Episode 148 - What An Old House And An Estate Inventory Can Tell You /Update On Family of Nine Children Who Learned They Had Eight Different Fathers!

podcast episode Jul 18, 2016

Host Scott Fisher opens this episode thanking listeners on the third anniversary of Extreme Genes. David Allen Lambert then joins him and speaks of his induction into the Sons of the American Revolution this past week with a very special bonus.  Listen to the podcast to hear what it was. David then speaks about a British man who was adopted as a baby during World War II. Hear the feel good story about his late life birth family reunion. David then reveals the discovery of some of the remains of a legendary, ancient religious leader. Who was it and where was it found? Segment 1 has the answers. Finally, Japanese leaders are considering raising a World War II battleship to repatriate the remains. Hear about the controversy surrounding the proposal. David then shares his Tech Tip on creating a "Muster Family Tree" for identifying potential military people from various wars. He'll also give you another free NEHGS/AmericanAncestors.org guest user database.

Fisher next visits with Craig Chartier, who directs the Plymouth Archeological Rediscovery Project. Craig has written a masterful piece blending information found in the estate inventory of Mayflower Pilgrim John Howland, and the excavation of his 17th century home. The result is a virtual tour of the house with the objects it contained and where they were located. The objects and locations reveal many things about the man, and gives other "genies" a model for something they might be able to do to learn more about their ancestors.

Then, it's "catch up" time with Steve Anderson.  Last year (Episode 100) Steve came on Extreme Genes to reveal his family's incredible secret. He had been raised in Minnesota in a family of nine children. In time, circumstances and DNA testing revealed that eight of the nine had different fathers, all different than the father who had raised them with their mother! No Extreme Genes story has ever received more attention. With the recent passing of his mother, Steve updates this incredible story.

Then, it's Preservation Authority Tom Perry answering a listener question from Maui about white spots found in a VHS tape.  Can she digitize it? What does it mean? Tom, as always, has the answers.

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

Transcript of Episode 148

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 1484

Fisher: How is it even possible? It has been three years, three years this week of Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show. How are you? It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, on the program where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out. Boy, we’ve got a lot of great stuff going on right now. First of all, we’ve just started our Weekly Genie newsletter, here the last little while, and we would love to get you to sign up. To do that all you have to do is go to our website ExtremeGenes.com or go to our Facebook page and there’s a sign up place right there as well. It is free! No, we’re not going to spam you. We’re just going to fill you in on what’s happening in the world of genealogy and family history, and of course with Extreme Genes as well. I am very excited about our guests that we’ve got today! Our first guest coming up in about seven or eight minutes, Craig Chartier, he is the director of the Plymouth Archaeological Rediscovery Project. And let me tell you about this guy. He figured out from the archaeological discoveries of a home of one of the old pilgrims, John Howland, what his house looked like, how it was shaped and structured. And then he took the inventory from when this man died, and was actually able to place where those things were within that house in order to recreate the house, and how the man lived, and some of the things about his lifestyle. A fascinating thing that you might be able to do with one of your ancestors. So we’re going to talk to Craig about that experience and what he learned, and what he found. Should be interesting, coming up in just a bit. Then, later in the show we’re going to visit with a man we talked to almost a year ago, Steve Anderson. You may recall this. He was raised by his mom and dad in Minnesota, one of nine kids in the family. And through certain circumstances they learned that their dad wasn’t their dad. In fact, they found out that there were at least eight fathers for the nine children! Well some things have happened since we were last into that story. It was Episode 100, by the way, if you’re going to check back on the podcast. He’ll fill us in on the latest on that story coming up later in the show. But right now it’s time to get back from vacation with our good friend David Allen Lambert, the Chief Genealogist for the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. Are you rested and tanned David?

David: I would say the tanning wasn’t as good as I wanted, but definitely well rested.

Fisher: Well it was a nice break. You went to Williamsburg, I went to Hawaii, and did you discover anything exciting there in Williamsburg?

David: That I can fire a 69 caliber Brown Bess Flintlock musket and get 12 shots on the target. Woo! Quite a far distance away, so I guess I would have been good for the Revolutionary War.

