Question of the Week: Do you have any ancestors who were musicians?

+25 votes

Do you have any ancestors who were musicians? 

Please tell us about them below, on Facebook, or on any other social media site by sharing the question image.

in The Tree House by Eowyn Walker G2G Astronaut (2.6m points)
My grx4 grandfather John Bently 1754 -1813 was an actor and a Muscician.  He was in a Philadelphia in 1783 and founded City Cocerts.  He joined several comedic and acting groups and traveled to New York, Montreal and Quebec City.  While there he played the organ at the Notre Dame Cathedral and for Holy Trinity Church while being the Overseerer of highways and bridges.  He wrote a couple chants, which I have found on line.
That is so cool Lori ! We spent time summer before in Montreal and Quebec City recently.  The Notre Came Cathedral is amazing, if you have never been get tickets for the light show at night, and the music, Wow! All of it gives goosebumps.
I fell in love with QC. Probably because of the connection.  I also went to the graveyard where the Trinity Anglican Church believe they were buried.  It's a church / graveyard that is outside the walls, because only Catholics could be buried within. They were protestant I believe.   It's now been converted to  library with the graveyard behind.  Unfortunalty no markers remain from that timeframe.
My Mother played the piano and we had a player piano all our lives sitting in our front room, and many player piano music rolls.  Mum used to play "The Bumblebee Boogie" and "The Tennessee Waltz" and many others.  She could read music.  One time we took Mum to a party in a country hall, a fight broke out between two young men (over a girl) and Mum went right up onto the stage, opened up the piano, and began to play.  It was so fun, she caught the attention of the crowd and the fighters headed outside!
not sure how to add pictures to my response

Dorann... simply  right click the image you want to post pick "copy image address"  .  Go to the post box on here pick the image button (the one that looks like mountains and sun), add that address in the URL and a title for it.   Bing!  it should post.    I just learned that awhile back I was trying to do it like you do in a profile. And as we learned below, it must be attached to a non-living Wikitree person, or not from a Wikitree site to display.

My grandfather, Hugh Kanagy(stage name was Hugh Mills - just dropped the last name) played with the nightclub bands in Chicago during vaudeville. As a 9yr old,  Dad was allowed to go the cast parties (except for Kate Smith, who I was told were too wild!). He also played with Sousa's band when they were in town.  I believe he also had a sister who taught at Julliard in the 1800's.  I inherited not a scrap of this talent.  :-D
thank you
I do have ancestors on both my maternal and paternal side of my family. My mother was a singer and my father played piano. I know other people in my moms family sang in the Pusateri/Bova clan. I know her Bova Uncles played instsruments and there were cousins who were country musicians. On my Dad's Derosier side, there were piano/organ players back to the first Derosier to immigrate here in the 1600's. He played the organ. I have an ear for music but never learned to play that well. I could sing a little when I was younder but not so much now...
My mother (pianist, composer, teacher).  My maternal grandfather (cornet). My paternal grand-aunt (pianist, concert performer), and her husband, and her son.  My 4-greats-grandmother (composer, singer) and her family (all three children, and some grandchildren).
WOW Melanie so much musical talent ! And how about yourself?

I sing some (naturally, never been trained other than school and church choirs), tinkled some on a piano when a child - but Mum had had to sell her piano in order to put food in our mouths after my father deserted her, so I never learnt properly. (I tried years later, but my rambunctious son kept interrupting, so we gave my lessons over to him.) My siblings, Mum, and I always sang at home, and I don't remember a time when there was not music in the house.  I grew up listening to old 78s and LPs (Mary Martin (mother of Larry Hagman) was one whose voice I remember), and my first ever record (real vinyl) was Peter and the Wolf on one side, with "a Child's Guide to the Orchestra" on the other.

I used to play an instrument called a "melodica", mostly for when I was teaching RE at schools, and for Sunday School. (It's kind of like a breath-operated, hand-held, mini piano with about an octave-and-a-half of keys.)

