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Gena Philibert Ortega
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Started this discussion. Last reply by Declan Chalmers Jul 27, 2009.

Gena's Genealogy

Women's History Month 2021: Someone Else's Family

Image by suju-foto via Pixabay

Genealogy influences the way we search websites. Name, date, and place. But as I have pointed out many times this month, understanding our family means going beyond a search for their name.

In genealogy, we hear of the importance of the FAN Club. This reminds us to look for the Friends, Associates, and Neighbors of an ancestor. The idea is that sometimes our ancestors are mentioned, written about, and documented through their relationship to others.

We should take this into consideration as we approach our research at the museum. The museum provides plenty of opportunities to understand an event, an activity, a place in time. In some cases, this may not be through actual research but rather through viewing exhibits or reading a museum publication. And while our ancestors may not be individually named, that doesn't mean what the museum has to offer isn't important to our research. 

An exhibit about women and suffrage in California may never name my female ancestors but knowing the history of suffrage in California can help me better understand my great-great-grandmother who voted in those first elections open to women. Going to an exhibit about midwives can help you understand the midwife in your pioneer family. Studying an exhibit that details that big natural disaster can help you understand how your ancestor might have felt and what they faced.

We learn about our families as we explore others. Other people's families can help us better understand our own and help us write about our ancestor's experiences. Museums provide us with that opportunity.

Women's History Month 2021: Research at the Museum

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

At some point, after you exhaust what a museum has online via their catalog, digital collections, and finding aids you'll want to actually travel to the museum and do some research. Museums and archives aren't like libraries where you, for the most part, may just show up. You need a plan. That plan will involve not only what your research question is but what the museum has to answer that question. You also need to make sure that you contact them to make sure they are ready for your visit. 

Some things to consider before you leave home are:
  • Call, email, or consult the website first regarding what restrictions or rules you need to be aware of.  For example, is the collection restricted; do they need to retrieve it offsite; are there limits to who can research there; do you need to make an appointment; what are their hours?
  • Talk to the archivist or staff about your project so they can suggest other material that might be of help to your project.
  • If the museum is far from your home, see if there is another way to access the collection. For example, has the collection been microfilmed and sold to other repositories near you? Will they do a quick look-up for you or can you send a request (and payment) for copies to be made and mailed.  
  • Ask about their photocopy policy. They may not allow you to make copies and instead they will make the copies for you at a cost. Some items might be too fragile to copy and you will have to transcribe them. Photocopy procedures may differ depending on if the item is a document or a photograph.
  • Their online catalog may include a  finding aid. Consult this to better understand what is available in that collection.

My biggest tip is to be prepared for your trip and don't just show up at the museum. Sure, there are times that might happen but if you can prepare at all, it's for the best. Otherwise, you might waste time and not find everything that is available.

Women's History Month 2021: Museum Sponsored Events

Image by JamesDeMers from Pixabay,

Museums sponsor and host events. These events are put together by museum staff and volunteers but they also may include outside groups. Conferences, lectures, field trips, demonstrations, reenactments, and other types of events help us to better understand a historical time period, an event, or a person.

I once went to a presentation on needlework samplers given by a local museum-sponsored Civil War group. I was the only person not dressed in Civil War attire and besides the fascinating presentation, it was interesting to talk to other members of the audience and hear about their experience putting together their Civil War persona. The research they did into the clothing they wore, the person they depicted, the time period. It's an impressive amount of time, effort, and study that goes into making sure everything is as accurate as can be. The whole event was truly an experience and invited me to start asking questions and thinking about my 19th century family in a different way.

During the pandemic, I've attended museum lectures, historical cooking demonstrations, author presentations, and more. These were provided by museums in the state where I live but also in other states and include museums I didn't know anything about until I saw the event advertised on Facebook. 

Museum events are an opportunity for us to learn more about our ancestor's time and place. Whether it's an author presenting her research via Zoom or going to an all-day event where reenactors give us a taste of that time period. It's important to seek these types of events out and think about how they can help us tell the story of our ancestors.


Mental Floss - 13 Secrets of Historical Reenactors

American Experience - The Reenactors

Women's History Month 2021: All Museums Provide Clues

I think one of the most important characteristics a researcher can have is to be curious. Not nosy curious but endlessly curious about all kinds of things. Genealogy involves the pursuit of all kinds of knowledge. It's sociology, geography, psychology, history, and so much more.

I love to hear researchers talk about the seemingly strange esoteric things they are interested in because it shows how creative they can be in researching what they love. They are asking and answering all sorts of questions to better understand our ancestor's lives.

Whether you visit a museum for fun or for research, it can be a wonderful place to learn new things and discover new-to-you aspects of history. 

Case in point. Italy. 

I love Italy. I love the art. I love the history at every turn. I love the architecture. And who doesn't like the food? 

(c) 2018 Gena Philibert-Ortega

Do I have family history roots in Italy? No. So going there has nothing to do with genealogy for me. 

