Episode 11 – Jennifer Utley of TLC’s “Who Do You Think You Are?”

podcast episode Sep 23, 2013

On this weeks show, Fisher shares the latest on the battle for the corpse of King Richard III.  It’s York vs. Leicester in the competition for public opinion and legal victory.  The Yorkies seem to be a bit behind in the race while the Leicesterians are putting up historic markers concerning Richard III. Jennifer Utley joins Fisher talking about her research work in support of "Who Do You Think You Are?" on TLC. Plus Tom Perry on another aspect of preservation.

Transcript of Episode 11

Host: Scott Fisher

Segment 1 Episode 11

Fisher: Hello genies, it’s Extreme Genes, Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com. I am your Radio Roots Sleuth Fisher, brought to you by TMC the Multimedia Centers preserving your memories for over forty years. And this segment is brought to you by Heritage Consulting Genealogy Services, your family history resource. Call 877 537 2000. Do we have a show for you today! First off, very excited to have as our special guest Jennifer Utley from Ancestry.com! [Applause] Yes, she is the research coordinator for “Who do you think you are?” And we’re going to find out just what the process is for these researches. Do they meet the stars? How long does it take to research the star? What are the favorite stories Jennifer and her team have found? This is going to be a great “pull back the curtain” radio moment so get ready for that. Great comments on our visit with Ralph Gates last week who worked on the Manhattan Project as a 19 year old, assisting the scientists who were working to create the Atom bomb before the Germans during WW II, Ralph also interviews veterans of all periods to give them and their families a special video gift that can be enjoyed for generations. He gave us some great tips on how to be a great interviewer in our third segment last week. Of course, you can hear the whole thing on the podcast on our website ExtremeGenes.com. And of course you can also catch our podcast by subscribing to us on iTunes. Our ExtremeGenes.com poll this week has been on “Where do you think King Richard III should be buried again?” [Laughs] It’s pretty much been neck and neck between the City of York and back to the same place he’s been for 500 years under the parking lot with a few coming in for Leicester Cathedral. York and Leicester by the way are using historical and family tie arguments for their cases to get the bones to their neighborhood, but the reality is it is basically all about future tourism dollars. The late king is going to bring us some part of the UK. Some people are calling it the “Second War of the Roses.” Now you may ask why we talk about this on a family history show and that’s a great question. It’s because you really can’t separate family history from history and countless millions descend from the royal families of Europe. King Richard III is at least the cousin of some sort to most all of us so we certainly have to keep an eye on this whole thing as it develops because it is another fascinating chapter in the family history of not only the Royal family of Great Britain but all of us with direct royal ties or whose ancestors were affected by the reign of King Richard. So here’s the latest by the way. The Leicester Mercury, their newspaper there’s reporting that the spot where King Richard III spent his last night before heading to his death in Bosworth is being commemorated by a special plaque. The place was called The Blue Boar Inn but now it’s a Travelodge bed and breakfast and the Mayor of Leicester Sir Peter Soulsby says it’s just another example of Leicester’s rich connection with Richard III and why he should be reinterred here in the city. Now that inn was there by the way till the mid 1800s.They even made a 3D model of part of the inn. The result was some architectural sketches that were uncovered. They say that visitors and tourists are sometimes using the Travelodge to mimic Richard’s final night on the planet. [Laughs] Kind of an interesting idea for the next family reunion, isn’t it? There’s also a new book coming out called “Richard III: The Leicester Connection” which basically shares all the sites around town that tie to the king. And here’s a notice by the way in the Mercury Newspaper that you don’t really see every day. It says, “Get involved: How to show your support for the Mercury’s campaign to keep Richard’s bones in Leicester.” Meanwhile, the Yorkshire branch of the Richard III’s society is unhappy because they’re not being permitted to back the campaign for the king to be reburied in York. I have no idea why. Thirty thousand have signed the York version of the petition but the society has at least publicly said that if they could they’d be in full support of bringing the body back to his ancestral hometown. The whole thing is complete with campaign managers. It’s just that the candidate doesn’t give a lot of speeches these days.

All right, enough. Let’s bring this story closer to home. We’ve got a beautiful story from Ohio about an army Private PFC. I guess it’s called Xwell von Reynolds. You don’t see names like that too often. He was one of 24 soldiers killed in 1945 when their aquatic vehicle sank in a lake in Italy, but now it’s thought that the brother’s body may have been located in Lake Garda. Private Von Reynolds has no living siblings at this point but there is a nephew who knew him well as a young man. He said he was a loving and fun guy who once set off a fire cracker under the rocking chair that his father was sitting in. There’s a family history story. One survivor lived to tell the story of all that happened in the incident that claimed all these young guys. You can read about this too at ExtremeGenes.com. Now the best part of the story is that two years ago a local Italian group volunteer divers decided to begin their own search for this vehicle. They used sonar and a remote operated vehicle with video camera and last December they announced the discovery of a WW II, what they call a “Duck” vehicle lying upright at the bottom of the lake. Well, apparently there had been three of these “Ducks” lost there in the 40s, but they believe this is the one that may make the Von Reynolds family whole again. The divers are determined to have more to tell on their efforts either late this year or early next year.

