Family Recipe Friday – Pizza

It is Friday so it is time for the next family recipe. This week I decided to put a twist on the regular family recipe and show how recently my family managed to adapt a family favorite into a low carb version that is still delicious and satisfying. If you notice one constant with all my recipes over the last couple of weeks it is none of them have any sort of nutritional information. No calorie counts and not a single suggestion of how adding it to your menu might affect your long-term waistline…and that is how the people in my household got put on a diet.

Like most families, mine loves pizza. I would be hard pressed to name a single year of my life where pizza did not appear on the menu on a regular basis in all my nearly 4 decades. Pizzas delivered, carryout, home baked pizza, and even campfire pizza cooked under a blanket of stars in the Rocky Mountains. Stuffed crust, dessert style, or ordered with toppings by the pound in a popular little restaurant in Idaho Springs, Colorado. It seems there are no end of warm fuzzy memories in my life that involve pizza.

All those delicious pizzas….and many other treats…have led to a few extra pounds. So here is family recipe Friday…with a twist. Crust less low carb pizza and its traditional counterpart pepperoni pizza.


Most typical American families love pizza. We learned to make a quick and easy version at home years ago. It is not pizza hut but it’s an affordable substitute. The only problem with most traditional pizzas is the carb content is through the room and carbs add up quick on the waist line. The crust we typically grab is 32g of carbs in crust alone and that is only ¼ of a 12” pizza. If you cut the pizza into 8 small pieces you can have 2. Yikes!

Currently my family is on a low carb diet so we located a recipe we hoped would be a suitable replacement for that crazy high carb crust. We were skeptical but this won us over before the first bite. It smelled amazing while cooking.

Like many of the recipes I find myself using the details were a little vague on this one. Here is how I made mine. Also we only got 6 pieces out of ours.

frf pizza cooked low carb

Finished “crust less” Pizza

For the Low Carb Pizza “Crust”

8 oz cream cheese

¼-cup Parmesan cheese

2 eggs

1 teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425.

Grease a 9 X 13 glass casserole dish. Add all crust ingredients to a mixing bowl and blend well. I used an electric hand mixer to get it mixed up well. Pour into greased dish and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. The crust should start to pull away from the edges of the dish when done.

Let crust cool for about 10 minutes. After it has cooled top with favorite toppings and return to oven for 10 minutes until cheese melts.

frf pizza topped raw

For the traditional pizza prepare following the directions on the package. Top and bake. I doubt we will have the traditional version around my house much anymore in the future.


Family Recipe Friday Peanut Butter Cookies

It is Friday so as promised I am doing another family recipe for family recipe Friday. So far, in my series I have done a simple sauce recipe that my paternal grandmother, Loree, used on meat. I have also done a family favorite casserole that my maternal grandmother, Sally, made often while I was growing up. Today my own grandchildren will be here to visit for the night so I dug deep into the old wooden recipe box that belonged to my great grandmother, Lillie Mae, and found a favorite recipe of my own…Peanut Butter Cookies.

frf pb cookies recipe

I do not have many memories of my Great Grandmother in the kitchen growing up. She was an insulin dependent diabetic and living alone from the time I was only a toddler so most of her meals were delivered by meals on wheels. Baking for the residents at a local nursing home was one exception to that. Every holiday season she and some of her church friends would bake dozens of cookies, and loaf after loaf of various breads all wrapped in neat little packages and left on her back porch until it was time to go visit the lonely people at the “home.”


This is a basic cookie recipe and I find it to be one of the most forgiving. I typically always have the ingredients needed on hand and we whip up several dozen of these a year. The fact that they have peanut butter makes me feel better about giving them to the kids. Peanut butter cookies are almost a health food right?

frf pb cookie ingredients

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. The recipe calls for

1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup Crisco (I’m using margarine because I have extra on hand)

2 eggs

1 cup peanut butter

2 ½ cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla

frf pb cookie mixed

The directions indicate to “Put in small balls and pat down with fork”

They also indicate that “grease cookie tin the first time only and bake at 350 degrees for about 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool before taking them off the cookie sheet. Makes about 5 dozen.”

frf pb cookie done

MMM Yummy!

Tater Tot Casserole – Family Recipe Friday

Last week I pulled a recipe out of my Great Grandmother’s recipe box for my first family recipe Friday blog post. It was my paternal Grandmother’s recipe, Loree’s barbecue sauce. This week I have my own out of town family coming into town so I am turning to a family favorite tried and true for generations.

