Episode 132 - Michigan Woman Follows Up Father’s Dying Confession, Finds Unknown Sibling in Europe / Nathan Dylan Goodwin and the Genealogical Crime Mystery “The America Ground”

podcast episode Mar 28, 2016

Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist for the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org.  Fisher announces the new searchability of Extreme Genes shows and podcasts through transcript.  David then talks about a story that is being investigated that says something is missing from the crypt of William Shakespeare.  What is it and why is it missing?  David will explain.  Next in “Family Histoire News” David will tell you how a family heirloom has survived the destruction of a home by tornado.  The item is a treasure and its journey through the air and back to the family it belonged to is nothing short of miraculous!  There’s a new place for your remains, should you go the route of cremation… a recording disk!  Who is making this possible and for how much?  David Lambert has all you need to know about getting into the recording business.  Post mortem.  David then shares his Tech Tip, and another NEHGS guest user free database.

Fisher next interviews Nathan Dylan Goodwin, an author living in England.  Goodwin’s unique niche is the “genealogical crime thriller.”  Fisher says he couldn’t put down the one he has read, Nathan’s latest, called “The America Ground.”  Nathan has authored several books and explains the challenges of finding unique stories from the past and somehow making them relevant in the present.  Want to take a crack at writing a genealogical crime novel?  Nathan Dylan Goodwin will have some great advice for you.

We are firmly in the present for the next segment when Fisher visits with a Muskegon, Michigan woman, Jessica Fairbanks, who took notes when her estranged father gave her a death bed confession.  He had had a son while living in Germany that none of his American family knew about.  Jessica went to work to find her unknown sibling.  Catch the full story on Extreme Genes!

Then, Tom Perry answers listener emails on preservation.  If you have any eight track tapes from decades ago, you’ll want to hear this.

That’s all this week on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show!

Transcript of Episode 132

Host Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 132

Fisher: Hello America! And welcome to America's Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com.

I am Fisher, your Radio Roots Sleuth on the program where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out. Very excited to tell you that we're actually transcribing all of our shows now, so that when you hear something and you want to find out more about it, our shows are entirely searchable, and of course, you can find out more about that at ExtremeGenes.com.

Guests today coming up in about eight minutes; this guy from England, he gets in touch with me and tells me he's got a genealogical crime thriller that he has written, would I like to read it? Well, okay. So, he sent it and it was incredible! And so, we're going to talk to Nathan Dylan Goodwin today about how he took some history from his area and took Genealogy and tied this whole thing together into an incredible genealogical crime novel.

We'll be talking to Nathan from England, and then, later in the show, we're going to be talking to Jessica Fairbanks. She's from Muskegon, Michigan, and not long ago, she took a death bed confession from her dying father, and took that to find an overseas sibling she didn't know she had. Right now, let's check in with Boston and our good friend, David Allen Lambert, the Chief Genealogist for the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. David, how are you?

David: Well, the snow has disappeared and it's starting to look a little bit like spring each day, and we have some exciting news here at NEHGS.

Fisher: Which is?

David: Well, one of our listeners from Extreme Genes who lives out in Utah, Yvette Beaudoin is now working as a researcher remotely for our research service. Now, what's kind of neat about this, besides her being a listener of Extreme Genes, is that, this is the first time in nearly a century at NEHGS - we've been around since 1845 - has had an offsite researcher. We had the late Henry Fitz Gilbert Waters in England, transcribing probates. Yvette will be at the family history library in Salt Lake City, being our researcher on the ground there, helping us out with our research service. We're very excited about it.

Fisher: Well, it’s about time, David. That's great news!

David: Yeah, we're very excited! So, a shout out to Yvette there in Utah! This next news story, I don't want you to lose your head about it, but it’s got a lot of historian's shaking their heads. This year marks the 400th anniversary of the great bard, William Shakespeare's death. Do you know that in Stratford-upon-Avon, at the Holy Trinity Church, they're now doing ground penetrating radar exams of his tomb? Want to know why?

Fisher: Because...

David: It's head's missing.

Fisher: Oh no. Now wait a minute. How do they know that?

