Episode 212 - Researching Eastern Europe: Where Are The Borders? / Reclaim The Records Strikes In New Jersey

podcast episode Oct 29, 2017

Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. Fisher and David begin with talk of the first old coins they’ve obtained from countries and birth years of their ancestors. (David started this whole thing!) David then shares the details behind Swedish Death Cleaning, which has to do with seniors not leaving their descendants hundreds of things they don’t want. That could include heirlooms! Then, a nine-year-old baseball player has learned that he’s got a Hall of Famer in his family tree. Find out who it is. David’s blogger spotlight this week shines on Mike Scott’s blog, grandadsfamilyjewels.wordpress.com.

Fisher continues the show with LegacyTree.com’s Michelle Chubenko, a resident of New Jersey who researches Eastern Europe. Michelle takes us through the problems of Eastern European records… the border changes, moving jurisdictions, records lost in war… and gives sound advice on how the determined genie can make headway in tracing their tough Eastern European ancestors.

Then, Brooke Ganz, CTM (Chief Trouble Maker), from ReclaimTheRecords.org, joins Fisher talking about the organization’s latest victory… the index of 20th (and 21st!) century marriages in New Jersey, a difficult state to research. Brooke gives the specifics of the haul, a gap that was discovered, how that gap was patched, and what you can do to make records in your city or state available to the public when government people refuse to cooperate.

Then, Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com joins the show to talk preservation.  The guys then share ideas about recording your family talking about photos and relatives as an audio gift for the holidays. They have a recorder recommendation and some possible techniques you might want to use.

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

Transcript of Episode 212

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1, Episode 212

Fisher: And welcome to another spine tingling edition of Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show. It is Fisher here your Radio Roots Sleuth on the program where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out. And this segment is brought to you by LegacyTree.com. Welcome, welcome, welcome! Glad to have you! We’ve got some great guests again today. Michelle Chubenko is going to be on with us a little bit later on. She’s a Researcher in New Jersey with LegacyTree.com and she’s into Eastern European records. And if you ever tried to do this in the past with the changing borders and the wars, it’s really difficult work, but she’s got tips for how you can break through. And a lot of things have changed especially in the last 20 to 30 years, so get ready to hear what she’s got to say coming up in about 8 minutes. Then, a little bit later on, Brooke Ganz is here. She’s with Reclaimtherecords.org and she is the chief troublemaker for this organization that goes out and shakes down governments to release indexes that should be public and made available to everybody for free. And so her organization has made another big score and we’re going to tell you more about that and how you can be part of that. That’s coming up later on in the show. We want to welcome all of our new Extreme Genes Patrons Club members. You can become a member at Patreon.com/ExtremeGenes or by clicking the Patrons Club link at ExtremeGenes.com. You can get advanced access to podcast. You can get bonus podcast we do twice a month. And of course, our live “Ask Me Anything” YouTube session we do once a month as well. And all this by the way for less than the cost of a pair of men’s gloves all right? So, [Laughs] it’s real cheap, but it’s a lot of great information for you and a lot of fun as well. And speaking of a lot of fun, David Allen Lambert’s on the line. He’s the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. And David, I’ve started the whole coin thing you were talking about last week. And for those who aren’t familiar with it, David was talking about visiting with his daughter and saying, “Hey, look at this coin from 1925. That’s the year your grandfather was born.” And then she wanted to see one from when her great grandmother was born. And suddenly the light went on with David. “Hey, this is kind of a fun way to teach history and to tie in to family history and so I got my first coin, David. It’s a 1799 English half penny from the year my great, great grandfather Fisher was born there.

David: You know how ironic that is that your great, great grandfather was also born in 1799? That’s the oldest coin in my collection from my great, great grandfather. [Laughs] I tell you we have so many compatible family things in our family tree, it’s really funny.

Fisher: It’s really true. By the way, for people who think oh gosh they were spending a fortune. No, it was 15 bucks on eBay. That was it. And that’s got to be one of the more expensive ones.

David: The most expensive coin I’ve bought so far was a really nice condition 1848 large cent. So, I’m glad you’ve led off our stories this week with that because I was going to start with saying, “How about a penny for your thoughts or for your grandfather?” [Laughs]

Fisher: Right.

