July 22, 2017

Reviving a Memorial Day Tradition: Paper Flowers

Have you ever brought back a favorite family tradition from your childhood? I did that with a favorite Memorial Day tradition–revived with a little help from YouTube.Amie Memorial Day tradition decorating graves

Deep in the hollows of Virginia lived ‘Big Grandma’ with her nine children. She was a mountain woman, schooled only in the herbs she could sell for money. Celebrations were few, but Decoration Day was special. She would gather her children together to make crepe paper flowers and then hike up the mountain to lay them on the graves of loved ones.

This year, I revived this tradition by teaching her great-grandchildren the art of making crepe paper flowers for Decoration Day (now known as Memorial Day.) It wasn’t easy. My mother hadn’t made crepe paper flowers with us since I was 10 years old!

First, we had to find the crepe paper. I tried using crepe paper streamers, but the paper was too delicate and not stretchy enough. Crepe paper is unique. It is strong and very stretchy which lends to the realistic shape of petals and leaves. With a little help from Google, I found PaperMart, an online store that sells rolls of colorful crepe paper for $1.93 a roll. Each roll is 8 feet long and 19 inches wide. A roll this big will create bouquets of lovely flowers!

I ordered a variety of colors for petals, some green for the leaves, and yellow for the middles. Floral stem wire, floral stem tape, paddle wire in 24 gauge, and tacky glue are other must-haves.

Without Grandma around, it was left to me and Mom to remember how to make each type of petal. YouTube to the rescue! With videos like the one below, we were able to re-teach ourselves the techniques for creating beautiful roses, peonies, morning glory, and mums. (Click here to read more ideas on using YouTube for family history research.)

After family dinner, we gathered together as mothers, sisters, and cousins to laugh and giggle as we tried to create each piece. I was able to share with the next generation the story of Decoration Day in the “holler.” Many of the young ones asked, “Why can’t we just buy the flowers?” I am sure it would have been easier and quite a bit quicker to buy flowers, but I wouldn’t trade the opportunity to share this tradition with them for the world.

Amie at the cemetery Memorial Day traditionsThis week, we gathered as an extended family to place our crepe paper flowers on the graves of our ancestors. You know what? When we came to Big Grandma’s grave, all the children wanted their flowers to be placed there. They remembered! My heart was full and I could imagine Grandma looking down at all these little children as they were following in her footsteps.

A Memorial Day tradition like this is a wonderful way to teach family history to our children. Other ideas include learning a hobby that our ancestor enjoyed. Several years back, I decided I wanted to learn to play the guitar like my uncles did. It was their favorite past time to get out the guitars for an old-fashioned singin’ after Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. The family would gather in the living room to sing favorites like “Amazing Grace,” “When the Roll is Called up Yonder,” and “Jesus is Coming Soon.” A new guitar and YouTube practice tutorials and I was strumming along with them at the family reunion.

With today’s easy access to online tutorials and videos, you can learn and share your ancestors’ lives in this unique and personal way. Pick something today and share your favorite family traditions and past times with your loved ones.

YouTube for family historyMore Gems on Family Traditions

“My Name is Jane:” Heritage Scrapbook Celebrates Family Tradition

Heritage Recipes – Aunties, Sprinkles, and the Santa-in-His-Cap Cookie Cutter

6 Fantastic Ways to Use YouTube for Family History

Turn Spring Cleaning Into a Treasured Family History Christmas!

honor your female ancestorsIt’s the last day of March, so it must be time to start thinking about Christmas, right?

OK, so you may not be thinking about your next Christmas craft project or gift-giving. But March has been Women’s History month and I’ve got a fun and easy craft project for you that will honor your female ancestors, help you do a bit of Spring cleaning of your stashes of left over fabric, and put you well ahead of the game when it comes to holiday prep.

Follow along with me in the video below as I piece together a crazy quilt Christmas stocking.

 

Familiar Female Faces

This stocking not only possesses a nostalgic flare with its Victorian-era crazy quilt design and embroidery, but it’s also brimming with familiar female faces from my family tree. Gathering together as many photos as I could of the women that I directly descend from was a fun challenge. I scoured old photo albums, searched online family trees, and put the word out to family members to make sure I had every available image. I was pleasantly surprised at how many I came up with.

Not Just for Stockings

This crafty idea certainly isn’t limited to Christmas stockings. You could translate this into a wall hanging, or even a full-size bed quilt. Make one as a gift, and it will surely be handed down the family lines for generations as a treasured heirloom.