Fisher: Yes!

David: Which kind of ties into earlier this week. The Sons of the American Revolution had their 126th Congress in Boston, and I was honored beyond belief to be sworn in as a new member by the President General Thomas Lawrence in Boston at NEHGS.

Fisher: Wow!

David: So I’m now a SAR member, number 198863.

Fisher: There are a lot of us. I’m a member as well, and that’s exciting. Congratulations!

David: Thank you very much compatriot.

Fisher: Yes exactly. Let’s get on with our Family Histoire news. What do you have for us today?

David: Well, we have a gentleman by the name of Mark who, when he was about 20 years old in the early 1960s, was told by his father that he was actually adopted. He found his mother and found out her name was Irene Gladys Oldfield. She’d given him up for adoption at 9 months of age. He had been born in 1942 over in England during World War II. Well, he went onto the internet, figured out who she was. Unfortunately she died in Canada in Ontario in 2010. But it listed Diane, John, Jeanette, Jim, Doug, Annette, Carol, Denise and Robert as her children. So he had a new family! He’s been in touch with them and been reunited. So a war baby that was put up for adoption in England is now reunited with a whole new bunch of siblings, and no doubt nephews and nieces and great nephews and nieces. So that’s a wonderful story.

Fisher: Wow! That’s very cool.

David: Well digging back a little further, they now believe they may have found a shrine that contains part of the skull of Buddha!

Fisher: And who is “they?”

David: This is the Chinese archaeologists who found a thousand year old shrine containing the skull of Buddha himself. And it is four foot by one and a half feet long covered with gold and gemstones and glass, and it was found underneath a temple. When they were doing an excavation they found a chamber underneath and voila. There it was! My biggest question is now will they do DNA? Who’s the first one that’s going to be able to get in to have a look at it?

Fisher: And who’s going to find out they have DNA that matches Buddha?

David: Exactly! So that’s another episode of Extreme Genes, and by the way, happy anniversary!

Fisher: Thank you sir!

David: Also kind of war related, the Japanese government and some lawmakers are considering raising the World War II battleship Yamato which sunk back in 1945 as it was steaming towards Okinawa. On board the vessel was over three thousand war dead that never were reclaimed, and they’re still with the ship. So there’s some people that say, “Leave them there.” Others that want to bring up the vessel and see them have proper burials. Personally I think they should just leave it as a burial at sea.

Fisher: Well, you know that’s one of the challenges we all face as “Where do we spend our public moneys and what’s worth the most, right?

David: Absolutely. My Tech Tip is for you to muster up your family tree. So look through your charts and see what male ancestors you might have from the colonial times through the 19th to the early 20th centuries that fit in the age range of about 16 to maybe the mid 30s, and then see what wars were going on at that time. Create a little timeline sheet and then see. Because I just met with a bunch of people from the Sons of the American Revolution. They didn’t even realize that some of their ancestors they had fit. So now they have new supplemental ancestors.

Fisher: That’s very cool, I like that!

David: I think it’s kind of a fun thing to try. So there’s that. And then for today’s AmericanAncestors’ free database, we have cemetery records from 1724 to 1986, over 25,500. And again, this is just a free database brought to from American Ancestors for our guest users. Now, that’s about all I have from Beantown. It’s nice to be back to work again, and look forward to talking to you again next week my friend.

Fisher: All right. Great chatting with you with you as always David, we’ll talk to you then! And coming up next we’re going to talk to Craig Chartier. He is the director of the Plymouth Archaeological Recovery Project. We’re going to talk about how he actually took the archaeological studies of a house of a man who lived 300-400 years ago. And then matched that with his inventory to take you on a tour of the house and how the whole thing was put together. It’s an amazing journey. You’re going to want to hear more about it coming up for you in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show. This segment has been brought to you by LegacyTree.com.

