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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Happy Easter


Happy Easter 
Easter break is upon us.  This week is a break for my blog.  My children are home and with me all week long.  It will be a fun and busy week.  Maybe we can even sleep in a bit. 
 MYOG will return the week of April 1st. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Ancestor Dinner

Last Friday night was the big Ancestor Dinner at my daughter's school in Carmichael.  Yes, I am revealing more than I normally do about my personal life in my genealogy blog here.  The dinner was fun.  It was the culmination of quite a bit of work on the part of all of the students.

In February, my daughter spent hours putting together her presentation poster, writing the report, and rehearsing her presentation for the class.  Her family artifacts were really two-fold.  Each student had to bring in something or a photo of a family artifact to share with the class.  My daughter brought a duck decoy that was carved by Uncle John Maxwell Flanagan.  Her second artifact was photos of the Flanagan Ranch house in Carneros - 1900, 2008, and 2013.   Those three photos showed the old, the before renovation, and the after.  The after is the redone house that was completed last Fall.

Let's just say that the duck decoy was a hit in second grade.  The Flanagan Ranch house is probably a more adult concept.  My daughter asked if she'd ever been there.  I could with certainty tell her that she was there in 2008 walking the premises when the house was fairly dilapidated.  She found that to be interesting.  As far as sharing the concept of the Flanagan's with 30 other seven and eight year old children, that's another story.

My mom was funny about the duck decoys.  We were trying to figure out how old they were.  Were they carved by John as a teen, young adult or when he was older?  My mom said that my grandfather (Richard) and John used to go duck hunting as adults.  Now, this seemed to be new information to me.  I did not know that they did this as adults.  We wonder if it was in the 1940s, 50s, or 60s that they did this.   We may not get the answer to any of this.

There were several duck decoys.  You'd string them together with rope and float them in a line on the water to attract other ducks.  I have 2 decoys.  My mom has a few as does my sister.  I'm not sure that all of them were carved by John but mine were.  The bottom of the decoys have J M F carved into them in caps.  My mom also gave some decoys to her cousin up in Oregon who is a hunter.  The decoys belonged to my grandfather (Richard J. Flanagan) until he passed away in 2000.

As for the dinner, it was fun, the students sang a few songs in a performance, the food was awesome, and the evening passed very quickly.  The designated family photo area was decorated with laminated paper quilt squares that each student had made in art class.


Part of the students' singing was complimented by their signing the words and parts of each song too.  My daughter has been signing (yes, sign language) along with the songs she sings since Kindergarten.  It was an amazing performance and a great way to honor family, heritage, and ancestry.  We also got to eat some amazing food!



Saturday, March 16, 2013

Did Your Ancestors Eat Corned Beef?

Now, I love corned beef, cabbage and potatoes.  I used to request it as my birthday dinner when I was a kid.  How could I not?  After all, my family is Irish.  Let's not forget to mention the next day leftovers on a Rueben.  No pastrami for me as I like my Rueben sandwich with corned beef.

So, how Irish do you think corned beef is?  Many think St. Patrick's Day and corned beef with cabbage as synonymous in the USA.  Let's not forget to add that "Black and Tan" to drink with the meal followed by a little "Irish Coffee".  Well, I hate to break the news to those not in "the know", the food and beverages that I've mentioned above are not consumed or offered in Ireland.  In fact, they may think you're a bit crazy if you ask for them there.

I must set out here to distinguish food in Ireland from Irish immigrant food in the United States.  If you seek corned beef and cabbage in Ireland, you'd be so hard pressed to find it.   I don't even think they make corned beef in Ireland.  I won't go so far as to say they don't have cabbage in Ireland as I don't know that for a fact.

As for beverages, you'd probably find that many a bartender in Ireland would never ever mix beer and Guinness to provide a "Black and Tan".  Let's not forget that in the United States that Bass is generally mixed with Guinness to create a "Black and Tan".  I do think that most Irish in Ireland would probably say that at least you could use Harp.   But why in the world would you put beer in your Guinness?

The legend of the Irish coffee also sends many people into a great Irish debate over the origins.  Well, my best story about this beverage is that it was invented in San Francisco, California, at the Buena Vista.  Let's just back up a bit.  San Francisco is no where near Ireland.  Can the Buena Vista claim fame to this invention?  Maybe with a little help from a traveler from the Shannon Airport in Ireland.

So what do the Irish eat in Ireland?  When I toured Ireland in 2004 and visited relatives on their farm, I found very little in the way of variety in cuisine.  I do know that has changed some in recent years but let me talk about what the Irish do eat in Ireland.  They like to eat their traditional Irish breakfast, their main meal at lunch, and a light dinner.  They also like their tea.

