Pennsylvania

Who Are You? (A New Family Question)

Not too long ago, I posted about folks with bad family trees on the interwebs.  Seems that I’m one of those people.  No surprise there.  The one name that I called out explicitly, my 2x great-uncle Lloyd Campbell as having a different set of parents, was wrong.  I’m not sure at all at where I had any parents for him at all.  I think I was mixing him up with Sara Catherine Campbell, his sister.

Here’s my (new and improved) reasoning.  Not long after writing that post I had two new DNA matches.  One was a Y-DNA match, so that meant he had to be related on my paternal side.  It’s also nice that we have the same surname.  But he doesn’t answer my emails, so I guess we’ll never figure it out.

The other match is an atDNA match at Ancestry.   This is with a woman, and only a possible connection with the Campbell line.  However, she does share matches with folks that I know have to be on my Campbell side, so that’s good.  She believes that her great grandmother was a Campbell.  A Catherine Campbell to be exact.  And what was the other name in my tree I was complaining about? Why Sara Catherine Campbell of course. 

Now here’s where I make my confession. It seems that the early census records I have for this lady have her as Catherine.  No Sarah anywhere.  Why did I change her name?  Because I was following a marriage for a Sarah Catherine Campbell, despite the fact that I had a death certificate for this lady with different parents.  I will allow myself a bit of a way out as the listed father’s name was James R. Campbell, the same as my 2x great-grandfather.  Plus, her mother’s name was Ann Story, which is very close to my 2x great-grandmother Ann McCauley.  I know I’ve had this record for quite some time, so I’m thinking that I held on to it hoping it was just an honest mistake.

Then that second DNA match, with the Catherine Campbell name made me go back and look again.  With a bit more research knowledge now, I found the correct family for this Sara Catherine Campbell.  Hint: Not my family. Her parents were James Ray Campbell and Anne Story.  So, I have removed the married family from my tree and returned her to her original name of Catherine Campbell (without the Sarah), under her parents, James Richard Campbell and Anna McCauley.

Obviously, this DNA match answered my email, otherwise how was I to find the Catherine Campbell match?  Funny thing is my previously mis-named Catherine Campbell is a close match to the age and location for Catherine Campbell from my match.  For once, I get to research a family that’s not my own!

It’s been about a week since I’ve started this hunt.  And while it’s been a lot of fun running searches on websites I’ve not used before; it’s also been quite frustrating.  I have not been able to match up anybody in either of our trees yet.  One of the problems is, again the name Catherine and its various spellings.  In this search I find that this couple (Catherine Campbell and her husband, a direct male ancestor of my DNA match) have her name is three different ways.  Catherine, Catharine, and Kate.  There is even a possible Katie involved, but I think I can rule that one out. 

Here’s the deal; The first mention I can find of them together is the 6 January 1893 issue of the Democratic Watchman (Bellefonte, Center County, Pennsylvania newspaper) that lists them as having been issued a marriage license.  Her name there is Kate.  In the 1900 census (the husband died in 1898), she is Catherine living with her two daughters in her mother-in-law’s house, who was also a widow. I have not found her after the 1900 census.  At least not in Pennsylvania.  She is also listed as Kate in one daughters’ birth record (my DNA matches grandmother) and her other daughters’ death certificate.

Needless to say, searching for any marriage records for her under the known names and her husband only finds the newspaper article mentioned above.  So, I can’t link these two fine people together. 

As I’ve mentioned before, the 1890 census was lost in a fire.  However, Centre County used this data to compile a directory of businesses and its citizens.  I can find the husband with his parents not all that far from most of my family, including my Catherine and her family in Milesburg.  But having found that connection be yet another brick wall, I kept looking and found another Campbell family a little east in Millheim and there is a Kate listed!  Could this be the one?  Nope.  As far as I can tell, Kate is the wife of a married son living with his parents.  Kate and her husband (yet another Samuel) do not appear to have any children.  Another dead end.

The funny thing (funny as in strange, not ha-ha funny) is that Catherine/Kate’s husband was adopted.  This was well known by the family, and I can find all kinds of records on his adopted family.  I’m hoping that we match through this Catherine/Kate and not through the husband’s biological family.  I have never done any adoption family tree work.  And quite honestly, I’m a bit a’scared to even start.

