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    In every family, someone ends up with “the stuff.” It is the goal of The Family Curator to inspire, enlighten, and encourage other family curators in their efforts to preserve and share their own family treasures.

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    Blogging Buddies and Genealogy Resolutions, report from the West Coast Partner

    One of my favorite new holiday traditions is visiting with WeTree blogger Amy Coffin when she comes to town. This is the second season we have been able to meet and speak genealogy, and it is truly a highlight of the holiday for me.

    Our conversation drifted around upcoming conferences and the cool new Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner until we really got to the interesting stuff of research and writing. When Amy mentioned her goal of finding her 16th great-great-grandparent, it was a logical jump to put that at the top of genealogy goals for 2011. The scary thing is, while Amy was quick to think GOAL, I was merely thinking out loud.” Suddenly, we were at Goals and Objectives, and “hey, this might really get done this year!”

    It always helps to have a buddy when there is a challenge at hand, and I was glad that Amy caught the ball and tossed it back to me to name Three Genealogy Goals for 2011.

    One Research Goal

    One Organizational Goal

    One Writing Goal

    While the first goal on Amy’s list was research, mine was all about writing family history. I recently borrowed the original parchment family genealogy researched and written by my Great Aunt Mercy Kinsel MacPhee. Until September of this year I had only seen poor photocopies made in the 1960’s. The original is a beautiful volume hand-illustrated in gilt and colored inks, and the owner would like to see it faithfully reproduced and shared with all the family. It’s a big job, but I need to see it through (or be left in Amy’s dust!).

    My research goal is a continuation of one started years ago that has been drifting along without conclusion – establishing the Chamblin/Chamberlain/Chamberlin link with my maternal grandmother. With FGS slated this year for Springfield, Illinois, Chamblin territory, I want to get my research all lined up so that I can do any on-site digging that will help with this puzzle. I hope Amy is able to come to FGS so we can swap tales at theconference.

    The organization goal is a tough one. This fall I moved from a PC to a Mac and in the transfer all my photos and documents were mixed up. I want to get everything nice and tidy again AND investigate new options in genealogy database programs now that I am using a Mac. I need to get my photos moved to an external drive and get my back up plan in place. There is a lot of work to do here, but the first step is just making a plan and moving forward. Amy’s scanning schedule is inspirational; maybe I’ll work up something similar.

    Amy gives me too much credit for coming up with this challenge; it takes a buddy to make this work, and I feel pretty lucky she was there to throw out the first ball.

    So, genealogy friends, what are you doing in 2011?


    The Nativity Story, via Social Networking

    I am still saving the illustrated children's books to read to the grandchildren!





    And Now… for your Holiday Nogging Pleasure: The Eggnog Recipe


    Family recipes can be just as confusing as old land plat descriptions, and I have the recipe to prove it!

    Our friends have been calling and emailing in a frenzy. With one thing and another, we are late, late, late making the traditional holiday LevNog. This delicious blending of dairy and distillery is usually brewed on Thanksgiving weekend and left to mellow quietly in the cold dark basement until someone drops in begging for a cuppa.

    Holiday LevNog ready for delivery.
    (Must be over 21 and reside within walking distance.)

    Last night, Mr. Curator finally felt sufficiently recovered from a bad cold to don his holiday apron and commandeer the kitchen. I tried to act as sous chef providing ingredients and equipment, but it soon became clear that translating the recipe was going to be the major obstacle.

    On re-reading the recipe several times it was obvious that the difference in results from year to year is entirely due to different translations. Some years, the nog is smooth and light, much like the consistency of good cream. Other years, the results are thick and lumpy with whipped clouds of creamy sweet goodness. Both taste pretty darn marvelous.

    Blame it on the Translator. I automatically convert the succinct instructions to recipe Directions, but Mr. Curator takes each instruction as written, quite literally. This became as clear as… egg whites, last night in the brew room.

    The list of ingredients is straightforward, although you have to assume it is acceptable to use one dozen eggs, separated, to get 12 Egg yolks and 12 Egg whites.

