Posted in Genealogy 101

Why Genealogy – Daniel’s Story

Welcome to week one of my new series “Why Genealogy”. I’ll be sharing the voices of my fellow genealogists and family history enthusiast who were all were bit by the genealogy bug at a young age. Genealogy isn’t something you have to wait to do! There is no age limit to who can learn about their family’s past.

This week, meet Daniel Loftus of Daniel’s Genealogy.

My Genealogy Journey

Now, while it seems that the question “What’s the best way of getting young people interested in genealogy?” seems like it should have a definitive answer – it doesn’t! There are a number of ways that the Next Gen of genealogists can pick up the genealogy bug. They could be curious about the story behind an old family heirloom that’s been passed down for generations. Some might even want to find more out about themselves to be able to see where they come from. Or you could even be like me, someone who had a long car journey back home and you had 2-3 hours to kill so you decided to quiz your parents on what they knew about their family. Guilty as charged! So while I’ve listed at least three different scenarios, that doesn’t mean that these are the only three ways to engage and even inspire young people to look into their past and those that walked the Earth before us.

So before I give some tips, I figure I may as well continue my story – so after I drove my parents nuts (no parents were irritated in this story!) asking them about their family history, I was just processing what I was hearing and I couldn’t believe some of the stories (good and bad, truth or rumour) that I was hearing. So nothing really happened for a few days until fast forward to January 7th 2017 [5 days later after the funeral] and I’m sitting flicking through Google on free family tree builders until I discovered Family Echo (I was not aware of Ancestry, FindMyPast or MyHeritage like I am now) and I thought brilliant, I can start adding my family to it and I did. Although it was just me filling it in to start and it only showed me how little about my own family, my own personal history. I showed my mother and asked if we could start filling more in but we left it until tomorrow and the following evening my mother dug out a dark green book with a gold ornate frame on the cover with the words “The History of our Family”. I asked her about the book and she said for my father’s side of the family, she sat down with my grandmother who was alive at the time and wrote down all the info that my nana was telling her about her family and a bit about my grandad’s family. Now for my mother’s side of the family – we were not so lucky when it came to info. Her mother’s side, she had no living aunts or uncles still alive (last one died in 1995) so she only had limited info. Her father’s side we didn’t have a clue about. I would sadly lose my grandfather that year as well but he was able to tell me his parents’ names and I’m grateful for just that piece of info (as small as it may seem it helped me to push back a number of generations.) and spent that evening inputting all of the info in that book and working back! I had a bit of help from cousins who knew bits that corroborated with what I was hearing. And from then on there isn’t much more to tell from then on – I just kept building my tree more and more. 

I think the main thing to keep in mind with all of this is it’s not going to be a quick task – I’ve been doing this for 4 years now (at time of writing) and while I may not have gotten any new leads or bits and pieces from family, who’s to say tomorrow won’t be the day that a brick wall could be broken? But what I’ll finish with is the answer to this question “What made me want to delve into my own history?” Well it was a combination of things, I love history as a subject in school (am better in that compared to some subjects!) I also wanted to know more about my family and where I came from and I’m so happy at the amount I’ve been able to discover about my past. And most importantly, I thought it’d be fun to try (and can happily say it was one of my best decisions!) And trust me, if you don’t think genealogy is for young people, then stick around with me on Twitter, [am on Facebook and Instagram if you’re not a Twitter user] I might be able to change that opinion. And most importantly – if any young genealogist does see this and is on the fence about doing this – it’s so much fun and a great hobby and if you’re a young genealogist reading this, please get in contact with me, I’d love to hear from you.

[Editor’s note: Thank you Amanda for the opportunity!]

Are you ready to get started on your genealogy journey? Check out my post on getting back to the basics!

Posted in Ancestor Stories

Loyston Family Relocations

Imagine living on the land that had been in your family for generations. Your great grandfather had immigrated to America and settled in the area that is now your home. Close family and extended family are buried in your backyard. You know everyone who lives in a 10 mile radius since you see them every Sunday at church. To say you have deep roots in this land would be an understatement. Life can be hard, but it is what you know and you love it.

Now imagine a corporation comes in and tells you that you have to move. They explain that this is for your benefit and not theirs. This is the foundation of the Loyston relocation process.

The Interviews

When the Tennessee Valle Authority came in the area for the Loyston relocation, they knew they needed to interview the families who they needed to relocate. In order to do so, they reached out to local teachers and others who they considered “educated”. The thought was, if those who were being relocated were interviewed by others in the community, it may lead to a better outcome. This was true with some of the residents, but others did not trust the TVA no matter who they talked to.

