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Archive for the ‘family heirloom’ Category

A while back I was contacted by Lisa M. DeChano-Cook, Associate Professor in the Department of Geography at Western Michigan University about my antique photographs. She said that she and her colleague, Mary L. Brooks, were writing a book about the Kalamazoo River and were interested in photos of that subject.

The book is now published, and Lisa sent me an autographed copy. It’s a gorgeous collection of photos and information about the history of the river. If you are interested, just click through the following image of the book to order from Amazon.

They used several of my photographs. And they also found photographs in the archives at Western that were taken by grandpa’s uncle, Joseph DeKorn. In the 70s or 80s, my grandfather donated a lot of photographs and glass negatives to the archives. Notice that the one at the archives is the same photograph that I use for the header of my blog–the flood at the Water Works Bridge in 1904.

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The above is another one from the archives. I also have a copy of this one. In fact, I posted it a year and a half ago, wondering if it was it, in fact, the Monarch Paper Mill. According to DeChano-Cook and Brooks, it is the Monarch Mill. I guess I can go back and revise that blog post. (How many times have I said that–and then how often do I do it? I need a blog assistant–any offers? haha)

This is one of the photos I sent to Lisa:

The book states:

Many farmers tried to fence in their property because they knew that the river flow would change and they could not use it as a stable boundary. In the photograph, a wire fence spans a shallow part of the Kalamazoo River. The reflection of the fence in the water makes it appear as though it is a wire pedestrian bridge.

So thrilled when blog readers relate to what they find on this blog. I always end up learning a lot!

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Last spring I posted a photo of my great-grandmother Clara Waldeck Mulder (1884-1953) that I discovered. You can find the post here. It was the first time I saw what she looked like as an older woman. Up to then, I had seen her as a bride and as a young mother.

The other day my mother sent me another old album and loose photos. Guess what? There are TWO new photos of Clara! In one of them, she is young. It’s taken before she was married–or even engaged, I am pretty sure. The photo has a little damage–a white mark across her skirt and a dark spot on her cheek. I did my best to fix the cheek, but left the white mark alone.

How old does she look here? 16-18? If so, the photo would be from around 1900-1902.

And here is another photo, this time from around 1940.

In my post My Great-Grandmother’s Lifetime of Service it’s clear that Clara was very devoted to her service groups. I wonder if this dress has something to do with a ceremony in Eastern Star or Rebekah Lodge. Any other ideas about the dress?

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I asked the amazing Val Erde at Colouring the Past to color the original photograph of my great-grandfather Adrian Zuidweg (Adriaan Zuijdweg) in his Dutch army uniform. I’ve posted the original before.

Adriaan Zuijdweg

The photograph was taken in Bergen op Zoom, which is in the south of the Netherlands and is not his hometown of Goes, which is in Zeeland. Val thought it possible that Adrian had to serve  because the Dutch were embroiled in the Aceh War. It was also known as the Dutch War or the Infidel War (1873–1904) and was an armed military conflict between the Sultanate of Aceh and the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The culminiation was that it consolidated Dutch rule over modern-day Indonesia.

My grandfather never told me where his father served, only that he had gone AWOL because his superior had a contagious disease. Since he immigrated to the United States in 1893 at the age of 22, he could only have been 22 or younger in the photograph.

What a beautiful uniform he had! Val tells me that the odd-shaped chevron on his uniform identifies him as a sergeant. Here he is in living color.

 

I’m so grateful to Val for the beautiful work she’s done here. This is the final version after Val made a correction surrounding the cigar.

 

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My father knew I loved family heirlooms, so he used to give me items as he came across them.

These are some of his mother’s costume jewelry with the jewelry box they were in. My grandmother always loved jewelry, but I only remember her wearing pearls (both cultured and costume) and diamonds and rhinestones. She may have worn jet, but I am not sure.

The items on the bottom row are button studs. They work like buttons in a buttonhole, but are removable. These are usually used for men’s tuxedo shirts.

On the second from bottom shelf are two hatpins. I remember those nasty little things from my childhood. You wouldn’t want to sit down on one by mistake!

