Episode 408 - Defeating 1970s “Sticky” Photo Albums / DNA Insight from Paul WoodburyJan 31, 2022
Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. David begins with an interesting find he just made concerning the property his family has lived on for generations. It came from a census substitute from 1871. He’ll explain. Fisher then talks about a recently acquired century old photo of his uncle and a boyhood friend, and the crazy story that goes along with it! Then, how did birth certificates come to be? David will explain. A 4,000 year old board game has been unearthed… sadly, without directions. David has the particulars.
Maureen Taylor, the Photo Detective, hops on with Fisher to talk about how to help your photos survive those 1970s era “sticky” photo albums. Fisher has already suffered a loss to one of these monstrosities. Catch Maureen’s tips. She’ll also share a discovery she recently made concerning family photos and an early 20th century scam. Also, hear about a great contest that Maureen and several other female heavyweights in genealogy are offering. Enter at YourDNA Guide.com/valentine.https://www.yourdnaguide.com/valentine
Paul Woodbury of sponsor Legacy Tree Genealogists visits next to talk about the Centimorgan Estimator Tool on DNA Painter. It’s a little advanced, but still fascinating for the average genetic genealogist.
David then returns for more of your questions on Ask Us Anything.
That’s all this week on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show!
Transcript for Episode 408
Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Segment 1 Episode 408
Fisher: And welcome America, to America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher at this end, your Radio Roots Sleuth, on the program where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out. Well, it’s great to have you genies. I know you’re going to enjoy hearing our guests today. Maureen Taylor, the photo detective is on for the first time in 2022, she’s going to be talking about those pesky 1970s era photo albums that drive us all nuts. And a scam she recently discovered that may have impacted your ancestors and their family photo collection. Plus, Paul Woodbury is going to be back, talking about the centimorgan estimator tool on DNA Painter, a little advanced but still good stuff for the average genetic genealogist. Hey, don’t forget to sign up for our courses on DNA research, how to use matches to make breakthroughs on your family history and also basic genealogy, just the fundamentals. You can find it all at ExtremeGenes.com. And, don’t forget to sign up for our Weekly Genie Newsletter at ExtremeGenes.com and on our Facebook Page. It’s free. You get a blog from me each week and links to past and present shows, and great stories you’ll be interested in as a genealogist. Right now, out to Boston, Massachusetts, where my good friend the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org, is standing by. David Allen Lambert, how are you doing my friend?
David: I’m doing good. I’m finding all sorts of fun things in DNA matches. You know, it’s funny, as a kid my mother always told me never to play with matches, but now I can do it all the time.
Fisher: [Laughs] That’s true.
David: Well, I’ve been involved with a local historical society here in Stoughton, Massachusetts since I was 11. And I’m always finding this side everything that’s intriguing, but I found a published account of every resident who owned property back in 1871. So, it’s like a census substitute. But, it’s not just the person’s name. It’s their name, the value of their house, the value of their barn, the value of their wagon. The amount of money they had, the amount of cows they had, and more importantly, how many pigs there were.
Fisher: [Laughs] Of course.
David: On James Drake’s farm here in Stoughton where I live, 26 years before my house was built on his farm, there were at least 2 cows, 2 pigs, 53 acres of land, 10 acres of wood log. Question is, is my part of the property where the cows lived or where the trees stood? More research on that later.
Fisher: Wow, that’s a great find. Now, this was what record?
David: It’s essentially a tax evaluation 1871 in my hometown.
David: How about you, what have you been digging up these days?
