Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Last of the Christmas Blog Prompts

I did my best to keep up with all the blog prompts leading up to Christmas, but as I got closer to the big day things got hectic. Now I am sitting here eating the last of the Watergate Salad. Winston is happily munching on meatballs and asking Santa to extend the festival of food. So I thought I would catch up with the last few prompts.

Parties! I have to admit in my lifetime I have been to many Christmas parties - neighborhood, office, family, friends, clubs. Good ones, bad ones! But there is one party I have never attended. The Ugly Christmas Sweater Party! Yup, it's true. I have sold hundreds of Ugly Christmas Sweaters on eBay over the last 7 years. I have shipped them all over the world. I can tell you that pastel sweaters will go to France. Any plaid on the sweater and it is headed for Canada. I have sent sweaters to television stations, the set of Twilight, and Washington D.C. I can spot one at a garage sale from the street. I know what neighborhoods they live in. Many years ago, when I worked the holidays at the Lion Store, I even sold them when they were new. I wore them on Christmas Eve when they were in fashion. I gave them as Christmas presents. But, no, I have never been to one single Ugly Christmas Sweater Party.

Christmas Wishes! I had one wish come true this year. I successfully made the Frozen Lemon Dessert. Talk about labor intensive! Now I know why the aunts only made that once a year. My wish for a white Christmas didn't come true. Could be because we broke the snow machine last year. Any other wishes I might have would of course involve finding illusive ancestors.

Christmas Homecoming! Yes, we finally did. This was the third Christmas without Chuck. I have no idea why it took so long and I have no idea what the problem was. It just happened. We all got together for a noisy, fun filled Christmas Eve. Maybe it is what they call the "new normal." If any of you are in this transition period, trust that it will pass. Life goes on.

The Meaning of Christmas! It is different for everyone depending on your religion and age. Little kids -- Santa! Teenagers -- a seat at the adult table (and realizing that the kid's table was so much more fun). New parents -- the beginning of a whole new adventure. Grandparents -- a time to sit back and watch all the fun. Senior citizens -- life's lessons learned and miracles recognized.

And this Christmas Eve?  No one wore an Ugly Christmas Sweater although my daughter did give me an Ugly Christmas Sweater Card that plays music. We didn't care that we did not have snow. We remembered Christmas past but celebrated in the present. And, it meant something different to everyone of us, from 1 year old Willie to 70+ year old Grandma.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Looks Can Be Deceiving!!

My best Christmas gift was not one that I received, but one that I gave. It arrived early and came straight from the North Pole by special delivery. After Christmas it went back to the North Pole. The next year after Thanksgiving it appeared again and created an enormous amount of mischief until Christmas Eve when it headed back home with Santa.

Yup, you're right. She is Elf on the Shelf. She has been known to paint noses and consume cookies while all were nestled snug in their beds. She was the one who TP'ed the Christmas tree and made a bed out of marshmallows. She skied down the stairs, rode on the ceiling fan, wrote messages on everyone's forehead while they were sleeping and then poured salt all over everything so it looked like snow.

When I first saw her at Barnes & Noble I thought she was so cute and innocent. I could picture her sitting on a shelf during the holidays watching the kids so they would stay out of trouble and off of Santa's naughty list. Ho! Ho! Ho! That seemed to be in her job description. Was I wrong or what? 

I bought her, wrapped the box in white paper with bright red ribbon and added a card from Santa for the little kids. I put the box on the front porch. One of the older kids went outside and rang the doorbell. Another one looked out the window and claimed to see Rudolph flying away from the house. The youngest kids ran outside and found the box. And then the fun began It was a total success. Dani named the little eLf Blink. They played with her and went to bed. 

The next morning they woke up and found out that their toenails were painted, even the boys!! And that was just the beginning! Every year she creates more mischief and every year the family welcomes her back for the holidays with open arms and love.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Oh, the recipes we have been through over the years on Christmas Eve.

For a long time the aunts always made a special frozen lemon desert for the holidays. It had a vanilla wafer crust. It was prepared and poured into a covered refrigerator pan and placed in the freezer. It was unbelievably good. For years I tried to make this desert and it just never turned out right. So I finally quit trying. Today I went to the store and got the ingredients. I have been studying the recipe and I think I know what I did wrong. Only time will tell.

Over the years, looking back on all the Christmas Eve family parties, there were always special recipes. The one that I think has lasted the longest and really needs to be retired is the Green Bean Casserole. I personally am getting tired of making it and I know a lot of people who really don't want to see it on the table any more.

Remember the Overnight 7 Layer Salad? That was the lettuce, peas, green pepper, onion, mayo, cheese and bacon combination that sat in the frig overnight and transformed into this wonderful salad that was big enough to feed an army. We all have one relative who was known for bringing this dish to the annual party. Eventually it faded away and made room for another popular salad -- Watergate Salad.

The Watergate Salad originated at the Watergate Hotel in Washington D.C. It is a combination of pistachio pudding, pineapple, marshmallow and nuts. It is perfect for Christmas because it is green and is best served in a bright red bowl. Very festive and, also, still very popular. . . . although probably not at the Nixon family festivities.

And let's not forget all the dips we went through. Dill, dried beef, spinach, and curry. They were pretty good and I wouldn't be opposed to some of those coming back. For the last several years we have replaced them with meatballs in a chilli sauce and grape jelly mixture, cocktail sausages with BBQ sauce) and hot wings. Occasionally someone would bring a Layered Mexican Dip.

