Episode 213 - Author A.J. Jacobs’ Genie Journey & New Book

podcast episode Nov 05, 2017

Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. David kicks off Family Histoire News with his remarkable and personal find that happened while he was indexing records for FamilySearch.org. Wait til you hear this! Then Fred Armisen of SNL fame recently appeared on Finding Your Roots on PBS and learned he’s going to have to adjust his perception of his ethnicity. Catch what Dr. Gates discovered. A letter recovered from the body of a victim of the Titanic disaster has been auctioned off by the family 105 years after the fact. It brought in a lot of money. Hear what it brought in and what it was about. David’s blogger spotlight this week is on Candice McDonald from findingyourcanadianstory.blogspot.ca. 

Then, New York Times bestselling author, A.J. Jacobs visits with Fisher for two segments. A.J.’s new book is called “It’s All Relative, Adventures Up and Down the World’s Family Tree.” A.J. talks about what started him into researching his family, the fun finds, the horrifying finds, and his efforts to achieve world peace… (yes, world peace!) ...  with his 2015 “Global Family Reunion.”

Then, a genie with a sister in Houston pleads for advice from Tom Perry about how to help her sister recover her family videos that were drenched in the recent floods.

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

Transcript of Episode 213

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 213

Fisher: And you have found us, Extreme Genes, America’s History Show 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 of the show is brought to you by LegacyTree.com and I’m very excited to have back on the show today one of my good friends from New York City. He’s a bestselling New York Times author. He’s A.J Jacobs and AJ has written a new book. It’s called “It’s All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World’s Family Tree” and it’s based on, in large part, on all the stuff that led up to the Global Family Reunion that many of us were a part of in 2015. And it’s hilarious. You’re going to love to hear from AJ. Of course, later in the show more questions from you being answered by our Preservation Authority Tom Perry, so make sure you’re around for that especially if you’ve had things damaged in the recent bad weather, the floods, the hurricanes, he’s got some questions to deal with right there. I want to thank all our Patron Club members who have joined us in the past week. You can do so by going to Patreon.com/ExtremeGenes or just click on the Patrons Club at ExtremeGenes.com. Either way gets you there. I mean, for less than the cost of a pair of men’s socks you can get some great benefits from being part of our Patrons Club. Speaking of which, David Allen Lambert was with me just the other day as we did another “Ask Us Anything” session on our live YouTube session for our Patrons Club members. David is the Chief of the New England Historical Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org, on the line with us right now from Boston Massachusetts.

Fisher: How are you Dave?

David: Hey, I’m doing really good. Looking forward to heading out to Salt Lake City very shortly for our research tour that we’ve done. And this is like my 35th trip up there. It’s become my summer home, my fall home. [Laughs]

Fisher: Wow! Well, it’s a great place to go because as we all know, Salt Lake City, Utah is kind of like the Mecca for family history, for the Family History Library and all kinds of other great assets there.

David: And that actually leads me to my first thing. I’m sure many listeners probably were involved in the worldwide indexing project which went on recently.  But, for me I indexed probably about 300 records, I think it said, but I found six cousins in the records.

Fisher: Wow! You’re kidding me. So you chose a project, right? And the way this works by the way, you go to FamilySearch.org, one of our sponsors by the way, and there are places there where you can actually go and index records so that people can find them more easily. So, you look at the original and you type it over and you could do thousands of them over the course of weeks. And so they had this big event and David you were doing like three hundred of them. You obviously chose a project to work on because you can pick what records you want to do. And you chose them from where?

David: New Brunswick, Canada. Late registrations of birth and hoped that I’d find the card for my great grandfather which I knew existed. But when I started looking at the maiden names of the mothers I’m like, “Wait a second, the Berry family from Turtle Creek.”

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: Which is like the size of WalMart?

Fisher: Yeah.

David: I immediately knew it was my family.

Fisher: Wow! And you found how many of them?

David: Six.

Fisher: That’s incredible. What a great story.

David: Yeah. So you just never know what you’re going to find even when you’re not intending to look for it to begin with.

Fisher: Boy, absolutely and that kind of leads to our next story here in Family Histoire News. Fred Armisen who we all know from Saturday Night Live, he is the band leader with Seth Meyers on what is it, The Late Show? 

