March 25, 2017

Articles by Sunny Morton

Victorian Thanksgiving Recipes: Homemade Cranberry Sauce and Hearty Vegetable Hash

victorian-cranberry-sauce-recipeVictorian lifestyle expert and author Sarah Chrisman shares favorite–and authentic–recipes for tangy homemade cranberry sauce (served hot or cold) and a hearty vegetable hash.

Sarah Chrisman, who lives every day like it’s Victorian times and writes about it in several books, is the current featured author for the Genealogy Gems Book Club. She’ll join both the Genealogy Gems podcast and the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast in December to talk about Victorian-style holidays and her books, including This Victorian Life.

In the coming weeks, Sarah will share her favorite mouth-watering, made-from-scratch Victorian recipes here on the Genealogy Gems blog. Some of her recipes come straight from cookbooks of the time period, and others she has adapted for modern kitchens and tastes. Below, she shares a simple recipe for tangy cranberry sauce, simmered from whole, fresh cranberries, and a hot, hearty vegetable hash side dish, which Sarah calls “a good way to use up leftovers after the holiday!”

Cranberry Sauce

cranberry-sauce-sarah-chrisman“Pick over and wash two cupfuls of fine cranberries.  Put them in an earthen dish, pour over a cup of sugar, add a cupful of boiling water, cover, and cook gently nearly an hour.  Serve hot or cold.”-From Catering for Two,  by Alice L. James. G.P. Putnam’s Sons: New York and London. (n.d.) p. 178.

Note: the above edition of Catering for Two isn’t dated, but a first edition found online is dated 1898.

 

Vegetable Hash

Image courtesy of Sarah Chrisman.

Image courtesy of Sarah Chrisman.

“Chop rather coarsely the remains of vegetables left from a boiled dinner, such as cabbage, parsnips, potatoes, etc., sprinkle over them a little pepper; place in a saucepan or frying-pan over the fire; put in a piece of butter the size of a hickory nut; when it begins to melt, tip the dish so as to oil the bottom, and around the sides; then uput in the chopped vegetables; pour in a spoonful or two of hot water from the tea-kettle; cover quickly so as to keep in the steam.  When heated thoroughly take off the cover and stir occasionally until well cooked.  Serve hot.  Persons fond of vegetables will relish this dish very much.” –The Capitol Cook Book, 1896, p. 188

More Recipes for a Very Victorian Holiday Season

victorian-thanksgiving-turkeyClick here to see last week’s Victorian-era recipe for a rich roasted turkey with chestnut stuffing and gravy. (We even included a quick how-to video tutorial for trussing the turkey!)

Follow us in the coming weeks on the Genealogy Gems Facebook page, Pinterest or Instagram for more Victorian recipes! Genealogy Gems Book Club featured author, Sarah Chrisman (This Victorian Life: Modern Adventures in 19th-Century Culture, Cooking, Fashion and Technologies) will be serving up a series of favorites in celebration of her coming Book Club interviews on the free Genealogy Gems Podcast and Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast in December.

 

This Victorian Pumpkin Pie Recipe is Light and Delicate

victorian-pumpkin-pie-recipeThis Victorian pumpkin pie recipe calls for milk instead of cream, an economical choice that results in a lighter, more delicate pie than we often taste today.

This holiday season, Victorian expert Sarah Chrisman is sharing her favorite holiday recipes with us. This week: a Victorian take on the classic pumpkin pie. Reformatted in modern recipe style, here is the original recipe for 3 pies, followed by Sarah’s version, adapted for modern cooks making a single pie.

