Why Make Your Own Jam?

My friend Kevin asked:  When and why did I start to make my own jam?  The easy answer is years ago.  Why did no one know?  Without social media, it was  never publicized.  It’s like the cookies I make at Christmas.  Every year at Christmas (for the past 30 years) I bake cookies and share with close friends and family, and when my children were in school, their teachers.  If you received a bag of cookies, you knew I baked cookies.  With the advent of social media, my kids keep telling me I need to share these traditions, so many people now know I make jams and cookies.  Back to the jams.

Making jam was something I learned from my great grandmother, and my grandmothers as a child.  My great grandparents Zula (1894-1986) and Christopher (1889-1976) were farmers, and trust me when I say, farmers waste no crop.  It was preserved, stored, smoked, or otherwise saved for consumption later in the year.  Berries, apples, fruit of any form (well, not watermelon), is great to snack on, eat as a pie or other desert, but what do you do with the rest of it.  Ever wonder why we have fried apples, apple dumplings, apple pie, applesauce and apple butter?

When my daughters were little, picking fresh fruit was a way to work on their fine motor skills.  A two year old frequently bruises the apple or squishes the raspberry when pulling it off the plant, and lets not talk about the mess made by harvesting blueberries!  As children grow and their fine motor skills develop, then can easily pick many small fruits without the mangling.  For years I made blueberry, raspberry, strawberry jams, as well as apple butter. When my daughters got older, the time to make the jams slipped away, so jam production ceased.

Why return to making jams after the hiatus?  When was the last time you looked at the nutrition information on a jam or jelly at the store?  I did a few years back and figured out we were purchasing flavored colored sugar.  Some of the jellies and jams did not even include the fruit as the first ingredient.  What!

I know the ingredients of my jams: fruit and sugar to taste.  The riper the fruit, picked at the height of the season, the more flavorful the fruit, the higher its own natural sugar content, less sugar added.  Apple butter is a little different, as it includes the apple core, cinnamon and nutmeg.  And no, I did not forget to list pectin, I do not use it (a topic in and of itself).

Jams made at home last approximately 18 months in the jar giving you plenty of time to consume these tasty treats, especially on toast or in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and have some left over to share with family and friends.

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Strawberry Jam Time

This year the east coast strawberry crop was late coming in, and didn’t last very long.  A wet spring coupled with cool days, meant the strawberries were about 3 weeks late ripening and the season ended a week early.  Rule of thumb is Mothers day to Fathers day is the strawberry season.  Most local u-pick farms didn’t open until early June, and ended within three weeks!

 How do you make strawberry jam?
Jam requires a lot of fresh fruit, the fresher the better, sugar and time.  We generally go out and pick the strawberries in the fields and either tat day or the next I turn those berries into jam.

The process itself is simple:

  1. Clean and hull the strawberries
  2. Place strawberries in a pot and mash them
  3. Add sugar to taste.  Recipes call for “specific” quantities of sugar, but I find using ripe, farm fresh fruit, means I only use 25-35% of the sugar.
  4. Cook, stirring to prevent burning, until the mixture “gels” or turns into jam which happens at around 218-220 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. Ladle jam into jars and place jars in a water bath for 5-10 minutes and let jars cool

So what takes so long?  Cleaning the fruit can take time, but depending on how many berries you are cooking it may take 1-1.5 hours to turn those strawberries into jam!


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It’s Genealogical Institute Time!

Today I leave for Gen-Fed, which is the Genealogical Institute on Federal Records.  I’m excited!  Gen-Fed is a one week-long program that provides an in-depth look at the materials held by the National Archives that are of interest to genealogists.  There is more material available than military pensions and compiled military service records (CMSR’s) and I’m hoping to learn a lot.  Most summers I attend GRIP (Genealogical Research Institute in Pittsburgh), but this year I was one of the lucky 30 to get into Gen-Fed, so next year I will be at GRIP.

Why attend an institute?  Are you tired of going to conferences for 50 minute sessions, and just as it is getting interesting, it’s over? Genealogy institutes are an opportunity to study a specific topic in-depth.  In a week-long course, you find 15-18 sessions on one topic, and many times the sessions 90 minutes long.  Each course at an institute has a coordinator (whose name you will usually recognize as an expert in the course topic) who plans the sessions (classes) for the week, and teaches some of the classes.  This coordination means the instructors who teach the other classes know the topic they will be teaching and how it fits into the overall week of study.

There are many genealogical institutes, with different course offerings, scattered across the United States.  Many hold registration months before the actual institute, and competition to get into the institute and your desired course may be fierce, with popular classes filling in minutes! A partial list of institutes include:

The best thing about attending an institute?  You’re not the only person crazy about genealogy in the room.  You are one of a few hundred people happy to talk about dead ancestors all week-long.  How cool is that?

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any of the institutes listed above, and receive no remuneration for mentioning their names.  I am just a happy attendee who is a fan of the one week genealogical institutes.