David: Well, back in 1879, an article in the magazine mentioned that his skull was taken by trophy hunter, Dr. Frank Chambers, who lifted the stone, dug up the grave and stole Shakespeare's skull. There may be something to it, because from the surveys they're doing, it looks like there's been some disturbance on the stone over his grave. Now, it’s interesting that one would want to do that. Have you ever heard of the warning that Shakespeare's tomb has carved upon it?

Fisher: No.

David: And I quote, “Good friend for Jesus sake forebear. To dig the dust enclosed here. Blessed be ye man thy spares these stones, and cursed be he thy moves my bones.” I would not want to be the person that has that as an artefact in their China cabinet.

Fisher: Right, right. So, they knew who the guy was and they never pursued this as a case at that time?

David: That's a real cold case. Maybe you know, you're so good at this thing, maybe you can track down the skull. That would be a perk for the show.

Fisher: Stop it, stop it.

David: Okay. Well, this news just kind of blew in from across the Mississippi River. A girl by the name of Jill Stewicki who got married in 1987, she wore the dress of her mother from 1958. Now a lot of people recycle wedding dresses but she's very lucky. Did you hear what happened?

Fisher: This is insane. Go ahead, tell us.

David: There was a twister that hit her house out in Ohio and the dress was found across the Mississippi River intact, in the pristine and plastic box. Somebody posted it online and now it’s back with the rightful owner.

Fisher: Isn't that great though? I mean, if you're going to get something back from your house being totally destroyed, why not a family heirloom?

David: Exactly. Well, you know, I see a lot of things where people have heirlooms. Sometimes it’s that urn with grandma in it, well, here's a chance to put a new spin on your family's ashes. A company in England called, andvinyly, and andvinyly.com offers for £3000 the effort of making up to thirty records for you, pressed from your own ashes.

Fisher: Oh, stop it! Wait a minute, record? You mean like a vinyl record? Like a thirty-three or a forty-five or something?

David: Well, they didn't say anything about forty-fives, but LPs, twenty-four minutes of news from you. You can do your last will and testament, you can make shout outs to all your loved ones or you can make your final wishes known, and they can press these records. They can be handed out at the funeral, but guess what? They’ll even go one step further. They have something called FUN-erals where they will actually organize your funeral. They'll send off the records, they'll play your record there, they'll speak to your guests, crack jokes and even generally make people dance, and that only costs £10,000. So, if you're going to go off, this is a new spin to your death. One of the options is that you can hear the cracking and hissing sound of a record that would be considered the sound of the cremation. A little mid tone, but...


All right, the next is my Tech Tip. And this goes out to the burials overseas for American World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam vets. What you may not know, is there is a free database from the American Battlefield Monuments Commission. Their website is simply, www.ABMC.gov, but what you may not know, you can search this database for free, find out the name, the date of death, the serial number, where the person's buried. If you are a immediate family member, you can request a free photograph, and they'll make it up as a lithograph for you and mail it for free, eight to ten weeks after your request online. So, I think a real nice fitting thing to get a remembrance.

Fisher: That's awesome.

David: Speaking of databases, NEHGS and AmericanAncestors.org every week, offers a free guest user database, this week is no exception, where we introduce Barbados, baptism, marriages and burials from the 18th century through 19th century, and this is in conjunction with our partnership, with FamilySearch.org, and it has over 210,000 baptisms, 90,000 burials and 31,000 marriage records that occurred in Barbados. Well, that’s all I have for this week from NEHGS. I'll be reporting soon from, “Who Do You Think” Live in Birmingham, England in a couple of weeks, and look forward to giving you all the news from across the sea.

Fisher: Thank you, David. And coming up next, we're going to be talking to Nathan Dylan Goodwin. He's the author of the 'genealogical crime thriller', "The America Ground", in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 132

Host Scott Fisher with guest Nathan Dylan Goodwin

Fisher: And, Welcome back to America’s Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com

It is Fisher here, The Radio Roots Sleuth, and it wasn’t that long ago that I got an email from a listener in England that said “Hey, I want you to read my book!” you know, once in a while people on radio get these and it’s like “Okay...”  So he sent the book and it’s a “genealogical crime thriller” and it was just killer!

It’s just a terrific book! And so, I’m excited to turn around and say we’ve got a really good book to talk about here with its author from England, Nathan Dylan Goodwin.