Segment 2 Episode 148

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Craig Chartier

Fisher: You know, it wasn’t that long ago that David Allen Lambert the chief genealogist for the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org came on and gave us a little tech tip about using modern technology to map out what your ancestor’s home or maybe even your childhood home or your grandfather’s home looked like back in the day, and use that to share with children and grandchildren what their ancestors’ lifestyle was about. Hi, it is Fisher. This is Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. And over the weekend I was looking through the website for the Pilgrim John Howland. He is my tenth great grandfather, and it was very interesting to see that they’ve been excavating his home site in Plymouth, Massachusetts now for many decades. And recently a man named Craig Chartier, he’s the director of the Plymouth Archaeological  Project, wrote a great piece about how they took the inventory of John Howland from when he passed away in the 1670s , and then matched it up with the archaeology of the house. And this, of course, could apply to all kinds of people doing this, whether you’re in the south or the west or whatever. If you have descriptions of your ancestor’s place and you have their inventory, you can do some fascinating stuff. And I’ve got Craig on the line with me right now. Hi Craig! Welcome to Extreme Genes.

Craig: Hey Scott! Thank you very much, really great to be here.

Fisher: Just to give a little background on John Howland’s house, how long has it been since they started excavation there?

Craig: First excavations were carried out way back in the 1936 to 1938. They started doing the excavations on one of the anniversaries when the house was originally built. It was built in 1636 or 1638. So, on the 300th anniversary they wanted to do some work and actually do some archaeology there and see what it looks like.

Fisher: And he and his wife Elizabeth Tilly lived there for thirty some odd years or something like that, before he passed on and then she moved in with her son, Jabez. So what did they find during the course of this excavation, by the way?

Craig: What you were going to find is the actual the outline of the whole house, a rectangular house, kind of small. It wasn’t a big huge fancy house or anything. It had a really large chimney, about nine foot wide by about four foot deep chimney. It was covering one entire wall of the house. And then the rest of the house was divided into one big main room with a small room attached to that. So that big main room would have been the hall and the small room would have been the parlour, sort of a more intimate room. And then it kind of had a little attachment on the back, a little L, a little lean-to kind of extension. That was on the back of the house, all with a stone foundation. And then what’s really interesting too is what they did. John Howland used a piece of his old armor. He used a piece of armor as either a tie back inside the hearth or to cover up a hole in the hearth or something but they actually found a piece of John Howland’s armor inside the hearth.

Fisher: I had no idea that the pilgrims brought armor with them from England. Unbelievable!

Craig: Yep, a big old piece of armor. It must have been really heavy, a whole suit of armor to wear. There would have been a breast plate and a back plate. The piece that they found was a half or so of probably the upper part of your leg, but the thing must have been huge and heavy. You can see why they would have gotten rid of it pretty soon.

Fisher: Now, just off the top of my head, John died in 1672 as I recall, right?

Craig: Yeah that’s right.

Fisher: And at the time, of course, as was the process then and very much so now in many, many places, they did an inventory of his estate, which meant they listed all the things that he owned because even his wife couldn’t inherit it without going through the proper process, right?

Craig: That’s right yeah, exactly right.

Fisher: And so through this, you were able to take this list of things that he had and then look at it as the inventory people basically giving you a tour of the house. Now you had the outline of the house so you knew what the place looked like, what the layout was. And so I loved your article because you were able to actually take us on a tour inside of John Howland’s house. Explain how you did this, how this came to mind and what some of the things were and what they told you about his life style.

Craig: The whole process started when the Howlands contacted me about doing a final report. I mean, I got to say, the site was excavated back in the ‘30s but there’s never been a report done on the site. And the Howlands are very passionate about their ancestors and always interested to find out anything they can about their ancestors. So as an archaeologist you can either write a report that’s very scientific without the jargon you know, bore these people to tears.

Fisher: Yes! [Laughs]

Craig: Now that just becomes just a long, too long to read, kind of report, or you can try to tell a story. And that’s one of the important aspects of archaeology is to try and tell a story about the past. So I was trying to come up with some story using the historical documents, using the archaeological evidence that we have there to try and tell a story about John Howland’s life, to try to sort of bring it to life, bring a house and his wife’s house to life. And the lovely thing, the wonderful thing about this site is that they had a really, really clearly defined archaeology and they also had a probate that was really, really detailed. Sometimes you get these probates and it will list just everything that’s in the house, and there won’t be really any order to it. It will list a coat next to a horse, and it’ll list a kettle next to a cart. And it just didn’t seem like it made a lot of sense.

