Changes for Genealogy at Heart

Dear Readers, This is the most difficult blog I’ve ever written.

My family and I have decided to make some significant life-altering changes. It all began a month ago when I attended my first in-person conference since the pandemic started.

I was so excited to be “back to normal.” Little did I know how it would rock my world!

As a board member of my local historical society, I was asked to attend a conference hosted by my county on preservation. I assumed it would be about preserving buildings and artifacts and discussing the typically Florida issues of mold, humidity, insects, and so on. I was so very wrong.

The speakers were professors from the University of Florida and the University of South Florida, a preservation architect, a state archaeologist, two leaders of historical nonprofits, our county’s planner who specializes in preservation, and a tourism guru (it’s Florida, this makes sense).

Whether you believe in climate change or not, you have to admit the weather has just been kooky. We get minor flooding in Florida on a sunshiny day. We have built on just about every piece of land. Citrus canker has decimated our groves and because of the population growth, farming has shrunk dramatically. There is no longer a dairy in my county or any of my neighboring counties. We’re a beef state but the high humidity and temperatures are making that even more difficult.

I’ve been here for nearly 50 years – graduated from high school, and college, married, raised a family and retired after a 44-year education career. I’ve written before about my love of gardening which I hoped to spend more time on when I retired as an educator last year. Spending just 2.5 hours in my garden is now my limit due to the excessive heat.

Sure, I can stay indoors as I did with the pandemic but that’s not the lifestyle I envisioned when I retired.

The conference had no solutions to preserving Florida’s heritage. Models were shown of the damage that would occur with various hurricane categories descending upon my area. FEMA has a new Ap and it was encouraged that buildings of “value” 1975 and before are photographed and uploaded to FEMA, with additional paperwork to complete, of course. That way, they can be “preserved” once they are destroyed.

Floridians are a hardy bunch; we know what to do when a storm is heading our way. Perhaps we have the Jimmy Buffet mentality but we don’t tend to spend much time worrying about what may happen someday. The conference, however, reminded me how long overdue we are for a direct hit. Last fall, I wrote an article for the Florida Genealogist that will be published this month on a no-name storm that caused heartbreak for a local family in 1921. We lost everything once to Hurricane Elena; I do not want to go through that again at my age.

The traffic was fierce when I left the conference and because of congestion, a car fire, accidents, and road construction, it took me 1.5 hours to get home. Back in the day, that would have taken less than 30 minutes.

The next morning I spoke with my husband about my concerns. He processed our conversation that day and by the next day, thought we should relocate. I felt awful as I was the one who made such a big deal when our adult children came back to live here shortly before the pandemic. How would they take the news?

You have to love those millennials! One child said, “I’ll start packing” and the other replied, “I’ve always hated Florida.” Husband and I looked at each other, stunned.

The next decision was where to relocate. One adult child works from home but the other will need a worksite. We all contributed to what was important to us – less congestion, four seasons, access to the amenities we are used to like shopping, and a place that is accepting. My husband and I were then sent on a mission to find that place.

Last week, we flew to Fort Wayne, Indiana. We rented a car and drove throughout Indiana and Ohio looking for a home. Originally from Lake County, we were familiar with some of the areas we were investigating.

Of course, I did some stops just for genealogical purposes. My family settled in Ohio before it was a state, around 1802. I visited where my paternal grandparents were married and the town where my dad was born. They relocated to Fort Wayne when he was a toddler and so I checked out the churches they attended and the home where they resided. My grandfather returned there after my grandmother’s death and I found his last home. I was not close to my father’s side after my parent’s divorce so seeing these locations were new to me.

My husband’s family was in what is now Indianapolis by 1829 when they built a mill race on the west fork of the White River. His second great grandfather, John Anderson Long, married the mill owner’s daughter, Elizabeth Troxell, and they were the first white settlers in St. Joseph County.

So, our roots run deep there.

This is a bittersweet change for me. I was doing fine emotionally until I saw the menu at a Mad Anthony’s in Warsaw, Indiana. I teared up when I realized I could still order shrimp and grits, get a gyro, or a Cuban.

I realize home is where the heart and family reside and I’m blessed that my adult children would like to remain close to us as we age. Still, I will greatly miss my small Florida town, my local FAN club, the beaches, and my exotic plants. Sure I can visit but it won’t be the same.

Our houses will go up on the market next week. I have no idea how long until we move; we have three towns we are looking at in Indiana but decided to hold off on looking at property until our homes sell.

With the upcoming move, I may miss out on a blog or two.

If you have a need for a Tampa Bay Florida area look-up, please let me know ASAP.

Next week, I’ll share a great genealogical find my husband made and why boots on the ground is still so valuable.

The Surreal in Genealogy

Photo Courtesy of Amazon Prime

Yes, this is the season to be jolly and I am reading a fascinating book that’s anything but jolly this week that I got for free on Amazon Prime. Each month I get a free Kindle book of the month and I selected Murder at Teal’s Pond by David Bushman and Mark T. Givens for my December freebie. I made my selection because I was a Twin Peaks fan of the original series though I didn’t like how creepy it got in the 2000’s so I didn’t finish watching the series. That reason alone wasn’t why I chose this book to read. I was shocked to learn that the show was based off a real life event that just happened to have occurred in upstate New York where my husband’s paternal family once resided. Wow! Who knew?! And I’ve even done boots on the ground research in that location!

Even if you weren’t a Twin Peaks Fan or had kin in the Troy, New York region I recommend this book for the research methods that was employed in an attempt to solve the 113+ murder of Hazel Drew who looked remarkably like Laura Palmer. Talk about typecasting! The authors use many of the strategies that we genealogists do – searching old newspapers, investigating the FAN Club and interviewing the living who might have had knowledge of the event past down to them.

