Posted in Baking With My Ancestors

Brown Sugar Saucepan Blondies

If I’m being honest, I have never been a fan of Blondies. So, when I came across this recipe I didn’t immediately feel the need to bake them. I kept searching for a different recipe to try. As I continued to search, this recipe kept coming back to my mind. Maybe it was time that I finally time to give Blondies another try.

The history of Blondies started during World War II. Women were looking for an alternative to Brownies since chocolate and white sugar were being rationed. It was time to get creative. Originally called “Light Colored Brownies” by Mrs. Alexander George (a home economics teacher turned newspaper columnist), these so-called Brownies replaced white sugar with brown sugar and left out the chocolate completely. As Blondies evolved, bakers included butterscotch chips, pecans, and many other ingredients to make them their own.

Needless to say, after trying these Blondies, I am now a big fan!

Ingredients

  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/3 cups light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped pecans, if desired

How-To

  1. Place a rack in the center of the over, and preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly grease and flour a 13×9 baking pan and set it aside.
  2. Place the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat and stir until melted. Add the brown sugar and stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar dissolves and the mixture thickens, about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add the granulated sugar and stir until well combined, 1 minute. Let cool sightly.
  3. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium-size bowl. Add a third of the flour mixture to the saucepan and stir to combine and bring down the temperature of the butter and sugar mixture, 30 seconds. Add half the beaten eggs and the vanilla. Stir to combine, 30 seconds. Add another third of the flour mixture, stir to combine, then add the rest of the eggs, then the last of the flour, and stir until smooth. Turn the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the top with pecans, if desired. Place the pan in the oven.
  4. Bake the Blondies until nut brown around the edges and just firm in the center, 20 to 25 minutes. You do not want to overbake.
  5. Remove the pan from the oven, and place it on a wire rack to cool. Score the Blondies into pieces with a sharp knife. When completely cool, slice into pieces and serve. These Blondies keep covered at room temperature for up to 4 days and in the freezer for up to 4 months.

(recipe c/o American Cookies by Anne Byrn)

Posted in Genealogy 101

Guest Blogger – Annika with Find A Swede

I love connecting with other genealogist and family history fans through social media. That is how I met Annika. She is a Swedish genealogist and the owner of Find a Swede. Annika lives a stone’s throw from the harbor where one million Swedes emigrated between 1850 and 1910.

While I haven’t found my Swedish ancestor just that, I love learning about Swedish history and how to do Swedish genealogy. That is why I was so excited when Annika offered to do a guest post all about Swedish Genealogy! Below, she explains just how to get started. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did and make sure to go follow her on Instagram: @FindASwede

How to trace your lineage in Sweden
It’s easy to access historical records in Sweden. The earliest resident registrations are from the 17th century. There are even taxation registers from the 16th century. But, you may have to change your approach when you trace your lineage in Sweden. You are not likely to find a Facebook group for your Johansson family. In fact, your ancestor’s surname may not help you much at all. Before the 20th century most Swedes did not have regular surnames. They existed mainly among some professionals like priests, soldiers, or craftsmen. But these last names could just as well be personal names and not family names. Most Swedes went by a patronymic. The son of Johan had the last name Johan’s son – Johansson. The female version was Johan’s daughter – Johansdotter. This way you will find different last names in the same family. You will also have people who are not related sharing a last name. So it’s not meaningful to search for the Johansson lineage.
The use of patronymics ended in 1901. The naming becomes less confusing after that. But the names are still not useful for tracing your family history in the 19th century.

So what do you do?

Think like a real estate agent. Location, location, location. Instead of searching for your Johansson lineage, think of them as your ancestors from Sandvik Parish, Jönköping County. It will make everything easier. The name of the parish is usually the most important thing to know. Most of the records are organized that way. Some parish
names exist in more than one county. So to know the parish, you may also have to know the county. As family historians we often share our work with other genealogist or online. Be careful to include the birth and death parishes in your family tree. Only listing the names of your ancestors is not going to be useful for anyone else. If you add the
location, the chances of making a meaningful connection will multiply. There are many local history groups for different regions on Facebook. Some of them are specifically for local family history. The groups are often based on the province (landskap) or the nearest city. Some of the groups even have English names. But it’s usually fine to write in English in the Swedish speaking groups as well. If you don’t know the birth location of your ancestor, I have a blog post with useful statistics. Where Did My Swedish Ancestor Come From? Other great tools are
https://www.hembygd.se/shf

https://www.hitta.se/

https://www.eniro.se/

So to reiterate, when you trace your Swedish ancestors you want to focus on the home parish. Location, location, location. That’s the Swedish approach to genealogy.
If you want to start researching your Swedish ancestors, I have a free guide on how to take the first steps.