In Canada, Pioneer Square in Victoria, they’ve been doing some restoration work, but as sometimes happen when building anything anywhere, sometimes they run into things that bring everything to a halt. In this case it’s human remains from the cemetery that was in use on the site from 1855 to 1873 and whenever discoveries like this are made, it’s common for archaeologists to be brought in to determine just who the bones may have belonged to, what groups or individuals bones of what they call “members of first nations” have to particularly be handled in special ways. And that’s what happened and no work will go on there until the archaeologists’ work is done. Now the cemetery was made into a park in 1908 but this is the bizarre part. [Laughs] The cemetery held the remains and does of 1 300 people but there are very few markers left. The reason is that around the time the cemetery became a park, the park’s superintendent decided somehow that it was a good idea to clear out the markers and move them to a back wall. Yes, away from the very exact spots in which the corresponding decedents were buried. Some of the stones remain in storage to this day. Many others are just gone. Undoubtedly, a bunch of them broke in the process, oh and yes the park superintendent back in 1908 wound up needing a new job after it was learned what he had done. The new project in Victoria includes preservation of the surviving gravestones. Wouldn’t that cause you pain if some of you people were buried there? I mean, who does something like that? Yeah, let’s move the stones and get them out of the way for the park. There’s a way to be remembered. Read all about that on ExtremeGenes.com too. 

In Newcastle, England, I think we can all be excited for Cindy Lightburn. Her maiden name was Maule and her family was associated with clock making in the area for about 250 years. Yeah, and they made watches and jewelry as well. Well, even though the business came to an end with her grandparents, you know, economic depressions, a couple of world wars, cheap imports from America, and all that, the name is still pretty well known in the areas. So next door to where Cindy’s ancestors made their watches and clocks is an antique store.  And the folks of the antique store recently learned that another antique store had come across a barometer with an engraved plate indicating that the Maule family was the creator. So Cindy was informed. She drove over and checked it out and said that no one had ever heard of the family during any generation or time period during those 250 years they were in business making barometers. It had come from an estate and the suspicion is it was a special order of a couple 100 years ago. It has a hygrometer, measures humidity, has a mercury filled thermometer, a clock (had to have one of those) and a setting knob and spirit level next to the nameplate. It even measures air pressure. Now you’d think they could have figured out how to make this thing fly with all that on it. [Laughs] Anyway, Cindy bought it even though it was pretty beat up. The plate tells her the device was made by her second great grandfather and she has since taken it to a modern day clock and barometer enthusiast who helped her to restore it to its former splendor. You know, these are the kind of things, these family treasures, that I call “mooseheads.” And I call them mooseheads because they’re like the animal trophies that hunters are most proud to display. They can be photographs, like one I have at my house of my fireman ancestor from 1888. It could be an old family bible or a journal, anything that may have taken years to find or you thought you could never have or may have come upon really unexpectedly. You can have a few things that really qualify to be mooseheads but obviously not too many or they just couldn’t be that. Anyway, Cindy is now proudly displaying her great, great grandfather’s barometer moosehead in the hall in her home, along with several other clocks and various other items her ancestors made that she’s collected over the years. Now you can see the barometer and check out the story on our website ExtremeGenes.com. By the way, our stories never come down. You can find most under our News tab which serves as a great Archive. Each story has keywords so if you have a particular interest such as the Civil War, use keywords Civil War and see what comes up. It’s like a Drudge Report for all things family history. Another great tale this week involves just that, the Civil War and what a “family find” for Marvin Toss. He’s 80 and recently opened up a drawer in which he found some very old papers. It was a packet of them. They were folded, yellow, and very brittle. When he gently opened them to see what they were about he learned they concerned his great grandfather William J. Porter. Now the papers were noted as being Special Order No 177 and it was the crux of a very unusual event in the history of the Civil War. It ordered the dishonorable discharge of 61 men from Company K in the First Regiment Eastern Shore Infantry Volunteers of Maryland. That’s a mouthful. William J. Porter was Lieutenant over that particular Unit and he was ordered to execute the commands found in the papers. Now the story goes that the Unit was created with exacting specifications to protect the Eastern shore of Maryland and parts of Virginia, I guess. And Company K was not to leave the State. Well, when the orders came for this group to report for duty at Gettysburg in Pennsylvania most of the men refused to go, claiming their charter of their militia unit did not recognize actions outside of Maryland and Virginia. So Porter was ordered to dishonorably discharge these men for violating the spirit of their charter at a time of national crises. He was then supposed to join the remainder of the first regiment and all of these things he did and then after the war and as years went by many attempts were made by the dishonored men to have their discharges changed in recognition of their service within the bounds of their charter. That has never happened.  Now these papers have been in the family attic. It belonged to Marvin Toss’s mother who died in ’98 and she got them from her mother who was the daughter of William J. Porter. 12:22 said he had never seen them until l they were clearing out the old house. It don’t even have a photograph of Porter or anything else relating to a service to the union except a $50 Confederate bill which Toss suspects his great grandfather picked up as a souvenir  from a prisoner during the war. But talk about an amazing piece of family history that he now owns. So there you go some great stories for you to check out on ExtremeGenes.com, always inspiring, sometimes amusing “seeking Richard III.” And by the way our new poll is posted for this week. Since our guest Jennifer Utley from Ancestry.com is the research coordinator for “Who Do You Think You Are?” we thought we would ask you how big a fan of “Who Do You Think You Are?” are you. A really big fan, I’m a fan, Not too much of a fan. Cast your vote at ExtremeGenes.com. We’ll have our final tally next week.

