Episode 163 - Interviewing Tips with Carolyn Tolman of LegacyTree.com

podcast episode Oct 31, 2016

Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. David begins by sharing story of a contest involving a descendant of “Dracula’s” Bram Stoker, who is arranging a Halloween night in Drac’s castle. Talk about history! Just don’t ask Drac for a DNA sample! Then, the guys focus on a Turkish woman, age unknown, whose family can no longer number her descendants. Find out how many they THINK she has! In keeping with Halloween, a British town, which runs its own funeral homes, is equipping them with cameras. Find out why! David has another genealogy tip-of-the-week for you, and another free guest member database from NEHGS.

Next, Fisher checks in with Carolyn Tolman, Project Manager for LegacyTree.com. With the holidays approaching it’s time to start thinking about interviewing those senior family members. (They aren’t getting any younger!) Carolyn has some great tips on how to make it a successful experience for both you and the subject.

Next, Fisher visits with Steve Gunderson, a researcher who visited his grandmother’s hometown in Sweden. He came away with a piece of family he never could have envisioned. Yes, serendipity knows no language barriers or borders and strikes even in Sweden!

Then, Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com returns to talk preservation. Tom adds some technical points to Carolyn’s thoughts on interviewing your senior family members over the holidays.

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

Transcript of Episode 163

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 163

Fisher: Hey, you’ve found us, America’s Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Root Sleuth, your host for the program where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out. Nice to have you along! This segment is brought to you by 23andMe.com DNA and welcome to the show. And before we do anything we want to welcome KNTT FM 98.5 in Battle Mountain, Nevada to our line up of great Extreme Genes affiliates, Operations Manager Wyatt Cox. Thanks so much guys for picking us up! And we look forward to finding all kinds of great family history stories out of Battle Mountain, Nevada. Boy, we’ve got some great guests lined up today, as always, as we get ready for the holidays of course. People are anticipating all the old folks being around and talking about the old days. And of course, you want to capture that, and you want to ask people questions. Well, Carolyn Tolman from one of our sponsors, LegacyTree.com is going to be here to give you some tips about interviewing family, how to get them to relax, how to get them to open up, what questions to ask them, so that’s coming up in about seven or eight minutes. Then later on in the show we’re going to learn a little about serendipity in Sweden. Now, if you’ve been doing family history for a while, you know that very strange things happen. And we call it “serendipity” and it has happened on a trip to Sweden for this guest we’re going to have later in the show, Steve Gunderson from Logan, Utah. You won’t believe what happened to him. You are going to want to hear that. Just a reminder by the way, get signed up this week for the Weekly Genie newsletter. We post all kinds of links to great information and some commentary that you might find interesting as you continue your hunt. Just sign up at ExtremeGenes.com. But right now, let’s check in with our good friend David Allen Lambert. He is the Chief Genealogist for the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAnestors.org. How are you David?

David: I’m doing great. Beantown is immersed in fall weather right now. It’s getting colder though.

Fisher: Well it will be perfect for a Halloween weekend!

David: Trick-or-treating should be very interesting around here, but more so in Transylvania. My first story for you is from AirBNB which is working a promotion. You can go out to Transylvania and stay in a castle, owned by Jonathan Harker, who is the great grandson of Bram Stoker, who authored The Great Dracula.

Fisher: [Laughs]. That would be the best Halloween ever!

David: That would be awesome because you’re able to stay in this luxury velvet trimmed coffin. Talk about being snug in your bed!

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: Now the rules simply are no garlic, no garlic scented items....

Fisher: [Laughs]. Right, can’t have that.

David: Please leave your silver jewelry at home, do not cross the cutlery. In fact, for that matter, don’t make anything in a cross formation.

Fisher: [Laughs] Of course.

David: Close all curtains before sunrise, and the thing for genealogists, yeah, don’t get a DNA sample if you meet Dracula!

Fisher: Right, that would be really bad. [Laughs]

David: Bad for him.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: Well I tell you the stories we talk about Fish, every week, they go all over the globe. And this time ago in the southeastern Turkey where Fahey Tahirac, we’re not exactly sure how old she is.

Fisher: Or how to pronounce her name really.

David: But her kids ranging from the ages 90 to the 60s, she has over 430 grandchildren.

Fisher: 430!

David: Her oldest grandson is 70 years old and the youngest one is only 2.

