Sunday, December 24, 2017

Sentimental Sunday - Christmas meal traditions

As I'm sitting here thinking about what time to start dinner, I was reminiscing about the various Christmas meal traditions I have been part of.

When I was growing up, my parents would host dinner on Christmas Eve.  This included my immediate family (myself, mom, dad, sister, brother, his wife and their 3 children) as well as my dad's sister and my mother's father.  Mom would always make standing rib roast - she had ordered it from the grocer weeks before to be sure it was the right size and cut.  There was also a jello salad that she always made - called crown jewel salad - white fluffy base with squares of different colored jello (this was, after all, the sixties). 

Dad carving the roast - 1974

After dinner, everyone would pitch in to clear the table and do the dishes.  Then we would gather around the Christmas tree for our gift exchange.  After my brothers family went home, we would go to bed early because Santa was coming!

my sister, me, my nephew and my niece - 1967
My brother and his family 1968

In the morning, we would get up and come downstairs to see what Santa had brought - in our stockings and under the tree. 

My sister and I on Christmas morning 1968

Then we would go to my dad's brother's house for Christmas day dinner.  Uncle Dick and Aunt Mary would open their house to whoever was around - the gathering often included other aunts, uncles and cousins, as well as some neighbors.  They always had a little gift for everyone - I remember lots of little wind up toys.  Dinner there consisted of lamb (I have never tasted lamb that delicious since), and a noodle dish that we called "Greek Macaroni", because of Aunt Mary's Greek heritage.

Uncle Dick and Aunt Mary 1985
After I was married, our traditions changed a little.  We would have Christmas Eve at my parents, but Christmas day would be spent with my in-laws. My mother-in-law Trudi was an excellent cook.  She would make duck on the rotisserie, with all the trimmings (stuffing, mashed potatoes, etc).  And of course, Austrian pastries.  Yum!  Then we would gather around the Christmas tree.  My father-in-law would pass out presents - sometimes mixing up the "to" and the "from" on the tags.  Then, with a shout of "GERONIMO!" we would open the gifts.

My father-in-law distributing the presents 1983

I still carry on some of these traditions with my girls.  Today (Christmas Eve), I will make standing rib roast and Greek macaroni.  After church, we will have our gift exchange - with "Geronimo!".  The girls will wake me up early tomorrow morning and we will see what Santa brought.  Then I will make duck on the rotisserie and we will enjoy our Christmas day meal.  There are some variations, including Tofurky for my vegetarian daughter, but we try to keep the old meals alive.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Society Saturday - Visiting Cape Cod

I recently attended the second annual meeting of the Descendants of Cape Cod and the Islands.  This group was founded about a year and a half ago by Shari Worrell.  To qualify, an applicant must prove lineal descent from someone who lived or owned land on Cape Cod, Nantucket or Martha's Vineyard prior to 1700.

This meeting was held in Brewster on the Cape at the beautiful Ocean Edge Resort.  This is on the north coast with a lovely view of the ocean.  We enjoyed visiting outside on the balcony during the opening reception despite the chill in the air.

Vice President Tim Finton 
After our business meeting on Saturday morning, we traveled to Barnstable for our tour.  We visited the Barnstable Historic Society where we were quite impressed by their collections and the organized way they were displayed.  Some of their highlights focused on early Cape Cod history, early industry on the Cape, and maritime history of Barnstable residents.

One of the missions of this society is to support the history of the Cape - this was an excellent opportunity to present a donation to their docent.

DCCI members presenting Betsy the Docent with our donation
Then we walked across the street to the Sturgis library.  This serves as the public library for residents of Barnstable, but we were most interested in the older part of the building.  The original portion of the building was built in 1644 for Rev. John Lothrop, one of the first residents on the Cape (and a qualifying ancestor).  This houses the library's considerable genealogical collection.  Admittedly, several members were paying more attention to the bookshelves, than to our guide's description of the building.  We presented them with a donation as well.