Fisher: Right.

Craig: But this thing here, just as soon as you start reading a probate you can really get an idea, a feeling that you can walk around inside the house. And that’s what I tried to do when I took a look at the probate and tried to write up something interesting about the probate analysis. Like I said, not every probate is like that, but every once in a while you come across a real gem that gives you a chance to really get inside of people’s heads and you know, get a real feeling for the people, who were there. So mentally in my head I had that outline of the house. I knew what it looked like and then I just started looking at the probate. And you know people would go through a front door to get into the house, and so if you think about the first thing they going to see when they go through the front door. I just started with that and then it just naturally flowed as you went around the house. There wasn’t any head scratching. The people who did the probate had listed things just as they must have seen them all throughout the house. So it was really fascinating to go through it.

Fisher: So they went from the front door, and then you were able to determine by the list of the items, “Okay, they went this way, into this room, and then to the back of this room and over to the cooking area.” And you were just virtually able to see where they went because of the way they listed it, right?

Craig: Exactly, yeah. I mean you could see that when they went through the front door the first thing that they listed was his musket, his long gun, his cutlets, You know, it’s the very first thing so it must have been right inside the door. 

Fisher: So that tells you basically it’s there for protection and something you can grab at the last moment before you open the door, right?

Craig: Exactly. I mean they were living you know, basically what was a frontier in Plymouth Colony back in the 1630s. It’s in Kingston, Mass. And they were out on a little peninsula called Rocky Nook but it was still frontier. You never knew what might be happening. There could have been Spanish coming, or there could have been Native Americans coming, so it would have been really common to keep your weapons right in front of the door there so you could have access to them as soon as you open that door. But after that, the next thing they started talking about was things right by the hearth, and we knew where the hearth was in the house from the archaeology.

Fisher: Right.

Craig: As we knew that once you go inside the house you had to turn right to get to the hearth. So by knowing that, we know that the door must have opened to the right and the firearms and stuff were just on the inside of the door on the left hand side. And you could look at all the items that were in the hearth. It wasn’t a lot, but as they sort of left the hearth area, all certain things were divided into what looked like a man’s side and a woman’s side of the hearth. There were all of the sharp tools or the axes, hatchets, axes, hoses, pickaxes, those sorts of things on one side, and then it looks like on the other side it was all things like kettles and pots and pans and chains and things like that and things that would be associated with doing the cooking.  So you could just imagine that Elizabeth had her side of the hearth and John had his side of the hearth. And the sharpening stone was over on his side of the hearth so that’s probably where he’d be sitting doing all of his sharpening. And then as you leave the hearth you can just sort of imagine how how he'd be travelling around the rest of the room.  One of the really neat things we found, looking at the probate, was a lot of books that was right inside the house.

Fisher: Yes. Did you find out what the books were? Did you identify them specifically?

Craig: Some of them were identified. Pretty specifically some of them were just general names. One was called “The Great Bible” and there was actually a Bible back in the 17th century called “The Great Bible…” big G and a big B. And that was the first authorized version of the Bible in English that was authorized by Henry VIII.

Fisher: Right.

Craig: So that was probably a copy of that Great Bible. Some of the other books, eventually it just said something like “seven more books” It’s one of those things where you read that as a researcher and you get frustrated and it’s like, “Agh, why couldn’t you just write what those seven other books were?”

Fisher: Yeah [Laughs]

Craig: We had a look at Elizabeth’s probate later on and she listed some books in there that’s matched up with those earlier books and we were able to kind of fill in some details of what some of those other books were as well.

Fisher: Wow. In the excavation, were any of the items listed in the inventory ever recovered?

Craig: We don’t know exactly if those were the exact same things, but you know we saw things like axes, one of the things that was mentioned was jugs and earthenware and earthen pots. We saw fragments of those sorts of things. Talk about a lot of pewter platters and things like wedges, iron wedges, those are common inside the inventory. A bunch of iron wedges were actually during the excavation so there wasn’t actually an opportunity to match up some of the things shown in that probate with the actual artifacts that were found. One of the neat things that were in the probate too was a set of scales that somebody who was engaged in selling things would be used in weighing coins, silver and gold and that sort of thing. We didn’t find the actual set of scales but there actually was a scale weight with that specific denomination that was found in the excavation that must have gone with that set of scales as well.