Victorian Pumpkin Pie Recipe

Image courtesy of Sarah Chrisman

Image courtesy of Sarah Chrisman

Ingredients:
1 qt rich milk (a little cream is a great improvement)
3 cups boiled and strained pumpkin
2 cups sugar
little piece of butter
4 eggs
1 Tbsp ginger and cinnamon (scant)
Rich crust

1. Mix milk, pumpkin, sugar, butter, ginger and cinnamon.
2. Separate the eggs. Beat the yolks thoroughly and stir into above mixture.
3. Beat the whites to a froth and add to mixture just before putting the pie in the oven.
4. Have a rich crust and bake in a quick oven.
Should you desire to use squash instead, you can make equally as good a pie as with the pumpkin. Makes 3 pies.
– From The Women’s Exchange Cookbook. 1890s, p. 250.

Sarah’s version of Victorian Pumpkin Pie:
Ingredients
Pie crust for 10″ pie
1 cup pumpkin, cooked and mashed
1 tsp. butter
1 cup milk + 1/3 cup heavy cream
1 egg yolk
2 egg whites
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon

1. Bake the pie crust unfilled, with pie weights holding down the middle, for about 7 minutes. (If the filling is added to a raw pie crust then baked, it makes the crust a bit soggy.)
2. Cook and mash the pumpkin.
3. Stir in the butter while the pumpkin is still warm. Let this mixture cool thoroughly (preferably overnight).
4. Mix in the ginger, cinnamon, milk, cream, and egg yolk.
5. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Gently fold into the pumpkin mixture and pour it into the pie shell.
6. Bake 40 minutes (or until edges are set) at 375 degrees.  Cool overnight before cutting.

Here’s what Sarah has to say about this recipe: “This pumpkin pie is made primarily with milk instead of cream for economy’s sake—milk being much cheaper than cream, then as now.  The result is a much lighter and more delicate pumpkin pie than most. With very little cream it doesn’t have the heavy, custard texture of most pumpkin pie, but instead gets its body from the egg whites.”

womans-exchange-cookbook“This recipe comes from an 1890s Woman’s Exchange cookbook. (My copy is in pretty bad shape and is unfortunately missing an exact date to document its publication.) Women’s Exchanges were organized by middle- and upper-class Victorian women as a way to help poorer women earn money and improve their situations. The organizers would suggest which products were able to be made at home and most marketable in their particular community; then they provided a venue for the sale of those products. Foods of all sorts were particularly popular products for sale at Women’s Exchanges. Recipes in Women’s Exchange cookbooks were designed especially with economy in mind, so that the financially challenged women making them could a.) afford the ingredients and b.) realize the biggest possible profit when they sold the finished product.” 

Check out these other Victorian recipes we’ve published as part of our Victorian holiday celebration with Genealogy Gems Book Club author Sarah Chrisman. Sarah will join Lisa Louise Cooke on the December Genealogy Gems and Genealogy Gems Premium podcasts to talk about what it’s like to “live in the past” in her chosen Victorian lifestyle.

More Victorian and holiday recipes

cranberry-sauce-sarah-chrismanRoast Thanksgiving turkey with chestnut stuffing and gravy

Sarah’s homemade cranberry sauce and hearty vegetable hash

Lisa Alzo’s Christmas cut-out cookies

 

Chronicling America New Records – More Digital Newspapers Coming

single_newspaper_18452Chronicling America has added four more states to its coverage–and opened the door to 150+ additional years of newspaper coverage.

Chronicling America is the Library of Congress’ online portal for digitized newspapers. Here you can search nearly 11.4 million pages of historical U.S. newspapers for free. There’s more good news: the site has added four new states to its list of contributors. and now allows partners to contribute much older–and newer–content.

Four new state partners were recent awarded funding to contribute content: Alaska, Colorado, Maine and New Jersey. The organizations representing each state will curate, digitize and contribute content they think best represents the historical variety and diversity of their respective states. Watch for newspaper pages from these states to appear beginning in 2017.

The span of digital newspapers coverage at Chronicling America has also expanded. Until now, you could only do full-text searches of papers dating from 1836 to 1922. But in July, a press release announced that the site now accepts content dating back to 1690, when the first U.S. paper appeared, and forward nearly a half-century to 1963.