Fisher: You know I’m thinking from the story that there must be great grandkids involved in that, you know. Because when you are talking about 70-year-old grandkids and 3-year-old grandkids there’s got to be greats in there. Something’s being lost in the transmission here, don’t you think?

David: Why don’t we say, from these children she has over 430 descendants.

Fisher: Yes! I think that’s more reasonable, but that’s incredible! And they don’t know how old she is. That’s the thing that’s so amazing about this.

David: I know, because they said her birth wouldn’t be recorded because that part of Turkey wasn’t registered until 1945.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: I tell you, my hat’s off to her. And I would hate to have to knit all those booties for all those babies.

Fisher: [Laughs] Or keep track of the birthday cards you’ve got to send out.

David: I mean we’re having trouble how to pronounce her name, imagine how it is for her to remember all of their names.

Fisher: Yes!

David: Well the next story brings us a little further northwest. This goes into England where the 21st century is meeting funeral homes.

Fisher: Uh hmm.

David: The local council in Bolton, England has decided to install cameras in their funeral parlors. This way, mourners who can’t make it to the service can actually live stream the somber events. How do you feel about that, Fish?

Fisher: Um, I think that’s a good thing you know, especially if people are out of the country, or far away, or can’t attend. You know, it’s a great way to go. And of course they’re making it where you actually have to log in and people give you permission to be able to see it. So it’s not like you or I could watch a funeral in Bolton, England whenever we want.

David: I would hope that somebody wouldn’t have that macabre hobby that they would just want to channel surf for funerals to attend.

Fisher: Right.

David: I used to know a lady in my town that would go to every funeral at the funeral home with the hopes of basically having snacks afterwards.

Fisher: Oh boy!

David: So yeah, there are some interesting people out there, so this will probably become more common place. I remember about 20 years ago seeing that they turned an old drive-in restaurant into a drive-in funeral home. After hours, they would prop up grandpa, and you could drive by the window and see him in the window.

Fisher: [Laughs] Oh man!

 David: So here’s to technology.

Fisher: Yeah!

David: Well this week’s genealogical tip from me is an interesting chart that you may have not tried. And also in conversation when you’re interviewing relatives, a height chart. Not just to track your kids on the edge of the panelling in your house, but how about asking your cousins about their kids’ heights, their grandchildren’s heights, anybody who has stopped growing essentially, record them and you can see how your family tree ascends or descends. So that’s a fun little tip to try.

Fisher: Yeah, are we getting taller or are we getting smaller, right?

David: Exactly. Well my brother is 6’7” (6 foot 7 inches). He’s my half-brother and I’m 5’10.5 (5 foot 10 ½ inches), so I think I didn’t have enough vitamins or something as a kid.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: This brings me to our guest member database. AmericanAncestors.org offers a free guest member database, and this week’s is brought to you by NEHGS and FamilySearch.org with our collaboration and it is the 1930 United States Census. So log in, become a free guest member of NEHGS on AmericanAncestors.org and try it out.

Fisher: All right David, always good to chat with you. Have a great week. We’ll check in with you again next week

David: All right, talk to you soon my friend.

Fisher: And coming up next, we are going to talk to LegacyTree.com’s Carolyn Tolman and she’s got a lot of tips for you on interviewing those senior family members. The holidays are coming up. There are some great stories to be had. It’s on the way in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 163

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Carolyn Tolman

Fisher: So, I remember the first time I ever sat behind a microphone. Fifteen years old, in a little radio studio in Connecticut. I was absolutely terrified. There was something about the sight of this microphone, very professional, staring back up at me from the desk, and my heart moved about eight inches north, right into my throat. And I was trying to do my first broadcast, and I think about what it’s like now for people who want to interview their relatives. They get nervous doing the interviews, the relatives get nervous answering the questions, not knowing what they’re going to be asked, and so today on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show, I thought we’d bring in Carolyn Tolman, she’s a Project Manager for one of our great sponsors, LegacyTree.com, to talk about this idea of making it a little bit easier to interview your relatives especially because it’s the holidays. Welcome to the show Carolyn.

Carolyn: Thank you very much, Scott. Glad to be here.

