Episode 116 - Fisher Talks To Pearl Harbor Vet Who Was On the Arizona / Researching Your World War II Ancestor

podcast episode Dec 07, 2015

Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org.  Could you be the first member of your family to live to be 120?!  Research into a new pill... that David already takes!... says you could be.  David tells you what that pill is and why he takes it.  Then, "born in Babylonia, moved to Arizona..." it's new news on a very old king... King Tut.  What's going on at his tomb now?  Find out on the podcast!  David then talks about an Englishman who tracked down his American World War II vet father and got quite a surprise at his father's passing.  Then learn about a huge boon to Irish research that is now available, an awesome FREE Tech Tip from David, and this week's free database from NEHGS.

Next, Fisher interviews 94-year-old Lou Conter, who, at age 20, was a member of the crew of the Arizona.  He was on board the morning of the attack... December 7, 1941.  Hear Lou's first hand account of that day, and how it affected his life in the years that followed. Also hear why Lou says the first act of war committed by the Japanese actually happened three days earlier.  He is one of the last of those who were there on the day President Roosevelt said "would live in infamy."  Be sure to share this special visit with your friends.

Then, Dr. Ken Alford, a professor at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, gives a very concise lesson on how to research your World War II ancestor's military records.  You'll be shocked at how much information may be out there on your family's hero.

Fisher then gets under the hood on file conversion and preservation with Preservation Authority Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com.  Have you started your preservation program yet?

That's all this week on Extreme Genes/ America's Family History Show!

Transcript of Episode 116

Host Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 116

Fisher: And, welcome back to Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.  It is Fisher here, the Radio Roots Sleuth, on the program where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out.  Well I am excited today because it is Pearl Harbor Day on Extreme Genes, and I have the extreme honor of talking to Lou Conter coming up in about eight or nine minutes.  He was on the Arizona at Pearl Harbor on December 7th 1941, one of the fortunate survivors. He’s 94 years old and he’s going to tell us all about his experience that day 74 years ago, coming up.  Very excited about that.  And then afterwards, later in the show I’m going to talk to Doctor Ken Alford about how you can research your WWII ancestors.  So this is all going to be great stuff, usable stuff, inspiring stuff… Pearl Harbor Day on Extreme Genes.   But right now let’s check in with Boston, and our good friend from the New England Historic Genealogical Society, the Chief Genealogist, David Allen Lambert, and let’s not leave out AmericanAncestors.org.

Fisher: Hello David!

David: Hey, Happy Pearl Harbor day from here in Beantown!

Fisher: Yeah this is going to be an interesting interview and I’m really excited to hear what Lou has to say about that experience. Imagine he was just 20 years old at the time.

David: Amazing, and I know we still have handful of those old veterans. I’m always watching the live feed from December 7th, it’s really the twilight of WWII but we can’t forget the service that they had that day many, many years ago.

Fisher: That’s right.

David: And some will live a very, very long time.

Fisher: Oh there’s no doubt and speaking of which, it’s funny you bring that up. There’s a story out this week about a pill that the FDA has approved for testing now among the general population, and it can help you live to be a 120 years old.

David: Oh that’s fabulous!

Fisher: Yes!

David: You know the safest thing about that is they always say take your vitamins. What’s the pill?

Fisher: It’s a pill that diabetics use and I don’t know the name of this thing but I guess it’s been around for a while now and it’s typically used and they’re saying that people who use that for diabetes now are outliving people who don’t have diabetes by like 8 years.

David: Stop the presses for a second, just to let you know that I’m a Type 2 diabetic and for five years now I’ve taken a pill called Metformin.

Fisher: That’s it! That’s what it is. Yes!

David: Oh great! Well I could do the 75th anniversary of Extreme Genes.

Fisher: Yes!

David: Down the road you better start taking some too.

Fisher: If it gets approved I’ll be happy to do that David.

David: Well I’ll let my children know that when they’re in their 90’s they’re going to have to wheel dad around.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: That’s amazing. Well you know if not, they’ll prop me up me up in the corner and that’s kinda like my first story for family histoire news.  I love archaeology and of course everyone’s heard of King Tut.

Fisher:  Oh yeah!

David: And a great song by Steve Martin.

Fisher: Love that!

