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, February 25, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday - 25 February 2010

Clues, Clues, Clues!

A card that was located with the effects of Edward Everett Wilcox.

The opposite side of the card has a list of names (perhaps friends from an evening together?). Those listed lived in the neighborhood of the Wilcox family in Winchester, TN (ca 1870); most located on census records.

Another card - or what's left of it - with a scribbled note, including "Main St." (one of the places the family lived). It appears to be addressed (probably by Edward) to "Papa," but most of the writing it difficult to decipher.
More notes and cards, including a business card for E.E. Wilcox who apparently used the name "Edwin" on a few documents (though he had abandoned that for his legal name, Edward, by the time he moved from Tennessee to Texas).

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - 24 February 2010

my g-grandfather, Edward Everett Wilcox (b: 21 February 1855, Decatur, Van Buren, Michigan; d: 4 August 1934, Dallas, Dallas, Texas)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - 23 February 2010

My second cousin, twice removed, Cecil Wells WILCOX (b: 11 August 1895, d: 19 February 1971 - 39 years and 4 days ago), buried (20 February 1971) in Prospect Hill Cemetery, PawPaw, Van Buren, Michigan with his wife, Maxine SHAND. Cecil was the son of Wells William WILCOX and Ida M. BENTON.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Music: to play or not to play - and where, when, how?

Music, music, music. It's everywhere.

Instead of the traditional "ding-a-ling," our phones (cells and land lines) use tunes instead of rings (though they are still called "ring tones").

A movie or television show uses music to tell us what emotions we are supposed to be feeling. This, by the way, is as old as the cinema . . . during the days of the silent movies, it was the music - live, by an organist in the theater - that communicated the message . . . somehow, even though the movies became "talkies," the music was not lost . . . in fact, it was incorporated into the program . . . think of how many out of work theater organists were walking the streets when that happened! If you are interested in listening to this almost forgotten medium, check the link for Theatre Organ CDs. And there are many who work to keep us from losing that early form of entertainment. We get a slight feel for this when we go to a baseball game at a park where there is a resident organist whose playing gives emphasis to whatever is happening on the field (or in the stands). Wikipedia provides an interesting history on this phenomenon, not only in baseball, but for other sports as well.

And we carry the music with us . . . it used to be on portable tape players, then portable CD players, now it's on portable MP3 players. Butch & I just finished converting all our CDs (that's between 600 and 700 CDs) to MP3s . . . I have a wonderful set of CD changers that is hooked up to our full-house stereo system. It's all gathering dust while Butch & I listen to our personal MP3s on our respective computers: we aren't even listening to music together anymore (unless the phone rings, of course!). What would our ancestors say about this? (I know, "what does M-P-3 mean?" . . . I have no idea!)

Of course, we still find live music in churches . . . at least we do in our church. And we all sing together. That is a comfort to me. In a time when music is so individualized, it's nice that one place still clings to the tradition of everyone singing together, sharing emotions and beliefs through music.

I have a friend who told me recently that she doesn't like music. I'll admit, I was speechless (yup, me, speechless!). How could anyone not like music? (I could understand not liking certain types of music, but all music? Unthinkable!) Turns out she is tone deaf; I don't mean that as an insult: some people honestly cannot tell one tone from another or one note from another and, for her, music sounds like a cacophony of disjointed sounds and actually puts her in a state of anxiety. Learning that detail about her has given me a new perspective on music and how/why people view music differently. I am eternally grateful that I do not have that problem: it sounds horrible to be subjected to such discomfort whenever dining at a restaurant, going to see a parade or baseball game, sitting through a church service, or getting into an elevator. If it creates the kind of discomfort I feel when someone scrapes fingernails across a window screen, I have a huge amount of compassion for the dear lady.

I am not going to stop making music, in deference to those who have similar afflictions, but I will not take it personally when someone elects to pass on one of my music programs or purchasing one of my CDs. And I will not assume that everyone wants to (or even should) "Sing Along!" However, now I wonder if any of my descendants experienced a similar condition. (I know my mother had a little trouble "carrying a tune," but she loved music and sang along anyway, in spite of my dad's repetitious, "Virginia, Please!") Some things, I guess, we never will know. But if you have no indications of an ancestor having musical instruments, it may just be because that person was uninterested in or even negatively affected by music.

Just some thoughts for a mid-February Wednesday. Now I need to practice some music for the St. George Banquet at the Family History Expo the end of this month!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Countdown to Family History Expo, St. George Utah - Plan your Classes in Advance!

