Friday, December 31, 2010

Playing Favorites

It did not take me long to pick out my own favorite posts from the past year; there weren’t many. Actually, there were five, or, if you count each post of a four-part series, eight. It’s not that I don’t care for most of the other posts (said the mother to her pouting children); it’s just that not many particularly stood out for me.

My blog is a labor of love, a way of sharing with others who share my love of genealogy and a medium to get the cousin bait out there. So I don’t always try to “knock one out of the ballpark.” I do make extra efforts for Memory Monday posts and Carnival of Genealogy entries, but the driving reason behind this is to write down my memories in the case of the former and to write down my research processes and results in the case of the latter (heartfelt thanks to Jasia to providing the inspiration and the prod to do this).

My quick review of last year’s posts reveals one of the reasons that my writing plan for next year includes more blog posts on my research: other than Friday newsletter summaries, there weren’t many posts on this subject. I don’t count Surname Saturday; that’s pure cousin bait and does not address “Here is why this family is interesting/difficult/surprising” or “Here’s how I did it.” The newsletter summaries may continue, but I’m hoping to have some kind of weekly “This Week’s Research Problem” feature.

Here are the five:

Ode to My Family’s History: Through the Lens of Gilbert and Sullivan

This almost did not get written. I cannot write poetry – but lyrics to catchy tunes, that’s another matter. A few early tries yielded a couple of lines for several different tunes. I almost gave up. Then the Long Boring Meeting happened. Notebook came out. Pencil flew. Inspiration combined with silliness was covered by an earnest expression, and the various presenters and speakers thought I was fascinated by their golden words.

Memory Monday: The Tree in Our Basement

The number of responses to this surprised me. It was one of those minor things that had more significance for my family than we realized at the time.

From the Will to the Estate Packet: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Definitely a labor of love: A write-up of one of my most exciting and astounding research discoveries. However, procrastination often smothers inspiration. I give all credit to Jasia’s Carnival of Genealogy at Creative Gene for the fact that this series ever saw the light.

Greenville Love

This was the companion piece to “From the Will to the Estate Packet.” My first research trip turned out to be the Best Vacation Ever, even though I spent a lot of it in the Greenville County Public Library.

Memory Monday: The Flower Bowl

Another surprise post. Little things loom large.

This will probably be my last post of 2010, so I would like to wish a Very Happy New Year to all of the readers of this blog. In the coming year, may you find the time to enjoy your families and do your research, enjoy the good health you will need to do both, make some amazing discoveries and smash at least one big brick wall.

Friday Newsletter and Follow News: 31 December 2010

This Week in Genea-Blogging

It wasn't an easy trip

Linda Gartz tells an exciting story of her grandfather Joseph Gartz’ trip to America in “Terror Atop the Train” at Family Archaeologist.

My heroine!

I wanna be a mobile scanner warrior girl like Midge Frazel. Check out the “Mobile Warrior Kit” at Granite in My Blood.

Blogging Buddies Build a Better Research Plan

Amy Coffin and Denise Levenick have paired up to help one another accomplish their 2011 genealogy resolutions; read about it in “Blogging Buddies and Genealogy Resolutions” at We Tree and “Blogging Buddies and Genealogy Resolutions, report from the West Coast Partner” at The Family Curator.

Where to put the family tree

I found Dick Eastman’s post “From the In-box: Which Online Software to Use?” at Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter very helpful, since I hear a lot about the various online sites for posting family trees but don’t really understand the differences. Eastman divides them into “Contribute to Someone Else’s Database,” “Own Your Own Database,” and “A Blended Approach: Control a Database that Belongs to Someone Else.”

Neat stuff for the iPad

Check out “iPad Apps to Try” at Maureen Taylor’s Photo Detective. I’m not one of those who received an iPad for Christmas (I did receive a MacBook Pro, however) or already had one, but I plan on getting one eventually.

Oh, yeah, those are resolutions I could keep

One of my favorite New Year’s resolutions review posts: “New Year’s Resolutions Redux” at The Genealogy Gals. Don’t read this with a full mouth or full anything else.

Primary, shimary

James Tanner at Genealogy’s Star makes some provocative (and, in this blogger’s view, overdue) observations regarding how we should treat “primary” and “secondary” sources in “Primary, Secondary, or what?”

For more suggested blog reading, check out Follow Friday: Around the Blogosphere at Susan Petersen's Long Lost and "Some neat Genea-bloggers posts for today" at Randy Seaver's Genea-Musings.

Happy First Blogoversary to Linda McCauley at Documenting the Details!

Happy Third Blogoversary to Tonia at Tonia’s Roots!

My Research Week

Um, well, better than last week. I did some stuff. Bits and pieces, but at least it was something. A lot of the focus was on some "offshoot" families, as in, there were people who married into my lines whom I considered to be of interest, so I also looked into their other spouses and the children by those spouses. Even though they are not blood relations, I still consider them to be of interest. The next area I plan to work on this weekend is taking care of genealogy correspondence - I'm seriously behind there.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010 and 2011: Review and Preview – 101st COG

The topic for the 101st edition of the Carnival of Genealogy is: My genealogy research/writing plan for 2011. Figure out what you think you can accomplish in 2011 and write it up on your blog.

Well. This is more serious than New Year’s genealogy resolutions, which I usually just break, anyway. To tell the truth, I took a peek at last year’s resolutions, and that actually helped me to formulate a plan, because I can see where I tend to fall short and what kinds of resolutions actually get done. And there is a second phenomenon at work here: Last year’s work and accomplishments determine and create many of this year’s to-dos.

For instance, one of my accomplishments last year was to take my first genealogy research trip (which, significantly, was not on my resolution list or in my plans – it was a spur-of-the-moment thing after my cousin got in touch with me). It was very successful, which meant that my cousins and I found a lot of material. Now recording, analyzing, and exploiting that material has to be one of the main tasks on my research and writing plan for 2011.

I saw from my 2010 resolutions that I am very weak at the transcription thing. This is a necessary chore – as in, I have to do it but it is not going to be a lot of fun. Part of my writing plan is going to be to use the Amanuensis Monday/Transcription Tuesday prompt to keep me on track with transcription. Another writing resolution was to do more research-related posts – this will be the other part of my writing plan.

I carried out the resolution for finishing inputting information on the Joseph Madison Carroll Norman family, but have only made a bare start on the Hiram Brinlee, Sr. family – this must get done this year. I did more work on my Lizzie Smith brickwall, but almost nothing on the Elisha Lewis-Rosannah Dalrymple family.

Yet another resolution was to take advantage of my Footnote subscription – I did that fairly well and have to continue, primarily in digging up everything I can on my 4g-grandfather William Lewis’ Revolutionary War record so that my husband can use it to find out more about his time as a British prisoner. And there is a parallel this year – I now have a Genealogy Bank subscription, which has proven very useful and needs to be used consistently in my research.

Another “unplanned accomplishment” was the progress that was made on Floyd family research. Much of this was due to a “cousin ex machina” e-mail from a distant cousin that contained invaluable information on George Floyd’s family and scans of family letters. This spurred me and my Dallas Floyd cousins to do more research, which resulted in pages of court transcripts and newspaper articles … that have to be transcribed and analyzed. Again, unexpected progress was made but resulted in more work to be done.

