Wells Family Genealogy

The study of my Family Tree

21 Sept 2017: Seaweed Pudding probably tastes better than it sounds September 21, 2017

Today I continue my series of posts on the traditional local foods prepared by our ancestors in Hopkinton. Rhode Island isn’t called the Ocean State for nothing. Mom’s cousin Dorothy remembers her mother (Sylvia Wells, daughter of Williams R Wells and Pauline Stillman Wells) making pudding from seaweed they would gather off the beaches down near Quonny. This would be back in about the mid 1930’s. Although it seems this is a real thing, after scouring the internet I as only able to come up with one recipe for such a pudding called Blancmange.

Blancmange as defined by Wikipedia: “Blancmange (from French blanc-manger) is a sweet dessert commonly made with milk or cream and sugar thickened with gelatin, cornstarch or Irish moss(a source of carrageenan), and often flavored with almonds.”

Blancmange: A pudding made from Irish Sea Moss

  • 1/3 cup Irish Sea Moss
  • 2 cups of milk

Gather fresh moss on the beach. Rinse well in cold water and spread in the sun to dry.

When ready to use, soften 1/3 cup of moss by covering it in cold water for fifteen minutes.

Drain and add 2 cups of milk. Cook in a double boiler for thirty minutes without stirring.

Strain into a bowl or molds, and cool—it thickens only on cooling.

Serve with jam, light flavored cream, boiled custard, chocolate sauce, or fruit, fresh or stewed. The blancmange is rather tasteless by itself and depends on the sauce for flavor.

* * * * *

There are several different types of edible seaweeds that grow off the coast of Rhode Island that our ancestors probably harvested to use as food. Here are a few:

Irish Sea Moss – Contains carrageenan and is used to thicken and stabilize ice cream, puddings, cream cheese, cottage cheese, frozen yogurt, pie fillings etc.

Irish Sea Moss

Bladderwrack/Knotted Wrack/Rockweed – Used in between layers of New England clam bakes for flavor and steam.

Bladderwrack

Oarweed and Sugar Kelp are two varieties of kelp that grow in Rhode Island. Oarweed (or Kombu as it is called in supermarkets) is cooked and enjoyed in salads and soups. Sugar Kelp can be cut into strips to make an Asian seaweed salad.

Sugar Kelp

Sea Lettuce – Used in fresh salads.

Sea Lettuce

Now, who’s ready to go foraging down at the beach?  🙂

Have you ever tried seaweed pudding? if so, where and what was it like?

If you have a recipe for Seaweed Pudding you’d like to share, send it my way!

-Jennifer

T minus 9 days til I leave on my Rhode Island/Conn vacation!  YAY!

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6 Sep 2017: Foraging for dessert on the beaches of Rhode Island. September 6, 2017

Today I continue my series on food traditions of the Hopkinton/Westerly, RI area. What did our grandmothers and great grandmothers cook? From what I can tell, they drew heavily on foods that grew locally or even in their own back yard. My mother’s cousin Dorothy (from the Wells side of the family), remembers her mother making jelly from Beach Plums which would grow down by the water. From what I’ve read, they sound like they taste bitter, so I’m wondering what this Jelly would taste like.

First, lets talk about exactly what is a Beach Plum.  For this, I’ll borrow some text from Wikipedia:

The beach plum, is a species of plum native to the East Coast of the United States, from Maine south to Maryland. … It  is a deciduous shrub, in its natural sand dune habitat growing 40–80 inches high, although it can grow larger, over 13 feet tall, when cultivated in gardens. The leaves are alternate, elliptical, 1.2–2.8 inches long and 0.8–1.6 inches broad, with a sharply toothed margin. They are green on top and pale below, becoming showy red or orange in the autumn. The flowers are 0.4–0.6 inches in diameter, with five white petals and large yellow anthers. The fruit is an edible drupe 0.6–0.8 inches in diameter in the wild plant, red, yellow, blue, or nearly black.

The plant is salt-tolerant and cold-hardy. It prefers the full sun and well-drained soil. It spreads roots by putting out suckers but in coarse soil puts down a tap root. In dunes it is often partly buried in drifting sand. It blooms in mid-May and June. The fruit ripens in August and early September.

The species is endangered in Maine, where it is in serious decline due to commercial development of its beach habitats.”