Previously, digitized papers were cut off at 1922. A press release explains that “…anything published before 1923 is in the public domain. From 1923 to 1963, materials fell into the public domain if their publishers did not renew their copyrights. This means that digitized newspapers published from 1923 to 1963 may be added to Chronicling America if state partners can prove that the newspapers are not under copyright.”

The National Gazette, 23 April 1792. Online at Chronicling America; click to view.

The National Gazette, 23 April 1792. Online at Chronicling America; click to view.

It will take about a year for states to start adding older or newer papers, if they choose. But the Library of Congress has already started. It’s published a new collection of papers from the Federalist era, or the first three U.S. presidencies. This is more of a historical contribution than a genealogical one, because the papers are being chosen for what they tell us about politics of the day. Local news and things like births, marriages and deaths weren’t as commonly reported back then, anyway. But the Library of Congress will also be adding recent newspapers from the Washington, D.C. era in the near future.

In other words, Chronicling America digitized newspaper content continues to grow. Keep checking back for mentions of your ancestors and their stories!

Read the scoop on using newspapers for genealogy in Lisa Louise Cooke’s book How to Find Your Family History in U.S. Newspapers, available in print and in e-book format. You’ll learn what kinds of information you might discover (way more than obituaries!) and where to look for online and offline newspaper sources. Packed with helpful worksheets and directories of online newspaper resources, both free and subscription-based.

Here’s a 10-minute video lecture on Chronicling America: what it is and how to use it:

 

A Victorian Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe

Victorian Thanksgiving Turkey RecipeIn honor of our Genealogy Gems Book Club featured author Sarah Chrisman, and her book This Victorian Life, we are publishing a number of Victorian inspired delectable recipes and other sumptuous ideas. This Victorian Thanksgiving turkey recipe celebrates how the holiday came into its own during the Victorian era, complete with a rich, moist roast turkey at the center of the table.

Thanksgiving became a national holiday in the U.S. in 1863, during the Civil War. Over the next few decades, festive cooks dressed up the Thanksgiving turkey with whatever flavors were available to them in season, such as chestnuts, sausage, dried cranberries or other fruits and even oysters!

This recipe for roast turkey with chestnut stuffing is edited slightly from the Fannie Farmer 1896 Cookbook, which you can read on Google Books (click here for more Google Books search tips). We’ve tweaked the wording slightly, separated the instructions into numbered steps and added the modern ingredient list to make it an easier read for the modern cook.

Victorian Thanksgiving Turkey with Chestnut Stuffing and Gravy

fannie-farmer-1896-cookbookRoast Turkey

Ingredients:
10-pound turkey
Salt
1/3 cup butter and 1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 1/2 cups boiling water, divided
Parsley or celery tips (for garnish)

1. Dress, clean, stuff and truss a ten-pound turkey. (See quick how-to video tutorial below.) Place on its side on rack in a dripping-pan.

2. Rub entire surface with salt, and spread breast, legs, and wings with 1/3 cup butter, rubbed until creamy and mixed with flour.
3. Place in a hot oven, and when flour on turkey begins to brown, reduce heat, baste with fat in pan, and add boiling water.
4. Continue basting every 15 minutes until turkey is cooked, which will require about 3 hours. For basting, use 1/2 cup butter melted in 1/2 cup boiling water, and after this is used, baste with fat in pan.
5. During cooking turn turkey frequently, that it may brown evenly. If turkey is browning too fast, cover with buttered paper [aluminum foil] to prevent burning.
6. Remove strings and skewers before serving. Garnish with parsley or celery tips.

Chestnut Stuffing

chestnutsIngredients:
3 cups French chestnuts
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/4 cup cream
1 cup cracker crumbs

1. Shell and blanch chestnuts.
2. Cook in boiling salted water until soft.
3. Drain and mash, using a potato ricer [masher].
4. Add 1/2 the butter, salt, pepper and cream.
5. Melt remaining butter, mix with cracker crumbs, then combine mixtures.

