Womens History Month -- Week 2

March 6 — Describe an heirloom you may have inherited from a female ancestor (wedding ring or other jewelry, china, clothing, etc.) If you don’t have any, then write about a specific object you remember from your mother or grandmother, or aunt (a scarf, a hat, cooking utensil, furniture, etc.)
For my 21st birthday, my grandmother gave me a necklace her mother got from her parents when she turned 21. She wanted me to have a bit of the great-grandmother I remembered so well. It's a gold sunburst dotted with seed pearls, and the backing is a pin, so it can also be worn that way. The only time I actually wore it was at my wedding, though, hidden under the sash of my dress as my something old.

March 7 — Share a favorite recipe from your mother or grandmother’s kitchen. Why is this dish your favorite? If you don’t have one that’s been passed down, describe a favorite holiday or other meal you shared with your family.
There are a few recipes I could choose. My mother is actually a very good cook, and I've always loved her spaghetti, and there are other recipes that mean "family" to us, but there's one that stands out overall that we do every year for Christmas in some form or other. Shortbread. My grandmother said once that she thought she got it from a church cookbook, or church friend. Easiest recipe in the world.

1 lb butter
1 c brown sugar (firmly packed)
4 c flour (sifted)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Cream butter and gradually add sugar. Once the two have been combined, add in the flour slowly, using your hands to knead it as the dough thickens. Once all three have been combined, turn it out onto a slightly floured board and knead slightly, then roll to ¼ inch thickness. Cut to desired shapes and decorate to suit, or cut into finger lengths ½ inch wide and prick with a fork 3-5 times per piece. Bake at 300 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.

I hate getting messy, so any recipe that calls for hand-mixing is generally right out, but this is one I actually love doing, because the ingredients are so simple. Also, yes, that is a LOT of butter, but the recipe makes something like five or six dozen. Perfect for gifts for people who stop by or who you are going to see last minute. My mom and sister have tried a few different variations of this—mom even made a chocolate version last year that was quite delicious with cocoa powder.

March 8 — Did one of your female ancestors leave a diary, journal, or collection of letters? Share an entry or excerpt.
The only one I'm sure of is my paternal grandmother, Nana. We have a huge stack of letters between her and her sister (and a few other relations) over the years. I've loved reading them. We're especially lucky to have them because my aunt and uncle had a fire, and these were some of the things she managed to save, though they're a bit sooty and singed.

An Excerpt:
"Dear Marilyn,

Aunt Helga & Al were prompt in arriving but I was a little late. However, Helga is so adept at picking up where you left off the last time you saw her that we didn't waste a minute. They looked so good & were so cheerful! I was hung up in the airport parking lot which is being torn up for garages—the whole airport is being re-modeled—and the whole place at noon was as busy and crowded as I've ever seen the LA airport. It was the first time I've been there since [Marilyn's daughter] went home last summer. We'll be prepared when Helga & Al come back."

Al was my grandmother's father's brother, and she and her siblings had stayed with he and his wife Helga after their mother's death when they were just children. I love seeing how the connection stayed down through the years, and that she and my aunt stayed in such close touch with each other, despite living in Washington (my grandmother) and California (my aunt).

March 9 — Take a family document (baptismal certificate, passenger list, naturalization petition, etc.) and write a brief narrative using the information.

One of the most elusive documents in my family search was the Philadelphia Census on which my mother's father's mother's family appears. She was born there before the turn of the century, but we weren't sure when they moved there, or whether all her siblings had been born in the US or not. We knew they had lived in the states for a number of years, but had been told that the census document with their names had been burned in a fire where the records had been stored. So I despaired of ever finding it. Then, this past year, while looking through Family Search.org, I found a copy, and the wealth of information on the document has been a godsend.

When I found the 1900 Census last year, I was elated. Not only does it list the names of my great-grandmother and her living siblings at the time, but it told me that her mother had had two other children—the document asks how many children a woman has had, and how many are still living. We actually already had record of the other children before this, but having this document confirms how many, which is wonderful to have.

I also learned that my great-great grandparents had arrived about seventeen years before, according to the document, and that they were both naturalized in 1883, so the year they arrived, or shortly thereafter.

I do know that within another ten years, shortly after their final child's birth, the family all returned to Ireland. Work became too difficult for my great-great grandfather, and he hoped that returning to their former home would help him find better opportunities.

March 10 — What role did religion play in your family? How did your female ancestors practice their faith? If they did not, why didn’t they? Did you have any female ancestors who served their churches in some capacity?
Both sides of the family are so very different.
Dad was raised in a very non-religious household because his father was non-practicing Jewish after the war, and his mother stopped attending the Lutheran church after her mother's death in 1929. She did attend church while in school, because it was a requirement, but she said she picked a church (Methodist, if I recall correctly) at the time based on how simple it was to just sit and listen to the sermon.
My mother's side of the family was much more religious. I believe they were Methodist. I remember attending church with my grandparents when I stayed with them quite often. I do know that my grandmother and her mother and father all participated in choir as part of their regular church activities.

March 11 — Did you have any female ancestors who died young or from tragic or unexpected circumstances? Describe and how did this affect the family?
As I mentioned above twice, my paternal grandmother lost her mother when she was quite young. Oline Hansen was 42 when she died. She caught a respiratory illness which became pneumonia, and soon after, she died. My great-grandfather was devastated. His maternal aunt came to Cleveland for a few days to help, but after she returned to her home in New York, he moved his children in with his brother and sister-in-law, and set about building them a new home, not wanting to live in the house where she had died.

March 12 — Working girl: Did your mother or grandmother work outside the home? What did she do? Describe her occupation.
My paternal grandmother worked for my grandfather after he started his CPA office in the 60s. She worked as his secretary.
My mother has worked in a few different offices. Her longest stint was at Mutual Travel, which used to be a branch of Washington Mutual (I'm not sure if they survived the bank's collapse). She worked in their accounting department for many years before changing jobs.


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About this blog

This blog is maintained by two sisters who have had a life long interest in geneology.
Mika writes here mostly about our family (Hansen, Hillinger, Bordewick, Park, etc), and her search for more information.
Shannon mostly uses this space as a place to make the many stories written about and by her husband's family (Holly, Walker, Walpole, etc) available to the rest of the family, present and future.

Our blog is named Oh Spusch! mostly because Shannon is bad at naming things. The first post I put up includes a story about the time Walker's great grandfather took his whole family out to see a play and the littlest kept saying "Oh! Spusch!" No one ever figured out what she meant by that.