About Me

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

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - 30 March 2010

Edward Everett Wilcox with grandmother, Mary Youker Wilcox (ca. 1862), Van Buren County, Michigan.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - 30 March 2010 - Gorsline/Freeman

Gorsline monument, Mohawk Village Cemetery, German Flats, Herkimer, New York

William D. Gorsline (b: 9 April 1832, d: 30 March 1915, 95 years ago today)

Peter Freeman - my 3rd great-granduncle (b: 9 May 1812, Stark, Herkimer, New York; d: 19 November 1896, Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts)

Helen Mesick , wife of Peter Freeman (b: 7 March 1816, d: 26 March 1888 - 122 years ago last week)

Mesick Thomas Freeman, son of Peter & Helen (Mesick) Freeman (b: 26 September 1842, d: 4 Dec 1855, 13 years of age)

Elizabeth Freeman, 1st wife of William D. Gorsline (b: 28 April 1838, d: 19 Jan 1881).

Florence/Flora Mills, 2nd wife of William D. Gorsline (b: abt 1860, d: 26 October 1884)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Did your Ancestor play a saw?

The Glendale Folk Heritage Festival, held on March 20-21, was a great experience. It was free to the public and the public came! Butch held 2 workshops, but only one where I took photos: learning to play the saw. He helped budding sawyers of all ages learn to hold and bend the farm implement. By the end of the hour, they were actually playing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" (well, that's what they said it was!). If you think that this sounds like something you would like to do, after you get your head examined, check out Uncle Butch's web page to download instructions on saw playing (note: there is also a handout download on that page that covers spoon-playing).

Here are some photos of the master teacher at work.

This "instrument" has been around as long as it's been a tool, so if your family had one of these, perhaps one of your ancestors was a saw-player. Just a thought!

"What does it sound like?" you ask. Ah, that can be discovered on his CD: "Playing on the Edge" (you can listen to some of the cuts from the CD, if you so desire).

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - 23 March 2010

Louis David MEYER, Jr., b: 6 March 1863, Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin; d: 28 March 1909 (101 years ago next week), Wauwatosa, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

He was my 1st cousin, twice removed. His mother (Maria Eva HOLLANDER MEYER) was my great-grandfather's sister and was the reason my great-grandfather (John Adam HOLLANDER) moved to the US and then to Milwaukee. She was an integral part of my existence. I knew the Meyer family members (Louis's daughter and my mother were very close . . . I have fond memories of meeting her when I was a young girl).

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - 17 March 2010

Jens Henry Johnson (died at age 10 of rheumatism/dropsy - see yesterday's post).

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - 16 March 2010

Jens Henry Johnson, b: 16 February 1883; d: 20 March 1893 (both in Oconto, Oconto, Wisconsin); buried in Evergreen Cemetery. Son of John & Mary (nee Jensen) Johnson.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Six Weeks Later . . .

Candlemas, or Groundhog, Day was February 2. In Punxsutawney, PA, Phil reported that the sunny day caused him to see his shadow so he retreated to his hole for another 6 weeks. That 6-week time period will be up on Tuesday, March 16.

Like the groundhog, Butch & I retreated to our "hole" on Feb. 2 and are just now emerging (along with the springing forward we did this morning). Spring is almost here. Our hills are sprouting wild flowers (which, in about 3 weeks, will become brown weeds we will need to have cleared to provide us with proper clearance distance to increase safety from wildfires - you know the adage "spring wildflowers bring summer wildfires"). And so it is time to finally bring forth our annual family missive: the Groundhog Letter.

The Groundhog Letter is our family tradition, like the holiday letters we all receive, and many send, around Christmas time, informing friends and family what has happened in the previous 12 months. When I was going to school in the 1980s, I discovered that holidays were overrun with obligations: shopping, baking, cooking, term paper writing, studying, finals . . . adding a holiday newsletter to the stack was one obligation that I could do something about. We decided to postpone that one task to the next year, and Groundhog Day seemed to be the perfect time (it gave me all of January to do the writing and, since classes didn't start until the end of January, it was timed perfectly).

When I became a college professor, the holidays continued to be stressful - now I was giving the final exams, plus grading them and the final essays, and having to get all the grades turned in by the required deadline. It was so hectic at that time period that I completely stopped all holiday baking.

Now that I am no longer taking or teaching classes, I have really enjoyed the holidays - no baking, no holiday family letter, kids grown and on their own - so we have kept the Groundhog Letter tradition and are quite content with it. But this year was a hard one. When I would normally be writing the letter, I was preparing for a couple of major seminars, then was sent into depression by the death of my friend Pernell Roberts. There was no way we could get the letter out by Groundhog Day so we decided to be like the proverbial groundhog and take refuge in the "hole" for 6 weeks, giving us a chance to catch up and recover (and since we both ended up with respiratory infections, the recovering was quite literal).

