Happy 5th Birthday to Ancestors in Aprons

. Okay, make that BELATED Happy 5th Birthday.

I would like to make a toast to YOU–Thank you for reading Ancestors in Aprons. Thank you for commenting on posts. Thank you for reading the newsletter and for passing on information about Ancestors in Aprons to your friends on social media or IRL (in real life).  Readers comprise “the better half” of this blogging enterprise.

FIVE YEARS

Here I am with my parents at Five Years Old in 1944–the year my brother was born, changing my status from only child to older sister. I grew a lot in five years and learned a lot. Just like Ancestors in Aprons on its 5th birthday.

Paul Kaser famil, 1944

Paul and Harriette Kaser with baby Paul William and Vera Marie 1944, Killbuck Ohio

This site actually launched on April 27 2013, when I published three posts–about my memories of grandmother Vera Anderson, thoughts about Family Photos, and a food post about leftovers. Looking  back, it seems that those three topics did a good job of setting the tone for what would follow in the next five years. Family Stories, Photographs and Heirlooms, and Food and Recipes.

As of the 5th birthday (plus a couple of months), Ancestors in Aprons has brought you a total of 523 posts.  (I added 85 this past 14 1/2 months.)  Readers particularly like the recipe posts, returning to them again and again.

Food and Recipes

I noticed this 5th birthday year that many times when I am looking for a particular favorite recipe, rather than open a cookbook or my computer I look at one of the recipes I have published on Ancestors in Aprons. Those specific posts now total 158 recipes that have been identified by category, and that’s a pretty fair-sized cookbook!  An additional 40 posts focus on some aspect of food as it relates to our grandparents or  great-great grandparents without presenting a specific recipe.

As the content grows, the readership grows–more people each year discovering Ancestors in Aprons, and more people each month signing up for the weekly newsletter.

Ancestors By the Numbers

(This is the nerdy stuff, by which I measure progress in research, so feel free to skip!)

In 2016, I wrote this:

Ancestry.com says I have 1,241 people in my tree.  Not all of those people are “people” yet. A birth date, death date and place of birth does not a person make. Family stories bring them alive. Some of those names on the tree are just names, and some are unconfirmed names.

As Of July 2018, more than 3000 names appear on my tree on Ancestry.  The same caveats still apply.  Ancestry recently launched a hint that suggests parentage, and if I followed their hints blindly, I would immediately add another 30 or 40 people to my direct-line ancestry and hundreds to my tree. However, those suggestions just suggest a lot of work to me.  Every one must be confirmed with solid facts rather than “somebody else has this person on their tree.”

Looking at the Pedigree Chart provides a more accurate measure of how my knowledge of ancestors has grown.  The first five generations (from me through 2x great-grandparents) provides a possible 16 people.  I have all sixteen, although one 2x great-grandmother persists in hiding behind her tombstone.  The tombstone says Lucinda–but I have not been able to find her maiden name or more information about her.

Last year, I counted 19  3x great grandparents (out of a possible 32). This year I am counting more rigorously, and only claim to have 15 verified 3 x great-grandparents, plus four with incomplete information.

The  cautious approach,  however, still yields a total of 152 of a possible 1023 direct line ancestors at ten generations.  And I have turned up ancestors in each of the following four generations, so my number of direct line ancestors through 15 generations now totals 228 direct ancestors (plus 17 with incomplete information) compared to 153 two years ago. Definitely progress. And definitely much work to be done.

DNA

Matching up information through DNA matches provides endlessly fascinating detective work.  Fortunately, many DNA matches have contacted me, or responded to my messages to them, and I have been able to add many aunts, uncles and cousins to my tree. Unfortunately, these DNA matches seem to struggle with the same brick walls that I do, and have not shed light on the earlier direct line ancestors, particularly in the Kaser and Anderson lines.

DNA matches have inspired a few posts on people I had previously ignored, but other than that, the DNA research information stays on the Ancestors in Aprons Newsletter rather than here on the blog.  I have decided that my main objective here is to bring ancestors to life through story-telling, not to get into the nitty-gritty of hows and whys of research. If you feel that you are missing something, do subscribe to the weekly newsletter by following this link :

SUBSCRIBE TO THE WEEKLY ANCESTORS IN APRONS NEWSLETTER

What Happened in the 5th Year?

