Ancestors in Aprons is growing up. April 27, 2016 marks three years of telling family stories. That’s me at three, with my mother. Beginning genealogists are advised, start with what you know, what you can learn from your parents, and grandparents and go back from there.
VMB and Harriette Kaser circa 1942
First Family Stories: Grandma Vera
Guy Anderson and Vera (holding Herbert). Guy’s mother Mary Brink Anderson. Back Jennie McDowell King. 1909
I started Ancestors in Aprons with a tribute to my grandmother, Vera Stout Anderson, my namesake. That’s grandma in the picture below, holding me. You can see her on the same day in the picture at the top of the page, just to the right of my grandpa Leonard Guy Anderson. Surprisingly, Grandma is not wearing an apron in this 1940 picture from Anderson’s restaurant.
Two Veras. Grandma Vera Anderson holding me at about one year old. 1940
Later I wrote about her surprising statement to me one time which led to discovery of the “lost love” of her youth, not long after this high school graduation picture was taken.
Vera Anderson 1899, the year she graduated from Killbuck High School.
And of course you can read about her in the introduction to Ancestors and Aprons, about the Anderson Restaurant.
Vera Anderson (circa 1960)
Then, there were the recipes that came to me in her own handwriting. The sugar cookies that I make every Christmas. The red pepper jam that I finally got up the courage to try. And her picalilli and corn meal mush that I found recipes for, even though they were not her own handwritten recipe.
Goals of Ancestors in Aprons.
- My general goal is to trace each line (paternal and maternal in each case) back to the first person to arrive in North America.
- The gold standard is to be able to tell the family stories about each ancestor.
- I want to pass on the family stories told to me, and the family stories hinted at by photos, letters and heirlooms, and the stories gathered by other people with my grandchildren and great-grand children.
- I almost always start with the ancestors nearest the present and moving back through the paternal line with only a mention of wives, and then circle back to trace the grandmother’s stories.
- Then, of course, there is food. I hope to fill in some blanks in the lives of the ancestors by putting a vintage recipe into context, explaining cooking methods and fads and fashions in food.
By The Numbers
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.
30 and 12
However, the direct line (Called pedigree in genealogy-speak) is somewhat more important. There I have four generations (30 people) on the way to completion (starting the count with my parents), and I can trace half of the additional 16 great-great-grandparents back further–a couple as far as ten, eleven and twelve generations–all on my mother’s side.
347 and 90
To tell the family stories, I have published 347 posts. In order to tell the stories through the foods our ancestors were eating, I have tested and shared 90 recipes. Some that were already family favorites (like Perfect Pie Crust or Corn Meal Mush),some that have become family favorites, some that were contributed by relatives (like Badertscher Banana Bread or Norma Kaser’s Spiced Pecans ), some that nobody is going to want to cook today (like Civil War Hardtack).
Paul Kaser 1940s
My father’s family (KASER/BUTTS) has been more challenging. Although I have been able to get back to their entry into the United States in the mid-18th century, I don’t have the rich details that I have with my mother’s ancestors. The Butts family has been thoroughly researched, but the Kaser line (my maiden name) resists easy research.
Guy Anderson in restaurant, Killbuck, 1940
Likewise, although I have lots of great stories from my grandmother’s female line, my research into ANDERSON, my maternal grandfather’s line (and thus my mother’s maiden name) has hit a brick wall due to the common names Joe Anderson and John Anderson, so numerous in Pennsylvania.
When I moved from telling the easy-to-come-by family stories, and started doing the research to track other relatives I found many surprises. Some of them I not only had not heard of, but I had not even realized that surname was part of my ancestry.
Some Family Names
Mother and Grandmother were so proud of having a Pilgrim ancestor (BASSETT) that they overlooked the exciting 17th century immigration story of my Grandmother’s father’s family (STOUT) including shipwreck and capture by Indians.
As so often happens in genealogy, whole big hunks of the family history never got mentioned. When naming my heritage, mother always reeled off “English, Scots-Irish and German.” I’ve added Dutch to that list. Right now, I’m working on my grandfather (Vera’s husband) and his mother’s line. I know that there is a very rich history stretching back to Holland on his mother’s mother’s side (MIDDAUGH/MEDDAUGH ). I THINK that her father’s line (BRINK) is also from Holland, but so far I can not prove it.
I also looked at my husband, Ken’s (BADERTSCHER/AMSTUTZ/TSCHANTZ) ancestors who mostly arrived in the late 19th century, and uncovered a big surprise. His ancestors, we knew were all Swiss. Turned out they weren’t. There was a big German contingent (BAIR) as well.
My personal favorites: The Letters of Pvt. Erasmus Anderson and of Pvt. Henry Butts from the Civil War, and my current series on family members in politics. But my favorite reading of all, is reading the comments from YOU. I am so delighted when a new relative drops by and shares more information. Ancestors in Aprons is a Meeting Ground.
The reader’s favorites: In a word–FOOD. OF the top twenty most read articles, the top three are Civil War Rations–Hardtack and O.B. Joyful,
Vintage Family Restaurant: The Dalton Darriette (by Kay Badertscher)
Perfect Pie Crust
You also enjoyed reading about some of my ancestors. Naughty Pilgrims–some of my Bassett ancestors, and took the bait of the title “Joseph the Carpenter”, about my great-grandfather Joseph Kaser, and read about my “Daddy Guy”, Guy Anderson and his rules for life.
Who Are My People? What Have I Learned?
My ancestors did not come to the United States via Ellis Island, or gaze up at the Statue of Liberty as they arrived. I have been amazed to learn that nearly all my roots (on my mother’s and my fathers’ sides) extend back to before the United States was a nation.
They came with the Pilgrims, or with the slightly later wave of German or Scots-Irish immigrants. They moved ever westward–from New England or Pennsylvania or New York. Many of my ancestors were early settlers in the Ohio Territory, arriving before Ohio became a state, or just afterwards.
Some became big frogs in their small ponds, but none were hugely famous. Most were farmers, except for the women in some families who were educated before most women ventured into books. Many were teachers.
They were here when Indian wars were still raging. The men fought in the Civil War for the North, although their hearts were not always in the fight. At least one was involved in the Spanish-American war, and Ken and I both had relatives engaged in World Wars I and II.
They carved farms out of wilderness, built roads over animal trails, settled where the Canals and Railroads and Highways would bring more people. They participate in town government, and are involved in civic betterment. They built new churches, and helped their relatives from Europe resettle in the new land. The most adventurous headed west when gold was discovered, when wagon trains wound over mountains, or railroad lines made travel easier.
Thank you to the relatives who have contributed articles and recipes. Great gratitude to my mother and father for telling their stories and my brother for recording many of them. More gratitude to my grandmother and great-grandmother who saved so many pictures and heirlooms from the past that help tell the stories. Thank you for reading and adding your thoughts in the comments.