David: Um hmm.

Fisher: And he was recently on with Henry Louis Gates.

David: Yes Skip Gates was able to determine for him that for the longest time Fred thought he was quarter Japanese. Turns out he is a quarter Korean.

Fisher: Korean?! What’s that about?

David: Well, you know it’s funny, sometimes when people emigrate, their surnames and names could change, or their identity change. And Gates found that Kuni, his ancestor was actually born in Korea in 1908 as Park Yong In.

Fisher: Okay.

David: So now he knows he is a quarter Korean. And as Fred said he’s been telling people for years that he’s a quarter Japanese. Now he’s not Japanese at all.

Fisher: That’s kind of a life changing identity thing for him.

David: It would be. I really enjoy what Henry Louis Gates has been doing for celebrities and I think it really embraces what everybody wants to find. I mean, most of us are genealogists or family historians. These are celebrities who’ve never had their family done. So these are really major surprises.

Fisher: Yeah, no doubt about it. And the fun thing too is his grandfather was a spy for Japan against Germany. So that’s a whole other story but we need to move because this is very cool. Everybody is always interested in the Titanic. You actually had a friend who was a survivor of the Titanic, for many years.

David: Yep, Melvina Dean

Fisher: Melvina Dean. And here’s this letter now that’s come up that was actually taken from a body in the ocean that was preserved by the family for these 105 years, and now it’s been auctioned off.

David: $166, 000 for a piece of stationary that was on the body of Alexander Oskar Holverson who was on the Titanic among the 1,500 that were killed on board.

Fisher: And talk about content too. He describes what it’s like there, the entertainment, what the food was like. They “expect to be in New York by Wednesday morning if all goes well.”

David: [Sigh]

Fisher: And it’s on this great stationary that, what does it say? “On board Titanic stationary” or something like that.

David: It does. It says, “On board R-M-S Titanic.” And then you fill in the date and it was a letter dated April 13th and of course the Titanic struck the berg on April 14th in the evening and sunk in the early morning hours of April 15th.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: You know it’s funny, I’ve actually seen some Titanic things. Melvina actually had a postcard that her mother had mailed and when the Titanic was in Cherbourg, France it had a mail drop off. So if you filled out a postcard, it was mailed. So the family got the postcard not knowing whether or not her family survived. She lost her dad in the event.

Fisher: Wow.

David: Well, every week I do a blogger spotlight and this one is touching upon Canadian roots. In fact, the blog is called findingyourcanadianstory.blogspot.ca. And Candice McDonald is giving a wonderful introduction to those who have Canadian roots and she just recently wrote about Prince Edward Island Newspapers. So, you may want to check that out. It’s a great blog with some great topics and she’s been writing it for over a year now. Well, if you can’t visit us at NEHGS in person, you can always check out AmericanAncestors.org. And if you like it, remember for $20 off use the checkout code “Extreme” and you’ll be a member of NEHGS, the oldest genealogical society in the world.

Fisher: I love it. David, thank you so much. You have a great week. We’ve got to catch up on coins right, the ancestral birth coins next week when we talk again, okay?

David: That sounds great. I’ve an 1887 from my grandfather, but more on that next week. [Laughs]

Fisher: All right and coming up next we’re going to talk to AJ Jacobs, our good friend from New York. He’s the writer of a brand new book from Simon and Schuster. It’s called “It’s All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World’s Family Tree” coming up in three minutes on Extreme Genes America’s Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 213

Host: Scott Fisher with guest AJ Jacobs

Fisher: I just can’t believe this guy is calling me the “deepest voiced man in all of the world of genealogy.” He is AJ Jacobs my next guest. This is Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, the Radio Roots Sleuth and this segment is brought to you by MyHeritage.com. AJ is of course the best selling New York Times Author. The author of “The Year of Living Biblically” which we’re going to talk about a little bit here too, but he’s coming out with a new book, it’s out on November 7th it’s called “It’s All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World’s Family Tree” AJ welcome back to Extreme Genes! How are you my friend?

