Saturday, November 29, 2008

Family Traditions~New and Old

Happy Thanksgiving!

This has got to be up there as my top beloved holiday. When I research my family, I always think about how they lived, what they ate and what kind of traditions they shared. I don't know how to separate tradition from the print records and I just love to combine the two in my research.

I have many fond memories of Thanksgiving from my childhood with our home filled with wonderful aromas, boisterous laughter and chatter, running children in and out of the house and the blare of the TV with any number of football games playing that day. I guess the maxed out senses tapping into the smell, sound, sight, taste and feel of Thanksgiving has lasted with me to adulthood because as an adult, I always try to recreate a small part of what I knew as a child and young adult.

Andrea Christman - View my 'Thanksgiving 2008' set on Flickriver
This year, we hosted the Christman family. Bill & Alice joined us from Stuarts Draft, VA and we put them up in our guest room. John, Diane and Nick came over from Annapolis. Nick was home from his Freshman year at Towson University. Our dear friends and neighbors, Bill & Julie, came by for dessert, coffee and wine and lots and lots of laughing on overstuffed tummies.

The 28-pound turkey that Bill and Alice brought lasted several days and along with our main Thanksgiving meal, brought us turkey sandwiches, turkey leftovers, turkey soup and take-home for John & Diane! Yummmmmm yummmmm....

I dragged out family recipes, favorite cookbooks and dog-eared, old November magazine issues from Southern Living and Bon Appetite. Jerry and I had fun wandering up and down the aisles of Rodman's Disount Gourmet Grocery Store and Shopper's Food Warehouse trying to find the special ingredients of the recipes that would make up this year's menu to share with our family. This is something that we enjoy doing together and we really look forward to the times that together we can entertain our family and friends in our home.

Our menu for 2008 Thanksgiving was this:
  • Turkey (a la Jerry)
  • Gravy (a la Jerry)
  • Celery, Apple and Walnut Dressing (old 1981 "Holiday Recipes" Cookbook) 
  • Fresh Cranberry Relish
  • Brown-Sugar-Glazed Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows (Southern Living)
  • Green Beans with Bacon (Kempf tradition)
  • Mashed Potatoes (must have)
  • Refrigerator Pan Yeast Rolls (The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook)
  • Mile High Lemon Pie (Martha Stewart)
  • Tiramisu (From Italian Cooking School in 1997)
  • Snickerdoodles (Oma's Recipe)
  • Molasses Cookies (Oma's Recipe)
  • No-bake Peanut Butter Cookies (Mom)
I am blessed that my husband is a talented cook and loves to entertain and he just takes over on many kitchen duties. I love to bake and am a collector of recipes and cookbooks, so this Thanksgiving was a blend of Christman and Kempf tradition. The above reference to "Oma" is my sister-in-law's grandmother. When Oma was alive, I remember visiting her with my sister-in-law and she always had a fresh loaf of bread (or two or three) ready to give you on your way home! She was a wonderful lady and excellent cook and I enjoy using her recipes and sharing them with family and friends. I first baked the lemon meringue pie for my "Poppie" and almost ate the whole pie himself! I think of him whenever I make this recipe and now that he is no longer with us, the memory keeps him close. My grandmother (Poppie's wife) was a great cook and I remember her pies well! I stumbled upon the refrigerator rolls before I was married and made them for several Kempf Thanksgivings. They remind me of my Grandma Kempf as she made her annual "New Year's Bread" every December. It is kind of an Alsatian Kugelhopf, although we didn't realize it until Jerry and I visited Alsace, France after we married. New Year's Bread is a sweet bread with raisins and almost every family in my home town has the recipe. It is great with coffee and hot chocolate on New Year's Day!

Jerry and I feel blessed to be able to provide for our family and to have the ability to recreate new traditions for ourselves. Our Thanksgivings have blended into a holiday that reflects the both of us. We usually cannot be with my cousins, family and friends in Texas (because of the distance and hustle-and-bustle of holiday travel) and the football is not as relentless in this home. It may look, sound, smell, taste and feel a bit different from what I remember as a child, but if you pay attention to the details, there is a connection to things from our past and a  familiarity to everything we do!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Traveling Back in Time

October brought the opportunity for me to take a long weekend with a wonderful friend to assist her in her genealogical endeavors. Georgia and I worked together professionally for 5 years before she retired at the end of the last school year. We hit it off right away at a professional meeting in 2004 (for school librarians) when I mentioned that I was a member of NYGBS. She perked up and said, "Me too!" We started to compare notes and discovered that while her family originates in upstate New York, I am researching my husband's line and he originates from Brooklyn, NY. Same state, very different methodologies! Big city vs. rural counties. Nevertheless, that forged a bond that we have nurtured with research trips to the National Archives, National Genealogical Association Annual Conference in Richmond, VA (2007) and NIGR 2005 as well as lots of hours sitting at our laptops in each other's homes!

This October, I accompanied Georgia to Steuben, Erie, Wyoming and Cattaraugus counties in upstate New York. Our final destination was Akron, Erie County, NY to visit and stay with Georgia's 1st cousin, Donna. Donna had family photos that we were to scan and some family stories that Georgia wanted to record.

Our trip began on Thursday morning, October 9 (Yom Kippur school holiday). Before getting to Akron, we spent the night in quaint Hammondsport, Keuka Lake (one of the Finger Lakes). We were able to get in some quality wine tasting and a little shopping! One of the wineries we visited
was named Bully Hill. It was picturesque, set high on a hill overlooking Keuka Lake.

Although the main purpose of this trip was to research
Georgia's maternal line in Wyoming County, we decided to head to nearby Bath, on Friday morning, before heading North to "cousin" Donna's home. Bath is the county seat of Steuben County and we easily found the library and Historical Society. We found the people quite friendly and helpful and I think Georgia will definitely make a return trip to continue unearthing the treasures that this group has to offer.

