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.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wordless Wednesday, 30 Sept 2009

The 2 Wilcox homes, Dallas, Dallas, Texas. Above: the Peabody house with Edward Everett Wilcox's first & second wives - Amanda WILLIFORD (on the right) and her nurse, Leonora Adelia STICKLE CASKEY WELCH (on the left); probably Nellie Elbert WILCOX in the front. About 1891.

Below, the Parkview house (still standing), about 1910:

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Nellie Elbert WILCOX BOGAN (b: 20 July 1884, Dallas, Dallas, Texas; d: 30 September 1931, Texas, 78 years, less 1 day, ago today), buried 2 October 1931, Oakland Cemetery, Dallas, Dallas, Texas; md. to Arthur Raymond BOGAN. Nell was my grandaunt (my paternal grandfather's sister, who died way too soon.

She left behind one son, Arthur Raymond BOGAN, Jr. who allegedly left Dallas area. The eventual whereabouts of her husband and son are unknown & I would love to find out where they ended up.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

History Repeating Itself, Musically

I have been reading John Denver's Autobiography Take Me Home. In it he mentions a phenomenon of his music as it correlates with the timing of the ending of the Vietnam War: "while the war in Vietnam was winding down . . . the song ["Sunshine on My Shoulders"] suddenly reached out to touch a deep chord of need in the country" (p. 131).

This reminded me of the phenomenon of Stephen Foster's music in the mid-1860s and how it allowed people the opportunity to "escape" the reality of the Civil War, which touched virtually every household in America, North and South. While his songs had been known and sung for years before the War, his popularity soared during the conflagration, especially towards the end when the country wearied of the seemingly endless conflict. (Read more on Foster in one of my earlier posts, 23 June 2009.) Having the opportunity to escape with "Beautiful Dreamer," the family gathered around the piano-forte to join together in song - no doubt mindful of the voices that were not included, having been silenced on the battlefields - providing people a chance to forget, even if only for a few moments, the ravages of war. Songs he had written years before the war were resurrected to be elements of escape for his many fans. Like Denver, he, too, died way before his time (he was only 38).

This comparison got me to thinking about whether or not WWI and WWII also had their entertainment escape options, providing the country with a way to leave the war behind for a short moment. During and before the Civil War, the people's entertainment (outside of the home) was the Minstrel Show (often incorporating Stephen Foster songs), but following that time period in history, the minstrel shows died out and were replaced by Vaudeville. Here, again, was a place where the atrocities of WWI could be escaped for the mere price of admission; and, with Edison's gramophone now found in most homes, people could "bring the music home" to play in their own parlors. To read more about this means of entertainment, check out the website that declares vaudeville to be "a dazzling display of heterogeneous splendor" by Rick Caston.

Also popular during WWI was a man whose music provided both patriotic songs and escape music in WWII as well: Irving Berlin. In WWI, Berlin wrote more about the war; in WWII, while contributing many songs to create a sense of American unity (e.g., "God Bless America," written in 1938), Berlin also wrote to help people forget war. The 1940s is marked, musically, by such productions as "White Christmas" and "Holiday Inn," great escapes, both. Berlin's 60-year career contributed a lasting legacy of music in America.

Musical theater also provided Americans with a means to escape war in the 1940s: Meet Me in St. Louis and Going My Way, both produced in 1944, are perfect examples.

So, whether it was gathering around the piano-forte in the parlor as a group of family members and friends, singing from the sheet music of Stephen Foster, getting out of the house to attend a vaudeville show or musical theater production of Irving Berlin's during the early- to mid-1900s, or singing along with the radio in the car "with" John Denver, Americans have found ways to musically side-step the wars of the times. In a way, since the popularity of these composers and media have been so universally accepted, they have served to unite Americans, even if their personal views on the respective wars have differed.

One is left to wonder if there is such a uniting force at work today, in the musical world, to allow us such an escape from what is currently happening overseas. Perhaps that is a personal issue, with less singing in group gatherings and more people listening privately to MP3s on personal players instead of as a group gathered around the radio or phonograph. And perhaps the escape elements are things that must be examined after the fact. Perhaps we shall see.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Treasure Chest Thursday - Grandfather's Rocker

When my grandfather, Lee Alfred Wilcox, died in 1968, the same night that Dr. Martin Luther King was shot, we (my parents & I) were left to clean out his house. One of the items I (still in high school) insisted we keep was his rocking chair. For hours, as a small child, I would sit on the arm of that chair, half in "Deeda's" lap, rocking & listening to the stories of his childhood and my family legacy (much of which fueled my interest in genealogy). I wanted that chair! Though there was no convenient place to keep it in my family's home, my parents relented and squeezed it in until I moved out to my own apartment. That chair has moved across country, up & down the coast of California, and still sits in my home today. Every time I sit in it and run my hands along the arms, I am taken back to those days in Wilmette, Cook, Illinois, when I learned about my lineage.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wordless Wednesday, 23 Sept 2009

