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.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Music, Family History, and an Unforgettable Evening in Salt Lake

"What does music have to do with genealogy?" I am frequently asked. Well, tonight the answer became very clear to 14,000 people who were at the Tabernacle Choir's performance at the Salt Lake LDS Conference Center. Oh, my! Just walking into the place was a moving experience (I always tear up when I'm there to hear the choir sing . . . it just does something "to" me . . . and I'm not much of a crier, but tonight went into major crying jags 3 different times!).

The performance was called "A Celebration of Family History" and featured a combination of music, stories, and talks on family history. Without the music, there would have been a significant lack of emotional impact. Without the music, much of the message would have been lost. I am convinced that our ancestors' lives, like ours, would have similarly lacked emotional impact and altered or lost messages at certain times if the music had been omitted.

Watching the story of Jared McCloud and his interest in the instrument of his heritage - the bagpipes - becoming a life-long passion served to communicate the message that our ancestral blood runs deep and a love for music can and does transmit across the generations while binding people to their cultures. At the end of the film about his experience, narrated by his father, Jared is seen playing "Amazing Grace" . . . but then the choir joined his on-film playing. On the screen, the image of Jared is replaced by the close-up of bagpipers playing "Amazing Grace" alongside the choir and the close-up of one of the pipers bears the identification: "Jared McCloud." The audience just stood as if on cue . . . the performance was magical, the emotion unmistakable. And the connection to heritage universal (at least within the group there).

The last film vignette was a brief version of the story of Julia Ward Howe's experience in writing "Battle Hymn of the Republic," narrated by a g-g-g-grandson (I may be off by a "great" there). His interest in the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. seems to be a natural continuation of the abolitionist background of his ancestor. Again, as the film ended, the choir, along with the Orchestra at Temple Square, picked up the cue and performed the timeless piece. As they sang, the background behind the choir changed from orange to red and blue with a display of white stars on a blue field . . . could there have been a dry eye in the audience? Again, we were on our feet to recognize the talent and message. At the end, Mack Wilberg, the conductor, turned and "conducted" us as we joined in with one last chorus with the choir. It was positively overwhelming!

That was the last piece and the audience applause went on for quite some time . . . but it was time to leave. As we all picked up our things and started the mass exodus, Richard Elliott, the organist, played a John Philip Sousa march, both a fitting encore and a good vehicle to get (and keep) us moving steadily towards the exits. No pushing. No shoving. Just a sense that we had all shared in an unforgettable evening.

Music does that: it joins people together. It creates a unified group, even when that group consists of people from all walks of life, different cultures, different generations, different religions . . . together we understood the relationship between the music and family history. These were our ancestors' songs . . . they are also ours. The wedding dress great-grandma wore is long gone. The model T my grandfather bought to take my dad on his first camping trip never even made it into a photograph. The photos that my parents had in the storage locker that caught fire can never be enjoyed by my kids. But the music is still with us. The songs my mother sang at camp are the ones I sang. The hymns grandma and grandpa sang at church are still sung by congregations today. The lullabies that I learned from my father were sung by my children to their children and, most likely, are being sung to their children now. We can keep our ancestors alive through the music that was part of the fabric of their lives. Tonight was yet another demonstration of this and it was so worth dealing with my crowd-phobia, the snow and cold, and the long walk to my friend's car for the ride back to the campground. What a night!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - 28 April 2010 - How Jensen & Johson connected to Hansen & Hansen

The Hansen family business, Racine, Wisconsin.
Bothilda Marie Hansen married Carl William Johnson, whose father was John Johnson, AKA Hans Hansen, and the junction of the 2 families really made it Hansen & Hansen (M.C. stands for Mads Christian Hansen).
Mary S. Jensen Johnson was the mother of Carl William Johnson, of Kenosha, Wisconsin.