We have been through roast turkey, baked ham, sloppy joes, and meat trays for the main dish. In our 20's we did the turkey. Now in our 70's we do the meat tray or just snacks and Christmas cookies.

It seems the older we got, the less labor intensive Christmas became and over the years the older family members reluctantly turned the work over to the younger ones. It was always hard to make that transition. Grandma didn't want to give it up and the daughters weren't sure they could fill the shoes of the older generations. Each time we switched we got new dishes and lost old ones. Some of the recipes were saved, but for some reason they didn't taste right. Like something was missing. And, yes, we are very aware that the aunts were known for leaving out a key ingredient when they gave the secret recipe to a friend. But they wouldn't do that to us. Or would they?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What A Difference A Day Makes!

The only times when I have had to travel out of town for Christmas, it has been to go to Florida. One year when I was very young my parents thought it would be fun to go to Florida for the holidays. That turned out to be a huge mistake. Instead of spending Christmas Eve with my mom's crazy family we headed for Daytona Beach. The only thing I remember that year was sitting in a restaurant on Christmas Day with no snow and lots of tears. We packed up and headed home right after breakfast. 

Many, many years later my husband decided to get an early start on our annual trek to Fort Myers Beach, Florida, so we left on Christmas Day. That wasn't quite so bad. We had our Christmas Eve with the family. Then we finished packing the car and went to sleep early like we were little kids waiting for Santa. 

Traveling was great. We had I-75 all to ourselves. Of course we did, the sane people were home with their families celebrating Christmas. It was a lonely day with more than a few regrets. But the next afternoon we crossed the Florida/Georgia border and the next day we were on the beach with old friends at the condo. Life was good! Then in February we reversed that and went home to Christmas. To a fully decorated house and 4,000 tiny little outside lights. That was the last time we did that!

So what difference does a day make? A huge difference when it is Christmas and you aren't with friends and family?

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas 11, 12 and 13!!

The next three prompts find me sitting here staring at my laptop. Obviously a Christmas writer's block. It's not that we didn't go to church on Christmas Eve or eat fruitcake or have programs at school. It's just that nothing stands out.

Well, maybe the fruitcake thing! Just recently a local bakery posted on Facebook that they found the their old fruitcake recipe from back in the 1960's. My first thought was "better the recipe than the actual fruitcake!" Every Christmas my parents used to receive fruitcakes. They came in beautiful tins with bows and trimmings. And every year we put them out for the Christmas Eve party hoping that someone would eat them. When it got time to go home we would try to sneak out and leave them behind. Somehow they would be in the trunk when we got home. They last for a long time. Too long! I have heard that some people actually do eat them. Over time though they magically disappear - just in time for the new batch to arrive. I don't allow them in my house!

Back to church. I can remember my mom talking about going to the Lutheran Church on Broadway on Christmas Eve where the service was in German. I vaguely recall going to at least one of those services when I was just a tot. I didn't get it back then because I was too young to understand the value of knowing how your ancestors lived. Today I think it would a very special treat to be able to do that.

As for Christmas at school, the only thing I remember is making those paper chains for the tree. And then there were the snowflakes where you folded the paper and started cutting. Mine never came out right. I'd rather buy my ornaments, thank you very much. 

My kids and grandkids got to shop at school. I always thought that was such a great idea. The kids were always so proud of their purchases and couldn't wait for their parents and grandparents to open their presents.

Well, there you have it. Maybe I was wrong. I guess I didn't have as much of a block as I thought. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Christmas Traditions

Well I guess that the Christmas Crafts post gave away the secret of our family's Christmas Traditions. That would be all those stockings hanging on the mantle. That is probably the biggest tradition.

And then there is the tradition that my oldest granddaughter and I started about 10 years ago. That is the hundreds of lights that cover my shrubs and pine trees out in the yard. *You will happy to know that someone must have found the bad bulb and replaced it. The road and the cul-de-sac are now shining brightly with thousands of Christmas lights.

And lets not forget Tom and Jerry, both the drink and the cousins.

Then there is the cookie recipe. It was my mom's and I don't know if it goes any further back. Every year my son, daughters, and I make those cookies. One year I even made a batch for a friend of mine who was going to a cookie exchange in Florida. I packed them in marshmallows, threw in a few packs of hot chocolate, and sent them on their merry way. I am sure as my grandchildren grow up and move away they will take the recipe with them and, with a dozen kids, that will really spread the recipe around.

Christmas Crafts

I have one Christmas craft. Christmas stockings.

Everyone in the family has a homemade stocking. If you are born into the family, you get your very own stocking once you turn one year old. If you marry into the family you get your stocking after the wedding. If you leave the family, we recycle your stocking after the divorce.

I created the very first stocking for my son from a pattern I found at a local fabric store. After my first daughter was born I decided to make her a stocking so I created the  pattern for that one and that started the tradition that has lasted for over 40 years.

When I remarried I made a stocking for myself and one for my husband. When our daughter was born I made one for her. For a long time we had only five stockings hanging from the mantle. That worked just fine.

Then the grandchildren arrived -- an even dozen and we started running out of room on the mantle.

We made room on the mantle by recycling a few stockings much to our regret. But that is life. Stockings come and stockings go.

