Sunday, March 22, 2015

They Survived Victorian England!

Having recently finished reading Ruth Goodman's How to Be a Victorian:  A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Victorian Life my amazement and gratitude know no bounds:  I have ancestors who lived in and survived the Victorian era in England.

On my sidebar under "About Me" I wrote, "Sometimes I want to jump back in time, into the lives of my ancestors.  Not to stay, of course -- too many modern conveniences I'd rather not do without -- but to meet them and watch their interactions with each other...."  That statement is more true now than it has ever been.  I'm pleased to read about what life may have like 150 years ago but I'm grateful that I live in these modern, enlightened times with such extensive knowledge about diet, health, medicine, etc.

Reading Goodman's book immerses one in the day-to-day activities, complexities, and simplicities of Victorian life from the time a person arose in the morning until bedtime.  In this 440-page book there is both depth and breadth.  The reader learns about living conditions, food and diet, work, leisure, health and illness, personal care, school, clothing, and so much more. For example:
  • It is possible to effectively clean one's teeth with soot.
  • Windows were left open in all types of weather to ensure enough oxygen to live through the night.
  • Cold baths were thought to harden the body and make the bather more resilient to common illness and disease. 
  • If there was meat -- possibly a strip of bacon -- at a meal it was eaten by the primary breadwinner. 

I have two known Victorian ancestor families from both sides of my family.

First:  My great-grandmother Elizabeth Armitage was born in 1852 in Yorkshire.  Her parents were Abel Armitage and Eliza Hartley.  Abel lived until at least 1880 but Eliza died between 1852 and about 1859.  Abel was a coal miner during some of the years he lived in England.  Elizabeth, her sister Ann, her father, step-mother and half siblings all immigrated to the U.S. in 1864.

Second:  William Doyle, born in 1863, and his parents, Andrew Doyle and Elizabeth Jane Laws lived in Northumberland.  William is my great-grandfather.  Both Andrew and William were coal miners.  Andrew brought his family to the United States in 1869 and 1870 where he again took up coal mining, at least for a while.

I know little about the siblings and parents of Abel, Eliza, Andrew, and Elizabeth Jane, but certainly they lived in Victorian England, too.  Sturdy individuals, all.

My only disappointment with the book was that it has no notes of any kind nor citations at the end.  Goodman includes a lengthy list of contemporary publications she used as source material but a reader would be hard-pressed to determine volume, date, page, etc. if he or she wished to find a particular topic in those resources.  Despite that, I recommend How to Be a Victorian if you'd like to learn more about how your Victorian ancestor may have lived between 1840 and the early 1900s.

I continue to marvel that my Victorian-born ancestors survived the challenges of the era.


Copyright © 2015 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Nary a Hug, Hugs Aplenty - Sepia Saturday

The best Mom could do was touch Lady's side.  There was nary a hug for her -- at least not from my mom.

Lady was the boxer puppy who came to live with us when I was 3 years old.  She was an excellent pet -- gentle, patient, protective, and playful (or not, as the situation required).

I suspect my father wanted a dog and my mother was ambivalent, at best.  But I like to think that if Mom had vetoed a dog, my father would have acquiesced.

Dad was the one who trained Lady in the fundamentals of being a well-behaved dog and a well-mannered family pet.  Mom was the one who set the boundaries inside the house:  she insisted that Lady sit on the rug when she came into the house until her feet were dry, lie on a rug and not on the carpet, stay out of the bedrooms, off the furniture, etc. 

Mom tolerated Lady, perhaps even loved her, but she rarely touched Lady and, as far as I remember, never ever hugged or cuddled her.

On the other hand, I love giving and receiving hugs from my Airedale, Hannah.  She's a rescue girl, saved from an abusive situation when she was two.  Her world was ruled by fear of everything and her method of coping was to duck, run, and hide.  After seven years with us she's still wary of strangers and timid in new environments but she's thriving in so many other ways. 

Hannah has adored me from the first night in our home when I slept on the floor beside her.  We share hugs aplenty.

Visit Sepia Saturday to find what others are sharing about pets and animals this week.


Copyright © 2015 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Doughnuts, Cookies, Butterscotch Pie - Family Recipe Friday

These are the last three recipes on the last page of my grandmother Emma (Bickerstaff) Meinzen's recipe book that she wrote in a Webster's Spelling tablet.

As with past recipes there is the assumption that those using the recipes would know the procedures to make the final products.  We can assume the doughnuts were fried; the cookies were rolled out and cut with cookie cutters; the butterscotch pie recipe is for the filling that gets cooked and poured into an already baked shell.  And the quantity of flour in the doughnuts?  The experienced cook probably knew the consistency required for the dough to become doughnuts instead of bricks.

