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Voices Spring Summer 2014Voices is the membership magazine of the New York Folklore Society.

Dedicated to publishing the content of folklore in the words and images
of its creators and practitioners!

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Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore features articles, stories, interviews, reminiscences, essays, folk poetry and music, photographs and artwork from people in all parts of New York State. Voices is the Society’s membership magazine. The magazine also publishes peer-reviewed, research-based articles, written in an accessible style, on topics related to traditional art and life, including ethnic culture. Join NYFS today to receive this new membership magazine!

Voices features articles, stories, interviews, reminiscences, essays, folk poetry and music, photographs, and artwork drawn from people in all parts of New York State, folklorists and non-folklorists alike. The magazine also publishes peer-reviewed, research-based articles, written in an accessible style, on topics related to traditional art and life, including ethnic culture. Informative columns on subjects such as legal issues, photography, sound and video recording, archiving, ethics, and the nature of traditional art and life appear on a regular basis.
Look inside ⇓
VOICES, Vol. 40, Fall-Winter 2014

VOICES FW 2014 cover

What always strikes me about Voices is its clarity and openness, both in design and content. It’s inviting, lively, and readable and has plenty of variety. It presents artists and communities with respect and sensitivity, yet one learns too about what folklorists do and who they are. Voices gives a picture of New York State and its people that cannot be found elsewhere.
Anna Lomax Wood, Director, Association for Cultural Equity

LISTEN to New York Folklore Society’s executive director, Ellen McHale interviewed by Steve Black for his radio show, “Periodical Radio,” about Voices.
Download MP3

⇐LOOK INSIDE back issues of Voices

From the Fall–Winter 2014 issue of Voices:

My brother Mark surprised me in early November with a request for his birthday. He wanted to come up from New York City to visit grave sites of our father’s ancestors found on both sides of the upper Hudson River. He thought it was fitting, given his birthday’s proximity to Día de los Muertos, the Mexican celebration, Day of the Dead.

This was not a typical request. There had been no such visits within our immediate family. We were taught that loved ones were not found at the grave; these contained only earthly remains, and reunions would take place in the afterlife, in heaven.

Nonetheless, I could easily fulfill Mark’s request. As the family historian living in the upper Hudson Valley for almost 30 years, I had tracked down many generations of my father’s family who lived here since before the American Revolution. We could spend many hours visiting a dizzying number of small plots with headstones bearing the names of DeGarmo, Ham, Spicer, Angel, Sprague, Sutfin, and so on. After all, as you trace your lineage back through the generations, you add the family of each mother and acknowledge another bloodline. If we wanted to be inclusive, this could be a long visit.

We had an interesting day, touring the countryside, visiting a select number of graveyards and house sites in our quest for ancestors. That evening, I posted on Facebook, “Celebrating family, birthdays, and Día de los Muertos with Mark DeGarmo,” and included a photo of Mark embracing a family headstone where my dad, his brother, and their parents are buried.

Among the “likes” and assorted supportive comments to my post was the question, “Are you Hispanic?”

This seemingly innocent question brought me back to school-age questions of nationality, and ultimately, identity. Are you Italian? Maybe, Spanish? “No,” I would reply, “DeGarmo” comes from a ‘de Garmeaux’ with a castle in Brittany, and that our first ancestor in this country was Pierre, a fur trader who left some debts behind in Montreal.” I was pleased to be connected to this “vagabond” and his French nobility. I readily claimed my French heritage and still do. This identity, however, doesn’t match the genetics. Pierre married a Dutch woman in late 17th-century colonial Albany, and his descendants married many different nationalities over the generations. Though my surname is a reminder, the French has become a very diluted portion of my bloodline.

Borden is my mother’s maiden name, tracing back to an English ancestor who came to this country, also during the colonial period, marrying into German, Swedish and many other nationalities over the generations. When asked about his ancestry, my mother’s father, called “Pop” by his grandchildren, would reply with pride, “We’re mutts, American Mutts, a blend of many nationalities; no purebreds here!”

Pop would follow up with a story from the early 20th century, from the time he was courting his wife-to-be, Bessie McDowell. Sitting in the parlor of his future mother-in- law, he was told by Bessie’s mother, “Our family came over on the Mayflower. What about your family?” Without missing a beat, he replied, “My family heard that there were a bunch of ruffians aboard the Mayflower, so they waited for the next boat.”

McDowell is Scots-Irish. One or more of this family’s ancestral lines can be traced back to the group on the Mayflower and other New England cultural hearths, but the McDowells themselves arrived a bit later. This line of the family also had later immigrants added to the mix: folks from Norway and Ireland in the mid-19th century. Although my great-grandmother felt a need to identify with one of the oldest lines instead of the newer additions, it’s interesting to note that her daughter (my Grandma Bessie) was quite proud of her Scots-Irish heritage, proclaiming, “We’re a frugal and hearty stock!”

Although my family ancestry can be called “American Mutt,” I continue my search to rediscover the journeys and interesting stories of our multiple bloodlines, and seek to discover how these contribute to the family we are today.

