Family History Never Tasted So Good!

We all have cookbooks in our kitchen, many of which were handed down to us by our mothers and grandmothers. In addition to be overflowing with delectable recipes, they are often brimming with family history. Today I’d like to share with you a recipe mystery that followed me for years, and the bit of genealogical serendipity that solved it. 

family history never tasted so good: cookie recipe

I once gave a presentation called Inspiring Ways to Capture the Interest of the Non-Genealogists in Your Family at a local genealogical society. (Genealogy Gems Premium Members can log in and watch this vide class as part of their membership here.)

In it, I gave an example of some items I had found on Ebay from my husband’s Larson family. If you listen to the Genealogy Gems Podcast then you have heard me mention the Larson family. They hailed from Winthrop Minnesota and owned a hardware store and lumber business there for many years.

LJ Larson Hardware store

LJ Larson Hardware store

While I was taking questions toward the end of the presentation a woman in the front raised her hand. Her name was Harriet, and she said she was sure that she had a cookbook from Winthrop, Minnesota in her collection of books at home. She offered to send it to me and I gladly gave her my email address so we could connect.

Considering that Winthrop is such a small town, it make her statement surprising indeed! To provide perspective: Winthrop is about 1 square mile and the population hovers somewhere around 1300. So, I was surprised indeed to have someone in Pleasanton, California telling me that she had a cookbook that dated back to the early 20th century from this little town.

As promised, Harriett followed up with me by email. She asked for my address and told me that the book “looks a little worn but all of the pages are there. I hope it can be of some use to you. My sister taught either first grade or kindergarten there during World War 2 and that’s how it came in to her possession.”

The Cookbook Filled with Family History

Harriett was a woman of her word because about a week later the 340 Home Tested Recipes cookbook compiled by members of The Ladies Aid of the First Lutheran Church of Winthrop, Minnesota was in my mailbox.

The Winthrop Cookbook

The Winthrop Cookbook

It continues to amaze and delight me how powerful just putting your family history “out there” is. By regularly mentioning real people and places in your own research, it so often leads to information and items that just seem to be waiting to be found. It’s what we call “genealogical serendipity” in genealogy circles. 

But the genealogical serendipity didn’t end there. Not only did my husband’s ancestors contribute recipes to this little community cookbook, which of course I was thrilled to find – but there was a recipe in there that I had been in search of for over 25 years.

The Great Cookie Mystery

You see, when Bill and I got married, he shared his fond memories of a sour cream cookie his grandmother used to make. I’m an avid baker, so I checked with his mom to see if she had the recipe. Sadly, she didn’t.
 
Over the years I have tried to find a recipe for sour cream cookies in an attempt to recreate them. Every time I found one, I whipped up a batch. Bill would take a bite and shake his head saying they’ were good, but they weren’t like grandma’s cookies.
 

Bill enjoying baked treats with his Grandma Helen (Larson) Mansfield.

 
So as you can imagine, the first thing I looked for when I received this cookbook from the town where Bill’s grandma was born, was a recipe for sour cream cookies. There were many yummy-sounding treats to comb through like Pecan Sticks, Victoria Cookies, Father and Son Favorite Cookies, and Sorghum Cookies. 
 
I got excited as I came across names I recognized from the family tree including Mrs. Sheldon S. Larson, the mother of a cousin we had the good fortune to finally meet two years ago when I presented a genealogy seminar in Minnesota at the Swedish Genealogical Society. 
 
But the real thrill came when I made my way to page 42. There I found a recipe for Sour Cream Drop Cookies:
 

Larson sour cream cookie recipe (1)

The infamous sour cream cookie recipe!

 
Surprisingly, the recipe wasn’t contributed by Bill’s grandma Helen (Larson) Mansfield or anyone named Larson. Instead it was submitted for inclusion in the cookbook by Mrs. Hulda Anderson. That fact didn’t deter me from trying it out. In a small town like Winthrop, recipes likely were regularly swapped and handed down through various families. 
 
I immediately baked a batch and served them up to Bill. I’ll never forget his eyes as they lit up in excitement! He took a bite, and was ecstatic to once again be tasting Grandma’s sour cream cookies!
 
It may sound like a small victory in the scheme of thing, but for me it was a thrilling one, none the less!
 
I emailed Harriet and told her the good news and thanked her profusely.
 
I got a reply from her husband George. He wrote:
 
“I thought I would add a little amusement to the coincidence of the Sour Cream cookies. My father, George Anderson, Sr., was a salesman for American Steel and Wire, subsidiary of U. S. Steel, from the 1920s to the 1960s, traveling to every hardware store and lumber yard in southern Minnesota to sell fence, posts, nails etc. I don’t have any record of it, but I’m sure he would have called on your family’s hardware store in Winthrop. He knew all of his customers by first name, no doubt your in-laws included.”
 
Genealogy Serendipity never tasted so good!
 