David:  New radar scans have shown that there are probably up to two rooms behind the walls of King Tut’s tomb… that may be another tomb!

Fisher: Really?

David: And it’s quite possible just like when you’re building something that they could have just add it on, and they’ve always thought that the room that King Tut was in was smaller than most Egyptian pharaoh’s tombs.  So it’s possible in the next coming weeks we can find that there’s hidden treasure or archaeological evidence of something from the 14th century BC that we’ve never laid eyes on yet.

Fisher: Wow, won’t that be fun!

David: Well discoveries are always fun and one of the ones that kind of touched my heart was the recent story about a gentleman in Gloucestershire, England…William Gaylor.  William was like many other kids back in World War 2 that had a dad that was a serviceman.   In this case his mom met his dad at a dance over in England. They had a romance, she became with child and he was shipped out.

Fisher: Wow.

David: William was suffering from cancer back about 10 years ago and he decided he was going to give himself a Christmas gift, find his dad. This is before DNA. Well for a pound ninety five in the infancy of the Internet he tracked down his dad. He then contacted him, visited him and it was kind of a heart wrenching thing because I guess his dad had a cancer problem as well.  He had a brain tumor so he wasn’t as lucid it would seem. But he connected and found siblings and he came back to England and found out that after his father died that they added him as a beneficiary in the will.

Fisher: Wow!

David: Which wasn’t his intention.

Fisher: Right.

David: It was nice to read about that. You know it’s funny; I work with some of the leaders in the field here at NEHGS in Boston. One of my dear friends and a long time colleague is Marie Daly. The other day it was like Christmas came early, Fish. She came down very excited. Apparently through FamilySearch they’ve now digitized some of the great records of Ireland.  The house, field, tenure and rent books that are part of what’s called Griffith’s valuation. This is the era before the famine. So what happens is you find the families in the actual town; now they’re browsable here… they’re not searchable by name.  But say if you found David Lambert living in the parish of Drumragh, you find it and then my name is crossed off the next year and says, “Gone to America.”

Fisher: Wow!

David: I mean we don’t have Irish censuses. They don’t survive. But this is census substitute and these are just a hidden treasure and just one of the great things and that‘s why NEHGS loves working with FamilySearch in that there are so many wonderful databases that are coming out and this is like you see unbeknownst to her and she is one if the leaders in the field.  And I was happy to see her face light up and I know that every hour she has spent since then has been looking for her ancestors.

Fisher: Unbelievable!

David: My tech tip is one that I’m not sure if we chatted about this before, “Are you aware of Archive.org?”

Fisher: Yes, I’m aware of it, but I have never used it.

David: I want you to give yourself a little bit of a holiday gift. I want you to sign up. You have to create an account for free and it has on currently 8.6 million books.

Fisher: Wow!

David: Searchable, 2.2 million movies, 2.7 million songs; it’s amazing. And essentially it has old audio clips, some things from long ago, old movies that are you know the old black and white, the silent movies.  But you know what they’re doing is they’re going library by library and copying things. Unbeknownst to me, they came to my public library and my high school year book is now on line which is frightening.

Fisher: [Laughing] I’m gonna look at that.

David: Anyway, one more thing to add is at NEHGS and American Ancestors we have our free guest user database and we’re going German this week with again collaboration with FamilySearch.  This includes some German citizen list from Westafalen in Minden from 1574.

Fisher: Oh wow!

David: And 1902 and the Mecklenburg-Schwerin census of 1890 and 1900 available just by simply by going to AmericanAncestors.org and signing up for a guest user.

Fisher: There you go. David, good to talk you! We’ll talk to you again next week.

David: Talk to you soon my friend.

Fisher: And coming up in three minutes I’m gonna talk to Lou Conter. He was on the Arizona at Pearl Harbor on December 7th 1941.  Coming up on Extreme Genes America’s Family History Show!

Segment 2 Episode 116

Host Scott Fisher with guest Lou Conter

Fisher: And welcome back to Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com.  I am Fisher, your Radio Roots Sleuth, and of course this is the week where we remember what happened on December 7th 1941.  The day President Roosevelt said “Would live in infamy.”And indeed it has.  There are still heroes among us who lived through that day, and I’m very pleased and honored to have on the phone with me right now one of those heroes, Lou Conter.  And Lou is in Grass Valley, California. Ninety four years young.  

