Genealogy Food for Thought

Food items in short supply for the last few months seem to be returning to my local grocery store.  For a time, there was no flour, eggs and milk which definitely impacted home made bread and dessert making.  I don’t bake much anymore but I definitely pulled out my old family recipe book to cook up some comfort food while we were home.  

In 2001, as my oldest was about to leave home for college, I compiled a book of our favorite family recipes.  It’s definitely time for a re-do as I’ve acquired many additional ones to add to the old time favorites.  The binding on the old book is also giving out and some of the pages are stained. 

Since I’ve read every book and magazine in my house and on my Kindle, reorganized every closet and drawer, I’m ready to tackle the recipe book as my upcoming summer genealogical project.

You see, I add historical info as background to the cooking instructions.  For example, I tell the story of how Corn Meal Mush came into my grandmother’s go-to recipes when money was tight.  She got the recipe as a young bride from a southern neighbor.  All you need is corn meal and butter – simple and delicious.  

I will definitely be adding a section entitled “Pandemic” and it will contain the improvised methods I had to use when I ran out of staples and couldn’t get to the grocery store.  I don’t want to forget the past weeks – I want to document survival for a future family member.  Whether we’ve turned a corner on covid-19 or not, I can’t say.  What I can say is hope will get us through and I’m really hoping I’ll have this revised recipe collection done so I can give it out as Christmas presents!

Last Minute Mother’s Day Gifts for the Genealogist

Happy Mother’s Day Weekend!  Tomorrow is the big day and if you are short of time or your favorite store is short on everything then here’s two ideas that might help:

1.  Genealogical.com has a 3 month special offering all of their 750 books for purchase to be viewed online.  It’s a nice idea while libraries were closed and it allows you to see if it is a book you’d like to purchase in the future. I know many in person sites will be opening soon but if you’re like me – have read everything you have at home AND are not wild about the idea of going out yet, this might be the ideal gift.

I’ve been using it for the past 2 weeks and I have found some interesting info as I’ve been researching Barbados which is not a well represented topic in my local libraries.  Have I found anything earth shattering? Not yet but I’ve obtained some clues to go forward with. 

There are some glitches with the site so I want to share that info to avoid frustration.  First, the log in is quirky.  I’ve tried Chrome, Firefox and good ole Internet Explorer thinking that might be the issue but it isn’t.  It never can recognize my password unless I sign in through my Google account.  I’m telling you this because I’ve been locked out and when you’re paying for something for a limited time that’s frustrating.

I know I’m not alone as someone else had commented that once you’re in, you often get sent to a page to purchase books.  Here’s how to get around that – Click Home and Click on Book Bonanza at the top.  You’ll be in the right area to read at that point.

Next issue is it always takes you back to page 1 of the books listed.  What would have been nice would have been a long page listing all the book titles/authors (I don’t care what the cover looks like!) with a link directly to the book.  After a few days of use I decided I would approach this as I do when I’m just surfing a shelf in a brick and mortar library – I looked at all the offerings on the site page by page and wrote down the titles of interest.  Now, when I’m back on page 1 (you get logged off if you step away for a bit so when you log back on you automatically return to page 1) I just type the title I’m interested in the search button.

Here’s another hint – the list of books I created I checked WorldCat and Ancestry and 18 were there so I will be using those sites for those books.  That way, I don’t have to feel pressure to get through all the other ones that I can’t access anywhere else.

You can’t download the books – just read them – so remember where you left off.  It’s not like Kindle so you have to make a number of clicks to go back where you were.  The other issue is that the page numbers don’t appear so using the Index is difficult.  For example, in Barbados Records in Marriages 1643-1800 Vol. 1, I checked out the index for my Alexanders and derivations of Hollingshead and I find a few I didn’t know existed.  There’s no page number or book section listed so the only way to find them is to scan every page in the book (which is a list of marriage records, duh, so it’s all names) arranged in chronological order by parish to find them.  That is time intensive and yes, I have 3 months, but there are other books I also want to check out.  I used a back door to get more info on the possible relatives listed – looked them up on genealogy sites online to get a better understanding of relationships, years they were in that country (my peeps were gone by 1720 so if the others were there in 1800 I don’t need to check further), and where they originated from in England. 