Like Mark Frost who was a co-creator of Twin Peaks, he first learned about the murder from his grandmother who was retelling a different story that had happened at Teal’s Pond. When he questioned her about the details she told him about the murder but didn’t provide much background. As an adult, he decided to dig deeper and that’s how Twin Peaks was brought to life.

There’s a message in here – with the holiday’s approaching you may be interacting with family that you weren’t able to see last year. Make sure you are recording their stories. Who knows, you may end up with a hit TV series because of your efforts.

A Crazy Family History Dream

Editor. Commemorative Biographical Record of Northeastern Pennsylvania, Chicago: J. H. Beers & Co., p.1415.

Did you ever have a dream filled with genealogical hints? That happened to me last week. In my dream, an ancestor was speaking to me and told me the significance of a pin that had been passed down in the family.  I had first become aware of the item in a mugbook. During the summer of 2020 when I was trying to locate the Bible, another descendant was hard at work trying to find the location of the pin.

The mugbook description is above.  In the  dream, the ancestor who I never saw, told me it was mourning jewelry. The ancestor had brought it with him when he left England in the early 1700’s. We think of mourning jewelry as Victorian but the practice did originate in the 1600’s so the piece very well could have memorialized a death.

The dream continued that I was to be on a news show to talk about tracing family. In the green room was my husband, the emcee for the show, and several individuals I didn’t know. When a man with wavy blonde hair, short and stocky walked in, I somehow immediately recognized him as a descendant of the ancestor who had owned the pin. Now that’s totally irrational because there are no pictures or paintings of the ancestor.

I introduced myself to the man and he said he didn’t want to talk to me and he didn’t want to be at the studio, he was only doing it for the money as he needed $1200.00. A woman, who said she was his sister, was glad the man had come as he had paid the burial cost for Elaine and Edward.

I was confused, who were those people? Evidently, Elaine was the caretaker of the pin but had died tragically, though I didn’t know how or when. Edward took possession of the pin but had recently died when his puppy jumped into a lake and he dove in to save it, both drowned. The blonde man had paid for both burials in a Methodist church. He wouldn’t tell the location. His sister said it was the same place she was living which confused me more, was she sleeping in a cemetery? Turns out she had lost her residence and was temporarily staying at a shelter the church provided.

I decided I would write the blonde man a check for half the money he had paid for the burials but I didn’t have my checkbook so I asked him for his address. He refused to give it to me. Then his sister told him it would be wise to do that. The other man in the room, apparently his brother, agreed. I was rummaging around in my purse for a pen and paper but it was time for us to go on-air, which I didn’t want to do. I didn’t want the blonde man to have to share his family tragedy with the world.

Turned out the emcee had gotten us all there under false pretenses; he had “expert” witnesses who were going to debate who should be the rightful owner of the pin – me, a descendant of the first wife, or blonde man’s family, descendant of the second wife. I was so miffed at the subterfuge I said you can debate all you want about the legality but that’s not what is important, respecting the family’s decision is.

And then I woke up and couldn’t shake the dream.

Now I’m not planning on going to the great beyond anytime soon but I am prepared for the big event. My kids know who gets what and they can even have it now if they want.

I have no desire to go after family heirlooms that other’s inherited so why would I dream such a strange dream?

Halloween’s over and Thanksgiving is almost here!

I don’t have any idea but I decided to Google for key details in the dream. The blonde man had told me the first and last names for Elaine and Edward and his sister had told me the name of the church.

I am embarrassed to tell you I Googled it. Weirder still, there were two people by that name affiliated with a church named by the sister, but they were husband and wife and not brother and sister, in Tennessee.

Gave me the creeps.

I told my husband about the dream the next morning and he laughed and told me he and I were on the news. Huh? He had received an email from a neighbor with a link to a local news station that had filmed a marathon city council meeting (it ended after 3:30 AM) a few weeks ago. We had attended the heated meeting for 2 nights. The Tuesday meeting went from 6:30 PM to 12:30 AM, was convened because of a family emergency for one of the council members, reconvened at 6:30 PM on Wednesday and went til about 3:45 AM Thursday morning. We stayed both nights (days?) until the bitter end. Apparently my husband and I had been filmed around 3:00 AM on Thursday morning.

Personally, I think I need to take a genealogy break. I plan on focusing on Thanksgiving prep this week and getting ready for the upcoming holiday season. Maybe then I’ll start dreaming of sugar plums dancing in my head!  Have an awesome Thanksgiving with your loved ones.

Welcome, Cuz – NPE Results in a Newly Found Relative

Courtesy of Suprisesuprise.me

This has been an unusual week for me. In August 2017 I emailed someone on Ancestry asking how they were related as the individual had no online tree. I suggested the match was for a particular surname.

This week, I got a reply. Yes, it was over 4 years after I sent the initial inquiry. Genealogy is a study in patience!

The woman had not gotten an email from Ancestry notifying her that I had messaged her. Recently, her sister had tested and she decided to go back on and see her matches. She had difficult logging on so contacted Ancestry. What a surprise she discovered when she finally saw her matches.

She was only 22% related to her sister and 21% percent related to someone she had gone to school with. Then she saw my message and discovered the schoolmate had the same surname I was asking her about.

Unfortunately, the schoolmate had died last year so she could not contact him. She found his obituary and discovered he had a brother and the name of his parents.

She was shaken to her core, understandably, as who she thought was her father was not biologically hers. She called her sister who responded by laughing. Her sister, only 2 and a half years older than her, had no idea and hadn’t even looked closely at her own Ancestry results.

