Sunday, November 20, 2011

Holiday Traditions

My cousin Susan sent me an email yesterday, asking if I had our grandmother's recipe for Scalloped Oysters, which she wanted to serve for Thanksgiving dinner.   Fortunately, when Grandma Robertson passed away several years ago, I ran across her recipe notebooks while cleaning out her house.  She never had a "formal" cookbook that I'm aware of, but instead wrote out by hand whatever recipes she used, or filled the notebooks with clipped recipes from the newspaper.  I love to go through the tattered, well used notebooks, and see her hand written notations of where she got the recipe, and if it was a favorite, her "good" notation.
I'm fortunate to be the cousin who inherited the handwritten recipes, but my cousin's inquiry made me realize that I should scan the recipes and put them into a family cookbook for my cousins to enjoy as well.  If you have something that belonged to a ancestor that you think your cousins might enjoy as well, now is the time to making a plan for how you can share your treasures with others in the family.

Mildred Gannan Robertson's Scalloped Oysters

2 cans oysters
2 c. medium coarse cracker crumbs (4 - 6 crackers)
1/2 c. butter, melted
3/4 c. half and half cream
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. worcestershire sauce

Drain oysters, reserving 1/4 c. liquid. Combine crumbs and butter.  Spread 1/3 of the crumbs in an 8x8x2" baking dish.  Cover with 1/2 of the oysters.  Sprinkle with pepper, cover again with 1/3 of the crumbs.  Cover with the remaining oysters.  Mix cream and reserved oyster liquid, salt, and worcestershire sauce, pour over oysters.  Top with remaining cracker crumbs.  Take in 350 degree oven about 40 minutes.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Prairie Traveler

I ran across a great little reference book the other day, titled "The Prairie Traveler, A Hand-Book For Overland Expeditions, With Maps, Illustrations, And Itineraries Of The Principal Routes Between The Mississippi And The Pacific," by Randolph B. Marcy.  Marcy was a career U.S. Army officer, who retired in 1881.  The book was originally published in 1859, while Marcy was a Captain.
The book is a fascinating glimpse into life on the prairie during the time of westward expansion, and includes such topics as how to pack, treatment of animals, fording rivers, quicksand, marching with loose horses, descending mountains, making fires, tracking and pursuing Indians, hunting, and stampedes. 
My favorite section of the book is Captain Marcy's detailed overland route itineraries.  Each contains distances between camping places, character of the roads, and wood/water/grass facilities.  An excerpt from the Leavenworth City to Great Salt Lake City itinerary:

Leavenworth City to Salt Creek (8 miles) - Good camp; wood, water, and grass.
to Cold Spring (12 miles) - To the right of the road, in a deep ravine, plenty of wood, water, and grass.
to Small Branch (12 miles) - To the north of the road, in an arroya, good wood, water, and grass.  Here enters the road from Atcheson, 6 miles distant.
to Grasshopper Creek (16 miles) - Good wood, water, and grass.
to Walnut Creek (9 miles) - Road passes a town called Whitehead, 5 miles from last camp.  Water in pools, but 1/2 a mile below is a fine spring; plenty of wood, water, and grass.

The edition of the book I have does not include the complete list of itineraries as published in the 1859 edition, but does contain information on the routes between Ft. Smith, AK to Santa Fe and Albuquerque; Leavenworth City to Great Salt lake City; Great Salt Lake City to Los Angeles and San Francisco; Indianola and Powder-horn to San Antonio; St. Paul's MN to Ft. Wallah Wallah, OR; and a few others.  

If you have ancestors who ventured beyond the Mississippi River, or you are a student of American history with an interest in westward migration, this is a great read.  As a genealogist searching for places your ancestors may have stopped along their march west, the book might contain that last helpful clue you've been searching for.

Marcy's hope was to arm the pioneer with knowledge he himself had gleaned from years spent on the prairie.  In his preface, he says, "With such a  book in his hand, he will be able, in difficult circumstances, to avail himself of the matured experience of veteran travelers, and thereby avoid many otherwise unforeseen disasters; while, during the ordinary routine of marching, he will greatly augment the sum of his comforts, avoid many serious losses, and enjoy a comparative exemption from doubt and anxieties.  He will feel himself a master spirit in the wilderness he traverses, and not the victim of every new combination of circumstances which nature affords or fate allots, as if to try his skill and prowess."

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday - Find the Living

Yesterday I mentioned the Dollarhide/Thorndale book, "Map Guide to the U.S. Federal Censuses 1790-1920" as a great resource for family historians.  On Tombstone Tuesday, I'd like to mention another valuable resource book, "Your Guide to Cemetery Research" by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack.  An excerpt from her book is below:

Finding The Living In The Cemetery
So  you thought you would find only your dead ancestors in the cemetery, huh?  Not true.  Visiting the cemetery around Memorial Day or a town's Decoration Day, you might find living relatives of your ancestors.  If you can't visit the cemetery on one of those days, leave a note or ask someone in the area to do it for you.  Professional genealogist Marcia K. Wyett wrote a note saying she was interested in contacting relatives of the person who was buried there, and left her name and number.  On the envelope, she addressed it to "The Relatives of.  . ."  She put the note in a small self-sealing bag, bought an inexpensive plant to leave at the grave, and attached the note to the plant.  (She thought this might look better than duct-taping a note directly to the tombstone.)  The note attached to the plant worked like a charm.  The Monday after Memorial Day, she got a call from a relative.

