Want to learn more about your female ancestors? There is a resource that you may have been overlooking. This is understandable, considering the fact that this particular resource is not one that has been put online in one place for you to dig through. What you need to look for is the recipe contests from old newspapers. Your ancestor might have had a winning recipe!
Food has always been a family affair. The foods that you ate at family dinners were probably ones that reflected your heritage. The recipes for these types of traditional dishes get passed down from one generation to the next.
We also tend to become attached to “comfort foods”, the ones that we were served as kids when we weren’t feeling well (either physically or emotionally). Part of that comfort comes from the memory of having a family member, typically a parent, take good care of you. There are also a lot of foods that we enjoy because they are connected to a religious holiday that our family celebrated.
For generations, the preparation and cooking of food was considered to be “women’s work”. Today, society is more open minded. The cooking shows you watch on TV include both female and male chefs. But, for a long time, recipe contests that were held by newspapers included only female participants. This means that there is potential for you to learn about a female ancestor through a newspaper clipping of one of these contests.
Genealogist Gena Philibert-Ortega notes that newspaper recipe contests might be the only place in which your ancestor had her name published in the paper. There is a chance that the newspaper included a photo of your ancestor, too.
She also points out something you may not be aware of. Some newspapers would take the recipes that were submitted to their recipe contest and publish them in a book. Essentially, they were taking supplemental content, publishing it outside of their newspaper, and selling it for a profit. There are a lot of online blogs that use that same technique today.
Some of the recipe books included not only the name of the woman who submitted the recipe, but also her street address. That information can be very helpful to genealogists who are trying to track down vital records of their female ancestors. It gives a clue about where to start looking for church records and which courthouse might have a copy of your ancestor’s marriage license.
Image by Liz West on Flickr.
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