Thursday, December 30, 2010

Genea-Resolutions for 2011

Jasia put the topic for January's 101st edition of the Carnival of Genealogy up for a vote and planning won. I am the world's worst at keeping New Year's resolutions, but I am highly motivated to continue the projects begun in 2010.

Postcard from 1908, via Wikimedia Commons

2010 was my year to begin organizing and sharing my genealogical research. I made some progress - this blog, a good start on a family history web site which WILL be online in 2011, and another failed attempt to organize the generations of papers I've inherited. Those papers are threatening to take over the entire house so tackling them is top of the list for my 2011 genea-resolutions.

Organizing Research goals -

  • Design archives storage/filing system and IMPLEMENT! The first step must be to corral all the papers into one room. 
  • Process at least one box per month of family papers. Remember, not everything must be kept. This will become my mantra. 
  • Finish designing and publish the genealogy website (R O O T S T O C K). 
  • Continue to update pedigree database with biographical sketches and blog post information. Review and standardize source listings. Do NOT attach any multimedia files.

    Blog goals -
    • One biographical sketch a month - starting with the grandparents.
    • One brickwall post a month outlining the issue or research status, beginning with the Hamptons.
    • Continue posting photographs and document transcriptions from the family "archives" (aka the boxes that ate my house).
    • Blog reading and commenting - limit to 30 minutes each morning.  You may finish in the evening. No peeking in between! Much as I love reading what everyone else is writing it has eaten into my day. 

    Research goals -
    • Just say no! No more research until the website is up and running, until the streamlined pedigree database is complete, until the "archives" are organized. 
    • Except... there are the road trips! Do organize research plans for the Family History Expo in July (Kansas City), the FGS conference in September (Springfield, IL), the Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International conference in October (St. Louis, MO - not really a road trip) and ...
    • The spring tour of Maryland, Virginia and D. C.  Plan research days at the Library of Virginia, The Mary Ball Washington Historical Society, the Maryland Historical Society and the National Archives. Research Catholic archives, especially in Baltimore, to see which might have additional records for Merediths, Palmers and Yerbys. 
    • Examine and digitize the Maria Palmer Smith papers. Develop storage plan for papers. 

    Whew! It's a lot to do, but there are some carrots in with the sticks - not the least of which is reclaiming our home.

    Happy 2011 to Geneabloggers near and far!

    Submitted to the 101st edition of the Carnival of Genealogy.

    Friday, December 24, 2010

    Advent Calendar: Holy Night Supper

    Christmas Eve for my Rusyn ancestors was celebrated on January 6th. While I celebrated many Easters with my father's family, I was never able to celebrate Christmas with them. School holidays were over and my parents were wary of a hurried drive to upstate New York in January.

    In 1979 my aunt gave me a cookbook prepared by the wives of priests in the Scranton Deanery of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Diocese (how's that for a mouthful?). It describes the traditional Holy Night supper served on Christmas Eve. It is the last meal of the forty day Advent fast and is prepared without meat or dairy products. Twelve dishes are served (representing the twelve Apostles) including bread and wine which represent the Last Supper. A candle, representing the Star of Bethlehem, lights the table which is covered with a white cloth representing the Virgin Mary. Garlic, honey and salt are placed on the table. After dinner special Christmas prayers are said, carols sung and the family goes to Church.

    A sample menu: 
    Wine and Bread
    Split Green Peas with Záprašhka
    Lima Beans with Záprašhka
    Mushroom Soup with Záprašhka
    Sauerkraut with Záprašhka
    Mashed Potatoes
    Lenten Píroghi
    Fruit Compote
    Stewed Prunes
    Stewed Apricots

    Tea or Coffee

    Píroghi are similar to ravioli only filled with potatoes or prunes. Záprašhka is a brown roux made from flour and oil that thickens the soup or liquids served with the vegetables. Bobaľki, or small dough balls boiled in water, can be sweet or savory. Sweetened, they are served with honey and poppyseeds. Savory bobaľki are tossed with sauteed cabbage and onions.

    Over the years I've tried to incorporate some of these foods into our Christmas Eve menus. Each effort has been an abject failure. My very American husband and children could never see bringing in Christmas with mushrooms and cabbage nor, I must admit, have I been impressed with my offerings. The worst was a sauerkraut and pea casserole that even the dog wouldn't eat. Perhaps one year I'll manage an elegant meatless and dairy-free Christmas Eve supper worthy of my roots.

