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.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Sunday Singalong with Circlemending

It’s been awhile since I’ve engaged others in my blog and song selections. I have been thinking of some great songs that go along with the current state of affairs. Now, most people I know have been quarantined with other family members and so have at least one other person with whom to play games, have meals, take a walk, sing songs, etc. Lots of my friends are making masks for various organizations, others are volunteering in a number of ways that allow for social distancing. Of course, in this home you would expect us to be playing music, writing songs (been enjoying a lot of parodies I’ve heard on Facebook), learning a new instrument . . . you know, those types of activities. Since my husband has been ill, he is really not up to playing the saw or singing and, instead, we have both been watching a lot of TV (not necessarily together).

But last night I enjoyed a gathering of a few of us from the Riverside Folk Song Society where we attempted to do some group singing on Zoom. We weren’t terribly effective, but we still had fun and are going to give it another go later this month. Usually our meetings have a theme, but such was not the case this time around. It was especially nice because a couple of our members, who no longer live in the area, were able to join us for the first time in years! The host of the group, Bob Palmer, was able to put up some lyrics and chords so we could try for a group sing . . . that system needs a few tweaks before it will work for us, but I see it as a fun way to learn new songs, among other things. There are a lot of groups like ours – people who enjoy certain types of music or instruments and are connecting with others, thus making sequestering a learning experience (and part of the learning includes the operation of the required technology).

My German Hollanders and Trapschuhs gather around the piano for a singalong Sunday
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

In the past, I put up a weekly blog called “Sunday Singalong.” Now, I’m not promising a weekly theme, but I hope to get back into this and, at least for the next few weeks – maybe longer – there is plenty of time to seek out a song you remember from childhood, one that you enjoy singing with friends or by yourself, or a favorite piece by a favored artist whose YouTube® performance can be shared here with others. So put on your thinking caps and for this Singalong Sunday (add the song any day this week), our theme is (aptly), SOLITUDE. The song need not contain that word, but should convey that feeling, though it may be a personal connotation – and do share the song meaning or history in your life, if you’ve a mind to. Ideally, include lyrics or a video or audio recording so others can enjoy it too.

SOLITUDE: The first to come to my mind is “I Love to Go A-Wandering” or "The Happy Wanderer" – I remember singing it at camp (don’t ask what year or which one, but I think we sang it in Brownies, too). Now, I, personally, am not prone to go a-wandering (where I live, snakes give me pause and my wandering, these days, tends to be around my own yard, and close to the house, but with eyes still on the ground and never with ear buds to listen to music – can’t hear that distinctive rattle that way). 

Maybe one reason it sticks with me is that it has a German origin, as do I (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Happy_Wanderer). The picture (and I’ve found this song in various music books, with exactly the picture I first conjured up when the piece was taught to me) of a lone person walking with a walking stick (no doubt to help keep the snakes away) heading uphill, wearing a backpack (of course), with mountains and trees in the background. I’m not a big fan of backpacks, unless they have wheels, the required equipment for almost every container I transport  . . . but “. . . along the mountain track, . . . my wheely cart by my side . . . “ not only doesn’t rhyme, but removes that picture from the song. But, I confess, in my mind’s eye I don’t picture that hiker as an almost 69-year-old woman! Now, that is an image!
(public domain; stock photo)

Here are some YouTube videos of the song (which, while speaking of solitude, seems to be sung by groups! Go figure).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVcJIMhmGys (some of the people in this one are wandering on bicycles - not following the song concept at all!)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_QJi7wVENE (in German, as my ancestors would have sung it?)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BuT3MvLJtLI (some great instrumental accompaniment)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0qJRlUy2Axw (Finally! Primarily a solo - with a full band and echo chorus keeping him company)

What’s your song of SOLITUDE?

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

No one has had it as bad as we do!