(thanks to my 2nd cousin, Henry - Cappy - Johnson, for the photo)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - 27 April 2010 - Mary S. Jensen Johnson

My great-grandmother, Mary S. Jensen Johnson, b: 2 February 1854, Denmark; d: 26 April 1914 (96 years ago this week), Kenosha, Kenosha, Wisconsin; buried 29 April 1914, Evergreen Cemetery, Oconto, Oconto, Wisconsin.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Lullabies - To sleep, perchance, to fear

I am fascinated by lullabies that seem to be anything but soothing. I remember, as small child, I learned "Rock a-bye, Baby" from my father. Singing "when the bough breaks, the cradle will fall" certainly did not sound like a way to send a child off to sleep, even when I was a kid. First, I wondered about how the cradle ended up in the tree (I always visualized the big tree next door - its branches reached close to my bedroom window and I knew it was not a safe place for anyone, let alone a helpless baby). Then, I thought of the wind blowing while the child was up there stranded; it sent chills up my spine (I never did like heights and still don't). I wonder how many nightmares were fueled by lullabies!

Twice I have been approached by genealogists who, when they learned that I am a folklorist, asked me to identify a song they remembered from their own childhoods (in one case, it had been sung by an elderly family member and the person brought me a tape to listen to). I located the lullaby with no problem - it's called Two Little Babes in the Woods - and the lyrics are on line. It's about two small children who wander into the woods, get scared, and die. Now, I think everyone will agree that this is hardly a pleasant story to tell a child who is drifting off to sleep! But let's look a little deeper: today it is rare for people, especially small children, to wander into the woods. I mean, I won't let my grandkids leave the fenced-in back yard when they are here and most parents won't let one of their small children out of the front door without an older child or adult along for safety! Today our fears center around child abduction, but our ancestors feared their babes would wander into the nearby forest and be devoured by wild animals. I remember visiting my grandmother at the family cottage in Wisconsin where the woods surrounded many of the homes. There weren't many vicious animals and we played in the woods with few fears (though the skunks, porcupines, and raccoons did pose certain threats, especially if they were mamas with babies to protect). But I can see how easy it would have been to get lost, even in the woods near Grandma's place. How much easier would it have been 100 years or more before, when there was even less construction? In fact, Grandma's mother remembered walking through the forest to visit Solomon Juneau, returning home at night, by lantern . . . and this was in Milwaukee! So I suspect the "Two Little Babes" lullaby had another purpose beyond getting a child to fall asleep: it was a warning - "Don't go into the woods! See what can happen?" How many kids obeyed out of fear? Well, whatever it takes!

Last week, in my "Songs of Early Childhood" CD promotion blog, I discussed the song "All the Pretty Little Horses" (track 4) - another lullaby used to communicate a sensitive message to a child who probably was oblivious to the actual meaning of the song (though the phrase, "Way down yonder, in the meadow, there's a poor little lamby/Birds and butterflies, peckin' at its eyes, poor little thing keeps crying 'Mammy'" conjures up some pretty horrific images). I also discussed "Go Tell Aunt Rhody," another song often used as a lullaby, that focuses on a goose that died. It does give one pause, doesn't it? But how does that nighttime prayer go? "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take." What a pleasant thought to be the last of a child's day!

Do you know some other lullabies or nighttime stories that send a child off to bed with thoughts of danger and death? Do you remember how you felt when/if your parents sent you to bed with such songs? Was it as traumatic as some folks today imagine? Well, there was still "Wynken, Blynken, and Nod" to remind us that not everything dealt with fear and death for children heading off to sleep!

Sweet dreams.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday - Earth Day 2010

Original Earth Day buttons - from the original Earth Day fundraiser, January 1970, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois. 40 years ago today we had the first one . . . make every day Earth Day & we won't need to "celebrate" it any more!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - 20 April 2010 - Knoetgen/Trapschuh

Maria Theresa Knoetgen Trapschuh, wife of Ignatz Trapschuh, b: 23 February 1816, Bohemia; d: 18 April 1899 (101 years ago this week), Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin; buried 20 April 1899 (101 years ago today), Forest Home Cemetery, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She was the daughter of Baron Johann Knoetgen of Teplitz, Bohemia.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Shameless Promotion: "Songs of Early Childhood"

The "Songs of Early Childhood" CD is finished. It has been one I looked forward to recording ever since I started putting together programs for genealogy societies that introduce people to the music of their ancestors. But putting together a full "kids program" has not been in the schedule until this year, with the plans to present music at Kids Camp at both the NGS Conference(in Salt Lake, on May 1) and at SCGS Jamboree (in Burbank, on June 11) - both free morning programs, but requiring pre-registration. Those events inspired me to get this done.