AJ: I am good, thank you Fisher. And I mean that, thank you because I honestly could not have written the book without you and Extreme Genes. Because you gave me so many ideas for chapters and angles and as you might know, in the back of the book there are some best tips I learned about genealogy from my four years exploring it, and listening to Extreme Genes is right in there.

Fisher: Wow!

AJ: And I do think you have a deep voice.

Fisher: [Laughs] Well, thank you. [In deep voice.]

AJ: Compared to me, most people have a deep voice.

Fisher: Thank you very much AJ.

AJ: [Laughs] You’re welcome.

Fisher: You know, it’s quite a journey that you’ve been on. I mean as a writer. First of all I’m the son of a writer. My mother was a writer and I understand what it is to sit down and try to map something out and try to express some kind of cohesive idea. And family history is a tough thing. It’s a big beast. It’s kind of like trying to feel what the elephant is in the room in the dark, right?

AJ: Right. Well that’s what I loved about it. I love taking on these huge topics. And it’s almost like listening to a few episodes of Extreme Genes because...

Fisher: Except you’re much funnier than I am.

AJ: Ahh I don’t think so.

Fisher: [Laughs] I think so.

AJ: But yeah, I try to find the most interesting family stories and fascinating characters, and some of them as I say are Extreme Genes alums including that amazing story of the man who turned out he had nine siblings and they all had different fathers.

Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs]

AJ: I’m almost still blown away by it. And you know what, it’s a great story but it’s also an inspiring one because he forgives his mother and sees the good in her even though she did these things that might not be considered so moral. And the father too, who has no biological relation to these kids but he still loved them and treated them as his own. So I love a good story like that.

Fisher: Yeah. It was a very uplifting story and it was a thrill to have him on and talk about that as well. Well, let’s talk a little about you. You used a reference here that I hadn’t seen before that I really liked, and that is “Gray Sheep” because most of us think of people as good people and bad people, right? And you kind of came up with the idea of grey sheep, which I think really describes an awful lot of ancestors.

AJ: That’s true. I find when you’re looking at ancestors you’ve got to look at the bad and the good. And as you know, there are studies saying this is actually good for teaching your kids and your family. You’ve got to show that no one is perfect and no one is purely evil. And that’s actually inspiring to kids because then they can work harder and know that we all have our challenges. But yeah, gray sheep I’m a big fan of. This is after the book, but I just found one of my third cousins twice removed was involved in The Teapot Dome Scandal. So that was nice. And he was trying to blackmail. So I did not have many blackmailers in the family until just recently.

Fisher: [Laughs] If you’re not familiar with that, that goes back to the Warren Harding Administration in the early 1920s.

AJ: Yeah.

Fisher: So you have a lot of people who were involved with the Kennedys, and some very big political individuals. Your grandfather as I recall?

AJ: Right. My grandfather, who I have a couple of chapters on, was a fascinating man. And he was a lawyer and he was Martin Luther King Jr.’s lawyer. And the FBI as you know was not a fan MLK at the time.

Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs]

AJ: And so I got the Freedom of Information Act, through them I got like a 400 page file on my grandfather and I learned all about [laughs] things that I didn’t know. What’s striking though is how thorough they were. I mean this is even before Google stalking. They have where he went on vacation, where his kids’ college dorms are, it was really quite astounding. And they even had a write up about how he met his wife, which is almost like a movie meeting. She was in the hospital in college and he wanted to visit her, he climbed up the fire escape and snuck into her room. And her mother was there and she kicked him out. So the FBI was well aware of that.

Fisher: Isn’t that great to think that you could use the FBI as a primary source for your family history, AJ?

AJ: Isn’t that amazing? Yeah.

Fisher: [Laughs]

AJ: I suppose thank you J. Edgar Hoover for doing some of the work for me.

Fisher: Yeah. Well, let’s talk about the Global Family Reunion. Now, we’re looking at it two years in the rear view mirror now. It was in June 2015. I was thrilled to be there to be one of your emcees for the event. To be up on stage with you and the girls from Sister Sledge singing “We Are Family” in the drizzling rain after the big morning downpour. I mean my goodness. There were an awful lot of things that didn’t go quite as planned.