Beach Plums

Beach Plums grow on the shores of Long Island as well. My cousin Sharon did a report in grade school about cooking and included some information from my Grandmother (on the Geoghan side of my family.) She lived only a short distance from the Sound, in Mount Sinai, New York. Here is the page out of Sharon’s report that talks about Beach Plums.

Beach Plums. As mentioned in my Cousin Sharon’s grade school report on cooking.

Here are a few recipes for Beach Plum Jam that I found.

Beach Plum Jam

Wash beach plums.  Cook in water to barely cover until soft.  Strain through colander, add sugar, cup for cup, to pulp and juice. 1lbs. of lemon juice may be added if desired.  Boil until drops “string out”. Delicious with all kinds of meats.

Beach Plum Jam

Makes 4 cups

  • 4 cups whole beach plums
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup medium-bodied red wine, such as Merlot

Put a ceramic plate in the freezer to chill. Meanwhile, combine all ingredients in a 5- to 6-quart heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat.
Bring to a simmer so that the plums release their juices. Let cook 5 more minutes. Then pour mixture into a strainer set over a bowl, and press on the solids to extract the juice and fruit.
Return extract to heat and simmer, stirring often, 25 minutes. Reduce heat as needed to keep from boiling up. Remove the chilled plate from the freezer and spoon a small amount of jam onto it. It should thicken when it hits the cold. If it’s thick enough, stop there. If not, return the plate to the freezer and continue cooking the puree, checking it at 5-minute intervals, until it reaches the desired thickness (it should form a skin when chilled).
Pour into hot, sterilized jars to within 1/4 inch of the top, adjust lids, and process in boiling water 5 minutes. Let cool at room temperature and check seals.

_____

Have you ever tried Beach Plum Jelly?

If so, where and who made it?

What did you think of it?

I’m in search of a recipe for the sea weed pudding I’ve heard was another dish cousin Dorothy’s mother made.  If you have one stashed away in the back of a kitchen drawer, I’d love it if you could send it my way.

-Jennifer

 

30 Aug 2017: The case of the missing cemetery August 30, 2017

Filed under: Cemeteries,Wells Family — jgeoghan @ 2:34 pm
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The case of the missing cemetery.  It sounds like the title of a mystery novel in the vein of Nancy Drew or Sherlock Homes.  In this case, it’s a missing Wells Family cemetery in Ashaway, RI.

This past weekend I was up visiting my mom.  We went over to visit her cousin Dorothy who lives around the block.  We were talking about recipes and the produce they grew around the old Wells house when she started talking about this cemetery, one she was sure was a really, really old Wells family cemetery, that was located right off of Route 3 just south of the old Wells house (the one that was in Crandall Field.) When I showed her the area on Google earth, she pointed out the spot where it was.  I circled it in red.

Missing Cemetery should be located here.

She says that it was just south of the driveway to the house her father built, which is the one hidden by the trees in the google pic.

She also said it was surrounded by HUGE rocks, so tall she couldn’t see the inside of the cemetery.  (Mind you, she was a child at the time.) The cemetery was pretty sizable as well. About the size of a house lot. The stones, she thinks, were placed there on purpose to protect the cemetery.  I asked her if she remembered headstones, but she doesn’t. She said she never climbed up the rocks to look over them.

Right now, there is no physical evidence at this location to ever suggest there was a cemetery there at any point in time.  Dorothy remembers it being there around the time she lived in the house whose driveway is just north of Wells Street which would be around 1935. She couldn’t remember when the stoned disappeared. Dorothy says the rocks were very close to the road, easily visible to anyone passing by.  

I’ve searched through all my old photos of the Old Wells house to see if there were any signs of large stones in the distance.  Unfortunately, all the photos seem to be facing the other direction, north up Route 3, not south.

The question is, who’s buried in this cemetery? Dorothy seemed convinced it was a Wells family plot as it was on Wells land, land that had been in the family as long as anyone could remember.

So, anyone out there have any information about this cemetery? I’d LOVE to hear from you if you do. I’ve reached out to my friend, Lauri, who wrote the Hopkinton Historical Cemeteries book to see if she can lend a hand, but she’d never heard of it either.

-Jennifer

 

27 Aug 2017: The continuing search for the food of my family August 27, 2017

This weekend I continued my search for recipes the were regulars in the kitchens of my Rhode Island ancestors.  A reader of this blog suggested I should see if Indian Pudding, a Rhode Island staple of sorts, might be among the recipes in the Wells family cookbooks.  She was right, it was!  When my mother and I asked her cousin Dorothy about it, she remembered her mother (A Wells) did indeed make it. I also found a recipe for it in my grandmothers old cookbook as well.

