Category Archives: random musings

If you told me I would be doing that all day…

It all started with a tiny 250 year old sourdough starter that I ordered from King Arthur Flour. Of course baking bread every weekend, I was up for the challenge of sourdough. My starter came in a tiny jar and was a little more than 2 TB of starter that resembled silly putty. Of course, I followed the directions over the course of a couple days and had the most beautiful doughy starter.

sourdough starter

So, today was sourdough bread day and pumpkin roll for a birthday wish cake by my daughter’s boyfriend. First, sourdough takes many hours and the starter was being fed for days, but I finally had a beautiful oatmeal wheat sourdough bread rising (I completely changed the base recipe).

sour dough bread

Of course we also needed dinner rolls for Sunday dinner, of course I had to try another recipe from King Arthur Flour for Buttery Sourdough Buns. I didn’t alter the recipe at all on this one except to leave out the paprika and add sesame seeds to the top. By the way, delicious.


Of course there was still a pumpkin roll to be made….


… and I just couldn’t throw out the remainder of the pumpkin, so I made pumpkin bread.

pumpkin bread

After I spent hours in the kitchen and my feet were hurting, I started thinking…. 100 years ago you couldn’t just run off to the supermarket to buy bread. Every day, our ancestors worked even harder than I did today, making bread every or every other day. And they didn’t waste a thing. Stale bread became bread pudding or stuffing, or some other treat that would use up every bit of precious bread that was slaved over daily. Also, they didn’t have the convenience of dry yeast that we have today, so they very likely kept a bit of sourdough starter growing all the time. Hence, my 250 year old sourdough starter.


All the recipes will appear on my other blog: Writer’s Diary.


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Ghosts of Thanksgiving Past

Yes, Thanksgiving is a day of thanks, but it is also a day of remembrance. Some are fortunate enough to be surrounded by family and friends, and some have empty seats at the table. Let’s remember those who no longer grace the table with us at Thanksgiving.

Dad and Tom, forever gone from our lives, but never forgotten

Is there someone you would like to remember today?

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Posted by on November 22, 2012 in random musings


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Death, loss, and cancer

I’ve been invisible here since April 1st, and before that, I posted very little after my brother Tom’s death in February. 2011 was a tough year, so we were full of hope that 2012 would be so much better, but that was not to be. My dog Augie died, then brother Tom died, then a surviving brother and my husband began their battles with cancer that still continue. Except for my continuous escape into reading and reviewing books on my other blog, I’ve been nearly invisible here on the web.

Still, through all this, I continued to index records for Family Search. The thing that shakes me to the core with so many of the records I index, is so many young people, children, and babies who passed away. My grandmother, Ruth Jordan, had two babies who didn’t survive more than a few days after birth. How must it have felt to carry a child, bear that child, then lose them. Two children that my mother never had the opportunity to grow up with. Our ancestors suffered losses that would shake most of us to the core. At least I had the opportunity to grow up with my brother Tom, remembering his laughter and vitality, while our ancestors were left with empty arms due to departed children.

I’m back and hope to post, at least weekly, some of my discoveries along the way on my trip through the family tree.

Distant baby Stearns cousins who died early in life one just a few days old and the other 10 months old



A bittersweet publishing experience…

I am very happy that I’ve had one of my creative nonfiction essays published in the premier print issue of the Avalon Literary Review. Why is it bittersweet? It’s a piece about visiting Dad, who was slowly slipping away. During a short stay at a nursing home in the Alzheimer’s unit, I spent time with him, talking with him and, on a good day, he could remember who I was. Those heartbreaking moments are etched into my soul. Fortunately, now that Dad is gone, the heartbreaking memories are slowly being replaced with memories of the twinkle in his eye, the way he laughed, and how much we loved each other.

Here’s to you Dad. I’ll love you forever.


Posted by on February 6, 2012 in random musings



Reusing the names of deceased children …. what?

I found a pretty cool ebook called Genealogies of the families and descendants of the early settlers of Watertown, Massachusetts. The book details exactly what the title says. Utilizing this book, I was able to go all the way back to the first Stearns family members who emigrated with the Winthrop fleet in 1630.