One of my favorite museums is in Florence, The Accademie Gallery. You might know it as the place where the statue of David resides.

If you visit, make sure you look at the backside of the statue as well.(c) 2019 Gena Philibert-Ortega

My favorite room in the Accademia is the Nineteenth Century room. I could spend an afternoon there studying the various statues. 

According to the museum's guide, 

(c) 2018 Gena Philibert-Ortega

The large Nineteenth Century Room was conceived and realized in order to provide the collection of plaster casts by Lorenzo Bartolini with a stable and definitive location. However the intention was also to offer the visitor tangible evidence of the 19th century academic origins of this Gallery, today mainly known for Michelangelo's David.[1]

(c) 2018 Gena Philibert-Ortega

The room is filled with statues and busts. These works were commissioned by wealthy Italian and foreign visitors living in Florence. But there's important context in those works. It provides us a snapshot of life. It reminds me of how we use various publications to date fashion in photographs thus "dating" a photograph to a specific decade.

Monument to Maria Radziwill Krasinski and her son Zygmunt.(c) 2018 Gena Philibert-Ortega

Most statues and busts reveal the 19th century aesthetic taste from head to toe, showing the typical hairstyle and fashion of the period. The decision to follow a specific style reveals the sensitivity and the prevalent ideology at the historical moment it reflects. In the first half of the 19th century fashion trends were set in France, featuring modest volume of hairstyle, and simple vertical lines which defined women’s tunics and gowns during the neoclassical and Empire period, faithfully depicted by Lorenzo Bartolini during his long brilliant career. [2]

These statues seemingly have no genealogical value but in reality, they provide important context regarding fashion and hairstyles of the early 19th century. Yes, I understand these were documenting the rich but it still provides context that we can use in our overall understanding.

There's a genealogical benefit to just visiting museums for the sake of visiting and learning. Not everything has to be a research trip. Genealogy and social history is everywhere.

[1]Falletti, Franca. Accademia Gallery. The Official Guide. Italy: Giunti, 2015.

[2] "Gipsoteca Bartolini, a 19th Century Hall," ( accessed 28 March 2021).  

Women's History Month 2021: Another look at Finding Aids and Catalogs

Image by DreamQuest via Pixabay

There are museum finding aids and catalogs all over the Internet. Sometimes it's just a matter of knowing how to find them or the pure luck of stumbling upon one that holds the key to your research.

We discussed ArchiveGrid yesterday but there are other smaller regional catalogs that might also provide you what you need. These include (but are not limited to):

These online catalogs make it easier to find information about your female ancestor. But, once again, don't just search by her name and assume because there are no results that she isn't represented in a collection.

Here's an example. I went to the Mountain West Digital Library and searched for the keyword "quilt." Over 700 results were returned so  I narrowed it down to a result from the Murray City (Utah) Museum.

So here's a great result, a group of women sitting in front of a quilt. The title states that it is the Murray Stake Relief Society Board circa 1954. So right away I know that these women are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and they hold a leadership position in the church in the stake Relief Society (a woman's organization).

Ok so that's great. None of the women are named in the photo description so searching by name in the catalog would do you absolutely no good.

Now take a look at that quilt. That quilt is a Friendship Quilt (or also known as a Signature Quilt). 

Copyright Murray City Corporation. Digitized copy available at

What does that mean for genealogists? Names!

Look closely and you'll notice that the quilt has a ton of names (or because it's small it looks like a bunch of words). Obviously, not readable from this view. The description states that there are names on the back of the photo. My guess is that those are the names of the women pictured but maybe the names on the quilt are also documented or the quilt has been donated to a museum.

So museums have items that can tell us about our ancestor's lives and may even a mention by name. Why would you care if your female family member was on this quilt? The quilt and its history can tell you about her life. It gives you location in time, religion, and depending on the purpose of the quilt, that might also provide you details. It also speaks to her FAN Club.

Searching online catalogs to see what is out there for a female ancestor at the museum. Definitely!

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Lecturing Skills Including Preparation course

This group provides a place for National Institute students who are taking this course to share.   Course Description: This course focuses on the skills needed to present genealogical-related lectures to a variety of audiences. It is a “hands on” course where the student will develop all aspects of the lecturing process including the proposal and biographical sketch; marketing; syllabus material; creating lecture slides; and much more.See More
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Feb 7, 2020
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October Genealogy Virtual Meetings

Virtual Meetings are a way for you to learn more about genealogy from The National Institute for Genealogical Studies instructors.  Everyone is welcome and the meetings are FREE. Join us! Note: NO USER NAME or PASSWORD is REQUIRED. After clicking on…
Oct 16, 2019
Gena Philibert Ortega replied to Jeanie Brewerton's discussion Spam
"We have removed the member who was posting spam messages to members. Thank you for reporting it. Gena Philibert-Ortega Director Genealogy Services The National Institute for Genealogical Studies"
Oct 1, 2019
Gena Philibert Ortega posted a note


