Friday, April 16, 2010

Songs of Yesterday: An Appalachian Tragedy

I wonder sometimes at the romanticizing in song and verse of some legendary figures -- it helps to look into the story behind the story. In her "Songs of Yesterday: An Appalachian Tragedy," Jean Hibben explores the back story to the legendary, "Tom Dula" or "Tom Dooley," as he is better known. While none of the characters in this story seem to have any redeeming qualities, a few of the details, after the fact, at least suggest how his life . . . and death might have stirred the imagination of songwriters.

From a genealogical perspective, the alternate pronunciation of the Dula surname strikes a chord. My own Appalachian ancestral name, "Childers," while not ending in "ee" has been altered over the years and is alternately pronounced "Childress," again, this slurring an blurring of speech that sort of flips things around. This pronunciation of the Childers name is so common, in fact, they are used almost interchangeably. In the case of my great-grandmother, even the alternate spelling of the name was used within the family. While all legal documents, including the marriage record, show my great-grandfather's surname as Childers, the headstone of his wife, my great-grandmother, reads "Mattie Childress." Which, in a way, takes us back around to some good advice in considering all things: keep an open mind.

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