David: Well, you know it’s really amazing. I’ve probably obtained three or four coins. I even started on my wife’s side. Her grandfather was from Scotland and so I bought a 1920 British penny, unfortunately not a Scottish penny. They don’t exist. So I’ve started to work on her side too.

Fisher: Excellent. Yeah, I’m looking forward to some of the different countries. My wife’s got some Dutch ancestry and I was looking at Dutch coins which I’d never looked at in my life. I used to collect when I was a kid. I still have a box of some of them from back in the day and I went through and found a lovely silver dollar from 1881, the year my paternal grandmother was born and another from 1886 from the year my maternal grandfather was born.

David: [Laughs] Well, I never thought that a blog post on the Pastfinder.wordpress.com would lead to people spending money in that collecting.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: But this leads me to our second Family Histoire News story which is, “Would you do “Swedish Death Cleaning?” In other words, do you have objects in your home that after you’re gone they’re going to be family heirlooms or are they going to be junk your kids are just going to have to throw out?

Fisher: Boy, and you know that’s a definite problem. It’s something I’ve been working on lately. In fact, taking photographs of the heirlooms, giving the stories behind them and then hopefully, we’ll be able to find places where these things can go. And even if somehow down the line they do get discarded, they’re still photos and stories about them that remain in the family.

David: That’s true. I mean, one of the things that we had recently assumed, my kids are getting older, all the artwork. My sister-in-law out in Arizona had a great idea. She photographed the kids’ artwork, makes a photobook of them and then discards most of them.

Fisher: Yes! Absolutely, makes sense.

David: It really does. But I’ll tell you one kid is not going to be throwing away his baseball cards now and this is a 9-year old youngster who really has that Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. Baseball Hall of Famer and Beantown star Tris Speaker is his third great uncle.

Fisher: How fun is this! This kid’s 9 years old. He’s a baseball nut. The playoffs of course have been going on this week and he discovered that and now he’s hooked on family history.

David: And the funny thing is that he actually plays for a team in his hometown called the Red Sox.

Fisher: Perfect.

David: This week’s blogger spotlight brings us to London, England where Mike Scott had a great idea. His blog is called Grandadsfamilyjewels.wordpress.com. And the idea is that there was a book “A History of the World in 100 Objects.” He’s doing a history of his family for a 100 objects that tell their story.

Fisher: I love the sound of that! What a great idea.

David: It really all comes down to the things that we collect which is really sort of the topic of the entire chat we’ve had today.

Fisher: Yes, that’s right.

David: Well, remember if you do have things that you think your family won’t want but are genealogically important, American Ancestors has been taking care of things for over 172 years. And if you’re not a member of NEHGS, American Ancestors invites you to become a member. And you can save $20 by remembering the checkout code “Extreme” for Extreme Genes. Well, catch you next week Fish and hopefully we’ll have some interesting questions on our segment next week.

Fisher: Absolutely, and some new coins potentially to tie in with some of the ancestors. You know, we’ve got to make a chart for these things, right, where you can put the coin in with the picture or the names or the dates. Very interesting project, we’ll get to it. Thanks David.

David: Talk to you later.

Fisher: And coming up next, we’re going to talk to a New Jersey Researcher Michelle Chubenko who’s with LegacyTree.com. She specializes in Eastern European records. Boy, it’s a tough area to get into because of all the wars and the changing borders but she’s got some great tips for you. And also later on in the show, Brooke Ganz is back from Reclaim the Records. She’s got a little tie in with New Jersey this week as well that she’s going to want to tell you about and of course, give you tips on how you can start reclaiming the records in your area. It’s all coming up. Michelle is next in 3 minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 212

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Michelle Chubenko

Fisher: And we’re back! It is Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth and this segment of our show is brought to you by FamilySearch.org. You know, we have so many new researchers coming into the game these days. Many of them with Eastern European roots and that is always a challenge. Especially because of wars, and border changes, and languages, and all the things involved with it. And that’s why I thought today we’d bring on Michelle Chubenko. She is in New Jersey. She works with our friends at LegacyTree.com. Welcome to the show Michelle.

