Thanksgiving Traditions

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this blog article, Gena searches old newspapers to learn more about some of the Thanksgiving traditions families enjoy this time of year.

Family history isn’t just about the gathering of our ancestors’ names, dates, places, and stories. Family history is also about recording our present-day lives, including our traditions, for the benefit of future generations. What traditions does your Thanksgiving Day include? Besides eating the Thanksgiving turkey what else does your family enjoy? Do you spend time cheering a favorite football team, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, or do you prefer to get a jump on your Christmas shopping?

Thanksgiving is a day of traditions, some long established and others unique to our individual families. Here are a few holiday traditions I learned more about by searching in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives.

The Food

Obviously the main tradition for Thanksgiving is the feast. We collectively associate Thanksgiving with foods such as turkey, stuffing or dressing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. Looking for some traditional recipes? This article from a 1955 newspaper provides some tips about cooking the Thanksgiving turkey and two different types of stuffing, using bread or cornbread.

article about Thanksgiving recipes, San Diego Union newspaper article 10 November 1955

San Diego Union (San Diego, California), 10 November 1955, page 26

Now, you may be asking why we partake in these specific foods on Thanksgiving. Well the old newspapers have answers for this question. What I like about this 1936 version of Thanksgiving food history is that it addresses the fact that turkey may not have been an option for everyone’s holiday dinner because of expense – an important statement as people were in the midst of the Great Depression. The author writes that families may have substituted “chicken, duck, beef, rabbit, or even pork and were glad to get it.”

article about Thanksgiving turkey, National Labor Tribune newspaper article 21 November 1936

National Labor Tribune (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), 21 November 1936, page 4

What other foods does your family have for Thanksgiving? What is the history of that recipe in your family?


Are you eagerly awaiting the deals that “Black Friday” brings? For some, online shopping has replaced the frenzied crowds associated with the number one shopping day of the year – but for some families, shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving is a tradition. I had assumed that this November sale day was a more modern idea – but judging from this 1915 newspaper article, there was a push in the early 20th century to have shoppers begin their holiday shopping early so as to not overwhelm stores as the Christmas holidays approached. The article states:

It was started as a measure to bring relief to overworked employees in the shops. The call was not only to do Christmas shopping early and thus modify the heavy strain upon the shop workers, but throughout the year to do shopping early in the week, and early in the day, so that there might be no congested period later.

Publicity for this effort included newspaper articles, signs, and even slides shown at the motion picture theatres.

Focusing on one day of sales to overwhelm stores, as Black Friday does today, was certainly not the idea behind this original early-shopping campaign; there was a concentrated effort back then to make people think about when they shop and to consider doing their Holiday shopping in November.

article about doing Christmas shopping right after Thanksgiving, Oregonian newspaper article 8 November 1915

Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 8 November 1915, page 9

The term Black Friday was in use by the 1960s, but the practice of holiday shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving predates the phrase. This 1927 newspaper article announces that Christmas display windows would debut on Thanksgiving Day, and that sales would begin the next day. Shoppers were urged to get their shopping done early to avoid the hassles of the past:

In former years, when the public, through some peculiar psychological twist, felt that no Christmas shopping could be done until within a week [or] 10 days of the holiday, merchants were slow to put their complete lines of holidays [sic] wares on display. The buying public has forced it upon them.

article about doing Christmas shopping right after Thanksgiving, Repository newspaper article 23 November 1927

Repository (Canton, Ohio), 23 November 1927, page 2


For some families an impromptu game of football in the back yard or watching a game on the television is part of their Thanksgiving Day. If you are a football fan, you may not be too surprised to learn that football and Thanksgiving have been linked since the beginning of the sport. College and professional teams have played on Thanksgiving Day since the late 19th century.

One early mention of this tradition comes from the New York Herald, referring to Thanksgiving Day 1880 when the Princeton and Yale football teams would engage in “one of their stubborn old time contests.”

article about college football games, New York Herald newspaper article 13 November 1880

New York Herald (New York, New York), 13 November 1880, page 6

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Love a parade? If you do, you might be a big fan of the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. The Macy’s parade in New York City debuted for Christmas 1924. That first parade, watched by 250,000 spectators, included costumed employees and floats. The success of that first effort ensured that the parade would become a yearly holiday tradition. It wasn’t until 1927 that the first balloon became part of the festivities. That balloon was cartoon character Felix the Cat.*

This 1940s description of the parade comes from Bobby Sutherland, whose writing appeared on the children’s page of the Richmond Times Dispatch. He describes the parade as starting:

at 110th Street and Broadway at 1 P.M. on Thanksgiving Day…The parade goes down to Central Park West and then south to Macys, which is at Thirty-fourth Street and Broadway. There’s always lots of bands and balloons. I’m told by some of the boys in my classes that it some times takes two hours for this parade to pass.

article about the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Richmond Times Dispatch newspaper article 3 November 1940

Richmond Times Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia), 3 November 1940, page 50

A 1959 newspaper article heralded the approximately 1.3 million people who watched the 33rd annual parade in person, and countless others who watched it broadcast on TV. That year, balloon figures included a turkey, a space man and Popeye.

article about Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Advocate newspaper article 27 November 1959

Advocate (Baton Rouge, Louisiana), 27 November 1959, page 72

It is estimated that the parade now attracts 3.5 million people to New York City each year.**

Your Thanksgiving Traditions

What are your family’s Thanksgiving traditions? Do you participate in some of the time-honored traditions that Thanksgiving is famous for, or do you do something different? Tell us about them in our comments section below.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!


* Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade – the History. NYC Tourist.
** Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade – the History. NYC Tourist.

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Days of Thanksgiving Celebrated by Our Ancestors

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this blog article, Mary searches old newspapers to learn more about Days of Thanksgiving that have been proclaimed throughout American history.

While planning Thanksgiving celebrations, most of us dream of the bountiful feast set upon our tables: turkey, corn, mashed potatoes, pie and all of those other goodies made for the day.

We do this to commemorate the first successful harvest of the Mayflower passengers and the Wampanoag Indians at the Plymouth Plantation in 1621.

Painting: “The First Thanksgiving,” by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris

Painting: “The First Thanksgiving,” by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, c. 1912-1915. Credit: U.S. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

That first Thanksgiving celebration lasted three days. The Wampanoags brought five deer as gifts, which were consumed along with other food that has never been documented.

1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation

Much has been written about Thanksgiving, including President George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation on 3 October 1789, given in response to a request by Congress. Since few have ever read it, I searched GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives to find the proclamation as it was printed in the newspapers of that time.

In three paragraphs, President Washington proclaimed “a day of public Thanksgiving and Prayer” to take place on November 26.

article about President George Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, Pennsylvania Gazette newspaper article 14 October 1789article about President George Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, Pennsylvania Gazette newspaper article 14 October 1789

article about President George Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, Pennsylvania Gazette newspaper article 14 October 1789

Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 14 October 1789, page 3

First Mention of Thanksgiving in a Newspaper?

I was curious about the first mention of Thanksgiving in a newspaper prior to Washington’s proclamation.

Would you be surprised to learn it occurred in the earliest newspaper to be published in our country: Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestik?

Richard Pierce of Boston had great hopes for this publication, but it was shut down by the authorities after the initial printing on 25 September 1690. Luckily the full copy of this first American newspaper can be found in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives.

The article reports:

The Christianized Indians in some parts of Plimouth, have newly appointed a day of Thanksgiving to God for his Mercy in supplying their extream and pinching Necessities under their late want of Corn, & for His giving them now a prospect of a very Comfortable Harvest. Their Example may be worth Mentioning.

article about Indians in Plymouth, Massachusetts, celebrating Thanksgiving, Public Occurrences newspaper article 25 September 1690

Public Occurrences (Boston, Massachusetts), 25 September 1690, page 1

Other Thanksgiving Proclamations

Ordinary subjects of Colonial America were not allowed to decide when to set aside a day of Thanksgiving. Magistrates and other leaders – such as Joseph Dudley, Governor of the Province of Massachusetts Bay – issued proclamations stating the reasons and guidelines for special days of Thanksgiving.

This 1704 Thanksgiving Proclamation was to celebrate “Victory over their Enemies in the Summer past,” referring to England’s victories in the War of the Spanish Succession. In his order declaring 23 November 1704 a “Day of General Thanksgiving throughout this Province,” the governor prohibited “all Servile Labour” on that special day, exhorting everyone:

to Celebrate the Praises of GOD, for all His Benefits and Blessings, And to devote themselves [to] a Thank-Offering to Him in a right Ordered Conversation.

an article about a proclamation for a Day of Thanksgiving, Boston News-Letter newspaper article 13 November 1704

Boston News-Letter (Boston, Massachusetts), 13 November 1704, page 2

Day of Fasting and Prayer

One of the more intriguing early proclamations is this one, in part concerning captives taken from Deerfield, Massachusetts, in a 1704 raid by French and Native American forces. The attackers killed 44 Deerfield villagers and 12 of their militia defenders, and 112 settlers were taken as captives to Canada.

Since calling for a day of thanks would be inappropriate on this occasion, Governor Dudley called for “a day of Publick FASTING and PRAYER” to appease God in hopes of gaining “Remission of our great and manifold Sins that have justly displeased God” and caused the settlers’ misfortune.

In his proclamation, Governor Dudley expressed hope that the day of fasting and prayer would grant them their most fervent wishes:

The Designs of the barbarous Savages against us defeated; Our exposed Plantations preserved; And the poor Christian Captives in their hands, returned.

article about a proclamation for a Day of Fasting and Prayer, Boston News-Letter newspaper article 5 February 1705

Boston News-Letter (Boston, Massachusetts), 5 February 1705, page 1

Day of Thanksgiving for the Captives’ Return

By the end of 1706, many of the captives had been “redeemed” (recovered by the English, either through paying ransom or via prisoner exchanges). This newspaper report of January 1707 notes:

The People of this County are fill’d with Joy, for the Arrival of the Captives…Wednesday the 8th Currant [i.e., this month] was a Day of Thanksgiving there [Deerfield], to Praise GOD for His great Goodness.

article about a proclamation for a Day of Thanksgiving, Boston News-Letter newspaper article 20 January 1707

Boston News-Letter (Boston, Massachusetts), 20 January 1707, page 4

I am entirely grateful for the captives’ return, as among them were members of my Belden, Burt and Foote families. Click here to see a list of the Deerfield captives of 1704.

Other Days of Thanksgiving

While contemplating the meaning of Thanksgiving, take the time to explore early newspapers to learn more about the many days of Thanksgiving set aside for our ancestors. Here are two more examples I found.

