Episode 143 - DNA: Ontario Woman Finds Birth Father after 33 Years/ LegacyTree.com On Why You Might Want Hire A Professional

podcast episode Jun 13, 2016

Fisher opens this week's show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.com, who is celebrating his first year anniversary on EG! Fisher notes new radio affiliates have picked up the program in Logan, Utah and Lexington, Kentucky.  In Family Histoire News, David remembers the 72nd anniversary of D-Day and laments the loss of so many World War II veterans each day.  David then tells the tale of a woman renovating a home in England who found a unique 91-year-old item stuck in the fireplace. Listen to the podcast to hear what it was! In Hungary, the winner has been declared in a gravediggers competition.  What's that all about? David will tell you the hows and whys.  David then talks about a 19th century trend of photographing dead loved ones.  Do you have a photo of an ancestor after they died?  And of course, David has another Tech Tip and free guest user database from NEHGS.

Fisher then visits with an Ontario, Canada woman who was recently featured in Good Housekeeping.  Seeking her birth parents, she had a very negative experience over thirty years ago with one "bioparent," but now a very positive experience since she has found the other.  Why did she stick with it, and how did it all come together?  Catch Fisher's touching visit with Katherine Benoit Schwartz to catch the full story. I you know an adoptee seeking their birth families, Katherine's story will give them hope.

Next, Fisher visits with LegacyTree.com President, Jessica Taylor.  Jessica explains just a few of the many reasons that researchers ranging from beginner to advanced hire professional genealogists.  Jessica will tell you what to look for in a pro you can count on, and shares some thoughts on some difficult places in the world to research, and some of those that are getting better.

During Preservation Time, TMCPlace.com's Tom Perry addresses an interesting question from a listener about actually transferring material to a genuine 8 track! It may not be the '70s anymore, but some people want to do exactly that.  Catch the reasons!  Tom then reveals a new platform he's working on to help you find reliable local help in transferring your videos, home movies, and audio.

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

Transcript of Episode 143

Host Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 143

Fisher: Hello Genies! And welcome back to Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show 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. And we want to welcome two new affiliates to our growing network of Extreme Genes stations.  KVNU in Logan, Utah… Will Feelright is the program director there. So proud to be on his Sunday morning lineup. And in Lexington, Kentucky, WLRT-AM. Benson Gregory is the station manager there, and exited to be on a couple of times! Saturdays and Sundays in Lexington, Kentucky.

Well, we’ve got a couple of great guests for you today, very excited to be talking to Katherine Benoit Schwartz. Now, Katherine lives in Canada and was recently featured in an article in “Good Housekeeping” because she just didn’t give up on her quest to find out about her birth family. And we’ve often talked about how sometimes these things don’t come out so well and sometimes they do. Well, she’s experienced both sides of that as a result of her efforts and her DNA test. So we’re going to find out more from Katherine about just what she’s been through, coming up in about eight minutes.

And, later in the show we’re going to talk to Jessica Taylor, she’s the president of LegacyTree.com. We’re going to talk about why it is that somebody might want to hire a professional genealogist. Don’t think it’s just for the rich and the newbies… there are a lot of reasons for a lot of the more experienced people to use professionals.  But right now, on his first anniversary on Extreme Genes, let’s head out to Boston and talk to my good friend, the Chief Genealogist for the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org, David Allen Lambert. How are you sir?!

David: I’m not doing too badly out here in Beantown, how about yourself my friend?

Fisher: Just doing great. I mean there’s so much happening right now in family history, and I can’t wait to get to some of this. In fact, first of all, happy anniversary! One year on the show today and I can’t even imagine what it was like before that.

David: It feels like only yesterday, especially when I go to ExtremeGenes.com and listen to that first episode every day!

Fisher: Yes! [Laughs]

David: Now I have a new number to remember. I am now officially 198863.

Fisher: Oh they finally caught up with you, huh David?

David: No. This isn’t an incarceration number!

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: This is my official national number for the Sons of the American Revolution. I’ve been putting it off for years. I am finally now a full-fledged member under my fourth great grandfather Captain Jonathan Poor of Newbury. I think that makes us more associated now. Aren’t you SAR?