The woman spoke with a counselor who told this was just a mistake. The woman didn’t believe it was. She messaged me and we spoke in detail. I was able to send her some personal photos I had of her grandparents as my grandfather had evidently attended their 50th anniversary party in the 1970’s.

She is coping extremely well; it’s difficult discovering a not expected parent when you get your DNA results back.

Now that she has some new family,here’s what I suggested she do as she would like to contact them:

     DO NOT – Facebook Message/call/text or show up unexpectedly at their door

     DO use either an unemotionally attached middleman or email/mail a letter

Here’s a template I recommend for adoptees that can be tailored to work for NEP’s:

    I am (insert your name) and I understand that this note may come as a surprise to you. I don’t want to upset anyone but I am hoping to learn about my family’s medical history. I was adopted in (insert date). Recently, I had my DNA tested through (insert company). I have just been diagnosed with (insert illness) and I’m hoping to connect with my biological relatives who may help me better understand my genetic background. Please know I do not want to intrude. I am simply wanting knowledge about my family’s health. I can be reached at (insert phone) or at (insert email). Sincerely,

I also recommended she read, The Stranger in My Genes by Bill Griffeth. In her case, her mother is deceased so she may not ever discover what really happened. It’s likely the father who raised her had no idea but she did not look like her sibling and there was always a joke in the family that she was the daughter of the milkman. The father who raised her was a milkman. It’s unlikely he would have made that joke if he knew the truth.

Like so many others who discover the information, she reported she never felt connected to her family. I do believe we have an unexplainable sense of belongingness to those who share a genetic background with us. Maybe someday how that works will be understandable to us.

In the meantime, I say Welcome, cuz, to the family!

Rethinking Your Family Stories

Photo courtesy of Global Citizen

Yesterday I attended a lecture about researching in burned county Cook, Illinois. We don’t think about Chicago being located in a burned county but of course, like many areas, had a devastating fire that destroyed a large part of the downtown are 150 years ago. Of course, the burned area was where records were kept. The point of the lecture was there are still records left to examine and provided where those sources are now housed.

But that wasn’t the taken away I got from the session…At the very end, a participant asked if Mrs. O’Leary’s cow was the cause of the tragedy. There was an extensive investigation after and both the cow and Mrs. O’Leary were cleared. There had even been a fire the evening before due to the extremely dry conditions. Shoddy building practices and older wooden structures permitted the fire to spread rapidly. A fire department that wasn’t well funded made the situation worse.

When I was a child I lived in the Chicagoland area. Although I don’t recall how I first heard about the fire, I do remember asking my mom about it. She said it was started by Mrs. O’Leary’s cow. My mom was not alive when the fire occurred. Neither were my grandparents or my great grandparents who eventually lived for a short time in the city.

In hindsight, I suppose my mom heard about the fire over 50 years after it had happened. Whoever told her had some knowledge of the original sources blaming the cow but didn’t follow the story long enough to discover what really happened.

Often our family stories are like that; passed from one to another over an extended period of time without fully investigating the information that has become a “fact.”

This week, plan on recalling one of your family stories and do some investigating. Who knows what awesome discovery awaits you! Please share, I’d love to know.

UPDATE: See this interesting story about the O’Leary kin and who might have been responsible for the fire. Note: story mentions that Chicago area children were taught that the cow started the fire so that is how my mom possibly got that information.

Genealogical Coincidences, Or Not? It’s a Small World After All!

Photo by Lori Samuelson

I’ve had a strange week. Last Friday I got approval to write a journal article on a unique family heirloom. I tried to make contact with the family who are the current caretakers of the object but the Facebook message link is broken and they didn’t answer their phone. I spent the rest of the day and most of last Saturday researching the heirloom’s purported history and how the family acquired the religious object.

Mid afternoon my husband asked if I could come outside and see something. My first thought was what broke now. I followed him outside and around the side of our home. Under the bushes was the rock pictured above. “Did you put that there?” he asked. I had no knowledge of it and immediately got goose bumps. I know that people have been placing decorated rocks around neighborhoods and in parks to boost people’s spirits during the pandemic but this was just odd. Who placed it there? Why? There was no note or sticker on the bottom. Our adult kids had no idea how it got there, either. I decided to go back to researching.

Later in the afternoon, my husband saw our next door neighbor in her front yard. He asked her if she had any idea where the rock came from. “Oh, yes, I was babysitting and thought it would be a good craft project.” Umm, sure. My husband explained that we were all confused as to how it came to be placed under the bushes. The neighbor said she was watching two little girls. One made a bumble bee design on a rock and the other, the cross. Our neighbor said, “I don’t know why but I thought of your family getting the cross and [another neighbor] getting the bee.” The other neighbor is a sweetheart – the most kind person you could ever meet. She really doesn’t do gardening. I don’t know, the bee better fits my personality lol! I love gardening and I can definitely give out a stinger.

So, this was all a coincidence that a religious symbol shows up in my yard within 24 hours of me researching religious symbols until two days later when the following happened…

I was volunteering at my local hospital when one of the employees related a story that had occurred the previous evening. In checking a visitor in through the lobby, she had forgotten to return the person’s driver’s license. A security guard said he would take it to the patient’s room where the visitor was headed. She had had a hectic day and a short time later forgot the guard was taking the license. She panicked when she didn’t see it on her desk. A student volunteer reminded her that the guard had taken it. She was embarrassed by her forgetfullness and still feeling tired, decided she would stand for a bit. Looking over in front of the computer I usually use when I volunteer, she noticed the object shown below:

The employee, not recognizing who it portrays, thought it had something to do with demons. She was partly correct; St. Michael was known for fighting demons. He was also prayed to during the first Black Plague after Pope Gregory the Great had a vision of Michael standing over Hadrian’s tomb in Rome slaying evil. When the plague subsided shortly after his experience, Gregory had a shrine built to St. Michael over Hadrian’s tomb which is still visitable today. Well, it would be if we didn’t have a pandemic and could easily go visit. Just sayin’.

