‘Women in Our Heritage’ at MSV2013 Shenandoah Valley Heritage Day highlights female ancestors

Posted: January 18, 2013

The Winchester Star

Pam Pampe, quilt expert and Museum of the Shenandoah Valley outreach and summer camp coordinator, will present “Quilts: Turn of Two Centuries” during the 3:30 p.m. Saturday panel discussion about women’s traditions and culture.
This archival photograph of two unidentified women was taken around 1890 in Martinsburg, W.Va. “Women in Our Heritage” will be held Saturday and will help participants with ways to research female relatives.

Winchester — Researching ancestors can lead to a sense of history and feeling of connection to the past.

But when people try to discover more about their female ancestors, they often hit a brick wall, said Pamela Pampe, outreach coordinator for the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley.

“There are no documents or very few documents that show women where you can trace them,” said Pampe of Frederick County. “During the Civil War, if a husband went to war, and he had a business and he trusted his wife, . . . you will find her names on records for business. Other than that, you often don’t even find their maiden names.”

To help people interested in learning more about their female ancestors, the museum and the Shenandoah Valley Genealogical Society have geared the 2013 Shenandoah Valley Heritage Day entirely around “Women in Our Heritage,” she said.

The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the museum, 901 Amherst St. The event is free and open to the public, but tickets are limited and will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday.

The theme of this Heritage Day was developed in response to requests by attendees of last year’s event, Pampe said.

“One of the presenters talked about finding your female ancestors,” she said. “There was so much interest generated by that topic that the focus this year really was to answer that need.”

The daylong event will feature two presentations and a panel of speakers talking about what traditions and culture can show about women.

At 10:45 a.m., Constance Potter, archivist from the National Archives in Washington, D.C., will talk about “Gold Star Mothers,” said Rhonda Smith, the museum’s adult and gallery programs coordinator. American Gold Star Mothers is a national organization formed in 1928 and made up of mothers who have lost a son or daughter in the service of their country.

“The success of their organization continues because of the bond of mutual love, sympathy and support of the many loyal and capable and patriotic mothers, who, while sharing their grief and their pride, have channeled their times, efforts and gifts to lessening the pain of others,” said Smith of Frederick County.

At 1:45 p.m. Charles Mason, a certified genealogist and professional researcher, will explain how to research female ancestors, said Julie Armel, the museum’s director of marketing and public relations.

At 3:30 p.m., a panel discussion will focus on women’s traditions and culture, Armel said. Panelists include Pampe, a quilt expert; hair-jewelry collector Kay Cogswell, and Depression-era historian Nancy Thompson.

“When many people think about doing genealogical research, they think about going to books or to archives,” Armel said. “What that panel is going to really illustrate is how material culture — quilts in one’s home or hair jewelry — can be a window into that family’s genealogy and their story.”

Cogswell’s presentation will focus on hair jewelry in the Victorian era, and Thompson will talk about 1930s textiles such as feed sacks and chicken linen, which were used as fabric, Pampe said.

“If you have a piece of hair jewelry that you know belonged to Sally Smith and she was your great-grandmother, why was it important enough to make a piece of jewelry for her hair?” Pampe said. “What was remarkable about her? That might lead people to do interviews with their families to seek out correspondence that she might have written — anything that might tell them more about Sally Smith.”

Pampe will cover what quilts from the 18th and 19th centuries show about women. For instance, red and green quilts were traditional in the 1860s in the South and continued after the Civil War.

If a family has one of those quilts, it might offer loose information on them, she said.

“There are so many clues within textiles and prints in fabrics that can tell you more about it,” Pampe said. “It can be a jumping-off point for genealogical research.”

The panels will draw from the three women’s expertise, and people may ask questions, Pampe said. However, people are asked not to bring individual quilts, hair pieces, or other items to the panel to be looked at as there will not be time.

“They can set up something with us outside. If we want to have them come back in or if they want to see me afterward, they can,” she said.

In addition to the speakers, there will be information tables set up at the museum for people to ask questions and look at their materials, Armel said. Table hosts will include the Library of Virginia, the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, the National Archives and Records Administration, the Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society, the Clarke County Historical Association, and other Shenandoah Valley genealogical societies. Information on researching African-American ancestors will be provided by several host tables.

The museum carries many Shenandoah Valley publications, but these individual organizations will offer more specific resources, she said. There usually are printed or online resources the representatives can recommend, but they also know people within their communities who might be additional resources.

“Someone who is sitting at that information table might not know the answer, but they will know someone in their community that they can put this individual in touch with,” Armel said. “It is a great networking opportunity, both for the researcher and the historical societies.”

For Heritage Day, the Museum Café will serve lunch, tea and dessert from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m., Smith said.

In the event of snow, Heritage Day will take place Jan. 26.

The museum is installing a new Changing Exhibition and renovating the Julian Wood Glass Jr. Gallery. However, it has a renovation special of $5 for adults to visit the Shenandoah Valley history, decorative arts and miniatures galleries, Armel said. Gallery admission is free to members and ages 12 and under.


Shenandoah Valley Heritage Day featuring “Women in Our Heritage” will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, 901 Amherst St. Tickets are free but will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday at the visitor information desk.

For more information, call 540-662-1473, ext. 224, or go to shenandoahmuseum.org.

— Contact Laura McFarland at lmcfarland@winchesterstar.com