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“The Attic”

The Legal Genealogist is used to reader questions — the queue is always backed up with interesting and intriguing legal inquiries from genealogists who wish they’d gone to law school given the issues that keep coming up in the documents we rely on.

music-notesBut the one that came in just recently was a little different.

And intriguing.

Reader Bill Williams, who always signs off as “Just a Family Genealogist,” asked for something altogether different when he wrote: “I rarely make requests of very distant friends, but would you mind going to iTunes and look a song by Dan Berggren (Album “Tongues in Trees”) and listen to the song “The Attic”. It is great and it could be a genealogists’ theme song.”

I did, and Bill’s right. “The Attic” would make a great genealogists’ theme song. So much so that I imposed on the singer-songwriter for permission to reprint the lyrics here. In giving permission, Dan added: “It may be the nature of folk music, my mother’s stories, or that I’ve been involved with my hometown historical society (Minerva, NY) for a long time, but I love and respect the work of genealogists.”

“The Attic”

by Dan Berggren, album: Tongues in Trees

Wouldn’t Grandma laugh
Wouldn’t Grandpa shake his head
And make a face
And wonder: what kind of fool
Wouldn’t recognize a tool like this

It was up there with the ghosts,
A reminder of the folks who used to live here
At the top of the stair
Hidden away up there in the attic

The attic’s full of memories
That’s where they go to rest
Until someone searches through them
And rescues from the best
Their former glory, and tells a story from
The attic.

Documents of life
Telling tales of the way things used to be
Essential in the shanty
Or in the kitchen pantry, but no more

From the workbench in the barn
And every room in the house you can imagine
If you look past the rust
Under cobwebs and dust is buried treasure

Pieces of time
Well-preserved or victims of neglect
Secrets from the past
Revealed at last with respect

They were up there with the ghosts,
Reminders of the folks who used to live here
At the top of the stair
Hidden away up there in the attic

The attic’s full of stories,
That’s where they go to dwell
Some are lost or forgotten
But there are many more to tell from
The attic, from the attic, from the attic

Other nominees?

As I read the lyrics and listened to the song, I realized that singer-songwriters like Dan Berggren have always told genealogical stories in their music — and that I’ve been a fan my whole life.

And I also realized that there are a couple of other songs I’ve always thought of as kind of genealogical anthems. One is “Forefathers” by the late Dan Fogelberg, which includes this wonderful refrain:

And the sons become the fathers and their daughters will be wives
As the torch is passed from hand to hand
And we struggle through our lives
Though the generations wander, the lineage survives
And all of us, from dust to dust
We all become forefathers by and by

Another is Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “Family Hands,” with this refrain:

Raised by the women who are stronger than you know
A patchwork quilt of memory only women could have sewn
The threads were stitched by family hands, protected from the moth
By your mother…and her mother, the weavers of your cloth

So… what’s in your musical attic? I’ve added Dan Berggren to my listening list. What else should I as a genealogist be listening to?

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