Since the heirloom I was investigating for the article just happened to be about St. Michael I was able to tell the employee a little bit about him. Personally, I told her, I don’t think it’s a bad idea he just “materialized” (her words) in a hospital during a pandemic. If one believes in miracles, that would be a fantastic sign. If one didn’t, it was just a coincidence. I suspect that this was part of a key ring and somehow broke off when a visitor searched for their license. Miracle or not, it should go to the lost and found box.

I did take a picture for this blog since that was the 2nd weird happening since I began my research.

As I continued to research the family I noticed that the gateway ancestor who was responsible for securing the heirloom happened to get his social security card in Indiana. My husband and I are from Indiana so I said to my husband, “Wouldn’t it be weird if he happened to have gotten it in Gary?” Neither of us recognized the last name as someone we would have known growing up.

As I further researched, I discovered that the man’s daughter had lived for a short time in Gary, but it was long after we had left the area. What a coincidence, I thought.

I still hadn’t heard back from the family and I did have a few questions and needed clarification regarding conflicting info I had found. I mentioned this when I was volunteering at my local historical society and one of the employees told me that a family member was her neighbor. She texted her and asked her to give me a call.

A week to the day that I left the voice message she called me and was absolutely delightful. After discussing the project and getting some of the information straightened out I asked her if she knew where her grandfather had gotten his social security card in Indiana. She said she wasn’t sure but suspected it was Gary, “…since he and my grandmother spent summers up there.” I mentioned that my husband and I grew up there and I spent nearly every Sunday in the summer at the Croatian picnic grounds. The Greek picnic grounds was close, as was the Spanish, Italian and Polish. Beginning in middle school, we would take shortcuts through the woods to visit classmates who were attending their ethnic groups’ picnic. I can’t tell you how many times I went to the Greek picnic ground but it was often. I will never be able to prove it but I must have been in the same place at the same time as the couple. Another coincidence – 50+ years later I happen to get the idea to write about their family heirloom. Geez, wouldn’t it have been wonderful if I knew that then and could have interviewed them before they died.

Yesterday I continued to do additional research and discovered another coincidence. Evidently, there is a ritual of praying for 33 consecutive days to St. Michael for the protection of the Church and it’s Supreme Pontiff (the Pope). I got approval to write the article and began my research on August 27th. Umm, the time period for the ritual is 27 August through 29 September. For believers, clearly this is another miracle. For the skeptics, I’m just good at identifying coincidences.

Miracles or not, you have to admit it’s a small world after all.

Recording Memories – Some Ideas

Photo from Shutterstock

The recent pandemic was a wake up call for many parts of our personal lives.  Perhaps you are now a member of your family’s “oldest” living generation.  Maybe your grandparents or great grandparents are in failing health and you have questions about their history. Possibly you are reflecting on the events of the past year and a half and want to preserve your experiences for posterity.
This would be a wonderful time to capture the memories!  
In the past week, I’ve received emails requesting how to info on this topic.  Here goes…
The simplest way is a face to face interview with a loved one.  They know you and you know them – that relationship has already been established and trust is vital when sharing of personal information is about to occur.  
If you have a video recorder and a tripod you are ready to go.  If not, check the capability of your smart phone.  Mine has an awesome camera but a so-so recorder.   There are work arounds in that situation; record with your phone and use a separate recorder for the sound.  It’s not a wonderful solution but it’s better than not preserving the memory. 
Before you begin, think of who you plan on meeting with.  This isn’t about you – it’s about them – so make sure you get permission to record the interview.  Keep in mind, like the past year, a person’s life is not always rosy.  Some of the memories may be painful.  Some may cause hurt feelings to relatives that are still living.  I’m not saying to avoid touchy situations.  I’m cautioning you to think about what you plan to do with the recorded memory.  Posting it online could be a major privacy problem.  Make sure you inform the interviewee what your intent is with the finished product.  You may want to even get written permission.  As a professional genealogist I would most certainly do that.  If it is between you and a close family member, you may, instead, mention that your interviewee has given consent for the interview and what you plan to do with the recording on the recording itself.  The interviewee can acknowledge the agreement.
Here’s how my family handled that situation in the 1980’s – When video recorders first came out my husband and I couldn’t afford one to film our first born.  As a surprise Christmas present, my in-laws purchased a recorder for us.  They were shipping it to us from the Midwest and my father-in-law wanted to make sure it worked.  He then got a brilliant idea to go around to various relatives in his area and record them so that our child would be able to “meet” the family.  He contacted the family members and arranged for a day/time that was best for them.  Some of the filming was outside their home, others wanted to come to his house.  He started every interview with “This is Dad.  I’m at Uncle Bob’s house.  Today is November 16, 1985.  Uncle Bob is your Mom’s brother.”  Then Uncle Bob is filmed and he says, “Hi.” He goes on to tell us about his day – some were planning on going to work, others mentioned that they just got home from church and the church’s name is given.  Lots of genealogical breadcrumbs were given for future family historians who might not know this information.
The important piece above is that you record who is interviewing, who is being interviewed, the date and place of the interview and the relationship.  God bless my father-in-law!  He had NO GENEALOGICAL background and he did an awesome job for posterity.
That tape was done on the old clunky large VCR Beta format.  Keep in mind whatever you are using will eventually become old tech.  You will have to keep reformatting it to the latest and greatest in the years to come.  I’d make a few copies.  Give one to the interviewee.  With the interviewee’s permission, you can give some to other family members.  Why?  Because bad things happen to good people!  Houses burn down, weather disasters occur, people lose items.  The more copies out there in different parts of the world the greater the likelihood that one will survive.  Think of that old family Bible you are searching for.  If there was more than 1 family Bible recording those birth dates from 1730 you’d be in great shape, wouldn’t you?!
Now that you know who you will interview, you have permission and you have arranged a day/time that is best for the interviewee, it’s time to think about interview questions.  Below are some ready made questions to choose from:

