Music and Our Ancestors

Music and Our Ancestors
Music is an important part of our lives. We use music in our religion, for fun, dancing and singing. Music can be loud, but also soft and low; calming the soul. There have been great musicians that have written and made music since the earliest of times.

What are some of the songs our ancestors listen to? The radio did not become a big source of music until the 1920-30’s, and for most of our ancestors after that. I find it fascinating that on the 1930 census, the census taker asked if the family owned a radio. The radio must have given status to a family; they had financial ability to own this new way to produce music. With no television, I can imagine our ancestors sitting together as a family around the radio listening to the music and early featured shows.

Some of the early songs that came across the radio were (

  • Yankee Doodle, 1767

  • Hail Columbia, 1798

  • Auld Lang Syne, 1799

  • Moonlight Sonata, 1799

  • Pretty Maids All in a Row, 1800

  • The Orphan’s Prayer, 1803

  • Boat Song, 1811

  • The Harp, 1812

  • Ye Gentlemen of England, 1813

  • The Star Spangled Banner, 1814

  • Thou Dear Native Land, 1815

  • Oft in the Stilling Night, 1818

  • Hymn to the Evening Star, 1821

  • Home, Sweet Home, 1823

  • The Cavalier, 1830

  • America, My Country Tis of Thee, 1832

  • Annie Laurie, 1838

  • She Wore a Wreath of Roses, 1839

  • Jenny Get Your Hoe Cake Done, 1840

  • The Old Arm Chair, 1842

  • Old Dan Tucker, 1843

  • De Ole Gray Goose, 1844

  • Jim Crack Corn, 1846

  • Bella Rosa, 1848

  • Black-Eyed Susan, 1850

  • Pop Goes the Weasel, 1853

  • The Old Cabin Home, 1857

Some of the earliest musical instruments were the drums, beating sticks together and flutes carved from bones. Native Americans used music in their chants for celebrations and religious ceremonies. Some of our great music came from Jewish composers; Felix Mendelssohn, Johann Strauss and Jacob Eberst are a few examples. As the pioneers traveled west, their music inspired them to keep the faith and endure to the end. As the African Americans were enslaved, the one thing they kept with them was their ancestral music. The Blues and Jazz came about with singers such as Bessie Smith (1895-1937)

Each era of War brought about new songs of patriotism and freedom. The following are some songs from these War eras:

  • American Revolution: Yankee Doodle

  • War of 1812: The Girl I Left Behind

  • Mexican War: The War Song of the Palmetto Regiment

  • Civil War: The Battle Hymn of the Republic

  • Spanish American War: I’ll Be With You When the Roses Bloom Again

  • WWI: The Girl I Left Behind Me

  • WWII: Deep in the Heart of Texas

  • Vietnam: Bring the Boys Home

No matter what your culture, ethnicity, age or religious beliefs, some type of music has probably played an important part. Our ancestors sang and played music in their day, just as we do. It played a part in our ancestors’ religious ceremonies, fun activities, war time, and working endeavors. It helped them thru the bad times, and also a major source of inspiration for the future.

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