In my last post I started telling the story of the Anderson family. Writing it all down is proving to be an interesting challenge in a pleasant way. First off, everyone has a unique life full of twists and turns, anecdotes and little moments that live on in the memories of family members. But the question is where to start, what to tell and in what order. I have decided that similarly in the way that memories resurface often not following a chronological order, nor will these stories always follow the calendar. I feel extremely lucky that there are so many good quality photographs that have survived. And this is just from one side of the family. I know my Gramma Darlene has photographs and stories from her side of the family as well. Whenever I visit, I walk past the wall of frowning ancestors, as she calls them.

Anderson family about 1900
Anderson family, about 1900

But back to the Anderson family. Their oldest daugher was Elma. As I have understood Elma had a large personality and a big heart and loved children. She never married and perhaps back in her time she might have been called a spinster but today I am sure she would have called herself single. She worked as a stenographer or someone who typed letters and did translation work for the Finnish community. She lived above the store on 238 Humboldt and across the street was the church. I think that the church is beautiful in a very timeless manner. And I keep stopping at the photo as I go through them.

church on humboldtElma seemed to comfortable with who she was. She was not overly concerned with what others thought and I am imagining her to be a free spirit. She was an artist, a poet, told stories to children and listened to their stories in earnest. Although her mother was really quite short, Elma could not be called small. She had generous hips and was on the larger side and was quite athletic, walking, skating and swimming. She smoked in a time when women often did not smoke and I imagine that her office in downtown Minneapolis was filled with the clackety-clack of a typewriter and perhaps sometimes a cloud of smoke since she lived in a time when there were no designated smoking areas. The papers that she would run down to the post office probably had a signature scent that clung to them, that would then arrive in the recepient’s mailbox along with the papers. Really it was not that long ago that not every house had a typewriter or even a camera and now even our grade school kids might have smart phones that have cameras. So much has changed in one hundred years and yet the nature of people stays the same. My perception of the era of Elma, is that it was more proper and society perhaps had, maybe not more rules but different rules that had to be followed. When my Grampa told me that she would walk down to Cedar lake in her swim suit and bath robe I can only imagine that she was breaking some of those unwritten rules. Some would good-naturedly chuckle and smile. She was Elma after all. While I do not want to make implications on anyone, my Isabella keeps coming to mind. I have had people tell me that she is a free spirit with a mission. And she likes to pose just like Elma. But she is only three going on four and so I will let her grow into her own person and decide for herself who she will become.

Elma portraitElma 2

Elma 4

Grampa told me that she had great culinary skills and once when he was a kid their family visited her home. She made them a meal and promised all of the children that the first one to finish their plate would get a prize. Well, Grampa won! And it was a handkerchief that was white with a blue border and white stars. I can just imagine how proud he was with his light blue eyes sparkling, and he claims that he is still good at cleaning his plate. I don’t doubt that statement as they always seems to have delicious food.

Jim Wuollet
Jim Wuollet

I think Elma might have liked these gingerbread muffins. I know that it is past Christmas but I do think the flavors are fulfilling and perfect for any day in the winter.

gingerbread muffins

Gingerbread muffins

0.8 dl/ 1/3 c brown sugar
1 dl/ 1/2 c molasses
0.8 dl/ 1/3 c milk
1 dl/ 1/2 c oil
1 egg
1.8 dl/ 3/4 c apple sauce
just under 6 dl/ 2 and 1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2-1 tsp cinnamon (according to taste)
dash cloves
1 tsp salt
100 g /3.5 oz marscapone cheese

A ball of gingerbread about the size of your fist


1.5 dl/generous 1/2 c heavy whipping cream
1 dl/ 1/2 c thick Greek or Turkish yoghurt
1/2 dl/ 1/4 c powdered sugar
gingerbread muffins unbaked

Mix all of the dry ingredients in a bowl with a spoon. In another bowl, lightly whisk all of the wet ingredients and egg together. Make a well in the bowl with dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients and stir until just combined. Do not over mix. Spray a muffin tin with non-stick spray and divide the batter amongst the 12 muffin tins. Using two spoons make a small well in each muffin and drop in a generous teaspoon of marscapone cheese. Roll out the gingerbread dough and make small cookies. Place one cookie on each dollop of marscapone cheese. Bake at 200 C/390 F for about 15-20 minutes or until a test skewer comes out clean.

Allow to completely cool. For the frosting whip the cream and then fold in the yoghurt and finally the powdered sugar to taste. It should not be too sweet and you should be able to taste the slight sourness of the yoghurt. Spoon a generous spoonful of frosting on each muffin and serve with coffee or tea.

gingerbread muffins 2


In age order: Elma, Emil, Ann, Wally, twins: Jean and Julie, and the baby Esther --1903
In age order: Elma, Emil, Ann, Wally, twins: Jean and Julie, and the baby Esther –1903



  1. Such great stories and photo’s. I love learning about family history/genealogy it’s fascinating. You have a very large family and it looks like everything was so well documented it’s amazing you have all those photo’s. My cousin has archives of all the photo’s of our family going back to when they came in through Ellis Island.

      1. Yes, we have a large family and it has been a blessing ❤ I believe that there were a couple if not a few in the family interested in photography and so there are many photographs to look at and hand down. Today it is so easy to scan and share electronically. How interesting that your family came through Ellis Island. What an experience that must have been. Full of hope but I'm sure some anxiety as well, fearing that one might be turned back.

  2. I like your Elma! She had style. And the twins are so cute. Are there other twins in the family? Do you see facial similarities with your children? I look at our frowning ancestors, particularly my grandfather’s family and say, “Oh, that one looks like my mother or he looks so like my brother.” The gingerbread muffins look delicious. I adore gingerbread but don’t have all of those ingredients at the moment.

    1. Oh, doesn’t she ever! I’m trying to think hard if there are other twins in the family…and I am not coming up with any! But yes I can see similarities in facial features. Someone might have the same shape of face or curve of the lip, or an expression that is familiar. I adore gingerbread and could eat it all year ’round! 🙂

      1. I made some gingerbread muffins yesterday. Delicious but I used a slightly different list of ingredients. I also had to ask my neighbour for some ginger. I had run out!!! I had twin great-uncles.

  3. Lovely post! I’m an avid genealogist, so I was completely happy just reading about Elma – then I got to the cupcakes! I’m a huge fan of gingerbread, too, in any form. 🙂

      1. Yes, she is! When I read about women like Elma, I applaud their spirit, and admire that they had the gumption to take life into their own hands and shape it to their will. Especially in a time when there were so many restrictions, written and implied!

        I’d like to say, “You go, girl!” to Elma! 🙂

  4. Amazing photographs and stories. I had a splurge on my own family tree until it got too difficult to research. Ginger is one of my favourite flavours in sweet baking.

    1. Family history can often get complicated…I am lucky as there are others before me that have done a good job sorting it out. But I’m afraid that if the stories and memories are not recorded they will disappear! Thanks for stopping by!

  5. What incredible stories from a fascinating time, thank you for sharing your family’s history. After studying so much modern history, I want to immerse myself as much as is possible without having a time machine. 🙂
    Vintage photography at its best!

    Choc Chip Uru

  6. I have an immediate liking for Elma. I love those old photos, the way people would pose for them. Why is it different now? I can’t quite put my finger on it, perhaps we are bolder in our poses these days. The gingerbread cakes look yum! Lovely post, thank you Laila.

    1. I did too, and it would have been so very interesting to have met her in real life. I think today there is such an over abundance of photographs since we all have cameras at least on our phones. Taking photographs in the early 1900s was certainly more of a special occasion and maybe they put more thought into it. Thanks so much for commenting.

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