My kids are both musical talents - daughter moreso.  She has perfect pitch and relative pitch, and always kept me "on note".  (I have a distressing to her tendency to hear the note, then start half a tone above or below.  As she was my accompanist, I nearly drove her insane!)  With her you don't ask her what instrument/s she plays, you ask her what she does NOT play (not much, having even learnt some sitar while at University).  Son plays mostly trombone and/or trumpet (and occasionally cornet).  His daughter has followed in her father's and aunt's footsteps, mostly playing clarinet.  My daughter's son composed his first piece when he was about 3 or so years old (younger than Mozart).  He even told his mother (who was doing the notation) what instruments belonged where.  Like her grandmother, my mother, my daughter could be a professional performer, but all she has ever really wanted to do was teach.  So she does.

My main "talent", I guess, is that I have an ear for accents.  So much so I have mimicked Frank Spencer's whine (Some Mother's Do 'Ave 'Em), and Brenda from Watching on multiple occasions.  I was always the one chosen to sing "Molly Malone", because I could bung on enough of an Oirish brogue to make the song a little beyond the ordinary.  I have a German friend in Australia who, many years ago, thought I was making fun of her accent, until I explained (and demonstrated) that I had simply picked it up naturally by being around her so much.  (I was very careful after that to NOT sound anything other than Aussie.)  I have also managed a reasonable Scottish burr, but have not even tried that for many years.

I still sing "boh-ull" for bottle after the first three or four (I believe there is an American(?) song "99 bottles of beer on the wall" -- well the song I learnt was "10 green bottles") -- and frequently pronounce "girl" as "gel" (my mother claimed that was from my Geordie ancestors), even though I had never heard it as anything other than "girl" -- and I did a pretty good take-off of the New Zealand actress in the Finesse commercials.  (New Zealand's accent is different on vowels from the way Aussies and the English say them.)

BUT - I'm not my ancestor, even if I am one to my grandkids -- and my kids aren't ancestors either, yet -- so this will be my last post to here, lest we threadjack totally away from the actual question.

Oh, wow!  Your grandson's a prodigy, then!  

I actually used to play piano by ear when I was about 7 & drawn to Grandpa's concert grand like a magnet!   Until I hit a wrong note & he threw me out - "If you can't play in right, don't play it at all!!"  He also played the cornet.  I'm the only one in the family who plays no instrument at all.

Interesting about Larry Hagman & Mary Martin.  I actually ran into them at dinner one night here in Dallas about 30+ years ago.  They were having dinner with an old friend of my dad's, Celeste Holm, whom he knew as "Sissy."  I didn't want to interrupt their dinner to say hello, but my boss's 5yr old son was obsessed with "JR. Ewing."  He was not happy when I told him Mr Hagman & his mom were having dinner & we were going to leave them alone & JR was just pretend!  LOL.
My uncle Leroy White, my mother's brother, played the piano and a large set of drums , in a band ( never knew their name ), in the Oxnard and Santa Barbara area of California - during the late 20's thru the late 30's, as a side job. When I was around 3/4 years old, visiting my grand parents at the Point Huneme lighthouse, CA, I remember being told not to go in to a room on the bottom floor, cause Uncle Roy would get mad, of course I peeked, I remember  all the drums. My mother and aunt played the piano at home, there at the lighthouse.
Very cool . that must have been a fun place for a childhood visit..I have noticed quite a few musical instruments staged at various historical lighthouses I have visited around the country..  Most supposedly historically accurate.  Obviously it's a job that would leave you with time to learn and play..

46 Answers

+22 votes

This is my father (right side) playing at the town hall.

by Richard Devlin G2G6 Pilot (515k points)
Thank you Richard for sharing this wonderful photo of your father playing in town hall
Great picture!
The fiddle player has some snappy socks.
+17 votes

My paternal grandfather, Fred Buch, started the Buch Boys’ Band in Jennings, Louisiana for teenagers. He organized in Jennings the first public school band in Louisiana outside of New Orleans, and taught band free for more than 50 years.

My dad played the trumpet and would play taps at funerals when requested to do so.

My dad's sister, Gladys, played the piano for many social events, funerals and Sunday morning worship services.

My mother played the piano.

by Tommy Buch G2G Astronaut (2.0m points)
edited by Tommy Buch
Music talent  definitely runs in families, sounds like yours has some.  Do you play something ?