I’m not giving up, just calling it a day.  The single malt is calling my name.

Here’s a somewhat related video – because I feel very lost and can’t find my way home.

Enjoy!

Remember, genealogy isn’t rocket science. It’s much more difficult than that!

Peace,
B

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Who Are You?

Let’s take a break from the music posts for today and take a look at my genealogy again.  Yes, I did say some time ago that I was not going to pursue this much longer, but my subscriptions haven’t expired yet – so I’m still at it.  It may also be due to that fact that I’ve been reading a series of novels about a forensic genealogist that has kept me interested.

The novels by Nathan Dylan Goodwin take place in England mostly.  The main character, Morton Ferrier, has more interesting cases than I expect any real genealogist would have.  His house is blown up, he’s kidnapped (more than once) for example. If you like mysteries and want to read about specific events in British history, then I recommend these books. There are a total of 10 stories, but they do not have to be read in any order. I’m currently about a third of the way through the 10th in the series.

But here’s the thing.  His cases all seem to take place within a few hours drive from his home in the southeast of England.  I don’t have that luxury.  Morton can visit local libraries, the national archives, and even churches to find records that are not online.  Me?  I’m still stuck in Pennsylvania.  That’s more than a few hours away even if travel wasn’t impacted by this virus. As I have more than one “high risk” category staring me in the face, I don’t even like going to grocery store – much less getting on a packed airplane with folks like Ted Cruz not wearing a mask. 

I did have a genealogist in Pennsylvania do some research for me.  Sadly, she couldn’t give me much that I didn’t already know.  Between her recommendations and, surprisingly, some tips I picked up from the novels, I’m carrying on with some new searches.

Let’s recap, shall we?  I’m looking for my 2x great grandparents, James Campbell and his wife Ann Elizabeth McCauley.   Here’s my tree back to the individuals in question;

The Family Tree, such as it is..

Looking at this image you would think that it looks rather complete.  Sadly, it isn’t.  There are many blanks in the next generations that aren’t in that image. I have many matches on my paternal grandmother’s side (Josephine Melinda Bodle or “Nanny”) and quite a few on my maternal grandfather’s side (Talmadge Whitaker Hicks).  I haven’t really started into my maternal grandmother’s (Dora Calder) side all the much, yet.  It’s that damnable Campbell line that’s killing me.

Check here for information on James’ middle name, the junior and possibile parents. I won’t repeat it all here.

My great grandfather, Samuel W. Campbell, had as far as I know, only three children.  His eldest was my grandfather, Herbert J. Campbell (I still don’t know what the “J” is for, nor Samuel’s middle initial “W”). Next was a daughter, Florence I., then another son Lester Lyman Campbell (Oh look!  A middle name!). 

Most of my genealogy is on Ancestry.  I do also have trees and DNA at other places around the web, but Ancestry is my main holding place.  I had an account there for over 20 years now, and it’s too much trouble to move to a new web server. 

Ancestry has a service called ThruLines.  It can be helpful, or it can be trouble.  What is does is take your DNA results (you must have an Ancestry DNA test – they do not allow uploads of DNA results from other companies), and your family tree and tries to match you with other folks that may have common ancestors.  My Heritage has a similar service called “Theory of Relativity”.

The problem with any online tree is that not everyone takes the time to verify the names that are added to their respective trees.  Some folks refuse to believe any findings that don’t match family stories.  So that child born out of wedlock, or that family member that went to jail are either completely left out or added even if the data doesn’t match the story simply because “it can’t be true – (insert family member that’s telling the story) said that wasn’t how it happened.”  I really enjoy seeing trees that link back to “royalty” from folks primarily here in the USA.  It seems that while our country’s founding fathers wanted nothing to do with the British aristocracy, now everyone want’s to be related to some prince or princess.  I even saw one tree go back to King Arthur! Sigh..  And I have gone off on another tangent, haven’t I?

Let’s get back to Samuel for a moment. Using the ThruLines I mentioned above, the only DNA matches I have from Sam ,ueland his wife, are my siblings and a niece and nephew.  I knew that we would be the only matches from Herbert and Josephine, as our dad was an only child.  But this lack of first cousins severely hampers my search. 

