Win a Trip to Roots Tech (And Help Me, Too)

Amy Johnson Crow is giving away an entry fee for the annual Roots Tech conference in Salt Lake City.

Whether you’re a beginning family historian, or want to delve into more complex matters and solve brick walls, this might help. If you are considering entering the drawing, use this link and get me a couple extra chances. Thanks. (It runs over my birthday and would make a really nice present.)

Grandma Vera Cooking on the Grill in 1910

Eating roasted chicken in 1905

These ladies having fun eating chicken at their picnic. Vera Anderson top right. Early 20th Century.

Hattie Stout

Harriett Emeline Morgan Stout

Isn’t it fun reading these old letters and getting a peek at my ancestor’s every day lives?  In a letter from Great-Grandmother Hattie Stout to her daughter, Maude, she makes two mentions of food. She writes the letter on Thursday, May 12, 1910.

Vera is going to have a grilling tomorrow and will put in two grills – She has one in now & wants to put another in as soon as I get it there with the lining and bottom as she has asked about 10 or 12 and they all could not get around one grill to any advantage.


The food mention that particularly interested me was this reference to her other daughter, my grandmother Vera Stout Anderson who was going to be grilling.  How? What would she be grilling? Was it for a large crowd?  So many questions, and only some of them came with answers.

Outdoor cooking over direct fire is nothing new to humankind, of course.  Our Neanderthal ancestors (whom, alas I have yet to document in my family tree) started the whole thing.  In Colonial days, cooking outdoors over an open fire would more efficiently feed a crowd, like say, for the original Thanksgiving meal prepared by the Pilgrims in Plymouth. In the Midwest, the most frequent use of grilling would come when my ancestors cooked a large pig over an outdoor fire.

But the invention of portable barbecues for family use did not arrive until the early 1950s. Which explains the wildly popular back-yard barbecue tradition and my favorite grilled chicken recipe that I wrote about here. Unfortunately,  the history-of-barbecue articles I found jump right from colonial days to the 1940s and 50s. I am left to guess at what Grandma Vera used.

Grandma Vera Anderson did not have a pre-built cooking tool like a Big Boy barbecue, as is made clear by Great-Grandma Hattie’s letter.  She had a grill installed and had to get another one. I picture a pit dug in the ground that held the slow-burning wood. Metal grids to lay the meat on covered the pit. But what was the lining and the bottom that Hattie was going to loan her along with a spare grill?  However the grill was constructed, it came together easily, because Hattie planned to go to Vera’s house in the morning, and Vera would be grilling that day.

What did she cook on those grills?  Could be the pig. But maybe it was the chicken those young women in the top picture are enjoying. The picture comes from the right era.  Hattie mentions in her letter that Vera will have 10 or 12, and there are 11 women in the picture. The only thing that mitigates against that assumption is that the house probably belonged to one of the women in the picture, the town milliner. It is not the farm house that Vera and Guy lived in earlier, and it is not the house that they lived in when they moved to town.  Nor is it the house that Hattie lived in. I can tell by the decorative work along the roof edge of the porch.

So while the chicken in the picture might have been cooked on a grill, I have reluctantly accepted that since Hattie was getting up early to go to Vera’s, Vera probably still lived out in the country, I  do not know what her grill looked like,and I do not have a picture of the food she cooked on that grill. And most maddening of all, I don’t know why everyone had to gather around the grill. Roasting marshmallows?

You can read more about the history of grilling and barbecue on Tori Avey’s site.

Reminder: if you want to cook something delicious on the grill, try that marinated chicken recipe from the Big Boy Barbecue cookbook.

All In the Family Photogaphs – Grandmothers

While going through the hundreds of family photographs sometimes seems like a never-ending chore, some lovely little surprises lurk in those tan and white pieces of cardboard or mahogany and black squares of tin.

Emeline Cochran Stout, my great-great grandmother, for instance.

Emeline Stout Circa 1860

Emeline Stout Circa 1860

My great-grandmother Hattie Morgan Stout kept this photo in her album. While there are many family photographs of the Stout family, photographs of Emeline are rare.

Several clues help date the photo.

