Saturday, December 31, 2011

Central Coast Genealogy Calendar: January 2012

"Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right."    ~Oprah Winfrey

Thursday, January 5
Monterey County Genealogical Society
6:00 PM (Doors open at 5:30 PM)
Volunteer Appreciation Night

Saturday, January 7
San Luis Obispo County Genealogical Society
12:30 PM Research Class - "What's in the 1940 Census?" by Joel Weintraub
1:00 PM Business Meeting
1:15 PM Social time; book and drawing sales, snacks, coffee and tea
1:45 PM Joel Weintraub - "Here Comes the 1940 Census and We ARE Ready!!"

Sunday, January 8
Jewish Genealogical Society of the Conejo Valley and Ventura County
1:30 - 3:30 PM
Panel Presentation - "Ethics, Sensitivities, Sensibilities and Property Rights"

Tuesday, January 10
Conejo Valley Genealogical Society
6:00 - 8:00 PM
Computer Interest Group Meeting
Barbara Warren - "Fast Pencil Revisited"

Tuesday, January 17
Conejo Valley Genealogical Society
5:30 - 6:30 PM - Genealogy Tools - TBA
6:45 - 8:45 PM - General Meeting - TBA

Saturday, January 28
31st Annual Genealogical Seminar on the Monterey Peninsula
8:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Claire V. Brisson-Banks, Keynote Speaker
Sponsored by the Commodore Sloat Chapter DAR and FHC

Saturday, January 28
Santa Barbara County Genealogical Society
9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
Joel Weintraub - "Preparing for the Release of the 1940 Census"

Saturday, January 28
Ventura County Genealogical Society
1:00 - 4:00 PM
Kerry Bartels - "The Many Facets of the National Archives Website"

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Please send me an email if you would like to have your event included in this monthly calendar series.

Copyright © by Elizabeth O'Neal

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Don't Miss the SLOCGS Seminar: Genealogy NOW! Growing Your Family Tree

"Genealogy NOW! Growing Your Family Tree"

February 4, 2012
8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Veterans Hall
801 Grand Avenue
San Luis Obispo, California

Mark your calendars for Genealogy NOW! Growing Your Family Tree, featuring nationally acclaimed author and speaker Dr. Thomas W. Jones, PhD, CG, CGL!

This full day of outstanding presentations is designed to enhance your genealogical sleuthing skills, and add a few branches to your family tree. Genealogy NOW! also features the always-entertaining Ron Arons, author of Wanted! U.S. Criminal Records and The Jews of Sing-Sing, as well as English research expert Apryl Cox, AG.

Included in the event will be vendors, project displays, refreshments, a freebie table, and drawings for dozens of genealogy prizes and gift certificates. For schedule, registration information, or more about this event, please visit

Copyright by © Elizabeth O'Neal

31st Annual Genealogical Seminar on the Monterey Peninsula

and the
Family History Center of the 
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
present the

31st Annual Genealogical Seminar

Saturday, January 28, 2012
Family History Center and classrooms at the LDS Church
1024 Noche Buena (at Plumas) in Seaside, CA
8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Claire V. Brisson-Banks, BS, MLIS AG®, of  Timeless Genealogies is the keynote speaker and one of over a dozen instructors at the all-day genealogy conference.

$30 registration fee includes lunch and a syllabus with early registration by January 15, 2012.

Download registration flyer and schedule of classes.

For more information contact Serita Sue Woodburn.

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Copyright © by Elizabeth O'Neal

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

From our house to yours: we wish you the merriest of Christmases, and the happiest of holidays. Be warm, be happy, and enjoy your family this holiday season.

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Vintage greeting card from Yestercards.

Copyright © by Elizabeth O'Neal

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: Day 8 - Christmas Cookies

Snickerdoodle Cookies
Photo of Snickerdoodles by Flickr user Evening

My mother wasn't much of a baker. In fact, I'm fairly certain that she didn't like to cook at all. That being said, if she ever baked Christmas cookies, I don't remember her doing it.

When I got older, I started doing some baking on my own. Each Christmas, I would make fudge, rum balls, and various quick breads (banana, date, pumpkin) to give as gifts or to help pack on the calories at home. I would also bake one of my favorite cookie recipes: Snickerdoodles. While not specifically for Christmas, they do taste wonderful, and with a few red and green sprinkles tossed on before baking, they look very festive on your holiday table.

Plus, there are no peanuts (or nuts of any kind), to which my daughter is highly allergic. It's amazing - and scary - how many foods contain some form of peanuts.

