Wednesday, March 19, 2014

St. Joseph's Day - advice for Sfince di San Giuseppe for gluten free folks and a bit of history

This my friends, is a sfinge (sfince in Italiano). Flickr user Howard Wallfish shows off the colors of it nicely here, with the ricotta, orange peel, and cherry. 

My family was not exceptionally into the Italian feast holidays. I suspect is has to do with the fact that the US was not a friendly place for Italians during the WWII era and many Italian Americans outside the major strongholds like Brooklyn decided it was better to fit in and provide a good life for their children than stick with feasts and other events. 

St. Joseph's day, however, has always been a special thing for me. I always try to wear green for my grandmother on March 17 for St. Patrick and red on March 19 for my grandfather. They were always so close to each other, it only seems fitting that their respective races have their major holidays only two days apart. Even when I was 16 hours away from my extended family, it was my little way of putting a connection back together. 

Most Italian American families have traditions that go back to the Middle Ages. When there were famines in Italy, especially in Southern Italy, the poor families relied on their faith to keep going. St. Joseph is the protector of the Holy Family (for those of you non-Christians out there that's the baby Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and himself). So the people would pray to him to end the famine, and they would celebrate when the famine ended by celebrating and making offerings with fish, with bread, and for dessert, sfingi, using the best of the foods that were preserved for use (waste not, want not). The candied orange peel would traditionally be the last bit of the oranges that were preserved over the winter to prevent scurvy, the cherries, soaked in alcohol to preserve them, and the ricotta, the last of the whey left over from making cheese from sheep, cow, goat, or Italian water buffalo milk.   

Now before we get into the advice about gluten free sfinge, a word.

Sfinge is NOT Zeppole. Those of you who don't like ricotta filling can just suck it. Even the bakers admit they only make zeppole for St. Joseph's Day because they have to for pitiful American palates. If you're going to gorge on this many calories, you should go for the real thing. There, now that is out of my system...

The question becomes after that, what do you do if you're gluten free, and like most Italian-Americans, making food for the St. Joseph's Day feast? 

Let's start with these:

Nichole from Gluten Free on a Shoestring has an amazing recipe for creme puffs that would give you the base recipe that you need in order to make the dough for real Sfinge. If you were being 100% traditional, you would want to fry them, but I think they're at least a little healthier if you bake them. 

Then, the next step would be filling. Let's go back to the traditional filling: ricotta, chocolate, sugar, grated or candied orange peel, and crème de cacao (though I think you can do w/o it). There you go! Gluten free Sfingi di San Giuseppe. 

If you want to admire some gorgeous Sfinge di San Giuseppe, you need to check out the blog at Pane, Burro e Marmellata.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Update: Osgood scarf

So an update on the Osgood scarf - I'm progressing through it, though its probably only about 10% done. It's looking very nice so far, I've been pleased with how enjoyable it is to knit the ribbing. The white/clay sections are the most annoying by far. I've come to decide that is because I enjoy knitting the colors much more.

For those of you working on a scarf of your own, StarCATs over at Ravelry has done an insanely excellent job of compiling the data we know and making the observations on the row counts, fringe, and edges of the scarf. If you're interested, I would recommend going over to Rav and checking out her project page which has a graphic with the row counts that is very useful.

I've mainly been working on it when my hands hurt too much to crochet toys at the tight gauge they need to be at, so I don't think its doing bad for working on it here and there.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Part 3: Here's the positive way of dealing with New Genealogists

I decided to move this column up a bit to explain the end of the series before the weekend, based on the amount of comments I received on Google+.

So what happened to David? Well, I decided to write a forum with my frustrations and see if someone else could see something that I could not. 