Fisher: Well, you know I got that big haul last week of photographs and albums, and I found this cute little picture of my uncle with his childhood buddy and what’s funny is I have this story my uncle wrote about this kid and what happened back in 1920. I’m going to share it with you. These are his own words. He said, “The first little story I can remember was in north Albany, Oregon where I was born in 1916. This probably happened in 1920. We lived by a lake, in fact, the property line was in the lake and my mother Clara raised little ducks. And when they got older we ate them. Well, there were turtles in the lake that ate the little baby ducks if you let them in there too soon. So, she had a pen and she kept the little baby ducks in the pen until they got biggest enough that the turtles wouldn’t eat them. Well, one Sunday morning, my parents decided they were going to have duck dinner for the evening meal. A little neighbor boy named Lloyd Cade, the same age as I was, watched my dad as he went out and grabbed this big duck. And to our horror he grabbed it around the neck and he gave it three or four swings and snapped it’s head off, a horrible sight.
Fisher: Then, he had a pan of boiling water and I went down with him by the lakeside while he plucked all the feathers off the duck. Well, I thought my neighbor friend went home, but Lloyd on his way home passed the duck pen with the little baby ducks in them. And when my dad and I headed for the house after finishing plucking the duck, here’s good old Lloyd Cade with blood all over his little white playsuit and about 12 little ducks in the pen with separate heads.
David: Oh, no!
Fisher: He had wrung every little baby duck’s head off. Well, my dad grabbed him and gave him a couple of whacks on the butt and he went screaming home. Well, he must have told his daddy that my dad beat him and that was his blood. Well, here comes Mr. Cade over with fire in his eyes.
David: Oh, no.
Fisher: And my dad stopped and took him out and showed him what he had done. So, poor little Lloyd Cade got another spanking.” [Laughs]
David: That’s a great story. It’s kind of not fitting for a dinner time story, but hey, if you like duck, why not.
Fisher: Well, I’ve got a picture now of the two of them together which I never imagined. So, that’s great to throw in with the history.
David: Not with the dead ducks I hope. You know, one of the things that I always find is probably the oldest thing we have for ourselves are what? Our documents, maybe you have your birth certificate. I have mine. But you know those are really an old form of identification that go well back into the 19th century. Of course towns recorded these records, but you know why a lot of it was recorded in the 19th century?
David: Because of child labor laws, protected the children.
Fisher: So, that’s why they were issued, interesting.
David: Um hmm.
Fisher: That makes sense. Well, you know those were among the big changes in the 19th century. They wanted to stop the exploitation of children.
David: Well, you know, it’s funny, my father was born in the 1920s and because my grandfather, the elusive bootlegger was the one who reported my father’s birth, but he must have been having an interesting evening because he couldn’t remember if my dad was born in the evening of October 25th or on the morning of October 26th, 1925.
David: So, dad had two birth dates.
Fisher: Did he celebrate them both?
David: We did alternate them occasionally, yes.
David: I asked him one time when I was about 12. I said, dad, does that make you twice as old because you’ve been celebrating two birthdays your whole life? And he gave me a look of death, and I never asked him that again.
Fisher: Good call.
David: You know those board games that we had when we were kids that we really didn’t like because we couldn’t figure out the instructions and those complicated ones that are still in the boxes in our cellar?
David: Yeah, well, they found one, thousands of years old in the country of Oman. And the fun thing about that is they really don’t know how to play it because well, there are no instructions.
David: I guess the moral of this story is if you’re going to bury something in the ground for a thousand years, put a clay tablet with the instruction sheet underneath it for the archeologists to find.
Fisher: Very nice.
David: Well, that’s all I have for this week from Beantown and abroad. I just wanted to tell you, if you’re not a member of American Ancestors, you can save $20 by using the coupon code EXTREME on AmericanAncestors.org. Talk to you in just a couple of moments.
Fisher: All right. Yes, for Ask Us Anything. And coming up next, we’re going to talk to the photo detective Maureen Taylor, for the first time in 2022, about those pesky 1970s photo albums, when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes.
Segment 2 Episode 408
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Maureen Taylor
Fisher: All right, it’s a new year and that means lots of new opportunities to extend your family history collection, gather those stories, and of course, right at the heart of all this stuff is our good friend the photo detective Maureen Taylor. Hey Maureen, welcome back. Happy New Year!
Maureen: Hey Scott. Happy New Year to you!
