The following column originally appeared in print on September 26, 2015
The Song of the Family Tree
by Diane Lynn Tibert McGyver
My children and I attended a large music event a few weeks ago. We had such a great time and met so many wonderful artists that we are still talking about it and giggling at some of the funny moments. I know as time passes, the number of occasions we speak of this once-in-a-life-time event will decrease, and eventually we’ll mention it only once or twice a year.
That’s life for many of us; time passes and occasionally these moments fade from memory to be forgotten as the decades pass. As genealogists though, we have the ability to record special events to share with our descendants to give them a better idea of who we were and how we lived.
For some, music might not register in their family profiles, but my family lives and breathes music. I can’t remember a time when there wasn’t a radio on in the kitchen, camp or truck. My parents reached for the dial to turn it on first thing in the morning and it didn’t go off until the lights went out at night. Sometimes they stayed up late and listened to the real old music from the 1940s and 50s.
Although money was tight, they owned a record player and several albums. Neither of them played an instrument—though I believe Mom played the organ in her youth—but oh did they dance, particularly my mother. They both had stories to tell about music in their lives.
Mom’s favourite came about when she and Dad were dating. She said Dad would take her out to the soda shop and spend a nickel on her for an ice cream and a nickel on the jukebox for Hank Snow.
As number ten of eleven children, I grew up listening to several eras of music. It gave me an appreciation for many genres. Mom often told me about my earliest experience: I was still in a crib, and I’d pull myself up and dance. For some reason, she thinks I enjoyed Cal Smith’s songs the best because that’s what usually got my attention. I still do enjoy his music.
These stories and others have made their way into my family tree. For my parents, I noted what types of music they listened to, as well as their favourite artists. If a song was particularly important to them, I noted the lyrics. I feel this is an important part of my family’s life, and to not record it, would ignore a vital piece of our history.
My children are also heavily in to music; my influence has rubbed off. Writing about the event we attended and adding it to their personal files (along with photos) will give them the opportunity to not only relive this experience in the future, but the ability to share it with their children and grandchildren.
Given the technical world we live in, it’s now possible to add digital recordings to family trees. This, of course, will never replace the 45s, vinyl albums, 8-tracks, cassettes and CDs I’ve gathered over the years. In my mind, they are more permanent than any MP3 version of a song. To this day, I can play all of them, including the LPs (long-playing records) that are more than fifty years old.
Your genealogy will be limited only by what you choose to add to it.