Fisher: Yeah I am. I am SAR through my fourth great grandfather, Samuel Downs of Fairfield, Connecticut. So very good, congratulations! That’s exciting! 

David: Yeah, their National Congress is going to be in Boston this year, and I understand the General President is presenting me with my certificate, which makes me overly excited.

Fisher: Well that’s very cool.

David: Yeah! We talk about the Revolutionary War, but closer to home this past week was 72nd anniversary of the invasion at Normandy on D-day, and you know, it’s sad to think that we’re losing so many World War II veterans. Every day there’s more gone. Someday there won’t be anybody to remember it is other than maybe the children who there in France seeing the troops coming in. It’s amazing how time flies. One of the things that I do want to say, talking about things you may have forgotten, Emily Nash found a time capsule of sorts over at her English home. They were working on remodeling the house and tearing down an old chimney, they found a letter written to Santa in 1925.

Fisher: How cool is that!

David: Makes you kind of think, did Santa have the letter? Or did the poor unfortunate kid shove it up the chimney, and he never got it.

Fisher: Right. [Laughs]

David: But they don’t know who he is.

Fisher: And how did this affect this kid’s life? 

David: Exactly. We don’t if it’s a “him” or a “her” we just know it’s an E. Short and in 1925. This little child, who would be over 91 now, wanted some things for Christmas including a can and a box of soldiers’ chocolate, and handkerchiefs. I don’t know as a kid ever asking for handkerchiefs, obviously a different place and different day.

Fisher: Hmm. That’s like getting socks and underwear.

David: That’s true, but you know it was listed last.

Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs]

David: So, hopefully whoever E. Short was, Santa Claus was good to him all those 91 years ago. The Olympics are always something that I like to follow, and I think Hungary has a new thing for the Olympic competition. There is a grave digging competition going on in Hungary! Congratulations to Lazlo Toff who made this job what it is for him today. He says, he has a certain style and speed when it comes to digging graves, and he actually won. Can you imagine that being an Olympic sport?

Fisher: That could happen. And this was, by the way, a regional version, I mean they go on now to a higher competition after this. That’s an amazing story.

David: I saw that. I’m thinking that this might reach America, but you know this is by hand, not with a backhoe? Well, I’m sure people are just dying to get into this competition!

Fisher: Yes! Of course you just had to go there!

David: [Laughs] Hey listen, at least it’s not Kardashian news! What I want to talk about also is, we had a young person come into the library and walk by one of our paintings down on the first floor, and he said, “Oh isn’t that sweet? They’re sleeping.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him no, the person is dead.

Fisher: Right.

David: It’s a painting of an 11 year old girl in the 18th century post-mortem, and this is something that’s pretty common.

Fisher: Yeah. Actually, there are entire websites devoted to these photos of deceased relatives from back in the 19th century. It’s really macabre.

David: It really is. I mean, I guess the website “Dead Fred” is appropriate then. Because that’s where a lot of old photographs showing up, especially missing relatives.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: Okay, well my Tech Tip for the day kind of ties up the past couple of stories we’ve just mentioned, and this is all the folders and envelopes and maybe even family Bibles or boxes that you’ve put death notices and obituaries in that you and your other previous generations of family have saved. Why not scan them and make a digital scrapbook of them family by family? 1. You can share it with other family members and 2. You can see what you don’t have. So it kind of gives you an inventory, something I’m doing this summer.

Fisher: Very nice.

David: Of course each week NEHGS offers a free guest user database, as I mentioned last time we have all of our New York databases available for free during the month of June, and we’ve also added some new sketches to our western Massachusetts family in 1790. But I think that you’ll find any of the guest user databases we have, exciting and hopefully you’ll go to AmericanAncestors.org and sign on up. If you need to follow up on anything from me, you can always reach me on Twitter @DLGenealogist, and that’s all I really have from Beantown this week, talk to you soon.

Fisher: All right David thanks so much! Happy anniversary and we’ll talk to you again next week!

David: Very good.