On 20 September 1704, Governor Dudley once again celebrated English victories in the War of the Spanish Succession by announcing that October 18 would be a day of Thanksgiving because it had:

pleased Almighty God in his Great Goodness to preserve Her Majesties Sacred Person, and to prosper Her Arms in the Just War, wherein Her Majesty and Her Allies are Engaged for the preservation of the Liberties of Europe.

The Governor ordered:

That a General THANKSGIVING to Almighty God, for these His Mercies be Observed throughout this Province, within the several Towns and Districts thereof, on Thursday the Eighteenth Day of October next; and do strictly forbid all Servile Labour thereupon; Exhorting both Ministers and People to Solemnize the said Day after a Religious manner, and to offer up sincere and hearty Praises to GOD.

article about a proclamation for a Day of Thanksgiving, Boston News-Letter newspaper article 1 October 1705

Boston News-Letter (Boston, Massachusetts), 1 October 1705, page 2

In this next example, Governor Dudley on 27 December 1705 called for yet another day of Thanksgiving to celebrate English victories in the War of the Spanish Succession, this one scheduled for January 24.

article about a proclamation for a Day of Thanksgiving, Boston News-Letter newspaper article 31 December 1705

Boston News-Letter (Boston, Massachusetts), 31 December 1705, page 4

Why not take a little time during this Thanksgiving break to search the old newspapers in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives to learn more about early Thanksgiving celebrations and enrich your understanding of this very special day of thanks?

Happy Thanksgiving and blessings to you and your families!

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Thanksgiving Traditions & Memories: My Grandmother’s Pies

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this blog article, Gena searches old newspapers to find recipes and learn more about one of our favorite parts of Thanksgiving: pies!

One of my earliest Thanksgiving memories is of my grandmother and great-grandmother waking up before everyone and starting the meal preparations at 4 a.m. On that annual feast day, multiple tables would be heavy with all kinds of food, including pies – all kinds of pies. I must admit that back then the only pie I cared about was pumpkin, but there were other choices on that table as well, including mincemeat, apple, and cherry.

photo of a pumpkin pie

Photo: pumpkin pie. Credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture; Wikimedia Commons.

Who doesn’t like pie? Pie is something our ancestors ate and in fact has been around since the ancient Egyptians. This time of the year focuses on pie as a dessert, but originally most pies were made of meat, appearing in England around the 12th century. Fruit pies came around later in the 1500s. Pie was even a food eaten by the earliest English settlers to America.*

So what pies are your family favorites? Are you a pie baker? Looking to try something new this Thanksgiving? Here are a few pie recipes from yesteryear, as found in the pages of GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives.

Prize-Winning Pie Recipes

You can’t go wrong with an award-winning pie recipe, and old newspapers are full of examples from competitions hosted by newspaper food columns, food companies, and other groups. For those who are fans of cherry pie, this recipe from Karan Ann Gunning of Mulberry, Indiana, won the 27th National Cherry Pie Baking Contest in 1959.

photo of a slice of cherry pie

Photo: slice of cherry pie. Credit: Evan-Amos; Wikimedia Commons.

Aside from frozen cherries, the filling consists of sugar, tapioca, red food coloring, almond extract, lemon juice and butter. The pie crust is completed with a cherry decoration.

article about a prize-winning recipe for cherry pie

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 26 February 1959, section 5, page 16

Newspaper food columns did more than provide recipes and tips; they also held contests (see Newspaper Recipe Contests: Was Your Ancestor a Contest Winner?).

The winner of this 1934 Trenton Evening Times (New Jersey) contest is a rhubarb pie topped off with a meringue.

photo of a rhubarb pie

Photo: rhubarb pie. Credit: Hayford Peirce; Wikimedia Commons.

Miss Grace Martin from Trenton won the top prize of $5 for her recipe, while the other recipe winners brought home $1.

article about a prize-winning rhubarb pie recipe, Trenton Evening Times newspaper article 5 July 1934

Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey), 5 July 1934, page 13

Thanksgiving Means Pumpkin Pie

At Thanksgiving time, the best pie is obviously pumpkin pie.

photo of a slice of pumpkin pie

Photo: slice of pumpkin pie. Credit: Evan-Amos; Wikimedia Commons.

Let’s face it, what’s not to like about this traditional holiday favorite? And speaking of traditional – this 1910 newspaper article gives the pumpkin pie recipe “the Pilgrim mothers used to make.”

article about a pumpkin pie recipe, Grand Forks Daily Herald newspaper article 30 November 1910

Grand Forks Daily Herald (Grand Forks, North Dakota), 30 November 1910, section 2, page 9

This 1953 newspaper article provides a pumpkin pie recipe that uses canned pumpkin to make two versions of the pie. One version, referred to as a “refrigerator pie,” involves a double boiler and gelatin.

article about pumpkin pie recipes, Dallas Morning News newspaper article 1 November 1953

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 1 November 1953, section vi, page 6

Now, if you’re tired of the same old pumpkin pie, consider a variation – like one of my favorites: the Pumpkin Chiffon Pie. This interesting recipe for the chiffon pie includes a crust of saltine crackers.

photo of a pumpkin chiffon pie, Boston Herald newspaper article 16 November 1972

Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts), 16 November 1972, page 26

article about a pumpkin chiffon pie recipe, Boston Herald newspaper article 16 November 1972

Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts), 16 November 1972, page 26

I’m Not Eating That

Ok let’s face it. Everyone has a favorite pie which means there is probably a pie you dislike. So here are a few recipes that would probably cause me to skip dessert this year if they were served.