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3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup butter or margarine
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
3 tbsps sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375⁰. Grease a cookie sheet. Stir together flour, soda, cream of tartar, and 1/2 tsp salt. Beat butter for 30 seconds; add the 2 cups sugar and beat until fluffy. Add eggs, milk and vanilla; beat well. Add dry ingredients to beaten mixture, beating until well combined. Form dough into 1-inch balls; roll in a misture of the 3 tablespoons sugar and the cinnamon (and sprinkles, if desired). Place balls 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet; flatten slightly with the bottom of a drinking glass. Bake in a 375⁰ oven about 8 minutes or until light golden. Makes about 66.

(From the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, Ninth Edition, 1981, p. 162.)

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This post is the first in the "2011 Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories" series, and was originally posted on December 8, 2009. Slight modifications have been made this year.

Copyright © by Elizabeth O'Neal

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Veterans History Project Marks 70th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor

The Veterans History Project (VHP) launches "Pearl Harbor – 70th Anniversary," the 35th website feature in the Experiencing War series. Pearl Harbor presents the accounts from 15 veterans who experienced Pearl Harbor firsthand.

"Some tragedies from our history are permanently burned into the collective memory of our nation," said Veterans History Project Director Bob Patrick. "Pearl Harbor is certainly one."

All of the veterans in the feature describe the sense of horror that dominated on Dec. 7, 1941. Kathryn Mary Doody was a nurse serving in the Army Nurse Corps, whose long and distinguished career in combat medicine began when she treated bombing victims brought to her Honolulu hospital from Pearl Harbor. James Doyle was a Photographer's Mate First Class in the Navy; he used his camera to document the destruction of the harbor while dodging bullets from Japanese planes flying overhead. Robert Coates served aboard the USS Nevada. After Pearl Harbor, he went on to be involved in some of the heaviest action in the Pacific Theater. As he discusses in his interview, nothing ever rivaled the shock he felt on December 7.

Hear these personal histories and more at:

The Mission of the Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress American Folklife Center is to collect, preserve, and make accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war. Learn more at Share your exciting VHP initiatives, programs, events, and news stories with VHP to be considered for a future RSS. Email and place "My VHP RSS Story" in the subject line.

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Copyright © by Elizabeth O'Neal

Remembering Pearl Harbor

Click to enlarge
Today we remember the day "that will live in infamy."

On December 7, 1941, Japanese planes attacked the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i, killing more than 2,400 Americans and wounding over 1,200.

The U.S.S. Arizona was completely destroyed and the U.S.S. Oklahoma capsized. The attack sank three other ships and damaged many additional vessels. More than 180 aircraft were destroyed.

The following day President Franklin Roosevelt, addressing a joint session of Congress, called December 7th "a date which will live in infamy." Declaring war against Japan, Congress ushered the United States into World War II and forced a nation, already close to war, to abandon isolationism. Within days, Japan's allies, Germany and Italy, declared war on the United States, and the country began a rapid transition to a war-time economy in building up armaments in support of military campaigns in the Pacific, North Africa, and Europe.

On this National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, we honor the lives lost in that horrific attack 70 years ago and salute the veterans of World War II.

Let's take a moment out of our busy holiday schedules to remember what happened that day.

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In honor of National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, our friends at Fold3 invite you to check out some of their free World War II collections:

December 7, 1941, "a date which will live in infamy," is seared into the American psyche as the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and took the United States into World War II.

That immortal phrase was delivered the following day by President Roosevelt in an address to Congress and the nation. He predicted that "always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us."

This year, on the 70th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attacks, Americans continue to remember the shocking event and the loved ones who lost their lives that day. It was a tragedy that affected millions of lives. Many people alive today have a personal connection to December 7, 1941, and there are many more who lost fathers, uncles, grandfathers, and friends, or heard stories about that day and its aftermath from those who lived through it.

At Fold3, we keep history alive and provide personal perspectives to the past through tributes left by others. We invite you to leave a tribute on the USS Arizona War Memorial. Share a story, link to a photo or letter, and bring your memories to others so we may all continue to remember.

See more about the Pearl Harbor Attack with these free resources:

Visit the Interactive USS Arizona Memorial
Leave a tribute, a story, or a photo of a World War II Hero.

Search the Pearl Harbor Muster Rolls
Personnel assigned to ships based at Pearl Harbor.

Read the 849 page report of the Raid on Pearl Harbor

Additionally, is offering free access to their WWII Military Collections until midnight tonight in honor of the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Hurry, if you want to check these out!

