Sunday, November 20, 2011

Grandma Goldie's Mincemeat Pie

The photo above is my dad's family - from left George Dunn, daughter Lucille, unknown boy, wife Goldie holding son Vonda, and two unknown children on the far right. Grandpa George's family lived with a farmer named Smiser near Trafalgar, Indiana and helped work on his farm. Grandma Goldie cooked and took care of the farmer's children. The children in the photo were Smisers.

Why is it that the way we cook today never quite tastes as good as when we were growing up. My grandmother, Goldie Dunn made the best Mincemeat Pies every Thanksgiving and Christmas. That's one of the things I miss from both my grandmothers, they were the best cooks. I've often wondered how far back their recipes came from. I know a lot of home-cooking was handed down from mother to daughter and much of it was never written down. I've tried store-bought versions and I just can't quite take a liking to them. I'm going to give you a version of Goldie's recipe for Mincemeat Pie. This is the one she used and some of the measurements are missing. I experimented with the amount of meat, usually beef, and I like a little less vinegar - apple cider vinegar is best.

meat, chopped (abt. 2 cups from my trials)
6 lbs. apples
4 boxes raisins
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. allspice
1 pint vinegar
2 1/2 cups sugar

Pick the cooked meat off the bone, put in pan. Put raisins in a pan with water and bring to boil for 10 minutes. Drain, put raisins in pan with meat. Add sugar, vinegar, salt, cinnamon, and allspice. Peel apples and cut them in thin slices. Add apples to mixture. Cook all for one hour. (You can freeze or can mixture.) Put mixture in pie shell with a top and bottom crust. Bake pie at 450 for 30 minutes.

Grandma Goldie would make a big batch at a time and can it all. Then she would send some home with my dad, so he could make us a pie once in a while. Me and my dad could sit down and eat a whole pie in a day or two. Thank goodness the rest of our family didn't want much of it!

Golda "Goldie" Edith Roberts, born 1899, was the oldest daughter of Joseph Roberts and Nancy Eunice Crouch. Her mother died rather young and that left Goldie to do the cooking for her dad and her four brothers - Ora, Basil, George, and Elmer. Joseph remarried a year later to Frances Harden. So Goldie got some relief from taking care of her younger brothers. I don't know if this recipe for Mincemeat was handed down from her mother, Nancy or her step-mother, Frances. The family says her step-mother took really good care of all the children and really took Goldie under her wing. They all had the best memories of Frances. It's a shame none of them can remember much of Nancy, except Goldie. She really loved her mother.

Joe and Frances had five more children together. The children that survived into adulthood were: Dolly, Clarence, Carson, Warren, and Eva. All are gone now except Eva, she still puts on the family reunion every year. Thanks to great aunt Eva a lot of the old family photos have survived and she's been very generous to share with all of us. The Roberts-Skinner Reunion is always the Sunday after the Labor Day weekend at Brown County State Park. We still have a lot of good cooks in the family!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Historical Context - One Way to Connect

I think this is usually the way it goes with new genealogists, at least it was with me. You usually spend the first few years in a mad dash to get your family lines as far back as you can go until you either hit a brick wall or have to wait for a time when you can cross a geographical boundary to get to the records. At least that's where I'm at right now. Doing genealogy on my family lines for about 10 years now and I've hit both these walls. What do you do in the mean time while you're waiting. Well, I've been doing a stint as a volunteer look-up for other genealogist which incidentally helps hone my own research skills. I ended up working in our local archives which gives me more time handling old records - all types of old records. So I'm getting experience there also. I don't want to stop doing research on my own family. So I pick up a family file once in a while and look back through it to see if I can take any new skills I've learned and apply them to my family research. Also, are there any new sources that have opened up on the internet recently on these family lines?

From my two recent trips to Kentucky I've been a little more open to the history of the places my family came from. After I got all the names and dates copied then I spent the last few hours studying the history of the old home places. This has been my latest pastime, putting my ancestors into an historical context. I got to look at a fascinating history of a river town, Burnside, on the Cumberland River. I drove around the county getting an idea of how the countryside lay. Stopping by an antique shop I picked up a copy of a free history newspaper, The Historical News, by Southern Historical News Inc. It's a free little newspaper that covers the counties of Adair, Casey, Clinton, Lincoln, McCreary, Pulaski, Russell, Taylor, and Wayne. I wonder if they have versions of this paper for other parts of Kentucky? It has articles covering topics in all these counties. I have family lines that come from six of these counties. So that was quite a find.