Fisher: You know, I just got this huge batch of photographs the other day. In one day I received two packages from one cousin on my dad’s side and one cousin on my mother’s side. And the mother’s side one was loaded with a photo album from the 1970s that had belonged to my uncle. And I’ll you what, I hate those 1970s stocky photo albums with a passion.
Maureen: Oh those toxic albums really are toxic.
Fisher: Ugh. Yeah they really are. And he has pictures back from the 19-teens and 1920s in there, and had this great little picture of another uncle as a little boy with the older uncle and another little play pal. And I went to take this out of that album and it took the side of the head of my little uncle out of it. And I had to go back in and go wait a minute, what’s this hole from? Where did this come from? And I had to go back in and carefully remove it and place it back in from behind and tape it on, and then scan it, and then photoshop it to eliminate the tears, which is fine now but I mean this stuff is a nightmare.
Maureen: Okay. So those albums are poor quality plastic, poor quality paper, and glue.
Maureen: And what you described is exactly what I warn people about. I’m like you have to do three things with these albums. And these are the only albums you need to take apart.
Maureen: These are the toxic 1970s ones with the glue strips on the pages. You photograph each page so that you have the arrangement,
Maureen: You scan them. You photograph or scan them, whatever you want to do.
Maureen: And then you remove them from the album and you do so very carefully so you don’t behead someone, like what happened to you, and you can use dental floss for that.
Maureen: Buy un-waxed dental floss. But also, that stuff is sharp, if you’ve ever cut your gum with you know that, so you’ve got to be careful because you could behead somebody the other way.
Fisher: That way too.
Maureen: And the third thing you need to do is get a good quality photo album from, I don’t know, Gaylord.com sells them for instance, and they’re having a fabulous sale until the beginning of March.
Fisher: So what do they do? They have little pockets in them? They are acid free I would assume.
Maureen: Yeah, they’re all acid free and polyester overlays. You should check out what they have on their website. They are the leading archival supplier. And if you use PD25, you get 25% off your purchase. And I don’t have any kind of affiliate relationship with them. This is just what they decided to do because they were doing a promotion at the beginning of the year called Digitize Your Life.
Fisher: Sure. Yeah. Well, this is really important that I digitize this stuff.
Maureen: Yeah, exactly.
Fisher: The digitized stuff now is going to start surviving longer than the old photos I think in many cases because you know, I mean how many times do you hear about somebody saying okay, somebody died and I went over to the house to help clean up and I found this photo album in the trash bin. It almost seems inevitable, if one generation doesn’t get rid of it, the next one will, which is why it’s so important to scan.
Maureen: Exactly. So, my relationship with some of those 1970s albums is I have some of my own that I haven’t taken apart yet. But they tend to have memories in them right, from like you know, ticket stubs and stuff like that.
Maureen: My mom decided she would sort the family photographs in the 70s and make an album just for my baby pictures and stuff like that, and one for my sister, one for my brother. And so my sister had a significant birthday a couple of years ago, and I have to admit, I hadn’t touched them yet because I thought oh, what are they going to be like?
Maureen: And I took my sister’s album out of the box and Scott, I lifted up the album and all the pictures just rained out of it.
Maureen: The glue released so I didn’t have to do what I thought I needed to do to it.
Maureen: Of course, I lost the order of them but –
Fisher: That’s still better than having to try to try to scrape them all out with dental floss.
Maureen: Yeah. But you know, they were mostly prints that had those resin coating on them so they didn’t stick as much as what you’re talking about. You’re talking a 1920s picture. That’s that really soft paper.
Maureen: That’s going to really, really stick to that glue.
Fisher: Yeah. That’s the problem.
Maureen: And did you really say you taped the head back on the body?
Fisher: [Laughs] Not on the front dear, on the back.
Fisher: It had to be secured there somehow so you know, I had to fit it in the hole from behind and yes, I did. I did that.
Maureen: I think I’m going to put my fingers in my ears and go la, la, la you did not say that. [Laughs]
Fisher: [Laughs] Well, it had to be secured somehow.
