Ben Affleck Doesn’t Get Family History

“It’s a retroactive forfeit of meritocracy, a moment when you realize your positioning in the now is surrounded by shadows from then.”
Michael Twitty, Afroculinaria

Michael Twitty, in an open letter to Ben Affleck, encourages the actor to open up about his slave owner ancestors, expressing sympathy for his “embarassment.”

In case you missed the story, Affleck was featured on the PBS genealogy show, Finding Your Roots, last October.  When the Sony e-mail hacking scandal unfolded, e-mails revealed that Affleck had asked  the show to whitewash his family history He wanted them to remove any reference to his ancestors being slave owners. Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., host of the show, sent an e-mail to the producer asking what he should do, since Affleck is a megastar [and a “request” by a megastar is really a “demand, is it not?],  The producer replied that it would be okay to alter his family history if they didn’t get caught, but if word got out it would be ‘tricky.”

They ‘cleaned up’ his history.

Word got out.

Affleck apologized this month–5 months after the airing– blaming his request on his “deep embarrassment.”  Those who give him the benefit of the doubt accept that excuse. I don’t. I picture his publicity team surrounding him, saying “This is a disaster. It is going to ruin your image. You have to apologize.”  Whatever. He would have been better off to just cancel the appearance on Finding Your Roots.

 

If he had understood the word “history” Affleck wouldn’t have asked for the information to be deleted to begin with.  What our ancestors did, when documented, is what they did. Good or bad. But it is past tense. It doesn’t matter what THEY did. It matters what WE do.  And choosing to lie to save face is not an honorable choice.

Bill Paxton by Gage Skidmore

Bill Paxton by Gage Skidmore

 

 

 

 

A much better choice was made in this week’s Who Do You Think You Are?–another celebrity genealogy show, when Bill Paxton learned he had slave-holder ancestors. Like Affleck, the genealogy search turned up some ancestors to be proud of, and some activities that made him cringe. Paxton’s reaction:

“It’s kind of disappointing from a contemporary persecutive,” he said.  “We read this great account of this man. But your history – good and bad – is your history.

“We have a tendency to want to hide the bad parts of our history, but we have to shine a light on all of it in order to understand who we are.”

Apparently, Ben Affleck believes all his ancestors are above average, and anything less reflects badly on him.
At Ancestors in Aprons, we believe that lost history is a lost opportunity to understand the present and the future.  Fair warning, ancestors–we try not to jump to conclusions, but we also don’t hide the facts that we find.
NOTE:  in the once-a-week Ancestors in Aprons newsletter that you may subscribe to here, you will get a bonus each week that does not appear on the blog.  This week it is my review of the three genealogy shows now on TV. Find out my favorite and see if you agree.


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52 Ancestors: #16 Keith Kaser, Farmer to Elected Official

Keith Karl Kaser 1894-1963

Born in Danville, Ohio, Keith Karl Kaser was the oldest in the family of Clifford and Mary Isadore (Mame) Kaser. (Perhaps Mary Isadore went to her family home to give birth to her first child.) But I didn’t know him until he was nearly 50, because my father was fifteen years younger than Keith, and was thirty years old when I was born.  That meant that my Kaser cousins were a good deal older than I was, too. But that did not stop Keith and his wife Blanche from welcoming me into their home for visits.

Because he was the older brother, Keith undertook extra responsibility when both the parents of his family died –his mother in 1926 and his father in 1930. Keith had the heft to handle responsibility and hard work. And he had a lively intelligence and endearing sense of humor, despite a sometimes hard life. Like my father, his formal education ended with high school graduation, but he continued to explore his curiosity about the world.

Chubby young Keith is pictured with his baby sister Irene in this early photo. He would have been about four years old:

Keith Kaser and Irene Kaser 1898

Keith and Irene Kaser about 1898.

And he just kept getting chubbier.  As a young man, he worked for his father’s tin business, pictured here about 1914, (Keith would have been 19 or 20) when his father started a shop in Killbuck, Ohio.

Clifford Kaser Tin Shop

Kaser Tin Shop, Keith, Clifford, (front) Milton, Paul. About 1914

The year after this family picture was taken, Keith married Blanche Belle Craft (1986-1991), who was only 19, and they lived in Killbuck. When he filled in his World War I Draft Registration, in June, 1917, he was a 23-year-old married farmer with one child. He claimed an exemption from military service because of his membership in the Seventh Day Adventist Church, his father’s church.  Keith was described as short and stout, with light blue eyes and light hair.

Keith Kaser and family

Clifford Kaser Family: Paul, Irene, Milton and Keith with Cliff and “Mame” in front. About 1926, the year that “Mame” died, and one year before Milton died.

When the 1920 census was taken, Keith was working for the railroad as a “track man”, and living in Millersburg, Ohio. Some time between then and 1930, he moved to Orrville, Ohio with Blanche and their three children–Evelyn, Phyllis and Dick, where he returned to farming. When their father died in 1930, both Irene Kaser(Bucklew) and Paul Kaser moved in with Keith and Blanche for a time.

