Episode 167 - Robert Charles Anderson on Puritans, Pilgrims, and the Winthrop Fleet

podcast episode Nov 28, 2016

This week on Extreme Genes: America’s Family History Show, host Scott Fisher talks Pilgrims and Puritans with “Great Migration” legend Robert Charles Anderson. The two talk about the beginnings of the European settlement of North America, and our Thanksgiving tradition.

The show opens with Fisher and David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. The guys discuss the apparent discovery of the site of the original Pilgrim settlement in Plymouth, Massachusetts. You’ll want to hear about it. David then shares the news about the possible IDing of lost crew members of a World War II warship that blew up in New York over 70 years ago. David then shares his discoveries through DNA concerning the similarities and differences he found between himself and his half sister. Next, Fisher and David talk about the recent digitization of a “book of witches” from Scotland in the 17th century. Might your ancestors be among the names? David then shares another tip and NEHGS free guest member database.

Next, Fisher shares his 2015 visit with Robert Charles Anderson, who created the “Great Migration” series of reference books beginning in 1988. In the first segment, they’ll talk about what inspired Robert to devote his life to this great work, and how his research has allowed him to debunk some Pilgrim myths.  What were they?  Listen to the podcast.

Fisher and Robert continue their conversation with an explanation of the Winthrop Fleet and how it changed the course of the European settlement of North America in the 1630s.  You’ll also learn exactly when and why it ended.  Robert also talks about what information is yet to be found concerning the immigrants of 1620 to 1640.

Then it’s preservation time with Preservation Authority Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com. Tom answers a pair of listener emails, one (that was more than a little surprising) about transferring a Blu-Ray disk to VHS! (Honest!)

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

Transcript of Episode 167

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 167

Fisher: I’ve got to admit, I’m feeling a little bloated still from all that Thanksgiving dinner. Hey, it’s Fisher! And welcome to Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show. Yes, it is your Radio Roots Sleuth on the program where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out. This segment of the show today is brought to you by MyHeritage.com. And in keeping with the whole Thanksgiving weekend thing, we’ve got our visit from last year with Robert Charles Anderson on the show today. He of course being the man behind “The Great Migration” series.” We’re going to talk Puritans, we’re going to talk Pilgrims, and what’s the difference? How did he get started, and what can you find in his records? It’s an amazing two part visit, starting in about 7 or 8 minutes or so. Just a reminder by the way, while I’ve got you, get on our website ExtremeGenes.com and get yourself signed up today for our free weekly newsletter “The Weekly Genie”. We’ve got links to all kinds of great interviews and audio, also links to great stories, and of course I’ve got a column in there each week as well. Let’s check in now with Boston and my good friend David Allen Lambert, he is the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic and Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. Hello, David!

David: Hello from Beantown! And I wanted to offer you some of my leftover turkey, but apparently you have enough your way as well. Thinking of post-turkey bliss, my first news story comes from the Plymouth settlement. Probably some of our listeners are descendants of Mayflower passengers, and if you’ve been to Burial Hill to see where the original settlement was, you may have noticed that there are a lot of gravestones. Old Burial Hill was built up around the settlement, and, of course, if you want to see the buildings now, you go to Plymouth Plantation which is down the road, which is a recreation. But archaeologists have been finding some exciting things.

Fisher: Yeah they have. In fact, I can’t believe they’re even allowing them to dig in Burial Hill, considering all the bodies that should be in there. 

David: You know, they did find remains recently.

Fisher: Yeah, [Laughs] a cow.

David: Her name is now Constance and she is a cow that was found in the confines of the original settlement, and they know that there weren’t cows in the days of the Native Americans, so it had to be one of the ones that they brought over shortly after, sometime in the 17th century. But, it’s buried whole.

Fisher: Isn’t that crazy? Why wasn’t it eaten? And that’s what they’re trying to figure out. Why the full remains of a cow in the Plymouth Plantation settlement area?

David: Well that brings me to our next story. Back in 1944, New York Harbor, the USS Turner destroyer exploded and many of the 136 men have been listed as missing for over 70 years until now.

Fisher: Yeah, it’s a strange story, too. Nobody knows what caused it to explode.

David: Right. There were ammunitions on board that would have been set off to cause the explosion, but they’re now saying that a few soldiers that are buried in Long Island in unknown graves may be some of the sailors that were on board the vessel. There are two survivors, still in their 90s, from the vessel, and they, I’m sure, are quite amazed to know that some of their shipmates may be finally identified through the work of DNA.

Fisher: Wow!

David: Our next story goes a little bit back till what we talked about last month with Halloween.

Fisher: Right.

David: Now, in Scotland, there were accused witches well before the Salem hysteria in 1692. In fact, manuscript 3658 is now digitized and available, and it names all the “witches” in Scotland in 1658 till about 1662.

Fisher: Isn’t that amazing? Because I mean, if you had ancestors there at that time, you might be able to actually read the accusations, the stories surrounding them, and at least find their names and locations. And by the way, we’ve got the link to this on our website, ExtremeGenes.com, so check it out. Even if you’re not tied to them, it’s a really fun book to look at.

David: Well I’ll tell you, for the holidays you might be wondering what to get that sibling. Well, my half-sister Carol and I share the same mom but not the same dad, and I always thought it would be interesting to see if I could see what DNA we shared from Mom. Thanks to my friends at 23andMe, they gave my sister a free test to have her autosomal DNA tested and also got the health results. So, what I found out is that my sister and I are most likely going to have the same things in our wellness report. Now, these are things like alcohol flush reaction, lactose intolerance, muscle composition, saturated fat. We’re pretty much identical. But then when we drilled down to other things, I have a 21% chance to have an earlobe that is detached!

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: And she has a 50% chance!

Fisher: Okay!

David: So that’s interesting.

Fisher: That’s huge!

David: That makes me want to inspect her ear lobe now!

Fisher: Of course.

David: But the best part of the whole thing, besides knowing our health statistics, seeing what we share in common, is to settle an argument of our Neanderthal past.

Fisher: What? What do you mean?

David: Yes, in your DNA, there is Neanderthal that is come down as you see many people have found out what percentage they are. Well, the percentage my sister has, she has 74% more Neanderthal than the average 23andMe customer. That’s only 4% of her DNA, but I, the evolved half-brother have only 51% to the average 23andMe customer! I love my sister and we’ve had some really good laughs over this, so there’s something you might want to think about for yourself or for a relative, and that brings me to my tip of the week. You know the tablecloth that you spilled cranberry sauce on for Thanksgiving last week?

Fisher: Right.

David: You don’t want to get rid of it. It’s been in the family, you can’t clean it up. Well, put it back on the table and invite the family to do a genealogy chart. It becomes a priceless family heirloom. Or better yet, have people autograph the tablecloth that attended. Or maybe you might have somebody stitch in the signatures. I mean, there’s a whole bunch of things that you can do. But think in a hundred years somebody opening up and finding that old cranberry sauce stained, autographed and genealogical chart in the trunk. It’s far better than finding an old tablecloth.

Fisher: You’re a genius.

David: Hey, I try. You know, simple things start at home. NEHGS always offers a free guest member database, and this week is no exception. If you have ever wanted to look into your Revolutionary War ancestors, we’ve found a surprise in the archives a number of years ago. These are actually the pay stubs from the checks that were given to many of the Boston Revolutionary War soldiers when they were getting their pensions years later, for both the army and the navy. So, take a peek at that on AmericanAncestors.org. That’s all I have for this week. Got to go home and eat some more turkey.

Fisher: Yeah, leftovers. Get on it, David. Thanks so much. Talk to you again next week.

David: Always a pleasure, my friend.

Fisher: And coming up next, we’re going to talk to the man behind the series, “The Great Migration,” which has opened up all kinds of records for early American ancestors for so many people. We’re going to talk about Puritans and Pilgrims, the differences, a little about this man’s career. Robert Charles Anderson is coming up next in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 167

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Robert Charles Anderson

Fisher: And welcome back to Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, the Radio Roots Sleuth, and if ever there was a first ballot Genealogy Hall of Famer, my next guest has got to be one of them. His name is Robert Charles Anderson. He is the man behind “The Great Migration” series. It is a series of incredible volumes tracing New England ancestry and how they link back to the old countries. And Bob Anderson, it is great to have you on the show, and an honor, sir.

Robert: It’s good to be here.

Fisher: So, you started this. Let’s just get in to that a little bit. Back in 1988, what inspired you to get this thing started?

Robert: The inspiration actually came probably in the mid-1970s, when I was a relatively new genealogist. I’d been in a number of other academic disciplines in biochemistry and in the military and electronics intelligence. And in those disciplines I was accustomed to having up to date finding aids and reference works and so on. And in the mid ‘70s when I got interested in genealogy and I started to train myself, I discovered that all of the reference works, most of the reference works that I had to deal on were a hundred years old and more.

Fisher: Right.

Robert: I mean the Genealogy Dictionary of New England by James Savage which is still valuable, was published during the Civil War. And in academia or a tactical area, that would be unacceptable. Furthermore, as I developed my genealogical practice in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, I just got frustrated with the difficulty of not having one place to go to find out what research had already been done on a given family. So it was out of that that I conceived the idea of the Great Migration study project of creating a single reference work that would provide a platform that current researchers could build from.

Fisher: And that is going to be the case obviously for decades and centuries to come and hopefully it will continue on. I’m just looking at the lists here, we’ve got The Great Migration Directory, The Great Migration Begins, covering the immigrants to New England from 1620 to 1633, Immigrants to New England 1634 to ‘35, The Pilgrim Migration which we’re going to get in to here in a minute, The Winthrop Fleet, Massachusetts Bay Company, Immigrants to New England 1629 to ‘30. I mean, it’s an astonishing accomplishment and series, and you continue on today. How much more is there to find, Bob?

Robert: Oh, immense amounts. Two of the items you mentioned, The Great Migration Begins which is three volumes, and then The Great Migration volumes that covers 1634 and ‘35 which is seven volumes. They cover less than half the great migration. They cover three quarters chronologically but less than half by numbers of immigrants.

Fisher: Wow.

Robert: So there are... well, in the directory, my most recent book, I conclude that there are roughly fifty six hundred either families or isolated individuals, and that’s a minimum number. I’m very conservative including people. And I had done about twenty three hundred of those in the ten volumes I mentioned. So there’s thirty three hundred left to be done. Now it’s taken me twenty five years to do what I’ve done. So someone is going to have to pick up some day and do the rest. I won’t be doing those others volumes.

Fisher: Right.

Robert: I will be doing some special projects hence forth. But then even that, within the fifty six hundred, for only eighteen hundred of those do we know the English origin. So there’s immense... even with the volumes that I’ve completed... there’s immense amounts of work to be done yet in discovering English origins to complete the picture of the Great Migration.

Fisher: Well, it’s an invaluable resource for anybody who gets going in genealogy, and people need to be aware of it if they’re not already. Let’s talk about the Pilgrim migration, since we’re celebrating Thanksgiving this week and this month. Tell us a little about that. Some things that we may not know, that you discovered in your research.

Robert: Let me tell you first of all that, although I do some original research for these books, the primary purpose that I say is to review previous research and to provide the platform for people to do additional research. The Pilgrim Migration volume was published in 2004 and it’s actually an updating of sketches that I did in the Great Migration Begins series a decade earlier. The Great Migration Begins series had covered all of New England from 1620 to 1633, and that obviously comprises the Mayflower and the other Leiden and associated arrivals that came through the rest of the decade. So what I did to create the Pilgrim Migration volume was to take the two hundred some odd sketches that I’d done in the mid- 1990s and updated them and improved them a little bit because I was still learning them in the first volumes how to do it and so on. What did I discover? I would have to think about that. My best discoveries are finding patterns.

Fisher: Right.

Robert: And you know, the Pilgrim area has been mined so deeply, you know. We always think of New England in general as being the most heavily mined area of genealogical research in this country for the first period. And within that, the Pilgrim and Mayflower area is dug into the most. So I think my work in this volume was really to put in one place what previous people had done. Also, one of the things I do in my volumes is try to get rid of old myths. It’s the case that once something gets in print, it’s almost impossible to kill it.

Fisher: Oh it’s even worse now with the internet.

Robert: Exactly. So I tried very hard to look into every claim, and you know, many of these claims are romantic stories that pop up in the 19th century and need to be beaten down. It’s not one of my discoveries certainly, but it’s timely one of the stories that popped up in the Mayflower community in the 19th century, was when the Mayflower arrived off of Cape Cod in Province Town, one of the first people to die was William Bradford’s wife Dorothy.

Fisher: Yes.

Robert: She died while the ship was in Province Town harbor, other than a few of the men, before anyone had even gone on shore. And somehow in the 19th century a myth popped up that she had committed suicide.

Fisher: Yes, I’ve seen that. 

Robert: Right. And two researchers in the 20th century, George Ernest Bollmann, founded the journal Mayflower Descendants, and Eugene Stratton who wrote one of the better books on Plymouth Colony. Both worked very carefully to show that that was just the imagination of someone in the 19th century. So I was careful to include the statements made by Bollmann and Stratton. Someone has once described my work as clearing away the underbrush, getting rid of all the myths and misstatements. Again, to provide that sound platform for future research and I should say, just for the moment, I think a number of your listeners, during the coming week or two, will have the opportunity to see two films on the Pilgrims and on the Mayflower. One called “Saints and Strangers” which is being filmed on the National Geographic Channel, and the other whose title I don’t know, but it’s going to be on PBS. And I had the pleasure of seeing an advanced filming of the “Saints and Strangers” story a few nights ago. And I have to say that they were very careful in not continuing that myth about Dorothy Bradford. They handled it very carefully and very cleverly. So it’s good to see it. Maybe my work and Eugene’s and George Bollmann’s work has had some effect.

Fisher: Isn’t that great that you have at this point? Because it does make you wonder how in the world you ever get rid of some of the things that are out there. There’s just so many volumes and volumes of it. But that’s where your credibility becomes such an important thing and you certainly achieved that. When you think about the Pilgrims and Thanksgiving, how does that affect your Thanksgiving now? Because you’ve got to feel like you know them probably better than anybody else on the planet.

Robert: Well, I wouldn’t say that. There’s other people who studied the Pilgrims story more closely than I have, such as Jeremy Bangs at Leiden Museum and people like that. But sure, our Thanksgiving celebration is coming up in a few days here and I’ll be with my family, and I do think back and I do think about it. Now, Thanksgiving you know, we have a very particular image of it here in our culture, but it was a standard feature of the Protestant Church in England and of the Puritan Church. It wasn’t just limited to one time a year thing. It was something that they could proclaim anytime they felt the need to. Anytime they felt that something good had happened. So it wasn’t just limited to one time a year in the culture of the time. It’s portrayed as such now. Now that I’ve seen that film, the “Saints and Strangers” film, and seeing what the Pilgrims went through in that first winter of 1620 and 1621 and in to the summer, it was a starving time. Half and more of the passengers died and so on. And they were of course in an area that they knew nothing about really, and surrounded by the natives who didn’t really want them there. It’s just astounding that they would do it and be that they really did survive and built something out of it. Even with all that. So it makes you more appreciative, not just for the Pilgrims, but for all of our ancestors who made the sacrifices to give us what we have now.

Fisher: And for the natives and all that they endured to accommodate the Europeans as they came aboard.

Robert: Yes. The Indians in New England had just suffered a terrible death by various infectious diseases in the years just before the Pilgrims arrived. And those infectious diseases were undoubtedly brought by sailors and fishermen of the previous decade or so. So it wasn’t pleasant for any of them.

Fisher: And this segment of the show has been brought to you by Roots Magic, and we’ll continue our conversation with Robert Charles Anderson, the man behind The Great Migration series. We’ll talk New England research, coming up next in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 3 Episode 167

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Robert Charles Anderson

Fisher: And we are back, Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. I am Fisher, with my special guest, Robert Charles Anderson, the man behind The Great Migration series. Volumes and volumes and decades of work in bringing together the records of those earliest ancestors that came to New England, the Pilgrims, and then those who followed. What year are you up to right now, Robert?

Robert: Well, the volumes in which I've tried to treat each individual extensively go from the Mayflower in 1620, until 1635. And The Great Migration itself essentially ended in 1640 with the coming of the English Civil War, at which point the Puritans thought that they might be able to attain their religious goals back in England, rather than have to be away from England.

Fisher: Hmm.

Robert: And so the migration pretty much stopped in 1640. So there's five years left to be done, 1636 through 1640, but just because the pace of the migration was uneven over that period, very little in the 1620s, picked up in the early 1630s and then went full steam from about 1634 to 1640, most of the work remains to be done. It would take probably another dozen volumes of the size of the previous ones of 600 pages each or so to cover the remaining passengers the way I would like to have it done.

Fisher: Do you work with a team, or are you on your own?

Robert: I'm pretty much on my own. I've had assistants from time to time and a couple of people I worked with at the middle stages. But one of the values I believe of my project is that it filters everything through one mind.

Fisher: Yes.

Robert: If that makes any sense.

Fisher: It does.

Robert: That is to say, it gives it continuity and a consistency of approach.

Fisher: And a voice, I would think.

Robert: And a voice. And it also, if you had a team working on it, even if there was, you know, a top editor who went over everything, one of the problems with a huge project like this is, using the same bit of evidence for two different people, which would be impossible to apply, let’s say, a freemanship record or church admission for a John Smith, and apply it to two different men with the same name and so on. And having one person do it, doesn't eliminate that totally, but it helps cut that back, so. And I'm just an independent kind of guy. And it has worked better for me over the years.

Fisher: I'm not sure that many people recognize the significance of the Winthrop Fleet and what took place there, because that was where it picked up after the 1620s, wouldn't you agree?

Robert: Yes, absolutely. Of course the Pilgrims only brought a hundred people, and half of those died the first year.

Fisher: Right.

Robert: And they picked up a few dozen more over the 1620s, is more their Leiden congregation came piecemeal, and a few fishing communities sprung up, but there really wasn't that much, only a few hundred in the whole of the 1620s. And in 1630 when the Winthrop Fleet came, which was about 1,000 individuals to Massachusetts Bay rather than further south to Plymouth, that the whole project of English colonization became much stronger and much more massive. And then after that, after a couple of slow years, for the last six or seven years of the 1630s, people were coming at 2,000 or 3,000 a year. And so, the Winthrop Fleet solidified the settlement process and laid the foundation for even bigger things.

Fisher: How many ships in the fleet and how often did they come?

Robert: Well, in the Winthrop Fleet, there were four main passenger vessels led by the Arabella which is the famous ship that's always mentioned.

Fisher: Yes.

Robert: There were seven other ships that sailed just behind them, organized by the same group, that were more laden with provisions and cattle, although there were a few passengers there. Then there was the Mary & John, which was a separate operation that came out of Plymouth with the Dorchester contingent on it, which was Puritan also, but organized by a different group. And then there were the smattering of smaller vessels set out by independent merchants of the Puritan persuasion. So there were about seventeen vessels in all. And we think about 1,000 people plus their provisions and other things.

Fisher: So they would all come at the same time.

Robert: Pretty much the same time. Passenger vessels didn't want to be on the North Atlantic in the middle of the winter.

Fisher: Right.