Nathan, welcome to Extreme Genes, nice to have you on!

Nathan: Hello, yes thank you, thank you for having me!

Fisher: First of all, as something of a writer myself, and I consider myself more of a historic writer than somebody who could do a piece of fiction like this or an historical novel as this is. One of the things that I look at is, “What’s the formula for this? How do you go back and make something that happened a150 years ago or longer, matter now?”

And you figured out how to accomplish that, let’s talk about how somebody might write an historical novel, and let’s talk about The America Ground.

Nathan: Okay. The America Ground, is my fourth book in a series which features Morton Farrier, he’s a modern day genealogist, and he basically has to look back and in each book he has to solve a crime, usually a murder that’s happened in the past, and as you said in the America Ground, this crime happened 180 years ago.

It’s kind of a detective formula I guess, oh and Morton trying to work it out as he goes along, to try and figure out the ending. But he uses genealogical resources that any genealogist would also use, and so basically the formula is a bit of a tricky one really. It’s got the detective element to it, each book cuts back from the modern day setting with Morton looking in archives and repositories and going to church yards, and using Ancestry and so forth online and it cuts back to the past so in America Ground, that’s 1820s in Hastings, in southeast England.

So, he’s got to try and solve this crime but there’s also in each book there’s a sinister element if you like, in the modern day section whereby somebody wants to try to stop him from doing his research, and that’s the part of it that’s quite tricky because as genealogists we always come up with stories in our tree. Thinking “Oh it would be really good fictional story!” and that’s great but then I have to look for something which makes it still relevant today, that someone would say “Hang on a minute, I don’t want you to research this case from a 180 years ago, whatever it is.” So that’s the tricky part I guess.

Fisher: Yeah that is the tricky part and that’s what I was trying to figure out, and that’s really frankly your genius in this.

Nathan: Thank you.

Fisher: And, I love the fact that you go back and forth from the modern era, and Morton’s working on the case to what was actually going on back then, it’s almost like a parallel universe kind of thing happening.

Nathan: Yeah.

Fisher: And it’s very fun for him to visit the places that you’ve just been talking about in the previous section and where those spots used to stand, and obviously you’ve done a lot of research because The America Ground is an actual place.

Nathan: Yes that’s right. I come from Hastings. I was born in Hastings, and lived there for the first 19 years of my life and yet I’ve never heard of this area of land which is in Hastings, called The America Ground. And basically what happened was, it was kind of like four acres of land that was yielded up from loads of storms that happened in the 1300s and there was this huge area of land that gradually settled and in 1800s rope makers started to use it to stretch their ropes out.

Then some labourers started to live there and gradually, gradually and gradually about two hundred homes sprung up on this land, about a thousand people were there, and the town of Hastings had no jurisdiction over it, they felt they couldn’t tax the people for living there, they couldn’t impose laws. So there was kind of this lawlessness going on there, and so basically they then tried to impose law and these people who lived on this ground revolted and said “Nope, we’re not going to have your taxes and your laws,” and they declared themselves an Independent State of America. 

Fisher: [Laughs]

Nathan: Which you know was really a surprise and so they called this ground “The America Ground” and they called themselves the Americans, and I don’t know where they got it from but they raised the stars and stripes and they held out until an official enquiry was held and the crown felt that the land belonged to them and they eventually turfed off.

Fisher: I would think when the crown decides that they want that land, that’s probably the settling point right?

Nathan: Yes it was, yes. But now you would ride through Hastings and it’s just another area of the town where there are streets and houses and shops and it’s a big part of the main town. So in my book, in all my books I try to use some element of real history in there. So the story of the America Ground, my fictional story I used that real historical background and it’s set in a pub that was on the America Ground land back in the 1820’s which really was there.

But my characters and storyline itself is fictional. But coming back to your point about me needing to do the research, I really do. I make sure that I do exactly what Morton does. So if he goes to church yard then I go to a church yard. If he looks for a record online, then that record has to exist. I don’t just make up the records it’s all real genealogical detail.

Fisher: Unbelievable! So let me ask you this, what is your background first? Are you an historian first or a genealogist or a writer?

