Episode 134 - Ron Fox, Photo Expert, On Finding Rare Photographs on eBay / First Time Genealogist Breaks Open Ancestry Line That Baffled Experts For 20 Years!

podcast episode Apr 11, 2016

Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.com, who is in England for the Who Do You Think You Are? Live! Conference.  David shares the huge news that NEHGS is opening EVERYTHING, over 1 billion records, for guest users, free, through Wednesday, April 13.  David then talks about Jewish tartans now available for Scottish Jews.  He’ll tell you about their unique features.  David also reveals that a Russian princess, living in England, has come out with a tell-all book.  You won’t believe who she was set to marry at one time.  (Think “large ears!”)  Fisher and David then discuss a recently published and very narrow list of heirlooms you should consider saving for your children and grandchildren. 

Photo expert Ron Fox then joins Fisher to discuss the exciting new New York Public Library “Photographers Identities Catalog.”  This remarkable index and biography catalog covers 115,000 photographers and others in the field dating back to the mid-1800s.  How can you use this great new tool to learn about dating your antique photographs?  Ron will tell you.  Ron has lots of other great tips and advice for discovering rare and often valuable photos on eBay, as well as of individuals from families you are interested in.  It’s a fascinating topic you won’t want to miss.

In the third segment, Fisher visits with Utah resident Carole Burr.  Carole was a first time genealogist who decided her initial investigation would be to crack open a family line that experts had failed at for over twenty years!  Guess what?!  Carole will tell you about the case and how, with a little help from somewhere out there, she was able to make the breakthrough!

Tom Perry, the Preservation Authority drops by from TMCPlace.com to talk about recovering fading audio tapes, how to enhance the sound in the digitizing process, and some simple ways to maximize your family’s ability to enjoy your audio.  You’ll be adding another awesome project to your list when you hear what Tom has to say!

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

Transcript of Episode 134

Host Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 134

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

It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, on the program where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out. And I’ve got to tell you this show today is just covering a lot of ground! Coming up in about eight or nine minutes we’re going to be talking to photo expert Ron Fox, he is back talking about a new source that’s going to help you ID photographs and perhaps date them as well.

And later on in the show we’re going to talk to a lady who was a rookie researcher, had never tried to research her ancestors before and she decided to take on a challenge that had baffled experts for 20 years... and she broke it! How did she do it, what was the story? You’re going to hear that from Carole Burr, later in the show and just a reminder by the way, all of our shows are now transcribed, so when you hear something and you want to follow up on that all you have to do is search it with ‘Extreme Genes’ in brackets and you’re going to be able to find it much more easily than ever before.

Right now let’s head out to London, and my good friend David Allen Lambert, from the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org.  He is their Chief Genealogist.

David, what are you doing in London?

David: Well, right now I’m trying to get the best Wi-Fi signal possible to talk to you! [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: So we can talk all about genealogy and the exciting ‘Who Do You Think You Are? Live!” Conference in Birmingham, England.

Fisher: And you’re going to be there for the next two to three weeks right?

David: I’m actually here for all of ‘Who Do You Think You Are.’ I’ll be doing a tour with NEHGS, we’re doing London, we’re going to the Society of Genealogists, the Public Record, the London Municipal Archives, and then I decided to take my comp days and spend an extra week in London touring the museums, going to the Tower of London where some of my ancestors met their own demise. Just having a great old genealogical time and going up to some ancestral places up in Cheshire, so I’m really looking forward to it. It’s a genealogist’s holiday.

Fisher: Oh it sounds like it.  What a great time!  And by the way, speaking of NEHGS, what an amazing announcement that’s out right now and it affects a lot of people if you haven’t gotten on it, you need to. Tell them what it is.

David: This is an amazing deal.  NEHGS of course offers a free guest user database but if you register as a guest user now, we’re entitling you to a billion records.

Fisher: With a ‘B’?

David: A billion records is basically everything we have to offer!

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: And the thing about it is that you only have until April 13th so take a peek at it, it’s kind of like test driving.