I found that the traditional Irish breakfast was very much to my liking.  It consists of bangers (sausage), rashers (bacon), black pudding (known as blood pudding that is a sausage), and white pudding (sausage that contains oats), beans (pintos in sauce), eggs, potatoes, and brown bread.  Let me not forget about the hot roasted small whole tomato on the plate.  It found it to be quite satisfying myself.  I could eat that everyday if I had too.  I would want some fruit with my breakfast though.

Carvery was a favorite find in Ireland.  This mid-day meal consisted of a buffet of sorts.  You walk through the line once and pick one of 3 meats that they carve directly off the bone in front of you and deliver it nicely on your plate.  Next you walk the line and serve yourself 2 types of prepared potatoes, collard greens, chopped carrots and parsnips mix, and brown bread.  I found this meal to be quite the comfort food.

In the afternoon or evening there might be some tea, homemade brown bread, a tomato and homemade ham (bacon).  This meat product reminds me of bologna or other lunch meat.  You can always top off the light dinner meal with a little Mountain Dew.  That's not the soft drink in the USA.  It is moonshine and referred to as Potcheen (Poochee) in Ireland.  I found it almost startling when the choir group at Bunratty Castle started singing about Mountain Dew on my trip in 2004.  I laughed because they were literally singing about Irish moonshine.

Despite the selection of Irish ales, lager, and stout at the local pubs, many Irish were drinking Bud.  I almost could not believe they'd prefer Budweiser over their local drinks.  Bud is not something I drink.  Normally, I'm not big on beer.  I did find one of my all time favorite drinks in Ireland.  Hard Cider made by Bulmers was a wonderful replacement to my daily glass of red wine.  A local bartender in Kenmare called it lunatic juice.  He indicated that it is known to be consumed by those with a next day hangover.

I almost could not believe all of the bagel sandwich shops in Dublin when we were there.  Maybe we kept walking past the same one during our walks through the city.  It reminded me of Noah's Bagels back home in the USA.  I guess that was the fad of the time.

Some of my favorite food in Ireland was the fish and chips, and Irish stew.  My husband and I also found wine pretty much everywhere we went, some of which was from California.  While I do love Irish soda bread, I did not have any on our trip.

I did realize early on that you really should stick with the Irish cuisine for the most part and not try to have something from home (California) in Dublin.  I ordered a wrap at the Mespil Hotel bar.  It has meat, grilled onions and avocado in it.  The avocado was rubber and tasteless.  The onions were pickled.  It was pretty disgusting.  I was disappointed to say the least and wanted to hop back in the kitchen and give them some pointers.  I didn't and decided after that not to try eat California cuisine in Ireland.

The final night that I spent in Ireland included eating at an Italian cafe that served beef with some pasta and had a cheese plate with grapes.  The best of the best was the cheese on that plate.  It was Guinness cheddar.   It was this amazing cheddar with veins of dark stout running throughout it.  Incredible!

As you can probably figure out, Irish food may not be what you'd expect.  While it certainly is not the Mediterramean diet that we should probably all be eating, it is comfort food.  As tribute to my Irish immigrant relatives, I shall enjoy my corned beef and cabbage along with some Irish soda bread tonight.  Can't wait for the leftovers tomorrow on the actual day itself plus a rueben the day after.  Yum!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!   

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Disney Experience - Part 2

Being the Disney fan that I am, I had to write a "part 2" about our latest family experience at Disneyland.  As I've said, I'm not sure how much this topic relates to my family tree and ancestry research but this is more about my current family tree and their experiences.

What peeks my interest are the subtle details at any Disney attraction.  I love to see Disney's rendition of the past.  You can really get a feel of being transported to some other place and time.  Here's a quick few photos.  I only wish that we had brought our good camera to the park.  These photos are from our shock and water proof point and shoot camera.  It's a little camera with decent HD video and 14 mega pixel photos.  You still have to keep the camera very steady and then there's that delay before the photo clicks.  Oh well, the photos turned out pretty good.  You get the idea.

Main Street U.S.A.

Fantasyland

Paying homage to Frank Lloyd Wright

Looking Toward Fontierland and New Orleans Square

Sailing Ship Columbia

Haunted Mansion



Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Disney Experience - Part 1

I may have already let it slip in my blog somewhere that I am a huge Disney fan.  I bring this up because we recently went to Disneyland and created some enduring wonderful family memories.  What does Disney have to do with my family tree?  Well, probably not a whole lot except that Disneyland is approaching their 60 year anniversary coming up in 2015.  It does represent a piece of living history.  It also has truly become a huge part of our culture and many share this experience in the United States.