Fisher: This has been something we’ve talked about periodically with Tom Perry when we talk about preservation and the like, and he gets in to the technical sides of cutting the noise down in the room and you know very important things, and what kind of equipment is best to use. But there’s so much more to it. You know, you have to be something of a technician but you also have to be something of a journalist, you know, what do people want to know, what might they be willing to answer? You have to be something of a psychologist, because you have to ease their minds, and maybe they have to ease yours, because you’re nervous about what to ask them. So where do you start? Let’s get your take on this entire situation Carolyn.

Carolyn: I think there’s great value in interviewing your own relatives who are already comfortable with you. I’ve done both where I’ve interviewed my relatives and I’ve also interviewed neighbors, and I remember the neighbors were much less comfortable with me asking questions about their lives, whereas my grandmother was excited to tell me. She wanted me to know my ancestors and her siblings and her parents. So that goes a long way to making it a comfortable and enjoyable experience.

Fisher: Yeah, I think preparation seems to be the thing. Just like any other aspect of life, right?

Carolyn: Uh hmm.

Fisher: You want to get the right questions. You want to also have the ability to go in a completely unplanned direction if the opportunity presents itself, which it often does.

Carolyn: Definitely.

Fisher: I mean, I think really the preparation is more like, “Okay, this is where we go if they don’t take it somewhere else.” Right? It’s kind of a backup almost.

Carolyn: Yes. It’s so important to let their steam of memories go where it goes, and to let them pause and think and not get so nervous that you jump in and change the direction too quickly. You definitely want your questions ready, but you also want to welcome their memories that you didn’t even expect, because you’ll get wonderful stories that way.

Fisher: And it’s interesting, I think it depends on what part of the country you come from. I think coming from the east, I’m certainly very well aware that people love to talk all over each other. They interrupt each other, they complete people’s sentences, and there’s a challenge with that. So if you have that tendency, no matter where you’re from, you have to kind of put that on hold. Don’t try to fill every moment. You want to shut your mouth and wait and don’t be afraid of the silence.

Carolyn: Yes. I’ve noticed on TV like with news reports, the broadcasters tend to do a lot of talking, you know, where they try to set up the interview, but I think with family history interview you want to talk as little as possible. And even if you’re saying, “Uh huh” too many times, it interferes. You want to...

Fisher: Nod?

Carolyn: Yeah. You use your gestures, smile and feel comfortable enough yourself that they will pick up on that and also be comfortable.  

Fisher: Absolutely. Now let’s talk about questions a little bit, and I know that there are some great places to get questions online if you have no ideas of your own. And some people are just completely lost when it comes to that idea, like, “What do I ask them about?” And I think it’s the kind of thing where you want to look back in their lives and think we’ll, when they’re gone, what will I wish that I had asked them about? How they met? Grandpa and Grandma, right? What those circumstances were, what were their parents like, or grandparents, what do they remember about some of the oldest people in their families.

Carolyn: Yeah, they may be your last link to some of those clues to their ancestors further back. So for sure, ask them about their grandparents. I think it’s just the personal stories that share their personality. Asking them questions about their childhood, “What did you do after chores were done on Saturday afternoons?” “Tell me about your favorite pets” “How did you do homework at your house?” I remember my grandmother talking about how her mom would set out popcorn and make the kids sit around the kitchen table and create this atmosphere of warmth, and just her describing that scene to me, it means so much, so just getting those descriptive details that kind of round out their life, and fill in between the dates of birth, marriage and death.

Fisher: Right. Now the courtship too of course is always a fascinating thing.

Carolyn: Yes.

Fisher: And I think most people really enjoy talking about that and remembering what it was that attracted somebody to somebody else and the circumstances of their meeting and some funny things that may have happened during that time.

Carolyn: We love to have our parents over for an evening and we make sure our kids are there, and we ask both sets, my husband and I, about their courtship and to have both of them there and share their version, and laugh and say, “Well that’s how you remember it, but here’s what I remember.”

Fisher: Do you separate them?

Carolyn: We don’t separate them. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs]

Carolyn: We love to get that interaction where they’re like, “Uh no, let me fill in that story. “ [Laughs]

Fisher: Change it a little bit. Well I find that even between my wife and myself now, we disagree about things that we experienced together. I mean we remember it differently.

Carolyn: Yes, very different perspectives.

Fisher: So where do you get your questions?

