Family History Research

Book Reviews – Women’s Research and Storytelling

Today I would like to present three wonderful resources for researching the women in your family.

Discovering Your Female Ancestors by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack is a very descriptive sourcebook on resources for women. Her introduction discusses the lack of stories about our women in our family histories. Her chapters cover topics such as Sources Created by Women; Sources Created About Women; Writing about Women Ancestors; and A Case Study. The book’s appendices cover Legal Rights; Genetics; and an extensive Source Checklist.  Her book ends with Notes, and Index and a detailed bibliography broken out by category. This book has been extremely helpful in my research and I refer to it again and again.

The Hidden Half of the Family by Christina Schaefer is another sourcebook for women’s research but it differs greatly from the Carmack book. Schaefer has a lengthy introduction about different types of records available, laws passed regarding women, and the general reasons why we should tell their stories. The remainder of her book is broken out by U.S. State. Within each state chapter she outlines important dates in state history, different laws that apply to women, a bibliography and resources.

Domestic Revolutions, A Social History of American Family Life by Steven Mintz and Susan Kellogg is a book I read in one of my undergrad history classes. In that class and through reading this book, I became hooked on family history. The book is about the ever changing family structure and stresses put upon a family over time. There are discussions on the roles of women, the question “what makes a family?”, and how different racial groups have changed through the years. The book is broken out into 10 chapters discussing the family structure from the days of New England and the Puritans through the 1980’s. There are two appendices, one on the Historical Perspectives on the Family and another on the Language of Family History. If you are looking for a good overview of the changing family from Puritan days to the 1980’s check out this book. It might even prompt a few questions that you will want answered as you write your family history.

Leave a comment »

Book Review – Women Adrift

I was looking through my bookcase this morning and came across a book I read in a Chicago Women’s History grad school called Women Adrift, Independent Wage Earners in Chicago, 1880-1930 by Joanne J. Meyerowitz. I thought this would be a great book to mention this week since I wrote an article about women and naturalization.

I do not have any women in my family who went off on their own to become “women adrift” but this book was very interesting to read. The chapters walk the reader through what some of the women experienced. Chapter 1 discusses being apart from the family. Chapter 2 is about exercising caution in the big city. Chapter 3 mentions orphans and innocents while Chapter 4 discusses Surrogate Families. Chapter 5 goes in depth about the people who helped these women and Chapter 6 talks about the women being Urban Pioneers.

Meyerowitz addresses issues such as sexuality of this “new breed” of women coming to the cities; what social circles formed and why; the vices that existed in the cities and how the women handled them or fell prey to them; and contains many tables with statistics, several illustrations, and lengthy note and bibliography sections.

Whether you had a Woman Adrift in your family or not, this book is well worth your time to read. You might just see some similarities between these women and second or third generation women of immigrants in your families who branched out on their own after the 1930’s.

1 Comment »

Book Review – Chicago In and Around the Loop

I think when we write the stories of our ancestors, or even our current history, it is good to explore the buildings in the area in which our ancestors resided. Learning the history of a particular part of the city or buildings in which your ancestors worked or conducted business can add a lot to their written story.

The book Chicago In and Around the Loop by Gerard R. Wolfe, is a book of “Walking Tours of Architecture and History” for the city of Chicago. The book is broken down by chapters which are a specific part of the city. Each chapter begins with a map of the area in which the walking tour is conducted. It then goes on to describe each building on the tour complete with the building’s history. Sprinkled in each chapter are current and past photos of the buildings. It even includes a Pedway Tour. Have you ever explored the underground of the city?  The book also contains a Glossary; Resources on organizations related to Chicago Architecture and History; Recommended Readings; and an extensive index.

If you are looking for something fun to do this summer in Chicago, pick up a copy of this book and take a tour. You might discover something exciting about your family!

Leave a comment »

Book Review: Finding Your Chicago Ancestors by Grace DuMelle

In 2005, Grace DuMelle, a Newberry Library employee, published a book called Finding Your Chicago Ancestors A Beginner’s Guide to Family History in the City and Cook County. This is an invaluable resource for anyone researching their Chicago Ancestors.

 The book is very simply laid out with straightforward answers to all your research questions. Part I of the book is called “Getting Your Questions Answered.” Each chapter asks a question such as “When and Where Was My Ancestor Born?” and under each question are several Strategies giving examples about where to find records that might provide the answer. 

Part II discusses “Practical Advice” and includes great information on searching the Census Records, Newspaper records and Vital Records. Grace also includes a few chapters on how to use Machines and Catalogs, What to Expect at Chicago-Area Research Facilities, complete with building pictures, and Top Chicago websites and Ethnic Resources.  Grace’s book is so packed with wonderful information, you can refer to it again and again as new issues come up in your research.

If you are interested in learning more, Grace is teaching several one hour classes at the Newberry Library this summer. I am enrolled in two and cannot wait to go and find out what other wonderful information she will provide.

Leave a comment »