About Me

My photo
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.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Music, war, and the 21st Century

As those who have followed my blog know, this has been an amazingly emotional week. I have tried to keep up with the routine that makes up everyday living, but that hasn't always been possible as I have been fielding emails and phone calls from many well-wishers. I have been reading a lot about my friend Pernell Roberts and reminded that he had been in the Marine Corps Band in Quantico, Virginia in the the late 1940s.

The use of music in the military has long been a tradition in various wars, here and abroad, so it is no surprise that a news story on Good Morning America caught my eye, introducing me to

Things have not changed since our ancestors marched to war: music still inspires and soothes the souls of those who are at the battle line as well as those who support from the homefront. This amazing vocal group does just that with their music. As I watched the interview with them and listened to their incredible harmonies, I was moved by their talent and patriotism. Click on the image above to go to their website, see their YouTube performance, watch their interview on Good Morning America, pre-order their CD, and/or subscribe to their newsletter. They are carrying on a tradition of music in the time of war, no doubt making their ancestors proud.

They are (in the back): former Sgt. David Clemo, Staff Sgt (Ret.) Ron Henry, Capt. Meredith Melcher, and (in the front) Sgt. Daniel Jens, all veterans of the current war.

True to the tradition of professional entertainers touring to help raise the morale of the troops in the field, this group will be following so many others before them by visiting military bases later this year. What an inspiration!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Countdown to Family History Expo, St. George Utah

It seems as if I just posted a countdown to the Mesa Expo, and now it is time to start counting towards St. George. I love this Expo because it was my first experience with Family History Expos and its creator, Holly Hansen. I have come to truly love this woman, who seems to be able to do almost anything and who is aware of every aspect of these events. She is in touch with the presenters, the bloggers, the exhibitors, her own booth & its inventory, and her efficient staff. She is on top of every aspect of her "baby" and is admired by those who work with and for her.

Holly is one of those rare individuals who has a passion and then makes it her life's work to share it with those that will gain from her knowledge. She does this unceasingly: I swear, during an Expo she can't get more than a couple of hours of sleep, yet she is always smiling, alert, and ready to help in whatever way is necessary. I've watched her carry on two or three conversations at the same time without losing track of any of them. And, I do believe, in Mesa, I actually saw her in two places at the same time.

Holly is married, lives in Utah, and is the mother of five. If you attend the St. George Expo (and you won't be sorry if you do), when you see my friend Holly, tell her "thank you" because, without her, none of us would be there!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday - 28 January 2010

The deed for the property, shown on the previous posts of the Freeman farm. It led me right to the location!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - 27 January 2010

The larger portion of the map, showing the property of my g-g-g-grandfather, Edward Freeman, at the lower left corner, over the green/red border from Clayton, in Brownville.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Memorial for my Friend, Pernell Roberts (1928-2010)

One of my oldest friends has died. I am heartsick, but know that he is finally released from his pain and suffering. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer almost 3 years ago & fought it with every fiber of his being. Now he is at peace . . . and his loved ones left behind are mourning and hurting.

I first met Pernell Roberts in 1966. By 1969 we had forged a friendship and, after I moved to California in 1973, we ended up virtually neighbors (1 mile apart . . . which is essentially next door in California parlance). His wife & I became close friends & allies. And when I had problems or quandaries, it was to them I went for solace. Many an issue was discussed over Chinese food and pizza (not at the same time). He taught me to appreciate bleu cheese and anchovies. He also taught me to love myself and seek out the right paths for me, regardless of what others might think. I remember more than once, visiting a book store with him while he selected texts that would have particular application to me and my life.

When I met Butch & knew I was going to be serious about the guy, I took him to meet Pernell (to get approval?). In fact, as I have made many changes and adjustments throughout life, I have talked them over with Pernell. He was a mentor as well as a friend. Pernell's interest in my own father's past and Dad's involvement in the field of mathematics at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study gave me greater appreciation of my own roots.

Our last visits took place in 2008, after his surgery. We sang, shared stories, I shared some of his genealogy with him (showing him a census record that had his name on it - something not everyone gets to see in his/her life), and cried together. A few months later I returned with a friend, who insisted on taking a photo of me with him - I think we all knew it would be the last (I have many photos taken of the 2 of us together, but this one I will cherish as it was taken on our last in-person visit).

(photo, above, by Kim Marlow - 2008)

Though we spoke on the phone many times since that day (42 years after we first met), being 100 miles apart and having schedules that never seemed to be in sync meant that I was not to see him again. I have come to grips with that because the last visits were so positive and he, also, expressed pleasure in having good days at those times (as anyone who is familiar with cancer knows, some days are better than others).

Yesterday I received the phone call I had been dreading - my friend of so many years had passed away. A short while later the information was released to the media. I have met many wonderful folks who have been long-time Pernell Roberts fans, falling in love with young Adam Cartwright on Bonanza, but I met him after he left the show and, though I first was "introduced" to him as Adam on that show, I became far more impressed with his performances as Padraic Madigan (The Big Valley), Jim Boyer (The Virginian), Joey Celeste (The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.), Hezekiah Horn (The Young Riders), and so many other characters that it would (and does) fill pages. I was blessed to have visited the set of Trapper John, M.D. on many occasions and get to watch him as he developed that memorable character after the M*A*S*H years. And I was fortunate enough to have seen him on stage numerous times in 6 different plays, seeing him as the King in The King and I, Rhett Butler in the musical version of Gone with the Wind, Professor Harold Hill in The Music Man, and others. But the "character" I came to love the best was the story-telling, song-swapping, advice-giving Pernell Elven Roberts, Jr. That's whom I will miss every day for the rest of my life.