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Copyright © by Elizabeth O'Neal

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What's More Fun Than a Snowball Fight in December?

Why, it's the Second Life Chapter, Association of Professional Genealogists' (APG) Christmas party, of course!

WHEN:  Thursday, December 8, 2011, 5:30 p.m. SLT (Second Life Time, same as Pacific Time)
WHERE:  Second Life, near the Just Genealogy Firepit
DRESS:  Formal, or anything Christmas-y or holiday-ish.

This is not what I'll be wearing to the party because, as you can see, I'm up to my knees in snow here, and it's much too cold for party clothes!

The SL-APG Chapter is an officially recognized chapter which promotes the highest standards of ethics and professionalism in the genealogical field at the regional level.

The chapter meets monthly using a free, social media, "virtual world" software called Second Life. It was organized to meet the networking needs of APG members who either do not have a local chapter near them, or are unable to attend their chapter meetings.

Anyone with an interest in genealogy is welcome to attend the meetings; however, official members of the chapter must be real life, dues-paying members of the APG.

I am thrilled to tell you that I was recently elected Vice President of the chapter, and I can't wait to get started next year!

So... if you've been looking for a reason to check out what those genealogists in Second Life are up to - and they're really quite busy - here you go!

Now, who's going to come as Santa Claus??

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To learn more about genealogy activities in Second Life, please visit the Genealogists in Second Life group on Facebook. Don't be shy. It's not hard, and there are lots of people available to help you. Like me, for instance.

Copyright © by Elizabeth O'Neal

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Central Coast Genealogy Calendar: December 2011

"Christmas is a day of meaning and traditions, a special day spent in the warm circle of family and friends."   ~Margaret Thatcher

Thursday, December 1
Monterey County Genealogical Society
6:00 PM (Doors open at 5:30 PM)
Christmas Potluck

Sunday, December 11
Jewish Genealogical Society of the Conejo Valley and Ventura County
1:30 - 3:30 PM
Annual Chanukah Party/Membership Renewal
Stephen Morse - "From DNA to Genetic Genealogy: Everything You Wanted to Know but Were Afraid to Ask"

Saturday, December 17
Santa Barbara County Genealogical Society
9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
Annual Members' Share

Saturday, December 17
Ventura County Genealogical Society
12:00 PM
Annual Potluck Lunch and Holiday Program
Beth Miller - "Toys and Games: A Trip Down Memory Lane"

Tuesday, December 20
Conejo Valley Genealogical Society
6:00 - 8:45 PM
Holiday Potluck

San Luis Obispo County Genealogical Society

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Please send me an email if you would like to have your event included in this monthly calendar series.

Copyright © by Elizabeth O'Neal

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: Day 3 - Christmas Tree Ornaments

My daughter adding a new ornament to our tree on Christmas morning.

It's no secret that I love Christmas tree ornaments. I must wind up with at least a dozen or more new ones each year. Some I buy - I'm addicted to those Hallmark Keepsake ornaments - and some are given to me by friends and family.

Needless to say, we've amassed an extensive collection of ornaments.

As I mentioned in my Day 1 post about Christmas Trees, I inherited quite a few old, family ornaments when my mother and grandmother passed away. There are many that are in bad condition, and I should probably just get rid of them. But then, most were handmade by family members and have sentimental value, so I keep them, even if I don't use them.

And yes, I suppose I hang onto them for all the wrong reasons, but I just haven't been able to let them go. No need to report me to "Hoarders," though, I promise.

But there are many other heirloom (to me, anyway) ornaments that I do use each year. One year, my grandmother decided to go with a gold and white themed tree, and made all of her ornaments by hand. I still have her gold bells, snowflakes, and icicles, and I use them each year.

Back in the late 1970's, my mother made dozens of red bows from a wired, velvet ribbon. Quite a few of them have survived, and I put them on the tree each year for a blast of red color. Plus, they're like little reminders of my mom on my tree.

Probably my favorite old ornaments are the "icicle men." They're these odd-shaped, clear, plastic figures, with sharp, pointy heads and red noses. They are not cute. When I was a kid, we would hide them deep inside the tree (presumably because of their non-cuteness?) and make a game of finding them. I still do this, although for years, I've been the only one who cared to look for them later. I'm hoping my daughter will want to play along this year.

