About Me

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Lake Mathews (Perris), CA, United States
Born in Illinois, I grew up in Wilmette, a northern suburb of Chicago. I have one sibling, an older brother. I am married, for the 2nd time now, to Butch & got 4 children in the deal. They have gone on to make me grandmother 25 times over & great-grandmother to over 20!. After many years working in industry, I got my bachelors and masters degrees in speech communication, & was a professor in that field for 13 years. I retired in 2001 & returned to school & got my doctorate in folklore. Now I meld my two interests - folklore & genealogy - & add my teaching background, resulting in my current profession: speaker/author/entertainer of genealogically-related topics. I play many folk instruments, but my preference is guitar, which I have been playing since 1963. I write the "Aunty Jeff" column for the Informer, newsletter of the Jefferson County NY Gen. Soc. I work in partnership with Gena Philibert-Ortega & Sara Cochran as Genealogy Journeys® where we focus on educating folks about Social History. More about that: genaandjean.blogspot.com. More on our podcasts: genjourneys.podbean.com. More about my own projects: Circlemending.org.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Family Music at the Family History Expo in Utah

What did your ancestors do with music? Did they play instruments? Did they sing? Did they attend local concerts, such as the local band in the park? Maybe one of your ancestors taught other people how to play an instrument?

My granduncle, C. Harrison Hollander, played the piano-forte (piano) and absolutely loved music. He composed a few pieces and became the manager for an opera singer, Charlotte Peege, whom he later married. They lived in New York and Boston, where Charlotte could continue her career and where Harrison worked as a music critic, among other music-related jobs. Eventually they retired to Winter Park, Florida where they designed their own home, creating a huge living room with, as the focal point, a resident grand piano. They would host music gatherings and friends would fill the home as audience to Harrison on the piano and Charlotte "on" the voice.

I wonder if some of that behavior of having music in the home filtered down to me. Our house parties almost always include a number of musicians - playing guitars, banjos, autoharps, mandolins, fiddles, dulcimers, etc. - taking turns playing solo pieces or leading the whole group in singalongs. We can't imagine any other way of entertaining (and our neighbors frequently come by for a free concert).

If you would like to see a sample of this sort of activity, come to Sandy, Utah the last weekend of August. Butch & I will have a booth in the exhibit hall (#621 - way off in the corner where we can make noise & not disturb others) where we will have short demonstrations of the music of our ancestors. Also, on Sat. at 2:30, we will be doing an hour program on the music of the Mormon Pioneers called "To Zion in Song" (I'll write more about that next week).

But there is a lot of great stuff planned for the Family History Expo in Sandy, Utah ... check it out at:

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wordless Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Left: 2nd cousin, Justin Field
Right: Great-grandfather Fritz Mueller (also Justin's great-grandfather)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Arlington Cemetery, DuPage County, Illinois

Wilbur C. DALLMAN, b: 14 May 1898, Chicago, Cook, Illinois; d: 27 July 1975, Skokie, Cook, Illinois; buried: 30 July 1975, Arlington Cemetery, DuPage County, Illinois
md: Helen C. ?, b: 1911; d: 9 April 1971, Cook County, Illinois; buried: 13 April 1971, Arlington Cemetery, DuPage County, Illinois

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Jumping over the Moon and other Celestial Nursery Rhymes

With the recognition of it being 40 years this week since a human first walked on the moon, I began thinking about how long we have gazed at the moon and wondered about it before finally going to check it out first hand.

Some civilizations had folklore that claimed the moon was responsible for life on Earth, as we know it. Some Native American folklore considers the moon to be a male and some a female (though I don't recall gender being an issue when Neil Armstrong first walked across the lunar surface).