Carolyn: Oh I majored in family history. We had lists given to us then. You know, you Google lists to ask and you’ll find all kinds. Probably FamilySearch.org has a good list. I’m sure the blogs of Ancestry.com or MyHeritage.com would be great places to go.

Fisher: Sure, absolutely. So, when you think about the set up for this, do you have microphones specific for them, or do you just use your cell phone?

Carolyn: I think our cell phone most often, especially if it’s a “seize the moment” situation. As long as you know they won’t mind. Maybe you shouldn’t even tell them you’re recording if that’s going to make them uncomfortable. So, a smart phone is great. We also have a nice digital recorder that we use on those planned evenings.

Fisher: So just audio?

Carolyn: Just audio. Video is wonderful if you’re going to set that up, but again, the smart phone has the video capacity. If your relative is okay, you could set up a camera on a tripod and get that going.

Fisher: Have you seen this with relatives though, where they see the camera and they immediately start to withdraw?

Carolyn: Yeah. They get uncomfortable. I remember my grandmother when I interviewed her back this was just a cassette recorder, and she kept saying, “Do you want to turn that things off while I think about this?” [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs] Right. I had that with my grandfather in 1974, and the first five minutes was about that “thing” and my mother trying to calm him down about that “thing.” And then he went on for a good hour. I mean two sides, about life in the 1890s and early 1900s, fantastic. Now we’re digitized it of course. But he had to get comfortable first, around something as simple as a cassette recorder microphone. 

Carolyn: Yeah. Just seeing those little wheels turn really made them nervous. [Laughs]

Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs] I think so. And I think that’s part of the challenge. Not everybody is a performer. And sometimes it takes a little bit of time. And that goes back to your earlier point about just closing your mouth, allowing the silence, and letting them have time to think and then come out with what they have to say, because you can edit all that later.

Carolyn: Definitely.

Fisher: You know, that makes a huge difference. What’s the most surprising story that you’ve actually gotten from somebody in person who maybe went back and said, “Wait a minute, maybe I shouldn’t have said that.”

Carolyn: [Laughs] I just remember my grandma telling me about growing up and her mother not having a Christmas tree every year because she didn’t think it was important. You know, I do have relatives who have had difficult lives and have made decisions that have had a lasting impact that they regret, and they want to share that story with us who are trusted relatives, but they don’t want it to get out among extended family or social media, heaven forbid, and they’re very nervous about sharing that.

Fisher: They probably should be.

Carolyn: Uh huh.

Fisher: I mean the reality is, once they’re gone, there is no control over that audio.

Carolyn: Yes.   

Fisher: Right?

Carolyn: Uh huh.

Fisher: Because the dead have no legal rights to privacy.

Carolyn: You would hope they’d explain that to the people who will be left behind so that we manage it according to their wishes.

Fisher: If possible. But you know again, what happens when the next generation has it? And then, does it matter? I mean, you know, that’s the thing.

Carolyn: Right.

Fisher: It’s a great challenge when you consider those things. And you have to be respectful of some of those more sensitive things. I think everybody has something that they’re not real proud of...

Carolyn: Definitely.

Fisher: ...you know, at some point or another. And so we have to watch for that. I love the idea of seizing the moment. Because I think most of the interviews that I’ve ever done have been pretty much long form, you know? You do half an hour or an hour with somebody and really delve in to all kinds of different things. But for places where you can post audio such as FamilySearch, they can only take small snippets at a time right now.

Carolyn: Right.

Fisher: And it might be good to just do them almost a question at a time and five minutes at a clip.

Carolyn: If you find yourself where your relative is talkative and wants to share, maybe turn on and off your voice recorder with each question that you asked, to keep it in small chunks. What was coming to mind was my grandmother, and she loved to sing, and as her memory left her before she passed away, she still remembered all the songs. It got to the point where she would start to sing a song and we’d say, “Wait, can we record this?” And just to catch her singing that song, and then share it, was a wonderful little gem in a very short amount of time.

Fisher: That’s another good point. By the way, don’t hold up your cell phone if you’re doing video, in a portrait style.

Carolyn: [Laughs] Right.

Fisher: I think so many people still do that and if you look on YouTube you’ll see an awful lot of videos where it’s portrait style and there’s something else on the left and right to fill in the space. You need to do that landscape.

Carolyn: Now landscape is going wide.

Fisher: The long way, yes.

Carolyn: Yeah.