So, having already started some flawed work on the family tree, I started a new one utilizing only information found in this book. As I was going along, I found multiple branches that don’t necessarily reach to me, but decided to help others on by putting the information in for all to use. I had no idea how much of an undertaking that would be.

Between job hunting (post layoff) and generally organizing my home (post education), I’ve been imputing the information I’m finding in this book a little at a time.  I’m about halfway through … I think

Anyway, as I’ve been working through all the descendants and their children and their children’s children, I’ve noticed the high mortality of infants – so sad. It made me rethink the old phrase, “you’ll catch your death,” a warning to people go out in the cold without a jacket. I’ve also noted that some deceased infants had their names, including middle names, reused for later children (from the same parents). I imagine that mothers in the 1600, 1700, and 1800s were heartbroken each time they lost a child. But why reuse the name of the earlier deceased child? That is a question for historians to answer. This amateur genealogist doesn’t have a clue.

Stearns family coat of arms

Stearns Coat of Arms

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Posted by on July 16, 2011 in random musings, research


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Absence makes the readers go away

Well, my hiatus is coming to an end. I have finished my thesis and am now awaiting suggestions for revisions from two university professors who act as my first and second readers. Essentially the hard stuff is done. I’m prepared to appear in the public reading phase on May 4, 2011 – a bit of a nerve wracking appearance as I read a portion of the novel to the university community and friends and family in a public forum.

The pros of writing to this deadline:

One thing I learned through the blitz writing that I have had to do and re-do for this thesis is that you really can come up with a decent framework on deadline to work from in later drafts. In fact, pushing myself so hard resulted in hitting the 32% mark (out of 80,000 words).

The cons of writing to this deadline:

The deadline created tremendous anxiety for me with regard to finishing in time to receive my MA before the university community on whole goes off on their summer-long vacations. It also highly impacted my personal life – after working all day and going to school three nights per week, obliterated almost all of the my free time.

The impact on blogging:

Clearly, the impact on blogging is that I had to be absent from both this blog and my writing blog … more so from the genealogy blog since I did post a book review to this site while on hiatus (I never stop reading no matter what). My absence brought down views of this blog to zero many days, where it had previously see quite a bit of traffic. The blog most impacted, however, was this blog – where I had as many as 60 hits per day on that blog, traffic slowed to single digit numbers and I even had two days with no traffic at all.

The final analysis:

… there’s that analytical mind again … I see blogging as an expression of my writing and my genealogy research. Having to put those outlets on hold, will cause an uphill battle to gain momentum again and get my readers back. Last lesson, never stop blogging – just one weekly post gives your readers something to enjoy and increases the volume on your website.

~ ~ ~

In the future – I’ll talk about graves and will share what I learn through research regarding wandering graveyards – some are not so welcoming.

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Posted by on April 30, 2011 in hiatus, random musings, writing


Health and hospitalizations

Having spent the last eleven days in critical care with a seriously ill family member, I’ve had little to think about except beeping monitors, IV poles with various concoctions running, ventilators, and multiple hours in surgical waiting rooms praying that everything will be alright. Yes, it’s been a pretty bad time, but we’ve finally reached a point where discharge is in the not too distant future.

The illness and hospitalization brought to mind my elusive grandmother’s illness and eventual death. Previous posts have addressed the difficulty I’ve faced finding my father’s mother. I know her name and that she gave birth to my father in 1923; I know she was married to then divorced from my father’s father; I know she went to New York City when my father was a baby and worked for a newspaper; and I know that she was ill before she died and had health aids in her home taking care of her. I never knew my grandmother. I don’t know what diseases plagued her or what eventually led to her death.

So, how do I find more on my grandmother? In genealogy we work backwards from the present through the past. I know that death certificates can be obtained for a deceased relative. I could start with her death certificate – a document that tells the name of the person who died, what they died from, and what the parent’s names were. I already know the names of her parents. How much would I really learn from the death certificate? Do I need to know the cause of death? As a medical professional, I know that health history is generally restricted to the patient, parents, and siblings.