Later in the show, a listener from Michigan with an outstanding discovery to share on our Extreme Genes “Find Line” 1-234-56 Genes, that’s 1-234-56 Genes. Well, the show is only on an hour a week. Our “Find Line” is open 24/7 for your stories, comments and questions and we may actually use them on the show, so speak clearly and leave us your contact information. This segment was brought to you by Heritage Consulting Genealogy Services, your family history resource. Call 877 537 2000. “Who Do You Think You Are?” a behind the scenes look with research coordinator Jennifer Utley from Ancestry.com next on Extreme Genes, Family History radio and ExtremeGenes.com.

Segment 2 Episode 11

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Jennifer Utley

Fisher: And welcome back to Extreme Genes, Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth brought to you by TMC the Multimedia Centers Preserving Your Memories for over Forty Years. I’m very excited to have with us Jennifer Utley from Ancestry.com. You are the what? You are the Lead Honcho for “Who Do You Think You Are?” What’s the official title? I know it doesn’t say honcho on your door.

Jennifer: That’s right. My official title is the Senior Manager of Research at Ancestry, but for “Who Do You Think You Are?” I’m specifically the Genealogist Coordinator.

Fisher: The gen... okay. Those are very long titles. You must have huge signs going across your door.

Jennifer: [Laughs] Yeah, something like that.

Fisher: So tell us, what does it entail to research “Who Do You Think You Are?”? What’s the process? Do they contact you and say, hey, we want to do this person, or that person? Or do you seek out something where you say hey, I got a line on this particular celebrity? How does that go?

Jennifer: So, when it comes to choosing the celebrities, they can come from many different ways.  In some cases TLC can tap celebrities. The production company can have a relationship with celebrities. I actually think, and this is a little bit of conjecture here, but I think that some celebrities encourage others.

Fisher: Really? 

Jennifer: I guess that Reba Mcentire, who was in a previous season, probably talks to Kelly Clarkson and told her what a great experience that was. Because Kelly Clarkson is marrying her step son, so they have a personal relationship. 

Fisher: Ah! Sure.

Jennifer: So you know, she probably told her it was a really great opportunity. And you know that’s me making that up, but I think that some of them come that way.

Fisher: Right.

Jennifer: Because sometimes it is the celebrities that contact us because they’ve seen the show and want to be a part of it. 

Fisher: They will contact Ancestry or TLC?

Jennifer: They actually contact SHED who is the production company.

Fisher: Ah! Okay. So, when they figure out who they might want to do, then what’s the next process that gets to you?

Jennifer: You know, we start family trees just like everyone else does. You’re supposed to start with what you know. 

Fisher: Right.

Jennifer: So, we sit down with the celebrity, and there are lots of questions that we ask. We find out what they know about their parents and their grandparents and where they were from, and you gather all that information. The other thing they do is, they ask them a lot of questions about, what do you want to get out of the show? What do are you interested in seeing? Because some would be interested in the military story, and some would be interested in someone who was in the arts, and some would be interested strong women.

Fisher: Right, makes sense. 

Jennifer: So it’s really good to get an idea of what they would be really interested in to see, and it’s also good to know if they’ve got any family legends that they’ve heard throughout the years, that we could go and see if we could prove along the way.

Fisher: Now, do you actually meet with the stars personally or is this through somebody else?

Jennifer: Someone else does the interviewing, but we get to read all the notes that come from the interviews.

Fisher: Ahh okay. So it’s basically detailed. Did you map out the questionnaire basically? 

Jennifer: We had some input into it but you know there are standard questionnaires. You can find interview questions all over the place about good things to ask people about their family history when you’re getting started.

Fisher: Sure. So you use the same stuff we all do. I just thought you’d have magic questions that, [Laughs] somehow nobody else did. 

Jennifer: [Laughs]

Fisher: Okay. So, which episodes have you been involved in then? 

Jennifer: So, I started this season.

Fisher: Okay.

Jennifer: And the celebrities that we’ve worked on, we’ve worked on Kelly Clarkson.

Fisher: Right.

Jennifer: Christina Applegate, Chelsea Handler, Zooey Deschanel, Chris O'Donnell, Cindy Crawford, Trisha Yearwood, and Jim Parsons. 

Fisher: Wow! That’s a great list. I would imagine though I mean to do that list it takes time. I mean I’ve been working on my line for thirty years and still I’m finding new things. How much time do they give you to work on each of these?