Fisher: Right, and by the way the link is on our Extreme Genes website and our Facebook page and of course I’m sure you’ve got that up on Twitter as well, and at NEHGS and AmericanAncestors.org

David: It’s amazing. There’s just so many stories I’ll be having for the next couple of weeks and potential new guests for you to interview on an international level. We’re exposing Extreme Genes on a level that’s never been done before and it’s really exciting, and I’m learning all these wonderful stories. I’ve seen some people in their tartans, the Scottish are rich in their tartans and their history. But now I heard the story that a gentleman by the name of Rabbi Mendel Jacobs, who’s a Rabbi up in Scotland, has authorized and has now got through the Scottish Tartan authority, an actual tartan for those that are Jewish.

Fisher: Really?

David: Yes. And the interesting thing about it because it has to meet kosher rules so it’s non- wool / linen mix that abides to Jewish law prohibiting the mixture of wool and linen in garments and it has navy and burgundy it’s quite colorful.

Other exciting news, a tell all book from a Russian Princess who was a potential bride for Prince Charles at one point before Diana, this lady who lives in England, her name is Olga Romanoff; she lives in an opulent 30 room manor house in Kent, called ‘Provendore.’ Her father was the eldest nephew of Czar Nicholas II of the Romanoff Empire.

Fisher: Wow! [Laughs] there’s a little there huh?

David: Exactly. You know I have some history I might follow, we always talk about photographs and I went through the last time I was in England was in 1986 and I was going into my senior year in high school and I’m in London for a lot of this trip and I found a few photographs, took a picture of them with my iPhone, I have them on my phone and I’m going to do a before and after picture.

Fisher: Yes.

David: And maybe I’ll share some of them with some of the visitors, I don’t know sometimes the after pictures are not as good as the before’s but it’s a fun picture I actually have curly black hair at that point of time!

Fisher: [Laughs] Well side by side pictures are fun to do not only in other countries and places you’ve but your old home, like I did recently with my house that I grew up in. It went on the market recently and we were able to take some of the MLS listing pictures and put them side by side with photos from 40 years ago, it’s just amazing.

David: Well that’s my tech-tip, so take an old photograph on your phone and the next time you’re on a vacation or even going down the street, do a before and after picture. Put them side by side on your social media. You know, there are so many things that people are showing me here at the conference, but heirlooms, I think we’ve had this discussion before. What is important to save? I mean right now in my jacket is my passport that is something that you would want to save. I even have my old one.

Fisher: It’s interesting you say that. There is a story out in the Huffington Post this past week, it talked some ideas of things that you might want to save as heirlooms and your first passport was on that list, in fact it was the first thing on it. Because it would show you when you were young and some of the cool places that you’ve been and show us what an adventurer you were. Then it lists things like your military discharge papers or one printed photo of your wedding. You know maybe there are lots of pictures but one printed photo.

David: Um-hmm.

Fisher: Something that belonged to the oldest living relative that they knew. A sentimental piece of jewellery, a receipt with a date on it that shows how cheap things were back in our time.

David: Year by year we can all as a family put together a time capsule- if you will. That represents the certain events that make the whole year what that year has been for you, the good, the bad, the indifferent and everything that happens to us. It is what shapes our story. That’s why I always thought journals were important but this adds another dimension to it. This is taking family ephemera into the picture.

Fisher: David, have yourself a great time, we’ll talk to you again next week. Where are you going to be next week when we talk to you?

David: I’ll be still in London, and at that point of time I’ll be heading up to Cheshire to a village called ‘Brereton cum Smethwick, where my family lived from the time of the Reformation all the way through to the 1890’s and then we go to our family farm, and going to go to church services where my family has not attended since 1874 like we did for over 300 years.

Fisher: Oh unbelievable! You have a great trip my friend and we’ll talk to you next week.

David: Thanks so much! Take care, Fish.

Fisher: And coming up next we’re going to talk to photo expert Ron Fox about a new source that’s going to help you ID photos and date them it’s good stuff on the way in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 134

Host Scott Fisher with guest Ron Fox

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

I am Fisher, your Radio Roots Sleuth with my good friend Ron Fox, the photo expert; we've had him on many times before. Ron, good to see you again!

Ron: Good to see you, Scott.

