What does raisin cake have to do with genealogy?

Posted on: October 29th, 2016 by
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Tomorrow I will be speaking at Hennepin County Library‘s annual Family History Fair on “Finding Female Ancestors.” During my talk one of the topics will be women’s historical household roles, including cooking, sewing, and needlework, and what recipes and crafts can tell us about family history.

While I was preparing for a previous talk on researching Cornish ancestors–my Trewren and Edmonds ancestors came from Cornwall–I investigated some of the social media forums relevant to Cornish research. One of the Facebook pages I found was Recipes from a Cornish Kitchen.1 The Boiled Raisins Cake post2 caught my eye–my grandmother baked a boiled raisin cake that I loved as a child (and still love). It’s unusual in my baking experience–you boil the raisins, and save the raisin water to dissolve the baking soda that causes the cake to rise. The Facebook recipe, which is from a Women’s Institute book of recipes from Cornwall dating from the 1960s, is very similar to my family recipe!

My mother, who was born in 1925, grew up in the household of her grandmother Mary (Trewren) Weaver. Mary was the daughter of George Trewren, who immigrated from Ludgvan, Cornwall, in the 1860s, and the granddaughter of James Edmonds and Eliza Spargo, who immigrated from Marazion, Cornwall, shortly after their marriage in 1848.3 When asked about the cake, Mom said, “We always had it,” so I know that it was being made in the 1920s. This means that Mom’s grandmother Mary (Trewren) Weaver used the recipe! Since it is so similar to the Cornish recipe I found on Facebook, I’m guessing that it came to my great-grandmother from her mother Mary (Edmonds) Trewren or even from her grandmother Eliza (Spargo) Edmonds. That makes it even more of a treasure than I knew.

If you’d like to try it, here’s our family recipe. The version my mother had was typed by my grandmother.
Boiled Raisin Cake
from Mary (Trewren) Weaver, Tamaqua, Pennsylvania
2 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter and spry [Crisco or other shortening]
2 c. raisins
3 c. sifted flour
1 c. hot raisin water
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. baking soda
Boil the raisins. Drain and save the raisin water.
Cream the butter and sugar. Mix in the flour, the hot raisin water, the spices, and the baking soda.
Bake in a greased 9 by 12 pan for 30 minutes at 375 F. Also makes about 2 1/2 dozen cupcakes. Freezes and keeps well. Can be halved for a smaller cake.

What recipes have been handed down in your family? Have you compiled a family cookbook? If you’d like to think about how you can incorporate food and cooking traditions in your family history, you might enjoy these resources:

  • Alzo, Lisa. Baba’s Kitchen: Slovak & Rusyn Family Recipes and Traditions, 2nd ed. N.p.: Otter Bay Books, 2011. Print and ebook editions available from Lulu.com.
  • MacEntee, Thomas. “How to Start a Recipe or Food-Related Genealogy Blog.” GeneaBloggers, 21 July 2009. http://www.geneabloggers.com/start-recipe-foodrelated-genealogy-blog/ : 2016.
  • Philibert-Ortega, Gena. From the Family Kitchen: Discover Your Food Heritage and Preserve Favorite Recipes. N.p.: Family Tree Books, 2012.
  • Powell, Kimberly. “Create a Family Cookbook or Recipe Book,” About.com (http://genealogy.about.com/od/family_connections/a/cookbook.htm : accessed 28 October 2016).
  • For more ideas, google “genealogy” “food” “recipes”.

    1. Recipes from a Cornish Kitchen, page, Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Recipes-from-a-Cornish-Kitchen-207309386110463/ : accessed 29 October 2016).
    2. Ibid., posting “BOILED RAISINS CAKE …,” 20 September 2016.
    3. I wrote about Mary (Trewren) Weaver, her mother Mary (Edmonds) Trewren, and Eliza in “Three Marys and an Eliza, Investigating the Trewren and Edmonds Families of Cornwall, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut,” Minnesota Genealogist 41:2 (2010), 5-13.
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    “Removal Orders were new to me…”

    Posted on: October 28th, 2016 by
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    In the recent Legacy News e-newsletter from Legacy Family Tree,1 Canadian genealogist Lorine McGinnis Schulze wrote about finding a removal order for her fifth great-grandfather Thomas Blanden. “Removal orders were new to me so after ordering the documents… I did my homework and researched the history of Removal Orders.”2

    Schulze was modeling what all of us should do when we encounter a genealogical source that’s new to us. Schulze was researching on The National Archives website, which has a magnificent set of online research guides. She could also have used one of the many guides to English research, such as Mark Herber’s Ancestral Trails, where poor relief, settlement, and parish records are discussed in Chapter 18.3

    An excellent starting point for learning about any kind of record is the FamilySearch Research Wiki. Removal orders are discussed in the wiki article “England and Wales Poor Law Records Pre-1834.”4 The wiki article provides guidance on finding records related to poor relief, including links to The National Archives, resources for English county-level records, and resources available from the FamilySearch website and the Family History Library.

    1. The free newsletter contains information on genealogy topics from a variety of authors, as well as news about Legacy Family Tree software and webinars. You can subscribe by clicking here.
    2. Lorine McGinnis Schulze, “Finding and Understanding Removal Orders in England,” Legacy Family Tree, Legacy News, 19 October 2016 (http://news.legacyfamilytree.com/legacy_news/2016/10/finding-and-understanding-removal-orders-in-england.html : accessed 28 October 2016), paras. 2 and 3.
    3. Mark Herber, Ancestral Trails, 2nd ed. (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2004).
    4. “England and Wales Poor Law Records Pre-1834,” FamilySearch Research Wiki (https://familysearch.org/wiki/en/England_and_Wales_Poor_Law_Records_Pre-1834#Settlement:_Certificates.2C_Examinations.2C_and_Removal_Orders : accessed 28 October 2016).
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    The Christopher Mackin Problem, or Three Brothers?