     4 or 5 mashed potatoes
     1 tablespoon butter
     3 eggs
     2 cups sugar
     1 cup milk
     4 teaspoon B. Powder

     2 cup sugar
     2 eggs.
     1 cup butter or 1/2 lard
     1 "  milk
     5 teaspoons Baking Powder
     flour  --  flavor.

     Butter Scotch Pies
     1 cup brown Sugar
     1 tablespoon butter
     1 Pt. boiling Water
     Yolks of 2 eggs.
     2 tablespoon Corn Starch
     Beat whites of
     eggs for top.

The back of this spelling tablet has writing on it which is very difficult to read.  I can decipher some of the words and measurements but not enough to make the recipe. In fact, there's no indication at the top what the ingredients make.

This is what I can read:

     1/2 [possibly shortening]
     1 teaspoon [?]
     1 egg
     1 cup
     1 teaspoon soda
     1 3/4 flour
     [2?] or 3 [apples?]
     1/4 [?]
     1 [?]

And that is the end of the recipes in my grandmother's Webster's spelling tablet.  I will compile a post with the names and links to all the recipes. 


Monday, March 9, 2015

Book Suggestions for Women's History Month

Searching for a book to read for Women's History Month?  I offer several suggestions from books I've read during the past 12 months.  The first three are well-researched fiction.

A Coal Miner's Bride:  the Diary of Anetka Kaminska
by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
     I have coal mining ancestors who lived in both Pennsylvania and England so it's no wonder I gravitated to this book.  It is part of the Dear America series for young readers.  I knew that the author had also written a non-fiction book about coal mining and I imagined this was a fictional extension of her research.

When the story opens in 1896, Anetka, 13, is living in Poland with her grandmother because her mother was dead and her father had gone to America and was working in a coal mine in Lattimer, PA.  Anetka anticipates his return but instead he sends tickets purchased by another man with the idea that Anetka will marry the man when she arrives in America.  Anetka’s grandmother remains in Poland and gives her ticket to Leon, a young man who is an annoyance to Anetka.  It was easy to imagine a young Polish woman’s voice as I read.  The Lattimer Massacre occurred in 1897 and is incorporated into the story.

There are more than a few differences between Anetka and my coal mining ancestors (country of origin, type of coal mined, location in the U.S., etc.) but there was enough in the story for me to gain more insight into the lives of miners and their families.

Orphan Train
by Christina Baker Kline
     Seventeen-year-old Molly is about to be emancipated from foster care.  It is arranged for her to give volunteer hours to Vivian, 91, who rode an orphan train as a child.  As they interact we learn about both of their lives.  I thought it was interesting and well-written.  You can learn more about the story line here.

I like this quote:  “. . . The people who matter in our lives stay with us, haunting our most ordinary moments.  They’re with us in the grocery store, as we turn a corner, chat with a friend.  They rise up through the pavement; we absorb them through our soles.”

These Is My Words:  The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901, Arizona Territories
by Nancy E. Turner
     I was disinclined to read this book -- for some reason the title put me off -- but after hearing the third recommendation I borrowed it and began.

It is loosely based on the life of the author's great-grandmother.  As the book opens in 1881, Sarah is about 16.  She and her family are traveling through the Arizona Territories headed elsewhere.  Think wagon trains, camp fires, Indians, etc.  By the time I finished the book I'd learned that there were sequels and had already reserved them at my local library.  (Never judge a book by its title.) 

She Left Me the Gun:  My Mother's Life Before Me
by Emma Brockes
     Several times Emma’s mother said to her, “One day I will tell you the story of my life and you will be amazed.”  Her mother died without telling her and Emma sets off to learn about her mother’s childhood in South Africa and her immigration to England by tracking down all of her aunts and uncles and traveling back to South Africa.  Excellent sleuthing for those who know living relatives.

Emma said, “I think about it [her mother’s childhood to adult experience] afterward, what I am doing and why.  The stronger reaction, I think, would be to walk away, to honor the firewall my mother put between her past and my present and to carry on with my life.  But I can’t....  While she was alive, it was none of my business.  Now, unless I make it my business, it will follow her into oblivion.”

Recommended the Second Time

Book of Ages:  The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin
by Jill Lepore
     I can't say enough good things about this book.  You may have no interest in Jane Franklin, the nearly-forgotten sister of Benjamin Franklin, but I encourage you to read this book anyway.  Besides being wonderfully readable, Lepore is an excellent example of seeking out and finding information when it seems there's nothing to find.  Read it as a guide for writing about your own female ancestor for whom you have very little information.  Read it.  Previous post about this book is here.