This year I am making Willie's stocking. He is the youngest grandchild and I have to admit I am running out of ideas. I will let you know how that turns out.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Christmas Shopping in Toledo

Back in the 1940's before there were malls, we went to downtown Toledo, Ohio to do our Christmas shopping.

GADS! It was cold and windy. To this day I still remember the wind tunnel that you entered when you left Lamson's and headed for the Spitzer Arcade and LaSalles. There were people rushing here and there all over the streets of downtown Toledo. That was Christmas. And when I think about those days I can still feel that cold wind that blew down the street between Lamson's and LaSalles. You would walk out of Lamson's and the wind would just smack you in the face and whisk you down the street. And then one day the Mall was born. It would never be the same again.

Several malls were built in the area and the Lion Store became the big anchor store. We all shopped there and eventually we all worked there during the holidays. I am not sure how that started but I know it had something to do with a "discount." It was a great place to be at Christmastime. 

We shopped while we worked. We got the discount. If we were lucky and we had a wrapping station in the department, we could be all wrapped and tree-ready by the time we left work. It was a sisterhood. There was a dress code so eventually we all started to dress alike. Other stores in the mall recognized us and gave us another discount. It was fun. It was merry. We all loved going to work every day. And the store had on fantastic Christmas Party for all of the employees. Each year we got a new coffee cup. My collection sits in the kitchen cabinet. On Christmas Eve it ended and we went back to our normal lives.

Then one day the Lion Store closed. Another store took its place but no one went to work there during the holidays. It just wasn't the same. The Lion Store was locally owned; the new store was a national chain. 

I believe if the Lion Store were still alive today, we would all still be working there. Of course we would all be in our 70's and a little bit slower. And they would have to provide chairs for us to sit and rest a bit. We might get a little cranky with each other. But the wonderful spirit of that locally owned store would still be there. 

I think I can speak for everyone of us when I say "We miss you Lion Store."

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Christmas Movies

The next post is Christmas movies. All I can say is, I am addicted to sappy Christmas movies. I can't wait for them to begin in the fall and in January I hate to see them leave. I am talking about all the ones on tv. I love watching each and every one of them over and over and over.

Of course you all know by now that Charlie Brown's Christmas influenced my choice of Christmas trees.

But on Christmas Eve when the family arrives there are two movies that have become a tradition in my home. Christmas Vacation and Elf.

Cousin Eddie Sweater. Moose Eggnog cups. The Yuppie Neighbors.

Syrup on Spaghetti. The Best Cup of Coffee. "Call me an elf one more time."

But still there is one little movie from years ago when my kids were younger that I still love to watch. Benji's Very Own Christmas Story. It is sweet and it shows Santa as he is all over the world. You can find it on line and it doesn't cost much. I highly recommend that you spend the few dollars it costs to purchase the movie. 


It is Pronounced Santa Claus. Not Santy!!

By now you all know that I had two cousins. Brothers. Who were named after the Christmas drink Tom & Jerry. We were the three youngest in the family and actually they were my 2nd cousins. All the rest of our cousins were considerably older than us. My mom was the youngest of seven children which is the reason for the extreme age difference. 

Over the years Tom, Jerry and I became more like brothers and sister. We all went to high school together. We all hung out together outside of the family parties. And eventually my husband and Jerry became great friends. 

Despite the fact that we were cousins we were always called "aunt and uncles by our children. Over the years the original Rochte family split into new family groups as all families do. Like the branches of a family tree spread in different directions. But for some reason, Tom, Jerry, and I stayed together even though we descended from two different branches.

Now both Tom and Jerry have passed away and I miss them both very much.

However, I do remember one particular Christmas Eve party at my Aunt Maire's house when I wished both of them would have never been born!! And it involved Santa Claus!!

Tom and Jerry had been in trouble with the Aunts ever since they opened their presents. I, as usual, was the perfect little angel -- kissing up to the Aunts every chance I got. I knew how to play the game. 

In those days the Aunts had huge dining room tables. A Florida condo would fit in the space those tables took up. My aunts always had tablecloths on those tables. It was a great place to beat up a cousin without getting caught. 

Somehow on that Christmas Eve the Aunts figured out I was missing in action. And they rescued me. 

This is what happened: 
Tom and Jerry got in a lot of trouble with the Aunts.
The Aunts took their new Christmas toys away and hid them. 
When my cousins wanted to know what happened to their toys, the Aunts told them Santa Claus took them away. 

Unfortunately for me the Aunts didn't say Santa Claus. They said Santy. 
Santy  sounds like Sandy (my name) and that gave my cousins a really good excuse to beat the snot out of me underneath Aunt Maire's dining room table.

Back in those days many people referred to Santa Claus as Santy. A lot of time it sounded like Sanny without the T. I can remember hearing "Sanny Claus. To this day I don't know why. I haven't heard the term in years. I might not even be aware of the pronunciation if it were not for the life-threatening situation that I was in at the time.


Friday, December 5, 2014

Our Special Family Christmas Drink Recipe

The 5th prompt on the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories is about Christmas recipes. It is my favorite so far because it allows me to tell one of my favorite stories about my mom's crazy family. It is bittersweet however, because there are only two of us left now who remember this wonderful group of people-- me and one of my older cousins. 
                                      *  *  *  *  *  *        
My family always made a special drink for Christmas Eve back in the days when the whole family still got together. It was called a Tom and Jerry. It is a combination of raw eggs, sugar, butter, cloves, and nutmeg plus rum, brandy, or whiskey. It is sort of like hot chocolate for adults without the chocolate! It is not Eggnog. Never was; never will be. It is served hot! It is smoother and you can drink a lot more of it and my family did. 