Treasurer Sue Gray and President Shari Worrell present Lucy a check for the Sturgis library
The high point of the evening was our banquet and speaker.  He was Richard Pickering from Plimouth plantation.  He told about some of the research at the plantation and a little about several of the Mayflower passengers who also owned land on the Cape.

our speaker Richard Pickering
When he put on the hat, he took on the persona of Stephen Hopkins.  He gave a fascinating first person interpretation, including speaking in the dialect and accent of 1620.  He advised one young man not to marry too soon.  He chided a female attendee for knowing how to read.

"Stephen Hopkins"
All in all it was a fascinating weekend and I look forward to returning next year.

Registrar Kimberly Nagy and President Shari Worrell with our banquet speaker.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Society Saturday - Hamilton's Women

I recently attended a high tea for one of the area DAR chapters.  They had a fabulous speaker, Dr. Leslie Goddard. I have heard her speak before, and have always enjoyed her programs.

Dr. Goddard specializes in first person interpretations of historic females. This presentation was depicting the Schuyler sister who were related to Alexander Hamilton. They are seen in the hit musical "Hamilton", and we learned more about the lives of these women than what is in the play.

We primarily heard from Elisabeth, or "Eliza", who was married to Alexander Hamilton.  She told of meeting him, marrying him, and having 8 of his children.

Leslie them switched gears (or hats) to depict Eliza's sister Angelica .  She talked of her admiration for her brother-in-law, and complained a little about her husband John Church, who she admitted was a little dull. 

We also briefly heard from Eliza's younger sister Peggy who told about growing up in a revolutionary family with British loyalists ready to destroy them.

Back to Eliza, who disclosed some details of her husband's affair with Maria Robinson. Finally, she talked about how it felt to lose first her son, then her husband in a duel. Since then she made it her life's work to tell the story of how patriotic he was.

All in all, it was a very interesting program.  I learned more about one of our founding fathers.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Society Saturday - Washington in 1812

Following the Fall board meeting of the U.S. Daughters of 1812, we toured some 1812 sites in Washington, D.C.

Our group made 3 stops to Federal period homes in the district.  We learned a lot about that style of architecture and furnishings - symmetry, columns, textile designs, etc.

All 3 homes had ties to important people of the era.

The Octagon House was designed by William Thornton, the first architect of the U.S. Capitol for the Tayloe family.  They used it as a winter home and would rent it out to government officials in the summer.  During the summer of 1814, it was rented out to the French minister.  When the British started burning the city, they could not touch the home because it would be viewed as an act of war against France, with whom they recently had reached a peace accord.  When President and Mrs. Madison returned to the city after the battle, they stayed at the home.  Dolley would entertain in the fashionable parlor and dining room.  President James Madison signed the Treaty of Ghent in the upstairs office of this building, officially ending the War of 1812.

Plaque placed by U.S.D.1812

Replica of the Drum desk used to sign the Treaty

Tudor Place was built for Martha Custis Peter, granddaughter of Martha Washington.  The home was kept in the family for 178 years.  We enjoyed walking around the period-style gardens and partook of high tea while we were there.

This is a view of the Dell in the gardens.  

The Dumbarton house is currently owned by the National Society Colonial Dames of America.  The home was owned by Joseph Nourse, first Register of the U.S. Treasury.  It is said that Dolley Madison was a frequent visitor.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Those Places Thursday - Visiting Pomona

I was recently in southern California for a board meeting and realized that I was very close to where my great-great-grandparents had lived - and died.  I had visited their gravesite several years ago and decided to go back and pay my respects.

George W. Wiley and Susan Mumford Wiley moved to Pomona, California sometime in 1904-1905.  They are enumerated there in 1910 - living at 925 N. Garey St., Pomona, CA. 

Susan died at home in 1916 - same address - from cerebral hemorrhage. (from her obituary and death certificate).

George died at home - the same address - in 1920  from bronchitis and chronic gastritis (from his obituary and death certificate).

