Sunday, January 10, 2016

Tradition? Traditionless? Starting a tradition?

I had to laugh when a read a blog, hopefully called "Eating with my ancestors," that said this: 

"There is NO cookbook on Wales [in her library]. I mean, yes, they *exist* but they don't *exist* here, which is weird because there are a lot of Welsh descendants here. Heck, there is a Cardiff right down the road. You think they pulled that name out of their asses? No! They were Welsh!" -- (You go, girl!)

Her subtitle is: "Learning about the foodways of my ancestors, one plate at a time." I had thought of this the other night, and tonight found Gina's blog, which amused me enough to read it aloud to the disinterested *the sound of a lead balloon falling*

Our family didn't pass down any ethnic foodways, Welsh, English, Prussian, Polish, German, nuttin. But it doesn't mean I can't come up with something as a family tradition. Tradition starts somewhere! Traditions are adapted, right? Sing with me like Fiddler on the Roof: "Tra-di-SHUNNNN!"

I want to start when the sub-Arctic blast leaves us in the 30-plus temperature range, not this minus-zero malarky.

But here, these are Glamorgan sausages. No meat. Don't get too excited, men. They are shaped like sausages, but are leek and cheese patties rolled in breadcrumbs and panfried. I think I could do that.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Dave from Wales

I recently found some really nice photos of some of my relatives on, and whoever you are (descendants of this little girl), thanks for posting these valuable bits of history! This is the first time I've ever seen a picture of this man.

This is David H. "Dave" Davies, who was born in Wales in 1833. He joined two sisters, and another sister joined the family when he was six. (And yes, his father's name was David.) (Have I mentioned how you cannot swing the proverbial dead cat through the Davieses in Wales without hitting multiple David Davieses?) (I really do mean multiple!)

He married Elizabeth Ann Thomas in 1854 and had two daughters and a son, but the 2nd and 3rd children died young. He himself worked in the coal mines until purchasing a butcher shop in his village. They had a fourth child in 1860, and by the time the family had grown to seven children, he and Elizabeth had decided to emigrate to the United States. They were Baptists, raised small livestock, and felt strongly about family and education. Elizabeth died in an accident in 1885. 

Once in the US, his fourth child, daughter Sib, married another immigrant, Samuel Mahood of Ireland, and this is a photo of David H. and his granddaughter, Mary Elizabeth Mahood. It was probably taken in Columbus, Nebraska. He was about 63 in this photo, taken about 1895.

A few years later, he died at age 66, of pneumonia.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

It's not good enough!

I had a really helpful and cheerful person in the Oakland, California, area work with me over the past couple weeks to figure out if the Mary Davis Nickerson in his cemetery was mine or not. There was already a photo of her headstone on So he very helpfully (cough) took a high-res photo of it, after he (with my help) found it. I guess he thought that's what I wanted, despite what I told him.

I thanked him and told him I appreciated his trouble and his work, but mentioned that I needed some information about that woman, so I'd know it was my relative.

His comment was: What are the odds that there would be another Mary Davis Nickerson in this county? And my thought was: Do you know how common those names are? Mary? Davis? and Nickerson? Really. California had five million people in it in 1927, when (we think) she died.

He really *was* as helpful as he could be, but just matching a name is not good enough.

I come from a family with a common name, too, and it's not good enough. I could tell that boy stories to curl his hair about names repeating down the generations until your eyes cross and you stutter just talking about them all.

Also, no researcher worth her salt would accept "Oh it must be her" as good enough. For pity's sake.

So I'm still on the trail of Mary.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Bits and bobs of hunting the fam

I am currently on the track, I hope, of a great-great-aunt's final resting place. She is the only one in her family to leave our home state, and the only one to not be buried here.

Unfortunately, she has a very common name, Mary Nickerson, and about six of them died in California in her same time frame. But I'm tracking down the matter of IF the one I'm chasing is actually my relative, by pestering (oh very politely) the funeral homes and the cemeteries involved. By the way, the Nickersons seem ALL to be from Massachusetts.

In other news, I've found that the website Findagrave dot com has been helpful, but has missing information in this case. I had no idea anyone was ever buried without a birth date OR a death date! Why?

Once I realized that Findagrave is a wiki, I began connecting family "dots" to one another. That's rather fun. I added a life story in one case, to an uncle, and an obit, in another case.

Some kind person responded to a request for a photo for another relative, upon the posting of the photo of the tombsone, I also found out that this person has a less-than-accurate birth date on the tombstone.  As a newbie, I can only assume that wrong dates are much more common than I had imagined.

When a death occurs, questions are asked and answered, and sometimes the information is just in error.

AND I found Nun's name in a diagram of the family cemetery. Haven't found out yet if he's really there, but why else would his name be on that map? Questions, questions!

Friday, October 16, 2015

It's at my feet. Right here at my feet.