Gravy

Ingredients:
Turkey drippings
6 Tbsp flour
3 cups turkey stock
salt and pepper to taste
optional: finely-chopped giblets or 3/4 cup cooked and mashed chestnuts

1. Pour off liquid in pan in which turkey has been roasted.
2. From liquid, skim off 6 Tbsp fat. Return to pan and brown with flour.
3. Gradually add stock, in which the giblets, neck and tips of wings have been cooked, or use liquor [liquid] left in pan.
4. Cook 5 minutes, season with salt and pepper; and strain.
5. For giblet gravy, add to the above giblets (heart, liver, and gizzard) finely chopped. For chestnut gravy, add chestnuts to 2 cups thin turkey gravy.

this-victorian-lifeWatch this blog (or follow us on the Genealogy Gems Facebook page, Pinterest or Instagram) in the coming weeks! Genealogy Gems Book Club featured author, Sarah Chrisman (This Victorian Life: Modern Adventures in 19th-Century Culture, Cooking, Fashion and Technologies) will be serving up a series of her favorite mouthwatering Victorian-era recipes in celebration of her coming Book Club interviews on the free Genealogy Gems Podcast and Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast in December.

The Victorian Bicycles Your Ancestors May Have Ridden

victorian-bicycles-featured-imageVictorian bicycles like the “Ordinary” high-wheel and the woman’s racing tricycle were anything but ordinary! Check out this video footage of our Genealogy Gems Book Club featured author Sarah Chrisman and her husband Gabriel on their high-wheels–and Gabriel’s demonstrations of how to ride a high-wheel Victorian bicycle.

Sarah and Gabriel Chrisman live like it’s Victorian times. Their dress, home life, household appliances, daily technology use (except for communicating with the rest of the world as needed) and even their daily transportation choices are all driven by what would have been done in the 1880s and 1890s.

Victorian Bicycles About Town

Check out this footage (below) of the couple “about town” on their Victorian bicycles. Gabriel launches himself onto a high-wheel “Ordinary” style bicycle. He rides a modern replica of an 1885 Victor with a 52″ wheel (the bicycle is sized to his leg length, like a man’s trousers) and an 1887 Singer Challenge. Sarah trails along on a modern re-creation inspired by a Coventry Rudge Rotary tricycle from the 1880s. They talk about what they do and why–and the message they hope others will take away from their unusual lifestyle.

Victorian Bicycles vs. Present Day Cycling

Gabriel has over 20-years’ experience working in a bike shop (a modern one), and enjoys comparing past and present cycling models. In an interview at Bicycling.com, he explains: “I’m a long-time cyclist with lower back issues—I can sit on this bike and be perfectly vertical and upright, which is wonderful for comfort, and you get a better view. One of the things I always used road riding for is meditation, and riding a high-wheel bike is an excellent bike for that—it’s just a magical experience gliding along and feeling the rhythm of everything.”

Below, Gabriel demonstrates how to mount his 1887 Singer Challenge high-wheel bicycle:

And here he shows off just a little, riding with one leg (we’re impressed):

Victorian Bicylces for the Ladies

A couple seated on an 1886 Coventry Rotary Quadracycle for two. Wikimedia Commons image in the public domain; click to view.

Victorian Bicycles: A couple seated on an 1886 Coventry Rotary Quadracycle for two. Wikimedia Commons image in the public domain; click to view.

Sarah’s tricycle was originally made to accommodate ladies’ fashions of the day: long, full skirts that would have gotten caught in the spokes of an Ordinary and pantalet drawers with open crotches that would have revealed more than a lady would prefer if she were seated on a taller Ordinary. A “bicycle built for two” quadracycle version was also made, shown here.