I suspect most of my grandmother’s jewelry came from Marshall Field & Company at State and Washington in Chicago. That’s where my grandmother worked as Head Fitter for many years.

When I got married, it was only a year after my grandmother passed away. Her only daughter (who had three boys) sent me the wedding pearls Grandma had given her when she was married in 1955. They came in a Japanese black lacquer box. Aunt Marge did not wear them for her wedding portrait or on the day of her wedding.

Aunt Marge

I am quite certain that my grandmother would have made her dress.

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For as long as I could remember my family always celebrated Christmas Eve the same way. After the Christmas Eve service at church, the family would head over to my grandmother’s house–or that of one of her siblings. There was a progressive meal so after awhile we would move on to another house. I remember three houses and three courses, but eventually, I think it became two houses. Nobody does it any longer as my grandmother’s generation is all gone now.

While there were always a lot of delicious Christmas desserts (Grandma, in particular, was a wonderful baker), the main course–the one that couldn’t be avoided missed–was the oyster stew. Year after year, I watched the women stirring the pot of oyster-studded milk, but do you think I ever thought to ask where this tradition came from? Well, maybe I did, but I never got an answer. Maybe nobody knew.

What I should have specifically asked Grandma is “did your mom make the oyster stew on Christmas Eve, too?” But I didn’t.

Suddenly this year I wondered where oyster stew came from. It seemed so out of the ordinary, and my family’s holiday eating habits were not out of the ordinary at all. Turkey or ham, casseroles, cole slaw, jello dishes, cookies–“All-American” food.

I thought about how Grandma’s whole family participated in this tradition. Nobody ever said, “Hey, let’s make clam chowder instead.” Or meatballs. Or tamales. Nobody said, “Let’s try this new recipe.” Nope. Oyster stew.

I wondered if the recipe and the tradition had been passed down in the family. If so, they would have gotten it from Grandma’s mother, Clara Waldeck Mulder. And if it went back still further, it would have come from her mother, Alwine Noffke Waldeck, who might have been born, as her brother August was, in the little Pomeranian town Schwetzkow. Schwetzkow is about 12-15 miles from the Baltic Sea. Alwine was an adult with children when she immigrated her, so she would have brought her traditions with her.

To try to get to the origins, I researched the subject through my friend Ms. Google. One of the most popular articles right now is this one: Oyster Stew on Christmas. This writer argues that the origin lies with the Pilgrims who were “oyster crazy.” She says that when the Irish Catholics came in the 19th century, they latched onto the oyster stew because it closely resembled the traditional Irish ling stew and ling (a type of fish) was not available in the United States. Hmm, my oyster-stew-slurping family are definitely not DAR and not Irish and not Catholic. I couldn’t imagine anybody choosing a tradition of oyster stew just for the heck of it.

At least one article said that Germans couldn’t get oysters because the water is too cold, but then why does Russia get oysters from the Baltic? All in all, the research was very sparse about the Baltic, other than the problems with invasion of foreign species and pollution. Another issue is that in the 19th century, oysters were inexpensive and could be eaten by people without means. Canned oysters have also been readily available in the winter.

I posed my question on both my personal Facebook page and on the Prussian Genealogy group on Facebook. Interesting to see the difference in responses. On my personal page, where I am friends with people who come from a wide variety of backgrounds, only two people (besides family) had heard of the tradition. They both ate oyster stew on Christmas Eve with their Swedish in-laws. This didn’t deter me because Sweden and Pomerania were on opposite sides of the Baltic, and part of Pomerania was even Swedish for some time!

I wrote to my friend, the Swedish writer Catharina Lind, and asked her. She said that there have “never been oysters either in the Baltic Sea or the Bottnian sea, the east coast of Sweden. The salinity level is too low for oysters and the water is too cold. There are oysters in the Nordic sea, but very few, so oysters have never really been part of any Swedish tradition. There are no oyster dishes in Scandinavian (Sweden, Norway, Finland) Christmas traditions. Though a lot of fish, mostly herring and whitefish, and in modern times also salmon. We traditionally eat plenty of pork.” Catharina went on to speculate that perhaps the Swedish Christmas soup made with porcini and oyster mushrooms could have evolved over time to mean fishy oysters instead of mushrooms.