AJ: Well yeah. And just to back up if you hadn’t heard of it, the idea was that with genealogy on these amazing revolutions happening we now can see how we are all related.

Fisher: Right.

AJ: And we’ve got these mega family trees on the internet with millions of people. You could see I’m for instance; Barack Obama is my fifth great aunt’s husband’s brother’s wife’s seventh great nephew!

Fisher: [Laughs]

AJ: So there it was. So I love this idea. Thanks to DNA testing also we have thousands of cousins. The idea was to throw a family reunion, the biggest ever, and invite all seven billion of my cousins. And we didn’t get quite 100% attendance.

Fisher: No.

AJ: We didn’t get seven billion, but we did get four thousand and there were forty simultaneous reunions around the world including Salt Lake City, New Zealand, Mexico, and island off of India, so it was an amazing experience. The strangest event I’ve ever been involved with because the collection of people we had, at one stage a speaking block of a Rabbi, a Minister, a Buddhist monk, and an Atheist. And they all came up to talk about what family meant to them. And as you said, Sisters Sledge was there, we sang “We Are Family” but these things when you’re throwing it, it was one of the worst days of my life because I just spent the whole time stressing out about every detail.

Fisher: Yep.

AJ: Some guy had a drone. He was taking photos of the crowd with the drone, and the drone was like a foot and a half over people’s heads.

Fisher: [Laughs]

AJ: And I was thinking this guy is going to crash. I am going to be sued and this is the end of my life.

Fisher: [Laughs] Yeah.

AJ: But luckily no lawsuits. No lawsuits yet.

Fisher: Well I remember hanging around with you and Julie and the kids after the show over by one of the booths that had been there, and I mean, the look on your face was just a complete state of shock, and relief, and exhilaration, and all these things kind of at the same time.

AJ: [Laughs]

Fisher: It was a great time though. I mean I don’t have any regrets about it at all and I hope you don’t. Because if you add up not only, maybe you didn’t get as many people in New York as you had hoped to have that day, you added up around the world. What was your total? It had to be monstrous.

AJ: It was over ten thousand people who were participating in this Global Family Reunion. And it is yeah, it is still shocking and amazing to me that that many people did it. And I loved it. And people, including from you and David Allen Lambert who was there, I got such lovely feedback. And I am not a hugger myself because I am a repressed person.

Fisher: [Laughs]

AJ: But it was nice to see there was a lot of spontaneous hugging between people, and they were like, “Hey you’re my cousin! You’re my fourteenth cousin” and then they would hug. And I love that we got that message out because as you know this is a complicated time in our world where there’s this huge amount division, tribalism, and separations.

Fisher: What are you talking about AJ? It’s just one big Kumbaya. Are you kidding me?

AJ: [Laughs] Oh yeah you’re right. I am just seeing a few negatives.

Fisher: [Laughs]

AJ: Well that was the idea, yeah. It may not solve world peace but it will hopefully nudge people and remind them that we do share 99.9% of our genes to Extreme Genes. And there was one fascinating study that just came out last year. They did a Harvard study on Israelis and Palestinians, and when they explained to them how closely they were related, they treated each other more kindly. They were more open to negotiation.

Fisher: Yes.

AJ: And when some of the other groups, when they did not explain, there was much more hostility. So there is some evidence that this mindset can actually do some good.

Fisher: Oh well there’s no question about that. And of course we know of the studies from the last few years about the effects on children when they know about the struggles and the trials of their ancestors and how they survived them, overcame them, so when those kids run into their inevitable bumps in the road they are able to manage them much better. And this is why this whole thing is important. This isn’t just a fun little hobby. This is stuff that does change the world, and certainly with what you’re doing that day. And I think the book too. And it’s a great read by the way for people who haven’t heard of it yet, “It’s All Relative” is the name of it “Adventures Up and Down the World’s Family Tree.” It’s from Simon and Schuster by my guest AJ Jacobs, the New York Times bestselling author. The Author of “The Year of Living Biblically” by the way, we’ve got to talk about that coming up because that’s taking a whole new twist. We’re going to take a break, we’re going to come back and get into some of these other aspects of the book and what’s happening with AJ’s other baby “The Year of Living Biblically.” It’s all coming up in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 3 Episode 213

Host: Scott Fisher with guest AJ Jacobs

Fisher: And welcome back to Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here your Radio Roots Sleuth, and this segment of Extreme Genes is brought to you by FamilySearch.org. And I’ve got my good friend AJ Jacobs on the line from New York City!

