthusiastic “Everything!” But you may want to take some time to plan out your webinar watching and come up with an action plan so that you can make the most of your webinar viewing. From my personal experiences teaching and watching webinars, I know there are some best practices to consider to get the most from your experience.

6 Best Practices

We are so lucky to live in a time where technology has brought us so much knowledge and information. I remember in college, I had an independent study class that consisted of recorded lectures on VHS tape, and I thought that was very high tech! That early version of the webinar did allow me some flexibility to listen to lectures on my schedule.

But easier access doesn’t always mean that we are doing what we need to, to get the most of the experience (remember my recorded college lectures? I tended to fall asleep due to a heavy work and school schedule).

What are some “best practices” to get the most of what you watch this year? Here are 6 I would suggest.

1. What is your goal?

What’s your reason for listening to that webinar? Do you have a specific research type or methodology you want to learn? Take time to write that goal down. When you find yourself not paying attention, you can remind yourself why you are there and what you want out of the next hour.

2. Focus on the Webinar.

No really. I know how it is. You have a webinar playing, and you're checking social media, and answering someone's email. Then you're ordering groceries to be delivered and wondering what you should make for dinner. No, don't do that. Give yourself the gift of focusing, totally being present only on the webinar. If you have to do a quick search of the website the speaker just mentioned, fine. But try to focus on what the presenter is saying. When we simply watch a presentation, we don't retain everything we hear, so imagine how much you retain when your mind is multitasking? According to author and TED Talk presenter Julian Treasure, we only retain only 25% of what we hear so imagine what you're missing in that other 75% [1]. 

3. Jot Down Questions.

Before you even watch the webinar, what do you want to get from it? What do you need to know for your research? Jot those down before the speaker even begins and if those questions aren't answered, consider asking in the chatbox.

4. Take Notes.

Do you take notes when you watch webinars? Note-taking helps you to retain information simply by the act of writing the information down. You can print the handout and annotate it so that it is more meaningful for your particular research.

5. Ask Questions.

Use the chat to ask questions. Your question may not be picked, but you have a better chance if you make sure to ask right away.

6. Summarize.

A TED talk by Julian Treasure (mentioned above) teaches an acronym to use when thinking about listening. That acronym is RASA which stands for Receive, Appreciate, Summarize, and Ask. Receive means to pay attention. Appreciate is one way you can show your listening to a person (using responses like oh, ok). The last two are probably obvious, Summarize what the speaker said back to them, and Ask questions.[2] Even though this is meant for 1:1 conversation, you could do the same thing when listening to a webinar. Remember those notes you were taking? You can note any follow-up actions like searching on a website or checking out a recommended book. After the webinar is over, take some time to jot down the three main points (or more) that are your take-aways from the webinar.

What do you do to prepare to learn from a webinar? What are your best practices? Let’s share ideas in the comments below.

See you at the next webinar!


[1] “5 Ways to Listen Better,” TED ( accessed 5 January 2022).

[2] Ibid.


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.


3 Resources for Canadian Genealogy Research

3 Resources for Canadian Genealogy Research

Have Canadian ancestors? There are so many online resources for researching your Canadian ancestors, whether they are like mine and hail from Quebec or they were immigrants to Alberta. If you’re just getting started, consider using these finding aids to lead you to learning more about your family history.

1. CanGenealogy 

CanGenealogy by Dave Obee

CanGenealogy, compiled by Dave Obee, is a list of resources categorized by region or subject. I suggest starting with a search by region and then scrolling down to find links for various records such as census, birth, and land. Near the bottom of the page, you'll find links for genealogy societies. I highly recommend you click on those. Many of those societies will have online databases and membership privileges to benefit your research.

2. Library and Archives Canada – Genealogy Topics 


If you've done any Canadian genealogy at all, you know Library and Archives Canada is a must. But beyond just searching for records or databases, have you looked at the educational information they provide? The Genealogy & Family History Topics page includes genealogical topics that can you learn more about such as a particular record set like Voter Lists, Maps, and the 1940 National Registration. You may also want to check out their Browse by Topic page for other genealogically related topics and resources. Don't forget to check their blog frequently to learn more about their collections.

