The Singing Stream, Tuesday, August 16th

The Singing Stream Poster with date

I’m excited to be showing The Singing Stream at our library in August.  This new edition of the classic 1985 film has 54 minutes of new material filmed in 2015 of the surviving members of the Landis family.

From the back of the DVD a review of A Singing Stream: A Black Family Chronicle by Frye Gaillard in the Charlotte Observer:

“With their roots running deep into the rich tobacco flatlands for eastern North Carolina, the Landises made their way from tenant farming to landowner status in the hard years of the Depression and WWII.  They survived- with their sense of kinship and identity intact- the dispersal of the family members for jobs in the north and the rapid racial changes of the civil rights movement…[On] any list of the ingredients of black progress in America there is probably none more important than the historic strength of the extended black family.  A little epic…positive…uplifting.”

Researching Genealogy in Ireland Part 1


The entrance to the NLI                     Author’s photo



The Reading Room                                  Image from the NLI

For the past two weeks I have been in Ireland seeing the sights, enjoying the craic and doing some research on my great grandmother’s family.  Genealogical research in Ireland can be difficult due to record loss during the Irish Civil war in 1922 when the Public Records Office exploded and burned after being bombarded.  Although many wills, census records and parish registers were destroyed, there were a large number of records that survived because they weren’t housed in the office but in the counties and parishes throughout the country.

If you happen to be in Ireland, a great place to start is the magnificent National Library of Ireland in Dublin, and that is where I went first. The NLI offers the free Genealogy Advisory Service, which is a great help to get yourself oriented and there is no appointment necessary.  I was looking for a specific book, Infanticide in the Irish Crown Files at Assizes, 1883-1900 by Elaine Farrell, and I already knew it was in their  collection and as soon as I filled out a request card they were able to retrieve the monograph for me to peruse at my leisure in their soaring, domed reading room (see picture).  The library allows photography so I was able to take pictures with my phone of what I needed.  I didn’t do anymore research at the NLI because  the Irish Catholic Parish records had been recently digitized and placed online, so I already knew where to look next in County Roscommon.


The author looking jet-lagged



Old Mill of Guilford

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I was driving toward Stokesdale, NC to pick up my dog (it was being boarded while I was on vacation) and passed something that gave me pause.  It was a working grist mill!  That is something you don’t find everyday.

I had to stop and check it out.  The mill, called Old Mill of Guilford, was being tended by a nice lady from Germany.  She and her husband had moved to the US to become farmers and she worked at the mill during the week.  She told me that she was not the miller, but gave short tours and sold their products from the store. She walked me through the process of grinding and hopping the corn to make grits.  They have three millstones and one is 200 years old.

The mill was originally opened in 1764 by Daniel Dillon and was seized by Cornwallis before the Battle of Guilford Courthouse to grind corn for his soldiers.  The mill has been working ever since.

After the short tour I ducked into the store at the back of the mill and bought a bag of grits and a bag of oatmeal.  There were many other products including polenta, which led me to ask a question that I had always wondered about.

“What’s the difference between grits and polenta?”

“Polenta is ground finer,” says the German woman.

This brought up a memory about the Neapolitan war bride who ran her namesake Angie’s Italian restaurant in Gastonia when I was younger.  She told me that she was raised by nuns in an orphanage and when they served polenta she would stick it under the table like chewing gum so she wouldn’t have to eat it.  She also had a large portrait of the legendary NC State basketball coach Jim Valvano behind the register and she would sometimes point to it and say that he ate here, but would then get sad and say, “The cancer.”

A funny coincidence happened the next day when we ate brunch at Lucky 32 in Cary and I saw on their menu that they served Old Mill of Guilford grits.  It was a pleasant surprise.

Check out their website for more history and products.