Saturday, December 31, 2011

Geneabloggers - 2011 in Review.

This year I never formally set any genealogy goals for myself, so I will look back over what I have accomplished.

Blog - this year I published the same number of blog posts that I did in 2010. (88)

Indexing - I continued to index at both and

Education - I attended all of the webinars that I could and tried to keep up with new technology.

Volunteering - I volunteered at the local library and Family History Center weekly.

Teaching - I created and presented 3 powerpoint demos to help educate members of our local genealogy group.

Website - I created and maintained a website for our local genealogy group.

This past year I also attended Southern California Genealogy Jamboree and took a genealogy cruise.

I have also enjoyed the "cousin connections" I have made with fellow researchers in Ireland, Norway, Germany, and various parts of the United States.

image courtesy of

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - December 24 Christmas Eve

December 24 – Christmas Eve
How did you, your family or your ancestors spend Christmas Eve?

As a child Christmas Eve was spent quietly with perhaps a visit from an aunt and uncle. We were always at home and usually admonished to go to bed early so "Santa can come".

After I married, Christmas Eve was at my in-laws. There was always a ham dinner and presents were opened. Later we would all go to Midnight Mass and return to the in-laws for ham sandwiches and more holiday fun before heading home. When the children came, we skipped Midnight Mass and went home so we could have Christmas Morning at home. Christmas Eve dinner at my in-laws was always special with wine, candles and everything. One year my father-in-law was doing candle making as a hobby and on the table that Christmas Eve there was a star shaped candle at each place with each person's name on the candle. Those candles were brought out every Christmas for many years to mark the holiday.

I think that was also the year he gave each of his 3 "girls" a candle he made in an apothacary jar. When we took the lid off the jar we each got a birthstone and pearl ring! Since Dave's birthstone was the pearl, the ring has always held a special significance for me.

Even after Dave's parents and my mother both moved to Florida, trips for the holidays still meant Christmas Eve with the in-laws and Christmas afternoon with my family. That left Christmas morning at our house with the kids! It seemed the best of all possible worlds to us!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - December 22 - Christmas and Deceased Relatives

Christmas and Deceased Relatives

Our family didn't visit the cemetery during the holidays. In fact the only times I personally remember going to the cemetery was when there was actually a burial taking place. My dad died Dec 28,1959. I definitely remember being there then! Because of the date of his death, he is always remembered during the holidays.

My husband, Dave, died Oct 24, 2005. It wasn't during the holidays and he is buried at Arlington National Cemetery so we don't visit his grave during the holidays either. Dave loved Christmas and loved nutcrackers, wooden soldiers, and toy trains for Christmas. Today he is remembered in both my children's homes by the nutcrackers scattered about and the winter paintings by Hargrove that they display.

About 1995, when we were living in Florida, Dave built some life-size toy soldiers to guard our house during the holidays. They were on display when grandson Aidan, then 1 yr old, came to visit. When Aidan returned to Florida in March of that year, of course they had been put away, his first words when leaving the car were "where's the guys?'

The "guys" have traveled with me from Florida, to Kentucky, and now to Texas. They proudly display their Chicago heritage by flying Bear flags.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - December 20 Christmas Music

My association with Christmas music began very early. It began with the seasonal music I heard in church and progressed as parts of the pageants/shows I was involved with in school. Mother also had a recording on Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians singing the Nutcracker Suite. I think this made perhaps the strongest impression on me. Although it is not currently played, in fact I don't think I've heard it in about 60 years, I still remember some of the words. For instance some of the words to "The Waltz of the Flowers" were "Come to the garden wall, come to the waltz of the flowers. Lilies lilting, Dahlias dancing, and Forget-me-nots remembering." I used to play the record and dance to incessantly. I recent did a google search for the music for my granddaughter be cause parts of the Nutcracker Suite were part of her Christmas band program. I finally found the lyrics and downloaded a mp3 recording. Here is the link for anyone who would like to here it

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - December 18 - Christmas Stockings

Christmas Stockings

Did you have one? Where did you hang it? What did you get in it?

