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.

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!

Reformed Dutch Church Records


Photo courtesy of https://www.newnetherlandinstitute.org

A few weeks ago, I wrote about free genealogy newsletters I receive.  I failed to mention I also read other genealogy blogs.  Recently I read a wonderful article about New York Reformed Dutch church records.

Both my husband and I have ancestors who resided in New Amsterdam.  Although I haven’t extensively researched those individuals, the blog article gave me new insights.  Here’s what really stands out to add to my knowledge base:

  • Before 1664, the Reformed Dutch was the ONLY denomination permitted so if  your ancestor was not of that religious persuasion and wanted to marry or attend a church service, the records are most likely held by the Reformed Dutch.  Who knew?! 
  • Although the church in Manhattan founded in 1628 is still in existence today, records are only available from 1639.  That’s interesting because the physical church was erected in 1642.  That same year a second church was erected in Albany.  
  • Collegiate churches had 1 minister that traveled between several locations and all the records were maintained by the 1 minister.  I have found that happened in New Jersey in the early 1700’s also.  
  • Many Germans came to New Amsterdam and attended the Dutch church.  Even after the city changed hands and became New York, Germans who immigrated continued to attend the Dutch church so make sure you look over Dutch church records.
  • The two databases on Ancestry.com for Dutch Church Records are NOT the same, even though they appear to be.  There are a few names missing in one database so check both.  As is always a good practice, go beyond using the index and browse the records as the transcription may be in error or the spelling may have been slightly changed from what you are seeking.
  • Check out the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society’s databases. I neglected to mention in my last blog that I also get their free weekly newsletter.