Early children's songs mention the moon, but also don't consider it male or female, though it is still a very important element. The earliest known songbook for children - Tommy Thumb's Pretty Songbook, Vol. II (ca. 1744) has at least two rhymes or songs referencing the moon:

The moon shines bright, the stars give a light,
And you may kiss a pretty girl At ten o'clock at night. (no. 2)


Girls and boys, Come out to play,

The moon does shine, As bright as day,
Come with a (w)hoop, Come with a call,
Come with a good will, Or not come at all. (no. 17)

(The latter of these two is not a new concept with Tommy Thumb as the Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes states that these chants date back to the very early 1700s - per The Annotated Mother Goose by William S. Baring-Gould and Ceil Baring-Gould, 1962.)

Of course, the moon's image in nursery rhymes continues to capture children's imagination when they recite about a cow jumping over it:

High diddle, diddle, The Cat and the Fiddle,
The Cow jumped over the Moon,
The little Dog laugh'd To see such Craft,
And the Dish ran away with the Spoon.

This familiar rhyme (or some derivation of it) has remained in children's books till today; its origins lay with the reign of Elizabeth I and the various characters are references to historic persons. A full discussion of this can be found in The Annotated Mother Goose (noted above), but a fairly good summary is also located on Wikipedia. There are many interpretations of the Cow and his/her travel over the moon, ranging from Elizabeth I's tendency to cause her entourage to do a fair amount of "jumping," to the constellation of Taurus the bull, to Egyptian religious beliefs involving Hathor, who possessed the head of of a cow.

So, long before a man walked on the moon, the importance of that orb has been part of our culture (and those of early civilizations). Whether you are kissing under the moon, playing in the moonlight, or encouraging nearby cows to take a leap, you are in the presence of the same celestial sphere that our earliest ancestors worshiped, kissed under, and played beneath.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wordless Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Hattie, Emma, Frank, & Albert Hollander (children of Adam and Carrie Trapschuh Hollander), Milwaukee, Wisconsin, ca. 1879

Mamie, Hattie, & Emma Hollander, Beaver Lake (near Hartland), Wisconsin, ca. 1917

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Hans Peter Johnson, b: 26 June 1877, Oconto, Oconto, Wisconsin; d: 18 July 1948, Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin; buried 21 July 1948 (61 years ago today), Forest Home Cemetery, Milwaukee. My maternal grandfather:

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The music question I can't answer

I don't want the title to appear as if I can answer all, or even most, music-related questions, but there is one I get frequently that I really don't know how to answer: "Where do you find those songs?" I present programs of historical significance, introducing audiences to the music their ancestors played and sang, so often people want to know where I dug up the material (no, I don't write these songs ... well, at least not most of them!). I have been collecting music since I was about 8 (my first music books, besides Mel Bay "How to play ukulele/banjo/mandolin," were a Christmas songbook my Dad gave me - it has so many notations in it that, even if it were a collector's item, it couldn't be resold! - and "Folk Sing!" a great book of folk songs that has long since lost its original cover and is actually in many pieces ... but I still use it).

Anyway, I thought I'd give folks some ideas of books that might provide ideas of the songs your ancestors sang. Some of these have music notations but some are just words and chords (for those of us who are somewhat musically-challenged).

The Burl Ives Song Book
This is a collection of American (and some British) songs throughout history. Songs range from children's songs to political pieces from all eras of the country. Short introductions tell a little history of the songs.

Folksinger's Wordbook Compiled by Fred & Irwin Silber (out of print)
While there is no music notation in this, the huge collection of songs from all over the world is cataloged into sections ranging from love to murder, war to holidays.

Folk Songs of North America by Alan Lomax
This was my text book in my Cal. State Fullerton class on Ballads and North American Folk Songs (fabulous course). It is also the book I use to help me write virtually every program I create. Again, songs are arranged in historical categories and all include a commentary about the origin and events surrounding their creation. If you get just one book about historical songs, this should be it. Search the web for the best price (the range goes from affordable to collectible).