This year saw my husband and me move to an apartment and organizing, downsizing, packing and unpacking got in the way of posting last summer.  The upside, as far as Ancestors in Aprons goes: moving means discoveries.  As I unpacked, I found heirlooms and photos that I had forgotten about–things to jog the memory and inspire some further research and writing.

Then you witnessed my terrible mistake as I climbed far out on a limb that I eventually had to saw off. I discovered that a source listing my father’s 2x great grandparents had it wrong, and I paid the penalty for trusting without verifying.  Much research, and several blog posts later, I was back to not knowing one of the important branches of my father’s tree.

My Favorite Posts In 5th Birthday Year

Just in case you missed them, here are some of the posts that I personally enjoyed the most between April 2017 and June 2018 in order of their appearance.

Autograph books

Vera’s large and Maude’s smaller autograph books

“Remember Me”, Heirloom Autograph Books.  These beautiful books, belonging to my grandmother and her sister, led me to exploring some of their cousins I had not known before.

“Tragedy at Sea”. Agnes Bent’s story made up just one of the fascinations of my New England ancestors in the Bent family.

“Lively Letter from Teen Makes Me Sad”. Nothing brings people to life more than their personal letters. And because my father’s younger brother died young, this precious letter remains the only clue I have to his personality.

I wrote about pictures that I discovered in the move–among them this one of my grandmother as an athlete and my grandfather looking quite the man about town.

When we moved, the find that excited me most–family letters–threatened to consume all my time.  I wrote a series based on my Grandmother’s letters to my mother during World War II. Other letters include  a note from my Grandfather Anderson and  a rare letter from my great-grandmother Hattie Stout. My all-time favorite letter, however, was one written by a naughty little girl to her grandmother. My grandmother Vera Stout (Anderson) wrote to HER grandmother, Emeline (Cochran) Stout.

“Doctor’s Daughter and the Medicine Show”

“Letters from the Front”  these from an uncle to a nephew spanning  in both World War II and Vietnam also reveals the service of those nephews and how war continues to dominate our personal history.

“Bent’s Fort”.  Review of a book that tells the fascinating story of more distant relatives, the Bent family. The Bents gained fame as traders,explorers, leaders in the development of the Rocky Mountain region.

In the kitchen of Ancestors and aprons, I presented many German recipes this past year. I am enjoying introducing German sausages in a still-ongoing series.  I’m also enjoying discovering other new-to-me German dishes. However, when I decided to make a German Black Forest Cake, I narrowly averted tragedy.

The Prince and the Poison Cake”

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look back at the past 14 months, and that you are looking forward as much as I am to the 6th year of Ancestors in Aprons. Who knows where we will go?  What ancestors will divert our attention with their amusing, unusual, or tragic stories? Stick around and find out.

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A Scrumptious Sweet Cherry Pie Recipe

Can She Bake a Cherry Pie?

A very young Burl Ives in Disney movie So Dear To My Heart sings “Billie Boy.”

Can she bake a cherry pie?  Finally, I can answer yes.  After all, I started baking and cooking when I was a young girl, so after 70 years in the kitchen, you’d think I’d learn something.  It took a combination of lessons to make this winning pie.

For many years, a cherry pie–the kind my mother always made to celebrate Washington’s birthday– meant opening a can of cherry pie filling and dumping it into a pie pan lined with pastry, then covering it with another layer of pastry.  I’m sure my grandmother and her mother and grandmother made use of the red sour cherries that grew in profusion in Holmes County, Ohio, but mother was a working woman and although she always made her pie crust from scratch, she took the modern canned short cut for the filling.

I hasten to say that I don’t usually brag on myself, as “it ain’t fittin’.” But my latest version of fresh cherry pie from scratch  definitely qualifies as the perfect pie.

