Family History Research

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.

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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.

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