Annie's Ghosts:  A Journey Into a Family Secret
by Steve Luxenberg
     Luxenburg's mother had always claimed to be an only child.  It wasn't until after his mother died that he learned that she had a sister who had been kept hidden for decades.  Read it for the story, all the while learning ways to search for an invisible female ancestor.  (Surely you have one hidden somewhere behind a brick wall?)  An earlier post about this book is here.  

Happy reading to you.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Cream Puffs - Family Recipe Friday

This is the next-to-last page of recipes that my grandmother, Emma (Bickerstaff) Meinzen, recorded in a Webster's spelling test tablet.

I'm probably in the minority but I've never liked cream puffs.  This recipe may produce perfectly delicious ones but I don't remember tasting them and I know I won't make the recipe to try them.  (The image at left does not show the cream puffs from this recipe.)

Cream Puffs.
1/2 cup water.
2 eggs.
1/2 cup flour.
1/4 teaspoon Salt.
3 tablespoon Shortening.
Mix Water & fat
& heat mixture
until the water
boils add flour
& salt & mix
thoroughly.  Stir
& cook until the
ingredients are
well blended &
paste does not
stick to the sides
of the pan.  Care
Should be taken
not to cook
the mixture too
long.  While
mixture is hot
add eggs one at
a time.  Beat

Cream Puffs.
until thoroughly
mixed.  Drop by
tablespoonfuls on
oiled sheet & bake
45 Mins.  When
cool slit open & fill.

1/4 cup flour.
1 tablespoon corn starch
3/4 cup Sugar.
2     " scaled [scalded] Milk.
1 tablespoon butter
1 or 2 eggs.
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Vanilla.
Mix flour, corn
starch, & sugar add
hot milk slow [slowly]
& cook 20 min. then
add beaten
eggs.  Cook again
then add
Salt & Vanilla.


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Farewell, Uncle Bill

Bill and Lee Doyle, 1957
My uncle, Bill Doyle, passed away on Sunday, March 1.  He was a good and generous man and will be missed by many.

Uncle Bill and his family lived on a farm in Sandy Lake, Mercer County, Pennsylvania.  He and my father, Lee, were half brothers.  Dad was born in 1913 to Gust and Beulah (Gerner) Doyle.  Several years after Beulah's death, Gust remarried.  Bill was born in 1926, thirteen years after Dad.  Their father, Gust, died in 1933 when Bill was only 7.

Uncle Bill had a hearty sense of humor and an easy laugh.  He was always ready to tease us kids.  Once when I was 7 or 8 we'd just finished a meal at his farm and were still sitting around the table.  He told me he could blow up his arm like a balloon.  I didn't believe him and told him so.  He promptly put the tip of his thumb to his lips and blew.  I was amazed to see his arm growing bigger and bigger until it was the size of a balloon.  How could I not believe when I saw it with my own eyes?!

I learned to drive a tractor on rural roads under his careful instruction.  Of course I probably sat on his lap and didn't have anything to do with the speed of the tractor.  He taught me about cows and milking and shooed me away when a cow was having a difficult birth.  I also learned about electric fences at his farm when I accidentally put my hand toward one of his pigs.  Ouch! 

I have happy memories of Uncle Bill.  I think he must have brought joy to everyone he met.  As we who loved him on earth say farewell, I think those who loved him here and are already there gave him a warm welcome on Sunday.  Good bye, Uncle Bill.

His obituary is available for viewing online at the Greenville, PA, Record Argus.


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Easy Sources, Citation Challenges - Genealogy Do-Over / Do-Better

I don't have a problem recording sources.  Keeping track of sources was reinforced to me from my first introduction to family history.  I record them religiously (with the rare possible exception now and then).  Sometimes I have to dig deep at websites like FamilySearch and Ancestry to find enough detail for more than the online location and collection name.  I like to know the physical location of the original source, even down to the page and entry numbers in a county record book and I record as much information as I can find.

My challenge is crafting citations for those sources.  I'm intimidated by my software and the possibility of not creating a correct citation.  There's such a multitude of source possibilities and the varieties of ways citations should be written based on the source.  I like to be accurate and get things right but I sometimes feel challenged by my lack of knowledge.

Someone on the Do-Over Facebook page suggested a simple ABCDE method of citation in which A is the author or editor; B is the book, magazine, or article title; C is the city or company; D is the date of copyright or date reviewed; and E is the page number or url.  It seems too simplistic to me for the kinds of sources I'm recording.