I don’t come from a big cranberry-eating family, so I was a little surprised to see this Cranberry Pie recipe from 1942.

photo of a cranberry-pecan pie

Photo: cranberry-pecan pie. Credit: BenFrantzDale; Wikimedia Commons.

But in light of food rationing during World War II it makes sense why this pie would have been suggested. The article advises:

In view of sugar rationing, it might be well this year to double up on the cranberries and dessert by serving the cranberries in a pie.

The other recipe adds orange juice to pumpkin pie, which is not the pumpkin pie I’m used to.

article about a pumpkin pie recipe, Advocate newspaper article 4 December 1942

Advocate (Baton Rouge, Louisiana), 4 December 1942, page 18

Mincemeat Pie

Another pie that I often hear associated with the holidays is mincemeat.

photo of a mincemeat pie

Photo: mincemeat pie. Credit: Alcinoe; Wikimedia Commons.

According to the History Channel website, mincemeat originated in the 13th century when the Crusaders brought back exotic spices and ingredients from the Holy Land. Those spices were combined with “fruit and meat to make their supply of protein last longer.” The spices became associated with Christmas and the gifts presented to the Christ child by the Three Wise Men.** Now, my guess is that mincemeat pie is not as popular today as it once was. A few generations back, it was regularly served in my family. One side made this pie with meat and the other with only fruit. If you’re confused about what mincemeat pie really is, this 1995 nutrition column provides some direction.

article about mincemeat pie, Aberdeen Daily News newspaper article 19 December 1995

Aberdeen Daily News (Aberdeen, South Dakota), 19 December 1995, page 10

If your holiday tradition includes mincemeat pie, these 1911 examples include some recipes with meat as an ingredient and others with strictly fruit.

article about mincemeat pie recipes, Oregonian newspaper article 19 November 1911

Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 19 November 1911, section 5, page 6

And because Thanksgiving is so busy with all the prep work and cooking, I think this recipe for mincemeat pie is probably the best one of them all because of its simplicity.

article about a mincemeat pie recipe, Trenton Evening Times newspaper article 19 November 1959

Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey), 19 November 1959, page 18

What pie are you preparing this Thanksgiving? Is it from a recipe that’s been in the family a long time? Share your pie memories – and recipes – with us in the comments section.


* History of Pies. American Pie Council.
** Mincemeat: It’s What’s for (Christmas) Dinner, History.

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Light a Candle for Thanksgiving

Plymouth, England, and Plymouth, Massachusetts, are already beginning celebrations (which will culminate in 2020) for the 400th anniversary of the voyage of the Mayflower, with special events on both sides of the Atlantic.

“As one small candle may light a thousand,
so the light here kindled has shown unto many
–Plymouth Colony Governor William Bradford

photo of an "Illuminate and Thanksgiving" poster


Thousands are expected to parade through Plymouth, England, this year carrying candles and lanterns as they gather at the Mayflower steps there in the harbor where the original ship left for America in 1620.

photo of candles lit on a wharf

Source: Baylor University

Are you planning to light a candle and join in the Thanksgiving commemoration this year?

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What’s Your Favorite Pumpkin Pie Recipe? Share It with Us!

I love pumpkin pie.
Every autumn, newspapers carry recipes for making this old seasonal dessert favorite.

Bailly's Recipe for Pumpkin Pie, Grand Rapids Press newspaper article 15 November 1905

Grand Rapids Press (Grand Rapids, Michigan), 15 November 1905, page 4

It turns out that pumpkin pie is as American as apple pie – even more so!

Pumpkin Pie More American than Apple, Chicago Metro News newspaper article 8 September 1977

Chicago Metro News (Chicago, Illinois), 8 September 1977, page 12

According to this old news article:

The truth is that apple pie may well be the nation’s best-selling dessert pie, but its origin lies across the Atlantic; whereas, the pumpkin variety is truly an American innovation. So, it seems more appropriate to coin the phrase ‘as American as pumpkin pie,’ in honor of its domestic heritage.

What’s your favorite pumpkin pie recipe?

For me, Stop & Shop’s, Stew Leonard’s, Marie Callender’s…their pumpkin pies are all great – ready when you are. But you can’t beat a homemade pumpkin pie.

Why not try a new pumpkin pie recipe this season? Search through GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives and find an old pumpkin pie recipe to try.

Share Your Recipes with Us!

GenealogyBank has a shared Pinterest board where you can share your old family recipes. If you have a family recipe you’d like to share, send us a Pinterest group board request and you can pin your recipe on our board to share with the community.

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3 Tips for Sharing the Family History You Gather This Holiday Season

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this blog article, Gena provides some helpful tips for how to preserve and share the family stories you gather during this Holiday Season.

With family members gathering for the Holiday Season, now is a great time to ask questions and hear stories about your family history.  Once you’ve collected these stories, what do you do with the information? How do you preserve and share these family stories? And what does it mean to effectively share them?

Painting: “The Christmas Tree” by Albert Chevallier Tayler, 1911

Painting: “The Christmas Tree” by Albert Chevallier Tayler, 1911. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

To effectively share family history, it has to be preserved – and in order to be preserved, it needs to be copied and be of interest to those who are inheriting it. The following tips are some ideas on how to do exactly that.

