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52 Ancestors, Week 20: Textile
52 Ancestors, Week 20: Textile

Although this week’s topic for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is textile, I’m going to talk about something that technically isn’t a textile, but does require fabric to make. 

When I was a teenager, my Nana (mother’s mother) taught me how to cross-stitch. While I don’t have any family examples of textiles, quilts, or cross-stitches, I have plenty of my work. This is the oldest piece by me, probably done almost 30 years ago when I was 18:

More recent cross-stitched pieces I’ve done have been for my friends, partners, and self to enjoy:

This is one of my favorite hobbies. I feel like the best time of year to sit down and cross-stitch is in the winter. There is something cozy about curling up on the sofa with some handiwork and watching a movie or binge-watching a TV series while I stitch all these tiny Xs.

It may not be the most interesting post or about my ancestors, but I wouldn’t have this skill if not for my Nana teaching me. I taught both my son and daughter to cross-stitch, and even though it doesn’t seem to have held their interest, I’m glad I at least introduced them to it.

52 Ancestors Week 19: Food and Drink | Our Prairie Nest
52 Ancestors, Week 19: Food & Drink

Food and drink aren’t something I’ve heard much about when it comes to my ancestors. However, I have plenty of memories of food thanks to my father and paternal grandparents.

My dad wasn’t much of a cook. I don’t know if he just didn’t know how to cook or found it easier to keep everything simple as a single dad raising two children on his own. Maybe it was a little of both, because Dad made basic things like baked chicken, ground beef, hamburgers, hotdogs, or pork chops, always with rice and corn or green beans on the side. Sometimes he made spaghetti or got us pizza from our favorite place, Papa Gino’s in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. When we got a crock pot, Dad was excited for the different recipes he could make, but he invariably always made pork chops or chili.

We went to my grandparents’ house on Sundays, holidays, and birthdays for lunch/dinner, and they tended to cook simple food, as well. Most of the time, we had pot roast with potatoes and a vegetable on the side. Sometimes, we had American chop suey, which I hated as child. Absolutely hated! I also refused to eat pasta with tomato sauce on it, because I hate tomatoes. To this day, I still see tomatoes as the enemy (to me, they taste like stale bread and old beer had a baby). But I somehow got over my dislike of tomato sauce and now American chop suey is a comfort food that reminds me of my grandparents.

They also made our birthday cakes. I don’t know if they made them from scratch or a box of Betty Crocker mix. I think probably the latter, because the taste of the mixes is one I’ve always preferred. I know, it sounds weird, but cake made from scratch is never as sweet and I just don’t like it nearly as much as cake that comes from a mix. In the summer, my grandparents would also make chicken salad and potato salad for holidays like Memorial Day and Independence Day. I miss those salads, though I didn’t really care for grapes being in the chicken salad. Sometimes, I’ll buy potato salad from the deli. I admit I’m too lazy to make it myself!

The food I associate with Thanksgiving is completely connected to what my grandparents served year after year. As far as I’m concerned, Thanksgiving dinner should consist of turkey, butternut squash, mashed potatoes, green beans (not as a casserole), and cornbread. I don’t like cranberry sauce, but I can’t imagine a Thanksgiving without serving that or cranberry nut bread. You won’t see me eat cornbread at any other time of year. For me, cornbread is very Thanksgiving-specific. I also refuse to serve macaroni and cheese for the holiday. It just doesn’t “go with” the meal that I grew up eating, but if someone else serves it, I will certainly eat it. 😉

As you can see, certain foods have really strong associations for me, thanks to my grandparents.

52 Ancestors Week 18 - Social | Our Prairie Nest
52 Ancestors, Week 18: Social

Amy Johnson Crow had me stuck with this week’s topic for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, because social events didn’t really come up in my family. Sure, we had some holiday and summer get-togethers and the occasional reunion. But I have very few stories about my ancestors going out and being sociable outside family.

One story I do have is that my great-great grandmother Ernesta used to attend dances in her hometown of Moneglia, Italy. She and a family friend, Francesco Gola, both went to these dances. Ernesta and Francesco also both emigrated to Middleborough, Massachusetts with their spouses and had families there. I wish I knew more about these dances and the kind of social life my great-great grandmother had in Moneglia as a young adult.

The most social thing I could think of about my family was the fact that my 4th great-grandfather, John Winsor, ran the Cracker Tavern in Duxbury, Massachusetts.

Cracker Tavern Duxbury Massachusetts

The Cracker Tavern counted well-known figures such as Henry Thoreau and Daniel Webster among its patrons. The Reminiscence of Pauline Winsor Wilkinson says, “Some of the boys who had gone into business in Boston and came down occasionally for a dance or a two-weeks vacation dubbed the Tavern with the name of “The Cracker,” because at every meal they had on the table the large soft crackers that were always used in clam or fish chowder.”

My 4th great-grandfather must have been a sociable person himself, to run such a business. He is even mentioned in an essay Thoreau wrote about a mackrelling excursion to Clark’s Island with him in his book Cape Cod, Thomas Y. Crowell & Co. Publishers, New York, 1908. Pages 77-78. You can read the entry at Project Gutenberg. I imagine it doesn’t get more social than being a tavernkeeper!

52 Ancestors, Week 17: Document | Our Prairie Nest
52 Ancestors, Week 17: Document

We are moving right along with 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks and I am… not. Ha ha! This makes the second post I’m putting out there quite late/on the last day. April was hectic for me on many levels. Hoping to slow down a bit, now.

On to document, which can mean so many things. As genealogists, documenting our ancestors is part of our journey and gathering documents is exciting. What I would like to talk about here is the process by which we locate those documents.

It’s easy to focus only on online searching, to fall into the mindset that everything worth finding is at our fingertips. That, however, is not at all true. Yes, we have access to wonderful documents, newspapers, books, and more thanks to FamilySearch and other websites. But we often ignore the millions – if not billions – of documents that have not been digitized. Maybe they never will be, and if we wait and hope for it to happen, we might be missing the key to breaking down a brick wall or the answer to a question.

Even though we are in a digital age, it is important for us to cultivate or maintain traditional research skills in order to find any documents pertaining to our ancestors. First, know how to write a concise email or letter to request information. Only last week, I mailed out multiple requests to libraries in search of obituaries. These obituaries are not available via Newspapers.com or in any other online database, so this was the next best option. I won’t have performed an exhaustive search on an individual if I don’t bother taking the time to request and review these items.

Know how to use a card catalog, whether it’s physical or digitized. Most libraries have gone to a digital/database-style catalog, but some may still have physical card files. Also, know the Dewey Decimal System. I’m not saying we need to have it memorized, but we should still understand how it works to locate books at the library.

Always carry a notebook, pen, pencil, and quarters (preferably, multiples of all of these in your research bag). I realize the idea of a research bag with physical objects like this seems outdated, but hear me out. Even the most prepared genealogist may find that their phone battery is running low and they forgot to bring a charger to the library or archives. What if you run out of memory on your phone because you’re taking so many pictures? What if you can’t take a picture and need to request copies, instead? Or, what if you need to jot down a call number to give to a librarian or archivist, so they can pull something for you? It’s important to be prepared for whatever might come, including the rules and policies at archives that might actually prevent the use of a phone camera or anything else (I don’t think that’s the norm, but it’s important to always check).

These are just a few thoughts on what you might need to consider when you’re searching for a document. Never give up and think it doesn’t exist, just because it’s not available online. It might be waiting for you in some distant church, town hall, library, archives, or other such place. And there might be a lovely staff member who will open your email or letter, and know exactly where to find the document you seek.