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Posted in Baking With My Ancestors

1-2-3-4 Cake

What if I told you that the saying isn’t “easy as pie” but “easy as 1-2-3-4 cake”? You don’t believe me? Well, maybe that isn’t the saying, but baking this cake is as easy as pie. Oh, and for the record, I don’t believe at all that making a pie is easy, but that’s another post for another day.

The History

If you’ve never heard of a 1-2-3-4 cake, that’s okay. It’s really just a basic yellow cake with chocolate frosting. The cake was given its name thanks to the number of ingredients that it required; 1 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, 3 cups flour, and 4 eggs. The recipe is believed to have written down somewhere in the mid-1850s and really took off in the 1870s. Over the years, there have been some tweaks, including the addition of leavening agents. The recipe that I am sharing today is about as basic as they come. It is courtesy of the “American Cake” cookbook by Anne Byrn.

The Cake Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 cups cake flour (make sure to use cake flour…it makes a difference!)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

The Baking of the Cake

  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350F. Grease two 9″ round cake pans with butter and dust with flour. Shake out the excess flour, and set pans aside.
  2. Place the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl, and blend with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each is well incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Set aside.
  3. Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium-size bowl. Add a third of the flour mixture to the butter and sugar, beating on low speed until incorporated. Add half of the milk, and blend, then another third of the flour mixture, then the rest of the milk, and finally the remaining flour mixture and vanilla and blend until combined and smooth, 30 seconds.
  4. Divide the batter between the 2 prepared pans, and smooth the tops. Place the pans in the oven, and bake until they are lightly browned on top and the cake springs back when lightly pressed in the center, 25 to 30 minutes.
  5. Place the pans on wire racks to cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pans and give the pans a gentle shake to release the cake. Invert the layers once and then again so they rest right side up on the racks to cool completely, 30 minutes.

The Frosting Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) lightly salted butter
  • 4 heaping tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

The Making of the Frosting

  1. Place the butter in a medium-size saucepan (I actually used one a bit larger) over low heat. When the butter melts, stir in the cocoa and milk. Let the mixture come just to a boil, stirring, and then remove the pan from heat. (If the mixture starts to separate, take it off the heat and proceed to the next step.)
  2. Stir in the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla until the frosting is thickened and smooth.

*Frosting note – I found that one batch was not enough to frost the entire cake. The frosting is best used still warm. I suggest making one back to frost the bottom layer and sides, then another batch for the top layer and sides.

Assembling the Cake

Place 1 layer on a cake plate or platter. Spoon frosting over the top. Place the second later on top, and frost the top and sides of the cake. Slice and serve!

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Posted in Genealogy 101

Researching Jewish Life

If you have been following along with the Intro to Jewish Genealogy series, you should now have a good idea of how to figure out your ancestors’ name and how to find their immigration records. Now, it’s time to dig deeper into their life. There is nothing better than connecting to your ancestor though one of their stories. It is much easier to find a piece of yourself if you have a better understanding of who they were.

Today’s blog post is going to go deeper into Jewish life and how the documents generated can be valuable to your family history research. Not just in Jewish life, but think about all the documents you touch every day. We are leaving a trail for our descends to find out without even realizing it! Your Jewish ancestors did the same thing.

Researching Synagogues

If you know the synagogue that your ancestor attended, you are in luck! Synagogues are full of documents with vital genealogy information. The most relevant documents include naming ceremony records, Bar/Bat Mitzvah records, marriage records, and burial records. If you are researching a synagogue in a small town/city, then ask for their member lists. This will give you a time frame of when your ancestor lived in the area. If they stayed in that particular town for a while, you may be able to trace the growth of their family. One of the lesser known, but no less important, is synagogue newsletters. They are full of Jewish life stories! You may find a personal story of one of your ancestors. At the very least, you will get an idea of the area they lived in and they people they knew.