One neat "find" was the Steuben County Courthouse. The Historical Society directed Georgia to
go there to research the Wills and Probates. We fully expected to walk in and give the clerk a name or two only to have her disappear in the back before reappearing and giving us what we requested. Well, no!!! We actually got to handle the original documents in a really old room filled with musty files and old wooden cabinetry. I felt like the papers were speaking out to us to come and read them and find long lost secrets to the past! While we didn't find a lot of new
information for Georgia, this visit was worth the trip in itself!

We finally made it to Donna's home on Friday evening and she was a most gracious hostess. A recent widow, she was glad for our company and the opportunity to reconnect with her cousin. We plotted our Saturday before heading to bed and I think Donna and Georgia stayed up late reminiscing.

Saturday was spent taking a short drive to Wyoming County to visit the former homes of Donna
& Georgia's grandparents, churches that they may have been members and their gravesites. The day was fruitful and we took many photos and did a few
gravestone rubbings and had a lot of fun driving around and trying to navigate from Georgia's memories! We finally got to eat some Beef on Wek that we had been hearing about and then stopped at Kutter's Cheese Factory to pick up wine and cheese for a little snack upon our return to Donna's.

Sunday morning was our departure day and Georgia finally connected with another cousin in West Valley, Cattaraugus County.

Jim Kemp and his wife entertained us for a few hours that afternoon, dragging out family photos and revisiting childhood family reunions. They were very hospitable and it was too short a visit, but we needed to make it back to Maryland as Monday was a work day for me.

Although this research trip was not a direct benefit to my family research, I certainly enjoyed seeing a friend realize some of her genealogy wish list and it got me reinvigorated to start up on my own lines when I got back home again. This was a first-time visit to this part of New York and I am quite anxious to return to explore it with my husband. The villages and their stereotypical town square with the obligatory gazebo, white, wood-framed churches and the plethora of U.S. flags flying proudly made me feel as if I stumble upon the set of Andy Griffith's Mayberry, RFD!!!

Even though time is marching forward, it is possible to travel back in time!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Purging History

Andrea Christman - View my 'Christman Purge, 9-2008' set on Flickriver

Jerry and I spent this weekend at his parents in Virginia assisting them in downsizing and preparing their home for sale for their eventual move to a retirement community near our home.

Do you know how difficult it is to go through someone else's things and make recommendations on what to keep and what not to keep? I thought it would be so easy to make my "keep," "donate," and "trash" piles, but it was much more involved than that. I was privileged to see the coat hanger that belonged to Jerry's grandfather, touch the vase that was sitting in his grandmother's room as she lay dying in his childhood home, go through a lifetime of cherished crafts (from quilting, floral arranging and sewing that Alice loved, to Bill's beloved gardening). Thankfully, Bill and Alice are able to fill in the blanks when we can't figure out why there are 15 pairs of gardening gloves (Bill couldn't find one, so he bought another pair...) or why there was 8 garbage sacks of fabric remnants (Alice used to go to an upholstery store and purchase remnants for her quilting).

This weekend was a special time for us to get know Jerry's parents a little better and appreciate what they have done through the years. It is helping me to figure out that memories lie not in things but lie within our hearts and souls and the stuff we acculumate can drag us down, if we let it. Bill & Alice were paralyzed by the overwhelming amount of things to sort through. Now I want to go through my own house and purge, purge, purge and really look at the things that I surround myself with. Are my "things" keeping me from moving forward or are they a gentle reminder of a cherished memory? A little is fine, but too much is a drag!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Cite Your Work!

Yea, yea, yea...I teach how to cite your sources all day long, but I have been caught not heeding my own advice! When I first started my genealogy hobby 13 years ago, I didn't bother citing where I got my information from because I never planned on publishing my findings and it was just "for fun!" Well, do I ever regret that decision! I still probably won't publish anything, but if only I knew where I got all of my information from so that I could verify it! I have met many distant relatives and shared information with many people and often I find discrepencies in our data. If only I knew exactly where I got that specific date in question (or city, or name, etc) then I could go back and check my work. Now I am in the process of citing all of the information that I have copies of, emails that I printed, books that I purchased, and it is painful, but productive!

I went to my friend, Georgia's, last Friday and got her started in Legacy Family Tree software and CLOOZ organizing software and yes, she is citing her sources because of my lessons learned! We will plan a trip to the Library of Congress library or the DAR library for my day off in September or October. That should be fun!

Still no headway on my "things to do list", but I am ever so hopeful....

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Turning Over a New Leaf

Okay, it is August 5th and not January 1st, but today is a NEW day! I decided to begin my first blog to keep in touch with family and friends and to keep me on track with all my "little" projects! If I post online what I intend to do, maybe someone will help keep me honest and I will actually see some projects to completion! I don't know if family genealogy research can ever be complete, but these stacks and stacks of paper piled on my desk have got to get put SOMEWHERE!

My things to do list:
  1. Send Holzause Civil War Pension records to people who inquired about them (a long time ago). They are already in envelopes...just need to be posted.
  2. Complete Family Trees for Jerry and me. I purchased nice, large ones with room for photos. I just need to print out the information and make thumbnails of the photos that I have.
  3. Add my sister-in-law's family (Batot) to Legacy. I scanned a ton of photos and records last summer (2007), but never did anything with the information!
  4. Finish adding records to Legacy and then download the file to Clooz.
  5. Add documents to Clooz.
  6. Find the McAllister family in Boston, circa 1900
  7. Find the Holzhaus family in Ohio, circa 1850's

Well, I could go on and on, but let's stop here!