Nathan: [Laughs] that’s a tricky one to answer. At university I did radio, film and television studies and then went on to become a Primary School Teacher, and while I was doing that I did a Masters in Creative Writing. But my genealogy I think would be the starting point. I’ve been doing it for a long time now, coming up for 20 years. So I guess that would be my starting point and I just always... when I was doing my own family tree research, I would come across stories and things and I just used to think “This would be an amazing fictional story.” It’s real but it’s unbelievable and it would make a good story. So I guess I’ve pulled all those things together, you know I did before the fictional book I did some factual books on Hastings.

So I guess all those elements have come together, you know my background writing factual books, my genealogy background, and also my Masters in creative writing have all kind of pulled together into this series.

Fisher: I’ve got to think there are a lot of people who like you have come across amazing stories and like myself, and say “wow this would be a great fiction novel.”

Nathan: Yeah.

Fisher: And I’ve actually been involved with genealogy in a crime situation myself. So I know that is done like you say... the trick is linking it to the present day or to another situation, another timeline.

At what point did you figure it out and say “Wait a minute, here’s how it can be done.” What clicked in your mind that said “This is the key?”

Nathan: That is a bit of a tricky one to answer. I don’t really know the answer to that. I’ve come up with a lot of stories that have been based in fact and I’ve thought “This could make a good story.” But then I’ve thought “That would just become a kind of standard mystery story.” You know going through the process of solving a mystery or a crime that happened a long time ago, and I think it was reading other genealogical crime mysteries and I thought “That’s the thing that’s missing in my mind.”

 It’s having that element of the modern day aspects to it if you like where there’s a threat to the modern day part, there’s a reason that someone wants Morton to not do it because it just adds that extra layer of mystery to it I guess.

Fisher: Well you have a lot of twists and turns in there, there’s no doubt about it. What would be your number one tip to somebody who would be thinking of doing something along these same lines?

Nathan: I think it would be to really make sure you get the genealogical aspect of it correct, because my biggest readership are genealogists and I know full well that they like the fact that it’s real and I get a lot of people saying “Wow I didn’t realise that record was out there, or I didn’t think about looking at this problem in such a way.” So I think you need to get that right but also to make sure you have your fictional story in there too so it doesn’t become too genealogical.

Fisher: [Laughs] right. It’s got to be entertaining first, right?

Nathan: Yes. Exactly!

Fisher: This is not a how-to in genealogy and it’s not telling your family history. This is a genealogical crime novel. It’s brilliantly put together, and where can people get a copy of this?

Nathan: So, it’s available from most bookstores like Barnes& Noble and it’s available online in paperback and indoor on Amazon, so yeah just your normal outlets.

Fisher: And it’s called “The America Ground,” a Genealogical Crime Mystery. And what are the other ones?

Nathan: So the first book in the series is called “Hiding the Past” then the second book is called “The Lost Ancestor” and then between The Lost Ancestor and The America Ground there’s a short novella story called “The Orange Lilies” and in that one Morton is researching his own family tree, at last.

Fisher: [Laughs] Yeah that’s right, there’s an actual genealogy interest going on in this thing too. I mean you’ve included everything. I think the thing I was most impressed about was the detail relating to his travels, the places he visited, the history of the area, and how you made that all live. That was the most impressive thing to me. It’s like “Does that man have a life?” how does he have time to know all these things, and to research it?!

Nathan: [Laughs]

Fisher: You must spend a lot of time just in libraries anyway.

Nathan: I do yes [laughs] in fact tomorrow I’m going to the Sussex Record Office just outside Brighton, to do some more research for the next book in the series. I’m about half way through. So I do make sure I do the work first before he does, and lots of things come up from that, rather than mix it from my computer, kind of making it all up. It’s so much more fun and realistic and so many more things you come across just by going to that record office, or that library, or that church, so yeah, it’s a very important part of the process.

Fisher: And do you have another one coming out soon?

Nathan: Yes, I’m working on the next one now; it’s about half way through so that should be out in some point this year. That’s been quite a tricky one to write. It’s taken an awful lot more research than the rest. I won’t give too much away, but Morton develops more of his own family tree answers as well. He finds some answers there, so that’s good.

