Heraldry and We the People, Return from Spring Break

I originally wrote this post several years ago while the “Mom blog” was in its infancy. But after watching a good friend pridefully chose “just the right spot” to display her new, official and authentic family crest– complete with expensive frame and mat–freshly purchased while visiting a Theme-Park-Mega-Land…I thought we could all use a refresher. We Americans just don’t “get” the whole Heraldry and Flying the Family Colors thing. But boy, we sure want to participate! Here’s the real scoop, along with a bit of my own shame showing 😉   1219121525aI’m not sure, but I believe it was PT Barnum who said “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

What I am sure of is:  I am one of those suckers.

  The other day I was clearing out a drawer and ran across a family crest certificate that my husband and I had purchased many years ago.  Can you hear the Merry-go-Round music yet?  It came from a very “proper” looking shop.  I believe that it was even spelled “shoppe” ~ a spelling meant  to further endorse the authenticity of fake stuff.  But we were young and silly and newly married.  So we scraped together the $35.00 ( a pretty Royal sum for us 30+ years ago) and bought a “fully researched and authenticated, heirloom quality” piece of paper with our last name slightly misspelled on it.

Wow.  How cool is That ?

What I have learned since ( ironically for free via library books) is that we were totally duped.  A crest is only “good” for the original “owner.”  A father may have a certain design, but it does not pass down verbatim to his children.  When important families married, as was generally the plan, their crests were merged to create a new one for the identity of the newlyweds.

Maybe there was an Earl of Momenhousen who bore the crest in my drawer a bazillion years ago.  However we, the current-day Momenhousen family, have no claim to it.

  Heck at this point, I don’t even know what happened to the receipt !   I do have an excuse though…I am an American.  Almost all of us are about one inch away from obsession with “the Old Country.”  Additionally, we are also generally convinced  there is a Demi-Czar, a Baron or at least a Bergermeister in our family pedigree somewhere.

Therefore, it stands to reason that we (meaning the immediate “us”) must have claim to a heraldic shield, a family crest, or something that verifies we are from a stock above serfdom.  Thanks Mr Barnum, you have given a name to this madness~


The real truth is that Heraldic Design is pretty much about Art.  If you are Canadian, you may claim a crest for your lineage if you wish to go through a long and arduous process. For better or for worse,if you are looking for something cool to put up on the wall, its time to do some doodling.  Although I did some intensive research on the topic and found a few favorite books that I think are very good for being technically correct, I just recommend the use of an artsy relative.

Simply by Googling “Heraldry” or” Heraldic Design”, or” Colors in Heraldry” you can save yourself some time and money. If you are looking for good books on the subject (and you can persevere for a few months to get through one) I would recommend one of these three.  And please note, the third one is not an opening chapter, it is the title of the book:

1.  A Guide to Heraldry by Ottfried Neubecker

2.  Concise Encyclopedia  of Heraldry by Guy Cadogan Rothery

3.  The Manuel of Heraldry a Concise Description of the Several Terms Used and Containing a Dictionary of Every Designation in the Science with 350 Illustrations  by Sir Francis James Grant

If these all sound too scary, have a sit down with your clan and start brainstorming what it means to be a “Dipfenhoffper” or “Smith.”  Think up some words,symbols, and colors to use to represent You.  Maybe then craft a family logo~for your ” house”.  Remember, siblings should be allowed to represent the same ancestry with their own selection of colors, symbolism and mottoes.  Consider using a string of words that spell out your last name as a motto like the poems kids are so fond of writing out of their names .

Example (bad one, really bad one):

Bravery In The Hood Masked At Night (Bithman)

In my post titled Managing the Help(ers)” I talked a little bit about dividing this task up among different factions of the family.  It’s a great way to get everyone started with helping without driving you nuts.  And, as a bonus, if you can get everyone to create their own crest, then the cover design for their copy of the finished project will already be done.

Lord Levi, as rendered by my friend Julie Everhart, of Julie Everhart Fine Art and Photography

Wow, how cool is that?

It’s also as authentic as the “Heraldry” you buy in a glitzy little shop or from one of the online retailers. This is my fabulous furboy, posing as the Lord of a fictitious family who lives out their on-screen lives in a private home rented annually by their production crew.

I’d rather have this photo any day over one printed out with an ink-jet from a tourist trap! If you’d like your baby, or yourself, transformed into Napoleon or Marie Antoinette (before that whole unfortunate beheading thing) get in touch with Julie, you can have royalty “your way” as the great American (Burger) King says 😉

The Official State Legislature Approved Hoosier Pie

Woman's Glory--the Kitchen  a publication of the Slovenian Women's Union of America. My gift from Aunt Udi
Woman’s Glory–the Kitchen
a publication of the Slovenian Women’s Union of America. My gift from Aunt Udi

This was originally posted on my other blog around Thanksgiving in 2012 as my son’s team was getting ready to head for the State Championship Football Game (which…spoiler alert….They Won!).

I am still Nano-ing my brain into a mush-state. I think I now officially have the “corporal tunnels” all the way up through my elbows, and on searing deeply into my shoulders. I believe the pains will eventually converge at the center point of my poorly postured, hunched over the lap-top back :). Next week will be (still November) and surprisingly also posts about food…..

But we all seem to be on a bit of a hungry kick, and I did owe a family story this week…so here goes

It’ll make you Famous!PD_0070



I am officially elbow deep in Thanksgiving Food Prep.  Yes, of course everyone comes to our house for the big Dinner Wing Ding.  This honor falls upon Mom because I am directly descended from two “Large Food” women.  Both of my Great Grandmothers were production cookers in their own right.  Grandma Fern cooked up huge batches of all sorts of stuff, put it on a wagon with the big harvest table, hitched the mules and drove it out to the fields for the “help” each day at “dinner.”