The recording went very smoothly, as did the mastering. The photo, on the other hand, probably caused my friend, Pam McComb-Podmostko, some sleepless nights. We took it back in July 2009 when I had a sufficient number of grandchildren present to make it come to pass. But the living room (yes, it was taken inside) in which it was taken had a lot of decorations on the walls and things on the tables. Pam, in her own imaginative way, did some "housecleaning" and, voila, we ended up in the garden. She also adjusted some of the children (about five photos were taken and no single one was perfect, so, again, Pam worked her magic and a child in one photo replaced his image in another). Oops, I'm telling all the secrets. Well, I just didn't want anyone to think that we got all of us looking halfway decent at the same time (hey, our family is no different from yours!). So here's the final product and, just so you don't think I grabbed kids from anywhere, I shall tell you who all these precious models are (note: they appear here with parental or guardian permission)

That's me with the guitar (duh). Next to me, on my right, is Mikayla Pitterle, daughter of Patty & John. From your left, across the front, we have Jacob Hinchey (son of DJ & Amy Jo), Selena Cheney (honorary step-granddaughter through our son-in-law's ex-wife Gay), Cole Hinchey (another son of DJ & Amy Jo), Miracle Pitterle (another daughter of Patty & John), Jamie Hinchey (step-granddaughter, daughter of Samantha, the step-sister of our oldest grandchildren), Lillabeth Mason (daughter of Joe & Kirbi, our oldest grandchild), Anya Pitterle (youngest daughter of Patty & John), and Zack (step-grandson, son of our new daughter-in-law, Jessica, and step-son of our youngest "boy," Max). Ha! And you thought I couldn't name them all. Missing: a whole bunch (but where would we put them?).

Children's songs fall into distinct categories, some of which are "songs that advise or teach lessons," "lullabies," "question/answer or response," "progressive" (i.e., songs that build with each verse including information from the previous ones), "play party songs" (where the participants are encouraged to do hand or body movements to replicate what is being mentioned in each verse), and "fun songs." I included at least one from each of these categories (note: some songs fall in more than one category); those that can be heard on this recording are, in order:

1) "Froggie Went a-Courtin'" - This was a song my father used to sing to me (accompanying himself on piano) from my earliest memories. This version is slightly different (he sang, "Frog, he would a-wooing go"). But I borrowed the verses & adapted the tune from what Dad sang to other versions (there are so many I would have to write an entire piece just on that . . . and I probably will, for GenWeekly, sometime in the near future). This is a "fun" song but it also is rumored to be one that "teaches" some history (that depends on the rendition, of course), using the method of analogy (way above the heads of the kids, but evident to the adults of the time period). I use guitar and banjo, with Uncle Butch on the spoons, to convey the message here.

2) "Aunt Rhody" - I remember this song from my early childhood, but don't know where I first heard it, but I suspect during music hour in school. The last verse - about the goose dying from standing on her head in the millpond - may be a more modern one as I also located a version that declared she died behind the shed and not from any bodily contortion. But the one I recall deals with her acrobatics and so I decided to use that one here. I am accompanied by my dear friend Susan Brundage on the flute. She adds a haunting quality to this odd song, and we alternate flute with Butch's saw playing (we have spared the listener of having to endure both of those instruments at once). This is categorized as a lullaby and is sung in an appropriate tempo for that purpose. I also use guitar and mandolin in it.

3) "Old Dan Tucker" - My grandfather, Lee A. Wilcox, had a number of 78 rpm records that he would play for me (I own them now and even have a machine that will play them, but most have been used so much that the sound quality is very poor). Anyway, this song, about the man who "died of a toothache in his heel" was always one of my favorites. I loved to sing along and it was so lively that it seemed to perk up my grandparents' home whenever it was on the record player (something that household needed a great deal of). This one is just for fun and I accompany myself on guitar and banjo while Butch plays the spoons.