Fisher: How are you Lou?

Lou: Fine, thank you.

Fisher: Take us back to that day because most of us weren’t even alive at the time that happened, yet alone have the ability to remember.  Give us a little background about your time in the military and what brought you to Hawaii at that time.

Lou: Well, I went aboard the Arizona in Long Beach in the end of1939, after three months of Boot Camp in San Diego. The fleet was anchored in Long Beach at the time. I went in the second division, to mess cooking and back to second division.  Then I was transferred into the Quartermaster gang for navigation training and then in April 1st of 1940, the fleet left Long Beach and went to Honolulu at Pearl Harbor. Then after the exercises were done, they based the fleet permanently in Pearl Harbor instead of Long Beach. And so then, we operated from April 1st on. Half the fleet would go out for ten days and then come back in. Then up to the end of 1940 we went to Bremerton for overhaul for two and a half months and came back to Honolulu on the 1st of January of 1941.

Fisher: So you enlisted then during the time of the Depression, yes?

Lou: Yes, right out of high school.  

Fisher: A lot of people did that at that time, didn’t they, because of the economic situation?

Lou: Well, you know, you in the Navy for four years. We got seventeen dollars a month for the first three months, and then twenty one dollars a month till we made second class, and thirty six dollars and we had board and room too. We had hammocks that we slept in. We had a hook and the beams and the ship. We slept in hammocks until they put in bunks, four high.  A lot of guys rather stayed in their hammocks till they got used to it. You had three guys sleeping underneath you.     

Fisher: Wow. Did you anticipate at the time that you enlisted that you might wind up going to war during those four years, or was it just “Hey, here’s a way to make a living?”

Lou: Well no, I think that there was half and half at the time, ‘38/’39, but then after we went to Pearl Harbor in April of ‘40, we all knew that we were going to war but we just didn’t know when.

Fisher: Um hmm.

Lou: It was just a matter of time because you know, we operated up and down the 180th meridian and we couldn’t cross it because we had fourteen inch guns aboard the battleships.  And when the Japanese came across in the Northern Pacific on December the 4th with their battleships and carriers, it was really an act of war on the 4th of December instead of waiting till the 7th because they crossed the 180th without permission and under silence.

Fisher: Hmm.

Lou: That was the date, December 4th that President Roosevelt got the message from the embassy in Jakarta that the Japanese fleet had gone to sea and they had sent the message “East Wind Rain,” which meant that Pearl Harbor was to be attacked within seventy two hours.

Fisher: Now what were you doing that day?  December 7th 1941. You were a young kid, you are what, twenty years old at that point?

Lou: Twenty years old. I was just took over quartermaster of the watch. When we were in port, quartermaster of the watch is on the quarter deck down by where the gangplanks are going over to the vessel and over the liberty boats, and when they were at sea, it’s up on the bridge with the captain.  Because the quartermasters do the navigation and star sights, and keep the logs and things like that. So our station was between two or three in the main turret.

Fisher: And you were on the Arizona the morning of the attack?

Lou: Yes. When they first came over on the quarter deck we sounded general quarters, and the band was getting ready to play for colors at five minutes to eight and as soon as they sounded of general quarters, they went back to their battle stations. They were all killed. Same as all my quartermaster buddies were killed, and five minutes later I would have been on the bridge with the captain. But he said to secure the quarterdeck first.  So we had to throw the lines off from Arizona the vessel get the vessel away from us so we could get into her and get to sea because we had just come in on Friday and we had refuelled. We had a full load of fuel and ammunition and everything else. We had to get the vessel away from us to get away from the docks.  

Fisher: Right. So you were on the ship at that point. Of course it was a panicked situation.

Lou: Everyone knew it was the Japanese. Like Commander Fuqua said after the raid, his official statement said, “Everyone on the ship performed extraordinarily well, and there was no one individual that outlasted the other one.”  Because we were well trained; we’d been to sea since April 1st, 1940, practically two years.

Fisher: Um hmm.

Lou: And all we did at sea was train for war with Japan.

Fisher: Right.

Lou: In the Pacific. So we were well trained and everybody went to their stations immediately. It took us fifty years to get off of the news reports and everything that the band had played in the battle of bands the night before, which they did not. There were a few people of the band over there watching them, but they did not play. They were going to play the following week or week after that. And the newspaper said that they were allowed to sleep in that morning and they got killed in their bunks. And none of them were killed in their bunks they were all at their battle stations.  Everybody was at their battle station by three minutes to eight. We sounded General Quarters at five minutes to eight.  It didn’t take them two to three minutes to get to their battle stations and secure all the watertight doors and everything else.

Fisher: So, for you that day, this attack came along, you’re below deck, so you escaped harm while all your buddies were lost.

Lou: We were on top of the deck between turret three and four on the quarter deck, and that’s why everybody below deck practically got killed, except a few of ‘em we got out of turret four.  Everybody else that survived was above decks and in turret three or four. And then there were five men in the foremast above the bridge, the fire control men.  After the blast, the vessel threw a line across to them and they came down the line and three of them got over to the vessel, burned about 75% of their bodies, and the other two dropped into the water. 

Fisher: How did you escape, Lou?

Lou: Well, you never know how you escape, you’re just lucky that you didn’t get killed that day too.  But we were on the quarterdeck and when Commander Fuqua got knocked out by a bomb over by turret four he came to and took charge.  He was our senior officer aboard, our first lieutenant. As the people come out of the fire, we laid them out on the deck to save them, to get them into the motor launches to the hospital.  Then water started coming up on the deck. He said, “Abandon ship” it was about twenty five to nine or something when he said that.  The ones that survived got over the side and into Ford Island or else they got into the motor launches. And then we got into the motor launch and picked up bodies and parts of bodies out of the water because the whole fleet was burning.  We fought the fire on the Arizona until Tuesday, and they got out. Then we took a rest for three or four days and then we started diving on the ship to try to bring up bodies.  After five or six days we were in shallow water helmets, and Pete Uzar was our main diver, he was a water tender first, and he dove in a regular suit and stayed down four, five, six hours and we stayed down maybe thirty - forty minutes is all in the water. Shallow water helmets while somebody’s pumping air on the deck.

Fisher: Right.

Lou: But after five or six days, Pete decided it was too dangerous, we were getting air hoses caught on the doors and everything else, and so they called it off. We abandoned ship and that was it. The survivors went to other ships. From base force went to other ships.  To destroyers and everything, it was able to go to sea.  I went to Commander Base Force, and captain Geiselman who was our Executive Officer, was made Provost Marshall in Honolulu.  Since Marshall Law was declared immediately, without an environmental impact report or any other hearings. The military took over and Captain Geiselman was appointed Provost Marshall.  He called Pete and I in to patrol the streets and help, and anybody in Honolulu after sunset was restricted from going out or before sunrise or they get shot.

Fisher: Wow!

Lou: And so I lasted there until the first part of January. We had our orders. Johnnie Johnson and I had orders to flight school, November 1st.  Captain Van Valkenburgh called us down and said, “We’re going back to Long Beach to pick up our 1.1 December the 19th. So you either go back with us you go to Pensacola from there.  But we lost our orders on the Arizona December 7th. So it was about the first week in January when I was over at Hitchcock’s house for dinner, Admiral Calhoun came in and said, “I thought you went to flight school.”  I told him we lost our orders. And it wasn’t three or four days, they pulled Johnnie off the destroyer and myself, we were on the Lurline back to San Francisco, and went to Pensacola Flight School, as he was a Gunner’s Mate and I was a Quartermaster Second Class.

Fisher: Now let’s talk about how this has affected your life. You were twenty years old at the time I mean you were just a kid.  Obviously it was a horrific thing and I’m sure that it was more painful as you looked back on it. Talk about that a little bit, how that impacted you and your ability to function going forward through the war and since.

Lou: Well, we handled it the way we were trained. We had hard trained on site and we handled it that way and that’s what we had to do.   We knew we had to win the war and go. So we did what we had to do. Like Loren Bruner was on the Arizona, he lives in La Mirada now. He’s ninety five.  He was one of the ones that came off the foremast with burns to 75% of his body. They put him in the hospital until July of ‘42, and he was pretty well then and they said, “You’re well to go back to duty.” And they put him in a destroyer and he didn’t see the United States till January 1946. Don Stratton, who was on the Arizona, got burned and he spent two years in the hospital and he came out with a medical, but he’s livin’ in Colorado Springs, too.  John Anderson he was our Senior Petty Officer. He was a Boseman’s Mate and he’s ninety nine now. His twin brother was killed on the Arizona.  So they have different thoughts, you know?