The Tom and Jerry originated in the mid 1850's and was not named after the cartoon cat and mouse. It was a very popular drink well into the 1950's. I think it must have been replaced by Eggnog for some reason. Possibly it was too labor intensive and it does contain raw eggs. I still have a few of my mom's set of Tom & Jerry cups. Yes, you drank it from special cups with the name "Tom & Jerry" in gold on the front. 

My mom and her sisters always took turns having Christmas Eve. I was just a little girl with two cousins who were close to my age. The family was made up of my parents, three sets of aunts and uncles. four sets of married cousins, plus us three little kids. We had a ball. It was always a lot of fun -- probably due to the Tom & Jerry's. 

I was the oldest of the young cousins and for a few years it was just me and one other cousin who was four months younger than me. Then one Christmas Eve a miracle happened. My cousin's mom went into labor. Of course, all the adults had been drinking Tom & Jerry's so they had to go through the whole group until they found someone who was sober enough to drive the expectant couple to the hospital. They picked my uncle who was a policeman!

As the three of them were leaving for the hospital someone yelled, "Hey, if it's a boy name him Jerry." That made perfect sense. You see my other cousin's name was Tom and it had suddenly dawned on my family that if they named his new brother Jerry we would always have Tom & Jerry's for Christmas.

It was a boy, born on Christmas Eve and they did name him Jerry!! 

Even after we no longer made the drink for Christmas Eve and the special cups were packed away in the attic, we could still celebrate with Tom and Jerry  every Christmas.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Christmas Lights - When One Goes Out, They All Go Out!

Nothing says Christmas like a bunch of tiny bright lights. But when one goes out they all go out and that seems to be what has happened in my "neck of the woods" this year. Last year the majority of the houses on the cul-de-sac next to my house were beautifully decorated. And a good of portion of the houses on the country road where I live sparkled with decorations of all sorts and kinds. This year all is dark except for my house where everything that doesn't move gets lit up! 

Every year for the ten years I have lived here my granddaughter has helped me put up the Christmas lights. It has achieved official tradition status over the years. I have six huge Christmas trees that my husband put along the driveway when we moved here. They were intended for privacy but look great with lights of red, green, blue, multicolor and clear. Every year they get taller and we add more lights. 

But the rest of the street and the road are dark. I can't figure out what went wrong. We have a great electric company and the rates are very low so it can't be that. Gas prices are way down so it doesn't cost that much to fill up the car. Kroger is almost out of lights on its shelves so they must have gone somewhere. Not here though. If you go across the line into the county next door almost every house is decorated. But as soon as you cross the county line back to where I live, the lights go out. 

Food prices here have skyrocketed and Kroger dropped its double coupon policy. That could be it. Maybe it is a choice between the Christmas feast or Christmas lights. How sad. Let's hope it's not due to a lack of Christmas Spirit too. 

Or possibly somewhere a couple miles down the road, one light went out and they all went out. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Grandma and the Reindeer

My mother hated the song "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer". She actually called a radio station and ripped them to pieces for playing the song.It was the most embarrassing moment for me and my family -- EVER!

It was like. "Mom it is a joke." 

"It's a  song."

"Don't take it personally."


Guess who takes it personally now!

First of all, I don't have blue hair. Actually it is a rather beautiful shade of grey. 

Should we open up her gifts or send them back? That is very offensive. At the time I thought it was funny. Not so much any more. I get what upset my mom. I have to admit that now I change the station when I hear this song. But, also, I rarely hear it any more. Thank goodness. Perhaps too many grandmothers complained!

So here is my list of my favorite Christmas songs.

#1. I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas, Gayle Peevey
#2. Wonderful Christmastime, Paul McCartney
#3. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Barenaked Ladies
#4. White Christmas, The Drifters
#5. My Grown Up Christmas List, Kelly Clarkson 

And anything Peter Paul and Mary!

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Christmas Card Wreath

If the ghost of Christmas Past were to visit me in the middle of the night, she would take me back to the days of the Christmas card. And yes, it would be a she because it has always been the wife's job to send out the annual Christmas card. Or worse, the dreaded Christmas letter. 

I no longer send out cards because I finally realized the only reason people were sending me cards was because I had sent them a card, and they were only returning the favor. So it didn't really mean anything.

But I have a metal wreath frame that holds cards and eventually turns into a huge Christmas wreath. I have a dresser drawer filled with old  cards from Christmas Past and I use those old Christmas cards to create a wreath of memories from days gone by. The best part is getting the cards out and reading the names of friends and family who are no longer with us. And yes, I do include those crazy Christmas letters.

To be honest with you, I miss making out that Christmas card list. Updating all the addresses. Spending hours sitting at the dining room table addressing envelopes. Sealing envelopes. Applying stamps. Going to the post office.

I would love to do it all again but it has lost its meaning. I would love to send a Christmas  card to someone but I don't want them to feel obligated to return the favor.

The Perfect Christmas Tree!

Long before the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree was introduced to the world of television in 1965, my uncles had the yearly task of creating the perfect Christmas tree. I don't know for sure, but I think they were in direct competition with each other. It was a long drawn-out procedure that involved saws, drills and extra tree limbs. 

