"Our Loose Ends" Genealogy Column
by Lynna Kay Shuffield
Houston, Texas

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Printed in the Taylor Daily Press - 21 November 2002


Cookbooks & Genealogy

Why are cookbooks important to your genealogy? They give you a history of the culinary customs of your ancestors. They add a depth of knowledge of a world outside of the McDonald drive-through or frozen dinners. Lastly, they are a key to how your ancestors lived.

Recipes are a golden opportunity to pass along your family history from one generation to the next. Cooking and family gatherings are the basis creating traditions that will keep your ancestors alive in your memory.

Where to start? It’s time for the holidays and means more than gift buying and wrapping packages. Take a blank family group sheet to the local office supply or copy center and get enough photocopies for your holiday guests to fill-out while they are waiting between dinner and desert. Include your name and address on the form in case they take it home and they can mail it back to you.

On another piece of paper, ask each person to write down one family story, tradition or recipe from holiday pasts. Ask questions. What did you do for the holidays during World War II or the depression? Where you on the home-front or the front-lines? How did you decorate your home or make gifts to exchange? How did you cook a big holiday meal with rationing during the war? What did you send in a holiday package to soldiers during the war? How were the holidays different during the 1950s and 1960s? Keep asking questions.

Be sure to have a tape recorder, blank tapes, and batteries available to catch these family memories for your family history.

My mother’s favorite holiday fruit salad, was quick, easy and made the day before:

5 Cup Salad

Drain fruit; mix ingredients and place in refrigerator in a covered bowl overnight. For more servings, just double all the ingredients.

Check with your local library to see what old cookbooks they have in their collections. The keyword to search the card catalog is “cookery.” A search at the Texas & Local History Collection (“Texas Room”) at the Houston Public Library shows the oldest cookbook in their collection is The Texas Cook Book, A Thorough Treatise on the Art of Cookery, edited by the Ladies' Association of the First Presbyterian Church (Houston) and published in 1883.

Other historic cookbooks in the Texas Room Collection include a German cookbook published in New Braunfels, Texas in 1890 and the Kute Kooking Klub published in Honey Grove, Texas in 1894. The Collection even has an early Jewish cookbook that was complied in 1920 by the Young Ladies’ Sewing Circle to benefit Temple Beth Israel in Houston.

Cooking is more than pots and pans and ingredients, it is a reflection of our social, cultural and family history! So, get cooking and starting collecting your family recipes to include in your genealogy files.

I would like to invite my readers to take a minute during this busy holiday season and send me your favorite historic family recipe.

In this column, I will be glad to highlight and review any family history, genealogy, county history, or similar book, free of charge, if you donate a copy of the book or item. After it has been highlighted and reviewed, on a space available basis, it will be donated to the genealogy section of a library. You will receive an acknowledgment of the donation from the library. Mail item or book to me at the below address.

Lynna Kay Shuffield has written several books related to Texas genealogy and military history. She has spoken before numerous genealogy and veterans groups. Also, is a County Coordinator for the Texas GenWeb Project. Regretfully, she cannot help with individual genealogical research. Please visit the website for this column at: http://www.geocities.com/lks_friday/COLUMN-001.htm or if you have any questions, comments, suggestions for column topics, genealogy or historical society announcements, please contact her at: P. O. Box 16604, Houston, Texas 77222-6604 or e-mail: lksfriday@sbcglobal.net

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This webpage was last created on 26 Dec 2002 and was last revised on __________

Copyright © 1999, 2001, 2002 Lynna Kay Shuffield - All rights reserved.
P. O. Box 16604
Houston, Texas 77222-6604