Fisher: And this segment of the show is brought to you by 23AndMe.com DNA and LegacyTree.com. All right, and coming up next, we’re going to talk to Katherine Benoit Schwartz, recently featured in “Good Housekeeping” talking about her DNA experience, which was very positive, which kind of nullifies her very negative earlier experience in tracking down her birth parents. You’ll hear more about it in three minutes, on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 143

Host Scott Fisher with guest Katherine Benoit Schwartz

Fisher: And we are back, Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, and this segment is brought to you by Roots Magic. And you know, we’ve talked many times before about people who go about using DNA to find living relatives. Typically it’s an adoptee, and sometimes they have a lousy experience and most of the time, though, in my experience with these people it comes out quite positive.  Nonetheless, I’ve always said you’ve got to be prepared for whatever it is that may come your way. You’ve got to know what you’re capable of handling. Well, my next guest has had a little of both, the disappointing experience and the overwhelmingly joyous experience. And she’s been featured in the June edition of Good Housekeeping. She’s Katherine Benoit Schwartz. She’s up in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. Hi Katherine! How are you? Welcome to Extreme Genes.

Katherine: I’m good! How are you? And thank you for having me on.

Fisher: This is very exciting, I mean your journey goes back now, what, thirty three years or so when you started looking as an adoptee?

Katherine: Yep, pretty much. I think I was about nineteen when I kind of found my bio mom stuff, and that’s when, pretty much around the same time, I went searching for my dad as well. 

Fisher: Now how is it that you found the name of your mother at the time? And why didn’t you find the name of your father at that time?

Katherine: Well, it was really odd. Technically, you’re not supposed to have an original birth certificate, and for some reason, my adopted parents had given me my original birth certificate to get a social insurance number, which is like a social security number. So I did have a piece of paper that specifically had her name and it did say where I was born and it did say father “unknown.” So with her, I had a first name and I had a last name, so at least I had something and I was probably fifteen, maybe when I had this piece of paper on me. And my adopted grandparents, I guess I got into their heads, they would try to help me find out a bit. And we went basically for a drive to where I was apparently born, and started looking in phone books. There was no internet back then.

Fisher: Right.

Katherine: And that’s how it kind of started, and then I think when I got pregnant with my son. And you know, I told my husband and the search started again.

Fisher: Sure.

Katherine: So you know, you’re having a baby, you want to know a little history, and you’re just very maternal I guess.

Fisher: Sure, that makes sense. So now, was she in the area that you had been born?

Katherine: Yes, actually. Her whole family had lived there for generations. I mean, they’ve got a long history, hundreds of years in a very, very small town. And that’s pretty much close to I think a part of Magog, Quebec, at Lake Memphremagog

Fisher: Okay.

Katherine: And that’s where they were all from. When I was in my teens, I probably lived about thirty five minutes away from there. So they were right under my nose, and more so than I even thought. My bio mom’s parents were really, really good friends with another couple that happened to own a cottage, my childhood cottage when I was growing up. They were my neighbors.

Fisher: Who knew?

Katherine: And I actually remember. It’s kind of those weird things, I remember playing with a little girl, and I think that my bio mom’s family was visiting these people at their cottage, and it was either my aunt, who happens to be younger than me, or my half sister. I remember playing with her and I said, I don’t know how old I was but I said, “You should be my pretend sister.”  I remember it like it was yesterday.

Fisher: [Laughs]. Isn’t that crazy?!

Katherine: And then going forward confirmed that yeah, they knew each other. My ex-husband actually knew them, my actual grandparents, sort of through a church.

Fisher: Now, how was it that you were able to make contact with them and what was their response?

Katherine: Well, when I did find out my grandparents, they let me go to their house but it was a cold shoulder. My bio grandmother was kind of a mother hen. They showed me a picture of the whole clan of them and they said, “Well, do you know which one your mother is?” I pointed to everybody other than her. [Laughs] And I don’t know, I just walked away, I was probably eighteen years old, nineteen years old, I was pregnant with my son and I was looking at my husband, and he didn’t say much either. It was just a letdown. My bio mom didn’t want anything to do with me, which I understood.


Fisher: How did that affect you at the time?