Let’s look at census records for a moment, as these are a good way to follow the family over time.  Starting with Samuel, here’s what I can find;

  • 1870:  Snyder, Blair, PA
  • 1880:  Boggs, Centre, PA
  • 1890:  Boggs, Centre, PA (from Centre Lines – first record with wife and two oldest children)
  • 1900:  Boggs, Centre, PA
  • 1910:  Milesburg, Centre, PA
  • 1920:  Milesburg, Centre, PA

From Samuel’s death certificate (the ONLY documentation I can find for him), I find his father is James Campbell, no middle initial or “Junior” that seems to pop up on some trees.  His mother is listed as Ann Colley or Calley, it’s hard to read.  I have not found any birth or baptism records for Samuel.  I will have to go to Pennsylvania for research.  I have asked several of the regional libraries and genealogy societies for help, but they couldn’t find anything either.

Samuel Campbell’s Death Certificate

The 1870 and 1880 census show Samuel, at the approximately correct age with James as the father, and the mother is an Anna or Annie E.  However, the 1870 census is troublesome.  It has children that don’t seem to fit with the rest of the family.  Since the 1880 census is the first to list the relationship to the head of the household, I’m thinking that these names that are listed on the 1850 – 1870 censuses are not full brothers and sisters, but maybe cousins that are living with my 2x great grandparents.  This is quite possible as the death certificate for two of the problematic names lists parents as W.R. Campbell and Fleita Benjamin as parents, and their gravesite is not very far from Samuel’s.

However, on ThruLines I have a DNA match with someone claiming to be from one of the troublesome names.  This is where not doing good research comes in.  Whoever it was that started their family tree from this Lloyd Campbell and seeing him listed in the census records under James & Anna just assumed that they were his parents.  Hey – it’s a very common issue.  I’ve done it as well. 

Samuel’s obituary lists two siblings, same as I have them (Hiram J. and Florence) and my grandmother as surviving.  If this Lloyd was a brother (not likely) he would have already passed by the time Samuel died. The other male listed that I don’t believe is a brother, Martin, would have still been alive so he should have been listed in the obituary as well.  I believe that the reason that Samuel’s mother is listed as Ann Colley or Calley on his death certificate is due to fact that his wife, as the informant, had suffered a stroke some time prior to Samuel’s passing and either could not recall the full name of McCauley, or couldn’t pronounce it clearly.  Samuel’s brother, listed in his obituary and found on the census records, Hiram, lists Ann McCauley as his mother.  This is why I feel that the census records I have are the correct ones for this family. There is a Henry McCauley listed in 1850 and 1860 as living with them, which I believe is Ann Eliza’s father.

But James!  Just who the hell are you?  All I can tell is he worked in the various iron mills in central Pennsylvania.  I have possible records for service in the Civil War, but I can’t say for sure which one is his record.  You have to imagine just how many James Campbells were in Pennsylvania during the 1800’s.  If I run a search on Ancestry for James Campbell with a birth about 1827 in Pennsylvania, I get 192,101 records back.  Not helpful at all. 

The 1890 census was mostly destroyed in a fire, so I can’t search that time frame.  Fortunately, Centre County Pennsylvania used that census (before it was destroyed of course) and created a document called the “1890 Centre Co., PA. Business Directory”.  From that another document “Centre Lines” was created.  This lists a basic census of the county for 1890.  I can find my grandfather, Herbert, with his parents, Samuel and Ada and his sister Florence, in Boggs Township.  His mother, Anna E. with his brother Hiram and a Catherine S. (one of those troublesome names from the census records) in Milesburg.  But not James.  Was he dead, did he run away, was he working elsewhere in the state or out of state?  I have no idea.

I believe that this Catherine S. is who I have listed as Sara Catherine in my tree.  Her death certificate lists a James Campbell as father, but the mother is Ann Storey.  I can find a gravestone for this couple (he’s listed as James Ray Campbell).  So, is this another cousin that my ancestors took in? Maybe, maybe not.  In the 1880 census she is shown as a daughter.  She should have been alive when Samuel died but she is not mentioned in his obituary.  The informant on her death certificate is her son, so maybe he just got her mother’s name wrong? 