So, do I need to put out the money to order that death certificate or not? That’s a question I’ll ponder as I sit in the hospital and listen to the monitors beeping and setting off alarms.


Posted by on March 22, 2011 in random musings


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What health problems plagued your ancestors?

Having a family member recently diagnosed with cancer and having to write out all those medical questionnaires about family health problems was earth shattering this past week. But it also set me to thinking…

Genealogists have three primary goals:

  1. Some only want to know names and places and aren’t all that interested in what life was like for their ancestors
  2. Some are focused on names and places, but also want to know the history of the time the ancestors lived in and what their lives were like (I fit this category)
  3. Finally, some genealogists have an interest in the health history of their family and what illnesses or genetic issues they may carry in their bloodline

Having cancer in the family has now caused me to increase my interests from mainly number 2, to include a new interest in number 3 as well.

Where are you in your genealogy search?

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Posted by on March 5, 2011 in random musings



The giant time-suck

Now, using the term time-suck might imply that certain activities are a complete waste of time. Not so. In my world, a giant time-suck is something that you are enjoying so much that you forget time and may neglect other activities. For example, game playing. I currently have worked my way through the Heroes series and am now on Heroes V and eagerly await the publication of Heroes VI. When I play Heroes time flies. has now entered the realm of time-suck. Those little green leaves pop up everywhere and you feel compelled to see what’s there. Before you know it you find the page that shows all of the people in your tree who have hints (I have over 1,000). When you pull up a hint and deem it worthy to be attached to your tree, it begets more and more hints. Then when you see that some ancestors appear more than once in your tree (see my post about repetition), you feel compelled to correct things for hours. Thus begins the time-suck phenomenon. You end up hours later wondering how your pleasant evening bled into the next day at midnight or 1:00 am, all other responsibilities sizzling on the back burner.

Moral of the story: Set time limits for yourself, particularly in genealogy, or an activitiy can take over your life.

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Posted by on February 12, 2011 in random musings


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My reflections on the interview process

I conducted interviews via email and face-to-face. Both interview types had a completely different feel and the interactions were also completely different. I have say in retrospect, that neither interview type was particularly better or worse than the other. Each held a unique opportunity for learning.

I was very fortunate to receive such a positive response from people in the #genealogy  group on twitter. I had three genealogists come forward to answer my questions via email, two were from twitter and one was from a NJ searcher who found my genealogy blog and invited me to email her. I suspect that more genealogists would have come forward if I asked them to. I follow the #genealogy group on twitter and exchange messages with them routinely.

My interviews via email were fairly stable in that I sent them the questions I developed that are posted here on this blog and they answered those questions. Answers were creative, however, in that respondents answered the questions but also expounded on information that they felt would be most helpful. Probably the best question was at the end where I asked if there was anything they would like to add. I got great answers that covered everything from how to organize my paperwork to resources I might want to utilize in my research.

My in-person interview of the head of the local historical society was far more fluid than my interviews via email. Although I went to the interview with the same set of questions, I only got to ask a couple of them. This didn’t turn out to be a bad thing at all. After starting out with the first question about how she got started with her own genealogy, my interviewee’s experience as a high school teacher kicked in and she began to teach me about genealogy and how to find information. She also advised me to put one of my children as the main person at the start of the family tree and to research both my side and my husband’s side. Those who have experience to share from both sides of the family are getting older and if I waited until my side of the tree was completed, then those on my husband’s side might well be gone. She also advised me to write to my living relatives now and ask them about family history as well as ask them to share information if they already have started a family tree. I have received a lot of information now from both sides of the family.

Although I am still a beginner who is a bit overwhelmed, I feel there are fellow searchers out there that I can reach out to for help and inspiration. I have found that genealogists in general are a very generous group who are happy to help a fellow searcher. This started out as a proposed topic for a class, but now it is a research passion for life.


Posted by on April 5, 2010 in interviewing, random musings


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