On her post, Why Are EE's Source Citations So Complicated?, at her blog, Quick Tips The Blog at Evidence Explained, Elizabeth Shown Mills points out that we cite records of many different varieties and we use those sources as evidence to help us evaluate the assertions they make.  (She says it so much better than I can.  Just click through to read her post.)  It's not just citing the source, or being able to return to the source that's important.  The citations should help us understand the records we've used by giving details about the sources which can help us evaluate the evidence in them.

On his blog, RootDig, John Michael Neill wrote a post about sources and citations in which he encourages his readers to think about how a source was created and whether we're looking at an original source (the will someone wrote before he took it to the courthouse) or a copy, and why it's so important to clearly record in the citation what source we used.

I think recording sources, crafting accurate citations, and evaluating the information in the records is at the heart of genealogy and family history.  I think I need to use my genealogy software, RootsMagic, to serve me instead of feeling like I have to serve it and not be intimidated that I'll get the format of the citation wrong.  I will continue to try to improve my source citations to make them useful for evaluating the evidence they contain as well as to be able to return to the source when necessary.

I'm not keeping up with the weekly Genealogy Do-Over activities even though I'm only doing a Genealogy Do-Better, trying to improve as I go forward.  However, they have been helpful in encouraging me to think more carefully about the way I'm performing and recording my family history. 

Click on Genealogy Do-Over Week 5 or Genealogy Do-Over at bagtheweb to learn more and read what others have to say on the topic.  Thanks to Thomas MacEntee for initiating and hosting the Genealogy Do-Over.


Copyright © 2015 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Apple Sauce Cake, Sweet Pickle, Jam Cake - Family Recipe Friday

This is an interesting group of recipes from Gramma's Webster's Spelling Recipe Book.  Or, better said, there are some interesting aspects to these recipes.  I transcribed all spellings as found in the recipes. 

The Apple Sauce Cake recipe calls for lard.  Crisco may not yet have been invented when the recipe was created or Gramma may have preferred lard over Crisco.  Crisco was invented in 1911.  Also, I believe this is the first recipe in which the temperature of the oven is mentioned, although "slow oven" isn't a precise temperature.

The recipe for Sweet Pickle is vague. 
- The quantities of most ingredients are not included. 
- The recipe doesn't indicates the kind of vegetable.  Cucumbers are the most common vegetable for pickles and I assume that's the vegetable of choice for these pickles because they are to be scalded until white.
- The canning process seems to have been only filling the jars with hot ingredients then putting the lids on to seal them, completely omitting the water bath canning process. 
- "Saccerine" is written at the end of the recipe.  I believe it's a misspelling of the word saccharine, a word with several meanings.  The one probably intended by Gramma was that the pickles were very sweet.  However, Webster's 1913 dictionary indicates that Saccharine was already a trade name for benzoic sulphinide, a synthetic sweetener.  In light of the fact that she indicates they are "saccerine," I find it interesting that the quantity of sugar is not included in this recipe.

The recipe for Jam Cake is very general.  Shall I mix the jam into the batter before baking or do I bake and then layer with jam?  And the quantities of spices are not mentioned at all.  Perhaps it's assumed that the baker knows the preferences of her family members when it comes to the spiciness of cake. 

Apple Sauce Cake
1 cup brown Sugar.
1/2 cup lard.
1 1/2 cup apple Sauce
2 level teaspoons Soda.
2 cups flour.
1 egg well beaten
1 cup raisins
1 pinch cinamon,
nutmeg & alspice.
Cream the lard &
sugar, & then mix
in the well beaten
egg.  Mix the soda
into the apple
sauce when hot.
Add to the first
mixture, & then add
the flour, spices, &
the raisins which
have been dusted
with flour.  Mix all
thoroly & bake in a loaf
pan.  Sprinkle
granulated sugar
& cinamon over top &

bake in slow oven
40 minutes.  Very good
also with carmel

Sweet Pickle.
Put in strong salt
water over night.
Take out in morning
and wash all off.
Put in Weak Vinegar
& scald until they
get white.  Have
vinegar boiling
& sweeten & spicen
& pour over them
in the jars.  Seal
while Hot.  (Saccerine)

Jam Cake.
4 eggs.  1 cup Sugar
1/2 cup butter.
1 cup sour milk.
1 teasp. Soda.  1 cup jam
cloves, cinamon, Spice

I'm baking Applesauce Cake tomorrow.  Won't you join me? 


Copyright © 2015 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.
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