This Carte de Visite was made by a photographer called Courtney in Millersburg, Ohio.

Back of photo

Back of Emeline Stout 1889 with Courtney Photography imprint

I am not sure who printed “Emeline Stouts” or why there is an “s” on the end of Stout. The other pencil notations are mine.  My notes show how I used information on the photographer to help date the photo.

The photographer had a studio with the Courtney name from 1858 to 1871 in Millersburg, according to “Ohio Photographers 1839-1900”, which I found on Google Books. Because Emeline looks fairly young in the photograph, and because of the dress style, I am tentatively dating the photo at circa 1860 which would mean she was in her early thirties.

She is wearing what looks like a silk or taffeta dress with drop sleeves ending in a tight fit at the wrist and decorated with a strip of velvet.  The yoke of the dress is plain, and set off by a band of velvet around the bust line.  The full skirt, including an “apron” is decorated with ornate ruffles and bows, with a ruffle around the bottom of the skirt.  I am intrigued by the chain draped across her bosom and tucked into the waist band. It looks like a watch dangles from the top of the chain.  Anyone have any ideas on this?

I notice that she is wearing a dark band ring on her index finger, but no ring on what we consider the “ring finger.” Her elaborate sausage curls on the back of her head soften the more severe drawn-back flat style on the top. She is wearing hoop earrings.

I am puzzled as to why Emeline, who lived in Guernsey County, Ohio would have traveled to Millersburg to have her photograph taken. She may have been visiting relatives, but I have not been able to make a connection. Her oldest son, my great-grandfather William Cochran Stout, later known as “Doc”, would have been about 15. So although after he was married he lived in Killbuck, just south of Millersburg,  that would have been far in the future.

Was there a special occasion for this photograph? I have not followed the Cochran family in detail, but most of her siblings headed west.  Her husband had two siblings–Isaac, who moved from New Jersey to California and a sister whom I have no information on, so I can’t account for this photo being in Millersburg by a visit to her family.

Later in life, Emeline lost her eyesight. The failing eyesight shows up in the later family photographs like this one, where she seems to squint.  I find it interesting, that while she doesn’t have the sausage curls she wore some 30 years before, she still parts her hair in the middle and wears it flat on top.

I like the photographer’s frame on this photo, with a piece of braid glued on the cardboard to accent the oval opening that shows off the portrait.

Emeline Cochran Stout

Emeline Cochran Stout, mother of Dr. Wm Stout. 1890s.


It took me a while to realize that these next two family photographs were related–in more than one way.

First we talked about Emeline Cochran Morgan, now we move on to her daughter in law and her grand daughter.  Remember that letter that a fourteen-year-old Vera Stout wrote to her grandmother? In 1888, Hattie and Doc Stout had worked on the Ohio Centennial and the County Loan.  The ribbon they received shows up in a crazy quilt that Emeline helped Hattie sew.

Although it doesn’t show here, these pictures were framed with identical Tibbals, Millersburg O. photographer’s frame. The dress styles are similar, with modified leg of lamb sleeves and plaid patterns.  The women have similar hairdos–the flat on top, parted in the middle with spit curls that fortunately was a fad that did not last long. Both sport small pins and wear no earrings.

Unlike the Courtney photographer of Emeline Stout, I was not able to find a biography of this Tibbals, although I spotted him on lists of Ohio photographers from the 1880s to early 20th century.

However, the hair style and dress provide good evidence.  The best evidence, however, comes from other photographs of my grandmother, Vera Stout who left me numerous photos from school days onward.


Vera Stout, 16

Vera Stout,1897, when she was 16 years old.


Vera Stout, 17

Vera Stout, 17, top right on class trip to New York City in 1898


And here she is in 1900 after high school.

Vera May Stout 1900

Vera May Stout and Jean Stout, wife of Vera’s brother Will who sits in front. New York City 1900.

So there you have it.  Great-great grandmother Stout going to Millersburg Ohio to have a portrait made.  Great-grandmother Hattie Morgan Stout and her daughter Vera May Stout on an expedition to Millersburg to have their portraits made on the same day.  Vera was the last child at home, as her sister Maude had married in 1898 and her brother Will was attending school in New York state.