Going back from a page to another part of the book is also a pain.  You can use the back arrow but if, for example, you’re looking at H’s in the index, you’ve clicked numerous times to get through the A’s-G’s so it’s a lengthy process to return.  It also loads pages slowly, maybe that’s just on my end, but it makes me crazy so now I just click the top arrow to go back to good ole page 1 of all the offerings, retype in the name of the book and then use the index to go where I want. 

So now you’re thinking – why in the world, Lori, would you recommend this as a Mother’s Day gift?!  Well, there’s not a lot out there to purchase and your dear mom isn’t gonna get the ‘rona using this.  Just show her this blog and she can hit the ground running.  I’m not making any money off this – just trying to be helpful.

2.  Next option is to sign up for a National Genealogical Society conference package.  This is what my family got me for my birthday and I’m really excited.  I’ve attended past in-person conferences and loved them!  I was unable to go out to Salt Lake this year due to my other job’s schedule so this gift is really making me happy.  On May 20th, the “live” online offerings are available from 11 AM to 7 PM.  In July, based on the package purchased, you can view up to 85 other lectures that would have been available if the conference was held in person and those are available through May 2021!  That’s more genealogical courses then you could have ever attended in person so I think this is an awesome opportunity.  Sure – you don’t get the camaraderie of being around other genealogists, the immediate answer to your question or the excitement of travel but in these times, I’m good with what is being offered. 

2020 Census – Oh, Dear!

Oops! I was doing website maintenance this AM and discovered the following never got published!

I have no idea how that happened as it was originally supposed to be posted in March. I guess with all the stuff going down at that time I failed to hit the “publish” button. So sorry – here it is…

It’s Census Time and here’s my take on the 2020 U.S. Census. 

I’m not impressed.  I got the mailer the second week in March when we were all busy trying to make plans for the unknown.  I put it in my to do pile for Spring Break.  One of my adult children, who lives 4 minutes from me in the same town never got the form.  My other adult child, who recently moved back to our home and has mail forwarded from the last address, never got it either.  Hmm, not good if you’re trying to locate everyone.  Definitely not good when everyone is housebound but the census takers aren’t out and about because it doesn’t officially open until April 1, 2020.

Next problem was I tried to complete the form online.  I was halfway done when the doorbell rang and the roofer came to try to find why my kitchen window was leaking (because the window installer insists the window isn’t the problem).  When I came back it had timed out and I had to start all over.  Seriously, they couldn’t have put a Save button on that.  (Happily, it wasn’t my roof – found a pin hole in the soffit and all it took was caulk!)

The first question I had confusion over was number 5 – …”If there is someone living here who pays the rent or owns this residence, start with listing him or her as Person 1”  Well, duh, it’s jointly owned and technically, it’s a trust so our adult kids also own it but should I add them as one doesn’t live with us?  I don’t know.  I opted to just include my husband and me.  I figure a future genealogist will see the property tax record and figure it out.  Maybe I’m just overthinking this because I am a genealogist.  It does bring out an important point about how our ancestors interpreted questions in the past.  We have no idea how they were thinking.

Then I got stuck on “What is the person’s race?”  So, I have to add my “origin.”  I am a proud Mutt and if I hadn’t filled it out online the space provided would not have worked for me.  I am Croatian, French-German, Irish, English, Scottish and Scandinavian.  Technically, my origin is Africa but I have no idea how far they wanted me to go back.  Should I have put Neandertal, too?  It is in my DNA.  And then, to complete my adult kid who’s living with us temporarily – had to add my Mutt hubby.  Yeah, this is really dumb.  All I kept thinking about was the Ancestry.com commercial with the guy in the lederhosen trading it in for a kilt.  A family member and co-workers thought it was a dumb question, too, so they put down Mixed American.  I kind of like that.  Future genealogists will be so confused with this response. 

Although this doesn’t apply to me, under “American Indian” (Seriously, you’d think they would have put Native American as they did with Alaskan Native.) Mayan and Aztec are a choice.  What about Incan?  Clearly not every choice is provided but why did they select the ones they listed?  Inquiring minds want to know. 