And here he is as a farmer in the thirties (his hair had turned prematurely white)[ Correction: I have rethought my identification of this picture, thanks to doubts expressed by a cousin. Although the body type is like Keith in his older years, the face is not right. The man with the hat looks more like it would be Keith. Still need help with dating this picture.] That’s my dad, Paul Kaser in the knitted cap. Paul Kaser did not last long on the farm, moving on to a variety of jobs during the depression.

Keith Kaser on farm.

Keith Kaser on the farm with others, including Paul Kaser. (Others in the picture are unidentified.)

By 1936 (probably a few years earlier) he had received a ticket out of farming.  The Clerk of Courts of Holmes County appointed him as Deputy Clerk, and Keith moved his family into Millersburg, the county seat.  Knowing Keith, and reading about his activities from then on in his life, I really don’t think that farming suited him any better than it did my dad, but either of them would do whatever work they had to do to support themselves and their families.  A work ethic they learned from their father, Clifford Kaser.

In March of 1936 a newspaper announcement listed several Democrat party candidates for the job of Clerk of Courts, including Keith K. Kaser. He won the primary election and when November rolled around he had a free ride. There was no Republican opposition in this majority-Democrat county.

I was amazed to learn that my Aunt Blanche served as Uncle Keith’s deputy clerk. Apparently Ohio had no nepotism restrictions.

Ironically, the same year, my father and mother had started dating, and he had joined her in her efforts for Republican candidates.  Paul Kaser and Harriette Anderson were quite active in politics in the years just before they married.

Ice Cream Socials were held here.

Holmes County Courthouse, Millersburg, Ohio. Photo by David Grant

When I was a small girl, I vividly remember visiting the County Court House in Millersburg with Uncle Keith. He showed me enormous books with hand-written records of transactions that must have dated back decades. I was very impressed with his importance.

Keith Kaser was naturally a social animal, but his leadership tendencies and camaraderie served him well on the political stage.  He was very active in the Masonic Lodge, holding many high offices. And he was a leader, Sunday School teacher, and ultimately Deacon at the Millersburg Church of Christ.  I don’t know whether he left the Seventh Day Adventist Church because there was not one in Millersburg, or because it was Blanche’s choice, but at any rate, he was an active church member for the rest of his life.

When he filled in his World War II Draft Registration card in April 1942, he was living at 208 Clay Street in MIllersburg, and place of employment is listed as East Jackson Street, Millersburg, Holmes County, Ohio (The County Courthouse).  He had blue eyes, gray hair, a light complexion and weighed in at 219 pounds on a 5’5″ frame. At the age of 47, he was experiencing some health problems from his excess weight, and they continued to plague him throughout his life.

One of the things I remember about visiting their home, was Aunt Blanche’s wonderful cooking–particularly the elaborate cakes that she would decorate.  Another thing that sticks with me is the big wooden console radio in the living room.  During World War II when my mom and dad and I visited, we always clustered around that radio listening to the news.

In 1944 Keith Kaser announced that he would not run for a third term as Clerk of Courts, and in 1945, the newspaper announced that he was the Modern Woodmen of America auditor for the State of Ohio. Modern Woodmen is a fraternal benefit society (providing insurance to members, but also fraternal social activities) that was founded in 1883.  As far as I know this was not a paid position, and I do not know what other employment he may have had at this time. I do recall in the 40s or early 50s that Aunt Blanche worked as a sales clerk in one of the stores on the main street of Millersburg.

Keith and Blanche loved to travel, particularly to take car trips, and the Coshocton Tribune personals column for Millersburg frequently details their Jaunts. I took one trip with them, and remember we left very early in the morning. I must have been excitedly chattering as I got in the car because Uncle Keith told me solemnly that I should be quiet, because the neighbors (who were very good friends of Keith and Blanche) were nasty people and if we woke them up, they’d want to go with us. So we had to leave very quietly because we didn’t want them to know we were on a trip. The story worked. I didn’t make a peep until we were on the road. For the longest time I believed his story, and even asked my mother and father about the mean neighbors that Keith and Blanche had.  Of course my parents were mystified.

In 1950, The Coshocton Tribune carried an announcement of Keith K. Kaser running for County Auditor, but I have not yet learned if he was elected.  Probably not, since I do not see any subsequent news about him being in office.

After Keith died in 1963, Blanche eventually sold the house and moved into a trailer home parked on the side lawn.  She still had itchy travel feet, however, and in her seventies, took a Greyhound bus trip across the country. She visited us briefly in Scottsdale, Arizona, but did not stay long, as she had places to go.

Blanche died in 1991 and the journey of the couple who were married 48 years ends  in the Oak Hill Cemetery in Millersburg, Ohio.

HOW WE ARE RELATED

  • Vera Marie Badertscher is the daughter of
  • Paul Kaser, who is the brother of
  • Keith Karl Kaser

RESEARCH NOTES

Photos are from my personal collection, handed down from Paul Kaser, my father, except for the Holmes County Courthouse. If you click on that one, you will find out more about the photographer.