Looking back over my family photos, I see Disneyland here and there.  When I look at others' family photos, there's Disneyland or Disneyworld.  In my own children's lives, they have experienced a Disney Cruise or two.  One hundred years from now, will Disney still be around?  Let's hope so!  It will be reflected in many family histories from this time-frame.


I am amazed how much Disneyland looks the same and yet has changed some since I was a child, a teen, and a young adult.  Every time I step foot onto Main Street U.S.A., I feel the rush of the "Happiest Place On Earth".  It is an attitude set in motion by a man who's spirit still lives on in this place.  Walt Disney's legacy is really quite amazing.  Even the most serious adult can feel like a child again.  That is what its all about.

Now, I must admit that the days of complete politeness, manners, and courtesy of people have dwindled some.  I witnessed people cutting in line a bit for the rides and people just not minding their P's and Q's.  However, considering the day, age, and everyday attitudes of people in 2013, everyone was quite wonderful at the park.  Our pin shop experience was quite the example that people still teach their children to do good deeds.

Collecting and trading pins has become quite a big deal for Disney fans these days.  Children and adults alike walk around with lanyards around their necks that are pinned with Disney characters or other special pins relating to the overall Disney experience.  Some of these pins are quite sought after while others are just for fun.  It really is all about the fun but the trading experience brings about fellowship and community with people who share a common interest but are strangers for the most part.  

I took my family into the pin shop in Frontierland to look at the pins and trade with the cast member (Disney employee) working the front counter.  Cast members are given a set of pins to trade.  In the pin shop, it is a whole wagon wheel that you can trade one for one.  My five year old was really getting into the thrill of the trade and finding some special pins to her liking.  She traded a few and then ran out of what she was willing to trade away when she spotted another pin that she wanted.

As we were trying to convince her that we were done in the pin shop, a young girl gave my daughter one of her pins to trade for the pin that she wanted.  This young girl did not want a pin in return.  She simply said that my five year old could trade it and get the pin that she really wanted.  This young girl did this without hesitation.  She was probably about eleven years old.  My five year old thanked her and so did I.

After we walked out of the shop, I pulled my five year aside and said that someday she should do the same. Good deeds like that should not go unnoticed.  I explained the concept of "paying it forward".  My five year old is still working on absorbing that concept.  She is grateful and still talks about the pin trading even today.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Mixed Feelings and Research In Napa - Part 2

Napa Valley has a pretty "flashy", sometimes "snobby", reputation considering it is a modern famous wine country.  In my life, I have known some wonderfully generous, kind and loving people from Napa, California.  Many of those people are my own family members and their close, dear friends.  But....and I wish that I could say there was not a but........There are people, while well intentioned probably, who are trying to make buck, protect what they have, and keep things "Napa Valley" like while many of the residents just want it to be Napa or keep it as a small town that they call home in the valley.

Corporations moved into Napa a long time ago.  I'm not actually talking about Kaiser Steel which was located along the Napa River where Napa Pipe is now housed.  I am talking about the corporations that popped up in the valley in the 1980s, and a little earlier, who bought up some of the wineries.  These investment groups and corporations changed the face of Napa for the better and for worse.  When money starts flowing, watch out!

I'd say that you can find all kinds of people in Napa, as anywhere in the United States.  Many people are friendly but most just won't go out of their way to help you unless you need to call 911.  You pretty much can bet on this anywhere in California.  People are not rude so much but can be rather passive aggressive.  That is a contrast to some people that I've run into on the East Coast of the United States.  People are aggressive and assertive.  It is part of their culture.  I suppose it's part of our culture in Northern California to be passive aggressive.  I must have missed the class on that one.  Or am I being passive aggressive?

By the way, the most genuinely friendly and helpful place that I've ever been is Ireland.  I did not run into "our" cultural aggressiveness there.  It is not in the people of Ireland's everyday nature to be so rigid and untrusting.

Back to Napa.......In December, our final stop before lunch and then heading on our way out of town, was the Napa Historical Society.  The Professor had stopped by the Goodman Library before our arrival to make sure that we could get in.  Let's just say that they were not as hospitable as you might expect.  My question to them would be, "How many university professors of history do you have come knocking on your door?"  While I get that the end of the year books are important, I'm betting this does not happen often.  Let's also not forget, the staff was "in" and it was during their regular hours of operation.