New York Hebrew Burial Record – 1914-1915

If you not so lucky to know the synagogue that your ancestors attended, don’t give up just yet. Ask the older members of your family if they remember where relatives attended. If that doesn’t work, do not be afraid to reach out to a synagogue directly. This is especially true if you know the general vicinity of where your ancestor lived.

If you need a little extra help, The Center for Jewish History has a quick guide for finding synagogue records.

Researching Hebrew Schools

The obvious place to look for your ancestors when researching Hebrew schools is the yearbook. Especially during your ancestors’ senior year, a yearbook gives a perfect snapshot of what their school life was like. Much like researching synagogues, Hebrew schools tended to have their own newsletters. Both yearbooks and newsletters are a great place to find a more personal side of you ancestor.

Yeshiva University High School for Boys 1938 Yearbook (New York)

If you are having trouble locating the school your ancestor may have attended there are a few options. Ancestry has a yearbooks database for all schools, not just Hebrew schools. If you select “card catalog” in the search menu, then search “yearbooks” in the title box, you should see “U.S., School Yearbooks, 1900-1999”. Click there and then you have multiple ways to search. You can type in your ancestors name and any additional information you have. If that doesn’t work, on the right side of the page, you can browse by state, city, school name, and year.

In case Ancestry doesn’t have what you are looking for, and you know the school that your ancestor attended, reach out to the school directly. Some schools have their own archives and will be more than happy to help you. For schools that don’t have an archive, many will be able to point you in the direction that you will need to go in order to find more about your ancestor. Either way, there is always someone to help you discover more about your ancestor’s school days.

Researching Jewish Newspapers

Newspapers are one of my favorite places to discover the lives of my ancestors. When researching, and I’ve hit a dead end, I turn to newspapers. All aspects of life are represented from birth to death and the same is true for Jewish life.

There are two websites that have an extensive collections of newspapers. I use both Newspapers.com and Genealogybank.com to search for stories. Both are subscription based search engines that you can search either a name, location, or a specific newspaper.

In my research, I was not able to find a Jewish specific database for newspapers. Like other aspects of research, Google seems to be your friend on this one. However, I did come across a project by the German-language newspaper, Aufbau. It’s not very user friendly, and the paper itself is in German, but you are able to search names and see where they appear in the paper. The paper did publish lists of Jewish holocaust survivors from September 1944 to September 27, 1946.

Page from Aufbau Newspaper, May 1942

Researching Jewish Societies

If all else fails, reach out to Jewish Societies. These organization are a wealth of information regarding Jewish life. If they don’t have what you are looking for, I can almost guarantee that they will know someone who does! There are several genealogical/historical societies that may be of help, including;

  • Federation of East European Family History Societies
  • Jewish Genealogical Society of New York
  • JewishGen
  • International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies
  • American Jewish Historical Society
  • Landsmannschaften (Societies of Fellow Immigrants)

When looking for a society, you should also look local. Many small town and counties have their own genealogical/historical societies. If you know where your ancestor lived, and especially if they lived in a predominantly Jewish area, it’s a good chance that they will have something to help you on your journey.

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Posted in Weekend Update

Weekend Update – June 13

Happy June, everyone! Okay, I know it is really mid-June at this point, but the way this year is flying by, I’m still at the beginning of the month! Haha! This weekend, I have sprinkled in watching some football, Euros 2020 to be exact, with my genealogy. Who says you can’t multi-task?! It’s been a while since I updated you on what I’m working on. There is a lot going on and some super fun stuff coming to the blog!

What’s Happening Now

If you following any of my social media accounts, you probably already know that I was asked to be a guest on The Kilted American podcast. That episode “Heritage to Adventure” is out today! To say I’m excited would be an understatement. I can’t think of anything else I would rather do than talk about my two favorite things…genealogy and Scotland. Give it a listen and I hope you have as much fun listening as I did recording!

