Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Genealogy Goals for 2011

I've been playing catch-up on my Google Reader with the umpteen gazillion blogs that I follow (okay, maybe I exaggerate a little), and I see that a lot of folks are posting their genealogical goals for 2011.  I thought, "well heck, mine can be summed up in one goal: do more research!"  But then I thought maybe it would be a good idea to have some sort of plan, especially since I'll be done with school in May, and I'll have all sorts of time to really start digging.  So, here goes:

1.  Plan (and execute) a trip to the National Archives in D.C. (to coincide with my visit with my mom! I'll be dragging her along with me so we can play with my new Flip-Pal that she got me for Christmas).

2.  Request pension files for my military ancestors.

3.  Break down the brick wall that we call my grandfather's biological parents!

4.  Scan and organize all of my photos.  I may have to become a regular at the ScanFests!

5.  Re-source all of my research ... well, some of it is sourcing for the first time, but I just need to make sure everything has a source!  I guess before I do this, I really need to pick a program and stick with it.  I'm bouncing around between 3 or 4 different ones right now ... mainly because I don't have access to the new FamilySearch yet, so RootsMagic has kind of taken a back seat, and I like the layout of Family Tree Maker, but sourcing is confusing to me.  Ugh.  So many decisions!

6.  Keep a to-do list in ONE place, and actually work on it!  (Thanks to all you folks who have posted some great ideas on how to do that)

7.  Increase my FamilySearch Indexing output by at least twofold.

8.  Finally take a trip to the Family History Library in Ooltewah, TN (yes, it's only about 15 minutes away, I just keep forgetting to go!)

9.  Transcribe all the documents I have obtained (and will obtain).

10.  Last but not least ... start writing my family history!  Note: it will probably be 2064 before I actually FINISH it, but at least I can start writing it.

Rats.  Now I'm going to have to look back on this at the end of the year and see what I didn't do, aren't I?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me!

There will be no Christmas talk today.  In my house, Christmas doesn't exist on December 19.  Today is my birthday.  I'm older than I care to admit, but I enjoy my birthday just the same.

As any "Christmas baby" knows, being born this close to Christmas really stinks.  We get half the gifts that everyone with "normal" birthdays gets, and our gifts are always wrapped in Christmas paper.  We never really get to have parties because everyone is always out of town with their families and can't attend.  (Such was the case with my 10th birthday party.  No one came, and my parents had to call my aunt and uncle to show up just so I wouldn't feel bad. Just pitiful.)  I haven't tried to have another party since.

My grandmother was smart though.  For a time, until I was about 16, she and I used to celebrate my birthday in June.  It was perfect.  I didn't have to compete with any holiday!

That being said ... finals are over, it's the weekend, and it's my birthday.  I'm going to go take care of some ME stuff!  (Sadly, that includes organizing my research and scanning photos - but it's for me, so I can't complain).

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Advent Calendar - December 18 - Christmas Stockings

When I was little, when we woke up Christmas morning and no one else was up (probably because it was around 4 a.m.), we weren't allowed to open our gifts, but we WERE allowed to go through our stockings, which had been hung by the chimney with care.  It has always been a tradition in our family for as long as I can remember.  It wasn't until I was older and had a child of my own that I realized why that was the rule.  Turns out 4 a.m. on a day you don't have to work is only fun when you don't have a job.  Or kids.  Or a house to clean.

Our stockings were always filled with fun stuff, even if it was meticulously planned to keep us occupied for as long as possible: coloring book and crayons, some breakfasty-type snack, Lifesaver books, some type of lip gloss (see my post from Dec 9), and other odds and ends.

My sister and I used to jump out of bed, run into the living room, rip our stockings off the fireplace and unceremoniously dump their entire contents on the floor and start sifting through.  We would keep ourselves busy until at least 6 a.m. or so.  Then we couldn't stand it anymore and we'd go wake our parents up so we could open presents!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Advent Calendar - December 14 - Fruitcake - Friend or Foe?

I vote Foe!  Drunk fruitcake almost burned our house down!

It all started when we got a fruitcake as a gift from a friend, relative, or neighbor ... I can't remember.  Obviously, it was someone who didn't like us very much.  In any case, my stepdad got the bright idea to make it "better."  I suppose anything would be a step up.  He got a dishtowel and soaked it in rum, then wrapped the fruitcake up in the towel and put it in a cookie tin and stuck it in a cabinet.  You know the one ... the corner cabinet with all that dead space where you put things, and no one finds them again until you move?  Yeah, that one.  "We'll just leave it there for a few days and it will be fantastic!"  Famous last words.