A Genealogical Look at the Cookbook

 
I looked through the book carefully for a publishing date but none was to be found. However, there were several clues including the name of the church and the pastors name:
 
First Lutheran Church
Lambert Engwall, Pastor
 
To put these clues to use, I headed to Google and searched the name of the church, the location and the name of the pastor:
first lutheran church winthrop minnesota lambert engwall, pastor
 

Googling the pastor

Googling the church, location and pastor

 
The first result was just what I needed. The link to me to a Wikipedia page about the church: 
 

researching the pastor

The church in Wikipedia

 
It was a fairly comprehensive page, and I was specifically looking for a list of pastors who had served at the church. To save time, I used Control + F (PC) to trigger a find on page search bar. I searched for “pastor” and was immediately take much further down the page to exactly what I wanted to know. 
 

previous pastors

A helpful list of previous pastors

 
I quickly learned that Lambert Engwall served at this church in Winthrop, Minnesota from 1944 to 1972. Given that Harriett through it hailed from the World War II era when her sister lived there, and from the condition and style of the book, I feel confident it was published closer to 1944. 
 
The next steps to learn more about the relationship between the Andersons and Larson include could include:

  • Reviewing the 1940 census for Winthrop, Sibley County, Minnesota, and mapping their homes in Google Earth.
  • conducting additional research into church and their available records include church meeting minutes.
  • A comprehensive search of the Winthrop News newspaper, with a particular eye on the social pages. 

Share Your Genealogical Serendipity and Cookbook Stories

Have you experienced glorious instances of genealogical serendipity in your own family history quest? Do you have a cookbook that has been handed down to you that you treasure? Please leave a comment below and share your story!  
 

Resources

  • Learn more powerful Google search techniques and ways to use Google Earth for genealogy in The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox by Lisa Louse Cooke (2020) available at the Genealogy Gems Store.
  • The Genealogist's Google Toolbox Third edition Lisa Louise Cooke

    Book by the author

    Learn more here about how to access the 50+ video classes that are a part of Genealogy Gems Premium membership. 

Season Six

The Genealogy Gems Podcast Episodes
2011 Season Six

Episode 101 Listen & Show Notes
Tons of great gems in the news, and learn all about becoming a certified genealogist from Alvie Davidson.

Episode 102 Listen & Show Notes
Genealogy Gems News, Updating your Podcast iGoogle Gadget, Research Strategies and an interview with Kendall Wilcox, Executive Producer of The Generations Project about the new Season 2.

Episode 103 Listen & Show Notes
Genealogy Gems News, “Cemetery Justice,” the New Google Books, the New Google Earth Version 6.0 for Genealogy.

Episode 104 Listen & Show Notes
Genealogy and Technology Converge.  Interview with professional genealogist Kory Meyerink on the 50 most popular family history websites.  Geo-Tagging photos with Chris Bair.

Episode 105  Listen & Show Notes
Interview with Josh Taylor of the New England Historic Genealogical Society on RootsTech. Tips for getting the most out of a conference, NARA videos, and free RootsMagic webinars.

Episode 106 Listen & Show Notes
Lisa shares her experience at the Who Do You Think You Are? Live show held recently in London, as well as some her own Cooke ancestry sleuthing.  Interview with New Zealand genealogist Jan Gow on how to create your own family history resource library.

Episode 107  Listen & Show Notes
Free Webinars, the 1911 Scotland Census, Fraternal Organizations, and Dick Eastman joins Lisa to talk about Cloud Computing and Computer Security.

Episode 108  Listen & Show Notes
Census Tips and Tricks with Jason Harrison of FamilySearch.  Also how to cite sources from Wikipedia, Lisa finds a newspaper article for a listener, and where to start in looking for Germany records.

Episode 109  Listen & Show Notes
The Civil War 150th Anniversary with Mike Litterst of the National Parks Service.  Also, the new Jamboree apps, free upcoming webinars, and a tale of a military heros bible finding its way home again.

Episode 110  Listen & Show Notes
Divorce Research: Little White Lies at the Turn of the Century, free webinar, and special guest Maureen Taylor The Photo Detective from the Who Do You Think You Are? Live event in London.

Episode 111  Listen & Show Notes
Military Records: How to find Invalid and Pension files, New Mexican records, and special guest Roger Kershaw of the National Archives UK gives the back ground on the British Home Children from his book New Lives For Old.

Episode 112  Listen & Show Notes
Helping kids embrace family history at the Genealogy Jamboree.

Episode 113  Listen & Show Notes
Family History Writing with author John Paul Godges.

Episode 114  Listen & Show Notes
Online Security, Records Roundup, Genealogy Blogging with Becky Jamison.

Episode 115  Listen & Show Notes
How to Travel to Your Ancestor’s Homeland.

Episode 116  Listen & Show Notes
The Genealogy Gems Podcast recorded live at the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree.  Special guests:  Allison Stacy, Publisher of Family Tree Magazine, and Certified Graphologist Paula Sassi.

Episode 117  Listen & Show Notes
Find out if you should be using “Flourish” in your genealogy research with my guest DearMYRTLE.

Episode 118  Listen & Show Notes
PERSI, Grandmas and Grandpas and Free Transcription Software.

Episode 119  Listen & Show Notes
Prepare for Family History Christmas Gifts, Listener’s Grandparent Terms of Endearment, and 1000Memories.

