Not long ago I blogged about the various books where I research the music of our ancestors. There is a lot out there, but for those who are notably challenged - i.e., unable to read the melody lines - it may not be very helpful. Of course, in this 21st Century, the most obvious option (and I use it a lot) is "Google" (for lyrics and MP3s) and "YouTube" (to hear arrangements and melodies). It seems that almost everything has been recorded . . . well, it seems that way, but that's really not the case. If you are looking for the music of your ancestors, you might want to see what
has to offer (click the logo above). Many of their vinyl collections have been reissued on CDs and cassettes, and are even available in MP3 format for easy downloads (and you don't have to download an entire album; you can download just the song/songs you want). Most of their earliest recordings have been remastered for the best quality possible. So what should you do with this information? Try this:
If your family came from Louisiana, you might look under the "genre" drop down menu on the left for "Jazz" or "Cajun" music, then you can listen to a sample and download (for a fee) what you might like to have on your computer or even to include in your genealogy program (you can add audio files to most genealogy software programs, like RootsMagic, Legacy, FamilyTreeMaker, PAF, etc.). Putting a sample of the type of music your ancestor probably listened to (or played, or sang) would add a personal touch to your family history.
The genres on the Smithsonian Folkways label cover many different cultures, ethnicities, religions, and geographic locations around the world. Beyond that, many of their recordings include word booklets (they come with the CDs, but you can download them in PDF format, whether or not you purchase the recording). There are also some DVDs in their on-line catalog, many of them that teach how to play various instruments (just think, you can learn to play banjo and carry on a family tradition . . . or, not).
There is also a quarterly magazine for Smithsonian Folkways, highlighting some of the music genres that were probably part of your family's life in some generation(s) in the past. Learn about how that element of your culture is being maintained today:
So there are some ideas of adding music to your family history research, and you don't even have to sing a note! Check out Smithsonian Folkways, join their mailing list, and get 10% off a Smithsonian Institution membership!!
Help keep the folklore of our forebears alive and well!