Oh, dear . . . there's only 7 days to go! Will I get it all done? Is the RV ready to go? Are the dogs prepared for another trip so soon? Will everything fit? What will I wear? (You know, all the important questions must be addressed as we prepare for a trip and even more are necessary to consider since I will be presenting 2 programs, hosting a booth - #414 - and sponsoring the Friday night banquet.) But we've been preparing for this experience for a number of weeks now.

How about you? Do you know the presentations you will be attending? It's a good idea to go over the options in advance and, for those who have pre-registered, you can do that with the on-line syllabus (click on the image above).

Let me give you some suggestions of programs I have either seen or heard of as being especially helpful for beginning genealogists:

Fri, 10am - Where do I Start? - Paul Larsen
Fri, 11:30am - Best Strategies for Searching Ancestry.com - Crista Cowan
Fri, 1:30pm - Civil War Research: Learning about Your Union Veteran Ancestor - Jean Hibben
Fri, 3:00 & 4:30pm - Google: A Goldmine of Genealogy Gems (parts I and II) - Lisa Cooke
Sat, 8:00am - Beginning Genealogy and Family History - Michael Brophy
Sat, 9:30am - County Websites: An Overlooked Resource - Jean Hibben
Sat, 11:00am - Journals, Store Ledgers, and Letters to Aunt Mary: Using Manuscript Collections - Gena Ortega
Sat, 1:00pm - Blog Your Way to Genealogical Success - Ancestry Insider
Sat., 2:30pm - Internet Safety for Genealogists and Everyone Else - Andrew Pomeroy
Sat., 4:00pm - Getting Started with Good Record Keeping Methods - Alice Volkert

Now, please don't think I believe the other offerings aren't equally helpful; in fact, if you are an experienced genealogist, these selections may not be as applicable for you. I am considering the many beginners who are coming to their first seminar, who have not got their genealogy research focused yet, or who have become overwhelmed at past seminars due to the overwhelming amount of information they have tried to absorb. This list also provides you with a variety of different types of information and resources. So please read all the data on the presenters and subjects before choosing, but if you don't have time and just want a schedule prepared for you, there it is.

See you there (and don't forget the Friday night banquet)!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday - 18 February 2010

The banjo I am playing (at the San Diego Genealogical Society January seminar this year) belonged to my great-grandmother, Caroline Trapschuh Hollander (though I suspect it was really her son, my grand-uncle Albert Hollander, who played it). It was reconditioned a couple of years ago, sounds great & looks wonderful! It's the banjo I learned on back in the 1960s, but was relegated to the wall (as a decoration) when pieces of the fingerboard started to crack and come off.

A couple of years ago a friend of mine was over, checked it out, and discovered it to be an 1889 Fairbanks & Cole parlor banjo. He talked me into having it repaired and I sent it to a banjo genius, Vern Marr, in Oregon. He used the original parts of the neck to bring it back to playing capability, replaced the skin, replaced the inlays, put in tuning machines that look vintage but are actually amazingly efficient 21st Century replicas, and strung it with light gauge strings (it originally had gut strings, but an attempt to use nylon - today's replacement for gut - left it sounding dead; the steel strings give it a bright sound).

I treasure this piece of my family's history and only wish I knew more about the people who played it before it fell into my hands (thanks to my mother's insistence on not throwing anything - especially musical instruments - away).

I'll have it with me at the St. George Family History Expo, coming up next week!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Courting Dulcimer

With Valentine's Day around the corner, let's look at music's role in the courting game.

I mentioned George & Gerry Armstrong in a recent blog about music; they are the folks who introduced me to the courting dulcimer (George called it a "two-cimer," but I think that was his made-up name for it). The courting dulcimer was a way to allow a couple to get close . . . but not too close. And it also gave them a chance to share, show their talents, and gaze into each others eyes while their knees just slightly touched (oh, my!).

Here is a photo of Joe and Paula McHugh using a courting dulcimer:

Click that photo to go to their website where they display a number of Appalachian instruments and explain the use of music in previous generations.

Perhaps your Valentine's Day will not be spent with an instrument in your joint laps, but what a neat way to get to know your paramour . . . unless, of course, he or she had bad breath! If you are intrigued and want to purchase one for yourself (or a kit so you can make your own), click on the photos above of the instruments to go to sites on the Internet for just such a purpose.

Happy Valentine's Day (or, as a friend of mine calls it, "Single's Awareness Day").

Friday, February 12, 2010

Family History Expo Countdown, St. George, UT - Banquet

We are just 2 weeks away from the Family History Expo in St. George. The Friday night banquet promises to be something completely new and different (I can say this because Circlemending is the sponsor, which means I am creating the program, with the help of Gena Ortega, my husband Butch, and additional panelists A.C. Ivory and Arlene Eakle). We will be presenting a program of hints and helps for using and creating blogs, tweets, and chats. And, since I'm putting this together, you can be sure there will be some music involved! Some live, some "canned," and some singalong! Using the Expo theme of "Let your light shine" combined with the banquet theme of "the Wizard of Blogs," we will create an enjoyable and educational program.