Katherine: I was upset, I guess it was more confusing to me because my bio mom had a sister who found out about me when I was just starting to find them she didn’t really know the truth because she was younger. And she came barrelling over to see me. Like they came and they were part of my life immediately. And then all of a sudden I got the cold shoulder. I think because my bio mom said, “I don’t want you guys to have anything to do with her.” And they had to respect her wishes and that was it, done. But, having said that, that’s when I got the clue to my bio dad. I remember having a visit with her one day and she said, “I think your dad’s name is Casey Vandenberg. He worked at a hospital in Montreal, blah, blah, blah. And it always stuck in my head, so that’s one good thing.

Fisher: Yeah, you never lost it.

Katherine: Never. And that’s when you go through the phone book after that. And then bingo! You’ve got the internet, and that was probably... I think I started looking again in 1990. And you know, you’re Googling “Vandenberg,” and I don’t know, I was told they had moved to the states. I probably racked up hundreds of dollars in long distance calls.

Fisher: Right. But finally then DNA comes along and that kind of changes everything.

Katherine: Everything.

Fisher: Sure.

Katherine: It’s really strange because I kept on seeing the Ancestry.com ads and I just thought, you know what, I got enough that will do. So I decided to do what probably, let’s say last June, sent in my spidle, so to speak, and it took a little while to get the results back because I’ve got the backlog in even more now. Got my results back and I went on the site, and I really didn’t find a close enough connection. They were fifth and sixth cousins I think, and you email a couple of people and what do you say? “Hey, I’m adopted.”

Fisher: Sure.

Katherine: You have to be very cautious how you word things.

Fisher: Yeah.

Katherine: But I really didn’t get anywhere. So I was disappointed, but I started the family tree on my bio mom’s so I can see where I came from. And that was very intriguing. And then, about two months later I saw another ad for Family Tree DNA, and I thought, “You know what, for 99 bucks I’m doing this again. I’ve got nothing to lose.”  And that’s when something really good happened, there was another match and it happened to be a really high match. And I contacted the woman, who happened to be my first cousin, and she’s the one that actually, once we had talked and put everything together, and she contacted my dad. And from talking to her to talking to him, it was like a matter of hours. It was indeed a shock.

Fisher: Wow! I bet you it had to be a shock for him. What was his reaction?

Katherine: Well, this is the funny thing, I mean, I guess she had called him on Skype and she’s in England and he’s in Cape Coral, Florida, and she’s talking to him in Dutch because he’s Dutch, and so his wife, obviously of 49 years, had no clue because he didn’t have any clue about me.

Fisher: Sure.

Katherine: And she’s going on and on talking to him and trying to ask him questions and he’s going “No, no, don’t remember, no, no, no.” So he’s kind of denying it. He was in denial because it’s something that’s been thrown at him without thinking.

Fisher: Sure. Yep.

Katherine: So he gets off Skype and he’s sitting there having supper with his wife and he looks at her and goes, “I need to tell you something” And she’s going, “Er, what?  And he says, “Um... There’s a distinct possibility that I have another daughter.” She just about choked on her sandwich.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Katherine: That poor woman, imagine! So on Skype he got on again and I guess the memories started coming back and yes, he did remember her, and yes, he had dated her, and yes, he had broken off with her, and obviously that’s how this whole thing started, but yeah.

Fisher: Wow! Now you’ve gotten together with him since then, yes?

Katherine: Oh, definitely. It happened that Good Housekeeping got wind of our story and of course we whipped down to Cape Coral at the end of October and we had a place down there anyway where we were going to for the winter, and he was half an hour away, so we spent a lot of time together. This last winter was great getting to know him. Just going fishing and having a beer with my dad was probably the ultimate.

Fisher: Was your heart pounding when you first saw him?

Katherine: Yes, but the good thing was... I had met him on Skype first.

Fisher: Hmm hm. Right, yes.

Katherine: To me it was good because it’s not a face to face immediately.

Fisher: Safer, safer for both of you.

Katherine: And it kind of took the pressure off.

Fisher: Sure, sure, that makes sense. That’s great. So now you guys get together and I understand he’s coming to visit you in Canada this week?

Katherine: Yes. My new half brother, bless his soul, has a daughter whose graduating high school so we’ve been invited to go down to Sheridan, Ohio, and it just happened that my dad decided to spend the week with them there until we show up at the party on Saturday and then we bring him home to Canada, which he hasn’t been here since what, 1985.