Jennifer: You know sometimes you have a full year between seasons airing where you could work on them.

Fisher: Okay.

Jennifer: And some come in really shortly. But I would say you know, for each episode for what you’re seeing on the screen, you’ve got to figure that more than a thousand hours of research went in to researching that episode.

Fisher: Wow! You’ve got a whole team, don’t you?

Jennifer: That’s right. We have about three or four people who work on the team from our side, and the SHED actually has some researchers too so we work together.

Fisher: So you coordinate. So you might have as many as what, six expert researchers at any one time? 

Jennifer: Yes, uh huh.

Fisher: Wow!

Jennifer: We also work with people who are out in the locations where we’re probably going to take the celebrities. 

Fisher: Outstanding. All right, so what were the most challenging lines to research this year? 

Jennifer: Probably the most challenging lines to research this year was the Cindy Crawford episode. 

Fisher: Yes.

Jennifer: For people who have seen that one that was the one that went back clear to the 700s where we linked her to Charlemagne.

Fisher: Right. Now, this is kind of funny to me because she got very excited about the Charlemagne thing and what I was really jealous about is she got to go to...it wasn’t a castle, what was the place she went to?

Jennifer: So it was the chapel.

Fisher: The chapel! You know I’m thinking that’s awesome but I mean almost everybody descends from Charlemagne, right? I mean he had twenty kids, lived a thousand years ago, you know the old theory that anybody who was alive at that time and has descendents now is an ancestor, everybody living now. But not everybody can find the links back to Charlemagne, but you did.

Jennifer: Yeah. Medieval genealogy can be kind f tricky. Do you think you’re related to Charlemagne? 

Fisher: Oh, no I have the line. I do have at least one of the lines yeah, absolutely. I think a lot of do, don’t you?

Jennifer: Well, I think if you’ve got European roots that go back that far, I think the chances are probably pretty good.  

Fisher: Right. Yeah if you get a nobility or royalty, I mean its solid lines, obviously well proven. Pretty much everybody does but it was fun to see her reaction to it. And people going, “Oh wow, Charlemagne, wow.” Not knowing that he’s behind most all of us. Tell us something unexpected that happened as a result of your involvement in the show.

Jennifer: Probably the most unexpected thing besides being interviewed by Extreme Genes, Family History Radio.

Fisher: Yes?

Jennifer: Would be that I actually got to exchange emails with one of the celebrities and that was pretty fun.

Fisher: And who was that?

Jennifer: I got to go back and forth and talk with Jim Parsons. He’s on the Big Bang Theory. He and I were just talking back and forth. He was interested in his family tree. He was interested in his DNA results, the test that he took with us.

Fisher: Okay. Did he post it by the way on Ancestry.com

Jennifer: So DNA results are always private on our site.

Fisher: Right.

Jennifer: He does have a family tree on our site.

Fisher: Yeah I guess that’s what I’m asking, did he attach his family tree with the DNA. And obviously you can use like a handle or something like that, but he is looking for matches then?

Jennifer: Right. He is interested, yes. He did put his tree up.

Fisher: That is so awesome. You know it’s a great service that you have at Ancestry.com, very excited about that. All right, your most exciting story line?

Jennifer: The one I was most excited about was the Zooey Deschanel episode. 

Fisher: All right, we’re going to get to that next. Exactly what it is that you found and your team found on “Who Do You Think You Are?” coming up next on Extreme Genes, Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com

Segment 3 Episode 11

Host: Scott Fisher with guests Jennifer Utley and Robbie

Fisher: Extreme Genes, Family History Radio ExtremeGenes.com, it is Fisher here, brought to you by TMC the Multimedia Centers preserving your memories for over 40 years. And this segment is brought to you by Heritage Consulting Genealogy Services, your family resource. Call 877 537 2000. We’re talking to Jennifer Utley today from Ancestry.com. She is the captain of research, the queen of genealogical coordination for “Who Do You Think You Are?” something like that big, long sign on her door. Is this your first year though? During the break you were just telling me you were scoring some points with your kids?

Jennifer: Yeah, I have a nine year old son.

Fisher: Right.

Jennifer: He’s a fan of The Big Bang Theory.

Fisher: Right.

Jennifer: And I earned some major cool mom points when he found out that Jim Parsons had emailed me.

Fisher: [Laughs] Yes.

Jennifer: When I emailed Jim back I told him about that and I said even though this isn’t a joke my kid would like to say to you “Bazinga.” 

Fisher: [Laughs]

Jennifer: Jim, he was very charming. He wrote back and he said thanks for using the “B” word.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Jennifer: It was fun to talk to him. He was very insightful and really involved.

Fisher: Isn’t that great, you know, when they get it and they get excited about it like the rest of us normal human beings do? So, Season 5 has just been announced on TLC.

Jennifer: Yes.

Fisher: How many episodes?

Jennifer: Last I heard is it will be ten episodes.

Fisher: Ten? So that’s two more than this past one that just wrapped up?

Jennifer: That’s right.