I hope that if you have been wondering whether or not to register for the banquet, that the promise of an entertaining and informative presentation following a delicious meal will be enough to convince you that this is not something to pass up! You don't want to be at the Expo on Sat. and hear all about what you missed! Be one of those who is making others jealous because you were there! Click on the link above (the Expo icon) to register for the banquet (and if you are bringing someone with you who is not attending the Expo classes, that person can still register for just the banquet).

Other enticements: a free canvas tote bag that will tell everyone where you spent the weekend, a coupon worth $5 towards a single CD from the Circlemending booth (#414), a free trial for World Vital Records, and a memento from the Family History Expo folks. So what are you waiting for? Register today before they run out of spaces!!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday - 11 February 2010

The widow's application my g-g-grandmother, Irene Freeman Wilcox, made, listing her 13 Feb 1848 (appears to be 1828) marriage in Depotsville (should be Depauville), New York, to Nathan W. Wilcox, future Captain of Company K, Engineering Regiment of the West. This document got me their marriage record, identification of her maiden name, and additional information about where they lived. A treasure, to say the least.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Music, Ancestors, and Groundhogs

Did you know that Tuesday was Groundhog Day? It's an important day as it determines what will happen over the next 6 weeks. Of course, that will vary depending on where you (and the applicable groundhog) happen to be living. Punxsutawney Phil (in Pennsylvania) saw his shadow and reported 6 more weeks of winter, but Jimmy, the Grand Prairie (Wisconsin) prognosticator said it was cloudy so no shadow and an early spring (which I figure will come in about a month & a half . . . you do the math). But I'm in California where the closest "official" groundhog is Petaluma Pete, whose report has not been provided (at least, not at Groundhog Central, where I turn for the most accurate groundhog data, and where you can find the various reports of other North American whistle pigs).

Of course, groundhog day is not unique to America. The tradition comes from Germany with Candlemas Day where the saying went "For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day,/ So far will the snow swirl until May./ For as the snow blows on Candlemas Day,/ So far with the sun shine before May." To learn about other traditions and this season-altering day, see The Stormfax Weather Almanac.

What does this have to do with music? Well, while some groundhog websites actually do provide "groundhog day carols," these are not likely to be show-stoppers in any holiday gathering honoring the furry creature. But there is a groundhog song that has been around for many, many years . . . it just ends with the little guy not lorded as the resident hero, but, rather, well, dinner! I have loved this song since I was a child (but am pleased to report that I have never attempted to, in any way, "live out" the lyrics).

I grew up in Wilmette, Illinois (2 suburbs north of Chicago, along the lake); just a couple of blocks away lived the Armstrong family - George & Gerry and their daughters Becky & Jenny. This was a family where the tradition of family singing was an actuality. I never stopped by to visit without music being part of the time spent together. George & Gerry, who are both gone now, made a number of recordings, including their daughters on many of them. They introduced me to "The Groundhog Song" and sing it with enthusiasm that makes one forget that they are singing about cooking up our favorite weather forecaster! One the Wolf Folklore Collection website, you can read the lyrics, listen to the Armstrongs (accompanying themselves on an Appalachian dulcimer), and read a short dialog between the Armstrongs and Jimmy Driftwood.

Other groups and individuals have also recorded the song; some variations in lyrics are found (a common occurrence - it's called "the folk process" where people add, subtract, or adapt words as circumstances and preferences apply). I found a bluegrass version of it that is quite different from the Armstrongs' song. Doc Watson also recorded it with some interesting lyrics; to hear this version, here's a link to the YouTube version that also allows you to download it as a ringtone for your cell phone (now that would certainly get you some strange looks when your cell phone rings!).

If you would like to have a copy of that song for your very own, on CD, I recorded it in 2008 on my "Songs of Appalachian Ancestors" recording. It's a song that's been part of my life since I was a child, but also one that reminds me of my earliest introduction to folk music. Though I may never eat a groundhog (I make no promises, but I don't foresee it as being part of my future at this point), it's a song that makes me smile & reminds me of old friends & good times. And, since this song has been around for quite a while (I have not found an estimated date of its origin but would love to hear from anyone who has an idea), maybe one of your ancestors sang it.

