Thursday, April 22, 2010

Genealogy Post- thinking out loud

Summer's come, and it's the season for my research to begin anew. I've been at this since 1997, but it's always so piecemeal. I'd give anything if I had the time and money to work on this as much as I want to.

I've decided this summer to work the bottom branches. Goal? Find Thomas B. Lambert- find his grave, records of his kids... anything. He's my grandmother's grandpa and he's a damn ghost. I don't even know what the B stands for, for certain. Someone named "Sunny Lambert" cited him as Thomas Bluford Lambert- but I've no idea where she got that middle name. I'd sure like to find her and ask!

So here's the mystery and the clues: Thomas, born abt 1857 to Thomas B. Lambert Senior, and his wife. Cousin Edna gave me the middle initial and the "junior," and told me that he and my greatgreatgrandma Letitia had the three girls, Zadie, Cora, and Deola (my greatgrandma) and a baby son who died. I tracked down record of newlywed Thomas and wife "Lottie" in the 1880 census. Pretty sure Lottie is supposed to be Letitia; the ages match up and they're in Port Royal, Henry County, where Letitia's family had been for generations. But he's dead by 1900, wherein Letitia is head of household in Jefferson county, widowed, bringing up her girls. And although she has her girls, there are three dead babies to account for, not just one; she gives number of kids as seven, with only three now living. One would THINK I could find birth recs for at least one of these seven offspring, but so far, no dice. No death recs either, for the kids or for their father. Perhaps none were recorded? Edna told me she thought he was probably buried "on their farm," but that was before she was born; she had no idea even what county the farm was in.

Damn I need the 1890 census. Anyway- what I know (or think I know) about Thomas: I've found him at home with stepmom and dad as a boy in earlier census recs; living in Grant county, KY. Not a far piece from Henry. I've actually found other folks who've tracked Thos Jr's mom and dad's lines, but the man himself is an enigma. He intrigues me. Frankly, he's the best looking fella in my family tree. And his wife, lord love her- well, maybe she was one of those ladies who is beautiful when she smiles. I have their wedding tintype, but.. perhaps it's one of those bad hair/clothes days for Letitia. Not all brides are beautiful.

Anyway- that's mystery one, goal one. Goal two? Find out what Hatfield sired my greatgrandmother's daddy. (On the other side of my Mom's family.) Moses Dial married Nancy Welch... but he didn't father two of her sons. "Jefferson Davis Dial", my ancestor, is supposedly a bastard Hatfield. I've got them in Wyoming county, WV in 1860; Jefferson Davis Dial is born in April of the following year. I need to find out when Moses left for the war. Figure that Pappy Jeff was conceived June or July of 1860 in time for an April 1st birthday. Anyway- I've looked at the 1860 census and there's a goodly number of young Hatfields to account for in the neighborhood. I wonder what the liklihood would be of finding a male-line descendent from one of Nancy's byblow boys, and getting a dna test? Most probably, the hatfields all share their Y chromosome anyway though, so finding the RIGHT one would be a challenge.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Skillet love

Today I stumbled across an article about the basic necessities of a functioning kitchen. But I won't link it for you, because it was useless. Oh, yes, it had some practical advice about knives and sheet pans- but it dismissed cast iron with a single line. "I like cast iron, and I have used it in some kitchens for nearly everything; but it can be more expensive than this quite decent cheap stuff, and it’s very heavy. "

To the author, I say this: You, sir, are no cook. And you can't shop worth a damn.

Whenever one of my friends marries or has a housewarming, I hit the flea markets and thrift shops. Your humble Ornithophobe is not inherently cheap about wedding gifts; there is method to my madness. A "new" cast iron skillet is both expensive and ill-made. Its surface is microscopically pockmarked and uneven. That will show in your cooking, as no amount of seasoning will completely eradicate sticking to such a surface.

No, for my gift-skillets, I look for the battle-hardened veterans of cookery. The older, the better. A bit of rust doesn't frighten me. Time and again, I've dug up the skillets of your great-grandmothers, moldering in boxes at yard sales, or collecting dust on thrift shop shelves. The most I've ever paid for one is a ten dollar bill- but I've also found an egg skillet for a quarter. Right now, on Ebay, there are dozens available in the under 20.00 range, some sitting unbid at 99 cents and no reserve. Lovely Griswolds and Wagners, and lots of nameless beauties waiting to be returned to service. Just watch out for the shipping!

Anyway... once you find your skillet, you need to restore it- take the gunk off, strip it down to bare metal. A go on self-clean in your oven will do for the nastiest ones, but most can be taken care of with a plastic scrubby and copious quantities of hot water. Salt makes a good abrasive in a pinch. Once it's stripped, it needs reseasoning. Rub the warm skillet down in a thin layer of lard and bake it for a few hours. Repeat this step two or three times, before welcoming your skillet back to work. The first thing you should cook in it is a nice bunch of bacon; it'll work wonders for the smoothness of the finish. Then maybe fry up some chicken and give it a proper workout. If you've done the job right, the finish will be smooth, not lumpy, and the surface will not be tacky to the touch. (Tacky means too much uncarbonised fat; strip and start over.) A good skillet is a deep black in color, with a glossy inner bottom. To keep it that way, wash in HOT water and spare the soap- it won't really hurt your skillet but it damages the seasoning.

I do most meats in my skillets, but they're also indispensable for corn bread, eggs, sauteed vegetables... they even make good cake pans. (Try pulling off pineapple upside down cake without one. Go on, I dare you.) And nothing caramelises sugar faster than cast iron. I'd no sooner try to cook in a kitchen with no cast iron than I'd try to cook without, oh, I dunno... food.