AJ: [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs] He is the author of “It’s All Relative: Adventures Up and down the World’s Family Tree.” This is a book that’s been what, four years in the making now, AJ?

AJ: Yeah that’s true, exactly. It was no overnight, I didn’t cram.

Fisher: No you did not. [Laughs] You just had to figure out what you were going to write about and you made it incredible. It’s coming out on November 7th, and so, it can be ordered in advance on, I would assume, through Amazon and does Simon and Schuster have an outlet too?

AJ: Um, yeah. I think Amazon buys anything you want and pre-orders are much appreciated, those apparently help a lot.

Fisher: Yeah, you can get those right now. You can order the book online right now but it won’t be shipped, I don’t think, until November 7th.

AJ: That’s right.

Fisher: And you’re going to be doing some book signings coming up as well around the country. Where are you going to be and when?

AJ: Well, I’m going to be in Salt Lake City, November 14th and I’ll also be in Los Angeles and Washington D.C. and New York. If you’re in New York I would love to see you. I’ll put the dates on my website, so you can check that.

Fisher: Excellent! That’s great stuff. Let’s talk a little about the book, and then I want to get into “The Year of Living Biblically” which is one of your earlier efforts which is making some real noise in the entertainment world right now. “Exclusivity versus Inclusivity” this is on page 198 of “It’s All Relative” and you talk about, “Genealogy has been a tool of the elite since back in the day.” I used to have a neighbor who actually talked like that, “Oh Scotty, so good to see you!”

AJ: [Laughs]

Fisher: As you know back east we call that “New England snob,” right? It’s like Thurston Howell, III and his wife Lovey. And I think that’s a fair thing to say but back in colonial times, right, some of the Americans they were finding genealogy was distasteful because that kind of reflected back on the old British caste system, but it’s really kind of hard to avoid some of those connections, isn’t it? As you found out as you were writing the book.

AJ: Well, yeah I think definitely it’s fascinating, that early on, as you say, when America was founded, genealogy was seen as undemocratic. An isolating thing, seen through these aristocrats and elevating these people just because they’re descended from “fancy folks,” we need a clean slate. But now, genealogy, I think has shed some of that snobbery, and you’ve got people from all different backgrounds looking into where they came from, and I love that. I think the democratization of genealogy is awesome, and even those most exclusive clubs, like you might argue, The Daughters of the American Revolution, was sort of founded as this gated community and, “we’re the ones that you owe us thanks, we did it.” But even that, as you know, we have a mutual friend who was the first African American member of The Daughters of the American Revolution, and they are making an effort to expand and get Native Americans because there were a whole bunch of ethnicities who fought in the Revolution. One Daughter of the American Revolution told me it was the First World War. You had French, German, Native American, Latinos, and so, I love that idea of throwing open the gates.

Fisher: Absolutely true, and you’re talking about Karen Bachelor, of course, who joined back in the late 1970s. Still very active in everything she does. I think, she’s making an almost AJ type effort here to join like 20 lineage societies in a single year.

AJ: I love that idea. I can’t wait to read about it. And, as being talked about, the lineage societies are hilarious, because you cannot believe how many of them are there.

Fisher: Yes and the names are funny.

AJ: They’re great! Pirates, and there’s The Royal Bastards, there’s Offspring of Mistresses, and, yeah, it is, whatever your ethnic heritage, you will find a group.

Fisher: [Laughs] Whatever it is that you want. All right, now let’s talk about “The Year of Living Biblically.” And I think people who know you, may know you best from that book, which came out what year?

AJ: That was about 10 years ago.

Fisher: 10 years ago?

AJ: It’s been a while.

Fisher: Yeah. And throughout that year, you were trying to live each of the 10 commandments, right down to stoning an adulterer, which you did in the middle of Central Park, with your long beard and, it’s a great story. And, last we talked, I want to say, a year or more ago, about “Biblically,” you were saying, “Hey, I’m in California.” Because we’re doing a pilot film maybe for a movie about it, but it kind of took another spin. Let’s talk about this.

AJ: Yeah, to my surprise, it is going to be a TV series! It’s going to be a sitcom on CBS, called “Living Biblically.” And it airs in January, and it is loosely based on me and my life and my book. There are a few differences, but it’s amazing. I just went out there with my wife to see it taped, and it was a surreal experience, to see this much more handsome man...

Fisher: [Laughs]

AJ: ...saying things that I might have said, and I loved, and Julie, my wife, is very excited, because the woman, the actress who plays her is two inches taller. She wanted to be a little taller. Well, yeah, it’s quite a wild thing, and we’ll see how it does, you know, it’s on a big network, but you never know.

Fisher: Well, look, 13 weeks on CBS is a mighty fine start no matter what, and I’m sure that’ll also bring a lot more attention to your new book, “It’s All Relative.”

AJ: Yeah, I hope so. I’ve written several books and articles, and Hollywood has always flirted with them, but in the end, nothing ever got made. So I was shocked when they said that this was actually getting made. And I was like, “You’re kidding, right?”

Fisher: [Laughs] That’s so exciting!

AJ: Yeah.

Fisher: And even if he is more handsome than you, and I can’t even imagine it, AJ, you’re a fine looking man.

AJ: [Laughs]

Fisher: I guarantee you he is not as funny as you are. You’re putting your lines into his mouth, and that’s what makes this thing rock.

AJ: Well, that is very kind of you. But he is, he’s very funny. He’s actually, I don’t know if you were a fan of Mad Men, but he was on that show, he played Peggy’s boyfriend, and in that show he had a huge beard, so I think they cast him partly because they knew he could grow the biblical beard.

Fisher: Well absolutely, and yes Mad Men is an incredible show, I’ve got a story about that, but that’s for another time, in fact.

AJ: Ooh I want to hear.

Fisher: Yeah, absolutely. We’ve got a little time left. I want to talk about the day that you had your family come home, and you had all the ancestors lined up on the wall. I mean, right down to the smallest ancestor. [Laughs]

AJ: [Laughs]

Fisher: What were you thinking, that day? Describe this scene very quickly while we have a little time still.

AJ: I took over the living room, and I wanted to show my kids and wife where they came from, so I had their grandmother, great, great grandfather, a Civil War soldier, but then I went farther back, so I went back to the cave men, and I went even back even farther to the first mammal, who was sort of like this shrew like, mouse like creature, and then I went back farther to this little tiny cell who is all of our great, great, great, say that about a million and a half times, grandfather or grandmother. His name is Luca. L-U-C-A.

Fisher: Oh, did you name him or is that the scientist name for him?

AJ: That’s the scientists’ name.

Fisher: No kidding.

AJ: My son is named Lucas, so he was very excited.

Fisher: [Laughs]

AJ: Last universal common ancestor. And I just loved this idea that we all come from the same place, and, you know, I don’t believe in the literal version of the Adam and Eve story, but I do believe what scientists call Y-chromosomal Adam and the Mitochondrial Eve shows that there really were, these two people, couple hundred thousand years ago, who we’re all descended from.

Fisher: Right.

AJ: So we are all cousins, in a very real way.

Fisher: The book is “It’s All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World’s Family Tree.” It’s from Simon and Schuster, written by my good friend, AJ Jacobs, the author of the New York Times bestselling book, “The Year of Living Biblically” which is going to be premiering on CBS this January. Thanks so much for coming on! It was great to catch up with you, and best of luck with the book, and I hope to see you on your signing tour.

AJ: I’ll see you soon.

Segment 4 Episode 213

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: And welcome back, its America's Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, and this segment is brought to you 23andMe.com DNA. Tom Perry is here from TMCPlace.com, he's our Preservation Authority. And Tom, I've got to tell you, I just really kind of felt emotional when I saw this email that we got concerning preservation. "Hi there, my sister lives in Houston, Texas, and had a box full of older videotapes, Mini DVs that were submerged in floodwater. She's devastated. Wants to know what she can do to retrieve the video off the tapes. Can you help her?" Wow, that's really brings it home, doesn't it?