“Are you Hispanic?” I did celebrate Día de los Muertos with Mark that day, but I do not claim “Hispanic” as a bloodline or an identity. But surely Mark does. When he called me with his birthday request, he had just gotten back from Mexico. His life and work has many special connections to Mexico and Latin America, as an artist, teacher, and adopted son. On this most recent visit, he celebrated a wedding as a witness and special guest of the Velasco family who had “adopted” both he and his husband Jan in the 1970s. They identify Mark and Jan as family, with open-armed hospitality and love.

My brother-in-law Jan responded to the Facebook question: “Should it be called the Day of the Dead or also the Day of the Living? If it helps us appreciate what we have and where and whom we come from. Tombstones always make me think, ‘They’re there and they’re not there.’”

Bloodlines can be important but are certainly not the end-all in determining family identity. Mark’s celebration of Día de los Muertos in the graveyards of upstate New York is a natural extension of this identity with his adopted Mexican family. As with all of us, it is but one of many family identities he claims. Family histories are often more complicated than at first glance. Teasing out the details of stories of identity requires careful search and careful listening to all the parties involved, both the dead and the living.

Todd DeGarmo
Voices Acquisitions Editor
Founding Director of the Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library

The taxpayers are hollering, and the state’s contribution to this wonderful little magazine has been drastically cut. Those of us who read it all the way through have to all chip in.
—Pete Seeger, musician and activist, Beacon, New York

VISIT our online gallery bookstore to purchase back issues.


Meet Todd DeGarmo, Voices Acquisitions Editor
Todd DeGarmo

Todd DeGarmo is the acquisitions editor for Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore, leading an editorial team which includes Ellen McHale as executive editor, Patricia Mason as copy editor, and Laurie Longfield as Voices’ manager. Todd took over this editorship from Dr. Eileen Condon who served as acquisitions editor until 2007.

Todd is the founding director of the Center for Folklife, History and Cultural Programs at the Crandall Public Library in Glens Falls, NY. Todd is a former board member and past president of the New York Folklore Society. He brings a wealth of knowledge and prior experience to the position of acquisitions editor, including a knowledge of Japanese culture, Adirondack studies, tourism, and architectural studies.

Send Your Story to Voices!
Did you know that Voices publishes creative writing, including creative fiction (such as short stories), creative nonfiction (such as memoirs and life/work stories), and poetry? We also publish artistic and ethnographic photography and artwork, in addition to research-based articles on New York State folk arts and artists. If you are one of New York’s many traditional artists or working in a traditional occupation—including fishing, boat building, traditional healing, instrument making, firefighting, and nursing, to name a few—please consider sharing your life or work story with the readers of Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore. Check out our new column heading First Person, which spotlights folk artists and folk arts workers, giving creative people space in each issue to share their life stories in their own words. First Person allows people to share the reasons they have spent a lifetime supporting or recreating New York’s diverse traditions, passing them down through generations—whether it’s gardening, carving, roots music, village dancing, egg decorating, weaving, quilting, fiddling, traditional singing, basketry, ethnic foodways, traditional calligraphy, or home altar building. Email the acquisitions editor of Voices, at nyfs@nyfolklore.org.

Check our submission guidelines for authors.

Send your letter to the editor here

Folklorists are writers. We write every day: monographs and scholarly articles, field notes, festival and event brochures, exhibit texts, grant applications, final reports, press releases, proposals. In fact, I would say that time spent writing is more than fifty percent of any folklorist’s annual cycle of work. The essentials of folklore—the ethnographic material—are fundamental to a great story. As any fieldworker can attest, entering into the personal experience of another individual is expansive and illuminating. The everyday becomes novel when viewed from the viewpoint of the uninitiated. The job of the folklorist is to translate that experience to those who may not get the opportunity to go through it themselves and to help the reader to find meaning in the experience.
Ellen McHale, PhD, Executive Director, NYFS

What is Folklife?
The everyday and intimate creativity that all of us share and pass on to the next generation:

The traditional songs we sing, listen and dance to

Fairy tales, stories, ghost tales and personal histories

Riddles, proverbs, figures of speech, jokes and special ways of speaking

Our childhood games and rhymes

The way we celebrate life
  – from birthing our babies to honoring our dead

The entire range of our personal and collective beliefs
  – religious, medical, magical, and social

Our handed-down recipes and everyday mealtime traditions

The way we decorate our world
  – from patchwork patterns on our quilts to plastic flamingoes in our yards, to tattoos on our bodies

The crafts we create by hand
  – crocheted afghans, wooden spoons, cane bottoms on chairs

Patterns and traditions of work
  – from factory to office cubicle

The many creative ways we express ourselves as members of our family, our community, our geographical region, our ethnic group, our religious congregation, or our occupational group

Folklife is part of everyone’s life. It is as constant as a ballad, as changeable as fashion trends. It is as intimate as a lullaby, and as public as a parade.

In the end ... we are all folk.
American Folklife Center
Library of Congress, Washington, DC

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