Tip #1: Make Copies Available

Burning information to a CD, saving it on a flash drive, or uploading it to a cloud storage website or via an app might be the easiest way of sharing your latest family history finds. Depending on your family, how many people you will be sharing the information with, and their grasp on technology, your method for sharing these recent discoveries may differ. Years ago one of my cousins would write a Christmas letter detailing her latest research and findings. Each family received that and any documents that she found. These paper copies were then saved by families, ready to be discovered by future budding family historians. For current discoveries that I want to share, I have done everything from burning CDs for family members, to sharing via digital methods like a private virtual bulletin board on Pinterest showcasing family photos, or creating a shared folder on cloud storage site Dropbox.

Tip #2: Get Family Members Involved

So you’ve shared photographs, video or audio files – and even documents or family histories – with your family. Now what? Ask family members for something in return. Once they have viewed what you have provided, ask them for additional contributions. Do they have previously unshared photos that would illustrate the stories you shared? Do they have memories that can be audio recorded via an app or an audio recorder? Do they want to create a video that tells the “rest of the story” that you have started?

Too often family histories and memories are gathered – only to sit on a bookshelf, photo album, or the computer. Encourage recipients to treat the information you share as a “living document,” and either add to it or ask questions so that more information can be added for the next family gathering.

Tip #3: Tell an Interesting Story

I’ve noticed in funerals that I’ve attended in the last few years, families are putting together slide shows of photos of the recently deceased, sharing their life from birth to latter years. These slide shows often include music and provide viewers with a look back at that life, and share images that trigger thoughts of happier times.

While slide shows are a great idea for a funeral, why not use them to tell your family story and recent discoveries now? Did you do something special this Holiday Season to capture even more memories? Did you have everyone write out a Thanksgiving or Christmas memory or interview them? People like a good story so why not use what you have discovered to create a visual family history story.

Why not use software on your computer or a free online program to put together a slide show that you can then share at your next family event? Microsoft PowerPoint allows you to add audio and video to a slide show. You can incorporate photos, music and even the voices of family members on a slide show that can be the star of your next gathering, or put the slides on a “loop” that plays automatically as people mingle. Don’t own Microsoft PowerPoint? Free versions of slide show software can be found online including through Google Drive and Prezi.

Once your live performance of the slide show is done, share the slides or use them to create a scrapbook that can be printed out.

Remember that telling an interesting story and preserving the memories you’ve recorded can be done in many different ways. “Playing cards” printed with ancestor facts and images can be created and gifted to younger family members. Matching games can be played using these cards. Copies (don’t use originals) of documents and images can be laminated and used as table place mats. These place mats can help facilitate sharing stories and memories.*

How will you share your family history finds? However you decide to share memories you’ve recorded this Holiday Season, work on sharing them with everyone so that those memories are passed on.

Related Article:


* Never laminate original documents or photos. Lamination is not a preservation method and will cause irreversible damage.

Old Fashioned Thanksgiving Recipes in the Newspaper

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this blog article, Gena searches old newspapers to find some of our ancestors’ Thanksgiving dishes, and shares those old fashioned recipes.

I’ve purchased some new pots and pans and started shopping for the food for our Thanksgiving meal. Are you ready? The bigger question is: what recipes will you be serving at your Thanksgiving feast? While your dinner recipes may be old hat by now, home cooks have always looked for recipe ideas even for this most traditional meal. Luckily for previous generations, the newspaper helped with the planning by providing plenty of Thanksgiving recipes—and by searching GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives, I’ve retrieved some of these old fashioned Thanksgiving recipes to share with you.

Lettuce Soup and Cranberry Water Ice?

This 1922 newspaper article from Olympia, Washington, remarks: “Below will be found a menu for the Thanksgiving Day dinner, which is published as an aid in arranging the greatest typical American feast of the year.” While some of the recipes are familiar, the recipe for Lettuce Soup might be a new one to you.

Thanksgiving Recipes, Morning Olympian newspaper article 19 November 1922

Morning Olympian (Olympia, Washington), 19 November 1922, page 7

Let’s face it, for many of us the Thanksgiving meal is pretty standard fare year after year. According to this 1912 article from Trenton, New Jersey, “The usual dishes present no difficulties to the good cook.” So the article, true to its title, provides “new” recipes to try on that annual feast day. Do you like cranberries? Tired of the same old cranberry sauce? This article offers a Cranberry Water Ice recipe that involves pouring a teacupful of hot, but not boiling, water over a quart of plump cranberries. Then cook the mixture until soft and reduced. Once cool, add the juice of a “good sized lemon, a sirup (sic) made of a quart of boiling water and two capfuls of granulated sugar cooked until it thickens. Stir well and freeze to the consistency of water ice.” Other recipes are included in this article that features a rather interesting photo of a child holding a dead upside-down turkey.

Thanksgiving Recipes That Every Woman Doesn't Know, Trenton Evening Times newspaper article 17 November 1912

Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey), 17 November 1912, page 21

Dressing or Stuffing?

You say dressing, I say stuffing… So do you serve dressing or stuffing with your turkey? Most likely your use of the terms “dressing” or “stuffing” depends on where you live. Typically if you live in the South, you refer to that particular popular Thanksgiving side dish as “dressing.” No matter if you say dressing or stuffing, it most likely includes a variety of ingredients such as meats (like sausage or oysters), nuts, breads (cornbread or stale sourdough), and assorted vegetables (celery, onions and even mashed potatoes), spices, and liquid. For some, no Thanksgiving turkey is complete without it being “stuffed,” a practice that is losing popularity with today’s food-safety conscious cooks.