As part of the interview process, Loyston residents were asked about themselves, their family, and how the supported/were supported by the community. Questions ranged from their religious affiliation and where they went to church to what newspapers they subscribed to. It interviewer also asked how far each parent went in school and if anyone in the family had a “physical defect”. No question was off the table in order to help the TVA collection information.

Evaluating Farms

In order for the TVA to give residents a dollar amount for their property, they needed to evaluate three things; the property, the resident’s income, and their expenditures. The majority of the families that were part of the Loyston relocation were farmers. Therefore, much of what was being evaluated had to do with farm land, livestock, and other farming needs.

Property

When looking at the property, the TVA made note of any livestock on the property. This included all animals from horses to bee stands. It was noted how many of each were located on the farm and then assigned a monetary value. Machinery used on the farm was also assigned a value. The last items listed as property was that of a personal nature. This included if the resident owned a car, a radio, a stove, a sewing machine, etc.. Just like the farm equipment, each of these items were given a price as to the value.

Lewis Loy’s Property evaluation
family income

To get a full picture of the family’s income, the TVA looked at both expenditures and receipts. Expenditures included everything from food to feed the livestock to taxes on the property. It also included cost of insuring the property which most farmers did not have. On the receipt side, the TVA looked at if the family when to market and how much they received for selling goods such as fruits, vegetables, milk, and other homemade goods.

The TVA also took into account the cost of running the household. They broke down each food item and evaluated how much the family used and what the cost would be. On some of the documents, you can see the actual receipt tape where the interviewer added up all of this information.

Lewis Loy’s income information
Outside income

The TVA also wanted to know if the resident was receiving what they considered “outside income”. This included income from savings account, pensions, insurance policies, and investments. This is also where if there were any kids living at home and working elsewhere would list their income. As you can see on the example below, the interviewer made a note that Lewis was “very curious about these questions.”

Lewis Loy’s Outside Income Information

The Final Report

After all the questions and evaluations, the interviewer was responsible for writing up a report of their findings. This report was basically an opinion of the interviewer of the likelihood of the resident willing relocating. You can see below in Lewis’ report, that the interviewer said he “gladly cooperated” with the interview, but that his attitude towards the TVA was “antagonistic”. The interviewer goes on to say that Lewis needs “further study” and that Lewis is only willing to give up the land that floods.

Final Page of Lewis Loy’s questionnaire

The last question which asks for the “gist of conversation” is always interesting to read. On Lewis’ form, it states that he is very clever but vows to not leave. This is usually where the interviewer gets brutally honest with how they feel about the family. I read one where the interviewer stated that the family desperately needed help or else their daughter would end up “working on a street corner”. I have also read several that call the family uneducated and, for that reason, easy to convince that relocating is for the best.

The Final Evaluation

The TVA took all of this information to form their opinion on where the displaced families of Loyston would go. While the majority of the residents finally gave in to the idea of moving, most agree that they were not given fair market value for their land. Farmers felt that they should have somehow been compensated for the fact that this property had been in their families for generations. The TVA did not pay for the emotional attachments that these families had.

Loyston and the TVA series

Make sure to also check out the other posts in this series…

Posted in Podcasts

Stories In Our Roots Podcast

A few weeks ago, I was a guest on Heather Murphy’s podcast, Stories In Our Roots. I talked with Heather about how I originally hated genealogy, but thanks to the stories, I fell in love. We also chat about why I feel it is important to know where you came from and how it effects our future.

I had so much fun on this genealogy podcast! I hope you will take from this talk how that no matter the connection, we are all family!

Posted in Ancestor Stories

Revolutionary Man – John “Raccoon” Miller

We all have what I like to call a “gateway ancestor”. You know the one ancestor that as you were researching you realized that you actually like genealogy. For me, that ancestor was John “Raccoon” Miller. I’m sure you’ve heard me talk about how my mom got me started in genealogy, but it wasn’t until I started researching John Miller and reading his stories that I became truly hooked. Let me tell you a bit about this revolutionary man.

Who was John “Raccoon” Miller?

John Miller was born in 1747 with the exact location still up for discussion. Some say he was born in South Carolina. Others state that he was born in Holland. Nobody has any proof to back up those claims. I tend to lean to the third opinion. That he was born in Scotland. If you know the history of the Scottish coming to American, you know that North Carolina was a hotbed for Scots to settle. Also, I have found a document placing a John Miller being born in 1747 in Scotland. The only problem is, with such a common name, it is hard to say with 100% confidence that this is him.