I completed it in the morning and in the afternoon, received a second mailing that said I hadn’t completed the first one.  What a waste of money!  It’s wasn’t due until April 1st anyway so why send a second mailer to me when my adult kids never got the first one?!  Typical waste of money.

US Census – An Interactive Timeline

Found a wonderful site this week that I think you’ll enjoy.  Check out The Evolution of the American Census.  This interactive site allows you to compare census questions over the years.  The presentation is simply awesome!  You’ll be able to view information your ancestors were asked to provide along with what the US’s interests were over time. Quite interesting to see the direction the nation took over time.

I just wish this was available in a poster for a ready reference sheet.

My only other wish was that we could all view the 1950 US Federal census now while we were still home.  Alas, that’s two years off in the future. 

The Proof Genealogical Connections Are Closer Than You Think

The sun is out and the weather is cool so I intend to get some fresh air and complete yard work before the next deluge descends.  

Think shelter in place lessens your genealogical connections?  Think again!  This is an awesome article that reminds us we need to sometimes not only think out of the box to discover our heritage, we often don’t need to look far at all!  

The Washington Post’s article – Amid the pandemic, a family learns their neighbors are their long-lost relatives will make you smile, remind you that your family stories are often close but not always 100% accurate and the coincidences that occur while sleuthing can just boggle the mind.  My immediate family has gotten used to my striking up conversations with strangers and discovering our families often had a shared past but this story takes it to a new level.  Enjoy!

Saturday Morning Confusion and Insights

It’s been an interesting day in the Samuelson household which is the reason my blog is late. I don’t know about you but since we’ve been sheltering-in-place, we’ve had way too many broken devices.  The odd thing is that most were under warranty and when those were being “serviced,” it resulted in another breakage. First it was the hot tub, then it was the refrigerator, and now it’s a yard that is a total disaster.

Before the world came to a stop, hubby and I had discussed having a well put in so that our garden could be watered more frequently in the dry season then our city permits.  I had contacted a company who said they would be out the following week which turned out to be 6 weeks later.  Now this wasn’t the fault of the company; in our area there are various environmental permits that must be acquired and the company couldn’t comply with the laws because none of the other organizations were opened.  Finally, the permits were obtained and the well was supposed to be drilled yesterday.

My husband told the two service men to be careful because he thought there was buried cables where they planned to dig.  I then showed them a photo from the last time we had the underground cable locators out showing exactly where the buried lines were.  Did these two guys listen?  Since you already know the answer, I’ll just continue…

Hubby was on a work related Zoom meeting and I was researching on FindMyPast when the internet connection was lost.  We went outside and there were these two young men looking sullenly down at the broken cables.  They had also cut the sprinkler line.  

Thank goodness we were able to have the line restored this morning but then there was the matter of who was paying for the charge.  The owner of the well company said he would take care of it but the connection wasn’t a simple one and now someone else is going to have to come out to bury cable and get it under our driveway.  And dig up the whole front of our yard to bury the new line.

In the meantime, while the well company was trying to fix the broken sprinkler line, a torrential downpour occurred.  They left in a hurry with the job undone.  Hubby, who had been trying to help them, came in drenched and cold.  I ordered him to the shower and that’s when we realized they had the water turned off.  So, out we go in the downpour to turn the water back on.  Then we noticed that something was amiss – we just didn’t have the pressure we had previously had.  After the storm subsided we went back outside and discovered the company had left the sprinkler on and it had been coming out full force for two hours.  This resulted in flooding on that side of the house.  Yeah, it’s been a day!  But we do have internet!!!

So, being homebound with no access to the outside world I decided I would catch up on my reading.  I am happy to report I’ve read my back issues of Smithsonian, National Geo, AAA and various journals.  My favorite, though, was the winter issue of American Ancestors.  The entire magazine is devoted to the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower.  Even if you aren’t a Mayflower descendant, this is a must read.

My favorite articles were “We are still here,” a Wampanoag perspective, “Keeping Tradition Alive, A Portrayal of Wampanoag Life,” “New Discoveries in Mayflower Genealogy Uncovering Connections through DNA,” “Finding Unexpected Mayflower Kinships,” and “Ideas for Future Mayflower Research.”