Fisher: So the question is who are the Stars?

Jennifer: Oh, I wish I knew so I can get started right now. [Laughs]

Fisher: Are you sure you don’t know?

Jennifer: I’m pretty sure I don’t know. I have a few ideas.

Fisher: Yeah?

Jennifer: But I don’t know.

Fisher: Okay, but they have ten episodes planned out. They’ve got to do all the research. It’s just hard for me to, you know, grasp, Jennifer that you don’t know who they are that we can’t reveal it here right now. 

Jennifer: Yeah, that’s something I can’t reveal now. There are a few that we were working on last season that we’ll continue on.

Fisher: Aah. So you may have a little head start on some of them anyway.

Jennifer: We do. And with a show like this when it takes that much time to research everything you need a head start.

Fisher: Sure, absolutely. So you’ve got two more episodes than you did last year. Does this mean you perhaps actually add somebody else to your team because you do have a research arm with AncestryProGenealogist.com

Jennifer: Yeah, so there are 30 ProGenealogists up at that division.

Fisher: Right.

Jennifer: And we will have to add more people. We’ll just get more people the opportunity to lead a tree.

Fisher: Do you get a lot of signed pictures back from these guys by the way?

Jennifer: Oh no. I’ve never had one of those.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Jennifer: That’s a good idea though. I should ask.

Fisher: You should get one for the team for every person you do, don’t you think? I mean, it’s a little perk in it for you.

Jennifer: I think that would be fun.

Fisher: There you go. All right, your favorite person, you mentioned Zooey Deschanel and you obviously worked on that. Tell us about that episode. I watched it. I thought it was fantastic and so many of them are but that one was particularly. That was an exceptional episode. Talk about that a little bit.

Jennifer: Yes, so when I interviewed Zooey, she knew. She’d heard from her family over the years that she came from a long line of Abolitionists and people who fought for, you know human rights. And so we were looking for a story like that. And you know, pretty quickly we found she had a lot of Quakers in her tree. And Quakers of course were at the forefront of the Abolitionist Movement.

Fisher: Right. And you know it’s not that long ago when we talked about the Civil War. I remember when I was a kid it was like the Civil War was about 120 years ago. It was like forever but when you go on the tree and you go, “Oh, wait a minute, it was only 5/6 generations back.”  It doesn’t take that long to find the line that works along with that oral tradition does it?

Jennifer: Exactly, yes.

Fisher: And so tell us about her, the people you found, the Quakers.

Jennifer: So, as we went back we found a really amazing historical event that took place at the farm that her family owned. So they weren’t living on the farm, but they had rented it out. And they had rented it out to an African American guy who was an escape slave and it was actually kind of a stop on the Underground Railroad.

Fisher: Wow!

Jennifer: And what had happened is there were some people who escaped and they were being sheltered there and the owners came up to try and retrieve them. And there was a big altercation, a big fight there at the farm. The slave owner was killed. His son was injured pretty badly and these former slaves were able to escape because of what happened there. But at the same time the woman is Zooey’s great grandmother, she nursed back to health the son of the slave owner who was so grievously injured. So we have a woman here who like did the right thing in all the right places.

Fisher: Everything, yes.

Jennifer: She was a really interesting person to research. She’s someone I wish was in my family tree.

Fisher: [Laughs] I think we all would. Are there any photos of her in existence?

Jennifer: At the very end of Zooey’s episode they do show her a photo of Sarah Pownall.

Fisher: Awesome. You know, I wish I had caught that part. I missed that. You know, the thing I loved about that episode though was the fact that John Wilkes Booth carried some document with him about that battle that went on, on that property. And it angered him. What’s he doing, carrying around a document about that letter or whatever it was?

Jennifer: Yeah, I think he had a letter that mentioned the Corset family. He was pretty upset. They were his friends. So these are the people where the father died and the son was injured badly.

Fisher: Right. I see. Okay, and so he was just carrying that with him and that just further incensed him. Don’t you wonder if that didn’t have anything to do with the crescendo of his decision to take out President Lincoln?

Jennifer: Yeah, I would think that once you stock all the different things that he found were grievances that that would have contributed to it.

Fisher: You know, here’s the other thing I like about that. I mean, obviously we have this wonderful stellar example of somebody who does all the right things under fire, then on the other side of it [Laughs] we’ve got Trisha Yearwood and she went back and found just a thief, somebody who was actually scheduled to hang!                                                 

Jennifer: Yes.

Fisher: You know I love that though. It’s nice to see some of these celebrities who don’t come from you know, “shining heroes.” Was it Chris O’Donnell who had the one from the war of 1812 who’s there at Fort McHenry, right? And then we have Charlemagne and all that. But to hear Trisha Yearwood and the thief and what a story she had with him too. The guy was accused over there and sentenced to hang and then somehow winds up back in Georgia in America.

Jennifer: I think my favorite quote from her episode is where she says, “I guess I’m not going to be showing I’m related to royalty.

Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs] Well, what I don’t understand though is at what point do people who were sentenced to hang over in England back in that time, what was the era, 1600s?