Fisher: And, I was thinking about this. A couple of weeks ago, we saw the release of a brand new index, it's the New York Public Library Photographers index, 115,000 Photographers going back into the middle of the 19th century, and very significant thing, because this helps us in researching our photographs, maybe...actually, even identifying who somebody is, based on the age they may have been when the picture was taken, and that you can determine by the location of a photographer from this index. Let's get into that a little bit.

Ron: Well, yeah, I mean it's a great, great research tool, and it's something that, you know, we had photography, it was introduced in 1839 came to the U.S. in about 1841, and then it was like wild fire. It was like Apple phones, you know, it just went crazy.

Fisher: Yes.

Ron: And, so, we had a lot of people develop it and our friend, Samuel Morse is the one that really caused it to happen in the U.S. He's noted for the telegraph, but actually, he's the father of photography, but the thing is, that is most important about this index is, if you find daguerreotypes, ambrotypes and even albumens or paper print photographs, at the bottom of most of your albumen prints put on cardboard or just photographs all the way up into the '50s, photographers always put their stamp on them, because it was free advertising, and so, you'd have the opportunity to take a look at this index and see that this Photographer between a certain point in time, a certain year and another year was at that particular address.

Fisher: Right. The address is usually on the photo, obviously with their name.

Ron: Yes, and by so, you would know that, say, that the photographer Bogardus, for example, was in New York on Broadway between 1851 and 1856, and then he moved over to Park Avenue. So, you would know then a finite time in which he was using those particular photographic supplies to provide you with your photograph.

Fisher: Yeah, and that can help you then identify the possible age of the subject or give you another clue in the event you have an idea of who it might be to note that it's in the right year range for the age that person should have been.

Ron: That's correct, and there's another book you can find in certain libraries, The Collection of Western Photographers, for the Western U.S. It gives you a small bio, but it also tells about his movements and where he was. There were photographers that went on railcars and would go to communities and people would come into the rail car and have their picture taken and then they get off.

Fisher: Really?

Ron: Absolutely. It was a big business, and Union Pacific who really used after the completion of the railroad, because it was another thing to bring people to the train station.

Fisher: Nice! I'd never heard that.

Ron: You pull over the boxcar onto the siding and advertise it a day before. It’s like the circus man, it was coming to town.

Fisher: And so, you'd get ready and dressed in your best and go get your photograph taken, and then, would they get that to you days later? Do they mail it to you? How would that work?

Ron: No, they would normally just be there for like two or three days, so you had an item that was there and you just had to go and pick it up, but those days, tintypes were the cheapest photograph that you could purchase. Sometimes there were tintypes, other times there were albumens, and even later, they had something called ‘cyanotypes’ which were kind of fun, because they're very rare and they are valuable, but they are photographs that are all in tones of blue.

Fisher: I did not know that either. You're always a fountain of knowledge, Ron, which is why we appreciate having you on. All right, let's talk about some recent discoveries in the photographic world. You're kind of the king of finding the ‘needle in the haystack.’

Ron: Well, there's a lot of things that have been found in the last few years. There was a photograph that a friend of mine bought through a guy who was a picker, basically, in an antique store, and it was Fredrick Douglas speaking in 1841 to a group of abolitionists. Well, he got it for thirty-five dollars, a very famous star has offered him a million dollars for it and he won't accept the money. He has it now resting in the Smithsonian, and they think it's one of the five most valuable historic photos in our history.

Fisher: Isn't that incredible for thirty-five bucks?

Ron: Yeah.

Fisher: From a picker, I wonder if the picker knows about this.

Ron: I doubt it.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Ron: I doubt it. It's just like my eBay find. You know, that was a big find.

Fisher: Yes.

Ron: It was worth in excess of $100,000 which we paid couple of hundred bucks for, and it was just that you recognized the face and the name was not there. It was just phrase about the guy, how he looked like “an intelligent looking man,” but there are other photographs. Couple of years ago, there was a small CDV, which is basically like a baseball card size.

Fisher: And CDV is short for Carte de Visite

Ron: Correct. French term, and of course our friend, Louis Daguerre who was a main player in a process of coming up with photographs, but actually marketed better, and therefore had his name attached to it, but there was one found in Washington DC where they had a group of people standing outside the White House and they blew it up and recognized by measurements with geometry, it was President Lincoln standing out in front of the White House!