I have a couple of pictures of them standing outside of their home.  These pictures were taken at different times, but one shows the address "925" above the door.

I was hoping to see the house they lived in - almost 100 years later.  I found the address easily on my gps - it is a fairly main street in Pomona.  When my gps announced that I had arrived, I looked up and saw....

A taco restaurant.  Oh well...

Unfortunately it appears that the Wiley home had been torn down in favor of businesses.  Next door was a flower shop, and a currency exchange, with a tax accountant and an auto repair shop nearby.  Sadly, no remnant of their house existed.

I had better luck at the cemetery.  After a quick stop in the office for directions, I easily found their graves.

The cemetery is a very peaceful little spot in the middle of town.  In the distance is Mt. San Antonio, and there are palm trees all around.  All of the stones seemed to be well maintained.   

George W. Wiley
Born Nov. 29, 1838 - Died Jan. 1, 1920
Vet. Co. B., 2nd Ill. L.A.
Susan Mumford
wife of G. W. Wiley
Born April 4, 1844
Died Jan. 15, 1916

Upper right corner of the base - 
"Our Comrade Soldier 61-65"

Monday, October 02, 2017

Amanuensis Monday - "Good Morning old Comrard"

"Good Morning old Comrard" is the salutation of a letter written on 19 March 1916 from G.W. Wiley to William Hill.

It was written from George Wiley who was living in Pomona, CA to his friend William Hill in Casey, IL.  George's daughter Nancy Jane Wiley had been married to William's son Charles.

These two old friends were in their 70's at the time (both having been born in 1838).  They had both served in the Illinois Infantry - George in the 73rd, William in the 59th - during the Civil War, and had both been present at the battle of Missionary Ridge in 1863.


It is easy to imagine two older gentlemen talking about their health, their families, and reminiscing about their "glory days" when you read this letter.  George talks about his health, asks about William's health.  He reminisces about a visit from his friends to California and talks about the crops.  He also mentions how "lonesom" he is after losing his wife Susan (in January 1916).  William can probably sympathize since he was widowed 2 years earlier.

For more details about George Wiley and his friend William Hill, see their individual posts.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Church Records Sunday - who was the father?

I have been working on my Guilford County NC ancestors recently and was looking for infomation about them in the "Buffalo Presbyterian Church Session Minutes" - film #8185994 on

Most of the nearly 600 images on this film consist of basic church operations - how much to pay the minister, how much money was raised for the new church building, etc.  There are several membership lists, and a few lists of baptisms.  This information, of course, is very useful.
The earliest years (1777-1788) were the most fun to read, with discussions of who was seen to be publicly drunk, and who might have said something slanderous.

One of the interesting discussions involved my ancestor William Burney -  summarized here (numbers in parentheses refer to witnesses, discussed below):

Dec. 18, 1779 -

- William Burney was charged by Jane Burney as being the father of her child, which he denies.

- Elizabeth Wily (1) said Jane Burney declared to her "in her sickness" that William Burney, John Burney's son, was the father of her child.  and the thinks the child was before the full time.

- Martha Lecky (2) said she asked Jane Burney who was the father of the child and she told her it was William Burney and that "it was got" on his father's loft on a Saturday night.

- John Burney (3) said he and his wife were at Charles Burney's (4) on the last evening of September 1776, and it was born overnight and buried.  He also said that "he hath not been a Saturday night from but two for eight years past and one of them his son William was with him, the other was the latter end of March the same year before the child was born."

- Katharine Burney (5) said that Jane Burney was not at their house on Saturday night for twelve months before that child was born, nor any other night during that time except one between the 17th and 20th of March that year.  She did not observe any particular familiarity between her son and Jane Burney.

- Elizabeth Burney (6) said she heard Jane Burney tell her brother William the morning after the child was born that it was got one Saturday night on his father's loft.  She also said that she always slept with Jane Burney when she lay at their house and never knew her brother come to the bed where they were.