“There were a number of different styles of tricycles in the nineteenth-century,” Sarah explains on the couple’s website. “On many models the rider sat between two large wheels and a third, smaller wheel was seen out front or behind the rider. However finely they were made though, all the metal and solid rubber on those large wheels adds up to a lot of weight, so an asymmetrical model was developed. The Rudge Rotary (which inspired mine) was known for its lightness and speed and gained a reputation as a racing trike. The right-hand grip turns the two smaller wheels in tandem with each other: They steer it. The big wheel drives the machine: It gets turned when the treadles go ’round.”

This Victorian Life at Genealogy Gems

this-victorian-lifeLearn more about Sarah and Gabriel’s unusual lifestyle in Sarah’s memoir, This Victorian Life. She will discuss that book and Victorian life in general in an upcoming Genealogy Gems Book Club interview with host Lisa Louise Cooke. You can catch highlights from that conversation in our free December epiosde of The Genealogy Gems Podcast, and the exclusive full length interview on the Genealogy Gems Premium podcast (episode 142). Not a Premium member yet? Click here to learn more about Premium membership benefits–not least of which is access to unique conversations such as this one!

Bonus Genealogy Gems Book Club recommendations: Sarah has also written other books about Victorian life, including a “Cycling Club Romance” series inspired by their own experience with the Victorian-era cycling craze. Click on the book covers below to learn more about them. (And if you choose to purchase, thanks for doing so using these links, which support more free content like this.)

victorian-secretstrue-ladies-and-proper-gentlement-sarah-chrisman first-wheel-in-town-sarah-chrisman

genealogy book club family history reading

Do You Know about Browse-Only Collections at Ancestry and Findmypast

Browse-only collections at Ancestry and other genealogy websites are sometimes viewed as inaccessible, but they are actually a hidden treasure. Learn how to access these browse-only collections at Ancestry and Findmypast and open the lid on your family history research.

browse-only collections at Ancestry

Not long ago, Amie Tennant blogged about how to access browse-only content at FamilySearch.org. Did you know that both Ancestry.com and Findmypast have browse-only collections of digitized records, too? Browse-only collections aren’t indexed yet, so they are not searchable by name, but they are a treasure chest of information. Though it might take some time to locate a record within one of these collections, it’s better than renting microfilm or traveling to a far off location!

Here are a couple of tips for accessing these browse-only collections to whet your appetite.

Browse-only Collections at Ancestry

Unfortunately, Ancestry.com doesn’t make it quite as easy as FamilySearch to find browse-only databases, or others that are partially-indexed.

From the main menu, select Search > Card Catalog. Use the filters along the left side to search for the collections you want by record type, location, and date. When you click on a collection, you will be able to select from the browse options along the right side. If it’s fully or partially indexed, you can also do name searches within just that collection.

Here’s a video tutorial by Crista Cowan from Ancestry.com on how to find and browse their browse-only collections:

A series of digitized photo albums by Canada’s Department of the Interior between 1892 and 1917 is an example of one of these browse-only collections. The collection description includes useful instructions such as: “At the beginning of each album, you will find a table of contents with a brief description of each photograph and the photograph number. Use these tables to help you browse to the photograph of interest.” You can browse through the images like you would if you were using microfilm or leafing through a book.

Browse-Only Collections at Findmypast

I got a tip from a Findmypast rep on how to find the browse-only collections on their website. Just go under Search > A-Z of Record Sets. Enter the search term “browse.” It’s really that easy!

browse-only collections at Ancestry

A portion of a document in the Kindertransport browse-only collection at Findmypast.

A digitized collection of Kindertransport documents is among the browse-only collections at Findmypast. Kindertransport rescued children from Nazi-occupied areas during World War II. There is a lot of information about refugee children in this collection such as who was taking care of them, how much they were being paid, and reports on the medical condition of refugee children from Germany. If Kindertransport was a part of your family’s past, these look like a must-read. Maybe I should have said, a must browse!.