Fisher: Really!? When was this found?

Ron: Oh, about two years ago.

Fisher: And what's the value of that one?

Ron: Oh, that would raise that picture probably to $10,000 - $15,000.

Fisher: Unbelievable, and it’s the only one of its kind?

Ron: Oh yeah. A lot of people will not recognize, like when they have a tintype of like, President Lincoln. Now, a ferrotype, which was a different process, but a tin type of President Lincoln which was probably again a baseball card size, but it can go up to an 8x10, this would be a full plate, they call it, but they used to put a wood, like a bees eye or a honeycomb, so each one of those little openings would go through the lens and take a picture, and therefore you would have like twenty tintypes of one sitting, of one photograph.

Fisher: Yeah, that makes sense, sure.

Ron: Then they would just take tin-snips and cut them up and of course, we always talk about tintypes, but they were actually steel, not tin, but those are actual photographs. When you get a photograph that's a tintype unless it's a photograph of a photograph that person stood in front of that piece of tin. So, Lincoln stood in front of that piece of tin.

Fisher: Well, that's interesting.

Ron: Yeah, it's not like a photographic negative where you can make multiple prints onto paper. No, a tintype is a one-only-type picture.

Fisher: And it’s always in reverse, is it not?

Ron: Yes, yes, and there are practices that were invented at one point, because the early daguerreotypes were all reversed, but then they had a reversing lens that was invented in Germany which they propagated over here later in the 1850s to reverse the reversed image.

Fisher: Now, I have looked for some time for a lot of photographs of my family, my wife's family, by putting search terms, say, on eBay.

Ron: Um-hum.

Fisher: She came from a small town in Indiana, Crawfordsville, and so, I would put the family name and Crawfordsville or Crawfordsville CDV, because maybe there isn't a name associated with the picture that's put on eBay, but this is what a lot of families can do to actually find old photographs, family Bibles, things like this.

Ron: Absolutely.

Fisher: But you could go years also, without ever finding anything, and then all of a sudden, after looking every day for three or four years, suddenly you find something new.

Ron: That's absolutely true. One of the other ones is that, you know, usually you'll have that print and you'll have that name at the bottom. Call the local public library or the University, and Universities and Colleges right now are spending 10s of 1000s of dollars a month on scanning old newspapers and photographs and those are going online increasingly. FamilySearch is another good source. I mean, in their first year of operation they had a million photographs.

Fisher: And now, I think it's many, many times that.

Ron: Many times that, and MyHeritage is another one who have done a really great job of collecting these photos from their members and placing them on their websites.

Fisher: Well, you know, you think about it, some of the pictures that you and I worked on finding together and I finally found a photo of my great-grandfather after thirty years and now, I have three of them, because one was identified which allowed me to identify him in a different picture, which allowed me to identify him in the third. The other two were not marked, and as a result of that now, after all these decades, we finally have it available and you put it up online and it's there forever, because all the other descendents will make copies of that or keep that or it will just remain up on the website.

Ron: That's right, and here's another issue. A lot of times you'll have a photographer in a small town like Crawfordsville and you'll have the name of that photographer and a lot of times, you can actually do the genealogy on the photographer and find the family and ask them, 'Where did all the negatives go?' I did this recently with one family in our state, and candidly out of it I found that the woman's father who took pictures from the 1890s to the 1930s they're up in her attic. All these glass negatives, all indexed, are up in her attic.

Fisher: Wow, and what an awful place for them!

Ron: Absolutely.

Fisher: All that heat and cold and all that.

Ron: Absolutely.

Fisher: So, what are you doing with all this?

Ron: Well, I'm trying to get her to sell them to me, so I can scan them or I can provide them to the state. In our case, the state loves this type of stuff and they will increase their archives to accommodate them. I mean, there are collections, like there's one collection in like, 1925 in one of the major cities that has 22,000 glass negatives all identified, with prints as well as the actual negatives, and all you have to do is get online, put your name in and up comes grandpa, you know?

Fisher: Well, that's true. I actually found my grandpa in one of those collections in a state archive. That's right, my grandfather from Oregon, and by the way, he was out of state at the time.