I have several ornament "collections" to which I add each year. In my younger, single days, I collected the Hallmark Barbie™ Christmas ornaments. I stopped collecting them (and hanging them on the tree) when I married my husband; he thought they were much too silly and girlie. I'll eventually give them to my daughter when she gets a little older, or let her put them on a tree in her room (possibly this year, if her attitude improves). Or put them on the back of the tree where no one ever looks.

For my husband, I buy an airplane ornament each year. He really could care less, but I thought there needed to be some ornaments that had some meaning to him on the tree. I also pick up whatever moose ornaments I can find. My husband has been a moose-collector since he used to regularly travel to Newfoundland on business.

A few of our special ornaments.

My daughter has received those "Baby's 1st Christmas," "2nd Christmas," etc., ornaments every year since she was born. Unfortunately, last year was her final year receiving one, as "5th Christmas" seems to be the limit. I hang those low on the tree where she can see them. We also have several family pictures on the tree, which she enjoys.

We have many cherished ornaments on our tree each year. I'm looking forward to seeing them again... as soon as my husband brings in the boxes from the garage!

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This post is the first in the "2011 Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories" series, and was originally posted on December 3, 2009. Slight modifications have been made.

Copyright © by Elizabeth O'Neal

Friday, December 2, 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Day 2: Holiday Foods

I was unable to find any old photos of holiday foods-past, 
but I did find this picture of my cousins and I 
having breakfast in Christmas bibs, c. 1967.
That's me in the front with the creepy doll.

Unfortunately, I really don't have many memories of special holiday foods from when I was young. Is that odd? I guess you could say I've always been a girl who eats to live rather than the other way around, so food just doesn't stand out in my memory.

However, I do remember a few things. My grandmothers were both fantastic cooks (aren't they all?). Watching them cook was fascinating to me; how could they make so many things at one time? It was amazing to see everything come together in perfect precision. Ding! Dinner is ready, and on the table... just like magic!

I've since learned that this is NOT as easy as the grandmas made it look.

My maternal grandmother made the best stuffing with her turkey. I think this was my favoriate part of the meal. She never did give me the recipe, but I've managed to find one that comes very close. It's the only stuffing I'll make, and thankfully it does not contain necks, gizzards, oysters, or anything else that a kid (or a grown-up) might consider "yucky."

This same grandmother - and my mother too, I think - also made a delicious, white confection called Divinity (which I will write about in an upcoming post). I made this for the fist time 2 years ago, and found it very difficult to make, probably due to our humid conditions here on the coast. Trust me: the weather must be ideal, and the planets perfectly aligned with nothing in retrograde in order to make the best Divinity. You might check your horoscope first, too.

My paternal grandmother was an expert pie-maker. She made many different types, but her pumpkin pies were always my favorite. I have fond memories of standing in her kitchen "helping" her bake cookies. Mmmm... the smell was heavenly.

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With the exception of this past Thanksgiving, I haven't had to prepare a big holiday meal in a several years, thanks to family members who've invited us to dinner. When I do, I typically prepare the same things each time. Turkey and stuffing, "loaded" cranberry sauce (loaded with bourbon), sweet potatoes with extra marshmallows, mashed potatoes, rolls... the whole deal. I'm a terrible, awful piemaker, so I'll usually buy a pie and maybe a cheesecake for dessert. If I'm feeling very adventurous, I'll make the cheesecake myself.

Actually, I'm more of a "cake girl." My father loved him some pies, but I just couldn't get into them myself (except for pumpkin). I suppose there are "cake people" and "pie people," kind of like how there are "cat people"and "dog people." If you're wondering, I'm a dog people person.

I used to do a lot of baking at Christmastime. When we were particulary short on funds, we would give baked goods as gifts. We found out the hard way that these cost a bundle to mail, so there wasn't a huge financial savings with this strategy.

I found a great recipe for fudge that you can make in your microwave in about 5 minutes (and, it tastes good!), so we enjoy a lot of fudge. Chocolate of any variety doesn't last long in our household.

I also love to bake quick breads (banana, date, pumpkin), and sometimes I'll toss in some rum balls just for fun. The rum balls are great to take to work for those days when you really don't feel like working. Pass them around the office and let the holiday cheer begin!

My daughter loves to "help" me cook now; she even goes into her play kitchen to try to "cook like Mommy." She gets so excited when something "she made herself" comes out of the oven.

And enjoying these holiday foods through her is what truly makes Christmas special for me.

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This post is the first in the "2011 Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories" series, and was originally posted on December 2, 2009. Slight modifications have been made.

