December 31, 2015

For Auld Lang Syne: Patron Song of Genealogists

As we close out the old year and welcome in the new one, I’d like to share with you my favorite version of “Auld Lang Syne,” performed by James Taylor. I confess to listening to this haunting yet hopeful tune when I’m feeling reflective year-round, not just during the holidays.

According to Wikipedia, the original poem that provides the lyrics was written by Scottish poet Robert Burns in 1788. The music is a traditional folk song. In fact, the origins of the song may stretch back to an earlier ballad printed by James Watson in 1711. However you figure it, that’s a lot of New Year’s Eves ago.

But what does it mean? The original Scottish title can be loosely translated to “long, long ago,” “old times,” or “days gone by.” The lyrics ask whether old times, and old friends, should be forgotten. They seem to remind us, in the words of a traditional camp song, to “Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver, and the other gold.” It’s sung on New Year’s Eve in English-speaking countries around the world, and played on other occasions as well.

As family historians, we do our best to keep the memories of old times, and the legends of people who lived long gone, alive. We are preservationists at heart. The message of “Auld Lang Syne” is one that speaks to what we do each time we research and tell the stories of our ancestors. When you think about it, it could be the patron song of genealogists.

I hope you enjoy this rendition of “Auld Lang Syne.” May you have a new year filled with peace, prosperity, good health, and good times!


Note: This post originally appeared on A Sense of Family on December 31, 2012. How time flies! If you remember it from then, thank you for being such a loyal reader, and I hope you enjoy it just as much this time around.  


  1. Yes, that is a sweet rendition, Shelley. I remember you posting it, back in 2012!

    Speaking of Auld Lang Syne, I've become rather nostalgic, lately, recalling family visits to Ohio and the time you and I got to connect over coffee during one of those visits. I'm sure wishing for another visit to Ohio, and it looks like it might happen this spring. Would you be up for a delayed replay of Auld Lang Syne then???

    1. Absolutely, Jacqi, I'd love to see you again! Just let me know some approximate dates. Happy New Year to you and yours!

  2. I love James Taylor---but haven't heard this before. Beautiful post Shelley. The message certainly rings true with us family historians.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Michelle. Thanks for letting me know, and Happy New Year!


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