Needless to say, the fruitcake was forgotten.  Had it been fudge, cookies, or a chocolate torte, my guess is that it wouldn't have even been there when someone went looking for it.  Turns out no one wanted to find the fruitcake.  One night while making dinner a year later, my stepdad went looking for something in that cabinet.  He reached way in the back, pulled out the tin, and said "oh wow ... this is that fruitcake!" (or something to that effect).  He placed the tin on the counter next to the stove, opened the lid, and flipped open the dishtowel ... which touched the burner on the stove and promptly caught fire, burning the entire towel, fruitcake, and seriously discoloring the underside of the cabinets.  All in all, not a bad day.  We still didn't have to eat the fruitcake.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Advent Calendar - December 10 - Christmas Gifts

When I was little, I used to love seeing all the gifts trickle in from out-of-town family and fill up the empty space under the tree.  All those presents, and most of them were for me and my sister.  We always wondered what was in them.  We'd shake them and listen to them and smell them ... but we couldn't ever figure it out.

At night, after everyone was asleep, my sister and I would sneak out into the living room and sneak peeks at our presents.  We were always armed with extra scotch tape (shiny and dull - you can never be too prepared) in case anything got out of hand.  I think my mom was onto us though because pretty much all we ever were able to find were clothes.  But then on Christmas morning, there were tons of other presents under the tree too.

We were always surprised, but the sneaky-peeks ended up not keeping our interest for too long since we always knew what we would find.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Advent Calendar - December 9 - Grab Bag (An Ode to Lip Gloss)

This post is about gifts.  The gifts kids give their parents.  Actually, the gifts that parents give their kids money to get.  My mom used to pay to receive such gifts.  She would give my sister and me a certain amount of money (I can't remember how much now ... but it was enough to buy something thoughtful, but not extravagant) before Christmas and turn us loose in the mall (back in the day when you used to be able to do that) to shop for her.

Let's pretend she gave us each $10.  This was probably in the mid to late 70s, so that would be like ... $100 in today's money, right?  Probably not that much, but it was a lot to us.  So there we are in the mall with $10 each.  What could we possibly get Mom for Christmas that she doesn't already have?  I mean, she has everything already.  Except lip gloss.  So we head down to the little drug store and each buy some Kissing Potion for her.  Different flavors, obviously.  Probably cost about a dollar, not much more.

Actual 1970s Kissing Potion bottles
Well, what to do with all that leftover cash?  Well, we can't give it back, she'll know how much her gift cost.  Might as well head over to the Hello Kitty store and spend the rest!  So we did.  We got some of the coolest Sanrio stuff for ourselves with mom's Christmas money.

I'm not sure if we were just that naive or what ... but I'm not sure what made us think mom wouldn't figure out that the lip gloss didn't cost $10 ... and where the big bag of Hello Kitty stuff came from!

The reason I even remember this is because I'm pretty sure it has been a running joke at Christmas ever since.  Now that we're grown, we have started putting lip gloss in mom's Christmas stocking every year.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Advent Calendar - December 8 - Christmas Cookies

When I think of holiday foods, I think of cookies.  My grandmother always used to make Horseshoe Cookies at Christmas.  It's a recipe that I've made, but I'm not sure anyone can make them like my grandmother used to.  I even Googled them today, and I didn't find any that were like the ones we used to make.  The cookies themselves were simple enough ... it was what happened to them after they came out of the oven that was the best!

Once the cookies were cooled, the ends (or the feet) got dipped in melted chocolate, then in any number of goodies - chopped pecans, shredded coconut, those little candy dots that go all over the kitchen if you spill them, pretty much anything we could get to stick.  They always look so festive!

Those were (and still are) my favorite Christmas food!  Here's the recipe - maybe you can start a new tradition at your house!

1 c. soft butter
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. sifted flour
1/4-1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla

Roll out about 1/2 tsp of dough, then bend into a horseshoe shape and place on cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.  Bake at 350 deg for about 10-12 minutes.  Once they are cool, you can melt your chocolate and get your decorations ready and dip away ... but only put the feet in the chocolate.  I recommend having several small bowls for all your goodies, otherwise it just makes a mess.

I can't remember how many cookies this recipe makes.  I do know that it won't be enough - no matter how many it is.

The cookies are very fragile, so handle with care when decorating!

*I tried to find a photo online of these cookies, but apparently no one else makes them.  There were some similar ones, but none like these.  Enjoy!

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Advent Calendar - December 4 - Christmas Cards

What I remember about Christmas cards is when I was growing up, we would get cards from friends and family.  A lot of cards.  My mom would hang them all up around the doorway between the kitchen and breakfast room.  It was quite impressive.  We must have been very popular.