    Merry Christmas. Christos Razdajetsja! Slavite Jeho!

    Source: Paňis' Cookbook. No place: no publisher, 1977. Printed privately to benefit Camp Nazareth, Mercer, PA. 

    Tuesday, December 21, 2010

    Advent Calendar - Evening Bells

    It's simply not Christmas unless there is music playing throughout the house. This is the first and last carol I play. It's playing as the tree goes up, as I bake cookies or make nut rolls, as we wrap and unwrap presents. It's the Christmas recording I would want were I stranded on the proverbial desert island. I can sing all the other carols I love. I cannot sing this. Only the incomparable Ivan Rebroff can.  

    Sunday, December 19, 2010

    Sunday's Obituary: Thomas James Meredith (c.1815-29 August 1855)

    Thomas James Meredith, called James by his family, was the eldest child of Maj. John Meredith of Lancaster county, Virginia. According to the 1850 census James was born in 1815. In December, 1832 he was living and working at a store near Totuskey Bridge in Richmond County, Virginia. He remained there for over a decade, living with first his uncle, Joseph Meredith, then with his aunt, Caroline Meredith Shearman. He assumed responsiblity for his younger half-sister and brothers following the deaths of his father in 1834 and stepmother in 1835. (You can read about his sister Margaret here and here and about his brother William here.) By 1847 he had moved to Baltimore to work directly with his uncle, Thomas Meredith, at the firm Meredith & Spencer. He appeared in the 1850 census with a wife, Elizabeth and two young children. Elizabeth appears alone, widowed in the 1860 census with three children. 

    Much of my knowledge of James is drawn from the letters he wrote from Totuskey Bridge to his uncle Thomas Meredith in Baltimore. The letters are part of the Thomas Meredith Papers at the Maryland Historical Society. They are warm and affectionate, painting a picture of a devoted brother and nephew, as well as an active merchant.

    From the Library of Congress

    A search of Google Books yielded a horrible clue to James' fate. An 1856 New Jersey legislative report included reports from the railroad and canal companies that listed a Thomas I. Meredith of Baltimore as a fatality in an August 29, 1855 railroad accident. Since James was indexed as Thos I Meredith in the 1850 census it seemed probable that he was the Meredith listed in the report. News reports from the Baltimore Sun and New York Times confirmed that he was one of twenty-two killed when a train derailed near Burlington, NJ. Dozens more were injured. The accident was headline news during early September while the coroner's inquest was held. 

    The Baltimore Sun published an update on August 31st (p. 4) that read
    The papers of yesterday contained the particulars of the terrible railroad accident on the Camden and Amboy road, by which two of our most estimable merchants were suddenly hurried into eternity, viz: Mr. John Dallam, of the firm of Dallam & Miller, and Mr. Thomas J. Meredith. Both of these gentlemen were about forty years of age, and leave families to morn their loss -- Mr Dallam leaving a wife and two children, and Mr. Meredith a wife and three children. Their partners, Messrs. Spencer and Miller, left yesterday morning, in the early train, for the scene of the disaster, for the purpose of bringing __ the remains. They were expected at an early hour this morning, and arrangements were made for the purpose of interring them in Greenmount Cemetery upon their arrival.
    Should the funeral not take place until a later hour, we learn that the merchants on Baltimore Street and in the vicinity of the stores of the deceased, will close their establishments during the hours of the internment as a mark of respect.
    James' widow Elizabeth remained in their home on Biddle Street until marrying a widower, Alexander Wolf, in 1868. Their children Thomas, (b. 1847), Kate (b. 1848), and Florence (b. 1854) appear with their mother on 1863 I.RS. Tax Assessment lists and with Alexander and Elizabeth Wolf in the 1870 census. Kate and Florence appear on the 1880 census as Kate and Florence Wolf, living with their mother Elizabeth, who was apparently widowed again. Thomas may be the Thomas J. Meredith (b. 1847, Maryland) who appears in Gloucester County, Virginia in the 1900 census.

    Friday, December 17, 2010

    Advent Calendar: Grandmother's Tree

    When my mother was growing up her mother would on rare occasions tamper with the Christmas tree formula (and it was a formula - see below). One year there was a flocked tree with blue balls - not a favorite. Grandmother was no longer decorating the tree when this one was put up in 1989. But  her caregivers brought out the boxes and put up the tree for her. If you'll look carefully you'll see glass balls with writing on them. There was a set of seven ornaments, each painted with the name of one of her grandchildren. The set was given to her sometime between 1960, when her 7th grandchild was born, and 1968 when her eighth surviving grandchild was born.