Part One (Jewish Names) and Part Two (Jewish Immigration) of the Into to Jewish Genealogy series are both on the blog. Part Three, Jewish Life, will be up this week. I’ll be talking about some of the genealogy gems that can be found in every day documents. Also, the series Genealogy 101, will take on marriage records this week. I’ll share some of my research tips and how newspapers may be where the marriages are hiding.

Also, coming to the blog this week, I’ll have another “Baking With My Ancestors” and “Places To Visit” pieces. As always, if you have a suggestion on something to bake or something to see, send me an email! I’d love to hear from you!

What Is Coming Soon?

I have a lot, and I mean a lot, of fun topics that I want to bring to the blog. This month, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite ancestor stories regarding the darker side of genealogy. I’m talking about crime and deceit. Who ever said that genealogy was boring was seriously mistaken!

I am also in the planning stages of doing a live bake-a-long next month. I’m going to take one of my upcoming “Baking With My Ancestors” recipes and do it live. Even better, you can bake along with me! I’m still working out the details of where to host it (FB live, Zoom, etc) and when to host it (day/time). Make sure you are following on social media so you won’t miss out!

If you caught this weekend’s post, then you know my new love affair with Clubhouse. This week, I’ll be hosting my first room, “Genealogy Power Hour”. It will be this Thursday, June 17, at 7pm (Central). Come talk about all things genealogy and maybe find some help with that brick wall!

What Am I Working On?

I have found myself in a rabbit hole of Royal Scottish genealogy. As you know, I am planning a trip to Scotland next year and I’ve been on a mission to find my Scottish ancestors. Like many of us with Scottish ancestry, I have made my way to Robert the Bruce and his descendants. This weekend I have been engrossed in medieval Scotland looking for my ancestors. You can expect a full blog post on my endeavor!

I would love to hear what you have been working on this weekend. Have you found yourself falling down some rabbit holes?

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Posted in Genealogy 101

Let’s Go To the Club(house)

If you’re like me, when you think of genealogy you totally think of going clubbing. No? That’s just me? Well, let me change your mind. The social media platform, Clubhouse, is changing how we interact with other genealogist and bringing the love of history to a younger generation. If you are not familiar with Clubhouse, let me explain a few things.

What is Clubhouse?

According to the Clubhouse website, it is

a new type of social network based on voice—where people around the world come together to talk, listen and learn from each other in real-​time.

For me, I like to think of it as a live podcast without having to physically go somewhere and sit in an audience. Clubhouse has different “rooms” that each have their own topic. The topics come in a wide range and you can find just about anything that you’re looking for. Each room has at least one moderator, or host. It is their job to keep the conversation moving and somewhat focused. Let’s be real, when you have several people in a conversation, sometimes it hard to stay on topic.

Joining the Club

At the moment, Clubhouse is invitation only. That means you have to know someone who is already in Clubhouse to allow you in. Invitations are pretty easy to come by once you are in Clubhouse. You receive invites to give as soon as you join. Then, you accumulate invitations along the way. If anyone is ready to join, let me know. I have seven to pass out!

Getting On Stage

After joining a room on Clubhouse, you have two options. You can stay in the audience and just listen or you can join in conversation. To join a conversation, all you have to do is hit the “raise hand” button. This will alert the moderator that you wish to join in. The moderator will let you up onto the stage. You may have to wait a bit to actually begin speaking (make sure to unmute yourself!) because moderators can bring you up on stage at any time. The members of Clubhouse appreciate manners, so try not to interrupt and always be polite.

Club Hopping

Within Clubhouse, there are individuals for you to follow, as well as clubs to join. By joining a club, it puts you in contact with others who are interested in the same topic as you. It’s a great way to connect and networks. Also, on the club pages, it will give you some of the upcoming rooms. Keep an eye out for the “bell” button. You can find this on both individual and club pages. By selecting the “bell” button, you will then receive notifications on when that particular individual/club is in a room. Don’t be afraid to join all the clubs that you are interested in. That way, you won’t miss anything!