My first resolution was to make time for my research and writing, and that will be critical to the success of my research and writing plan. Part of the solution is to make more efficient use of my time. For example, earlier this year I tried to carve out more research time by making my Follow Friday posts (which are, admittedly, pretty time-consuming) more of an occasional thing. So when I started using the early evening hours for research instead of working on the post, I realized that later in the evening I am too tired to do research, anyway, but could still summon up enough concentration to use that time to read and write about blogs. Thus, a compromise was achieved that served both research and writing goals.

I am also hoping to find extra research and writing time without compromising family time (i.e., we all sit in front of the TV with our laptops in front of us – yes, it is family time because we definitely do talk to one another while we are doing this – what can I say, we all have short attention spans in this family). My hope here is that the new MacBook Pro that my husband bought me for Christmas will enable me to do this. While we are on this subject, does anyone out there have any suggestions for syncing Reunion databases on two computers? I tried looking up solutions online, but so far have found only outdated information on this subject.

In brief, my 2011 genealogy research plan boils down to this: consolidation and filling in the gaps for my family lines to the great-great-grandparent level. For my great-grandmother brick wall, this means taking the research as far as I can (without a research trip) to find her parents. I would also like to get inputting on my Ancestry trees caught up to what I have input on Reunion, since these trees have actually turned out to be useful in my research.

The writing plan will consist of two parts: (1) transcribing the tons of documents and newspaper articles I have acquired and posting some of them on the blog, and (2) blogging about research projects and results. And finally, to serve both ends, I need to find more time, make better use of the time I have, and take full advantage of my paid subscriptions such as Footnote and Genealogy Bank.

Press Release from New England Historic Genealogical Society - Upcoming Events

I received the following press release today:

January New Visitor and Welcome Tour

Starting your family genealogy can seem a little daunting at first. There is so much information found in a variety of locations. Let NEHGS help you make sense of it all by attending this FREE lecture for both members and non-members. This talk introduces you to the NEHGS research library, located at 99 Newbury Street in Boston. You will also have an opportunity to describe your research interests to one of our expert genealogists on staff, who can offer some advice on how to proceed. The program starts with a thirty-minute introductory lecture and will be followed by a tour of the library and its vast holdings. Make plans to start your genealogy with this great tour.

January 8, 2011 10:00AM - 11:30AM

New England Historic Genealogical Society
99 Newbury St.
Boston MA, 02116


NEHGS recently launched its new Website, It is full of new features, tools, resources, and content that highlights NEHGS’ growing national expertise in genealogy and family history. We now have more than 135 million searchable names covering New England, New York, and other areas of family research dating back to 1620. We invite you to attend this free lecture to learn more about this incredible online resource.

January 12, 2011 10:00AM - 11:30AM

New England Historic Genealogical Society
99 Newbury St.
Boston MA, 02116

Dom's, An Odyssey

Join NEHGS as we welcome guest speaker Dom Capossela, who will discuss his recent book, Dom's, An Odyssey. Dom's, An Odyssey is an immigrant story. Through the lens of Italian immigration, with a tour of Boston's 1950s North End, Dom takes us on a voyage of discovery which reminds us of the immigrant roots of All Americans.

January 19, 2011 7:30PM

New England Historic Genealogical Society
99 Newbury St.

Boston MA, 02116

Winter Weekend Research Getaway - Effective Use of Technology

NEHGS Weekend Research Getaways combine personal, guided research at the NEHGS Research Library with themed educational lectures to create a unique experience for every participant. Personal consultations with NEHGS genealogists throughout the program allow visitors to explore their own genealogical projects, under the guiding hand of the nation’s leading family history experts.

Our Winter Research Getaway, “Effective Use of Technology,” offers a variety of lectures surrounding “best practices” in using technology including researching online, software, and other topics relevant to any genealogist.

January 27, 2011 9:00AM – January 29, 2011 5:00PM

New England Historic Genealogical Society
99 Newbury St.
Boston MA, 02116

Friday, December 24, 2010

Advent Calendar Day 24: Christmas Eve - Holy Supper

(Originally posted in December 2009)

When the first star is spotted in the sky on the eve of Christmas, it is time to go in to have the last meal before the end of the pre-Nativity fast, also called St. Philip’s fast, or the Filippovka. This meal is called the Holy Supper. At the end of this article there are some pictures of common dishes eaten for Holy Supper.

Spotting that star used to be the job of our youngest daughter, but as she reached her teen years, we realized that she was not quite the reliable lookout that she had been, so these days we all try to be the first to spot the star, since we’re all pretty hungry.

The following is a description of the Holy Supper taken from a booklet given out to parishioners at our church; it is simply called The Holy Supper and does not contain any information on the author.

“The Holy Supper [Svyatyj Vecher’] on Christmas Eve occurs among the people of Central Europe as the immediate preparation to welcome the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. While it varies in details from one group to another and, in fact, within groups and nations from one town and village to the next, there are certain common features.

“The origins of the Holy Supper predate the arrival of Christianity in Central Europe. Like many Christmas customs, it began as a pagan rite, in this case, called Korochun – the greeting of the Sun – as the days grow longer after the Winter Solstice. Certain elements, like the twelve courses to be served, reflect the twelve months of the year and, expressing hope for a bountiful harvest of food for the whole year, hearken to its origins as an agricultural ritual feast for blessings in the year to come. When Christianized, the twelve courses were seen to represent the Twelve Apostles. Likewise, the Paska-like bread in the center of the table called the Korochun, comes to be understood as the sign of Christ, the Bread of Life.

“…[I]t is suggested that we observe abstinence on Christmas Eve, that is, no meat products, but not restricting the use of dairy products. The meatless meal should be one of great abundance: meatless, to symbolize the humility and poverty in which Christ was born; the variety and abundance of food to remind us of God’s blessings and grace.

“The house is cleaned for the coming of the Messiah, and the dining room is specially prepared. The husband is to feed all the animals, whether the household pets or, if ones lives on a farm, the farm animals, with great abundance. Likewise, after the wife sprinkles the family with holy water during the Holy Supper to purify their minds that they may be open to accept the mystery of the divine birth, the husband is to bless the animals with the holy water. All this is done as a sign that the animals of the stable were the witnesses of the mystery of the birth of God in the flesh.

“A candle is placed in the window, a sign of welcome for the holy family and, indeed, for family, friends, and the poor or strangers who have nowhere to spend the night like the Holy Family had no place to stay at the inn at Bethelehem.

“The dining room table is set with a white table cloth, a symbol of purity of the Virgin birth and the white swaddling cloths. The husband will scatter straw over or under the table cloth, to symbolize the manger, and place hay under the table, to transform the dining room into the stable. The Nativity Bread, a round bread like the Paska, representing Christ, with a candle in the middle representing both the star and Christ who is the Light of the World, is placed in the center of the table. An extra full place setting, to remind one of the faithful departed of the family, and, at the same time, to serve as a prepared place for any who come in search of a meal, is set.

Wine glasses for the toast are set, and two small bowls of honey, one for the anointing and one for dipping the garlic, are set. The holy water the family had reserved from the previous Theophany – January 6 – is placed on the table."