Tom: Oh it really does. And it’s just so sad. And people out there, spread the word, let people know that this can be done, because I have people all the time have situations not even as bad as this and they go the Big Box retailers and say, "Hey, I need to get this turned into a DVD." And they go, you know, "Sorry, there’s nothing we can do about it." And so they go and throw them away or they hang onto them, because they can't throw them away. But there is a way that they can be rescued. The first thing you want to do is, look in the cases, some of them will be really damp. Some of them won't be damp. So the first thing you need to do is separate those. The ones that are still damp, you want to get distilled water and put them in a bath of that, because that will help you get the dirt and all that kind of stuff off if they're already wet. If they've dried out, don't do that! Let us do that for you. But if they're still wet, you want to get a lot of that kind of distilled water on them, because that's going to clean a lot of the gunk and such out of it.

Fisher: So the moisture isn't the issue.

Tom: Moisture's actually worse than heat. We have ones that went through the California fire where people lost their houses and they had these things in the strongbox that the cases were totally melted, but yet the tape itself has a higher flashpoint. So we were able to break open the cassettes and get the tape out and still transfer them.

Fisher: Wow! So you'd put it in a different case?

Tom: Right. Yeah. We call them donor cases. We put them in one of those. But with water, water causes all kinds of havoc. If there's any dust or particles at all on your tape, which you know, can be normal, what it does, the water when it dries, it actually glues the tape together.

Fisher: Ohh!

Tom: And so what we have to do is by hand, once we get them semi dried out the best we can, we have to slowly move the tape, because if you put it in a player or a rewinder, it’s going to go so fast, it’s just going to tear the tape apart. So we try to go as slow as we can, making the loops as open as possible, then do the same thing backwards. So then when we put it in and play it at normal speed, its already been kind of loosened. And we use a special VCR for this that after every tape that we transfer, we have to clean the heads, because it could contaminate the heads with mold or whatever.

Fisher: Sure.

Tom: And so we're constantly doing that. We use this machine only for like tapes that have been in water once they've started growing mold, different things like that, so that there's no way they're going to affect another customer's job. But so, we have these special VCRs for that. So the biggest thing you need to do is, get them to us. If you've gone through the steps and gone through the distilled water, clean then out the best you can, put them in there, slush them around and then pull them back out. Then what you want to do is, let them dry on a tile, get as much moisture out, then when you're ready to send them to us, as we've told you on previous shows to double box them. Go to ExtremeGenes.com and type in "Shipping" and that will tell you again how to do it. And then what you want to do is get some cheesecloth at any fabric store, get some long grain rice, uncooked of course, and not minute rice, it won't work and you put it in the cheesecloth, then you tie it up in a little ball. And make sure you use string. Don't use rubber bands. And put that in a Ziploc bags that the tape are going to be on, so when its coming to us, that will kind of start pulling some of the moisture out, so that when we get them, we can see what they need. Some of them are going to have to be rewound. Unfortunately some of them might be so glued together we're going to have to cut out sections, but you know, 25% of something is better than nothing.

Fisher: Yeah, absolutely. Boy, just the thought of this thing though, it’s so emotional. And I don't think any of us think about the day that could come where this would happen, what that would mean. I think it would be worse than losing, you know, a car or a home or you know, the carpet or whatever it is, because these are your memories.

Tom: Oh absolutely. Any of those things you mentioned can be replaced. These things are absolutely irreplaceable. No matter how rich you are, you could never replace these things.

Fisher: All right, coming up next, we're going to take another email, hopefully not as tragic as this one and find out what you've got to say about it. On the way in minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 213

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: We're back, talking preservation on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, the Radio Roots Sleuth, Tom Perry over there, he's our Preservation Authority from TMCPlace.com. And Tom, we've got another great question. This is from Patty Vitale in Germantown, Maryland. She writes, "I'm a big fan of Extreme Genes on which you mentioned a high quality scanner that's available from Amazon.com. I like your suggestion to buy it, use it as long as needed, then sell it as used. Can you tell me the brand, model of the scanner or provide me a link. I'd been considering renting a scanner, but with the number of relatives who may want to participate in scanning photos, I have no idea how long I would need to rent it for. Thanks, Patty."

Tom: You know Patty, that's a great question. The one that we were talking about, we actually talked about it on two different episodes. It’s called an Epson J as in John, 221, B as in boy. And you can get it on Amazon. In fact, when you're done playing around with it, let me know what you want for it. I might buy another backup, because this is a great scanner. It’s for the people that don't have a ton of things you need to scan, because it didn't have an auto feed, you have to do it all by hand. But the nice thing about it, it will do photos, it will do slides and it'll do negatives.

Fisher: Wow!

Tom: So on one scanner, you have all these things. And it will do up to like 40,000 dpi! It’s like crazy which you'll never need, and don't think, "Oh, the biggest is the best. Let me do that."

Fisher: No. [Laughs]

Tom: You don't want to waste your time. You know, you don't need to do TIFFs if you're not going to make a billboard or want to make copies of copies of copies. Just do the jpegs. Go to my Twitter account and you can see a little chart that shows you, "Hey, if my original’s this big and I want to make prints this big, this is what I need." And go by that chart and then always bump it up one higher. That's what I recommend people do.

Fisher: That's a great idea.

Tom: Oh it is. It’s the best way to go. There's no question about it. So if you are looking for a scanner that does everything, this Epson is great. It’s kind of expensive, but it’s a great way to get started. And like we say, you can go ahead and sell it.

Fisher: What range are we talking here, Tom?

Tom: It’s about $3000.

Fisher: Okay.

Tom: If it’s price you want. Amazon probably has it at a discount, but that's what retail is. But it’s a great scanner. And like she says, she can keep it for a week or a month or whatever and sell it. And if you get everything done by Christmas, sell it right before Christmas and you'll probably sell it a lot quicker.

Fisher: Well, and if you share the price among all your relatives and all your cousins, you could actually own it for a while. And then ship it off like you say, and sell it and get most of your money back.

Tom: Oh really. Even in fact if you lose half of your money and you pay full retail and you spend $1500, that's just a fraction of what it would cost if you went to another place and had them do your scanning for you. So it’s all about time. If you have the time to do it, this is a great way to go. For those of you that need to have a lot of photographs that you need scanned and you really don't have a lot of time, we've talked about them before, got to EZPhotoScan.com or go to our webpage and there's a link. And that's when you can rent for a week for like $400.

Fisher: Yeah.

Tom: And it’s a super, super fast one. And it also comes with a flatbed. So if you have some of those old pictures from the early 1800s that are like glued into a case that stand up on its own, you're going to have to use a flatbed scanner. But then all your other photos that are about, you know, 4x4 to 8x10s, you just get them and send them through it. And if you're the kind that has notes written on the back, it has an option where you can scan both sides at the same time. So just send it through once. And what's really cool about this too is, if you have a photo album that you can't take apart because they're glued in there, you have the ability to scan the whole page and then go to another part of the scanner and it will go and do its best to separate each of the pictures out. So you have a scan of the entire page, then you have each one as its individual picture.

Fisher: Wow! [Laughs]

Tom: Which is so cool!

Fisher: And we should mention by the way that the LDS, the Mormon Church has Family Discovery Centers that have a lot of these copying machines right there where you can do some of this for free.

Tom: Oh yeah! Just check with the local centers, find out where the genealogy centers are. And if they have one of those machines, go in there and spend a day. Set up a time. And it’s totally free. And it is an incredible machine.

Fisher: All right Tom. Great to see you, thanks for coming by! We'll see you next week.

Tom: My pleasure.

Fisher: Hey that's our show for this week! Thanks so much for joining us. Thanks once again to AJ Jacobs, the New York Times bestselling author for coming on and talking about his new book, “It’s All Relative.” Can't believe he plugged Extreme Genes in there twice! You've got to pick that up. Hey, don't forget to sign up for our Patron's Club. You can go to Patreon.com/ExtremeGenes or go to ExtremeGenes.com, click on Patron's Club. Love to have you there. Talk to you again next week. Thanks for joining us. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!

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