I played the ukulele in the 5th & 6th grades, the trumpet in the 7th thru 10th grades, and the piano 7th thru 12th grades, but none since.  The only thing I play now is on the computer

Maybe should take at least one of them back up. I have found joy in rekindling some of my childhood hobbies and even learning more than I knew already  Something else to keep the mind going (like Wikitree does) never hurts.
+20 votes

Both of my grandmothers and my mother were very talented pianist. My grandmother Nellie Marvin played ragtime and church hymns everyday in the nursing home where she lived the last five years of her life. She actually enjoyed living there; mainly because she had an audience, and she was the only resident there that could play the piano. She was still very talented at age 93. 

by Alexis Nelson G2G6 Pilot (872k points)
Amazing photo Alexis of your grandmother, so she was a pianist just like your mother

Thank you for sharing
Thank you so much Susan for your sweet comment. Unfortunately I did not inherit the musical talent. When I quit piano lessens one of my grandmother’s friends said to me “0h my, Alexis how are you ever going to entertain company?”

laugh I am shore sweet Alexia you have done amazing without be able to play, you are so sweet a person and people love you 

That's amazing her fingers could still fly like that at 93 !
Loretta thank you for your comment. She fell when she was 87, and the hospital took her to the nursing home, and she liked it there and decided to stay. She was well and didn’t take any medication. She was only about 4 blocks from where I worked, so I was always aware of what she was doing.
I'm sure you could entertain the company by telling family stories. You have such a treasury of them.

Susan and Jennifer, I have entertained people by cooking. It seems to have worked through the years. smiley

Alexia food wow that is perfect bet you are a wonderful cook.

A shame we live so fare from you.

Yeah I bet you can cook up something great !  And we're 14th cousins... so you would have to feed me, LOL!  We share Edward Stanley, 3rd Earl of Derby.    I might not be that far.....What's for dinner, Cuz ?laugh

Loretta, Chicken Marsala on Barilla gluten free spaghetti; you are welcome anytime!
Sounds good...!!!
Yummy sound wonderful
Susan, you know you will always be welcome.
I know sweet Alexia thank You
+15 votes
My maternal grandmother played the pump organ at church - reading shape notes- back in late 1890's and early 1900's. When my grandfather, a preacher, came there to hold a series of sermons, they met and a few months later, married.

Many years later, she lived with us during the winter months and brought a couple of her shape note hymnals and played our piano. I never quite mastered the shape note thing but it is a good memory that we took turns playing hymns.
by Virginia Fields G2G Astronaut (1.3m points)
Virginia what a wonderful history, and a wonderful love story

Thank you for sharing
Thank you, Susan. It is a story I love!! And, I have the letters they exchanged during their brief courtship.
What a treat to own letters like that, how wonderful you have this mail they are not lost

You must feel so bless i would

Thank you Virginia for sharing this wonderful story
+17 votes

My great uncle’s wife was a professional harpist. Sadly she snagged her finger on a harp string, in pre-antibiotic days the subsequent infection proved fatal.


by David Roberts-Jones G2G6 Mach 1 (10.7k points)
edited by David Roberts-Jones
That's too bad, why does it seem the things you love to do eventually  become aflicked in some way, much less sadly being the demise.
What a sad story David about your great uncles wife, that must have been really terrible

I always live harp music

Thank you for sharing the photo and the story

Wow what a sad demise sad Great photo!

+15 votes

Harold Morrison, Loretta Lynn, Wilburn Bros., Jeanie Shepard 

My whole birth family I found in 2012 is very musical.  My birth father played guitar.  First cousin was the famous Harold Morrison Youtube of Harold Morrison  . He was on Wilburn Bros. , played over 20 years with my namesake Loretta Lynn , guitar and banjo, anything with strings.He was also on the Grand Ole Opry and a session musician in Nashville .  You may remember him from Hee Hah as well a continuous guest. 

I married what would become another minor celebrity country singer guitar player... we write together, he composes. His birth father turns out was a famous song writer in Nashville!! Keeping with Wikitree guidelines I won't advertise for him.... but it's five hours of guitar around here most days!!