Create a Video Story of Your Creation

I made this video with Animoto, a web and mobile app that makes this job of video creation oh, so easy! And it got me to thinking how lovely it would be to give a “bonus” gift of video to the recipient of this family history present.

  1. Re-purpose the Photos – since you’ve already pulled out the photos to create the transfer images, why not drop them into Animoto? Add your memories, poems they wrote, and any other tidbits that help their legacy shine through. Sprinkle with a bit of music (Animoto has loads of songs to choose from), and in minutes you can create a short tribute video to the women in your tree.

  2. Document the Project – Grab your smartphone and snap pictures and videos during the process of creating the stocking (or other form of this project). Toss your photos and videos into Animoto, add personalized comments, and you’ll have a sweet video to accompany the gift. It will show how you poured love into every stitch! (Ah! What I wouldn’t give for such a video of my Grandma sewing the lovely items I treasure today!)

Made with Love

Special Savings on Animoto

(Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. I appreciate you using these links because that compensation helps make the Genealogy Gems blog possible. Thank you!)

Animoto is a trusted sponsor of the Genealogy Gems Podcast, and they have given us  a special discount to pass on to Genealogy Gems followers! Sign up for a free trial and fall in love with Animoto for 7 days. Then use coupon code PER10OFF to receive a 10% off an annual Personal subscription.

 

 

The History of Genealogy Gems and of Christmas Seals

letter

Dear Beloved Listeners, Readers, and Viewers,

I’m writing to you today to tell you how much you mean to me. You’re the reason why I can’t wait to grab my phone before I get out of bed, just to see what you’ve had to say. Your emails of shared success stories, challenges, questions, and feedback are each carefully read. Genealogy Gems is after all, created for you.

I so clearly remember the moment back in 2007 when it hit me how creating a podcast would provide me with a way to share what I had learned about researching family history. It would be a way to connect with all of you out there who are in pursuit of the same passion. Now, over 2 million downloads later, we have shared a lot and it’s been glorious.

cook-lisa-7247-edit-5x5-linkedinOur 10th anniversary together isn’t quite here yet (February 2017), but I do want to dip back into 2007 and share with you one of the first videos I created for you. It was a Christmas story about the origins of Christmas seals, and my own personal story about when I first fell in love with them. I know, the images in the first part of the video are a bit grainy. Online video production was in its infancy way back then in 2007. But, it’s a lovely story just the same, and the Christmas wishes I sent then are still as strong today.

Have a very Merry Christmas!

Your friend,
Lisa

The Gift of Family History Video

Are you having a hard time coming up with the perfect gift for someone special on your list? The gift of video gives all year round, and doesn’t require you to buy the correct size. Make your video about family history, or the memories of the recipient, and get ready for hugs and smiles of appreciation for your thoughtfulness.

Do you remember the first Christmas that you realized it was better to give than to receive?  It’s an amazing feeling when your heart swells at the thought of snagging the perfect present for the people you love the most. But if you’re like me, there are always one or two relatives who present daunting challenges. Perhaps it’s the elder members of your tribe who seem to want for nothing; or a Aunt who quietly returns everything.

video gift

My challenge this year is my Dad. He seems to want for nothing, and having an Amazon Wish List isn’t even on his radar. Last year Dad passed his high school scrapbook on to me. It’s brimming with some of his fondest memories: his Boy Scout membership card, newspaper clippings of his football prowess, and the cardboard glasses he wore to his very first 3D movie. I’m pretty sure his heart was swelling when he handed this treasure chest of beloved memories to his daughter, the family historian.

And that’s when I was struck with an inspiration: give it back to him in the form of a video.

Video: Gift Perfection

Here’s why video makes a perfect gift:

  • It doesn’t take up precious space on the shelf
  • It can be enjoyed from any computing or mobile device again and again
  • It can be shared easily with others

If you have been in search of the perfect holiday gift, follow along with me, and give the gift of video.

Creating a Video Gift

If you’re short on time, consider making a video of an old family scrapbook. All you will need  is a smartphone and 30-60 minutes.  Pull a scrapbook off the shelf, and dust it off because it’s about to get a new life!

Step 1 – Photograph the album

You could use a flatbed scanner to scan each page and the individual items you want to highlight. But you can save a ton of time by putting your smartphone or tablet to use. For me, this was the  ideal solution also because so many of the items in the scrapbook had become loose, and I wanted to be able to show the pages as they were originally laid out. By setting the book on a table I could just snap photos rather than turning it upside down on the scanner glass. And don’t worry about snapping the perfect pics because we’ll get them all snazzy in step 3.