Name: David Ingerson 
Marriage to Almira Drake 1821 Evans Mills, Jefferson Co, New York, United States 
Kid 1 Eneas Ingerson, b. 1832 NY 
Census 1850 Gouverneur, Saint Lawrence, New York, United States 
Marriage to Elizabeth Graves 1852 
Mary J Ingerson, b. 1852 NY
Jay Eugene Ingerson, b. 1857 NY 
Census 1860 Macomb, St Lawrence, New York, United States 
Military 1864 Private, 92nd New York Infantry 
Census 1870 Forester, Sanilac, Michigan, United States 
Census 1880 Gouverneur, Saint Lawrence, New York, United States 

Death 23 April 1886 Gouverneur, St Lawrence, New York

I've updated "Super David" above in bold with things that have moved further along the proof line. What does this map from Wikipedia have to do with anything? It represents something that I hadn't previously considered - that it was easier than expected to get between New York and Michigan at the time because of the railroad. Am I farther along in providing David's full line? No, but I have significant progress and I've also impacted several other folks in this same area (Elizabeth Graves Ingerson's family, in particular).

As most of you are probably saying, this is a charming aside, but what does it have to do with anything? I use this as an episode in how working with others, even those who don't know the ESM standard for evidence and have scrapbooks of census info and other documents and have trees on Ancestry can be helpful in pointing out how to critically evaluate evidence. 

And that's what is missing from this treatment of new genealogists in the field. We are not using our opportunity to teach people critical thinking and evidence evaluation. We are in short, cutting off our own nose to spite our face. What's so frustrating is that social media offers so many opportunities to do better. In short:
1. We can go into depth and share our information with more people than ever before, thanks to blogs, online sources like, Fold3,, and many digital sources at our local libraries, like Early American Newspapers, 19th Century British Newspapers, and Heritage Quest, to name a few!
2. We can EXPLAIN in great detail the how, the when, and the why behind our decisions in making our trees. We are not limited by the length of the words that can fit on the page.
3. We can use many platforms to enhance the knowledge of folks who live even in the farthest reaches of the world.

If every genealogy blogger out there took the time to write one blog about a particular situation they faced and how they solved it, the world's knowledge base of genealogy would be greatly advanced, and for the folks that are choosing to learn about genealogy, represent a base of knowledge that could help them pick up their own critical thinking skills and be able to make the decision whether or not to add that 53,002nd person, or to walk away and work on a person in there existing tree.

In short, instead of throwing up our hands, calling them collectors and railing against what is immovable, we could give an effort to making things change, and then working on our own ability to manage what's out there. All we can control is what we do, not what THEY do.

As a result, my approach to these people has changed. Instead of sending angry rants to my genealogy buds about this, I'm trying really hard to make my approach to try and explain to people what is not correct, and then working on my own response to the issue. It is their onus whether or not they will take me up on learning why what they have is not correct. I can continue to use their research as a way to point me in a direction, but I will continue to critically evaluate every point in an ancestor's life, no matter what the source.

Part 2: The Pitfall of Vilification of New Genealogists

So in part 1 I talked about the frustration of the vilification of all new genealogists, asking folks to throw away years of work or take their work offline or follow a so-called "expert's" standard from an online forum.

I can see where that might be mystifying to many genealogists, who really don't use social media for genealogy. But I will keep going with the negative issues associated with this vilification for the moment (rest assured, tomorrow's post will conclude with some positive ways to focus) for the moment. Please bear with me.

So what's the problem with hating on the new people? #1. It teaches you to be sloppy.

Recently, I decided to write up a series of blog posts  on a couple that I've been working on for 3 years with little luck and little family interest in trying to see what happened to them, David Ingerson and Elizabeth Ann Graves.

Those blogs are still in draft mode. Why? Because I realized that I was following in this trap. I recently discovered a very small piece of information about David Ingerson online. Curious, I click on the Mundia link  given by Google and see:

See that last part? Let me zoom in for you.

Yes, that says 53,692 people in this person's tree. ::facepalm::

Now, I was about to do as most of the other online forum members would do - roll my eyes, dismiss this person's research, and assume that it was bad. What could I do? It was so frustrating! Yet I found the brain power to follow the advice in my opening pic. "Check myself before I wreck myself!" 

