February 2012

My Grandmother, Frances Ruth Bryan, known to me as Grandmother, was a baker.  She was raised on a farm, lived on a farm during the depression (until they lost it and moved to town), and knew how to bake just about everything.  One of her most delicious desserts was Bob’s Layer Cake (named after my dad), or Grandmother’s Cake.  She made this cake for everyone’s birthday – if you were having a birthday and Grandmother was close by, she made the cake.

I have passed down the tradition, as I have made quite a few for my family.  I even made one and mailed it to my father – it arrived in great condition!  That should tell you a little about the kind of cake this is – a heavy made-from-scratch cake.

Originally, no one except for Grandmother knew how to make the cake – she used a tea cup for all of the measuring.  One day, my sister was at Grandmother’s when she was making the cake, and sis decided to measure all of the ingredients.  Thanks to her, I have a recipe that I can follow!  Enjoy!

Grandmother’s Cake

Cake:                                                                                                                           Icing:

½ cup shortening (not butter or margarine – Crisco)                           2 cups sugar

2 cups sugar                                                                                                ¾ cup cream

4 eggs                                                                                                             1 Tablespoon butter

1 cup cold water                                                                                         1 teaspoon vanilla

3 cups flour (cake flour best, but all-purpose will do)

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/3 teaspoon salt (yes, that’s right)

1 teaspoon vanilla

Cake:  Beat shortening and sugar until creamy.  Add the yellow of the eggs, well beaten.   Then, add the water and vanilla.  Sift flour, salt, and baking powder together.  Add to mixture.  Beat the whites of the eggs to a stiff froth, and add them last.  Bake at 350F for 20-30 minutes according to pan.

Icing:  Mix together all except vanilla, and stir until boils.  Continue cooking until soft ball.  Remove from heat and beat until consistency to spread. Add vanilla while beating.  If it gets too thick, add a little cream or butter.

Note:  If using all-purpose flour, sift flour 3 times, and then measure.  Then sift flour, baking powder, and salt together.  Bake in 3 9-inch round pans (greased and floured) about 25 minutes.  Use marshmallows to fill in gaps around edge of cake if need be before icing (sometimes the cake will sag on edges –prop up sides with marshmallows).



I am currently the co-chair of the committee that is forming an Indiana chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists.

APG was organized in 1979.  According to their website, http://www.apgen.org, “APG is an independent organization whose principal purpose is to support professional genealogists in all phases of their work:  from the amateur genealogist wishing to turn knowledge and skill into a vocation to the experienced professional seeking to exchange ideas with colleagues and to upgrade the profession as a whole.  The association also seeks to protect the interest of those engaging in the services of the professional.”

I have been working with a small group to organize a chapter for the state of Indiana.  There are some chapters that are “close” to Indiana, but not real close. So, we are working together to have our own chapter.

To date, we have contacted those professional genealogists that may have an interest in an Indiana chapter and we have drafted preliminary by-laws.  As soon as we have the go-ahead, we will do the next step in establishing our chapter.

If you are a professional, and are interested in being a member of the Indiana chapter, please contact me at mcgen@cinergymetro.net.  Please use the Subject:  Indiana chapter.  We also have a yahoo group page – indianachapter.  Please be sure to sign up there as well!


One of my “ancestors” is Elijah Lyter Bradshaw.  He was “famous”.  Besides being the brother of my direct ancestor (Leander Bradshaw), he had an encounter with Wyatt Earp.

Elijah Lyter was a drifter, and he drifted from Kentucky to Tombstone, Arizona.  He was a miner in the silver mines there.  The year was 1880, Arizona was a territory, and Tombstone had a resident named Wyatt Earp.

Now, Elijah’s cabin-mate, Waters, had just purchased a new shirt, and it was a funny looking shirt.  Most of the other miners, and saloon goers, were making fun of him.  He warned everyone that the next man who kidded him about the shirt was going to be killed.  Well, Elijah walked into the saloon, and, not realizing what Waters had said, Elijah made fun of Waters.  Waters punched him down and left him in an unconscious state.  As soon as Elijah recovered, he went back to his cabin and got his gun.   Elijah went back to town, shot Waters four (4) times, and was arrested for killing him.  Wyatt Earp arrested Elijah, and took him before the judge.  Elijah Lyter Bradshaw was acquitted!

Wyatt Earp was giving testimony years later about his time in Tombstone, and related the above story.