3. Olive Tree Genealogy – Canadian Genealogy 

Olive Tree Genealogy – Canadian Genealogy 

Thank goodness for genealogists like Dave Obee (mentioned above) and Lorine McGinnis Schulze, the woman behind Olive Tree Genealogy. Her Canadian Genealogy page includes links for resources for each province and databases for immigrants arriving via ship before and after 1865. "Olive Tree Genealogy has more than 1,900 pages of free genealogy records to help you find your brick-wall ancestors and build your family tree." Make sure to take the time to click around various links to see all that the website has to offer your genealogy, including resources for Canadian and American family history, how-tos for the beginner, and links to other free websites.

Keep Looking for Canadian Resources

I only went over three websites you need to be well-acquainted with, but there are others including the more familiar, such as FamilySearch.

The FamilySearch Research Wiki Canada Genealogy page is an excellent place to start, but don't forget to click on the map to go to a specific province. These pages provide essential tools for learning more about relevant record types and finding tools such as maps, gazetteers, and genealogy word lists (for those researching Quebec).

Using websites that provide links to other resources can help you ensure that you conduct an exhaustive online search before you make plans to write or research in person other repositories.


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.


Genealogically Related Books to Give (and Receive) this Holiday Season

Genealogically Related Books to Give (and Receive) this Holiday Season

It’s no surprise to anyone who knows me that all I want for Christmas is books. As a researcher, I use my books over and over again for research ideas, to better understand history, and find new-to-me sources. I typically reading two or more books at a time and am always on the lookout for the next read. 

So what are some books I think are must-haves? Here are 5 that you may be interested in this Holiday Season. 

  1. Barbara Starmans’ Tracing Your Ancestors' Lives: A Guide to Social History for Family Historians (2017). I’m a big fan of Barbara Starman’s The Social Historian website and of Pen and Sword Books. Barbara does wonderful work using social history to tell the story of ancestors’ lives and this book will help you learn to go beyond just names and dates. 

  2. One of the books my book club is reading in 2022 is Tiya Miles’ All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake (2021). This book is about a family heirloom and the research that uncovered the story. “…historian Tiya Miles carefully unearths these women’s faint presence in archival records to follow the paths of their lives—and the lives of so many women like them—to write a singular and revelatory history of the experience of slavery, and the uncertain freedom afterward, in the United States.”

  3. Marcel's Letters A Font And The Search For One Man's Fate by Carolyn Porter is a great story of a woman who buys some letters in an antique store with the intent of using the handwriting to create a new font but she becomes intrigued by the story of the man who wrote the letters. She ends up researching this man, his family, and his fate as a forced worker during WWII.

  4. It’s no surprise I might add a food-related book. I love Anna Kharzeeva’s The Soviet Diet Cookbook: Exploring Life, Culture and History One Recipe at a Time. This is her journey as she cooks foods found in the vintage Soviet cookbook, Book of Tasty and Healthy Food. She learns about her female ancestors’ lives and shares her food and family history with the reader.

  5. One of the books that was highly recommended to me by a bookseller is the Foundling: The True Story of A Kidnapping, a Family Secret, and My Search for the Real Me by Paul Joseph Fronczak and Alex Tresniowski (2017). I love when people are passionate about books and she was incessant: “you need to read this book!” Based on an incredible story of a kidnapped infant, his return, and a DNA test that showed he wasn’t actually that kidnapped baby, this story will be of interest to genealogists interested in DNA and what it can reveal about long-believed family stories. You can read more about Paul at his website, The Foundling.

In my book club, we hold a meeting I’ve titled BYOB (Bring Your Own Book). In that meeting, we share books we’ve been reading. So what have you been reading? Any books that should be on my must-have list? Let me know in the comments below.


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 Sure? Taking Some Time to Think About Your Genealogy


I was scrolling Twitter the other day, and a post caught my eye. A jazz-focused account posted a black and white photo of a woman posing with a trumpet and asked, "Name this woman?"

Tweet by Diana Kuegler of Lorraine Glover
November 30, 2021 tweet by @Diana_Kuegler account
and response by @SaladJazz1

The first guess offered by Twitter account Salad Jazz (@SaladJazz1) was the correct one, Lorraine Glover. Most likely, a woman that only ardent 20th-century jazz fans have heard of. She was married to jazz trumpeter Donald Byrd (1932-2013). Despite the correct answer, the guesses kept rolling in and included jazz legend Billie Holiday. As I searched that photo online, I noticed other instances of this mistake where people assumed that the woman in question was Billie Holiday. Post after post showed this image captioned as Billie Holiday.

