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Ancestral research turns to song

Gary B. Gray • Oct 16, 2016 at 12:00 AM

Denise Reagan has taken what at first was a casual interest in genealogy and turned it into both a written and musical account of her family tree.

The East Tennessee native began by researching her ancestry. She ended up turning the stories of bravery and survival into song. Reagan said she realized there was a natural narrative that chronicled her family from the time they left Europe for the American shores in the 1600s to life in Appalachia in the 1940s.

The result is a collection of recordings and an accompanying book guide titled “Where Did the Time Go.”

“I had been doing genealogy research for a long time, and I started finding out more and more about these people,” said the Nashville songwriter. “The stories are all about real people, and I think everyone wants to know a little about where they came from.”

The narrative she pieced together resulted in about 20 songs.

“These songs started showing up after writing about my ancestry,” Reagan said. “I asked some other songwriters to help me. The person who produced it is into Western swing.”

History can be a dry subject unless it is personal, Reagan said. She discovered her ancestors’ dates of births and deaths, but that wasn’t interesting enough. She also sought out information to give her insights about their lives, including traveling to untold graveyards because she realized that those were some of the only places she could be certain that her ancestors had actually stood.

“Most homes where they had lived are gone, as well as the churches where they worshiped,” she said.

Reagan searched for their stories through ancestry.com and published works. She learned that her ancestors lived in the Watauga River area of Tennessee before white settlers were supposed to even be here. They were Native Americans and some of the first pioneers in the new West.

“My ancestors were both white settlers and Native Americans, who were already there,” she said. “The white settlers helped form the Lost State of Franklin, walked the Wilderness Road into Kentucky and settled the river valleys near Byrdstown, Tennessee.” The Borderlands of Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina were home to her many distant cousins.

The music project tells family stories in the broad context of the big historical events and the small personal details of trial and triumph. The music is varied and includes several styles, including celtic, folk, bluegrass, jazz and old-time. The song topics range in characters from saints to sinners, Native Americans, long hunters, patriots, Union soldiers, Confederates, outlaws and preachers.

Long hunters were men who would go into Native American territories to hunt, sometimes taking wives as a way of surviving the winters.

“Where Did the Time Go” isn’t just a question, it is a statement, Reagan said.

“So much has changed in the last 400 years,” she said. “This project is intended for a specific target audience. Folks who are interested in genealogy, history and the arts will find it compelling because it coincides with their own search for their ancestors.’

The CD and book set is a great gift idea for genealogy enthusiasts who also love acoustic music. She performs under the name Euferzine, which was her grandmother's name. It is pronounced: U-fur-zyne. (rhymes with time.) To learn more about the project, go to the album website: www.euferzine.com

Downloads are available on iTunes and you can stream the music on Spotify. The companion book is available on Amazon. Visit the following links: https://open.spotify.com/album/0F3Bmpf6Mer2Zcl1A99dW3, https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/where-did-the-time-go/id1149378297, http://euferzine.com/shop

For further information call Reagan at 615-397-3992.

Email Gary Gray at ggray@johnsoncitypress.com. Like Gary B. Gray on Facebook at www.facebook.com/garybgrayjcp. Follow him on Twitter @ggrayjcpress.

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