So I thought it was all over.

But then, on the Prussian Facebook Group, where everyone has Prussian, if not only Pomeranian roots, people began to chime in–lots of people have said that their Midwestern Prussian relatives always served oyster stew on Christmas Eve.

Then somebody found the recipe for several German Christmas soups printed in German–and oyster stew is one of them!

OYSTER SOUP RECIPE

Recipe in English

Servings: 4

24 pcs oysters (including juice)

40 g of butter

3/4 cup whole milk (hot)

sweet paprika

salt

pepper

For oyster soup, cook the thrown oysters in the hot butter with oyster juice. When the oyster margins begin to ripen, add the milk, season with salt and pepper and heat. Serve the oyster soup in soup bowls sprinkled with sweet paprika (if desired).


None of this research leads to a definitive answer about the origin of my family’s tradition. Clearly, a lot of ethnicities in the United States have claimed oyster stew. If you’ve ever eaten it, you might wonder why anybody would want to claim it. The only time I liked it was when my husband joined the family and “sneaked” wine and spices into the dish. Now it’s been years since I’ve eaten oyster stew, and I don’t miss the taste, but I do miss everybody who was there at the time.

I wonder if anybody in my family still serves oyster stew!

Catharina’s Christmas books are available here. I also recommend her beautiful book, “Fly Wings, Fly High!” It’s a lyrical memoir about the magpie family she shares her yard with and her own struggles with heart disease.

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What a lovely review of Kin Types by genealogy blogger Ann Marie Bryant! Thank you so much for your thoughtfulness!

Tales of a Family

Recently, a fellow blogger and an ever-encouraging supporter, Luanne Castle wrote a lovely book of poems about her family.  From the start, Kin Types captured my imagination with the thought provoking title and the intriguing cover.   It began with sage advice from familial ancestors who have lived a life of hard work and a heartfelt existence that helped those in need.

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I organized my paper files into bins by family branch. It struck me again how “up in the air” I am with most branches. So many leads, so little time.

And then, on top of documents and photos, there are a few objects to catalog. My assumption is that family heirlooms are definitely part of family history and genealogy. They can give us clues to the lives of our ancestors, and they also can make us feel closer to them.

This bowl was given to me by my grandmother shortly after I married. It was “in the family,” but that is all I know. If anybody in the family remembers seeing it in a cabinet or in use, please let me know!

It’s about the size of a serving bowl, but slotted. From searching Google, I think this is a dessert bowl or a serving bowl. It’s probably Prussian or German. Did it come from the “old country” with Grandma’s grandparents (who were Prussian) or was it purchased in the U.S.? I can’t figure out the mark on the bottom and don’t know what the nub thing is on the bottom either. It’s beautiful and different from the typical floral patterns seen online.

Another family heirloom is the ice cream scoop from the Zuidweg candy and soda shop at the corner of Burdick and Balch in Kalamazoo.

That’s a lot of ice cream scoops. But which one is from Adrian Zuidweg’s soda shop? Right! It’s the top one! My husband got a little carried away by locating other scoops on his visits to antique malls!That’s my great-grandfather, Adrian Zuidweg, behind the counter. He had owned a fish market and then he switched over to this shop. In the 1926 Kalamazoo City Directory he is listed as “confectionery,” which means that he owned a sweets shop! He died in 1929. I believe my grandfather then took over the candy store and branched out into being a service station. In the 1935 City Directory Grandpa is listed under confr (confectionery) and filling station and the same in 1937, but by 1939 only the station is listed: ZUIDWEG’S SERVICE STATION.

Look at the sweet little metal tables and chairs in the photo. In front of Adrian do you see the cone-shaped metal cup/bowl with a paper liner? I remember those from my childhood. And is that a straw holder? In the back of the photo are glass bowls of candy and a window with little half-curtains and a trimmed valance. Do you think the ice cream is behind the counter where Adrian stands? Or is it somewhere else? What is the round black “pot” in the foreground on the right side?

Have you thought about the family heirlooms you might have laying around the house?

 

 

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