I must admit, much to most readers’ chagrin, my stuffing typically comes out of a box. This cooking convenience started with a U.S. patent (US 3870803) filed in 1971 by Ruth Siems and others from General Foods, when she invented a convenient way to prepare a quick stuffing based on the size of the bread crumbs. However, for those who opt for the homemade variety, the stuffing recipe is typically a source of pride. Want to try something different this year? In this Oyster Dressing recipe the directions are fairly simple. If you don’t like oysters, try the accompanying Chestnut Dressing.

Thanksgiving Recipes, Northern Christian Advocate newspaper article 14 November 1907

Northern Christian Advocate (Syracuse, New York), 14 November 1907, page 14

Thanksgiving Memories

One of my favorite Thanksgiving articles has to be this one from a 1935 edition of the Times-Picayune, a New Orleans newspaper, in which people submit a recipe and an accompanying Thanksgiving memory. A recipe for Baked Rabbit submitted by Mrs. O. Le R. Gofrrth includes a Civil War memory of having to improvise when there was no turkey to be had. “Ever since a cold and dreary Thanksgiving Day during the War Between the States, when the turkeys had been given to the Southern forces, and there were no wild ones to be had in Tidewater, Va. …No turkeys or other fowls, but there were rabbits in the woods.”

In the same article, Mrs. E. M. Williams shares an old recipe for Popcorn Custard and Squash Pie that she introduces by writing: “This is a delicious dessert for Thanksgiving, because it dates back to the ancient days when one branch of our family lived in Maine. The recipe came from there and has been handed down for several generations, so that it is a real traditional recipe.”

Traditional Thanksgiving Recipes Given by Winners, Times-Picayune newspaper article 23 November 1935

Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), 23 November 1935, page 22

Another reason why I love this historical newspaper article is the grocery store advertisement found on the same page. Picone’s Complete Food Store sells turkeys for 28 cents a pound, 2 dozen oysters for 15 cents and “freshly killed” rabbits for “20 cents up.” These food prices give us a sense of what Thanksgiving dinner cost a family in 1935. To convert historic prices to today’s values, see the website Measuring Worth.

ad for Picone’s Complete Food Store, Times-Picayune newspaper advertisement 23 November 1935

Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), 23 November 1935, page 22

Another article found in the same newspaper 11 years later demonstrates that, depending on where you live and the time period, the idea of a “traditional” Thanksgiving differs. Consider this Thanksgiving menu shared by Mrs. W. A. Dees from when she was at a “camp” at La Branch near Lake Pontchartrain that includes uniquely Louisiana cuisine.

Thanksgiving in Camp with Louisiana Game, Times-Picayune newspaper article 23 November 1946

Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), 23 November 1946, page 17

Thanksgiving is about celebrating with family and friends, and whether that is with a turkey or fried frog legs and squirrel pie, the food served helps everyone enjoy the day and the company.

What Are Your Favorite Thanksgiving Recipes?

Share your Thanksgiving recipes with us. Whether they are old traditional recipes or new ones you’ve incorporated into your annual dinner, we’d love to hear about them. Join us on Pinterest and pin your recipe to our board, Old Fashioned Family Recipes. Simply request an invite to post to our group recipe board. Not on Pinterest? No problem; share your recipes in the comments below.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

Related Thanksgiving Recipe Articles:

Rationing Thanksgiving Dinner during World War I

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this guest blog post—just in time for Thanksgiving—Gena searches old newspapers to learn about the Thanksgiving dinners our ancestors had during World War I.

For many Americans, the word Thanksgiving conjures up images of family, a bountiful feast, and spending the day eating. However, Americans weren’t always encouraged to eat everything and anything on Thanksgiving Day. During both World Wars, food was rationed and families on the home front were encouraged to make do with less. So what did that mean for the traditional Thanksgiving dinner?

photo of a poster for the U.S. home front during WWI urging households to conserve sugar

Poster: sugar conservation, from the U.S. Food Administration, 1917-1919. Credit: U.S. National Archives.

Food Rationing during Wartime

Food rationing is typically associated with World War II, when ration stamps were used—but World War I had its own version of rationing—and this was especially true at Thanksgiving time. In the First World War, families were encouraged to limit some foods so that the United States could feed its soldiers and allies. Overseas, our allies’ lands were devastated by the extensive fighting, and their ability to maintain crop production was limited.

Using propaganda posters, recipe booklets, and informational articles, American women were encouraged to alter the family’s diets by participating in such endeavors as “Meatless Monday,” growing a garden, and limiting the use of sugar. The government led the way in urging Americans to think about what they ate. Herbert Hoover and his U.S. Food Administration, established in August 1917, encouraged food conservation and helped to stabilize the price of wheat.

Newspapers provided families with recipe ideas to help them compile their holiday menus. Women turned to newspapers for recipes and ideas about the type of Thanksgiving they should serve, and newspapers helped women implement these new policies to conserve food.

No Oysters or Turkey for the Thanksgiving Dinner?

What do you typically serve for the Thanksgiving dinner? While portions of the Thanksgiving dinner menu have changed over time, some of the key dishes have always been served. In this 1917 California newspaper article, readers are cautioned that they should refrain from serving oysters on the half shell, Neufchatel cheese, and turkey for Thanksgiving.