4) "All the Pretty Little Horses" - When I was about 16 years old, I watched a PBS program called Rainbow Quest, hosted by Pete Seeger. He told the story of this song - of how the slave nanny would sing it to the little white child to get the babe to sleep while her own baby was left all alone in the slave shack "in the meadow," at the mercy of any wild creature that could gain access to the poorly constructed abode. When she sings about the "little lamby," it is of her own child she speaks. I had an opportunity to attend a workshop, conducted by Pete, not long after watching that show, and he asked the audience if anyone knew what the song was about. I volunteered (something I normally wouldn't have done, and was shocked when I realized I was the only person with a hand up!). I mentioned my source - our workshop leader - and everyone laughed. I think it was at that moment that I realized folklore was going to be my destiny and that some day I was going to be the one conducting a workshop. So this song connects to a lot of emotions and life-altering realizations for me. This lullaby is performed with guitar and saw.

5) "The Darby Ram" - Again, I'm not sure where I heard this the first time. It was probably on the Midnight Special on WFMT radio in Chicago. My old friends and neighbors, George & Gerry Armstrong, performed it on their first album for Folkways. I found it to be a rather horrifying children's song (speaking of blood and gore), but loved the cadence and the outlandishness of it. It's a fun song to sing, but I'm not sure everyone who hears it will be comfortable with the topic (most kids will love it, however!). This song, just for fun, was performed on guitar and mandolin, with Butch providing the spoons accompaniment.

6) "There's a Hole in the Bucket" - I remember George & Gerry Armstrong singing this song on one of their albums and I blogged about it a few months back. Butch & I did it, sort of hamming it up, at the Glendale Folk Heritage Festival in Arizona, back in March, and had fun doing it, so we decided to include it here. I thank Butch for being a good sport about it. It's a typicla question-response song, sung a cappella.

7) "Here We Go 'Round the Mulberry Bush" - Another song my dad taught me. We had (and I have since purchased another copy of) a book called the Golden Songbook by Katharine Wessells (pictured below). It was the source of my earliest music instruction at my father's side. Many songs from that volume are associated with particular graphics and this is a prime example.
When I think of each of the days of the week and their accompanying chores (Monday was washday, etc.), I remember the photos in that book. I still do laundry (well, some of it) on Mondays and remember the song while I do so. I added "sand blocks" to this piece (I blogged about those not long ago) and think they add a nice touch (but I kept the blocks quiet on the Sunday verse when it says, "This is the way we go to church" - it just seemed irreverent to have sand blocks going to church). This play-party song that also serves to teach proper activities for each day of the week - more likely one that would be sung by girls, though there are boys doing household chores in the photos of the songbook that dates back to 1945 (good for them!) is performed on guitar.

8) "Little Brown Dog" - This song has been around for eons, but most people are familiar with the modernization of it, done by Noel Paul Stookey, and sung by Peter, Paul, & Mary as "Autumn to May." Their version is shorter by one verse, but the last line and the concept remain the same. It's a pure fantasy piece that let's imagination run wild. I'm using the original words (the ones our ancestors sang) with Noel's music and chorus (which was more natural for me to sing), using guitar with Butch on the saw.

9) "She'll be Comin' 'Round the Mountain" - This song just won't die. And I'm fine with that. The original song is much shorter than what the kids sing these days. I remember being a cub scout den leader and leading the kids in this song which took the form of a progressive piece with play-party style movements (waving, chopping, driving horses, etc.). But this is presented here in the original format, leaving "her" (whoever "she" is) without pink pajamas, eating chicken & dumplings (which most kids today are clueless about), or sleeping with grandpa (which never seemed appropriate to me). Nevertheless, the tempo is lively and it's fun to sing along with it (I use banjo, guitar, mandolin, and limberjack, so there's lots of noise with her arrival).

10) "Pop! Goes the Weasel" - A song from England with English references. I have recorded the earliest version of verses that I could find. I blogged about this song a number of months ago. My husband and I still argue over this piece. I think I included it just to bug him (but he was a good sport - he mastered it with the same care as he did the others). I played both lead and back-up guitar for this play-party song that also speaks of certain behaviors that were less than stellar ("the Eagle" refers to a tavern of which someone is going in and out).