We did it. We are on the verge of spring and the Groundhog Letter is completed. You can find it on our website. Give it some time to load as there are a lot of photos. And Happy Spring, everyone!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Talking about Music

This past Tuesday I had the opportunity to be interviewed by NewsNet, and Inland Empire (CA) television station that broadcasts early morning programs, including a highlight on California Lifestyles (whatever that means). I actually was interviewed twice: once for the Corona Genealogical Society and once for the Riverside Folk Song Society. For the latter, I performed one song ("Early One Morning") and talked about our group which meets the 3rd Sat. of every month (next meeting: March 20). I mentioned our recent 50th anniversary celebration and the fact that this group has met almost every month for the past 1/2 century! That has to say something about the folks (some of the original members are still involved): people who love to get together for the sole purpose of making music and enjoying each other's company.

But making music is only part of the mission of the society: we also learn from each other. Whether it is learning new skills on one's chosen instrument(s), learning a new song, or learning about a song or its composer, we usually end up with some level of education occurring at every meeting. Personally, I love the meetings where I learn about the background of a song: why was it written, how has it been changed, who has recorded it, etc. In many cases, it tells about our culture (e.g., a song that has been altered to fit the times) and how we have adapted. Songs can also teach history (and keep it alive from one generation to the next).

Our monthly meetings usually have a theme (last month it was "love or love songs," in honor of Valentine's Day; this month it is "sun and rain"). These cause the participants to think of songs to perform that fit the theme and, hopefully, not rely on old standards; with a theme, we are encouraged to stretch our minds and practice something specific for the evening. Of course, we aren't too strict about the theme and, for example, a song last month might be one the presenter professes "to love," thus making it fit the theme, even if it has nothing to do with love, per se. Some of the fun of the evening is hearing how people justify a song they want to sing (I can already hear some of the explanations for this month: "it was raining the first time I heard this song . . .").

Our ancestors used to gather together to sing and play music, too; probably not as organized as the Riverside Folk Song Society, but for many of the same reasons: to enjoy the camaraderie of fellow musicians, take a break from the stress of daily life, learn something new, and share their talents. I know that my father's ancestry includes musicians, as did my mother's. Too bad the details of songs sung, instruments played, and people who sang together are not as prevalent as records of births, marriages, and deaths. But some instruments were passed down to me as were some pieces of sheet music. I remember my father giving me an old harmonica (actually better built than some that are produced today) along with an instruction manual that was in many pieces (and falling apart more every time I tried to work with it). But I learned to play harmonica from that, even though my father did not know from where he had acquired it. It was just one of those things that had been passed down to him.

If you have instruments or music that have been passed on to you, it is possible you have the clues to learn about the musical past of your ancestors. Above all: treat these items as the artifacts they are - don't store them in extreme temperatures or moisture (or non-moisture) rich environments. If they have not had attention in many years, see about restoring them (old hymn books can be rebound, old instruments can be reconstructed, but these tasks should be done by professionals). Even instruments that are over 100 years old can be restored and played again. Consider taking up where your ancestor left off: take lessons, or join a "song circle" group like the Riverside Folk Song Society and get some help learning to play. You will find that there is no experience as stress-relieving and uplifting as joining with others in song! (And if you don't want to play an instrument, these groups usually welcome non-players to just listen or sing along.)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - 10 March 2010

The Freeman farm today: Freeman District, Morris Tract, Penet Square, Brownville, Jefferson County, New York

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - 9 March 2010

Gilderoy (aka Gilderove) Freeman (b: abt 1854; d: 10 March 1864, Jefferson County, New York), son of Abram Freeman and wife Eilzabeth (aka Bonney or Betsy);
buried next to his sister Isabelle:
Buried in Freeman Cemetery, Freeman District, Morris Tract, Penet Square, Jefferson County, New York.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Irish Music: The real stuff!

It is officially the month when we can all play and sing Irish songs, whether or not our ancestry includes Ireland. The very existence of St. Patrick's Day automatically allows us the liberty of suddenly becoming Irish musicians. I will be doing 2 Irish music programs this month just to prove the point (note: to the best of my knowledge, I have not a single drop of Irish blood in my veins).

What songs do you think of when you think of Irish music? "When Irish Eyes are Smiling"? "Danny Boy"? "Kathleen Mavoureen"? "Irish Washerwoman"? Or do you think of "The Gypsy Rover," "Red is the Rose," or "Dark Island"? What's difference? That first grouping is like "pop" music, not the traditional material (with the possible exception of "Irish Washerwoman") that one is likely to hear in the Irish pubs.

One of my favorite Irish songs is "Red is the Rose," the Irish version of "Loch Lomond." Of course, if you ask an Irishman, he will tell you that "Red is the Rose" came first and that the Scots stole the melody, but if you ask a Scotsman, he'll tell you just the opposite. The songs have different "flavors" and, personally, I prefer the song of unrequited love that the Irish sing so convincingly. Check my CD of Irish Immigrant music on CDBaby to hear a short clip of the song.

To see this song performed by one of the best Irish musicians, Liam Clancy, who left us this past year, check his performance on YouTube. Liam was the last of the performing Clancy Brothers (best known for their career linked with Tommy Makem). Liam, at age 74, died on 4 December 2009. He was performing up until just a few short months before his death. A version of the lyrics can be found on the web, for those interested in the words.