Simple [Thanksgiving] Menu; Just as Much Enjoyment, San Jose Mercury News 28 November 1917

San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, California), 28 November 1917, page 9

Readers are told: “The family can substitute chicken, pale American cheese, and other becomingly simple dishes, and not only secure the same number of food calories as in the more expensive repast, but have just as much to eat and just as good a time eating it.” The author provides some alternative menus but first adds that “…the Thanksgiving dinner can materially aid the food supply by not turning the usual feast into a gastronomic contest.”

(Note: the term “Hooverize” in this article’s subtitle—a word your ancestor would have known all too well—referred to economizing food. Since Hoover was the head of the Food Administration, his name became synonymous with this effort.)

Cutting Back on Sugar

Sugar was one of the food items that Americans were encouraged to limit. Today, in a world where much of the food we eat is prepared or pre-packaged, we don’t realize how much sugar is in a Thanksgiving meal. Cranberry sauce, gelatin salads, desserts and even sugar for coffee and tea were foodstuffs that families had to reconsider during wartime. It’s no wonder that newspaper articles like this one discouraged that old standby, cranberry sauce. As pointed out in this old news article, cranberry sauce required large amounts of sugar that seemed, during this precarious time, to be wasteful.

Cranberries Unpopular on Thanksgiving Menu, Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper article 10 November 1917

Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 10 November 1917, page 1

Use It Up, Do Without

American citizens were encouraged to plant gardens to supply produce for their meals. For those unable to plant gardens, patronizing local merchants who produced and sold food was encouraged. This was a predecessor of today’s popular “Buy Local, Eat Local” trend.

The main theme of many of the newspaper articles promoting these ideas seems to be: a true American would gladly go without. Consider this 1918 newspaper article’s closing sentence: “Turkey may be lacking in some cases, and the four kinds of pie which once closed the feast may be the only tradition of the ante bellum days, but reminiscences of much to be thankful for will dominate the Thanksgiving day of every true American.”

Thanksgiving Dinner of Home Grown Food Advocated by Hoover, Wyoming State Tribune newspaper article 23 November 1918

Wyoming State Tribune (Cheyenne, Wyoming), 23 November 1918, page 2

What did Thanksgiving dinner look like for your family during World War I? Do you have any stories about your grandparents’ Thanksgiving menu? Please share them in the comments below.

Researching Your Pilgrim Ancestry from Mayflower Ship Passengers

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this guest blog post—just in time for Thanksgiving—Mary searches old newspapers to trace ancestry all the way back to the Pilgrims, who crossed the Atlantic Ocean on board the Mayflower in 1620 for a fresh start in the New World.

Although endlessly rewarding, it is true that tracing ancestry is a time-consuming process requiring much patience—especially if one wishes to connect to the Mayflower passengers, those 102 Pilgrims who sailed from Leiden, Holland, in September 1620 bound for the New World—anchoring off Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in November 1620.

Painting: Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor, William Halsall, 1882

Painting: Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor, William Halsall, 1882. Credit: Pilgrim Hall Museum & Wikipedia.

Tragically, only half the Plymouth Rock settlers survived their first winter in the New World—and if any are your progenitors, you could conceivably be required to compile from 12-18 generations of documentary evidence to trace your Pilgrim ancestry and prove you are a descendant. Fortunately, there are many ways to research the Mayflower voyage and the Pilgrims, even if you can’t visit Leiden or Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, Massachusetts (although please put these stops on your genealogical travel shortlist).

I traveled to Leiden, Holland, several years ago to conduct first-hand research on my Mayflower Pilgrim ancestry, and found this Dutch marriage record for future Mayflower ship passengers Isaac Allerton and Mary Norris from 1611.

marriage certificate for future Mayflower passengers Isaac Allerton and Mary Norris, 1611

Marriage certificate for future Mayflower passengers Isaac Allerton and Mary Norris, 1611, from the collection of Mary Harrell-Sesniak

However, as I say, you don’t need to travel to research your Mayflower Pilgrim ancestry—you can do it from the comfort of your own home, relying on your computer and the Internet, using several helpful websites and having access to online historical newspapers.

Common genealogical advice suggests that you start your family history research with yourself and work backwards to prove ancestry. However, with Mayflower genealogy research, you might want to work “down the research ladder,” instead of up, as it could very well save you a few steps.

Approved List of Mayflower Ship Passengers

Start at the top of your family tree by looking for surnames matching Mayflower passengers, shown on the accepted list of eligible ancestors compiled by Pilgrim lineage societies, most notably the General Society of Mayflower Descendants (

John Alden Bartholomew Allerton Isaac Allerton
Mary (Norris) Allerton Mary Allerton Remember Allerton
Elinor Billington Francis Billington John Billington
William Bradford Love Brewster Mary Brewster
William Brewster Peter Browne James Chilton
Mrs. James Chilton Mary Chilton Francis Cooke
John Cooke Edward Doty Francis Eaton
Samuel Eaton Sarah Eaton Moses Fletcher
Edward Fuller Mrs. Edward Fuller Samuel Fuller
Samuel Fuller (son of Edward) Constance Hopkins Elizabeth (Fisher) Hopkins
Giles Hopkins Stephen Hopkins John Howland
Richard More Priscilla Mullins William Mullins
Degory Priest Joseph Rogers Thomas Rogers
Henry Samson George Soule Myles Standish
Elizabeth Tilley John Tilley Joan (Hurst) Tilley
Richard Warren Peregrine White Resolved White
Susanna White William White Edward Winslow

Publications by the General Society of Mayflower Descendants

And if that surname research strategy fails, research Mayflower descendants to the fifth generation to try and find a match to your family. Many publications exist, including the famous pink or gray Pilgrim lineage books published by the General Society of Mayflower Descendants—many of which are available at libraries. As accepted references, these Society publications allow you to bypass submitting proofs for any Mayflower descendant they’ve already established.

photo of publications from the General Society of Mayflower Descendants

Credit: from the library of Mary Harrell-Sesniak

The silver books trace the first five generations of Mayflower descendants.