    Ingriedents (sic)

    12 Egg yolks

    12 Egg whites

    1 ½ cups of sugar

    ¼ tsp. Salt

    1 qt. Heavy cream

    1 qt. bourbon

    1 qt. brandy

    1 cup rum


    It’s the Directions that get us every time, starting with the very first command:

    Beat cream. – What the heck do they mean? Beat the cream? With what? Spoon, mixer? Just cream? No sugar, no anything? I read the entire recipe through to the end and still can’t figure it out. Husband gets ready to pour 1 qt. Heavy cream into the bowl of the stand mixer.

    “Stop,” I say, (nicely). I suggest he skip to instruction to “Beat whites till stiff and beat in ½ cup sugar” because we all know that egg whites have to be beaten in a really clean bowl with no grease if you want them to get good and stiff.

    As sous chef, I have already separated the eggs. Separate yolks and whites (Note no yolks can be in whites but whites can be in yolks). As I cracked the last one and prepared to slide the white into the bowl with eleven brothers, I experienced the fleeting thought that perhaps I should crack the eggs one by one into a bowl just in case the yolk broke… nahhhh, extra work… just then the yolk broke. Managed to get it out of the whites. Whew.

    He grumbles and pours egg whites into mixer bowl. Beats whites until stiff. Adds sugar. Scrapes sweet clouds into another bowl.

    Now it’s time to Beat yolks with 1 cup sugar and salt until light. Before I can say, “how much salt” he has thrown the yolks and sugar into the mixer bowl and they are blended and blended and blended. Almost custard.

    We now have a huge bowl of whipped egg whites and a mixer bowl of yolks and sugar. Next: Combine and beat. While I am thinking do they mean “fold together” rather than beat? Or maybe “mix gently,” Mr. Curator has dumped the whites into the yolks and is beating the mixture. I convince him to go gently. Next, Beat in cream then milk. We now have a thick, somewhat lumpy liquid,

    The final instructions need no translation: Stir in whisky. Beat well and add rum.

    By now I have left the room. When I return and review the recipe I see that one odd omission has not escaped Mr. Curator’s eagle eye. The Directions fail to include each of the listed Ingredients. Never fear! Mr. Curator caught the error and remembered to Add brandy.


    Ingriedents** (sic)
    12 Egg yolks
    12 Egg whites
    1 ½ cups of sugar
    ¼ tsp. Salt
    1 qt. Heavy cream
    1 qt. bourbon
    1 qt. brandy
    1 cup rum
    Beat cream. Separate yolks and whites (Note no yolks can be in whites but whites can be in yolks) Beat yolks with 1-cup sugar and salt till light. Beat whites till stiff and beat in ½ cup of sugar. Combine and beat. Beat in cream then milk. Stir in whisky. Beat well add rum.


    An Honor to be Honored


    Thank you, Readers, for nominating The Family Curator to named as one of Family Tree Magazine's 2011 40 Best Genealogy Blogs. Recognition by one's peers is always the very best kind of compliment, and the genealogy blog world has grown into a true community where we certainly feel like we "know" people we have never "met." It is an honor to be in the company of so many talented researchers and writers, and to know that there are even more outstanding blogs to discover in the days to come.

    The Family Curator has been nominated in the Research Advice/How To category. I encourage you to check out the complete list of nominees and visit old favorites as well as new entries. Voting is now open, through Monday, December 20th via ballot posted here.

    Congratulations to all the nominees!

    Vote for your favorite Genealogy Blog Today!


    Here We Go A Blog Caroling

    Our family favorite remains the grade school performance of Away in a Manger, complete with home-made costumes, shaky home video, and wayward sheep. This rendition is good competition for some of the movies we made of our own kids; maybe I will have the films converted to digital in time for next year’s Blog Caroling Concert.



    If Our Ancestors Wrote Christmas Letters: 2010 Edition

    The Annual Christmas Letter, circa 1900

    Dearest Cousin,

    Forgive the brevity of this holiday message. I have only a small quantity of ink and this one sheet of paper torn from the back of Mr. Smith’s store account book and will of needs write in a small hand and with a light stroke. 

