On Thanksgiving Day, Tom Turkey Is a Member of Everyone’s Family

Introduction: Scott Phillips is a genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services. In this guest blog post, Scott begins his Thanksgiving celebration early by searching on “Tom Turkey” and looking through some of the more than 12,000 historical newspaper articles his search returned.

Happy Thanksgiving 2012! I will freely and readily admit that Thanksgiving is my all-time favorite holiday. I particularly love that it is noncommercial and focused on family, thanks, and food. What an awesome combination, especially for us genealogy and family history fans.

I was looking up a family member just the other day when thoughts of my upcoming Thanksgiving Day menu crept into my head. Since we have 20 family members coming from across the U.S. to share the holiday with us, I have been thinking a lot about Thanksgiving lately. Because I cook our turkeys outdoors on our barbeque grills, the name of “Tom Turkey” popped into my mind. Struck by this inspiration, I decided to do a search for this temporary family member in GenealogyBank’s online historical newspaper archives. Wow: I was treated to over 12,000 hits, and in I dove!

The first article I opened offered advice that farmers should “Keep One Tom Turkey for Every Six Hens.” Now, even my love of Thanksgiving isn’t going to lead me to open a turkey farm in my backyard, so while I’ll keep that advice in mind, I also decided to keep on reading.

Keep One Tom Turkey for Every Six Hens, Jackson Citizen Patriot newspaper article 1 February 1922

Jackson Citizen Patriot (Jackson, Michigan), 1 February 1922, page 7

Next I came across something quite useful, an article entitled “Return Engagements for Mr. Tom Turkey.” Naturally it was a delicious-looking set of recipes and ideas for leftover turkey, and I copied them down and am going to try one of them out this year. That is, if there actually are any leftovers on Friday after our Thanksgiving feast!

Return Engagements for Mr. Tom Turkey, Dallas Morning News newspaper article 29 November 1953

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 29 November 1953, page 6

Then I discovered a very enjoyable old newspaper article entitled “Thanksgiving Advice.” It suggested that I should look for a “young Tom Turkey,” that I should skip the “5 cents a pound” premium price for a “Little Rhody turkey” from Rhode Island, and instead go for birds from Vermont or maybe Michigan. Plus the article told me that I need to look for “small red pumpkins” for the best pumpkin pie for our Thanksgiving dessert.

Thanksgiving Advice, Times-Picayune newspaper article 25 November 1906

Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), 25 November 1906, page 6

Soon my heart softened as I read a wonderful story entitled “Tom Powers and the Turkey.” I encourage you to read it—it’s a truly delightful story about the spirit of Thanksgiving. I still smile as I think back on it.

Tom Powers and the Turkey, Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper article 22 November 1891

Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 22 November 1891, page 14

I could have gone on and on, but I have some tough decisions to make about whether or not to add the gizzards into the turkey stuffing. Plus I have to decide where best to place the tape recorder so that I can capture our Thanksgiving blessings around the table for future generations.
Happy Thanksgiving 2012 to everyone and have a delightful day with Tom Turkey in your family!

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Written by Scott Phillips

Scott Phillips

Scott Phillips is a genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services. Scott specializes in immigrant ancestry, especially from Bohemia (Czech Republic), Cornwall, the United Kingdom, and Italy. In addition to GenealogyBank.com, Scott has been recently published by Ohio Genealogy Society, National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library, Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International, SaveEllisIsland.com, MyHeritage.com, and Greater Cleveland Genealogical Society. He was a presenter at the 2012 World Congress of the Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences in Slovakia. You can follow Scott on his Facebook page at OnwardToOurPast and on his website/blog at OnwardToOurPast.

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