Cherry pie

Cherry pie with streusel

Although I was the only one in the kitchen, I definitely did not do it all by myself–as you will see.

The Pie Crust

Of course, I use the “Perfect Pie Crust” Recipe. This post explains how many people helped me (some posthumously) to make a pie crust for the cherry pie. My Grandmother and Grandfather Anderson, my mother, and my brother’s mother-in-law all played a part.

Then, from somewhere, probably the King Arthur Flour website, I learned that putting a single crust in the refrigerator before filling and baking will help prevent shrinkage. I hesitate to tell you how many single crusts I have tossed because they wound up only covering part of the pan.

The Topping

From the Mennonite cookbook from Kidron Ohio–where my husband’s ancestors settled– I developed a love of streusel-topped desserts, so a twist on the normal streusel replaces the top crust of this pie. My thanks to Chef John at All Recipes for the suggestion of putting almonds in the topping.  I used flaked instead of slivered, and I liked the texture.  I also changed a few other things in his recipe, so compare the two before you decide which suits you.

Cherry pie served

Pie and served piece

Although brown sugar is suggested in Chef John’s recipe, and is standard in the Mennonite cookbook for streusel, I thought it might not be the best flavor fit in a sweet cherry pie, so I used white sugar. I believe that is the better choice.

The Filling

The big black Bing cherries that we in the West get from Washington State and Oregon State in mid summer, need very little sugar in comparison to the more standard sour pie cherries.  So taste your cherries and decide. There is so much flavor in this recipe, that I suggest using less sugar than you think you need, so that nothing distracts from the cherry flavor.

The extra flavor kick?  In comparing various recipes on line, I discovered this genius idea on The Spruce Eats site–add candied or crystallized ginger to your cherry pie filling. Just as almonds are supremely compatible with cherries, so is ginger.

  You may not have crystallized ginger on your shelf, but let me encourage you to try it out.  I keep it on hand to munch like candy, particularly when my stomach feels a little upset. Googling crystallized ginger will give you dozens and dozens of articles, some with different opinions, but to boil it down, there are some proven medical benefits to ginger. However, crystallized, or candied ginger does have a high amount of sugar, so you have to keep that in mind.  Substituting it for candy you might otherwise eat could help. Pigging out on candied ginger could cause problems.

The Spruce Eats site differs from other recipes in that they use instant tapioca instead of cornstarch as a thickener.  I already am sold on instant tapioca as a thickener, thanks to that Mennonite cookbook, and my late mother-in-law.  To me, cornstarch has a bit of taste that interferes with the main ingredients, and I just don’t like the texture.

And when that luscious cherry pie is baked–be sure to serve it with vanilla ice cream.

I hope that when Billie comes to call, you will be able to tell him “Yes, I can bake a cherry pie, quicker than a cat can wink its eye.” (Or in the version I learned, “in the twinkling of an eye.”)

The Perfect Cherry Pie

Fresh Sweet Cherry Pie With Streusel Topping

Serves 8
Prep time 30 minutes
Cook time 45 minutes
Total time 1 hours, 15 minutes
Allergy Egg, Wheat
Meal type Dessert
Misc Child Friendly, Serve Cold

Ingredients

Pie Crust

  • Single pie crust (Unbaked)

Topping

  • 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/3 cup almonds (Flaked or slivered)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup butter (One stick/8 Tablespoons)

Filling

  • 2lb sweet cherries, pitted (About 4 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons instant tapioca
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter (Cut in small pieces)

Filling (Optional)

  • 2 tablespoons candied/crystallized ginger (Finely chopped)

Fillling

  • 1/2 juice of 1/2 lemon

Directions

1. Make pie crust, or take from refrigerator. Roll out a single crust and fit it in 9" pan. Put pan with unbaked dough back in refrigerator until ready to fill.
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line cookie sheet with foil to put pie pan on when you bake the pie, and set aside.
3. Mix the Topping dry ingredients with a spoon. Stir in the vanilla. Add the pieces of butter and work in with your fingers until the topping resembles soft dough. Refrigerate.
4. Mix the tapioca, sugar and ginger and pour over cherries in large bowl. Pour over that the juice of 1/2 lemon, and stir in gently. Let this sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.
5. Remove unbaked pie shell from refrigerator. Pour in cherries, scraping an accumulated juices from the bowl, spread evenly across crust.
6. Dot with small pieces of butter.
7. Crumble the topping with your fingers and scatter evenly across the top of the cherries, leaving holes in the topping for juices to rise.
8. Put pie on the aluminum lined cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes or until nicely browned.
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Sarah Jane Anderson McDowell, The Meek Grandmother