It would have been hard to comprehend just a few years ago what we are going through now, in April 2020, with the Corona Virus (CoVID-19) and the sequestering of which we have been charged to do. And if we do wander out among the people of the world, we must keep 6 feet between two people. This is less than desirable for most folks and a lot of people are complaining via social media, believing that this hardship of the quarantine is unfair, unlawful (contrary to the Constitution), and anti-family (or anti-church, anti-groups - like genealogy society meetings, etc.). The government is making us prisoners in our own homes. This is unprecedented! Well, that is probably accurate, considering those alive today (with the exception of those who have been or are in prison). But it is not at all unprecedented.

Yes, we can look back to earlier epidemics and pandemics, experienced by ancestors, who ended up quarantined until any danger of contamination of others had passed. How else would the legal system of a village, county, or larger region handle the vulnerability of anyone who had not developed immunity to whatever the disease was? Inoculations were not recognized until the mid- to late-18th Century but were not accepted  by the general public (https://www.historyofvaccines.org/timeline#EVT_24); but the virus flooding our hospitals today is not yet treatable with a prophylactic vaccine.

In more recent years, just a century ago, the influenza pandemic (world-wide as opposed to country- or state-wide epidemic) resulted in large numbers of patients (not six feet apart) crammed into hospital tents and nursed by masked caregivers - sound familiar? Check out the photos of the quarantine efforts: https://loc.gov/search/?in=&q=1918+influenza+pandemic&new=true&st=

Ward #4, Annex #7, American Hospital, Blois, France
Soldiers in hospital beds with nurses and other patients nearby, 21 April 1919
Library of Congress

But let's go back further, and here I am influenced by the number of cruise ships that have been "docked" away from harbors because of the threat of CoVID-19 being on board. The virus can incubate for 14 days, meaning that a person could be positive for the disease, but not know it, yet infecting those with whom he/she comes in contact any time in that period (there's no guarantee of infection or immunity). Like Typhoid Mary (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Mallon), these infected folks are an issue of concern, hence the quarantine (even if for 14 instead of the 40 days ships of years gone by).

I also liken this current situation to those of years gone by . . . a lot of years. Some of my ancestors came to America in 1630, 1849, 1855, 1864, and 1871. I do not know exactly how it was for every immigrant who boarded a ship, but I do expect that most, if not all, of my family came via steerage (the lowest classification for passengers). So, for all intents and purposes, they experienced "forced" sequestering. Let's look at the differences:

Today - We are encouraged to stay at home unless our work is considered "necessary" for the community to keep afloat.
Then - Ancestor passengers did not have choices of where to go. In some cases, Steerage passengers were permitted to go up on deck, but that was no guarantee. So staying "at home" in their massive, shared compartment was the only choice (other than jumping overboard).

Detroit Publishing Co., publisher; © 1902
Library of Congress

Today - We are permitted to go shopping, but do not hoard and keep time in the store limited or, even better, order items for delivery (though some delivery dates of groceries is many days from the ordering date).
Then - Some shipping companies provided provisions for the trip, but there was no air drop of emergency supplies or food, should they run short (which many did). Those who brought their own provisions (in part or total) hoarded and often kept secret info about the food items they did have.

Today - Paper products (toilet paper in particular), soaps, sanitation items, etc. are hard to acquire and may not be available for a number of days or weeks, or longer. We still have water when we turn on the tap and electricity as needed (even if delinquent with a bill payment).
Then - What's toilet paper? (The Sears catalog was not hung in the outhouse as bathroom reading material.) On the ship, soap was encouraged to be used, but not always available. Staying clean and keeping clothing clean was a constant challenge. I'll leave you to imagine the smell and unsanitary conditions. There was no such thing as "ordering" supplies! And clean water was at a premium (some washed with whiskey because of the lack of clean water); what's electricity?

Today - Our entertainment and way to pass time is limited to whatever books we happen to have at home or on our e-readers, games on iPads, videos, and social media and similar chat sessions. School takes place online.
Then - What's an iPad or e-reader or video? Books are too bulky to include in one's luggage for the trip, except, perhaps, for the Bible. Chatting was done in person and parents taught their children, as appropriate (if a parent doesn't read, it's hard to teach the skill to anyone, let alone a child). The only "line" used is the shipping line.