Fisher: Wow! You know I like what you said about using a second DNA company. This is really important for people to understand, that it’s a really great idea to use them all! Go out and use them all.

Katherine: I do it too! I still go on other sites.

Fisher: Yep, and because you could find that the match you’re looking for is not necessarily on the place you are, so do a couple of them or three of them, depending obviously on how important the breakthrough might be to you. Well, you guys enjoy your new lives, and I’m sure that fills quite a hole especially after the early disappointment.

Katherine: Yeah. I always say that the puzzle is finally now complete.

Fisher: That’s awesome. She’s Katherine Benoit Schwartz. She’s in Niagara Falls, Ontario. She’s found her birth father, he’s 82, and Katherine, it’s been a long ways but you finally got there. Congratulations.

Katherine: Thank you so much.

Fisher: And coming up next – We’re going to talk to Jessica Taylor from LegacyTree.com and we’re going to talk about why it is you might want to hire a professional researcher. You know, even the best researchers do this periodically. You’ll hear more about it coming up in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 3 Episode 143

Host Scott Fisher with guest Jessica Taylor

Fisher: And we're back, Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, the Radio Roots Sleuth. And you know I hear this from people a lot of times, "Why is it that I might hire a professional genealogist?" Most people would consider that I’m something of an advanced researcher. And yet I've talked on the show before about how I've actually hired professionals. And the question would be, "Why would you want to do that?" Well, why would anybody? Let’s talk about that with the President of LegacyTree.com, my good friend, Jessica Taylor. Hi Jess, how are you?

Jessica: Hi. I'm great, thank you!

Fisher: Welcome to Extreme Genes! And let's talk about this a little bit, because I'm sure there've got to be a million reasons why people do this. Why do people hire folks like you?

Jessica: Well, there are several different reasons. For a lot of people, it's just time. I mean you know, you know as much as anybody how much time can be involved in finding an ancestor. You know, you get started and it’s exciting. And often, at times, it’s pretty easy, right? You've got death certificates, you've got recent obituaries and things, but the further back you get, the longer it takes to prove who an ancestor is. And it can be really time consuming. And we all know that we're busy and want to get a lot of things done. Sometimes genealogy just takes a long time.

Fisher: you know, that is absolutely true, although I don't think there's anything I enjoy more than researching my own people, especially if I'm having success. But I think for some people who've been doing it for a long time, Jessica, it's just a matter of putting another set of eyes on a difficult problem.

Jessica: Definitely. Yeah, sometimes we spend years working on something and it can be really refreshing to just get that information to somebody else who can go through it, pull out the important pieces and say, "Okay, here's where we are. Let's try this and this and this from here," or to have somebody go over what you’ve done and validate it, you know. It's nice to have somebody say, "Yes, you know, I agree with the steps that you took. I think that you're right on."

Fisher: Yeah, that's true. I actually did that with the Mayflower Descendants Society. Not that I cared so much whether I was part of the society, but I wanted them to validate my work. Then there've been other occasions where after fifteen, twenty years of pounding my head against a concrete wall, I said, "You know what, I'm missing something here. Somebody else needs to take a look at this." And I've hired professional genealogists as a result of that. I bet you get a lot of that.

Jessica: We do. And then there's some times beyond just a second set of eyes, sometimes you just don't know where else to go. You know, you've tried everything that you can think of. And there might be something else out there that somebody who does this everyday knows about and can try. And so you know, we're able to break brick walls where people say, "Wow, I've been working on this for thirty years and here you've done it!" It's really exciting!

Fisher: Well, that is really exciting too. So how can people know what a reasonable rate is when they're hiring a professional?

Jessica: Well, it varies a lot. Some people might just be an individual genealogist who specializes in maybe one or two things and their rate might vary quite a bit from a firm that can take care of your family tree and any geography or any issues that you might come across. I know for DNA that can vary quite a bit. And they're really in high demand, so if you need help with DNA analysis, that can raise the rate.

Fisher: So obviously, Jessica, this can be all over the place. I guess another question would be is, "How do you know that you've got a genealogist with the experience that you're looking for or the knowledge in that particular locale?"

