Thursday, April 8, 2010

Ancestral Tunnel Vision

Many new researchers make the mistake of only looking at their family's household when researching the census. I'm sure I was guilty of having "ancestral tunnel vision" when I first began researching in 1994. Somewhere along the way I read that researchers should look at the neighbors of their ancestors on the census, perhaps five pages before and after the household. Studying the neighborhood could enable researchers to learn about possible new family or about the surnames in the community.

Studying the neighborhood of my ancestors has been highly beneficial to my research and I have found new family members as well as pinpointed the land they were living on during the years some of them did not own their own land. This method was especially helpful in studying the 1870 and 1880 censuses where I researched the landowners in my ancestor's communities.

Angela Walton-Raji has done a video on the Study of Your Ancestor's Community. I hope that this will give you further knowledge about the benefits of community research.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Congratulations to My Sister

My sister Doretha chats with the Governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell

Congratulations to my sister Doretha, who was one of 30 people chosen statewide to be recognized by the Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia for her hard work and dedication during the recent storms in our state. The event took place in front of the Governor’s mansion on March 8, 2010 and Governor McDonnell personally chatted with each of the 30 honorees.

Thank You to my sister and to the other 29 workers for their hard work and dedication to our state and for making things run more smoothly during all of our recent storms.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Grandma’s Hands and HomeMade Biscuits

My Maternal Grandmother
Emma Johnson Thornton

Most of the lives of my three sisters and I were spent living with our maternal grandparents, Minor Thornton (1913-1979) and Emma Johnson Thornton (1922- ). Our grandfather died when we were teenagers. When I think of my grandmother’s hands, I think of her cooking during my childhood and early adult life and making homemade biscuits.

Growing up with our grandparents, my sisters and I never starved; we did not always have what we wanted to eat, but as long as there was a little flour in the house and some cooking grease, we would have a meal such of biscuits and gravy. Both of my maternal grandparents were from North Carolina and grew up on farms. They were from the depression era generation that knew how to take a little bit and make much.

Homemade Biscuits
Self-rising flour, water, and lard were the only ingredients that Grandma used to make homemade biscuits during my childhood in the 1970s and 1980s. During those days, my family would buy the big red plastic container of lard (probably about 5-10 lbs.) Grandma never used measuring cups to measure stuff, she only used these cups as a scoop. Grandma would mix her ingredients together until they became a big ball of dough. Perhaps it was the way that the dough felt to her hands that signaled to her that it was fully mixed and kneaded and ready for shaping into biscuits.

Then she would pinch off a wad of dough and begin shaping it into a round biscuit with her hands and fingers. Grandma never used a biscuit cutter to my knowledge and her biscuits always came out fluffy, round, and pretty. In my memory, I can still see her hands and fingers moving to shape the biscuits. Oh how I wish I had a video of this memory. Grandma’s mother Bell is remembered for her mouth watering biscuits. I assume that Grandma learned this skill from her mother.

During my youth, I followed Grandma’s biscuit recipe, but my so-called biscuits were more of a weapon or something to break your tooth rather than for eating. I’m still not sure to this day why mine never came out like hers.

We ate homemade biscuits often especially before my grandfather died in August 1979. Sometimes the biscuits themselves could be meal or a snack. Granddaddy liked to dip his in coffee or break them up in a bowl of stewed tomatoes. At times, he would also add other things such as molasses, jelly, butter, or Karo syrup to the biscuits. I believe that Karo syrup came in both a dark color and a clear color. I think that we used whichever of these were in our refrigerator. Karo syrup is also used to cook candied yams, but this makes a great additive to a hot biscuit. I never tried the coffee thing with biscuits, but I did eat them in stewed tomatoes or either with the other butter, jelly, or syrup additives. The best time to eat these biscuit was when they were hot out the oven. There were no microwaves back then, and if small toaster ovens were available at that time, my family did not own one.

I cannot remember the last time that Grandma made biscuits. During my fairly recent adult years, I have asked her to fix some biscuits, but her excuses are that she does not remember how to do this and that her hands are not like they used to be.

So the closest I can get to Grandma’s biscuits is by baking Grand’s Biscuits . Grandma’s homemade biscuits were not as large as Grands, however, they still can never replace the taste of Grandma’s biscuits.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Carnival of African American Genealogy - “Grandma’s Hands”

The second edition of the Carnival of African American Genealogy is due on Monday, April 12, 2010. Although I was aware of the first edition, and intended to participate, other obligations prevented me from completing my submission. Nevertheless many bloggers participated in the First Edition of Carnival of African American Genealogy which was hosted by Luckie Daniels of Our Georgia Roots.

The theme of the second Call For Submission of the Carnival of African American Genealogy is “Grandma’s Hands” and is based on a song from the 1970s by singer Bill Withers. It has been many years since I listened to this song and as I listened to it today, it invoked many memories and emotions about my maternal grandmother who is now 87 years old. I look forward to participating in this blog carnival.

Grandma’s Hands – Bill Withers