So, we were not able to go upstairs to library itself but were able to view a folder of information they had pulled from the library.  The poor guy working in the landmarks office had to share the space with us while  we were reviewing the contents of this folder.  Hmm, my expectations were not exceeded here and yet were low to begin with.  Sometimes, it is par for the course.

What they did find for us, was nothing much new to me.  I laughed a bit when a few pages in the folder contained letters to the society from George Capes (my distant relative and McLaughlin researcher).  George, they still have your letters.  The librarian there did not quite hit the mark but came close.  To put it simply, they found another of my family lines.  Even the correspondence to George Capes does not have the best information in it.  They have Flanagan's, Maxwell's, and Duffy's, some of which, I don't know and are not related to me.  I still need to review the information in depth but it is not looking like anything new.  Also, they referenced a Patrick Flanagan who was from County Galway and manufactured wagons and carriages in Livermore.  Um.....Livermore is not near Napa.  County Galway is not near County Louth in Ireland either.  My Patrick didn't manufacture wagons.

I could not actually bring myself to look at the correspondence from New Jersey for someone in search of their Edward Flanagan ancestor.  To be honest, I didn't want to see the response offered by the historical society.  Edward NEVER married or had a family.  The Edward Flanagan in my family line lived his entire life in Napa.

The irony of this visit was that nothing of what my grandfather had provided to the Napa Historical Society was brought down to us.  It seems like the file folder was put together in great haste on a day of extreme inconvenience to them.  The basic information that they offered did not add value.

Just to conclude and clean this up a bit, I had mixed feelings about posting this information about the Napa Historical Society.  I still do.  I almost feel like I reviewed their services and they did not do well.  They also missed the boat.  They want donations of archival and bibliographic materials....or do they?  Between the Professor, myself, and other family members, we probably have information that would overwhelm them.

Oh well, maybe Patrick Flanagan's family line going back to circa 1690 Tubbertoby, Termonfechin, County Louth, Ireland would be "TMI".






Saturday, March 2, 2013

Mixed Feelings and Research In Napa - Part 1

I hesitated (maybe for just a second) to post anything about my research visit to Napa, California in December.  First and foremost, my hesitation does not come from anyone that I already know.  My husband and I met with our friend, the Professor, and his wife.  The Professor, as I will refer to him as since he is a living individual and I respect privacy, was visiting Napa on a mission to discover more about my Flanagan Family.  He will be writing a book about Irish immigrants who traversed the world from Ireland to Australia and then onto the United States.  I can't wait to read his book.  He is a professor of history and seeks out the truth, fact, and proof of the lives of people.  This time he seeks the history of Irish families like my own.

We have both been to Ireland and both visited with my Flanagan relatives who still live on the same farm just north of Dublin where the family has lived for generations going back to the 1700s.  It truly is a majestic place especially when you consider what information my family holds right in their hands.  They probably have more information about the life of the Flanagan Family in Napa in the late 1800s and early 1900s located in Ireland, than we have here in California.  When you piece together the information from Ireland and from Napa, you have quite the collection. 

The Professor, his wife, my husband, and I, met at a quaint coffee shop in downtown Napa.  Over some coffee and computers transferring information to each other, we had delightful conversations about family history.  We even drove out to the Flanagan Ranch to find the house renovation has been completed.   What a sight to see even in the winter when almost all of the trees are bare of leaves.  My mom and her cousins delight in seeing that the two palms trees still standing that guide the way to the front staircase of the house.  The new side staircases and wraparound porch are 2012 additions to the house.   

Side view of the Flanagan Ranch House - Carneros, Napa, CA c2012 zelsersk
While we could not get out to the Stanly Ranch on this fine Saturday, the Professor and his wife had been there earlier in the week for a visit with the current owner, Starmont (owned by Merryvale).  They accommodated the Professor with a tour of the Stanly Ranch house which is up on blocks.  Now that's a piece of history that I will want to go see someday in person.  It sounds like it will need to be on a weekday.

Now, my mixed feelings about Napa started a while back when the Professor said that he wanted to go to the Napa Historical Society to research information about the Flanagan's.  I recall briefly telling him that what he would find was probably information provided to them by my grandfather, Richard J. Flanagan.  I was not confident that any other information would be found.  I probably did not offer a strong warning but did heed my mother's thoughts and expectations.

While I do think the historical society, and any for that matter, do try very hard, some succeed more than others. Napa probably has a lot of successes but our visit was met with mixed results.  I had been prepped by my mother and expectations set.  To be honest, they were low expectations.  The Professor was certainly hoping for more.  I certainly cannot blame him for that.

To be continued........................