Indian Pudding

Indian Pudding from my Grandmother’s old cookbook

  • ½ cup corn-meal
  • ¼ cup flour
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • ¼ cup Sugar
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • ½ tsp Ginger
  • ¼ tsp Cinnamon
  • 4 cups Milk, scalded
  • 1 egg, well Beaten

Combine corn-meal flour, molasses, sugar, egg, salt and spices.  Beat thoroughly.  Add milk slowly, stirring constantly. Cook slowly, stirring constantly, until mixture begins to thicken.  Pour into well-oiled baking dish.  Bake in slow over (325 degrees) about 30 minutes.  Serve warm with cream or with lemon or orange sauce.  If desired, ½ cup of raisins may be added before pudding is baked.  8 Servings.

 

Here is the recipe Cousin Dorothy had in her cookbook. It included a few different sauces that could be put on top of the pudding as well.

Cousin Dorothy’s recipe for Indian Pudding

Makes 8 servings

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Boil in the top of a double boiler over direct heat: 4 cups milk

Stir in ½ cup corn meal.

Place these ingredients over boiling water.  Cook them for about 15 minutes.  Stir into them and cook for about 5 minutes ¾ cup dark molasses.

Remove from heat. Stir in:

  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 well-beaten egg
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon

Pour the batter into a well-greased baking dish. To have a soft center, pour over the top: 1 cup of milk. Bake the pudding 1 ½ to 2 hours. Serve pudding hot with hard sauce, cream or vanilla ice cream. This dish is sometimes made with apples. In that case, add 2 cups of thinly sliced apples and use

 

Hard Sauce

Makes about 1 cup. The basic ingredients of hard sauce are always the same, although proportions and flavoring vary. In this recipe, the larger amount of butter is preferable.  An attractive way to serve hard sauce on cold cake or pudding is to chill it and mold it with a small fancy cutter – or to put it through an individual butter mold.

Sift: 1 cup powdered sugar

Beat until soft: 2 to 5 tablespoons butter

Add the sugar gradually.  Beat these ingredients until they are well blended.

Add: 1/8 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla or 1 tablespoon coffee, rum, whisky, brandy lemon juice, etc.

Beat in: 1 egg or ¼ cup cream.

When the sauce is very smooth, chill thoroughly.

 

Spicy Hard Sauce

Makes about 1 cup.

Prepare: Hard Sauce

Beat into it:

  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon sale
  • (Liqueur, to taste)

Chill.

 

Brown-Sugar Hard Sauce

Makes about 1 2/3 cups

Sift: 1 ½ cups brown sugar

Beat ½ cup butter until soft

Add the sugar gradually.  Beat these ingredients until well blended.

Beat in 1/3 cup cream slowly:

Beat in, drop by drop: 2 tablespoons dry wine or 1 teaspoon vanilla

Chill well.  Add for garnish: ¼ cup chopped nuts

 

So, does any out there have any memories of eating Indian Pudding when they were growing up in Rhode Island?

I did find a few Rhode Island restaurants that still serve it and plan on visiting them for samples while I’m up there in October. If you know of any places that serve it that I should check out, let me know and I’ll add them to my list.

As always, I’m looking for more traditional South County food to add to my recipe file for future testing.  I’ve heard tell that I should investigate Clam Cakes.  Any thoughts???  

Cousin Dorothy, who is 93 years old, remembers that back when she was a girl, they grew all sorts of produce in the area around Hopkinton and Westerly.  On the old Wells homestead (the current location of Crandall Field in Ashaway) they grew apples and pears and had a grape arbor. She remembers fields upon fields of corn and her mother making jams from beach plums, as well as a pudding from sea weed.  Never heard of sea weed pudding before.  Anyone out there heard of that one?

-Jennifer

UPDATES:

From Ronald: “Hi. I tried the Indian pudding from your grandmothers old cook book, and it was delicious.”  Thanks, Ronald.  I’m sure Grandma Wells would be happy to hear that!  I’m looking forward to picking me up some cornmeal while I’m up in RI on vacation in a few weeks.  I’ll be trying this recipe when I get home. -Jennifer

 

20 July 2017: Great Summer Read featuring the Wells Family … and it’s FREE July 20, 2017

Hello friends, fans and family.