Fisher: Sure.

Lou: I’ve learned in survival the will to live, and you’ve got to be positive thinking all the time and the will to live.  

Fisher: He’s Lou Conter. He’s a veteran of World War II. Survived the Arizona and being shot down over the Pacific. Sir, we thank you for your service. Thank you for your time and sharing your story with everybody, and we wish you well through your current trial with your wife’s illness.

Lou: Thank you very much!

Fisher: Wow.

And coming up in five minutes, Dr. Ken Alford is going to join me and we’re going to teach you how to track the records of your World War II ancestors.  On Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show!

Segment 3 Episode 116

Host Scott Fisher with guest Ken Alford

Fisher: And welcome back to America's Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com.  It is Fisher here, and I've got to tell you, I'm still just taking all of it in that we just heard from Lou Conter about surviving the Japanese attack on the Arizona at Pearl Harbor back on December 7th 1941.  And with that, I think it makes a lot of sense to bring on Dr. Ken Alford.  He is a professor at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, to talk about researching your World War II ancestors.  So many of them I think now, Ken, are gone, more than are still with us. Where do we start if we want to research our World War II ancestor? 

Ken: The great news is World War II was documented from beginning to end. And so, listeners that have ancestors and relatives that fought in World War II are bound to find something.  Unlike other wars, this is probably the best documented war we've got. And everything is available is the good news.  When you start, what you want to do is, there's four key pieces of information that you want to find on you veteran, and you may not find them all in the same place.  You may not find them all at the same time. But these are the four things you want first.  You want to know which branch of service they were in.  Second is, you want to find out generally their periods of service.  And you want to find out where they served. You know were they in the Pacific?  Did they stay state side?  Did they go into Europe?  Were they in North Africa?  And then fourth, you want to know how did they serve? What was their rank? Were they enlisted? Non commissioned officers? Some kind of sergeant? Or did they serve as a warrant officer? Or even as a commissioned officer?  Because it turns out, the higher the rank, the more records you're going to find. It's just kind of the relationship here.

Fisher: That makes sense, sure.

Ken: Then, once you do that, a lot of people think the military records are just kind of, oh, homogeneous, but there are many different kinds of records.  And interestingly especially for World War II, there are military records for people that didn't serve in the military.

Fisher: Huh!

Ken: And I know this sound a little bit weird, but actually what happened is, it was a period of the draft in which the draft was extended very broadly.  So, most male ancestors will have some kind of draft registration record. And that's the first category of these records. They're called pre-service records. 

Fisher: Okay.

Ken: They're records created by the government, and the people may or may not have served. And so draft registration records, for example, my grandfather never served in World War II. He was too old. And they didn't take the draft that high, but he was in the age group where they had to register.  So we've got his registration records, and they contain a wealth of information. I mean including eye color, hair color and height.

Fisher: Right.

Ken: And so they're just wonderful records. The other kind of pre-service records is the documents that actually turned someone from a civilian into a soldier or a sailor or a marine. They're enlistment documents for non-commissioned officers and enlisted.  And there are commissioning documents for the officers, because there are many different commissioning sources, such as RTC, officer candidate school, direct commissions and so on. So those are all the kind of pre-service records. The second category of records is what are called service records.  And as the name implies these are records that are generated while the people are on active duty.  And there can be just a host of records, depending on how long they served, where they served, if they received awards, the orders that transferred them.  And eventually if there's discharge papers or if they were captured, all of those kinds of records are kept by the government, because they're all official.

Fisher: That's exciting though, to know that that's out there.

Ken: The third category of records is as you would expect, if there's a pre-service, there's going to be post-service. Post service records contain things like, killed in action records, or a separation or discharge.  Because no matter when you serve or how long you serve, at some point you will leave the service, either through death or through some kind of separation or discharge.  The government documents that in forms. Everyone that also served gets something called a form DD214. And that DD214 is a record of your military service.  Its family history gold, because what it has in just two pages is a summary of the entire service of that service member.  If you only get one document from a family member who served in World War II, you want to search for that DD214.

