google-site-verification: google65e716d80989ba07.html The Armchair Genealogist: December 2010

Open Thread: What are Your Genealogy Goals for 2011?

With the New Year only hours away, I can’t help but set my sights on what genealogy adventures I wish to accomplish this New Year. I love setting new goals and making fresh starts. Like the start of any good game, all things seem possible.

Therefore, as cliché as it may sound to make New Year’s resolutions, it can be a successful tool to achieving your genealogy goals. The key is to set realistic, achievable goals, to write them down and to share them. You are more likely to commit to a goal you have proclaimed publicly.

It is also very rewarding to look back at your year confidently, acknowledging that you smashed a few balls through those goal posts. Therefore, here is my public proclamation of this years genealogy goals.

My Genealogy Goals for 2011

1. This year I’m going to start a new family history book. Last year, I published my Dad’s family history, an accomplishment I am very proud of and over the next 2 years I intent to publish my Mom’s family history.

2. I want to continue to seek out my Irish family history, the Stapleton family continues to intrigue me, and they will be one of my key priorities this year.

3. I’m going to start my husband’s family history, rooted deep in the heart of Italy; I’m looking forward to uncovering his lineage. He currently does not know his ancestors past his grandparents who he never met. I’m looking forward to the challenge.

4. I would like to try to make contact with cousins in Poland, descendents of my great-grandfather's siblings who remained in Poland after he immigrated to Canada.

5. Finally, I’m going to stretch my writing prowess and write a novel. Incorporating my love of genealogy, history and families, my inspiration for this novel is drawn from a family I have spent years researching and it will focus on the the real life struggles and successes of 3 generations of women.

What are Your Genealogy Goals for 2011?

My Seven Links

1. My First Post – I have to admit my writing skills have come a long way, but here is where my head was at almost 2 years ago, Never Under Estimate the Power of a Source.

2. My Most Visited Post- Family History Interview Questions is very popular on my blog. Many looking for help with writing their family history books find the list helpful.

3. A Post with a Great Discussion – My post titled Who Owns Your Family History Story? I think opened up some discussion about what we should or should not print in our family history books.

4. A Post You Wish You Had Written- Kerry Scott’s post from ClueWagon. Her two part series titled The Time I Hired a Psychic Genealogist was a hoot. Read the comments as well.

5. My Most Helpful Post – I try to write many helpful posts but I would like to think my series on writing your family history is very helpful. I have assembled them conveniently on my page Your Ultimate Guide to Writing Your Family History.

6. My Funniest Post – I don’t consider myself a funny writer but I love to attempt it from time to time, I think my post about my microfilm reader experience was my funniest, My Love Hate Relationship with a Microfilm Reader.

7. A Post I Wish More People Had Read – I’ve only just begun my newest series on Irish Genealogy but I hope to share some helpful hints on how to find your Irish ancestors and hope to draw some new readers in this genre. You can read the third  post in this series here, along with links to other posts in this series.

Want to participate in the 7 Links Challenge? Looking forward to reading your 7 links.

The 7 Links Challenge

Since we are all very busy over these next couple of weeks with Christmas and New Years, most of us will find little time to post as regularly as usual. I thought I might suggest something fun and challenging to my fellow bloggers. Publish a post that lists 7 links to posts that you and others have written that respond to the following 7 categories. This is a great way to spotlight your blog for new and old readers. I hope that this will be a little less work during these busy weeks and provide seven posts for your readers to read over the next couple of weeks, offering you free time to enjoy with your family and friends during this holiday season.

Here are the seven categories:

• Your first post

• Your most visited post

• A post which had a great discussion

• A post on someone else’s blog that you wish you’d written

• Your most helpful post

• Your funniest post or if you’re not a funny writer, a fellow bloggers funny post

• A post that you wish more people had read

You might like to add a few explanations to different links – for example to talk a little about why you enjoyed writing a post or what you liked most about the post on another blog that you link to or why you regret the post you regret.

I will post my own 7 links on Wednesday– stay tuned!

(Thanks to Problogger for the idea)

Family Recipe Friday - Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire!

The Chestnut has a long established history dating back to prehistoric times, for heritage food buffs there is no more established food in history then the chestnut. Once a staple in many European diets, for many North Americans it has become a Christmas tradition while for others the act of roasting chestnuts has fallen by the wayside.

The Greeks first introduced the chestnut tree to Europe. The majority of the chestnut trees currently found in North America are from European stock; however, Native Americans did enjoy their own variety of chestnuts long before European immigrants brought their own varieties.

In 1904, a disease killed off the majority of chestnut trees sparing only a few groves in California and the Pacific Northwest.

