Click Here to Receive New Posts
in Your Inbox

This form does not yet contain any fields.

    In every family, someone ends up with “the stuff.” It is the goal of The Family Curator to inspire, enlighten, and encourage other family curators in their efforts to preserve and share their own family treasures.

    Now Available

    Follow Me

    Entries in research (12)


    Book Review: From the Family Kitchen Offers Food for Thought; Win a Free Copy



    Anyone tired of fruitless searches for female ancestors may want to consider looking for the books women read, and often wrote -- community cookbooks.

    Gena Philibert Ortega is a genealogist with a cause. She wants to help researchers find women's stories. Her new book, From the Family Kitchen: Discover Your Food Heritage and Preserve Favorite Recipes, is more than a heritage cookbook or food history. From the Family Kitchen offers something for anyone who enjoys food and family history.

    This attractive hardbound book presents readers with a basic introduction to American food and cooking traditions followed by ideas for finding your ancestor's recipes and how to decipher and use historical recipes. The book also includes a section for you to include your own heritage recipes with a ribbon bookmark to note your favorites.

    Gena's interest in women's history began with stories about her great grandmother's polygamous marriage. She wanted to learn more about women's experiences, "the history we don't hear about," she notes.

    As Gena notes, "women's history is so much different than the history we hear about in school" and women don't appear in recorded works to the extent that men are remembered.

    Genealogists are taught to use government sources, we don't use sources specific to women because many aren't indexed or easily found. I started asking, 'If you were a historian, what resources would you use to recreate women's lives?'

    Gena found the answer in signature quilts, journals, diaries, and community cookbooks, all places where women more comfortably could leave their mark. She sees community cookbooks as a rich resource that is largely ignored by researchers.

    They not only show ethnic roots, histories, and advertising, they are the voice of women. In an age when women didn't publish as much as men, community cookbooks offer so much information about women's lives. They tell what real people ate.

    I only wish From the Family Kitchen had been around a few years ago. One of the highlights of my teaching years was the opportunity to design and teach a course on women's literature. Besides the usual fiction by Mary Shelley, Jane Austen, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the course included a unit on women's personal writing -- diaries, journals, letters, and community cookbooks. The section on cookbooks was a huge hit the high school students at the all-girls school where I taught, and From the Family Kitchen would have been a helpful text to include as a resource.

    The girls "read" a community cookbook to develop a portrait of the women, the organization, and the community and the information they gleaned showed the books to be a rich source of information. As Gena says, "Community cookbooks are social history at its best."

    From the Family Kitchen: Discover Your Food Heritage and Preserve Favorite Recipes,
    by Gena Philibert Ortega, (Family Tree Books, 2012) 203 pages.


    Part 1 Discover Your Family's Food Heritage
    1 - Food Heritage 
    2 - They Brought Their Food With Them
    3 - Oysters, Peacocks, and Green Jell-O
    4 - Food Throughout Time
    5 - Cookbooks and Menus
    6 - How to Find Your Ancestors' Recipes

    Part 2 A Look Back at Historical Recipes
    7 - Decipher Old Cooking Terms
    8 - The Arts of Dining and Cleaning
    9 - Historical Recipes

    Part 3 Recipe Journal
    Record your own family recipes in this  journal section.

    Gena Philibert Ortega is a popular genealogy speaker and writer specializing in researching women's history. She holds Master of Arts Degrees in Interdisciplinary Studies (Psychology and Women's Studies) and in Religion. 

    Gena was a featured Celebrity Genealogist in the Canejo Valley Genealogical Society Cookbook, A Dash of Thyme where she contributed the recipe for her Great Grandma's Fudge. She has kindly shared the recipe with readers of The Family Curator --

    Great Grandma's Fudge

    3 (6 oz) pkgs. chocolate chips
    1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
    1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
    1/2 cup nuts, chopped
    dash salt

    In a saucepan, over low heat, melt chocolate with milk. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and nuts. Line 8-inch square pan with wax paper and spread mixture evenly over wax paper. Chill 2-3 hours until firm. Remove fudge from the pan onto a cutting board and throw away the wax paper. Cut into pieces. Store at room temperature.

    This recipe was passed on to Gena by her paternal great-grandmother, Mary Bell Chatham Philibert (1904-1988). 

    WIN A FREE COPY of From the Family Kitchen courtesy of Family Tree Books. 

    All you have to do to enter the giveaway is leave a comment after the review or Like the review on the Facebook post (one entry per name, please). I will include names from both places and one name will be randomly selected to win the book. Your name will stay in the hopper from week to week, so you will have more chances to win in the weeks to follow. The winner will be announced the following week on Facebook and on The Family Curator so you can send me your name and address to receive the book.

    If you've read the featured book, please add your thoughts or other recommendations.


    Adding Context to a Family Keepsake

    Now that I've decided to reproduce my aunt's home economics notebook, I am looking for ways to make the book more interesting and uncover any other stories related to this little keepsake. My approach isn't strictly genealogical; it's more a blend of local and family history with a dose of literary criticism from my high school English Lit teacher past.

    My purpose is to add a "sense of place" to the notebook, not to overwhelm it with facts, figures, or history. I will probably need to select the most compelling information and save the other research for background. Here's my initial brainstorm list of possibilities; feel free to leave a comment if you can add to the list.