Cookbook Cover

I got this cookbook from my maternal Grandmother for Christmas the second year I was married. She had a matching copy in her own collection. The Leroy United Methodist Church published it in 1996. Honestly, I cannot imagine a world in which my maternal Grandmother ever needed a recipe. Even now, she is 91, bedridden, and has not cooked in several years but if I have serious cooking question she would be my go to person. The kitchen was her domain and most people were thrilled to get a chair at her dinner table.

On page 22 of the cookbook, there is a recipe for Tater Tot Casserole submitted by Alberta Houseman.  Tater Tot Casserole has about a million variations and this one looks very similar to how I make my version of it. I may have used this recipe when I first made the dish a couple decades ago.

pg 22 Tater Tot Casserole

Over the years, I have made the dish so many times I could do it with my eyes closed. I have taught my own grown children how to make the dish and my daughter has perfected it. We have adapted it and made a few changes to make it how it suits us so here is my tweaked version of Tater Tot Casserole.


1 pound ground beef

2 pounds of Tater Tots

½ large onion

2 Cans Cream of Mushroom Soup

2 Cans Milk

2 Cups Shredded Cheese

1 Can Green Beans


tater tot cass ingredients

I start mine by putting my tater tots in the prepared baking dish to brown in the heated oven while I brown my ground beef. I also like to add garlic to my ground beef while I am browning it.

After the ground beef is brown drain off the excess fat. Layer the meat on the tater tots, then the green beans, follow with the soup then place back in the oven to bake for 45 minutes.

going in oven

After dish is finished baking add a layer to cheese and put back in for 5 to 10 minutes until the cheese melts. Let stand 5 minutes. Serve hot.



North Brinton Cemetery

My love for genealogy was born in an old family cemetery so it seems only fitting that many of my blogs are about old cemeteries. Cemeteries are the one public place where I skip around like a kid in a candy store excited to see what is around the next bend. Even as a young kid, I was always quick to tag along while someone went to visit a loved one’s grave. I have climbed mountains, crossed the country, and trudged through snake-filled pastures to visit certain cemeteries. To me cemeteries are like a giant open-air genealogical archive.

During a trip to Michigan a couple years ago, I decided to visit the cemetery where my maternal Grandmother’s relatives are laid to rest. She grew up in a small village called Lake and she wanted to see the headstone of a brother that had died in recent years since she lost her mobility. I took my camera and headed off to get the next best thing to a visit…a photo of Uncle Russ’s headstone.


I had never been to the North Brinton Cemetery in Coldwater Township of Isabella County, Michigan. Aside from a couple of my Grandmother’s brothers most of the relatives in the cemetery were either distant or passed away before I was born. Truth be told, until just a few years ago I had not spent much time researching her line and as I wandered stone to stone most of the names were unfamiliar. When she explained it was a family cemetery I assumed more in the aspect of it is where family was buried not that it was a literal family cemetery.

Fast forward a couple years. I have dedicated more time to researching the ancestors of my maternal Grandmother and some of the many collateral lines through the generations. I have a much better picture of how all those many surnames are all connected in one way or another and while the name is not “Spence Cemetery” it has at times been called that through the years in various obituaries published through the area. The actual history of the land and cemetery itself has kept popping up in my research so I decided it was time to give the history of the North Briton Cemetery a blog post of its own.


Brinton is the name of an unincorporated community in Coldwater Township of Isabella County, Michigan. The community was founded in 1862. Originally, it was known as Letson for a local storekeeper who was the first postmaster for the community. In 1886, the town was renamed for Oscar T. Brinton. Records show that James Spence arrived in Coldwater Township after 1890. A land transfer published in the 1893 Isabella County Enterprise show purchases for two sections of land. One of the plots of land James Spence purchased was from Oscar T. Brinton.

Land Transfer

Brinton to Spence 22 Dec 1893 land transfers Isabella County Enterprise pg 4

Further research shows that James Spence later donated the five acres on which the North Brinton Cemetery sits in 1905. The earliest dated grave in the cemetery is from 1905.

Land Transfer

Cemetery land transfer 17 Feb 1905 Isabella County Enterprise pg 2

Today the cemetery is still in use. James Spence was buried in the cemetery on the land he donated in 1940. There are several generations of Spence descendants in the cemetery. There are over 800 graves with countless stones dating over a century in age.



Loree’s Barbecue Sauce – Family Recipe Friday

Today is Friday and for the month of March that means it is Family Recipe Friday. Recently a forgotten recipe box that belonged to my Great Grandmother decided to make reappearance. It gave me the idea to make some of the recipes. I came across a blog prompt suggestion by the Armchair Genealogist Lynn Palermo and the idea took root.