Why, would people make that mistake? Well, when they think of women and jazz, they automatically think of one of two women, Billie or Ella Fitzgerald, even though other women were prominent in jazz. They base their guess on what they know from their experience instead of considering that this may be outside of their experience.

I also believe people make a quick knee-jerk reaction (and to be fair to the responders of this post, they are guessing). The answers are made without taking a breath and pondering the photo. Asking questions like "about when was this taken?" "where was it taken?" "who is the photographer?" "why was it taken?" "does this look like Billie Holiday?" It's made without thinking whether the person knows the subject.

Do we do this in genealogy?

What assumptions do we make about genealogy? There are so many we make:

  • The head of the household provided information to the census taker.
  • The father was at the birth of his child.
  • Birth certificates began in 1900 in that state, and he was born in 1901, so they will have a birth certificate.
  • There can't be another person with that same name; it's not that common.
  • All records are like the records I've personally researched.

I see time and time again helpful researchers answering questions on social media without really knowing much about the area or the record. But thinking that it has to be the same as what they are familiar with.

Billie Holliday was an African American woman known for jazz. This African American woman has something to do with jazz. This must be Billie Holiday.

Lorraine Glover Byrd

You might wonder, what did I do to prove that that photo was Lorraine Glover Byrd and not Billie Holliday? Did I just assume that I knew the answer?

I started exploring online to see if I could find that photo posted elsewhere. Conducting an image search I found other instances of this photo and those who have written about it. There's a blog post, NOT Billie Holiday, Clara Bryant, or Valaida Snow on Fake History Hunter. The post points out that in William Claxton's book Jazz Seen, where this photo originates, it is labeled Mrs. Donald Byrd. I couldn't quickly get a copy of this book, but a German art gallery sells some of Claxton's works, including this photo labeled Mrs. Donald Byrd.

Billie_Holiday_and_Mister _New_York _N.Y. _ca._June_1946_(William_P._Gottlieb_04271)
Holiday and her dog Mister, New York, c. 1946,_New_York,_N.Y.,_ca._June_1946_(William_P._Gottlieb_04271).jpg

We could also, on an initial inspection, ask whether this woman looks like Billie Holiday. About when was the photo taken (it appears it must be the 1950s or 1960s). How old would Billie have been? How old does this woman look?

You might be thinking, is Mrs. Donald Byrd Lorraine Glover? An online obituary of Byrd confirms that his wife's name was Lorraine Glover. I also found a marriage notice for the two. I obviously could do more to prove that this photo is Byrd's wife, but I think you get my point.

So who cares if you make a snap judgment in genealogy without really knowing the answer? Who cares if a photo of a woman with a trumpet gets mislabeled on the Internet? Who cares if you assume that John Smith in the tax record is your John Smith?

Does it matter?

Please don't assume anything when it comes to interpreting or understanding genealogy records. Analyze your evidence, including learning more about the record. Unanalyzed genealogy is not genealogy, and good genealogy research requires more than a snap judgment.


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.


Expand Your Research Options Using Catalog Subjects

Expand Your Research Options Using Catalog Subjects

The FamilySearch Catalog. Chances are you use it. But are you using all it offers? Case in point: subject headings.

Subject Headings are likely something you’ve encountered in other library catalogs. You will see subject headings in pretty much every library catalog you use, even the FamilySearch Catalog. So what are they? “Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) is a list of words and phrases – called headings – that are used to indicate the topics of library resources. It is used by most academic and research libraries in the United States, as well as by many public and school libraries. It is also used by libraries throughout the world....LCSH brings consistency to library collections by categorizing topics into logical arrangements, and by controlling synonyms, variant spellings, and homographs.”[1] So in a nutshell, subject headings are a way that library materials are cataloged. 

What this means for you is the opportunity to find other works that are similar to your item of interest. This doesn’t always work to our advantage, sometimes there simply aren’t other similar resources in the catalog, but in some cases, you might uncover additional resources. I find this especially helpful in cases where I have conducted a keyword search.

November 2021 FamilySearch Catalog

So let’s look at two examples from the FamilySearch Catalog. In this first example, I did a Place search on Spain, Madrid and then chose the category Civil Registration. This is the card catalog entry for the single result in this category.