Interestingly, I find a James Campbell in the 1900 census in Allegheny County (near Pittsburgh) in the Western Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane.  Naturally, there is no other information on this record other than the name.  No place of birth, parental information, or occupation.  Only that he can speak English.  Is this him?  Could very well be.  See what I said above about things not being entered due to not fitting a family story.  But it could just as well not be him.  I have no clue.  See for yourself;

Hehehe… Did James lose it?

There are also many death records for James Campbell with dates between 1880 and 1890.  Most are in the Philadelphia area, and I have no reason to think that he would have been in that area, but I can’t discard it either.

I guess that once this virus stuff is beat down enough that travel can happen, I will need to make a trip to central Pennsylvania.  In the meantime, I will see if I can find out just those troublesome names in the census records belong to.

Remember, genealogy isn’t rocket science. It’s much more difficult than that!

Peace,
B

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Crazy Busy Birthday Week

Well, it’s not all that busy. We are still doing our voluntary self-isolation, and all these folks have long passed on.

I’ve posted about this grouping of birthdays before, however, I left one out.  It wasn’t until I made a “Family Birthday” calendar (using Google Calendar) that this terrible omission was discovered.  I had not added my paternal great grandfather to this group.  Here are they chronologically, by birth year:

All these folks are on my paternal (father’s) side.  Starting with Great Granddad (not to be confused with Old Granddad which is a whole different thing…)

Samuel W. Campbell, 26 March 1861 – 8 February 1924.  This is the 159th anniversary of his birth.  I have no idea what the “W” stands for.  I have not been able to find much documentation of this gentleman.  I do have two obituaries and his death certificate for him but that’s all.  Worst of all is no pictures.  My grandmother (just down this list) had pictures of her dad, and of Herbert, and even lots of my dad as a child, but none that I can say is Samuel. 

But I do have his death certificate which gave me his parent’s names.

Then we have his son, my Grandfather.

Herbert J. Campbell, 31 March 1884 – 5 February 1919.  So, 136th anniversary. As with his father, I have no idea what the middle initial “J” is for.  My best guess is James, as that was his grandfathers name. That would be close to a traditional Scottish naming convention.  Had Samuel followed that tradition then James would have been his given name, not his middle name. I can find other Herbert’s across several branches of this line, so maybe he was named for an uncle or such.

Guess he played trombone. I would imagine that Nanny told me who the little girl was, but I don’t remember.

Next, we have Herbert’s wife, my Grandmother (or Nanny as I knew her)

Josephine Melinda (nee Bodle) Campbell, 27 March 1885 – 21 July 1975.  Happy 135th Nanny!  I have posted about Nanny several times. As she lived with us for most of my childhood, she was very instrumental in my upbringing. 

Nanny in front of the “Friends Union” (a Quaker meetinghouse) in State College, PA. She ran the kitchen there. I just love the hat and corsage.

Finally, dear old dad.

Donald Sherwood Campbell, 28 March 1912 – 19 February 1985. Wow!  108th for pops! If you look up “character” in the dictionary, my dad’s picture will be there. He is the main reason, along with my brother, that I have a warped sense of humor. And I’m proud to say that I have passed that on to my two sons! Hey – a legacy is a legacy. Even if it’s silly.

Sadly, no place or date for this photo of dad.

I can only imagine how this week was celebrated during the short time (1912 – 1919) when all four of these people could be together.

Peace,
B

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Another Anniversary

Last Thursday we celebrated not only Wifey and mine’s 38th wedding anniversary, we also celebrated Samuel & Eleanor Campbell’s (my great grand parents) 137th anniversary. Today we celebrate Samuel & Eleanor’s son.

Herbert J. Campbell & Josephine Melinda Bodle were married 20 January 1909, in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. This is the grand father I was happy not to follow in his footsteps, and “Nanny”, my grandmother who raised me as much as my parents did. Today marks 111 years.

Wedding register. The happy couple are listed on line 15.
Herbert’s WW1 draft registration dated 12 September 1918. It shows Josie as his wife and has the same address as his death certificate the next February.