I do not anoint my family with honey, because that is too sticky, but we do sprinkle holy water on all family members, human and furry. In our house we do not have all 12 dishes, but usually have something along the lines of the following:

Setting the table for Holy Supper

Mushroom-Sauerkraut-Barley Soup

Christmas Eve Bread

Brown Rice

Green Beans


Salmon with Hollandaise Sauce

Pierogi with Sour Cream

Cider or Wine


Table All Set

Freshly baked Christmas Eve Bread, though simple, is especially delicious. Here is the recipe we use:

Bread for Christmas Eve

1 package dry yeast
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups water, warm
6 cups flour
4 tablespoons salad oil
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 tablespoon sugar
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Dissolve yeast in warm water with 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon sugar. Set in warm place to rise. Sift 6 cups flour in deep bowl, add 2 cups warm water, 4 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 4 tablespoons salad oil. Add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture.

Knead well and set aside to rise. When double in bulk, punch down. Divide dough in two. Shape one part into round bread, cover and let stand 20 minutes. Punch down and reshape. Place in greased pan. Allow to rise until double in bulk. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

[Recipe from Epiphany's Seasons: Twenty-five Years of Parish Recipes, compiled by the Epiphany Ladies Guild.]

After Holy Supper, we rest for a while, then it's off to church, where we attend services and then share Christmas dishes with fellow parishioners. This lasts until about 1:30 or 2:00 in the morning.

Friday Newsletter and Follow News: 24 December 2010

This Week in Genea-Blogging

A continuing saga

Angela Walton-Raji at My Ancestor’s Name has some follow-up news on the saga of Thomas McElroy as well as on the misrepresentation of his story in the Grant County Museum in “’Old Tom’ in Grant County: A Disappointment and an Opportunity.”

The virtues of 140 characters

At Roots and Rambles, Marian Pierre-Louis tells us “Why I Like Twitter.” Her case for Twitter is very convincing. Still, I imagine there are a few others like me for whom it takes more time to scrunch my thought into 140 characters than it does to write a blog post about it.

Never stop learning

In “Do You Have a Genealogy Learning Plan?” Gena Philibert Ortega of Gena’s Genealogy offers some suggestions for where to find courses and resources for continuing education in genealogy.

What to do with a treasure trove

Excellent advice and an overview of the process of analyzing old letters are provided by Daniel Hubbard in “Love for Letters” at Personal Past Meditations: A Genealogical Blog. Hubbard includes not only physical preservation tips, but also guidelines for digital preservation, storage, and organization and spreadsheet presentation of the information. A must read.

Not just for blogging

The Advent Calendar posts are not just for blogging, as Amanda illustrates at ABT UNK in “Advent Calendar of Xmas Memories 12/17”; she has used them to help her father remember Christmases past. I plan on stealing her idea.

Why do we do it?

Bill West at West in New England asks the question of the week: “What is the worth of a genealogy blog?” Lots of interesting responses, too. Bill, you can always get the genea-bloggers going….

Useful to even more useful

At Long Lost, Susan Pederson writes about even more ways to use the Kindle for genealogy in “Kindle for Genealogy: Redux.”

It's delightful

Barbara Poole’s saga of Delight Adams Benham just gets more and more interesting. The latest installment at Life from the Roots is “Delight Adams Benham and The Rest of the Story” and it has links to the other installments.

Facebook isn't the only party in town

At, we learn that "Facebook may be great, but there are other social networking alternatives for genealogists."

Tradition, tradition!

It wouldn’t be Christmas in the Genea-Blogosphere without the tradition of Blog Caroling at footnoteMaven’s place.

Christmas spirit

I have really enjoyed reading the Advent Calendar posts. I got some wonderful ideas for celebrating Christmas, laughed, shed a tear or two, was actually reminded of a few Christmas memories that I had forgotten, and was thoroughly entertained.

For more suggested blog reading, check out Best of the Genea-Blogs at Randy Seaver’s Genea-Musings, Best Bytes for the Week at Elizabeth O’Neal’s Little Bytes of Life, Around the Blogosphere at Susan Petersen’s Long Lost, and Donna’s Picks at What’s Past Is Prologue.

Happy First Blogoversary to TennLady at Gene Notes!

Happy Second Blogoversary to Claudia at Claudia’s Genalogy Blog!

Happy Belated First Blogoversary to A. C. Ivory at Find My Ancestor!

This week I started following these blogs:

Cow Hampshire

Your Growing Tree

2338 W. Washington Blvd.

Family Archaeologist

Family History News and More

Fur Trade Family History

Going to the West

Images Past

Joan’s Ponderings and Muses

Luxegen Genealogy and Family History

Melted and Merged: The Smiths

My Rebel Roots

Over Thy Dead Body (Love the URL – “Stiffs and Stones”)

Relatively Speaking

Rosales’ History of the South

The Erudite Genealogist

Your Growing Tree

My Research Week

Nonexistent. Didn't do a scrap of research. Plan on making up for it on my days off.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Advent Calendar Day 21: Christmas Music

(Originally published in 2009; some material added in 2010.)

Music plays a big part in my family’s celebration of Christmas. When I was growing up, this was not so much the case. We heard Christmas music on the radio, on television, and I remember singing Christmas carols in school, but I don’t think we had any records of Christmas music. The one exception I can think of was that I asked for a full recording of The Nutcracker for my birthday when I was around 14. That set of records just about got played to death.

Now we have an entire section of our music library devoted to Christmas music. A lot of people get tired of Christmas music after too much exposure, but we try to avoid overload by bringing as much variety as possible to the selections we listen to. Television and radio programs tend to replay a limited set of carols over and over, though some stations are a little more adventurous (reason #48 on the list of reasons for saving our classical music radio stations).

Some of our favorite Christmas music consists of Eastern European hymns and carols. Here are a couple of my favorite collections, Russian Christmas by the Theodorovskaya Mother of God Icon Church Choir and Christmas Hymns by the Seminary Choir of Blessed Theodore Romzha Academy of Uzhgorod.

This year my husband discovered the group you see below, the Sirin Chorus from Russia. I have been listening to their videos on YouTube, and you can also find their music on iTunes.

We also attend the local Christmas Revels in Washington most years. We love all the shows, but our favorites have tended toward the more ethnically-oriented themes: the Northern-themed To Drive the Dark Away (Karelian (Finnish, Lapp, and Russian), Norse, and Swedish), Roads of the Roma, and last year’s French Canadian Revels.

In addition to the Eastern Christmas liturgies we have on tape and CD there have been many classical Christmas works for both liturgical and concert settings that have made their way into our collection. The following is a fast-paced Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah:

Our favorite way to enjoy the popular “White Christmas” is to watch the movie Holiday Inn. Another family tradition at Christmas is to watch the video “A Tuna Christmas.” You’ll never think of “Jingle Bells” the same way again after you have watched Didi Snavely sing this carol while smoking a cigarette: “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle (puff) the way.”

Other favorites are carols played on the hammered dulcimer. "The Zither Carol," as played by Joemy Wilson on the dulcimer on Gifts – Traditional Christmas Music, Vol II, has been known to set me atwirlin’ around the room (when no one is watching, of course). And there are many, many more odds and ends of Christmas music we love: music box carols, shapenote carols, Cajun and Zydeco Christmas songs, you name it.

