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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.

Black Forest Cake – Almost Authentic

Thank you for sticking with me through my exploration of German Sausages–even last week’s Blood Sausage (Blutwurst). There will be more sausages in the future, but I promised you a yummy dessert, and here it is–my own over-the-top version of German Black Forest Cake.

Frosted and choc covered cherries

I drew on two sources for my almost-authentic version of Black Forest Cake, and I encourage you to check them both out.  Genius Kitchen posts a recipe for a cake dripping with the German liqueur, Kirsch, and topped by a fluffy whipped cream frosting. The Genius Kitchen author introduces the recipe with a bit of a rant about the popular substitute for authentic Black Forest Cake–the super easy, but cloyingly sweet, cake mix with cherry pie filling recipe. I don’t think I’d try that ever–but certainly not when luscious black cherries are in season, and I have some melting chocolate at hand.

Cherries naked and covered

Because the original version introduced by Genius Kitchen had a whipped cream frosting (in addition to a buttercream filling) and I wanted a cake that would last longer than the quickly-deflating whipped cream, I borrowed the filling and frosting recipe from another site, The First Year Blog. 

Black Forest Cake Icing

Black Forest Cake Icing

Check out that site for an absolutely gorgeous cake that she calls Fresh Cherry Cake with Chocolate Ganache.  While the recipe definitely owes its origins to Black Forest Cake, it ups the ante by dribbling the Ganache over the top of the cherry-flecked frosting. This recipe also leaves out the kirsch.

  I found a way to stabilize whipped cream frosting, but I haven’t tried it so not sure how much shelf life it adds. This is the suggestion:  Let 1 tsp plain unflavored gelatin sit in 4 tsps water until thick, then warm over low heat.  Whip 1 C heavy cream to 1/4 C confectioner sugar to stiff peaks, then stir in the gelatin. If you use this, or try it, let me know how it works.

I was serving the cake to my grandson for his 11th birthday,  so I subbed cherry juice for the liqueur, my second step away from authenticity.  And although I loved the look of the ganache on the cake, I had already decided I was going to do my own over-the-top finish by decorating with chocolate covered cherries.  As you can see here the eleven chocolate drenched cherries substitute for candles on the grandson’s cake.

Cherries instead of candles

Black Forest two-layer cake with chocolate covered cherries.

Confession time–The first attempt at this cake turned out to be a poison cake (explained in the post following this one).

Since I didn’t discover the disaster until the day of the celebration, I had to shorten the time available to make the cake. Plus, the original recipe (which is in the recipe below) is an extremely delicate cake, so it takes extra care, which I wasn’t in the mood for any more.  See the holes in the top layer in this picture? That is what happened when I moved the cake from the cooling rack.

German Black Forest cake.

German Black Forest cake. 2 of 3 cake layers, showing pieces broken in moving,

So I used a dark chocolate cake mix instead of remaking the original Black Forest cake recipe. But don’t worry–I did not succumb to the pie filling shortcut. And everyone who tasted the cake loved it.

I think everything is explained in the recipe, but if you have any questions or suggestions, please do leave them in the comment section.

German Black Forest Cake

Serves 12
Prep time 13 hours
Cook time 20 minutes
Total time 13 hours, 20 minutes
Allergy Egg, Milk, Wheat
Meal type Dessert
Misc Child Friendly
Region German
A delicate chocolate cake infused with cherry flavor and frosted with a pretty pink cherry frosting. Topped with chocolate covered cherries.

Ingredients

Filling/Icing

  • 1 cup cherries (pitted (divided))
  • 1 cup butter ((two sticks) room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 7 cups powdered sugar

Chocolate Covered Cherries

  • 20-24 cherries (Pitted from the side, stem on)
  • 10oz Melting chocolate wafers ((see note))

cake

  • 1 2/3 cup flour (all-purpose)
  • 2/3 cups cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup shortening (vegetable shortening or butter, room temperature)
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup buttermilk ((see note))
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup cherry juice ((see note))

Directions

Cake
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line bottom of three 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper.
2. In medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa,baking soda and salt.
3. In large bowl, cream shortening and sugar.
4. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well.
5. Add dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk and mix until no dry spots appear, but do not over beat.
6. Pour batter into cake pans evenly.
7. Bake 20 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.
8. Let cakes cool in pan. When cool, remove from pan and prick all over with toothpick. Drizzle about 1/4 cup cherry juice over each cake.
Filling/Frosting
9. While Cake is baking, chop 1/2 cup cherries and set aside.
10. Puree enough cherries to make about 1/2 cup puree, using blender, food processor or stick blender. Set aside
11. Beat butter and vegetable shortening with electric mixer untili fluffy--2 minutes.
12. Add vanilla extract and cherry puree, beat with electric mixer.
13. Add powdered sugar 1-2 cups at a time until frosting is the consistency you want. Stir in the chopped cherries.
Filling
14. Put one layer of cake on cake plate and spread frosting on that layer--spread evenly. (Optional) Add a layer of pitted, halved cherries on top of the frosting, and top that with more frosting. ) If using 3-layer cake, put 2nd layer on top and do the same. Top with 3rd layer but do not frost.
Resting
15. Put cake in refrigerator overnight so the cherry juice will penetrate the cake layers. Seal remaining frosting well and put it in the refrigerator as well.
Chocolate Covered cherries
16. The next day, make the chocolate covered cherries for decoration. Nest a smaller saucepan in a larger pan, putting water in the lower pan. Bring the water to a simmer, stir the chocolate until it is smooth. (This is very fast if you use the melting wafers.)
Chocolate Covered Cherries
17. Holding a cherry by the stem, swish it through the chocolate to cover, and as much as possible fill the hole left by pitting. Set the chocolate-covered cherries on a piece of wax paper to harden.
Final Frosting
18. Remove the frosting from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature, mixing to soften. Remove the cake from the refrigerator and cover sides and then top with frosting.
19. Arrange chocolate-covered cherries on top and around bottom of cake.

