Pat and I are preparing to go to Washington, DC for the International Association of Jewish genealogists (IAJGS) meeting.  We’re leaving on the 13th and we are happily looking forward to great talks, meeting new friends and seeing some family.  I should be making lists, spiffing up my database and deciding what sessions I wish to attend on Sunday, but instead I find myself looking backwards, lost in memories of my Jewish childhood.  Since the next Carnival of Genealogy topic is about places of worship I will post this now, perhaps as the first entry.

When I was a girl my family was moderately religious.  My parents attended synagogue every Friday night and often on Saturdays.  My brother and I and many of our friends walked from public school to religious school two afternoons a week and our teachers tried with varying degrees of success to teach us something about many subjects,

What I remember most is Yom Kippor, the Jewish Day of Atonement.  On this day adults would fast from sundown to sundown.  People came and went from the synagogue all day, but everyone would be there for the reading of the Torah, for the recitation of the Kaddish, the prayer said in remembrance of the dead, and for the end of the day and the end of the fast marked by the blowing of the Shofar.  The Shofar is a ram’s horn, difficult to coax sound out of, especially after a day of fasting.   It makes an eerie sound in a silent room.  You can click here to hear the sound.  The silence is followed by joy and cries of “shanah tovah” (have a good year or happy new year) and hugs and kisses.  We would all walk home together feeling at peace and taking pleasure in each others company.

As I grew older I became less and less involved in things religious.  I married a man who is not Jewish and whose family didn’t follow a religious tradition.

As the years passed I would occasionally go to services with my mother or go to family Bar Mitzvahs and weddings, but generally speaking, I was rarely found in synagogue.  When she was 90 my mother moved to an assisted living facility here in Connecticut.  She joined a synagogue and with transportation provided she regularly attended services without my help.  She remained mentally alert, but grew increasingly frail and finally the day came when she could not attend services without my assistance, and so I found myself in synagogue on Yom Kippor for the first time in years.

The service wound on and finally we came to the recitation of the Kaddish.  Although the words of the Kaddish sanctify the name of God and do not speak of mourning it is known as the Mourner’s Prayer.  At weekly Sabbath services only those who have lost a loved on that week or those who are recognizing the memorial of a death that occurred in that week recite it, but on Yom Kippor everyone recites the Mourner’s Prayer.  It is traditional in many synagogues for those who still have two parents living to leave the sanctuary before the Mourner’s prayer.  In every synagogue I have ever attended before the Kaddish is recited the Rabbi explains that leaving is not law, that it is in fact rooted in superstition, and that we will be remembering the six million who died in the Holocaust.  They implore everyone of all ages, parents living or not to remain, and every year large numbers of those whose parents are still alive leave.  Even a rabbi can’t fight tradition.

It had been years since my father’s death and I probably had been to Yom Kippor services in some of those years, but somehow, lost in childhood memories, when the Kaddish was announced I stood to leave.  I was halfway out of my chair before I was hit hard by the realization that my father was gone.  I sat down, overwhelmed with emotion.  I watched young people leave the room and then I rose again to recite Kaddish with my mother.  As I stood,  a group of older people moved to the front of the room. It is a tradition in this synagogue to have survivors of the death camps lead the congregation in the recitation of the Kaddish.  We all join them in remembering those who have no family to remember them.  The survivors are growing old and there are fewer of them each year, but what I saw that year was a dozen healthy, vital older people walking solemnly down the aisles of the synagogue.  Your heart would have to be made of stone not to be moved by this.  I was reduced to tears, the survivors of course remembered and moved on, back to the good lives they had struggled to build, sharing the day with their families.

Eventually the shofar was blown and my mother and I said, “shanah tovah”, and returned to my home for a traditional light meal.  I have been to Yom Kippor services sporadically in the years since that day.  My mother is gone now too, but that one year remains large in my memory.  I am sure it always will.


Credit for the shofar picture here



The Carnival of Genealogy theme this month is food.  This week’s post is a slight reworking of a post of the same name that I published in May of 2009.



I need a hoagie, from Lee’s, the Cheltenham, really; I need one, right now. Other people who grew up in Philadelphia need a cheesesteak fix occasionally, not me, I need that hoagie. If you’re driving up this way and you have a cooler they’ll pack it up for you, with the meat wrapped in aluminum foil and the special oil, the onions, and the hot peppers in separate little containers.









