Category Archives: Genealogy

What Does Your Family Sound Like?

Every family has a certain playlist. That constant background music or noise that is seldom acknowledged. When I was a teen I babysat for a family, it was a no TV house, the constant background there was classical music piped softly to every room. It was a serene household, but I always had to fight to stay awake after 10 p.m. From a babysitters point of view, I could of used a little late night Jazz or classic rock! Hey, there were nights I could have used some John Philips Sousa marches to keep me going!

Most of America since the 50’s has grown up with a background sound of TV, the decades of stereotypical Cowboys and Indians background, the police show backgrounds punctuating dinner and homework hours with sirens and whistles. There are all the jingles of commercials we still know, just to prove we heard them too often. Test; can you hum or sing the Brady Bunch tune?

There was a time when many families had a Tall Case Clock or Grandfather’s Clock as they came to be known. They were a metronome to daily lives ticking away the hours and chiming to greet the new. There was a steady rhythm in those households and you can imagine the sound echoing through rooms.

When you tell a family story, don’t forget to add what your family sounded like! What was the constant hum in your house? Was it the whir of a fan you remember, the piano lessons, the radio? Were you raised on Top 40 or Classical, were you raised in earshot of Green Acres and Gilligan’s Island or  did the whir of a busy street act as the score to your childhood?

My recent family research for a storytelling performance showed me an amazing bit of family history. I didn’t even get the connection to sound at first, I was so overwhelmed with getting to know the people through the fragments they left behind. I have been researching my ancestors around an event from 1779-1782. I met with the archaeologist who did a dig at the home site. There were some 60,000 artifacts from their lives that brought them to life for me.  You can read about the dig here:



One back ground sound they had was the anvils of the blacksmiths working in their shipyard. The second sound they had was a Jaw Harp as evidenced by the one found in the archaeological dig. Was it theirs, one of the children’s, a customer in the tavern?  The rhythmic twanging of the jaw harp was a sound their family was accustomed to, it was on the playlist along with the anvils and saw and the river rushing by.

Jaw harp Story archeology

Well that got me thinking what carries my new family story from start to finish what threads are common denominators? The river is one common thread and the ships and Revolution. Another thread is sound, the sounds from a shipyard and ship and the little jaw harp. I have seen them before, but I went and looked on you – tube to have a fresh listen.



I decided I should try the Jaw Harp, I looked online at a couple big box stores, but I like to buy local. I stopped at a store in town and ran into a friend who told me the local music shop had them. She even called to check for certain and see how long he was open! So off I went and sure enough I got myself a Jaw Harp at Local Music!



Jaw Harp                                          simple music                                                   Local Music Willimantic

I wonder if the family will appreciate the new soundtrack to our lives while I learn to play Jaw Harp! Thanks to The Local Music Shop 888 Main St. Willimantic CT 06226

Now write down or tell someone some of the soundtracks in your family stories and ask the elders and children what sound tracks play in theirs!


Ties to a Shipyard Story

Allen, that is a family name, my Paternal Grandmother was Pauline Allen Marshall. She was from Port Greville, Nova Scotia Canada.  Here she is as a young woman in Rye New Hampshire.   She came to the United States as a young teen to work in the Amoskeag Mills in Manchester, NH. Allen is an… Continue Reading

A CT. Maritime Story from Geneology

A CT. Maritime Story from Geneology

Digging through the reams of family tree material for a perfect story could be a needle in a haystack, but is more like a diamond in the rough.  From the start I had an idea that Uncle George would have a story to tell. He was eccentric – maybe, artistic – for certain, and lived… Continue Reading

Civil War General Edward W. Whitaker CT. Hero

Civil War General Edward W. Whitaker CT. Hero

   Through storytelling, lecture, web promotion and sharing in conversation I am slowly spreading the word about the brave farm boy from Ashford and his heroic record in the Civil War.  His story like so many thousands of Civil War era stories is about a farm boy turned soldier, many of whom did not go home… Continue Reading

In The Vault We Found……..

In The Vault We Found……..

The phone call came a couple months ago from Wisconsin. The caller, Laura found my name on the town website listed as the Cemetery Sexton and she was searching for records. On a long quest to follow her family genealogy she soon discovered the Mayflower Society and how to trace back and show your roots… Continue Reading