Fisher: That’s the way you’ve got to do it. Otherwise it gets very narrow and it won’t come out so well.

Carolyn: I just think anyway you do it, long form or short form, planned or seized the moment, it’s so important to record and at least listen to our relatives now while we have the chance because you never know when they will pass away or they will lose that precious memory of theirs, and there’s so much you can do with it now to share it with your family.

Fisher: And I guarantee this, no matter how much you record, no matter how much you ask them, when they’re gone there’s going to be a lot more you wished you had. Carolyn Tolman thanks for joining us! She’s with LegacyTree.com and this segment has been brought to you by RootsMagic.com. If you’ve been on the hunt for any time at all, you probably know by now that very strange things happen when you do your genealogy. We call it “serendipity.” And my next guest had it happen to him in Sweden. We’ll talk to Steve Gunderson coming up in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 3 Episode 163

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Steve Gunderson

Fisher: Hey, and welcome back to Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, the Radio Roots Sleuth. And in trying to bring you stories all the time, I'm always scouring the web. And recently ran across a story in the Herald Journal of Logan, Utah, written by Jim Thomson, about my next guest, Steve Gunderson. And Steve, I guess we could accurately call you a “millennial genie,” yes?

Steve: Yeah, I suppose that's a good way to put it, yeah.

Fisher: You know, we're always hearing that there aren't a lot of millennials who get into this, but you did particularly early, had a great interest in it, apparently through your grandmother. Let's talk about this amazing journey that you had that took you back to Sweden. Where did all this start?

Steve: Well, when I was a kid, my grandma, growing up, she used to tell me a little bit about some of the ancestry that we had in Europe. And in talking with her about it, it made me always want to go travel there with her. So, when I was younger, I remember promising a few different times that I would love to take her to Europe when I got old enough, but unfortunately when I was, I think I was about 21 or 22, serving a church mission in Mexico when she passed away, and didn't get the opportunity to do that. One of her friends found out that she had a grandson that was in Mexico and was also of Swedish descent, so she decided that she would start writing to me. And we exchanged letters back and forth. And then when I got back to the United States, we talked frequently. And she also said that she would love to take me to Sweden some day to meet her family.

Fisher: Wow!

Steve: Part of this was because she had never had any kids, was never married. And so, we decided we'd kid of adopt each other, and just kept correspondence over the years.

Fisher: How fun! So, yeah, you were adopted, basically. She must have known a little about your grandmother's background in Sweden and they must have talked about it a lot.

Steve: Yeah. I'm not sure how much they talked about it, but I do know that they were definitely friends. And it was really special for me to have a Swedish grandma. After a while of corresponding though, unfortunately I found out that she had passed away. And after that, I felt completely compelled to take a trip to Europe and see if I could discover where I'm from and where my ancestry's from.

Fisher: So, did you start doing a little research before you went? I assume you must have had some background or some information that your grandmother had provided you with at some point along the line.

Steve: Yes, I did. I got in touch with some local family history consultants in Logan, and definitely started doing some research to see where in Sweden my ancestry came from and tried to track down at least a few names of potential people I could try to look for when I went there.

Fisher: What fun! Did you go alone?

Steve: I went with a friend named Jason, and we decided to make kind of a Europe trip out of it, and visited, I think four different countries while we were there.

Fisher: Boy! That sounds like a great time. So you found the hometown. What was the name of the hometown in Sweden?

Steve: The main city is Rattvik. I'm not sure how to pronounce it, R A T T V I K. And just outside of Rattvik is a smaller town Rojerasen. Don't know how to pronounce that one either, but…

Fisher: Hey, you're doing great, doing better than us! [Laughs]

Steve: Yeah. Anyway, that town is actually where I think about over seven generations of my family had lived.

Fisher: Wow! That must have had an impact on you!

Steve: Yeah, absolutely! When we got there, we drove into the town, Jason and I, and actually one of my adopted Swedish grandmother's name was Barbro. One of her niece's friends actually came with us to serve as a translator. This is kind of a traditional area in Sweden where there's a lot of older people that don't speak English, so we definitely used his help while we were there trying to track down the names that I was looking for. And the first thing we did when we came to Rattvik, was go to the information center, which this being kind of a historical town, there's an information center and also a museum and some other really historical buildings. So we went to the information center and told them what we're trying to do, and they kind of wished us luck. One interesting twist on the story is, while we were just leaving the information center, one of the ladies at the desk shouted out to me before I walked out the door, and said, "Don't be surprised if you find out that one of your ancestors has a similar interest in something that you do." We left, and continued on. We went to one of the churches there in Rattvik, very historic, with a lot of graves all around it, and even inside, underneath the floor. And we checked all over, searching for the names that I had taken, and couldn't find anything. All the graves were really, relatively, you know, recent graves in the 1900s, and I was looking for names that were more in the 1800s.