Sadly, I have no pictures of them together.

Peace,
B

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How Did I Miss This?

I have been doing my family genealogy on and off since 1999 or so. That’s about 20 years of research. And just last week I realized that one set of my paternal great grandparents were married on the same date as Wifey and I were! Just many, many, years apart. Ninety nine years apart to be exact.

Church record showing Samuel W. Campbell and Ada E. Taylor marriage.
A blow up of the happy couple’s registration with the date.

I have no idea when I found that church record. It may have been tucked away in my software for years. I have asked the local genealogy society for help in determining the church, and if it’s still standing. My guess it would have been the Methodist church, as Samuel’s obituary mentions he was a member there.

I should also note that Miss Taylor’s legal name is most likely Eleanor Adaline. I have her in census records as Ada E. several times as well as Elner A. But the gravestone shows Eleanor.

In my defense, I originally had a different date for this marriage.

CENTRE DEMOCRAT – Thursday, January 25, 1883

Milesburg Items:

    ……  The day following (Jan. 17, 1883), Mr. Samuel Campbell and Miss Ada Taylor, both of this place were made one by Rev. Woodcock ……

This newspaper article seems to say the marriage took place on 17 January. But seeing as to how it wasn’t published until the 25th, I’m going with the church record. Besides, I think the church would have a better record of what when on in the church than some entry level copy editor that’s just reading a news ticker, or whatever served as a news ticker in 1883. Probably some even lower wage worker making a hand written list.

The newspaper, Centre Democrat, was published out of Bellefonte, PA. The wedding, as indeed most of what I’m finding on all my Campbell’s, is in the Milesburg, PA area. Both are in Center county, but back then Milesburg was a small area split into several townships. Bellefonte is the county seat.

I’m thinking that way back when, I entered the 17 January date first. Then when I found the better church record, I just changed the date not seeing the fact that it was my wedding anniversary as well. Could have been one of those 0400 insomnia mornings…

The weird thing to me is that this is the line I’m most actively researching. My family name – Campbell. Yet somehow this just slipped by, unnoticed.

Who else is working on family history? Let me know how it’s going!

Peace,
B

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The End Of The Line…

(Genealogicaly speaking..)

Faithful readers of this blog (both of you) probably have noticed my love-hate relationship with genealogy.  But after almost 20 years and way too much money, I think I’m calling it quits.

I am still stuck in Pennsylvania in the early to mid-1800’s.  Every lead I get on that ever elusive “immigrant ancestor” just seems to fall away after more digging. Even more importantly, no one in my family has any desire to keep the research going.  

But I did have some wonderful finds along the way. The time I found my oldest sister’s baby book in a box in our mother’s shed. It gave me the name (which I later confirmed via census records) of our paternal great grandfather, Samuel W. Campbell.  The one and only Campbell DNA match, that gave me the next male Campbell in that line, James Campbell. Do you have any idea just how many James Campbell’s there are in that time and place? It’s maddening!

My favorite find was identifying my father’s first wife, Gertrude Mary (Trudie) Lyman.  That was just some good detective work and lots of help from the wonderful folks on the Blair County (Pennsylvania) Genealogical Society. 

So, for now, I have suspended my various genealogy and DNA service accounts.  I have not removed my data from any of the services (Ancestry, My Heritage, GEDMatch, Family Tree DNA, etc.. etc..), but I am no longer paying for the services.  Since my data (DNA and Family Trees) are still fully searchable there is a hope that down the road, someone, somewhere will make that connection that I can’t find.  And maybe, just maybe, when I do finally retire, I will head up to Pennsylvania and do some hands-on research. You never know.  But for now, I’m tired. And broke.

For anyone that would like to see my various family trees, compare YDna, mtDNA or atDNA, leave a comment and a way to connect with you and I’ll answer. You will also find my various social media links at the bottom of this and every post, as well as in the side bar.  Twitter is best contact method after email.

I’ll leave you with End Of The Line by The Traveling Wilburys.  And that’s what we want to become, The Traveling Campbells.  In fact, the First Annual Campbell Christmas Vacation is in high planning mode as I type this. Well, not as I really type this, everyone else is still asleep. But you get the picture.