- Robert Burney (7) said he did not remember Jane Burney being at their house on any night but the one mentioned for twelve months before the child was born, and it was a Sabbath night.

The Session determined unanimously to refer it to the Presbytery the following February.  (those session records are not included on this film.)

So, who are these various deponents?

William Burney was my 4th great-grandfather.  My ancestor was his daughter Mary, born ca 1778, who married Thomas Wiley.  She was the daughter of his first wife, name unknown.
William was born ca 1756 in Dobbs Co, NC and died ca 1823 in Guilford Co NC.

William was the son of John Burney and Catherine Lackey. (#3 and #5) - 

John and Catherine Lackey Burney had the following children:
William Burney (born ca 1756) - the accused father
John Burney Jr. (born ca 1761)
Elizabeth Burney (#6)
Rebecca Burney
Robert Burney (#7)
Samuel Burney
Mary Burney
David Burney
Joseph Burney
Catherine Burney

Catherine Lackey Burney  was the daughter of William and Rebecca Lackey.  Catherine's sister Mary Lackey married Charles Burney. (#4 - father of Jane)
Charles and Mary Lackey Burney had children:
William Burney
Rebecka Burney
Jane Burney - the accuser
Robert Burney
Adam Burney

so, it appears that Jane was accusing her first cousin of "familiarity" in "his father's loft".

I am not sure who Martha Lecky (#2) was - she was most likely related to Catherine and Mary, the mothers of the cousins involved.

Similarly, there are many Wileys in the area during that time, many of whom are my ancestors.  Elizabeth (#1) may have been extended family, or a neighbor who was present as a midwife.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Society Saturday - General Grant

At a recent joint meeting of three organizations we were honored to be visited by General Ulysses S. Grant himself.  He told us how he doesn't usually like to make speeches but he made an exception for us.

His story focused on his 1863 visit to Washington DC where he met with President Abraham Lincoln to receive his promotion to 3 star general and commander of the entire army.  He explained to Lincoln that he planned to win the Civil War by engaging the Confederate Army at several locations at the same time since the north had the advantage of more men and more supplies.  Lincoln likened his plan to shearing sheep - 4 men to hold the legs while one man does the actual shearing.

His plan worked and soon the south was ready to surrender.  Lincoln agreed with his plan to allow the rebels to keep their horses and mules since they weren't military property, and allow them to return home since the prisons were already full.  They felt that this would help the country heal.

During the surrender ceremony, the confederates laid down their weapons.  The union army actually saluted them as they did so, since they understood all the sacrifices they had made to fight for what they believed in.

He described that there were several aims of victory from the Civil War.  The most well known are re-unification of this country and freeing the slaves.  Other aims were to allow westward expansion via the homestead act and building the railroad- both of which had been placed on hold when money and manpower was diverted to the war effort.  Overall, the Civil War provided a Trial of Democracy that proved our country could endure because of the government system in place.

General Grant was actually portrayed by Larry Werline, a first-person reenactor.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Society Saturday - Pere Marquette State Park

The State meeting of the Colonial Dames 17th Century was held at the Pere Marquette State Park outside of Grafton, Illinois.  This is a site along the Mississippi River a little north of the St. Louis area.

The meeting was held in the lodge of the same name.  This lodge was a rustic building built in the 1930's by the Civilian Conservation Corps .  It had wooden beams and fireplaces.  There was a large lobby with chess sets and ample seating.

The reason that we met there was to dedicate a state marking at the site.  This site was visited by Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet in 1673 when they were exploring Illinois.  They traveled from Canada across Lake Michigan and Wisconsin and down the Mississippi.  It was near this site that they met a group of friendly Indians and learned that the Mississippi Rive actually flowed all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

The state Society placed a plaque which states:
Pere Jacques Marquette
In 1673 Father (Pere) Jacques Marquette, Missionary Priest, and Louis Jolliet, Fur Trader, left Canada to explore the Mississippi River.  They returned by the Illinois river, passing near this area.  Their travels covered four months and 2500 miles.