When my daughter was little, I wanted to keep up the tradition, so we got very excited when we got the first card in the mail.  We would carefully hang it in the center of the doorway between the living room and kitchen (so the multitude of cards would be perfectly balanced as they were added, you see).  As the cards trickled in, we would keep hanging them.  Before long we had like ... 5 cards!  Turns out we just didn't know enough people who sent Christmas cards, I guess.

We started saving the cards from previous years and hanging them up when we got out all the decorations just so we'd have a bunch of cards!

Every year I have good intentions of sending out Christmas cards.  This year, I may actually do it.

Ancestor Approved Award

Just a few days ago, I was so excited because my blog had gone "international" (meaning that folks from other countries were reading it ... Canada, Romania, South Africa, Germany, Russia, Australia, South Korea, and the U.K.).  Now I feel like I just won an Academy Award or something!  I've only been blogging for a short time, so I am quite humbled and honored.  Thank you, Leslie Ann!

The award comes with a couple of requests:
1.  List ten things that you have learned about your ancestors that surprised, humbled, or enlightened you.
2.  Pass the award to ten other genealogy bloggers.

I certainly won't have a problem finding 10 other bloggers who are quite deserving of this award (provided they haven't already received it, that is).  I have read some fantastic blogs over the last several months.  Where do you guys find the time?!

Ten things I've learned about my ancestors ... hmmm.  Let's see ...

1.  I was surprised to learn that my paternal great great grandfather, John Charles Slowey, may have been born a year earlier than everyone thought.  All of the documentation I've seen points to a birth date in 1861.  However, a U.S. Census taken in Lafayette County, Wisconsin in 1860 may prove otherwise.  I'm trying to obtain a birth certificate to confirm.

2.  I learned that my paternal great great grandmother, Theresa (Trasey) Burns Slowey, was a midwife.  Apparently, she was a good one too, because according to "Slowey History" compiled by Bob & Phyllis Hanson, she was "well known as a midwife and was much in demand at childbirth and other sicknesses."

3.  My paternal great grandfather, Thomas Patrick Slowey (son of John Charles and Theresa Slowey above), got his hand caught in some type of corn picking machine in his early adulthood and was never able to use his hand properly again.  While that's not all that unusual, here's what is: John Charles' brother, Barney Slowey, also got his hand caught in some type of corn picking/shredding machine and lost his arm in 1894 ... two decades before Thomas Patrick suffered the same type of accident!  (I have made a mental note to stay away from farm equipment).

4.  My maternal 3rd cousin, John W. Crow, was a member of the 10th Alabama Infantry Regiment in the Civil War.  He is said to have been present at the siege on Harper's Ferry, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg.  In 1864 he was taken prisoner at Reams Station and held at Point Lookout, Maryland, where he died.  He is said to be buried in a POW graveyard in Maryland, but I have not confirmed this. 

5.  John W. Crow's brother, Ferrington, was a member of the 28th Alabama Infantry during the Civil War.  In July 1862, his regiment was camped less than 10 miles from where I currently live.  Two days later, they camped at Tyner Station, about 10 miles on the other side of me, to await their trains and artillery.

6.  My paternal great grandfather, Louis Phelisa Lanctot, was killed in 1922 when a truck loaded with lumber turned over and pinned him underneath.  The truck belonged to a neighboring homesteader in Casper, Wyoming.  They were hauling lumber to build the homestead for his mother, as time was running out to get her house built to secure the homestead claim.  It is unclear that they ever told her that it was her lumber.  The truck came around a curve and met another vehicle with bright lights, which blinded the driver.  Louis was in the back of the truck (the cabs weren't big enough for 3 in those days).  They thought Louis had tried to jump out of the truck, but his coattail caught on the lumber and it threw him under the truck.  His neck was broken and the hub of the wheel rested on his temple.  (This is according to a letter written to me by my great aunt, Josephine Margaret Lanctot several years ago).  My grandfather was only a year old when his father died.  It made me very sad that he never knew his father.

7.  My paternal great great grandfather, Joseph Zenophile Lanctot, and his wife Elizabeth (Bourke) Lanctot, ran the first hotel in Armour, South Dakota.  It was called Armour House.  He ran the hotel until he died in 1913.  It is said that Elizabeth ran the hotel for a short time after that.  Records show that Hans Boock was the proprietor in 1916.  I wonder if this is some relation to Elizabeth Bourke.  Seems like more than a coincidence to me.

8.My other paternal great great grandfather, Louis Schneider, lived in Utica, South Dakota, and grew cane for sorghum, tobacco for his pipe, and broom cane and made brooms.  He used large beer pans to cook the sorghum and as roofs for his buildings.  I'm not sure what a beer pan is ... and apparently neither does Google.  It's a little scary that they are big enough to use as a roof for a building.