Fisher: Well, hopefully with technology, you’ll be able to recreate his home digitally and show where all these things were. I mean that would be an incredible thing to have for Howland descendants and of course a great example for many other people who might want to have access to information about their own homes, you know, get some information from the inventories of their ancestors and put it all together as you have.

Craig: Exactly.

Fisher: Well, awesome Craig! Thank you so much for your time and sharing this information. I’ve never seen anything quite like what you wrote and it was very impressive, and we appreciate your time coming on Extreme Genes.

Craig: It was great talking to you. Thank you very much for having me.

Fisher: He is Craig Chartier, and he is the Director of the Plymouth Archaeological Project. This segment of Extreme Genes has been brought to you from MyHeritage.com. And coming up next, we revisit Steve Anderson the man who came from a family of 9 children… with 8 fathers… and they didn’t know it! It’s in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 3 Episode 148

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Steve Anderson

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 was about a year ago, maybe eleven months, that we had a man on from Minnesota who gave us a story that I think has been talked about perhaps more than any other story we've had on in the entire three years of Extreme Genes. Steve Anderson is his name. And the story was about discovering the fact that in his family of nine children there were eight fathers, and yet they were all raised by the same man. And no, he wasn't the father of any of them! And Steve is back on the line with me right now. How are you, Steve? Welcome back to Extreme Genes.

Steve: Thanks, Scott. I'm glad to be here.

Fisher: So just going back to the beginning, Steve. You discovered at one point, as a result of an accident that involved a brother, the fact that your dad's blood could not be used to help him out when he was in the hospital, because dad's blood didn't match. And that was your first hint that there was something uniquely different about your family, correct?

Steve: That's right. And then that was followed by two other sisters who because of some events my mom actually just told them out right that they did not belong to Dad and in fact told them who their fathers were. The third one didn't know probably until she was about fifty-six years old, so it was a real surprise to her. But that started the research, the questions that we started looking into, and, you know, never really got very far with, until DNA testing became affordable.

Fisher: Right.

Steve: And so my brother and I sort of together began the search using DNA and found some fascinating answers to the question.

Fisher: [Laughs] Well, that's exactly true. Now of course you wound up confronting your mom. And for people who want to hear the whole story, we're not going to do the whole thing all over again. Listen to Episode 100 on the podcast and you can find that on ExtremeGenes.com, it's on iTunes of course, and you can catch the whole thing. So the bottom line was, as you discovered that of your siblings, the whole group, the whole family, nine of you, that there were eight different fathers involved. You confronted your mother, and she left you a list of the names of all the different dads. And since we last talked in, I think it was August of last year, your mom has passed. So what has changed as a result of that, if anything, and did she have anything further to say about it before she passed away?

Steve: Well, she did. Before she passed away, about a month or two before she passed away, she was ninety three when she died and I confronted her when she was ninety. So this is relatively recent. And after I initially confronted her and she gave me the names and stuff, I then talked to my sister who then approached her and asked some more questions. She basically got the answer that she and two of the other sisters for sure belonged to dad. Well when she left there she said, "I don't believe that." She got tested and found out she didn’t. So she called one of the other sisters and said, "You know, we want to get you tested." She had a test and found out she was not dad's. So the only one left then was the one sister that we really can't tell yet. And at this point doesn't know yet.

Fisher: So she has no idea. And this is kind of by design that you don't want to inform her at the moment because of the fact that she's made up a little differently than the rest of you in terms of how she handles things like this, yes?

Steve: No, she would probably be the one that would, because she really wants to know all the answers, she would probably start talking to people around town. And as she's the only one living back there in that town, by the way.

Fisher: Um hmm, in Minnesota.

Steve: Yeah and we really...it's just not...we don’t feel comfortable with her starting to ask these questions and approaching people, because we kind of through the years have found that a lot of the people in town sort of knew what was happening. And thank goodness that we as kids didn't know that or it would just be impossible to live there had we known that.