    When I was helping to clean out her house after her death in 1993 I found the set - now eight balls. Seven neatly painted plus one more scratched out with a knife bearing the name of our dearly loved number eight. I wrapped them carefully and sent each off (with a few other souvenir ornaments) to the appropriate cousin. I smile every time I think of my youngest cousin sitting there, nail file or pen knife in hand, etching out his name and hanging the ball on the tree.

    Mother's formula for decorating a Christmas tree - Divide lights and ornaments into sixths. Three-sixths of the lights and ornaments go on the bottom third of the tree. Two-sixths go on the middle third of the tree. One-sixth goes on the top third of the tree. Young children were excused from knowing and executing the formula - but their ornaments were likely be moved once they were abed.

    Monday, December 13, 2010

    Happy Day! Great Blogs Abounding

    Perhaps it's a factor of the delightful chaos of the Christmas season, or my rapidly diminishing ability to keep ANYTHING in order - my desk, my dogs, my muddled brain. Perhaps the stars realigned during last night's meteor showers which I really, really wanted to see but did not because it was just too cold. For whatever the reason, I am more than befuddled today - I'm stunned, flabbergasted and having an awful time wiping a really goofy grin off my face.

    I have been nominated as one of the 40 best genealogy blogs by Family Tree Magazine in the New Blogs category. Luckily I was seated when I learned this.

    My initial response was to laugh and pull a General Sherman or Groucho Marx. I mean, really? I have a pretty healthy (inflated) sense of my own worth, but I know how many great bloggers there are on the other side of this keyboard and monitor. I can spend entire mornings reading them. No way am I in their class. Then I looked at the list of nominated blogs. The blogs I spend mornings reading - they're there. The blogs I quote to my husband and children - they're there. The blogs I want to write when I grow up - there. The blogs I send links to my non-genie friends with the note "I never do this but you HAVE to read this" - there.

    Forget Groucho - I'm hugely honored to be on the same page with these blogs and thank those that nominated me. And sorry Sherman, but having been nominated, I will serve with pleasure if elected.

    Geneabloggers has posted a list of all the nominees with links (thank you, Thomas). Check them out, then vote, if you wish, here. It's a great group - all keepers.

    Blog Caroling 2010 - Christmas Bells

    FootnoteMaven has invited geneabloggers to a virtual carol sing this Christmas. One of my favorite carols began as a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow during the Civil War. It was twice set to music and then a third time in 1956 by Johnny Marks, who also wrote Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Longfellow's original poem, with stark references to the Civil War raging, can be found here.

    It has been recorded many times, but my favorite version was recorded by Harry Belafonte in the 1960s.  Merry Christmas!

    Christmas Bells
    (Adapted from a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

    I heard the bells on Christmas Day
    Their old familiar carols play,
    And wild and sweet
    The words repeat
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    And thought how, as the day had come,
    The belfries of all Christendom
    Had rung so long
    The unbroken song
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    And in despair I bowed my head;
    "There is no peace on earth," I said;
    "For hate is strong,
    And mocks the song
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

    Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: 
    "God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
    The Wrong shall fail,
    The Right prevail,
    With peace on earth, good-will to men!"

    Friday, December 10, 2010

    Remembering Mother

    Today is the 82nd anniversary of my mother's birth. A red letter day, in my book. She was, and remains, the person who's had the greatest influence on my life. I often forget the anniversary of her death. It is not a day I care to commemorate or celebrate in anyway. But today is a day for rejoicing and remembering.

    This is my favorite photograph of her. It's not the best, but it captures an aspect of her personality I adored - her curiosity and interest in the world. She didn't care all that much about day-to-day life or people (other than those she loved or admired - a group which included her family and friends, the New York Yankees, the Knicks of the early 1970s, Jussi Björling and those authors, artists or composers who created works worth knowing). But she was fascinated by history, science, nature and art.

    The picture was taken when we were at the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island just as the roseate spoonbills were flying in to feed.

    Today, in her memory, I will read a poem, listen to an opera (or at least a couple arias), have two glasses of wine and embellish a story or two. I'll think about baseball, plan a trip, overcook a pork chop, look at something extraordinarily beautiful and laugh with my family. If I have any time left I'll do the New York Times crossword.

    Love you, Mom.  Happy Birthday.