Genealogy and Clubhouse

I really believe that Clubhouse can be the future of genealogy. The genealogy rooms that I have attended are genre specific and hosted by moderators who know what they are talking about. Clubhouse is a great way to learn tips and tricks that others use in their research. It also allows you to pick the brains of other genealogists who may be able to help you break down a brick wall. I have found Clubhouse a great way to network with other genealogists and those who are in careers that use genealogists.

If you’re on Clubhouse, or decide to join, look for my club “The Cool Genealogy Club”. I want it to be a place where we can hang out, talk all things genealogy, and maybe help each other break down a brick wall…or two!

The Cool Genealogy Club logo on Clubhouse
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Posted in Places To Visit

Places To Visit – Glendalough

Now that the world is starting to open back up, I thought it would be the perfect time to highlight some of my favorite places to travel.  These places include archives/libraries, historical places, cemeteries, and some of my favorite ancestor related places.  Basically, no place, be it big or small, local or international, is off limits.  Also, if you know of a place that I should talk about, let me know!

In today’s post, we’re visiting Glendalough, County Wicklow, Ireland. This is by far my favorite place in all of Ireland. The scenery, the atmosphere, and the history were all amazing! While I have no genealogical connection to this area of Ireland, visiting still hit me right in my history loving heart.

The History

For those who are not familiar with Glendalough, let me explain it’s significance. Located in the Wicklow Mountains, Glendalough is home to one of the most important monastic sites in Ireland. Founded in the 6th Century by St. Kevin, this area was a “monastic city” where many came to live and learn. The city itself flourished until 1214 when it was destroyed by Norman invaders. Many of the original buildings from the 10th and 12th centuries survived and visitors are able to walk in the footsteps of the monks who lived there.

St. Kevin’s Church at Glendalough

The Personal Connection

For me, Glendalough and the Wicklow Mountains were more than just home to a medieval city. While driving to Glendalough from Dublin, I began to realize with my ancestors settled where they did when they came to America. You see, the majority of my ancestors came to America in the early to mid 1600s. While they started their journey on the shores of Virginia and North Carolina, many ended up in the Appalachian Mountains. Specifically, they settled in the Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee.

The Wicklow Mountains

The day I visited Glendalough, the weather was foggy with a light drizzle. I felt very much that I was back “home” in the East Tennessee mountains. It was an unexpected ancestral connection. I came to Glendalough because it was one of the top places to visit in Ireland. I left feeling like I had a better understanding of who my ancestors were. While not specifically from County Wicklow, I have Irish ancestors and while standing on the banks of the Upper Lake (at Glendalough), I felt like I had come home.

Things To See

There are so many things to see at Glendalough besides the 10th Century ruins. I highly recommend going though the heritage center before visiting the ruins. It gives you a better understanding of who St. Kevin was, why people followed him, and how they lived. When you know the stories, it makes walking though the ruins all the more impactful.

My friends and I standing in the ruins of Glendalough Cathedral

Don’t miss St. Kevin’s Cross! The cross’ arms are over 3 Feet across while the cross itself is over 8 Feet tall. There is also a legend that surrounds the cross. The story goes that whoever can wrap their arms around the body of the cross and touch their fingertips, will have all their dreams come true. I tried it…and I wasn’t even close!

My attempt at getting my arms around St. Kevin’s Cross

After walking the ruins, take your time going through the cemetery. Even though I didn’t have any ancestors buried there, it was very interesting to read the names and inscriptions on the headstones. Take your time and soak it all in.

Lastly, do not miss walking the short trail to the Upper Lake. Even with dreary weather, it was an amazing view. I literally could have stood there all day! Also, if you’ve ever seen the movie “Leap Year”, the wedding scenes take place at Glendalough.