As a child we always had stockings. I don't remember where we hung them except for the year dad bought a fake cardboard fireplace. Mostly I remember that we would put them in a chair or a bpart of the couch that was our designated present area. No gifts under the tree in our house! With 9 kids it would never fit. In our stockings we generally got a tangerine, some nuts in shells, holiday hard candies, and a candy cane. There may have been small gifts, but I don't remember them.

Later my children had stockings filled in much the same way but with the addition of small gifts. As they got bigger the stockings got bigger and so did the gifts. One year, a friend gave me a pattern for a stocking with a small pocket on one side and a "patched on" toe and heel. I made one for both my kids, my husband, and myself. They remained our stockings until my daughter got married and had a family. It was time for new stockings! This time the original pattern was embellished by adding a name to each stocking. The gifts change as the kids get older, but the fruit, nuts, and candy canes remain the same. They hang by a real fireplace today.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - December 17 Grab Bag A Tradition Begins

Grab Bag

Author’s choice. Please post from a topic that helps you remember Christmases past!

Re posted from December 2010

I didn't post a blog about Christmas gifts because, although it was a very special Christmas gift, it also began a tradition in our family.

My husband and I were expecting our first child in April. That year Aunt Kathy gave us a Christening gown for Christmas. It was a 4 piece set of embroidered white nylon consisting of a matching coat, dress, and bonnet with a plain slip. In our family infants are usually baptized within the first month of birth. Both of my children were baptized in that outfit. And a tradition was begun.

As time passed, each of my 17 nieces and nephews were baptized in the dress. As each child wore the dress, their name and date were embroidered on the slip. Pink for girls and blue for boys of course. When the next generation began the colors were changed to apricot/peach and mint green. My grandchildren didn't wear the dress since they had a dress made from their grandmother's and mother's wedding dresses. They did wear the slip so their names and dates have been added. I'm not sure which of my nieces or nephews has the dress right now but I'll send them a copy of this and see where it turns up.

UPDATE: The Christening Gown is in residence at my niece Holly's house and has been worn by her sons Liam, Declan, and Ian!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - December 16 - Christmas at School

December 16 - Christmas at School

Since we attended Catholic Schools, you would be correct in assuming that the story of Christ's birth played an important roll in Christmas celebrations. Christmas carols were sung in both English and Latin with German reserved for O Tannenbaum!

Mom had a wonderful carved wood button box. It had the domed lid of a true treasure chest. One year it was painted gold and multi-colored "gems" were glued to so it could serve as that held to gold offered to the baby Jesus by the three kings. Later it returned to being a button box but it stayed gold.

When I was in high school, the Christmas plays revolved around the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary. One memorable year I was chosen to portray the Angel Gabriel and announce to Mary the news of her pregnancy. O7r high school choir always sang the "Hallelujah Chorus". It remains one of my favorite pieces of Christmas Music to this day.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Dec 15, 2011 Holiday Happenings

The Holiday Happenings

Often times December to mid-January birthdays and anniversaries get over shadowed by the Christmas/Hanukkah/New Year holidays. So we’re going to shine a spotlight on those family members and ancestors this time around. Select one or more December to mid-January birthdays and/or anniversaries on your family tree. Write a short tribute to or memory of those birthday guys and gals and write a toast to the anniversary couples.

In my family, the month of December is absolutely littered with birthdays! There is my brother Tom on Dec 6, my sister Peggy on Dec 16, and my sister Alice on Jan 1. My Grandmother Alice was also born on Jan 1. My in-laws anniversary is Dec 2 and Dave and I had our marriage blessed in the Catholic Church on Dec 23.

Nieces and nephew Leslie, Nichole, Nicholas, Annie, Samantha, and Holly, share December birthdays as do great niece and nephews Grace, Josiah, Austin, and Benjamin. Perhaps the most unique celebration is the Dec 26 birthday of my Aunt Dorothy who shares her celebration with at least 2 if not 3 of her 5 daughters.