Fisher: Yes, of course. So did mom reveal anything further before she passed, about what was the root of all of this? Because she stayed married to your dad for twenty five years, the entire time you were all growing up.

Steve: She did, she did. And you know, it was interesting, because we know that dad knew about some of them. We don't know how many he knew about. But you know, he never once said anything derogatory about my mother. And in fact, one time when I got really angry with her about something, I was you know, a teenager, you know how they are.

Fisher: Yeah.

Steve: And he really got after me saying, "Don't you ever talk about your mother that way! You show her respect." You know, at that time I thought, "Yeah, yeah, yeah." And now I look at it and I just think "wow!" You know, he was really protecting her. And as you know, the day he died, he never said anything that would indicate that she had done anything inappropriate.

Fisher: And last time we talked, you had speculated that perhaps he just was unable to have children and this might have been some kind of arrangement.

Steve: [Laughs] Well, you know, that was the joke for a while there, you know. For quite a while, we knew of the three siblings and we were kind of kidded around with ourselves saying, "Wouldn't it be funny if we found out dad was sterile?" And now you know, nine kids later, none of them his and he lived with my mother for twenty five years. How can you not get somebody pregnant when you're living with them, husband and wife for twenty five years?

Fisher: Right. Yeah.

Steve: So it adds some legitimacy to that joke, doesn't it?

Fisher: Absolutely. Let's fast forward here a little bit, because you had family reunion here in the past month or so. How'd that go in Minnesota?

Steve: My Mom passed away in December and within our family, when people die in December, in January, we don't typically have a big funeral for them. We kind of either cremate them or a very small little sentiment gathering of a couple of people to make it official. And then we all get together when the weather's warmer. We did that not too long ago, just a couple of weeks ago. We all made a promise that nobody is going to say anything to anybody until after the funeral.

Fisher: Um hmm.

Steve: After the funeral was over, we told our brother… this is the one, the very first one that found out he wasn't Dad's… we told him and he says, "Yeah, I figured that's probably the situation." And so the only one left is the one sister. And I wanted to tell her, just because I thought she needed to know. First of all, the reason that I started the DNA testing was so that I would pay to have mom and dad tested and then while I was doing it thought, "Let’s have me tested, too. I know I'm Dad's, but for grins and giggles." And the idea was that anybody else in the family, who wanted to, could then pay to have themselves tested, because we had the base already created. And so I thought, "Okay, everybody has a right to know." But the rest of the siblings said, "Don't you dare tell her!" And so, long story short, in the end I left, and she at this point doesn't know.

Fisher: And you're still trying to figure out among your siblings exactly when and how to tell her.

Steve: Yeah. And you know, most of them say, "You know, she's almost seventy years old. She can take it to the grave with her. It’s not going to ruin her life not to know at this point you know." We do want to make sure we keep peace in the family, too. And none of this was ever done to tear apart the family or to cause grief to any one person, so we want to be real careful.

Fisher: Well, and it’s a very delicate thing. And that's one of the side effects I guess you'd say of DNA testing, isn't it?

Steve: Yeah. You know, my brother always says, "Steve, be careful what you ask, you may not like the answer." You know, I'm fine with the answer, I really am. The first three months took some really big adjustment. Now it's just a funny story, you know.

Fisher: [Laughs] Right, it's something that happened.

Steve: Yeah. I'm not so sure my sister will think it’s that funny though. That's the one who we haven't told yet.

Fisher: He's Steve Anderson. He comes from one of the most unique families we've ever run across on Extreme Genes! Thanks so much for coming on, Steve and giving us an update.

Steve: My pleasure. Thank you.

Fisher: And this segment of the show has been brought to you by 23andMe.com DNA. And coming up next, it is preservation time with Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com, our Preservation Authority. He's got a question from a listener in Maui, coming up three minutes.

Segment 4 Episode 148

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: And welcome back to America's Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Root Sleuth with Tom Perry our Preservation Authority from TMCPlace.com. And Tom, it was three years ago that we launched this show, and you were here from the very get go.

Tom: Isn't that amazing? Three years just went by. Boom!