Fisher: Because it was completely detached. We decapitated my poor little uncle from 1917 so that’s really good. You were telling me the other day that you ran into something recently called the Crayon Scam and I’m fascinated to hear about this.
Maureen: Yes. I’ve been doing some research on something that popped up when I was doing some research on something else. You know how that goes.
Fisher: Yes, rabbit hole.
Maureen: I’m completely in the rabbit hole. So, the late 19th century, early 20th century there were these mostly young men who went door to door knocking and they’d say, “Oh Mrs. Smith, wouldn’t you like to have a beautiful crayon portrait, oversized crayon portrait of your loved one, or your ancestor? And it will be such and such an amount of money. Give me the money. Give me the photo.” Well, the whole thing was a scam. They called it in the newspaper Crayon Swindlers.
Fisher: [Laughs] You know what, this reminds me of this Paper Moon, where Ryan O’Neil was driving around with Tatum O’Neil and he was pretending to sell bibles that their loved one had died and had ordered it with their name engraved on it. Remember all that? I mean, that was the era for this kind of thing.
Maureen: Yeah. I desperately want to find out if some of these police departments still have the old evidence because I’d like to actually see if they still have the photographs of these individuals. But there was like a suspicious landlady in New York City and she turned in her tenants and the police came, because this was a big deal. This was like front page story like all over the country.
Maureen: Yeah. Different companies were popping up all over the place. And she turned them in and the cops came and they found thousands of photographs in their apartment.
Maureen: They were busy.
Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs] I have a pastel portrait of my second great grandfather. It’s pretty large. It’s three feet tall and two feet wide. It’s beautifully done, and I have the photograph that it was done from. But this was back in the later part of the 19th century. And I’m wondering if that’s what they were talking about. Pastels are actually crayons like Crayola.
Maureen: Exactly. That’s what they’re talking about. So, a crayon portrait is an actual photograph that’s been enhanced with charcoal or crayon or oil paint, something like that.
Fisher: Okay. And then they were going to take this and then get back to them, and then they disappeared with the money and the picture.
Maureen: Right. So, the person answering the door would give them whatever the sum of money was that they needed. They said they needed to do this and they would take the photograph and they would actually in some cases give the client a receipt and then never come back.
Maureen: There were so many of them. It’s really a big research rabbit hole because I thought oh, maybe I’ll just do the one in New York, and then I found one in Topeka, and I found one in Worcester, Massachusetts, and one in Trenton, New Jersey, and then I just started finding more, and more, and more, and I thought oh my goodness.
Fisher: Isn’t it interesting when some scam comes along, it gets popular everywhere and it doesn’t matter the era. It doesn’t matter. And I ran across some crib notes that my great aunt had left about the family and she talked about Lord Townsley being in the family. And then when the internet came along I looked up Lord Townsley and found out it was a big scam in the 19th century where people said that this guy back in England, his daughter had married an American, he didn’t approve, he told them he was disowning them and then had a change of heart and put them back in the will. But they didn’t know it. They were back in the United States. And then anybody descended from this Lord Townsley was going to wind up with this big piece of the pie because now it had been growing for over a century and a half and it was a fortune, and you can go back to England and walk on the farm where he lived.
Fisher: I mean it was insane. And it’s like my great aunt must have really believed this from back in the day. They must have been approached on it. But it even makes a reference at some point that aunt so and so walked on the farm over there. It’s on the Lord Townsley side of the family. I’m going, there’s no Lord Townsley.
Maureen: Exactly. These swindlers must have looked quite trustworthy.
Fisher: Oh yeah.
Maureen: Because why would you have over your precious family photograph and some cash?
Fisher: Right. Wow. That’s incredible. Good stuff. So, I understand you are part of this female posse here that’s putting together an amazing thing right now for Valentine’s Day and I think we’ve got to let everybody know about it because it’s a real valuable prize you’re all putting together. So, my favorite people in the world you, and Lisa Louise, Jessica Taylor, and Janet Hovorka, and who am I missing? Diahan Southard.