Ron: Yeah. There's also, as I said, these Universities, I know of at least one major University that I've dealt with that has over 2,000,000 photographs that they have not even scanned yet.

Fisher: 2,000,000?

Ron: 2,000,000.

Fisher: And see, what you're doing right now is validating what I think, and that is, with as much stuff as we have online right now, there are still far more stuff that is not online, that's still in archives, that's still in libraries, in people's private collections, in their attics, in antique stores, all over the place.

Ron: I really would encourage your listeners to take the opportunity to, get into that trunk and open it up and mark the photos that they who they are, because 90% of the time, people do not write, even today, on the back of a photo who it is, and one generation and it's gone.

Fisher: You know that is the best advice of all. Ron Fox, great to see you again, thanks for coming on, always enlightening, always a pleasure to learn something more at your feet, and by the way, if you're interested in that index from the New York Public Library of all the Photographers, dating back to the 1840s and '50s, we have a link to it at ExtremeGenes.com and on our Facebook page. And coming up for you next, we're going to talk to a rookie genealogist, one who said, "As my first project, I want to take on a line that's baffled experts for twenty years.”  And she succeeded! Wait till you hear the story that Carole Burr has to tell you, coming up next in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 3 Episode 134

Host Scott Fisher with guest Carole Burr

Fisher: And welcome back to America’s Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. I am Fisher your Radio Roots Sleuth and I am very excited to be talking to Carole Burr, she’s on the line with us right now from Utah County, Utah.

Hi Carole, how are you?

Carole: I’m fine thank you.

Fisher: Carole had this idea in her mind that she wanted to find out about her husband’s ancestor, and Carole you’ve never done this before right?

Carole: Absolutely. It was new territory.

Fisher: New territory. I’ve been following this story and it’s just absolutely incredible. Now your husband had an ancestor that came out to your neck of the woods some time back in the 1860’s. Now what was his name?

Carole: Charles Berry.

Fisher: Charles Berry, and where did he go?

Carole: He went to Moab Utah, and that’s where my husband was born and raised.

Fisher: And so he had a lot of family members I would assume from that area? A large farming family as they spread out, so you probably had a lot of cousins who had worked on this line for some time.

Carole: Yes, and they were really eager to know more about him.

Fisher: So here’s the name Charles Berry and then he just kind of disappears into time. All these folks who worked on it and used stepped up and said “Hey let me try” and so who did you reach out to, to help you with this?

Carole: I have a wonderful cousin that is in Oregon and she does genealogy all the time and knows how the resources and how to do it and she is the one that helped and she basically was the one that led us to the right place.

Fisher: Let’s talk about this a little bit. It was a dead end for a reason. Obviously they couldn’t find anything that would link him. When you do genealogy you take what you know and you connect it with what you don’t know and there’s got to be some kind of connecting document, and nobody could ever find Charles Berry before he arrived in Moab Utah. What was the clue?

Carole: Well the clue for her was the name of ‘Bachrach’ and we had heard Bachrach, he just didn’t go by Bachrach.

Fisher: So this is something that had been passed down through the family?

Carole: That’s right, and so now this wonderful genealogist as she was, she found a listing on it and then she started searching for it, and then that gave me a lead also to start working on the same name.

Fisher: Okay. So what did she fine? And what did you find?

Carole: Well what I found, it’s hard for me to even believe, even though there were many families with that name, I did find the name of the right person, and interestingly enough it was in the library. There was just an old little book that they gave me and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing in front of my eyes. I started crying my eyes out [laughs]. In the back of the book I found a whole Bachrach family and it was all names that we now could research even more. Without the blue book it would have been probably a dead end for all of us. But it was wonderful because it had so many Bachrachs and they did have this specific line in the book. My husband’s grandfather... this particular book outlined that he lived in Moab Utah.

Fisher: Wow.

Carole: So they were giving us details that were so tiny and it was talking about all the families, who they were.    

Fisher: That’s unbelievable.

Carole: Everything else just kept verifying it over and over and over.

Fisher: And so you took this information and passed it over to your cousin who’s the expert, right? Who hadn’t been able to do this in twenty years, and what happened with her?