Pioneer Songs compiled by the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers
This is a tough one to find at an affordable price, but worth the effort to locate. Contrary to the immediate impression, it is not a compilation of only Mormon Pioneer Songs, though many of those songs are included; this includes songs that were sung by the early Utah (and other state's) families. Some songs have been altered to fit LDS ideals, but it is a great expose of the music those early pioneers sang.

Songs of the American West edited by Richard E. Lingenfelter & Richard A. Dwyer
This is another "no longer in print" book that is worth the search. Historical commentary explains the details about the songs of those who "won the west." It has a huge section on Mormon pioneer songs (not all complimentary) and other regional/ethnic and occupational sections. A good addition to one's historic music library.

Rise Up Singing edited by Peter Blood-Patterson, a Sing Out publication
This is the book that is referred to as "the hymn book" or "the bible" by parlor musicians in song circles all across America. Note-dependent musicians are frustrated by the fact that there is no music notation, but "folkies" are content with the unique chord notation that is included. Songs of world-wide interest, including contemporary as well as traditional pieces, show tunes as well as children's favorites, make this a great addition to a family's music collection. I promise, whoever gets this book will find at least a half dozen songs he/she already knows.

Songs of the Civil War compiled & edited by Irwin Silber
For those who are interested in music of this historical event, this is the most comprehensive collection of such songs, both from the North and the South. There is also historical commentary in each section, telling the history of the battles as well as the music. Songs sung on the battlefields as well as in the homefront are included.

So there is a lengthy response to "where do you find these songs?" While not all these books are readily available, they can be found through used book outlets. And if you are looking for a particular song, there is always the old favorite: Google. Search by putting a short phrase, in quotation marks, in the search section, just remember that there are alternate titles for songs and, through the Folk Process (more on that in a later blog), lyrics get changed, so you may need to try different options.

Keep singing!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wordless Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Paul Robert JOHNSON (b: 13 September 1910, Kenosha, Kenosha, Wisconsin; d: 6 March 1987, Wilmington, New Castle, Delaware) & Elizabeth Beulah (Betty) BERENSON (b: 13 July 1912, Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin; d: 20 July 1993, Wilmington, New Castle, Delaware)
md: 7 September 1935, Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
(photo supplied by their son & my 2nd cousin, Carl Henry Johnson of Napa, California)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday, Gertrude Miller, 14 July 2009/14 July 1935

Gertrude MUELLER was born in Bonn, Westfalen, Germany on 17 February 1853 and immigrated to the United States in 1874, joining her mother who had fled Germany in 1864, leaving Gertrude and her siblings to be raised partly by an aunt and partly by the Catholic Church in Bonn, where she was planning to take her vows when her mother and step-father sent for her to join them in New York. Soon after her arrival, she took on the name of her step-father - WOLBERT - but on 10 May 1876 she married Carl Frederick (Fritz) MUELLER, bringing her name back to its original form. She used to tell people, "I was born a Mueller, I married a Mueller; I changed my name for no man." (Of course, that negates the fact that she used WOLBERT for a couple of years between things, even declaring it her maiden name on her marriage registration and on her children's birth registrations.) Gertrude moved a number of times, but called Chicago, Illinois home for the majority of her adult life, dying in Wilmette, Cook, Illinois on 14 July 1935, 74 years ago today, and was buried in Memorial Park Cemetery, Skokie, Cook, Illinois, next to her son and daughter-in-law. She was my great-grandmother.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Music and Culture

I continue to choose to investigate the relationship between our ancestors and their music. One way to get a sense of the importance of something to a prior generation is to look at how important it is to us, today. I doubt anyone will disagree with my claim that music has a vital and obvious role in our culture. If you do question that, check out what happened on Tuesday, 7 July 2009 on every basic television station throughout the morning and even most of the day (at least here in Southern California): non-stop coverage of the memorial for recently deceased musician Michael Jackson.

I am not here to debate the type of music that Michael performed throughout the various stages of his life, but the fact that he touched innumerable lives through the use of his music was evident in the crowds that attended his memorial and theater showings of that event. How many thousands, or even millions, watched the event on their home televisions can only be estimated. Clearly his music had an impact on people of all ages!

