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.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - 30 June 2010, Freeman Cemetery

Freeman Cemetery, Freeman District, Morris Tract, Brownville, Jefferson, New York.
Still my favorite cemetery

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - 29 June 2010 - John E. Freeman

John E. Freeman (my g-g-grandmother's half-brother) was born in July 1836 (1837, according to the tombstone, but probably in error) in Jefferson County, New York, and died 29 June 1914 (96 years ago today) in Chaumont, Jefferson, New York. He is believed to be buried here, in Brownville Cemetery, Brownville, Jefferson, New York, with his wife, Margaret Walrath (they were married in 1856 and had 4 children, only one - Carrie May - who lived to adulthood, marrying, first, ___ Peck and, second, Eugene Brown).

Problem: no death date is inscribed on John's headstone (but his obituary does say this is where he lies).

John E. Freeman was born on the family farm in the Freeman District, Morris Tract, Brownville, Jefferson, New York and worked his whole life as a farmer (according to census and obituary information).

Sunday, June 27, 2010


Welcome to Sunday Singalong with Circlemending!

I was pleased to see some gospel singalong participants in the last couple of weeks. This week was the anniversary of my mother's passing and, as can be imagined, I was in something of a "funk" as a result. While I'm doing OK now (thanks, in part, to the Flagstaff Folk Festival this weekend), I thought that "sad songs" would be a good theme for this week (don't worry, I'll counter with "happy songs" for a future theme). So what songs do you remember as being sad? Remember, we want to keep these "older" songs (i.e., not something that was written last week, OK?). You can print out the lyrics, give a link to a set of lyrics, MP3, YouTube, or all of the above, if you like. Or just identify the sad song by title.

With the many disasters that have befallen our country in recent years (and currently, in the Gulf region), I can't help but think of songs written about those events. One comes immediately to mind as being particularly sad (maybe because it is still shrouded so much in mystery). July 2 will be the 73rd anniversary of the disappearance of Amelia Earhart. The song "Amelia Earhart's Last Flight" by Kinky Friedman is thought to be the first song that carried her name. The refrain, "Happy Landings to you, Amelia Earhart; Farewell, first lady of the air" are both catchy and poignant. Why, one can even get the tune as a ringtone for the cell phone!

To hear the song, go to the YouTube showing of Red River Dave (the first to record the song).

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday - 24 June 2010 - The Singer Sewing Machine

One of Mom's favorite childhood "toys" (see yesterday's Wordless Wednesday) - I have the stewardship now.
Rest in Peace, Mom (gone 16 years today)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - 23 June 2010, Remembering Mom

Virginia Marie Johnson Wilcox
b: 24 August 1911
d: 24 June 1994
(16 years ago tomorrow . . . missed every day)

ca. 1913, Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

ca. 1929, Riverside High School, Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

1933, Carroll College, Waukesha, Waukesha, Wisconsin

1935, Marquette University, Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

ca. 1973, McGregor, Aitken, Minnesota

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - 22 June 2010 - Louis Johnson

Evergreen Cemetery, Oconto, Oconto, Wisconsin; May 2006

Louis Christian Johnson, b: 23 May 1888; d: 26 June 1894 (116 years ago this week),
son of John Johnson (AKA Hans Hansen) and Mary S. Jensen Johnson (my great-grandparents)
Had Louis lived, he would have been my mother's uncle. His death was the third in a three-year streak of losses for my great-grandmother, who lost her husband and another son in the 2 previous years, causing her to be very bitter throughout her life, something she allegedly regretted on her death bed.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

SUNDAY SINGALONG - More Gospel Songs

Last Sunday I decided to institute a Sunday Singalong on my blog, but I didn't post it until fairly late since I had been at Jamboree until mid-afternoon, so a lot of folks didn't learn about it until the next day. So here I will repeat some of my ideas on how this can go:

I will propose a general topic and you search your memory (but it's an "open book" exercise, so go ahead and look at music books in your home or look at old photos to jog the mind) and suggest a song that will fit the theme. If you want to share some of the words from your preferred version, that would be great, but if lack of time dictates that you to keep it short, then just enter a title! Links to lyrics, MP3s, or YouTube videos would also be a nice addition. You can also add why the song is significant or memorable to you.

Last week I proposed the topic "Gospel Songs," but since most folks didn't get a chance to play the game, I'm going to repeat that topic. I have a selfish reason for that as well - since this is Father's Day and since my Dad, though a devout heathen (self-proclaimed) throughout most of his life, played Gospel songs on the organ and was the son of a woman (my grandma) who was a prolific writer of Gospel songs, I want to honor Dad with this topic.