Jennifer: Yes, it was during Colonial times. 

Fisher: Yeah, all right.  

Jennifer: Yes, at that point they needed the manpower over in the States, well, in the colonies.

Fisher: Because to me as I always heard you know, “All right, you’re sentenced to hang, we’ll put you up on the gallows right now. Oh wait a minute, we have somebody who is going to send you to America.” That doesn’t happen. So you’re saying they just needed the manpower?

Jennifer: In that era they did. He was fortunate. That was a good alternate.

Fisher: [Laughs] 

Jennifer: I would take the servitude in the colonies as well.

Fisher: Well, wasn’t he supposed to do it for seven years or something like that and it didn’t go quite as long?

Jennifer: Yeah, I can’t remember if it was seven or fourteen but yes, it appears that somehow he weaseled his way out of that and ended up a landowner in Georgia just a few years later.

Fisher: Now I’ve got thieves in my line and my wife has a boy. I’ll tell you the one in my wife’s line. He was creative and brilliant in his deceit. [Laughs] And he didn’t wind up going to jail either. I think they thought it was a worse sentence to have to go back and face his wife and nine children for what he did. But do you have thieves in your line Jennifer?

Jennifer: You know, I think everyone likes to have a black sheep in their line.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Jennifer: Because if you have a black sheep you have better records.

Fisher: That’s true.

Jennifer: So, I do have a guy in my line who is in court records. I believe he was a little too familiar with the local women.

Fisher: Okay. [Laughs] I love the word “familiar.”

Jennifer: So that’s where I find him in records, yeah.

Fisher: [Laughs] Okay, all right. real quick, big announcement recently here about Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org the two mega giants of this whole thing. five years, a billion records. Tell me about that.

Jennifer: Yeah, it’s just going to be a really awesome way to digitize some of those great records that are in the vault. And Ancestry and Family Search are going to work together to see if we can speed up that process and make those things more available to customers.

Fisher: Unbelievable. Family Search with all the volunteers you guys are going into your own vault with $60 million into this thing. It’s a great announcement, very exciting. You’ve got to wonder where is end of all this? When do we get to the point where we have all the records in the world? 

Jennifer:  you know, I would be surprised if we ever get there. I think genealogists are super resourceful and they find genealogical content in all kinds of crazy records.

Fisher: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. And it’s going to be interesting when we start to get to the Chinese stuff, right? 

Jennifer: We’ve even worked on some of those records as well.

Fisher: Really? Now that’s another show. Jennifer it’s been great talking to you. Thank you so much for sharing your insight on “Who Do You Think You Are?” and I hope we’ll have you back.

Jennifer: Great. Thank you for having me.

Fisher: Here at Extreme Genes we’re always telling you about our “Find Line” which is 1-234-56 GENES. You can call and share any of your stories, your questions, your comments, we’d love to hear from you. It’s open 24/7. You can records your comments and make sure you leave us some information so we can get back to you and find out what’s on your mind. We’ve got Robbie on the line. Where are you in Michigan, Robbie?

Robbie: I’m in North Hall, Michigan, a Detroit suburb.

Fisher: Excellent. Welcome to the show. Glad to have you.

Robbie: Thank you.  I saw your piece on digitized newspapers. I learned a lot from it and it led me to all kinds of things. I found things about my husband’s family. My family, I’ve been surprising all my relatives with newspaper articles about them.

Fisher: Isn’t that the greatest stuff? It’s a revelation, isn’t it?

Robbie: It is. And it’s so exciting to find it and having it pop up on the screen.

Fisher: Okay, I want to ask what services did you use to find this stuff because there are many of them. Some are free. What did you have?

Robbie: Chronicling America.

Fisher: Right and that’s free from the Library of Congress, yeah.

Robbie: And I searched Illinois Digitized Newspapers, came up with all types of things from the University of Illinois.

Fisher: Wonderful. 

Robbie: And I also have been on Newspapers.com. 

Fisher: Okay. And that’s a subscription site.

Robbie: It is.

Fisher: And so, just give us a story or two what you found.

Robbie: Well, I found where my father-in-law was in a homecoming court in high school. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs]

Robbie: And he hadn’t told anybody about that.

Fisher: Aha! Have you laid that on him yet?

Robbie: Yes, yes he loved it.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Robbie: But he had forgotten about it so yeah, lots of good things to do with the newspapers. But I’ve also been learning a lot from your side about finding my ancestors and I found a good one. 

Fisher: Okay, fill us in.

Robbie: Can I tell you about him?

Fisher: Yes.

Robbie: Okay, his name is William Wedgbar Underwood. 

Fisher: Boy there’s a name. [Laughs] Okay.

Robbie: Well, that’s just one of his names. He has several aliases. He goes by Wedgbar, Wedgbear, Wedggear, all kinds of things.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Robbie: And we think it’s because he didn’t read or write. He signed his name with an X. 

Fisher: Right.

Robbie: So whenever he told someone his name they interpreted it.

Fisher: Now what era are we talking about? When did he live and where?