For More Information

If you would like more information about Glendalough, visit their website at https://www.glendalough.ie/

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Posted in Baking With My Ancestors

Scottish Shortbread

I’ll be the first to admit that lately I’ve been slightly obsessed with my Scottish heritage. I’ve always been proud of my 32% Scotland on my AncestryDNA results. When I deciding where I wanted to travel in 2022, Scotland was at the top of my list for that reason. So, to prepare, why not dive right in to my Scottish-ness (that’s a word, right?). Therefore, today I’m baking Scottish Shortbread with my Scottish ancestors.

The History

Scottish Shortbread got its start under the name “biscuit bread”. This “bread” was a result of leftover dough from bread making. It was dried out in a low oven which resulted in it being called a biscuit, which means “twice cooked”. Eventually the cooks realized they were onto something and replaced the yeast in the bread dough with butter and shortbread was born. Scottish historians attribute the popularity of Scottish Shortbread to Mary, Queen of Scots who was very fond of Petticoat Tails. These biscuits were a thin, crisp, buttery shortbread originally flavored with caraway seeds.

The Process

When looking for a recipe for Scottish Shortbread, I hit all the predictable cookbooks. You know the ones by Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood, and of course, my extensive collection of Great British Baking Show cookbooks, but none of those recipes felt right. I didn’t have an actual recipe that had been passed down, so I did what any good baker/genealogist would do. I googled Scottish Shortbread recipes. The recipe I found is from the website https://www.recipetineats.com/

The Ingredients

8oz unsalted butter (2 sticks or 1 cup)

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup powdered sugar (or icing sugar)

2 cups plain/all purpose flour

The Baking

Preheat oven to 325F (standard) or 300F (convection)

Butter and line a 9×13 pan with parchment paper with overhang

Beat butter until smooth (or use very soft butter and a wooden spoon)

Add powdered sugar and beat until combined

Add half the flour and beat until mostly combined. It should resemble wet sand.

Beat in the remainder of the flour. Use your hands to bring it together into a smooth ball of dough. Knead lightly if needed.

Roughly press down into a rectangle shape, then transfer into the pan. Press into the pan, but don’t press too hard! (It will make the cookies firmer)

Bake for 20 minutes until the edges are a very light golden and most of the surface is still pale gold.

Remove from oven. Working quickly, cut into desired shape and prick all over with a fork.

Return to the oven for 8 minutes or until the surface is light golden – not browned.

Turn the oven off, crack it open and leave to cool for at least one hour in the oven.

Remove from oven, use the paper overhang to remove the biscuits, and enjoy your Scottish Shortbread!

Please don’t judge my crooked cutting!
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Posted in Genealogy 101

Researching Jewish Immigration

In my first Jewish genealogy post, I talked about how to figure out your ancestor’s name. Now that you have a potential name, let’s find where in the world they are! Understanding Jewish immigration is key in researching your ancestor. If you know Jewish history, you know that past generations tended to move all over the place. While this post focuses mainly on immigration to America, some of these tools can be used in other parts of the world.

Know Your History

If your Jewish ancestor is one of the millions that came to America, the first step is narrowing down where in America they may have landed. To do this, you have to know the history of Jewish immigration. The first Jewish settlement in America was by a group of Sephardic Jews who made their home in New Amsterdam (or modern day New York) in September 1654. This group of 23 were fleeing persecution by the Portuguese Inquisition after the conquest of Dutch Brazil.

From 1654 to 1820, Jewish immigrants found their way to American shore through several different ports. The most popular were New York, Newport, Philadelphia, Savannah, and Charleston. Most of these ports had records of those who were allowed into the country. In 1820, a law was passed that required certain information to be included on passenger lists. Some of the information you can find on these lists include: names, age, gender, occupation, country of origin, and country/place of intended destination.

In 1855, Castle Garden in New York City opened. This was America’s first official immigration center. Castle Garden operated, officially, from August 3, 1855 to April 18, 1890. It was closed when the federal government decided to control all ports of entry and process all immigrants to America.

