Posted in Baking With My Ancestors

Irish Oat Cookies

Never underestimate the power of an oat. Especially if that oat is in an Irish Oat Cookie! While these cookies are not what you traditionally think of when you think of Irish cuisine, they do have a very Irish history.

The History

Thanks to the Celts who immigrated from Mainland Europe, oats have a very long history in Ireland. Oats were a staple crop in the country from pre-historic time until the 17th century. While potatoes replaced oats as the main staple, oats made their comeback during the Great Potato Famine. Oats were cheap to grow and leant itself to many different recipes.

Oatmeal was the most obvious way to enjoy oats. So much so, that oatmeal was used as a way to pay rent. Butter and salt was eventually added and the Irish discovered a way to make oat bread. However, when honey and sugar were added to the mix, the Irish soon realized that they could use oats to enjoy the sweeter things in life. Both scones and biscuits (cookies) were soon being baked in Irish kitchens across the country.

The Cookie Ingredients

  • 1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (55 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp (3 grams) firmly packed orange zest
  • 1 tsp (6 grams) vanilla bean paste
  • 2 1/4 cups (212 grams) old-fashioned oats
  • 1 3/4 cups (219 grams) unbleached self-rising flour
  • 1/4 cup (44 grams) steel-cut oats
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

The Making of Cookies

  1. Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, sugars, orange zest, and vanilla bean paste at medium speed until creamy, 2 to 3 minutes, stopping to scrape sides of bowl.
  3. In a medium bowl, stir together old-fashioned oats, flour, steel-cut oats, and salt. Add oats mixture to butter mixture all at once; beat at medium-low speed just until combined, stopping to scrape sides of bowl.
  4. Using a 2-tablespoon spring-loaded scoop, scoop dough, and roll into balls. Place at least 2 inches apart on prepared pans; press to about 3/4-inch thickness, pinching closed any cracks and smoothing edges, if needed.
  5. Bake in batches until edges are golden, 12 to 16 minutes. Let cool on pans for 2 minutes. Remove from pans, and let cool completely on a wire rack placed over a parchment-lined baking sheet.

The Glaze Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups (180 grams) confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 tablespoons (45 grams) crème fraiche
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (22.5 grams) fresh orange juice

The Making of the Glaze

  1. In a small bowl, stir together all ingredients until smooth and well combined. Use immediately.
  2. Place the glaze in a small pastry bag or plastic bag; cut a 1/4-inch opening in tip or corner. Drizzle glaze onto cooled cookies as desired; let stand until set, about 15 minutes.

Full disclosure; these have become my favorite cookies. It’s nearly impossible to eat only one Irish Oat Cookie!

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

Baking With My Ancestors – Irish Brown Bread

As I was making the list of all the baked goods I wanted to make for this new series, Irish Brown Bread was at the top.  It’s sooo good and sooo easy to make!  While I was in Ireland a few years ago, I ate Irish Brown Bread for breakfast every day.  It’s tasty with butter and jam, but even on it’s own, it’s yummy!

When people think of Ireland and bread, the mostly think of soda bread.  I’ll admit, I did too…until I tried the brown bread.  Irish Brown Bread became popular in 1840s when refined baking soda was introduced to the country.  The bread became ingrained in the every day lives of the people in Ireland and very important to the Irish culture!

After I got home from Ireland, the first thing on my list was to figure out how to make authentic Irish Brown Bread.  I found a few examples online, but I felt like they weren’t just right.  I found a bakery on Instagram, Kelly Lou Cakes (@kellyloucakes) and just happened to find her making the bread in her Insta-stories.  I went out on a limb and sent her a message asking her to share the recipe.  I wasn’t expecting anything in return, but to my surprise, she shared it!  So…below is Kelly Lou’s recipe for Irish Brown Bread…straight from Ireland!

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Irish Brown Bread Recipe

Ingredients

(note the measurements are in weight/European)

  • 700g Coarse Wholemeal Flour
  • 2 teaspoons Wheat Germ
  • 2 teaspoons Bran
  • 1 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 800mL Buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tsp Oil

Steps

  1. Line 2 loaf pans with parchment paper.
  2. Preheat oven to 350F
  3. Mix the Flour, Germ, Bran, Baking Soda and Salt together.
  4. Add the Buttermilk and Eggs.  Stir to combine.
  5. Add the Oil and still until just combined.
  6. Pour the bread mixture into the two loaf pans
  7. Bake for 50 minutes or until bread is a golden brown.

That’s it!  When cooled, slice and enjoy it!  If you have any questions about the recipe, feel free to send me an email!