So in this post, "avoiding overload" does not mean reducing the amount of Christmas music, but rather increasing the variety. Because anything worth doing is worth doing to excess. In fact, writing about all of this and looking up Christmas music on Youtube has put me in the mood for … more Christmas music. Wonder what I can find on iTunes?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Memory Monday and Advent Calendar Day 20: Christmas Services

My family did not attend Christmas services when I was a child. That left a big, empty hole in my experience of Christmas, but I did not know it at the time.

At my Ruthenian parish, Christmas liturgy begins at 11:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve.  It is preceded by the singing of Christmas carols starting at around 10:30.  But even earlier, people start to trickle in.  The church is dimly lit and the quiet and solemnity are reminiscent of Lenten services and the prelude to the Good Friday service.  The celebration of holy days in the Eastern churches usually bears elements of both remembrance and anticipation.  The celebration of a sorrowful holy day will look forward to joyous events and a joyous celebration will anticipate sorrowful events.  Even Christmas carries the muted awareness of the road that leads to crucifixion.

People whisper greetings, then take their seats and join in the stillness of a moment outside of time.  Children’s heads nod in the aftermath of overexcitement, as do their mothers’ heads from the exhaustion of overseeing Christmas preparations.  Some look at the empty spot in the manger.

Remembrance and looking back over the past year is associated with the approaching end of the year; for me it starts at this quiet moment.  I see the joy and the sorrow of the year’s events.  Much of the sorrow came around this time last year:  a good friend died right before Christmas and my Uncle Bill – the last one of my parents’ siblings – died soon after the New Year.  FootnoteMaven wrote with heartbreaking eloquence about “Another Tradition – ‘Not All Merry and Bright’” – and that is what this moment is for.

I will remember many people who are no longer with us; the memory of the loss of some of them will come sneaking over my shoulder in that moment and will bring tears and regrets. Many losses have been suffered over the course of this year by family, friends, and those who are reading this, and in that moment I will say a prayer for those who have lost someone and for those who were lost.

But thinking of these lost ones inevitably leads me to awareness and appreciation of those who are still with us, and this brings a joy that almost burns with its intensity.  I realize how lucky I am, and how stupid and petty my complaints, my grudges, my hurt feelings are.  I am not a very forgiving person and this is the only moment in the entire year that I can muster the generosity to truly forgive all those who in my uncharitable mind have offended me.

The carols begin – some quiet and gentle Eastern European ones first, almost like lullabies. We sing them in Rusyn/Ukrainian/Slavonic and in English. Then come carols in English, such as “Silent Night” – still rather hushed and solemn - and we sing it again in Ukrainian.  And finally we stand and sing “Oh Come, All Ye Faithful” – “Adeste Fideles” – Priidite, priidite” – in full voice. The lights go on and we all blink and look around in wonder.  The priests, deacons, and servers arrive in a procession, accompanied by children or other member of the parish bearing the Wise Men to take their place in front of the manger.

“Blessed is the kingdom….”  The liturgy begins.  And near the end of the liturgy, at midnight, our pastor will place the baby Jesus in the manger.

It is time for Christmas to begin.

Christos rozhdayetsya! - Slavite jeho!

Christ is born! - Glorify him!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Dear Genea-Santa

This Saturday’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenged, issued by Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings, is as follows:

1) Write your Genea-Santa letter. Have you been a good genealogy girl or boy? What genealogy-oriented items are on your Christmas wish list? They could be family history items, technology items, or things that you want to pursue your ancestral quest.

2) Tell us about them in your own blog post, in a comment on this post, or in a Facebook status or comment to this post.

Dear Genea–Santa:

You were very, very good to me last year:

- I was able to attend the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference and meet up with fellow Genea-Bloggers.

- I got to go to Greenville, South Carolina to research my Moore line with my cousins Paula and Carolyn. We had a blast and found enough information on our Moores to keep us busy for a long time.

- I was contacted by a distant Floyd cousin who, together with another cousin, provided my Texas Floyd cousins and me with a whole bunch of new information on the Floyds. This included the siblings of our great-great grandfather, George Floyd, as well as copies of letters written by several of our Floyd relatives. Now my Texas Floyd cousins and I are working on finding court records concerning our Floyd ancestors, and quite a bit of eye-opening information has come to light.

- I learned from a cousin on the Brinlee line that we have a match with a Tennessee Brinley family that may help us break through the brick wall (find the parents of Hiram and George Brinlee) and some other Brinlee cousins sent me some wonderful Brinlee family photos.

- I have had a ton of fun reading genealogy blogs and corresponding with other genealogy bloggers, as well as with quite a few distant relatives and other people who have contacted me through my blog.

- I have attended most of my local genealogical society’s meetings as well as the Spring Conference and Fall Fair and learned a great deal.

So Genea-Santa, I am very happy with this year and I hope my list for next year is not asking too much. I have been a pretty good girl – I have done some transcribing, researched a branch of my daughter’s host mother’s family, done a couple of volunteer genealogy-related translations, and was able to post a number of pictures on Findagrave. I finished inputting Norman family information up through the great-great-grandparent level and have started on my last known set of great-great grandparents, Hiram Brinlee and Betsey McKinney.

1. My first request is a repeat of last year’s request: I would like one document – any type of document, but I would like for the document to have had a reliable source – that provides the names of my great-grandmother Susan Elizabeth Smith Bonner Brinlee’s parents.

2. If it’s not too much trouble, I would like to be able to attend the National Genealogical Society conference in Charleston, South Carolina. We have already made hotel reservations, but everything depends on my daughter’s final exam schedule in college working out – her exams will need to be early in May!

3. A chance to go back to Greenville for some research and to see more of the city would be awesome, and we would like to include some time in neighboring Anderson County as well.

4. And, as ever, I complete my list with one of the most difficult items to find of all: more time.

Please take it easy out there flying, Genea-Santa; there are going to be all kinds of crazy drivers in the air. I will leave out a kolache, some chocolate chip cookies, and, if that is not enough, some awesome whisky (to be taken in moderation in view of the “crazy drivers”).

Yours faithfully,


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Advent Calendar Day 18: Christmas Stockings

(Originally posted December 2009.)

I had Christmas stockings as a child and I have them as an adult (though not the same ones, unfortunately). My teenage daughters still have Christmas stockings and are angling to continue to have them for as long as possible.

When I was a child, the Christmas stocking was for fruit (mostly oranges, sometimes apples), nuts, candy canes, and possibly a little bit of change.

My husband and I bought a pair of stockings from Afghanistan during our graduate school days in the late 1970s and still have them. For some reason, our cats have always loved them. It may be the lanolin in the wool; whatever it is, the effect is almost as strong as catnip. Below is a picture of Fred, from our first quartet of cats, rubbing on one of the stockings. The current cat crew do the same thing.

Fred and the Afghan stocking

We try not to go overboard with gift-giving in general, but to make things fun, there is some focus on stocking gifts. Our daughters’ stockings are usually chock-full of smaller presents. When they were younger, many of the items were small and usually inexpensive toys, supplemented by things like Christmas candy, socks, and hair bows. Now they still receive socks and Christmas candy, but the other items might be make-up, lotion, inexpensive earrings, and sometimes Mombux (3x5 cards with stickers and a promise of a purchase or mini-shopping-spree with Mom: “A pair of shoes,” “$15 at the thrift store,” “$20 at the bookstore,” etc.). And there is always a shiny new penny in the bottom of the stockings for good luck. Mom and Dad each get candy and a penny in their stockings.

