Thursday, July 21, 2011

Genealogy Serendipity Never Tasted So Good!

I gave a presentation on Inspiring Ways to Capture the Interest of the Non-Genealogists in Your Family at a local genealogical society, and I gave an example of some items I had found on Ebay from my husband’s Larson family.  Genealogy Gems Podcast listeners have heard me mention in the past that the Larsons hailed from Winthrop Minnesota, and owned a hardware store and lumber business there for many years.

While I was taking questions toward the end of the presentation a woman named Harriet in the front raised her hand and said she was sure that she had a cookbook from Winthrop Minnesota in her collection of books at home.
Now of course you have to keep in mind that Winthrop is a small town. I mean it's about 1 square mile and the population hovers somewhere around 1300.

So I was pretty surprised to have someone in Pleasanton, California telling me that she had a cookbook from this little town that dated back to the 1940s!

And sure enough Harriett followed up with me by email, asked for my address and told me that the book “looks a little worn but all of the pages are there. I hope it can be of some use to you. My sister taught either first grade or kindergarten there during WW2 “ and that’s how it came in to her possession."

And Harriett was a woman of her word because about a week later the cookbook was in my mailbox.

It’s amazing to me how just putting it out there and mentioning real people in my own research led to this book making it’s way to me.

But the genealogical serendipity didn’t end there. Not only did my husband’s ancestors contribute recipes to this little community cookbook, which of course I was thrilled to find – but there was a recipe in there that I had been in search of for over 25 years.

You see, when Bill and I got married, he shared his fond memories of a Sour Cream Cookie his grandmother used to make. 

I’m an avid baker, so I checked with his mom to see if she had the recipe. No luck. And over the years I have tried to find a recipe for sour cream cookies in an attempt to recreate them. Every time I found one I whipped up a batch, and Bill would take a bite and shake his head saying they’re good, but they aren’t like grandmas.

So the first thing I looked for when I received the Winthrop Cookbook, from the town where Bill’s grandma was born, was a recipe for sour cream cookies.  Sure enough, there it was!

The recipe wasn’t contributed by Bill’s grandma, but as you can imagine, particularly in a small town like Winthrop, recipes were swapped and handed down, so I wasn’t deterred that it was submitted by a Larson neighbor.

I immediately baked a batch, served them up to Bill, and his eyes lit up! He took a bite, and was ecstatic to once again be tasting Grandma’s Sour Cream Cookies!
A small victory but a thrilling one none the less!

I emailed Harriet and told her the good news and thanked her profusely. I got a reply from her husband George. He writes:

"I thought I would add a little amusement to the coincidence of the Sour Cream cookies. My father, George Anderson, Sr., was a salesman for American Steel and Wire, subsidiary of U. S. Steel, from the 1920s to the 1960s, traveling to every hardware store and lumber yard in southern Minnesota to sell fence, posts, nails etc. I don't have any record of it, but I'm sure he would have called on your family's hardware store in Winthrop. He knew all of his customers by first name, no doubt your in-laws included."

Genealogy Serendipty never tasted so good!
Oh, and in case anyone else out there is searching for the famous Sour Cream Cookie recipe, here it is.(image left)


Greta Koehl said...

Love the story about the sour cream cookies! I have a favorite sour cream cookie recipe, too, but I don't think it would meet your husband's standards. Still, I understand that craving - they are very satisfying cookies.

a3Genealogy, Kathleen Brandt said...

Thanks for this post. What a great read!

Dorene from Ohio said...

What an amazing story! So glad you found the recipe...loved hearing about the journey to finding it!

Lynn Palermo said...

What a great story, I'm a big believer in the connection between food and family memories.

Michelle Goodrum said...

Your story warms my heart and leaves me with a smile for the day!

Susan Petersen said...

What a fantastic find! It's amazing what shows up in those community cookbooks. One in my possession even had photographs of the relatives!

Travis LeMaster said...

Amazing story! May we all find these types of family recipes!