Robbie:  Revolutionary War.

Fisher: Revolutionary War period. And what State?

Robbie: Well, he was born in Virginia. He lived in North Carolina and in Georgia.

Fisher: Okay, and you found him and what is his relationship to you?

Robbie: He is my five great grandfather.

Fisher: So he’s one of I want to say…

Robbie: Seven generations back. 

Fisher: Yes, seven generations back so it’s like one of 64 or something like that, maybe 128, I don’t know. I have to figure it out. 

Robbie: I’ll let you do that math. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs] It’s a small piece but nonetheless. This is awesome. So what did you learn about him?

Robbie: The hunt has been just phenomenal. I always knew I had a four great grandfather, Jesse Underwood who was a Baptist preacher.

Fisher: Okay.

Robbie: And my grandma Maggie used to tell me stories about him. He moved from North Carolina with his wife to the Bald Knob region of Southern Illinois where my folks came from. And every year they had their reunion celebrating Jessie Underwood and how wonderful he is, and he had this huge family of fourteen children. But nobody ever talked much about where Jesse came from. So this year I was going through some of my Grandma Maggie’s things and decided I’d just poke around on the Internet and see if I could find Jesse’s ancestors. And nobody ever talks about him much because he’s hard to find with all these aliases.

Fisher: Right.

Robbie: Someone in our family named Mary Howenstein wrote a book before she died, called “Patriots, Their Footsteps Erased” because she wanted people to keep looking for this man

Fisher: Okay. [Laughs] He was a mystery.

Robbie: Yes, a big mystery. So I started looking for him and really wasn’t too satisfied with what I found. A lot didn’t make sense. Things just weren’t quite right. And I was looking through some forms, some genealogy forms and found a thread some 2005 where someone gave their first and last name and the city they lived in. So I looked them up in white pages and gave them a call and sure enough I’m related. We had a great conversation and she said to me you need to look for William Wedgbar on the Patriots of Color Database. 

Fisher: Really?

Robbie: Well that was astounding to me. That thought had never occurred to me. So we hung up the phone. I went through the Patriots of Color database and there he was. [Laughs]

Fisher: And he had been a Revolutionary soldier, an African American Revolutionary soldier. 

Robbie: Yes he was, and a very important one. He was in a lot of great periods of the war, important. I guess you know, great isn’t what you would call a battle but he was under the command of Baron Steuben, Colonel Posey, Major Finley. He was also at the Siege of Yorktown where Lord Cornwallis surrendered.

Fisher: Yes.

Robbie: This man witnessed great moments in history.

Fisher: Yes, the time basically, the country at the tide of the war turned with that. Unbelievable! And what was his rank? Was he a Private? Was he a Non-Commissioned Officer? What was his story?

Robbie: He was a Private. 

Fisher: Okay.

Robbie: And after the war he received a land grant that we can’t trace him back to this. He was given 200 acres in Virginia for his war service.

Fisher: Wow! What a great story. And how many years have people been looking for him?

Robbie: Well, Mary Howenstein has been looking for him for over 20 years. I can’t remember how long she’s been gone, but I think since the people started being interested in the history of Jesse Underwood in my family, they’ve been looking for him. I hope there are other people out there who have been looking for him for a long time and have some information. So now that we can include African American families [Laughs] as descendants of Jesse Underwood we might really find out some details and learn to understand him. 

Fisher: Yes.

Robbie: What I’d really like to know Fisher is where William Wedgbar Underwood came from. I’d like to know something about his parents. 

Fisher: His background. Well, and that’s always challenging back in that era for anybody to find. It just depends on what the records are for those areas, but in the South, always tough. A lot of courthouses were burned during the Civil War and a lot of records lost, but Robbie wow, what a breakthrough, what a find and how interesting. You’ve got to feel pretty good about yourself because so many people have tried for so long to find this guy.

Robbie: I do. I just wish I’d looked earlier. I guess the timing wasn’t right, but I might not have found all these clues had I looked earlier.

Fisher: You know it often seems like the timing does have to be right, for the right person to come along or the right database to suddenly be available. I think there’s a lot of stuff. It took me years and years to find it. If I waited till now it wouldn’t have taken any time at all, although I’m really glad for the time I spent doing those things but I don’t think rules are any different for now, that things will come down the line. It will just open doors that we never imagined.

Robbie: They do. And the hunting is exciting especially when you get something big at the end of it.

Fisher: No question. You know, I should mention by the way you talked about the newspapers earlier. We have lists of some of these free sites for digitized newspapers on our website ExtremeGenes.com so people can check those out. And of course anytime anybody has a suggestion for a free site that should be mentioned, drop it to me at [email protected] and we’ll get it up there. So Robbie thanks so much for calling in on the “Find Line” and sharing this with us! That’s great news and we share your joy.

Robbie: Thank you Fisher!

Fisher: Has this been good today or what? This segment was brought to you by Heritage Consulting Genealogy Services, your family history resource. Call 877 537 2000. Tom Perry makes it even better coming up next from TMCPlace.com on Extreme Genes Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com.