Edit :should mention Harold passed in 1993, so he is okay here in the forum.  My birth mother and father had a large age difference, so even if I wasn't adopted we wouldn't have grown up together 

by Loretta Morrison G2G6 Pilot (180k points)
edited by Loretta Morrison
Wow Loretta what a amazing story I just heard your first cousin play and sing I really enjoy it

Thank you for sharing this story
He was amazing many gold records!  My husband keeps after me to learn the mandolin so I can play with him, I am just not so good with hand eye coordination....but I do paint, slowly, LOL!
Would you like to play the mandolin, I really like George Formby Play banjo

So you paint wow that most be amazing
If I was better at it than the piano it would be fun !  (2 yrs. lessons as a kid) and my adoptive cousin 5 years younger was on Bach and Beethoven, and I was still stuck on "My Little Pony", LOL!   My adopted Dad was a big music fan... not sure what life would be without the music!  

I love to paint, mostly watercolor right now... my latest piece is at the bottom of my profile page. Just started taking lessons again, enjoyed it in my youth.  Just an amatuer, but I really like it, and give most away to friends and family.
You have to spend every waking hour on Wikitree Susan Laursen!  Your a rock star here :)  My hero !!
You are always so sweet, no I don’t spent that much on wikitree, two years as a child piano lesson you should be great?

I try to find your painting can’t find them,would love seeing them please

You would have thought so.... but not so great after 2 years at the piano :(     Watercolor : "Boats Horizon" by Trish Schmig - (born Loretta Morrison

Humm, should have been at the bottom of my profile.

Thank you I can se the photo very little but you certainly have talent I am empress thank you for sharing this
Thank you Susan!   Will have to investigate why it's not showing bigger at the bottom of my profile.  Oh well, I just hope it brightened your day a little  !  I think that's the purpose of all music and art.
Well Loretta since you are alive all the photos you put on your profile will be small, if you download the photos again on a profile where a person don’t life anymore the photo will be big.
Did not know that Susan, when I click "public view" I figured that was what the public seen  since it's not my profile picture it is just on my page.   Well, guess I am glad they are small then :)
Loretta thank you for sharing the photos and the YouTube link. You cousin Harold Morrison is certainly talented, and I loved his jackets.
He was very colorful in every way!
+20 votes

A long, long time a ago I had an musician in my family. It was one of my mothers ancestors, he was called Johannes Haberstreith (Hobenstreith), baptism 7 Oct 1614, burial 14 Apr 1676 in the age of 61. His profession was Musicant (musician).

He lived and died in Schmalkalden, Dominion Schmalkalden, Landgravate of Hesse, Germany (today Schmalkalden, county Schmalkalden, Thuringia, Germany).

He is No. 40 in this burial record.

by Dieter Lewerenz G2G Astronaut (3.2m points)
That is a wonderful story Dieter imagine going so long back to 1614 find a musician that was born and was your mothers ancestors

I would be so proud if I found this

Thank you for sharing
Very cool Dieter!
+16 votes

my father on the left play harmonica was a musician when I was 13 I actually was playing his band 

by Susan Laursen G2G Astronaut (3.1m points)
Thank you Susan for sharing your absolutely wonderful photos of your handsome and talented father. He looks like a movie star.
How kind of you to say this yes sweet Alexia he did look very handsome, if you look on The other photo it is me playing in his band on harmonica I was 13
Thank you, Susan, for sharing these photos of your very handsome father. It was nice that you could be a part of your father's band and spend that special time with him.
Thank you sweet Robin, yes I enjoyed playing in his band until he death
Wow! Susan that's cool.  What was your instrument ?  And I see half of why you are so pretty :)  !!
Thank you sweet Loretta, I play on the harmonica but start playing piano when I was 5 but after I lost my parents at 20 I never play again.
So sorry Susan.... I totally get that.
Is that you Susan in the top picture, sitting in the back beside your father?
Yes Rod it is
+14 votes

My wife's father, Bill Navan, was a popular musical entertainer in Ottawa clubs and lounges from the 1950s through the 70s, as well as a church organist and choirmaster -- in spite of having lost his eyesight in his second year. After having attended the Ontario School for the Blind in Brantford, he received his Associate certification in piano and organ from Toronto's Royal Conservatory of Music in 1953, after which he embarked on his decades-long career as a well-known figure on Ottawa's musical scene. He even recorded an LP in the 60s: here's the cover.