Fisher: Ooh, that's good to know.

Ken: Another great piece of documentation, and it's not going to be nearly as concise, are pension papers.

Fisher: Yes.

Ken: Because when you receive a check from the government, they're going to require a huge amount of documentation.  And you can also find things in pension papers like, vital record information; complete spelling of names, military units, description of service including campaigns and battles and awards.  Their physical description; a description of their health, and where they lived, who their heirs are?  I mean, it's just wonderful!

Fisher: And that really applies to most wars of the Unites States.

Ken: Yes.

Fisher: The pension records are fabulous.

Ken: They are indeed. So, where do you look for this information? You know, you know what you want and you're just not sure where grandpa served.  I would recommend that listeners simply start with the obvious choices of Ancestry.com and Fold3.com. They have digitized a lot of government records and that's the one stop where they will find more, in the quickest amount of time than any of these other websites I'm going to give you. And so, start there.  Next, I would actually do a search for your local newspapers. If you know where grandpa or great grandpa lived and went into the service from, there was probably a newspaper article generated at the time. 

Fisher: And so, many of them are digitized now on places like, My Heritage, Newspapers.com, GenealogyBank.com, also Chronicling America through the Library of Congress.

Ken: Absolutely! And many states have taken the bull by the horns and have digitized state newspapers.

Fisher: Right.

Ken: For example, for listeners that live in the state of Utah, there's a website called, Utah Digital Newspapers that has many, many newspaper archives and they're just wonderful, and they're all free.  The federal government as you would expect, since they collect all this stuff, has started making it available. It's not all digital yet, but much of it is. Let me just give your listeners some of these websites and places that I would send them to for the next round.  After you’ve found everything you can find at Ancestry and Fold3, and then go to the federal sources. I would go first to the National Archives.

Fisher: Right.

Ken: If you go to their website, it’s just Archives.gov. And they have a huge wealth of information, much of it is digitized.  You can obtain these microfiche and microfilm through genealogical centers across the nation.  And if you're in Washington D.C., I highly recommend a visit to the National Archives. It's free. But you can actually hold your grandfather's records, in many cases, in your hand. 

Fisher: Wow!

Ken: And then you can make a copy of them there. And that's just something fun.

Fisher: And that's a thrill in itself, isn’t it?

Ken: It is a huge thrill. The next thing I would recommend is to check the National Personnel Records Center, the NPRS at St. Louis.

Fisher: Yeah.

Ken: And you can actually find it through a link off of the National Archives' website.  Now the good news is, if your ancestor's records are there, you will receive a folder, and there are small charges that apply.  But I have seen some of these that are two and three inches thick of just genealogical gold.  That's the good news. The bad news is, in 1973 a fire destroyed eighty percent of their records. 

Fisher: Yeah.

Ken: And most of the World War II records, I just hate to say this, were burned. But you always try!  The next place I would check is the Veteran's Administration, that's VA.gov. And then I would send them also to the Library of Congress, and that's just LOC.gov.  And the Library of Congress will not have records, but they will have photos and unit histories.

Fisher: Ah!

Ken: And you may find grandpa or great grandpa in those secondary sources. I would also encourage your listeners to go to state archives and local military museums.  And lastly, I would just add before we close this off, that since this is World War II this is now really the first war in American history where we have sizeable numbers of women who serve in either the Waves or the Wacs or in auxiliary corps.  And there are millions of female records as well.

Fisher: I wish we had more time, Ken. This is fabulous! So helpful for a lot of people!  If you missed this, of course, listen again on the podcast in the coming week and you can find out all kinds of things to write down about how to track down your World War II ancestors.  Thanks for coming on, Dr Alford.

Ken: Thank you very much.

Fisher: And coming up next, it is Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com, our Preservation Authority, on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 4 Episode 116

Host Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: And we are back, Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and Extreme Genes.com.  It's time to talk preservation with our Preservation Authority, Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com.  And Tom, we were talking just very recently about using the cloud as the place not only to store your digitized films and videos, but also to edit them from right there.  So my question to you is, I have the old hard drives of the old home movies from back in the 1950’s and '60’s, but they're in an AVI form, because I have a PC.  Do I need to transfer those into MP4 format in order to edit them or leave them just as they are?

Tom: One thing that's really important to understand is the difference between your AVIs which you have, because you've a PC, the MOVs which most Mac people use and then your MP4’s which are cross platform that anybody can edit from.

Fisher: Right.

Tom: So, the answer to your question is yes and no.

Fisher: Okay.

Tom: Yes, you're fine. You don't need to do anything with the MP4s. No don't leave them as AVI’s, make MP4’s also. Because now you can put them up in the cloud, you have your wheel and it has a hub in the middle which is your cloud on LightJar or Drop Box or wherever you want it.  And just take all your items, your MP4s, put them up there. And the neat thing about the MP4s that I like is, they're small, but they're good quality. So any good program like Power Director, Final Cut Pro, there's a lot of programs out there that will let you take your AVIs or MOVs, your XYZs and turn them into MP4s. And so, once they're in MP4s, anybody in your family can edit.

Fisher: Right.

Tom: If they're Mac, PC, they're going to say, "No. Hey, it's a problem editing. These files are so big. I hate your AVIs." With MP4’s they're the same whether you're a PC or a Mac.

Fisher: But if you're the only one using it and you're using a PC, then it wouldn’t make any sense at all to change it to an MP4.

Tom: Oh, no! If you're on an island and you're an only child and nobody else is interested in the stuff you have.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Tom: Then yeah, stay with your AVI’s or your MOV’s and just do your own thing.  However, the biggest thing is getting the stuff spread out. Sometimes people just get so confused with all different things going on, they don't know where to start.  Now that everything's getting down to something as simple as a MP4, it's easier for people to access.  You say, "Hey, I have these MP4s, and there's some pictures of, you know, your daughter's birthday that happens to be on mom and dad's film."  And so, they can go and click immediately and play the MP4 on their tablet, on their Smartphone, anywhere.

Fisher: It's universal. It's universal.

Tom: Oh yeah! It's quick. And then they're going to get excited and say, "Hey, this is really cool! I wonder if I can put these things together."  And then they see how easy the MP4s are to edit. And they'll go in there on LightJar or whoever you use and do the editing and say, "Hey, this is kind of fun!"  And once they get bit by the bug, they'll really get into it. And the younger and younger these kids are, we have kids that are in kindergarten that are accessing now MP4’s and AVI’s and MOV’s and doing editing. And the work they're doing without any training is really mind boggling. And the neat thing is, we mentioned, oh, I guess it’s probably been a couple of months ago when Apple released it new I guess it’s called the iPad Pro, the big one.  There's some special software for that, that Adobe has developed for drawing and editing and taking all these MP4s or whatever you have, and doing cool things with them.  And these younger kids, for Christmas which is right around the corner, are going to be getting a lot of new computers, and getting new iPads.  And they're going to be able to take this stuff and start editing it. And when you're watching over their shoulders, seeing what these kids can do, it’s amazing!  It’s like they've got these manuals already programmed right into their brain from birth.  They already know what things look good, how concepts work. We've talked about the rule of thirds when you're shooting, so your videos look more pleasing.   These kids are shooting stuff that looks so good, it's like they've already had the training.  And there's a lot of good books that you can find online that you can actually get better with this. The neat thing about these MP4’s in the clouds, it’s so simple just like in the old days.  Now that you have your old films, your super 8s, and your 8s transferred to DVD, you pop them in and watch them.  You don't have to pull out your projector. You don't have to pull out your screen. You don't have to do all this stuff. It's the exact same thing with the MP4’s now.  You don't have to get this big computer program. You don't have to get all this kind of software.  You don't have to get this. You need to get trained on this.  And the learning curve is killer. Now with LightJar, you can take just a simple MP4 and edit right out of the box.  You don't have to have any editing experience or anything, and as you mentioned a few weeks ago you can share with your family and friends as a collaborate effort.  And after the break, we can give you some more ideas getting ready for a couple of weeks to Christmas.