If you read my posts you won’t even bother to ask how this relates to genealogy. We will get there eventually.

sea snails on the beach

Actually it’s just a short trip from food to genealogy. Food roots us in time and place and culture. I have never met anyone who doesn’t have at least one childhood food memory and most people are more than willing to play the Ten Best Meals You Ever Ate game.

Hot Pot in Hong Kong







If you’ve never played please remember that a meal isn’t just about food; it’s also about where and when you ate it and the people who shared it.


As much as the fast food industry has tried to obliterate it America is still a land full of regional cuisines and specialties. For me it’s the hoagie and the cheesesteak and water ice. Water ice is called Italian ice here in New Haven. It’s very fine ice with flavoring. You eat it out of a paper cone or cup.

Water Ice

Lemon is traditional, but now you can get mango or cantaloupe or just about any fruit flavor.

Pat and I went with a friend to her hometown of Binghamton, New York and had our first spiedies. That’s marinated lamb or beef done on the grill and put on an Italian roll.

I am partial to the vinegary pulled pork that constitutes barbecue in North Carolina, but I won’t turn down Texas beef.

I grew up in the East where salmon is salmon. Then I went to the Northwest where the debate over whether we should get Silver or King raged. I don’t remember which we had, but we caught it ourselves and it hit the plate a few hours later. This is an entirely different fish than the red colored stuff from the grocery store.

Don’t even ask a New Yorker about the best bagels or corn beef unless you have a lot of time. Even though I told you not to ask I must say here that a bagel is not just a piece of round bread. A bagel requires chewing, and despite what your local grocery store or Dunkin’ Donuts or my daughter may tell you, there is no such thing as a blueberry bagel.

Not a bagel

Sorry, it’s a sore point.

I could go on forever, but you get the idea.

What about time? I hate to date myself, but when I was young the microwave oven did not exist. In those dark days of yore fast food at home consisted of the TV dinner, a metal tray with compartments of different foods that had to be heated in the oven. The fast part came from not having to prepare it yourself. Food fads come and go, the ones you remember best will probably date your teenage years fairly accurately.

And now we come to culture. The closer you are to the immigrant generation the more familiar you are with the traditional food of the home country. Immigrants clung to the foods of their homelands; those who came to the new world to turn a fast buck and go home would eat whatever the local environment provided. If you’re going back it doesn’t matter; if you’re staying food is a way to preserve your roots. English colonists tried to grow wheat and eat wheat bread in land that didn’t grow wheat well and where corn thrived and was plentiful. They turned their noses up at lobster too.

Food from our heritage gets handed down through generations. Is there anyone who doesn’t have a grandmother or a great-grandmother who cooked these wonderful foods without a recipe? Even if you have a recipe it doesn’t taste as good; memory is a powerful flavor enhancer.

Today it seems like everyone I know is picky about food.  Meat, not meat, organic or not, cheap or expensive, exotic or familiar.  But as we try to keep our families healthy and listen to our cardiologists let’s remember what makes a great meal– friends, family, tradition, flavor, laughter and much more.  Great meals make great memories.


Here’s a link to the blueberry bagel pic.  The photographer agrees with me.

“The excitement is mounting here outside the hall.  The big stars are arriving.  There’s our host Jasia.  Rumors said she might borrow the meat dress from Lady Gaga, but this appears not to be the case.  She does look hot though.”

“Look there’s Thomas and Greta and Randy.  Is that Footnote Maven with them? Could that be Apple with Bill West? Dear Myrtle is here with Miriam Midkiff.  Look at the array of transportation they’re arriving in!  Are they trying to park that giant RV?  Does it contain their entourage?  That’s Carol.  I think Man is her only entourage.  Who’s that with the little red wagon?  That’s Kerry Scott; she brought the kids.  Is that a nun on a motorcycle? Now there’s something you don’t see everyday. That’s Sheri Fenley, she’s into alternative transportation.”

” Who’s that way in the back?  Is she wearing blue jeans?  Oh, that’s Judy from Genealogy Gals.  The word is she only wears blue jeans.  You know she’s spent years in the laboratory.  Those people don’t own grown up clothes.  I think that’s Pat with her. They always travel together. The gals are a real dark horse, but they’re nominated in 5 categories.”

” Let’s move inside and see how it goes.”