 

Posted in Ancestor Stories

The Baker/Arthur connection

Genealogy is full of surprises.  It could be finding out that you are related to someone famous.  I have also seen where two friends ended up being distantly related!  There are all kinds of fun surprises and for the most part, that is what keeps a genealogist going.

What happens, though, when those surprises seem a little off-putting?  What if you’re related to the biggest traitor in American history?  (Yeah, let’s not talk about that one).  What do you do if you find out your parents are related?  Yep, this was my big surprise moment.  What in the world do I do now?  Does this explain why some of my joints a double-jointed?!  Genealogy is just like life, you have to take the good with the bad.

*Cue the Facts of Life theme song here*

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First of all, let me start by explaining that where my parents are connected is far enough down the line that it really doesn’t matter.  They are somewhere in the arena of 8th cousins and many, many, many times removed.

I began this discovery by researching my maternal Baker line.  My 2nd Great Grandmother was a Baker (Stella Alice Baker) and her line had me researching in the Eastern Kentucky area.  I was curious to see where exactly this line would take me. I found Stella’s father John William Baker who lead me to his father John Baker and then to George Thompson Baker and on to Brice Baker.  It was my discovery of Brice Baker that gave me a little pause.

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It seems that Brice, my maternal 6x Great Grandfather, married a woman by the name of Mary Arthur.  Wait a second, I thought, I’m an Arthur.  Is it possible that I’m just related to Arthur surname on both sides of my family?!  This wouldn’t be the first time.  I have several surnames that appear on both my maternal and paternal side of may family.  As I’m sure most who are doing their family research have discovered.  So, just out of curiosity, I hopped over to Mary’s family to see what I could find out about her Arthur line.

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I didn’t find a connection anywhere until I found Mary’s 2x Great Grandfather, Thomas Barnabus Arthur (1680-1715).  When I attempted to enter Thomas’ information into my tree, it showed that he was already there.  That was strange!  When I looked at his children, it seemed that I was already related to his one son, John Arthur.  After connecting the dots, John was my 8th Great Grandfather on my paternal side.  That meant that Thomas Barnabus Arthur was the bridge that connected my maternal and paternal sides!  Talk about mind being blown!

After sharing this information with my family, a new joke started.  They like to tease me and say that if I keep researching, I’m going to be my own Grandma!

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Posted in Genealogy 101

Hanging Out With The Cool Kids In The Irish DNA Group

If you’ve ever searched for genealogy groups on Facebook you know there are oodles of them.  It seems that every area of the world has their own page designated to their specific area.  Some are awesome…and some are not…but I’m here to tell you about some cool kids that I’ve met.

I stumbled on the Irish DNA Group by accident.  I had hit a brick wall while researching my Grandfather’s family and was desperate to find a crack in the wall.  I did a search and found the Irish DNA Group.  I quickly read through the “about” section and realized this could be what I’ve been looking for!

The purpose of the Irish DNA Group is assist those with potential Irish DNA.  To connect users with possible cousins and others who are doing research in a given area of Ireland.  To get started, all you need is to have taken a DNA test and have uploaded that DNA to GedMatch.  When you click join, you will answer a short questionnaire.  Once approved by the moderators, you will be then able to run Matchbox Tool.  This is where you will find your matches.  Matches are pulled from other members of the Irish DNA Group.

Below is an example of some of my matches…

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You will find that just because you match some in the Irish DNA Group, it does not necessarily mean that you share Irish ancestry.  I was able to connect with a cousin where both of our ancestors were from Tennessee.  The great thing about DNA is that you never know what you’ll find!

Go and check out the Irish DNA Group.  They have a ton of information on how to get started and what to do with your results.  You can find a link to the group below!

The Irish DNA Group

Posted in Geneabits

Back To School

It’s that time of year again when everybody is getting ready to head back to school.  I was that kid who loved school.  I’ve always loved to learn, especially when it something that makes my world a little bit bigger.

I am a big fan of teachers who use genealogy to not only teach students, but to give students ownership in the world’s history.  I stumbled upon the article below and immediately became a huge fan of the project.

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The project, called My Adopted Soldier, was created by teacher, Gerry Moore. Originally this project focused on Irish in World War I.  It paired selected students (what would be Juniors here in the states) with a Irish soldier who was from their respective county and who died during the war.  Talk about taking ownership in history!  Now the project is starting again, but this time focusing on Irish who came to American and fought (and died) in the American Civil War.  Not only will this give students a connection to where they live, but it will also broaden their world and give them a connection here in the states.  The great big world that they live in just became a little bit easier to grasp.  How cool is that?!