Jessica: I think one thing that's important would be to try to find out what that genealogist has done in the past. If you can read reviews online, that's fantastic. If you can see sample reports and know that that genealogist knows how to access the records that you're going to need, how to analyze those clues that those records are going to give and then how to communicate that in a way that's going to prove what you need. That's important. And so if you can get some samples, that can be really helpful.

Fisher: Yeah, absolutely true. You know, I think you've probably dealt with people of all abilities, right? Not just beginners, but people who are very advanced and trying to progress in some other area. Because no individual knows it all, but a firm like yours can have experts in all kinds of different areas and disciplines and time periods.

Jessica: We do. We try to pull people for everything that we need. And it's very exciting to be able to work with somebody in Turkey and somebody in South Africa and to be able to cover these very difficult places sometimes and get people what they need, because it can be really hard to access those records and things that are in other languages when you're just trying to do this on your own.

Fisher: That has got to be a lot of fun when you take a project, assign it to one of your people in some country that you personally don't know a whole lot about as far as research goes, and you get a story back. Fill us in on something that you've received over the years that just made you go "Wow!"

Jessica: We do get a lot of really interesting things. One recent one, we have a British client and as we were researching, we found that in the early 1800s, there was an illegitimate ancestor, and so we recommended that the client take a Y DNA 67 marker test. And with that, we found a cousin who was an African American doctor in Pennsylvania. So we've got our client in the British Isles, the cousin in Pennsylvania. So it turns out the family was from the Caribbean, the cousin’s family. And his grandmother was the mistress of a British soldier. So we were able to find the match for this grandfather in the British military records. And now we're working on how this client and this cousin connect back in the British Isles. But it’s fascinating, because if it hadn't been for Y DNA, we never would have thought that this family had routed through the Caribbean. So things like that, you know, are just really exciting. We love being able to connect people with biological family or family that they never knew about.

Fisher: Boy, that's incredible stuff! How many people do you actually have working for you with LegacyTree.com?

Jessica: Well, I can't put an exact number on that. We have about fifteen employed people who are based here in Salt Lake City, Utah and there's some at the Family History Library. But then we work with genealogists who can obtain records for us all over the world. And then they send us those records and we can compile and analyze and write a report for our clients.

Fisher: What are some of the hardest areas to research right now?

Jessica: Greece is particularly difficult right now. There's a lot of just difficulty with the government trying to get records. We're also having a hard time in Romania. They've got archives with just some difficult rules and other things going on there that makes it hard. So we just do the best we can. And clients generally are very understanding when they know, you know, that there's some political issue going on and things like that, we just do everything we can.

Fisher: All right. Let's switch it the other way, what are places that in the past have been difficult that have gotten much easier in recent times?

Jessica: Boy! Well, anything that's gone online. I mean, there's so much that used to just be very obscure and you had to go to the courthouse to get. And now we can just get it in a ten second little search, just pull up what we need, so all the time things are getting faster. And it, you know, even when we began in 2004, what we could do with twenty hours of research back then is so much different compared to what we can do with twenty hours now, because we've got access to so much online. We can just burn through records so much quicker than we used to. I'm sure you remember back in the days when you had to look at the census records in the book.

Fisher: In a book, yeah.

Jessica: Crank the microfilm to get to your census records and it just took so long to get each one. And now you can just, you know, search and wildcard and pull these people up so quickly.

Fisher: Well, I kind of have come to the conclusion that if I'd had started just five or six years ago, I'd probably have everything I have right now, having done this for thirty three years! [Laughs]

Jessica: Can you imagine?!

Fisher: Yeah, absolutely. You know, it's been a great journey all along the way. Jessica thanks for coming on! It’s great ideas about why people might want to hire a professional. Appreciate it, and look forward to talking to you again soon.

Jessica: Well thank you very much.

Fisher: We should mention by the way, gifts! Yeah, that's a great reason to hire a professional genealogist for somebody as well. Hey, this segment is brought to you Forever.com. And coming up for you here in just a few minutes it's time for preservation with our Preservation Authority, Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com. Got an interesting email from somebody asking about 8 track tapes and can you actually make things into 8 track tapes?! I mean it’s a bizarre question, something you don't see every day. We'll talk to Tom about it, coming up in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show!