Carole: Well she was as excited as I was. At that point she really started concentrating on this particular line going backwards and going forward, and you see I am not that astute, so she would tell me what to do. We had a lot of people to connect now.

Fisher: Sure.

Carole: And so then we found out by our searching that there was a book written and it was ‘The Jews and Kestrich’ and it was by the Mayor, and I’ve learned that because in that Holocaust they were trying to reconnect all the Jews they could that were taken, and connect them to these towns and so this particular name is The Jews in Kestrich. So at that point we had his wonderful book that was so great that we not only found the family, we found our grandparents and the houses they lived in and even their dogs, and there was a picture I think.

Fisher: Wow!

Carole: It was so complete and so amazing to us and even into their cousins and the gravestones he had, and that’s very important because that’s more verification when you see those headstones with their names on them, you know. Also these picture of grandmas and grandpas and their houses and I just felt like all of a sudden we found this most amazing, wonderful family.

Fisher: Isn’t that something after all these years and here you are the newbie, you stepped into a family history library and pulls the book out of the shelf with a little help.

Carole: She was so much help. She would say to me, because she had all the knowledge, “Okay now you go to do that, and you ask somebody to help you do this.”

Fisher: Right.

Carole: And it was so exciting to me and it was so exciting to the whole family who had been searching, and believe me they were searching, and some of them had become very, very close to finding it and it wouldn’t have to have been in this particular method but I’m certainly glad it was my experience because now I feel very strongly about how much the feelings are when you can connect your family!

Fisher: It’s incredible isn’t it?  Now there was a tie in one of your cousins found in Baltimore too, right? There was a museum that had posted a new book out?

Carole: That connected the name. It wasn’t necessarily connecting him. But we knew then that this was a Jewish name and then we also knew that there was a name which was such an unusual name and so that’s why she was hoping that she had really found that one family, but it didn’t matter because we ended up finding another family with the right name.

Fisher: Right, so it all tied together. So she basically discovered that this was a German-Jewish name and as a result of that, gave you a little bit more to work on and then you found the little blue book in Salt Lake City and suddenly you’re connected back to Germany where the mayor has written a book about the Jewish families that had once been in this little town. Unbelievable!  How many ancestors would you say you have found now of Charles’s from that far back.

Carole: Oh at least four hundred.

Fisher: Unbelievable.

Carole: And then probably more. We wanted to do it right and we got all the connections all going forward and back, as far as we could do that, we even called a family reunion which I’ve never even been in a family reunion with genealogy before, and we made it very clear that it would be better for them to go by Bachrach or you’ll send someone down this goose chase again.

Fisher: [Laughs] Well you know that’s the thing, once you find stuff like this it lasts forever online, right?

Carole: That’s right. Thank goodness it wasn’t before.

Fisher:  What a strange journey, Carole, but congratulations on your find, I’m sure it almost makes your life at this point.

Carole: And also all the people that had gone on before. We’re searching and the time was right for some reason, you know, and it was time. That’s all there is. There was no excuse, I have nine children, there’s no excuse!

Fisher: [Laughs] Well congratulations Carole, and enjoy the find, and I guess you going to get to know a lot of cousins now who are probably very happy with you.

Carole: Oh, they were so grateful and I keep saying ‘Get the name Berry off everything you have.’

Fisher: Exactly.

Carole: Even your checks for heaven’s sake.

Fisher: [Laughs] Oh, you wanted them to change their names back!

Carole: Oh without a doubt. A lot of people would be searching the next three generations are going to be searching Berry again.

Fisher: Well thank you for your time, and congratulations!

Carole: Well thank you and it’s a pleasure.

Fisher: What a rookie genealogy story that is. Nice job, Carole!

And coming up next; we’re going to talk to Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com, our Preservation Authority, about what you do when you have old audio. Whether it’s reel-to-reel or a cassette tape that’s really difficult to understand. How can you enhance it and how can you make it even more useable. Tom’s got some great ideas on this and much more coming up for you in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com  

Segment 4 Episode 134

Host Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: You have found us, America’s Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth and it is preservation time with our good friend Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com.  Hello Tom, how are you?

Tom: Hello, super duper.

Fisher: I’m very excited to hear that you’re starting to get more people bringing in audio to be digitized.

