Monday, December 1, 2008

Hanging the First Pedigree Ornament on my Blog

I am initiating a new tradition this Christmas, but first, I want to mention a few of our family’s traditions that seem to have run the course. Our family members, like many others in America, reside at relatively long distances from each other. My brother lives in Florida; my Sister, in Maryland; I’m residing in North Carolina. One of my daughters and her family lives in Maryland; the other, fortunately, resides in my current home state of North Carolina. Some of my cousins have children scattered all over the country from coast to coast. Sad to say, like many families since the 1980s, there have been several break-ups and estrangements because of divorce. Depending on which branch of the family being considered, I have recently calculated that 40 to 50 percent of the cousins in my generation have gone through a divorce. Most have remarried, resulting in what we call EXTENDED families. Nevertheless, there are some who are still alone. What I’m saying is that it is often difficult to get the family, or what’s left of it, to come together in one place to carry on any kind of family tradition- to share in the camaraderie and excitement of the Thanksgiving or Xmas holidays. There are fewer and fewer of us sitting around the table for the “traditional” meal or the hand to hand exchange of gifts. Yes, we could take a plane flight or pack into our car and drive, but that’s getting truly expensive these days. Furthermore, it drains our energy resources and puts a strain on the environment. And, is it really safe to be driving on ever more crowded highways perhaps during dangerous weather conditions? Back me up you people who drove home for Thanksgiving.

The situation was not always so. Back in the 1950’s, when I was a pre-teenager, my family would drive over the Potomac River to Alexandria, Virginia, to Grandma’s house. There, I would play and run around with my ten cousins- all of them. Actually, a few cousins were born a little later, as I was the oldest. My cousins and their families all lived within a 20 mile radius of Grandma’s home.

We were so excited to find out what each other had received from Santa Claus. Indeed, it was here we discovered the real story about Santa, but we didn’t have the heart to tell our parents. We exchanged gifts and had a good old time. Grandma spent several days beforehand making up bushel baskets of Fastnachtskuchele, a traditional Swiss pastry that grandma learned to make from her stepmom, Rosa Frederick, who grew up in Canton Thurgau, Switzerland. Then after dinner, after the gifts were unwrapped, after the toys were broken and mended, and after I won the “war” card game, we would all gather around Grandma to take the “traditional” cousins picture (see below). I was able to date the pictures, taken in 1953 and 1956, from the birth dates of the infants on Grandma’s lap.

Image: Grandma Margaret (Austel) Gailliot is surrounded by seven of her grandchildren in this 1953 Christmas picture. (Two of my younger cousins have since passed away).

Image: Grandma Gailliot is surrounded by nine of her grandchildren in this 1956 traditional Christmas picture. One last grandchild, the tenth, was born in 1960. Four years later, that is about eight years after this picture was taken, Grandma passed away. By the way, you would not believe how difficult it is today to get a similar photo of the grandkids together with a grandparent. I am the mean, camera guy at Christmas for trying to force everybody to gather together for a picture.
Christmas Cards and Photo Cards
So you see, these pictures are reminders of some of our family traditions. Perhaps another way to bridge our scattered brethren is to send Christmas cards. I hardly ever sent Cards until about 15 years ago. Actually, it was a means to gather family history and share it with members of my family. I created Xmas letters and cards that featured portraits of my relatives or of places in which they grew up. Recently, one of the more interesting evolutions in Xmas cards is the creation of Photo cards. Now, you can not only send and receive Xmas greetings, but also, you can see how the faces have changed of friends, relatives, and particularly, the children. For several years now, I have archived the photo cards I received, and also, scanned and inserted them into my genealogical computer database. Below is a collage of a few examples:
But even here, forces are working against the tradition of sending cards. A first class letter or Xmas card cost three cents to mail in Grandma’s time in the 1950’s. This week, it costs 43 cents. Maybe we can get around these obstacles by using the computer for sending photos and greetings, though I believe there are some who think this is too impersonal.
A Series of Christmas Ornaments
Now it is time to introduce perhaps a new tradition- a project that can be uploaded by my computer to a public site to be enjoyed by relatives afar, or even by We Three Kings of Orient Are. They would otherwise probably never remember all those user names and passwords at private sites.

Every day, from now until Xmas week, my goal is to hang (OK, post) a Xmas ornament on this blog. However, these ornaments are not going to be like the ones you usually see. I will be creating Xmas ornaments with images that characterize each one of my ancestors in my lineal PEDIGREE back through my great grandparents. This calculates to be 15 ornaments including myself. I might throw in a few extra ornaments, such as those for my father’s adopted parents. Elsewhere on this blog, I have posted pedigree charts containing thumbnail images of my ancestors. However, for this project, instead of facial images, I am going to choose an image which depicts something unique about that individual’s life. It might be related to their occupation, avocation, place of birth or residence, or other things of which you and I will eventually learn.
Shown below is the first ornament on my Pedigree. The first person in a pedigree chart is called the principal. That would be me, Robert C. Kramp, and I am on the left in the red shirt; I stand next to my sister, Beverly, and my brother, Russell. We are standing behind my mother, the former Mary Margaret Gailliot. We are all living and the only ones in my pedigree who still survive, so I won’t go into too much detail for now. I will divulge this: the picture was taken within the last three years.

I am going to try an experiment here, if you are a subscriber you should be able to link here and go to the same image posted at my personal Facebook site.
Incidentally, Webster’s dictionary emphasizes that a tradition is not written down. Rather, it is an oral transmission of information, beliefs, and customs from ancestors to posterity. So, ask somebody to read this blog entry out loud to your children, preferably an older person who can embellish the written story. And after that, read what other genealogists have written about their family traditions in the Carnival of Genealogist, 61st Edition (see link at end of this entry).
Actually, this blog is becoming a type of tradition in itself. About a year ago, I wrote about the animal stable my father constructed out of wooden packing crates and placed under our Christmas tree in a Nativity scene. I will always remember it, and hopefully, it will also be impressed upon my grandchildren.
To the right of this page, I placed a tag, “Xmas-2008”, so that you can pull out the complete series of these particular blog entries, as I also plan to post entries on other topics during December.
2. Read what other Geneabloggers (people who blog genealogy) had to say about their Holiday Traditions, all linked from Jasia's Creative Gene.


Bob Kramp said...

Pastry called "fastnacht kirchle": My friend Elke Lorz of Aachen, Germany, says it might be spelled, "Fastnachtsküchele". I recall it was a very light and fragile pastry, made by rolling out a square of sweet dough until it was paper thin. The dough was then placed on top of a kettle of boiling lard. The dough would bubble. Removed from the lard, allowed to cool and then sprinkeled with powdered sugar. It would melt in your mouth. The pastry-making tradition ended with the demise of lard as a cooking agent. My Aunt Helen tried it with boiling Crisco oil, but it wasn't the same taste.

Bob Kramp said...

Elke Lorz wrote on my wall at

Fastnachtskuchele is a pastry, which has been baked in a sort of oil/ grease/ lard. There are different forms, very similar to donuts. In Switzerland they have even bigger ones, size of a plate and very, very thin. We have got this type in Aachen too. And they sell it for carnival season.