Michelle: Oh, thank you for having me Scott. It’s great to be here.

Fisher: How long have you been researching the Eastern Europeans?

Michelle: A very long time. My mother is Hungarian and Ukrainian so we basically started with doing that research back in 1989.

Fisher: Wow! A long time, and obviously a lot of things have changed since 1989.

Michelle: [Laughs] A lot of governmental changes. That’s correct.

Fisher: Yeah. And that’s really probably the biggest challenge anybody faces in dealing with the Eastern European research. I guess the first thing we should talk about though is what records still exist because the story from a lot of folks is, “Oh wait a minute, the war destroyed all the records.” Not true.

Michelle: That is true. There are amazing amounts of surviving metrical or sacramental registers as we know them here in the United States. Metrical books have been microfilmed by the Family History Library. They’re available at local archives, county archives, as well as the state archives within the country. So it is not as large of a lost resource as one might think.

Fisher: Sure. Now, is it on FamilySearch also under records?

Michelle: Yes. It would be under Church Records. Depending on which country, you may find it under the county, the city, or the village name, as well as old designations, pre-World War I town names or post World War II town names. You have to be careful with that. And again, it’s dependent on which country because FamilySearch uses different designation process used for that.

Fisher: Sure. And that’s a process any researcher into Eastern Europe has to go into, right, is figuring out the borders. Let’s talk about that because that’s a big topic and a big problem really. You have to really be determined to know exactly where your folks came from and what country it was, when.

Michelle: [Laughs] Exactly. You have three empires that basically ruled central and Eastern Europe prior to World War I, Prussia, Austria, Hungry, as well as the imperial Russian empire. So, what we know today as Eastern Europe and Central Europe on a map a hundred and some odd years ago looked totally different.

Fisher: And so you have to basically figure out which government entity controls what records now from back then. How do you do that, Michelle?

Michelle: [Laughs] Oh it is challenging, I’ll definitely say that. I have done plenty of research for families that are in today’s Poland and records are in Ukraine, or we have families that are Slovakia, and some records might show up in other areas. It takes patience, and just learning the history of the administration of the particular geographical location, that is your ancestral hometown as I would call it. It would be beneficial, and sometimes records aren’t always where you think they are. So you always have to look afield you know. For Ukraine, I just presented on Saturday, we spoke about five different locations that you could potentially find records. It could be still at the parish, at the local Rayon Archives, or office, the civil registry office, the obelisk archives, the central state archives, or, we have found church records or little sacramental registers in local museums.

Fisher: Wow!

Michelle: [Laughs] Yes. So you just never know where the records can be so you have to really turn over every stone and then some.

Fisher: You have to be really determined if you’re going to make progress with your Eastern European ancestry. But we should mention also that before you even get into that, you really need to know and try to at least nail down where your ancestors were at what time as best you can from records here, right?

Michelle: That is correct. All research should start from the point that you know your ancestors living in North America, so from that point to work back and creating a timeline is essential in doing that. Documenting their naturalization or citizenship if they chose to naturalize, moving further back to documenting their arrival to the country, because those two key records will give you detail on birth place, last residence, their date of birth etc. along with using the church records that could be here if they married in the country that you’re starting the process in. Church records are extremely helpful because the priests would have been the nosy person, not the civil records clerk, to record that information within the church register as to the exact birth places not just to a specific country.  

Fisher: Now, you’re talking a lot about Catholic records, what about Eastern European Jewish records?

Michelle: Jewish records still exist and can be used. They are located within civil registry officers. They’re located within district archives as well as the state archives or the country archives. Sometimes they’re far afield. They may not be in the general location. They may have been all gathered up and moved more to a central archives repository. So again, knowing the exact location and finding out the jurisdictions for that rabbinical community because the community not only just saw the larger town, it also oversaw the smaller villages outside of those larger communities.

Fisher: Wow. [Laughs]

Michelle: So if you have a smaller ancestor location, you might need to move over to that next big town and doing that history on the rabbinical council, they’re the governments for that area, would assist you in determining what town you should be focusing on.