Here's the thing. Yes, this person's research was TERRIBLE. But it made me stop and think to evaluate MY research. So I compiled what I have affectionately dubbed "Super David" with ALL of my research put together:

“Super David” Ingerson 
Child of Jonathan Ingerson and Abigail Scofield ?
Birth 29 Apr 1801 Saratoga, Saratoga, New York, United States ?
Marriage to Almira Drake 1821 Evans Mills, Jefferson Co, New York, United States 
Kid 1 Eneas Ingerson, b. 1832 NY 
Census 1850 Gouverneur, Saint Lawrence, New York, United States 
Marriage to Elizabeth Graves 1852 
Mary J Ingerson, b. 1851 NY 
Jay Eugene Ingerson, b. 1857 NY 
Census 1860 Macomb, St Lawrence, New York, United States 
Military 1864 Private, 92nd New York Infantry 
Census 1870 Forester, Sanilac, Michigan, United States 
Death 13 May 1872 Sanilac, Sanilac, Michigan, United States ?
Census 1880 Gouverneur, Saint Lawrence, New York, United States 
Death 23 April 1886 Gouverneur, St Lawrence, New York

This compilation of facts that have been put together across multiple years of research shows the mess that Super David is in. 2 deaths, a semi-proven parentage (? standing for questionable data in this case, blogs really aren't the best place for me to pull all the sources together without writing up a full case study). 

So I dug into each fact individually, taking each piece of evidence on its face. 

And I would have probably thrown the computer out the window if I could have. Instead, I substituted my rage for knitting, and calmed right back down.

Tomorrow: the conclusion of the story, and why the world is not doomed because of all these new genealogists

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Part 1: Vilifying the Work of New Genealogists

Warning: the following contains genealogy opinion and is the start of a new series for the week. This chilling image of the Fascists is from the Wolfsonian-FIU Library in Miami Beach, Florida. It's really interesting how propagandists used images like this to de-humanize the view of the enemy.

I am strongly getting that impression when it comes to the current state of genealogy. Folks are lining up to vilify the newest genealogists coming into the field (and no, you should not get an image of old people knocking young people here, it is across all ages!) and those folks who are working from sites like as being stupid, illiterate, degenerate, "doing it wrong", "not real genealogists", "not real family historians", "name collectors", and too unintelligent to follow the "rules". And that these folks view anyone who even breathes the word "source" or "formatting" as "elitists".

It's disheartening to see so many folks dismissed from such an interesting hobby that can help you with so many life skills. And like the old argument that "German = Fascist" which caused so many Germans to be shunned in WWII, "Muslim = Terrorist" which causes so many folks from across the spectrum to be wrongly ostracized or accused, and "American = fat, lazy, stupid" which has caused all smart Americans to masquerade as Canadians abroad, we need to stop playing with a stereotype. And what's worse? The folks who are leading the charge are the genealogy elite - Michael J. LeClerc, for example. I won't call all of them out, because I think its pointless. I doubt they're going to listen and will just continue driving the wedge between the generations until no one dares whisper the word genealogist for fear of being called a snobby, elitist, obsessive.

What does it do to a new genealogist or family historian's self worth when experienced genealogists say they have to delete everything and start over because they made so many mistakes? Or when we say their work is worthless, their platform is awful, and that they've stolen all their work?

We end up with a lot of new folks who are frustrated, think that we're a bunch of elitists and aren't willing to give genealogy another shot and leave the hobby, because they've done their work and there's no reason to continue. When in actuality, there are SO many reasons to continue.

What is happening in the field is that I see more and more folks chillingly cut out of the very conversations that would benefit them, because of intensity of derogatory language, and the "demands" of a few people who deem that they know better than all. And I'm not talking about the educated experts like Elizabeth Shown Mills, Geoffrey Rasmussen, James Tanner, Marien Pierre-Louis, Michael Hait, Judy Russell, Thomas MacEntee, Elise Powell, or Maureen Taylor (for example). I'm talking about online forum posters and group members for the most part.

I am actively involved in genealogy on Facebook, Twitter, Ravelry, and several other informal forum groups. In recent weeks (mostly spurred on by LeClerc's article) there have been posts where people are denigrated for wanting to find further education and not knowing where to go, for having their tree published online at all, and in many answers, urged to "throw away all that crap so that you can start over" (in this case an answer to someone who had inherited their parents' 30+ years of research! And others who were made out to be villains for even thinking about putting their tree online at all, because that's just "giving it away" and "everyone will steal it" and still others told that they should just stop doing genealogy unless they were willing to following X standard.

Tomorrow: let's play what's wrong with this picture.