The last three articles provide hints for anyone who is trying to locate records from the time period, even if you don’t have a Mayflower connection.  Checking manorial records, registers, and recusancy (a record of nonconformists who refused to attend Church of England services) are excellent sources to use to hunt down your elusive ancestors. I had used the recusancy records years ago when researching some of my Quaker ancestors but had forgotten about that tool.  I plan to check it out again as I search for one of my Hollingshead family members who had left merry ole England for New Jersey by way of Barbados.

The first two articles, from a Native American perspective, were clearly the best of the bunch.  I learned so much and what sticks in my mind most is the original reason for wampum belts.  If you thought, as I had, they were currency, well, you just have to read the article.  I was blown away by truth.  (Hint:  read page 27!)  I was aware of Native American’s culture that honors the elderly and ancestors but I had no idea the artistry in the remembrances that was involved.  The deep symbolism in a wampum belt will remain with me forever.  

Free Sites for Genealogy in April and Onward

Run out of your regular go-to’s for genealogy research?  You are in luck because some free offerings are now available to get you out of your rut:

British History Online is a digital collection of Great Britain, Ireland and more that will be free through July.  Currently I’m using it to research the Caribbean (West Indies) but colonial U.S. information is also available.  I discovered one of my distant family members was interested in the East Indies in the 1500’s – who knew?!  Check out this blog before you get started.

Legacy Family Tree Webinars is offering a free webinar from their extensive library each day in April.  If you aren’t a member, now is a wonderful time to take a look at what they have to offer.

With libraries closed throughout the world, why not go to your local or state genealogy association’s home page and see if they are still offering meetings from the comfort of your own home.  My local group has switched to using Go To Meetings for their weekly tech meetings.  Yours may be using Zoom or Microsoft Office Teams.  They’re easy to use and if you’re new here’s a few hints.  For Zoom, you can click on the upper right of the screen and change the view of attendees from a bar across the top to a grid that will take up the entire screen (like the old Brady Bunch).  Wondering why some people have a black square and no picture?  They clicked the video button the bottom of their screen to disable their computer’s camera. The host (the person who sent the invitation link or password info) has the ability to let everyone speak or to mute and then unmute attendees.  You can mute yourself on the same bottom bar if you like.  Want to ask a question but not interrupt?  Just click the message on the bottom bar and a side bar will appear.  Type whatever you like and click enter.  Your message will appear and the host will hopefully get around to answering it.  When you’re done, just click the red “Leave Meeting” button and you’ve disconnected from the site.  

Although this is not directly related to genealogy, it will most definitely help you if you don’t already have Microsoft Office.  Check out this link for details, restricts do apply.

Hope you’re staying safe and finding family!

More Shelter in Place Genealogy Ideas

Part 2 

Last week my blog was a whole lot longer than usual but I figured now that you’re housebound, you’ve got time to read.  I have seven additional ideas to work on since you can’t run down to your local archive or call a library to access a record.  Now is a wonderful opportunity to…

1.      Review what you have on that brick wall ancestor.  Take every scrap of evidence and spread it out on your workspace.  Now arrange it in chronological order and study it.  Next arrange it by connections, such as every document that has the spouse’s name, too.  Do you see any missing time frames?  Maybe there was a marriage certificate for 1842, a deed in the same county for 1852 but one of the individuals isn’t mentioned in the 1860 U.S. Federal census but shows up again in 1870. That’s a clue to figure out where the individual was in 1860 – maybe they were ill and placed in a sanitarium, perhaps they were visiting an adult child in another area, the person may have had to find work elsewhere or attend the funeral of a family member.  Not sure where the person might have been?  I recommend reading my last blog article and doing item 3.  After you do that …

2.      Take your time to synthesize the information.  Don’t rush – we aren’t going anywhere for awhile.  Let the information just percolate in your brain.  Write down what you find odd or missing.  Now it’s time to…

3.      Do some exercise.  Hubby and I now start our day with a beginner yoga video we found on youtube.  Stretching and breathing will help your brain process the information so give it a try.  The workout may have made you hungry so now think about…