Save the images to a free cloud service like Dropbox so that you can easily retrieve them on your home computer.

Step 2 – Head to Animoto.com

(Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. I appreciate you using these links because that compensation helps make the Genealogy Gems blog possible. Thank you!)

Although Animoto does have an mobile app, I like using the web version on my computer which provides the advantage of a bigger screen. Click here to go to Animoto, and sign in to your account.  Then, just click the Create button to start a new video project.

Choose a Video Style, which will include a music soundtrack. If the music isn’t quite what you had in mind, click Change Song and pick from a robust list of tunes. Animoto’s secret sauce optimizes and paces your slides to jive with the music. If the music is faster, the slides are faster, and if it’s slower, yep, the slides are slower. In the end though, you always have the final choice in the pacing of your slides and your entire video. Need a little extra time? Then just add a second music sound track.

Step 3 – Add Your Photos

Now it’s time to add your photos. Click Add Image, select Dropbox, and navigate your way to the folder where you saved your photos. Click the first one in the list, and then holding down the Shift key on your keyboard, click the last photo in the list, and click the Choose button. There you go: you’ve added all your images in one fell swoop! Imagine the time you saved over adding one item at a time.

I snapped all the full page photos first, and then I went back and snapped some of particular items I wanted to highlight with closeup images. That meant that when I added my photos they weren’t in exactly the right order. Thankfully, all I had to do was drag and drop them in the desired order. Easy peasy!

video gift dashboard

animoto-edit-video-gift

Edit your photos within Animoto.

Another reason I adore using Animoto is that I can do all my editing right there in the dashboard. With a few clicks you can apply a quick crop, slight rotation, and image enhancement with a great result. (Image right)

You even have the option to add video clips with Animoto. So if I had a fancy to add my original video of turning the pages of the scrapbook (above) I would just drag and drop it onto the timeline. And  it is that ability to drag images and video from your hard drive straight into Animoto that makes it so quick and easy to use.

Step 4 – Add Title Slides

Although my Dad’s scrapbook really speaks for itself, I decided to add a few title cards to help guide the viewer like:

  • The Picture Show
  • School Work
  • Sports
  • Graduation

And title cards are great for “The End” and any other message or credits you want to add.

If you want to add text within your project, click to select the item that your text will follow, then click Add Text from the menu, and it will appear immediately after the previous item. To add text at the end, just click the plus sign in the last box and again type your text. And remember, nothing is set in stone. If you change your mind you can drag the text to a new location, edit it, or delete it all together.

Step  5 – Preview & Publish Your Video

At any time during the process you can click the Preview Video button to see your work. If you like what you see, then click the Produce button in the Preview window to create the final product. And speaking of final products, here’s mine:

Learn More

Are you ready to start creating memorable videos for the loved ones on your list? Click here to learn even more and give Animoto a whirl. (And just think: no wrapping required. You’re welcome!)

Victorian Fruit Cake Recipe: Tasty and Tasteful

Image courtesy of Sarah Chrisman.

Image courtesy of Sarah Chrisman.

This recipe for a Victorian fruit cake skips the poor-quality candied fruit that gives some pre-made modern fruitcakes a bad reputation (especially in the US). Instead, fresh coconut, citron and almonds fill this cake to bursting with natural flavors and textures. 

This holiday season, Genealogy Gems Book Club featured author Sarah Chrisman is helping us celebrate all things Victorian, especially recipes! Keep reading to find links to the Victorian holiday recipes we’ve shared recently. In this post: a fruit cake that lives up to its history as a rich, flavorful dessert that’s worthy of the season.

Image courtesy of Sarah Chrisman.

Image courtesy of Sarah Chrisman.

Sarah Chrisman shared this recipe for a white fruit cake with us, along with this picture of her cracking a coconut in preparation for making this dish:

“Stir to a cream one pound of butter and one pound of powdered sugar. Add the beaten yolks of twelve eggs, one pound of flour and two teaspoons of baking powder. Grate one coconut, blanch and chop one-half pound of almonds, and slice one-half pound of citron and stir into the stiffly beaten white of the eggs and add to the batter. Put in pan lined with buttered paper, and bake slowly two hours.” -By Mrs. W.S. Standish, Plymouth Union Cook Book, 1894. pp. 56-57.