Have fun tracing your Swedish ancestors! There’s so much information out there. You may even feel like you get to know them.

Annika

Annika, the owner of Find A Swede

If you would like to be a guest blogger on my site, send me an email to coolgirlgenealogy@gmail.com

Posted in Baking With My Ancestors

Grandmother’s Coca-Cola Cake

My grandmother was not the type of woman to pass down recipes. It isn’t because she didn’t want to. It’s more because she never really followed a recipe. Whenever any would ask how to make a particular dish, her instructions were basically “a pinch of this, and a dash of that until it looks good”. She made some amazing dishes, but my favorite (and, luckily the one she actually wrote down) was Coca-Cola Cake!

The recipe in my Grandmother’s handwriting.

Nobody knows exactly where Coca Cola cake originated.  Some say it was by a housewife looking for a new spin on a chocolate cake.  Others say it was created by Coca Cola themselves as a clever way to market their drink in other ways.  The only thing everyone can agree on is that it was invented in the South.  The Coca Cola Company’s headquarters are, after all, located in Atlanta, Georgia.

Marshmallows and chocolate?! Yes, please!

Coca Cola cake it not made like a traditional cake.  If you find it a bit lumpy at moments, that’s okay!  Also, when you are finished with the batter, it may appear a bit runny.  That’s okay too!  While this cake may have some unusual steps, it’s tough to mess it up.  That’s the best thing about this recipe…even the mistakes taste yummy!

The finished product!

A note before you get started, the frosting will be applied to the cake while both the cake and frosting are still warm!

Ingredients (batter)

  • 2 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 cup Coca Cola
  • 1 cup Butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 1/2 cups Marshmallows (I use mini marshmallows)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup Buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla

How to make the Batter

  1. Grease and flour 9×13 inch cake pan and set aside
  2. Preheat oven to 350F
  3. In a large bowl, combine flour and sugar. Stir to combine.
  4. In a saucepan, combine cocoa, Coca Cola, butter, and marshmallows and bring to a boil.
  5. Combine the boiled mixture with the flour/sugar mixture and set aside.
  6. In a separate bowl, mix eggs, buttermilk, baking soda, and vanilla.  Add to the mixture in the large bowl.
  7. Pour mix into the prepared pan and bake for about 35 to 40 minutes.
  8. Cake will be ready when a toothpick comes out clean.

Ingredients (frosting)

  • 1/2 cup Butter (1 stick)
  • 3 tablespoons Cocoa
  • 6 tablespoons Coca Cola
  • 1 box Confectioner’s Sugar
  • Optional: 1/2 to 1 cup Nuts (use your preference for type of nuts and how much)

How to make the Frosting

  1. In a saucepan, bring butter, cocoa, and Coca Cola to a boil.
  2. Stir in the sugar and mix well.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the nuts.
  4. Spread over the cake while both are still warm.

You’ll want the Frosting to set before you serve it.  Once it does, dig in and enjoy!

A selfie with my Grandmother

Posted in Ancestor Stories

AMMD Pine Grove Project

Sometimes the messages you find in your Ancestry inbox can bring about the best connections. That is how I met my cousin Sonja. We matched each other through AncestryDNA and after a few back and forth messages, we figured out our connection. Sonja is my 7th cousin, 1x removed. While that might not seem like a close connection, it doesn’t matter. We are still family and hopefully someday soon we will move from Facebook family to hanging out in real life family!

As I’ve got to know Sonja better, she told me about the AMMD Pine Grove Project. I fully support any project that seeks to save historical areas/buildings, but this was family! This project is working to save the Pine Grove School. The school was established by free African Americans who wanted to give their children the gift of education. Founded in a rural, segregated, farming community, it is a very important piece of history that needs to survive for future generations.

The Project recently received recognition as one of 2020 Virginia’s Most Endangered Historic Places by Preservation Virginia. Preservation Virginia is the premier preservation organization in Virginia. It warms my heart to see all the hardwork paying off! Below you’ll find the press release talking about the designation, and details about the project, written my Sonja’s mother (and another one of my wonderful cousins), Muriel Miller Branch. Also, make sure to check out the bottom of the release to see where you can find more about the AMMD Pine Grove Project and how you can support this wonderful project!

 Muriel Miller Branch, President of the AMMD Pine Grove Project and former student of the Historic Rosenwald School, stands in front of the community’s beloved Pine Grove School in Cumberland County, Virginia as she is creating a video to submit to Preservation Virginia.  