Fisher: Sure.

Steve: And late 1700s, and couldn't find anything. So in desperation, I thought, the next best thing to do would just to be able to go stop at a random house. And so we drove down the road to the start of the small town, Rojerasen. And the first house that looked appealing, I decided that we would go knock the door and ask them about it. And my translator friend, Meekay, thought we were a little crazy, but we stopped at the first house, knocked on the door, and this very nice lady opened the door and I explained why we were there. And she said they she didn't know very much about the history of the town, but that a local man had written a book compiling the history of this small town. And she had a copy of the book, and showed it to me and said that the man just lived down the street and that I should go talk to him.

Fisher: Wow! So were you able to do that? Where you able to find him?

Steve: Yeah. We ended up getting back in the car, drove just round the corner, and there he was, sitting outside in a lounger, reading a newspaper. And we approached him and I told him why we were there. And we sat down and he gave us a little snack while he pulled out his book. And we started looking through. And I gave him a piece of paper that had four names written on it from my ancestry. He would look through his book, found a page that he stopped at for a moment, looked back at my paper, looked at the book, looked back at my paper, looked at the book and then he looked up at me and he said, "This is it." And the house that my ancestors had lived in was in fact there in that town. And he knew exactly where it was. And so I asked him if he could show me where the house used to be. And he said, "What do you mean ‘where did it used to be?’ It's still there!"

Fisher: [Laughs] Yeah.

Steve: So we got back in the car yet again. And he said he would a take us there, so he jumped in the car and drove around the corner a couple of blocks away and we showed up at the house.

Fisher: Wow!

Steve: So this lady that owns the house is an elderly lady that was actually friends of some of my relatives. Going back about five generations above my grandfather, there was a man who purchased this house with his wife back in the late 1700s. And he and his wife lived there, and passed the house on about three more generations, until this elderly lady's friend inherited the house and she never ended up marrying or had any kids to pass the house down to. And so this elderly lady took possession of the house along with some really amazing treasures that were left in it.

Fisher: Incredible! What treasures?

Steve: She had this enormous collection of multiple photo albums and other loose matted photo prints of my ancestry. These photos are beautiful! Many of them are artistic in nature. Some of them in some of the albums have names written below them, but there are photos that go back into the 1800s, when a lot of photography technology was just being invented.

Fisher: Right.

Steve: And it turns out that one of my relatives was actually a famous photographer that had multiple photography studios and had left this collection in the family, passed it down, and then it ended up being left in the house.

Fisher: And she gives it to you?

Steve: She did, yeah.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Steve: There were a few photos that she kept for herself that were, you know, special ones of the town and that.

Fisher: Sure.

Steve: She actually said that she was about to throw many of the photos away.

Fisher: Ohh!

Steve: And I had arrived just in time to keep them in the family a little bit longer.

Fisher: Unbelievable! He's Steve Gunderson from Logan, Utah. I guess you're kind of hooked now on genealogy.

Steve: I am, yeah, absolutely. In studying our relatives and in studying our ancestry, I think we learn more about ourselves and where we come from and the name that we carry.

Fisher: Great talking with you. Thanks so much for your time.

Steve: Thank you.

Fisher: And this segment has been brought to you by LegacyTree.com. And coming up next, we'll talk to Tom Perry, our Preservation Authority from TMCPlace.com. Kind of picking up where Carolyn Tolman left off, with some technical things you need to know about interviewing your family, in three minutes on Extreme Genes.

Segment 4 Episode 163

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 Roots Sleuth. Time to talk preservation with Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com and this segment is brought to you by MyHeritage.com. Good to see you Tom! What’s going on?

Tom: We have people concerned with the legitimacy of digitizers.

Fisher: Yes, people like you!

Tom: Exactly!

Fisher: Exactly. Well, I can understand that because who wants to send stuff off to a stranger?