    Monday, December 6, 2010

    Blogging Heaven - Carnivals, Calendars and Awards, Oh my!

    This day has completely escaped me. It's a blogger heaven day. Or maybe I'm just in Iowa...

    Jasia's 100th Carnival of Genealogy has been released. I'll need an oxygen tank because I'm not coming up until I'm done, elf duties be damned. Terrific reading.

    I am so enjoying the Advent Calendar posts. Thank you Thomas - and again Jasia - for this delightful treat. There are dozens of outstanding posts here, but if you missed Amy Coffin's Holiday of Horrors! or Greta's I KNEW it! I KNEW Santa was real! stop reading this and read those. Far better than anything I'll ever write.

    Assuming you're still with me, however, there are some other wonderful blogs out in the world. 

    Yesterday I was greeted with emails from TWO bloggers that they had given me the Ancestor Approved award. Thank you to both Dee at Shakin' the Family Tree and Debbie at Mascot Manor Genealogy. Their lists alone show why I so enjoy reading their blogs.

    Leslie Ann at Ancestors Live Here started this award last spring with this request - "As a recipient of this award I ask that you list ten things you have learned about any of your ancestors that has surprised, humbled, or enlightened you and pass it along to ten other bloggers who you feel are doing their ancestors proud."

    My list - in no particular order

    1. We're more closely linked to the past than we think. My grandfather's father was a boy during the Civil War. His grandfather was born in 1795 (or thereabouts). I sat on the lap of a man who's own grandfather was born in 1795. That takes my breath away. 

    2. I'm part-German (a little less than 1/16th) which was a shocker. Sally Killian, my gg-grandmother was predominantly German. 

    3. My Union soldier gg-grandfather Samuel McAdams came from a slave-owning family. 

    4. Going back to Sally, I was thrilled to find she was a midwife and surprised that she was married before she married my gg-grandfather Archie Sawyer(s). Archie was married earlier, too. (The information on Sally came from her daughter's Civil War Widow's Pension file generously shared by a newfound cousin.)

    5. Family secrets keep coming to light. I can't share them (secrets, remember), but they do amaze me. 

    6. My husband is a genealogist's dream (at least this one's!). His family is full of educated, literate men and women who wrote and saved letters, bibles, family heirlooms and treasures yet to be discovered. 

    7. I can decipher a baptismal record written in Cyrillic letters thanks to my grandfather and aunt keeping and handing down family documents. I bless you both.

    8. Not all family stories are true. My great-grandfather was not Jewish, did not change his name, did not run off to marry a Christian girl. The jury's still out on HIS grandfather, though.

    9. Life was hard in the 19th century. It didn't matter if you owned a plantation or homesteaded in Nebraska. Children, mothers, fathers all died and died young. Our 1950s nuclear family didn't exist then.  Those who survived to old age often had multiple spouses, children, step children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces in their households. (I love probate records!)

    10. The Civil War had as much impact on individual families as it did on the nation - especially in Missouri and Tennessee. My husband's gg-grandmother, Cansada Jones Stokes Sisco Caulk Sweely, was widowed during the War. Her third husband was a Union veteran who suffered the remainder of his life from a war injury. Her gallantry, her hard work to care for her family amaze me. 

    As to passing it on... The bloggers I first think of are those that have been unfailingly supportive and generous to me during these first months of blogging. They write great blogs, are exceptional researchers and active members of the genealogy blogging community. To no one's surprise they've all been Ancestor Approved before. Still a huge thank you to 

    Greta Koehl at Greta's Genealogy Blog
    Barbara Poole at Life from the Roots

    With all admiration I award the Ancestor Approved badge to 

    Brandt Gibson at Brandt's Rants
    D. Kay Strickland at d kay s days
    Linda McCauley at Documenting the Details
    Kristin Williams for both of her blogs, Finding Eliza and My Cleages and Reeds
    Cynthia Shenette at Heritage Zen
    Elizabeth O'Neal for Little Bytes of Life
    CeCe Moore at My Tangled Vine
    Nick Gombash at Nick Gombash's Genealogy Blog

    Finally, a huge WHOOPS and belated thank you to Barbara for the Genea-Angel she gave me last September. I know. September! I hang my head in shame. Susan Petersen at Long Lost started this last August to recognize those who'd helped in one's research or provided guidance or inspiration. I've struggled with this because those who've helped with my research efforts don't blog and wouldn't necessarily appreciate being named publicly. As for inspiration - see all of the above. But today, as I pore over one after another of the outstanding posts for the 100th Carnival of Genealogy, it's become clear to me that my Genea-Angel must be passed onto Jasia. Long may she reign!