Stocking loot

(Yes, there was still a Halloween pumpkin decoration on the wall.)

In addition to getting to rub on the Afghan stockings on Christmas morning, each of our cats has a stocking with his or her name on it. Their stockings usually contain catnip and cat toys (mostly furry mice with things inside that make a rattling noise so that they “skitter” really well and get the cats all excited).

Rocky rests under the Christmas tree after a heavy session with the Afghan sock followed by the catnip bag

Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday Newsletter and Follow News: 17 December 2010

This Week in Genea-Blogging

Super-duper exiting news – keep your fingers crossed

And if you haven’t already read it, yet, I ain’t gonna say what it is. Just read “An Update on the Otis v Gray History Mystery” at West in New England.

Following the trail

I recommend for your reading a post that was actually written back in November: “When the Pieces Fall Into Place: Toppling the Brick Wall” at Kathleen Reed’s Family Matters. However, I did not start following the blog until last week and finally read the post last weekend. This was not an easy mystery to unravel, but Kathleen followed the clues and arrived at a solution.

A memory left untouched by a tornado

At Shakin’ the Family Tree, Dee Burris has written a wonderful post on the precious memories preserved in part of a house not destroyed by a tornado: “Sentimental Sunday: The Lines on the Doorframe.”

Oh, no! Mr. Sluggo has destroyed Mr. Bill’s hard drive!

Shelley Bishop at A Sense of Family writes about her close call with hard drive failure and how following recommendations for backup systems saved the day in “My True-Life Adventure in Hard Drive Failure.” That could have been me! (Well, it sort of was – the hand-me-down laptop that I use in addition to my desktop computer did have a sort of failure, although it’s running now and we managed to get everything I needed onto a memory stick.)

Sometimes there is a good – if unusual – reason why you cannot find your ancestors

In “But I KNOW My Great Grandma’s Name! Why Am I Stuck?” Lorine McGinnis Shulze at Olive Tree Genealogy Blog recalls a chance encounter that helped her find an ancestor and points to a useful piece of advice: sometimes our ancestors changed their names!

The scoop is in on the new website

And already we’re reading some reactions. James Tanner at Genealogy’s Star reports that some negative comments are already coming in – and from unexpected quarters – in “Already irate over new website?” (There are also positive and negative reactions on the FamilySearch blog.)

Real Christmas spirit

Nancy at My Ancestors and Me has a lovely story of a family’s faithfulness, truer to the real Christmas spirit than many grand and showy gestures: “Raymond – An Unusual Christmas Memory.”

footnoteMaven puts it all in perspective

The music of the song goes through my head and things go back into their proper places as I read footnoteMaven’s “Making Your Way Online Today Takes Everything You’ve Got.”

Happy First Blogoversary to Susan Pedersen at Long Lost Relatives!

For more suggested blog reading, check out Best of the Genea-Blogs at Randy Seaver’s GeneaMusings, Best Bytes for the Week at Elizabeth O’Neal’s Little Bytes of Life, and Follow Friday: Around the Blogosphere at Susan Petersen’s Long Lost Relatives.

This week I started following these blogs:

a'spaidsearachd agus a'meòrachadh

An American Dynasty

Growing Up in Willow Creek

Scottish Genes

My Research Week

I usually do not check my e-mail in the morning before I go to work, but this Thursday morning I did. And there were two fabulous e-mails there: one from a descendant of Freeman Manson Moore, the ancestor of my cousin Paula and brother of my great-great grandfather William Spencer Moore, and the other from a person who, I am guessing, is related to my Lewis family. He found my blog post on Dallas County Sheriff William Henry Lewis (“Uncle, Uncle – William Henry Lewis: A Little Man Who Stood Tall”) and mentioned that he had heard some of these stories growing up. Wowee – I’ll be writing to these people right after I finish this post!

I Need to Hang Out on Facebook More

Yes, this is coming from the person who is always complaining that she doesn’t have enough time. I always try to check it at least a couple of times a week, but this week I realized why I should spend more time there. When I saw all of the wonderful birthday greetings, all I can say is … sniff … thanks, everyone. This truly made my day special. One of the things I will remember to be thankful for this year is family and friends.

And I do find some reading tips and ideas on Facebook that I haven't seen on the blogs and even links to interesting new blogs before they show up on Geneabloggers.

It's worth saying twice

Finally, I would like to say "Thank you" again to the people who nominated me for Family Tree Magazine's 40 Best Genealogy Blogs. It was a wonderful early birthday present.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Advent Calendar Day 15: December Birthdays

(Originally posted December 2009.)

This is a topic with which I am somewhat familiar, since yesterday was the “big day” for me.

If my birthday falling before Christmas wasn’t enough, my parents’ anniversary was three days after Christmas, on December 28. It seemed that they were constantly going to parties from Christmas to New Year’s. And I have a daughter with an early January birthday that coincides with Orthodox Christmas. We never take our Christmas tree down until after her birthday.

So what is it like to have a December birthday? It would be interesting to ask this question of some of my ancestors who were born in December. A search of the relatives that have so far been entered in my Reunion genealogy program revealed quite a few December birthdays. There are two first cousins and two first cousins once removed. And there were a couple of direct ancestors: my great-great grandfather Hiram Carroll Brinlee Sr. (25 December 1808) and my great grandfather Harlston Perrin Moore (4 December 1845). Finding H. P. Moore’s date of birth on his death certificate was especially delightful; he was my first “discovery” so he is kind of a favorite.

What did Hiram and Harlston do to celebrate their birthdays? I do not know, but I imagine that it was not very elaborate; they were farmers and not especially rich ones. And if I am ever tempted to feel sorry for myself for having a December birthday, I should certainly keep my ancestors in mind.

The thing is, for me, the December birthday has almost never felt like much of a burden or loss. For my parents, however – that was probably another matter. This did not occur to me when I was younger. The first time I heard the sentence, “This present has to be both for your birthday and for Christmas,” I felt a little bit of disappointment, as though I was being cheated out of something. Maybe the second time, too. But it started to dawn on me that were my birthday and Christmas not so close together, perhaps I would not be receiving these presents at all. As I grew older, the sigh and the eye-roll when mention was made of December birthdays were pretty much an automatic response rather than a deeply felt indignation.

And you know what? In college, early December through early January was pretty much one long party. My birthday would be celebrated right before everyone went home for Christmas vacation, then at home with my mother, then with my Texas friends, and finally back at college with the friends who missed the first party. There was never any real holiday letdown.

I hope Hiram and Harlston had at least a few “very merry birthdays.”

A picture made following my one and only childhood birthday party: there probably would have been no Tiny Tears for me without the December birthday

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Advent Calendar Day 14: Fruitcake

(Originally posted in December 2009.)

Is there no one who loves fruitcake?

I do. Kind of. If it’s moist (= has lots of booze). The fruit must not be old and the nuts should also be in top condition; pecans are the best.

All right, so I’m a self-proclaimed fruitcake expert.

Because I started making fruitcakes when I was 12 years old.

That was the year my mother broke her wrist when we all went ice skating.