 

 

Here’s a quick video tutorial on how to blanch almonds:

What is citron? It’s a citrus fruit that is something like a lemon. According to this blog post on using citron in fruitcakes, it’s not always easy to find fresh citrons, but you can ask at your best local markets for a supplier near you or look for high-quality prepared citron that can be shipped to you.

More Victorian holiday recipes

victorian-coasting-cookiesHomemade cranberry sauce and hearty vegetable hash

Victorian pumpkin pie: light and delectable

Coasting cookies (shown here)

Traditional (and tasty) fig pudding

this-victorian-lifeGenealogy Gems Book Club featured author Sarah Chrisman will join host Lisa Louise Cooke in the December Genealogy Gems and Genealogy Gems Premium podcasts to talk about her everyday Victorian lifestyle. Check out her memoir, This Victorian Life: Modern Adventures in Nineteenth-Century Culture, Cooking, Fashion and Technologies or several other books she’s written about the era (both fiction and nonfiction).

Victorian Fig Pudding Recipe: “We All Want Some Figgy Pudding”

fig-pudding-lead-imageVictorian expert Sarah Chrisman shares her adaptation of a classic “figgy” pudding recipe, a holiday staple in Victorian times. Don’t be fooled by its inelegant appearance: there’s a reason carolers sang, “We won’t go until we get some!”

sarah-chrismanThis holiday season we are sharing Victorian recipes, in celebration of our Genealogy Gems Book Club featured author, Sarah Chrisman. Sarah lives her life like it’s the late 1880s. She’ll join us on the Genealogy Gems podcast and Premium podcast in December to tell us all about it–click here to learn more. Meanwhile, enjoy her delicious recipe for a classic fig pudding and a tutorial video that demonstrates making it the old-fashioned way.

“Figgy Pudding” Recipe

“One pound of figs cut fine, imported ones are best but dried domestic ones will answer, one and a half pounds of bread crumbs, one-half pound chopped suet [vegetarian alternative: 8 oz coconut oil, melted and mixed into bread crumbs], twelve ounces moist sugar [brown sugar], a little nutmeg [1 tsp.], two eggs, one teacup of milk.  Mix all together and steam four hours [in a pudding bag].” –Plymouth Union Cook Book, 1894. p. 86.

Here’s a quick video tutorial on how to prepare a “figgy pudding” recipe in the old-fashioned way:

fig-pudding-with-sauce-sarah-chrismanHard Sauce for Puddings

“Beat one egg and half a cup of sugar until very light, then add two tablespoons of softened butter; beat until it will stay piled on a plate; grate in a little nutmeg and put in a very cold place until served.” –Plymouth Union Cook Book, 1894. p.98

More Victorian holiday recipes

Roast Thanksgiving turkey with chestnut stuffing and gravy

Homemade cranberry sauce and hearty vegetable hash

Victorian pumpkin pie: light and delectable

Coasting cookies

 

Victorian Holiday Recipe: Coasting Cookies

victorian-coasting-cookiesSarah Chrisman shares a favorite Victorian holiday recipe just in time for baking season! These “coasting cookies” bring to mind the cold-cheeked fun of sledding in the chilly air of winter.

This holiday season, we’re celebrating all things Victorian with our Genealogy Gems Book Club featured author, Sarah Chrisman. She and her husband Gabriel live like it’s 1889–and have become first-hand experts on Victorian life. Here, Sarah shares a favorite Victorian holiday recipe for “coasting cookies” and the story behind it. The original recipe appears below, edited to a modern recipe format, along with Sarah’s notes (in parentheses) on adapting the recipe for modern cooking.

Victorian Holiday Recipe: Coasting Cookies

Image courtesy of Sarah Chrisman.

Image (and closeup image above) courtesy of Sarah Chrisman.

Ingredients:
1 pound flour (3 1/3 cups)
8 oz butter (1 cup, softened)
1/2 pint molasses (1 cup)
1 Tbsp (baking) soda, beaten very hard in the molasses
1 Tbsp coriander seed, pounded in a mortar
(crushing whole seeds retains more flavor)
1 Tbsp (whole) carraway [sic], pounded in a mortar
(yields about 1 3/4 Tbsp when crushed)
ginger to taste (1 Tbsp powdered ginger)

Original instructions:
1. Soften the butter.
2. Stir in the molasses, ginger, seeds, and flour.
3. Roll thin and cut.
4. Bake in a quick oven.