https://blog.myheritage.com/2017/03/questions-to-ask-your-family/

https://www.familytreemagazine.com/storytelling/interviewing/interview-questions/

https://www.familysearch.org/blog/en/20-questions-capture-grandmas-story/

https://www.loc.gov/vets/kit-generalquestions.html

Or you can devise a list of your own questions.  Some folks do better with a prompt instead of a question.  For example, instead of asking “Where did you go to school?”  you may prompt for school information by stating, “It’s almost back to school time, I’m interested in learning more about your school experiences.”  
Try to avoid asking a lot of closed questions which are questions that have a specific short answer.  Asking for the interviewee’s date and place of birth is important.  You would expect a few words to answer that query.  Asking “Do you remember the location of where you first lived as a child?” will give a response of either yes or no.  If the answer is “Yes” then you want the interviewee to elaborate and provide more information. 
Be cognizant of your interviewee – is he/she/they getting tired?  If so, end the interview and arrange to meet again later.  The length of the interview is determined by the interviewee.  The content of the interviewee provided information is determined by the interviewee.  If you ask about a topic that is uncomfortable for the interviewee – let it go. It is true you may never hear the individual tell you that “secret” information you are asking about.  That’s hard, I know that from personal experience, but you must respect the interviewee.  If they are not ready to share it you must accept it.
I also recommend that you have tissues and water available.  Your interviewee or you may not need them but it’s best to be prepared.
At the conclusion of the interview, end the recording by stating “This is the end of the interview with (insert the name of the individual) on (insert the date) at (insert the place).  If the information gets cut off at the beginning, you’ve got it at the end.  It also lets listeners know they have the complete interview.  
Sure, all of this sound fairly easy but there may be some kinks in your plans.  If you don’t have a recorder or are not able to meet face to face with the interviewee, consider using aps for ZoomGo To Meeting or Teams.  A video meeting can be scheduled and will record the interview.  That’s a nice feature if you have permission to send other family members the recording – you will just need to send them the link of the recorded “meeting.”  If you aren’t familiar with one of the companies I linked to, you may know of another that hosts meetings.  I’ve used the three I mentioned and all are simple to use.  Check out their FAQ page to get started.  
If you would like the interview saved with the Library of Congress, another option for recording is using StoryCorps.  I have not personally used that program but think it is an awesome idea.  Recording are limited to 40 minutes. 
Lastly, don’t forget you can interview yourself.  Your story is just as important as your family members.  Have I done that?  No, but it is on my to-do list.  Put it on yours, too.

Finding a Long Lost Recipe in a Modern Way

During the pandemic, I updated a family cookbook that I originally compiled in 2002.  It is a collection of recipes and holiday customs passed down to my husband and I.  Unfortunately, most of the recipes are from my maternal side of the family.
Although I wasn’t close to my dad’s side, I do recall my grandmother’s cooking on several occasions.  Chicken or beef, mashed potatoes with gravy and another vegetable was all I can remember.  What does stand out is that she served dessert on the same plate that was used for dinner.  This totally grossed me out as a small child so I would refuse dessert.  She must have thought I was very strange to turn down homemade apple pie ala mode but I just couldn’t enjoy it if it was on the same plate in which my main course had been served.  
I have no idea why a dessert plate wasn’t used as I have inherited a set from my paternal grandmother’s mother so clearly they had the means to separate the courses.  I don’t know why it bothered me as I wasn’t one of those kids who wouldn’t eat if one food touched another.  The only food I refused to eat was pizza as it looked unappealing to me.  Of course, the only time I recall my parents going out to dinner with my paternal grandparents was to a restaurant where they ordered pizza.  I recall I had a child’s chicken plate instead.  
I don’t have many recipes from my husband’s side of the family, either.  Most came from a church cookbook that my mother-in-law purchased for me that contained her submitted recipes.  I’m not sure how many of those recipes were passed down, however.  Years ago, I made a beef stew recipe from that cookbook that was supposedly one of my sister-in-law’s favorites.  I complimented her on it and she had no idea what I was talking about.  My husband asked his mother and she said she entered it to see her daughter’s name in print.  I wonder how many other organizational cookbooks contain recipes that the “submitter” never tasted. Sometimes, records submitted are not correct!
I do have a recipe for Lickum, which has been handed down on the Samuelson line, probably from Sweden as it appears to be from that area originally.  There are several variations online.  Lickum is similar to a pickle relish made with onions, tomatoes and peppers.
Last week I went on a quest for a lost family recipe on my husband’s paternal line.  I had tried for years to get the recipe from his cousins but everyone I asked replied with a stricken expression and said, “You don’t want that recipe.”  My husband absolutely hated it as apparently, all of his cousins had.  The recipe was called oyster stuffing and though we’re still 6 months away from Turkey Day, my mind recalled, in a strange way, that I still haven’t discovered it. 
Through the Kindle library I read a short book about a true story of a pirate operating off Long Island, New York in 1860.  He murdered the captain and two deck hands on an oyster ship.  It was a true story and I was shocked by how large the oyster market was at that time.  
My husband’s family were originally from Long Island and my father-in-law had recalled his grandmother making the dish for holidays.  His grandmother, Mary Thompson, was born in Chicago, however, her mother Drusilla Williams, was born on long island and her father, John Hicks Williams, was a ship’s carpenter.  Although I will probably never know for certain, it’s likely the oyster stuffing recipe originated from the once abundance supply of oysters near the family’s home.
Several days after finishing the book, I had a strange dream.  I awoke from a deep sleep and only recall that I was looking at what looked like a television’s blank screen – grey with static – and a man’s voice saying, “If you want that oyster recipe you better ask for it soon before it’s too late.”  Kind of an ominous warning for a mere recipe that no one continued to serve.  
I told my husband the next morning and he posted on Facebook.  Within a matter of minutes one of his cousins had forwarded it to another cousin through marriage that had the recipe.  Apparently, it’s all over the internet.  From Martha Stewart to Chef John, what my husband’s family called Oyster Stuffing is now called Scalloped Oysters or Oyster Casserole.  Who knew?!  I have duly entered the recipe in my family cookbook.  
Reaching out on social media helped me discover that long lost recipe in minutes.  I don’t know why I never thought to do that before!