Tom: Exactly.

Fisher: Somebody you don’t know. How do you know that they’re the real deal? And that’s one of the questions we’ve got from one of our listeners. What would you say to that, Tom?

Tom: That’s a really good question because this listener that’s from Florida has some questions about somebody that’s near them, but not near enough that they can physically go there, drive their car there, it’s too far. There’s a lot of things you can do. We’ve told you about, you always want to ask them the questions, if you have film, always ask them, “Hey, when you digitize my film, can I have jpegs?” Because that proves whether they’re really scanning your film or not, and one thing that’s so easy to do, just to Google, type in their address and you can go right down into their street and look at their building.

Fisher: Right.

Tom: Are they legitimate, or are they in a strip mall, are they brick and mortar, or is it somebody working in their basement? And you see Trixie out on her tricycle riding down the road?

Fisher: [Laughs]

Tom: And they might be great. They might really know their business. But they’re obviously not probably doing it full time, and even if they are, it scares me when somebody’s working in their house because I’ve been in situations where I had an office in the house and the kids think, “Oh daddy’s always here.” So they’re going to be there bothering you and it just scares me that somebody would get a hold of something and spill some peanut butter or some juice or something on your precious memories.

Fisher: You know, until Google Street Level came along, you really couldn’t do something like that, so that’s a great tip. Moving forward, earlier in the show, I was talking to Carolyn Tolman from LegacyTree.com about interviewing seniors. And this is something you and I have gotten into a little bit over the years. Since we talked so much about audio last week and the new programs that are out, Toast Titanium 15, let’s talk a little about preparing the room. Because this is something we’ve covered in the past but it really makes such a big difference when you’re going to get something that hopefully is going to last for generations.

Tom: Oh absolutely. If you’re recording people in a room, you always want to make sure you’ve got headphones on, because you will hear things that otherwise you would never hear until you hear your tape and you’re going, “Oh my! That buzz! It sounds like water dripping, what’s going on?” With headphones you’re hearing everything, where your ears are trained to listen to what it wants to listen to and that happens with the same thing as this. So you want to make sure you have headphones. There’s some really easy simple ways to make your room better for interviewing because four walls, you’re going to have echoes, there’s no question about it. And not too many people have rooms with the carpet on the wall. However, you can get different kinds of closet organizers that are just basically a bar, throw some pillows on it, throw towels over, throw blankets over it. If you have really hard surfaces like desks and tables and things, throw different things over that. If all you’re worried about is the audio, you want to make sure you make the room as we call it, “as soft as possible” to get rid of the echo. On your floor, if you have a hardwood floor, lay down some carpets, lay down some rugs. If you have to lay down towels or sleeping bags, or anything.

Fisher: Winter jackets.

Tom: Oh exactly! Anything that’s going to absorb some of the noise that starts bouncing around. And then once you put your headphones on, you won’t believe the difference. Whether you’re recording them on your iPhone or a real nice system that you’ve rented from an audio house, you want to always make sure the most inexpensive thing you have is your headphones. And then, like we’ve talked about, different kinds of mics. If everybody’s sitting around a nice old table, you want to use a PZM mic, because it turns the table into a great big microphone. So Uncle Ed isn’t talking really soft and Aunt Martha is really, really loud because the mic’s closer to her. With the PZM the table is a microphone. If you’re just interviewing two people, you can see whether you want to do a shotgun type microphone or a cardioid type microphone and you can Google any of these to learn more information. If you have questions write to [email protected] and we’ll try to get back to you instantly to make sure your room is set up nice. So once you’ve got all these interviews done, you don’t have to spend a lot of time editing.

Fisher: All right, great tips and great reminders too. What do we have coming up in the next segment?

Tom: There’s some more things about audio to make sure your machinery is also correct, so you don’t blow your interviews.

Fisher: Great stuff to make it better and better, it’s coming up next with Tom Perry in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 163

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: All right, final segment of 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 FamilySearch.org. Tom Perry is in the house from TCMPlace.com, talking about preservation, and we're talking audio again today. We've also got some shows coming up here, Tom, in the next little bit, and we've got listeners in Colorado Springs who will want to know about this one.