Today - Social Distance is the new term for staying at least six feet apart. This is designed to minimize cross-contamination if anyone is contagious (knowingly or not)
Then - Especially in steerage: there was no way to create a six foot space between people. Cross-contamination was inevitable, except in cases where a person was immune; however, because such an individual, an asymptomatic condition may mean he/she can pass on the disease to others.

Unprecedented? No, but certainly hard to imagine . . . until, perhaps, now. And as we look out our windows, no matter what we see, it has to be better than what those in steerage saw, due to their lack of any view! So as we continue to "endure" our isolation, let's keep in mind and memory the ancestors who sacrificed everything to sail to the "new" country and realize that we really have it pretty good. Thanks to the multi-great-grandparents for allowing us life today, wherever we need to spend it.

Sunday, February 23, 2020


It has been a very, very long time since I wrote in the blog for Circlemending (over 2 years, I'm embarrassed to admit). I have submitted posts for a number of other blogs, but at the expense of spending time on my own. This is a good time to change that . . . considering this "the sequel" to my "Circlemending Blog" (not to be confused with that "B" horror movie with Steve McQueen, "The Blob" - always a favorite for me).

As many reading this may know, my husband is very ill (pancreatic cancer, complicated by congestive heart failure, pulmonary issues, diabetes, and gastrointestinal complications) so much of my time has been dealing with him and the various elements that are included in being a primary caregiver. I have ended up with some physical issues as well as psychological ones, but nothing life threatening, as long as a manage things appropriately. Which I try to do.

So how has life changed now that we are both feeling age in every joint and muscle (what is left of those)? In many ways, not at all. We still argue about the same things (but tire faster so most arguments are rather short . . . plus, we forget what we’re arguing about within a few minutes, anyway); still plan to do the things we have done in the past (but are always prepared to change plans and directions – a trip to a museum may find us going a different direction, towards the Veterans Administration Hospital in Loma Linda); we continue to pray thanks for our blessings, but recognize that not all blessings are filled with happiness and joy, but are opportunities to get to know “new” friends who show up at the door to assist us with one task or another. And we still have music in a very prominent position in our lifestyle.

We are being very careful not to put ourselves in a vulnerable position, as far as getting exposed to colds or diseases; my immune system is compromised by my newly acquired asthma and my uncanny ability to “catch” any germ within a mile or so, and Butch is on chemo so that comes with a danger to the immune system, and the doctor has been very clear that he is to minimize or eliminate exposure to illnesses by staying away from large groups of people in locations where ventilation is poor (that would include airplanes, church, movie theaters, parties held inside, etc.). So we don’t get out as much as we did but are looking forward to the annual Folk and Heritage Festival in Glendale, Arizona on Feb 29 and Mar 1. We will be doing some performing and a couple of workshops, but Butch will be getting around on his electric scooter instead of hiking all over the festival grounds. Everything will be outside so we are hoping for good weather and renewing many friendships – albeit at a distance, if necessary.


I’m excited to be seeing my friend and part-time music partner, Stefanie Eskander (she and I will be performing as the String Sisters and are looking at doing a program of camp songs). Our practice time will be minimal, but we have a second (third, fourth, fifth?) sense of knowing what the other person will be doing and we stop and start as though we’ve done the given song together for years. Also hoping to see other friends and, hopefully, family – daughter, son-in-law, a grandchild or 2 or 3 – making it a special event in more than one way.

So I decided that, since my time is often spent waiting (for appointments or Butch's chemo infusions, mostly), this is a perfect time to reinstate the blog and get into some music topics that I have been gathering over my absence from this space. For those interested in how Butch is doing, I have a running "play by play" description at Caring Bridge: <https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/lynnbutchhibben>