Saturday, April 3, 2010

Splendid Genealogy Course at the John C. Campbell Folk School

What could possibly be better than talking genealogy for an entire week? How about doing it at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina during their Scandinavian week? Yes, I am still recovering from what was to become colossal proportions of motivation and inspiration that I left with. But there's more...

One quickly becomes acquainted with how the bell tolls before mealtimes and enjoying delectable Scandinavian cuisine while mingling with other attendees, each one eager to discuss the handicraft they're learning in their course. These include ceramics, paper cutting, blacksmithing, woodworking, wood turning, felting, weaving and much more.

Someone asked me which course I was in, quickly followed by "do you have any Scandinavian ancestors?" Well, I didn't think I did. So my answer was "no". However, that answer left me unsettled until I was able to access my database to do a search for any Scandinavian roots. Sure enough, my fourth great grandfather, James Wood Headstream, immigrated from Sweden and finally settled in Monroe County, Arkansas! (Meatballs with gravy! I AM Swedish!
) Needless to say, I changed my answer to THAT question for the rest of the week!

My course was taught by genealogist, Ann Mohr Osisek, from Florida. She was a delight - keeping the atmosphere very relaxed and encouraging conversation. She brought with her a whole library of books, some of which she liberally distributed to purge her collection. I acquired enough books and periodicals to keep my nightly reading regime "genealogy-focused" for at least a decade!

One of the highlights of my week turned out to be totally unexpected. You may recall reading an earlier post on my third great-grandfather, Pleasant Nelson Simpson. While doing research on, I met a cousin who also happens to live in Georgia. Well, that was several months ago and we've been communicating via e-mail but have been unable to meet face-to-face.

On the first day of the course, I tried wrapping up my e-mails. I sent my cousin a note explaining where I was and that I would have limited internet access to check my mail. That evening I checked my mail to find her reply. She told me she was coming to see me there at the school! (Cruising Viking Ships! Are you kidding me?) She was only 20 minutes away via winding road! I called her right away and she arranged to come to the school the next night.

My third cousin once removed arrived and like two long lost friends we embarked on a two-hour non-stop yack-fest exchanging details about ourselves and our common ancestor. She loaned me two ginormous books and promised to return the next day to retrieve them.

It keeps getting better...

She came to the class, welcomed by all of my classmates who heard the story of our reunion
meeting and made an announcement. See, we'd been unable to prove Pleasant's third (or fourth) marriage. Didn't even know the wife's name, but had read about it in a book. He was 70 years old at the time! She originally inquired about their marriage record via phone to the county in Texas that held the records. They told her they had the license and that it had "expired" written across it. The clerk was going to investigate and call her back.

She had received the call with the news that Pleasant Nelson Simpson and his third wife, Emeline Frances (Wilson) Williams, never picked up their marriage certificate which she found in the basement! She was sending the original to my cousin! (Great Gotlanders - I think I'm going to faint!)

I am still recovering from all the excitement at the Folk School's Scandinavian Week. I spent a lot of class time on-line doing research and brought a file folder of data to enter into my database while I listened in on the lessons. Here are the results:

Individuals: 4747
Families: 1650
Sources: 286

Individuals: 4917
Families: 1716
Sources: 300

The difference concludes that I added the following:
Individuals: 170
Families: 66
Sources: 14

I brought home a smile, as sense of wonderment and accomplishment, new friends, a new cousin and the John C. Campbell Scandinavian Recipes book! I always knew that the Swedish Chef was my favorite Muppet for a reason!

Copyright © 2010 Joanne Schleier


  1. Joanne,
    What a great could anyone not be inspired to plug away at their genealogy research after reading about your week at the John C. Campbell Folk School! Thanks for sharing in a wonderful week, it was one of the best for me as an instructor.
    The world needs to listen to an "up & coming" genealogy instructor...great things are in store for you!
    Ann O.

  2. You are doing a fantastic job with your blog, and, I am honored to award you the Ancestor Approved Award. Stop by to pick it up (when I finish posting my blog post! LOL)

  3. Ha! See you are getting somewhere - I too have awarded you the ANCESTOR APPROVED AWARD! Visit at Amore e Sapore do Famiglia to accept!