About Me

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Lake Mathews (Perris), CA, United States
I am a native of Illinois and grew up in Wilmette, a northern suburb of Chicago. I have one sibling, an older brother. After dropping out of college, I moved to California in 1973 with my first husband. I married my present husband, Butch, in 1977 and got 4 children in the deal. They have gone on to make me a grandmother 25 times over and a great-grandmother of 19. Three years after I married Butch I returned to school. I got my bachelors and masters degrees in speech communication and was a professor in that field for 13 years. I retired in 2001 to return to school and get my doctorate in folklore. Now I meld my two interests - folklore and genealogy - and add my teaching background, resulting in my current profession: speaker/entertainer of genealogically-related topics. I play a number of folk instruments, but my preference is guitar, which I have been playing since 1963. I work in partnership with Gena Philibert-Ortega with Genealogy Journeys where we focus on educating folks about Social History. More about that can be found at http://genaandjean.blogspot.com and more about my own business projects is on my Circlemending website.

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).


  1. Thanks so much Jean for the Happy 101 Award - I've read your list of what makes you happy and it only reinforces my opinion of you - a great person to know and work with!

  2. Thank you for this amazing honor, and I will do my best to pass it on... it may take me a few days to get my thoughts (and favorite blogs) together, but I aim to 'spread the happiness!' And, of course, the feeling is mutual!