    I wish I could say that we are all well, but after Bessie kicked the ladder upsetting George onto the hay rake, we have just had one hard knock after another. George only had the wind knocked out of him, landing on the handle not the tines of the rake, but poor Bessie was so unsettled her milk went sour and made the baby sick for nearly a week. The poor thing (the baby, not the cow) just couldn’t get any rest at all and we were nearly crazed what with listening to the little mite cry and cry. Finally, the old dear (the cow, not the baby) settled down and her milk got just as sweet again as white honey. She has always been such a good animal; we surely do hope and pray that she will stay well for the children have all grown to love her so, to say nothing of how highly we regard her milk.

    The five older children are well except for Georgie who seems to have the same hard luck as his father. He didn’t fall on the hay rake, although it might have knocked some sense into him because on account of his hard head (just like his father’s) we are now grandparents with a new baby in the house – not the baby that got sick from Bessie’s milk, but Georgie and his wife’s baby born just five days after our youngest (the one who did get sick from Bessie’s milk). If it wasn’t for Georgie being so stubborn he would have let that girl marry Johnson boy across the creek, but Georgie just wouldn’t have any of it. That Bessie took off from our farm crying most piteously after George hollered at her for knocking him off the ladder and on to the hay rake. You know George is usually a very mild man, but he was so surprised that his voice just got the better of him. Georgie went running after Bessie who ran across the field to into that Johnson boy who was courting Patience Wilson. They were probably doing what younguns do (Riff Johnson and Patience, not Georgie and Bessie) and she started wailing, probably about how her mama was going to give her a piece of her mind when she found out what those two were up to. Georgie thought Riff was hurtin’ her (Patience not Bessie) so he pulled back and gave Riff a fistful of good manners. The boy just stood there with his face swelling up and bleeding and the cow moaning into the sky because everyone else was shouting and yelling.  After all that Patience decided Georgie was a hero and she wouldn’t have any more to do with that Johnson boy after all. Georgie fell sick in love and nothing would do except he and Patience would be married and you can see what came of that.

    Bessie seems to know she was the cause of all the fuss and she cries and carries on most all the time. This is pretty fine by us because her moaning is a bit of a lullaby song and with two new babies and only one cradle, we are celebrating Christmas with a babe in the manger and Bessie singing carols. 

    I hope that you and your family have good news to share and that you will be able to write again soon. We read your news about Cousin James position at the bank and the ice sculpture carved in his likeness for the holiday dinner at the Ritz Hotel. I expect it was fairly spectacular with his fine brow and long nose. George wonders if the bank would like to borrow a cow to model as an image for dairy investments? Bessie is available.


    Your Cousin Amelia 

    Photograph: Barry, Kelley & Chadwick. Down on the farm, c1906. Photographic Print on stereo card. Digital. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 US. Accessed December 2010.


    Black Friday Cooking

    It’s that time of year… while some families are watching football, shopping, or already trimming the tree, our is usually mixing up a batch of holiday LevNog that probably won’t last until the first day of Christmas.

    Our recipe came from a friend who made the mistake of gifting us with a glass snowman filled with the stuff. She probably got tired of refilling Frosty, and finally gave us the recipe.

    The recipe is traditionally brewed from dairy and distillery sometime during Thanksgiving weekend, and carefully stored in the basement for as long as you can stand it. About 24 hours. We give in to worries about food safety in Southern California and keep ours in the basement fridge. It is really cold in there.

    But things will be different this year. We are travelling in and around New York State and sampling the local specialties. Wonderful farm fresh eggs, delicious homemade bread, free-range fowl, this-season apples. Maybe we can find some nog somewhere to hold us until we get home and mix up our own.


    Aha! Gotcha!

    Nope, not Kansas, Linda. But it was a very fun day in the pumpkin patch selecting future jack-o-lanterns.

    Although in Pasadena, California we don’t see roadside stands like this one, I just know they must exist up and down hundreds of country roads. This particular farm happened to be in Dutchess County, one of my favorite places to visit.

    I’ll be looking for your local pumpkin patch next year.

    Thanks for stopping by and leaving a note, Linda; Michelle, Turning of Generations; Elizabeth, Little Bytes of Life; and Bill, West in New England.


    Answering Riddles: Which Came First. . .