As I state on my website, I believe that who we are is largely a result of the people we have connected with in our lives. I believe that the biological connections can be instrumental in forming who we become and developing what talents lie within our genes, but I also believe that the personal associations we engage in can be just as influential. Pernell Roberts has influenced my life since I was in my early teens and that influence has led to various choices I have made. We shared a love of words and their origins (frequently introducing each other to another "find" in the etymological field) and the folk music genre (swapping songs and reminiscing about favorite performers). While he did not introduce me to either of those interests, his fueling them has caused me to explore both arenas that much more. And he has been an example of what an ethical human being should be: his efforts on behalf of those less fortunate and those in minority groups have been tremendous, though not publicized as some celebrities do.

I remember when I got a small guest part as a square dance caller on the short-lived TV show with Madeline Kahn - Oh! Madeline! - I called Pernell and his wife to tell them. Pernell got on the phone and bellowed, "Welcome to the big time!" He and his wife recorded my appearance (Butch & I had not yet entered the techy age of VCRs) so that I could remember that "big time." When I was in high school, I wrote a song for him; the chorus goes: "Thank you for just being you;/ No one else could ever do What you've done for me/ Can't you see? Because of you, I'm a better me." Pernell, I guess now, someone else is saying to you: "Welcome to the big time!"

Tombstone Tuesday - 26 January 2010, Isabelle Freeman (d: 26 Jan 1859)

Isabelle Freeman (my 1st cousin, 3x removed) was about 4 years old when she died on this date in 1859, 151 years ago today. She is buried in the family plot on the Freeman farm, Penet Square, Brownville, Jefferson County, New York. Her brother, Gilderoy/Gilderove rests beside her (their 2 stones are beneath the tree - almost dead center on the photo below).

Their parents and siblings relocated to Onondaga, New York around 1870, leaving the 2 children behind, though other family members still lived in the area. The graveyard (yellow circle) is situated on the property, as is seen in this copy of the area map (1855); Isabelle's grandfather was Edward Freeman (my g-g-g-grandfather), whose farm is marked (blue circle).

It is for these 2 children that I wrote my song "Two Small Stones."

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Countdown to St. George - Family History Expo

Starting the countdown for St. George Family History Expo: 34 days! We're not done yet in Mesa, but already planning for St. George . . . stay tuned for information on the various things to do at that Family History Expo. Meanwhile, click on the icon above for information on registration, etc.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Countdown to Mesa, AZ Expo, 22-23 Jan 2010, It's NOW!

At Mesa. And, with all this rain, many who arrived by ark, are finding warmth and dry in this convention center. We drove down on Wednesday to try to out-run the storm (we did, but then the next one caught up to us). The dogs aren't thrilled, but it's "vacation" and that word means something exciting to them (at least they jump all over when we say it).

We've already done a couple of mini-concerts. If you are here, stop by booth #11 and say HI and let's talk about ancestors & music. Tomorrow (Sat) we'll be doing our "To Zion in Song" program. It's going to be a busy weekend ... the rain may dampen our clothes, but not our spirits!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday - 21 January 2010

This photo is identified on the back as "our sainted mother." Because my 2nd cousin received this photo and 2 others from the family of Katherine WILCOX IRELAND JOHNSON WEAVER (Aunt Kate), and it was Kate who had labeled this one and the other 2 (2 of her 3 daughters), we knew that this was her mother - Irene FREEMAN WILCOX (wife of Nathan W. WILCOX). It is the only photo of her that we are aware of. (Irene's grandfather was Isaac Freeman, whose tombstone and DAR patriot information were posted in the last 2 days.)

Irene's story is one I have told many times - she was born in New York (probably Jefferson County) in about 1829 and lived her earliest years in Herkimer County, New York with her maternal grandfather, Francis GUIWITS (her mother having died either in childbirth or very soon after Irene's birth). On the death of her grandfather, Irene and her two sisters returned to her father's custody (he had remarried by that time) and she spent her youth in Jefferson County on the family farm, across from which moved the WILCOX family, including oldest son Nathan. Irene and Nathan married in 1848 and relocated to Decatur, Van Buren County, Michigan by 1850. By the time the next census came out, they had moved again, this time to New London, Henry County, Iowa, where Nathan enlisted in the Engineering Regiment of the West out of Missouri and spent the years from 1861-1866 separated from his family. Irene and her children (she had had 5, but only 3 were alive by then) moved to Tennessee in 1866 and she lost another child shortly after their arrival. They moved around Tennessee a great deal, finally retiring to Nashville (by then another child had been born, in 1869). Nathan died in 1891 and Irene moved to Texas to live with her son Ed, dying there in 1893. She was buried in a now defunct cemetery and her remains were allegedly moved to what is called Pioneer Cemetery in Dallas.

Irene FREEMAN WILCOX moved over 1500 miles throughout her life. Having a copy of her photo is one of my treasures that I acquired through contact with part of the clan that had become estranged from my father's immediate family. In doing family history research, the cousin (and distant cousin) relationships are to be treasured and nurtured, no matter the reason behind family feuds and disagreements of earlier generations.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - 20 January 2010

The DAR application information, referenced in yesterday's Tombstone Tuesday. I descend from Isaac's son Edward.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - 19 January 2010

My g-g-g-g-grandfather, Isaac FREEMAN, native of Holland, Revolutionary War soldier, b: 12 August 1755. Death date is in dispute: the tombstone says 9 January 1841, and that he was 82 (making him born in about 1759), but other records indicate his death as 1 January 1841, in Stark, Herkimer County, New York. Either way, it was 169 years ago this month. His burial location is unknown (I welcome any help on that). Photo from the DAR application of his g-granddaughter, Cora E. PRESTON DAVIS. His wife was Marion/Meriam GALLUP. While I have been unable to locate the tombstone for myself, I am grateful that Mrs. Davis has done so (I only wish that information - the cemetery - was included in the DAR application).

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Do People Still Make Music Like in the "Old Days"?

Yes they do!
I am proud to be associated with the Riverside Folk Song Society, which celebrated 50 years of music making yesterday. For half a century, nearly every month, with rare "dark" months, the members of this group have gathered, usually in homes, but sometimes in larger meeting halls, to share music and stories, friendship and food. Most of the original members are now gone from our midst, but some of the founding folks are still around and 4 of the charter members were at the meeting yesterday.

The group began with a handful of educators and music enthusiasts desiring to join together in song (just as our ancestors used to do). They formed a "loose" organization on 2 January 1960 and from that sprang a current membership of about 40 people. The organization continues to be "loose" - we have a president but that is the only conventional officer. There is no board of directors. There is no treasury (we dissolved it with the party!). I am the "membership/meeting coordinator" as well as the webmaster and we have another member who is in charge of our listing on "MeetUp." We hold our meetings on the third Saturday (usually) of each month (occasionally we change that date to accommodate the host or other local happenings). We gather at the homes of members (these are never listed on the Internet: to attend, a prospective member must contact the president or me to get information on where the meeting is held; this is to maintain the privacy of our members). To read more about our meetings, check out the website for the Riverside Folk Song Society.

Yesterday's celebration included the sharing of songs for the first couple of hours, then we had a slide show by founder Chet Roistacher, followed by a feast, provided by the members and the society combined, including anniversary cakes, during which more slides were shown in the background, reminding all of the many wonderful times we've had together. Following that it was back to music until 9pm. Then everyone pitched in to clean up the hall (we rented a fellowship hall in a local church for this event). Everyone who attended (and wanted one) received a complimentary tote bag with the logo (above) to remind us of this occasion.

We've watched each other grow, watched each other's children grow, and many have moved into third and fourth generations. This group is like a second family to me and I can't imagine celebrating any event in my life without them there (some of the photos we showed were of Butch's & my 20th & 30th wedding anniversaries, my 40th birthday, and Butch's retirement/my graduation parties . . . there we all were, time after time, raising the roof with song!).

If you would like to view what a music party can look like, check out the slide show on flickr - click on "slide show" (thanks to long-time member, Dr. Robert Sirotnik, for taking them and making them available). More photos will be going up soon on Facebook and possibly on my website or here on this blog. Our "official photographer," my long-time friend (from our youth in Illinois), Judy Wagner, took a number of photos also and I will get them up as soon as my schedule allows.

I would like to think that, when our ancestors got together to share an evening, some of those times looked a lot like this! If you want to have this sort of experience, there is likely a group near you that gets together for song-swapping and jamming - let me know if you want help in locating one (musicians are a lot like genealogists - we network!).

Friday, January 15, 2010

Countdown to Mesa, AZ Family History Expo - Thomas MacEntee bringing warmth to Mesa

When I agreed to be a Blogger of Honor (and I am honored to have been invited to be part of this), it never occurred to me that, to properly address all about the Mesa, AZ Family History Expo that makes me excited about it, I really needed to begin in, well, January of 2009. But I didn't and so now I am sitting here with just a few days remaining until the EVENT and I am not done with telling you about all the people I am looking forward to seeing (some again, some for the first time). Good thing, though, I will be continuing next week with the Countdown to St. George Family History Expo. Even though there will be some different speakers, topics, and exhibits, many will be the folks I love seeing at these events.

But the Mesa Expo will have a newcomer to the Expo participants, but hardly new to the genealogy world: Super blogger, and fellow Blogger of Honor, Thomas MacEntee. You may already know Thomas from his fame as the GeneaBlogger. Now, you simply must click on his name link to see his photo. Thomas, a fellow Chicagoan (though he still lives in that cold & snow while I escaped over 35 years ago) personifies that photo: the man has an amazing sense of humor and is always getting people to interact. His people skills are simply fabulous! He is the man who convinced me that I really wanted to be a blogger (before we connected, I had a blog, but didn't post more than one or two things a month . . . Thomas inspired me to make my blog something that I would be proud of, but also something that would have a positive effect on the genealogy community).

The subjects of his Expo presentations will be blogging and tweeting (no surprise there), but I am sure he will be at the blogger banquet, sharing his jokes and making sure no one feels like a stranger. I met Thomas at the SCGS Jamboree in Burbank, CA last June and he organized the blogger banquet there and before long the room full of blogging strangers became more like a family reunion. People couldn't stay in their seats . . . everyone was connecting with the folks we'd seen only on the blogging "pages" . . . and all because of Thomas (who, by the way, was also handing out strands of beads . . . I passed on that as I really hate things around my neck . . . but it was fun to be able to recognize the beaded bloggers).

To read more about the GeneaBloggers, click the icon on this blog (over on the left) or the link here:
Now, I need to tell you that, when you visit the GeneaBloggers website, you will find huge amounts of information that I know will warrant further exploration (GeneaBloggers is the originator of Madness Monday, Tombstone Tuesday, Wordless Wednesday, Treasure Chest Thursday, and some others), but please first read the "Terms of Service" on the right hand side (scroll down a bit and you'll see the terms there). I find that to be one of the most brilliant pieces of writing on the Internet . . . and I don't think I have laughed so hard since, well, the GeneaBlogger dinner in Burbank last June.

I know Thomas is coming west to escape the snow & cold of the windy city, but even though Mesa is already warm in comparison, I am certain the thermometer will go up a few more degrees when Thomas arrives with his own personal warmth. So come to Mesa, visit me at the Circlemending Booth (#11), and laugh some with Thomas MacEntee . . . I promise you won't regret it!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday - 14 January 2010

In December, I posted a photo of my grandfather's deer head, he had mounted over a fireplace at his cottage at Beaver Lake, near Hartland, Wisconsin (click on the words "dear head" to read that explanation). Here is the fireplace, prior to its being adorned by said dear head.

"Why is this a treasure?" You might ask. Well, as you can see in the photo, there are a number of artifacts. And, as I have mentioned before, my family had no idea what a wastebasket was (note: there is no such object in the photo). At the far end of the fireplace, hanging from the mantel, you can see a set of 3 Chinese dinner gongs. Those are now hanging in my kitchen (though the string and bottom tassel have long since been replaced). Above the doorway at the far back in the photo is a picture of a bulldog. That picture now hangs next to my back door. In the foreground, also hanging from the mantel, is a strange sword - it's made of Oriental coins, tied tightly together. I have no idea whose it was (in the family) or how it was acquired, but it is now part of my brother's treasures (one of the few things he claimed from the family collections). Other items in the photo met fates unknown long before I showed up on the scene . . . well, maybe my ancestors did know what a wastebasket was after all.

Cottage was designed and owned by Hans Peter JOHNSON and his wife, Emma Marie HOLLANDER; rocks that were used in the construction of the fireplace were quarried from a nearby location. This photo was taken about 1920. I was back to visit the place about 16 years ago, after my Mom died, and I could not recognize the outside or the yard, but the folks living there now let me in to see what they've done with the inside - it's beautiful - and I recognized the fireplace: still there, still solid (no deer head, of course), and still bringing me fond memories.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - 13 January 2010

With 4th cousin, George Koppers, following a presentation I gave in Decatur, Michigan this past September about our mutual ancestors (we share g-g-g-grandparents, Peter C. Wilcox & Mary Youker). George is a blessing in my life & we love going to cemeteries together!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - 12 January 2010

In an earlier post, I recognized the stone of my great-granduncle, Clarence P. Wilcox, and how it had fallen on the ground, Wilcox side down, and was put up straight under some unusual circumstances (click on his name above to read about & see photos of that extraordinary experience).

Last month, on Find-a-Grave, I found the photo, above, of the stone, now in place on its stand (though the Wilcox side has SMITH on the base, meaning that the Smiths, who are buried in the shared plot, have WILCOX on the base of their stone). I don't know who did it; as far as I know, there are no family members of Clarence's who would care (though Maggie, his first wife, had a daughter by her first husband and maybe there is family in that connection that were instrumental in this operation). Or, perhaps, the monument-maker returned to clean the stone and put it in place. Or maybe the cemetery took care of it. Whatever and whoever was involved, the photo is attributed to our favorite photographer: anonymous. But I want to thank those who put Clarence and Maggie back up, even if they are on the opposite side of where they belong and, presumably, their bodies lay.

Maggie, whose first husband was a Jones, died on 12 January 1912, 98 years ago today. I know very little about her, except that she and Clarence were married on 11 February 1894 in Nashville, Tennessee, and she brought a daughter, Mary P. Jones, into their home with that marriage. Her sister was Martha, who married Jacob Edelen, and Clarence and Maggie were living with them in 1900. After Maggie's death, Clarence married Jennie Smith on 21 September 1919 in Nashville. She had been previously married to James Greenhall and their daughter was Reba Greenhall.

Maggie M. Wilcox, b: 19 October 18 1866; d: 12 January 1912; buried: Spring Hill Cemetery, Nashville, Davidson, Tennessee.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Happy 101 Award

Thanks to Dr. Bill for awarding me with the Happy 101 Award! (Note, Dr. Bill has a great website dealing with ancestor stories . . . one of my favorite topics!)

The responsibilities that go with this award are as follows. I am first to list 10 things that make me happy (not in any particular order) . . . I have elected to separate them into categories as that makes them easier for me to keep focused:


1) I am happy that I met my husband when I did (saving me from a particularly unhealthy relationship) over 33 years ago and that he has been my greatest advocate, supporter, mentor, caregiver, companion, and lover for all that time; when I don't believe in myself, he does; when I am ill, he is my nurse; when I want advice (and even sometimes when I don't), he is happy to give it (and then some); when I worry, he is there to listen. I have been blessed, and continue to be so, with this life partner and eternal companion.

2) I am happy that this man I married came equipped with a ready family, all willing to embrace me. While my children are all my steps, they have all embraced me as their mother and have provided me with endless joy (worry, heartache, etc.). And they have provided me with 24 amazing grandchildren and 7 (soon to be 8) incredible great-grandchildren (and I'm not even 59 years old). They bless my life every day (now, I could use a few more with an interest in genealogy . . .). And, yes, I can name them all (but couldn't identify birthdays & anniversaries without peeking). FYI, this ready-made family also includes the in-laws: sister, niece, nephew, mother (now passed), cousins, and all their descedants. Family reunions are a hoot!

3) I am happy that I have had forebears that have provided me (through my genetics) with certain talents and abilities: music, logic, faith, perseverance, organization (even if it drives my husband nuts), and a love & appreciation for my heritage. The immigrant ancestors who came to America have provided me a life in this unique country - one of the greatest gifts of all. Their willingness to sacrifice everything for the greater good is one that I cannot fathom (being leery of abandoning all I know for the unknown, what must it have been like for them?). This happiness includes my parents, who have gone on to the next life, whose sacrifices for their children were uncountable (and probably unknowable). They were amazing people - my father was very logical and a musical and mathematical genius; my mother was a creative, fun-loving, social go-getter. So different from each other, their unique approaches to life combined to make me who I am.

4) I am happy that I have my 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. cousins in my life, for they enrich me; and that my brother, 6 years my senior, is still in my life and constantly connected to me. It was he who introduced me to folk music when I was about 8 years old. When we were young, he was my teacher and my protector; now he is my friend and my link to our mutual past & ancestors - we are the last of our line through our great-grandparents on the Wilcox side. His interests are so far different from mine that I am amazed we came from the same stock, yet he has taken those same talents and abilities from our line to form his love of life and dedication to his relationships. Every time we get together, we spend time in laughter and sharing . . . I am enriched for those moments & grateful for every one of them.

5) I am happy that my circle of friends is one that includes people who have been assets to my life. Everyone I have known has, in one way or another, affected me (most for the better, even those who have had a negative impact, for they have taught me things I should not do). Many friends I have met through our mutual love of certain things - genealogy, music, a television show - and many I have met because of circumstances - Church, our past (school, neighborhood, job, etc.), geographic closeness - and some of those elements overlap. Those relationships, each unique, enrich me. I cannot list them here as I will surely omit someone, but whether they are still living or they are already gone from this life, my friends have been one of the most treasured elements in my world.


6) I am happy I was raised in a family with the backgrounds of so many different faiths that I was put in a position to know what I felt in my heart and recognize what was right for me when my husband introduced me to the missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And I am happy that I live in a country that affords me the freedom to let me choose what is right for me, in the religious arena. Their teachings rang true and were precisely what I already believed. My membership in the Mormon Church has led to everything else in my life - having to speak in front of the congregation led me to learn better how to do that (my lengthy association with Toastmistress Clubs - now called PowerTalk - while no longer part of my life, led me to taking a major in Speech Communication and then going from there (see Career). The dedication of the LDS people to researching their ancestry provided me with what is now "who I am" (see Career). And my connection to my Lord and Savior is something that gives me constant peace, even in the midst of turmoil. There is more to life than we know of on this earth. I have always believed that religion must make a person's life worthwhile or it is not the right faith for the individual . . . I continue to believe that and, for me, the LDS Church makes my life worthwhile.


7) I am happy I attended New Trier Township High School East, in Winnetka, Illinois. While I was miserable in high school, I got the training I needed for later years. Dropping out of college in 1969 was also a positive thing for me as I was not yet ready to get from that experience what I would eventually need. My husband's support, my experience in Toastmistress, and a part-time accounting job all combined to have me in the right place and time (including the right frame of mind) to return to college 10 years after leaving and then, 9 years later, to earn a BA degree (1988) and 2 years after that, a masters (1990), both in Speech Communication. I learned, from my teachers, to love teaching (see Career) and that was a reward even greater than the hard-earned degrees.

8) I am happy that circumstances combined to put me in a position to further my education by getting the one degree I truly wanted from the age of about 15: folklore. Getting my doctorate in folklore took me over 8 years, and I am proud and excited to have reached that goal (2008). I am happy that the program was as grueling as it was for that gave me the needed education to prepare me for my career alteration. It was worth every minute. And my husband's encouragement was invaluable.


9) I am happy that I have had the careers that prepared me for the one I have now: professional genealogist. I began in an office services position (with no advanced education to speak of), then went on to work for 7+ years at the Auto Club of Southern Calif. in various positions. That prepared me for working with the public and they sponsored the first Toastmistress Club I joined. It was a fabulous place to work with great people who became a second family to me since I had moved to Calif. (in 1973), away from my family in Illinois. I had some part time jobs then, while I attended school, and my work at the Orange Co. Probation Dept. was an excellent preparation for my next steps in life; I learned many work and life skills with supportive coworkers. I was a freelance square dance caller for parties, which taught me stage presence; also taught guitar (most of my life) and did some performing so those endeavors helped me earn money while I worked on my education. While I pursued by MA degree I entered the teaching profession and stayed there for 13 years. What a rewarding experience. I love teaching (hate grading & doing administrative paperwork). But it prepared me for teaching genealogy. In fact, everything in my life has led me to my genealogy career as a presenter and entertainer.

What it all leads up to . . .

10) I am happy that so many people in my life have encouraged me in my pursuit of studying and teaching family history with a slightly different approach - using music (which, I believe, was inherited from both sides of my family). Folk music and folklore have been assets to my life as a genealogist and have led to many wonderful associations. What a blessing it has all been (and continues to be). As my dear friend Diane Wright observed: everything in my life has brought me to where I am today - Church, careers, education, relationships - and I believe I have achieved what Joseph Campbell refers to as "Bliss."

Thanks, Dr. Bill, for getting me to think about all this.

The next step of the Happy 101 Award is this: I am to choose 10 other bloggers to pass this award to, yes 10 (here's where it sort of resembles a bloggy chain letter . . . I do not expect anyone receiving this award to feel compelled to continue the chain . . . most know how I feel about such "obligational" pass-it-along things . . . but I want you to know that I appreciate your blogs as they add to my feelings of happiness . . . do with this as you choose).

For this I will choose:

1) Dear Myrtle (she's my cousin through John Conrad Weiser . . . finding that link between us has made me happy, as does her enthusiasm about genealogy and life)
2) Genea-Musings (my friend, advocate, colleague, and promoter, Randy Seaver . . . I'm always happy with his kind remarks about my programs as well as his enthusiasm about family history)
3) Pitterle Postings (my daughter's blog - if you want to be uplifted, this is it!)
4) GeneaBloggers (I wonder how many times my friend Thomas MacEntee will be getting this award - his encouragement and willingness to help me learn has been the source of much happiness . . . I get a smile just looking at his photo! What an asset he has been to genealogy bloggers everywhere)
5) StefStyle: A Creative Blog (one of my closest & long-time friends, Stefanie Eskander, touches all emotions through her graphic art and photographic abilities as well as her music - spending an afternoon making music with her always makes me happy, and now I can do it in a virtual world with her blog as inspiration!)
6) RootsMagic (friend and software genius, Bruce Buzbee, makes keeping genealogy organized and as easy as it can be . . . and that makes me happy)
7) The Graveyard Rabbit Travels Wright (dear friend & fellow graveyard enthusiast Diane Wright shares her enthusiasm over the resting places of ancestors . . . we can be happy in cemeteries!)
8) It's Good to be Alive (former mentor and motivational speaker Jack Rushton tells of all the reasons for happiness in the face of adversity; what an example of family love and dedication to religious principles!)
9) Gena's Genealogy (friend & colleague Gena Ortega gives genealogy tips and encouragement to help people find their ancestors . . . an upbeat presenter, just talking to Gena can improve my mood!)
10)Family History Expos Blog (Holly Hansen, CEO & creator of this unique company and host of genealogy seminar/conferences has promoted my work - and that of countless others - helping me and encouraging me to expand my message of connecting genealogy & ancestral music . . . I am happy for this association and the amazing work she does)

So there you have it (and choosing 10 was very difficult as so many others are deserving and worthy of this award . . . I have attempted to select a few here that others may be unaware of but also some whose blogs are instrumental in my genealogical endeavors . . . I wish the "rules" let me add a bunch more).

Countdown to Mesa, AZ Family History Expo - 10 reasons to attend

Only 13 more days and the 2nd Mesa, AZ, Family History Expo will be upon us. Have you selected the classes you want to attend? I know, there's so much to choose from. To check the classes and who's in the exhibit hall, click on the Expo image above and then select the tab of your choice from the orange boxes on that page.

What makes this conference different from others? Well, here are some of the differences:

1 - The exhibit hall is free for your browsing & buying pleasure (you need not be a registered event attendee to visit the hall)

2 - The presenters are not paid or compensated for their presentations, so they are doing this because they love genealogy and they love sharing their passion (and it shows in their presentations)

3 - There is a half hour between each of the sessions (and one hour at lunch time), giving attendees ample time to visit the vendor hall but also chat with the presenters and network with each other (I know how exhausted I get at some conferences when I spend the time between presentations trying to rush to the next one plus squeeze in a bathroom visit)

4 - There is FREE parking, and lots of it! (Our vehicle will be the cabover camper with "Circlemending" and "Hibbenhere" in the top front window & 2 dogs inside.)