FamilySearch Catalog Madrid

Notice under Subjects it says Locality Subjects and provides two links:

Spain, Madrid - Census

Spain, Madrid - Civil registration

In this case, the civil registration link is for this entry and no others exist in this category. The census link includes two resources, this entry and another.

Now let’s look at a different example, this time I conducted a keyword search on the phrase “women newspaper.” This is an example where my keyword phrase probably isn't the best so I could benefit from other suggestions. One of my results was the book, Index of references to American women in colonial newspapers through 1800. Notice that in this case not only are there more links but they are divided by Locality Subjects and Library of Congress Subjects.

FamilySearch Catalo American Women

Notice that these include Locality Subjects for Genealogy and Newspaper Indexes for the United States as well as Library of Congress Subjects for Women and American Newspapers. In this case, the LOC subjects lead me to no other resources. However, the Locality Subjects lead me to over 100 additional resources. This can be beneficial in helping me locate additional items for my research.

The FamilySearch Catalog is a vital resource for your genealogy. Don't stop at entering a search. Study your results to get the most from your research. Learn more about using the Catalog so your research can benefit. To start, read the FamilySearch Wiki page “Introduction to the FamilySearch Catalog.” 


[1] “Process for Adding and Revising Library of Congress Subject Headings,” Library of Congress ( accessed 18 November 2021).


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.


Capturing Your Family's Food Memories


I just finished reading actor Stanley Tuccis’ new book Taste - My Life Through Food. In it, he recounts his life and the role food played from his childhood to his young adult years, his marriages and children, to his most recent bout with cancer. It’s more than an autobiography, it is peppered with recipes that he fondly recalls. Readers are privy to simple recipes like his father’s Pasta con Aglio e Oilio (pasta with garlic and olive oil) and Tomato Salad to the more complex Timpano, a special Christmas recipe in the Tucci family.

Reading this memoir is like sitting down with Stanley Tucci and talking, eating, and laughing. He comes across as a “real person” and not a celebrity. His love for Italian food is infectious. I devoured the book in one day.


But this isn’t a book review.

As I read and enjoyed this book I thought about what a great family history book it was and how we  should all consider writing something similar. So often it’s difficult to write a family history because you may not feel like you’re a writer and it can seem like an overwhelming task. But you can write about memories of food! You start with your memories and what you know. Those memories might encompass several generations (in my case I knew one of my paternal great-grandmothers, a cook, very well). You can start with documenting your family (you, parents, grandparents, etc) and your food history. Possible writing prompts include:

  • What was a special occasion at your house and what did you eat? 
  • What foods did you eat for the holidays (Thanksgiving, Easter, etc)?
  • What did you eat for birthdays?
  • What did your parents or grandparents serve when you were sick?
  • What was an after-school snack when you were young?
  • What foods did you eat at your grandparents and how was that different than what you ate at home?
  • Did anyone in your family have a garden? What did they grow? How did they use that food?
  • Did your family hunt or fish? What recipes were cooked to incorporate that food?
  • What are foods that come from your ethnic/heritage background?
  • Where did you buy food? 
  • What food was considered a treat?
  • What rules did your family have around eating (clean plate, have to try everything, etc)?
  • What did you eat for school lunches?
  • What’s the “weirdest” food your family ate?

You get the picture. From those questions you can write up short stories, maybe just a page or two long. You can add recipes when appropriate and even images of you cooking those recipes, or photos of your family cooking, in the kitchen, at the table, etc. This isn't a cookbook, this is a family food history featuring a handful of recipes.

Tucci’s food memoir isn’t just about him. He introduces us to his parents, siblings, grandparents, and extended family. He then discusses his friends, wives, children and stepchildren. It’s not the story of one man’s obsession with food (although, that’s part of it) it’s the story of ancestry, a homeland, family past and present, and his memories of them. He writes of his mom:

"Food, its preparation, serving, and ingesting, was the primary activity and the main topic of conversation in my household growing up. My mother insists that she was capable of little more than boiling water when she married my father. If this is true, she has more than made up for this shortcoming over the last century. I can honestly say that on the four-burner electric stove she used throughout my childhood and on the gas hob that replaced it many years later, she has never cooked a bad meal. Not once. The focus of her cooking is Italian, pimply recipes from her family or my father’s family.” [1]

Genealogy can be an act of gathering solely names and dates to make generational connections. But a family history narrative that includes memories of food is appealing to family members who are not interested in genealogy.