Peace,
B

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Let’s Talk Food!

Specifically, two ladies that gave me a love of good food and how to prepare it.

Those two ladies, are my paternal grandmother “Nanny” and my great aunt (my maternal grandmother’s sister), Arline. I’ve mentioned Nanny several times before on this blog, so I will start with Aunt Arline.

Just about every year of my childhood we would all pile into the family station wagon (mom always drove a station wagon) and head out to visit mom’s family in South Carolina. We would leave way before the sun came up and drive the 14 or so hours straight through, stopping only for gas, restroom breaks, and a quick meal. Since this was before I-95 was completed, we had to travel the entire distance of the Florida Turnpike. The turnpike is, without a doubt, one the most boring drives in America. Flat and straight, and the same damn trees the entire way. Since it runs through the middle of the state, there aren’t even any alligators to break up the monotomy.

But it did have well maintained and clean rest areas. Several of them, such as the one at Fort Pierce, even had full service restuarants. Dad wouldn’t dare pass up that rest area. It was a great place to gas up the car and fill our bellies as well. The only other stop would be somewhere in Georgia at a Stucky’s for the filling up of both car and kids.

The basic Stuckey’s. There were some bigger than this one.

Finally arriving at our destination of Marion, SC things would go downhill quickly as all the cousins showed up. Many days were spent running around in the yards of various family members; especially Aunt Arline’s yard. You do remember Aunt Arline right? This part of the post is about her.

She had a pond in her back yard. I wasn’t allowed to go down to the pond by myself. My mom couldn’t swim and was deathly afraid I would fall in and drown. And with good reason, as when I was abvout 5 I did fall into a pool at a friend’s house; and if it wasn’t for my brother who noticed my struggling to get to the side of the pool and jumped in a brought me safely out of the water, I probably would have drowned.

Out of that pond Aunt Arline would catch some little brim or sunfish. She would scale and gut them, then fry them whole. Remember, this is South Carolina in the 60’s. Damn near everything was fried. I will admit that at first I didn’t even want to try a whole fried fish (I means bones??). But one of my uncles showed me how to open them up and get to the good stuff. I was hooked after that – bones and all. Aunt Arline also had a cage that she kept crickets in for bait. She would somehow catch these crickets by hand! I never did figure out how.

So, let’s talk about Sunday dinners at Aunt Arline’s. There would so much food! There isn’t a buffet around that could compare. Of course there were, at times, 20 or so of us eating. I was not allowed in the kitchen then. That was all the women. My mom, her sisters, my older sisters and some cousins that were old enough handled all the cooking. The “men folk” sat out front talking weather, politics and such. My cousins that were too young to take part in the serious talk would be outside playing in the mud, trying to get down to pond, and just basically getting into trouble.

But then, those magic words – “Dinner is ready”! Naturally, we all had to wash up, which took quite some time since there was only one bathroom we were allowed to use. But by the time the kids got to our table, our moms would have a plate ready for us.

And what a plate! There would be at least three kinds of meats; ham, the fish she caught, and my all time favorite – fried chicken. Fried chicken is still my most favorite meal. Many times there would also be a turkey or a beef roast! Then there would be so many veggies – all fresh. Lima beans (another of my favorites), corn, black-eyed peas, collard and/or mustard greens. Then mashed potatoes and rice. Three kinds of bread – cornbread, dinner rolls, and just plain white. Three or four sticks of real butter would be placed around the tables, along with the usual vinegear for the greens, and if needed, condiments to make sandwiches. One thing I don’t remember is ever seeing a “garden salad”; you know lettuce and chopped veggies. But I don’t think I missed it. To this day, I still don’t care for greens.

We would sit around and eat and drink (Carolina Sweet Tea) until we couldn’t move. Then at some secret signal (unknown to “men folk” and kids), out of nowhere large white bed sheets would be used to cover everything up. Nothing put into little plastic containers that go “burp” when you do that other secret thing men folk are not allowed to understand. Nothing even close to a precaution except keeping the bugs off (and kids out).

