Episode 182 - Genealogist Let Loose In NYC Municipal Archives, Sources He Found

podcast episode Mar 12, 2017

Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. David is on the road in Washington, DC. He talks about his recent experience of meeting family members from a branch that hasn’t interacted with his since before World War I!  David then opens “Family Histoire News” talking about a New York veteran of World War II who has received special recognition for his role in the defeat of Nazi Germany. Hear what this man did. (You’ll be impressed!) Fisher and David then talk about a remarkable cluster research project of massive numbers of family trees and what scientists have learned about mankind. Next, it’s a special celebration that recognizes the “birth” of a book that we’re all familiar with. As were our ancestors of about the last six generations! Catch what it is. Then David spotlights this week’s featured blogger, Laura Hedgecock, at TreasureChestofMemories.com.

In segments two and three, Fisher visits with Aaron Goodwin, a genealogist with the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society who has compiled an important book for anyone with ties to New York City, which may include ancestors that had nothing to do with New York. New York City Municipal Archives, An Authorized Guide For Family Historians, reveals gold mines of hidden records that, in some cases, the archivists themselves didn’t know they had or know their value. Hear some stories Aaron discovered in his own research as a result of these invaluable record troves.

Next, Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com talks metadata and online photo storage in response to a listener question.

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

Transcript of Episode 182

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 182

Fisher: And you have found us, America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth on the program where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out. This segment is brought to you by 23andMe.comDNA. And I’m very excited as always about our guest. We’re going to be talking to a man who has written a book about the Municipal Archives of New York City.  Now you may not live in New York, but maybe you’ve had ancestors who came through there. The records of the Municipal Archives are so vast and varied even they themselves don’t necessarily know what’s in there. So, recently the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society went in and worked with them and created a database of materials that a lot of people didn’t even know was there. In fact, I’ve been there many times before and the book has revealed some things I didn’t know about. So, I’m very much looking forward to talking to Aaron Goodwin and finding out about some of the surprises he found there, things that might help you in your research. And we’ll get some great stories too about things that they discovered in the process of putting this together. But right now, let’s head off to... where are we heading off to this week? David Allen Lambert is on the road, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. Where are you calling home this week?

David: I am in the nation’s capital this week, in Washington D.C.

Fisher: Very nice. And what are you researching? What are you doing?

David: Well, I’ve been at the DAR Library. I was at the SAR Library last week in Kentucky. The DAR Library where at the National Archives and Library Congress bi-annually NEHGS for over thirty years now has been doing a research toward down to our nation’s capital. We’re with a group of very happy genealogists finding pension records and old genealogies and old things on newspapers, you know, kind of like what you and I do on our free time.

Fisher: Exactly.

David: This is my nine to five. [Laughs]

Fisher: And the fun part for you is you’ve been having a little discovery here recently. You had some cousin show up?

David: I did. In fact, about two weeks ago I had a surprise visit from Stan and Cathy Daw from North Carolina, originally from New York. Stan is my second cousin. His grandmother and my grandfather were siblings. You might think in most families that’s not a big deal.


Fisher: Yeah.

David: You probably see them at family reunions. Our family has not been in the same room, Fish, since before World War I!

Fisher: Wow! [Laughs]

David: He walked into NEHGS and I saw my grandfather. His resemblance is uncanny. You can definitely tell he’s got the Lambert DNA. And for me it was like it’s always been on paper. I always see scans of pictures, but to sit and hear the stories and say something that sparks, “Oh yeah, I remember my grandmother saying that.” And finding connections to our St Pierre/Miquelon roots. He told me a story when he was a kid that they would go down to the basement of the house in Nova Scotia and she would say, “Don’t go down there, the boogeyman will get you!” But it was the French equivalent to the boogeyman.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: Our first Family Histoire News story goes out to Bay Shore, New York. But you know I love talking about our greatest generation, our World War II Veterans. Michael Feeney is a World War II Veteran. He’s ninety two, just got out of hospital and was kind of a little down. But, he got visited by US represented Peter King and Tom Cilmi who visited him to present him with an American flag.

Fisher: And he’s got quite a story too, this guy.

