Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories – Holiday Foods

My dad would like to think I grew up eating lutefisk for Christmas like he did being 100% Swedish, but for better or worse, I did not. But I really don’t remember what I did have. We spent most of my childhood Christmases at my Grandma and Grandpa Wood’s, and I’m sure we had great holiday feasts, but I don’t remember anything particularly special or ethnic or anything.

Well, okay, the poppyseed rolls were pretty special and might be of Eastern European extraction. My Great-Aunt Mary, whose family was from Czechoslovakia (she was my Grandpa Wood’s sister-in-law; I’m not even a little Czech or Slovak), made them originally. I seriously need that recipe. One of my uncles makes them occasionally, but there’s never enough to go around. Particularly as I’d like all of them to make it around to my tummy.

As time went on and we didn’t go to see my grandparents for a whole week around Christmas, my parents, my brother, and I ended up with a tradition of lasagna for Christmas Eve supper and often Cornish Hens for Christmas Day dinner.

We did have lutefisk once. My Grandpa Strum made it one year. I’m pretty sure I was already an adult, and I’m not sure if my brother was still in Minnesota then. It wasn’t terrible. Really, it wasn’t so bad, but I seem to recall it was kind of rubbery or something, and my dad assured us later that Grandpa hadn’t made it quite right, and it should have been better. Maybe someday I’ll try it again.

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories – The Christmas Tree

So, I was just saying on Twitter yesterday that I probably wouldn’t be able to blog until the BU program is over (the 19th), but then I saw this Advent Calendar thing and figured that with some holiday prompts, I might just be able to do at least  a few posts this month.

The timing of today’s topic, the Christmas tree, is kind of amusing to me because I’ve been pondering over the past week or so whether to get a tree. This will be my third Christmas in my own home, and so far I haven’t had a tree at all. This is in part because I haven’t figured out where to put one, another part because I can’t decide between artificial or real, and a final part because I have a tree-climbing cat.

Blazer in the Christmas Tree

Blazer in the Christmas Tree

This photo is from when she was just two, and she’s seven now, but she still acts much the same as she did then. I fear for any tree in her presence.

Growing up, my parents had an artificial tree. I don’t recall ever having a real tree at home. My mom was pretty much in charge of all decorating, though my brother and I probably helped from time to time. I know I’ve helped with the trickier items, like lights, more than once. Below is a photo of my brother and me in front of our tree the last time he was home for Christmas, in 1994. He was still in Texas with the Air Force then, and in the summer of 1995 he was stationed in Alaska, where he’s lived ever since.

Kristie & Eric - 24 December 1994

Kristie & Eric - 24 December 1994

My maternal grandparents (Wood) always had a real tree when I was a kid as far as I recall, and my memories are of tall trees that they might have cut from their own property, but perhaps not. My grandpa was a logger, so who knows where they got the trees? Perhaps my mom will comment and weigh in on where the trees came from. What I do remember was that they had a real tree despite my grandma being allergic to it. The photo below is me at age three and a half with my youngest aunt (nine and half years older than me), Karen, and the aunt who’s also my godmother, Carolyn.

Kristie, Karen, and Carolyn 25 December 1976

Kristie, Karen, and Carolyn 25 December 1976

Here’s another one of my brother and me, but in front of Aunt Carolyn’s tree a few years later after she was married.

Eric & Kristie 24 December 1980

Eric & Kristie 24 December 1980

I believe my paternal grandfather (Strum) and his wife (my grandma died several years before I was born, and grandpa remarried when I was pretty little yet, but I never considered his second wife to be a grandma) had real trees when I was younger, perhaps a bit smaller than my other grandparents’ trees. They also could have cut trees from their own property for all I know. With little notice, Mom hasn’t found photos from their house yet…I really should keep up better with these things!

What I’ve Been Up To

I promise this blog has not been abandoned! June turned out to be way busier than I thought it would be. There was lots of family time to be had, with a fair amount of travel thrown in. But through it all, I spent plenty of time working on genealogy projects.

I’m pretty sure I mentioned early on that much of the work on my own family tree has been researched by my mom over the years, so a lot of what I’ve been doing is entering the names and info into my own database and making sure there’s documentation to verify as much of the information as possible. My mom has over 20,000 people in her database, so it’s going to take me a while to get everything verified (I’m at about 700 now, but they’re not all as documented as I’d like yet). For a while I was working primarily on my direct ancestors and their immediate families, but lately I’ve been going back and filling in the descendants of those immediate family members. I’m finding that while I’m curious about learning all there is to know about my ancestors, I also want to learn about who more of my distant modern-day relatives are.

But I can’t help but poke at particular mysteries from time to time. For example, where was my third-great-grandfather Nathan S. Wood between the Civil War and when we believe he turns up in Utah in 1910? He died in California later that year and we know that is the right person based on a photo in his pension records, but his whereabouts before that are yet unknown. I do searches here and there on Ancestry.com or GenealogyBank.com (I have a one-month trial to see how useful this site is for me, and I did find a couple of interesting items about Nathan S. Wood in Congressional records from 1907), but what I really need to do is look through the research others in the extended family have already done. That sounds like a good task for today!

New Genealogy Blog

It’s not like I needed another hobby. I love to read and knit in addition to keeping up with many other interests I enjoy, such as my favorite TV shows, movies, science, technology, and baseball. And it’s not like there’s no one else in my family working on genealogy; my mom has been working on it for nearly my entire life, and there are other folks out in the branches of our family tree working on related pieces too.

But the genealogy bug has bitten me whether I wanted it to or not. I’m not completely sure why I’ve been avoiding it all this time, except perhaps that I know how time-consuming it can be from my mom’s experience, and I hardly needed anything else like that. But it has been extremely fun diving into the research and it’s a bonus that genealogy draws on my interests in history, archaeology, photography, and genetics, along with my skills of organization and attention to detail.

Over the years I’ve occasionally worked on a particular project here and there that captured my interest. One that I poke at once in a while is on my Grandpa Wood’s side, where we have a possible connection to the Salem Witch Trials. Our ancestor is Sarah Proctor, but so far I’ve had trouble pinning down exactly which Sarah Proctor. It might be John Proctor and Elizabeth Bassett’s daughter, which would be a very direct link, or it might be her cousin of the same name and similar age. The most recent thing I learned regarding this project is that the records I probably need from New London, CT, to figure this out might have been burned by Benedict Arnold in 1781. But I’ve hardly given up; I just need to learn about better places to look.

My intent with this blog to write about my discoveries, frustrations, insights, and adventures as I delve into geneaology. At some point I also plan to start writing up stories about my family’s history, including the many photos my mom has been able to gather over the years. I hope to also share some family letters.

I am also looking into attending conferences, joining genealogical societies, and pursuing educational opportunities, all of which will be part of my adventure. Maybe this will lead to being something more than just a mere hobby.