Passenger List from The Great Western (arrived at Ellis Island in 1858)

The most well-known port of entry, Ellis Island, opened in 1892. This port processed more immigrants, not just Jewish, than all the North American ports combined. The Ellis Island Foundation has a website where you can search their database for ancestors who would have arrived between 1820 (pulling from other ports) to 1957. According to their site, they have over 65 million passenger records and ship manifests. You can find more information at https://www.statueofliberty.org/ellis-island/

Passport Applications

If you are having a difficult time finding your ancestor when they arrived, there is a chance that at some point they went back to the homeland. Many immigrants ventured back home either to pick up additional family members to bring to America or they were just homesick. Whatever the reason, they would have needed a passport.

An example of a passport application is below. This belongs to my 4th cousin 4x removed, Elmer Murphy. While Elmer himself wasn’t an immigrant, he traveled extensively thought the world. In his application, we are able to learn where he was born, the date of his birth, where he currently lives, and his occupation. Since he is traveling with his wife, we learn her birth date and place of birth (although it doesn’t actually state her name). Some passport applications include a picture of the applicant. Even though Elmer’s application doesn’t, he is required to give a description of himself. We learn that he is currently 32 years old, 5’10”, with blue eyes, dark hair, and a dark complexion. Just those few details, allows you to be able to start picturing what your ancestor may look like.

Passport application for Elmer Murphy, submitted in 1910

When looking for your ancestor’s passport applications, Ancestry has an extensive collection. Also, keep in mind that the National Archives holds applications from October 1795 to March 1925. For applications from April 1925 to present, you will need to contact the State Department.

With Elmer, I was able to go one step further when looking at immigration records. It seems that he had business in Mexico and a card that allowed him to travel between the two countries. This card was different than a passport as it was for people other than tourists and visitors. The bonus, there is a picture with this one!

Spelling Variations

Just like researching any other documents, you will need to keep in mind spelling variations. This is especially true when looking at ship manifests. Names at ports tended to be spelled phonetically. With immigrants from different countries and different languages, most of those working at the port didn’t take the time to make sure names were spelled correctly. Also, names were sometimes translated into what they would be in English. For example, Schmidt became Smith. While it can be frustrating, spelling of names sometimes requires you to play around with the spelling before you find what you are looking for.

Naturalization Papers

Naturalization papers are a great source of information. Before 1906, the information contained in the papers varied depending on what court was handling the file. A three step process was adopted which helped to correct the problem. With the new process, the applicant was required to file a Declaration of Intent, then a Petition for Citizenship, and lastly a Certificate of Naturalization. All three documents contain valuable genealogy information.

Below is an example of a Declaration of Intent. This belongs to Richard Edward Burns who immigrated from Ireland. In this document, we learn when Richard was born, where he was born, which port he arrived at, and when he arrived to America. We also see where Richard is renouncing his “allegiance and fidelity” to Queen Victoria.

Richard Edward Burns Declaration of Intent paper filed in 1857

Research Tips

When looking for your ancestor’s immigration documents, there are a few key things to keep in mind. Remember, immigration documents could be filed in any court. There was not one specific government agency that handled immigration documents. If you’re having a difficult time finding your ancestor in America, take a look at Canadian records. America capped immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe which forced some immigrants to come in at Canadian ports. The two countries did develop a program where if the immigrants intent was to continue to America, they were given a card to present at the border that stated that information. Also, if you know they entered at an American port, but cannot figure out when, take a look at census records. In the years 1870, 1900, 1910, 1920, and 1930, the census asked questions regarding immigration status. This sometimes included the year they immigrated. I have found that the year given to the census taker isn’t always accurate, but it at least will give you a time frame start with.

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Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review – Clanlands

Sometimes you come across a book accidentally. That is how I stumbled upon Clanlands. If you’re familiar with the show Men In Kilts, then you know where the book comes from. Like one of the blurbs said, this book is a love letter to Scotland. I couldn’t agree more, but to understand why I love this book, let me start at the beginning.

