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, August 27, 2023

Sunday Singalong - Playing Music on the Porch Day


That day was yesterday. My body demanded that I not try to sing - on the porch or elsewhere - the voice is going through some nasty adjustments (and I don't adjust well). But my heart was out there singing, and there was much more room for that out there than my actual body trying to find a place to sit.

I recall many porches, and many singalongs, as well as solo performances, and have always enjoyed that ambiance, as long as the bug population is at a minimum and it doesn't get too cold to play an instrument (Butch's saw told him when to stop long before he or I wanted to - saws don't bend well in the cold).

I am reminded of a song that includes a verse about family singing together and I share it here. Hope that whether your singing is taking place on a porch or elsewhere, that your enjoyment of the experience provides you with lasting memories . . . I cherish ones that I have and look forward to sharing another with y'all next week.

"Music in my Mother's House" - by Stuart Stotts, (c) 1985, performed by Ronnie Gilbert on her 1989 recording.

Univ. of Calif. Press

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Sunday Singalong - Who said it doesn't rain in California?

Hard to believe that I am in sunny Southern California this weekend . . . tropical storm? Really? Well, that's what we are experiencing, different wind & rain for different locations, of course. So far, it's been rather temperate here, but that may mean it's just the calm before the storm. It does remind me of my youth in suburban Chicago when the storms could be quite intense . . . we lived on the corner of a major street in our village and inevitably, the storm drains would clog up with debris - leaves and who knows what all. I don't think it was a rule, but there seemed to be an expectation that whoever lived on that corner was expected to clear out the drains so water could flow. I guess that could make sense: after all, if the water was backed up, it could conceivably flood our yard and, possibly, our house (not likely) so, regardless of the rainfall, Dad would don boots and his trench coat, get the rake and head out to the street while rain was still pouring down. There he would work until he was sure the water was running as it should. I remember watching him and wondering if all the other dads in houses on the other streets were doing the same thing. Never did find out, but that wouldn't have mattered to my father, who felt obligated to keep things running smoothly.

Rain songs? Got some? Yeah, I know . . . too many to count! I had a parakeet once that loved "Baby the Rain must Fall," by Elmer Bernstein and Ernie Sheldon as sung by Glenn Yarbrough, released in 1965.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Sunday Singalong - The Older I Get, the Better I Was

My husband had that slogan on a t-shirt . . . now I wear the shirt. Hmmm. 

Age is Just a Number (and Mine’s “Unlisted” . . . I heard someone say once)

Of course, I have to wonder if the next generation understands “unlisted number.” It seems everyone has a social media account – Twitter (OK, X . . . ? Are you kidding me? Isn’t that a trademarked “name”?), Insta-whatever, Facebook, TikTok, click-here-to-leave-me-a-message-on-my-page app . . . I’m on Facebook and that’s all I care to keep up with. But celebrities and politicians and prisoners and just about everyone who is anyone is on one or more “platforms” (a term that once was reserved for train stations and upcoming elections).

Where was I? Oh, yes, becoming outdated. I’m fine with that . . . it means there is less stress with having to keep up with the Kardashians or whomever (I know, it used to be the “Joneses,” but that name’s had a bad rap, so I went with some a bit less controversial). My, I’m in a weird mood this evening. And feeling older the longer I write this. But I’m hardly alone. At least 1000 people in my high school graduating class (more than in the entire college I attended right after high school) are likely experiencing similar feelings as we watch those a bit younger acting as if they’ll never get older (which, with God willing, they will, of course). I remember acting and feeling the same. But I wouldn’t want to go back in time to do it all again, even if I could take my today knowledge with me into yesterday. And I sure don’t understand that obsession with youth I keep hearing about . . . and the seeking of the fountain thereof. Really? Live forever? Oh, thank you, but no. Mostly, I’m good with the whole addition of another year with every birthday (not counting the aid for everything from hearing to walking . . . grateful I have the aids!). I guess because I’d listened to Pete Seeger sing about this time of life throughout my youth, I wasn’t surprised when it arrived on my doorstep.

 Pete Seeger, Stern Grove, San Francisco CA 8/6/78. Photo: Brian McMillen, © 28 Jan 2014

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Here is a video of Pete in concert back in the 1970s (egads, that’s about a half century ago!). He does a little banjo solo before singing the song and I like how he gives his head a subtle shake when he doesn’t hit the right note (my head shakes a lot like that these days). So, enjoy “Get up and Go” recorded live.  And then share a song about time, getting older, remembering being younger . . . go with it where it takes you!

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Sunday Singalong - Communing with the Dead


So, when was the last time you were at a cemetery? It's been a very long time for me (3 months) . . . so long that I'm going through cemetery withdrawal. My last visit was in May of this year, when I got to a couple - in New York. Such special time I spent in the graveyard on my family's property. This time I took photos of every headstone I could reach (some were rather impossible for someone who had been dealing with a bad knee and the brambles and low branches were as impossible to cut through as a brick wall).

Unfortunately, I was not able to replace both missing flags: one had been broken in the little "holder" on the sign and I couldn't dig its stub out. Two children, my distant cousins who died in childhood - Elsa and Roy (Isabelle & Gilderoy) - were children of Abram and Betsey Freeman, who moved, with the rest of their children, from Jefferson to Onondage County, NY, leaving those children on the family farm. Roy's headstone is knocked over, but Elsa's still sits tall:

 I don't think anyone visits these children's graves any more. I do, whenever I get to Jefferson County, though. It was special, for me, to be where my family had gathered so many years ago. So that is a reason the song I selected for this week is extra special. It's composed by the men in the video: Don Henry and John Vezner: "The Garden of the Dead."  

Hope you are receiving this in the spirit of which it is meant: appreciation for those who passed on before. Any songs come to mind on that, or a like, subject?