My great-grandfather, Edward Everett WILCOX (son of Nathan WILCOX & Irene FREEMAN) with paternal grandmother, Mary YOUKER WILCOX, widow of Peter C. WILCOX. Decatur, Van Buren, Michigan, abt 1862.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday, 22 September 2009

James B. WILCOX, son of Nathan W. WILCOX & Irene FREEMAN, b: abt 1857, New London, Henry, Iowa; d: bef 22 September 1866, Nashville, Davidson, Tennessee; buried 22 September 1866, City Cemetery, Nashville, Davidson, Tennessee (143 years ago today). Cause of death: congestive chills (probably precursor to cholera, which was epidemic in Nashville at that time with 55 people dying within a three-day period).

Tombstones of that time period are impossible to read (sandstone?). His burial location is noted as "Maple Ave." - the corner located below:

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Music boxes, nickelodeons, & House on the Rock

We toured House on the Rock yesterday (had planned to go, changed plans, then changed them again . . . didn't want to miss this amazing place where one can listen to the songs and music machines of a bygone era). House on the Rock is located in Spring Green, Wisconsin, not far from Madison. It was built by Alex Jordan and added onto over the decades (reminded me of Sarah Winchester, only her house was a continuous building project due to superstitions, and where her many staircases lead nowhere, Mr. Jordan's keep leading to something more amazing than the last exhibit).

One of my favorite aspects of the museum/house/arboretum is the abundance of music throughout the entire property. Visitors are given tokens (and can purchase more, if they run out) in order to control the playing of the many music machines that are placed in various rooms. While the second tour (there are three, total, and we did "the whole experience") contains the "Music of Yesterday" display, all the tours have some music involved.

Many of the objects on display are genuine antiques, but there are a great many of objects that Jordan created from his own imagination, identifying them as replicas or imitations. To view photos of the various music apparati, check out the Sanjaal Gallery: The Facets of Originality.
This photographer has captured House on the Rock in 160 files (each containing approx. 20 photos). The photo at the beginning of this post is one from that gallery; here is another one of my favorites (I love the mandolins):

It is clear that some of the music makers - nickelodeons; player pianos; and animated, computer-driven orchestras - are products of a recent era (when one listens to the theme from The Godfather, "Seventy-Six Trombones," or "Tennessee Waltz," all played at various locations on the tours, it is a give-away that these are not authentic antiques!). But the imagination of the creator is unique and so clearly "out of the (music) box" that it makes one forget these are not the same machines our ancestors played in their honky-tonks.

To get the full flavor of the music makers - both the appearance and the sound - check out this website by Galen R. Frysinger, who has detailed 2 of the most popular musical extravaganzas at the attraction - the Carousel and the Mikado - plus has provided a magnificent look at the Interior of the unique location. His photo of one of the organs gives one a sense of the majesty of some of the instruments in the collection (my father would have loved this one!):

Check the website of Douglas H. Henkle to learn more about the music and the machines of this unusual tourist attraction. And, if you happen to be in Madison, Wisconsin, and time allows, drive up to Spring Green to check out the House on the Rock for yourself: it will give a whole new meaning to the term "Rock Star." And I'll bet you'll find yourself humming along at least once on your tour!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wordless Wednesday, 16 Sept 2009

b: 9 August 1873, Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
d: 10 September 1964, Glenview, Cook, Illinois

My maternal grandmother. Love you, Grandma!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Buried in Union Cemetery, Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin - my great-grandfather's sister & brother-in-law.
Maria Eva HOLLAENDER MEYER, b: 28 January 1835, Edesheim, Pfalz, Bayern, Germany; d: 1910, Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Ludwig (Louis) David MEYER, Sr., b: 1833 (christened 1 November 1833), Freudenberg, Mosbach, Baden, Baden, Germany; d: 1926, Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Music & the Old, and not so Old, West

Well, I am at the Bonanza convention (yup, a convention for fans of the old TV show) and am having a great time (making new friends, connecting with old ones, & enjoying Lake Tahoe, between watching videos of ... well, you can probably guess). Music is a major part of the whole weekend.

We are selling our CDs here, which is a nice "icing on the cake," but also listening to the CDs of the Bonanza stars (what? you didn't know there are CDs of Lorne Greene, Pernell Roberts, Dan Blocker, & Michael Landon? Well! These are remastered from their old LPs ... click here to check out the 4-disc set). And tonight we are part of the entertainment, singing old Western songs, calling the square dance, and introducing other performers (Mitch Vogel, who played Jamie Cartwright - yup, an even younger brother - is here & plays a mean guitar ... well, he plays mine because it's more convenient).