Robert: And so, they generally sat at London or one of the smaller out ports in England in April and May and gathered their passengers and provisions, and then would set sail sometime in May. And the crossing was generally eight weeks plus or minus a bit. And so, they would begin to arrive in June and July and August and so on. And then the arrivals would tail off after that. In 1631, '32 and '33, there were much smaller migrations, but then from 1634 to 1640, there were probably twenty vessels every spring who would line up in London or Westminster, somewhere, and bring passengers over. And that went on for six or seven years.

Fisher: That had to be quite the sight for people waiting on the east coast of North America, looking out to sea, when suddenly these masts start to show over the horizon.

Robert: Right. And one of the things that amazes me is that specifically in 1634, and remember I said that there were about a thousand in the Winthrop Fleet, and then in '31, '32 and '33 there were maybe only a few hundred more. Even in that time period, there were fewer than 2,000 I would say. And then, some of those died and some went back. So, the whole population of New England, even including the Plymouth people was 2,000 to 2,500.

Fisher: Wow!

Robert: The pace picked up in April of 1634… that many people arrived, so in a space of six weeks, the English population of New England doubled.

Fisher: Wow! And then at the same time, of course, there was populating going on in the New Amsterdam area by the Dutch.

Robert: That's correct.

Fisher: And down in the Virginia area as well. But still, I mean, that the population was so small. I mean, by 1650, where were we, for the European population?

Robert: For New England, this would be a rough guess, I would say 30 or 40,000.

Fisher: I mean, we could fit the entire European population into a small college football stadium.

Robert: That's right.

Fisher: Unbelievable!

Robert: Yes. Then they were spread from the main coast all the way down to, you know, Stamford, Connecticut, basically.

Fisher: Um hmm. So, now you're continuing on. How many more years do you still think you have in you to do this?

Robert: However many years it is. It won't be at the same pace as the last twenty five, I can assure you!

Fisher: Sure. [Laughs]

Robert: But I'm hoping about ten more years that I can keep going. I've got a book in the works right now that builds on the directory. The directory is a straightforward reference work. It says, you know, three or four lines devoted to each individual emigrant. And my next book it’s going to take me the next two years or so is a narrative history of the origins of The Great Migration. I'm calling it, Puritan Pedigrees, the Deep Roots of The Great Migration to New England. Then I'll take it all the way back into the reign on Henry VIII and show how the network of ministries and laymen who made up The Great Migration came together over the century from the 1530s to the 1630s.

Fisher: Are you finding it easier to research now because of more material being made available online?

Robert: Somewhat. The problem is, and it’s my problem and not anyone else's problem, is that only commercial outfits that are putting so much online, and even the non profits, for very good reasons have focused on the 19th century with all the censuses and all the immigration records and so on.

Fisher: Sure.

Robert: And that makes perfect sense, because that covers a larger portion of the population and gets at some of the difficult areas. And so, the amount of material that's been put online for the 17th century, both here and in England is not as much as for the 19th century, but it’s getting to be more and more. Some of it is very beautiful. For instance, the Essex records office in England has site called Seax, S E A X. It’s a subscription site, but not that expensive. And within the last few years, they've beautifully, beautifully in color imaged all their parish registers. And so I could just sit at home and work with all of the Essex parish registers to my delight, and not have to go to England for that particular job. So it’s getting better.

Fisher: Well, it’s great work, and you're creating a legacy for yourself as well as for all these people, and we thank you for it. Robert Charles “Bob” Anderson, he is the man behind The Great Migration. And if you haven't checked out the series, you don't know about it, you need to learn about it. Find out more online of course through NEHGS as well. Thank you so much for coming on, Bob.

Robert: You're welcome. It’s been a pleasure.

Fisher: And this segment of our show has been brought to you by 23andMe.com DNA. And coming up next, it’s our Preservation Authority, Tom Perry, with questions and his answers, in three minutes on Extreme Genes.

Segment 4 Episode 167

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: And we are back for preservation time on 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 LegacyTree.com. Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com, our Preservation Authority, is in the house. Hi Tom!

Tom: Hello!

Fisher: Boy, a lot of emails are coming in from listeners all over the place. This one is from Emma West in Kaysville, Utah and she asks, “My father passed away in July of 2015. When he was first diagnosed in June of 2014 at the very young age of 67. I encouraged him to record memories and thoughts. He and mom asked me to get them a recording device and since they weren’t that comfortable with tech stuff and with this in mind I looked for the easiest and least intimidating thing that I could find that was also cost effective, and I got them an Olympus Digital Voice Recorder VN-7200. Dad never did feel comfortable recording anything on his own, but luckily I bugged him enough about it and we did several interviews together. The recorder picks things up fine, and I’ve transcribed the interviews. However, I have a problem preserving the audio. I wasn’t thinking about preservation at the time I bought the device and made the recordings. I was thinking about ease of use for a cancer patient and in getting things done quickly. Well now I’m left with a problem. The recorder I used doesn’t have a way to upload the audio files to computer or to store them on another device. I looked a little online and can’t find any solution.” What do you have to say to Emma, Tom?

Tom:  Well first of all Emma, thank you for bugging your dad in getting those priceless stories. That’s wonderful. And sometimes we have to do that. Don’t give up if grandma or grandpa or mom and dad don’t want to tell us stories because the microphone or camera frightens them. The easiest thing to use is grab your iPhone or your Android, turn it on, leave it in your pocket with the microphone facing up and just sit and have a conversation. They will never know that you have ever recorded them. And sometimes you get the best response that way, anyway.

Fisher: Sure. Good point.

Tom: On top of your Olympus Digital Voice Recorder, your VN-7200, it’s pretty generic how most of them are made. Generally, you’ll have two jacks on the top of it, sometimes on the side, but generally they’re on the top, and one of them will say mic and one of them will say ear and then there’s usually a built-in mic between those two. So, obviously the one that says mic is if you want to get really good audio, you can use an external mic. The one that says ear, just think about it for a second, so that means audio’s coming out, it’s going into a cable, and you plug it into your ear. So all you need to do is get an adaptor instead of plugging it into your ear. You plug it into a CD burner or plug it into your computer and you can go to Amazon, you can go on eBay, different places like this, even Best Buy, and you can have little cables that will have either a micro or miniature jack depending what yours is. You plug it into the earphone jack then it has a USB on the other side, you plug it into your computer and go onto Audacity or any editing program you want and you can then download it right into your computer.  And then once it’s in your computer, if it’s really old and staticky, there are so many great programs. Audacity is really great for beginners. If you really want to clean up, you want to do an absolute incredible job, I recommend you getting ProTools from Adobe. It’s what we use, it’s what a lot of musicians use. It’s a really good program. If you don’t want to have a whole lot of different programs, we’ve talked about Toast Titanium 15 before. That has a good audio recorder in it. Wondershare, you can go and put it into Wondershare, and then convert it into anything that you want. You can go and convert it into your MP3 which is generally the best way to go because the nice thing about MP3 is they’re very compact, they’re easy to e-mail to people, they’re easy to put in your Cloud, do whatever you want and then plug into your computer. Then if you say, well grandma doesn’t have a computer. She doesn’t understand this. We just finally got her to buy a DVD player. Okay, she’s got a DVD player, and even though this is audio, you can still go in and burn a CD with these programs and then she can take the CD and put it in her video player and play it. And some people in our store go, “What? How? A CD in my DVD player?” So, whether you have a DVD player or a BluRay player, put your CD in there, rock n roll and your screen will be blue. But who cares, you’re going to get wonderful audio.

Fisher: All right, great. Thanks so much Tom. Thank you Emma for the email and of course you can always email Tom at [email protected]. And coming up next in three minutes, we’ve got another listener question from Topeka, Kansas on the way on Extreme Genes.

