(Quilt History Research)


photo of Eagle quilt
Four Corner or Mirror Eagle Quilt
Circa 1870 – 1900



(Quilt History Research)

Part One

Part One

Research Tips
Genealogy Tips

Postal Zones, Zip Codes, and Other Post Office Helps

Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Sources

Textile Study Notebook



  • Choose a quilt history research area that interests you
  • Narrow it down until it becomes a topic
  • Start a bibliography right away.
  • Investigate the terms Primary Sources and Secondary Sources
  • Use a variety of information sources.   Books, magazine articles, newspaper articles, videos, journals, websites, etc.
  • If you make copy machine copies of information (such as a newspaper article or a journal entry) for later use at home – write down the bibliography information on what you have copied right away – don’t rely on your memory.
  • Collect up-to-date and accurate information.  You don’t want to start a myth or wind up with egg on your face when your information is challenged.
  • Investigate the terms copyright infringement and plagiarism and don’t do either of them.

If you are interested in an in-depth report on how to do research in quilt
and textile studies go to and check out Kim Wulfert's e-report -
"Threading Your Research Needle."


  • Question all data.
  • Use e-mail when you can.
  • SASE is a MUST with any and all postal inquiries.
  • Long distance research - contact the library in the area you are researching and ask them the best place to start your research in their town or county.
  • Librarians are a researcher’s best friend, but they are not our secretaries so treat them with respect and dignity. Most libraries charge copy and newspaper archive look-up fees.  Most libraries have e-mail, but include a SASE, if you would like them to answer a postal mail inquiry.
  • Some County Clerk or Recorders offices contain records that help with research – Birth, Death, Marriage Certificates.
  • Some State offices contain records that help with research – Birth, Death, Marriage, Military, Incorporation records.
  • Census Records are excellent sources of information, but they are not always accurate so use census information as a starting point, but back it up with birth, death, and marriage certificates etc. whenever possible
  • Obituaries can be found in newspaper archives at libraries, historical societies, and genealogy groups. Some can also be found online
  • Obituaries can help you find birth dates, death dates, ancestors, occupations, organization participation, place of residence, religious affiliations, etc.
  • Write or e-mail ancestors with an interview questionnaire
  • Always include a SASE with any inquiry you make.
  • Always offer to pay for copies or photo reproductions fees
  • If you borrow a photo to copy return it in a timely manner and in the condition it was given to you
  • Newspaper archives contain a wealth of information about people and businesses.
  • Internet Searches can contain a wealth of information – double check your facts.
  • Information Resources:
  • website
  • website
  • WWI Draft Registration Cards
  • Census Records
  • 1850
  • 1860
  • 1870
  • 1880
  • 1890 (many of these record destroyed in a fire)
  • 1900
  • 1910
  • 1920
  • 1930
  • County Clerk and Recorder’s Offices
  • Secretary of State’s Offices
  • Social Security Death Index
  • County Historical Societies
  • State Historical Societies
  • Latter Day Saints Website
  • City Directories
  • Newspaper archives at libraries
  • Genealogy Groups and/or Libraries
  • Ancestor Contacts
  • Obituaries
  • Military Records
  • Church Records
  • Incorporation Records
  • Cemetery Records
  • Internet Searches




It is my hope that a variety of people will stop by this site – from newbie researchers to seasoned pros.  The information below is not for everyone, but it needs to be included on a site that features “research tips.”


What is the difference between Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources?


I think James Cook University in Australia explains it best on this web site:



Notebook Divisions  (*Use Subject Dividers – White ones with tabs you can write one)

A. Time Periods
Pre – 1830       Birth of a Nation
1831 –1860     Heading West
1861 – 1880    Civil War and the First Centennial
1881 – 1900    Turn of the Century
1901 – 1929    WWI and the 1920s
1930 – 1939    The 1930s and the Depression
1940 – 1950    WWII and Post War Years
1951 – 1970    Baby Boomers Grow-up
1971 --             Quilt Revival to Present         

B.  Quilt Classifications  (This is four of many quilt classifications)
Signatures       Indigos            Quilt Kits        Patriotic

C.  Miscellaneous Information   (Categories here on endless)
Quilt Care Information
Dating Quilts Information
Book Lists for books, which don’t fall into any other category. 

D.  Your Quilt Biography
Tell your “quilt” story – The Who, What, Where, When, and How of how you became interested in quilts and quilt history.  Include a photograph of yourself.


Fabric Samples – Collect fabric swatches (antique, reproduction, or scanned photos of fabric).  Save them in plastic sheet protectors – e.g. baseball card, business card, or coin holder sheets.  Put a plastic sheet in each Time Period and Quilt Classification Section.

Photos – Collect photos of quilts -- photos you take at quilt history meetings or scanned photos from books.  Save them in plastic sheet protectors.  Put a photo plastic sheet protector in each Time Period and Quilt Classification Section.

Book Lists – Create a book list for each Time Period and Quilt Classification.

Something to think about:  If you could only have four quilt history reference books in your library, consider these:  Clues in the Calico by Barbara Brackman, Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns by Barbara Brackman, Dating Fabrics – A Color Guide 1800 – 1960 by Eileen Jahnke Trestain, and any book by Merikay Waldvogel (or Barbara Brackman).  I’m also partial to any book on Illinois quilt history.




Dating Quilt Ephemera and Companies


The mailing address on your undated quilt ephemera might be able to help you narrow down the date of your antique and vintage quilt and art needlework booklet, pamphlet, or catalog or the quilt, art needlework, or textile company you are researching.


Postal Zones   (1943-1963)


Susan Wildemuth

1116 Mockingbird Lane

Chicago 2, Illinois


During the period between 1943 and 1963 many addresses in large cities had a one or two digit number following the city name.  These numbers were called postal zones and were instituted in 1943 during WWII and lasted until 1963.


Zip Codes (1963-Present)


Susan Wildemuth

1116 Mockingbird Lane

Chicago, Illinois  60600


By 1963, the post office knew it needed to come up with a plan to speed handling and delivery of their letter mail.  The Zoning Improvement Plan (ZIP) created zip codes which went into effect July 1, 1963 and remain in place today.




If you want to take the time to investigate when stamps were issued, they can help you narrow down the date for your research project or ephemera.  When I don’t know the answer to a question, I go right to the source and e-mail an expert – find a stamp collector in your community or online and ask if they can help you.  They will probably want to see a scan or Xerox copy of your stamp so have it ready.




Check the postmarks -- this one seems simple, but is often overlooked.


City Directories


Many medium to large communities had city directories which contain the address for your company.  It should be noted that many of the large communities like Chicago stopped doing city directories early on, but average size communities such as Elgin, Illinois continued the practice for years.  Call or e-mail the reference librarian in the community that your company was in and they should be able to tell you “if” and “what years” they had a city directories in their communities.