Fisher: Alright, great stuff. He is Nathan Dylan Goodwin, the author of “The America Ground,” a genealogical crime mystery. It’s great stuff, I’ve read it, and you’re going to enjoy it. He is from near Canterbury England.

Nathan thanks for your time, and thanks for the book, too, by the way, enjoyed it very much.

Nathan: You’re welcome, thank you very much. Glad you enjoyed it.

Fisher: And coming up next; we’ll talk to a Michigan woman who got a death bed confession from her estranged father, about a sibling she didn’t know she had overseas, and she found him! You’ll hear the whole story coming up for you next in about five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com 

Segment 3 Episode 132

Host Scott Fisher with guest Jessica Fairbanks

Fisher: I love death bed confessions. That’s a whole other source.

Hi, it’s Fisher, and you are back with Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com and I am talking to a woman right now who actually has had that experience... a death bed confession that has led to the discovery of a whole other branch of the family. Jessica Fairbanks is on from Muskegon, Michigan.

Hi Jessica, welcome to the show!

Jessica: Hi, thank you!

Fisher: I am absolutely astonished by your ingenuity and your determination to find out what the death bed confession led to. Let’s start with that whole story. This came from your dad, and from what I’ve read, you didn’t have much of a relationship with him.

Jessica: I didn’t. Our dad, he was in my life until I was about thirteen years old, and it was rough, he didn’t lead a very good life. He was into drugs, he was abusive, and it wasn’t a very good situation. When I was around thirteen, my mom finally got full custody of us, then me and my brother Brian we had never seen him again after that for about seventeen, almost eighteen years.  

Fisher: Wow, how sad. Then something changed, you got a little bit of news?

Jessica: Yeah, we got a phone call from our uncle, who is the brother of our biological dad, telling us that our father was in the hospital. He had congestive heart failure and he was dying, and just kind of giving us the option to go and see him and talk to him one last time.

Fisher: And you were willing to do that?

Jessica: Yeah. A few years ago if you had asked me if the situation ever came up would I have gone to see him, I probably would have said no, probably not, but for some reason when it was actually presented to us, my brother and I both decided yeah we’re going to go, we’re going to go see him one more time.

Fisher: And how did that go? Was there some tenderness there from his part, a little kind of an apology?

Jessica: A little bit, more so to my older brother. When we first walked in it was hard to recognize him. He looked very, very different. He had still been in the same lifestyle, so he was not looking very good, plus being sick and dying. So it was kind of surprising for us. There were a little bit of tears, he was surprised and I think probably glad to see us. We kind of made a lot of small talk, tried to say “Hey here’s where I’m at now. You know I have this family,” not a lot of deep, deep talk there, but at that time he did talk with my brother a little bit and told him that he was sorry for things in the past.

Fisher: So he went on from there and told you one big secret that you had no idea about.

Jessica: Yeah. This was actually the second visit or the third visit that I had. I had to go back to the hospital because I had to fill out some legal paperwork and things for his care because we were next of kin, so I went back another time by myself and sat and talked with him again. I said to him, “So what have you been doing all these years? Is there anything you want to tell me? Is there anything I should know about before you die?” And immediately, the first thing that he brought up was “Well, you need to know about your brother in Germany, you have a half brother.”

Fisher: [Laugh] What was your initial reaction to that?

Jessica: I think I was kind of shocked for a minute, and then I quickly grabbed whatever random thing I could find in my purse, it was an envelope to a card I had gotten and I grabbed a pen and I said “Well, do you remember anything about him? A name, anything?”

Fisher: [Laughs] Try to remain calm, right?!

Jessica: Trying to get all the information, I wondered how much was accurate because of his current condition, but I wrote down everything he said.

Fisher: Wow, so then you went to work on it?

Jessica: He actually was still alive in a hospice facility when I decided to actively search for my brother. I had decided to use social media, just figured things travel so quickly on the internet. First I initially just tried to Google my brother’s name by myself and see what popped up, but that was all just dead ends. Then I decided to go buy a big poster board and write down all the information I had gotten from our father, which was basically his name, place of birth, where they were in Germany at the time, our father’s name, and then what my dad believed to have been his birthday, actually ends up being a couple of days off but the month and the year were correct. 

Fisher: Okay.