Note

This almost-authentic German recipe substitutes cherry juice for alcoholic kirsch since I'm baking it for children. I also substituted butter cream filling and frosting for the more traditional butter cream filling and whipped cream frosting because a whipped cream frosting will deflate after a short period of time, and I wanted the cake to last longer.

The cake is very delicate and difficult to remove from pan and move from cooling rack to plate.  If you do not want to tackle the authentic cake, use a Duncan Hines dark chocolate cake mix instead.  You may decide to make two layers, as I did rather than three.

Use either dark or milk chocolate.  We like dark chocolate, so I used Ghiradelli's dark chocolate melting wafers and was pleased with the results.  If you have not used melting wafers before, I recommend you try them. Melt quickly and smoothly and have a nicer look when they cool than chocolate chips or even baking chocolate.

If you have trouble finding cherry juice, substitute apple juice, or if the cake is served to adults, use Kirsch for a really powerful cake.

If fresh cherries are not in season, used drained, canned cherries (not cherry pie filling!).

To ensure the cake layers are even, I weigh the pan with batter.  Usually when I eyeball the amount I'm right on target, but being off by a couple ounces can make an uneven result. Also be sure to smooth the batter out with a spatula.  It won't even itself out as it bakes.

Don't like buttermilk?  Substitute sour cream or plain yogurt.  (But I think buttermilk gives the best results.)

The authentic version of the cake uses plain naked cherries--but I love the over-the-top-ness of using chocolate covered cherries to decorate the cake.

Celebrating 2017 at Ancestors in Aprons

First Things First

THANK YOU! My mother and father thank you. My grandparents and great grandparents to the 14th X thank you.

I am so grateful to the ever-increasing number of readers who find Ancestors in Aprons.

Some of those readers turn out to be relatives. I won’t list them all here, but hardly a week goes by that I don’t get a contact from someone who is related. I love the sharing.

And I must thank the wonderful folks at the Facebook Group, Killbuck Gang. They answer questions about our old home town, share photographs, and frequently come and read posts here,

Another Facebook Group provides encouragement and sharing with other people doing the same thing–research and writing. That is the great group of people at Genealogy Bloggers.

Thanks to every library or organization that has digitized records, newspapers, and books.

Thanks to my great-grandmother, grandmother, mother and various cousins for being pack rats and story tellers.  You’ve given me a great treasure to work with (even though sometimes it may seem like a curse).

Most of all, though, thanks to the faithful readers.  Thanks for commenting, thanks for sharing links to posts, thanks for correcting my errors (whether typo or fact).  This blog is for you.

Taking Stock

What I Said Last Year in January

Last year, I warned that I would be concentrating on research and that would mean fewer posts. Indeed, the number of posts in 2017 came to just slightly more than one a week–60 in total. Compare that to 2016 with 86 posts. Also, food posts continue to beat out ancestor stories, but in 2017, I did fewer food posts, and still drew more readers.

If you doubt the value of older posts, consider that in June 2017, I posted nothing-zip-zilch. And yet June 7th was the best day ever for drawing readers! Because Ancestors now has four and a half years worth of posts, overall content continues to grow, and slowly, slowly, more people discover the stories and recipes.

I also started the “Slice of My Life” series in 2016, which has slipped in importance this year, as I shared so many family letters, heirlooms and new research.

Last year I mentioned playing with the Ancestry.com app, We’re Related.  I found I could use it to jump start research on a line, but all together it is not very accurate.  For the time being, my plate is full, so I am not looking at that app these days.

Your Favorites Last Year

Former food posts on food, particularly Perfect Pie Crust, Baked Beans with Molasses, Corn Pone, Corn Meal and Hominy,  American Fruit Desserts, Raisin Pie, and Apples in Nightgowns continue to make the top twenty.  But in 2017, the only food post that shows up was about my Grandma Vera Anderson’s lemon pie.

Other older posts that attracted your attention were the all-time favorite, my sister-in-law’s post on the Dalton Dariette, owned by my husband’s uncle and the story of Hepzibah Death.