 

coasting-cookies-comment

Sarah’s updated Coasting Cookies instructions:
1. Crush the caraway and coriander together,
add the ginger and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, beat the molasses and baking soda 2-3 minutes; it will turn a very pretty pale caramel color as the alkaline soda reacts with the acid in the molasses.
3. Add the butter and flour and mix well.
4. Bake 8-10 minutes at 375 degrees.

 

The Original recipe appears in In the Kitchen by Elizabeth S. Miller. (Boston: Lee & Shepard, 1875), p. 365.

Ladies' Toboggan Race, Kiandra, c. 1884–1917. Wikimedia Commons image; click to view with citation.

Ladies’ Toboggan Race, Kiandra, c. 1884–1917. Wikimedia Commons image; click to view with citation.

Sarah explains the story behind “coasting cookies:”

Gabriel was attracted to this recipe because the word ‘coasting’ in the name put him in mind of bicycles.  However, it turned out to be a sledding reference, as seen in this excerpt from an 1877 short story:

“‘Coasting’ and snow-balling were the bloom and glow of those long, icy months; and the very thought of my youthful exploits in these cold Vermont days makes the blood tingle in my veins…  [T]here were lots of ‘fellers,’ small boys, so utterly extinguished beneath their big caps and mufflers, that, to the uninitiated, it would seem necessary to dig them out, like potatoes out of a hill, before they could be recognizable. Well, these ‘fellers’… had glorious times together, and considered it the great business of life in winter to coast, and skate, and fire snow-balls, being somewhat apt to resent such interruptions as going to school, doing ‘chores,’ or eating regular meals.”—Church, Ella Rodman.  “A Story of “Doughnuts,” Petersen’s Magazine, July, 1877,  p. 65.

love-will-find-a-wheel-by-sarah-chrismanAlthough they were originally named for the sport of sledding, Gabriel and I found them to be equally delicious after cycling expeditions. Consequently, in my Tales of Chetzemoka cycling club series, these cookies are special favorites with the club members. Here’s a fun excerpt from Book Two, Love Will Find A Wheel:

…”You’re all coming here afterwards, aren’t you?”  She asked the club in general.  “My sewing circle ladies will be here again.”

Mr. Goldstein leaned on his fifty-inch wheel and laughed.  “Since my wife will be here I won’t get much peace if I don’t come!”

Felix and Ken exchanged put-upon looks, then a thought seemed to occur to Felix and his face brightened.  “Are you going to be making those coasting cookies again?”  He asked Mrs. Brown.

She smiled indulgently.  “I already made them.  There’s five dozen of them on plates in the pie safe, just waiting.”

“Only five dozen?” Ken whined in mock disappointment.

Felix punched him lightly in the shoulder.  “Don’t worry, I’ll save you half of one—if you’re nice to me.”…

sarah-chrismanSarah will join us in the December Genealogy Gems Podcast and Genealogy Gems Premium podcasts. Click here to learn more about her and her Victorian-themed books, both fiction and non-fiction. For more Victorian recipes: click here for roast Thanksgiving turkey with chestnut stuffing and gravy and Sarah’s homemade cranberry sauce and hearty vegetable hash.

genealogy book club family history reading

This Victorian Pumpkin Pie Recipe is Light and Delicate

victorian-pumpkin-pie-recipeThis Victorian pumpkin pie recipe calls for milk instead of cream, an economical choice that results in a lighter, more delicate pie than we often taste today.

This holiday season, Victorian expert Sarah Chrisman is sharing her favorite holiday recipes with us. This week: a Victorian take on the classic pumpkin pie. Reformatted in modern recipe style, here is the original recipe for 3 pies, followed by Sarah’s version, adapted for modern cooks making a single pie.

Victorian Pumpkin Pie Recipe

Image courtesy of Sarah Chrisman

Image courtesy of Sarah Chrisman

Ingredients:
1 qt rich milk (a little cream is a great improvement)
3 cups boiled and strained pumpkin
2 cups sugar
little piece of butter
4 eggs
1 Tbsp ginger and cinnamon (scant)
Rich crust

1. Mix milk, pumpkin, sugar, butter, ginger and cinnamon.
2. Separate the eggs. Beat the yolks thoroughly and stir into above mixture.
3. Beat the whites to a froth and add to mixture just before putting the pie in the oven.
4. Have a rich crust and bake in a quick oven.
Should you desire to use squash instead, you can make equally as good a pie as with the pumpkin. Makes 3 pies.
– From The Women’s Exchange Cookbook. 1890s, p. 250.