During the pandemic, I updated a family cookbook that I originally compiled in 2002.  It is a collection of recipes and holiday customs passed down to my husband and I.  Unfortunately, most of the recipes are from my maternal side of the family.
Although I wasn’t close to my dad’s side, I do recall my grandmother’s cooking on several occasions.  Chicken or beef, mashed potatoes with gravy and another vegetable was all I can remember. What does stand out is that she served dessert on the same plate that was used for dinner.  That totally grossed me out as a small child so I would refuse dessert.  She must have thought I was very strange to turn down homemade apple pie ala mode but I just couldn’t enjoy it if it was on the same plate in which my main course had been served.  
I have no idea why a dessert plate wasn’t used as I have inherited a set from my paternal grandmother’s mother so clearly they had the means to separate the courses.  I don’t know why it bothered me as I wasn’t one of those kids who wouldn’t eat if one food touched another.  As a preschooler, the only food I refused to eat was pizza as it looked unappealing to me.  Of course, the only time I recall my parents going out to dinner with my paternal grandparents was to a restaurant where they ordered pizza. I had a child’s chicken plate instead.  
I don’t have many recipes from my husband’s side of the family, either. Most came from a church cookbook that my mother-in-law gifted me that contained her submitted recipes.  I’m not sure how many of those recipes were passed down, however.  Years ago, I made a beef stew recipe from that cookbook that was attributed to my sister-in-law.  I complimented her on it but she had no idea what I was talking about.  My husband asked his mother and she said she entered it to see her daughter’s name in print.  I wonder how many other organizational cookbooks contain recipes that the “submitter” never knew about. Sometimes, records submitted are not correct!
I do have a recipe for Lickum, which has been handed down on the Samuelson line, probably from Sweden as it appears to be from that region originally.  There are several variations online.  Lickum is similar to a pickle relish made with onions, tomatoes and peppers.
Last week I went on a quest for a lost family recipe on my husband’s paternal line. I had tried for years to get the recipe from his cousins but everyone I asked replied with a stricken expression and said, “You don’t want that recipe.”  My husband absolutely hated it as apparently, all of his still living cousins had.  The recipe was called oyster stuffing and though we’re still 6 months away from Turkey Day, my mind recalled, in a strange way, that I still haven’t discovered it. 
Through the Kindle library I read a short book about a true story of a pirate operating off Long Island, New York in 1860.  In The Pirate by Harold Schecter (2018), Albert W. Hicks murdered the captain and two deck hands on an oyster ship.  It was a true story and I was shocked by how large the oyster market was at that time.  
My husband’s family were originally from Long Island and my father-in-law had recalled his grandmother making the dish for holidays.  His grandmother, Mary Thompson, was born in Chicago, however, her mother Drusilla Williams, was born on long island and her father, John Hicks Williams, was a ship’s carpenter.  I have no idea if the pirate and my husband’s ship’s carpenter were related, sharing the similar surname of Hicks.  There were many Hicks’ in the area at the time.  Although I will probably also never know for certain, it’s likely the oyster stuffing recipe originated from the once abundance supply of oysters near the family’s home.
Several days after finishing the book, I had a strange dream.  I awoke from a deep sleep and only recall that I was staring at what looked like a television’s blank screen – grey with static – and a man’s voice saying, “If you want that oyster recipe you better ask for it soon before it’s too late.”  Kind of an ominous warning for a mere recipe that no one continued to serve.  My subconscious most likely paired the bloody Hicks to my husband’s Hicks and the Long Island oysters connected them even further.
I told my husband the next morning and he posted on Facebook.  Within a matter of minutes one of his cousins had forwarded it to another cousin through marriage that had the recipe.  Apparently, it’s all over the internet.  From Martha Stewart to Chef John, what my husband’s family called Oyster Stuffing is now called Scalloped Oysters or Oyster Casserole.  Who knew?!  I have duly entered the recipe in my family cookbook.  Husband says he is not eating it if I make it.
Reaching out on social media helped me discover that long lost recipe in minutes.  I don’t know why I never thought to do that before! I had wasted years asking relatives in person when I could easily have just posted a request.  Live and Learn!