If you are picturing a bunch of grown men drilling holes in the trunk of an evergreen tree, you're headed in the right direction. They filled in the "holes" in the tree by inserting additional tree limbs in the holes in the trunk. The result was a beautiful, full, live --  but somewhat "artificial" Christmas tree. The ornaments didn't "hang" on the tree. Instead, they sort of laid on the tree.

The whole process took a couple of nights to complete. It was slow, tedious, and especially annoying for me and my cousins who were waiting to decorate the trees. And, I might add -- not patiently. 

This contest ended with the advent of the aluminum artificial tree. My aunts had a lot to do with that. They weren't too thrilled with the annual tree contest either. Now the tree was stored in a box in the attic. It was silver and came with a light wheel that made the tree change colors throughout the evening. It didn't really look like a Christmas tree but it could be up and running within an hour. By this time the uncles were enjoying television and they were more than willing to put an end to the contest. 

Years later,  when my kids were little, I decided to go in the opposite direction and we went to the tree lot to look for a tall, skinny, ugly Christmas tree. Like a Charlie Brown Tree. The owner of the lot was really glad to see me and he disappeared to the back of the lot and returned with my "perfect" tree. Everyone thought I was nuts until the tree was decorated. It turned out to be beautiful. The ornaments "hung" on the tree for once and you could see the beauty of each and every one. 

After my late husband and I were married, I dragged him to the tree lot and embarrassed him by requesting my tall, skinny, ugly tree. He had a fit, to put it mildly, and my kids thought it was funny. Of course, he changed his mind after the tree was decorated and he became a fan too. 

Now I still have the same kind of tree 40 years later, only it is my grandkids who think grandma's off her rocker. Of course the tree is artificial now and lives in the spare bedroom from February to November. 

Christmas trees have come a long way since the 1940's. We still have the real ones but I don't know anyone who "creates" the perfect tree with a drill and spare branches any more. Most people my age have artificial trees and they stand in a basement, garage, or spare room when not decorated. We leave the real tree hassle to the younger generation and we reminisce about the "old days". 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Degree in Genealogy Science?

I have been working on lineage papers for the U. S. Daughters of 1812. For some reason when I went thru the records for myself, my husband, and my parents this time, it was like my life was passing before my eyes. 

Tonight I found out that an old friend of mine is losing her battle with Alzheimer's. I can't explain the feeling I have had over the last few hours. Shock! Of course, sadness. The usual bitterness and anger. But more than that is the realization that her life may have passed before her eyes a long time ago.

This afternoon at the Lucas County Chapter OGS board meeting, we were discussing program choices for the coming year. Health and DNA took a front seat at the table. It is important that we research not only our family history, but also our health history. We have only discovered the tip of the iceberg on this new frontier. Genealogists have a lot to contribute to society. We have been overlooked for too long.

How many universities offer degrees in genealogy science. Yes, it is becoming a science. And it should be recognized as a valuable contribution to the community. Just sit and listen to a bunch of family detectives discuss how and where they found a valuable piece of information. It's amazing. It is so much more now than just a birth certificate or a family bible or a bunch of letters from the Civil War stuffed in the rafters in a barn. 

It is knowing where to go. How to fit pieces of the puzzle together. How to analyze your results.

So my friend is losing her battle. Maybe it is time to put the pieces of her family tree together. Maybe the answer to saving her descendants lies in her genealogy science.

Let's hope so!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Don't let anyone take your place.

Two and a half years ago my husband passed away. During that time we have been carefully sharing his possessions with others. We started with the family and dispensed items the way we knew Grandpa would have wanted. That was easy. 

Then we got to the "little bit more complicated stuff" and we did pretty good with that. That is the stuff you give to 2-6 year olds and try to explain that they cannot play with it. Good luck with that. 

Then we got to the other stuff. The stuff in the Man Cave. All that stuff that I had no idea what it was. You have no idea how much I have wished over the last few months that Sears still had a catalog! But it turned out that I didn't need that old catalog because neighbors and people I did not know visited my garage sale and told me what everything was and what it was worth.

I know what you are going to say. They told me what it was worth and then bought it for that price. No they didn't. They explained to me what I had and gave me an estimated price for each item. Some of it sold; some of it didn't. 

There is very little left now. The garage he built is almost empty. The material things are gone and now his "dash" has taken its place in our family tree.

With every life event I always think back to our ancestors, especially those who lived a couple of hundred years ago in log houses in Kentucky and Ohio. What happened when they passed away? I doubt they had a garage sale, but I am sure there were several things that disappeared out the back door and I am sure there were items that were carefully shared.

But the one thing that remains constant is that person's place in the family. No one else can ever take that person's place. That is why proof and documentation are so important. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Forgotten Little War

Do you have an ancestor that was born after the Revolutionary War? Did he move west with his family into the Ohio/Kentucky frontier? Is he just a speed bump on your 5-generation pedigree chart? He was born, married, died and that is just about it. 

Well, just maybe he has more of a story to tell you than you originally thought. Maybe he fought in the War of 1812. I have talked to a lot of women lately who have basically dismissed their male ancestors from that time period. After all they are hard to find in the census. Graves are hard to locate. And they seem to have a tendency to hide in the woods.