Another evidence of music and its role in our lives was brought home to me this week, also. I have been in bed nursing a cold and bronchitis and decided to watch (again) my DVD of National Treasure: Book of Secrets; only this time I watched it with the commentary from one of the directors who talked some about the music that was employed in the final product. He mentioned that it was important to keep the music volume down during character dialogue, but added that the music still needed to be in the background or its absence would be noticed. He also mentioned the need to have the music match the action. And that's something we may not consciously notice, but we respond to (emotionally) as we watch a video. If a scene is suspenseful, we can figure it out from the music that is played; if it is a funny scene, the use of music will tell us with a light tune or use of whistles or other noisemakers that communicate "funny, laugh now." I would venture to guess that if you watched a video with music but no dialogue, you could tell the emotions communicated in the various scenes.

This technique was a major component of the first motion pictures: the silent films. The live organ music was part of the show: the audience could tell what type of emotion was being conveyed by listening to the organist. My father, who was born during the era of the silent film, became a theater organist for fun later in life, playing to various films that he and Mom showed in their own home. Friends and family would come by to watch an old film and listen to his well-timed accompaniment. For many, it took them back to a much earlier time in their lives when things were simpler. (My folks were members of the Chicago Area Theatre Organ Enthusiasts for many, many years.)

So whether we are talking about the 21st Century or the early 20th Century, we know that music connected people to emotions and events. Is there any reason to believe it would not have been the same to those who lived in earlier Centuries? More on emotions and music in a future blog. For now: keep the music playing!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Wordless Wednesday, 8 July 2009/8 July 1865

G-g-grandmother Elisabeth Huberta THENEE (b: 20 Sep 1828, Rath, Westfalen, Germany; d: 24 Oct 1895, Chicago, Cook, Illinois) married Thomas MUELLER (b: 9 Jun 1830, Endenich, Westfalen, Germany; d: 14 Jan 1866, Bonn, Westfalen, Germany) on 21 Nov 1850, Bonn, Westfalen, Germany, & found herself in a very bad situation. Leaving 5 children & her life behind, she escaped her abusive husband through the efforts of an old family friend, Philipp WOLBERT (b: 11 Oct 1817, Bonn, Westfalen, Germany; d: 6 Mar 1890, Jersey City, Hudson, New Jersey). They were married 144 years ago, this date, 8 July 1865, New York City, Kings, New York, eventually sending for Elisabeth's daughters (incl. my g-grandmother). If it were not for Philipp, I am fairly certain Elisabeth, and possibly her children, would have died at the hand of her husband (yes, I know they were still married when Elisabeth & Philipp married). I credit my existence to Philipp Wolbert . . . he is my hero! This is their wedding photo (sorry, had to give an explanation . . . but, honestly, I kept it short . . . you should hear the long version!).

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday, 7 July 2009 - Calvin Wilcox

In 2001, we went searching for the grave of my g-g-grandfather's brother, Calvin WILCOX (b: 6 Jan 1830, Oswego, Oswego, New York; d: 19 Jul 1911, Almena, Van Buren, Michigan), whose grave was reportedly in Prospect Hill Cemetery, Paw Paw, Van Buren, Michigan. We had no indication as to where in the very large cemetery he was buried, so stopped after getting a few turns into the graveyard, towing a large travel trailer. Butch asked, "do you know where we are going?" I replied, "well, how about right here?" We were right in front of the Wilcox plot:

Calvin was buried with his wife, Rosanna Mary STUYVESANT (b: 11 Nov 1832, Watertown, Jefferson, New York; d: 30 Sep 1894, Decatur, Van Buren, Michigan); md: 26 Oct 1851, Watertown, Van Buren, Michigan, and her entire family shared the plot. As I looked around, to see who else was buried nearby, I noticed that fresh flags adorned the graves (it was shortly after Memorial Day, but not all graves were so decorated) . . . could there be a living relative in the vicinity? I had been told that Calvin and his wife had never had children.