Jessica:  I wrote it all out on a poster board, than I made a special email address because I didn’t want to put my personal one on there.

Fisher: Sure, right.

Jessica: I didn’t know what kind of response I would get, and I had my husband snap a picture of me holding this poster and then I just posted it on my personal Facebook page and asked everybody to share it.

Fisher: Well I’ve seen the picture, and it’s a charming picture. It’s very welcoming and I think it’s a disarming picture, because you just look very happy and hoping to have this reunion. So talk about how quickly this thing moved, Jessica.

Jessica: Well, immediately all my personal Facebook friends I noticed, they started sharing it, probably about a hundred of them. But also I would notice in their shares, they were tagging maybe somebody that they knew that either knew people in Europe or in Germany or they were tagging people that they actually did know in Germany and saying “Hey spread this around over there” you know “This is my friend Jessica” or “This is my cousin,” whatever, and so I did not know how many times it was shared, for some reason I couldn’t see that information, I could only see my friends who shared it, but I came to find out later that it was shared about 3000 times.

Fisher: Wow!

Jessica: And this is only in a day and a half period of time.

Fisher: That is unbelievable, and in a day and a half what took place?

Jessica: Well the very next morning... I posted it on a Saturday afternoon, Sunday morning I had a message from a German newspaper in that part of Germany that he was born in, and it just said that, you know, “We saw your post on Facebook and we’re very interested in helping you find your brother, and we’ll talk about this at our meeting on Monday and we’ll get back to you.” So the rest of Sunday I didn’t hear much of anything else, kind of a few more people shared it, then Monday morning when I woke up, I had another message from that newspaper saying “Congratulations you found him! You’ve already been in contact we heard! We just talked to him.” So initially I’m looking at it like “Oh, okay.” You know, someone is messing with them. Somebody is tricking them. I haven’t found him yet. And then, because it was so early in the morning, I’m half asleep thinking “Hello, check your email address!” Well, I log into that and I’m shaking and I get in there and I have a message from Steven Beckman. So I opened that up and I read it. He just had a couple of questions about maybe if the birthday could possibly be this date instead of the one I had posted, and what part of Germany our father lived in. I wrote him back everything that I knew and that I was told, and very quickly we both found out and realized that this was legitimately him and I was looking for him and we had found each other!

Fisher: In a day and a half. What a world, huh?!

Jessica: It was less than 48 hours from the time of the original post till the time I was in contact with Steven.

Fisher: So Jessica, how has this changed your life and how has it changed Steven’s life? 

Jessica: Well the first day we talked, Steven talked with me for a while and I talked to his son... I have a nephew... and on that day he said “I’m usually not very emotional, but I just need a little bit of time, you know, I need to go to bed or something.” I think he was so overwhelmed, because here I had had a couple of weeks from the time my father had told me this information till the time I had made the original Facebook post, it had been almost two weeks probably.

Fisher: You had processed it by that time.

Jessica: Exactly. I had a little bit of time to think it through and prepare myself for what I may or may not find, and here we just kind of burst into Steven’s life. All of a sudden he has siblings and this whole connection to a father he had never known or met. Now since then we talk all the time. Mostly we communicate on Facebook messenger. He knows some English, I know no German at all, so if we are typing something to each other, we can kind of put that into a Google translate or something like that so we can translate the difference in the language. But we talk all the time. We’re getting to know each other. We talk about our families; we send pictures to each other. It’s just really neat getting to know each other now.

Fisher: Well Jessica I wish we had more time [laughs] we just don’t, but what an incredible story. Congratulations on your successful efforts, and it’s got to be a wonderful blessing for you and your family.

Jessica: Thank you very much, it really is. I’m looking forward to meeting him soon.

Fisher: Amazing work, from death bed confession to success.

Coming up next; we’re going to talk to Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com our Preservation Authority, and answering your emails, in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 4 Episode 132

Host Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: It is preservation time at Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, the Radio Roots Sleuth, with Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com. He's the Preservation Authority, and Tom, we've got a lot of emails here, a lot of questions. So, are you ready to give some answers?

Tom: Absolutely.