11) "Waste Not, Want Not" - A good adage for any generation. This song was taken from the collections of Mormon Pioneer Songs I have amassed over the last 30+ years. I have heard various renditions, all with the same chorus, that place the singer in a different location for his childhood (this version mentions the town of "Lincoln" - Nebraska - but others mention villages throughout Utah). I love the chorus and the line "let your watchword be dispatch . . ." Now, who knows what that means? Raise your hands higher! Ah, I thought so. Well, a "watchword" might be a personal motto or a life guide. "Dispatch" simply means "to accomplish" or "do," so I think that this could be reduced to "Get it done!" Of course, that lacks something in the poetry department and, after all, it is a song. But if the person listening (the child) doesn't understand it, I'm not sure the full impact can be felt. Oh well. This song of lessons for one's life is performed on guitar and autoharp.

12) "Rattlin' Bog" - I do not have a memory of this from my childhood, but, then, I'm from European descent and this is an Irish kids' song! I first heard it by the band Atlantic Crossing and fell in love with it, though I can rarely sing it all the way through without stumbling (I did a fairly decent job of it here, though I think it took a half dozen takes!). A progressive song that also increases in speed, which drove Butch nuts when he tried to add the spoons to my 12-string guitar (but he did it!).

13) "Hush Little Baby" - Another lullaby. My mother didn't sing me lullabies - that was my father's task (well, he taught them to me and I sang them to myself, to be honest). My mother's voice was not exactly in any key known to man, but she sure loved music. I learned this song as a child, but I think it was from a record, not from school or my father or grandparents. I seem to remember always knowing it. Each verse depends on the previous one and the rhymes make it easy to remember. I used guitar, mandolin, and Dobro on it.

14) "The Fox" - OK, probably my favorite kid's song. I love doing it on the banjo I inherited from my great-grandmother (see related blog). I first heard it on the Midnight Special on WFMT radio in Chicago, sung by Harry Belafonte. I've listened to a number of other artists perform it - Burl Ives and Odetta being the first ones to come to mind - but the Calypso sound of Belafonte is what makes the song come alive. I used that as my model for the recording and used guitar and banjo, with Butch on the spoons, in its presentation. The song is said to date back to at least the 1600s (as a poem) and is done just for fun. A good way to end the CD.

One of the enjoyable aspects of doing a CD, for me at least, is that I can do songs on more than one instrument (something that I have yet to master in a live performance). Sometimes I end up changing the primary instrument for future performance based on a recording experience. So my eighth CD is "in the can," so to speak, and if you are interested in ordering it, check my website. In the past, we have used the services of CD Baby for distribution, but this time we're handling it ourselves (to see if it works for us). To order by credit card, purchasers will have to resort to PayPal (a link is on the site). Otherwise, orders need to be by check or money order with the order form printed from the site. At this moment, I don't have any "clips" to listen to . . . those will probably go up next week. Or contact me if you want to hear samples or order MP3s. In this day of technology, anything is possible!.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - 14 April 2010 - Miller & Wilcox

My father, L. Roy (Buddy) Wilcox, with his uncle (my granduncle), C. Arthur Miller; ca. 1916. Note: they have the same mouth (more evident when Dad got older)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Homemade Music/Homemade Instruments

I remember (just barely) making a cigar-box ukulele in kindergarten. We had to provide the cigar box (in those days, if a kid's parents didn't smoke - rare - a cigar box could be procured at the local drug store - ours was Lyman-Sargent's in downtown Wilmette) and strings (I believe they were rubber bands) were fastened to the bottom (on nails that I am sure the teacher pounded in) and stretched up the body of the "instrument" (the cigar box) along a "neck" (not sure what that was) to be fastened (I don't recall how) to the "head" (probably just the end of the neck). I don't recall any way tuning could be accomplished but, hey, the sound it made would not have been improved had there been "string" adjustment possible! We strummed away on our little noisemakers, pretending to accompany the music teacher (playing loud enough on the piano to pretty much drown us out). Now whether we also played the sand blocks at the same time, I don't remember, but I do remember "making" those (why we say we "made" these things is beyond me as the teacher was the one wielding manner, knife, staple gun, scissors, etc.). They were blocks of wood, wrapped in sand paper. I have never liked the feel of sand paper (why I was happy when my husband bought me my "mouse" - a little electric sander), but this past weekend I found myself again making sand blocks (my "mouse" makes a terrible musical instrument, but it's very handy to smooth rough surfaces; on the other hand, my quickly constructed sand blocks sounded pretty darn good!). I used the sand blocks in one of the songs we just recorded for the latest CD: "Songs of Early Childhood" (songs our ancestors sang as children) . . . but more on that later, when it is finally ready for distribution.

