52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 23: Bridge
PROMPT: A bridge connects two things that are separated, whether it’s land or people (maybe even time?). You could take the theme literally and write about an ancestor who worked on bridges or had to cross them regularly. How about someone who worked or lived on a river? What about someone who played bridge (the card game). You could take a more figurative take on and think about who has been a bridge in your genealogy — who has connected you to the past?
As a professional musician myself, I am always intrigued when I discover other musicians in my family tree. Early on in my genealogical research, I discovered, on a branch off of my maternal grandmother’s line—the Cathcart family—several professional musicians from one household.
Ever since I embarked upon a career in music, Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, located in Bloomington, Indiana, has been considered one of the most prestigious music schools in this country. The school has always had an impressive faculty of current and retired professional musicians and pedagogues. Their distinguished alumni have gone on to careers in major orchestras and have performed in concert halls, opera houses, and theaters around the world.
Among these illustrious IU School of Music alums are these Bloomington Cathcart cousins.
Each of these brothers deserves his own profile, and they will be the subjects of future posts. But for the purposes of this post, I shall focus on how–through their spouses–I may lay claim to connections to numerous celebrities in the entertainment industry.
These brothers, then, may be seen as my “bridge” to Hollywood.
John Wylie Cathcart Sr.–my 3rd cousin 3X removed, was born in Bloomington in 1875. “Wylie” married Carrie Belle McConnell–also from Monroe County, Indiana–in October of 1910. They raised a family of four boys. Of the four boys, I know that at least two of them attended IU. And all four of them certainly performed at the school. The brothers toured and played all of the Big Ten universities as The Jimmy Cathcart Band, formed at the university in 1934.
Wylie and Carrie’s sons were:
- John Wylie “Jack” Cathcart, Jr. (1912-1989) A trumpet player, he played with the Artie Shaw Orchestra.
- James Edward “Jimmy” Cathcart (1916-1970). The namesake of the brothers’ big band that performed at all of the Big Ten universities and other universities, Jimmy was a violinist. From IU, he went on to play with Ray Noble and his Orchestra and, later, with Stan Kenton.
- Thomas Matthew Cathcart (1920-2010) Tom played drums with Alvino Rey’s Orchestra, featuring the King Sisters.
- Charles Richard “Dick” Cathcart (1924-1993) A trumpet player, Dick was a member of the Army Air Force Radio Orchestra during World War II. He later performed with such big band names as Ray McKinley, Alvino Rey, and Bob Crosby. He played in the Lawrence Welk Orchestra, appearing on the Lawrence Welk television show.
And here is how these brothers–my fourth cousins 2X removed–can be seen as my bridge to Hollywood:
Jimmy and Tom Cathcart married Mary Lyn Wilde and Marion Lee Wilde respectively. Mary Lyn and Marion performed together as The Wilde Twins. These sisters performed and toured with big bands and secured a contract with MGM in the early 1940s. The twins appeared together in nine films, and Lyn appeared in another six films without Lee.
Dick Cathcart‘s second marriage was to Peggy Lennon, a member of another vocal group comprised of sisters. The Lennon Sisters were singing on television when they ranged in age from nine to sixteen. From 1955 to 1968, the girls appeared regularly on The Lawrence Welk Show before having their own television variety show called Jimmy Durante Presents The Lennon Sisters with Jimmy Durante.
The first marriage of the oldest brother, Jack, was to Mary Jane Gumm. Mary, too, had been in show business from a very early age, performing with siblings as well. The children of vaudevillians Frank and Ethel Gumm, Mary Jane and her younger sister Virginia performed a dancing act at their father’s vaudeville theater as The Gumm Sisters while their mother played the piano. A younger sister, Frances, joined the troupe, making it a trio.
And then there were three.
At some point the girls changed their names for the stage. Virginia became “Jimmie Garland”, Mary Jane became “Suzy Garland”, and Frances became “Judy Garland.”
So my Cathcart cousins–each talented in his own right–married some notable women in the entertainment industry.
And, because my fourth cousin 2X removed married the sister of Judy Garland, Jack Cathcart is my ancestral bridge to connections to her daughter Liza Minelli as well.
Judy Garland and daughter Liza Minnelli