Tom: Oh absolutely, it’s exploding. We get calls almost every day now, that their parents have passed away, they going through the attic and they find these cassette tapes that they didn’t even know existed, or they remember when they were little and listed to old reel-to-reel taped but they don’t know where they are until grandma and grandpa or mom and dad had passed away and they find them.

Fisher: Right. But some of these have got to be in pretty bad shape at this point.

Tom: Yeah, unfortunately like the ones I mentioned in the attic where it gets hot and cold and hot and cold, it can cause a lot of the tapes to start flaking especially the reel-to-reel, and don’t worry about it. If you see they are starting to flake, don’t throw them out. There’s a way that you can actually bake the tape and what it does is it softens the mylar just enough that the magnetic particles reattach themselves and then you can play it fine.

Fisher: Really?

Tom: Oh yeah, but you need to be careful because if you play the tape before that and all the magnetic particles are falling on the floor, there’s no way you can put them back together. It’s worse than having something that’s been shredded trying to paste the pieces back together.

Fisher: Boy and that’s going to be hard if you find an old tape. You’ll want to play to it!

Tom: Yeah, right.

Fisher: But you’ve got to resist that urge and make sure you get it to somebody who knows what they’re doing.

Tom: Exactly. Usually it’s forty, fifty sometimes even a hundred years of recordings. Its best just to be patient, get it to us or somebody else who is a professional in the field and then we can make your reel-to-reels and your audio cassettes come back to life.  We just had a call the other from somebody who said “Oh I’m got this old cassette tape of great grandpa, the only recording we have of his voice and it’s very, very hard to understand what he’s saying, is there anything you can do?” Well fortunately there are several different things you can do; first off you want to get it digitized, that’s number one priority.

Fisher: Right and you can enhance the audio.

Tom: Oh absolutely. If you have a program like ProTools. ProTools is absolutely awesome and that’s what we go to for most of our ‘sweetening’ as they call it in the industry. However, sometimes the tapes are so bad it’s really, really hard. You got to get your ear right up to that speaker, you got to really, really listen to try and make out what they’re doing, and so the best answer for that is, what you want to do is go and transcribe it. Put it on to paper for two reasons, first off if somebody is reading along while grandpa is talking, even though it’s hard to understand, you’re reading the words and then it magically makes it like it’s more understandable when really it hasn’t changed.

Fisher: That’s true.

Tom: That way you’re hearing his voice, you’re reading the words and the neat thing about it is once it’s like in a PDF form you can go and look through it, you can type in the word ‘Martha’ and every time he mentions Martha then there it is. So if you fortunate enough that you have tons of tapes, you can go and type in your name and any time that he has said that or she has said that, whoever made the recording, it’s totally searchable you can find Martha, Martha, Martha, then go read those paragraphs and that’s why when he’s talking about you or other relatives you can type in a name and once you make that PDF searchable, which with any basic PDF program from Adobe, you can do that. It makes it wonderful.

Fisher: Yeah that’s a good point. You know I’ve done exactly that. I’ve got some tapes of a grandfather of mine who was born in 1886, he lived till 1975 and we have a couple of really lengthy tapes. Some of the material is really fun to listen to but a lot of it is ‘I don’t want to hear that part, I want to hear about this’ so when I’ve gone through and actually transcribed especially the more difficult parts to hear, it’s exactly as you say, I can read along with it and then I understand what I’m hearing so much better.

Tom: Absolutely. It makes a world of difference, and like you mentioned when you make it as a searchable document, which is easy, once you have a PDF all you have to do is open it with one of the Adobe programs that does the PDFs and there’s a little icon that you can click on that says ‘Make searchable’ or you just download the little typewriter and click on something and it will say ‘Do you want to make this document searchable’ and heck yes! Push the button and then it’s all searchable and you can look for what you want. You can go and maybe make it more understandable for the people later on.

Fisher: Give it some context.

Tom: Exactly and that is so important.

Fisher: All right, what are we going to talk about next?

Tom: We’ll go a little bit more into PDFs and see how you can make them even more searchable.

Fisher: Coming up next in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show. 