My offering this week: The songs of Pauline E. Wilcox, who sometimes enlisted the aid of my dad, her son, to write the music, but often used the artistry of Merrill Dunlop to carry her message. Merrill Dunlop was the music director for the Chicago Gospel Tabernacle, presided over by Paul Rader.

Dad always said that he liked Mr. Dunlop's compositions because they were challenging to play (for Dad, "the more difficult, the better" was his motto). Dunlop's collections are now housed in Wheaton, Illinois (I donated a number of things to their archives) but I do have a couple of his hymn books, at least one with some of my grandmother's songs:

So here is my "offering" for our Sunday Singalong - one of the songs written by Mema (that's what I called Pauline E. Miller Wilcox, my paternal grandmother):

I like to think that there is always a better day coming (I know, that's not what my grandmother meant by the phrase). Hope your life is filled with better and better days! Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Family singalongs, organs, and connecting generations

I guess singalongs are really on my mind right now . . . perhaps that is because the one we had at Jamboree last week (see earlier posts) are still generating comments and various posts. I am grateful to the many who have advised me of the links for videos and photos posted to Facebook (check my own FB profile page to see them . . . you may need to scroll down quite a bit . . . they were posted this past week).

My friend Susan Kitchens took some of the photos and told me about how the singalong we did reminded her of the "porchsings" she had with her own family. Her recollections, along with her impressions of an Arlo Guthrie concert in 2005 really affected her, can be found on her blog - it's great reading for anyone who is interested in how music reaches over the generations to connect people.

Tomorrow is Father's Day and in the past couple of weeks - the period between my Dad's birthday (June 8) and Father's Day - I have blogged about his family (Wilcox), his artifacts that I now have stewardship over, and photos of him at different times in his life. One of the photos show Dad & me in front of his Schober organ, created from a "kit." That organ was the culmination of many years of dreaming and planning and then, finally, creating. He and Mom made the organ together - Mom became quite the solder gun queen, soon learning the finer points of the craft (at Dad's tutelage, of course). And Dad built the console in his basement workshop, choosing only the best woods. Problem: once created, the framework, which would hold 3 manuals and a full pedal board, would not fit up the basement stairs into the waiting living room (a huge space had been cleared and was all ready for its new occupant). I still remember, being fast asleep one night, the snow having just stopped outside, when I was awakened by a rumbling down the sidewalk. Our home sat on a corner so the door from the basement to the outside could take a person right to Green Bay Rd - one of the busiest streets in Wilmette, Illinois (though not all that busy on a winter night sometime around 11 pm). My brother was home from college for the weekend and had a friend over for the evening; Dad found them to be the perfect assistants. Dad removed the door from the basement to the back yard and the three guys (Dad, my brother, and his friend) muscled the organ framework up and out and, since it was equipped with casters, rolled it around the corner (past my bedroom window) to the front door. I went downstairs in time to see it slipped right into its new home against the living room wall, where it sat for the next 30 years.

Mom and Dad created the manuals and made the connections so that the organ made its first sounds before it was actually assembled (which was also a rather weird experience). I did the finish on some of the pedals . . . but my ability to apply deft (the finish Dad preferred) left much to be desired so he took that task back. Once assembled and operating, the organ was used to entertain countless people who came to visit. I was always proud to show off Dad's amazing instrument and we had many great times playing duets (me on guitar). Those are some of the best memories.

That organ has a new home now, with a "fan" of Dad's who lives in New Jersey. He has both the musical and electrical backgrounds to play and keep in good repair that organ that represents a large part of my life. Happy Father's Day, Dad; I'll play a spiritual for you at the Riverside Folk Song Society tonight.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Flagstaff Folk Festival - countdown

Next weekend: Flagstaff Folk Festival, sponsored by the Flagstaff Friends of Traditional Music. This is an amazing event (click banner above to get to their site and blog - there's also an ongoing slideshow of past festivals). The cost is minimal: $3/person or $9/family (carload). From 10am-6pm (both days) there is non-stop music, plus many, many opportunities to jam. It's held at the Coconino Center for the Arts & Pioneer Museum (so there are other things to enjoy besides music!) at 2300 N. Fort Valley Rd in Flagstaff (free parking).

Also: lots of workshops on almost everything you can imagine (music-related). It's a very kid-friendly environment (a big plus as many festivals forget that we need to foster a love of music from the earliest ages). My granddaughters had a great time there 2 years ago (see photo collection at the bottom) and are looking forward to coming again this year (hopefully they'll attend Grandma's workshop on Kids Songs our Ancestors Sang - I'll have lots of singalongs including a 10-page handout with lyrics so no one has to try to remember the words to that long-forgotten song). Butch and I will also be doing a short concert as "Sawdust & Strings" - performing an eclectic selection of contemporary, original, and traditional pieces. And, of course, Butch will also be conducting a saw workshop (all these on Saturday - gonna be a busy day for us!).