You need a really strong wrist to make a good fruitcake.

The men in our family (my father and brother) were almost totally helpless in the kitchen.

So it was up to me to keep the tradition going.

Fruitcake baking in our house was done on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

Step one: Put the butter and brown sugar together in bowl; stir until thoroughly combined into a mixture of smooth consistency. This was where the elbow grease came in. (A mixer would have been a wimp-out and also posed the danger of a mixture that was too lumpy or too liquid to support the fruit.)

Ladies and Gentlemen, there is no need to worry about flabby upper arms if you make enough fruitcakes. I stirred and stirred and stirred. I used my left hand to support my right arm. I changed to stirring with my left hand. Then back to the right hand. After what seemed like hours, that “smooth consistency” was finally achieved.

The rest was pretty easy. The only tricky part was to bake it for exactly the right amount of time; too much would ruin the taste and too little would leave it with no structural integrity.

And structural integrity is important. Because for the next month – and this is why fruitcakes are baked on the Friday after Thanksgiving – the liquor of choice would be added in generous doses every other day. And if the fruitcake is underbaked, that equals a runny mess.

My family showered praise on me that Christmas for producing an outstanding first fruitcake. My Smugness Coefficient skyrocketed and my nose didn’t come out of the air for a full week.

My mother and I must have made a few fruitcakes during my high school years; these were probably cooperative efforts.

I don’t make fruitcakes any more. I have one labor-intensive dessert to make for Christmas – kolaches – and that is enough. Plus my mother-in-law makes a killer fruitcake (sooo moist … mmmmm).

Monday, December 13, 2010

Voting Is Now Open for the Family Tree Magazine 40

Or: Holy Shmoly, I’m Gobsmacked!

First things first: Thank you to the people (in the plural because I’m assuming there were two) who nominated Greta’s Genealogy Bog for Family Tree’s 40 Best Genealogy Blogs in the “Everything” and “My Family History” categories. You have made my day, week, and month. I was also very happy to see that most of the blogs I nominated were on the list but a little worried that two of them were not there; I hope it was not my fault for choosing the wrong category or doing something else ineptly (wouldn't be the first time).

Visit the nominated blogs and you will see why I wrote “We Are Surrounded by Writers and Artists” last Friday: witty, wise, and warm writers as well as some truly talented photographers and digital scrapbookers. (And talk about killer categories....)  The list of nominated blogs can be found at the following blogs:

Dear Myrtle’s Genealogy Blog



To vote for your favorite blogs, you can go to the Family Tree voting site here, and there are links at many of the blogs with the Family Tree 40 Best Genealogy Blogs 2011 logo.

Voting is open until 11:59 p.m. on Monday, December 20, 2010, and the results will be published in the July 2011 issue of Family Tree Magazine.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Advent Calendar Day 12 – Volunteering: Teaching Old Church Slavonic to Third Graders

For a number of years at our previous parish, my husband and I were involved in helping with the Saint Nicholas Day celebration put on by the parish’s School of Religion.

The parish is part of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic, and many of the members have Rusyn, Slovak, Ukrainian, and other Eastern European ancestry. During the early years of the church’s history in the United States, the liturgy was in Slavonic only, but the first English translation was done in the 1960s and since that time more and more services have been done in English. Here and there you can find a complete service in Slavonic, but for the most part Slavonic is only occasionally done for certain parts of the liturgy, such as the Our Father, or Otche Nash.

Each School of Religion class had a different performance to put on for Saint Nicholas Day. My husband taught the seventh graders and they, together with the eighth graders and high school students, put on the old skit of the Jašličkari – the Bethlehem carolers – from the Slovak and Carpatho-Rusyn part of Eastern Europe.

My job was to teach the third graders how to say the Our Father in Old Church Slavonic.

All I had to do was to teach eleven lines of a prayer in a dead language with some wicked consonant clusters to eight-year-olds who were just mastering the fundamentals of reading in English.

Only three things stood in my way: the children, their parents, and every person in the parish who grew up speaking “kitchen Slovak/Ukrainian/Rusyn“ or was a self-anointed expert in Slavonic.

The children, as you might have guessed, were the easiest part. The class size from year to year was usually around 8 to 10. This meant that all I needed to do was to find about three kids with loud voices, clear enunciation, and an ear for foreign languages. They could carry those who lacked these qualities. We practiced and practiced: all together, girls versus boys, and two kids at a time (I never asked any of the students to recite it alone). I used a few things as teaching moments: how the word for "kingdom" – tsarstvo – comes from the word tsar, which comes from an older word which evolved into kaiser and ceasar. Or, how in Slavonic, the line goes "Deliver us from the Sly One" instead of "Deliver us from evil" to show that it is not just generic "evil" from which we ask to be delivered, but a specific being.

The parents, as many of you might know from experience as volunteer teachers of Sunday School classes, were one of the biggest hurdles. They had one job: to get their children to their School of Religion classes each Sunday and to the final rehearsal on the Saturday before the Saint Nicholas program. Performance was pretty spotty on this account, and that always made the final performance a real nail-biter: How would the kids do when reciting all together, when perhaps half of the kids had only attended about half of the classes and practice sessions?

The third category, as you might have expected, was surprisingly large, vocal, and insistent on their expertise in the matter of spelling, pronunciation, and transliteration of Old Church Slavonic. (I did not mention to them that I studied Old Church Slavonic in graduate school under the man who wrote the standard handbook on it; how could he know anything about it if he didn’t grow up in a Slavonic-speaking church?) Among those who grew up hearing Slavonic in church, there was no consensus on how it should be done, but there was a consistency in their objections:

If you grew up in a Ukrainian family, you did not want to sound like a Russian.

If you grew up in a Rusyn family, you did not want to sound like a Ukrainian.

And if you grew up in a Slovak family, you did not want to sound like a Rusyn.

So, obviously, there was no pleasing all of the heritage speakers. Nor could I please the "scholars"; I still have copies of voluminous e-mails I exchanged with members of this group: why I used a system of transcription that could be comprehended by third-graders rather than one of the scholarly systems, why I let the children recite a simplified form of a consonant cluster with four consonants, why there was an extra syllable in pree-EE-det ("Listen to Father’s tape"), why I wrote "OH-cheh" instead of "OT-cheh," and on and on – no point was too minor to argue over.

But, you know, we never totally crashed and burned on Saint Nicholas Day. Some years we even sounded awesome.

Here is my (much disputed) transcription of Otche Nash; unfortunately I cannot reproduce the signs for long and short vowels that I used. Capitalized syllables are stressed.

OH-cheh nash

EE-zheh YEH-see nah neh-BES-eekh,

Dah svya-TEET-syah EEM-yah tvoy-YEH.

Dah pree-EE-det TSARST-vee-yeh tvoy-YEH

Dah BOO-det VOL-yah tvoy-YAH,

YAH-ko na neh-BES-ee, ee nah ZEM-lee.

Khleeb nash nah-SOOSHT-nee dazhd nam dnes.

Ee o-STAH-vee nam DOL-hi NAH-shah,

YAH-ko zheh ee mi oh-stav-LYAH-yem DOLZH-ni-kom NAH-shim.

Ee neh veh-DEE nas vo ees-koo-SHEN-ee-yeh,

No eez-BAH-vee nas ot loo-KAH-vah-ho.