More Tips on Searching Your Favorite Genealogy Websites

Ancestry one stop shoppingSearching Browse-Only Records at FamilySearch.org

4 Tips for Getting the Most from Ancestry.com

Using Ancestry Library Edition and Other Genealogy Databases at Your Public Library (in Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode 125 (Premium Membership required to listen)

5 Stunning WWII Photos of the London Blitz: Everyone Brave is Forgiven

WWII_Blitz_FeatureImage

Check out these compelling WWII photos! These remind me of the vivid scenes in the best-selling novel Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave.

genealogy book club family history readingRecently, I’ve been inspired and riveted by the stories in Everyone Brave is Forgiven, the current Genealogy Gems Book Club featured title. Though author Chris Cleave writes so compellingly you feel like you’re there, I love pictures. So, I curated this mini-exhibit of five stunning WWII photos of London during The Blitz. I have also included a bonus sixth photograph of Malta where part of the book takes place.

[Note: click on images to see original files and full source citation information.]

WWII Photos from London

View_from_St_Paul's_Cathedral_after_the_Blitz WWII photos

View of London after the German Blitz, 29 December 1940.

Blitz_West_End_Air_Shelter WWII photos

London Underground station, in use as an air-raid shelter during World War II.

WWII photos children made homeless

Children of an eastern suburb of London, made homeless by the random bombs of the Nazi night raiders, waiting outside the wreckage of what was their home. September 1940.

WWII photos The_Reconstruction_of_'an_Incident'-_Civil_Defence_Training_in_Fulham,_London,_1942_D7917

During a 1942 training exercise, ambulance crew and civil defense workers place a “casualty” into an ambulance. Women comprised most of the crew of the London Auxiliary Ambulance Service during WWII.

WWII photos Blitz_Canteen-_Women_of_the_Women's_Voluntary_Service_Run_a_Mobile_Canteen_in_London,_England,_1941_D2173

Blitz Canteen: Women of the Women’s Voluntary Service run a Mobile Canteen in London, 1941.

BombDamageMalta WWII photos

Service personnel and civilians clear up debris on a heavily bomb-damaged street in Valletta, Malta on 1 May 1942.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven cover imageI hope you get a chance to read Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave and check out our exclusive interview with him in the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode 139 (find an excerpt in the free Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 195.)

Do you have a friend who is a WWII buff? Why not share this post and book with them, after all, it’s nice to share!

share

Atlas of Historical County Boundaries: Where are you?!

The online Atlas of Historical County Boundaries is a go-to resource for determining old U.S. county boundaries. Its popular, interactive map will re-launch later this fall. Meanwhile, you can still access county boundary data and even Google Earth compatible maps.

For quite some time, the online U.S. Atlas of Historical County Boundaries has flashed the following message at the top of its webpage:

Atlas of Historical County Boundaries error message

The first time I saw this message, I panicked. This is my favorite resource for quickly researching historical county boundaries in the U.S. The interactive map feature lets you click on a state and then on a county to see its boundaries on any exact date. I realized the rich data that feeds the interactive map is still there and you can still get to it.

Several months later, I noticed the out of order message was still there. I emailed the Newberry Library in Chicago which hosts the Atlas to see what they could share with Genealogy Gems about the Atlas and its future.

Curator Matt Rutherford replied right away: “We love Genealogy Gems! It’s such an excellent podcast.” (Lisa says “Thanks! We love you, too!”)

He explained that the online Atlas was originally meant to serve a small group of historians. When the interactive map’s code became outdated, the thought was to just let it die. He credits genealogists with giving it a future.

Atlas of historical county boundaries quote“Newberry heard loudly and clearly from the genealogy community about their love for the online Atlas,” says Matt. “It is because of the popularity of the Atlas among genealogists and due to Newberry’s commitment to serving the genealogy community that [we’ve] decided to dedicate resources to the interactive map’s redevelopment.”

When will the interactive map be back? “We do anticipate a launch in the fall, but we don’t have an exact date yet,” he says. “It takes time and funding to redevelop an interactive tool that is as data-rich as the Atlas. Once we got ‘under the hood,’ we realized that the redevelopment needed to be more extensive than originally anticipated.” (Genealogy Gems Premium website members can hear the full scoop from Matt in the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode #137.)