So if you happen to be anywhere near Flagstaff, Arizona the last weekend of June, come to the festival, enjoy an Italian Ice or Navajo taco (or both!), and sing/play a few songs - sure to lift your spirits. There's nothing like raising voices in harmony - lets you forget all the bad stuff in the world and your personal life. See you there! (We're in the RV - pickup/camper - that has "Circlemending" in the top front window and 2 dogs peering out at the world from the cab.)

(Photos above from the Festival website - for promotional purposes only)

A small album from the 2008 festival:

Butch (in background, on saw) accompanying the Beaded Lizard Band

Butch teaching a spoons workshop - those are 3 of our granddaughters - Two to his left (Anya and Miracle) and one to his right, leaning on her dad (Mikayla). Honest, they really did have a good time!

Butch and I - Sawdust & Strings - doing a short concert of Civil War songs.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday - 17 June 2010 - Another Wilcox Memento

Dad (L. Roy Wilcox) died in 1999 and lived the last years of his life disgusted with modern technology (he had no use for cable TV, VCRs or video cameras), but he had been on the cutting edge of computers with his work at the Illinois Institute of Technology (he had wanted to build his own computer, but never got around to it). Nevertheless, whenever I would get a new gadget, he would scoff at it, declaring that the "old stuff" was good enough for him (he "preferred" audio recordings to video, perhaps a throw-back to the radio era, and would record on his homemade, mammoth reel-to-reel recorder any television shows that struck his fancy).

But he was not always that way. When my brother was born, it took him only a couple of years (and a hatred of borrowing equipment that belonged to friends of the family) to purchase an 8mm movie camera, projector, and screen. In fact, when a home audio recording system became available - allowing someone to actually make his own records that would play on a standard record player (78 rpm) - he purchased the entire system. I still own blanks of those "vinyl" (not really - these are breakable) records and the metal disc that was used in preparing the final product. I also have all the original recordings made of my brother and me singing songs that need not be reproduced here or anywhere, reciting nursery rhymes, and even creating and performing in our own "radio quiz show" (don't ask). The actual machine that recorded the material and cut the grooves is long gone (discarded when tape recorders became affordable and Dad built his first one from a Heath Kit), but the microphone remains! Here is the microphone from those early recordings (done in the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s) and is maybe why I have no problem using a microphone today (hey, I was weaned on one!):

(manufacturer: Turner Crystal)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - 16 June 2010 - Another Wilcox Photo

With my dad: Dr. L. Roy Wilcox - mathematician, linguist, musician, carpenter, electrician (FYI: he built that organ from a kit, but designed all the bells and whistles himself). Wilmette, Cook, Illinois, ca. 1981.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - 15 June 2010, Edward E. Wilcox, d: 15 June 1943

Edward E. Wilcox, son of Luther T. and Rebecca (Caldwell) Wilcox, b: 1862, Van Buren County, Michigan; d: 15 June 1943 (67 years ago today), Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California; buried: Riverside Cemetery (section J), Three Rivers, St. Joseph, Michigan.

Edward had been married to Carrie Wolf, who died in Los Angeles in 1939. She is interred in the same plot with her husband.

Edward was my 1st cousin, 3 times removed. It is possible he was named for my great-grandfather, Edward Everett Wilcox (who was named for his grandfather, Edward Freeman), but I don't know that for certain.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Over this past weekend I attended the SCGS 41st Annual Genealogy Jamboree and was inspired by the blogger summit (as I was last year . . . each year I get new inspirations). Thomas MacEntee, who organized Geneabloggers, promotes and hosts daily blogging themes and Randy Seaver, who writes Genea-Musings, has his Saturday Night Genealogy Fun.

Now, I have already figured out my niche - music and ancestry - but how to get others involved at a time when I might be able to encourage participation? I came up with a "Sunday Singalong," just like we did when we'd get together as a family around the piano (and, later, the organ), me with guitar, singing the family's favorites. Now, singing along on the Internet is not going to be an easy task, but if you dig deep into your memory, I'll bet you can remember some of the favorite old songs that you sang at camp, in church, in scouts, with family, etc.

So here's the plan: I will propose a general topic and you search your memory (but it's an "open book" exercise, so go ahead and look at music books in your home or look at old photos to jog the memory) and suggest a song that will fit the theme. If you want to share some of the words from your preferred version, that would be great, but if lack of time dictates that you to keep it short and just enter a title, that's fine, too! You can also add why the song is significant or memorable to you.

The topic today: Gospel songs. Over the weekend, Thomas MacEntee and I talked about one of my favorite songs: "Will the Circle be Unbroken" (if you haven't already figured it out, that is the song that inspired the name of my business, my website, and this blog - Circlemending . . . working to mend that broken circle with those on both sides of the grave) and he mentioned the precursor to that song (I'll let him tell about it, if he so desires). My favorite verse of that song - "Will the Circle be Unbroken" - says: "One by one, the seats were emptied; one by one they went away. Now my family, they're all departed; will we meet again some day?" I believe we will.