    Posted on: September 23rd, 2016 by
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    My husband’s most distant ancestor in his surname line is Christopher Mackin. Christopher was born in Ireland 10 August 18211 and first appears in American records in Madison, Wisconsin, where he filed a declaration of intention in 1854.2

    Christopher also left land, tax, and voter records before dying intestate 14 January 1867, aged 46 years.3

    Unfortunately, none of Christopher’s records point to an Irish place of origin or name his parents. However, there are clues in his association with two other men named Mackin in the Madison area. If we can establish the relationship between Christopher and these other Mackins with some degree of certainty, we may be able to infer the identity of his parents and his Irish place of origin from theirs. Intriguingly, all three men named sons James. If they followed Irish naming conventions, this suggests that their fathers may have been named James.

    In 1860 Christopher shared a household with a younger man named John Mackin, age 30, who was also born in Ireland. Also in the household was John’s apparent wife Ellen, age 19.4 Christopher and John owned adjacent land,5 and Christopher later purchased John’s land.6 Christopher’s probate file contains a receipt dated 16 November 1867 from George Blake for interest on a note of mortgage given by Christopher Mackin to John Mackin and “having the charge and keeping of the minor children of said John who is in California.”7 The cohabitation, neighboring land parcels, land sale, and payment for care of John’s children suggest that Christopher and John were related, perhaps as brothers, perhaps as cousins.

    Christopher’s probate record names a second man named Mackin, also without specifying a relationship. James McKin of Madison posted $1500 surety for Mary McKin of Vermont, administratrix of the estate of Christopher Mackin deceased.8 In 1870, three years after Christopher’s death, three men named James McCan/McKin/McCann lived in Madison:

    • James McCann, age 40, laborer, lived in Madison Ward 1 with apparent wife Julia, also age 40, and apparent children John, Mary, James, Katie, and Fidelia.9
    • James McCan, age 37, tin smith, lived in Madison Ward 4 with apparent wife Mary, age 35, and apparent children James, Frank, Peter, John, Mary Ann, and Thomas.10
    • James McKin, age 42, laborer, lived in Madison Ward 4 with apparent wife Kate, age 40, and apparent children Mary, Anne, Coleman, Anna, James, and Christopher.11

    Of the three James Mackins in Madison, James who was married to Kate appears most likely to be the James who provided bond for Christopher’s widow, since he named a son Christopher the year after Christopher of Vermont’s death.

    Six descendants of Christopher Mackin have taken autosomal DNA tests. Descendants of John Mackin and James Mackin have been traced forward in time, and efforts to find relevant DNA matches and recruit additional DNA testers are ongoing.

    1. St. James Cemetery (Town of Vermont, Dane County, Wisconsin; County Road F, south of Black Earth), Christopher Mackin marker; personally read and photographed by author, 2005.
    2. Wisconsin, Supreme Court, Declarations of Intention to Become a U.S. Citizen, 1840-1893, loose items arranged by year and thereunder alphabetical by name; series 1729, box 3, folder 2, 21 December 1854 declaration of Christopher Mackin; Wisconsin Historical Society Archives, Madison.
    3. St. James Cemetery (Dane Co., Wis.), Christopher Mackin marker.
    4. 1860 U.S. census, Dane County, Wisconsin, population schedule, Town of Vermont, p. 126 (penned), dwelling 760, family 802, Christopher Mackin household; image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 September 2016), citing NARA microfilm publication M653, roll 1404.
    5. John was issued a patent 15 May 1857 for 80 acres (the W1/2NE1/4 of section 21, township 007N, range 006E of the 4th Prime Meridian), and Christopher was issued a patent 1 June 1858 for 120 acres consisting of the E1/2NE1/4 and the NE1/4SE1/4 of section 21. Bureau of Land Management, “Land Patent Search,” database, General Land Office Records (www.glorecords.blm.gov/search/default.aspx : accessed 30 March 2011), entries for Christopher Machen, Dane County, Wisconsin, no. 22599, and John Meckin, Dane County, Wisconsin, no. 24102.
    6. Dane County, Wisconsin, Deeds 59:313, John Macken to C. Macken; Register of Deeds, Madison.
    7. Dane County, Wisconsin, probate case files, box 28, McKin or Macken Christopher (d 1867), receipt of George Blake, 16 November 1867; Wisconsin Historical Society Archives, Madison.
    8. Ibid., bond of administrator filed 18 February 1867.
    9. 1870 U.S. census, Dane County, Wisconsin, population schedule, Madison Ward 1, p. 35 (penned), dwelling 266, family 266, James McCann household; image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 September 2016), citing NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 1708.
    10. 1870 U.S. census, Dane County, Wisconsin, population schedule, Madison Ward 4, p. 29 (penned), dwelling 206, family 211, James McCan (indexed as McCaw) household; image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 September 2016), citing NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 1708.
    11. 1870 U.S. census, Dane County, Wisconsin, population schedule, Madison Ward 4, p. 30 (penned), dwelling 212, family 217, James McKin (indexed as Mc hin) household; image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 September 2016), citing NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 1708.
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