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

Pine Grove School Community on the                                                       

2020 Virginia’s Most Endangered Historic Places

May 19, 2020

The cause for today’s celebration (May19th) is to announce the Pine Grove School Community’s selection as one of the 2020 Virginia’s Most Endangered Historic Places by Preservation Virginia, the premier preservation organization in Virginia. This recognition coincides with AMMD Pine Grove Project’s vision of “Preserving History, Expanding Community.”

Pine Grove School’s origin is as humble as the former enslaved and free African Americans who established the school  to educate their children in this rural, segregated, farming community.  In 1916, Black residents of the community seized the opportunity afforded them through the Rosenwald Fund and building project, to build a school. They contributed the land, a sizable amount of money, and the labor to build it, and the school opened to students in the Fall of 1917.

Pine Grove School is one of the few remaining Rosenwald Schools established in rural communities throughout the South for the purpose of educating colored children. The brainchild of  Dr. Booker T. Washington of the Tuskegee Institute and Julius Rosenwald, President of Sears Roebuck Company, both visionaries, devised a plan to build state-of-the art schools for children who would not otherwise have received an education due to Jim Crow laws imposing racial segregation. The two-room schoolhouse served Pre-K to Sixth grade students, who walked up to five miles to attend their cherished school. 

In 1964, after the school closed its doors, a groups of concerned residents of the community, led by Mr. Robert L. Scales, rescued Pine Grove from auction by Cumberland County, and later repurposed  the building to serve as the Pine Grove Community Center for over a decade. However, with the death of many of its members, the School became neglected. Pine Grove School was on the verge of demise until, in 2018, members of the Agee-Miller-Mayo-Dungy families created a grassroots organization to save the school. The newly formed group paid the back taxes and began to visualize a new life for Pine Grove. Shortly after organizing, AMMD learned about the proposed installation of a Mega Landfill adjacent to Pine Grove which would adversely effect both the historical integrity and the environmental integrity of the school and community, and a two-fold fight ensued. Muriel Miller Branch, an alumna, spearheaded the effort to save the school that she, her father, and numerous relatives and neighbors had attended. 

The efforts of the AMMD’s Pine Grove Project have been rewarded many times over by attracting family, alumni, community, scholars, legislators, environmental justice organizations,  and historical and cultural institutions.  It has become a beehive of inspired, willing workers. 

The Mission of AMMD Pine Grove Project is to work cooperatively with a broad coalition of individuals and organizations “to protect, restore, and repurpose the historic Pine Grove Elementary School as an African American Museum and Cultural Center to showcase the contributions of the community that built and sustained it.

For more information, about the AMMD Pine Grove Project, email: ammdpinegroveproject@gmail.com.

You can also follow the organization on Social Media:

https://www.facebook.com/ammdpinegroveproject/

https://www.instagram.com/projectpinegrove/

Posted in Weekend Update

Weekend Update: May 9, 2020

Happy Saturday, everyone!

I don’t know about you, but all this quarantine and stay-at-home business has thrown me all off.  I’ve been working at home (my day job is as a Title Agent) since mid-March.  While my commute to the office is not far at all, I embraced the extra time I was given.  I made list after list of things I wanted to get caught up on, as well as new things to try.  I just knew that I was going to come out of the other side of this quarantine with so many amazing projects done!

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Fast forward to today and I’ll be heading back to the office in the coming week.  As I look back, I feel like I accomplished nothing.  I actually did little to no genealogy work in the month of April.  I realize now, that while I had my long list of things I really wanted to do, what I really needed was a break.  I think I had just got so wrapped up in my “there’s something to do every minute” life, that when I had the extra time I felt like I needed to fill it with something. Now I’m sitting here not sure how to feel about my quarantine experience.

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I’m giving myself grace.  Not everybody is going to come out of this quarantine having accomplished everything that they set out to.  While I may not have done much genealogy research, I was able to put in motion a couple of genealogy projects that I’m really excited about (detail to come!).  Also, I’ve made plans to keep the website consistently updated and I’ll be bringing back the newsletter! I’m refreshed and so excited to continue on this genealogy journey with you!

Happy researching!

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Posted in Genealogy 101

Genealogy 101 Live: Episode 1 Recap

In case you missed it, last night was episode one of my new series, Genealogy 101 Live. I talked about how I got started in genealogy and what it looks like to do this professionally.  I also touched on what you should do if you are wanting to get started on your family history journey.