It wasn’t until I began celebrating Christmas Eve with my husband’s family (they are Italian) that I became aware of the chestnut tradition. Prior to that, I couldn’t relate to the line in the song.

I now have very fond memories of Nonna delivering roasted chestnuts to the table. She always served them at the end of the meal, after a sweet dessert, then came the roasted chestnuts, fresh walnuts (another tradition that was new to me) along with fresh fruit, usually clementines and grapes.

If you really want to enjoy roasted chestnuts, I do think it’s important to find fresh, good quality chestnuts, most of the chestnuts today are imported from Japan, China, Spain and Italy. I would try to stick to Spanish and Italian imports.

You can prepare your chestnuts in advance by scoring them with a knife. This is very important. If you choose to skip this step, the chestnuts will explode in the oven making a lovely mess or on you and your kitchen risking bad burns. Trust me I speak from experience. One year I missed a couple, it will be snowing chestnuts in your kitchen.

Of course you don’t have to have the open fire, however I think if you live in a rural area, where open fires are still permitted that could be quite fun. Instead, an oven will to just fine. Alternatively, another compromise might to an outdoor grill. Just stand watch turning them often.

Roasting Chestnuts

Preheat Oven to 450F

Cut a large X in the flat side of the chestnut with a sharp knife cutting all the way through the skin.

Place chestnuts on a baking sheet and roast for 30-40 minutes depending on the size of the nuts. Shake the pan a couple of times to ensure even cooking. Set a timer, so not to burn them. By this time, you will have had a couple of glasses of wine and the chestnuts will easily be forgotten. (Done that too)

Let them cool slightly before handling, but you want to peel them while they are still quite warm. If they cool down too much you can reheat them slightly to help them to peel.

There you have it, you can add one of your ancestor's oldest food traditions to your holiday menu, try roasting some chestnuts this Christmas.

Family Recipe Friday – is an opportunity to share your family recipes with fellow bloggers and foodies alike. Whether it’s an old-fashioned recipe passed down through generations, a recipe uncovered through your family history research, or a discovered recipe that embraces your ancestral heritage share them on Family Recipe Friday.

Looking for more Old-Fashioned Heritage Family Recipes, click here.

Open Thread: What's On Your Christmas Wish List?

The internet is full of Christmas wish lists, everyone telling us what we need or should want under the tree. There are lots of gadgets, electronics, books and stuff for the genealogy enthusiast, all claiming to make our family research just a little bit easier. Rather than tell you what I think should be on your list I would rather hear from you about what is actually on your wish list.

I will start with myself. Unbelievably, I have no big-ticket items this year. I was blessed with a Kindle for my birthday, and I really love it. I am asking for a light for my Kindle reader. I love to read in bed, (often it’s the only time in the day I have to read). It’s an inexpensive little item, but will be a valued addition to my Kindle experience and will allow my husband to sleep while I read into the wee hours of the night.(pretty sure I'm getting it)

It’s your turn, what’s on your Christmas Wish List?

A Letter to My Readers

Like you, I have been very busy these past couple of weeks getting ready for Christmas, so today after returning from shopping I was totally caught off guard when a reader sent me an email congratulating me on being nominated for Family Tree’s 40 Best Genealogy Blogs for 2011. I was just a little surprised. What a lovely early Christmas Present.

I never thought I would be saying this, as cliche as it sounds, it truly is an honor to have just been nominated. What does it mean? …….. it means you are reading my posts and more importantly finding value in them.

It certainly motivates me on those lonely days when I think I am  talking to myself. And those times when I am certain, I am the only one who gets excited about a new found website, or writing your family history, or sharing a favourite family recipe. I try to write about things I would love to read about and learn about and hopefully with a little knowledge and a lot of reality. It’s nice to know that I am part of a community who values my contribution. For that I thank you.

It is not in my personality to solicit your vote, (unlike some others....uhhh… Ancestry Insider). I believe if you really really like me you’ll do that on your own. However, if you need a little information on how to do that, (since that seems to be the category I am in), you can place your vote here, and you can see the entire list of nominees here.

You can vote as many times as you like, but only until Monday December 20th, so don’t procrastinate, it’s just like, that dancing show, and Idol show, your favourites won’t win unless you vote. I know I will be voting.

Thanks Again! Lynn

An Early Christmas Gift for Irish Genealogists

I received an early Christmas present this year when I learned that the National Library of Ireland in Dublin is going digital with its collection of church records. The Library is currently looking for a company to digitize its Roman Catholic parish records. This is particularly exciting for several reasons. Currently these records can only be obtained by going to the National Library in Dublin or ordering them through the Church of Latter Day Saints.
For many armchair genealogists, Irish research is frustrating because many of these records are buried behind subscription-based websites, and are transcripts only. The National Library will be offering the real deal, the images themselves. If you’re looking for records pre 1864, then church records play an important role in light of the lack of census records that exist. This is a big event for those researching their Irish ancestries and who find online records very scarce.