Episode 120  Listen & Show Notes
Part 1 of Lisa interview with Washington Post editor Steve Luxenberg, author of the riveting true-story book Annie’s Ghost.

New UK Genealogy Records Online: 1939 Register Updates and More

Got ancestors from England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Island? Check out these new UK genealogy records online: 1939 Register updates; newspapers; Scottish postal directories and local resources for Derbyshire and the city of York.

Featured Update: Additions to the 1939 Register online

Over 660,000 new records pertaining to empty, uninhabited addresses across England and Wales have been added to Findmypast’s unique and important online 1939 Register resource.

We asked Jim Shaughnessy at Findmypast how these records can help a researcher. “There are a few things that an empty address can tell you,” he responds. “Knowing the house you are looking for was an empty address in 1939 may help you to direct further research. As with other record sets, the occupations of the neighbors can give you an idea of the area (in terms of the largest local employer).”

The ability to search even vacant addresses “can also give you information about areas [later] destroyed by aerial bombing during the War (and during the extensive regeneration in the decades following),” writes Jim. “The Register was compiled September 1939; bombing began in 1940 and a lot of houses wouldn’t have been rebuilt, particularly in impoverished areas where we had bombsites for years and years afterwards. So from that you could look at how the War changed that area or that street: what doesn’t exist now but did pre-Blitz.”

Jim also pointed out that “Findmypast is the only site on which you can search by address on the 1911 census as well as the 1939 register, plus we have the largest collection of electoral rolls, also searchable by address. You can search by address and then build the entire picture of what your family did.”

More UK Genealogy Records Now Online

U.K. Newspapers

The British Newspaper Archive recently added four new titles: the Willesden Chronicle, published in London and the Warrington Guardian, published in Cheshire; the Dudley Herald [Dudley, West Midlands, England] and the Monitor, and Missionary Chronicle, of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Ireland [Belfast, Northern Ireland]. The British Newspaper Archive now holds over 19.5 million pages of historic newspapers dating from the early 1700s to the early 2000s!

In addition, Findmypast has added over 186,000 records to its collection, Sussex, Eastbourne Gazette Newspaper Notices. “This indexed collection includes names found in the paper’s family notices section (announcements of births, marriages, and deaths) as well as other reports on events such as divorces, murders, tragedies, shipwrecks, lynchings, and paternity cases. The newspaper reported on stories in Sussex, but also internationally.”

Derbyshire, England. Over 800 records have been added to Findmypast’s unique collection of Derbyshire Hospital Admissions and Deaths 1855-1913. “The collection now contains over 5,000 records taken from two different sources: Derbyshire Royal Infirmary, Deaths 1892 – 1912 and Victoria Memorial Cottage Hospital, Ashbourne Admissions 1899 – 1913,” states an announcement. “Each record includes a transcript produced by the Ancestral Archives of Derbyshire. Records can include the patient’s admission date, reason for admission, condition after admission, marital status, residence, rank or profession, date of discharge or death, and cause of death.” Looking for other Derbyshire ancestors? Click here to read about online Methodist records for Derbyshire.

York, England. A new Findmypast resource, The York Collection, includes nearly 300,000 genealogical records documenting over 600 years of residents of the city of York. A press release calls it “the largest online repository of historic City of York records in the world….Fully searchable transcripts of each original document are also included, enabling anyone to go online and search for their York ancestors by name, location, and date.”

The collection is comprised of a variety of fascinating documents, including hearth & window tax records (1665-1778); lists of apprentices and freemen (1272-1930); city of York trade directories; electoral registers (1832-1932), city of York school admission registers; city of York deeds registers (1718-1866); city of York militia & muster rolls (1509-1829), and city of York calendars of prisoners (1739-1851). This collection was published in partnership with Explore York.

Scotland Directories

A snippet from an 1820s post office directory for Aberdeen and vicinity. Image on Findmypast.com.

Over 180,000 new record images have been added to Findmypast.com’s collection of Scottish post office directories, now spanning 1774-1942. The collection has nearly 900 browse-only volumes of directories that offer descriptions of Scottish towns along with lists of residents by occupation and address.

Here’s a little background from Findmypast: “Post directories are an excellent source for family historians wanting to trace ancestors on a yearly basis. Directories allow you to fill in the gaps between the census records. They can also provide vital information about your ancestor’s residence, which can lead to the discovery of more records….Directories can add historical context to your ancestor’s story. Directories will give you a better understanding of where your ancestor lived, such as how many businesses were in the town, how many schools, what day was the market day, and how big was the town.”

“Directories may focus on a particular town or district or you can find national postal directories. The majority of post directories comprise a description of the place, along with lists of people by occupation. For example, you will find lists of magistrates, councillors, sheriffs, police officers, and merchants. It is important to remember that post directories are not complete lists of all the residents in the town or county. Also, many directories fail to include women.”

TIP: A browse-only collection of digitized Scottish post office directories for 1773-1991 is available to search for free online at the National Library of Scotland.

Start researching your English ancestors with this free two-part article series:

Beginning British GenealogyBritish Research for Beginners  (“English” v. “British” and more)

English Parish Records: Finding English Ancestors Before 1837

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