I announced the topic for my next episode which will be all about Census records.  While I’ll mainly be focusing on United States census records, I’ll touch briefly on other census records from other countries (i.e. Ireland).  Make sure you’re following me on Instagram where I’ll announce when the next episode will go live!  I’d love to have you join me!

Another reason to follow me on Instagram is that I will be doing a giveaway when I hit 1,000 followers!  If you’re already following me, thank you!  It means the world to me!  If not, give me a follow.  All who are following me when I hit the 1,000 mark will be entered to win a genealogy surprise!

Here are a few links to things that I talked about last night:

Board for Certification of Genealogists

Research Charts and Forms

Sample Interview Questions

 

Posted in Baking With My Ancestors

Baking with My Ancestors: School Lunch Peanut Butter Cookies

I don’t know about you, but I have been doing a lot of baking during this stay at home time.  I love to bake anyway, but having to stay home on the weekends is making me more creative in the kitchen. Last week, I decided to take my baking skills to Facebook Live and share some recipes.  When deciding what to bake, I wanted to include my love of genealogy and history.  If you know me, then you know that baking and history are my two biggest passions.  Any time I can combine the two make me a very happy girl!

I stumbled across this recipe and read the history behind it.  It seems that peanut butter cookies (and this recipe in particular) became very popular during the Great Depression.  A time I feel that we can all relate to at the moment.  Peanut Butter became a star because it was a great source for protein and B vitamins.  Vegetable shortening was used because it was much less expensive than butter.

Peanut Butter cookies can thank lunch room ladies for their new-found popularity during the Great Depression and the years following.  Women were going to work and many of them found employment in the lunch room of schools.  The lunch ladies wanted an inexpensive, but nutritional, way to give the kids a treat.  Enter the peanut butter cookies.  Cookies were made in bulk on Monday and stored to be used through out the week.  The cookies had a longer shelf life than the average cookie, which lended itself to the penny-pinching mindset of the time.

Below, you’ll find a recipe for the School Lunch Peanut Butter cookie.  Give it a try and let me know what you think!  I’d love to see your finished product too!  Post a picture in the comments or on Social Media!  Make sure to tag @coolgirlgenealogy

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (can be light or dark)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar plus 2 tablespoons for pressing into the top of the cookies
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

How-To

  1. Place rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 375F.  Set aside 2 ungreased baking sheets.
  2. Place the peanut butter, shortening, brown sugar, and 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium-low speed until creamy, about 1 minute.  Add the vanilla and egg, and beat on medium-low until the mixture is smooth, about 45 seconds.  Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  3. Whisk together the sifted flour, soda, and salt in a medium-size bowl and turn this into the peanut butter mixture.  Beat with the mixer on low speed until the dry ingredients are just incorporated, 45 seconds to 1 minute.
  4. Drop the dough in 1″ pieces spaced about 3″ apart on the pans.  Press the top of each ball twice with a fork dipped in the remaining granulated sugar, creating a crosshatch pattern.  Place one pan at a time in the oven.
  5. Bake the cookies until lightly browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Let the cookies rest on the pan for 1 minute, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool.

(recipe c/o American Cookie cookbook)

Posted in Genealogy 101

Genealogy 101 Live

New Live series starts tonight over on my Instagram page!  Tonight (May 2nd) at 7pm (central) I’ll start off the series by talking about how I got started in genealogy and why you should care about your family history.  I’ll share with you some tips that I used when first getting started!  This will be a regular event and tonight I’ll share with you what the next topic will be!  I will try my best to answer any questions that you have.  If you have one now, share it in the comments or send me an email: coolgirlgenealogy@gmail.com

Cool Girl Genealogy on Instagram

I hope to see y’all there!

Posted in Ancestor Stories

A Long Line

So many times in genealogy research, we see a long line of males with the same given name.  First there is John, and then another John, and so many more John’s after that.  Add in a common surname and it’s enough to make your genealogy mind go crazy!  One thing you don’t normally see is when the female line of the family uses the same name time and time again.

On my maternal side, I have found that I come from a long line of women named Lydia/Lettie.  I had seen lines of more popular names like Elizabeth and Mary, but for some reason, this naming pattern really stuck with me.  If you look at traditional European naming patterns, the first daughter is usually named after the father’s mother and the second daughter is named after the mother’s mother.  This line kind of followed that pattern, but what do you do when both the paternal and maternal grandmother are named Lydia?