Music was part of the old west! My latest CD - "Songs of the American West" - is now available for order from CDBaby. From there you can hear clips and even download MP3s of the songs!

Well, the auction of Bonanza memorabilia is about to begin so I will have to blog more about Western songs at a later date!

"We chased Lady Luck till we finally struck BONANZA; with a gun & a rope and a hatful of hope, we planted our family tree!" Everybody sing!

One quick PS: I swear, half the people here have the Bonanza theme as their cell phone ring. The theme plays and 50 people are grabbing for their cell phones (whew, I'm not one of them ... my cell phone ring is the Flash Gordon theme!).

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wordless Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Captain Nathan W. WILCOX, Union Army, Col. Bissell's Engineering Regiment of the West out of Missouri. Enlisted 13 August 1861, New London, Henry, Iowa; Appointed 2nd Lt. Co. K, 1 September 1861, Burlington, Des Moines, Iowa; Mustered in 31 October 1861, St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri; Promoted to 1st Lt. Co. I, 14 July 1862; Promoted to Captain Co. D, 17 October 1863, Corinth, Alcorn, Mississippi; Discharged 28 December 1863, Nashville, Davidson, Tennessee.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Nathan W. WILCOX (b: 1828, Oswego, Oswego, New York; d: 9 September 1891, Nashville, Davidson, Tennessee, 118 years ago tomorrow; buried 10 September 1891, Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Nashville, Davidson, Tennessee) md: Irene FREEMAN, 13 February 1848, Depauville, Jefferson, New York.

Nathan was my great-great-grandfather; he served in Colonel Bissell's Engineering Regiment of the West out of Missouri as an architect and builder, was promoted twice, being discharged as a Captain. He served in a number of different companies as needed and, after discharge in January 1864, continued to work as an engineer under contract to the government. He was instrumental in the reconstruction of Tennessee, going where he was needed.

As a Union officer buried in a Confederate Cemetery, his tombstone is long gone. I hope to get it replaced in the not-too-distant future. Here is about where he was buried, according to the records at Mt. Olivet:

Thursday, September 3, 2009

What instruments did your ancestors play?

I am blessed: my great-grandmother's family left behind a number of instruments that they played - a mandolin, a banjo (an 1889 Fairbanks & Cole parlor banjo that I recently had refurbished), and a violin. When I wanted to learn guitar, my mother took me to the attic to show me these instruments (point of information: never store instruments in the attic unless it is climate-controlled), along with her ukulele from her youth. I selected that one, but later dabbled with the mandolin and learned the banjo. When I play the mandolin & banjo I think about my great-grandmother and her music background (she was raised in a family where there was a conservatory in which the family entertained and enjoyed music events). Maybe it's hereditary.

I was talking to my friend, Diane Wright, about knowing what musical instruments were in the family and she shared the following with me about her own grandfather:
How great to have the photos of George's instruments. If you don't have the instruments of photos of them, you might still be able to learn what instruments your ancestors played by checking the tax lists and/or estate inventories. Because music can be very personal to people, their instruments are also likely to have been cherished elements of their lives, so learning about them may cause us to feel that much closer to these special people.

If you have a story about your ancestors' musical background & would like me to share it here, send it along (especially welcome are photos of old instruments . . . and even more welcome if they are shown in the hands of the musicians).

Best wishes in your roots pursuits!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday, 1 September 2009 - Aunt Mamie

Mary Eva Hollander was christened Maria Eva, named for her paternal aunt, Maria Eva Hollaender Meyer (from Edesheim, Bavaria, Germany). She never married. Throughout her life she knew many suitors, but none was good enough (but she always kept the jewelry they gave her). Instead, she devoted her life to taking care of her parents and handling the family business - Hollander's Human Hair Emporium. She and her older sister, Emma, were inseparable in their younger years and then, again, after Emma's husband died. Mary Eva, known as Mamie to her friends and family, was close to Emma's daughter and her family and I remember Aunt Mamie as being one of the people who was a major character in my growing up. I still remember her listening to her beloved Milwaukee Braves (radio broadcasts of the games) and enjoying a beer (one of Milwaukee's products, of course).

b: 12 December 1877, Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (christened in St. Mary's Catholic Church, 10 February 1878, Milwaukee; Mary Eva Hollaender Meyer was her godmother) and d: 28 August 1964, Wauwatosa, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (buried in Forest Home Cemetery, 8 September 1964, Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin).