The Power of Music to Bring History to Life

I was struck today while listening to a special musical number at church how the words of the song helped bring the experiences of our ancestors to life. While I love both music and history, I had never made this connection before.

The song was “Come, Come, Ye Saints” (you can listen to it here). This song was written in 1846 by William Clayton. The Mormons were forced out of their homes in Nauvoo, Illinois and started leaving in February, 1846. It was bitterly cold and the trek across Iowa was miserable. It was a wet and muddy spring and the Mormons suffered greatly from exposure and lack of food. William was in one of the first groups to leave and had to leave behind his pregnant wife who was unable to travel. When word reached him in April that she had delivered a son, he was overjoyed and wrote a song he called “All is Well”.(1)

This hymn, now called “Come, Come, Ye Saints” quickly became a favorite among the wagon companies traveling west. I believe this quote sums up best how this hymn is viewed today. “In the minds of many members of the Church, “Come, Come, Ye Saints” is the hymn that more than any other connotes the heritage and spirit of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The unforgettable words of this hymn allow us to pay tribute to the unflinching courage of the early Saints and to relate that commitment to our own lives.”(1)

As I was listening to the music today and singing the words in my mind, I had a strong picture of the struggles, challenges and heartache that my ancestors faced as they moved west, as well as the strong faith that carried them forward.

How can you use music to identify with your ancestors? Perhaps it is a folk tune, or a religious hymn or music song during the various wars. Please share with us in the comments.

1. Davidson, Karen Lynn. Our Latter-day Hymns: The Stories and the Messages, pp. 58-59

Copyright: Do you know the basics?

I was planning on posting about some more of the collections at the Library of Congress. When I was looking through the LOC website deciding what I wanted to write about, one of the first things I came across was their paragraph on who has the rights to their digital images. In most cases, it is not the Library of Congress, and it is the responsibility of the person wanting to use the image (you and me) to assess whether the item is available for public use or is under some sort of copyright or other rights.

This reminded me of several recent conversations on Facebook about copyright for genealogists and how important it is to understand copyright. I am by no means an expert, but I wanted to bring this to your attention. In social history and genealogy, we love documents and photos for blogs, written family histories and other uses. Here are a couple of blogs and a webinar that address copyright for genealogists.

Judy G. Russell is a professional genealogist with a law degree and occasionally writes about copyright on her blog.

The author of this blog is not a genealogist as far as I can tell, but shares her experience about being sued for using a copyrighted picture on her blog. Note that some comments have been made on  Facebook stating that not all of the resources listed in this blog are necessarily free of copyright–you should always check!

Thomas MacEntee will be giving a free, open to the public webinar on Thursday, July 18 at 9 pm EDT on copyright, sponsored by the Utah Genealogical Association. I don’t see this listed on the UGA website,  but you can register for it here.

Google genealogy and copyright for additional resources.