Fisher: All right. Let’s start with this one from Kathy Craig. Kathy writes, "Hey Tom. I'm helping flood victims recover their photos. One Kodak picture CD is messed up. Can you help me figure out how to recover the data? This is a part of a group of gift certificates that are being given to the flood victims here in Columbia, South Carolina, using my service to help them. Pro bono time, so any help you can give is greatly appreciated. Thank you! Kathy." All right Tom, what do you say?

Tom: Hey Kathy. That is awesome that you're going this extra mile to help these people. That's just absolutely wonderful. Okay, unfortunately, based on the photos that you included with your email that showed the picture of the disk, it appears that your disks have what they call 'pinholes'. Pinholes are what we actually talked a little bit about last week, which has allowed water to penetrate the disk itself and has actually separated the laminate from the dye, in effect, resetting the dye back to neutral vs. carrying the binary codes which we talked about, the zeros and the ones, which is required to operate.

So, basically, it just messed it up. It's not like it’s turned it back to zeros. It doesn't even know, is this zero or is it a one? And so, unless you have a major over scan computer, it's going at look at that and freeze up, because it will have no idea what to do. So, the only way I have ever seen a disk recover from this type of damage is to attempt to duplicate the disk in a professional duplicator, not in your home computer. I mean, you can try it, but when you're doing stuff in your home computer, I consider it a copy. It's not a true duplicate, because you have software that's interfering, you have all kinds of things that are going on, whereas if you go to a professional, like ourselves, and I'm sure they're ones in your area, they use a duplicator. There's no software involved, and what you want to do is, when you go in and talk to them or send it to us, say, “Hey, I want this duplicated at 1x speed”. And people will think, why would you want it at 1x speed? Because there's less chance for error, like if you do it at 8x speed, that means it going through your disk 8x as it normally would... 16x.

Fisher: Sure.

Tom: And most things nowadays are 16x and even ahead, but you want to go to 1x1, which means, if it's a two hour disk, it's going to take two hours to duplicate, however, it's going to write each zero and one very slowly and very carefully , and so, you have a better chance of recovering the disk this way. I've had people bringing disks to us and say, “Hey, I can't play this anymore”, and we did this, we put it in 1x1 and duplicated it and it worked.

 Other times it hasn’t, another thing I've heard people try, and I've never done myself is, if you have these little pinholes, sometimes if you get black finger nail polish and on the label side, cover up where that spot is, and then, when it reflects up, it will hit the black, and hopefully it will at least see it as a zero vs. a one, whereas before it doesn't see anything at all. Another thing you can do is if you have a disk that's got the larger marks in it, you can try getting something metallic which you would go to like a car dealership and buy these, they're about the size of a fingernail polish that has like a metallic kind of paint in it, a silver metallic. Those are two things I've seen on the internet that worked to try to solve that problem.

So, that's what I would do first, but be really, really careful with your disk, because if it starts to delaminate, if you look at the disk and you can see bubbles in it, be very, very careful, because just twisting the disk a little bit will make that expand, because water is really, really bad. We have in one of our stores a great, big, huge salt water tank, and I put some disks in there just to show people - that we had custom printed to show them what we could do - and they started to dissolve. It totally blew my mind. It actually, the disk delaminated itself and all the silver stuff went away. It was really strange.

Fisher: Are you sure the fish weren't eating them?

Tom: [Laughs] Nope. There were no shark teeth marks in it at all, so I think the disks were okay

Fisher: [Laughs]

Tom: But it's funny you say that, S.T. who is our shark, he likes to play with them, but you know, he's not strong enough to delaminate, but the salt water actually damaged it. So, you want to be really, really careful. If they've been through a flood, get them dried out as fast as you can. Keep them flat. Put like some newspaper on the top and the bottom and take care of them that way. And then, after the break, we'll get some more questions.

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

Segment 5 Episode 131

Host Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: We are talking preservation at Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com

Fisher here with Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com, the Preservation Authority, and we’re answering emails that we’ve received at [email protected]

This one Tom, comes from Kevin Henry, Marilyn Heights, Missouri, and he says “Tom, do you still have the ability to transfer eight track tapes to compact disk?”

Tom: Oh absolutely! In fact, eight track tapes are one of the things you either love or hate, why they ever came out, who knows.

