To find archival materials, genealogy and history researcher and writer Gena Philibert-Ortega says she regularly uses ArchiveGrid and recommends genealogy and family history researchers do the same. “I try to talk about ArchiveGrid in almost every genealogy presentation I give,” Gena said.
At Food.Family.Ephemera, the California-based author documents her focused research of community cookbooks to learn about women’s lives. Gena’s current research project involves a the life of a 19th century British woman who left behind a commonplace book. “That research has led me to study topics such as mineralogy, fossils, scrapbooks, and ‘spinsters,’” Gena said.
Gena has promoted ArchiveGrid on Twitter (@genaortega) and in her writings as an important research tool. She was willing to answer questions by email about her work and how ArchiveGrid plays a role, in an effort to learn more about our users.
How did you end up in your line of work?
I’ve always been interested in history and love to research, so after many years in the non-profit field I decided to switch careers. In my graduate work I concentrated on women’s history so genealogy seemed like a natural fit. My current research focus is on documenting female ancestors, food history and social history. I’ve been working in genealogy for about twelve years.
How did you learn about ArchiveGrid? How do you use it, and what do you want others to know about it?
I’m not sure how I first learned about ArchiveGrid but I use it almost daily to search for unique collections that family historians could use to tell the story of their ancestor’s lives. I use it to find collections documenting organizations and groups a particular ancestor may have been involved in. I also use it to see what is available for a particular geographic area. ArchiveGrid is a hidden treasure for many who are not in the academic world but still conduct research.
What impact has ArchiveGrid had on your work? Can you point to some specific collections in ArchiveGrid you have used, or found interesting?
I think the one impact ArchiveGrid has had for me is just the ability to uncover these collections and see what vast archival materials exist about individuals, groups and communities. ArchiveGrid makes searching and discovering materials easy. Some of my favorite collections have to do with women’s organizations like the Dorcas Society or the U.S. Sanitary Commission.
How do you think genealogists/family historians research, and what would improve research for them?
Typically genealogists are taught to search by an ancestor’s name which is effective when using genealogy websites. In the case of archival collections, it is better to search on a keyword or keyword phrase. Unless an ancestor is the author of a collection, searching by their name won’t yield results but it would be a mistake to think there is nothing that might be of use. I think examples of keywords and keyword phrases, outside of just searching on a place name, would be helpful. I also think guides of how to conduct searches would be of some benefit so that researchers know how to craft the best possible search.
Gena also blogs for genealogy and family history researchers at Gena’s Genealogy and her latest book is From the Family Kitchen: Discover Your Food Heritage and Preserve Favorite Recipes. In addition to hundreds of articles, her bylines can also be found on the GenealogyBank blog and in the magazine Internet Genealogy.