4.      Family recipes.  My hubby’s birthday is coming up and I may have to dig up the family Depression Cake recipe because I don’t know what ingredients will be available at the grocery.  That recipe makes me think of other recipes that got my family through difficult times.  When my grandparents were quarantined with their young family because of a scarlet fever outbreak, she practiced social distancing by speaking with her neighbors through their open windows.  Reminds me of the people singing together on the balconies in Italy or exercising in Spain.  In my family’s case, grandma got a great spaghetti sauce recipe from the Italian neighbor and what we call corn meal mush, from the southern neighbor on the other side of her home.  That was nearly 100 years ago.  Think about the legacy you’re leaving your descendants…

5.      Write down your experiences. I realize how spoiled and privileged we are.  I miss going to restaurants the most.  I only recall both sets of my grandparents going to a restaurant once.  My maternal grandparents, my mother and I went with a neighbor to the Beach Café in Miller, Indiana when I was about 6 years old to get perch on a Friday night during Lent.  Mr. Bauer had just become a widow and missed going to the café with his wife so my family joined him.  I didn’t know then that he had been a character witness 20 years earlier for my grandparents so they could become citizens.  My paternal grandparents, my parents and I went to a diner in Hobart, Indiana when I was about 3 years old.  I have no idea why we only went once or why we went there but I recall there were other people with us so I suspect visiting relatives must have come to town.  They ordered a large pizza and to me, it looked disgusting so I refused to eat it.  I ended up getting the chicken drumstick child’s dinner.  My dad bought me a plastic rocket that came apart in three pieces – it was the Cold War and we were going to beat those Russians.  That was 60 years ago.  Those are my memories of dining out – now write yours and if you get stuck…

6.      Ask an older relative about their recollections.  Now is the time to connect so give them a call, email, Skype or even write a snail mail letter.  I wish I had thought to ask my grandparents about the 1919 Influenza pandemic.  I know my grandfather and great grandfather both got it in January; my grandmother blamed their resistance being shot to working the night shift at U.S. Steel and riding their bikes home in the cold rain.  My grandfather got over it quickly; my great grandfather died.  He had been known to have asthma and epilepsy and the flu turned into pneumonia.  I have the funeral photo with no social distancing practiced.  I know how the family coped – my grandmother took in borders to help pay the bills now that half the money was gone.  What I don’t know is how they prepared for the epidemic.  Perhaps they never did.  The family raised chickens and rabbits and canned their garden vegetables.  I really wish I had asked more questions.  If you aren’t able to connect with an older generation because you are the older generation then…

7.      Reach out to those your DNA says are family.  Sure, you tried that before but they didn’t respond.  Well, try, try again because they’re probably home now, too, and just might have time to respond to you.

Remember, Shakespeare and Newton did their best work during a pandemic.  Keep up your spirits by thinking about how your ancestors handled adversity.  Let them serve as a model for you.

Alternative Spring Break Genealogy Ideas

Like the rest of the world, my Spring Break plans have come undone.  Flexibility is a great trait for genealogists so I’m looking at this bump in the road as a way to help me grow.  Seriously!  Stick with me and I’ll give you some ideas.

First, I’d like to apologize for my last blog being posted late. I didn’t realize until Wednesday it hadn’t been published.  Typically, I write on Saturday mornings and post immediately.  The week prior, I thought I would be working on Saturday so I wrote two blogs with the intent of publishing the second before I left for work the next weekend.  Except, my weekend gig was cancelled.  I decided Saturday to alter my routine.  After the crazy week of trying to wrap up client requests in the event that my local archives closed (and they have) and making plans to relocate my educational job to home (which also came to be), along with trying to prepare our home for shelter in place, I decided to take Saturday to spend outdoors all day.  Our yard looks fantastic! On Sunday, fired up by all we had accomplished the day before, I got the brilliant idea to clean the garage which consumed most of the day.  Then Monday, what should have been the start of my spring break, I spent posting to groups on my school district’s platform to reach out to parents and students.  That took up most of Monday and Tuesday.  By Wednesday, I was in a routine for our new normal and was ready to pick back up with genealogy. 