Anyway, here's my point (took long enough to get to it, didn't I?): creating instruments out of raw materials is nothing new. Our ancestors did it for centuries! And some were pretty darn creative. And some were marketed to the general public. And some, thankfully, have never been heard of since.

When we attended the Glendale, AZ Folk Heritage Festival last month (March 2010), I was amazed to find that there was a "homemade instruments" workshop. I didn't attend it (I was obligated elsewhere), but I did talk to Pat Clark, the creator and player of the most elaborate Cigar Box Guitar and Dobro I have ever seen. He was kind enough to let me take his photo & agreed to let me share it here on this blog. These instruments have been electrified with pickups so they can be plugged right into an amplifier (bet my kindergarten teacher would never have imagined that!). Of course they use conventional tuning pegs and real instrument strings (no rubber bands here) so they can be tuned to precision! Ah, we've come a long way.

I had been thinking about these homemade instruments for some time so running into Mr. Clark was a special treat. I did a little "Googling" to see what I could find and discovered that there is a whole Cigar Box instrument musicianship out there. Check these out:
David Beede (giving information on how he made it as well as demonstrating it)
Gus (showing the instrument construction and demonstrating its sound)
It's not just for guys, check out Shelley Rickey's instrument

Then there are similar (stringed) instruments made from other handy objects:
The cookie tin banjo (demo and construction info)
The gas can banjo (make sure the can is empty before construction or playing)

Another advantage to these unique instruments: unlike conventional guitars, they pack up easier for travel all over the world. Gus shows how this all comes together on his YouTube video (and he also shows the pickup workings for those wanting to "go electric").

Want one of these unique instruments for yourself, making you guaranteed "life of the party" (if you dare bring it along)? "eHow" will show you the construction procedure from scratch. If you're not that handy and want the raw materials supplied, Elderly Instruments (one of my favorite suppliers of musical instruments and accessories) has kits! Not a DIY kind of person? Buy one ready-made from "Papa's Boxes."

One of the fun aspects of these cigar-box (and other homemade instruments) is that they can be as elaborate or as plain as you wish to make them. Tom of CigarBoxUkes.com has a lovely display of his instruments, all uniquely decorated. They end up being utilitarian, decorative, and vintage items all at the same time. What house wouldn't be more lovely if sporting one of these on the parlor wall?

But there are other forms of homemade instruments. Our earliest ancestors discovered that banging on our natural resources (logs, rocks) or shaking things that grew in their vicinity (dried out cactus, seed pods, etc.) created melodious sounds. We have modernized such things into drums and maracas, but the inspiration behind these 21st Century instruments is worth remembering.

Earlier this week, my friend Thomas MacEntee sent me information about a "rock xylophone." I had heard of the stones that make music when struck, but this is taking it to the next level. Check this blog by The Ancient Digger. There is a short video that is included here (with links to others) and I am greatly impressed by the sound. Not sure what songs from my repertoire would be enhanced by this, but I'd be willing to try . . . next time I'm in North Cumbria, UK.

So when your child (grandchild, great-grandchild) comes to you with the "instrument" (oatmeal box drum, trash-can lid cymbal, water-filled bottle - hit or blown across) that was made in daycare or preschool, suggest a singalong! Who knows, that instrument could very well metamorphose into a life-long passion (I've been playing guitar for over 45 years . . . not counting the cigar-box ukulele hours).

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - 7 April 2010 - Dallman & Wilcox

Cousins: Roy & Edith

My father, L. Roy Wilcox, with his 1st cousin (my 1st cousin, once removed), Edith Dallman (see yesterday's Tombstone Tuesday for info on Edith)

ca 1917, Chicago, Cook, Illinois, USA

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - 6 April 2010 - Dallman/Mayer/Hamric

Edith N. Dallman, my first cousin, once removed, was born 1 January 1906 in Chicago, Cook, Illinois, USA, and died 4 April 1983 (27 years ago this week) in Morton Grove, Cook, Illinois, USA. She was buried 7 April 1983 in Arlington Cemetery, DuPage County, Illinois, USA.

Edith had two children - Norma and Jack Mayer - from two different husbands (Ray Mayer and Adolph Mayer, respectively - no relation that we know of). She was divorced from her third husband - Mr. Hamric.