Draft Registration Card, WWI, #271 June 5, 1917, found at Ancestry.com; Ohio; Registration County: Holmes; Roll: 1832249;Original data: United States, Selective Service System. World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. M1509,

Draft Registration Card, WWII, Serial #1002 April 27, 1942, found at Ancestry.com; United States, Selective Service System. Selective Service Registration Cards, World War II: Fourth Registration. Records of the Selective Service System, Record Group Number 147. National Archives and Records Administration.

The Coshocton Tribune, found at Ancestry.com Various articles between 1934 and 1955.

Census Records from 1900 (Coshocton , Ohio) 1910 (Clark, Ohio), 1920(Millersburg, Ohio),1930 (Orrville, Ohio),1940 (Millersburg, Ohio) all found at Ancestry.com

Birth Record Found at Ancestry.com:  “Ohio Births and Christenings, 1821-1962.” Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2009, 2011. Index entries derived from digital copies of original and compiled records.

Death Record Ancestry.com. Web: Ohio, Find A Grave Index, 1787-2012 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012; Original data: Find A Grave. Find a Grave. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi: accessed 25 January 2013.

German Warm Potato Salad (Warm)

I make cold “picnic” potato salad often. My family loves it. (So do I). But I have never made as much potato salad as I did last week.  A forgotten bag of potatoes in my pantry was starting to sprout. I should know better than to buy potatoes by the bag.

potatoesSo, following my trend of thinking of my waste-not-want-not ancestors in aprons, I got to work making potato salad.  All those potatoes in one big cold potato salad would get very boring, though, so I made the German warm  potato salad that I do not make quite as frequently.  I usually turn to my favorite old Joy of Cooking Cookbook, but decided to look for something a little different.

I dug out a thoroughly dilapidated spiral-bound cookbook from my mother’s Home Ec teaching days. Harriette Anderson Kaser taught many subjects, but when I was in high school she was teaching home economics and all my friends took her class. I didn’t. Instead, ironically, I went home and started dinner.

Home Ec teachers got lots of product books, like the Joys of Jell-o book I’ve used here before. Their national organization also pulled together cookbooks featuring favorite recipes of the teachers across the nation.  My copy of Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers: Salads has been used so much that the cover and the first few pages are missing, as well as the last pages of the index and the back cover.


This image is from Amazon, and says it was published in 1964. I thought it was a bit older, but this must be the same book. Click on the image if you would like to purchase your own.

There are some really strange recipes in here, along with an endless variety of old favorites like bean salad or carrot salad or chicken salad. It is a source of endless experimentation for the curious cook.

I was looking for an authentic Pennsylvania Dutch warm potato salad recipe that my German Ancestors might make.  The one I found, did come from Pennsylvania and seemed authentic except that it included olives, which did not strike me as a food that German immigrants would have at hand.  I substituted dill pickle, which they could have on their canning shelves.  Warning–if you don’t like vinegar–like my friend Kerry Dexter, who commented on the Sauerbraten recipe–you’re not going to like this sweet and sour, warm potato salad. But, hey! It has BACON.

Note: I did not include a picture, because next to cooked oatmeal, this is about the least photogenic food I can think of.

German Recipe: Pennsylvania Dutch Warm Potato Salad

Serves 12
Allergy Egg
Meal type Salad, Side Dish
Misc Pre-preparable, Serve Cold, Serve Hot
Region German
From book Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers: Salads

Ingredients

  • 10 medium potatoes (cooked in jackets)
  • 2 small onions (diced)
  • 3 stalks celery (diced)
  • 4 medium slices bacon
  • 2 heaped tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 eggs (beaten)
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 8 hard-cooked eggs (sliced)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 dill pickle (diced)

Directions

1. Dice potatoes (peel if you want, or leave skin on).
2. Combine diced potatoes with onions and celery and set aside.
3. Fry bacon until crisp. Drain and crumble into the potato mixture.
4. Stir flour into bacon grease and mix to make a paste. (Adding more if necessary).
5. Combine eggs, sugar, dry mustard, salt and pepper with water and vinegar. Stir into bacon-flour paste.
6. Cook sauce over low heat until thick. Pour over potato mixture and mix lightly. Stir in dill pickles and gently add hard-cooked eggs.
7. Sprinkle with paprika or parsley. Serve while warm, or refrigerate to marinate for several hours, then either reheat or serve chilled.

Note

The recipe in the book called for carrots and I skipped those. I also do not eat onions, so left out the onions, with no loss. I substituted dill pickle for olives.

I also used less sugar than called for (1 cup) because I felt that left it too sugary.

The recipe was contributed by home economics teacher Mrs. Sandra Mock, Pequea Valley High School, Kinzers, Pennsylvania

Reminder: You can find an index of some of my favorite cookbooks–vintage and not–on their own special page: Food Books that Stir Family Memories.