Documents for John Miller are a bit scarce until he shows up in Haywood County, North Carolina in 1776. At this point, the American Revolution is in full force and he is serving with the North Carolina militia. However, he does find time in his busy schedule to marry Eve Weidner. Together they have seven children; John, Nancy, Isaac, Lewis, Rachel, Elizabeth, and Jacob. The family will eventually make their way across the mountains and settle in the State of Franklin (modern day East Tennessee).

It’s War Time

When the American Revolution made it’s way to the North Carolina back country, John Miller did not hesitate to join. Enlisting in the North Carolina militia, John was able to encourage others to join the cause due to his standing in the community. He fought bravely in many battles, the most notable being the Battle of Kings Mountain.

Artist painting of The Battle of King’s Mountain

John not only served his county proudly, but he made some useful connections along the way. One of his new friends was future Tennessee governor, John Sevier. John soon found himself as one of Sevier’s trusted companions. So much so, that Sevier made John a Captain in the militia. The two would remain friends after the American Revolution. The would both be instrumental in what would be known as the State of Franklin.

It’s Peace Time

After the war, John would find himself with significant land holdings in both North Carolina and Tennessee, thanks to military land grants. John would hold onto most of the land, allowing it to pass down the generations. However, always being one up for a good story, there is a rumor regarding John and the land he owned in what is now Middlesboro, Kentucky. Supposedly, John was given an offer he just couldn’t refuse and “sold” the town for a bottle of moonshine. I have yet to find any documentation that this actually happened, but I feel like if moonshine is involved it may have been an “under the table” transaction.

One of John Miller’s land deeds

John was also quite the entrepreneur, not just with land but with some unique items. He took it upon himself to buy some silkworms and set them up in his barn. John then proceeded to sell the silk to local merchants to make some extra money. Nobody in the area had ever grown silkworms or even knew what to do with them. But, in true John Miller fashion, he figured it out and turned that silk into gold.

The Legend of John “Raccoon” Miller

Nobody really knows how John Miller was given the name “Raccoon”. The most logical story that has been handed down is that since there was another John Miller in the area, he was given a nickname in order to distinguish between the two. Whatever the reason, the memory of “Raccoon” Miller still lives on in East Tennessee. If you ever find yourself in Maynardville, Tennessee, you will see Raccoon Valley Road which runs though that acreage that belong to John. You will also find a highway maker that shows the location of Miller’s blockhouse.

Highway Marker in Maynardville, TN

John Miller passed away on August 25, 1832 in Maynardville, Union County, Tennessee. He is buried along side his wife, Eve, in Ousley Cemetery in Maynardville.

John and Eve’s headstones in Ousley Cemetery, Maynardville, TN

I think it is safe to say why John Miller caught my attention. He was the first ancestor that I really got to know. Researching John is the reason I joined the Daughter’s of the American Revolution. I guess you could say that even in death, John “Raccoon” Miller is still making his presence known.

My Daughter’s of the American Revolution pin

Make sure to read the stories of my other revolutionary ancestors.

Posted in Ancestor Stories, Revolutionary

Eve Weidner: Revolutionary Woman

Often, when we think about the Revolutionary War, we only think of the men who fought.  We focus on the battles and who won or lost.  We talk about the men who were Generals, the men who enlisted, and all the men in between.  We tend not to talk about the women and how important their role was in winning America’s freedom.

Who was Eve Weidner?

Eve (or Eva) Weidner was born to Ludwig (Lewis) Weidner and Barbary Boyer on January 31st, 1751 in Lincoln County, North Carolina.  While little is known about her mother, Ludwig was of German descent and held his German traditions close to his heart.  Growing up, the Weidner’s were known revolutionaries living in a county full of loyalists.  This more than likely made growing up challenging for Eve.  This is why the Weidner family started moving towards western North Carolina and the Tennessee border.

Like Father, Like Son-In-Law

Records for Eve become a bit scarce until she marries John “Raccoon” Miller on March 1st, 1776 in Haywood County, North Carolina.  The Millers would move on to Hawkins County, Tennessee and eventually settle in Union County, Tennessee.  Once settled, Eve and John would have seven children: John, Nancy, Isaac, Lewis, Jacob, Elizabeth, and Rachel.