Waters was buried in Boothill Graveyard, and Elijah was too (he picked the wrong girlfriend – she was already taken).  Sometimes it is difficult to be “famous”.


In a previous blog post, I mentioned some of the discoveries concerning my ancestor, William H. Bryan.

Until 2002, one of the brick walls concerning William H. was this – why did he transact so much business with the Hickman and Harland families, and why was a Harland (and not one of the sons of William H.) the executor of his estate in 1861.  Then, several discoveries were made

  • all but 2 of his sons were living in Simpson County, Kentucky, in 1860 – one of these two sons was not well, and the other “took care of” his mother after the death of William H.
  • a letter was found which explained the relationships between the Hickman’s, Harland’s, and Bryan’s

The letter that was found was amazing – this letter was found among the belongings of the Lewis family – Lewis was the maiden name of the wife of a Hickman, and their son married the sister of another William Bryan (that was living in nearby Danville, KY, close to William H.).  This Lewis was researching the Hickman family, and a daughter of William H. had written a letter to him, explaining the relationships.

So, this brick wall was torn down – William H. Bryan was related, by blood, to William Bryan (of Danville, KY).  And, the children of this William Bryan married Hickman’s and Harlan[d]’s.  And, the William Harland that was the executor of the estate was someone whom William H. had transacted much business.

As one can imagine, this discovery created a BIG hole in the brick wall – one that had been sought for so many years.  However, one never really knows when one may come across the one item that has been missing!


Today is Valentine’s Day.  On this day, many send and receive valentines from friends and loved ones.  The valentine does not have to be fancy – a jagged-cut heart out of red construction paper with your child’s name written in misshapened letters will be a mother’s most loved valentine.  A husband’s home cooked meal is a wife’s favorite.

I remember when school was the place where many valentines were exchanged.  Each student would make their individual valentine box, with a slit cut in the top.  We would all bring in our valentines, one for each student in the class, on Valentine’s Day.  During our ½-hour party sometime during the day, a room mother would come and bring cookies.  And, we would deliver our valentines to all of the boxes.  Then would be the highlight of the party – reading the valentines!  We would each sit at our desk and read the valentines that we found in our box.  There would even be one from the teacher!  It was wonderful!

I hope that you have a wonderful Valentine’s Day today!


William H. Bryan was my great-great-great grandfather.  He was born about 1804 in Kentucky.  I was able to find him and his wife and children in the 1830 and 1840 censuses of Lincoln County, Kentucky.  Of course, with these 2 censuses, all that I knew about William H. were the numbers of males and females (and their age range) in the family. With the 1850 census, I was able to put names to everyone in the family – William H., Elizabeth, and their 5 sons and 2 daughters.


Quite a bit was soon discovered about William H.

  • owned 17 slaves in 1850 – some blacks and some mulattos
  • owned 16 slaves in 1860 – some blacks and some mulattos
  • owned much land in Lincoln and Mercer County, both in Kentucky
  • W. B. Harland was the executor of his estate in 1861
  • was guardian, in 1828, to the sister of Elizabeth (his wife)
  • bought and sold various lands from and to the Harland and Hickman families
  • was the surety for Reuben Engleman and his first wife, Mary Gentry.  Upon the death of Mary, Reuben decided to marry Sallie, the daughter of William H.


Quite a few other discoveries have been made about William H., and they will be featured in another blog post.    However, the discoveries above show something about William H. – he was a man who wealth – he owned land and slaves.  And, he was a caring man – he was guardian for his wife’s sister when the father died.


As a professional genealogist, I read, scan, and look at many books, newspapers, journals, websites, etc.

As soon as I think that a particular book, etc., may be a source for information on the ancestor which I am searching, I do an important thing – I write down my citation for the source.  It makes no difference as to if the source will be used to prove or disprove a bit of information – I will write down the citation and add it to my “Sources” listing.

There are a variety of books and websites of proper citations.  The one that is recommended for those researching families is Evidence Explained, Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, by Elizabeth Shown Mills.  The First Edition was copyrighted in 2007, and the Second in 2009.  Ms. Mills begins her book by explaining the fundamentals of evidence analysis.  Then, in the following 778 pages, she covers the fundamentals of citations, including electronic sources.

As a genealogist, I would be lost without this book.  It is surely the most used book that I own.  One can order a copy of the book from several sources.  Google it!  And, one can also order various QuickSheets that pack easier in a research bag!


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