5 - The local Family History Center is just a short jaunt from the Convention Center so there is an opportunity to apply what you've learned without even waiting to get home (well, within reason . . . their staff also has to sleep sometime)

6 - No extra charge for the syllabus (unless you order a printed copy): the syllabus is provided on CD so you can view it on your computer and save a few trees!

7 - If you register in advance, you can check out the syllabus on line (and, if you wish, print out the pages for the classes you are most interested in) - how cool is that??

8 - Affordable registration (while early-bird registration is over as of the 1st, the $75 fee for 2 days of education is considerably less than some of the national conferences; plus, unlike any conference I've ever seen, you can attend just a single class (for a nominal fee of $12, but no syllabus with that option) if all you want is to learn about one particular thing or you only have one hour to attend (also available: a $40/day price if you don't want to - or can't - attend for both days)

9 - The keynote speaker, Tim Sullivan, CEO of Ancestry.com, can be heard for FREE . . . no registration required to hear him speak on "Digital Expectations: Preserving Yesterday’s Records for Today’s Researchers"

10 - The option of receiving free assistance from a professional (must sign up at the booth for that - times are posted) . . . bring your research question(s) and paperwork (pedigree chart, family group sheets, or laptop with the info, etc.) to make this the most beneficial it can be

If I wasn't already going to be there (check out the Circlemending booth - #11 - to learn about music and your ancestors and/or attend one of my presentations) I'd have just sold me on attending! And, to my California friends: this event is probably closer to you than the St. George Expo, to be held in February . . . with warmer weather (that last is directed to those easterners who are digging out from beneath all that snow). Come enjoy the warmth - both inside & out - and I'll see you at the Mesa, AZ Family History Expo!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Of banjo-ukes and hot dogs

My first fretted instrument was a ukulele. It had belonged to my mother (above), but she gave it to me so I could finally get one step closer to me dream: a guitar. Along the way, I also picked up the banjo - a beautiful old instrument that had belonged to one of my mother's uncles. But I never ventured into the hybrid: the banjo-uke.

This peculiar instrument has a banjo body (for that sound that can only be produced by that unique instrument) with a ukulele tuning. And, of course, there is a website to promote this: The Banjo Ukulele Haven. It is not likely that most people will have heard of this instrument, but I'll bet you are familiar with one of the songs that was originally played (actually composed) on one: "Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Mayer Wiener . . ." Yup, it was composed on a banjo-uke in response to a jingle contest in Madison, Wisconsin. To read about this story of how the banjo-uke was used to promote everyone's favorite hot dog in 1962 and how it found a final home, check out the Wisconsin Historical Society's website.

The Wisconsin Historical Society is a wonderful repository for research (that is where I located original documents for my great-grandfather, who served in the Wis. 24th Infantry in the Civil War) but also has a collection of "odd Wisconsin" - artifacts and information that are unique to the Dairy State.

So, if you have ever in your life found yourself wishing you were an Oscar Mayer Wiener (whether or not you literally had a desire to find yourself encased in a bun and slathered with mustard), check out the instrument that brought that memorable tune to the lips of many a hot dog eater! After all, don't we all have a desire to have everyone "be in love with" us?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday - 7 January 2010

As I have said before, my family was never one to use a wastebasket, so I have all sorts of ephemera that the neighbors of my Wisconsin families probably threw out right after the holidays. Not so in the Hollander, Johnson, and Trapschuh homes: they kept the holiday magazines that now I use as part of my Christmas decorations. This year, very few decorations went up due to illnesses in our home, but I did display the books and magazines from holidays past (most, long, long passed). But now, with 12th night behind us, I must pack them away for a season . . . but I'll haul them out next year and the year after that, etc., enjoying the look into lives that, to some, were simpler than ours (I don't necessarily agree: I love my dishwasher, washing machine, computer, automobile, etc.). So here's one last look at a holiday favorite from 110 years (and one month) ago.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - 5 January 2010 - Rising from the dead

It's Tombstone Tuesday & I want to share an experience rather than a stone.

On January 3 I received an email from a woman who told me about an error in something I'd posted. She was so excited about contacting me that she didn't even notice I'd emailed her back when she picked up the phone & called me from Illinois. It seems that she is a cousin to my 2nd cousin, once removed, whose stone I posted back in June. Elaine Strauss Hill's aunt (her father's sister) had had a daughter, Joan (Elaine's cousin), and that was the person who contacted me after finding my Tombstone Tuesday about Elaine (to whom I am related on her mother's side). My error had been that I had listed her husband as having died (information received from the cemetery) . . . apparently that is very wrong as he is still very much alive (please, Mr. Hill, forgive me . . . I only know the information I am given and the records from the cemetery office are very hard to decipher so I am not sure just where the error occurred - their info or my interpretation . . . but there was even a burial date I picked up from somewhere!!). Note: I have corrected that TT entry to put Mr. Hill back among the living!

Anyway, once we straightened out who is alive & who is not, Joan & I continued to share notes. She knew all of my relatives on that side of the family as they lived close by and she & Elaine were together a great deal so when Elaine's mother's family members were over, Joan got to know them. She knew my dad's cousin was always called "Uncle Bill" (Dad always called him Wilbur and I had never heard him referred to as Bill). She knew that Bill's sister had died in an asylum (one of the lesser known pieces of family trivia). Joan knew my Dad's aunt and that she had come out to California and said she had been in the San Francisco earthquake (I later realized that was impossible as she did not move to CA until after 1912 . . . must be another quake . . . I'll have to check that out).