Maureen: Diahan Southard, Amy Johnson Crow.
Fisher: Amy Johnson Crow. Yeah. There’s six of you.
Maureen: There’s six of us.
Fisher: Six hall of famers’ right there. And you’re doing this Valentine’s Day giveaway. Tell us about this.
Maureen: Right. So, we’ve all donated something into the prize package. It’s this huge genealogy giveaway for Valentine’s Day. You can go to https://www.yourdnaguide.com/valentine to register. Lisa Louise Cooke is giving away a premium membership. Amy Johnson Crow is a consult on US genealogy. Legacy Tree Jessica Taylor is another consult. I’m giving away a six photo consult. Janet Hovorka is giving away a family chart.
Maureen: And Diahan Southard is donating a registration to one of her DNA classes.
Fisher: Um hmm. Wow.
Maureen: I think that’s everyone.
Fisher: Yeah, that’s a lot. And Diahan’s hosting this so you can go to YourDNAGuide.com/Valentine to register for it but that sounds like a heck of a value.
Maureen: And then on Valentine’s Day we’re going to go live.
Maureen: And do the drawing.
Fisher: Wow! That’s going to be fun. Well, thanks for the tips Maureen. I wish I’d talked to you before I started working on this photo album thing from the 70s.
Maureen: Scott, you know you can call.
Fisher: I know. I have your number. You’re very convenient. Of course, you can always reach out to Maureen Taylor at MaureenTaylor.com. And thanks so much Maureen. Happy New Year to you, and hopefully we’re all going to make a whole bunch of awesome finds this year.
Maureen: That’s what I’m hoping for.
Fisher: Yep. Absolutely. I’m off to a good start except for this little setback. Take care. We’ll talk to you again down the line. And coming up next: Paul Woodbury from our sponsors at Legacy Tree Genealogists talking about the centimorgan estimator tool over at DNA Painter, when we return in five minutes.
Segment 3 Episode 408
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Paul Woodbury
Fisher: Welcome back to America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth and it’s great to have Paul Woodbury back on, my good friend from Legacy Tree Genealogists, one of our great sponsors. And Paul is going to take us down a little road involving DNA research today that might be a little deeper in the weeds than we’ve been used to in the past, talking about the centimorgan estimator tool now over at DNA Painter. Paul, I guess, just from the beginning for people who aren’t familiar with this kind of research, let’s talk about the very basic, what is a centimorgan?
Paul: All right, yeah. I’m happy to talk about that. So, centimorgans, we use them commonly in our genetic genealogy research. We often will point to the number of centimorgans that we share with a match as we’re evaluating how significant they might be. We use the amount of DNA and we kind of refer to it as an amount of DNA in terms of centimorgans that we share with somebody to evaluate how closely related they might be. And I think we often refer to this measurement but a lot of us don’t have quite a firm grasp of what it actually is. In all actuality, a centimorgan is a measure of the probability of recombination over one generation. So, if you look at it, 100 centimorgans, a segment of DNA that is 100 centimorgans, what that means is, on average there will be one recombination or one crossover event between those two locations in one generation. And that’s important because, the way that our DNA is organized, different parts of our DNA are more likely to recombine than others. So, we have some ballpark estimates of determining how many centimorgans corresponds to a certain number of base-pairs but those estimates really aren’t exact, because you could have ten million base-pairs of DNA at a very beginning of a chromosome that could be 20 centimorgans, whereas you could have ten million base-pairs in the middle of a chromosome that is only one centimorgan. And so really the centimorgan value depends on the likelihood of recombination where that DNA is located across the chromosome and the likelihood of recombination in that area.
Fisher: So, let’s talk about DNA Painter. I mean, Johnny Pearl came up with this several years ago and since then it has become really an invaluable tool for genetic genealogy and I’m a little confused about what a centimorgan estimator tool is and why it’s important.