I remember Edith and her daughter Norma - they attended my first wedding. While we lived close to each other in Illinois, our families had very little contact. I regret that greatly at this point in my life and am trying to reconnect with Jack Mayer's family (he passed away in 1987, but I understand his three children - Jack, John, and Kathy - still live in Illinois).

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Ancestor Approved Award

I recently received from Texicanwife, the following:

As a recipient of this award I’m supposed to list ten things I have learned about any of my ancestors that has surprised, humbled, or enlightened me and pass along the award to ten other bloggers whom I feel are doing their ancestors proud.


This is a welcome surprise! And now the task at hand: listing ten things that have surprised, humbled or enlightened me:

1) The shyster. My g-grandfather - Fritz Mueller - who allegedly was the scribe on Sherman's March to the Sea (Civil War, 1864-65) as an immigrant who served as a substitute soldier. What I discovered: he served under his own name as a volunteer who immigrated in about 1855; he volunteered in 1861 and was discharged in 1862 due to "a rupture" (hernia) acquired from the "excessive marching." No scribe. No March to the Sea. No substitute. Is lying genetic? I am enlightened.

2) The Revolution. According to my father, none of his ancestors was in America before 1800. Tell this to the 2 direct line ancestors - Isaac Freeman & George Youker - who served in the American Revolution. More enlightening plus surprise.

3) The Winthrop Fleet. Same line, same claim. No doubt a surprise to John Gallop, who arrived on the Mary and John with the Winthrop Fleet. Still more enlightening and surprise.

4) Friends. My 10th great-grandfather, John Gallop, was friends with my husband's 7th great-grandfather, Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island (ah, if they only knew what would happen in a scant 300 years - give or take - later when their respective descendants met & married. Enlightenment and surprise continues.

5) Courage & survival. My great-grandfather, John Adam Hollander, who made his way to the US in 1856 after the death of his widowed mother, learning the barbering trade from his NY brother-in-law, moving to Wisconsin, volunteering for the Wisconsin 24th Infantry (with the war hero, Arthur McArthur, boy general), overcoming typhoid fever and influenza, serving on the March to the Sea (documented), and returning to his sweetheart, left in Wisconsin, to create the first ladies hairdressing and (unisex) wigmaking establishment in Milwaukee. I am humbled.

6) Sojourner extraordinaire. My 2nd great-grandmother, Irene Freeman Wilcox, who married the boy next door (Nathan W. Wilcox) and moved 1500 miles over the course of the next 45 years: NY to MI; MI to IA; IA to TN (at least 4 different cities across the state); and TN to TX. While doing this, she gave birth to, and buried, children (birthed 6 or 7, 3 of which lived to adulthood). Continuing to be humbled and enlightened.

7) Engineer & soldier. Husband of #6 - Nathan W. Wilcox - who followed the work. As a carpenter, joiner, and architect, he left NY state to forge a new life for himself, his wife, and the rest of his family, behind in NY. Once settled in Michigan, the rest of the family joined him and settled in Van Buren County, Michigan (many are still there). After settling his father's estate, Nathan moved to Iowa with wife and 2 children, becoming one of eight carpenters in their village. He signed up for the Civil War, becoming a recruiter in the Iowa town for Bissell's Engineering Regiment of the West from Missouri. He was instrumental in the regiment, being one of the few experienced engineers. After discharge, he continued to work under contract to the US, working in Tennessee and eventually moving to the state, sending for his family. He moved throughout the state where work beckoned until his body gave out at the age of 63 (I hope to have a monument erected at his grave in Nashville later this year). I am enlightened (and, I confess, very proud).

8) A fire leads to a need. Great-grandfather John Johnson (aka Hans Hansen) moved to Oconto County, Wisconsin shortly after the area was devastated by fire (The Peshtigo Fire, 8 October 1871). Did he move to help rebuild the area? He was a lumberman by trade but died an early death (age 41, leaving very few records). I am enlightened (and understand why my mother was so

9) Wife abuse knows no class distinction. Great-great-grandmother left her abusive husband and 5 children in Bonn, Germany to remake her life in America in 1864, accompanied by a family friend. It took 10 years to get her daughters to join her (her 2 sons stayed in Germany). She married the family friend (prior to the deaths of either's spouse) in 1865. Had she not "left Germany under the cover of darkness," I would not be here, writing this today. I am humbled by her sacrifice and forever grateful for her courage.