I think the problem is the etymology to eight track tapes is, you’ve been in the radio business for so long, and the old days when you had commercials they put them on what we call carts.

Fisher: Yup, cartridges

Tom: Yeah, they were eight track tapes. They just had little 30 or 60 second commercials on them. You’d push the button and it would play the commercial. Now everything is digitized on a hard-drive. That’s how they came up with eight track. They actually had turntables in cars.

Fisher: No!

Tom: Oh yeah, some of the nice Studebakers, they actually had turntables in cars, and obviously they didn’t work very well and so they thought “What can we do? What can we do?”  I think they were actually in the process of developing cassettes but hadn’t got all the bugs worked out of it and they go “Hey, they’re using these carts in studios, why don’t we take this, put more tape on it and then we can get an hour’s worth of music on it.” And they thought “Oh, that’s a brilliant idea”

Now, we can see it wasn’t very brilliant at all. You have all kinds of problems with the eight track tapes, they’re basically what they call “endless tape.”

Fisher: Right.

Tom: So the two ends are actually welded together

Fisher: As carts were.

Tom: Exactly!

Fisher: Radio carts.

Tom: Exactly the same way so they would just go endless. So when you pick track 1, 2, 3 or 4, all the way up to 8, they’re all right next to each other. Just like if you look at an audio cassette and it plays stereo both ways, that’s the essence of four track tape because it’s reading two track going one way and then two tracks coming the back way. Eight tracks were the same thing they had eight tracks so they’re all in parallel.

So if you had a problem with one track or a beep or somehow somebody sat on top of your great big monster speakers in the old days, it would make an erase mark on it and so you were going to have this problem on all eight tracks at that spot but the problem is the glue they used back in those days wasn’t very good.

Fisher: No. In fact a lot of the old broadcast cartridges would fall apart on us all the time or they’d break.

Tom: Oh absolutely. Just the labor to fix them is incredible, and so what happens is that glue comes off and then you need a replacement and fortunately some of the carts if you flip them over they have these little grab-pins on them so you can open them, go in and fix them but a lot of them don’t. A lot of people back in the days, back in the 60’s they actually recorded on eight tracks just like we did on cassettes. So they’ve got Grandma’s funeral on it or family history things on it, the tape disappeared into the cartridge.

Fisher: Oh wow.

Tom: So what happens is we have to open it and if it doesn’t have those tabs, if it’s the kind that’s sonically glued together

Fisher: [Laughs]

Tom: We have to actually surgically open the cartridge so we can get to the tape and then we can’t glue it back together, so we have to find a donor shell.

Fisher: Oh boy.

Tom: So we have to go find some old obscure music that nobody cares about and I’ve gone to stores for eight tracks for about $5 a piece but I don’t care what’s on them I just want the shell.

Fisher: Right.

Tom: So I find the shell, that way I’m able to go and fix it for the customer so that they’ve got their eight track again. In fact, one of these days I want to actually videotape with my “Go Pro” how to fix one of these and put it up on the website.

Fisher: Oh we’ll have to do it! That would be really fun to try. [Laughs]

Tom: Oh it is. It’s time consuming that’s why it’s so expensive to fix but once you have them done they’re going to be better than they were before, and every time I have one come in to fix I ring all these teenagers and these kids that are even in their twenties and thirties and say “Hey, come look at this thing.” And they’re going “Huh! Why did they ever design or build that?” and I say “I have no clue.”

Fisher: So the bottom line is, yes you can put it on a CD.

Tom: Yes we can absolutely put it on a CD in fact we actually even make eight tracks for people that have collector cars.

Fisher: Good stuff. Thanks so much Tom!

Tom: Thank you!

Fisher: And if you have a question for Tom Perry, you can [email protected]

Well, what did we learn today?

  • We learned that Shakespeare’s head may be missing!
  • We found out about a woman who in less than two days found a half sibling she didn’t know existed except for the deathbed confession of her father!
  • We found out about genealogical crime novels, we didn’t even know people did that. I mean it’s been a great show.

If you’ve missed any of it, catch the podcast at ExtremeGenes.com, iTunes or iHeartRadio’s Talk Channel.

I’m Fisher, talk to you again next week. Thanks for joining us! And remember as far as everyone knows we’re a nice, normal, family!


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