I knew I had an ancestor who supposedly fought in the War of 1812, but his ancestors and descendents had a much more glamorous life than he did. The only purpose he served was that he proved a link between two generations. That sounds cruel and I regret looking at him that way but his time to be recognized has arrived. I guess we all have our 15 minutes of fame -- even if it takes over 200 years for it to happen.

I don't completely understand why this war and the men who sacrificed all or a part of their lives for this cause have been ignored. My interest in this forgotten war was sparked a few months ago when I attended the OGS Conference at Kalahari in Sandusky, Ohio. Before this conference the only 1812 lineage societies I saw were for men only. Finally at Kalahari, in the right place, at the right time I found the U S Daughters of 1812

It is amazing how just one contact will fan out to so many women -- all of us with the same mind set -- this ancestor in our family tree didn't have that much to offer. It has been an amazing discovery for all of us. Most of us are just beginning to know these ancestors from this forgotten war and I am sure we have an exciting journey ahead of us. 

As for my ancestor. He was William Perkins who was born in Virginia in 1788. He married Malinda Rice in Bracken County, Kentucky in 1811. He and his wife died in 1815 leaving two young sons who were raised by their grandfather Philip Rice and his wife, Martha Vaughn. It is easy to see how someone with such a short life could be overlooked in a family tree.

I suggest you take another look at your pedigree chart and see if maybe you have an ancestor who was a part of the "forgotten little war".


Monday, September 15, 2014

Fall is just around the corner.

Ahhh! Summer is over and the grass and weeds in the yard have finally stopped growing. Now we can get down to some fall/winter research and blogging. More time on the computer; less time on the lawn mower.

I noticed at the pump today that now that the genealogy conferences are coming to an end for the year, the price of gas has gone way down. At least it has here in northwest Ohio. $3 and under. 

Our Kroger stores stopped double coupons a few months ago making it difficult to save money on groceries. And I don't even want to talk about the price of meat. But there are a couple of good things to look forward to. Between now and Thanksgiving the Sunday papers will be loaded with coupon inserts. This is the time of the year for the best coupons and the best match-ups. Once Thanksgiving is over all that good stuff disappears. From then on they know you have to buy those holiday party foods regardless of the price. Remember to stock up early.

The other money saver is gift cards. Kroger always has good deals on these, giving you 4X the fuel points in many cases. You can take advantage of this in two ways. Give everyone a gift card. Or buy gift cards for yourself to use to buy Christmas gifts. Either way you make out.

But back to genealogy. Something great is about to happen and it will save you money on travel expenses normally incurred when you attend a conference. Family Tree is offering a Virtual Conference on September 19 - 21, 2014. Fifteen classes for one low cost of $199.99. In my Family Tree Magazine September issue there is a discount code worth $30 off. The code I have is FTMFALLVC. This discount expires on the 21st. You can make your own schedule and participate in live chats. You can attend the event in your jammies and fuzzy slippers and you get a "swag bag" of freebies. It doesn't get much better. 

For more information and to register go to

Monday, August 18, 2014

Oh Canada!

It is so strange that here in Northwest Ohio we are so close to the Canadian border,  but seldom do any of us take into consideration that our roots could be in Canada. Those of us who live in Lucas County and have boats on Lake Erie are well aware that there is a border out there in the middle of the lake. It used to be that all you needed to have on board was your drivers license or birth certificate -- just something to prove you are a United States Citizen.

When I was in high school we traveled back and forth across the bridge or through the tunnel from Detroit to Windsor all the time. No big deal. When we all grew up and got married we piled everyone into a limo and headed to Windsor for bachelorette and bachelor parties.

And that is the way it was until September 11, 2001  Then everything changed. We still have a lot of Canadian money in our pockets but now we need a passport to head across the bridge or the lake to Canada.

So why do we think that none of our ancestors ever freely crossed the Canadian border like we used to do? Ask anyone around here if they think that any of their ancestors ever came here from Canada and the answer will usually be "no". Ask anyone from around here if they know anything about Canadian genealogy research and the answer will be a resounding "no".

Lucas County, Ohio, USA, borders on Essex County, Ontario, Canada!! Hello??!!!

So I was so excited when I found out that Who Do You Think You Are was going to deal with Canadian research. Rachel McAdams and her sister, Kayleen,  have ancestors who came to America from England and settled on land in northern New York. They were Loyalists. Loyal to the Crown of England.

There were two sides to the American Revolution and sometimes we tend to forget this when we go back into the 1700's to research our ancestors.Eventually Rachel's ancestors fled to Canada where they stayed even though they were originally living in the 13 Colonies. I can only assume that at one time they were very confident that England would defeat the rebels. After all, England was a superpower! How hard it must have been for those families to accept defeat. To lose their land and all they had worked for in the new world!

I hate to admit that I am one of those who know nothing about Canadian research, but if you think that you have Canadian roots, this episode of WDYTYA is worth your viewing time. Probably more than once because there is so much information here.

Don't ever assume anything in genealogy. It is so easy to view your ancestors through your eyes, your values, your politics, your lifestyle! Remember all of your ancestor's traits have combined to make you what you are today. Research your family with one thing in mind - to find out who you think you really are.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Help! We are living in the 1800's!!

My granddaughter woke me up this morning with the announcement that we have a water emergency. Do not use any city water until further notice. I, of course, responded immediately by throwing the covers over my head and going back to sleep! Problem solved -- until I realized that I couldn't sleep and I had to face reality.