I decided to start the series with Loree’s Barbecue Sauce because I had all the things needed to prepare it around the house. Loree was my paternal Grandmother. It was a very simple recipe.

Loree's Barbeque Sauce

The handwritten recipes are priceless.


1-Cup catsup (ketchup)

1-Teaspoon mustard

1-Teaspoon vinegar

“a little” sugar


Very basic ingredient list

The recipe directions instruct me to “heat and pour over meat or chicken.” I added the ingredients to a small saucepan and heated on low heat stirring frequently until it was hot. I used about half a teaspoon of sugar.

lorees barbecue sauce

My take away from the sauce was that it was missing something. I served it over grilled chicken breast like a dipping sauce. It was not bad but it was too much like fancy ketchup. I would definitely make it again in a pinch if I were low on other ingredients and ran out of barbecue sauce.

I could see it being popular during the baby boomer years of a house full of young kids and fewer spice options in the local grocery store. Above any missing flavor layers, it was enjoyable to revive something that my Grandmother prepared ages ago and serve it around my own dinner table.

Grandma’s Recipe Box

Family Recipe Friday Series:

This was my Great Grandmother’s recipe box. I’ve had it since she died in 1999 and for the last several years it has sat forgotten in the cupboard above my refrigerator gathering dust.

I don’t recall ever using any of the recipes to cook with either growing up or over the two decades I have had it in my possession. By the time I started making lifelong memories with my Grandma she was already getting up there in years, a widow living alone, and many of her meals were from meals on wheels. The one thing we always made together…each and every time I stayed at her house…was canned biscuits and sausage gravy and that didn’t require a recipe.

I can’t help but find myself drawn to that old recipe box. Many of the yellowed slips of paper are scrawled in her shaky handwriting instantly recognizable even after so many years with her gone. Many of them are stained with decades old food stains.

ms miller cake

Mrs Millers Cake

Later in the same day while searching through a list of blog prompts I see listed a suggestion for Family Recipe Friday and it was too much coincidence for me to ignore. An idea was born.

For the next several weeks, I will be featuring a family recipe in my Family Recipe Friday series. Stay tuned.


Blog Prompt suggestion courtesy of:

  • Family Recipe Friday – share recipes with fellow bloggers and foodies alike, suggested by Lynn Palermo of The Armchair Genealogist


Jacob Sowle: Abandoned Cemeteries and Unmarked Graves – One of America’s Forgotten Civil War Soldiers

Between family events and trying to kick some version of the seasonal plague, I have struggled to get my next blog post done. With no further delay, I introduce Jacob Sowle.

I decided to feature Jacob Sowle recently upon discovering he was a Civil War soldier that rests in an unmarked grave in an abandoned family cemetery. He was my third great grandfather on my maternal grandmother’s side, a link in generation chain leading to George Soule, a passenger on the Mayflower.

Jacob Sowle was born on 10 August 1831 likely in the Montgomery or Fulton County area of New York. His parents were William Dickerson Sowle and his wife Susan. During his lifetime Jacob’s branch of the Sowle family would move west first to Ohio and then onto Michigan.

On 5 May 1852 in Trumbull County Ohio Jacob Sowle married for the first time to Mary Ann DeLong. The couple had four children over the next several years. During that time, the couple followed Jacob’s parents as they left Ohio to settle in Eaton County, Michigan.

jacob sowle mary delong marriage 5 may 1852 trumbull ohio

Marriage Record from 5 May 1852 for Jacob Sowle and Mary Ann DeLong Trumbull Ohio

The 1860 federal census shows Jacob and Mary Ann Sowle living in Brookfield, Eaton County, Michigan. In the household are two sons, William and Riley, and two daughters Susan and Mariley. Jacob lists his profession as carpenter.

1860 census clip jacob sowle

1860 Federal Census Image showing Sowle family

Tragedy struck the family not long after this census was taken. In 1863, Jacob signed up for the Civil War draft. He reported himself as single at the time. His wife Mary Ann died, cause of death and exact burial location are unknown, but it is likely she is likely buried in an unmarked grave in the abandoned Sowle family cemetery in Eaton County, Michigan.

Jacob Sowle draft registration July 17 1863

Jacob Sowle 1863 Draft Registration

Jacob was spared the worst of any of the Civil War but he was drafted into the Union Army in 1865. He would serve nine months and seventeen days in C Company 195 Ohio Infantry. His term of service started on 13 February 1865 and ended on 30 November 1865. His rank was private. Jacob farmed his children out to friends and relatives during his time in the service.