How to find county boundaries with the Atlas of Historical County Boundaries in three steps

Atlas_County_Boundaries_1

1. From the Atlas home page, click on the state of interest from the national interactive map.

2. From the state page, click on View Index of Counties and Equivalents. This will show you all current and past county names. (See image.)

3. From this page, click on your targeted county. You’ll find a timeline of that county’s boundary changes.

Use the timeline to discover what county your ancestors belonged to at any given time. Perhaps you’ll discover you should actually be looking for an ancestor’s marriage record or video how to use google earth for genealogyprobate in a parent county, one that existed there before the current county, or in a successor county later carved out of this one.

Google Earth Bonus: The Atlas of Historical Boundary Changes state pages include downloadable maps compatible with Google Earth and Google Maps. If you are not using Google Earth for genealogy yet, watch Lisa Louise Cooke’s free video to see how and why you want to use this amazing 3D map of the world for your family history!

More Gems on Using Interactive Maps for Genealogy

Illuminating Time-Lapse Videos Show Our Changing World

Historical Maps of New York City and More Now Free Online

Family Maps and Migration Routes Traced with New Tech Tools

Research WWII Ancestors in Action, At Home, Under Fire

Research WWII ancestors with these three tips. The experiences of our ancestors during World War II add a rich texture to their personal history. Whether in the military, on the home-front, or those living in neighborhoods that became battle zones, find their stories with these helpful tips.

Research WWII Ancestors

Everyone Brave is Forgiven cover imageIn Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave, our current Genealogy Gems Book Club title, we read about different ways Londoners experienced World War II. A soldier shipped out to Malta, a female War Office recruit, a child evacuee, a civilian running regularly for underground shelters as bombs fell; these are just a few of the book’s poignant stories.

That diversity of experience was part of our ancestors’ lives, too. Some served in the military and some kept the home fires burning. Some even dodged bombs or bullets in their own neighborhoods! Many experienced the horrors of concentration, POW, or other types of interment camps.

As many different experiences as they had, there are just as many ways to research their lives during WWII. Here are several scattered examples of the kinds of records and resources you may find. Do a little of your own exploring to see whether the kinds of materials below exist for your WWII ancestors.

Research WWII Ancestors: The Soldier

finding your fathers war

Research WWII Ancestors: On the Home Front and in Harm’s Way

Pauline Moore c1941 prob Richmond, CA

Lisa’s grandmother heading off to work at Kaiser’s Richmond Shipyards, c. 1941

Millions of civilians’ lives were directly affected by the war. Many women entered jobs for the first time in their lives or began doing new types of volunteer work. Families faced rationing, price controls, and blackouts. Some unfortunates found themselves in the path of the war.

This article from the U.S. National Archives has an excellent review of the kinds of online and offline resources you can read to learn more about U.S. home front activities. Reading Everyone Brave is Forgiven will introduce you (in a re-imagined way) to the experience of Londoners caught in The Blitz. You can also explore The Blitz in this interactive map of the bombings.

Speaking of maps, one resource your home-front family would have used to follow troop movements and the progress of the war were the Stanley Turner maps. His collection contained a unique series of action-packed maps. These can add a fascinating and colorful layer of understanding to your family’s experience during this time.

Must-reads: The Genealogy Gems Book Club

genealogy book club family history readingThe Genealogy Gems Book Club is an exceptional virtual book club for everyone. Every quarter, we recommend a fiction or nonfiction title that has a compelling slant for family history lovers. Then, we interview the author and share the conversation with you. Right now, we’re talking about Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave, who joins us in a couple of weeks on the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast (there’s an advance teaser in the free Genealogy Gems podcast episode 195.) Watch for these episodes and check out other titles we’ve recommended in The Genealogy Gems Book Club!