by Richard Hill G2G6 Pilot (101k points)
Your picture didn't post .... simply  right click the image you want to post pick "copy image address"  .  Go to the post box on here pick the image button (the one that looks like mountains and sun), add that address in the URL and a title for it.   Bing!  it should post.    I just learned that awhile back I was trying to do it like you do in a profile.
I can see the picture OK, Loretta ... I wonder why you can't. Anyone else unable to see it?
I don't know ? I can see the rest of them on the page ?
He was a great talent, Bill.  And good for him to pursue all his dreams.  You should be proud, did you inherit any instrumental talents ?
Thanks, Loretta. He was my wife's father, not mine. She is, indeed, musical (though not in her father's league), and two of our three sons are, too.

P.S. Can you see the image now?
Oh, yes of course, I am sure you enjoy all their talents!  Sadly no, I was interested because I do some photography work for my husband's covers, wonder if everyone else can see it ? No one said.
You should be able to see it from his profile. Click on his name in the original post: I hyperlinked it.
Well actually, his profile is locked... private with public biography, so I cannot see anything except his profile picture and bio.   Ahhh, that's probably why it's not displaying too.... ?
Ah! Interesting. I've just unlocked the profile. If you can now see the image in this post, then we've learned something!

Your picture seems to be privacy protected. (If you look at the page with the picture, you will probably see a closed lock symbol top left.) So you will need to get it onto a free space page. The photo question for any week will give you the link to the free space page for that week.  Here is the one for this week, "facial hair." Copy that link. Go to your picture. Below it on the left click "view/edit image details." Then on the right under "edit image details" you will see "title" (which you don't need to change), then "people or things in the image." Next to that is the box into which you paste the link to the free space page. Click "save changes."

Are you still with me? Now go to the free space page. You should see a lot of men with beards. Your picture should be there, though you may have to scroll to a second page to see it. Put your mouse on the image. Right click. "Copy image location." Now come back to your answer and click "edit."  Click the icon that looks like a sun and 2 mountains. This will open a dialogue box. Into the URL box, paste the image location. Click "save". Good luck.

Thanks, and yes we did !  I did know that I just didn't think of it right away as being the problem.  Nice cover I like the angle of the picture and it for sure takes me to that era. My dad had at least 700 Albums of every style of music.
Hah! While I was busy trying to explain how to get your private photo onto a public space, you were busy unlocking the profile. You will still need to get the picture into your story, which you do by putting your mouse onto the picture, "copy image location", then editing your story by clicking the picture icon and pasting the image location into the space for URL. Let's give it one more try!
At last! I see picture! Thanks for persisting!
Thanks, Joyce. All I had to do was unlock the profile. (I had already linked to the image when I first created the post.)
+11 votes
Yes, many of my family were musicians.  But not professionally.  Almost all could play an autoharp, or a dulcimer, a violin, a piano, a guitar or had an incredible singing voice.  All except for my Mother, who couldn't carry a tune in a bucket.  I used to sing but I stripped all the gears in my vocal chords years ago.  I went from being a 3 octave Alto to a 1 octave Alto with an uncontrolable vibrato!
by Dawn Horn G2G4 (4.5k points)
Ouch! Sounds painful.
+11 votes
My great grandfather, Christian was a musician; he was born in Quirnbach near Kusel in the Pfalz region of Germany where many itinerant musicians and bands came from; I don’t know what instrument he played.

On the copy of his marriage register entry, Christian's father is shown also as Christian, musician. His father, see his page, came also from Quirnbach. His brothers were also musicians who travelled, see their pages. Christian went to London, met and married Caroline in 1880 and didn't go home.
by Steve Schlemmer G2G1 (1.4k points)
+11 votes

My grandfather, Douglas Poindexter was lead singer.  The Starlite Wranglers was his band.  Bill Black and Scotty Moore both played with him and it was rumored that Elvis played with him on his record.  Doug Poindexter and The Starlite Wranglers

by Dreama Whatley G2G Crew (620 points)

According to Wikipedia the Elvis thing is more than a rumor, well at least for some of his band members.