Diminutive Granny Kate (seen above) was a tiny women who was said to be so tough that she could “whip her weight in wild cats.”  I would have never questioned that.  She ran both a restaurant with a full serve tavern, and a huge traveling food concession on the summer fair and carnival circuit.  Grandpa couldn’t help much, he was busy running his Monkey Circus and other side show attractions.

As I slog my way thru a couple gallons of pumpkin pie filling, a mountain of potatoes to get peeled and a stupid Turkey that still isn’t thawed, I thought it would only be right to share a favorite recipe of mine.  It’s called Finger Pie (or Sugar Cream pie as it is known formally as the one and only Official Pie of Indiana).  Everyone loves this stuff.  It’s an easy, yet archaic recipe that you seldom see home made these days.  Why?  Because it will make you famous if you can eat more than one slice in a sitting and not trigger a cardiac event of some sort.

Being named after the wild cat fighter, I like it because it always kicks the @#$ of all the fancy desserts the in-laws bring over.  I’ve even taught my granddaughter so she can wear my food mantel some day.

Here’s finger pie (pay attention Darlene’s daughter-in-law!)

Into a pre-made pie crust (get the Pillsbury, no one is looking) pour in a cup and a half of white sugar.  Sounds good already! 

Add and gently fluff together to stir (with your fingers…derrr!)  3 Tablespoons of all purpose flour. 

Now for the fun.  Add a cup and a half of heavy cream.  Yep, I said it… the real stuff!  Slowly WITH YOUR FINGERS stir the cream and the sugar/flour mixture until the sugar no longer feels gritty.  You really do have to do it with your fingers.  Too much stirring will cause the cream to “whip”….word of the day… and your pie will be awful.  Also, don’t get in a hurry and make a mess, it’ll look bad.

Sprinkle a little Nutmeg over the top and carefully put into the oven (350…you knew that).  Bake the pie for about an hour.  It looks like a science experiment.  The pie actually bubbles and gurgles while you bake it.  Carefully remove it from the oven.  At this point it will still be pretty “sloshy” and hotter than you know what.  The top should have some caramely- brown color evenly across it.  Cool completely before cutting.

Sis Hits The Jackpot!

wpid-1217121515.jpgIf I were to face facts, I would admit that my little sister kicks my researching rear-end.  Daily.  On a regular basis.  Any day of the week.  Hands down, always.

Just before Christmas, Sharon hit the Jackpot.  She unearthed (pried from the clenched and unrelenting fists of) the tower of family history crowned jewels from another relative.  This was one of those “oh sure, I’ll keep that old crap and get to it someday” sort of piles.  A burden to some, but to a Family History Hound…food for the soul, ambrosia…heaven on earth.

Sharon has been busy over vacation “Gedcom loading” and sifting like a good genealogist.  I ran thru it like a cat in a litter box.  I wanted first dibs on all the photos and newspaper clippings.  Why would anyone care about the famous “Fat Twins” who appeared many times on Hee Haw (a silly television show where country folk whooped it up and poked fun at themselves), I am not sure, but there was a clipping in box#3.  Who was Mildred Ecke ?  She died November 15th, 1934 and apparently was someone who Grandpa cared enough about to save her obit.

For my sister the good genealogist, information is what was swaddled in those boxes.  For me, it was more like a mountain of questions and riddles.


What an incredible gift at year’s end.  We each got what we wanted.  In 5 very untidy boxes and one (yes, I am serious) picnic basket, all the sorrow, glory, tattling, whispers, and funkiness needed to keep us both busy for months, maybe years.

Hats off to Sharon, she loaded this all into her little bitty Dodge, by herself, and sped off to the “cave.”  That’s what she calls her office / family history library.  I get to dig thru it and share the thrill of the expedition vicariously as I listen to her tell the tale of her “score.”

It’s in gentle and capable hands now.  And she is a good “sharer” so it will be available and sorted soon.  My sister has already put a lot of thought into which local history society will be receiving the original documents once she has processed it all tidily.

Interesting…It would have never occurred to me to share with strangers.


So I would love to know, how do you feel about sharing your “own” discoveries, clippings, papers, documented photos and the like with an organized (and funded) Society?  Have you done this?  Considered it?

I have to admit that once again, my sister the researcher has taught me a lesson.  Dang it!  I think she just kicked my B-Hind again!

Happy New Year!



Not Playing with a Full Deck

imageThis is by far one of my favorite tricks to get organized. 

Inspired by the hall trays in Victorian homes for calling cards, I came up with Character Cards.  Whenever I “add” a new relative to a family branch, I make up my own little version of a collectible edition trading card.  I call them my Character Cards.

Each family has their own ever-expanding “Deck.”  The Decks only get larger, because unlike real live families, no one gets discarded (buried).  In most cases, I have figuratively dug them up :).

I have a specific list of info that I want to chase for each Character.  These are the same old things one puts on an ancestry chart : dates and places of major life events, occupations, spouses, a parentage note etc.  I also include on my hunting and collecting list an “image.”  I really like having pictures.  So, in some cases where none is (yet) available, I will opt for some other image to represent the person and their statistics.  It can be anything I can connect to the real person.  For one uncle I have a scan of a lock of hair found wrapped in tissue paper marked “Tommy’s first hair cut.”  Eventually, I hope to find a photo, but until then he is represented as a little yellow curl.

I do not put original items on my cards.  I only use scanned images and I simply tape them on with cellophane tape.  I can pop a whole collection into my purse and head off to the cemetery, history center, or out to do drive- by house photos.

My family has a big laugh with this…they have always insisted that I don’t quite play with a full deck, and now, well…they have it in writing 🙂