Fisher: Well, first of all, this is one of the reasons why we transcribe every program so you find the podcast of it you can follow along in written form exactly what Michelle is talking about. But the bottom line is, even in America it’s sometimes difficult to know what jurisdiction certain records would be in, by county, by the village, but to deal with it in Europe has got to be really challenging. Now you talked about the fact that a lot of records did survive the war, and that is great news for anybody who is considering taking this journey. How many did not? Which areas were really hurt in that direction?

Michelle: Well, the best place to see where those hot spots, those areas that could have suffered loss, would be to study the maps of the fronts for the allied forces as well as the axis forces across Europe. And you can probably figure out where more expensive loss could have occurred, but again, records were often protected by the priest or pastor or rabbi and moved to secure locations. If they were leaving a village they might have taken the records with them. So sometimes that method doesn’t always work, but consulting military maps can assist you in determining whether you are not finding records, is it due to military, actions, loss, instead of a synagogue fire or a flood that took out the church or the house of the priest. So knowing a lot of different aspects of your ancestor village will give you clues as to determining why records could be lost or not where you think they should be.

Fisher: Boy, it sounds to me like it’s not a bad idea to take a trip over there, even at the beginning of your research just to get an idea of how things are laid out.

Michelle: It could be. I have been to Poland twice. My family, even though I am Ukrainian, we wound up west of the Oder–Neisse line after World War II. So my family is currently living in Poland and knowing the lay of the land and understanding why they may have identified with larger towns, is definitely much clearer when you do go on site for a visit or research.

Fisher: A lot of times though you know, we say okay, do all the research you can before you go, which is still obviously the best idea, but in this case because there is so much to understand about places, if you have a location you have a place. Either go there or perhaps find a researcher like you Michelle that can work with somebody who has got their boots on the ground in the archives locally there in the churches that understands where those things are, probably the easiest route to take.

Michelle: Yes. Using an in state researcher not only long distance researcher, I’m just obtaining records for you, but also when you take that trip to your ancestral homeland, having a person who will guide you, be your interpreter, and is familiar with working with those locals civil registry officers or archives, it is extremely beneficial. You cannot replace that by a normal tour guide. Using someone who specializes in heritage tours or doing guided onsite research. It will definitely make your trip one thousand times more successful.

Fisher: Yeah absolutely. What about languages there? Do some of the areas have multiple languages within the jurisdiction, and do they show up sometimes duplicated in different languages?

Michelle: Yes. Well again, it all depends on the governmental jurisdiction at the time Roman Catholic and Greek Catholic records in Austria, Hungry. Most times you will find them in Latin so if you took that in high school that would be great because you’re going to dust off those skills. Otherwise you might see it in Church Slavonic or the local language such Slovak or Ukrainian, or Russian, you can see that kind of scattered through. It’s not across the board geographically, so it’s more of a one off situation. Also, depending on location, into Poland, especially northern Poland, German is seen in many because of the Prussian government.

Fisher: So we do need a translator involved in there at some point?

Michelle: Yes you do. Latin I think most of us could probably squeeze by on Latin as well as Russian.

Fisher: Right.

Michelle: So you might start out in Polish, transition to Russian, go back to Polish or start out in Polish, transition to Russian, and then all of a sudden you’re in Lithuanian or Latvian so just have to be prepared.

Fisher: [Laughs] Unbelievable. She’s Michelle Chubenko. She’s in New Jersey. She’s with LegacyTree.com. An Eastern European records specialist. It was worth the time. Thanks so much Michelle.

Michelle: Thank you for having me.

Fisher: And coming up next, we’re going to talk to Brooke Ganz. She is with our friends at Reclaim the Records. They’ve done it again. We’ll tell you what she’s found coming up in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 3 Episode 212

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Brooke Ganz

Fisher: And welcome back to America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, and this segment is brought to you by 23andMe.comDNA. And I’ll tell you what I keep hearing, this name Reclaim the Records, coming up in the genealogical space, the genealogical world, all the time these days because they’re out finding records that are available but are not being made public by government organizations. Brooke Ganz is the founder, she is the president. She is the chief troublemaker. We’ve had her on the show before. And Brooke, just last week David Allen Lambert mentioned that your organization has made available now these incredible records from New Jersey. Tell us about them.