First thought was to brush my teeth, shower, get dressed and head to Kroger for 20 cases of bottled water. Wrong. Cannot drink the water, wash dishes, shower (absolutely no skin contact with the water), do laundry. Nothing. Bring on the Hydroapocalypse!

So my granddaughter and I just sat in the living room and stared at each other. Apparently the pioneer spirit does not pass from generation to generation in our family! Since we are creatures of habit, we found that our hands were trying to get water out of the faucets. So the first thing we did was cover all our faucets with plastic bags. That rendered them useless. The faucets, not the plastic bags.

Brushing out teeth with bottled water was relatively simple but the thought of washing my face with expensive bottled water didn't fly. And hydrating my dog with designer water sounded so "House Wives of Wherever." Then I remembered the water from the hose in the back yard is from a well. That became our source of water for the next three days.

The pioneer spirit that I inherited from my ancestors finally rose to the surface. It started out quite simply at first but by sunset, we were rocking! We were bringing water from the well into the kitchen. I poured it, as we needed it, into an old fashioned-looking bowl in the sink. Who needs city water when you can just go out to the well. Ok, maybe not out to the well, but to the hose outside the back door. Close enough. 

This whole situation which is probably going to go on for another 24 hours has given me a whole new outlook on the role that water plays in our everyday lives. And I can now see how important it was in our ancestor's lives. A river, a stream, a creek, a lake, an ocean. These sources of water determined where our ancestors set up camp.

Water could be a way to travel to a new world. A way to escape persecution. 
It could be a way to transport tobacco from Cincinnati to New Orleans. 

Water could determine where a pioneer family settled. It determined where large cities and small towns were located. 

And, of course, don't forget if you add some limestone to the sparking water of that mountain creek, you've got moonshine.

Right now the people who live in the Northwest Ohio/Lower Michigan area have received a wake-up call. We took for granted that Lake Erie was an unlimited source of fresh water and all we had to do was reposition a faucet in order for water to run freely into our homes. 

That can change overnight. And, we have all found out that it doesn't hurt to have a couple cases of water stored in the garage in case of emergency. Another thing I personally learned is that I can use this well water for something beside watering flowers. I can use it for cleaning. I can keep a bowl of well water in the kitchen sink to rinse dishes, dish cloths. My dog can drink it. In other words I have found a way to save $$ on my water bill. Every little bit helps.

So it wasn't such a bad experience after all. It was a learning experience.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

All The Basics Plus Deceit and Murder!!

What a great beginning for the 5th season of Who Do You Think You Are. If this episode was any indication of things to come, this could turn out to be one of the show's best seasons. 

Cynthia Nixon, of Sex and The City, was the first celebrity to research her family this year in the popular genealogy series. Maybe I am getting used to the fast paced genealogy research, but it seemed like this episode was a little easier to follow. Yes, I know, she traveled around the country from New York to Missouri in search of her ancestors - something most of can't afford to do and one of the major complaints of viewers. But, it is necessary to show what research opportunities are available in the various libraries and repositories throughout the country.

One thing I noticed was the research was easy to follow and covered many basics for beginning genealogists. For example:  census records from 1850 on, marriage records, death certificates, military records and, cemeteries.

In addition it proved that newspapers are valuable tools for genealogical research. Social events, weather, local news, weddings, funerals, births, war casualties are all there within the pages of the local edition. And don't forget this is where you find all the misfits and scallywags in your family. Was there an abolitionist, suffragette, or prohibitionist in your family. Check your local newspaper.

Cynthia found that there were questions to be answered when she examined the census records for her family. Most census records are fairly basic: mom, dad, kids, and maybe an in-law or two. But occasionally there will be a census record that stands out as unusual. Like a few clergy with a bunch of young children. Orphanage perhaps? A couple with several men and women who have different surnames. A boarding house possibly.  An older women with a bunch of young women having different surnames. Definitely not a boarding house. There can be many clues to your ancestors lifestyles buried in the pages of the census records.

The questions that Cynthia found in the census led to research in military records, court records, and prison records. It also led to a discussion of women's rights and the difficulty of researching female ancestors.

So once again we encounter "the dash". That period of time between birth and death. In Cynthia Nixon's case we found the life of a very strong female ancestor. Since it is early in the season and I am sure this episode will be repeated, I am going to leave it here without a spoiler alert!  

If you want to see what happens you can wait for the repeat or check it out online.
The next episode with Jesse Tyler Ferguson will air on Wednesday, July 30, 2014. 9/8c.  


Monday, July 21, 2014

So where do you go from here?

Thinking back on my adventures in family history there were no steps, numbered one to ten, that I took in order to reach my goals. It was kind of haphazard. A little bit here; a little bit there. Fantastic discoveries. Huge brick walls. There is no check list when you are researching your ancestors. They didn't live by a "check list" and you won't find them by using  a check list. 

By the time you decide that you need to find your ancestors, most of your older relatives will have passed on. Don't feel bad, it happens to all of us. Just in case you have a few family members left who are older than you, this is your chance to get a lot of misinformation. I can hear you questioning this statement. Why would you want misinformation? Because it contains a lot of clues.

