You might have noticed that I have a weakness for old recipes — those underestimated windows into the past.
Back when I was a newspaper/foodie sort of person, one of my favorite jobs was reading over the recipe-query column — the more vintage the query, the better. I just loved readers who wanted to know how to make an icebox cake. If it were in my power, I’d have given them a year’s free subscription simply for using the word “icebox.”
The Old Foodie understands this love of vintage recipes, and does a wonderful job of blending fascinating historical material with a sharp eye for cultural context. For instance, The Foodie has most recently written a three-part series on “Emergency Food,” including a great post on suggestions given to British cooks in 1939 for how to stock and stretch their wartime larders.
Also, as a person of Irish descent I have to pay tribute to someone who includes a special section on “Historic Potato Recipes.”
If you have an old family recipe you’re trying to make sense of, or if you’re just interested in trying to imagine how your great-great-great-grandparents might have shopped for and cooked their food, this site is the perfect read.
Are you researching ancestors in Brooklyn, NY? You must have visited The Brooklyn Information Page. If not, click on the link right now. I will wait.
And wait. And wait.
Oh, just come back tomorrow, already. This Brooklyn-centric genealogy page is crammed with stuff, and if you’re a first-time visitor, you’ll probably root around in it for hours, just as I did when I first discovered it — gosh, can it be eleven years ago now? Hard to believe.
The Brooklyn Page was created in 1997 by Nancy Lutz, and continues to be a font of information on all things Brooklyn. It is also a gateway to the NYBrooklyn-L email list, which I might as well warn you will flood torrents of information into your email box, but is always interesting as all get-out. I get it in digest form. I have mostly lurked there, and have learned all sorts of things from the unfailingly patient regulars. There is no such thing as a dumb question there, trust me. To get an idea, you can browse the archives here.
Back to the Brooklyn Page itself: Brooklyn is a pretty complicated topic. To say your ancestors “came from Brooklyn” may be of limited usefulness, depending upon the time frame. The entity called “Brooklyn” was once a whole bunch of separate settlements, each with its own rich history. (This helps to explain the fierce neighborhood partisanship that reigns in Brooklyn to this day.) Here you can find information on old Brooklyn town names, farmlands and street names, so important in narrowing the search for an elusive relative. You can also find information on which churches were located where — also very important in a place where Roman Catholics tend to use parish names as geographic signposts.
One of the nicest things on The Brooklyn Page is Paper Trails, where Nancy has established a home for something everyone has sooner or later — a vital record that doesn’t fit anywhere in the lines they’re researching. On Paper Trails, these orphan records are available for browsing, perhaps to be discovered by someone else who can make use of them.
There are also lots and lots of transcriptions: obituaries, police-blotter stories and directory pages, to name just some.
The Brooklyn Page is searchable, which is how I discovered the identity of my great-great-uncle William Haigney’s wife, Sarah, as well as some of Sarah’s large Dowd clan from Brooklyn. It was also the place where I first discovered the maiden name of my great-uncle Joseph’s wife, Catherine Reilly Haigney.
Consider this a very belated valentine to Nancy and all the Brooklyn list regulars, whose insights, humor and wisdom continue to make my day every day.