Then I told her about a family cousin who immigrated from Germany and became a china painter. She gasped. I said, "I suspect you have some of that china?" (It seems everyone remotely related to the family got some of the hand painted china of Carl Hohn.) Well, she told me about a pin (she turned into a pendant) that Elaine had given her - a fine porcelain with a hand-painted flower; also of a salt & pepper shaker set she has (what she described is identical to the ones - I have about 13 sets - in my china cupboard). Carl did like to paint salt & pepper shakers! She was thrilled to learn of their provenance.

Joan is not my cousin, but we connected on many levels via mutual relatives. She told me about Elaine (whom I met only a handful of times when I was very young): Elaine was a fun-loving member of the red hat society; she was always ready to have a good time. She and her husband were devoted to each other. These are the things that help us to know our deceased family members & I am very grateful for Joan's reaching out to me to correct that one little item; from that, I got to know family that I grew up less than 25 miles from but never really knew! Joan also had addresses and information on my cousins whom I have been trying to identify and locate.

Why do I put this into "Tombstone Tuesday"? Well, I started "doing" TT because it sounded like fun. I decided to try to put up photos of stones of people who died or were buried very close to an anniversary date of the posting (that's been quite the challenge, let me tell you!). Anyway, it was because Joan was doing what she (and many of us) sometimes did: Google a friend or family member, just to make sure there's nothing negative out there on the web. Low and behold, a link to my TT posting came up for "Elaine Hill." And more of my pedigree is getting filled in (and erased, as need be) as a result. So, when you other Geneabloggers post your TT (and other blogs for Wednesday, Thursday, etc.), don't forget the labels for the post! Who knows who is searching for your ancestors and just might send you an email, too.

What a great way to start 2010!!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Countdown to Mesa, AZ Expo, 22-23 Jan 2010, RootsMagic

Anyone who knows my love of genealogy knows I also love RootsMagic. There are a number of reasons for this; let me give you some of them:
1) Intensely user friendly (esp. good for a non-techy like me)
2) Ease in putting into a format where I can manipulate it (for me: Word)
3) Ease in making a copy for a family member or to use for another purpose (drag and drop!)
4) Easily editable "place" names (so cool!)
5) Compatibility with New FamilySearch (oh, double cool!!)
6) Amazing support from its CEO, Bruce Buzbee (that's triple cool!!!)

While RM does many things other genealogy software does, it is those things above, and more, that make it my software of choice. Perhaps it is just what you have been looking for ... to check that out, Bruce will make it easy for everyone attending the Family History Expo in Mesa, AZ on the 22nd & 23rd of January. He will be at booths #44-47 (where he also will have available other software from the RootsMagic developers) and will also be conducting some presentations on using this amazing software. Click the icon below to see the RM website:

Friday, January 1, 2010

Music in 2010 - Y'all come join in!


What an exciting time . . . a whole year ahead of us with not a single day used up yet.

This is the time that resolutions are made. I have never been one for resolutions, however. I figure that if I see a change that needs to be made, the best time to do it is now. Of course, there are certain things I schedule (but I'm always scheduling something). And there are some things I'd like to see completed before the end of the year.

In 2010, I'd like to see my CD of "Songs of Early Childhood" (songs of our ancestors from when they were children) completed. And it would be nice also to do the CD of my original songs (well, I will need to write at least two more songs to accomplish that).

On January 16 the Riverside Folk Song Society will celebrate 50 years of making music together! If you live in or near Riverside, or will be visiting the area on that weekend, consider yourself invited. To download the flyer, go to our webpage. Some of our original members will be on hand to share photos and memories of the past 50 years. The group has gone through a lot of changes over the years but the purpose and basic process has remained the same: to share our love of music and learn from each other. Email me if you are interested in joining us.

I am looking forward to an exciting year where I will be playing music for the NGS conference in Salt Lake in April/May and at the Family History Jamboree in Burbank in June, presenting songs for the Kids' Camp at each event. I am hoping that I may get to be known a bit more in the genealogical community as the folksinging genealogist!

Circlemending will also have booths at the Family History Expos in Mesa, AZ (January) and St. George, UT (February) (and probably at the ones in Sandy, UT in July and Alameda County, CA in October), and at the Family History seminar in Escondido, CA (March). We'll also be doing some performing and workshops at the Glendale (AZ) Folk and Heritage Fair in March and probably the folk festival in Flagstaff, AZ in June. We hope to remind folks at all these events that the act of singing together as families, in choirs, and in school used to be the way people entertained themselves. Among my musician friends, it's still how we spend evenings, days, or entire weekends. There is a sense of connection to one another when you share a song together.

So make that New Year's resolution to share some music with friends and/or loved ones. Come join us! There's always room for one more to sing, play, or just listen!

(To hear some of my philosophies of how music and ancestry connect, check out my Podcast with Susan E. King - scroll down to the Nov. 10 broadcast.)