In the category of Best Picture the three nominees are:

Mom and Grandpop at the Jersey Shore

Stanley and Henrietta at the Jersey Shore

Uncle Syd and Aunt Myrna on the boardwalk

And the winner is:  Stanley and Henrietta

This picture just has so much charm and so much memory.  It’s a winner in my book.

In the category of Best Biography the nominees are:

Civil War stories–a two part series about the Civil War years of Charles Minor

The Two Jessie Martins–a stirring story told on land and sea

Charles E. Minor

And the winner is: Civil War Stories  One and Two

It’s hard to beat a true story told in voices long since gone.

In the category of Best Documentary the nominees are:

The Davies Mansion–the Genealogy of a House

Who Was my Great-grandmother

And the winner is:  The Davies Mansion

This is a story of survival with more to come

In the category of Best Screen Play the nominees are.

Life on the Farm–A Three part Series–one, two, three

Cutting Wood for the Mississippi Steamboats

Nathan’s StoryMississippi steamboat

And the award goes to:    Cutting Wood for the Mississippi Steamboats.  I can see Mark Wahlburg in the role of the young Charles Minor in Cutting Wood for the Mississippi Steamboats.  That works; there would have to be an extensive personal interview process of course.

The nominees for Best Comedy are:

New Year’s Resolutions Redux

Ohh–Christmas tree

Every family has..

And the iGene goes to   Oh..Christmas Tree.

Every once in a while we try to bring a little laughter into the world.  If you like that sort of thing check next Monday.

Wait, we’re not done.  There’s a surprise 6th category.

Shameless Pandering

This award goes to the entry that mentions the most other people in a shameless attempt to get them to read their blog. There’s only one entry. And the award goes to….The GenealogyGals.

New Year Resolutions Redux

There are piles of snow lit by lots of sunlight outside my window.  The new squirrel proof bird feeder survived the high winds as did the rest of the feeders and birds are everywhere.  It’s easy to feel positive about life in general.  So I thought this would be a good time to review my progress on last year’s resolutions written for the 87th Carnival of Genealogy.

1.  Spend less time with my family.  How can I get my research done and tell them where they came from if I spend all my spare time hanging around with them?

I have had mixed success on this one.  N and I have been brutally busy with work that pays the bills.  So, less time together, but also less research time for me.  The kids don’t live here anymore, but their lives have had enough turmoil in them this year to require lots of phone time.  Yes, I phone.  Anyone who reads this blog knows that I can hardly manage, “Good morning,” in less than a paragraph.  Texting and tweeting can’t handle it.

2.  Write something for the blog twice a month.  How hard is it?  If you’re me, harder than it should be.  The problem is every time I sit down to write something I just have to check one thing or two or twelve and then it’s tomorrow. Must learn to accept lack of knowledge and to practice brevity.  Hah, not happening.

Not so bad on this one. There is absolutely no progress on the brevity front.  I come from a story telling culture and, as I said above, brief doesn’t work for me.  I deeply admire those of you like, but not limited to, Randy Seaver at Genea-musings,Thomas MacEntee at Destination Austin Family , Apple at Apple’s Tree, Carol at Reflections From the Fence, Miriam Midkiff at Ancestories, Greta Koehl at Greta’s Genealogy Blog, Kerry Scott at Clue Wagon , Dick Eastman at Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newlsetter, Sheri Fenley at the Educated Genealogist, Bill West at West in New England, Myrtle at Dear Myrtle, Footnote Maven at Footnote Maven,   who get something up frequently, even daily, without a blogging partner, but that will never be me. And my synapses still keep wandering off target snapping to a new beat once a minute or so, but I have managed to corral them sufficiently to finish a piece here and there.

2b.  Give Pat a break and reliably write something twice a month.

I did it; I did it!  Except for a month off this summer I have been a reliable blog buddy.

3.  Get organized.


4.  Get organized.

Hah hah!

5.  Clean less.  After they stop laughing and recover the ability to breathe my friends will tell you that it is actually not possible for me to clean less.  It is true that I do not clean, but when I invite people for dinner I do feel the need to make a flat surface available for holding dishes and flatware and such. This means that I declutter and when I start decluttering I can’t stop.  Since I am not an organized person (see resolutions 3 and 4) this means everything gets put in some random place never to be seen again.  No more cleaning.

Actually, I cleaned more.  We have decided that we must take small steps toward civilization and that we simply cannot behave like two large packrats.  I refuse to be that headline in the local paper, Woman Found Crushed Under Useless Piles of Junk, so there has been more cleaning.  On the other hand we handled Thanks giving in our usual manner, shoveling everything into our large basement. Now one of us says,” I can’t find..”  and the other one says, ” Try the basement.”  Things I planned to send out for Christmas will undoubtedly resurface around Easter.