    No, I don’t know if it was the chicken or the egg, but I can tell you WHO was first.

    Donna Pointkowski, What’s Past is Prologue, wins the gold ring for being first and fastest to guess where I was last month – at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

    Of course, it would have been more than “a little embarrassing” if she didn’t know that one. I took the picture standing in front of the fabulous sculpture bearing the name of her blog!

    Donna beat out Elizabeth O’Neal, Little Bytes of Life; Sheri Fenley, The Educated Genealogist; footnote Maven; and Becky Wiseman, Kinexxions – they are ALL pretty savvy.

    Jenna, Desperately Seeking Surnames, also correctly guessed from the Day 2 photo that I was in D.C.; I have to go look for her posts about her trip to the Library of Congress. That’s a future destination.

    Day 3 Winner was the incomparable footnoteMaven who correctly named the photo subject as Ottomanelli & Sons Prime Meat Market in the West Village of New York City. The butcher’s special on Lady Gaga flank steak was just to good to pass up.


    Anywhere U.S.A.

    This photo may have been taken on a country road in your home state. Well, ok, it doesn't look much like Arizona or even Southern California. But, it sure does look like many pumpkin patches across America.



    Another Travel Riddle

    You are all so clever. My visit to The National Archives in Washington, D.C. was still in progress when Donna Pointkowski correctly (and rightly so) commented on my whereabouts. That big statue is dead giveaway.

    Next, for your armchair-travel pleasure I am posting a photo taken just yesterday morning.  The sign out front caught my eye, the American entrepreneurial spirit at work!

    Many eat it; she wore it.
    Some love it; some abhor it.
    She decided to fashion a dress
    The local butcher was unimpressed.

    Best when fresh; delicious with age,
    Will this fashion be the rage?

    Where am I?



    Research Results: 1-?


    Day One was Most Successful: A Lovely Pension file for Great-Great-Uncle Isaac Winsor. Oh, thank you Collateral Relatives. More to come on this one which included original Marrriaige Certificates, Divorce Decrees (yes, plural), and Guardianship papers. It was full of gems.

    Day Two, not so much. Samuel Chamblin (who married our Mercy Winsor) "Rejected" after enlisting and never returning to Muster Roll Call. And multiple "pink slips" for records not found. Bummer.

    Oh well. Gives me something to do next.



    A Riddle: Where Am I?

    What's Past is Prologue, what's present is now past.

    Having a great time; wish you were here.



    How do you keep track of your research progress? The #FHExpo Bloggers want to know

    FHExpo Bloggers (from left) Amy Coffin, Thomas MacEntee,
    Kathryn Doyle, Elizabeth O'Neal, Lisa Alzo

    One of the highlights of attending a genealogy conference is the chance to learn ask a lot of questions and share ideas with other attendees. This morning, at the Beacon of Bloggers table, we've been talking about ways to record your research progress. The most popular solution so far is a non-solution; most of us use a traditional research log on paper or Word. doc, combined with keeping things in our heads. What do you do?

    • Paper or computer Log?
    • Bygones?
    • Google Docs on the cloud?
    • Dropbox?

    Ideally, we would like an app we could use on our mobile device and sync with our computer to be printed out for the file and for review.

    Have you found a good solution?


    Shades of the Departed, The Mourning Issue

    The newest issue of online magazine Shades of the Departed is now available, featuring 110 pages of outstanding content from nine contributors. I am honored to be in such good company writing short fiction as Miss Penelope Dreadful.

    Editor footnoteMaven opens this issue with a beautiful farewell message to two Shades contributors, my mother Suzanne Mercy Winsor Brown and The Graveyard Rabbit Terry Thornton. Terry was the first Shades columnist and a chief instigator in The Graveyard Rabbits Association. Suzanne was a happy one-time contributor to Twice Told Tuesday in 2009 with a birthday surprise for me. Thank you, fM, for a beautiful tribute.

    This issue comes just in time for the California Family History Expo October 8-9 which will feature a live podcast by Lisa Louise Cooke highlighting Shades of the Departed. If  you can't make it to Pleasanton, you can hear the podcast on Lisa's Genealogy Gems show.