Just wanted to let you know that the ebook version of FALLING for Death is free on Amazon until Sunday. This is the novel I wrote featuring Randall Wells, his wife Lois Maxson and a host of other Wells family members. It’s the first in a five book series but is also a full length, stand alone story.  If you’re a fan of Hopkinton, RI and the Wells Family and …. happen to like vampires, you’re in a for a real treat!

Check it out!

-Jennifer

 

20 April 2017: Randall Wells and Lois Maxson’s book has changed April 20, 2017

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know that I wrote my 4th great grandparents, Randall Wells and his wife Lois, as characters into my novel series. I thought I’d announce that I have rebranded that series, giving it new titles and new covers.

I now introduce you to The FALLING Series.

As a promo for the new brand, book one in the series, FALLING for Death, is free on Amazon for the ebook version for the next couple of days.  Here’s the link.  Check it out and download your free copy today to see what Randall and Lois may have been like.

-Jennifer

 

29 Oct 2016: Celebrate the spookiness of Halloween with the Wells vampires. October 29, 2016

For those of you who have read my blog long enough, you know that not only am I a genealogist, but I’m also an author.  Among my novels is a series I wrote where I used my real life Wells ancestors as actual characters, mainly Randall Wells (1747-1821) and his wife Lois Maxson (1748-1819) of Hopkinton, Rhode Island.   To grant myself my fondest genealogical wish of meeting my 4th great grandparents, Lois and Randall, I took the facts we know of their lives and weaved a story around them, breathing literary flesh over those dry bones of the dates of birth, marriage, death.  Then I brought them ahead a few hundred years and made them living people in the modern age we live in today.

How did I do that?  Well … I made them vampires.  Each book in the five book series reveals more of their story, like peeling back the layers of an onion. So for Halloween, I thought I’d share with you a little of how their story begins to unfold in book one of the series, The Purity of Blood.

To set up the quote below, I will introduce Sara Donnelly, the protagonist of my novels.  Like me, she is also the 4th great-granddaughter of Randall and Lois, at least the literary versions of them.  It is through her eyes that we enter the hidden world of vampires that secretly coexists with the humans of the Earth.  But these vampires are not like the ones of popular culture.  Vampires are not immortal.   They can walk in the sunlight.  For the most part the are solitary creatures that have an innate need to hide their existence from the world.

In this conversation, Sara is talking to Daniel Bennett.  Daniel is the adopted son of Randall and Lois.  He is also a vampire, but though he is well over a hundred years old, he has never killed a human.  He was raised by Randall to be as close to human as a vampire can possibly be, and because of this unique lifestyle, they have extended their lives well past the accelerated aging most vampires experience.

Now read as Daniel explains the beginning of Randall and Lois’ back story.

The Purity of Blood, Vol I, by Jennifer Geoghan. Available now on Amazon.com

Excerpt from The Purity of Blood, Volume I, by Jennifer Geoghan

“So, Randall and Lois. You promised to tell me their story when there was time.”

“I did, didn’t I.” His smile faded a little. “It’s not a very happy one, are you sure you want to hear it now?”

“Well, give me the highlights; you can fill in the details some other time.”

He settled back in his chair and began.

“I guess I have to go back farther than just when Randall became what we are now. You should know that their marriage was arranged by their parents. In those kind of small isolated communities like Hopkinton, most of the time marriages were partnerships more than emotional relationships. Randall will tell you he fell in love with Lois the moment he first laid eyes on her. She, on the other hand, was a sensible woman and only agreed to the marriage because she thought Randall would be a good provider and partner in life. She didn’t love him, but she also didn’t think it was important that she did either.

“He married her knowing this, but he was convinced that in time she would eventually grow to love him. Her sensibilities and his expectations were more common than you would think back then. The lifelong journey together often took two people from strangers to friends, and from friends to lovers. This was what Randall hoped would happen for them in the end.

“Years passed and Lois was an excellent wife providing for all his needs, raising his children and supporting him in every way she could. But he knew she still didn’t love him the way he wanted her too. Still he loved her with all his heart and believed that someday she would return his love with her own.

“Their life went on like this for many years so I’ll skip ahead to 1819 when he was bitten. Randall was an older man when it happened, seventy-four. He had gone out of town for a few days to settle some business up in Providence, I think it was. He was travelling back to Hopkinton in his carriage when he came across what looked like a body in the middle of the road. He got down to see if he could help, but the body was a vampire lying in wait for him. He sprang up, attacked Randall then left him for dead deep in the woods.”