If legend is true, John Miller seems to be a lot like Eve’s father, Ludwig.  They were both revolutionaries and participated in battles with local militia.  One of the most notorious stories of Eve is when she was left at home with the children while John was off on one of his excursions.  The story says that the family dogs started barking and going crazy while Eve and the children were inside.  Living in known Indian Territory, Eve immediately had the children hide while she grabbed a shotgun.  Eve then went outside to defend her home against the said Indians.  While not much is known about the actual encounter, I think it’s safe to say that the Indians probably thought twice before messing with Eve again.

Show Me the Money

John passed away in 1832 and had never applied for his Revolutionary War pension.  Well, Eve decided that she would go for it, twenty years after John died.  It seems that Eve was not a woman who would ever take no for an answer.  I will tell you that people thought that a woman her age attempting to get her dead husband’s pension was crazy!  According to the pension documents, Eve was 100 years and 6 days old when she started the application process.  While there is no documentation if Eve ever received John’s pension, I think it is safe to say that whatever Eve put her mind to she succeed.

An example from Eve Weidner’s pension application.

Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story

Eve passed away on August 12th, 1853 in Union County, Tennessee.  She was 102 years old.  Just a few years ago, a local Daughter’s of the American Revolutionary chapter in Knoxville, Tennessee, recognized Eve for her efforts and support during the Revolutionary War by giving her a new headstone.  It is always nice when women recognize other women!

Eve Weidner’s gravestone.

I feel that it is important that we continue to share the stories of our female revolutionaries.  The Revolutionary War was not just fought on the battle field, but all across the colonies.  These hidden stories need to written to preserve the memories of colonial women.

Posted in Places To Visit

Places to Visit – The Museum of Appalachia

This week, I’m taking you to my happy place. No matter how many times I have been, whenever I’m in the area, I have to stop by the Museum of Appalachia. Many of my maternal ancestors are from this area of Tennessee, which makes visiting the museum even more special. Let me try to put into words why I love this place so much!

Looking out from one of the cabins

The History

The Museum of Appalachia was founded in 1969 with the intentions of showcasing an authentic mountain farm and pioneer village. John Rice Irwin, who was instrumental in the founding of the museum, helped to collect over 250,000 artifacts ranging from folk art, musical instruments, baskets, quilts, and so much more. Side note: John Rice Irwin is my 4th cousin 2x removed on my maternal. I had no idea of this connection when I started going to the museum, but now it just adds something special!

John Rice Irwin

The main focus of the Museum of Appalachia these days is to preserve its massive collection and to develop educational programs. The goal of the educations programs is to encourage others to preserve the past for the future. This is something I can very much get behind! The museum is also a Smithsonian Affiliate museum.

Things To Do

The Museum of Appalachia covers about 65 acres that are absolutely beautiful. The land boasts 35 log cabins, barns, farm animals (my favorite are the goats), churches, schools, and gardens. Speaking of farm animals, watch out for the peacocks. The last time I was there, two peacocks were ruling the roost. They just wander the grounds from the gift shop to the outer cabins. They are beautiful to look at, but don’t get too close!

The Peacock!

The gift shop is a must visit and hard to miss. Literally, it’s hard to miss since that is where you buy your tickets. Everything you could possibly want to shop for is in the gift shop. Of course, the majority of it is geared to Appalachia. They have everything from books to candles to toys to apparel. I mean, I could almost guarantee that you will not walk out empty handed.

The Gift Shop

If you want to make a day of it, make sure to visit the museum’s restaurant. If you are looking for some yummy, authentic Appalachian cuisine, look no further! They do only serve lunch (from 11am-2pm), but serve lighter dishes, such as soups, sandwiches, and desserts until 3pm. They do have a daily menu, so check out their website to see what they are serving on the day you are visiting. An example of their daily menu would include Herb Roasted Pork Loin, Chicken Noodle Casserole, Turnip Greens, Broccoli Casserole, Sweet Potato Casserole, Buttered Corn, Deviled Eggs, and Mac & Cheese. I’m full just thinking about it!

More Information

Ticket prices range from $18.00 (adults) to $6.00 (children). There are group rates and senior discounts, so make sure to check the website for more information. Their summer hours are 9am-5pm (monday-friday) and 9am-6pm (saturday & sunday). They are closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. They also have special events and special days throughout the year.

All this information and more can be found on their website https://www.museumofappalachia.org/

I can’t recommended enough the Museum of Appalachia. When I’m there, I just feel closer to my ancestors that lived much in the same way that they are preserving at the museum. If you have Appalachian ancestors, or just wonder how folks lived there in the past, you will not be disappointed!