On a more somber note is the remembrance of my dad who died on Dec 28.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Dec14, 2011 Fruitcake Friend or Foe?

Fruit Cake – Friend or Foe?

Did you like fruitcake? Did your family receive fruitcakes? Have you ever re-gifted fruitcake? Have you ever devised creative uses for fruitcake?

I have always enjoyed Fruitcake, probably because it was always served with cream cheese and a cup of hot tea by my Irish relatives. It only appears during the holidays and in my house anyway was considered a treat. One year my brother-in-law was employed by the Rainbow Baking Co. in Colorado, so my mother ordered about 8 fruitcakes for gifting family members.

When I was newly married and not working, I made gifts for family. A few times I made fruitcake for family members. We always liked it but you had to start in about October. Later I switched to Cinnamon Swirl Raisin bread.

My children were not fans of fruitcake and had one fruitcake that they sent back and forth for about 10 years. It finally died in Floridawhen it was left on the floor. It seems that at least the ants like fruitcake.

Originally posted Dec 2010

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Dec13, 2011 Holiday Travel

Holiday Travel

Did you or your ancestors travel anywhere for Christmas? How did you travel and who traveled with you? Do you remember any special trips?

Growing up, we were fortunate enough to live close to our relatives. In those days travel meant perhaps 30 minutes in the car, but mostly they came to visit us. My dad's family may have traveled from Chicago to Milwaukee for the holidays but that would have been about the extent of any travel.

After I married and had children, we traveled to both Elmhurst and Wheaton for the holidays. At the time we lived in Elburn and travel was limited to about 30 to 45 minutes. Hardly travel as it is measured today.

In 1976, with both sets of grandparents having moved to Florida, my husband and I loaded up the kids and car for a journey to Florida. We stopped in St Pete Beach to visit Dave's parents and spent Christmss Eve with them and on Christmas Dat attemped to leave for my mother's in Pompano Beach , on the east coast. Unfortunately our car refused to start. It was Christmas Day! We needed a new battery! After calling around, my husband and father-in-law found a gas station near the Interstate that was open and had a battery. Once it was purchased and installed we were on our way! We finally reached Pompano Beach in time for a late supper on Christmas with my mother and my sisters Peggy and Alice and brother Don who had moved to Florida with her. The highlight of the trip for my kids was swimming in both the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean in a single trip.

Later traveling for the holidays was limited to trips within Florida except for the year we went to Georgia to cut down a tree and bring it to Florida.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Dec 12, 2011 Charitable/Volunteer Work

Charitable/Volunteer Work

Did your family ever volunteer with a charity such as a soup kitchen, homeless or battered women’s shelter during the holidays? Or perhaps were your ancestors involved with church groups that assisted others during the holiday?

In the 1950s and 1960s most charity work was done by the church or organizations like the Red Cross, Salvation Army or Community Chest. People then seemed to have fewer expectations of charity and were much more reluctant to ask for help. We did always make monitery donations but I don't remember any personal committments.

In the 1970s, our church began offering the chance to sponsor a family for the holidays. They would list family A,B,C etc and list person number 1,2,3 and anyone could choose one. If you choose for instance family B number 4 your slip of paper might say boy age 8, shirt size 10 pants size 8 and toy trucks. It was your option to supply one or all of the items. In our church, I am proud to say that all of the people were taken. We also had a mitten tree to supply hats and mittens to the needy in our northern Illinois area. That was also very well supported.

Today the Angel Tree tradition continues with our church in Texas. My grandchildren happily forego a gift every year to provide a gift to someone more in need. This is how compassion is learned.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Dec 11, 2011 Other Traditions

Other Traditions

Did your family or friends also celebrate other traditions during the holidays such as Hanukkah or Kwanzaa? Did your immigrant ancestors have holiday traditions from their native country which they retained or perhaps abandoned?