He paused when he saw the look on my face. “You’re wondering why the trap. Why not just drag him down off the carriage and kill him.

I shrugged my shoulders as I chewed.

“Vampires are people too, Sara.”

Then he kind of chuckled when he realized what he’d said. “They get bored and find new ways to capture prey. I have to assume that was why. Anyway, there in the forest, Randall went through his transformation. It took a couple of days he thinks, but you can’t keep track of time when all this is happening to you. The pain is too excruciating.”

“Do you think his attacker meant to leave him alive?”

“He doesn’t know and there’s no way to say for sure now.”

“What do you think?”

Daniel paused for a moment then said “Yes, I think it was probably on purpose. But I’m the only one who thinks so.”

Then he turned to watch a couple at another table kissing in the corner. Although I had no clue why, I think it was clear he didn’t want to talk about it anymore, so I changed the subject.

“So what happened next?”

“When he regained his senses he knew something was wrong. He felt the remains of the bite marks on his neck and when he held his hand up to his chest, he couldn’t feel his heart. Even though his throat burned with an overwhelming thirst he didn’t understand, none of it mattered, his only thought was for Lois.

“He ran back to the house only to find her sitting on the back porch waiting for him. She took one look at him and knew something was terribly wrong.

“He told her what had happened, that he’d been attacked and had woken up in the forest. Of course at this point he had no idea what had really happened to him. Then he reached out, took her hand and placed it on his chest so she could feel that his heart no longer beat.

“Did he look younger then?”

“Yes.”

“That must have freaked Lois out.”

“Yes, I believe it did.” He sighed, I think uncomfortable with the subject.

“So what happened next?” I asked as I twirled my fork around in my pasta.

“She started to cry and told him she didn’t want to be a widow. I think part of her thought he was dead already – some kind of a ghost. She broke down and told him how she’d desperately loved him for years, but had kept it hidden from him because of her pride. She’d thought that if she ever told Randall how much she loved him, that things would change between them. She said she wouldn’t be able to stand it if he ever tired of her and looked at another woman. She knew that by denying him what he’d always wanted most, her heart, that she’d kept him all to herself. And here in the end, she finally realized she should have confessed her love for him years ago.

“Randall was stunned, he’d had no idea. He said in that moment of revelation, he could feel the warmth of her hand on his bare chest. Swept up in his lack of understanding of what was happening to him, he felt her blood as it surged through her hand faster and faster, her pulse quickening under her emotions. He could hear her heart beating so loud and so strong. And in that singular moment, he realized that after all these years, it finally beat only for him. He said he’ll never forget how his eyes stared at her hand on his chest, and how he followed the blood in it up her arm until he looked up to see the desperate emotion that filled her eyes. That was when he lost control. The thought of a life without her overwhelmed him and … he bit her.”

Daniel paused for a moment, waiting for me to take in the enormity of what he’d just said.

“Suddenly realizing what he’d done, he dropped her and ran off, leaving her barely alive. He still didn’t know what he’d become, but he knew what he’d done to Lois, and unable to live with the knowledge of it, he fled.

Totally wrapped up in the story, I stared at Daniel.

“You’re not eating, please finish,” he softly urged.

I cut up a meatball and took another bite.

“So then what?”

“I suppose you could say that’s where their story really begins, but let’s save that for another time.”

He reached over and gently placed his hand on mine, and for a moment ran his thumb across my knuckles. It was the smallest of contacts, but even this small sensation generated a tingling down deep inside me. When I looked up into his eyes, he smiled, then pulled his hand back to pretend to take a sip of water as our waitress passed.

I was satisfied for tonight, but I wouldn’t let him forget to tell me what happened next. It would give me something to look forward to. Of course, I was also wondering how I was going to translate all this new information into my genealogy program. I’d have to give that some more thought as well.

I hope you enjoyed this spinet of my novel.  If you’d like to read the entire novel and the four more that follow to experience the entire story of Randall, Lois, Daniel and Sara, go to Amazon.com to purchase the books as either paperback of ebooks:

https://www.amazon.com/Purity-Blood-I-Jennifer-Geoghan-ebook/dp/B00J142WK2

The Purity of Blood, Vol I, by Jennifer Geoghan. Available now on Amazon.com

The Purity of Blood, Vol I, by Jennifer Geoghan. Available now on Amazon.com

-Jennifer