Posted in Genealogy 101

Genealogy 101 – Death Records

When I first started researching my family’s history, death records were not high on my priority list. While I knew it was important to know when my ancestors died, it just seemed a bit depressing to spend my days reading obituaries and causes of death. It wasn’t until I came across an obituary that vividly painted my ancestor’s life, that I realized this subject wasn’t all doom and gloom. I changed my way of thinking from this is an ending to this is something I can use to celebrate my family member. Now, I love finding obituaries and walking though cemeteries. My friends still think I’m a bit strange, but they just don’t know what they are missing.

Death is inevitable. All of our ancestors have done it, so why can it be so hard to find death records? Also, when we find them, what other information can we gather? I hope the following tid-bits can help you on your journey.

Death Certificates

The most obvious place to find your ancestor’s death information is on a death certificate. Even the most basic certificate will give you a name, date of death, place of death, and cause of death. While that is all great information, it’s the other gems that may really help you break through a brick wall.

Let’s take a look at Anderson Carpenter’s death certificate. Anderson is my paternal 2x Great Grandfather. On his death certificate, we are able to gain basic information such as his birth and death date and location of death (including the hospital). Now, look at all the genealogy information that is included. We learn that he is a widower and that his wife was Lillie Lacy (actually, her name is Lizzie Lacy). The death certificate lists his parents as John Carpenter and Linda Tanner, who were both born in Ohio. If we look at the informant, it gives the name Marvin Carpenter. It’s easy to assume that Marvin is related in some way, which he is. Marvin is Anderson’s son. We are also given the name of the funeral home who handled the arrangements and the name/location of the cemetery. With just this one death certificate, we are able to go back another generation and fill in some holes such as Anderson’s wife’s name.

Anderson Carpenter’s death certificate

Funeral Cards

Funeral cards, also known as memorial cards or prayer cards, are an excellent source of information. The cards are designed as an easy keepsake to remember the deceased. At the very least, a funeral card will include your ancestor’s birth and death date. Some cards are a bit more detailed and may include a short memory of the deceased. Also, there a good chance that the funeral card may include a picture of your ancestor. These cards are not to be missed when you are collecting death records.

Below is my maternal Great Grandfather’s (William Howard Taft Price) funeral card. This card tells me that he obviously went by the name Taft, which could help me find him on other documents. It also states his birth and death date. While it doesn’t give me the locations of those events, the dates alone will help me to narrow down my search. Lastly, it gives me where the funeral was held, where he was buried, and the funeral home in charge of the arrangements. If nothing else, this information points me in the direction of finding more sources that I can use to find out more information.

William Howard Taft Price’s funeral card

Obituaries

Probably everyone’s favorite death record is an obituary. After all, no two obituaries are the same and they can sometimes be full of all kinds of genealogy information. Websites like Newspapers.com https://www.newspapers.com/ and Genealogy Bank https://www.genealogybank.com/ have made finding an obituary a little easier.

More recent obituaries tend to give a clearer genealogy picture. When looking at obits from the mid-1900s back leave a bit more puzzle pieces to be solved. Remember the time period and the fact that women were known more as someone’s husband than an individual. Take the obituary below as an example. This belongs to my paternal 4th Great Uncle, Hiram Goodwin. Hiram passed away in 1936 in Kanawha County, West Virginia. If you notice, his daughters are listed as Mrs. “insert husband’s name”. While this can be frustrating, it does as least give you names of spouses. All you have to do is play the match game and figure out who goes with who!

Hiram Goodwin’s obituary (1936)

Find-A-Grave and Headstones

When all else fails, there is always (well…almost always) a headstone to be found. Families tended to be buried in the same area, so if you can find one, you may be able to find more. If you’re not able to get out to the actual cemetery, check out Find-A-Grave https://www.findagrave.com/

Stella Alice Baker Martin’s headstone (my maternal 2x Great Grandmother)

Find-A-Grave is a great resource for information. By searching your ancestor’s name, you may find their birth/death dates, their obituary, and if you’re lucky, a picture! The Find-A-Grave community is pretty awesome too in the fact that you can put in a request for a particular cemetery. The only issue is that because the information is entered by volunteer individuals, you should also double check the dates, locations, ect. I’m not saying that the information is always wrong or anything like that. It just like when you’re looking at someone else’s family tree. It’s a great starting point, but you should always verify the information.

Next Steps

Now that we’ve covered all the actual vital records, birth, marriage, and death, it’s time to dig into census records! The new series will cover all the basics of how to search for census records and what you should be looking for!

If you need a refresher, check out the marriage records post!

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
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/

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!