Fisher: And now we're on over 40 radio stations around the country and continuing to grow and we thank so many people for making all this possible, because it's a fun ride.

Tom: Oh, it is. It's been so much fun. I love getting these letters at [email protected]  and interacting with different people and finding out what they're interested in, where they're going with their preservation. There's just so much fun to help them get their stuff going.

Fisher: All right. We've got this email from Anna Ta’aua in Maui, Hawaii. And she said, "I just happened to be listening to KAOI radio on Maui early Sunday morning and I heard your show. Can you tell me what I'm seeing?" She said she was looking down into, I guess it's the sprockets on an old VHS tape, and sees white spots in there, kind of the size of a pencil eraser. And she wants to know if she can still transfer videos with this on it. What is that? What’s she seeing?

Tom: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. We see this a lot in high humidity places like Maui, and I think we need to get over there and have a scanning party!

Fisher: [Laughs] I just got back!

Tom: [Laughs]

Fisher: I had a great time. It was fantastic!

Tom: Yeah that’s great. We get these a lot in the southeast areas and places like that where there's a lot of humidity. What it is, you get mold spores in there. And then when there's a lot of humidity, the mold just grows and that's what they are. They're little white spots. So if you ever have a tape and you're looking down at the top, there's usually two little clear windows. If you see those white spots like she did, what they are… they're a mold, and they're mold spores. So they can still be transferred to DVD. You just have to be really careful. Now one thing I want to warn her about is don't preview these tapes unless you're going to throw your VCR away when you're done. Because what will happen is if you run one of these mold spored ones through your VCR, they'll get on your heads.

Fisher: Right.

Tom: And then you'll have a clean tape that you run behind it, and then it's going to put the mold spores on there which you will not see immediately. However, over a little bit of time, they're gonna grow just like the other ones did because of the humidity in Hawaii.

Fisher: And so, what does that do? What does a spore from mold actually do to a tape?

Tom: Well, it doesn't really hurt the tape. What it does is it just grows, and so the bad thing is it will get on your heads, and it'll spread just like a virus. And so that's the bad part that it'll spread to your next tapes, your next tapes. Anything you ever play in that VCR will probably now get mold spores and grow mold on it.

Fisher: So you have to do what then? Get one particular machine that's specified just for mold spores and then get rid of it when you're done?

Tom: Exactly. We've had people that have brought in hundreds of those. And we have two things, we say: "Hey, do you have an old VCR you don't want anymore that we can use?" And if they do, then we'll use theirs to run their entire job, and then destroy it after it's done. Don't give it to Goodwill because you're going to be giving this disease to somebody else.

Fisher: So what do you do if they don't have that machine?

Tom: We go to Goodwill or DI or someplace like that and get a VCR and we run their job, and when we're done with their job we, you know, throw it away. Because you can go in and clean it. But the thing is mold spores are so teeny tiny, the chance of getting every single one is pretty, you know, slim. Like when we were doing standard transfers, you know, after so many passes we go in and clean the heads anyway.

Fisher: Right.

Tom: And even though 99% of the time once we transfer a VHS tape to a DVD, the chances are they're never gonna use the tape again. However, I don't want to make that decision for somebody. I want them to have the tape back. If they want to do something with it, fine. If they want to throw it away, then that's up to them. But I want to make sure when we give them their tape back, it's in as good or better condition than when they brought it in to us.

Fisher: And of course we want to keep the originals for as long as possible because you might want to digitize it again someday with better technology, right?

Tom: Right. To an extent that's mostly with film and things. Because anytime you're dealing with something that's optical like negative slides, Super8 film, 8mm, 60mm, all those kind of things, as new technology comes out you can scan it at a higher resolution and it will look better. In fact in our next segment let’s get little bit more into the differences between magnetic transfers and optical transfers.

Fisher: All right. This segment is brought to you by Forever.com. We'll get to that in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 148

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: Hey we’re back, final segment of Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.  It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth. We’re talking preservation with Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com. Tom, in the last segment we were answering Anna’s question from Maui, about dealing with mold spores. And you were getting into… what is it?... two different types of optical preservation?