So now it's your turn: Got a gospel song to share? OK to recommend a set of lyrics you've found on line, an MP3, or a Youtube link you have found that features your selection. Put it in the comments. Let the singalong begin!!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Making Music with Genealogists

Saturday, 12 June 2010, Marriott Convention Center, SCGS 41st Annual Jamboree:

(Photo by Dick Eastman, lifted shamelessly from his blog . . . Thanks, Dick, for sharing)

(Photo by Miriam Robbins Midkiff, used with permission)

Our ancestors would sing together after a long day of work. Tonight the genealogists who attended the Jamboree in Burbank had a taste of that experience. I took out my guitar and my husband came to join us and we raised voices in song, singing a bunch of old favorites. A small crowd gathered, drifting in and out throughout the hour of serenading, most singing along with "Golden Slippers," "Grandfather's Clock," "Old Dan Tucker," "She'll be Comin' 'Round the Mountain," "Long, Long Ago," "Oh, Susanna," "This Land is Your Land," "500 Miles," and more and more. What a fun time to harmonize with friends and strangers.

(Harmonizing with Thomas MacEntee - photo lifted from Dick Eastman's blog without permission - but hopefully with forgiveness . . . thanks, Dick!)

Music truly does bring folks together!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday - L. Roy Wilcox, student and educator, 10 June 2010

My father attended an elementary school that, many years later, he destroyed (he was the president of the Board of Education in Wilmette, Cook, Illinois when it was decided that the old building - where he had attended school at the end of his elementary school experience - had to be torn down: it was more cost effective than rebuilding it . . . one of his school board colleagues mentioned that he had a chance to do what most children only dreamed of: destroying his grammar school! But Dad told them that, for him, it was rather sad: he enjoyed school). I suspect that this slate was actually used in his earlier educational experience in Chicago, Cook, Illinois, but it is definitely the slate he used at some point in his life; he gave it to me when I was a child and I have treasured it ever since.

The only one of Dad's readers that survived. It has "Roy Wilcox" written inside. I imagine it was the beginning of the man's love of the English language (though a mathematician, Dad was also a lexicologist and grammarian; he loved to watch the news and keep track of the errors in syntax and grammar that announcers committed . . . we all have our hobbies!).

Dad would have been 98 years old two days ago (b: 8 June 1912; d: 31 Dec 1999).

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - 9 June 2010 - Dr. L. Roy Wilcox

Roy with parents Lee Alfred Wilcox and Pauline Elizabeth Miller, 25 Nov 1915, Chicago, Illinois

Roy with mother, Pauline Elizabeth Miller Wilcox, and maternal grandmother, Gertrude Miller; 16 Nov 1916, Chicago, Illinois

Dr. L. Roy Wilcox (8 June 1912 - 31 December 1999) - Belated happy birthday, Dad.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday - 3 June 2010

I am thrilled that the article I wrote about my father - L. Roy Wilcox - was printed in Family Chronicle magazine (May/June issue - still available at Barnes & Noble in some places, though Riverside & Corona stores are sold out). The article discusses his experience with bootlegging (he was only 16 and not really aware of the events until it was too late to disconnect himself). Anyway, Dad went on to become a mathematics professor - and very well known in his field - spending some of his post-graduate time at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, working with Einstein and Von Neumann. He played the flute in the Princeton orchestra (I still have that flute . . . maybe I'll blog more about that experience of his at a later date). When we cleared out his things when he sold the family home, I came on many of the tools of his trade. They are now part of our family museum. Dad's love of mathematics and music, and his ability to speak at least three foreign languages, were cause for his being highly respected among his peers. After his passing, I really began to understand all he had done in his life; I wish I'd known while he was still alive! Get to know your living family members . . . you never know what amazing things they did (and are doing) in their lives!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - 2 June 2010 - Johann George Youker

Part of the Revolutionary War Pension Application file for Johann George Youker, my great-great-great-great-grandfather.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - 1 June 2010, Jessie Caldwell, d: 31 May 1926

My first cousin, 3 times removed -
b: 22 November 1864, Three Rivers, St. Joseph, Michigan
(md: John F. DUNCKEL);
d: 31 May 1926 (84 years ago yesterday), Springfield, Greene, Missouri;
buried: Section N, Riverside Cemetery, Three Rivers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Jessie's mother was my great-great-grandfather's sister; both were members of the Three Rivers DAR through our mutual ancestor, Johann George Youker, Revolutionary War Soldier and my g-g-g-g-grandfather.