There are times when I really believe that family folklore and gossip have more bits and pieces of accurate information than those wonderful family biographies that you find in atlases and county centennial books. After all, our ancestors wanted to make their families look better than the family that lived next door or down the road. So, the authors embellished the family histories with war heroes and wealthy landowners. Yup, a lot of our great grandfathers were close personal friends of General Grant.

After you have found your oldest living relative, you will need to set up a time for a little get together and interview session. If you have an audio recorder, this is the best way to gather information. If your have to stop to take notes you are going to miss something. Also, with a recorder you can go back and listen to the recording in a month or year or two. Serendipity says your relative will add something you did not hear before. 

You can work from a form that you create or you can go to and search for video or audio interviews with family members. I would suggest that you check what is on Cyndi's List and add your own questions. 

But what happens if you are your oldest living relative? Simple. You pick a form or two and answer the questions. And feel free to enter any other memories that pop into your mind. Also, think about some of those past Christmas dinners when your family was gathered around the table after dinner. If you had a big family like mine, this was the time when the aunts and uncles talked about the good old days. Write down everything you remember, no matter how trivial. Someday it may be the clue that breaks through a brick wall.

Of course the best oral history scenario is being able to gather together two or more older family members. That way you can just sit back and let them talk. Don't forget to encourage them to bring out their old family pictures from the closet -- that will trigger many memories. 

Once you have all the memories recorded, it is time to head to the next level. 

But instead, we are going to take a detour and head in another direction for a while -- into the world of the professional genealogist! The first episode of Who Do You Think You Are will air on TLC this Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at 9/8c. Whether you are just beginning to trace your family or have been doing it for decades, there is always something new to learn. 

As usual I will comment on each episode and use it as a learning experience. Please remember this is an hour program with commercials and a lot of research is squeezed into that time period. WDYTYA only shows you what you can accomplish. It does not show you how many hours of research it takes to get there.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Back to the Basics!

Recently someone asked me a very simple question. "How do I get started in genealogy?" "Do local groups offer beginning genealogy classes online?"

Wow, that was a wake up call! I really had to stop and think about the answer and the more I explored it in my mind the more I realized that after almost 60 years of being exposed to my family history, I couldn't answer that question.

Well, yes of course, I could give the standard generic answer: Yes, I know a few people who give beginning genealogy courses at the local community colleges. These instructors are very good at what they do and I would highly recommend them.

But I didn't get started that way and in my mind I needed to know the difference. My family tree was mailed to me in an envelope. It contained all the names and dates and sources I needed to become a Daughter of The American Revolution (DAR). I am still not a member, but, today, I know a lot more about my ancestors than those few facts on that application. I know "the dash"!

So here is my advice if you are just starting out. You need to locate as much information about your family as you can get your hands on. Everything from facts to family folklore. How do you do this? Simple! 

Before you sign up for that beginning genealogy class -- declutter your house. I know, you are now saying that decluttering your house has nothing to do with family history. Bet me Buckwheat!

You get used to living with all that stuff! Like birth certificates, funeral home cards, letters, Christmas cards, pictures (maybe even some with the people identified), baptismal records, baby books, journals (if you're lucky), high school year books, envelopes with a name and address stuck in an old cookbook, post cards from World War I or II, naturalization papers, a receipt from a local store. It all depends on your family and hopefully they were all pack rats!

Once you have found all of these bits and pieces of information you will have a foundation on which you can build your genealogical research. You have yourself, your parents, hopefully your grandparents, and some locations and dates. Now you can go to a beginning genealogy class.

So, you are saying -- what is the difference. Why not go to the class first? Because if you have a little bit of research under your belt when you walk into that classroom, you can say - this is what I found - where do I go from here. And, also you know what a source of information looks like.

It is like you can't bake a cake unless you have some of the ingredients already in your pantry. Granted, you might have to run back to another store to get the rest of what you need. But you will know what you are missing and you will be able to figure out where you can get it. And eventually you will be able to have your cake and eat it too.

That is how genealogy research works. Some times it is two steps forward and one step back. 

Wait, I take that back -- it is always two steps forward and one step back.
So how do you deal with that problem? You connect with other genealogists!

Next: Where do I go from here?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Daughters of 1812

If you live in northern Ohio, close to the shores of Lake Erie, you no doubt know Put-In-Bay, The Perry Monument, The Jet Express, The Roundhouse,  Pat Daily, the Mills Race, Port Clinton, Kelley's Island.  You know all the fun things about boating on Lake Erie.  But did you know you also might have ancestors who fought in The War of 1812! 

In my case I live in northwest Ohio and have spent many hours boating on Lake Erie both on the American side and the Canadian side. And I do have an ancestor who fought in the War of 1812. I never even considered it because my northern Ohio ancestors didn't arrive here until well after 1812. As it turns out my ancestor who fought along side Commodore Perry was from Kentucky!!

Imagine that. Now all of a sudden Put-In-Bay takes on a whole new image.

The Daughters of 1812 will be holding a preliminary meeting to organize a Chapter in the Toledo and the Erie/Huron County Area 
This will be a luncheon meeting at the 1812 Restaurant in the Island Hotel at 102 Madison St., Port Clinton at 11:30 AM on Saturday, June 28.

We invite you to attend and find out more about the Daughters of 1812 and hopefully we can answer any questions that you may have about joining our Society.

For more information contact:

Sharon Myers

Ohio Society Daughters of 1812

State Registrar

Note: Sorry about getting this information out on time. Computer Gremlin Problem is my only explanation.