Tom: Exactly! A lot of times people get confused. Like we have people that bring in old VHS tapes and want them on BluRay because they think they’re going to look better. Well, if you take a VHS tape and transfer it to a DVD and play it in a BluRay player it’s going to look exactly the same as if you put it on a BluRay player and play it in a BluRay player. Because the neat thing about the BluRay players is the new technology that actually up-converts other DVDs. So if you have an old favorite Disney DVD you’ve watched for years, when you get your BluRay player and you pop that in on your Hi Def television, you’ll actually see that it looks better. It hasn’t physically changed the DVD, it just goes through and up-converts it to make it look better.

Fisher: Hmm.

Tom: And the thing is, the differences we were talking about in the earlier segment, is you have magnetic things. Your VHS tapes, your video 8 tapes, your mini DV tapes, all these different kinds of physical tapes have magnets on them. Basically teeny particles of magnetic, and moving those particles around is what makes your photo or your picture. Just like on audio it makes your sound.

Fisher: Right.

Tom: And basically what it does, it runs through what we call a head. It’s a little electronic head that reads electronic impulses and turns it into a signal. Now that’s not gonna change no matter what equipment you have. The only way it’s gonna change is if you go through another piece of equipment that can enhance the colors. You can go in and use other ways to manipulate the magnetic pieces themselves. But the actual recording head itself, it doesn’t care what it is.

Fisher: Right.

Tom: It’s not like “oh, this is gonna be better. It’s gonna be a higher particle count.” There’s only so many particles there.

Fisher: Right. You can’t change the quality.

Tom: Exactly. That won’t change. We need another piece of equipment in between. And this is one thing we’ve talked about many times. You want to be very, very careful whoever transfers your audio or video tapes, make sure they do it in real time. I have seen on the internet that people do VHS tapes for like $10- $11- $12 apiece. There’s no way physically you could make money at charging somebody $10 for that much work. If you’re gonna do it in real time it’s gonna take like two and half hours to do a normal VHS tape, you’ll go broke. You want people to do it in real time because the vitality is so much better. So what a lot of people do is they take this two hour tape which in our case would take about two and a half hours. What they do, they run it at such high speed they can do it in ten minutes.

Fisher: Oh wow. And you lose a lot.

Tom: Oh yeah, absolutely. Any time you do anything fast you’re going to lose it. Audio is not as bad but I still recommend even audio being done in real time. There are some people who do it in high speed and convert it, which isn’t as bad because there’s not as much information on an audio tape as there is on a video tape.

Fisher: Sure.

Tom: But anytime, you know if your only concern is, “Hey I can’t afford it, this is the only way I’m going to be able to get it transferred.” It’s better than nothing if that’s the only way you can get your tapes to DVD, that’s the only way it’s going to happen for you then go ahead and do it. But hang on to your video tape because as you mentioned in the first segment… five, six, seven years from now your kids will want to get a better quality transfer. They’ll still have your tape and they’ll be able to do it later and get it better doing it in real time.

Fisher: Well you want to get it from the original. You don’t want to make the copy from a bad copy obviously.

Tom: Exactly. And that brings up another thing too. We have people come into our store all the time that had like mini DV camcorders or video 8 camcorders, and most people didn’t have that size of VCRs, so they would transfer their video 8s or mini DVs to a VHS so they could watch them, which is going backwards. And then they bring in their VHS tape and say, “We want this on a DVD.” Which now you’re on third generation, it’s not gonna look anywhere near as good as going back to your original and going to a DVD or BluRay from that.

Fisher: Getting worse and worse. Thanks so much, Tom!

Tom: Good to be here.

Fisher: Hey, thanks so much for joining us! That wraps things up for this week. This segment has been brought to you by FamilySearch.org, and RootsMagic.com. Just a reminder, sign up for our brand new newsletter “The Weekly Genie.” It’s free! You can sign up at ExtremeGenes.com and on our Facebook page. And if you missed any of today’s show, of course, catch the podcast on ExtremeGenes.com, iTunes, or iHeartRadio’s Talk Channel. Talk to you again next week, and remember as far as everyone knows, we’re a nice, normal family!

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