Sarah’s version of Victorian Pumpkin Pie:
Ingredients
Pie crust for 10″ pie
1 cup pumpkin, cooked and mashed
1 tsp. butter
1 cup milk + 1/3 cup heavy cream
1 egg yolk
2 egg whites
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon

1. Bake the pie crust unfilled, with pie weights holding down the middle, for about 7 minutes. (If the filling is added to a raw pie crust then baked, it makes the crust a bit soggy.)
2. Cook and mash the pumpkin.
3. Stir in the butter while the pumpkin is still warm. Let this mixture cool thoroughly (preferably overnight).
4. Mix in the ginger, cinnamon, milk, cream, and egg yolk.
5. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Gently fold into the pumpkin mixture and pour it into the pie shell.
6. Bake 40 minutes (or until edges are set) at 375 degrees.  Cool overnight before cutting.

Here’s what Sarah has to say about this recipe: “This pumpkin pie is made primarily with milk instead of cream for economy’s sake—milk being much cheaper than cream, then as now.  The result is a much lighter and more delicate pumpkin pie than most. With very little cream it doesn’t have the heavy, custard texture of most pumpkin pie, but instead gets its body from the egg whites.”

womans-exchange-cookbook“This recipe comes from an 1890s Woman’s Exchange cookbook. (My copy is in pretty bad shape and is unfortunately missing an exact date to document its publication.) Women’s Exchanges were organized by middle- and upper-class Victorian women as a way to help poorer women earn money and improve their situations. The organizers would suggest which products were able to be made at home and most marketable in their particular community; then they provided a venue for the sale of those products. Foods of all sorts were particularly popular products for sale at Women’s Exchanges. Recipes in Women’s Exchange cookbooks were designed especially with economy in mind, so that the financially challenged women making them could a.) afford the ingredients and b.) realize the biggest possible profit when they sold the finished product.” 

Check out these other Victorian recipes we’ve published as part of our Victorian holiday celebration with Genealogy Gems Book Club author Sarah Chrisman. Sarah will join Lisa Louise Cooke on the December Genealogy Gems and Genealogy Gems Premium podcasts to talk about what it’s like to “live in the past” in her chosen Victorian lifestyle.

More Victorian and holiday recipes

cranberry-sauce-sarah-chrismanRoast Thanksgiving turkey with chestnut stuffing and gravy

Sarah’s homemade cranberry sauce and hearty vegetable hash

Lisa Alzo’s Christmas cut-out cookies

 

A Victorian Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe

Victorian Thanksgiving Turkey RecipeIn honor of our Genealogy Gems Book Club featured author Sarah Chrisman, and her book This Victorian Life, we are publishing a number of Victorian inspired delectable recipes and other sumptuous ideas. This Victorian Thanksgiving turkey recipe celebrates how the holiday came into its own during the Victorian era, complete with a rich, moist roast turkey at the center of the table.

Thanksgiving became a national holiday in the U.S. in 1863, during the Civil War. Over the next few decades, festive cooks dressed up the Thanksgiving turkey with whatever flavors were available to them in season, such as chestnuts, sausage, dried cranberries or other fruits and even oysters!

This recipe for roast turkey with chestnut stuffing is edited slightly from the Fannie Farmer 1896 Cookbook, which you can read on Google Books (click here for more Google Books search tips). We’ve tweaked the wording slightly, separated the instructions into numbered steps and added the modern ingredient list to make it an easier read for the modern cook.

Victorian Thanksgiving Turkey with Chestnut Stuffing and Gravy

fannie-farmer-1896-cookbookRoast Turkey

Ingredients:
10-pound turkey
Salt
1/3 cup butter and 1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 1/2 cups boiling water, divided
Parsley or celery tips (for garnish)

1. Dress, clean, stuff and truss a ten-pound turkey. (See quick how-to video tutorial below.) Place on its side on rack in a dripping-pan.

2. Rub entire surface with salt, and spread breast, legs, and wings with 1/3 cup butter, rubbed until creamy and mixed with flour.
3. Place in a hot oven, and when flour on turkey begins to brown, reduce heat, baste with fat in pan, and add boiling water.
4. Continue basting every 15 minutes until turkey is cooked, which will require about 3 hours. For basting, use 1/2 cup butter melted in 1/2 cup boiling water, and after this is used, baste with fat in pan.
5. During cooking turn turkey frequently, that it may brown evenly. If turkey is browning too fast, cover with buttered paper [aluminum foil] to prevent burning.
6. Remove strings and skewers before serving. Garnish with parsley or celery tips.