I don't have photos of these family lines in Kentucky. So putting them in historical context gives me a feel for what their life might have been like from reading the area's history. I guess being a genealogist involves study of history. We've all read stories of the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, but there is so much more out there. Even little stories of the old homeplaces are interesting even when they involve your family or even if it just their neighbors. It still gives you a feeling of touching their life for a short time. I've heard so many little tales in our family of what this great aunt did or where did that great uncle dissappear to or what happened to the children after the parents died. If you know the history of the area and their customs involving dealing with situations like this it can really narrow down the choices they might have made in this time in history.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Migration through Kentucky

Wolf Creek Dam on Lake Cumberland and the Cumberland River.

We recently had a program at our local society meeting on “Researching our Kentucky Ancestors.” After all, where did at least half of Indiana’s early pioneers come from or pass through to get to Indiana - Kentucky! The other half had to come through Ohio, the only two states bordering Indiana to the south and east. From Ohio it is relatively safe to assume that most came down the Ohio River to get to Indiana. That was the fastest and easiest transportation at that time. But this usually doesn’t come to mind when researching migration from Kentucky, a rugged and hilly land.

We took a map of Kentucky and everyone at the meeting put a pin in the counties that their ancestor had first settled in. Our thought was that we could share research resources and strategies in case two or more people had ancestors in the same area. We could share information on county records, where the local libraries were, etc. But when we put the map up during our discussion we all had an “a ha!” moment. All the counties that we marked fell in a distinct pattern. All the pins on the map started at the Cumberland Gap and almost all of them followed the course of one of two main rivers, the Kentucky River and the Cumberland River. Remember that the Cumberland Gap was the only trail that was passable for pioneers at that time coming into Kentucky from other states. Then something else occurred to us. What if you can’t find very much on your ancestor in the county you know they lived in? Then the next thing to try is the neighboring county that is directly down or upriver. This can apply to any state in the beginnings of our pioneer ancestor’s westward migration.

This is what happened to my Kentucky ancestors. I'm not an expert but it seems either the river was their principle transportation and/or the river valleys produced the best land for settlement. The principle area my Guffeys and Conners came from was the Cumberland River valley. Many of their stories came with some sort of reference to the river in their life. My mother was born on Indian Creek which is a branch off the Cumberland. My grandfather and her father, Alonzo Conner, applied for a job on the Rowena Ferry. I have his rejection letter saying they didn't need any help at the time. My greatgrandfather, Lewis Taylor Guffey's death record says he is buried in a River Grave. That's another mystery I may never solve.

Rowena Ferry at Burnside, Pulaski County.

I was talking to a cousin a few years ago about the whereabouts of the children of a great uncle and his wife that both had died prematurely - Claude and Ermine Guffey. She said she could remember the three children had been put on the ferry and were sent to live in Missouri with their other grandparents. All these references to the river in their life made me have a new outlook on my research. All these ancestors lives were directly or indirectly influenced by the river. Their lives were influenced by their environment. This had never occurred to me before. My ancestors were more than just names and dates. They did more than just live in a log cabin somewhere out in the wilderness. Environment had a profound effect on their lives.

I was contemplating why my great grand aunt, Rachel Terry, had moved to Burnside in Pulaski county. It just occurred to me after my research trip last week that the area they moved to was just down river from their home county. Burnside was a bustling river town at the time. They probably just hopped on the ferry and rode downriver to an area where the menfolk could get jobs. You know how experts say "historical context" is important in discovering your ancestors. I say the environment had a little more important effect on their lives. Whenever you can't find anything to round out a family history take a look at their environment. Collect information on local features, the local towns, the rivers and byways, was it mountainous or flat farmland. Did they live along the coast or in dry arid states and what was that like? Collect information on the invironment and you'll begin to understand what their life was like.