Segment 5 Episode 134

Host Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: We are back for our final segment of Extreme Genes America’s Family History Show, talking with Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com, our Preservation Authority and we’ve been talking about preserving audio, Tom and giving it a little more context by not only digitizing it and enhancing it but making it more understandable by transcribing it, actually like we’re doing now with Extreme Genes.

Tom: Oh exactly! It makes it so neat, we have people that call or write us an email and say “Hey, you were talking about such and such, what exactly did you mean?” so now they can go to Extreme Genes PDF’s and they can actually read what we were talking about and say “Okay!” and take notes and write down things. It makes it so much easier. So with your own family history this is something that you want to be doing also. So when you finally get grandpa or your parents tapes transcribed and transferred and all these fun things, on the CD’s that you’re going to make or the mp3’s however you want to do it.

What you want to do is go and add some of your own context because you know what was going on. You can explain, “Hey, grandpa was talking about this, we used to go there every summer... da-da-da-da.” And the neat thing about that it sets up the context for when people are reading this it’s not like something foreign to them but something they understand.”Oh grandpa used to live here.” And the neat thing about doing PDF’s is you can go and get a Google Map, “Oh this is what he’s talking about and this is what it looks like now.” And so when he’s describing our old farm if there are cows or goats you can say “Wow, it’s a Mc Donald’s now!”

Fisher: Yeah [Laughs]

Tom: But sometimes the houses have been restored.   If you have old photos you can put those in the PDF’s as well and like we mentioned in the earlier segment, you can make these so searchable and it makes them so much nicer when they’re personal. It’s not just somebody rambling on, they’re sitting there “Oh this is grandpa talking about where mom was born.”

Like I have this story about my grandfather, in the old days they didn’t have incubators. In the early, early 1900’s. So they brought him home in a shoe box, they opened the oven door, turned on the oven and set him on the door of the oven for warmth when he was a baby.

Fisher: [Laughs] You’d go to prison these days for 30 years for something like that wow.

Tom: Exactly! But they didn’t have incubators, he was premature, he was so small he could fit in a shoe box. They didn’t have central heat back then so they turned on the oven.  I’m sure it was on low!  And set him on the door just to kind of keep the heat.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Tom: He was not in the oven, he was on the oven door that was open to keep him warm, and he survived and lived a great happy life. But stories like that are just so neat and when you can put pictures to them, when you can go in and say “Hey, this is what happened, this is kind of what grandpa’s talking about.” Because most people when they’re telling their family history they know what they’re talking about so they leave out some details and maybe you’re going “What did grandpa mean by this, what did grandma mean by this?”

But you being the son or the grandson or the granddaughter add in some nuances to make it understandable.

Fisher: And keep in mind, you’ll have a tape where the interviewer has also passed and doesn’t identify himself/herself. You’ve got to say who the person is actually asking the questions and that’s been the case for me and so I’ve gone through and actually digitized tapes and then added an introduction at the beginning when this tape was made, who did the questions, how old the people were at the time of it and the context of that era.

Tom: Oh exactly! That’s what’s so important about making them searchable and like I mentioned once you go and make them searchable you can actually add brackets ‘( )’ with context. There’s some software that are called ‘Heritage collector’ which is neat software, you can take all these different pictures and make all kinds of cool things in them and it helps it a lot, you can do the PDF’s but it’s so important you do these brackets  and say “Hey, see picture such and such on another document or look at the VHS tapes we had transferred or the film we had transferred it’s over here, it’s over here.

So they can go “Oh I’m really interested in this I want to go see that movie clip that talks about this.” So you can pull out your DVD and pop it in or if you used ‘Heritage Collector Software’ you can just type in what you’re looking for and it’s totally searchable.

Fisher: All right, great stuff, Tom!  Thanks for coming on. We’ll talk to you next week!

Tom: Sounds good, we’ll see you then.

Fisher: And, if you have a question for Tom Perry, email him at [email protected] Well that wraps up the show for this week. Thanks once again to Ron Fox our photo expert for talking about the incredible new index for photographers that can help you date your old time pictures. Incredible stuff!  And to Carole Burr, the rookie genealogist who broke open a line the experts couldn’t solve in 20 years. If you missed any of it, catch the podcast and search through the transcript. Talk to you next week, and remember as far as everyone knows, we’re a nice... normal... family!

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