Brooke: Yeah, we are very lucky and very happy to tell everybody that we just got the New Jersey marriage index from 1901 all the way through to 2016. And these are amazing records that we were able to discover, that should have been made public all these years but were not. Department of Health in New Jersey was sitting on them, and until we got in their face told them they had to give us a copy, they were not turning them over.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Brooke: So there wasn’t a great way to research some of your New Jersey roots.

Fisher: And we should talk about that too because you know I have New Jersey roots and I’ve tried dealing with New Jersey in the past and often when you fill out some forms, say for the New Jersey Archives and you want to obtain something, they ask you for the very information you’re looking for, “Well, what was the date of the marriage?” I don’t know! That’s what I’m looking for.

Brooke: Exactly!

Fisher: They won’t look for it if you don’t provide that, and it seems like kind of an odd way to do business but now with this material out there you have that index, you’ll be able to order the original records and see what’s on those.

Brooke: Exactly. We at Reclaim the Records want to see every state have their indexes put online for free. We’re not necessarily talking about the real certificate but just the index. So we know it exists in the first place. I like to say it’s like if you went to a restaurant and they never published their menu, how would you know what to ask them for dinner? You wouldn’t know what they had. And if the states are going to open up and finally publish these indexes people will finally realize that, “Oh my relative was married there. I can go order that record now.” The state will therefore get the revenue for ordering the record and you’ll get your data and everybody is happy.

Fisher: And these are free by the way, these records.

Brooke: That’s right.

Fisher: And you can find them at a place called Archive.org, singular, not to be confused with Archives.com, different place.

Brooke: That’s right. Archive.org is the internet archive which is a non profit library online and every time Reclaim the Records wins free records from one of these state or city archives, or libraries, or agencies, we upload it to the internet archive, Archive.org. Because it is free for us to upload things there, they don’t charge up storage fees but it’s also free for everybody to use. You don’t need to have a login, there’s no pay wall it should be available to everybody. These are records that are in the public domain, they were created by the government and therefore there are no copyrights, they should just be free. That’s what we’d like to see happen and that’s why we put things on the internet archive, we’re big fans of theirs.

Fisher: And by the way, these marriage records they do have a little gap in them, right now. In fact, right in the middle of my Dad’s first marriage, 1935 in New Jersey, but that’s being taken care of. Tell us about that.

Brooke: That’s right. When we got these records, we got whatever New Jersey Department of Health had and what we discovered is that they were a missing a little of their own data. But we were very lucky, we found out that the missing years, which was the mid-1930s, there was a copy of the data at the New Jersey State Archives in Trenton, New Jersey and we were able to reach out to their executive director, very nice guy, a genealogist himself. And we asked him, “We’re missing some years, the 1930s. We know you have the copies. Can we get copies from you?” They said, “Sure.” They sold us six microfilms and the wonderful people at FamilySearch once again stepped up and said they wanted to donate the scanning to us for free. So we shipped the box with the six microfilms to Salt Lake City, they’re being scanned now. And as soon as we get that data scanned we’ll upload it and that will fill in the gap in the 1930s where we’re missing some records at the moment, but every other year right now from 1901 to 2000 is online now and you can use them and lookup your relatives’ New Jersey marriages. Now we should say right now what’s online is images, it’s not a text searchable database yet.

Fisher: Right.

Brooke: The images that we got from the state, so you do have to search them year by year. However, they are in alphabetical order by bride’s surname. And then for some years, but not all, we also have a second copy of the data that was sorted by the groom’s surname. So we have the brides’ index for every year and we have the grooms’ index for some but not all years. We also have data in the 21st century from 2001 to 2016, up to December 31st, 2016.

Fisher: Wow! [Laughs] And I want to mention by the way that this was not just done by your organization, it was somebody that was inspired by your organization who stepped up and said, “Gee, I like what they’re doing. I want to do it.” And now he’s part of you.

