On my first trip to Europe, I visited Paris, France. My grandfather was born in France, his parents were born in Belgium. The family hopped back and forth across the line between the two countries as work was available. Although I don’t consider myself any more than a brief dash of French, I managed to find several dishes in France that were worth adding to my family favorites.
Although this recipe is a bit lengthy to prepare, it is so very worth the time. The French really know how to do a ham and cheese sandwich. My very first taste of a Croque Monsieur was at a sitting outside at a bistro table at a small restaurant near Sacre Coeur. La Basilique du Sacré Cœur de Montmartre, Sacred Heart Church, is favorite location, and I made a special trip back to see it again this past October when in Paris. This time I climbed the stairs up towards the beautiful white church, passing the antique double decker carousel at the bottom.
I had two things that I knew I wanted to do, buy another painting from Behras and have a Croque Monsieur for lunch. I had lunch under the tent at Au Cadet De Gascogne that is surrounded by painters. Wedged into a long table, elbow to elbow with other travelers, I watched the world go by and lunched on my sandwich and wine. It was as I had remembered it from before, warm and cheesy on the top with the salty taste of the ham to follow.
I found Behras right where I had left him in 2010. He was working on a painting and had sold his last two before I got there. I said hello and he told me that he remembered me from my previous trip and purchase. He must not get a lot of short redheads that buy paintings! He gave me his email address on a piece of card board to contact him about a painting and I headed back towards Sacre Coeur for one last look.
French Ham And Cheese Sandwich
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups milk
A pinch each of salt, freshly ground pepper, nutmeg, or more to taste
6 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated (about 1 1/2 cups grated)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (packed)
8 slices of French or Italian loaf bread
12 ounces ham, sliced
Preheat oven to 400°degrees.
Make the béchamel sauce. Melt butter in a small saucepan on medium/low heat until it just starts to bubble. Add the flour and cook, stirring until smooth, about 2 minutes. Slowly add the milk, whisking continuously, cooking until thick. Remove from heat. Add the salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir in the Parmesan and 1/4 cup of the grated Gruyère. Set aside.
Lay out the bread slices on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven, a few minutes each side, until lightly toasted. For extra flavor you can spread some butter on the bread slices before you toast them if you want. You can also use an electric toaster to toast bread.
(Alternatively, you can assemble the sandwiches as follows in step four and grill them on a skillet, finishing them in the broiler with the bechamel sauce.)
Lightly brush half of the toasted slices with mustard. Add the ham slices and about 1 cup of the remaining Gruyère cheese. Top with the other toasted bread slices.
Spoon on the béchamel sauce to the tops of the sandwiches. Sprinkle with the remaining Gruyère cheese. Place on a broiling pan. Bake in the oven for 5 minutes, then turn on the broiler and broil for an additional 3 to 5 minutes, until the cheese topping is bubbly and lightly browned.
If you top this sandwich with a fried egg it becomes a Croque Madame.
I have been lucky enough to be able to get in touch with my heritage by visiting the places that my ancestors came from. Work has taken me to Europe twice so far and allowed me to not only see where they lived, but, on the first trip, meet not so distant relatives.
One of my favorite parts of visiting is returning home with favorite new recipes. On my first trip to Brussels, Belgium, my cousins introduced me to Belgian Beef Stew. When we sat down in the restaurant they ordered for me, beer and stew. What was sat before me was a wonderful mix of tender beef in a heavenly sauce with a bit of onion and carrots. All of this topped off with a cold Belgian beer and the best French fries ever, crispy on the outside, soft, warm and tender on the inside. The aroma was heavenly and I dug straight in. When I returned from my travels, I went straight into researching that wonderful meal.
The cubed beef had been slow cooked in beer for several hours, rendering it moist and tender. The flavor of the sauce was dependent on the richness of the beer, plus mustard slathered on bread that flavored and thickened the sauce the last part of cooking time. I don’t know if my Belgian great-grandmother had this on her favorites to cook list, but it sure is on mine. Recipes from her were never handed down through the family.
I purchased a couple of Belgian cookbooks and searched on line for a recipe that would match the flavor of that first experience. It was called Carbonade Flamandes, French for Vlaamse Stoverij, stew from Flanders. This is the recipe that I have been using to make this hearty meal.
1 ¼ lbs. stewing beef or chuck steak (we use chuck roast), cubed
3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
4 tbsp. butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
11 ½ oz. bottle dark Belgian beer (the darker the beer the better the broth, enough to cover the beef)
Bouquet garni (6 parsley sprigs, 2 bay leaves, and 2-3 sprigs of thyme tided together with kitchen string)
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. light brown sugar
4 large carrots chopped
2 slices of rustic bread – white, dark brown, or spice cake)
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
Handful of fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and ground black pepper
Generously season the beef cubes with salt and pepper, then coat in flour.