Sarah Jane Anderson 1833-1893

The Early Years in Pennsylvania

Emma Allison, first wife of John Anderson, gave birth to Sarah Jane Anderson on their farm in Washington County in western Pennsylvania in mid summer-July 9, 1833. Baby Sarah had a brother, Erasmus, three years old when she was born, and three years after she was born younger brother John came along.  However, the next year, her mother died.  Sarah probably did not remember much about her mother, because Emma died when Sarah was only four years old.

[NOTE:  Some family trees name an older sister of Erasmus, Mary, but I have found no proof other than a reference in a Holmes County history that says Emma gave birth to four children.]

The Scene Shifts to Ohio

Her father John Anderson, needed a caretaker for this three young children, quickly married Isabella Sarah McCabe and the family began to grow.  By the time they moved to Ohio in 1843, the young Sarah had two more siblings, Margaret and William.

In Ohio, her father bought a 140-acre farm in the fertile land of Monroe Township, and the family began to attend the Church of Christ in Welcome, near the farm.

In  Holmes County,  Ohio when Sarah Jane Anderson was about to turn ten years old, another sister, Amy, was born.  Three years later a sister, Caroline joined the family and then brother Joseph J. Anderson, my great-grandfather was born in 1848. The 1850 census for Monroe Township, Holmes County, Ohio, listed eight children in the family of John and Isabella Anderson, ranging in age from two (Joseph) to twenty years old (Erasmus). Sarah Jane  had turned 17 a month before the August census.

Sarah Jane Anderson Meets James McDowell

Several McDowell families lived in the same township and neighboring Killbuck, Ohio and somewhere, probably at the church where they would later be married, Sarah met James Coleville McDowell. The teen-aged Sarah must have been impressed by the six-years-older school teacher. Two of his siblings also taught school, bringing some extra respect to this farm family.  They married on March 25, 1852. [Two months later, Sarah’s stepmother gave birth to the youngest son of John Anderson, Franklin]

In September the following year, Sarah gave birth to their first son, John Anderson McDowell. The family grew as most did in those days, with a new infant appearing every two years. Sarah and James McDowell’s family included

  • 1853: John Anderson McDowell
  • 1855: Matthew Thomas McDowell
  • 1857: Alice McDowell
  • 1862: David McDowell
  • 1865: An infant son named William, died at five months old

Sarah Jane Anderson – Life as a Mother

Sarah’s children and life brought both joy and pain.  It appears that Alice McDowell suffered from debilitating “rheumatism”/ arthritis.  In the 1860 census, Sarah’s husband, James’ sister Martha was living with the family, perhaps to help with the children.  In 1860, James’ occupation is not listed, but although they are living in the rural township of Monroe, he does not own land equivalent to surrounding farmers, so I’m guessing that he was still teaching school.

The Civil War occupied everyone’s attention, particularly with both her brothers Erasmus and William enlisting.  In 1862 word arrived that William had disappeared, probably taken captive by the South. In 1863, her brother Erasmus died at Vicksburg.

When Sarah was 37, she and James and their four children lived in Oxford, an earlier name for Killbuck, Ohio–having moved back to town from the farm. According to the 1870 census, James is employed as a grocer and the children, ranging from six to sixteen years old, attend school.

In 1872, the family reels from shock when Sarah’s brother John falls from a fruit tree on his farm and dies at just thirty-six years old.  At the end of the decade, her father, John Anderson dies. It was in late 1870 that Sarah began to suffer from stomach and liver problems, according to her obituary.