Wow ... this is harder than I thought!

9.  My paternal grandmother, who is still alive and kicking, was called "Mackie" when she was younger (her given name is Maxine).  She was a member of the Glee Club in high school, and performed in "The Whole Town's Talking" in her Junior year.

10.  My paternal grandfather, who is also still alive, played football and was on the track team in high school in Yankton, South Dakota.  He also served in the National Guard during World War II, re-enlisted and served during the Korean War.

Now I would like to present the Ancestor Approved award to the following deserving bloggers:

1.  Climbing My Family Tree
2.  Have You Seen My Roots?
3.  Greta's Genealogy Blog
4.  Mascot Manor Genealogy
5.  Finding Our Ancestors
6.  Branch Out Genealogy
7.  Caro's Family Chronicles
8.  Journeys Past
9.  Long Lost
10. Shakin' the Family Tree

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Advent Calendar - December 2 - Holiday Foods

As far as favorite holiday foods go, I'm not really sure what my ancestors did.  However, I do know what my living family did.  We baked.  A lot.  I'm sure there were feasts of turkey and fixin's ... but that's not what sticks in my memory.  What I remember are cookies.  A lot of cookies.  I'll touch on my favorites in a later post.

Another thing I remember ... and my memory is a little foggy these days, so it may not have even happened on Christmas, but it always makes me think of Christmas morning ... my mom's Hungarian Coffee Cake (we don't even have any Hungarian roots!).  It was a bundt cake-shaped mass of break-apart pieces of gooey-sticky heaven.  I had to go web surfing to find a photo, mainly because at the time the coffee cake came out of the oven, the camera was the LAST thing I was reaching for.

This is the cake.  Isn't it fantastic?  I have searched for the recipe, but I don't think I have it anymore.  I used to have it.  I know this because I tried to make it once.  Once.

In any case ... Mom: if you happen to visit in the near future, bring that recipe and I'll let you see if it turns out the same in my kitchen.  For purely experimental reasons, you understand.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Advent Calendar - December 1 - The Christmas Tree

Ahh, the Christmas Tree.  The most widely recognized symbol of Christmas (aside from Santa, I guess).  One of the first images that comes to mind when I think of a Christmas Tree is the scene from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation when the squirrel jumps out of the tree and wreaks havoc on the entire Griswold house.  Good times.  But I digress.

The year was 1997.  I was newly divorced and my daughter and I moved out of my mom's house (where we had been staying until we got back on our feet) and into our own place.  We decided that we would have a nice fresh Christmas Tree that we would go pick out ourselves and decorate.  It would be just ours.  Our house was about a gajillion years old and had 12- or 14-foot ceilings (after 7 feet, it gets a little irrelevant since I'm only 5'2") ... which meant we needed a really big tree.  Turns out, the taller the tree, the bigger around it usually is.  I had a little car.  You do the math.

After hiring a team of professional wrestlers and administering about 395 yards of twine, we finally got the tree secured.  I drove home very carefully (read: slowly) because it still made me a little nervous.  A lot of people must have thought I had the best tree in town because everyone was honking and hollering ...

An hour and a half after we got home, we finally got the tree off the car.  So there it was ... lying in the driveway.  Mostly because we couldn't figure out how to carry it ... the branches were too long for me to grab it by the trunk, and the darn thing was heavy!  We ended up each grabbing one of the bottom branches and dragging through the front door.  That was the easy part.  Trying to get it upright AND in the stand at the same time?... whole 'nother issue.

After much exasperation and foul language, we got the tree upright and secure in the stand enough to release it.  We were both covered in sap and pine needles, but once we saw it standing in the corner of the living room so majestic, we decided it was worth it.  I poured some water in the stand and we got to work on the lights.  Surprisingly, it went a lot smoother than I thought.  All the lights lit up on the first try ... thank goodness, because we had just taken them out of the box!  The hardest part was reaching the very top.  We got all the ornaments on the tree, along with bead garlands and shiny bows.  Then I got out the angel.  She wore a beautiful flowing burgundy velvet gown and her wings were almost iridescent in the lights.  She held a tiny candle and her halo lit up as well.  We ooohed and aaaahed for a minute or two.  Then I brought out the special ornament that I picked up as a surprise for my daughter.  It resembled Wedgewood China and said "Mother and Daughter's first Christmas."  I let her hang it on the tree in a place of prominence.  It was a beautiful tree.

Of course, my cats kept drinking the water out of the stand, which left the tree thirsty, which made it shed its needles all over the living room.  I was vacuuming needles until Easter.  It was the last live Christmas tree we ever had.