Copyright © by Elizabeth O'Neal

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Day 1: The Christmas Tree

Our Family Christmas Tree, circa 1976. Notice the tinsel.
I still have this chair, although a lot less new-looking.

Getting our Christmas tree was one of the holiday highlights for me. We always had live trees, usually about 6'-7' tall. Or maybe they just seemed tall to me because I was smaller at the time.

In my younger years, I vaguely remember going out to a tree farm somewhere to get our trees. We would tramp around in the bitter southern California cold (ha!) until someone declared that he/she had found the perfect tree. The tree-cutter-person would cut down the tree for us, and we'd haul it home... probably in my father's pick-up truck, but I don't really remember. It was a looong time ago.

Once we got the tree home, my father would stand it up in a bucket of water in the garage, and meticulously pull out all the dead pine needles. He would give the trunk a fresh cut on the bottom, and then bring the tree inside.

Next were the lights. When those little "twinkle lights" came out, we all thought they were so beautiful. Unfortunately, putting them on the tree could be such a chore. Back in the day, if one, single light bulb was burned out, the entire strand refused to light. Dad would carefully unroll the lights, and we would all pray that they would light up when plugged in. But it never failed that at least one strand would have a bad bulb, and Dad would have to test each light with one of those light-tester-thingies to find the offender. Back in those days, if one bulb failed to work, the whole strand failed to work.

This could take hours.

Once the lights were on, we were finally free to add the decorations. I remember that there was a specific order in which the decorations should go on: the "balls" would go on first, with the large balls at the bottom of the tree, medium balls in the middle, and smaller balls towards the top. The "unique" decorations would go on next. These included various doo-dads I'd made in school, as well as some that my mother must have bought. I don't actually know where they came from, but I still have many of them.

One of my school doo-dads. Even as a kid, I was not a talented crafter.

The finishing touch was always the tinsel. Back in the day, this was considered very stylish. I remember there being two types of tinsel: one was a plastic variety that would stretch when pulled, and flew off the tree every time anyone walked by. The other was a metallic sort, that stayed on the tree, but frequently fell apart in your hands. I preferred the plastic kind, even if it did fly off with the slightest breeze.

Actually, I hated tinsel, but it was going on the tree, whether I liked it or not.

There was a definite "technique" to applying tinsel. Like most kids, I suppose, I liked to grab a handful and throw. This method was, unfortunately, frowned upon by my mother (and most other adults). The "correct" method of applying tinsel was one strand at a time. ONE STRAND AT A TIME. One strand. At a time. One. Strand. At. A. Time.

It took FOREVER to cover a tree "correctly" with tinsel. But even I had to admit that it was kind of pretty - in a weird sort of way - once it was finished.

The final touch was the angel on top. She wore a gold, fuzzy dress and had a halo of lights behind her.

Our tree would go up well before Christmas and would stay up until at least New Year's Day. After that, the decorations would come off, and the tree would mysteriously disappear. It was depressing.

The Christmas tree smell that filled our house was heavenly. I hated artificial trees and swore I'd never have one.

*   *   *

Our Christmas Tree, 2008 (2011 isn't up yet).
No tinsel. The chair is in the next room.

Fast forward about 30 or so years. Ironically, my family now uses an artificial tree. We bought it the Christmas after my daughter was born, and strangely enough, I love it. It's 9 feet tall, and very realistic-looking. It even has fake dead needles that we don't have to meticulously pick out.

There were several reasons behind our decision to go artificial, but the main reason was allergies. I have them, and so does my daughter. No need to be miserable at Christmas if we don't have to be. Plus, it came with all the lights on it already, eliminating a step that I never enjoyed much anyway.

Unfortunately, my husband HATES this tree, if only because he has to lug it out of the garage and put it together each year. Poor baby. He's lucky that we don't have to tramp around in a Christmas tree farm in the bitter southern California cold.

The ugly school doo-dad is still on our tree (usually in the back).
The gold bells and snowflakes were made by my grandmother.
 The red bows were made by my mother back in the '70's.

After my mother and grandmother passed away, I inherited nearly all the family Christmas ornaments. You will still find many of these on my tree each year. I have also collected ornaments of my own, most of which represent something that happened in our lives during the year (like "new home," "baby's 1st Christmas," etc.). These serve as special reminders of our lives together.

The artificial tree doesn't have that wonderful Christmas tree smell. But that's what pine-scented candles are for, right?

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This post is the first in the "2011 Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories" series, and was originally posted on December 1, 2009. Slight modifications have been made.

Copyright © by Elizabeth O'Neal