Tom: On November 5th the Pike’s Peak Family History Fair is putting on a really nice symposium, they'll have classes and all kinds of good things for you to go to. If you're in Utah, there's one at Midway, Utah, the old Homestead, which is the Family History Expo, which is both November 11th and 12th.  So Google those, check them out, if you have more questions you can also write to me.

Fisher: At [email protected].

Tom: Exactly.

Fisher: All right. Back to audio questions, because we want to make sure that these interviews you do over the holidays with your seniors come out [Muah!] perfectly.

Tom: Like a fine wine.

Fisher: Yes. [Laughs]

Tom: You don't want the bad kind of wine, the tape recorder sound. We have more people bring in things that oh they hear the "Wee! Wee! Wee!" of the wheel.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Tom: I've had people actually put pillows over them. You can do things like that. They're afraid to turn off their refrigerator.

Fisher: Yeah, but then the pillow starts going around and around and around. We can't have that.

Tom: [Laughs] That’s right. But you know something simple like your refrigerator. Make sure your dishwasher's not going. Make sure there's not a TV or a radio on in another room. There's just so many little teeny things that are going to make your sound better.

Fisher: Send your kinds to the neighbors' house.

Tom: Exactly. The neighbors like three blocks away.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Tom: But there are just so many different things that you can do. And like we said in the first segment, headphones are important. The stories that I could tell you about somebody plugs in a microphone to their iPhone or to their tape recorder and they don't put on the headphones, and when they put the jack in, they didn't get it in all the way.

Fisher: Ooh.

Tom: So the thing that it did when they plugged it in halfway, it turned off the built in microphone on their phone, so they didn't even get that, plus the microphone that they had rented, they didn't get anything off that. So all they have is lips moving and no sound at all.

Fisher: Could you imagine doing that for half an hour or an hour and then coming up with nothing? And grandpa and grandma say "We're done." Ooh!

Tom: I've known a lot of news reporters who made that “faux pas,” because they didn't plug the things in right, they get back to the station, they have this great interview, they're all excited, and all they have is lips, and somebody's just lip reading.

Fisher: That's the worst.

Tom: Yeah. It's not going to work. So you want to make sure headphones, headphones, headphones, headphones, no matter what you're doing you want to have headphones.

Fisher: You know, you can avoid a lot of the noises we're talking about by choosing the correct room, obviously. I mean, you don't need to unplug the refrigerator if you're downstairs in the basement on the other end of the house.

Tom: And if you're close to a road and you're downstairs, you're not going to get as much noise. And if it's a room that doesn't have windows, then there's even less noise from outside that's going to come in.

Fisher: Yeah. So these are all things, you know, it doesn't have to be perfect. Obviously some things, as Carolyn mentioned earlier in the show, are going to be done spontaneously. Somebody's just talking and it's like “Oh!” Turn on the recorder on your phone and you just start capturing the moment. But boy, when you're really planning something out and you've got specific questions or areas of someone's life you want to cover, it's really important to try to do the best you can with all these different things.

Tom: Some of the best interviews come when grandma just all of a sudden starts talking about something, and if we don't get it, it's our own fault, because almost everybody has smart phones now, and everybody's got an app that they can record it. And like you say, it's better to have bad audio of something really, really cool, than no audio at all. So if you have to go that way, you know, gorilla audio recording, knock it out. You've got to do it.

Fisher: Absolutely.

Tom: So, one thing you want to do, whenever you're choosing which computer to use make sure you use the one that has the fastest processor. So you want to make sure you have a good, clean USB connection, because most of the mics that you folks are going to be using are going to be USB mics because they're less expensive, they're easy, you don't have to have all these adaptors that are going to pick up different signals and make your audio sound bad. And then when you get in, make sure you use a good program. Use Audacity, use Pro Tools, use Toast Titanium, one of these great programs, and you're going to end up with some interviews that you'll cherish for generations to come.

Fisher: Always great advice, Tom. Thanks for coming on. We'll see you again next week.

Tom: My pleasure.

Fisher: And this segment has been brought to you by FamilySearch.org. Well, that wraps up our show for this week. Hey, by the way, next week, it’s a special two part visit with Steve Rockwood. He is the president and CEO of FamilySearch.org. He'll be filling us in on where that great site is going, and where genealogy and research is going as a whole over the next 10, 15, 50 years. He's got the vision! Take care. We'll talk to you again next week. Thanks for joining us, and remember as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!

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