Hmm, What to Do When You Can’t Find The Record You Seek

It’s been a slow genealogy week for me.  One of our computers is down and another is acting wonky – freezes and shuts itself off.  Since I’m still holed up at home this greatly impacts my genealogical research.

Last week I blogged about my 3rd great grandmother Jane Morrison Duer who was mostly forgotten by her children and I was seeking to discover why.  I suspected that discovering the divorce documents may shed light on this mystery.

Jane married John Duer in Trumbull County, Ohio on 29 Jul 1827.  The couple had 11 children together and relocated to Holmes County and later, Mercer County, Ohio.  They are last found together in the 1860 US Federal census with their youngest children residing in a residence two units away from their oldest surviving married daughter, Maria Duer Kuhn.  

John remarried widow Margaret Martz Searight in Mercer County on 11 December 1864.  John was raised a Presbyterian so there most likely is a divorce document somewhere. In other words, I doubt he was a polygamist.

I suspect he asked for the divorce because Jane’s tombstone in Kessler Cemetery records her as “wife of John Duer.”  But she wasn’t that at the time of her death, 10 July 1866.  

When the second wife died, her tombstone, also in Kessler Cemetery, records her as the “wife of John Duer.”  She actually was the widow of by the time of her death but she was also the widow of her first husband.  I suspect that her children purposely engraved the stone to reflect what was on Jane’s.

No tombstone has been found for John.  Family legend says he’s buried next to Jane, which is possible but unconfirmed because Kessler’s records are incomplete.  There is a sunken space next to Jane that likely is a burial but who is in that space is unknown.  Second wife is buried in another section of the cemetery and there are marked stones on both side of her so that is not where John lies.  

I was hoping to find the divorce document to get a better understanding of the circumstances.  I guessed that John asked for divorce; I reasoned Jane would not have wanted all eternity to be known as his wife if she had wanted out of the relationship.  She did not remarry so likely was not involved in another relationship.  

I did not think finding the divorce document would be difficult but is has proven to be.  In Mercer County, the Common Plea Court holds divorce records and they are not available online.  I wrote to the Clerk and was informed that a search was made between 1860-1866 and no divorce record was found.

I then thought that perhaps the divorce was granted in Adams County, Indiana where John had purchased property in June 1860 when he was still married to Jane and where he eventually resided.  He was shown with his second wife, their children, a child from her first marriage and two children from his first marriage in Adams in the 1870 census.  

In  March and May1863, John sued in Common Plea Court in Mercer for money owed him in the sale of property he had made in November 1862.  Jane was not mentioned in the court document so it’s likely that she was not on the deed.  

Why he remarried in Mercer and not Adams is another mystery.  

I reached out to Adams County this week and was informed yesterday they have no divorce record.

So, do I give up.  NOPE!  I did ask both Mercer and Adams County Clerks where I might look and neither answered that question.  My next step was to email a genealogist who lives in the Mercer area for recommendations.  

I’m looking forward to the reply.  

Forgotten Jane Morrison Duer

Courtesy of Cousin Becky on Find-a-Grave. Burial in Kessler Cemetery
Courtesy of Cousin Becky on Find-a-Grave. Burial also in Kessler Cemetery. John Duer was married to Margaret at the time of his first wife, Jane’s burial, in 1866.

Why was Jane Morrison Duer divorced from her husband John after about 37 years of marriage and eleven children together? Jane followed John from her native Trumbull County, Ohio to Killbuck Township, Holmes, Ohio and on to Mercer County, Ohio over their long years together. What would cause the relationship to end? I have a working hypothesis but no proof. This was a family most likely stressed by societal and personal crises.

Of the 11 children, 5 predeceased Jane. The couple’s first child, a female, died between 1830-1840. We only know of her existence from the 1830 census record’s tick mark that she was in the age group as being “under 5.” No grave has been discovered for her so she remains nameless.

The next child, William, was certified as insane at age 23 in Holmes County and sent to the Ohio Lunatic Asylum. There are only two other records found for William. In the first, he was listed in the 1860 U.S. Federal Census as an insane laborer, age 30, residing in the asylum in Columbus, Franklin, Ohio. That is correct but his birth in Germany is not. That’s interesting to note as his sister and several siblings did marry into the Kuhn family that were immigrants from Germany. Maria, William’s oldest surviving sister, had her birth place listed in error as Germany on her death record provided by her son. William and Maria most likely were born in Trumbull County, Ohio before the family relocated to Holmes County in the late 1930’s.

The second document is a notice in the newspaper, the Holmes County Farmer, on 14 March 1861 recommending that community members write to him and the 7 other “inmates.” I infer he must have been the longest committed as his name appears first. Although alphabetically his surname would be recorded first the others listed are not in alpha order. The article states that “some of these poor unfortunates are supposed to be incurable.” Most of his family had moved on to Mercer County, Ohio by the time the clip was published. No death date has ever been found for William so I suspect he died at the asylum. I am waiting for the organization that holds the records to reopen as they are closed due to the pandemic.

Next oldest son, Thomas Ayers, relocated to Winterset, Madison, Iowa by 1860, enlisted in the Civil War and died unmarried and likely childless of Febris Typhoides on 5 May 1862 in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Daughter Maria wed Henry Kuhn and the couple lived two residences away from Jane and John in 1860. Henry enlisted in the Civil war, leaving Maria to raise their young children. During this time period, John and Jane divorced. Although no record has been found, John remarried in 1864, two years prior to Jane’s death. John relocated with his second wife to Adams County, Indiana where he had two deeds for land. Neither deed had then wife Jane’s name on them. When John died, Maria is not named in his will. Maria’s death certificate names both of her parents.