Brooke: That’s right. We are very happy at Reclaim the Records that people have been taking a lead from us and not just waiting to see what are you going to publish next. But they are taking it upon themselves to go get records and imitate what we’ve done using public records laws and freedom of information laws and sunshine laws to get the records not just passively sit and wait and hope it will fall out of the sky from the records fairy.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Brooke: And somebody who is a genealogist, a young genealogist in New York named Alex Durette. He is relatively young but he’s been doing this for a long time. He’s very serious about this. He is a Masters Degree student in New York who is studying Archives and Library Science. He liked what we had been doing for the past three years getting records from all these different agencies, and so he looked around and said, “Where can I make a difference? Where can I start getting more records made available to the public?” And he realized that New Jersey had laws on the books that said that the marriage index was supposed to be a public record all these years. It’s just that nobody could ever challenge the state on it. But he filed an Open Public Act Request (OPRA) and he filed that request with New Jersey and said, “Based on your vital records laws, it says that you have to make an index of your marriages and that the index is supposed to be open to the public. Yes the certificates have strict privacy requirements but the index doesn’t. It says right here “Public Documents.” Well New Jersey unfortunately turned him down. They denied his request saying, “Sorry we have very strict rules about this, blah, blah, blah.”

Fisher: Um hmm.

Brooke: Alex is not deterred he kept going. He took it to the Government Records Council (GRC) and he said, “This you know is supposed to be an open record.” And the GRC said, “Well, we can’t really give you an answer one way or the other. We’ve never had a real case law about this before.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Brooke: You’re going to have to either take this to mediation or take it to court.” And at that point Alex thought, “Uh oh.” So he contacted us and said to us, “This is what I’m doing, can you help me?” And we said, “Of course! We’re thrilled that you’re doing this!” We’re thrilled to see other genealogists taking the initiative to go after public records laws.

Fisher: We want the OPRA law to say, “You get a record, and you get a record and you get a record!”

Brooke: Exactly!

Fisher: Fantastic!

Brooke: We want our records back and we’re tired of asking nicely and watching them get locked away for years, and years, and years.

Fisher: Sure.

Brooke: So we teamed up with Alex Durette and we hooked him up with our attorney and we were ready to step in and fund a fight, a lawsuit if this is what it’s going to take to get these records open. We think it’s that important that public records be returned to the public.

Fisher: Sure.

Brooke: Luckily, things went really well and the state backed down all of a sudden at the last minute they didn’t even charge us for the records.

Fisher: Wow!

Brooke: They were absolutely allowed to charge us under the law and we were hoping for a fair cost. We’re not trying to get something for nothing.

Fisher: Sure.

Brooke: They’re allowed to recoup their labor cost and the cost of the hard drive and things like that.

Fisher: Yeah.

Brooke: But they didn’t charge us.

Fisher: So let me ask you then, I mean at the end of the day here, do you think that they were intimidated because Reclaim the Records was now getting involved?

Brooke: I don’t know if we had that much name recognition yet. However, with every state that we have one of these cases go forward more and more they are starting to compare notes and they are recognizing that genealogists and archivists, and historians are not going to sit idly by anymore and just wait and hope and beg for the government to release our records.

Fisher: Right. [Laughs] Wow, that’s incredible. Other states, what’s going on there? Real quick.

Brooke: We have a “To Do List” on our website Reclaimtherecords.org. And on that site we have a to-do list where we publicly list a lot of our future targets. We have freedom of information requests, a number of them pending in New York at the moment but we are expanding to other states. We have some brand new states in the Rocky Mountains in the mid west that we’re going to be announcing very soon. We have a lawsuit pending in Missouri, asking for their birth index and death index.

Fisher: She’s the Gal Gadot of genealogy! She’s Brooke Ganz. [Laughs] She’s the President and CEO of Reclaim the Records. That’s exciting news about New Jersey. Can’t wait to sort through it myself, talk to you again soon.

Brooke: Absolutely. Thanks for having me on!

Fisher: And coming up next, Tom Perry talking preservation on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show in three minutes.

Segment 4 Episode 212

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: And welcome back to America's Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. I am Fisher, your Radio Roots Sleuth. And Tom Perry is here from TMCPlace.com, he's our Preservation Authority. This segment is brought to you by MyHeritage.com. And Tom, it’s unbelievable to think that we're actually talking about Christmas gifts right now. But if you're going to do a family history Christmas gift, preserving something from your family history, I mean, what could be better than that?