The 2017 Top Ten

  1. Scandal Comes to Killbuck Bank (December) I pieced together the story of an ebezzelment from my Grandmother’s December 1943 letter to my mother and newspaper articles from the Coshocton (Ohio) Tribune. I suspect people were attracted to the word “scandal”, but I also shared it with a group on Facebook of people from the small town of Killbuck, Ohio.
  2. This Old House  (October) When I discovered a rare photo of the home of my great-great grandmother, I combined it with other family houses for a photo essay on where ancestors lived. Again, I believe the Facebook group of Killbuck people may have pushed this post to the top.
  3. Dreams Crushed when Mame Kaser Died This sad story revealed a part of my father’s history as a young man. (July)
  4. Who Is This Man?  I discovered a picture of my grandfather as a young man.   (October)
  5. Great Grandma Baked Cakes  A delightful slice-of-life letter from my Grandmother Hattie Morgan to her daughter, Maude gave me new insights into her life. (November)
  6. Which Lemon Pie? In a rare food post, I compared a recipe in my grandmother’s handwriting with another lemon pie and asked people to choose their favorite.(February)
  7. Bless the Census, Curse the Census Taker.  This post aims at fellow researchers as I give an example of unraveling the errors made by a census taker to get the true story.
  8. The Doctor’s Daughter and the Medicine Show  A very precious letter from my grandmother as a young girl to her grandmother, reveals traits that stayed with her all her life.  This may be my favorite heirloom letter. (October)
  9. Martha Bent, American Born  When I wrote about my seventh great-grandmother, Martha Bent, I learned that her family had many fascinating stories, so I spent several weeks researching and writing about her siblings and others. (March)
  10. John Bent, Sr., Father of the American Bents (April)  My 8th treat grandfather, and a founder of Sudbury. Much of the research on John Bent in Sudbury came  from the wonderful book, Puritan Village by Sumner Chilton Powell.

The Positivity

I’m also going to snitch a few of the prompts from Geniaus blog in the “Accentuate the Positive” list.

Elusive Ancestor I Found

Milton Kaser, my father’s brother who died at 16. When I found a letter from Milton, just months before he died, it revealed a lively, ornery teenager.

Other elusive ancestors–all on my father’s side–began to take shape when I spent days at the Family History Center at a nearby LDS church and poured over microfilms of church records from Pennsylvania in the 1700s.

Most Helpful Newspaper Article

I enjoy reading the personals in the Coshocton Tribune, because it tells me about the lives of my Holmes County, Ohio ancestors.  My big find this year turned out to be a date. I had a picture of a family gathering during World War II, and a cousin had identified a date, but the newspaper wrote about the party and solidified the actual date.

I also found in a stash of papers saved by my great-grandmother, a newspaper from the late 1877 that includes an ad for my great-grandfather W. C. Stout’s medical practice. Limited office hours because he spent most of his time making house calls.

Dr. William Stout ad

Holmes County Republican 1877 Doc Stout Ad front page croopped

I Found an Important Record

I am still scratching my head over this one.  While researching the Bents, I dsicovered a foonote in a town history that helped. But the most unexpected summary of a trial that involved family members turned up in a book of passenger lists!  Bless those footnotes.

Newly Found Family Members

If I take this to mean current family members, many, many people have contacted me through emails or Ancestry.com messages this year to share information or ask questions about mutual ancestors.

The Stone Cousins

Mary, Frank and Harriet /Hattie Stone, from collection of pearson 1295 on Ancestors.com

If I take this to mean ancestors, my most interesting find has to be the discovery of information about the Stone sisters from Guernsey County.  They had signed my Great Aunt’s autograph book, but I knew next to nothing about them.

I Got Surprises

We moved our home in August, and I am still finding heirlooms, letters and pictures that I had forgotten or never seen.  The most exciting discovery has to be a photograph of the Switzerland home of my husband’s great-grandparents. I knew it existed, but I had misplaced it and given up finding it.

Second most exciting –the many family letters that will keep me scanning, transcribing and posting on Ancestors in Aprons for the foreseeable future.  These include letters from World War II soldiers, my grandmother, my great-grandmother, my great-uncle.  Those last two are the ONLY things I have in their hand writing.

I quickly shut one box, because I would have been sifting through for weeks.  So I have many more surprises waiting.

One Terrific Find

Autograph books

Vera’s large and Maude’s smaller autograph books

Of all the heirlooms that I have dealt with during our downsizing, the most precious to me may be the autograph books of my Grandmother and her sister.

COMING ATTRACTIONS

I promise to dig up and test out and share more family or vintage recipes next year.

I will continue to try to sort out my father’s ancestors, who continue to be elusive.

I will try to stick more closely to my pedigree list and save the “peripherals” for later. (Lots of luck with that one! I never can resist a good story.)

On my wish list –a trip to Columbus, Ohio to the Ohio History Center, and to Holmes County,Ohio to look for more records there.

But number one BIG DEAL in 2018 involves….nah, I am saving that for my first post in this year’s #52Ancestors series.  Stay tuned.  I will share that project in a couple of days.

Keep those comments coming!