There is a statue of Pere Marquette just behind the marker we placed.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Society Saturday - Grandma's Aprons

Our recent Branch meeting of NSSDP featured a woman who had an apron collection.

She brought several of the aprons with her and told of the uses of each.

There was the everyday apron - used for wiping hands when cooking, held as a potholder to pull pans from the oven, could dry the tears and wipe the noses of her children.

Some aprons would cover the bodice as well as the skirt - these would be used for dirtier jobs, like deep housecleaning or gardening.

There was a fancy serving apron - this was never used when cooking, but was donned right before company rang the doorbell.

There was a holiday apron - usually with a Christmas design - that  would only appear in December.

Of course, there were a few aprons that were traditionally worn by men - these included a utility apron that would hold tools and other hardware, and of course, the barbecue apron that was worn when grilling.

Do you have any aprons that tell a story?

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Society Saturday - Colonial Music

Our entertainment at the recent state meeting of the Daughters of the American Colonists was on the history of music in the colonies.

Sharon and Debbie are two retired music teachers who have researched the topic extensively.  They sang and played the piano with examples of different types of music.

Early colonial music centered on the two most popular topics of the day - religion and politics.  Political topics were primarily things occuring in mother England.  Religious tunes  were biblical psalms set to music, and some early Christmas Carols.

Most songs originated in England and were brought over by the colonists. One of the first songs that they found that originated here was "Invitation to North America".  This tune advertised the abundant land and easy wealth that colonists could find here.  As with most advertisements, this song was somewhat embellished.

In the 18th century, more secular songs became popular and would tell the news of the day or discuss different ways of life, such as that of indentured servants or sea shantys.  Penny broadsides were often set to music as a proponent of certain political views.

Along these lines, political satires and parodies were popular.  One example was "Sons of Liberty" a response to the Stamp Act.  And of course, one of the most famous political tunes of the American Revolution was "Yankee Doodle".

It was very interesting to learn about some of this country's earliest music.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Society Saturday - Wreaths Across America

We were honored to welcome the President General, National Society Daughters of the Union to our John Butler Chapter meeting.  PG Kitty Humphrey is a Veteran, having served in both the Army and the Marine Corps.  She is extremely passionate about Veterans as well as honoring the Flag of the U.S.A., both of which were apparent during our meeting.

Kitty spoke passionately about one of her National projects - Wreaths Across America.  Many patriotic organizations participate in this project, including some of the other organizations I belong to.

She gave the history of Wreaths Across America, which I hadn't heard before:
The organization was started in 1992 when Morrill Worcester, of Harrington Maine had a surplus of wreaths at his company.  He thought back to a childhood visit he had made to Arlington National Cemetery and decided to donate those wreaths to decorate the graves of our veterans.  A local trucking company volunteered to transport the wreaths, and several other volunteers helped by tying on red bows and placing the wreaths on graves.

They continued to do this every year until 2005 when a photograph of the wreaths on the grave stones went viral.  Suddenly, many others wanted to place wreaths across the country.  Worcester donated 7 wreaths to each state, representing each of the branches of service, as well as POW's and MIA's.

In 2006, wreaths were laid on the same day in over 150 locations, and interest continued to grow.

In 2007, the Wreaths Across America was officially founded as a 501(c)(3) organization.  Their mission is to "Remember, Honor and Teach".

By 2014, over 700,000 wreaths were placed in cemeteries across the U.S.A., as well as locations such as Bunker Hill and the site of the 9-11 attacks.  Every grave at Arlington National Cemetery (over 226,000) had a wreath.  Over 2000 organizations participated in fund raising and placing the wreaths, and it continues to grow.

The organization believes in the motto that "A person dies twice, once when they take their last breath, and again when their name is spoken for the last time."  Because of this, their name is spoken as the wreath is placed on their grave.

The actual wreath laying occurs every December - the next one will be on December 16, 2017.