Segment 4 Episode 143

Host Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: And welcome back to Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, the Radio Roots Sleuth with Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com, our Preservation Authority. Hi Tom, how are you?

Tom: Super duper!

Fisher: We have a question here from Kevin Henny, United States Air Force. Kevin, thank you so much for your service. Kevin asks, "Do you still have the ability to transfer 8 track tapes to compact disk?" And I already know the answer to this, but this is so much fun, that you can.

Tom: You know what's funny is, people don't know that. We still get calls every day, saying, "Can you transfer VHS to DVD?" So people don't know this, 8 track tapes, there are so many people that do have 8 track tapes out there it's amazing. And I'd like to thank you Kevin also for your service for keeping us free and making it possible that we have this radio show. But you know, 8 tracks are awesome, we still do 8 tracks. We have people that want their 8 tracks turned backwards.

Fisher: What!?

Tom: Yeah. People have like '64 Mustangs. And they have 8 tracks in them. They can't put a CD player in them so when they enter the car show, they don't lose points. Because then you don't get to win the trophies and such. And so what they do, they get like a Three Doors Down disk, or a David Archuleta disk or whatever and say, "Hey, can you put this into an 8 track?" So we actually turn it into an 8 track for them so they can play it at the car shows!

Fisher: Oh, that's funny! I had no idea.

Tom: Oh yeah. We've got some funny letters from people too that you know, people are looking… "Okay, where are you hiding your CD player? Is it under the mat in here? Is it in your trunk? Hey, where's your CD?" And it’s like "Oh no, it's 8 track." And they pull it out. And they're going, "What? How? What?"

Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs]

Tom: And so they feel they have a real 8 track in it. They're really confused!

Fisher: [Laughs] Oh, that's funny.

Tom: It is. It's really funny.

Fisher: That's great.

Tom: But yeah, we do that. We do it all the time. And you can probably talk some history from your days in radio, how they actually came about, like in the real old days. Which is funny, because cars had poor suspension back then, they actually had turntables in the cars.

Fisher: Now, I never saw that. I was certainly there when they started with carts, cartridges in the radio business and it did not go well. [Laughs]

Tom: No.

Fisher: Earlier on. They were awful things, terrible things.

Tom: It was a pursuit of money basically, because they were working on the engineering of audio cassettes. And it was going to be several years before they got it all fixed out. And so they thought, "Well, you know what? Let's take these audio carts" that as you know where made for commercials. You push the button, it plays the commercial and then it rewinds back to the beginning again. So we thought, "Hey, maybe we can take these and instead of four tracks, we can make them into eight tracks. Put more tape in there that they can play a whole album on." Bad idea, very bad idea!

Fisher: Yeah, it didn't work well with that. It didn't work well in the radio industry with the cartridges. Eventually we started using them for songs, too. And sometimes they would break right in the middle of it and then, "Song's over!" [Laughs]

Tom: [Laughs]

Fisher: And that sends you just scrambling to reach for another one and throw it in the machine and pop the button. But you know they're so nostalgic now for so many people who came of age in the '70s. I'm not surprised that people want to have them or preserve them or at least keep what's on them. And you'd mentioned at one point that people actually recorded interviews themselves on 8 track, which I've never done or even seen. How's that done?

Tom: Oh absolutely. Back in, I'm guessing it probably would have been the early ‘70s I bought a real nice system that had an 8 track player and recorder on it. It had the cassette and then it had a turntable on the top. And so you could go to Radio Shack and buy blank 8 tracks tapes and record them. So people were using them for things like that, but the biggest problem with them as you mentioned, it's supposed to be an endless tape. They would hook them together and there's a little piece of aluminum where it says, "Okay, go to track 2, 3, 4, all the way down." Back in those days, they didn't have the chemicals that we have today to make good adhesives. So that's usually the downfall of them, that little metal tape comes off and then they just stop. Now, there's two different kinds of cases they go in. Some of them have these little lynch pins that you can pop and take them apart and fix them. The other ones don't. And so then what we have to do, we have to cut it open, we have to get what we call a "donor cell" and take that 8 track out, fix it and put it in a new cell. Put it back together and then we can transfer Grandpa’s recordings.