On the positive side during the 1870s, Sarah must have been very proud of her oldest son John who graduated from Normal school and begins a teaching career, becoming Principal of the school in Millersburg Ohio, the county seat for Holmes County. By the end of the decade, he has advanced to Superintendent of the Millersburg schools.

Grandmother Sarah Jane

Daughter Alice, on the other hand no doubt upset her mother when in 1879 she  gave birth to a daughter, Jennie, without having been married.  Alice and Jennie lived with Sarah and James McDowell  until she married William Eyster in 1881.  Alice then had two sons, Harry in 1883 and Clyde in 1886.

In October 1879, her son Thomas, a farmer in Holmes County, had presented Sarah with a grandson, and in 1881 son John and his wife also had a son. They went on to have seven more before Sarah died and a total of fourteen children.

At 46, Sarah had become officially a grandmother. Although her son David, a farmer, married, he did not have children.

Suffering Pain

By 1890 (according to her effusive obituary) Sarah suffered “extreme and almost constant” pain from 1890 to 1893.  In December of 1893, at the age of  sixty, Sarah contracted the flu and died.

Obituary

Sarah Jane Anderson McDowell Obituary from Margaret Anderson Lisle’s scrapbook.

Sarah did not live to see her oldest son elected to Congress in 1899 and serve two terms before being defeated in a primary election. She missed his rise in education circles with increasingly important jobs throughout his lifetime.  She did not live to be part of the Anderson-Stout family picture that I have posted many times before. Her daughter Alice, grand-daughter Jennie and several of her siblings are in that picture.

After giving the facts of her life, her obituary goes on to say:

Some of her characteristics for which she was noted were truthfulness, meekness and promptness. Her disposition was strong and firm in whatever direction she was inclined . She was plain and economical in apparel. Her greatest delight was to entertain company, and no labor was spared to provide for their satisfaction even when such labor was a great weariness of the flesh. She was kind and forgiving, often befriending those whom she knew had purposely and greatly wronged her. She was an agreeable companion; always very industrious, prompt and successful in the management of her part of the duties of a home. She was a kind and loving mother, always possessed with a disposition to assist and encourage all in every good deed and work. Her friends were many. Almost without an exception her neighbors and acquaintances were her warm and obliging friends.

After reading the description of Sarah as “Meek”, I wonder at the contrast between her and many of the other women in my past.  And that “Plain and economical in apparel” is interesting, too.  I wish I had her picture. She may be one of the unidentified women in my great-grandmother Hattie’s photo album, but I have no way of knowing.

By 1900, we find Sarah Jane Anderson ‘s  husband James McDowell living with their son David who was teaching school. David returns to farming and we find James  living alone in 1910. He passed away in 1916 having outlived Sarah by 23 years.

How I Am Related

  • Vera Marie Kaser Badertscher is the daughter of
  • Harriette Anderson Kaser, who is the daughter of
  • Leonard Guy Anderson, who is the son of
  • Joseph Anderson, who is the son of
  • John Anderson the father  of
  • Sarah Anderson McDowell

Notes on Research

United States Federal Census Records, 1850 and 1860, Monroe Township, Holmes County, Ohio; 1870, Oxford, Holmes County, Ohio; 1870, Monroe Twp, Holmes County, Ohio; 1880, Killbuck, Holmes County, Ohio; 1880, Monroe Twp., Holmes County, Ohio; 1900, Millersburg, Ohio; 1900 Monroe Twp, Holmes County, Ohio; 1900 Coshocton, Coshocton County, Ohio; 1900, Killbuck, Holmes County, Ohio; 1910, Ashland, Ashland County, Ohio; 1910, Killbuck, Holmes County, Ohio; 1920, Killbuck, Holmes, Ohio; 1930, Killbuck, Holmes, Ohio.

Biographies of Members of Congress

Ohio, County Marriages, 1774-1993, Holmes County, Ohio, James McDowell and Sarah Anderson, March 25, 1852, Ancestry.com, Film #000477144; David McDowell and Cambie Gray, 9 Oct, 1884, film #000477146.

Find a Grave

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