Paul: Yeah. So, what Johnny has done is he’s created this tool in collaboration with some others to help us plug in any chromosome number the start location and the end location and it will generate an estimate for the centimorgan value for that segment of DNA. I mean, that’s fun to know but how is that useful to us in genetic genealogy?
Paul: I thought of just a few applications where I’ve had an opportunity to apply this and it’s really been helpful in some cases for genetic genealogy research. The first, imagine that you have a test that you’ve taken at 23andMe. At 23andMe, with our test results we get an ethnicity chromosome painting that shows the chunks of DNA that have been assigned to different populations.
Paul: And not only do we get that painting but we also have the opportunity to download that raw ethnicity data so we can actually get the chromosome start location and the stop locations for each of those chunks of DNA that come from different regions of our ancestry.
Paul: So, now imagine that in your ethnicity painting you have this tiny little sliver of let’s say Native American add mixture. If you download the ethnicity raw data and take that chunk of DNA, the chromosome number, the start location and the end location of that chunk of Native American add mixture you can then go and plug that into DNA Painter centimorgan estimator tool to determine how significant is that segment? Is it one centimorgan? Is it three centimorgans? Is it twenty centimorgans?
Fisher: Um hmm.
Paul: As a general rule we often point to segments being significant or not at a threshold of about seven to ten centimorgans.
Paul: So, if it’s smaller than seven centimorgans it might not be as reliable as we might hope. It might not be a true segment. It might be background noise. It might be miss attributions of the ethnicity add mixtures. So it might just be kind of a blip, but it’s larger than that. It gives us a lot more confidence to say, yeah, I do have an ancestor who contributed Native or African, or Eastern European, or Jewish, or whatever ethnicity you might be analyzing.
Fisher: Um hmm.
Paul: I have an ancestor that contributed that DNA to me and we’re further confident that this is a true segment.
Fisher: Right. And if you have that background story that you’ve been told for generations about it, this can help confirm that.
Paul: It can help. It can start you down the path to then go and see, okay, did I inherit this chunk of DNA from that particular line that I think it came from?
Paul: So, it opens up some doors and windows for possibilities for research avenues.
Fisher: Okay. So that’s a great application. What else?
Paul: So, another application is when you might be looking at the DNA that you share with known relatives. Let’s say that I have two genetic cousins and I know that they’re both related to me through a common ancestor. They are both related to me let’s say through my third great grandfather. I know that we are all related through that individual and we’re related through different descendents of that third great grandfather. And let’s say they share DNA with me on a triangulated segment but it’s kind of partially overlapping.
Paul: So, let’s say that one match shares with me on chromosome two between one hundred million and one hundred and fifty million base-pairs, those locations. And then the second one shares with me between one hundred and twenty five million and one hundred and seventy five million.
Paul: So, they’re kind of overlapping but they’re not sharing in the exact same location, but we have one that starts earlier and ends kind of in the middle of where the other one starts sharing. And then the other one shares a little bit further along. So, we’ve kind of got this composite segment that I inherited from our common ancestor but I only share parts of it with my relatives who are related through that same ancestral line. We can kind of estimate approximately the centimorgan value through that composite segment that I inherited from my great, great, great grandfather but the centimorgan estimator tool gives me a really valuable application to be able to take the start point from my first match and the end point from my second match and really combine those segments together to get a new estimate for what is the centimorgan value for this entire segment that I inherited from my third great grandfather?
Paul: So, it can kind of help us take that next step and then combine those segments together as we’re mapping those relationships.
Fisher: So, this is kind of an idea for people who are just getting into genetic genealogy, don’t let all this frighten you. This is a little more advanced, wouldn’t you say, Paul?
Paul: Yeah. I mean, this is definitely something that you’re going to be doing a little bit further down the road in your research process. Usually, I only get to chromosome mapping a little bit further into the research process, but they can be helpful for particular situations when we might be exploring these questions in relation to a research problem.