Fisher: All right Kevin thanks for the question. And coming up in our next segment, we're going to talk about a new opportunity, a new way for you to reach Tom and ask him great question about preservation, on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show in three minutes.

Segment 5 Episode 143

Host Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: And we are back for our final segment of Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show for this week. We're doing preservation with Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com, our Preservation Authority. And Tom, as we've talked about on the show many times, we like to promote local people who do what you do.

Tom: Absolutely!

Fisher: So that people can find somebody who they can rely on in their local area and get their materials duplicated, digitized, whatever it is they need to have done. And I like what you're working on right now.

Tom: Yes. JustAskTom.com is our new site and we need your help in putting it together. As you mentioned, we want to help you to be able to do things yourself. We want you to be able to use your local people. And so we want good and bad experiences. If you have a local person that you've used that you've been really happy with, let us know who they are so we can put them on our site and recommend them to other people. If you've had bad experiences, let us know about the bad experiences too so we can you know, red flag them, so if anybody ever asks about them. Plus if you have a local place that does transfers and duplications and you haven't checked them out yet to even know if they would be "Tom approved" so to speak. What we can do is, we can send in a secret shopper. Send them some video tapes, some film you know, see how the customer service works and then we can look to see if they're recommended, because we love you to use your local people. We're available across the country if you need us, but we would really like you to develop good relationship with transfer and duplication centers right in your own backyard.

Fisher: And what I'm excited about what you're putting together here is videos on how to do a lot of the things we talk about here on Extreme Genes.

Tom: Oh exactly! We get letters that say, "Hey, you know, I love the segment how you explain this to us, but I'm a visual person. I need to see how I splice a tape, how I do this." So we've got a GoPro camera, and when I'm repairing tapes, I'm going to shoot them now. And we'll put those segments up on our JustAskTom.com site. So you can say, "Oh, this is how I fix an 8 track tape" or "a cassette tape" or "a video tape."  All kinds of things we're going to put on there. Send us question. We'll have recommendations of different kinds of software to use. But the biggest thing is we'll let you know who the trusted people are in your area that gets your stuff done locally.

Fisher: Boy, that's great! Now it's launching when?

Tom: It's scheduled to launch the end of June. And that's all based on engineers, but it's pretty much close to going right now. So within the next two weeks, everything should be up and operating.

Fisher: That's exciting stuff. All right, so to reach you and talk about some of the recommendations they might have about a local transfer person, how can they do that?

Tom: You can always ask me questions at [email protected] like we have forever or you can go right to our website that's JustAskTom.com and you'll see all the information. Fill out forms, ask questions, we want to know people that you've had good experiences with, so we can put them up there and send people to those. So let us know across the country all these wonderful things that have happened. If you've had bad experiences, let us know about those too, so we can red flag people.

Fisher: Okay, that's all great. But wait, there's more!

Tom: Absolutely! We're going to have "Tom Approved" preservation sites that you can go to and learn information about specific topics. We're going to have suggestions about equipment retailers. Everybody's looking for camcorders or looking for the new widgets, we'll give you places that we've checked out and they are good and honest people. We'll put magazine articles up there and actually put links to other magazine articles. We're going to have scanning parties across the country. We're going to teach you to do cleaning and restoration of your CDs and DVDs. We'll have Q&A forums. There's all kinds of things that's really going to help our community. And all you genies need to get together, help us put all this stuff together so this website will be an awesome place for people to go and get the latest technology. This is the only way that we can actually let you know, "Hey, this is what's current right now. This is what you need to do. This is how you're going to do the best job of preserving all your memories.”

Fisher: All right, great stuff Tom. We'll be keeping an eye on that. And it's coming out in just a couple of weeks!

Tom: Absolutely!

Fisher: And this segment was brought to you by MyHeritage.com. That wraps up the show for this week. Thanks once again to Katherine Benoit Schwartz for coming on, from Niagara Falls, Ontario, talking about her miserable and wonderfully joyous experiences in tracking down each of her birth parents. One went well, the other, not so much. If you missed it, catch the podcast. Thanks also to Jessica Taylor from LegacyTree.com for talking about why you'd want to hire a professional genealogist. Take care. We'll talk to you next week. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!

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