    I used MindNode for Mac (free) to brainstorm possible topics:

    I like using a mapping tool for brainstorming, but here it is in list format:

    Franny's Food Notebook

    Food Notebook

    • Part 1 Requirements
    • kitchen how-tos
    • 50's homemaking
    • food trends
    • Part 2 Personalized
    • recipes
    • clippings
    • comments

    Author: Frances Brown

    • age 13
    • family
    • parents Frank & Arline father working?
    • 1 sister Susie
    • home address frequent moves
    • friends

    Willard School

    • junior high
    • santa ana, ca
    • new school bldg 1931
    • home economics class semester or yr long?
    • teacher?
    • what was it like? girls only?


    • home ec
    • wartime
    • orange county

    With so many possibilities to make the story richer, it will be tough to choose the best. What have I missed?




    To Stand Ready at a Minute's Warning

    9938ab45 minute man lg

    I have a confession to make: It's all about the research. The hunt. Following the trail of clues. I know it sounds a bit Nancy Drew-ish, but isn't the research one of the best parts of genealogy?

    For example, the collaborative Mathewson Project that Midge Frazel and I are investigating involves a lot of research before we can begin to synthesize it all into our working hypothesis. We are following "cold cases" and doing as much online research as possible before taking to the field. A lot of our searches come up empty, but for me at least, more than a few searches are turning out pretty darn interesting. . .

    I had no idea last week that my top task would lead me right into the duties of a Revolutionary War Minute Man, but that is exactly where I ended up yesterday, Memorial Day.

    In following the lives of Noah Mathewson's children I turned to the series of Revolutionary War Pension Applications available on, but those New England given names reccur so often that it's hard to make out who's who and how they are all related. I started to read all the Mathewson pension files, just to see if any names or dates popped out.


    Before long, I found it didn't really matter that William Mathewson is not one of Noah's sons, I was fascinated by the story of how he was drafted to serve in the Rhode Island Troops and how he spent the days of his service. In just a few sentences, I learned the origin of the term "Minute Man" and the duties of such service.

    . . . That he was drafted in the Year 1776 in March at Johnson County of Providence State of Rhode Island for the purpose of guarding Pawtucket and Warwick Neck. went to Pawtucket and served in the company of Capt. Emet Oney, Lieutentant Daniel Angel, Col. Waterman, served at Pawtucket two months and was discharged, but was to stand ready at a minutes warning, was drafted again at the same place to defend Warwick neck in May same year. Went to Warwick and served under the same officers as before, served two months at Warwick and was discharged as before. That he was frequently called upon as a minute man the same year to go to Pawtucket ad Warwick two or three days at a time the same year. . .

    William Matthewson, and later his wife Tabitha, had to provide testimony and witnesses in support of William's claim to service. "By reason of old age and the consequent loss of memory he cannot swear positively as to the precise length of his service," wrote the county Justice of the Peace who took his statement 30 January 1833. A shaky "X" records William's mark;  he was then about 88 years of age.

    It appears that William was eventually awarded a pension for his service as a Minute Man, standing ready at a minute's warning to guard the state's borders from attack.


    "Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, 1775-ca 1900," digital images, ( accessed 29 May 2011); entry W. 16,338 for William Matthewson (Rhode Island Troops) and widow, Tabitha; imaged from Case Files of Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Applications Based on Revolutionary War Service, compiled ca. 1800 - ca. 1912, documenting the period ca. 1775 - ca. 1900, (Washington, D.C.: National Archives [n.d.]), M804.



    Footnote Gets Bigger and Better Every Day

    Footnote just keeps getting BIGGER and BETTER first appeared on my monitor just about the time I was gearing up for my classroom project Reading Women's Lives. It looked like a site with lots of potential, but I was a little wary of posting Arline's personal correspondence online for all to read.

    Fast-forward two and a half years and over 58 MILLION original historic documents -- the growth and impact of Footnote is monumental. As a former English teacher, I am especially excited about Footnote's potential for classroom interaction. I saw my last-semester Seniors come to life when they read and transcribed my grandmother's original correspondence. In deciphering the archaic handwriting and colloquialisms, the students became more aware of early twentieth century culture. One question led to ten more, their personal response with the original documents drove the lessons each day.

    Of course, any scholar or lover of history can interact with the documents as well; we can all be students again, excited by the discovery of learning. I am delighted to see Footnote's partnership with the National Archives and Records Administration and can only imagine the future archive content, but it is exciting to think that my contributions of obituaries clipped from 100 years ago from Midwest newspapers can be used by other Footnote readers to help answer their family history questions. That's truly collaborative learning.

    Access to the 1930 US Census is available free of charge at throughout the month of August; and Footnote has also extended the special membership subscription rate of $59.95 until August 10. Go to for more details.


    Yankee Savings at the New England Historic Genealogical Society

    The New England Historic Genealogical Society once again sent a team of experts and staff members to the recent Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree in Burbank and made themselves available for research assistance as well as presenting special sessions on New England topics. Their tables were always lively and crowded; I learned that it is wise to purchase books on the first day as they sold out as the weekend progressed.

    An email from Tom Champoux, Director of Marketing, confirmed NEHGS' popularity. Tom noted that at Jamboree 2009 the team enrolled 53 new members, almost double the typical conference record, but this year's registration for new members topped even that number at 80 new memberships. It looks like a lot of Southern Californians are anxious to research their New England roots.

    If you missed the NEHGS booth or didn't attend Jamboree, you may want to consider a terrific discount offered during the month of July for new memberships. The regular research membership costs $75, but new members can enroll through the end of July for $60 -- a savings of $15. What thrifty Yankee wouldn't like that?

    More information about membership benefits is available at the NEHGS website. If you have New England ancestors or if you just love American history, this society is well worth the price of admission. With more online collections added all the time, membership at NEHGS is on the top of my renewal list.

    Find us on Google+