Tom: Oh absolutely. This is the absolute best gift you could get anybody. And like you mentioned, Christmas is around the corner. We already have people coming in and saying, "Hey, can I get this done for Christmas?" So people are smart. They're starting to get ready, because every year somebody is going to come in on December 22nd and needs something that in the middle of summer takes three weeks to do.

Fisher: Well, now you usually get all kinds of stuff in the last week or two. You have your limits on digitizing video or digitizing old audio, whatever it might be, but you have deadlines.

Tom: Especially with film, because film has to go through so many stages. We don't just pop it in a projector, shoot it on a wall and shoot it with a camcorder. We scan it frame by frame by frame, which means first we have to repair any breaks in the film, then we have to splice the different reels together, then we have to clean the film before even starting the digitization process.

Fisher: Wow!

Tom: So film, you're really need to get on your horse quick.

Fisher: So think about it right now. This is the time to be getting into your closets, digging the stuff out and get it to your local digitizer.

Tom: Exactly, wherever you go. And the neat thing is a lot of these gifts we're going to talk about, they're very inexpensive or they're practically free. They just take your time to do these things.

Fisher: Well, digitization isn't quite that way, but what we're going to talk about here is.

Tom: Right. By now, almost everybody's had their old film done on VHS, which is really, really poor. The new technology is a thousand times better. It’s not even close. However, to get this Christmas gift done, you can actually go off your VHS if you can't afford the other right now. Because what you want to do, you want to get your oldest living relatives, whether its grandma and grandpa, mom and dad, brothers, sisters, whoever, the older the people are, even if they're your siblings, they're going to know things that you don't know if you're one of the younger siblings. So what you need to do, whether you have film, whether you have slides, whether you have photos, whether you have negatives, you need to get these things out, you need to give everybody there a legal pad or paper and say, "Hey, what we're going to do, I want to put together a written history." Don't tell them it’s oral right now, they'll get all scared and worried, and then go through the VHS tape or if you're transferred to DVD, your slides, your photos, your negatives, everything and have everybody take notes while they're watching the first time, because they're going to look at a slide and then they're going to go, "I don’t know who that is." But then ten or fifteen minutes they're going to, "Oh, I remember who that was! That was Jeffery."

Fisher: That's the way it works.

Tom: Exactly.

Fisher: Absolutely, yes. And we all do that.

Tom: Oh absolutely. I have the slides playing in our store all the time, and once my sister says, "Oh, that's so and so." And I go, "Oh really? I didn't know that." Because I'm the baby, my sister's the oldest one. So things are a little bit different. So it’s really cool to go through and have everybody write this stuff down, but unbeknown to them. And we'll whisper this so nobody else hears this.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Tom: What you want to do if you're got an Android or an iPhone, you can get a really good app some of them are free. Some of them come on your phone that's a recorder. And so what you'll do is, when you first start doing everything, you'll turn your recorder on and let it just run. You're going to get a lot gobbledygook and stuff, but it’s going to give you some choice pieces.

Fisher: And let me tell you first of all, your phones aren't the best recorders for audio, but you can get an Olympus DS-2. It’s a little handheld digital voice recorder. And I picked one up brand new for like $50. I've just been looking on eBay and I'm seeing one here for a used one for $17.99.

Tom: Oh, can’t beat that.

Fisher: No! I mean, it’s fantastic. At even with shipping, it’s going to be half the price.

Tom: Oh absolutely!

Fisher: This thing is such a great quality. We've actually recorded many segments that we've used on Extreme Genes, because of the quality of the recorder. So once again, it is an Olympus DS-2. It’s got 64 Megs, 22 hours that you can record on it, it’s unbelievable.

Tom: And see, that's a great way to go when you're really doing really, really good stuff, but if you're in a situation where you know Mom and Dad are going to freeze up use your iPhone, use your Android, that's going to be your base set that you’re going to put together. And then you get something like Heritage Collector software, put them together and you'll have a wonderful gift. And we'll talk a little bit more about that after the break.