Fisher: All right, coming up in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 116

Host Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: And we're back for the final segment of Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com.  Fisher here with Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com, he's our Preservation Authority.  And we're talking about the compatibility of all the platforms now.  You know, when you think about it Tom, we talk about PC’s, we talk about Mac’s, but you can go back a lot further and talk about the super 8s, VHS, mini 8s. I mean, all those things now are coming together where they can all be scanned into one format that everybody can use and everybody can easily edit.  This is a very exciting time!

Tom: Oh, it's actually, you know, a Christmas gift early. With Christmas only being a few weeks away, this is a great time to take your things, put them on MP4’s, and you don't even have to wrap them!

Fisher: Right. [Laughs]

Tom: They're on the site. Send somebody your access codes and say, "Hey, here's some MP4’s that are part of your family."

Fisher: Merry Christmas!

Tom: Exactly! Merry Christmas! Nothing to wrap, nothing to open, it just makes it so easy. They can download them. Watch them instantly.  They can watch them on the cloud or if they want to have them in their library, they can download them to their hard drive.

Fisher: Now, you were talking a few weeks ago about Google with this new tool for photographs, where you would have a picture of a waterfall and it actually moves!  Like the water is coming down.

Tom: Exactly!

Fisher: I mean, wow!  I mean, when you add that kind of thing in with video, and you can assemble something where you use still pictures and narration and film, everybody can become a film editor of their own stuff.  And it makes it more desirable for everybody of all ages to be a part of. 

Tom: Oh, it's great! Like you just mentioned the new iPhone where you take a still picture, I've done this before. I took a still picture and said, "Oh, darn it! I wish it was on video." or "Oh, I did this video. I wish I would have taken a still."  With this new technology that Apple has out now, you take a still and you can still turn it into a video! I don't know how the magic happens, but it's pretty cool.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Tom: And that's another neat thing about the MP4s again.  When you're editing them on LightJar, you can take the videos, you can take the slides you've had scanned, you can take the old photographs that have been torn that you've restored in Photoshop and put them all together and make something that's really, really fun, that's really, really cool.  And the neat thing about the MP4s again is, they're so small, you can scan through them easily, anybody can download them.  It doesn't matter what kind of a device you have. You can have access to your MP4’s. It's incredible!

Fisher: So, to start with, then somebody needs to take all their films, their old films or their old home movies or their videos and get them scanned into this format.  At that point now and even scanned photographs, right?

Tom: Oh, absolutely!

Fisher: That's how you get all the material saved. And now you have it in this collaborative cloud and people can actually go in and access it, and either comment on it or identify people in it or snatch certain pieces of it out for their own use, because it has to do specifically with their family or their side of the family.  But getting started is the key thing here.

Tom: And you need to move on it. Because the biggest problem you're going to run into with your old slides, your film, anything… if you hold it up to a light, you can see through it, those things are fading.  They're fading even if they've been in a dark, cool place the whole time, just because of how they were developed whether ma and pa did it, whether Kodak did it.  Whoever did it is going to affect how fast they start going away. Start now! It's a good Christmas gift.  If you have no idea what to get your family for Christmas, get them a gift certificate to your local transfer facility and then they can say, "Okay. Hey, I've got this hundred dollars. I need to use it now.   Let's go take our VHS or our DVDs or whatever we need to do, to get them all compiled in MP4’s, so we can start enjoying it, so the family can have it. We'll have access to it."  And it's easy and quick to do for Christmas.

Fisher: You know, the bottom line is, if you're afraid of this technology and what it takes to learn how to edit and put these things together you should be far more afraid of letting your videos and old home movies fading out and being lost forever.

Tom: Oh, that is so true! If you're sitting on it, it's not doing anybody any good. And it's going to go away. You need to get this stuff transferred, now! If you need help of places to find locally, give us a call and we'll try to help you find a local place that can help you out.

Fisher: All right, Tom. Great stuff! Good to see you again. Thanks for coming on.

Tom: Good to be back and close to Merry Christmas!

Fisher: And that wraps up our show for this week, Pearl Harbor Day on Extreme Genes.  And special thanks to Lou Conter, for coming on the show and talking about his experience of being on the Arizona as it was being attacked by the Japanese, on December 7th 1941.  Thanks also to Dr. Ken Alford, from Brigham Young University, for talking about how to track the military records of your World War II ancestors.  Talk to you again next week. Take care. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!



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