Heat a large, heavy cast iron kettle (oven safe) that has a tight-fitting lid. Melt the butter and the oil over medium to high heat. Add the cubed beef in batches and brown over fairly high heat for about 4 minutes to seal. As each batch browns, remove cubes from the pan and place them on a plate.
Add the onion to the fat remaining in the pan and cook gently for 6-8 minutes, until translucent, then add the garlic and fry for 3 minutes more. Return beef to kettle.
Return the meat to the kettle and stir well to combine with the onions.
Pour in the beer and bring the mixture to just below boiling point. Add the bouquet garni, vinegar and brown sugar. Cover the pan and place in a preheated 325 degree oven for 1 ½ hours or until the meat has become tender.
Add carrots to the meat and spread the bread thickly with mustard and place it on top of the stew, mustard-side down. Replace the lid and return to the oven for 30-60 minutes more. The bread will absorb some of the pan juices and dissolve to thicken the stew. (I found I had to stir it into the stew)
Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Remove the bouquet garni and stir in the parsley. Serve with fries, potato puree or breads, also good on egg noodles or rice.
A comment from a Flanders native on a blog site called the original beef-in-beer stew, Gentse Stoverij, Stew from Gent. It is a poor man’s dish of beef, white bread and stale beer. His recipe was cooked on the stove top, not oven and included beef liver, a pound and a half of old white bread and a gallon of beer.
From personal experience, the darker the beer the better the sauce, so go for a dark rich lager. While in Brussels, this past October, I talked some of my coworkers into trying the local stew. It didn’t take much nudging once I mentioned that the beef was cooked for hours in beer. It was interesting for me to taste the difference in this version over my first experience, although slightly different in flavor, was just as good.
Zachariah Deyoe was born September 24, 1774. On February 13, 1799 (or February 12 1800), Zachariah married Phebe Oakley at the Schaghticoke Dutch Reformed Church. Phebe Oakley was born around 1784 and died in 1825.
The website that had this information caught my eye because my third great grandfather’s name was Zachariah Deyo Oakley. Zachariah was born in Renesselaer county, New York, the same place as the location of the Schaghticoke Church.
I have searched to find if there are any connections between Phebe Oakley and Zachariah Deyo Oakley to cause Zachariah’s father John I. Oakley to possibly name his after Zachariah Deyo. John was born about 1786 and died in Schroon Lake, Essex county, New York on February 24, 1859. John married twice, first to Phebe Newville, who bore him 6 children and died in 1834.
John would then marry Temperance Lane in 1837. He would precede her in death in 1859 and her in 1877.
I wonder if Phebe Oakly could possibly have been John Oakley’s sister.
I have been looking into my Siffrinn line for years. I have poked, prodded, scratched, looked over and under and around and been wrong many more times than I have been right. My father knew even less than I did about his mother’s family and where his grandfather came from.
I wondered all along if the spelling of the name had been changed and that was the problem I was having. No matter what I entered, Siffrinn or Siffrin, in the ancestry search, I only came up with the relatives I knew and some optional spelling of the last name as Siegfried or Sifferman.
Persistence has paid off. I didn’t realize that the day I found the marriage record information for William Siffrinn to his sister-in-law Caroline Everhard Siffrinn I had the key to break the wall. With the names of his parents and his birth date I would be able to make the bridge from the USA to Germany and relatives.
I have been finding more information on family members on family search, building out Louis and Caroline Siffrinn’s children’s birth order. I was also able to fill in Caroline’s siblings and parents. It was then I decided to try another search on Louis and William’s parents on ancestry that finally results for the family showed up. There was the Siffrinn (Siffrin) line from Louis and William to their father, Johann, Grandfather Johannes, Great grandfather Jakob, and Great-great grandfather Philipp, taking the line back to the mid-1700s.
The only difference in the last name when arriving to the states was the addition of an “n” to the last name. It seems that the name may have started as Siveri at some point years ago. I noticed it listed as an optional spelling in the other genealogies of the Siffrin line. I would be interested in knowing more about the spelling variation.
I noticed in the details of my 6th great grandfather Philipp, he was a glassmaker, as was my 5th great grandfather Jakob. My second great grandfather was also a Glassblower and worked in Norristown, Pennsylvania at a glass factory. My great grandfather started out as a Glassblower and later became a painter and paperhanger.
