Sunday, July 31, 2011

Tobacco Time

My parents have a beautiful view off of their deck in Scott County Kentucky. It overlooks several rolling hills of active fields and each year a different crop is planted. Over the years, we have watched the growth of soy beans, corn, hay, etc. But this year, for the first time, the farm owners decided to plant tobacco. Despite the controversy surrounding this staple of Kentucky farming, we enjoyed watching the different stages of development as the days of summer ticked by. At this point, the growth has slowed way down due to a lack of substantial rain in this part of the county. The plants appear to be stunted, and have started to bloom out way before the normal time. As my mother and I commented on its stunted growth and development, we realized that the farming traditions and experiences we had while growing up had indirectly taught us much about the tobacco growing process. Even though we were never farmers, we grew up visiting or living some of our lives on Kentucky farms. This meant helping to plant it, watching the little plants grow, watching the blooms appear at the top, watching the spray, followed by the turn of yellow leaves which marked the end of the summer season. As we looked at the leaves in her neighboring farm, we knew we were remembering loved ones in our past.
L-R: John, William (Bill) & Lawrence Beyersdoerfer

As it turns out, we also have several other tobacco farmers in our family tree. The family branches we were remembering came from the northern Kentucky region, on my Mother's side. Despite the steep rolling hills that presented severe challenges to farming anything, the farmers in this area embraced the tobacco crop. Within the Pendleton and Bracken Counties, we had family members in the Fliehmann(Fleeman), Beyersdoerfer, Cox and Watts branches that grew tobacco along with other crops. Ironically, we have several photographs from family or neighbor tobacco farmers posing with their crops proudly. Once my father married into the Watts family - a city boy from Cincinnati - his shutterbug tendencies went wild. The result was a wonderful treasure trove of photographs from the late 1960s - 70s that continues to enhance our family story. Regardless of which generation was being photographed, these farmers were very proud of their crops.

Of course, tobacco was not the only crop that provided sustainable income for these Kentucky farmers. With the German branches of our family near Foster Kentucky, their additional crops came in the forms of corn and grapevines. Bringing their Bavarian traditions to Kentucky in the mid-nineteenth centuries meant growing grapes and producing wine to sell in Covington. For our families in the Pendleton County area who were more from English/Irish ancestry, corn and dairy farming were their staples of choice. I hope to post more about the choices these farmers made as our family history collection has much to offer....but for now, tis the season of tobacco.....and despite any ill feelings toward this crop, for many it was just a way to survive. A way of life that is quickly fading.  

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Summer Recipe - Ripe Peaches

Ok, so this is not a real recipe, but I just couldn't help myself. There are some food experiences that are infused with memories - via touch, taste and smell - so powerful, they transport you back in time. For me, ripe summer peaches are one of my special food memories. My Watts grandparents had a large dairy farm in Bourbon County Kentucky that was sprinkled with various home grown produce. They had a huge vegetable garden just behind their house, which brings back both wonderful and painful memories (those are way too many beans Mamma!), but surrounding the vegetable garden was a spattering of fruit trees/bushes. There was a small orchard diagonal to the garden, next to an old horse barn, that had cherry trees, blue berries and grape vines on the old wooden black fence. But nearer to the house was a very mature peach tree.

Peaches in Kentucky can be hit or miss. Sometimes the frost gets the blossoms just when they are getting ready to produce the fledgling peaches, or when they do make it, letting them ripen is also risky, since deer tend to love those ripe peaches as much as we do! During those rare summers when we happened to be visiting during a year when we hit the ripeness right on target, we were blessed with a wonderful treat!

So, what was the grand recipe?
  • Ripe peaches.
  • An old kitchen knife (crooked and worn well).
  • A small china bowl (cereal size works well) - with or without pattern - but chips on the sides might be a very important ingredient. Picture shows my bowl of choice - Pappa's favorite cereal bowl. 
  • Granulated sugar and a spoon (crooked/worn spoon is also a must, but sugar may be in a cup or bring out the trusty sugar bowl with chipped lid).
  • Lots of napkins to catch the juice!
Instructions: slice up that peach into nice bite-sized portions - leave the skin on! Pour some sugar into your bowl....then.....dip those peach slices into the sugar before placing them into your mouth. If outside, on a summer day, close your eyes and breathe in that hot summer air....and remember those sweet memories.
Come on! The summer is only half over! Go get some ripe peaches!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Inferential Genealogy - Conclusion

After a pretty long hiatus of conferences, birthday trips, a sick cat, brief personal illness and just plain needed vacations, I am trying to get back into the swing of things. All of the above prevented my full investment into the final portions of the Inferential Genealogy Study Group in Second Life, but I did go through the final cases, and attended the wrap up discussion (previous post). Before moving on to other genealogy subjects, I thought I would post a final word on how the project went overall, and some of my observations about how Second Life enhanced this typically internet-only course.

As mentioned in my earlier posts, Dr. Jones' series on Inferential Genealogy is a free instructional tool available on the Family Search website. You may take this course at anytime, as long as you have a live internet connection. Second Life was only the method we used to take the course as a group, in order to discuss our experiences, and bounce ideas/suggestions off of each other. As we met to discuss our experience for each case study, it became quickly apparent that there were some technical difficulties with this particular course. As Dr. Jones took the researcher through the case documents to show them the pertinent pieces of information in order to move to the next step, the tech visuals were not in agreement. In several cases, the "reconstructed" document portions were missing the particular information that Dr. Jones was referring to.....and in some instances, the surnames listed were completely wrong.

Our gracious host, Clarise Beaumont (aka Dear Myrtle), had attended Dr. Jones' Inferential Genealogy seminar in person a few years ago, and she said these discrepancies we were seeing were not typical of the real course. This inspired the group to take notes detailing the errors we discovered, in order to pass on to Dr. Jones as a feedback measure. We were hoping the feedback would allow Family Search to change the visual document examples to better match the verbal/instructional portions of the course. An additional goal of this group arose as we discovered how helpful this course would have been if the technical difficulties were remedied. Therefore, the group produced a report to submit to Dr. Jones, giving both positive and critical feedback.

Overall, everyone had a great time - even if it was very frustrating when weeding through the discrepancies. But it reminded us all how tenacious we are when conducting research. The discrepancies sometimes made us only try harder - which was sometimes quite comical. When meeting back as a group, we had to reassure each other that we were not half blind, nor going crazy when things didn't add up to the verbal conclusions Dr. Jones was making. We also came away with many positives and lessons learned. For myself, my big positive with this course was learning to slow down my research methods to document the inferential conclusions I was making. My habit of mentally evaluating a clue and moving on to a next document or step is sometimes so second nature that it can happen in a few seconds. However, when passing on my research to the next generation, I need to document the inferential conclusions or assumptions I made during the course of my research. That way, each step is made, understood, and more legitimately argued. We grow much closer to the proof standard by documenting each step - especially when dealing with inferential steps since we know inferential knowledge is based on connecting the dots between known information to draw conclusions about the information that is missing. Another great lesson learned was the use of spreadsheets to map out your results my surname, individual and timeframe. It was interesting to see families change spellings, etc as they moved around.

For those you interested in following this inferential journey online, I'm not sure I would recommend this course to beginners - at least not until they fix the technical discrepancies. As for Second Life, events are happening each week in the genealogy areas - Chats, instruction, etc. Feel free to join in and bring some of your problem research to the group. They are all very helpful and love to chew on genealogical challenges. If you are interested in series study such as the one we just finished, Clarise Beaumont is planning a new one that will begin sometime in October, so keep an eye on the group calendar!  

See you in-world!


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