The line begins with my maternal 5x Great-Grandmother, Lettie Virginia Mantooth.  Lettie was born in 1796 in Shenandoah County, Virginia to Thomas Mantooth and Elizabeth Phariss.  She married William Hall and together they had seven children; Samuel, Hannah, Mary, Lydia, Herman, Thomas, and John Hall.  Lettie passed away in 1850 in Cocke County, Tennessee.

Lettie’s daughter, Lydia Hall (my 4x Great-Grandmother), was born in 1832 in Cocke County, Tennessee.  She married Solomon Price and together they had nine children; John, Lettie A, Sarah J, Nancy, Elizabeth, William, James, Mandie, and Solomon.  Lydia passed away in 1890 in Cocke County, Tennessee.

To make matters a bit more complicated, Lydia Hall’s mother-in-law was also named Lydia.  Lydia Messer was born in 1806 in Burke County, North Carolina to Christian Sargent Messer and Jane Barnett Freeman.  She married Richard “Big Dick” Price on February 11, 1825 in Haywood County, North Carolina and together they had five children; James Turner, Solomon, Sarah, Joseph, and William.  Lydia passed away in 1876 in North Carolina.

 

Now…back to Lydia Hall.  Her daughter, Lettie A. Price (my 3x Great Grandmother), was in January 1856 in Newport, Cocke County, Tennessee.  She married William Howard Henderson on February 24, 1884 in Cocke County and together they had five children; Lydia Jane, James, Delia, Amanda, and Winnie.  Lettie also had two other children with an unknown man; Ruben B and Abraham Benjamin.  Lettie passed away on May 1, 1899 in Cocke County, Tennessee.

Next in line is Lettie’s daughter, Lydia Jane Henderson (my half 3rd Great Aunt).  Lydia was born on March 20, 1888 in Cocke County, Tennessee.  She married Benjamin Lewis Ford on January 21, 1908 in Cocke County and together they had 13 children; Rufus, Martha, Lewis D, Pauline, David, Fanny, Lettie Ellen, Dolophos, James Ike, Creola, Mack, Laurie, and Carrie.  Both Benjamin and Lydia had children from previous relationships.  While they did raise these 13 children together, I am still working on who exactly belongs to who.  Lydia married for a second time to Joe Stokely Shelton on July 24, 1965 in Cocke County.  She passed away on June 25, 1977 in Bridgeton, Cumberland County, New Jersey.

The last of the Lydia/Lettie line is Lydia Jane’s daughter, Lettie Ellen Ford (my half 1st cousin, 3x removed).  Lettie was born on October 10, 1914 in Cocke County, Tennessee.  I have not found a record of Lettie being married and her headstone shows her maiden name.  She did have one son, Nicholas Ford.  Lettie passed away on September 18, 1977 in Bridgeton, Cumberland County, New Jersey.

I will admit that this line got a bit complicated when researching.  I had to work hard to keep all my Lydia and Lettie ancestors straight!  So, to recap, the line is Lettie Virginia Mantooth to Lydia Hall (who’s mother-in-law was Lydia Messer) to Lettie A. Price to Lydia Jane Henderson to Lettie Ellen Ford.  Hmm…maybe I should change my name to Lydia!

Posted in Ancestor Stories

My Favorite Picture

Choosing my favorite picture is like choosing my favorite dessert.  There are just way too many choices!  Instead of trying to pick just one photograph, I decided to instead think about what I wanted to write.  I figured that would guide me to the perfect picture.

I decided on this one, which is of me and my papa (Richard Burns).  We are in the basement of my grandparent’s condo, putting together our annual talent show.  The talent show was just me and him doing a variety of random things.  There was usually a little singing and dancing, maybe a fashion show, but it was always guaranteed to be full of laughter.  We would set up shop in the living room and put on a full production for the rest of the family.

Arthur Amanda (9)

Some of my best memories growing up were with my papa.  He was the best playmate and the one always getting me into a little bit of trouble with my grandmother.  We had a special bond that nobody could really explain.  The amazing part is that my papa and I share no DNA.  That’s right, my papa and grandmother were married just two years before I was born.  It was a second marriage for both of them.

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I am always fascinated by the nature versus nurture debate.  My relationship with my papa proves that nurture has a big impact on how someone grows up.  I never looked at my papa as someone I didn’t share DNA with.  He was, and still is, as much of a part of me as anyone who shares my DNA.

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I think it’s important to remember these connections when we talk about our personal family history.  As genealogist, we become so focused on DNA matches and our direct lines, that we forget the importance of those who are related to us in a different way.  Sure, these connections may not help us break brick walls or get us into a lineage society, but to say they don’t make us who we are would be a mistake.

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