After Jacob’s service in the war, he returned to Michigan. In Michigan, he remarried and fathered five children with his second wife, Esther Loisa Gurnee. Domestic bliss was not in the cards however and by the 1880 census the couple was living apart. Jacob was living in Eaton County as a divorced father raising three of their children. Esther was living in a nearby town with the couples other two children.

Jacob married again for a third time on 15 March 1881 in Eaton County, Michigan to Catherine Ann Wixon. The two would remain married for the rest of Jacob’s life.

jacob sowle death cert

Jacob Sowle Death Certificate showing place of burial

Jacob died 21 August 1904 in Coldwater, Michigan. He was survived by 8 of his 9 children and his son William Sowle provided the information for his death certificate. Jacob Sowle is buried in the Sowle Family Cemetery in Eaton County, Michigan. The grave is unmarked and the cemetery is now abandoned.

Title Ohio, County Marriages, 1774-1993 Author Publisher Operations, Inc. Publisher Date 2016 uPublisher Location Lehi, UT, USA Repository Information Name
Year: 1860; Census Place: Brookfield, Eaton, Michigan; Roll: M653_542; Page: 579; Image: 83; Family History Library Film: 803542
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Consolidated Lists of Civil War Draft Registration Records (Provost Marshal General’s Bureau; Consolidated Enrollment Lists, 1863-1865); Record Group: 110, Records of the Provost Marshall
Year: 1880; Census Place: Brookfield, Eaton, Michigan; Roll: 578; Family History Film: 1254578; Page: 305C; Enumeration District: 077; Image: 0377
Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952
Year: 1900; Census Place: Coldwater, Isabella, Michigan; Roll: 718; Page: 5B; Enumeration District: 0066; FHL microfilm: 1240718

Gretna Green Weddings

Genealogical research is a fun adventure. Decades into the hobby, I still frequently find myself discovering new terms and learning new things. Gretna Green is the term I learned recently.

Gretna Green is a town in Scotland that was famous for being a runaway wedding destination. The town gained its reputation when English marriage laws prohibited marriage under the age of 21. Younger English couples crossed the Scottish border and the first town they arrived at was Gretna Green, Scotland.

Style: "-0.9"

Historic image of Gretna Green Scotland By This image is available from the National Library of Scotland under the sequence number or Shelfmark ID Blaikie.SNPG. You can see this image in its original context, along with the rest of the Library’s digital collections, in the NLS Digital Gallery, Public Domain,

The term Gretna Green came to be associated with any locale that drew residents from nearby areas to skirt more restrictive marriage laws where the couple lived. Las Vegas, Nevada is a modern day Gretna Green. Various places served as Gretna Green locations at different periods. Angola, Indiana was a popular Gretna Green destination for residents of Michigan.

The first time I encountered a Gretna Green marriage was when I located the marriage license of my Great Grandmother and her second husband. I searched for that record for years before I finally discovered it. When I looked at the information provided it was no shock I had such trouble. My Great Grandmother provided details that were less than honest and they married far from the city they lived their lives together in. Overall, I found it rather easily considering the details she provided.


Normally I would discard the incorrect facts as a case of poor record keeping. In this instance, I am certain the details recorded were as my Great Grandmother provided them. The details she provided, and the reality of the situation as ferreted out by actual supporting documents and records, tell the rest of the story. I have little doubt my Great Grandparents married in Angola, Indiana to avoid too many unwanted questions about their…primarily her…past. Indiana law required them to both be over the age of 18 and unmarried. No documentation was required to prove the facts as presented were accurate. Good thing, she could not have provided documents to prove the facts she provides unless she made them!

Couples had various reasons for Gretna Green weddings. Some like my Great Grandmother had a history that she was trying to escape. Others may have been just looking for the excitement of eloping, or just avoiding family involvement in the ceremony. Whatever their reason Gretna Green weddings have been a genealogy roadblock challenge to overcome since the dawn of time.


What is in a Name?

A name is the first thing in life most of us receive that stays with us forever. Often times it has been a carefully selected after hours of deliberation by at least one parent and sometimes even larger groups of relatives. Siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents all have suggestions when a new baby is born.

Genealogists get the rare opportunity to see how deep some names go in our families by looking at the broader family landscape. For instance, I have a cousin that is my Grandmother’s namesake. In the bigger picture, however her name is a much older family name. My Grandmother is her own Grandmother’s namesake. The earliest Sarah in that naming streak was born in 1861 and the latest in 1997, 136 years apart.