Fisher: Yeah, absolutely. So, where do you see this all going now? I mean, DNA Painter has evolved a lot since it first came to our attention, what, about 4-5 year ago now? What else do you think is coming down the line with them?
Paul: You know, I don’t know, but I am excited. I really have loved the tools that they have released to us. We’ve got some great tools to help and assist in learning more about your genetic genealogy and really taking DNA evidence and really crafting it in a way that you can interpret it, understand it, and help achieve and come to genealogical conclusions.
Fisher: Well, I know there are a lot of heads that have exploded over your explanation here Paul, mine has. I’m going to try to put the pieces back together, but it’s nice to know it’s there and it’s nice to know that it can be useful for us as we deal with some of the more challenging matches that we’ve come across in helping us to prove our ancestry and break through some of those brick walls. Thanks so much for coming on Paul. Appreciate it.
Paul: Thanks for having me.
Fisher: And coming up next, it is the return of David Allen Lambert the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org, for another round of Ask Us Anything, answering your questions when we return in three minutes.
Segment 4 Episode 408
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Fisher: All right, we are back for Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, David Allen Lambert is back. And David, our first question this week comes from Cheyenne, Wyoming. Janette asks, “Fish and Dave, what do I say is my ethnicity when I was born in a foreign country to American parents whose parents came from Poland and Italy?” Interesting!
David: Ooh, that’s like one of those genealogical questions, if a train leaves Chicago in 1874 and doesn’t go to Canada till 1875. Did it really leave in 1875?
Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs]
David: You know, that’s a really good question and I suppose it’s how you interpret it. I mean, first off, it’s a little grey on this question. We really are not sure if Janette was actually born in like say, military property in the United States government, so you’re like a military birth born on a base in Germany for instance. So, technically, you are on American soil more or less, even though you are born in a foreign country. It’s almost like if you were born in the consulate in London, in the American consulate, the embassy. Would you consider it American soil? Well, legally it is.
Fisher: Yeah, sure.
David: But technically, your birth record won’t say American consulate. It will probably say that you were born in the UK. The real thing is what level is your nationality? I think she brought up a good point about her parents being of Polish and Italian background, what level do you stop at?
David: For me, I’m American. I have dual citizenship with Canada. So, I’m American and Canadian. My mother and father were born in two different countries. My mother is Canadian. My father is American. My grandparents are all born in four different.
David: So, if I tell somebody I’m American, someone else might tell them I’m American Canadian. Another one might say I’m French, English, Canadian and American because that’s a quarter. But as we now have with our DNA, the ever changing, I am now 41% Scottish, thank you Ancestry.com.
David: But I can’t find that tilt in my family tree. So, it really is a sliding scale. What do you tell people who ask you what your nationality is?
Fisher: It really depends on who the audience is, right, who is asking? Is it a genealogist asking me? Well, then I’ll start going through, well, my mother’s side was entirely Scandinavian. Her father’s side was half Norwegian and Swedish. Her mother was Swedish. Now on my dad’s side, it’s English and French, and Dutch, and some Deutschland back there. But if it’s just somebody I run into while I’m on a vacation, what country are you from? Well, I’m an American. It’s as simple as that.
David: Triple TSA. [Laughs]
Fisher: [Laughs] Exactly.
David: Yes, I’m an American.
Fisher: That’s all, yeah. That’s all they need to know, right.
David: Well, and like I say, it really is the audience because I’ve had people who will tell me they’re Italian. But I’m like, but your last name is Fritz Patrick.
Fisher: Right. [Laughs]
David: Well, I’m a little Irish too on my dad’s side. I said, wouldn’t that make you half Irish and half Italian? Well, actually my grandmother is Italian too, so that makes me three quarters Italian
David: I said, it doesn’t work that way. You really have to look at the big picture. Personally, if I look at my Y-DNA, thousands of years ago my ancestors lived in what is now Bosnia. So, do I become a Bosnian, Anglo-Saxon, English, Irish, American, Canadian? I mean, that’s only one spur of the tree.
