Cover of an 1865 cookbook that's been republished by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Cover of an 1865 cookbook that’s been republished by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Recently I heard from Jillian in Arkansas, USA, who wrote about “a recent – and accidental” family history discovery she made in a family cookbook.

“Not long ago, I was listening to archived episodes of your Genealogy Gems podcast where you and a guest were discussing using an address book as a source for research.

“That tidbit stuck with me, and I began to rummage through my things to see if I could find my grandmother’s old exceedingly edited book. No such luck. Just the other night, while trying to decide what to cook for supper, I found something almost as delightful: my great-grandmother passed several cookbooks to me after her death, many with her own notations.

genealogy gems podcast mailboxWhen looking through it, I noticed that the book wasn’t only a cookbook, but a bit of a history book, as well. It was printed by a group of local ladies, and with each section, there is a drawing of a historical home, and an incredibly detailed description, written by the original homeowner, or one of their descendants. The year is published in the front, the community’s history, and a rundown of the prominent citizens.

“None of my direct relatives were listed, but the unexpected breath of facts–the who’s, where’s, when’s–is invaluable to anyone looking for their loved one in that area. I never would’ve considered a cookbook as a source for genealogy research, but there it was, on a shelf, with my great-grandmother’s other books. And of course, I’m scouring them for relatives right now.”

Thanks to Jillian for writing in: click here to check out her family history blog about heritage cookbooks. The podcast episode she mentioned was likely one of our Genealogy Gems book club conversations about She Left Me the Gun, in which the author used her mother’s address book to learn family history.

Do you love the combination of food and family history? Or browsing heritage cookbooks as a window into the past? I do! I invite you to:

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