Son John B. had married first in 1860 but his wife Keziah died a few months after the marriage. He then married Carolina, one of the sibling of Maria’s husband, in 1863 and moved across the state line to farm in Adams County, Indiana. He seems to have had a falling out with his father as like Maria, he is not named in John’s will, even though he was residing in the same county as his father. Marriage records found do not name John B.’s parents. No death certificate for him as been located.

Mary Ann was found living with John and his second wife in 1870, however, she also was not named in his will. She may have had a falling out with her sister Maria as shortly after mother Jane’s death in July 1866, Mary Ann took Adam Kuhn, Maria’s brother-in-law, to court in Mercer County. Pregnant with Adam’s child, the unmarried couple could not agree on a financial settlement. Adam, in December 1866, was jailed by Jacob Baker, who married my 3rd great aunt, Caroline Bollenbacher, as Adam refused surety.

Sister Maria and her husband Henry was close to Adam as evidenced by their naming their son, born in February 1866, after him.

Mary Ann and Adam’s child must not have survived as there is no further court records of payment. He married an Elizabeth or Catharin Harper in Van Wert, Ohio 16 January 1868 and went on to have 5 daughters before dying at age 44, possibly due to injuries sustained during the Civil War when he fought in Union Company F, 99th Ohio Infantry.

Mary Ann married first, James Furman in 1875 who must have died shortly after the marriage as she married second John L. Ceraldo in 1879. John’s first wife had probably died as the child, Daniel, shown living with Mary Ann and John in 1880 would have been too old to have been theirs together. No record is ever found again of the boy who is presumed to have died. Mary died in 1909 in Michigan; her husband named John Duer as her father but her mother’s name was unknown. Although she had married after Jane’s death, why would she have not informed her husband in their 30 years of marriage what her mother’s name had been? Like Maria and John B., Mary Ann was not named in her father’s will.

Son Prosser remained in Holmes County, Ohio after the rest of the family relocated to Mercer County. He enlisted in the Civil War and died at Stones River, Tennessee on 2 January 1863. He did not marry or have any known children.

Daughter Sarah Jane married another sibling of Maria’s husband, Phillip, in 1870, four years after Jane had died. Sarah was also not named in her father’s will. Although she died in 1920, no death certificate or obituary has been found for her.

Son Mark Duer disappears from records after being found in 1850 with the family in Holmes, Ohio. He likely died there but no burial location has been found.

Son James William was found living with John and his second wife in Adams, Indiana in 1870 yet he, too, was not named in John’s will. When James wed in 1887 he named his mother as Sarah J. Marisum sic Morrison. James would have been 18 years old when his mother Mary J[ane] died. How did he not remember her name? Perhaps because she was called by her middle name and he thought of his sister Sarah and not Mary as having the first name as his mother. He spent the rest of his life living in Adams County where he was killed in a bike accident. He death certificate names his father as John but the mother was listed as unknown. It was completed by his son, Elra Leroy. Elra was born 6 years after his grandfather John had died. How did he remember John’s name but not the name of his grandmother Jane?

Youngest child, Angeline, was named in her father’s will. She is the only child of John and Jane’s to be named. She was living with him and his second wife in 1870. She married in 1874 and remained in Adams, Indiana until her death in 1933. Like her siblings, her father John is named on her death certificate. Her mother is recorded as Catharine, born in Ohio. The information was provided by Angeline’s daughter, Effie. Effie probably remembered her grandfather as she would have been 9 years old and living in the same area as him when he died. Where Effie came up with her grandmother’s name as Catherine is unknown as there is no Catherines in the family; her paternal grandmother’s name was Nancy.

Jane is buried in Kessler Cemetery and according to the trustees, the records are incomplete. They do not show who purchased the plot or if her husband John is buried next to her as family lore claims. There is a sunken area that appears to be burial next to Jane but records do not exist to state who is interred there. There is no tombstone. John’s second wife was buried in Kessler but in a different location. John is not buried on either side of his second wife. What is obvious is Jane’s tombstone that is boldly engraved “wife of John Duer” even though she wasn’t at the time of her death.

I suspect daughter Maria purchased the headstone as she was the only child still residing in Mercer County at the time of Jane’s death that had the means to afford it. Maria’s husband was a prosperous farmer and active in the community. In my opinion, Maria wanted the legitimacy of the first marriage noted for eternity.

It’s likely that Margaret’s children paid for her tombstone and wanted to show the world they, too, were legitimate so also engraved their mother as the wife of John.

The year 1866 must have been a tremendously difficult time for Maria. She had 5 children age 7 and under, her parents had recently divorced, her father remarried, her husband was away fighting for the Union in the Civil War, she has a brother that was committed to an insane asylum, 5 deceased siblings and her sister files a bastardly charge against her brother-in-law. What a mess!

But my underlying question is why did Jane and John’s children not hand down their mother’s name to their spouses/children?

Perhaps the state of the union, along with the loss of so many children caused Jane to suffer from the same melancholy as her son, William. John may have abandoned Jane for a new relationship with the widow who owned property close to his newly purchased land across the state lines in Indiana.

I believe Jane was forgotten by her adult children because it was too painful to remember those difficult times. They did not want to inform their children of their mother’s and brother’s mental state. No family member I have reached out to was aware of Williams insanity commitment. The family just didn’t speak about painful situations.

Last week I received a call from a clerk with the Mercer Ohio Common Plea Court. She had searched for a divorce record for John and Jane between 1860 and 1866. None was found. Perhaps John abandoned Jane and the paperwork was filed in Adams County, Indiana where I’ll be searching next. It’s possible that single document may help me better understand the straw that was the backbreaker of the relationship. The search continues!