Thanksgiving is approaching in the United States, but no matter wherever you are, this is a great time to ask your family about their food memories, swap recipes, and document you family’s food history. 

What precious memories will your family food memoir recount?


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.



[1] Tucci, Stanley. Taste. My Life Through Food (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2021) p. 12-13.

3 Tips for Crowdsourcing Your Online Genealogy Question

3 Tips for Crowdsourcing Your Online Genealogy Question

When I started researching my family history, pre-Internet, I knew that if I wanted help I had a few options. I could attend a genealogy society meeting. I could go to the Family History Center. I could even write to Everton’s Genealogical Helper magazine and hope to connect with someone researching the same ancestor or ancestral line.

Fast forward to today and some of the ways we ask for help has changed. Everton’s magazine is gone (but you can see those old inquiries in the Everton’s Genealogical Helper database on MyHeritage). Many genealogy societies include virtual offerings due to the pandemic. Family History Centers still help patrons and the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah is also available for virtual assistance. Add to those tried-and-true options what is now available online: genealogy and history specific Facebook Groups, genealogy chats on Twitter, online family trees, message boards, and library chat features and the answer to your question could literally be a few keystrokes away.

All of these online options provide a way for your to crowdsource your problem. “Crowdsourcing” means to “obtain (information or input into a particular task or project) by enlisting the services of a large number of people, either paid or unpaid, typically via the internet.” It’s the way we answer questions about a variety of things in our day-to-day lives today from reading reviews of services to posting questions on Facebook. Genealogists use it as well and should in order to find the answers they need. 

So what’s the best way to utilize online help? A few things to keep in mind before you crowdsource your genealogy problem include: 

1. Choose the Right Place

Where’s the best place to ask your questions? Well, it depends. Is it something “simple” that you think other more experienced genealogists might know? Are you asking about what records were kept in Madrid, Spain in the 18th century? Are you wanting to know whether people had to have driver’s licenses in Florida in 1900? Your fellow genealogist might be able to answer that simple question but to learn more about Madrid you should probably seek out a genealogist who specializes in Spanish research, a society located in Madrid, or a nearby archive. A specific question about historical Florida driver’s licenses might be something for a librarian or archivist at a library in Florida.

If your question is specific to an area, you’re better off asking those familiar with the area (like a Facebook genealogy group for a specific location). Don’t assume that records everywhere are consistent, locations do differ and having someone in that location help you might be your best bet.

2. Be Specific

When I present genealogy brick wall lectures, I invite the audience to ask me a question about their brick wall. I always ask them to tell me their problem in 2 sentences. In those 2 sentences I want them to tell me the problem and where they’ve looked. This helps me get a sense of the problem and where they have searched for an answer so I know how to best help.

The same method is useful for asking for help online. Be specific, don’t get into a long story. Most people are used to scrolling through social media posts and not reading longer, detailed posts (in the case of social media). So briefly explain what you are trying to find, the location, and date. You might also want to explain briefly where you’ve looked. That way you don’t get multiple suggestions for the same places you’ve already searched. Responders can then ask you additional questions that will help them help you. 

3. Be Patient

Patience is a virtue and family historians need to have more than their share. I don’t know about you but I’ve had some genealogy problems I’ve been working on, on-and-off for decades. Sometimes online assistance, or getting the right answer, isn’t as instantaneous as we would like. Keep in mind that it might be worthwhile to ask for help in more than one place. A message board is an old tried-and-true way to get help. But you might have something posted on a message board and not get an answer for years. A Facebook genealogy group might not be as active and it might take some time. So be patient. 

I know this article is titled 3 Tips, but I want to provide one more for you to consider.

4. Not Everything is Free

I know we like free genealogy. Lucky for us, the genealogy world is filled with volunteers who give freely of their time and talents. However, at a certain point you may have to pay for that record lookup or that expertise. Your best bet for finding information in a specific place, might be to ask the local society to do some research. However, you’ll need to pay a fee or donation to do so. But remember, it’s definitely worth it to get the information you need and probably much less expensive than if you were traveling to that place.

What’s Your Question?

Crowdsourcing your genealogy question is a wonderful way to get the answers you need. But it takes more than just asking online. You need to carefully consider your question, what you need, and who might be able to give you that information.


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.