The smaller pink books are Mayflower Families in Progress (MFIP), and are produced as new information becomes available.

Newspaper Evidence for Peregrine (or Peregrin) White and His Descendants

An extraordinary amount of newspaper articles and obituaries mentioning Mayflower ancestry exist in GenealogyBank’s historical newspaper archives.

Although not my Mayflower ancestor, I’m fascinated by Peregrine White. He was the son of William and Susanna White, who crossed the ocean on the Mayflower with his older brother Resolved. Susanna was pregnant with Peregrine during the Atlantic crossing, and he became the first Plymouth Colony baby of English ancestry when he was born on 20 November 1620 on board the Mayflower in Provincetown Harbor. (See

After William White died—as so many did, during the Colony’s first winter—Susanna married widower Edward Winslow, of whom much is written. After reaching manhood, Peregrine married Sarah Bassett, and if you are one of their descendants, you have a multitude of cousins.

One of your relatives is their grandson George Young (1689-1771), son of their daughter Sarah White (1663-1755) and Thomas Young (1663-1732).

George Young’s lineage was noted in this 1771 obituary.

death notice for George Young, Boston Post-Boy newspaper article 13 May 1771

Boston Post-Boy (Boston, Massachusetts), 13 May 1771, page 3

Being such a small colony of settlers, the Mayflower Pilgrim’s children intermarried. As reported in this 1821 newspaper article, John Alden was a descendant of his grandfather by the same name—and also of Peregrine White, via his grandmother. He is thought to have married twice, first to Lydia Lazell and later to Rebecca Weston, although neither of his wives are mentioned in this obituary. Note how many of John Alden’s descendants were living when he died at the ripe old age of 103.

obituary for John Alden, Daily National Intelligencer newspaper article 12 April 1821

Daily National Intelligencer (Washington, D.C.), 12 April 1821, page 3

Elder James White, who founded the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Battle Creek, Michigan, was another direct descendant of the Mayflower Pilgrims. His religious affiliation and his Mayflower ancestry were reported in this 1881 newspaper obituary.

obituary for Elder James White, Kalamazoo Gazette newspaper article 9 August 1881

Kalamazoo Gazette (Kalamazoo, Michigan), 9 August 1881, page 1

Reporting Trend in Pilgrim Descendants’ Obituaries

Do you notice a trend in these obituaries? The importance of being a descendant of a Mayflower passenger tends to overshadow all other aspects of an individual’s life!

For example, Ellen Gould Harmon was the spouse of Elder James White—and her obituary from 1915 makes more notice of his roots than her own.

obituary for Ellen White, Jackson Citizen Patriot newspaper article 17 July 1915

Jackson Citizen Patriot (Jackson, Michigan), 17 July 1915, page 1

Are You My Mayflower Cousin?

Although I have not located Peregrine White ancestry in my own family tree, if you trace to any of the following Mayflower passengers, then you and I are cousins:

  • William Brewster and Mary (maiden name unknown)
  • Giles Hopkins and Catherine Whelden
  • Stephen Hopkins and Mary (maiden name unknown)
  • John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley
photo of the gravesite of Giles Hopkins

Photo: Grave of Giles Hopkins, Cove Burying Ground (Eastham, Massachusetts). Credit: Mary Harrell-Sesniak.

We are in good company. By 1909, one writer’s conservative estimate calculated that by the 10th generation, any of the Mayflower ship passengers could have had at least 3,500,000 descendants! Since most Mayflower descendants are now of the 13th, 14th, 15th or 16th generation, that number has skyrocketed.

The rising number of Mayflower Pilgrim descendants is reported in this 1909 newspaper article.

article about descendants of the Mayflower Pilgrims, Duluth News-Tribune newspaper article 18 December 1909

Duluth News-Tribune (Duluth, Minnesota), 18 December 1909, page 8

If you think you are a Mayflower ship passenger descendant, this article from the New England Historic Genealogical Society may be of interest:

“The Society of Mayflower Descendants: Who they are, where to find them, how to apply”

For tips on how to research your Mayflower genealogy using GenealogyBank visit:

Have you traced your ancestry back to one of the Mayflower ship passengers? If so, please tell us about it in the comments section. We’d love to know who your Mayflower ancestors are.

George Washington Proclaimed a Day of Thanksgiving 26 November 1789

Today’s Wall Street Journal (21 November 2012) has an op-ed editorial by Melanie Kirkpatrick: Thanksgiving, 1789 about the nation’s first Thanksgiving proclamation.

It was also President Washington’s first proclamation—he had been sworn in as the nation’s first president just a few months earlier, on 30 April 1789. Washington’s proclamation making Thanksgiving an officially recognized American holiday was printed in newspapers around the country including the New Hampshire Gazette (Portsmouth, New Hampshire) 22 October 1789, page 1. Read the entire proclamation here.

It’s as timely today as it was then.

GenealogyBank wishes you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving.

A General Thanksgiving, New Hampshire Gazette newspaper article 22 October 1789

New Hampshire Gazette (Portsmouth, New Hampshire), 22 October 1789, page 1