If you want more information about this project, the link is below.  Also, if you know of any projects going on like this in your area, I’d love to hear about them!  Shoot an email to coolgirlgenealogy@gmail.com  I would love to feature these types of projects in future Geneabits posts!

My Adopted Soldier

 

 

 

Posted in Genealogy 101

When Irish Eyes Are Smiling

 

I suppose before I jump into what I did on my trip to Ireland, I should give you a little background on how all this came about.  The short story is that it was all divine intervention.  The (shortened) long story is a little more random.

Like a lot of my best stories, social media played a big role.  It all started with an Instagram post.  I saw a posting talking about a program called SALT (Serving the Aged Lovingly Today) that was sponsored by the Carmelite Sisters of the Aged and Infirm.  Now here is where I should tell you that I’m not Catholic.  Yes, I have some interest in the Catholic faith, but I was raised as Baptist as one can be living in the South.  Anyways, here was a program that was based around serving the elderly, something that is very near and dear to my heart.  I immediately filled out the application, but took pause when it asked me my interests/hobbies.  I put the basics down.  You know the ones: reading, spending time with my friends/family, etc.  The only problem was do I list genealogy.  Genealogy is a huge part of my life, but how could I possibly use it to help the elderly?  I continued and finished filling out the rest of the application and then right before I hit submit, I went back and added genealogy to list.

Okay…I’m going to skip a large chunk of the story here.  One, because this will be a really long post if I don’t and two, it’s just details.

The fact that I added genealogy to my “hobbies” list opened a huge door and an even bigger opportunity.  The suggestion was made to use my genealogy knowledge and make “memory books” for the residents at the nursing homes the SALT volunteers would visit.  That way, the residents would not only have their stories written in a book, but they would also have something they could pass down to future generations.  I thought that this was an amazing idea!

Fast forward a couple of months and I find myself on a plane to Dublin, Ireland…the first stop on the SALT “tour”.  I had never been to Ireland.  Sure I had heard family folklore stories about Ireland, particularity from my Grandpa who was very proud of his Irish heritage.  To say I was excited would have been an understatement.

Myself, along with seven other girls, would be staying at a nursing home located in Dalkey, Ireland.  We would “live” there for the week and serve the elderly the best way possible, by just being there for them.  We would go to Mass with them daily, play games and have sing-a-longs with them, and most importantly work on their memory books.

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My view from my room at the nursing home.

The “memory book” project started day one.  I found myself explaining to the other girls who were there volunteering what exactly these books needed to be and how to put them together.  I had worked on a list of questions to ask the residents for their books just in case any of us got stuck during our one-on-one time with the residents.  To say I was a little intimidated would have been an understatement.  Sure, I had done other projects like this before, but never in a group setting and never at a nursing home.  I just prayed that God would show us the best way to tackle this project.

Oh boy, did God show up!  Each of the volunteers were assigned two residents, with the hopes that at least one would be willing to participate.  We had some residents that didn’t feel comfortable sharing their life stories.  We had others that didn’t think they had done anything worthy of a “memory books”.  Then we had the residents where we didn’t even have to ask a single question because they were that eager to share their story.

At the end of the week, we presented our residents with their “memory book”.  All of the girls had done an amazing job.  Each book was made not only out of the love we developed for our resident, but out of what we discovered they needed most.  One book was made as a sensory book for a resident who was losing their sight.  One book was made as a remembrance for the family members that a resident had lost.  One book was made as a family tree so as not to lose the ancestors who came before.  Each book was unique to the experience and each book served as a genealogy treasure, either to remember the past or to not forget the present.

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The “Memory Book” project.

 

I think as a Genealogist we sometimes forget the human connection.  That those living are creating history as we speak.  We get so involved in those who have already passed that we forget the importance of recording what is happening now.  My week in Ireland reminded me to not only record the stories of my Grandparents (and those older generations), but to also start making notes of my own history.  All any of us wants someday is for somebody to listen to the things we have experienced and how those moments made us feel.  Yes, the majority of the time spent doing genealogy is research, but we shouldn’t forget the importance of listening.  Hidden gems are there just waiting for us to take the time to listen.

There is so much more I could write about this experience.  My fellow volunteers, the Sisters, the staff, and of course, the residents, made this a week that I will never forget.  I highly suggest that if you have the time to sit down with the elderly and just talk about their lives, you will not regret it.  Also, if you looking for more information about the SALT Program or the Carmelite Sisters of the Aged and Infirm, I’ve posted some links below.  Lastly, if you have any questions on the “memory book” project, feel free to email me at coolgirlgenealogy@gmail.com

 

Carmelite Sisters of the Aged and Infirm

SALT Program