I am a namesake for my mother’s paternal aunt, Carrie Jamison. She was the wife of my Grandfather’s half-brother. She lived in West Virginia where my Grandfather’s family lived in a rural mountain community and I only had a few opportunities to meet her as a young child. She passed away at the age of 76. I was 9 years old at the time. Despite the fact that Aunt Carrie and I shared no actual genetic material the fact that she gave me her name has made her a topic of research interest for me.


Carrie was an interesting research project before I even looked for a single record. The few stories told about her typically present more questions than answers. Her early history seemed shrouded in mystery and shadowed heavily by whispered “scandal” even while I was a child. All these years later, she still presents many unanswered questions.

Origins Unknown

Carrie was born to Lula Lawson on 7 February 1912. Lula was a nineteen-year-old woman, recently divorced, living in Prince, Fayette County, West Virginia at the time of Carrie’s birth. Carrie was Lula’s first and only known child. The birth was more than a year after Lula’s separation from her previous spouse, David Brantley, and prior to her marriage to her second husband, Burk Adkins, by more than two years. Carrie’s biological father is currently unknown.

Chasing Records

carrie jamison bo critchley

Carrie with a nephew (Bo) est late 1940’s

Census records show Carrie, using the last name of Adkins, living with her mother and stepfather in 1920. She was living in Fayette County, West Virginia. Her stepfather worked on the railroad.

The census record for 1930 still eludes me but by 1940, she was again in the household of her mother and stepfather in Fayette County, West Virginia and she is claiming a marital status of divorced. A marriage license registered in Raleigh County, West Virginia in 1935 records her marriage to a cousin on her mother’s side, Fred Lawson.



Myth Meets Research

The 1940 census entry seems like a good time to broach the topic of whispered scandal. When I was growing up it was common knowledge that Aunt Carrie had been married before our Uncle and that she had children. According to family stories, Aunt Carrie’s own mother had assisted in her losing custody of her children. The details of the situation so long ago are murky.

The 1940 census shows Carrie living with Burk and Lula, a divorced woman at the time. She shows no children living in the household. I located a death record for a Vern L Lawson, son of Fred Lawson and Carrie Atkins, who was born 2 February 1934 in Fayette County, West Virginia. Vern died in Los Angeles, California on 29 April 1993. I am still seeking Vern’s location on the 1940 census. I hope to learn what family raised him and to identify the names of more of Carrie’s children if they are in the home with their brother. I believe she had at least one daughter and two sons.

Rumor has it she managed to reunite with at least one of her children but I am unsure who the child was and when in life they reconnected. By all accounts, the loss of her children was something that caused her heartache until her death and she collected dolls to help fill the void.

Carrie and Steward

I do not know at what age Carrie met my Grandfather’s half-brother, James Steward Jamison. I can only wonder if the fact that both of them grew up raised by a stepfather was one thing that drew them together. Whatever the case may be they were together as early as the late 1940’s and in 1973 they officially married in Alleghany, Virginia. The two never had children together. They are buried side by side in the P.A. Shuck Cemetery in Fayette County, West Virginia.

carrie and steward headstone from fag judy

Headstone of Steward and Carrie Jamison in PA Shuck Cemetery Photo Credit of FAG contributed by Judy






Leming J. Eckler: After the War

The Aftermath

Leming J. Eckler received his discharge from the United States Army on 12 June 1865 at Camp Chase, Ohio. It had been nearly a year to the day since his capture at Trevilian Station. He was just a few months short of completing his entire three-year enlistment.

Back home in Michigan Leming reunited with his family. He continued his trade as a blacksmith. On 4 July 1867, the couple welcomed their second son together, my great-Great Grandfather, Nelson Eckler. At the time of the 1870 census, the family is living together in Oakland County, Michigan.

As time progressed, Leming J. Eckler seems to have had a rough time adjusting. By 1880 Leming and his wife Harriet were divorced and his life seems to have been plagued with marital and money problems. He remarried several times and at least one more marriage ended in divorce. He was suspected of trying to orchestrate an insurance fraud scheme in 1884 that wound up landing him in jail.


lj eckler detroit free press

Detroit Free Press 18 Sept 1884


Leming J. Eckler died on 21 February 1915 in Tuscola County, Michigan. He was married at least five times during his lifetime. He is buried in the Almer Township Cemetery in Caro, Michigan.


Photo Credit Ellinda FAG


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