FootnoteMaven's Tradition of Blog Caroling: Heaven and Earth

Many thanks to footnoteMaven for hosting Blog Caroling!

Heaven and Earth (Nebo i Zemlya)

Heaven and earth, heaven and earth
Now welcome their Redeemer.
Angels and people, angels and people
Join in celebration.

Salvation is begun, born is the Virgin’s Son;
Angel’s voices ringing, Wise Men gifts are bringing;
Shepherds tell the story; star proclaims the glory;
Christ is born in Bethlehem.

In Bethlehem, in Bethlehem
God’s Word is given birth.
Born of a virgin, born of a virgin,
Master of heav’n and earth.

Salvation is begun, born is the Virgin’s Son;
Angel’s voices ringing, Wise Men gifts are bringing;
Shepherds tell the story; star proclaims the glory;
Christ is born in Bethlehem.

Nebo i zemlya, nebo i zemlya
Nyni torzhestvuyut.
Anhely i lyude, anhely i lyude
Veselo sprazdnujut.

Christos rodilsya, Boh voplotilsya,
Anhely spivayut, Tsariye vitayut.
Poklon otdayut, pastyriye hrajut,
Chudo, chudo povidayut.

Vo Vifleyemi, vo Vifleyemi
Vesela novina.
Chistaya D’iva, Chistaya D’iva
Porodila Syna.

Christos rodilsya, Boh voplotilsya,
Anhely spivayut, Tsariye vitayut.
Poklon otdayut, pastyriye hrajut,
Chudo, chudo povidayut.

If you would like a tune to go with the words, below are a Russian version and a Rusyn version of the carol. There is also a Ukrainian version, which is just a bit different from the Russian version. The transcribed verses are from the Rusyn version.

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: GeneaLeaks

Inspired by Travis LeMaster’s post on his TJLGenes blog on GeneaLeaks this week, Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings has issued this weeks challenge:

1) For SNGF, please answer one or more of these questions:

* What GeneaLeak do you want to expose to the world from your own research or experience? Do it!

* What GeneaLeak about your own family history research would you like exposed to help you in your genealogy pursuit?

* What GeneaLeak about genealogy websites, collection providers, genealogy software or genealogy bloggers, writers, or colleagues would you like to see exposed?

My GeneaLeak about my own family history research: In July 1872 Hiram Brinlee, Sr. was forced to sell 430 acres in Bowie County, Texas to pay plaintiff Abraham Rhine in a lawsuit. It is believed that he had to sell the land to pay debts he incurred as a result of legal fees involved in the defense of his sons David Francis Brinlee and William Hiram Brinlee, who were charged with murdering George Walters in Collin County, Texas.

The GeneaLeak I need: The parents of Susan Elizabeth Smith (Bonner) (Brinlee). Some pictures would be nice, too – you know, to get readers’ interest.

The GeneaLeak I want to see: How decisions are made on which new databases are added to and how to influence those decisions. Just sayin’….

Friday, December 10, 2010

Family Newsletter and Follow News: 10 December 2010

This Week in Genea-Blogging

We Are Surrounded by Writers and Artists

when it comes to our fellow Genea-Bloggers. It seems not only magic, but inspiration is in the air. Everywhere you look, people have been blogging their hearts out for Jasia and digging deep into the well of memory and creativity to write about their Christmas memories. Perhaps some of our genealogy bloggers knew they had special writing or visual art talents before they started blogging, but it occurs to me that many may have discovered these talents after they started blogging and trying new things on their blogs – things they never suspected they could do – often with the encouragement of other members of the genea-blogging community.  You think you are just going to do a modest little blog – share some information about your family and maybe, if you are lucky, meet some distant cousins researching the same lines. And then you read other blogs, get comments, see and respond to prompts and themes. And before you know it, your blog turns into an outlet for a creative talent you never suspected you had.

What inspired me to write this? For the most part, when I write “Friday Newsletter and Follow News” I leave Carnival posts and special occasion prompt posts alone – no stealing of thunder – to be featured on Creative Gene and GeneaBloggers.  So, after leaving those two categories out, especially the amazing 100th Carnival of Genealogy, I didn’t think there would be a whole lot left to feature on Follow News.

Was I wrong! It seems bloggers have gone into high gear and are pulling out all the stops. Outstanding!

First Recommendation

Creative Gene - Carnival of Genealogy, 100th Edition: There's One in Every Family

Special People, Part 1

Special People, Part 2

Special Things


A linguistic slant

So I’m definitely fascinated by the topic brought up by John Newmark at TransvylanianDutch: “Do You Hear What I Hear?”  When you are working with oral histories or transcriptions, be careful about foreign words and names as well as familiar ones pronounced with an accent.

Not for the faint of heart

For most of the Advent Calendar posts, I direct you to GeneaBloggers list. But here is one that you must check out: Amy Coffin’s “Holiday of HORRORS!” at We Tree. Peek if you dare.

We Learn Something New

At My Ancestor’s Name, Angela Walton-Raji has written an informative post on a little-known group of teachers from early in the previous century: “So, What Is a Jeanes Teacher?”

“I Don’t Like My Brick Wall Ancestor”

One of the best genealogy blog post titles ever.  And you’ll see why when you read Barbara Poole’s post at Life From The Roots: “Amanuensis Monday -- I Don’t Like My Brick Wall Ancestor.”

What she said! What he said!

My favorite rant/post on a blog in recent memory. Kerry Scott. Clue Wagon. “Why the Facebook Cartoon Pictures Make Me Want to Poke My Eye Out With A Fork.” This is no criticism of people who change their profile pictures for whatever reason. Heck, my husband was going to use this as an excuse to change his to Eric Cartman. But enough aimless consciousness-raising without specific recommendations on how to help and actual concrete action.

This discussion is also addressed and developed by Thomas Macentee in “Facebook, Child Abuse, and Challenging the Status Quo” at Destination: Austin Family.

OK, I admit it …

I am one of those people who cannot keep all of the Family Search websites straight. But now I don’t have to.  James Tanner at Genealogy’s Star has posted an article linking to and describing all of the different sites in “Comments on the status of Family Search websites.”  Thank you!

As seen through the eyes of a child

At On a flesh and bone foundation: An Irish History, Jennifer Geraghty-Gorman has written an extremely affecting account of her mother’s memories of the death of her own mother in “Matrilineal Monday: A Mother Lost: Mary Fitzpatrick Ball.” These are memories seen through the eyes of a five-year-old who has lost her mother, and this makes the story all the more heart-wrenching.

How to Tell the Story

In “The Strong Woman: There’s One in Every Family – Part II,” Elizabeth O’Neal of Little Bytes of Life has written a post that beautifully demonstrates how to put research information into a well-told and touching story.

Attention All Baby Boomers

And everyone else who is interested in modern history. You must read Craig Manson’s “The Most Important Day of My Life: December 7, 1941” at GeneaBlogie.  It’s a thoughtful perspective on what influenced our generation and poses the question of how our generation will influence in the years to come.

For more suggested blog reading, check out Best of the Genea-Blogs at Randy Seaver’s GeneaMusings, Best Bytes for the Week at Elizabeth O’Neal’s Little Bytes of Life, and Follow Friday: Around the Blogosphere at Susan Petersen’s Long Lost Relatives.