David: He does! You can thank him and others for helping crack the German Enigma Machine which allowed the allies to know what the Nazis next move was during the war.

Fisher: Wow!

David: This 92 year old man is a hero in my estimation and as well as many others.

Fisher: And his family only recently found out about what his role was in the war, so they’re awfully proud and have every reason to be.

David: Exactly. There’s such a large amount of our World War II Veterans and if you do have a chance, and this goes out to all of our listeners, hear their stories and share their stories. It is wonderful. So that leads me to our next story which is kind of on crowd sourcing. We have had a great interest in this story using massive family tree to trace unique patterns in mankind which was posted last month on Extreme Genes. This is a great story and I know that you’ve used crowd sourcing in your research Fish.

Fisher: Yeah absolutely. It is where you basically find out about who the neighbors are around your ancestors, who was it who signed documents as witnesses that type of thing, what was their story. And you can figure out migration patterns from this type of thing. But, scientists are using these massive charts, these huge collections of family histories to come up with a whole different thing.

David: It’s an amazing way of looking at it and of course if you’ve had crowd sourcing with DNA studies and adopting a community, the whole community becomes almost a tighter family.

Fisher: Yes.

David: And you find these connections that you wouldn’t contemporarily find on a regular research if you only looked on your family tree. My next story is a birthday celebration. Its 225th anniversary of a small magazine you’ve probably seen at the grocery checkout for years, but the thing is, so did your parents, your grandparents, your great, grandparents and probably your great, great grandparents.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: I’m talking about the Old Farmer’s Almanac that was published first in 1792 by Robert B. Thomas of Worcester, Massachusetts. This is an amazing little gem.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: That even two hundred years ago it predicted that we would have snow in July. And we did.

Fisher: Wow. [Laughs] How do they do that? How do they always know?

David: Maybe they’re working with Mother Nature. [Laughs]

Fisher: It could be, absolutely. Hey David, another one of those celebrities that you’ve done some research on is doing another event with NEHGS coming up here soon. Tell us about that.

David: Yeah, the connection is that our president and CEO Brenton Simons will present the acclaimed film maker Ken Burns, the National Trust and Scholar Foundation’s prestigious Great Scot award, and this is going to be presented at the Metropolitan Club in New York on March 29th and of course many of you know Ken Burns from his award winning classic series on the Civil War, baseball, Roosevelt, and I had the honor to help Ken Burns find his connection in being a distant cousin of Abraham Lincoln, which is a thrill of my life. 

Fisher: [Laughs] Wow, I bet it is.

David: Today’s blogger spotlight is on Laura Hedgecock. Laura has presented TreasureChestofMemories.com. And the name comes from the collection of family stories and memories that her grandmother passed down. Her grandmother wrote in secret throughout her whole life, only passing down this treasure chest of memories shortly before losing her own battle with breast cancer years ago. It’s a nice way of looking at how a blogger is reaching out and doing their own family and sharing the stories that may influence and inspire other people. 

Fisher: Isn’t that interesting? Because so many people think their stories aren’t going to matter to anybody else, and I think we all find them fascinating.

David: Exactly. So do check out TreasureChestofMemories.com.

Fisher: Thanks so much David. Have a safe trip and we’ll see you again next week.

David: I’ll talk to you soon my friend.

Fisher: And coming up next, Aaron Goodwin, he has written a book about the Municipal Archives of New York City. There’s so much stuff in there that’s going to blow your mind and he’s going to have some great stories that these records have revealed. It’s coming up for you in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 182

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Aaron Goodwin

Fisher: And welcome back to America’s Family History Show, its Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth and this segment is brought to you by FamilySearch.org and I’m very excited to have my next guest on, he is Aaron Goodwin. He is with the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, an organization that is close to my heart because of my own roots from New York City. Not that I’m from there myself, but there’s so much information to be gathered. And even if you’re not from that area in general, so many Americans have people who come from New York City and Aaron has put together an incredible guide called The New York City Municipal Archives, An Authorized Guide for Family Historians. Aaron Goodwin welcome to Extreme Genes.

Aaron: Scott thanks so much for having me.