After my first marriage, we bought a beautiful house in the country that had been built around the time of the Great Depression. The original family was well off and the house was decorated in the finest manner of the time. All of the rooms were wallpapered and the floor covered in a custom made rug over beautifully finished oak hardwood floors. The wallpaper hadn’t been touched since the day it was put up and it was showing wear. We began tearing it off. As I worked my way around the living room and reached the fireplace I noticed hand writing on the wall. My great grandfather had wallpapered the house, it was his signature was on the wall.
From the trees that I found I noticed that my 3rd great grandfather and all of his siblings were born in Schoeneck, Lothringen, France. Their father was born in Ehlingen, Saarland, Germany, but their mother was born in Schoeneck, Lothringen, France also and they were married in Forbach, Lothingen, France. Previously the Siffrin line was in Ehlingen, Friedrichsthal, and Bildstock Germany. My 2nd great grandfather was born in Merchweller and documents show that my great grandfather and his brother William were born in Stolberg, Germany.
The family seemed to be used to moving a lot. I found a new address for them every two years while members were living in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Even though Philadelphia and Kane, Pennsylvania are at opposite sides of the state and a five hour trip on paved highways today, an unimaginable trip in the late 1880s early 1900s, many of them moved multiple times between the cities.
I decided to tackle the Eberhard side of the family using the German records on familysearch.org. With all of the searching and found information on Caroline Eberhard Siffrinn, I am pretty sure that Louis Eberhard and Louise Rusche were her parents. The spelling of the names on German records fluctuated greatly and it took multiple tries to bring up birth/christening information on Caroline’s siblings. One of the searches that helped the most was by using the Evangelisch, Langendreer, Westfalen, Prussia location information in the residence field and as few letters as possible plus wildcards in the name fields.
I found Louis Eberhard’s full name listed as Henrich Ludwig Eberhard, married to Louise Rusche on June 26, 1827 in Evangelisch, Langendreer, Westfalen, Prussia. Louise’s first name could also be found spelled Luise.
The first child I found for Louis and Louise is Wilhelm Ludwig Eberhard, born April 18, 1828. Wilhelm Ludwig married Lissette Katthage on December 5. 1857, in Evangelisch, Lagendreer, Westfalen, Prussia. They had 3 children, Maria Louise Hulda, Emilie, and Laura Wilhelmine.
The next child that I found is Frederich Wilhelm, born May 4, 1830 and married to Juliane Schaefer, February 2, 1856 in Evangelisch, Lagendreer, Westfalen, Prussia.
The third child found is Gustav Henrich, born January 30, 1833, married to Amalie Bergmann on October 29, 1860 in Evangelisch, Lagendreer, Westfalen, Prussia.
The fourth child found is Wilhelm Theodor, born Jul 28, 1835, married to Elise Sophie Seidenstuekker on October 29, 1860 in Evangelisch, Lagendreer, Westfalen, Prussia.
Child number five is August Adolph, born January 20, 1838. August Adolph married Maria Sophie Lisette Bottermann on November 22, 1863 in Evangelisch, Lagendreer, Westfalen, Prussia. They had three children, Effriede Clara, Louise, and Julie Mathilde.
Child number six is Wilhelmine Caroline, born April 12, 1840. I have not found a marriage record for Wilhelmine Caroline.
The seventh child found is Philip Adolph, born March 1843. I also have not found a marriage record for Philip Adolph.
Child number eight is Sophia Caroline, born Jan 10 1846. Sophia Caroline married Johann Philipp Schaum on May 15, 1860 in Evangelisch, Lagendreer, Westfalen, Prussia.
The last child is my second great grandmother, Caroline “Lena” Eberhard, born July 5, 1848. According to one of the U.S. census records, Caroline claimed to have been married 3 times. I know that one was my second great grandfather Louis (Ludwig) and the second to his brother William (Wilhelm) but the third I could never determine. From the recent records found, I have a Gustav Albert Schilling married to Caroline Eberhard on September 28, 1868 in Evangelisch, Witten, Westfalen, Prussia. This is four years prior to her marriage to my second great grandfather.
I decided to search on the birth of children to the couple Gustav Albert and Caroline and found two records. Those listed were, Adolph Wilhelm Schilling and Emma Caroline Schilling, born 1871 and 1869 respectively. Caroline had claimed to have 12 children on one of the census records. I have only been able to locate 9 of those. Two of those children were born before her marriage to Louis Siffrinn, one of the two was Emma (listed as Siffrinn) born in 1869. There is a possibility that the missing children were from a previous marriage.
It is still unclear if Gustav Adolph was her first marriage, and if her children born prior to 1872 were Louis Siffrinn’s children, which is possible or from another relationship. I can’t find a death or divorce record for Gustav Adolph to help clarify that relationship either. There is another Caroline SIffrinn, from the same location, different parents, born in June of the same year that could be the wife of Gustav Adolph instead of my Caroline. I am left with more questions than answers, again.