Fisher: Right, right. I would say to Janette then, I’m part Polish and part Italian too, an American person. But if you are overseas, you say, oh, I’m American. I have a little Polish and Italian.
David: And you have to think, how much time do you have anyways.
Fisher: [Laughs] Yeah, that’s right. We are limited in how much we can discuss this. Very interesting question [Laughs] and an even more fascinating discussion, so there you go. Thank you so much for the question Janette. And coming up next we have a question from a listener who has an ancestor who was supposedly a sailor but had some papers that were supposed to prove his American citizenship. Speaking of which, why did he have to do that? That’s the question. We’ll find out more when we return with Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 5 Episode 408
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Fisher: All right, back at it for Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fish here, David over there. And David, this question is out of Tampa, Florida. Jolene asks, "Guys, my ancestor was a sailor and it’s in his history that he carried papers to prove he was an American. Why was that necessary?" Good question, Jolene.
David: Oooh, that allows me to put on my military historian hat.
David: Let's go back to the era of the star spangled banner and Francis Scott Key and the Burning of Washington.
Fisher: War of 1812.
David: Uh huh. I have an ancestor who was in that war, and he wasn't on a vessel. But if he was, he probably would need this, essentially proof that you're an American. Of course, one of the things you may remember from history class, kids, is that one of the reasons we went to the war is because the British were boarding our vessels and taking American sailors and claiming they were British, and then forcing them to be in the British Navy. So, a seaman's protection paper, Fish is that document, basically a sworn legal statement, maybe from a family member or judge that states that the said person was born on American soil, on this date, sometimes you get the place. Now, these documents generally don't survive, because it was just like your high school diploma. It would be folded up, put into your sea bag and you had it in case you needed it. And sometimes obviously after your term being on a vessel, probably got rid of it. But the registers of such seaman protection papers survived. The National Archives for one has a large collection of them that you can search by particular ports where it’s registered. My great, great grandfather's older brother was on a whaling ship back in the 18 teens and he was required to have it, because it was right around that time of the War of 1812.
David: And you might even have a story in your own family of some of our listeners who may have that seaman protection paper still in their possession. And they're great, because they may give you a birthplace when there was no birth certificate, think about it. In 1790, yeah they were recording records, but not every place was there a birth certificate.
David: They don't happen until another century from there.
Fisher: These are great. My great, great grandmother's brother who was in the navy around the time of the 1812 War also, and I found his record in the seaman protection register. And yeah, he was born in New York and I got a lot of good detail from that. Here's the best one though, Dave, because this went on and on and on into the 20th century. My grandfather had a brother and I had no idea that he worked as what they call a scullion, like cleaning up in the kitchen on a passenger ship. And his photograph was in there, and we had no pictures of him, none whatsoever. The only picture we ever found was when they started including these photographs in the seaman's protection applications in the early 1900s. Then I found another cousin down another line, his picture was in there. We couldn't find anywhere else. So, it kind of goes almost hand in hand, I would say with the passport applications. There a lot of material in there, especially in the 20th century, because they filled out the applications themselves, so you see signatures on there, photographs, it’s really good stuff.
David: It is. And hopefully this encourages some of our listeners that have ancestors that went to sea around that time or a little later to find additional documents. It’s always about finding the stories.
Fisher: Yep. And we should mention those are on Ancestry.com, our sponsor. So you can find them right there. Its good stuff. So, great question, Jolene, hope that helps you out, and thank you for it. And Dave thanks so much. We'll talk to you again next week.
David: Until then.
Fisher: All right, my friend. And of course if you have a question for Ask Us Anything, we would love to hear from you. Just email us at [email protected]. And that is our show for this week. Hope you enjoyed it. If you missed any of it or you want to catch it again, of course listen to the podcast on iHeart Radio, iTunes, TuneIn Radio, AppleMedia and ExtremeGenes.com. Thanks for joining us. Talk to you again next week. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!