Once these records become available, it will open the floodgates to making these records free all over the internet. I’m anticipating this will have a huge impact on Irish history research, particularly online research and particularly my own research.

PRONI, The Public Records Office of Northern Ireland, also has some exciting news as well. In the spring of 2011, their new state the art facility will open to the public. They have also announced that available online now, is a searchable index to the will calendar entries for the District Probate Registries of Armagh, Belfast, and Londonderry. The database covers the period 1858-1919 and 1922-1943. Indexes for 1921-22 will follow soon. Researchers can now view the full contents of those wills online. The collection contains 93,388 will images.

Further, PRONI has enlisted the online imaging site Flicker, and has made available a collection of over fifty years of wedding and family portraits, taken between 1900 and 1952 by the Allison Photographic Studios in Armagh. These photos have been restored and made available online here, using the photo-sharing website. Once completed in the coming weeks, there will be over 1500 images posted on the site. Many are available to view now and researchers will be able to browse through the images alphabetically by family surname.

The photos are being transferred from fragile glass plate negatives, that were commonly used by photographers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and prior to the advent of photographic film. I have to say after viewing these photographs the quality is quite impressive.

In light of all this great news, it seems things are looking up for family historians researching their Irish ancestors, and 2011 may just be the year I break through that brick wall.

More on Irish Genealogy
 Finding Your Irish Ancestor, the Poor Tenant Farmer
Irish Census Records, What Exists and Where to Find Them
Irish Genealogy - Step One

Family Recipe Friday - The Ancient Shortbread Cookie

With Christmas quickly approaching, our thoughts turn to baking cookies, an integral part of our holiday preparations. The shortbread cookie is very much a part of many households, and with good reason. The shortbread cookie is ancient. It is considered a treat originating in Scotland, but found in homes throughout the British Isles in various forms since the 12th century.

The dessert was the result of a medieval biscuit bread, which was baked twice, and dusted with sugar and spices and hardened into a soft and sweet biscuit called a Rusk.

The refinement of the shortbread cookies was credited to Mary, Queen of Scots, in the 16th century. One of the most traditional forms of shortbread called petticoat tails were named by Queen Mary. These cookies were baked, cut in triangles and seasoned with caraway seeds.

Shortbread was expensive and considered a luxury reserved for special occasions like Christmas. It got its name shortbread from bakers who classified it as a bread in order to avoid paying the tax placed on biscuits. It is probably one of the few cookies that has its own day, yup each January 6th is National Shortbread Day.

Shortbread is traditionally formed into one of three shapes: one large circle divided into segments ("Petticoat Tails"); individual round biscuits ("Shortbread Rounds"); or a thick rectangular slab cut into "fingers."

Shortbread consists of three basic ingredients of flour, sugar and butter. This is where I’m suppose to pull out my long honoured family recipe for shortbread. However, I was not so lucky.

There are many different recipes and regional variations for shortbread. Unfortunately, I do not have any Scottish ancestors who left me their cookie recipe, and my Irish ancestors did not bestow on me their variation as well. So below is a simple recipe I have found and have used for many years.

However, I’m calling out all shortbread lovers, particularly those with old-fashioned, handed down shortbread recipes. I want to hear from you. Post your recipes below or in your own post with a link here, and share your treasured recipe.

 Shortbread Recipe


• 1 cup butter, softened
• 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
• 1/4 cup cornstarch
• 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour


1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

2. Whip butter with an electric mixer until fluffy. Stir in the confectioners' sugar, cornstarch, and flour. Beat on low for one minute, then on high for 3 to 4 minutes. Drop cookies by spoonfuls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

3. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Watch that the edges don't brown too much. Cool on wire racks.

Looking for more old-fashioned recipes by family historians.

Jellied Veal Loaf from Food.Family.Ephemera
Wheat Wine from Anglers Rest
Oyster Dressing from TJLGenes: Preserving Our Family History
Mama's Cranberry Sauce from Mountain Genealogists
My Mom’s Apple Crumble from All Things Quebec - middle school students blog
Beef and Pork Sugo from Mascot Manor Genealogy
Classic Green Bean Casserole from Tangled Trees
Momma Heidi’s Hot Cocoa Mix from barefooted semmie
Stuffed Franks from TJLGenes: Preserving Our Family History
Broccoli and Rice Casserole from Journey to the Past
for more recipes click here.