This week I started following these blogs:

Are My Roots Showing?

The Historian’s Family

Virginia Historical Society’s Blog

The Brooklyn Historical Society Blog

Ancestor Search

Arkansas Roots: The Stories of My Family

Borreson Cousins

Digging Under My Family Tree

Dr. D Digs Up Ancestors

Exile’s Return

Genealogy Dragnet

Genealogy Friends of Plano Libraries

Genealogy Quest

Glimpsing the Past

Jen’s Genealogy Pages

Family Matters

Our Family Quilt

Pursuits of a Desperate Genie

Seattle Genealogical Society

Tattered Past

August Legacy

My Research Week

I haven't gotten much research done this week, but I have been greatly cheered by a couple of things. One, I received the Ancestor Approved Award from Jenny Lanctot at Are My Roots Showing? Thank you, Jenny! I love the name of your blog and I enjoyed your list of things you have learned about your ancestors that surprised, humbled, or enlightened you.

Also, the generous and talented Cynthia Shenette of Heritage Zen has continued to help me out with the Stepanishens. Cindy, you are a true Genea-Angel!

Advent Calendar Day 10: Gifts

All of my favorite gifts are my favorites due to a combination of practical and sentimental reasons.

My daughters have made me a number of beautiful presents over the years, but it’s difficult to choose my favorites among them, so I won’t list them here.

Nor have I included the gifts I received as a child.

Instead, I can think of four very special gifts I have received, from my college days up until the recent past, that stand out in my memory – for longevity, meaningfulness, and practicality. Two were given to me by my mother, and the other two were given to me by my husband.

The coffee cup featured in My Dear Daughters: When I Am Dead and Gone, Please Keep These Things.

This winter scarf, designed to cover head and neck. It’s a bit ratty from use by now, but I still use this scarf on the bitterest of cold winter days. This was another present given to me by my mother for Christmas during my college days. Nothing beats it for keeping my head and neck warm and the rust color is a good one for me. Mom had a “gift” for getting just the right thing.

Next among my most treasured gifts is this Byzantine three-bar cross. My husband bought this for me at our church for the Christmas right before the Feast of the Epiphany on which our family was baptized into the Byzantine Catholic Church. In addition to its other religious significance, it symbolizes the journey into faith that my husband and I took together.

Lest all these choices seem to fall more on the sentimental side than the practical, here is the fourth gift: my KitchenAid. Yes, a kitchen appliance. It has been used to bake so many Christmas, birthday, and other desserts; it is one of those household appliances that has earned a place of honor for its years of faithful service filling an important role in our family life: the means for concocting delicious culinary creations. Some women want furs or jewelry; I wanted a KitchenAid.

This is a repost of an article for last year's Advent Calendar. Those who read it last year may remember that I was waiting for my KitchenAid to be repaired and that meanwhile I was using a hand mixer. That is still the situation. We actually gave up on getting it repaired; the repairman could never get the part and apparently we will have to travel a good distance to the only known repairman in this area who might be able to do the necessary repairs. Perhaps we will get out to see the repairman, or perhaps a new KitchenAid will go on next year's Christmas list (along with a Flip-Pal mobile scanner).

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Advent Calendar Day 9: Why We Will Never Have a Conventional Crèche

Or: “Other Decorations”

“Other decorations”: not tree decorations or outside decorations, but simply other decorations we put up in our house, such as the manger scene.

The theme for today is “Grab Bag” – as in “anything you want” – but grab bag made me think of hodge podge. And a hodge podge is definitely what many of our indoor decorations are, including our crèche scene.

This began in my childhood. I remember mostly the figurines for the manger scene. For one thing, they were of different sizes: for some reason, the Three Wise Men were much larger than the Holy Family and the shepherds; obviously, there were originally at least two totally different sets. And the angels must have simply been collected and added individually, as they were ceramic figures of various styles, whereas the other figurines appeared to have been made of wood with a waxy paint covering.

And there were elephants in the manger. The two pretty gray ceramic elephants that had been a present for my fifth birthday. (I’m not sure why someone would give ceramic figures to a five-year-old – I remember them coming from an older couple who were friends of my parents – but I thought they were awesome.) Since we didn’t have any camels, I figured the Wise Men must have ridden them to Bethlehem and then parked them in the manger. Of course, two of the Wise Men would have to have ridden on one elephant, or maybe one walked.

Now my family has a set of figurines, but no manger or any setting in which to put them. The smart thing would be to buy a completely new set, but that’s not our way. They belonged to my husband’s parents, so we have made sporadic efforts to find the other pieces. Nothing matches. We’ll have to make our own.

I’m thinking Lincoln Logs. Or perhaps even Legos, because we have a lot of those. It will be sort of a mixed media kind of thing.

Since my childhood crèche set, along with almost everything else we owned, did not survive our numerous moves, I cannot include a picture of it here. And my in-laws’ figurines are up in the attic.

So I’m including pictures of other items that have evolved into Christmas scene decorations. The first pictures shows Russian/Eastern Europen tree decorations and similar carved wooden figures we have collected over the years, and the second picture shows a set of Russian dolls, most of which were Christmas presents. They actually stay out all the time. Nothing like having a little touch of Christmas all year round.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Advent Calendar Day 8: Christmas Cookies

Did cookies play a role in our holiday foods?

This is a real mystery to me – both the answer to the question and the fact that I really cannot remember whether we had special cookies (or any cookies at all) for Christmas.

Because food is one of those vital subjects – you know, like grudges and embarrassing things your kids did – that I never forget. Of course I don’t remember day-to-day menus, but a good dessert tends to “etch itself in my memory.”

Perhaps we never did have cookies at Christmastime. Or perhaps they were overshadowed by their flashier cousins, cakes and pies. I suppose the moist sinfulness of Tunnel of Fudge cake or the hours of wrist-breaking labor involved producing fruitcake could cause me to forget a modest batch of sugar or oatmeal cookies.

Possible, but not likely.

However, my family and I do make cookies for Christmas these days. They are also a “consolation dessert” for my husband, who does not get to share in eating any of the fudge-and-oatmeal snack bars I make (the recipe is in the GeneaBloggers’ Cookbook) because he is allergic to nuts (I make a separate batch of the cookies below without pecans for my husband.)

So, here is one of my recipes for the humble cousin in the Christmas dessert group, the Christmas cookie:

Super Good Oatmeal Cookies

1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar, firmly packed
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 c. quick-cooking rolled oats
1 package (6 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1 c. chopped pecans
Approximately 1 T. sugar (for flattening cookies)

Start heating oven to 375 degrees. Put butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, egg and vanilla in large mixing bowl. Beat with electric mixer until mixture is creamy and well blended. Add flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt to butter mixture. Beat until well blended. Add oats, chocolate and pecans; mix just to distribute throughout batter. Roll 1/4 c. dough into ball. Place ball on ungreased baking sheet. Put one T. sugar in small bowl. Dip bottom of glass into sugar, then press dough ball with sugar-coated bottom of glass, into flat circle approx. 1/2” thick. Repeat, placing dough circles at 2” apart, about six circles to a sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes. Cool cookies on wire rack.

(You may want to double this recipe.)