Segment 5 Episode 167

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: And we are back for our final segment of Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show with Tom Perry our Preservation Authority from TMCPlace.com. I am Fisher, the Radio Roots Sleuth. Tom, we have another email here, this is from Topeka, Kansas. Patty Bender writes, “Early in my research I recorded interviews with subjects who have since died. At first I had no microphone, just the micro cassette recorder. Then I improved to a small microphone and finally added an omnidirectional microphone. Each of these made the sound better but it was a thirty five dollar unit and never terrific to begin with. Over time the value of these recordings to me has increased and I would now like to be able to understand them better, and even make CD copies for these people’s descendants. I looked at the Audacity software you mentioned on the show, but I’m not sure if that’s the right tool to improve the sound quality. Am I on the right track with Audacity? Shall I just experiment with an uploaded file? Any help you can provide will be much appreciated. Patty Bender. Topeka Kansas.”

Tom: It’s kind of funny how it ties in with our first email that was also about audio. You have a situation that’s a little bit deeper then what she had before. The old little micro cassettes they were little tapes. They were not very thick. They don’t hold a lot of information in good quality. And with yours, I would really, really highly recommend you go to ProTools. This is something where you will be able to go in and edit it better, do things to really sweeten it up and make the sound brighter so to speak.

Fisher: And fuller.

Tom: When you take a lot of the garbage and scratches out of the audio, it’s going to make it really sound flat and it won’t be bright and enthusiastic and stereo and all these kind of fun things. But when you go in to Protools, you can actually take stuff that’s mono and give it kind of a sound of stereo which will really increase the sound of it. So that’s really what you want to do. And one thing that you need to understand too is you’re going to think about is, people don’t talk in stereo, however, when somebody’s playing this and they’re going to hear it through only one speaker, it’s going to sound kind of funky. So what you do when you get it all done, cleaned up and edited, you just take the one track which is right or left, depending how your machine is set up, and just duplicate it and put it on the other track. So then you have pseudo stereo. So when somebody’s is listening to it, they’re not going to just hear grandpa through one speaker, they’re going to hear a grandpa through both speakers. Or if you really want to get fancy and grandma and grandpa are talking, put grandma on one track and grandpa on the other track, and then you have the separation between them. Oh, grandpa’s on the right side and grandma’s on the left side. And it’s a lot of fun. Audio editing really isn’t hard, it’s just very time consuming and if you don’t have the time to do it yourself, the nice thing is once you have them as MP3s, you can send them to us, you can send them to any professional audio editor across the nation and I’m sure you can find some on the internet, send them your piece so then they can give you an example of what they can do and you can say, “Oh wow, I love what this guy or this gal did for us. I’m going to send them the rest of them and have them do them for me.” So get them all transferred, that’s the number one thing. Whether you want to do it yourself or send them to us or anybody else who can do your audio transfers. But make sure they give you good digital files, whether they’re MP3s or AIFFs, so you’re going to be able to go in to them and edit them in ProTools and these other different programs. And then once that’s done, then you need to figure out like we’ve talked before, what’s your end game with these? Do you want to go and make slideshows to go with these of grandpa and grandma talking?  We have people that have something that are just very basic of grandpa and grandma telling stories, but then they have all these photos that may be directly what they’re talking about and maybe not. That just kind of adds some flavor to it. So they’re sitting watching their old home they grew up in, watching grandma in the garden doing whatever, and put all these things together and you will end up with a great masterpiece.

Fisher: All right. We’re talking about multimedia then, and that’s where Heritage Collectors come in, which is a great tool for this kind of thing.

Tom: It’s awesome.

Fisher: Very good. Thank you so much Tom. And if you have a question for Tom Perry, you can always [email protected] See you next week bud.

Tom: My pleasure.

Fisher: And this segment of our show has been brought to you by FamilySearch.org. And speaking of FamilySearch by the way, Roots Tech is coming up February 8th through the 11th at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. It is of course the largest family history technology conference in the world. Twenty eight thousand people were there last year from all over the place. So we hope you’ll be joining us this year. Both Tom and I will be there and look forward to meeting you. Hey I hope you’re enjoying your Thanksgiving weekend and have had a great time with the family. Maybe gathered a few stories in the course of it. Talk to you next week, and remember, as far as everyone knows, we’re a nice, normal family!

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