Fisher: You know, I was just at the Municipal Archives year before last researching my fireman, Andrew J. Fisher, who is my great grandfather, and I continued to be shocked at how much information is not only there, but how much information they themselves don’t know is there, and what’s its value might be.

Aaron: That’s absolutely correct. You know, when I started this book I personally didn’t know what was there either. I had done some research with a few of the public records and that was it. I really didn’t have experience there with all these other records. But I thought that was one of the things that made me a good choice to author this book, because I could discover everything in real time as I went through it and didn’t have to rely on my previous knowledge including assumptions.

Fisher: Right.

Aaron: With that knowledge I could come in just with a clean set of eyes, and that seemed to really help a lot. So I discovered a ton of records there. Now my book only covers 19 collections and 19 chapters. That’s not all the records. I did try to focus in on the record sets that are most useful to genealogists, but there are other record sets there that could be used that are not covered in this book. Hopefully there will be an appetite for a second edition and I can add a few more chapters there.

Fisher: And what you’re saying here is really applicable to anybody. If you live in the south, you live in the midwest, you live in the west, and you’re assuming that everybody in your local archives has an idea of what they’ve got, well as they say in New York, “Fuhgetaboutit, right?” [Laughs]

Aaron: Yeah, forget about it. Not only do they not know everything that’s in the building, they honestly don’t even know everything that’s in the building because 350 years of records were kept and collected in various places by various people, and then the Archives was really only opened in the 20th century so they’ve been playing catch up to 350 years for the last 75 years and they’re still not caught up yet.

Fisher: Right.

Aaron: So they honestly don’t know everything that’s there literally. Then, they also don’t know exactly how genealogists use records and how we can make use of them, so they were unfamiliar with the fact that a genealogist would be interested in the Dutch records of New Amsterdam for example.

Fisher: Um hmm.

Aaron: Or court records, they’re used to historians or reporters being interested in court records, but they weren’t really used to genealogists using court records and didn’t know how they could. So when genealogists would come in asking for help here and there, they would a lot of times not get the detailed help that they could really make use of because the archivists simply didn’t know how genealogists use these records. With this book, the public gets a little bit of education as does the Archive staff themselves, so they’ve really learned a lot from this and they’re now more prepared.

Fisher: And I would say from my own experience in dealing with them a couple of times, these people really care about your experience when you go to the Municipal Archives.

Aaron: They do.

Fisher: And it’s a fabulous place. It’s incredible. Lots of rooms, lots of floors, in fact, you really have to plan ahead before you there so that you can maximize your time because your time is your real currency, even more than money if you’re taking a trip especially from out of state.

Aaron: Absolutely, and it’s very easy to get into that reference room and get lost and just waste your time. It’s incredibly easy. If you don’t plan ahead you’re not going to use your time well.

Fisher: So, among these collections you found, Aaron, which ones kind of blew your mind and you went, ‘Oh my goodness! Who knew that this was here?!”

Aaron: [Laughs] Well, I can think of a few examples. One is a record set that I just never heard of existing in any city frankly. So I was really surprised by that. And that was the “bodies in transit” records.

Fisher: Yes.

Aaron: We think of those as a kind of substitute set of death records. They stretch from 1859 to 1894, so that’s the bulk of the 19th century and that’s also a key period during which vital records were not very consistently kept. So there are lots of gaps in the vital records for that period. This is one of the ways that gap gets bridged.

Fisher: And we should mention by the way that the bodies in transit records aren’t essentially complete. They have a lot of material there but I’ve noticed in a couple of instances where I should have found my people in there and they’re not there.

Aaron: Well, depends on what you’re looking for with your people. So the purpose of the record keeping had to do ultimately with the health of the city which at that time was basically just the island of Manhattan with a couple of the smaller islands outside of it. So, they had burials, you know they had been burying in Manhattan since New Amsterdam. By the early to mid 1800s health was a great concern, and disease in the ground water. So they changed laws, they said no more burials below I think it was first 14th Street, then no more burials below 86th Street, then no more burials in Manhattan unless it’s in a private cemetery. The idea was to keep track of dead bodies coming into the city or through the city. They didn’t care if somebody died in New York City and then left.

Fisher: Right.

Aaron: If they were buried in Queens or if they were buried in Brooklyn but they died in Manhattan or in New York City that transfer is not going to be recorded because it’s totally fine that a body is leaving Manhattan.

Fisher: Sure. Yeah right. [Laughs]

Aaron: They want to know if it’s coming in, so that’s what it would be tracked of. It was coming in or going through, and that’s where, this is one of the many records that is sitting here in New York City but applies to so many that have nothing to do with New York City. So the body of John Brown for example, you know, the man who was an abolitionist who was hanged for his efforts and activities and then he was buried upstate. So he was killed in Virginia I think it was? He was one of the earlier entries in the bodies in transit records started in 1859. He’s in there! He had nothing to do with New York City. His death had nothing to do with New York City. They just happen to go through the city so it’s recorded with some fairly detailed information. It’s really great. Sometimes they would move entire families from cemeteries in Manhattan and out to Queens. And that family died over the course of a hundred years but all of their information is recorded on one page in the bodies in transit records when they were transferred.

Fisher: And there’s not a lot of them to go through either really.

Aaron: Not a ton, but enough that people should look. And you would be surprised, thankfully it has recently been indexed, and that index is now available online at FamilySearch so the index is purely by name, you won’t see any other information except for I think maybe the date or the page number, something like that as a reference.

Fisher: Right. And as I recall, there’s something like three microfilm reels. I don’t know if those have been digitized yet but hopefully they will be soon.

Aaron: They have not. They’re based in part on this book. They came up with a short list for themselves of what to start prioritizing. Of course that’s fitting into a larger part organization list, but yeah, a number of the records that they had no idea that we were interested in they said, “Oh, well we’ve got it on microfilm. We can digitize this easily. Let’s do that.”

Fisher: I’m talking to Aaron Goodwin. He is the author of New York City Municipal Archives, An Authorized Guide For Family Historians. And whether or not you had ancestors that lived in New York, you may have had some who have gone through it. You might find some records there. Aaron, let’s talk a little about immigration records. What do they have there at the Archives?

Aaron: Well, they don’t have a ton of immigration records at the Municipal Archives. Most of those will be at either the National Archives or some of the court records, or just most of their records are in Albany at this point. Though there are some court records at 31 Chamber Street, though not at the Municipal Archives. There are three separate repositories there and this book only covers the Municipal Archives, I should point that out.

Fisher: That’s an important point right there, too. There are other things other than the Archives at that same address, centrally located.

Aaron: Yeah, it’s amazing.

Fisher: Yeah, it really is. And maybe that’s something we also ought to get into just for a moment here is, if people are there for something, what else could they find in these other sections, what else should they be thinking about?

Aaron: In addition to what’s covered in the Municipal Archives book, they can go to the Surrogate's Court and their records on the 4th floor. Surrogates in New York are like probate courts in most jurisdictions. So all the probate records for early New York City and then after 1898 the consolidation of the five boroughs, Manhattan is there for, at that point, Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, you have to go to each of those counties or boroughs for those particular records. But, Manhattan and then prior to 1898 all of New York City is in that same building. And then up on the 7th floor we’ve got the division of old records, and there’s a lot of court records that are currently going through a transition. Some of their records were just transferred up to Albany and they’re still working out where all of those records are going. Some of them will stay there though.

Fisher: Always a work in progress to find out where some of these things are coming and going to and from, right?

Aaron: That’s right. Well it’s always a work in progress for the archivists themselves, right?

Fisher: Sure.

Aaron: They’re always discovering, rediscovering, taking care of putting it in the correct order, identifying it properly after it’s been misidentified, for decades and decades that continues to happen. In working with these guys over the course of a year, I really started to feel for them I must say.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Aaron: You know, because sometimes it can be incredibly frustrating as a genealogist walking into that building and thinking, how can you not know the question that I’m asking? Or, how can you not know this information?

Fisher: Sure.

Aaron: There’s sooo much information! There’s so much information, I don’t know that any single person can absorb it. And Ken Cobb, who is the Assistant Commissioner of the Departments of Records and Information Services has been there since the late ‘70s very early ‘80s, something like that, so he’s considered, he’s the guy who really knows more about what’s there than anything, and he’s still discovering and he’s still surprised on a weekly basis. 

Fisher: Isn’t that incredible. All right, let’s take a break. I want to come back and do another segment with you here Aaron because I think there’s a goldmine you discovered in the New York City Municipal Archives that will cause a lot of people’s jaws to drop when you tell them about this. [Laughs] Well get to it coming up in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.               

Segment 3 Episode 182

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Aaron Goodwin

Fisher: And we are back! It is Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here and this segment is brought to you by MyHeritage.com. And we’re talking to Aaron Goodwin. He is the compiler I guess I should say of The New York City Municipal Archives, An Authorized Guide For Family Historians, and it is loaded with all kinds of stuff that can affect people all across the country who have either had people living in New York City or coming through New York City. And Aaron, I was just telling you during the break that when I went through this book for the first time I was shocked by the things, I had no idea were in there because I’ve been there many times before. You’ve really dug up some gems and I think we both agree on what the biggest one is in this book. Tell us about it.

Aaron: Well, certainly this is in terms of my own personal experience and doing the research, and that was in the court records. The court records include the court of general sessions, the court of special sessions, the police and magistrate courts, other court records and the New York County District Attorney Records. It’s an incredibly large collection and in one of the ways that I approached this book was to bring in some of my own research problems and then just get into the archives and start working them until I solved a few problems.

Fisher: Sure.

Aaron: And that’s how I learned to some degree what some of the records could do and what they could not. One of the most incredible discoveries I found was in the New York County District Attorney records and this was for 1878. And it was for an African American family that I had been researching for some time that was significant for being a middle class free black family in the early 1800s in New York City. So I was researching them and strangely the way I found the court records started with a Google search. I Google searched the name, I never overlook Google.

Fisher: Right.

Aaron: Thankfully that brought me to an 1878 New York Times article that described the first day of trial and said what court it was in, very specifically thankfully. So given that information I go back to the Archives and say, “Okay I need to pull these records.” And I was forewarned that a lot of the District Attorney records do not include testimonies, which tends to disappoint researchers.

Fisher: Sure.

Aaron: But the case will be summarized and we’ll find out what happened, it just won’t be incredibly detailed. Luckily for me in this particular case they recorded testimony. In this case they knew that there were going to be a couple of other court cases so they wanted to have that information available. So they recorded the testimonies. The case was a case of perjury in which a man lied about his father having no will. He did. He lied about his nephew being dead. He was alive and he was executor of the will.

Fisher:  Wow! [Laughs]

Aaron: So you can understand why he wanted to kill him off theoretically.

Fisher: Sure, yeah.

Aaron: He got Letters of Administration based on that false information and then went to his father’s accounts and emptied them.

Fisher: Oh my goodness! And you’ve got fifty five pages of testimony around this. [Laughs]

Aaron: Fifty five pages. And because what he perjured himself about was his family. That entire case is about who in the Williams family is related to whom. Why? Incredibly detailed, it raises some problems because of the perjury case. So people were lying.

Fisher: Yeah, and you don’t know what to believe. Right, absolutely.

Aaron: Sometimes you’ve got to put it together with all the other research that you’ve done and see what starts to make sense and what doesn’t. He was convicted of perjury, I should point that out. So we can take what he says with a grain of salt, and was sent to prison for five years. But this was an incredible case. Because here we are in 1878, it was an African American family. They’re talking about people that were born back to the 1780s and 1790s.

Fisher: Incredible.

Aaron: And who’s related to whom. No, they’re not. This is how it is. This is how it was.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Aaron: Incredible, incredible. I would never have thought in researching the Williams family, I should check court records in case somebody lied. [Laughs]

Fisher: Yeah, right!

Aaron: And got into court over it. It would never have occurred to me.

Fisher: Yeah, absolutely. Well, when you published this, when I was going through your guide and I ran into this reference, I thought, my goodness, I had a great grandfather who was a volunteer fireman and in 1888, the night before the Fireman’s Ball he was elected president of the Harlem group. So I thought this is great! So the next day they have the Fireman’s Ball, it’s his first day as president and the outgoing guy didn’t like him too much because he was supporting somebody else to win that position.

Aaron: [Laughs]

Fisher: Well, my Andrew happened to be the head of the committee that oversaw the proper way that the evening was going to go and that meant that the women were not permitted to wear their hats when dancing the quadrille. So he asked this ex-president’s wife to remove her hat according to the rules.

Aaron: [Laughs]

Fisher: And later in the evening as the liquor began to flow, this ex-president took exception with Andrew having done this, and he said, this is the quote, “You fiend! You have insulted my wife!”

Aaron: [Laughs]

Fisher: And he slugged him, knocked him to the ground. And my great grandfather was described as having his jaw at twice his normal size.

Aaron: Ooh.

Fisher: And one of his friends stepped up and said, “Now wait a minute, he did not insult your wife.” The guy grabbed him by the thumb and started to chew his thumb off. And then this guy scratched and it turned into a general brawl. And as a result there were two arrests. The one who came to great grandfather’s assistance was released and this guy was actually charged, and I do know what the court is, I do know whose court room it was in. And when I saw these records I thought, “Oh my goodness, there’s got to be more to this, waiting for me at the Municipal Archives.” [Laughs]

Aaron: Yeah. well, I’m glad you looked up and figured out and already know what court it is, because I was about to say, “Oh who’s going to be stuck there?” You and I have to do this. We have to get to this court record.

Fisher: [Laughs] Well if you’re going to offer help, I’m going to take it, believe me.

Aaron: I’m offering!

Fisher: Okay. [Laughs] Excellent!

Aaron: But for a limited time only.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Aaron: [Laughs]

Fisher: Well it sounds really fun. We’ll get that to you. All right, what else is in there that’s a real nugget that people should know about, Aaron?

Aaron:  You know something else that really surprised me? Because again, it’s not a record set that you find in most places, but there is a set of records called “Farm Histories” not by itself, might not sound really interesting.

Fisher: That sounds kind of crazy. I don’t think of farms when I think of New York.

Aaron: People generally don’t. But, before the early to mid 1800s, or before the early 1800s I should say, the bulk of the city was roughly 14th Street and below.

Fisher: Right.

Aaron: So all that land above, those were large tracks of farmland that were owned by various generally wealthy people. And some of those people had owned it since the Dutch period, the Dutch Colonial period in around the 1600s. And had had it since or it had been conveyed a number of times over to other people. But even though the street plan had been laid out in 1811, it wasn’t actualized further north until much later. So these farms stayed as farms for quite some time. These farms histories are beautifully drawn maps of the original farms and their boundaries, and their neighbors, with incredibly detailed descriptions of every known conveyance throughout that entire history of that area of land. So if you have an ancestor or research subject that lived anywhere near Manhattan, above 14th Street pay a little attention and use the farm histories and you can trace the ownership of that land generally back to the Dutch period.

Fisher: Wow.

Aaron: So yeah, incredibly detailed conveyances or deeds as they’re called in most jurisdictions were not available. They used genealogies from the New York Public Library. They did their research in probate records to see who left land to whom. They were almost like us, I want to say. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs] Not quite, but almost!

Aaron: Not quite, in their crazy attention to detail.

Fisher: The book is New York City Municipal Archives: An Authorized Guide For Family Historians. It’s by Aaron Goodwin with the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society. Where do they get it, Aaron?

Aaron: They can get it the NYGB site. There is a publications link there. I think it’s the first publication.

Fisher: All right, great stuff. Sure enjoyed the visit and we’ll talk firemen soon!

Aaron: Absolutely! 

Fisher: [Laughs] And coming up in three minutes, Tom Perry talks preservation, on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 4 Episode 182

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: And it is preservation time on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. This segment of the show is brought to you by FamilySearch.org. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth. That is Tom Perry over there from TMCPlace.com.

Tom: Woo hoo!

Fisher: Our Preservation Authority. How are you, Tom?

Tom: I'm doing super duper, just getting ready to head to Vegas. We're going to be down at Mandalay Bay from Monday March 13th through Wednesday March 15th, so if you have some stuff that you want to bring by, we'll be at the exhibitor expo there or you can call us at the Westgate Hotel, we'll be happy to meet you.

Fisher: Well, that sounds like a lot of fun! All right, we've got more questions here from listeners. This is from Denise Hardin, she said, "Tom, my extended family is looking for an online service for adding metadata to our photos and videos, storing said photos and videos and sharing them. And like I said, we're an extended family, two sisters, both with grown children who have children of their own. Can you suggest a few services that might suit us? Thanks so much for your help,” from Denise.

Tom: Oh Denise, that's a really good question. A lot of people are really getting into the metadata and the QR codes and all this kind of stuff now, because it’s great! You make calendars. You make wall paintings, all kinds of things with this information. And anybody with a phone can just scan it and it will bring up personal information. If you have old audio recordings, it makes it really, really cool.

Fisher: Well, and just for those who aren't familiar with metadata….

Tom: Metadata is great, because what it does is it tells you when the picture was taken, where it was. So maybe somebody went to a gravesite and it’s a big, huge cemetery, through the metadata, you can type those into your GPS, your Garmin or whatever you have the coordinates and it will lead you right smack dab to exact coordinates, so you're not reading all these gravestones looking for a spot, you can go right to it, or some people with an old barn that their family was raised in that's still there. It’s owned by somebody else, but there's no street signs, there's no way you'd know it. It’s out in the middle of nowhere. With the metadata, you can go right to that location, stand there and see exactly where it is. You can stand right where they were when they took the picture.

Fisher: Right, and that's added information as well. You can put a little history in about it, stories about who the people are in a photograph or a date something was taken, that's the metadata.

Tom: Exactly.

Fisher: And that's the stuff that helps you tie in, perhaps even with other things you can use metadata, say, okay, show me all the pictures with “Billy” in it. And it will give you a whole list of those or all the pictures that we have in our collection from 1936 and that'll all be there. So metadata's really important stuff when you're sorting a lot of material especially.

Tom: Oh it is. It makes it so much easier. In the old days, I would have an Excel spreadsheet, write “Tony’s” name down a hundred times. With families that have eight, nine, ten kids, it just gets so laborious, but with the metadata, it makes it so easy.

Fisher: Yeah. Now she was asking about what services might be available for metadata and for sharing. So what do you recommend?

Tom: Okay, there's a lot of good programs out there. You can go to Google and type it in and it'll tell you. Life Story Productions makes a program called Heritage Collectors. Heritage Collectors will allow you to do metadata and also QR codes, so the two can tie in to each other and you say, "Okay, here's all these pictures of Aunt Ethyl. Oh, this is the picture I'm looking for.” You can pull that up, scan it with your QR reader, free for most phones nowadays and actually if you have audio recordings hear her speaking or look at photos with her daughter explaining who the people are in all those photos. It makes it just so, so easy to do. And another thing that's important which she mentioned also is she wants to share this with her family.

Fisher: Right.

Tom: Now that you have things as small as MP4s and MP3s, it makes it smaller so you can share it, but if you want to go to a cloud service for both storing, which we really recommend and also for sharing, there's a couple of different ways. We have our own service that's built on Google called LightJar, which there's a link on our website, and that's more if you want to just store something.

Fisher: Right.

Tom: If you want people to be able to download really quickly and then they open it on their computers, that's an excellent way to go. People want to be able to access it instantly on their phone or their iPad or whatever, then you want to go to a service like Dropbox that gives you instant access immediately. But if you just want to, "Hey, this is available for the family.” Download it, rock and roll!

Fisher: All right, Tom. And coming up here in just a couple of moments, we need to talk about shipping, because if you're moving valuable heirlooms from place to place, you want to know that it’s safe. We'll get to that in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 182

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: And we are back for our final segment this week of Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show, talking preservation with Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com, the Preservation Authority. And Tom, you know, you would never think about shipping as being an important part of preserving your family history. And I think it really ties into things like storage as well, right?

Tom: Oh absolutely, no question about it. In fact, last month at RootsTech, we had a lot of people come up to us and say, "Hey, you know, I've got some stuff that I need to ship to you guys to have you transfer it." or "I need to ship it Aunt Ethyl." or Grandma or whatever to store it, or "I want to send some stuff to our kids because we're downsizing and we don't need the big house anymore. We've got all these memories. What do we do?" So basically like you said, whether you're going to store it or whether you want to ship it, the most important thing you want to do is see where it’s going to be. If you can control the environment, that's the best way to go.

Fisher: That's the bottom line, right?

Tom: Exactly.

Fisher: I mean, it’s controlling environment, whether it’s sits in your house for thirty five years or is it going in a truck from one hot place to some cold place, you've still got to be able to control the environment.

Tom: Exactly. Heat and cold are not friendly to it. However, extreme temperatures from heat to too cold get really, really bad. Like we have people that bring in film that was in Grandpa's garage, and they bring it in, they take off the lid and "Hooo!" all we can smell in vinegar.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Fisher: And that's basically the cellulite breaking down that's going to really cause all kinds of problems. So what I recommend you do, if you don't know for sure who's going to be storing it or where they're going to be storing it, assume that it’s going to be both hot and cold. So I always recommend you do double boxing for everything you do. Go to someplace, a home improvement place like Lowe’s or Home Depot and buys sheets of Styrofoam. So you have a big box, and what you want to do is, you want to build Styrofoam on all six sides of the box, so this box is almost like a cooler, so to speak. You want to put your next box inside of that box and then have everything that's in it, whether its film, slides, photos or whatever, you want it sealed. Ziploc bags are the easiest way to do it. You can do tape and things like that, but I prefer Ziploc bags because they stay together better. And always remember what we talked about a few weeks ago, you want to get some cheesecloth and you want to get some uncooked long grain whole rice and put it in the cheesecloth. Tie it up with string. Don't use rubber bands or tape, because it will come off. And put that in there, because that will help absorb the moisture, or if you bought a television recently or any electronics, it comes with those little bags that say "do not eat" take one of those, pop it in your toaster oven for about five or ten minutes, because it will drag out all the humidity that was in it. Don't put it in your microwave, because that's not going to work.

Fisher: Right.

Tom: And put those in each bag. You want to over protect it. Then you seal the other box, put the last piece of Styrofoam in, tape it up, and tape it on all sides, not just where the box opens, but also on the sides, because little critters can get in there. And when you have the Styrofoam, it kind of helps keep mice out of it, because they have to go through so many layers, they give up and they go to something easier. So make sure it’s all clean. Don't reuse Ziploc bags that happened to have a steak in it or something, because that will attract insects and stuff. You want to be careful with that.

Fisher: Now when it comes to storage, a lot of these things still apply, because you want to keep critters out, right, whether you're keeping it in a basement or a closet or wherever it may be. And you want to control the environment. But what if you want to be able to look into it once in a while? You still have to be able to have access.

Tom: Right. You know, and the thing is, if you're going to be looking into it and want to do that from time to time, what I'd say is, digitize the stuff and look at your CD or your thumb drive or something like that. And if you’re in places that are prone to flood, you always want to keep them up above, you know, the basement and you want to keep them off the ground. And if you're situations, "Well, hey, I've got what I've got. There's nothing I can do." Get a good, strong, hefty trash bag and put it inside of that and tie it really, really tight with rope. Just in case you do have a flood, the chances are, it might float around for a while, but the water won't penetrate into the box. And then you've got the second protection, the Styrofoam, then you've got the third protection, the Ziploc bags, you know, unless something falls on it, you should still be okay.

Fisher: All right, Tom. Thanks so much for joining us. We'll see you again next week.

Tom: I'll be here.

Fisher: Hey, that wraps things up for this week. This segment of the show has been brought to you by LegacyTree.com. We sure appreciate it when you support our sponsors. Hey, thanks once again to Tom Perry for coming by and talking preservation, and to Aaron Goodwin from the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society for talking about all the good stuff he's letting us know about that's housed in the Municipal Archives of New York City. If you missed any of it, catch the podcast on iTunes, iHeart Radio and ExtremeGenes.com. Talk to you next week. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!

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