Then, at another prearranged secret signal the sheets would be taken off and everyone would sit back down and eat. Remember, this is the 60’s in rural South Carolina. Microwave ovens are still a good 10 – 15 years away from general use, so everything was at “room tempature”, whatever that is.

Now, I had no issues with the meat not being reheated. And as much as I love mashed potatoes and limas, I balked at eating them cold. This was where the sandwich fixings came in for me. But mom still wasn’t happy. I had to have a “balanced meal”, meaning veggies. But I would not eat them cold like that. So Aunt Arline came up with a fix. She would take a big helping of the limas (she knew I would eat them all), toss them into a small pan with another stick of butter (Paula Dean has nothing on my family), and heat them up for me. Such a sweet lady! I would then take the entire pot of butter and beans and pour it over a mound of mashed potatoes or rice, depending on which I could get my hands on. Guess it’s not really odd that the majority of my mom’s family died of cholestrol issues, and that I fight that myself.

Aunt Arline is holding the baby, her sister, my grandmother Dora is to her right. Mom is to her left. We think the baby is my oldest sister. But no clue who the lady at the far right is.

Let’s switch gears and sides (in a civil war theme). Obvisiouly, my mom is from South Carolina. The little town her daddy’s tobacco farm was in, Fork, is no longer there. She couldn’t remember exactly where the town was but believed it was swallowed by Marion. And that’s where Aunt Arline lived, Marion, South Carolina.

Dad, on the other hand, was from central Pennsylvania. I joke we had the civil war in our house growing up. Mom was a southerner and grew up Baptist. Dad, a yankee (and a damn yankee at that), grew up in a Methodist church. After WWII they settled in the south (if you can consider Miami part of the “south”) and went to a Methodist church. Best of both worlds?

Nanny (again, you do remember Nanny, right? This part of the post is about her), was an exceptional lady. She was widowed at the age of 34 in 1919. Dad was all of 6. She never remarried. From 1919 until she came to live with us about 1968 or so, she was out on her own. She spent a lot of time going between Pennsylvania and Florida, playing the snowbird roll, before she stayed permantly. This was mostly before my time and when I was an infant, so I don’t really remember it.

What I do remember is her cooking. We may not have had the big ol’ spread that we had in South Carolina, but the quality was every bit as good. Nanny was the one that really started me cooking. I was old enough (well almost) to stay around when she was preparing meals. It also helped that I was the only child at home then and our little kitchen had a dining table. I could sit there out of the way and watch, ask questions and more importantly taste!

Not only did she cook your basic meals, she could bake. She would make bread from scratch. This is where I learned how to use yeast. Being the smart woman that she was, she always made me a small loaf when she was baking bread. As soon as it was cool enough to remove from the pan she would give me the first loaf and yet another stick of butter and send me off to get out of her way.

And here is another example of fried chicken; yet completly different from Aunt Arline’s. The crust was different and she would use a buttermilk bath on the chicken pieces. Still every bit as good, just different. Not to brag (who am I kidding??) I have been told that my fried chicken is better than either of their’s. That may be, but I will admit that I am nowhere as consistent as either of these ladies.

But Nanny taught me something more than fried chicken and bread. She taught me BBQ. We didn’t have a smoker growing up, and I can only remember my dad grilling something once. But both my brother and I love to cook with fire. We had to get it from somewhere. It was Nanny. She had a BBQ resuarant in the Altoona, Pennsylvania area. I can find city directories from 1935 and 1936 that list her as the owner. Can you imagine being a widow with a young adult son, in the middle of the Great Depression, and making a good living from a restuarant? The industry that has a very high if not the highest failure rate? Blows my mind.

Her potato salad, fresh made coleslaw and beans were out of this world! And a meatloaf to die for. Somewhere there is a recipe book with all these notes. I really think the printed recipes were there as a distraction. The true treasure were the handwritten notes in the back. My mom, a better than average cook in her own right, added to that collection.

Nanny’s BBQ joint

It makes me a bit sad to know that I didn’t get the chance to cook for these ladies before they shuffled off to wherever great cooks go. I’m sure there would have been lots of “this is nice, but if you had done ….” comments. And I would have taken everyone of those comments to heart and tried to live up to their legacy another time.

Peace,
B

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