I began planning my Ireland and Scotland trip in March. That’s when I started noticing the advertisements for Men In Kilts on my Facebook feed. I had no idea who Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish were. I had heard of the show Outlander, but I had never watched an episode. All I knew is that these “men in kilts” were in Scotland and I needed to binge watch.

After devouring the show (seriously, if you’re planning a trip to Scotland you need to watch it) I found out that the show was actually based on a book. Luckily, I live super close to a book store and they had one copy of the book. Clanlands was now in my hands! I started reading it immediately. It did help that I had watched Men In Kilts already. I had a mental image of the people and places mentioned in the book.

The Book

Clanlands was able to go so much deeper than the TV show. While I expected to learn more about Sam and Graham as individuals, I also received a crash course in Scottish history. They did an excellent job of balancing personal stories with historical Scotland stories. I learned about the Jacobites and the Bonnie Prince. I learned about different Clans and their tartans. I met all kinds of interesting characters along the way, both from the past and present. This book is what I wish all history books would be. To say that Clanlands took me on an adventurous journey would be an understatement.

The Surprises

Just by reading the book’s jacket, I knew that I would get to know Sam and Graham on a more personal level. What surprised me the most, was going on the journey with them of discovering each of their deeper personal connection with Scotland. While I expected my connection to Scotland to grow by reading this book, I very much enjoyed witnessing each of their experiences. For me, there is nothing better than watching someone fall in love with history. Especially when they have a personal connection to it.

Oh, and if you’re able to listen to the audiobook, do it! I have never listened to an audiobook before, but I thought it might be interesting to listen to this one. Boy, was I right! Yes, reading the words of Sam and Graham was entertaining, but you get something from hearing them say the words that just makes it hit deeper.

The Verdict

I would absolutely, in a heartbeat, recommend Clanlands to anyone and everyone. If you have a trip planned to Scotland or you have Scottish ancestors, go read it now! As a genealogist, I loved when both Sam and Graham made connections to their own personal family histories. My favorite quote from the book was from Sam…

It’s lead me to discover my own extensive family tree, having always believed I’d come from a small family.

I am an advocate for anything that encourages us to look back to those who came before us and how our ancestors influence who we are today. Like Sam, I used to say that I come from a small family. Thanks to history and genealogy, I know that’s not true. Go read Clanlands, then let another family member (maybe someone in a younger generation) borrow it. I can almost guarantee it will start you on a path of discovering your history.

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Posted in Genealogy 101

Genealogy 101 – Birth Certificates

If we’re going to talk about vital records, let’s start at the very beginning with birth certificates. This piece of paper is literally the first documentation of you, your ancestor, or whoever else you’re looking for. (There is the exception of delayed birth certificates, but I’ll talk about those in a bit.) In a perfect genealogy world, birth certificates would be where you start.

Primary Source

A birth certificate is considered a primary source of genealogy information. This means that the information contained in the document was given by someone at the event or an eye witness to the event. Primary sources are the best documents to use in research. There usually isn’t that question of who gave the information whether they are just relaying secondhand information.

What Information is Included?

Let’s look at an example. The birth certificate below belongs to my great grandmother, Vera Martin. On this certificate we see she was born in Kentucky, county of Harlan, on November 17, 1912. Her father is Frank Martin. He lives in Harlan, turned 38 years old on his last birthday, was born in Baily’s Switch and works as a miner. Her mother is Stelley (actually Stella) Baker. She lives in Harlan, is white, turned 18 on her last birthday, was born in Kevy, Laurel County, and is a housewife. We also learn that Stella has given birth to two children, but only one is living.

Also noted on the certificate is that this is a legitimate birth. Don’t get too hung up on this “fact” if it is on the birth certificate. I’ve found numerous births that were marked as legitimate which in fact were not. This is one of those facts that sometimes take a little more investigation.

In this one document, we are starting to get a clearer picture of who Vera’s parents are. If we are working our ancestor line back, we now know a significant amount to go back another generation. When we start digging into her parents, we have an approximate year that they were born and where they were born. Keep in mind, though, that county names changed over the years, so the county listed on the certificate (for the parents) may not be the name of the county when they were born.