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My Family View: Ahnentafel Report

The Ahnentafel report in My Family View is a simple ahnentafel report that recounts each of the generations in a persons lineage.  In this system, each person is assigned a unique number, with mails being even numbered and females odd, with the exception of #1 which is the person the report is being generated for.  When their is a gap in the research (an ancestor has not been identified, their number is skipped, leaving room for them to be identified and added to the lineage at a future point in time.

The ahnentafel numbers are frequently used for storing physical files as the numbers are unique and consistent for each person.  Adding additional people to someone’s lineage does not change a person’s number, unless an entire a generation is inserted into the middle of the lineage.


I store my paper research in folders organized by ahnentafel numbers. In the Reports By Task view there are two additional reports that list ahnentafel numbers, although they are not ahnentafel reports (or formatted that way).  They are:

Numerical Ahnentafel List

  • Ahnentafel (alphabetical) id’s for people
  • Ahnentafel (numerical) id’s for people

This compact report is useful when creating file labels or doing other work when you do not want the narrative aspected of an Ahnentafel, simply the numbers!

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My Family View: Detailed Worksheet

The Detailed Worksheet found in My Family View is a the most detailed report about an ancestor available in GenDetective!  This detailed examination looks at each person including parents, marriages, children, a detailed timeline, notes and citations for each event.  While most genealogy programs do not limit the size of notes, due to page/report restrictions, GenDetective only includes the first couple of sentences.

The fields in this report include:

  • Header Section
    1. Birth date and location
    2. Death date and location
    3. Citations – a list of citation numbers assigned to each citation associated with this person
    4. Parents – names and lifespan
    5. Spouses – including spouse birth date, marriage date and location
    6. Children – includes names and lifespan for each child
  • Timeline Section
    1. Date – date of this event, may be estimated or approximate
    2. Event – the type of event
    3. Citations – number of each citation supporting this event
    4. Event Name – descriptive text assigned about the event
    5. Location – location event was recorded at
  • Notes Section
    1. Notes for – the event the note is associated with.  When person is listed, it identifies a note attached to the person, not a specific event.
    2. Note – the first few sentences of the note associated with this event.  This note may not be the complete note, but hopefully includes enough information to jog your memory.
  • Citation Section
    1. Citation id – the number of this citation (used to locate citations associated with an event or person),
    2. Source – the short source name of this source
    3. Citation Text – the details of this citation

Detailed Worksheet

Notes and Citations Sections of Detailed Worksheet

The Detailed Worksheet is one of my favorite reports to use when I am focused on researching a specific person, especially when the basic demographics have already been located.


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My Family View: Research Worksheet

The Research Worksheet found in My Family View is a detailed report similar to a traditional family group worksheet with additional information.  This detailed report while lacking the timeline included in other reports, focuses on the details of his life, grouping the information by research area.  Missing information in this report is highlighted (default color is yellow) immediately drawing your attention to this research opportunity.

The fields in this report include:

  • Father and mother
  • Birth date and location
  • Death statistics
    1. Death date and place
    2. Burial date and place
    3. Probate information
    4. Obituary date and place
    5. Grave-site (located or not)
  • Religious related events
  • Identified and missing census records
  • Military service identified and missing
  • Occupation history
  • Parents
  • Siblings and their spouses
  • Spouses of this person
  • Children for this person and each spouse
  • Event summary – a chart summarizing the types of events and the number of them recorded for this ancestor
  • Location summary – a chart summarizing the number of times this ancestor has been placed at each location

Research Worksheet

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My Family View: Research Progress

The Research Progress worksheet in My Family View begins with the visualization of your research progress, based on your settings in My Personal Research Goals, and combines that visualization with a detailed timeline.  While this worksheet lacks the detailed source/citation information found in either the Source Timeline or the Detailed Worksheet, it conveys a detailed summary of the information you have recorded for this ancestor.

The header section includes:

  • Birth date and location
  • Death date and location
  • Relationship to the home person
  • Research progress in each demographic area that is configured in My Personal Research Goals and applicable to this person.
    1. Vital Statics
    2. Death Statistics
    3. Census Research
    4. Military Research
    5. Occupation
    6. Religious Research
  • Census Records: this section includes a list of each census records located (regular print) and not located, but that GenDetective projects the person may be enumerated in (bold, italic, dark blue).
  • Military Service: this section includes a list of military service records located (regular print) and not located, but that GenDetective projects the person may be enumerated in (bold, italic, dark blue).
  • Parents
  • Spouse(s) with Marriage Date
  • Timeline: this section includes a timeline for each event that includes
    • Age: age of the person at this event (may be approximate)
    • Date: date the event was recorded on
    • Event: the type of the event (birth, census, military service, death ..)
    • Sources: the number of unique source and citations supporting this event
    • Event: the description of this event (3rd column, 1st item)
    • Location: the location the event was recorded at
    • Supporting Documentation: number of multimedia files that support this event

Research Progress

I must admit, this is one of my favorite go-to reports for an ancestor.

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