My Siffrinn family has been one of my biggest brick walls for information. My gg grandparents Louis Siffrinn and Caroline Everhardt Siffrinn have been a tough line to follow. The going is slow but progress has been made lately, once again thanks to more and more documentation being added on line. My sources are coming from both ancestry.com and familysearch.org. For even more help I joined “the Conservatory” group on Facebook for direction on the spelling of the name.
From the Conservatory I learned that the name could be spelled Siffermann and that my gg grandmother’s name Everhardt might be spelled Eberhard. I have wondered all along if the names had been Americanized once they came to the states and just how much change had been made.
Family search turned up even more information. From marriage records to her second husband and his second marriage I was able to determine a good deal of information. Caroline’s second marriage application to William Siffirinn, her brother-in-law, revealed that her husband, Louis Siffrinn had died October of 1888. This was the first time that I saw her maiden name of Everhardt and her father’s first name, Louis. It also had the names of her in-laws, John and Christina Siffrinn. Their marriage record also showed me that they were still living in Norristown, Pennsylvania in 1890. The record also proved the family relationship of both her husbands.
From William Siffrinn’s second marriage record I found the March 1911 death date of Caroline. It also contained the maiden name of William’s mother that I read as Ronen.
With a clearer idea of how long the family had stayed in Norristown, Pennsylvania, I went back to the ancestry search and entered Siffrinn and Norristown and set the search to be specific to those 2 elements. My results had several Siffrinns in Norristown in the late 1800s city directory. I found a Sophia/Sophie, Lena, Augusta, Mary and William. Some of the entries were for Siffrinn and others spelled Siffrin. Ancestry search was not turning up all of the listings for Norristown in all of the available directories no matter how I entered information into the fields. To make sure I wasn’t missing anything, I continued the search by going through each directory one page at a time, through the “S” listings. From 1888 – 1908 I found listings for the family including one for my g grandfather Peter L Siffrinn. Sophia, Augusta, and Mary were all daughters of Louis and Caroline. William was her brother-in-law/husband and Lena was Caroline’s nickname.
In the 1888 directory Caroline, listed as “Lena,” had listed herself as the widow of Louis. From the marriage records I knew that Louis had died in 1888. I selected the Norristown directory for 1886 and hand searched the “S” listings to see if they were in the city at that time. I found Louis Seffren, glassblower, listed. I would not have found this entry without hand searching this directory. I could not find the family in the 1884 Norristown directory. My missing years are now from 1879 – 1886.
With the information I now had I went back to family search to see if I could find anything in the German records. My first discovery was what I believe to be the birth record for William Siffrinn. The documentation has his name spelled Wilhelm Sifrin, father, Johann Sifrin, and mother Christina Raven. He was christened on May 21, 1864 at Buesbach, Rheinland, Prussia. I had misread Christina’s maiden name once I double checked the marriage certificate for William.
Also listed as a child of Johann Siffrin and Christina Raven is Helena Siffrin, christened Feb 11, 1867, Buesbach, Rheinland, Prussia.
As I continued to adjust the search fields I found the marriage information for Louis and Caroline in Germany. The document information dated August 30, 1872, was for Ludwig Sifrin and Carolina Eberhad at Evangelisch, Weitten, Westfalen, Prussia. A second document information is listed for Ludwig Siefrin and Caroline Eberhard, dated September 1, 1872 at Katholisch, Witten, Westfalen, Prussia.
The christening of two of Ludwig and Caroline’s children also were listed. Louis Siefrin, christened April 8, 1873 at Katholisch, Witten, Westfalen, Prussia and Sophia Carolina Siefrin, christened April 2, 1874, at Buesbach, Rheinland, Prussia. I didn’t have Louis in my family listing and had just discovered Sophia in the directories for Norristown, Pennsylvania.
I am still missing the immigration records for Louis, Caroline and family and more detailed information on their German roots but I have come a long way.
Although Grandma, Thelma Mariah Oakley West, was born in Olean, New York, in 1904, her family moved to Bradford, Pennsylvania when she was young. Great Grandpa, George Clair Oakley found a house for them on Summer Street in Bradford and Grandma and her siblings would grow up there.
This picture is of Grandma and her grade school class at the Second Ward School, on the corner of Elm and Congress Street. Grandma is in the front row, first from the right, with the bow in her hair. I am estimating that the photo was taken about 1913.
Bradford’s population was growing rapidly and by the 1920s had reached 20,000 and it wasn’t uncommon to have 50 children in a grade school class. This class had around 40 children in it. The wooden building would be replaced in 1935 with a brick building.