It was clear that the gravesite had had a recent visitor and that lead took me to locating my (very much alive) 4th cousin and avid genealogist, George, and his family and the full lineage of Calvin and Rosanna (and their 6 children)! So much for family lore!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Weasel Popping, but around What?

When I grew up, in Wilmette, Illinois, I had the extreme pleasure of having, in the back yard, a mulberry tree which provided a huge amount of shade, creating almost a cave for me - I had no need for a playhouse: I had a mulberry tree (with delicious berries that I was free to consume throughout my play-time). Also, as a child, I was taught, by my father, an expert pianist, to sing all the nursery rhymes, including one that went, "Here we go 'round the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush; here we go 'round the mulberry bush, so early in the morning." Well, that song made very little sense to me for a number of reasons:
1) Our mulberry-bearing plant was huge and going around it would be very difficult, mainly because there was a hedge bordering it on one side and a fence on the other: you couldn't get around it if you wanted to!
2) Our mulberry tree bore no resemblance to a bush whatsoever.
3) We were all late sleepers in our family and doing anything early in the morning was completely out of the question!

I was also taught another song that went: "All around the cobbler's bench, the monkey chased the weasel; the monkey thought 'twas all in fun, POP! goes the weasel." It appeared to be nonsense, but was fun to sing, nevertheless.

Fast forward many years to after my marriage to my husband Butch and a time when we were singing strange songs and he started in with "All around the mulberry bush, the monkey chased the weasel ..." I stopped him cold! What was he thinking? Didn't he know the proper version? I tried explaining to him (from my position as a folklorist who has actually spent some time researching this particular children's rhyme) about the spinning wheel and its apparatus, the weasel, which actually "popped" during the sewing process (I've heard that the pop was to tell the worker that the spool was out of thread as well as that the desired amount of thread had been used). That didn't exactly clarify the identity of the monkey, which some believe is the child laborer, running around the workbench (cobbler's bench) to make sure the weavers and spinners had whatever they needed. (The next line - "A penny for a spool of thread, a penny for a needle, that's the way the money goes, POP! goes the weasel" - gives much more credence to monkeys chasing weasels around cobbler's benches as opposed to mulberry bushes, where very little sewing is likely to take place.)

For years now I have believed that Butch & I were the only people in the world who would waste time arguing about the monkey-chasing venue, but when I Googled the various versions, I found that this topic has occupied the time of a good many people out there, concerned about mulberry bush safety (monkey and weasel activity in such a vicinity could damage a good summer crop, I would imagine) and the logic of having monkeys and weasels in a cobbler's place of business.

In more recent years, probably to get the song to make even the slightest amount of sense, newer, more modern verses have popped (no pun intended) up. Some of these can be found at Dick Oakes' United States Song Words website (scroll down for more verses of this ditty than you will ever probably want to sing!). And, should you want to read more about the cobbler's bench-mulberry bush controversy, check out The Straight Dope or Worlds of Wonder websites (the latter of which reminds us that I just missed, again this year, the Pop Goes the Weasel Day celebration on June 14).

So ask your friends and family which version they were taught. Sing a round of "Pop! Goes the Weasel," just to belatedly honor the day named for the activity, or maybe try writing some verses of your own to bring things into the 21st Century ("Click! Goes the mouse"?).

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Wordless Wednesday, 1 July 2009

John JOHNSON (aka Hans HANSEN) (b: 10 Feb 1851, Denmark; d: 14 Nov 1892, Oconto, Oconto, Wisconsin) & Mary E. JENSEN (b: 2 Feb 1854, Denmark; d: 26 Apr 1914, Kenosha, Kenosha, Wisconsin), married about 1876 in Oconto, Oconto, Wisconsin (probably at the Danish Lutheran Church, no longer standing). (This is the only known photo of John Johnson.)