I think this is a great tip that could possibly lead to contact with that elusive cousin who has all the information you've been searching for.  Sharon's book has lots of other helpful tips, and I highly recommend it!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Thorndale and Dollarhide

I have a bookcase full of genealogy research books such as "The Hidden Half of the Family" by Christina Kassabian Schaefer, "A to ZAX, A Comprehensive Dictionary for Genealogists & Historians" by Barbara Jean Evans, and an old worn copy of "Migration, Emigration, Immigration Principally To The United States And In The United States" by Olga K. Miller.  However, my favorite go-to resource is the classic "Map Guide to the U.S. Federal Censuses, 1790-1920" by William Thorndale and William Dollarhide.

The Map Guide includes maps for all states, broken out by census year, and also depicts the changing county boundaries overlaid onto the current county lines.  In addition, it gives availability information for each census year.  For example, I am looking for my third great grandfather, John Gannan, in Monmouth County, New Jersey, b. 1826.  I can quickly tell by looking at the New Jersey map for the 1790 - 1820 census that the Federal Census was lost for all counties except extant for Cumberland County in 1800, and so it will be a waste of research time to search for any type of Federal census information for John's parents.

Another example is Hocking County, Ohio.  I have early pioneer families there, and by reviewing the Ohio map for 1800, I know that part of the current county falls into the Washington extant census; in 1810, the Federal census was lost for all counties except Washington (which is now much smaller); and that today, old Hocking County records might be held in Fairfield County, Athens County, or Vinton County.

The Map Guide by Thorndale and Dollarhide has been a valuable resource tool, and is one of very few books I will actually take along on research trips.  If you haven't seen the book, chances are your local library has one.  It's been around since the late 1980's, but it's a classic that I highly recommend for any genealogy home library.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sentimental Sunday - Mildred and Floyd Robertson

I was lucky to have very loving grandparents, Floyd and Mildred Gannan Robertson, as a constant presence in my life.  My younger brother, John, and I spent summers with them, and I lived with them during summers while in college.  Every happy childhood memory I have is somehow associated with my grandparents.
While in college, my grandfather bought me my first car, a red Kharman Ghia.  I think he spent $200 on it, the front end was dented in, the paint was faded, but I loved it!  He and my grandmother didn't have a lot of money, but somehow they managed to surprise me with the most wonderful gift anyone had given me.  I was so proud of that car, which made me very popular at school because there were very few others with a car at the time.
One Saturday morning, my grandfather decided it was time to repaint the car and spruce it up a bit.  He woke me up that Saturday morning and said, "let's get to it."  I went out to the garage, and to my surprise I found my grandmother already there, taping the chrome on the car.  My grandfather proceeded to "unbend" the front bumper with a sledge hammer, then he spray painted the car.  That car had so many issues, including melting the soles of the shoes off anyone who sat in the backseat, and having to drive with the window rolled down in the winter because the defroster didn't work, but I didn't care.  The car served me well for several years, when it finally burned up the by the side of the road.
My grandfather called me every Sunday to check up on me, even after I was grown with a family of my own, and every Sunday morning I still think of he and my grandmother.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Flip Pal Scanner - Part 2

A couple of weeks ago, I posted my first review of the Flip Pal scanner (which I love, by the way!).  At the time I posted the review, I had only used what I'll call the "standard" scanning feature, but not the "flip" feature.  Since my initial review, I've seen a lot of other blogs mention the scanner and how much they like it.  Now that I've used the flip feature, I can post the second part of my review, which can be summed up in three words:  BUY THIS THING.  The flip feature is easy to use (you snap off the lid, flip the scanner over, and push the green scan button).  I've scanned a couple of larger documents and stitched them together with great results.   Overall, it's lightweight and extremely portable, produces good quality scans, and is very very easy to use.  I highly recommend the product!

First Lieutenant Glenn W. Jones

While organizing my office today, I ran across a book called "The First Hundred Years, Belton, Missouri 1872-1972."  One of the sections in the book is called "These Paid The Supreme Sacrifice," a listing of local boys who had gone off to war and were killed in action.

From the book, author unknown:

First Lieutenant Glenn W. Jones entered the Air Corps in December, 1942.  After attending Officers Training School, he was commissioned in 1944.  He was the first pilot of a B-24 bomber and was assigned to the 15th Air Corps based in Italy.  He was sent overseas August 15, 1944, and was on his 24th mission when he was killed over Italy, March 8, 1945.  His family received word that he died in an effort to save his crew.  At least three did escape death.  His body was returned to Belton in December, 1948, and he was buried in the Belton Cemetery.

I'm grateful that men like Lt. Jones are willing to serve and protect, even if it means they may have to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

My grandparents, Floyd and Mildred Gannan Robertson; my uncle, Ron Robertson, and my mother, Glenda Kay Robertson Stubler.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

My third great grandfather, Absolom Reese. Not someone you would call a classically handsome man.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tombstone(less) Tuesday

I don't know why, but I'm always surprised when I find an ancestor buried in an unmarked grave. It seems that everyone should be remembered by some sort of marker, something that descendants can visit and touch, something that documents the beginning and end of a life.
While researching my husband's family, I was excited to uncover the cemetery where his third great grandparents, Michael Charles and Ellen Allard Bellmer, are buried. Sadly, we learned Michael and Ellen are buried in an unmarked grave, along with their three year old son Arthur. Ellen died of opium poisoning around the same time Arthur died, with Michael dead several years later from typhoid fever. I assume that they died destitute in the years following the Civil War, leaving no one behind to mourn their passing but several small children. According to probate records, there were no funds left to purchase a headstone, and the three were left to rest in obscurity.
I would love to purchase a small, simple headstone for Michael and Ellen and Arthur, so their final resting place can be honored by future generations, and to let them know that they are not forgotten.