Delayed Birth Certificates

Delayed birth certificates are birth records that were recorded usually years after the birth event. These certificates were generated for various reasons. Two of the main reasons for obtaining a delayed certificate include enlisting in the armed services and applying for Social Security benefits.

Below is an example of a delayed birth certificate. This belongs to another of my great grandmothers, Hattie Elizabeth Hopkins. While a delayed certificate may not give as much information as a regular birth certificate, it does give you some things to go on. This certificate shows that Hattie was born on January 15, 1891 in Raymond City, Putnam County, West Virginia. Her father is Fred M. Hopkins who was born in Kanawha County, West Virginia. Her mother is Nancy Dickerson who was born in Putnam County, West Virginia.

What makes a delayed birth certificate a primary source is the fact that supporting evidence has to be submitted to verify that the information is correct. On this certificate, we see that a family friend, Cecil Britton, made a affidavit stating when Hattie was born and the names of her parents. Hattie’s insurance policy from 1930 verified her age at that time. Lastly, we get even more genealogical information with the fact that Hattie’s marriage record is used. While it doesn’t give the name of her husband, it tells us exactly where the marriage was recorded and the date it was recorded.

Next Steps

When looking at birth certificates, it is best practice to write down all the information that could possibly be used in research. Even if you think it doesn’t matter, it just might when you are trying to pinpoint an ancestor. Like any record, keep in mind that names may be misspelled or a nickname may have been used. Birth records are a great place to start, especially with more recent generations. We tend to remember birth dates over death dates.

In the next Genealogy 101 post, I’ll be taking a look at marriage records and how to use them to further your research!

If you’re looking how to get started on your genealogy journey, check out my previous post “Taking It Way Back”!

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Researching Jewish Names

Starting your journey into researching your Jewish ancestors is just like searching any ancestor…you start with what you know. The only problem is that sometimes you have only a name. Maybe that name is in its original form, but more than likely it has changed a few times over the years. How in the world do you figure out what a name should (or shouldn’t) be?!

Naming Patterns

Let’s go back with starting with what you already know. Maybe you have a name of some siblings, but have no idea what their parents and/or grandparents names might be. The good news is that like other ethnic naming patterns, Jewish names usually followed the same sequence. When naming their sons, parents usually named the first son after the father’s father, the second son after the mother’s father, and so on. The same pattern was used when naming daughters; the first daughter was named after the father’s mother, the second after the mother’s mother, and so on. While not always a perfect system, it may give you something to go on when trying to find the names of grandparents.

When looking at naming patterns there is an important pattern to keep in mind. Ashkenazi Jews would name their children after a recently deceased ancestor. Sephardic Jews did just the opposite. They would name their children after a living ancestor.

Jewish Surnames

Another stumbling block when it comes to Jewish names, is the fact that surnames were not used until the 1800s! This makes things a bit tricky. Before the 1800s, Jewish names usually consisted of their given name and their father’s name. While this may help you to figure out what someone’s father’s name is, it’s not very useful when trying to decided if one person is your ancestor over another. When surnames were adopted, there was usually a reason for the choice. Some surnames were assigned by the government. Other surnames represented a particular person’s occupation or the town where they originated. One thing to keep in mind, is that as Jews moved around to different countries, the spelling and pronunciation tended to match their new home. It was one way of acclimating to their new surroundings.

The D-M Soundex

If all else fails, there is one more trick you can use. The Daitch-Mokotoff (D-M) Soundex was developed to help in this situation. Jewish genealogists developed algorithms to address the unique letter/language combination there were common to Jewish naming patterns. Most Jewish specific genealogy website, such as https://www.jewishgen.org/ have this Soundex on their site. The Soundex will give you examples of whatever the current name you have might have been.

Now that you have some names, its time to starting find some people! Check back next Monday for tips on researching Jewish immigration records!