Doug Poindexter - Wikipedia

This was funny what he said about Elvis,  "He said: "There was no way of knowing that success was coming to Presley. Frankly, I thought the boy would starve to death.".   In retrospect, it's funny.

I remember Grandpa saying that Elvis was the most polite boy he'd ever met.  :)
+11 votes
My mother's first cousin was Robert Helps, a pianist and composer of contemporary music.  He was born on 23 September 1928 at Passaic, Bergen County, New Jersey, the son of Ronald Helps and Ella Dorothy Means.  He died on 24 November 2001 at Tampa, Florida  He was single and had no children.  His only sibling, Ronald Helps, was born in 1924 and was a U.S. Army pilot in World War Two and died in service.
by Dick Ammann G2G1 (1.6k points)
+11 votes
On my husband's side, his grandfather played violin and also played brass in a small dance band in the 1920s and 30s.  On my side, my great-aunt was a pianist, who inspired my mother (now 99), who played piano and organ for our church.  She in turn inspired all of her seven children, who variously play guitar, German recorder, piano, organ and all of whom are vocalists.  One of my brothers is a professional luthier, in addition to playing just about anything with strings.  One sister is a musical comedy theater actress (including Broadway and national theater companies).  Also, though they aren't ancestors, three of my daughters earned music education and music degrees.  One daughter is a violinist and teaches orchestra at the middle and high school level.  Another daughter is a pianist and teaches general music in two elementary schools.  Another daughter also studied violin and was a vocal music major in college.  The last daughter is also a vocalist.  The music is strong in my family.
by Anneliese Kennedy G2G6 Mach 1 (18.6k points)
+12 votes

Yes I have several musicians in my tree. Sauel Samuel (SS) Grauer born 1858 in Baltimore MD and was a professor of music. He was a well known organist in Baltimore, MD. His grave stone has a beautiful Lyre carving. My aunt Louise Jacobs Phelps was an accomplished pianist who played and sang at many Philadelphia social events.

by Dorann Jacobs G2G4 (4.5k points)
edited by Dorann Jacobs
+10 votes
Rumor has always had it that Earl Scruggs is our cousin. My grandmother was a Scruggs. I've looked and looked but cannot find any proof of it, but I claim it nonetheless!! :-)
by Julia House G2G1 (1.3k points)
Here on Wikitree you most likely will be able to prove or disprove it eventually...
I invite anyone who knows more than I do, which is pretty much anyone, to help me out!
+10 votes
Family legend is that Richard Wagner, german composer was an ancestor of mine, I haven't been able to tie my family tree to him yet.
by Annette Boshoff G2G6 (9.2k points)
He is one profiled this week! You can check a connection at the bottom of your profile, or off the Weekly Newsletter. if not showing up a relationship yet might give a clue as to paths to explore.
+10 votes

Yes my 3rd Great Grandfather Johan Philip Gustafsson Laurin (1765-1854) and I found a piece he wrote and played probably on a mandolin, listen here: Laurin F-durpolska 

by Keith Cook G2G6 Mach 4 (49.8k points)
+9 votes
My father, Robert F. Zidlicky Sr., played violin and viola for the Corpus Christi (TX) Symphony, retiring 16 July 1997. He began playing at age 8. Had it not been for WWII and a 30-year Navy career, he probably would have played for the Chicago Symphony (he was born in Berwyn).
by Bob Zidlicky G2G Crew (470 points)
+10 votes
Recently my Great Uncle Thomas Greer Patton Jr. ( had passed away at 88 years young.

Tom was a wonderful musician. After returning home from serving in the U.S.Army during the Korean War,  He began teaching Music at the Haddonfield Middle School in New Jersey for many years.

Tom was also founding member of the Haddonfield Symphony. He not only founded the Haddonfield Symphony, but he also found the time to Compose & Arrange for the South Jersey Youth Orchestra as well as a Conductor of the Haddonfield Pick-Up Band.

Music does run in my family's blood to include in my parents, myself and one of my brothers too.

~Brian Kerr
by Living Kerr G2G6 Pilot (335k points)

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