It's weird, but in a way, "Discovering the world at my feet" is metaphorically rather fitting for genealogy. All this stuff has been here a long time: censuses, newspaper articles, obituaries from 1899, 1917, 1956, etc. It's all been here, waiting for me to wake up and pay attention.

A book I am reading has been published before I was born. So what was *I* waiting for, huh?

So 1899.  This is the year my great-grandfather, Dave Davis died. He's the earliest Davis I currently know anything about:

He and his wife, Elizabeth Thomas married in '54 I think. In the 1850 and 1860s, he had worked the coal fields in South Wales, and god knows what happened to his lungs there. They saved enough and borrowed enough to purchase a butcher shop. His wife baked bread to sell there; his daughter clerked there. Eight or nine other children went to school and raised each other.

Bear with me while I recount this from memory, which is full of errors. There was an agent who worked with the Union Pacific Railroad in Nebraska. UP owned most of the land around every rail line, because the government let them and because there was big money in it. BIG money. One way or another, this agent was able to secure land just for Welsh settlers, of which Dave was one. When they decided to leave, one of Dave's friends said "Davey, don't go, there's nothing but the dregs of hell an the rakings of Newgate (criminals) there!" Dave and his wife, Elizabeth, and nine children, came to the US via rail, steamship and more rail ... and probably wagon the last twenty miles. That was September 1873. They left two deceased children behind in Wales.

So Dave, Elizabeth and the family were all pioneers in the Welsh settlement of Postville, Nebraska.

Dave plowed for months to ready the soil for a crop, and wrote back to Wales in June of 1874, telling folks of how good his family had it, about the fabulous soil, about the church already established, about how he didn't contend in the fields with stone and trees, like the folks did back in Wales, and where they paid *rent* rather than owning. He said he couldn't imagine why they wouldn't come to what he considered Canaan (the Biblical promised land) to farm, and where land could be had "so cheaply."

They attended Baptist church; the Welsh are known to be religious and political. Dave was articulate, as well. From their life stories, it becomes obvious his children were well-read and articulate, as well.

Well, that part came on down the line, eh?

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Moth magnet!

The place where I work is a moth magnet. Every late summer and fall, there are various moths that rest on the front porch or near it.

This morning, this very large moth, OMG, 6 inches across, was sitting on the ground, vibrating. Not sure what that's about!

Anyway just look. Oooooooh!

This guy with the big eye-spots (that's what they call them; I didn't make it up.) (I'll let you know when I make stuff up!) is called a Polyphemous moth, a kind of silk moth.

The lime green Luna moth is in the same family; they are both Saturniidae.

This is the caterpillar, an image from the Internet. The cats are big eaters! Seriously, they have to turn into that BIG MOTH!

The caterpillar can eat 86,000 times its weight at emergence in a little less than two months. But the result is amazing, right?

They eat birch, willow, oak, maple, hickory, beech, honey locust, walnut, elm and other tree leaves, so they are going to be found near heavily wooded areas. We have lots of woods near here. The caterpillars are inconspicuous at first, but at the fourth and fifth molts, then they get this bright green color. After coccooning up and becoming a moth, its eating days are mainly over.

Adults of this family of moths have only partial mouths, and they do not eat and only live as adults for less than one week. Sex is the name of the game, baybee. Find mates, have sex, lay eggs!

This particular moth was resting but also vibrating. As it turns out, these silk moths are so large that they must warm their flight muscles for a minute or two before they can fly. They do this by shivering, and after a few moments, they fly off.

Next picture:

I know you can't see this Lined Sphinx Moth very well, but he's striking at rest. In flight he's even more so! Fat-bodied, rosy hindwings, and hovers like a dragonfly at his flowers of choice. He floats around similar to a hummingbird, just quieter.

I told you it was mothy up here!

Painted lady, the butterfly, not the Victorian house

So, apparently, the Painted Ladies like the coneflowers, too, like the sulphurs do.

The genus name for these little beauties is "Vanessa." They are only 2-3 1/2 inches, but they are quite eye-catching.

They always have the upper corners of their wings in black-and-white, then the rest in orange and black/brown and a tan-colored fuzzy body.

I don't know the terms for all their body parts, but your local butterfly and moth nerd will know. Or any identification guide. There are great books at your library!

This butterfly is also very widespread, but unlike the clouded sulphur, it is international. It's found everywhere except Antarctica and South America.

It migrates, too, like the monarch. It migrates from North Africa and the Mediterranean to Britain in May and June, but they aren't seen on the return trip from Britain to North Africa, because they fly so high. For many years it was a mystery as to when and how they got back south, but it was due to their flying altitude.

There are some Painted Ladies which migrate in California, from one region to another, but their migrations are more erratic, depending on weather (El Nino!) and what is growing at a given time, which varies.

Another reason PLs have such good populations is because they feed from a large array of flowers; over 300 species are known to be dinner for them. They get the biggest smorgasbord!