We grew up celebrating the German tradition of observing the feast of St Nicholas. On December 5th we would leave our shoes either outside the front door or just inside the door. To our amazement in the morning there was an orange, some nuts, and a small toy inside the shoes. I'm sure that my brother Tom thought this was an extension of his birthday since his birthday was also December 6. This tradition continued with my children and down to my grandchildren. Last week our church did candy canes in the shoes of children in the religious education program. The children had lined their shoes up in the hall outside of their classrooms. Even the High School kids get into the act. When I did this for my children, I used to save the prizes from their cereal for St Nicholas Day.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Advent Calendar December 10. 2011 - Gifts


What were your favorite gifts, both to receive and to give? Are there specific gift-giving traditions among your family or ancestors?

Every year at Christmas we received new pajamas from Aunt Paul and Uncle Bill. It was the only gift we were allowed to open on Christmas Eve. Among the gifts I remember receiving on a regular basis were thw Life Saver Story Book, 10 rolls of Life Savers in a book shaped package. My favorite flavor was Butterscotch. I think that was from my Aunt Kathy. Someone, I can't remember who, gave each of us a silver dollar which was promptly confiscated by our parents so it wouldn't be spent on candy. I wonder what ever happened to those silver dollars?

Other gifts usually included a new book, socks, lotion, and maybe a diary or journal. The books are how I built my Nancy Drew collection!

Advent Calendar – December 8, 2011 Christmas Cookies

Christmas Cookies

Did your family or ancestors make Christmas Cookies? How did you help? Did you have a favorite cookie?

I don't remember making Christmas Cookies at home while growing up and I don't remember either of my grandmothers doing much baking although my grandmother Bockie made a wicked cherry pie when the cherries were harvested from the tree in our backyard.

The Christmas cookies I do remember as a child was large tin of Maurice Lennell cookies. There were multiple layers of an assortment of cookies all nestled in their little red paper cups.

The Maurice Lennell tradition continued in my marriage as my husband bought them every year from the Telephone Pioneers. The beautiful tins were saved year after year to emerge from storage to save the cookies I made at home. Every year we made the usual cutout cookies to decorate. We also made Rum Balls, my mother-in-law's favorite, and spritz cookies.

The annual cookie shipment of kolachkes from Ohio was eagerly awaited by my in-laws and also by my children and I. Grandma Mary sent her Hungarian cookies every year and they were filled with apricots, ground nutmeats, and poppyseed. Sadly the tradition was almost lost with her passing but my daughter was able to find a recipe almost as good and she also makes them every year.

In 2003 we went to Germany to visit our grandchildren for Christmas and began the tradition of building Gingerbread Houses. The very first one used a butter box as a base and graham crackers for the walls and roof. The most important part was the candy decorations. That tradition continues today even though the kids can do it without supervision.

We usually use Wilton kits and they actually eat the gingerbread. My daughter and the girls continue the traditions and add new cookied to the menu keeping both the old and the new. Yes we still have Maurice Lennell Cookies during the holidays.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Advent Calendar 2011 Dec 1 - The Christmas Tree

The Christmas Tree

Did you have a real tree or was it artificial? How big was the tree? Who decorated the tree? What types of Christmas trees did your ancestors have?

When I was growing up we always had a live tree. Dad would bring it home tied to the roof of the car. It was usually 5 or 6 feet tall. After patiently checking each and every bulb Dad would add the lights. As children we got to add ornaments according to our reach. No stools or chairs allowed! Tinsel was dad's domain, he would patiently hand it strand by strand. We, on the other hand would stand about 2 feet away and throw it at the tree to get finished. At some point in time we added bubble lights to our collection.
photo courtesy of

This are the children as we appeared in 1958, the year before dad died. Baby Donald,at age 16 months is not in the photo.

Hansen Family photo from the album of HansenMurrayConnery Heritage.