    Saturday, December 4, 2010

    Advent Calendar - Christmas Greetings from the Old Country

    My grandfather's brother Ivan settled in Satu Mare (present day Romania), a little less than 70 miles from Berezovo, their home in what is today's Ukraine. I believe he sent this card in 1936. Ivan and his brother wrote to one another in Hungarian.

    The front reads "Christmas Greetings!"

    I've not been able to translate the back fully, or even make out all the letters. It was written in Satu Mare on 15 Dec 1936 and opens with Merry Christmas (thanks to Nick Gombash for helping decode this!) and includes a message of love (szeretettel) and ends with a word meaning the family of (csaladja). I have many letters from Ivan, but this is the only Christmas card.

    Friday, December 3, 2010

    Advent Calendar - Ornaments

    Our tree isn't up yet and I thought there would no point in writing about ornaments (about which I am almost as passionate as genealogy) without being able to take pictures. However, I had to bring a couple boxes up to put together a care package for our newly wed son and daughter and was able to snap a photograph of one of my favorite ornaments. Then Heather wrote about baseball (about which I am more passionate than genealogy), and I was off and running.

    Isn't it beautiful?  It is not the only cardinal or Cardinals ornament we have. There's the obligatory 2006 World Series ball which I'm not so fond of because it was an enormously frustrating season capped off by a bizarre post-season. I suppose we earned that post-season because in 2004, when the Cardinals played the most beautiful baseball I have ever seen (and I've seen lots), they inexplicably vanished for four games. Boston fans may remember them.

    This bell is from 2004. It was a tough year for my family. Following the Cards, watching Edmonds, Rolen and Pujols (our MV3s) play superlative baseball night after night helped bring us through. There was heartbreak in the end, but I will never forget all those glorious games before. It was my favorite baseball season ever.

    There is a family history link to baseball. My grandfather and great-uncle  played minor league ball and instilled a deep love of the game in my mother which she passed on to us.

    There are lots (LOTS) of other ornaments yet to come up - ones from grandmothers' trees, dixie cup angels, lighthouses we've loved, straw ornaments from Slovakia, and more. But this is as special as any of them. Can't wait to get it up on the tree!

    Thursday, December 2, 2010

    Advent Calendar: Foods fit for Presidents

    Food. I'm a big fan. But I must admit that few of my Christmas memories involve food. Music, parties, trees, candles - absolutely. Not much food.

    Mamie Eisenhower color photo portrait, White House, May 1954My mother certainly cooked. She simply didn't enjoy it much. Her best recipes came from friends or family (not sure we would have made it to adulthood without the recipes sent by her mother and sisters). She did have a couple go-to recipes she pulled out every Christmas that were outstanding. Both came straight from the White House (via my grandmother) - Mamie Eisenhower's Million Dollar Fudge and Jackie Kennedy's Baked Fruit.

    We would make pans full of the fudge and set them in the garage (often sitting on top of the car) to cool. At the time it seemed reasonable. I can't imagine doing it today - but then my garage isn't even fit for a car. It was great fudge and I am forever grateful to Mrs. Eisenhower for that sweet memory.

    Whitehouseportraitjackie1Jackie's baked fruit is still one of my favorite recipes. I, too, trot it out over the holidays. I believe she served it as a dessert, but in our home it was and is a side dish. Easy, yummy and spiked. What more could one want?

    Jackie's Baked Fruit Casserole
    (serves 6-8)

    Grate rind of 1 orange and 1 lemon.
    Add to 1/2 c. light brown sugar, packed, and 1/4 t. nutmeg.
    Slice orange and lemon into thin slices. Remove seeds.

    Drain: 1 8 oz. can apricots
               1 8-3/4 oz. can pineapple slices
               1 8-3/4 oz. can sliced peaches
               1 17 oz. can pitted Bing cherries
               1 8 oz. can pears

    Combine fruits. Butter a 1 qt. casserole and arrange fruit in layers sprinkling each layer with some brown sugar. Top with 1/4 c. kirsch.

    Bake 30 minutes in medium oven. Serve warm.  

    Mamie Eisenhower by White House photographer, via Wikimedia Commons
    Jacqueline Kennedy by Shaw, Mark (1922-1969), photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.