My advice if, like me, you’re stuck at home – DO NOT SIT ALL DAY IN FRONT OF YOUR COMPUTER!  You will get lulled into a stupor, miss clues and follow a path down a rabbit hole that won’t help you find what you’re seeking. Instead, this is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on your practice and do the things that you’ve been meaning to do but put off.   Here’s some ideas:

1.       Clean your work area.  You might uncover a note to self of a document you wanted to investigate, an email you wanted to send or copies of research you meant to review but didn’t get around to it.  I found some great ideas for future blog posts which leads me to recommending…

2.      Start your own blog.  It’s easy, it’s fun to connect to others who are as passionate as you are and it can be free.  I post in two places – Google’s Blogger and on my own website (which I do pay to maintain).  Not sure what to write about?  Whatever you’re interested in is fine. You’d be surprised at how many far-flung family members will find you if you post about a surname, especially an uncommon one.  The thought of surnames leads me to realize…

3.      We aren’t the only generation that’s experienced working from home.  I bet, like me, you have a sizeable number of ancestors who were farmers.  They lived on the place they worked.  My husband’s side had a number of mariners who lived on their boats and retailers who lived above their stores.  I’ve also had tavernkeepers who lived on site.  Travel, back in the day, was often difficult which explains why deeds weren’t presented in a timely manner, obits weren’t noticed in the nearest city’s newspaper and children learned at home.  If you’re getting claustrophobic, take your electronic device outside, Google a location, select “more” from the ribbon and click “Books.”  Now pick an old book from your selected location and read about what life was like when your ancestor was homebound.  Highlight or take notes on anything that gives you an idea for further research.  Some ideas are the name of the church denomination that was there in 1809, the old cemetery that isn’t listed on Find-A-Grave or Billion Graves, or where the courthouse was located.  You can email the local genealogy society for more information on where those records may be housed and then take that info and turn it into a…

4.      Research Question.  This is a wonderful opportunity to up your genealogy practices and truly write down what you want answered.  Every genealogy software program has somewhere you can record your question, be it notes or comments.  I sometimes even use stickees to keep me on track.  Post it right on your screen to stay focused.  Research shows that we need to give our brains a break from intense focusing so…

5.      Get up and move for a bit.  Walk around your house and put labels on the bottom of family heirlooms.  Sure, you know who owned what but that doesn’t mean your descendants will remember.  Stand and sort that pile of papers you meant to file or reorganize your files entirely.  I like sorting by surname and then alphabetically by first name but whatever works for you is fine.  Now stand and scan the info, saving to your external hard drive, cloud or other device.  Wow, you just got some exercise, rested your brain and accomplished a task you’ve been putting off for awhile.  Good for you!   Part 2 with more ideas coming soon.

Colorizing Old Photos

You may have tried the new MyHeritage tool that allows you to upload a black and white photo that will be transformed into color.  I spoke with a colleague at a genealogy conference last month who gushed about the magic of the results. 

I finally got around to trying it and decided the true test would be with one of the photos in my collection that were of a known relative so I could compare results with memory. 

I selected a photo of my great grandmother, Anna Grdenic Kos[s]:

I recall this photo was taken Christmas 1961 or 1962.  I remember the dress and that my grandmother, Mary Violet Kos Koss, purchased the corsage and it was worn to the church service.  I even recall where they attended, St. Joseph’s Croatian [Roman] Catholic Church in Glen Park, Gary, Lake, Indiana.  I didn’t go with them because the mass was in Croatian; instead, my mother and I walked a block to attend services at St. Mark’s [Roman] Catholic Church. 

Here’s what the colorization looks like:

This was not my great grandmother’s skin tone in winter; she was quiet pale. Actually, it wasn’t even her tone in the summer as she didn’t go out in the sun.  The dress was green and white.  The corsage was silver with red balls and a green ribbon.  I know this because I was there.  I also played with the corsage and tried to affix it to my cat’s collar after the holidays.  I thought that corsage was just awesome!

So, if you’d like to colorize your photos you can do so at MyHeritage.  You can sign in through Google or Facebook and if you have a MyHeritage account, just enter your password.  Then, just drop and drag the photo you’d like colorized in the box.  It just takes a few seconds to get the finished image.

Know that MyHeritage retains the rights to the photo.  Know, from my personal experience, the colors you get aren’t necessary true.  Personally, I like my black and whites and sepias.