Chestnut Stuffing

chestnutsIngredients:
3 cups French chestnuts
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/4 cup cream
1 cup cracker crumbs

1. Shell and blanch chestnuts.
2. Cook in boiling salted water until soft.
3. Drain and mash, using a potato ricer [masher].
4. Add 1/2 the butter, salt, pepper and cream.
5. Melt remaining butter, mix with cracker crumbs, then combine mixtures.

Gravy

Ingredients:
Turkey drippings
6 Tbsp flour
3 cups turkey stock
salt and pepper to taste
optional: finely-chopped giblets or 3/4 cup cooked and mashed chestnuts

1. Pour off liquid in pan in which turkey has been roasted.
2. From liquid, skim off 6 Tbsp fat. Return to pan and brown with flour.
3. Gradually add stock, in which the giblets, neck and tips of wings have been cooked, or use liquor [liquid] left in pan.
4. Cook 5 minutes, season with salt and pepper; and strain.
5. For giblet gravy, add to the above giblets (heart, liver, and gizzard) finely chopped. For chestnut gravy, add chestnuts to 2 cups thin turkey gravy.

this-victorian-lifeWatch this blog (or follow us on the Genealogy Gems Facebook page, Pinterest or Instagram) in the coming weeks! Genealogy Gems Book Club featured author, Sarah Chrisman (This Victorian Life: Modern Adventures in 19th-Century Culture, Cooking, Fashion and Technologies) will be serving up a series of her favorite mouthwatering Victorian-era recipes in celebration of her coming Book Club interviews on the free Genealogy Gems Podcast and Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast in December.

Celebrating Freedom and Records Access: 50 Years of FOIA and Genealogy

FOIA turns 50 FOIA and genealogy Happy July 4th–and Happy 50th to the Freedom of Information Act! Read more about the FOIA and genealogy records we can access because of it.

Today we in the United States celebrate our Independence Day with grateful hearts and parades. Well, genealogists with U.S. ancestors have an extra reason for fireworks: today marks 50 years since Congresss signed the Freedom of Information Act into law, and the U.S. became one of the first nations to open its records to the public.

The Freedom of Information Act

The FOIA opens certain kinds of information about the federal government and certain information created by the federal government. It doesn’t apply to everything, including documents that relate to national security, privacy and trade secrets. The FOIA also only applies to documents created by the federal government, not state or local governments.

Since it was passed, the FOIA has continued to be expanded and amended. Over the years, the numbers of FOIA document requests has skyrocketed, too. In the first five years after the FOIA passed, it only resulted in about 500 total requests for information–that’s an average of just 100 per year. Last year alone, there were more than 700,000 requests!

The FOIA and Genealogy

So, of course we have to ask the question: how well do FOIA and genealogy go together? As it turns out, quite well. My favorite FOIA request is for an ancestor’s Social Security application (the SS-5 form). This is the form that generated the assignment of a relative’s Social Security number and was the first step to receiving any Social Security benefits. It’s what the very limited information on the Social Security Death Index comes from, as well as the much-richer (but not comprehensively available) Social Security Applications and Claims database at Ancestry.com. That was released last year and caused a LOT of us to do a serious genealogy happy dance.

But if you want to see everything in that SS-5 application, you should order an image copy of the original (you can now also order a computerized abstract of it, which is cheaper but might not get everything right). Here’s what an SS-5 application looks like:

Osby Johnson SS5 FOIA and genealogy

This one confirms the names of an African-American man’s parents–parents who survived slavery and left few other records of their existence. This man was part of the first generation in his family to legally learn to read and write. His signature is on the record.

You can also access other key 20th-century genealogy records that haven’t made it online yet–and in some cases, haven’t even been sent to the National Archives yet.

These include the following (with links to where to learn more):

There is some fine print on some of these records request procedures, so read carefully what records are there, what you’re allowed to order and how to request it. Happy Independence Day–and Happy FOIA anniversary!

More FOIA and Genealogy Gems

Social Security Death Index SSDI FOIA and genealogy Try This Now! U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index

Search the SSDI for Your Family History

Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 21 about military record requests through FOIA