10) Realization of relationships. "My great-grandmother was disowned by her parents when she married a commoner," said my mother. But, once I inherited the photos, documents, ledgers, diaries, and letters, I discovered that that great-grandmother (my 2nd g-grandmother) - Maria Theresa Knoetgen Trapschuh - had continuous communication with her brother in Bohemia who kept her informed on the entire family. Her father also sent her a letter, just a short while before he died. And photos were included of the family business, the community, and the various relatives. She never returned to Bohemia, but she never lost contact, either.

My ancestors have provided me with examples of courage, survival, sacrifice, intelligence, and talent. They also provided me with examples of abuse, deceit, and apathy. Indeed, my ancestors were human and I am grateful for every one (even the wife abusing great-great-grandfather whose actions drove his wife to America where her daughter joined her, married a shyster, and parented my opinionated, obstinate, cantankerous grandmother . . . whom I miss terribly! How I wish I'd listened to her stories!).

OK, 10 bloggers who continue to keep the ancestor stories and honor for forebears alive (as the one who sent this to me, this is a difficult part as there are so many . . . but certain ones come to mind quicker . . . if I have omitted yours, please do not take offense):

1) Gena Philibert Ortega's Gena's Genealogy
2) Diane Shockey Wright's The Graveyard Rabbit Travels Wright
3) Storycorps
4) Susi Pentico's Susi's Chatty Performances on Genealogy
5) Footnote Maven
6) Randy Seaver's Genea-Musings
7) Pat Erickson-Richley's Dear Myrtle
8) Arlene Eakle's Genealogy Blog
9) A. C. Ivory's Find My Ancestor
10) Julie's Banjos and Baby Dolls

Friday, April 2, 2010

Did your Ancestor play Zydeco? - Glendale Folk Fest, part 2

I have already written about the Glendale, AZ Folk & Heritage Festival that took place on March 20-21. It was a wonderful experience for a number of reasons:

1) There was music for all ages and interests
2) There was instruction on how to play instruments as well as specific history
3) Many workshops gave participants a chance to be involved (playing or singing along, discussing, etc.)
4) There were ample opportunities and space for "jamming" (when musicians & singers get together and share songs, playing & singing together)
5) People learned about the types of music that have been part of different cultures for generations

Last time I talked about Butch and his saw and spoons workshops. This time I want to focus on #4 above.

While we enjoyed playing and singing and teaching, we also had a good time being in the audience. I wandered around and took photos on one day, catching a double-accordion Zydeco band (put together on the spot from players of this type of music). So I thought I'd share some of the photos of that group and info about that type of music. If your ancestors were Creole (specifically from SW Louisiana or SE Texas), they very well may have been Zydeco players. These musicians commonly use fiddles, accordions or concertinas, guitars, wash boards (or "rubboards"), and sometimes drums (or other percussion instruments), bass (guitar, upright, or wash-tub), and horns (sax, in particular). (The above photo also includes a mandolin - not necessarily traditional for a Zydeco band, but it sounded great!) The lively music entices listeners to get up and dance, making it an "audience participation" experience!

(Above: a little harmonica is added to the group)

While I did not record the band you see pictured here, you can find Zydeco on YouTube. Check out this one in Forst, LA; this in New York; this in Richmond, VA (my favorite Zydeco band: BeauSoleil); or even as far away as Bruges, Belgium! Lyrics are usually in French, but the rhythm is understood in any language! Clicking on any of those links will bring up many, many more bands all over the world, perpetuating that infectious sound. Or maybe you will get to a festival where the music is featured: either as a band on stage or like the one here - gathered together as strangers, sharing the music, leaving as friends.

If you want to learn a little about it, check out this Alan Lomax snip on YouTube. So sit back and listen to a little Cajon music from the Bayou Country! And if that's where your ancestors came from, you can connect with some of their musical spirit at the same time.

(This gentleman is "playing the water bottle" - the sides of which are "corrugated" and actually make a nice sound, except that he was drowned out by the rest of the band! But it's evidence that everyone wants to get in on the act!)