Note: No groundhogs were hurt or killed in the creation of this blog.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Countdown to St. George, 5 February 2010

Only 21 more days and the 6th Annual St. George, UT 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 - There is an amazing Wildlife museum within the Dixie Center (where the conference is held) and it's a great place to take a little break from family history (if you really need such a thing)

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, Bernie Gracy, can be heard for FREE . . . no registration required to hear him speak on "Let Your Light Shine"

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 - #428 - 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 relative close (considering NGS in April or FGS in August); to my eastern & midwestern friends, the weather is much milder than what many of you have been experiencing. Come enjoy the warmth - both inside & out - and I'll see you at the St. George, UT Family History Expo!

(Check back in the next weeks to learn about some of my favorite presenters and exhibits that I have not already discussed in my promotion of the Arizona event.)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday - 4 February 2010 - Book

Finding a book about the regiment one's ancestor served in is a special find, but this particular book lists my g-g-grandfather, by name and task, at least a half-dozen times. Captain Nathan W. Wilcox was an architect and builder before, during, and after the Civil War, and he was obviously respected among his craftsmen. Having this in print, by impartial colleagues, makes it more than conjecture on my part. This book is one of my treasures, though it is a reprint of the original, published by Higginson Book Co., a company that has reprinted old publications for those who are interested in such things.

Countdown to St. George Family History Expo - 3 Weeks

My turn. A little self-promotion never hurts. Today I want to cover what I will be presenting at the St. George Family History Expo on Jan. 21-22. On Friday, I'll be discussing Music and Our Ancestors and On Saturday I will be presenting Clue to Clue and Who is That? Here are the details:

Friday, 4:30-5:30pm, Class #50, Sunbrook C -
How the Music and Instruments of Your Ancestors are Relevant to Family History Research

Most people don't think of the entertainment activities of their ancestors as being relevant in genealogical research, but it certainly is for those who want to delve into family history - learning the various aspects of the family dynamics. Just as music is important in our lives today, so it was for our multi-great-grandparents. What music was common in certain regions? What types of instruments were played and songs were sung? How does one find out about these things? Is there a way to learn about your ancestor's music life even if no artifacts remain (i.e., no instruments have survived)? This program will answer some, if not all, of these questions; give the researcher new things to search and look for; and shed some light on that other part of the ancestors' lives. Researchers of all levels are welcome.

Saturday, 11:00am-noon, Class #81, Sunbrook C -
Who is That? Why Did Your Ancestor Associate with Apparent Strangers?

I examine those "other" people who seem to appear on records with our ancestors. This includes people on census reports who live in the same home as our forebears, people who sign as witnesses on various documents, and people who are buried in our family plots. Why are they there? Were they related? Friends? Or just people who ended up associating with our families? We will consider different ways to research these people and learn how/if they are connected. These research processes can often shed light on other family members. Good for most levels of research, especially if this has not been a method you have used before.

Saturday, 1:00-2:00pm, Class #91, Sunbrook C -
Clue to Clue: Tracking a Family Across Time and Miles

I examine the step-by-step process of researching a single family as they moved from place to place throughout their lives, from 1828 through 1893, and covering 1500 miles in their moves from New York to Michigan to Iowa to Tennessee to Texas. Using a variety of records, including census schedules (Federal and State), city directories, church documents, interviews, land records, cemetery records and tombstones, newspaper articles, County websites, and more, those in attendance should go away with some new research ideas, even if their ancestors did not live in any of those states. This is good for beginning to intermediate researchers. We have a lot of laughs as we look at the different records, comparing them to family stories, etc.

So there you have it - my offerings for this special event. Click on the icon above to access the full schedule of all there is to learn. In the next weeks we'll look at what the exhibit hall will include and some specifics about some other presentations.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - 3 February 2010

My brother, Bob, & me, taken Sept. 2009, Waukesha, Wisconsin, following one of my presentations.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - 2 Feb 2010 - Three more Freeman children

Three more FREEMAN children, sons and daughter of John E. FREEMAN and Margareth WALRATH:

Gardner, b: 1861, Jefferson County, New York; d: 1862, same location
Edward F., b: 1863, Jefferson County, New York; d: 1873, same location
Cora B., b: 1865, Jefferson County, New York; d: 1873, same location

All buried in the Brownville, Jefferson County Cemetery

Their fourth child was Carrie May, born 20 January 1869. She went on to marry Eugene H. BROWN on 30 August 1893. They had two daughters: Cora Belle and Helen M. BROWN (Cora became a school teacher in Jefferson County); neither daughter married, to the best of my knowledge. They and their parents are all interred in Cedar Grove Cemetery, Orleans, Jefferson, New York. I have no photos of their stones (yet).

I would love to hear from anyone who is doing the research on this family line. Carrie and her older siblings, listed on the tombstone above, are my 1st cousins, 3x removed.