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Genealogical Festival Hybrid of Business and Family Affection

May 12, 1985|DOUG SMITH | Times Staff Writer

If your ancestors fought for the Confederacy, someone wanted you at the recent 16th annual Jamboree of the Burbank-based Southern California Genealogical Society in the Glendale Civic Auditorium.

He was almost seven feet tall and was wearing a red-sashed replica of a Confederate uniform.

He was Jeffrey L. Towery of Reseda, who becomes Sgt. Maj. Towery, "God of the Battlefield," when descendants of the North and the South square off in re-created battles of the Civil War.

Sgt. Maj. Towery was recruiting at the jamboree for his group, the Gen. John B. Hood Camp No. 1208 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, behind a small, flag-lined booth as hundreds of amateur genealogists milled around.

Labor of Love

"We're trying to get people to document their Southern lineage to the Confederacy," Towery said.

His was a labor of love.

Joe Sippy was there for sale.

Sippy was really Joseph Trenau, a Frenchman. He shipped out to the New World to help the colonists fight the British. Wounded at Yorktown, he was placed under the care of a farm girl. When they fell in love, he changed his name from Trenau to Sippy and deserted. His boat sailed without him. He married the farm girl and they had eight children.

Doll of an Ancestor

One of the descendants of that union was responsible for Sippy's presence at the jamboree. Sippy's great-great-great-granddaughter, Nona Maloney, has made him into a Revolutionary-era doll. He stands about two feet tall and is dressed to kill in his three-cornered hat, black gaiters and white drop-bottom underwear.

Given an old photo or portrait, Maloney will make a doll of anyone's favorite ancestor, at any age.

Much of the jamboree was a hybrid of familial affection and business.

At tables labeled with the names of states and foreign countries, volunteers of the society fielded hundreds of questions about the minutiae of family record-keeping.

At other tables, salesmen demonstrated computer programs that they promised would take the blood and sweat out of tracking family trees.

Genealogical Auction

Meanwhile, what was billed as the nation's first genealogical auction was under way in a side room where 60 folding chairs were set up.

About 200 items were displayed on tables around the room. Among them were four Civil War bullets, suggested price $20, and "A Journal of the Ship Coral of New Bedford, on a Whaling Voyage to the Pacific Ocean," suggested price $9,000.

Several professionals were in the crowd. They sat through the entire two hours, scribbling notes and bidding silently.

But most of the bidders were amateurs looking for a bit of memorabilia to go with their family histories.

Bidder Outpriced

One of them, Nick Marks, went away empty-handed. Marks had his eye on the history of Middlesex County, Mass., where he was born. He gave up when the bidding got up around $100.

But Mary Ellen Reed made a find. She bought a 1785 woodcut of John of Gaunt, founder of the Tudor line, and a color print of John's wife, Constancia, Duchess of Lancaster. The suggested price was $175.

She paid $192 for the portraits as well as two antique maps of New York, a book on the scenery of Wales and a handful of plastic-mounted coins and scraps of paper.

Reed said she bought the maps because she is from New York and the portraits because she is descended from John of Gaunt. "He looks gaunt, doesn't he?" she said.

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