Fisher: All right, coming up in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 212

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: And we are back! It’s our final segment of Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, that is Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com, our Preservation Authority. And we're talking about a very inexpensive, yet very cool holiday gift for the entire family, and that would be when everybody's together for Hanukkah or Christmas, whatever it might be, share photographs with them and get them to write down what they remember about the people in the photographs or the circumstances that the photographs were taken in. But also, secretly or openly if you think that people can handle that, record them so you can get some oral history.

Tom: And that's why it’s good like we mentioned to also have the legal pads to write things down, because you might be listening to your recording say, "Was that Aunt Bertha or Ethyl that they were talking about?"

Fisher: Um hmm.

Tom: You can go back and look at their notes. And if you want to wait and do it at Hanukkah or Christmas or whatever your festivities are, that's a great way to do it. If you want to make something ahead of time before you get to the festivities, there's two different ways you can do it. And you don't need good quality, because all they're going to be doing is writing down who these people are, talking to you about it. You can send them photocopies or just take out camera phone and shoot pictures and email them to them. If you have a Shotbox, just do the whole album page. Don't worry about making it good. Just do it quick, get it to them, send them copies of the DVDs, the VHS and kind of collaborate with everybody and find out who these people are, so you can put something together really nice. Or if you have a DVA cloud, you can put all the stuff in the DVA cloud, and then anybody can go and collaborate on it that you put their email in as giving them permission. So they can go in the collaboration window. And you can say, "Hey, slide 42, we have no clue who the person is in the yellow dress and the blue hat. Who are they?" And somebody's going to know. It’s kind of like the crowd sourcing type thing.

Fisher: Perfect! I love that!

Tom: And so they'll go in and say, "Oh that's Aunt Martha." and they'll write a little bit about them. So then you get all these different things put together and then you make an heirloom that is going to be priceless that you hand out to everybody at your holiday festivities.

Fisher: Okay, the downside is, you're probably going to be a little late. [Laughs]

Tom: [Laughs]

Fisher: That's going to be after the holidays, but who cares?

Tom: Exactly.

Fisher: I mean, this is the time to get everybody together and to do this thing. Just make sure you follow up when the holidays are done. You know, one other thought too is that you could actually maybe project these photographs up on a wall or on a screen somewhere or just on a computer and have everybody sit around and then record the comments about the photographs and the memories that those photographs bring on.

Tom: That's a good way to do it. Like I’ve seen people that have the Shotboxes, they have their photos. They have their photo albums, all these different things in the Shotbox. And they get one of those really inexpensive camera phones and point it into the Shotbox, because it'll be perfectly lit, plug that into your computer, and then have your computer into one of these widescreen display units, which are really cheap and throw it on the wall. And pass them through and just have your recorder going as people take notes, and do whatever. And it’s a great way to get everybody involved, because somebody, you might not even realize will have the answer to who that person is.

Fisher: Wow, what a great idea! So this is something you've got to start working on right now, because you've got to select what those photos are going to be, can't do everything. There's so many of them.

Tom: Right. Take out the obvious ones where everybody knows who these people are or the scenery. Nobody needs to identify scenery. That's not really important, unless there's a person in it. And get all the people, find out who they are, especially the old black and whites. Just get them in a way that everybody can see them, like we just mentioned with the Shotbox, display them on the wall. And then when you get all this stuff together, it’s like, "Okay, now how do I put it all together now that I've got the collaboration?" Get the Heritage Collector software. It'll let you combine all the different things together and make all kinds of cool things.

Fisher: Boy that is such great advice! All right, thanks so much Tom. Good to see you again. And we'll talk again next week.

Tom: My pleasure.

Fisher: Hey that is our show for this week! Thanks so much for joining us. Don't forget to get signed up for our brand new Extreme Genes Patrons Club. You can go to two places to do it. Go to Patreon.com/ExtremeGenes or just click on the Patron's Club link at ExtremeGenes.com. And what you can do there, for the price of say, oh, just a juicy hamburger once a month, you can wind up with early access to all the podcasts. You get two bonus podcasts, commercial free, I might add, plus our live YouTube “Ask us anything presentation” we do once a month as well. Also, if you're not getting our Weekly Genie newsletter, you are missing out on a great column, well, by me, and all kinds of great links to great stories. We send it out once a week. You're going to love it. Take care. We'll talk to you again next week. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!


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