Segment 4 Episode 11

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: Hey, and welcome back to Extreme Genes, Family History Radio. It’s brought to you by TMC, The Multimedia Centers, preserving your memories for over forty years. It is Fisher here with Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com who joins us every week to talk about preservation. We've both been kind of buzzing here about that call from Robby a few minutes ago.

Tom: Oh yeah!

Fisher: And what a story!

Tom: It’s crazy how you find this stuff! You had no idea you're going to.

Fisher: Well, and the interesting thing is, now she really kind of had a combination of things. First of all, the digitized newspapers, that's big. And she had some great discoveries there. But the discoveries of the different cultures in the background is becoming more and more common, and its fun because people get excited about it.

Tom: Oh yeah. And it’s interesting that back in the day, like ten, twenty years ago people weren't embracing it, they go, "Oh no, I don't want these people in my life." But now it’s exciting, it’s fun! It’s like, "Oh, I've got these people from here." Like we talked about, you know, with my Jewish ancestry we didn't know even existed and I think it’s so cool!

Fisher: Very interesting. Who were they, your grandparents you found out, birth grandparents?

Tom: Right, my dad's parents. He didn't even know he was adopted until he was probably in his thirties. And then when we found out, you know, most of the family was gone. We started, you know, piecing things together and found out that his father was a German Jew and his mother was a Russian Jew.

Fisher: And you've embraced that. And I know I have son in law who found out recently he's Palestinian in part.

Tom: Wow!

Fisher: And he's excited about that too. So my little granddaughter is 1/16th Palestinian. It’s interesting to see, just like Robby and yourself and my family, we're seeing an embracing of the merging of these various cultures and backgrounds. But like you said, I don't know that we would have seen twenty, thirty, forty years ago.

Tom: Oh absolutely! In fact, the reason my dad never found out that he was adopted was because back in those days, you know, "Oh, you're adopted. Something's wrong with that." But you know, I've always told people that work with foster care is, "Hey, if you're adopted, they've got to pick you. If they gave birth to you, they're stuck with you."

Fisher: Yes! [Laughs] That's a good way to look at it. Well, it was great stuff and a great call from Robby. What do you have for us today, Tom?

Tom: We've had a lot of calls, you know, thanks to this show of asking questions. One of the questions people ask is, "What's the difference between going to a professional duplicator and having my disk duplicated or buying a duplicator versus doing it on my home computer?"

Fisher: Right. That makes sense. It’s a good question.

Tom: Yeah. It’s a wonderful question. When you have a duplicator, you don't have any software basically involved, so you're writing zeros to zeros and ones to ones. So your duplicates should be exactly the same as your master. No difference unless there was some kind of, something wrong with the physical make up of the disk itself. When you're doing copying, whether you're doing a PC or Mac, you've got software issues you're working with and different ways that you can write it. So just by clicking on different things can make your disk not as compatible as when you do it through a duplicate. So if you're going to send a whole bunch of disks out to family and friends, its best to go to a professional duplicator, have them duplicate your disk versus sitting at home and doing one at a time, because of the time. Plus, if you have one setting wrong on your computer, then there's a chance that the other people aren't going to be able to read it anyway.

Fisher: There's a big difference then between copying and duplicating.

Tom: Oh absolutely. Always go with duplicating, because then your duplicate should be exactly the same as your master. When you do it at home on a regular computer, then you're actually doing a copy. And then if somebody makes a copy of a copy of a copy a copy, it degrades and degrades and degrades.

Fisher: And eventually you pretty much have nothing.

Tom: Exactly.

Fisher: Now why is that? Sometimes, I remember somebody sent me a DVD, I couldn't play it in my one computer, and then I went to another one and I could.

Tom: Okay, the biggest difference for that is your driver. And I have people calling me with the same question all the time and I say, "Well, you know, you need to update your driver." "Oh no, no, I bought my computer a few weeks ago." If you go in and look at a hundred PCs and the serial numbers are 12345678910, one of them could have a burner that’s a year old, one could have burner that's a month old, one could have a burner that's four years old, because when the PC manufacturers buy things, they buy them in huge quantities and they usually overbuy. And they are not going to throw something away because its, you know, expired so to speak. They're going to keep it in the computer till they're gone. So you could have a brand new computer, but your DVD burner and player might be a year old, it could be two years old, which is no big deal. You just need to go to Hp or whoever you got your computer from and update your drivers. And that generally takes care of it.

Fisher: Great advice Tom as always. Great to have you back. And we'll see you again next week.

Tom: Sounds good. We'll see you then.

Fisher: Hey, and by the way, if you have any questions for Tom about preservation, he's always happy to help. You can email him at [email protected]. Thanks once again to Jennifer Utley from Ancestry.com on her insight on Who Do You Think You Are, and our caller, Robby on her great success story. Check out all the stories that are going on right now on our website, ExtremeGenes.com. We'll talk to you next week. This has been a Fisher Voice Works Production.

Subscribe now to find out why hundreds of thousands of family researchers listen to Extreme Genes every week!

Email me new episodes