Great-Great-Grandmothers of Invention
4/1/2004
Do creative juices flow through your family tree? Discover your inventive ancestors — and get inspired by their ingenuity — using resources from the US patent and trademark office.
 
My friend Dan is not very handy, but his relatives always claimed there'd been a "great tinkerer" in his past. Imagine my friend's surprise when he unearthed US patent number 1,724,221, issued to his forebear, Dante Raso — who, it turns out, invented the pilot light used in gas stoves.

Is this kind of inventive history waiting to be discovered in your family tree? Don't worry — you needn't be related to Edison or the Wright brothers to find a family inventor. Since 1790, millions of otherwise ordinary people have registered their tools and gadgets, submitted their songs and stories, or otherwise used the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) <www.uspto.gov> to document their creative efforts.

Among the nation's oldest federal record bureaus and established "to assist such persons as invent or discover any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter," USPTO repositories today hold millions of documents filled with priceless genealogical details. If most records chronicle peoples' lives, these preserve their hopes and dreams — their visions for the future.

Inventing a nation