Episode 172 - Woman Sold At Birth Discovers Origins / Missouri Researcher Ties To Old West StoryJan 02, 2017
Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. They exchange tales of recent finds. Fisher talks about his discovery that he has a connection to the Major Deegan for whom the “Major Deegan Expressway” is named. David talks about learning that the adoption of his wife’s great great grandmother. As it turns out, she wasn’t French-Canadian… she was Irish! David then talks about how Wisconsin Indian burial grounds are in jeopardy. Hear what lawmakers in that state have in mind for these historic grounds. Next, David shares the news of an exciting new digitization project. David then gives you a great tip on how to find mug shots of your “black sheep” ancestors.
Fisher then shares his 2014 interview (starts at 11:09) with Heather Leathergood who was SOLD at birth by an unscrupulous woman who claimed to be a doctor. Heather talks about what she learned about her origins, what she was worth (!), her journey to find birth family, and her long sought after breakthrough which resulted in the connection with two half-brothers! You’ll want to hear this one!
Next (starts at 24:47), Martha Noland Bergstrom of Independence, Missouri talks about her research which tied her into the tragic shooting in the mid-1800s. The story involves a posse, a robber, and a little girl. Here how Martha learned of her connection and what she has done to memorialize the victim. Finally, Fisher visits with Tom Perry, the Preservation Authority from TMCPlace.com about a photograph brought to him during this year’s “Roots Tech” conference. As he explains, he “wanted it bad!” What was so unique about the photo and what arrangement was reached? Listen to the podcast and find out!
That’s all this week on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show!
Transcript of Episode 172
Host Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Segment 1 Episode 172 (00:30)
Fisher: And you have found us, America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. My name is Fisher. I am the Radio Roots Sleuth, on the program where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out. And this week it’s a couple of classic interviews on the Best of Extreme Genes, as we go back a couple of years to talk first of all to a woman who found out that she was actually sold at birth to her adopted family! What was the story surrounding that? How much was she worth? And how did it all work out? And has she found her birth family yet? We’ll get the entire story straight from the mouth of Heather Leathergood who has lived it. That will be in about eight minutes. And then later on in the show, a woman who went to work on her linage and found a connection to a little girl in the old west who met a horrible demise, and how that story developed into a whole other thing, including the discovery of her gravesite, and what she’s done with that. You’ll want to catch my visit with Martha Noland Bergstrom coming up later on in the show. It’s an incredible story. Hopefully now that summer is here you’re making some incredible discoveries, and these stories will inspire you just a little bit. This segment of the Best of Extreme Genes is brought to by Roots Magic. Let’s go to Boston and find out what’s happening with David Allen Lambert the Chief Genealogist for the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org, Hello David!
David: Greetings from Beantown, Fish! How are you?
Fisher: You know I am doing so well! I’ve already had so many amazing discoveries this year. For instance, just recently found out that a third cousin to my Dad had married a guy named William Deegan in New York City, back in the beginning of the last century. It turns out William Deegan was Major Deegan… Major William Deegan… the Major Deegan Expressway that goes past Yankee Stadium!
David: Oh my goodness!
David: Well I think as a New York baseball fan you must appreciate that greatly.
Fisher: Yes! I did appreciate that greatly! That was kind of a strange find but you know every year has something new that’s kind of unique.
David: Just two days ago I found the adoption for my wife’s great, great grandfather in Quebec and never had found that before, and turns out they’re not French/ Canadian after all. They’re Irish!
Fisher: Whoa! Who knew? And you’ve been looking for what – 30 years?
David: About 25.
Fisher: 25. Not bad. That’s a great find! So, this is something that’s disturbing me. There’s a story out about a study they did of college grads 25-34 years old. And it turns out that ten percent of them believe that Judge Judy sits on the Supreme Court! [Laughs]
David: Oh yeah! I saw the same story. It’s the same one that talks that only sixty percent of college students say that Thomas Jefferson actually was the father of the Constitution.
Fisher: No! That was the Declaration.
David: I think another statistic said something about twenty percent of the students couldn’t identify what the direct effect of the Emancipation Proclamation was.
Fisher: Ooh. That’s a little disturbing.
David: I know that all of our listeners know that that was the end of slavery.
Fisher: Yeah. I know they all know that. You know this is another reason why you want to get your kids involved in family history. Because once they begin to identify and understand their connections back to these times, history has a greater meaning to them and things like this will not be lost to your kids.
David: Well you know you mentioned things about getting lost. One of my first Family Histoire News stories for you is some sad and scary news out in Madison, Wisconsin, that all those earthen burial mounds of Native Americans shaped like bears, deers, birds and people etc… are actually in jeopardy now.
David: There’s actually a bill, Fish, that’s before the legislature to actually cause it to perhaps be built upon. They could be dug into, and pot hunters… which is a term we use in archaeology… can go in there and be looking for burial remains and grave goods. I would hate to think that 500 years the colonial graveyards of our ancestors are going to be besieged by metal detectors or pot hunters.
Fisher: Wow! It’s really, you know, not only a horrible thing for those affected, obviously the Native Americans. They’re Americans first and foremost! What are these people thinking? I mean that’s insane.
David: The first Americans. Well in the idea of preservation I’m happy to announce that NEHGS in conjunction with the Congregational Library, the Archives, the Phillips Library of the PBS museum, and the Connecticut Conference of the United Church of Christ have received a grant of over two hundred thousand dollars to help preserve and digitize twenty eight thousand pages of church records, diaries, and pastoral records dating from 1641 to the mid-1800s. That’s exactly because a lot of vital records are available online, but a lot of the details of the church records of colonial New England are not.
Fisher: Right. And that really was the vital record archives of New England.
David: It absolutely was. So hopefully there are some new discoveries waiting to be found and this twenty eight thousand pages that are being worked on right now. So that’s exciting, and you know sometimes your discoveries don’t have to be in archives. They can be on eBay. We all have a black sheep in the family and myself not excluded. And it’s scary to think that I can search for a particular relative on eBay for his or her mug shot!
David: I have seen countless dozens upon dozens of 19th century mug shots right down to ones that were taken in the ‘50s and ‘60s that are basically requisitioned from police departments like Scranton in Pennsylvania. If any of the listeners have family from there and have a black sheep in the family, go on eBay. I’ve seen dozens of pictures right now.
David: In technology there’s a company called “Live Stream” that’s releasing this month something called “Movi” and what it will do is it’s a camera that can shoot from multiple angles. So say for instance you have a family reunion and you want to catch all those cousins and the kids running around or get multiple people being interviewed at the same time. This little device for about $200 or less will allow you to do that and that’s brought to you by Live Stream. Of course NEHGS every week offers a free guest user database and this is the final week of our January release for the three big databases that we offer, just to become a guest user of AmericanAncestors.org and that includes Massachusetts vital records from 1841 to 1910, New Hampshire vital records to 1937, and Vermont vital records from the earliest time right through to 2008, from NEHGS to our listeners. And signing off from Beantown, see you in a couple of weeks.
Fisher: It is the Best of Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth. And coming up in three minutes you’ll hear a conversation I had with a woman a couple of years ago who not only was adopted, she learned that she had been sold at birth! What was the circumstance around that? Has she found her birth family? And what was she worth when she was sold? You’ll hear the whole story coming up next on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 2 Episode 172 (11:10)
Host Scott Fisher with guest Heather Leathergood
Fisher: Hey, welcome back! It’s the best of Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and this segment is brought to you by MyHeritage.com. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, and very excited to meet my next guest along with you, her name is Heather Leathergood. She’s in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Hi Heather, welcome to the show!
Heather: How are you today?
Fisher: Awesome! You know, it is so nice to have you on. There are many people who love to research their past, as you certainly done, and it’s not unusual to have blocks back there because of adoptions, or illegitimacies, all kinds of challenges in our research. But typically, that’s something we find from somebody way back. It’s not us, ourselves. But that was the case, though, for you. You didn’t know who your mother was, your father was, your birth parents. You’ve had a lifetime of not knowing about that. How has that affected your life?
Heather: Well, you know I think that the question is, who do I look like and where do I come from? And I wanted to know my roots. Even though I came from a great home, those are just questions that always bugged me. My adopted mom died when I was three and my dad died when I was thirty four, so that’s when I started looking really seriously. When I was pregnant, I thought, “Oh my gosh! I wonder what this baby is going to look like?” So that’s when I got my birth certificate. You could get it in Montana then, if you were over eighteen, the sealed birth certificate, and that’s what I did.
Fisher: How long have you been doing this?
Heather: Oh I’ve been looking probably close to forty years.
Fisher: Wow! And you’ve had recent success and we do want to get into that, but I think one of the most interesting things I’ve ever seen was the headline of this story. It was running in your area that said you were sold as baby in Butte, Montana. I’ve never run into that one before. How much were you sold for? What were you worth there, by the way, Heather?!
Heather: Well, I was worth a hundred dollars and I think I gave him a hundred dollars worth! [Laughs]
Heather: But you know, back in the forties that was a lot of money. My dad at the time, and I think I remember, of course I was probably ten or twelve then, but we sold doughnuts for a nickel. So probably when I was born, I bet he was selling doughnuts probably for a couple of cents apiece, so even at a nickel, my dad would have had to sell two thousand doughnuts. That’s a lot of doughnuts!
Fisher: To get the baby! Let’s talk about that. If somebody is being sold that must mean there’s a seller somewhere. Who was the seller? What was the circumstance behind this that you’ve learned in your research?
Heather: Well, the seller was a lady by the name of Gertrude Pitkanen, and she wasn’t a doctor. But she thought she was. Her husband passed away and she took over his business. She was a chiropractor. So she sold babies. She did abortions. She had some of her patients pass away. She went to court. She was never brought up on any charges because I think she had the scoop on everyone in the city of Butte. So she sold babies for…I have to think now… for twenty years.
Fisher: Now, as an abortionist, did this mean that some of the babies were born alive and maybe the mothers didn’t know it, and then she took them and sold them?
Heather: Well, actually, some of the mothers passed away, and some of the babies, she did tell the mothers that the babies died, and then she sold them.
Fisher: Oh my gosh! And you found out about this through what research?
Heather: You know, my dad always told me where he got me from. My mom and dad, my adopted mom and dad, they had adopted an older brother through the legal channels, and my mom wanted a girl and my dad said babies were very hard to find. And of course he was born and raised in Butte so he knew everyone and he was the one that found this Pitkanen, and that’s how they got me. But I was just glad I wasn’t placed with her because we talked to one of the children she kept, and she said all she could remember from Pitkanen was her beating her.
Heather: So she was not a nice lady.
Fisher: No, clearly not. And from this situation, you wound up in your adoptive family and obviously it worked out very well for you, despite the fact that you lost your adoptive mother at three.
Fisher: You had a great dad and a great upbringing, and now you wanted to fill this hole in your life. This, “Where do I come from?” thing, and I think that is so fundamental and universal to all of mankind. And off to work you went. And you obviously came up with quite a bit of information you developed, what did you know about your birth mother and your birth father?
Heather: I knew about my birth mom and how old she was when I was born, and that another sibling was also born to her, and my dad did tell me that I was born in a motel room. When he picked me up, he said there was a little boy outside. He said, “I don’t know if he’s your full brother or half brother, but you have a brother out there.” And that has always stuck with me, that I knew I had a brother, whether it was a half sibling or a full sibling. Now the man that was with my birth mom, my dad, at the time he said, “I do not believe that man that was with your mom was your father.”
Fisher: All right. So it’s a little complicated and you had to work through this. Obviously thirty-forty years ago when you started this search there weren’t the tools we have available today. What kind of records did you use when you started?
Heather: I just went off that birth certificate. And come to find out, I don’t know if that birth dad’s name on there is correct. And the only name I had for my mother was her first name, which was Violet. She did not have a last name or a maiden name on that birth certificate. So I was actually looking for the dad’s name.
Fisher: All right. So let’s go through the process. Obviously it was a stop and go thing. You’d probably go for many years without finding anything new.
Heather: That’s right.
Fisher: And ultimately we came across the holy grail of genealogical research these last ten-fifteen years. That’s DNA and digitized newspapers. Were you able to use both of those?
Heather: I actually did submit my DNA. If it wasn’t for DNA I don’t think I would have ever found her, because I wasn’t even looking in the right spot.
Fisher: Was she still living?
Heather: No she was not.
Fisher: All right, so you did the DNA, you did a test and you posted it generally out there to see if there were any matches in the databases?
Heather: Well it comes back. Once you put your DNA, it gives you a list of matches. So at that point, I just started from the top. I kept writing and I finally hit a third cousin. And bless her heart, she took it upon herself and she is the one that did all the research for me and it took her five months to nail down the family.
Fisher: Wow! What type of research did she do to find how you guys tied together?
Heather: Well, she took all the people that we were related to and it was a process of elimination at the common name that kept coming through.
Heather: And then also, I had about the approximate age of a boy, once she looked at one family, she’s see if they had children and look at the ages of the boy. As you can see that’s a long process.
Heather: To go through families and look at their siblings and then the ages.
Fisher: But you had the name Violet.
Heather: I did have the name Violet, but guess what? Violet was a very popular name in that time.
Fisher: [Laughs] That’s true. But you’re looking for a Violet in a certain time period in a certain family line, with an older child, an older boy. So there were a lot of things to help you narrow it down. Is that how it ultimately came about?
Heather: Yes, and that is what came out.
Fisher: And so she kind of narrowed it down to this family, and that meant now that you were in a position where you could actually reach out and see if somebody might respond.
Heather: That’s correct. So once we figured out she had the correct family, the boy fit in right. The mother’s name was Violet, and I also had how old she was when I was born.
Heather: And her birth date fit in perfect.
Fisher: So was she able to track down any living members of this core family for you then?
Heather: Yes, she tracked down the brother. He was alive.
Fisher: The older brother.
Heather: He had another brother.
Fisher: Is that right.
Heather: I wrote to this Bob Stanford and I wrote a letter to him telling him I was adopted. I said, “Well you know, I’m just looking for relatives. I’m trying to find some roots, and would you do a DNA test?” And he agreed.
Heather: Well, a couple weeks went by and I never heard. So I finally tried to call him and I never could get a hold of him. Then he left me a message and said he decided not to do the DNA test. I was devastated. I thought, what am I going to do now?
Fisher: Of course. Right.
Heather: So I called him back, I left him a message, I said, “The reason I want you to do a DNA test is because I think your mother is my mother.” Well that got his attention [Laughs]
Fisher: [Laughs] Yeah.
Heather: So of course he’s still sceptical. We’ve had articles and people magazines and in the local paper, so I sent him those articles just so he knew I was very upfront at this point.
Heather: So after he got the newspaper clippings he sent the DNA test in, and when we got that test back, we were 99% close relation!
Fisher: Wow. How did he take that?
Heather: You know, bless his heart, they took it quite well that they had a sister. He said he was disappointed in his mom that she would do that. And I told him I don’t want them to think that way because you don’t know the circumstances that she was in.
Heather: And I didn’t want them thinking less of their mother.
Fisher: Absolutely. We’re never going to understand all the things that were going on with our people back in the day and what the reasons were. It’s just what it is!
Heather: It is what it is. And that’s what I told him, just be thankful that I have found you and we’ll probably never know the reasons. But you know, his dad and my birth mother, they stayed together. They had another child about a year and a half younger than me, it was another boy. I mean, I guess I’m surprised they stayed married, but you know as well as I do, people in those days did not get divorced.
Fisher: Not very easily. That’s right. Well Heather, tell us about now your relationship with this older brother and I guess a younger one as well. What’s going on with that? Have you met?
Heather: Yes, we flew down in September, my husband and I, and we met both of the brothers. And we met one of the brothers… he has four kids and we met three of the four kids. And they took us out and we had a picnic out in the woods. And you know it went very well. I didn’t really know what to expect. After all these years you’re meeting blood relatives but you’re also meeting strangers.
Fisher: That’s right. Did you see resemblance?
Heather: No, not very much, maybe more towards the younger brother. They’re very tall, like 6’1” and 6’3” and I’m 5’4” [Laughs]
Fisher: [Laughs] You never know, do you?!
Heather: No, but you know, we always wondered because our youngest daughter is 5’10” and we always wondered where she got her height from. So now we know.
Fisher: Unbelievable. She’s Heather Leathergood from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. She was sold as a baby for a hundred dollars, and has found her birth family! Heather thanks so much for sharing your story. It’s unbelievable.
Heather: Well, thank you for calling and you know, I hope it gives hope to other people that are looking. I would strongly say put in your DNA and start searching.
Fisher: Good luck to you. Thanks so much Heather.
Heather: You betcha, and you have a good day.
Fisher: Hey it’s the Best of Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show. And coming up next – We’re going to talk to a midwest woman named Martha Noland Bergstrom, who discovered she had an interesting tie to a very strange old west case, and the discovery of a grave connected with it. She’ll have the whole story for you coming up next in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 3 Episode 172 (24:50)
Host Scott Fisher with guest Martha Noland Bergstrom
Fisher: It is the Best of Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth. And this segment is brought to you by LegacyTree.com. Martha Noland Bergstrom, she’s from Independence, Missouri. Hi Martha, welcome to the show.
Martha: Hello. Glad to be here.
Fisher: I am so excited, you know, I was just reading your story about how you traced down. You were working on a DAR application and by the way, anytime you go to join a linage society like that or the Mayflower Society it’s a lot of work, isn’t it, a lot of detail?
Martha: It really is. And you need a lot of proofs.
Fisher: A lot of proofs. And as a result of that, you ran across a story of a little girl from your neck of the woods named Sarah Catherine Noland. And she was what, nine years old back in 1867. Tell the story a little bit.
Martha: Okay. When I ran into this story in a Jesse James book by William Settle, it just called her a little girl. And later on I came across some other accounts of this and they said it was Miss Noland or Dr. Noland’s daughter. Well, since I was a Noland and that piqued my interest. Sarah was like you said, about nine years old. And there had been a bank robbery at Richmond, Missouri and they were looking for the outlaws that were involved in that bank robbery on May 23rd 1867. And they came by the farm where Sarah was staying. And it was a blinding rainstorm and they didn’t know how to get to the Evans farm, which is where they thought one of the outlaws, Payne Jones, was hiding. So they stopped. And either she volunteered or for some reason her family allowed her to go, because she said she could take them to the farm. So she was with them in this blinding rainstorm. Got them to where they needed to be. But unfortunately, Payne Jones heard them coming or something and he fired a shot from his shotgun and he killed the deputy and it said “fatally wounded Sarah.” So I don’t think she died immediately.
Martha: She was shot as well.
Fisher: Now this Payne Jones was connected with the James Gang, right?
Martha: That’s correct.
Fisher: It sounds like they almost had separately little groups that went out. Because the story says that he actually was the ring leader for a bank robbery, but it doesn’t mention the James brothers being involved.
Martha: No, it doesn’t and it also doesn’t mention the Youngers either. The Youngers said they had alibis, so neither the James nor Youngers were, but these were some people who had evidently been with them at other times.
Fisher: So you found the story and now you recognize the potential that this girl might by related to you because of the local name of Noland, N O L A N D. And what is the relationship? How far back are you tied, do you know?
Martha: Well, she is my second cousin once removed.
Martha: So it’s really not that far back.
Martha: She was my dad’s second cousin.
Fisher: Really, your dad’s second cousin?
Martha: Um hum. And there were thirty years difference in their ages, because my father was born thirty years after she was born.
Fisher: I see, in the 1880s?
Martha: He was born in 1887.
Fisher: Okay, got it. That kind of probably put a halt to your work on the DAR application for a while, because it’s a great deal.
Martha: Well I had done a lot of it already, so I was in pretty good shape. And I kind of went off on, you know, another area with this. And then it took a long, long time because that was twenty years ago and we only found the grave about last year.
Fisher: Well, now talk about that. How did you locate the grave?
Martha: Well, a friend of mine knew I was looking for this little girl and she was studying the Woodlawn cemetery which is a historic cemetery in Independence. And she came across this Noland girl who was buried with the Moon family. And she called me in, said, “What’s this Noland girl doing buried with the Moons?” And we had never heard that before. And it turned out that they were her maternal grandparents. She had been buried on a farm with them and then they moved the bodies later to Woodlawn cemetery.
Fisher: And her grave then was just a stone, but no name on it.
Martha: Well, there was no stone, and hers had been broken off. It was just, there was cement and a little bit of the marker was there. You could tell it was a white marble. And it was broken off, so there was no information on it at all, but fortunately there was a record of the cemetery of her being buried there.
Fisher: Ah, and so that’s when you found out where she was right there in the neighborhood and she didn’t have a marker. So now you went to work.
Martha: Um hmm, and I had the help of a lot of friends and one in particular, the one who had found the grave did a lot of research for me and helped me out with. It really encouraged me, because she thought, “Well, we should do a marker or something.” And I thought that would be a good idea too, because it had been broken off.
Fisher: Well, and it’s such a sad story. I mean, can you imagine the parents, how they had to have felt about letting her go?
Martha: Well, yes. And then another thing is, Payne Jones may very well have known the Nolands, because it was a close knit Independence town. And it’s likely he even knew her dad maybe even. And then to have that happen, I’m sure it was a real tragedy. And I could find no information on her funeral or obituary or anything. So I never did find anything like that.
Fisher: Have all the Independence newspapers or regional newspapers been digitized yet?
Martha: I think some of them have and we did a lot of searching for them and even went to other newspapers in close by towns, but we never found an obituary about that. Now the deputy that was killed, there was a little notice about his funeral services and that was all that was there about him.
Fisher: Isn’t that interesting? I mean, a story like that today would garner all kinds of attention.
Martha: Sure it would have.
Fisher: And Independence is so full of history. In fact, I went there once and stopped by Harry Truman’s place and he wasn’t home.
Martha: I saw him several times. I didn’t actually meet him, but I ran into him one time when he and Bess were up on the square and she was shopping for a dress. And that was common back then. And we saw him at the grocery store. So I mean he literally just walked around town and did the same thing everybody else did and it was quite common to see him. And he also was related to the Nolands.
Fisher: Oh, is that right, in what way?
Martha: I think he had a relative James Noland who would have been the brother of my third great grandfather, Ledgeston, who was the one I went into the DAR on.
Fisher: Okay. He was a Revolutionary soldier. And you’re saying that Harry Truman descended from him as well?
Martha: From the brother.
Fisher: From the brother, okay. So he’s a distant cousin also. Well isn’t that interesting? I think every area where families have been there for some time, there’s a lot more close relations than anybody ever knows. And maybe many people who live on your same street or you went to school with or worked with are relatives and you have no idea.
Martha: Right. And they’re related somehow and you just kind of find that out.
Fisher: So, let’s go through the tombstone. You got the tombstone. Did you get it funded through various people or did you do it all yourself or how did that work?
Martha: I pretty much did that one myself. I had helped on another one. Sarah had some cousins that were killed down in Kentucky and I had worked on that one. And a group from several different states went together and purchased that one. And they were killed during the Civil War, so I had been involved with that one, but on this one, it was pretty much my own project, so it was something I really wanted to do.
Fisher: I think it’s so worthy. Can you share with us what the inscription says?
Martha: It pretty much tells her story and basically just says that she was shot and killed while with the posse that was after Payne Jones. And that’s basically what it says. And then I had the Noland family motto put on the other side, which is, “One heart, One Way” and I’ve always liked that saying. And that’s the Noland motto and they were from Ireland.
Fisher: Well that’s a great story, Martha. And Thanks for all your time and sharing it with us and good luck in your pursuits.
Martha: Thank you very much.
Fisher: It’s the Best of Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show. And coming up next, as always, we’ll talk to Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com. He’s our Preservation Authority. And he shares with us one of the most exciting things he discovered at Roots Tech, the number one family history conference in the world. It’s coming up in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 4 Episode 172 (37:10)
Host Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry
Fisher: This segment of the Best of Extreme Genes is brought to you by Forever.com. It is preservation time with our good friend, Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com, our Preservation Authority. Tom, you were having such a good time at Roots Tech and its fun. I mean we’ve got stories that go on for weeks from what happened over just a few days, because people were bringing things to your booth and asking for advice on some of these items. But the one thing that really lit you up that I noticed, what was it, a 19th century “selfie?”
Tom: Oh yeah, it was like late 18, early 1900s. Oh, I wanted it so bad!
Fisher: [Laughs] Now, have you even seen anything like that before?
Tom: Never, never.
Fisher: And explain what this was, because I think when we talk about “selfie”, most people picture a long stick and a little modern camera there and a remote control and the whole thing. But obviously back then, that wasn’t the case. Who was the person? How old? How did they set this thing up in those times?
Tom: It was pretty incredible. In fact, one of the things that made it so cool to me is, I remember back when I started my career in photography back in junior high school. I remember we had this big mirror when you walked in the front door. And I did the same thing. It was before I had Nikons. I just had an old Petri Flex. I had the tripod set up, smile in the mirror and pull a little button. And it’s like flashback a hundred years earlier and here is this kid wearing the type of clothes they wore back in those days, the tie. He had his tripod set up, had a little Brownie camera on top of it.
Fisher: Now you saw that in a picture?
Tom: Oh yeah! Because what he’s doing is, he has his camera and he’s looking into the mirror.
Fisher: Ooh, I see. Okay.
Tom: Yeah. So this mirror is on, I don’t know what they used to call them back then, kind of like a bureau, because you can see the drawers, you can see the sides, because he didn’t go back far enough that he not only got the mirror, he got part of the surroundings of it. And he’s just standing there with his little tie on and his little prairie clothing and just standing there smiling and took this picture and it’s so cool. And the thing that makes it so cool is, it’s not just a selfie, but you can see it’s not a fake selfie.
Tom: Because you can see the thing on the outside, the old bureau that it’s sitting on, the handcrafting on the mirror. And that was a cool thing. I saw this and I loved it.
Fisher: So that’s a mirror image though of himself, right?
Fisher: Which you could reverse and flip if you wanted to.
Tom: Exactly! So, it was a selfie in the old fashion way. Because in the old days, you didn’t even have timers on the cameras, so you couldn’t run and get in the picture. You had to have somebody else do it.
Tom: So it truly was a selfie. It wasn’t somebody who took a picture of him. And it was so cool. But then the one downside of the picture, it had a lot of spots on it just from being old and wear and tear. And the lady that brought it in told me the history. I believe she said it was like an uncle or grandfather.
Fisher: So it was a relative.
Tom: Right. It was definitely a relative. And she told me a little bit about him. And then this guy actually got into photography! There’s people that every once in a while do these selfie contests. Send in your best selfie and they give away prizes and such. I told her, “You need to make a copy of this and send it in, because I guarantee this is going to be the oldest selfie anybody has ever seen!”
Fisher: It’s a winner!
Tom: Oh yeah! Oh absolutely! But I wanted it so bad! Oh it was awesome!
Fisher: What do you think something like that would be worth? Are you a collector? Do you collect photographs?
Tom: No, I don’t collect stuff like that. I mostly just look for family things that are related. And to me, if I saw it on eBay, happened to run across it and it was $100, I would have bought it without even thinking about it because it’s so special to me.
Tom: So I tried to bribe the lady. I said, “Give me all your pictures, let me scan them for you and I’m not going to charge you. I just want to have permission to keep one of these pictures and to be able to use it in our store because it’s so cool.
Fisher: And did she agree?
Tom: Oh yeah! Oh she’s totally on board for it.
Fisher: Oh that’s fun. So what are you having to do to fix it?
Tom: Okay, so what we’ll do first is, we’ll scan it at a really high dpi. And since it is a black and white, we’re still going to scan it in color like we talked about last week, because it gives you more information. Most of the spots on it are about the size just a little bit bigger than a pencil lead, so they’re not huge. And so we go into Photoshop which is a great program to do editing. Once we get all these things done, it’ll look like the guy just took a picture and it’ll look awesome.
Fisher: Isn’t that great, and Photoshop Elements, too, is a cheaper version with all those same tools on it for anybody.
Tom: You don’t have to get the full blown Photoshop, like you mentioned. If you’ve got Elements which comes free with a lot of scanners, you’ll be able to rock and roll with that just fine.
Fisher: All right, what are we going to talk about next?
Tom: We’re going to talk about, what if my picture is torn up, what if I have an “outlaw” in my picture I want removed?
Fisher: Ooh boy, coming up next in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 5 Episode 172 (44:20)
Host Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry
Fisher: We are talking preservation with Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com, our Preservation Authority on America’s Family History Show, Extreme Genes. I am Fisher, your Radio Roots Sleuth. And Tom, recently, of course we were both at the Roots Tech conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. And you had a lot of people bringing things to your booth for evaluation, for restoration and recovery. And talk about some of those other items that you saw.
Tom: Oh exactly! And the thing is, some people don’t want to give up their stuff. Even though they flew in, they don’t want to leave it. I understand that. So one thing that you need to do too if you’re in this situation where you don’t want to do it yourself and you don’t want to ship it, you want to fly it in. I’m sure there are people in your area that can help you with this. And one thing you need to really do is, look outside the box. If you just want to go to a transfer place and you don’t think, “Oh, they’re not really into photos. They don’t know what they’re doing,” go to places that do billboards. Go to advertising companies with good references and they might be able to tell you, “Oh yeah, there’s a color correction place that does billboards.” And take it to them and say, “Hey, here’s what I need done.” And they can usually scan it for you right while you’re there, because they have their equipment set up always to do things like that. Scan it, you can take the photo back with you and they can do it for you.
Fisher: They can take a little tiny photo and blow it up to billboard size.
Tom: Oh absolutely! So these people definitely know what they’re doing.
Tom: And if you still don’t want to leave it, that’s fine, just have them scan it. And even if they say, “Hey, we don’t do photo restoration, but we can scan it for you at a gazillion dpi.” then that’s fine. Have them put it on your thumb drive or a disk, take it home. You can email it to us or anybody and get a quote. And the thing is, if you email it to us and ask us for a quote, you don’t have to have us do it. You can just say, “Okay, this is what it would cost.” and then take it to somebody local and if they’re in the same ballpark, you know they’re being fair with you.
Tom: So we’re just more there to kind of help you out. We had this one person who brought us a photo that was torn.
Fisher: Right in half, huh?
Tom: Yeah, torn right in half, so half the face was missing. However, we’re like a detective. We need to get as much information as we can which we kind of alluded to last week.
Fisher: So part of it was missing. It wasn’t two halves.
Tom: Oh exactly! A whole part of the guy’s face was missing. Kind of like the thumb print we talked about last week, but not as severe. Because if you have half a person’s face, you know they’re not asymmetrical. So you can kind of take things and kind of know what you’re supposed to do.
Tom: But anything you can give to us, like type of clothing it was, other photos even if they’re younger or older. It helps our artist see, “Okay, this is when he was eight years old. Here’s a picture of him when he was twelve. Based on that, I can kind of do these things to fix the photo.” So be like a detective. Get us any information you can. If it’s a color photo that’s faded, let us know, “Oh yeah, so and so used to wear this color. They had this. This is what their eye color was.” So we can make sure we get everything right. So your little sister that had green eyes, we don’t make them blue or brown.
Fisher: Right, right. [Laughs]
Tom: We want to be as authentic as we can, so bring us this information. Even if it’s a black and white photo, get us that information. Because you think, “Well its black and white, why do I need to know eye color?” Well in grayscale, blue eyes, brown eyes and green eyes are going to be different shades of grayscale. So if you want to be authentic, get us as much information as you can, so we as a detective can recreate this picture and make everybody look right. Also, they knew there was supposed to be somebody else in that picture that wasn’t there because that half was torn and nobody knew where it was. So if you can get us a picture of that person, as close as you can to that age, we can make a new family portrait and put that person in.
Fisher: That’s incredible.
Tom: Oh it’s amazing what technology will do now. We’ve even had people bring us photos that had “outlaws”, like ex in-laws. There was such a bad situation they wanted us to take them out.
Fisher: I’ve done that. [Laughs]
Tom: Oh, you have to. And we can take people out even if they’re in front and blocking people, we can remove them and rebuild people’s shoulders or arms or hands or whatever to make it look like they were never there. And as we just mentioned, we can take people and put them in. We’ve had people that had lost a child that was really, really young and they still wanted the person to be in there. And so we can either put him in at the age that they became deceased or if they pass away when they were fourteen and this picture was taken when they would have turned sixteen, we can put them in as a fourteen year old or even kind of age them and make them look sixteen.
Fisher: Really? You can do aging?
Tom: Oh absolutely!
Fisher: Oh boy! Great stuff as always, Tom, thanks for coming on.
Tom: Good to be here again.
Fisher: Hey, that’s it for this week. This segment brought to you by FamilySearch.org and 23AndMe.com DNA. It was great revisiting these classic interviews with Heather Leathergood talking about how she was sold as a baby. And Martha Noland Bergstrom, talking about the old west tale she tied into in her research. Catch the podcast if you missed any of it at iTunes, iHeart Radio and ExtremeGenes.com. Take care. We’ll talk to you again next week. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we’re a nice, normal family.