Occasionally, we do get members on GenealogyWise who are here to do one thing, spam other members. Ning, the platform we use, has no way to detect a spammer prior to them bothering our members. The only way we have to find spammers and terminate…
Sep 30, 2019
Gena Philibert Ortega replied to Jeanie Brewerton's discussion Spam
"Another member already reported James Pollard for spam. He has been removed from the website. "
Sep 12, 2019
Gena Philibert Ortega posted a note

September 2019 Genealogy Virtual Meetings

Have  questions about your genealogy research? Join the instructors from The National Institute for Genealogical Studies for FREE virtual meetings where we discuss resources, records, and answer questions. Below is a list of virtual meetings. Attend…
Sep 6, 2019
Gena Philibert Ortega posted a blog post
Aug 27, 2019
Gena Philibert Ortega replied to Susan Dzialo's discussion How to find ancestors that performed in show business?
"You don't mention where Mildred lived but the first place you should look, if you haven't already is  newspapers. Several online digitized newspaper websites should be checked including and GenealogyBank. Conduct…"
Aug 23, 2019
Gena Philibert Ortega posted a note

June 2019 Genealogy Virtual Meeting Schedule

Have any questions about your family history  research? Join instructors from The National Institute for Genealogical Studies for Virtual Meetings. These online presentations are FREE and everyone is invited. Below are the June scheduled…
Jun 6, 2019
Gena Philibert Ortega posted a blog post

MyHeritage Expands to Health; Launches New DNA Test Offering Powerful and Personalized Health Insights for Consumers

MyHeritage Expands to Health; Launches New DNA Test Offering Powerful and Personalized Health Insights for ConsumersThe new MyHeritage DNA Health + Ancestry test provides comprehensive health reports for conditions affected by genetics including heart disease, breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s diseaseTel Aviv, Israel & Lehi, Utah — MyHeritage, the…See More
May 20, 2019
Gena Philibert Ortega posted a note

May Genealogy Virtual Meetings

Have any questions about your genealogy research? Join The National Institute for Genealogical Studies this month for our Virtual Meetings. Join an instructor for Q+ A, lecture, and more. Below are the May scheduled…
May 10, 2019

Profile Information

What surnames are you interested in researching?
McNeil, Smith, Nikolaus, Hibbert, Philibert, Harsbarger, Montgomery, Randall, Earlywine, Chatham, Lewis, Ortega, Ochoa, Marquez, Aquino
What countries and other locations are you interested in researching?
USA, Mexico, England
What is your level of genealogy knowledge?
Professional Genealogist
If you are a genealogy expert, what are your specialties?
American Records
For what reason did you start genealogy research?
I love family history and learning more about my ancestors.
Do you have a genealogy website or blog?

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Virtual Genealogical Association Conference

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Valerie & Myrt’s Excellent Genealogy Adventures debuts today
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March 24, 2018 | Utica, OH

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Comment Wall (109 comments)

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At 6:41pm on May 4, 2016, Susi (Susan C Jones) Pentico said…

Yup the correct word is NOT CONNECTED????

At 6:40pm on May 4, 2016, Susi (Susan C Jones) Pentico said…

Gena Philibert Ortega,  for some reason the system says my chat is shut off? I keep clicking to go into chat room and it says not available?

619 623 5250

At 10:36am on March 6, 2016, Joe said…

Hello Gena, Thanks for trying to address my email issue. When I click settings...Profile...change email, it gives me a link to click on in my new email. when I do click on it, it takes me to my page. when I re-enter my profile the old address is still there

At 6:49pm on September 15, 2011, Erin Bradford (freeaainnc) said…
Hi!  I tried emailing you about the possibility of starting a new chat, but it bounced and said your box was full.  When you have some space in your email, could you email me  Thanks!
At 2:49pm on August 29, 2011, Hal Horrocks said…


Is there nothing your not involved in?


Hal Horrocks

At 7:55am on July 14, 2011, James P. LaLone said…


Check out Monica Diesma posting the same message to many people, I think it is spam to get in contact with people. Jim.

At 10:29pm on May 12, 2011, Lawrence Wright said…
Thanks for the comment and encouragement Gena.  This is a wonderful site.  I have to confess that I feel a bit overwhelmed.  Trying to find the right pedagogy to learn this has left me feeling like a deer looking at an oncoming car at night with bright headlights on.   Larry
At 11:16am on February 9, 2011, Ellen Healy said…
Gena, So glad to see you here again. I didn't know you had been gone until it was mentioned one night on the chat. Good news!!!
At 8:26pm on November 10, 2010, Ellen Healy said…
Hi, Gena, I really love the lists of sites you have been posting in the newsletter. They are very helpful, and I just copied the ones from todays' newsletter on military records. One question I have is do you know of any good sites where records of the Spanish-American War are listed?
At 5:31pm on October 27, 2010, Sharon Rollins Pustejovsky said…
Thanks for the welcome! I look forward to using GenealogyWise and getting to know other users, and helping each other as much as possible.

Sharon Pustejovsky




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