6.  Tame The Beast. .  I have a long list of places to write to, places to call, and websites to investigate.  I will do one thing on that list every day, okay, every week.  Most importantly nothing goes on the list unless something comes off.  The beast may not get shorter, but at least it will stop growing.

A few things did come off the list and the return on that investment was enormously rewarding.  Unfortunately I was so busy investigating the wonderful things that came in the mail  that the list curled up somewhere and took its revenge for being neglected by growing twice as long.

7.  Accept the piles, love the piles, become one with the piles.  Returning once again to the fact that I am not well organized, my office is a mass of piles of paper, books, post-it notes, magazines and lots of other stuff.  Some of these piles have enough dust on them to make it seem like tiny ecosystems have developed in their depths.  Sometimes late at night the tiny people talk to me.  But weird as it seems, I can find things in the piles.  It’s when I try to organize that I get into trouble.  This year I will embrace the pile system and no cob will be deprived of its web.

I have succeeded at this mostly.  Since my office is also the guest room there was occasional cleaning to the detriment of being able to find anything.

8.  Gain weight.  Might as well make one resolution that I will actually keep.

I didn’t, gain weight that is.  For reasons having absolutely nothing to do with me my weight has remained stable this year.

9.  Be better.  Better, nicer, kinder, more patient, more appreciative, more grateful. I know that’s more than one thing, but I consider myself a work in progress and this year I hope to be a slightly better version of the original.

This is the important one, the only one that really matters, and I must leave judgment on this one to those around me.  I’ll keep trying.

That’s my list for this year and I’m going to get right to it, just as soon as I finish the Christmas cards.

This week’s post is another joint effort by Pat and me.  We both wanted to have an opportunity to congratulate Jasia on the 100th edition of the COG.  My efforts are in standard type; Pat’s additions are in italics.

This month’s theme for the COG is There’s One in Every Family.  Great theme, how hard could it be?  Rip off a few lines about crazy Uncle Gordon or silly Aunt Emma and be a contributor.   The thing is, most of my relatives, living and dead, are kind of ordinary. (I know I’ve been looking and hoping, for a real Black Sheep.  If I can ever document it, I have a 2-woman scandal in the very early 1800s.) Of course, everyone has a story, just not one that wants to be told for this sort of thing. (Oh, maybe mine is one of those.)

And then it came to me, every family has a genealogist or, as we say now, a family historian.  Yes, it is you I am writing about or for whom I am writing.

When I started climbing the family tree there was no family history, there was only genealogy.  Who cares?  Well, me, and if you remember The Look you will too. The Look, is what you got when you told people you were a genealogist.  Genealogy has grown to be wildly popular with TV shows and podcasts and, you know, blogs, but this was not always the case. Years ago the declaration that you were a genealogist, the one that generated The Look, meant one of two things.  Either:

1.  You lived alone in an attic with no fewer than 5 cats, or

2.  You were an unbearable snob who was about to reveal that she was heir to the throne of Godknowswhereistan.

For the record, I have never had more than 3 cats at once and, although hope never dies, I don’t appear to be the heir to anything. (And I keep hoping that I will turn out to be the heir to all of Nantucket, but alas, that also doesn’t seem to be the case.)

It is so much more pleasant to be a family historian.  Many people just hear the historian part and assume that you actually know something.  Having spent years suffering The Look, I see no reason to disabuse them of this notion.

The other thing I vastly prefer about family historian is that most people with a fourth grade education can spell both family and historian, not so with genealogy.  What is it with that “a” in the middle.  OK, I grew up in Philadelphia and some people, most of whom are related to me, have made note of the fact that I don’t always pronounce words in precisely the same way as people in New England.  Still, I think that “a” needs to be an “o”.  After all, it’s anthropologist, biologist, criminologist, musicologist, otologist (look it up, new words are good for you), phraseologist (yup, the study of phrases), and, my personal favorite, storiologist. Not an  ” a”  in the bunch.

So, if you’re younger than I am, and who isn’t, count yourself lucky to be a family historian, and count yourself lucky for the work Jasia does to bring us the COG. Congratulations on the 100th edition (from both of us).  Pop the champagne and let the celebration begin.