Episode 226 - Black History Month: Advances In African American Research / 199 Cemeteries To See Before You Die!

podcast episode Feb 25, 2018

Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org.  The guys begin by talking about the participation of dead people in the recent Eagles Superbowl victory parade. Hear what that was all about! Then, “Cheddarman,” an ancient Brit, has had a DNA test which reveals something previously unknown about the early English. The guys then discuss the 2020 Census questions that are now emerging. Some delve into Caucasian ethnicity. Plus adoptees in New Jersey can finally obtain their original birth certificates. Hear how that new law is changing lives. David then spotlights blogger Melissa Barker, our friend “The Archive Lady.” Read her latest at agenealogistinthearchives.blogspot.com .

Next, Fisher visits with LegacyTree.com’s Carolyn Tolman. Carolyn shares a recent success story of an African-American client. She explains the breakthrough to pre-1870 days and some of the great new tools that are aiding African-American research.

Then, Fisher talks with author Loren Rhoads. She discusses research into her book “199 Cemeteries To See Before You Die.” What genie doesn’t want to know about this?!

Then, Tom Perry, the Preservation Authority, takes on several great listener questions.

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

Transcript of Episode 226

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 226

Fisher: Let’s talk family history! It is Extreme Genes, America’s Family 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 is brought to you by MyHeritage.com. Hey, our guests today... a couple of great experts. One is Carolyn Tolman from LegacyTree.com/Genealogists and because it’s Black History Month, she’s going to share with us some of the advances that are going on in helping to move black genealogy forward and some of the success she has had in working with some clients in determining the origins of some of their African American heritage. So, this is going to be interesting stuff coming up in about ten minutes or so. And then later on in the show Loren Rhoads who has written a book about “199 Cemeteries You Must See Before You Die.” [Laughs] Yeah, that’s going to be interesting to hear how she ranked them and why she ranked them the way she did a little bit later on in the show. Hey, just a reminder we’ve got RootsTech coming up February 28th. It’s a Wednesday. That’s when it starts and it goes through Saturday March 3rd. It’s going to be in Salt Lake City, Utah at the Salt Palace Convention Center. It’s going to be a lot of fun and I know we’re going to see a lot of you there. Make plans to see me. I’m going to be teaching a couple of classes, one on collecting your ancestors’ artifacts as well as old fashioned research, how you actually find material if it’s not on the internet. A lot of people don’t know how that’s done anymore. It’s kind of a lost art so, just check out your schedule when you get to RootsTech if you’re going to be part of that. And of course one guy is going to be a major part of that... he’s my good friend David Allen Lambert, the Chief Genealogist of New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. Hi David, how are you?

David: Hey, I’m doing great. I’m here in Boston enjoying the warm, well maybe not so warm, Arctic weather. And we’re suffering the loss of the Patriots dynasty.

Fisher: Yeah I know that hangs for a long time afterwards there because there’s a whole generation in your area that thinks that the Super Bowl is an annual event for your team. It’s just kind of crazy!

David: [Laughs]

Fisher: And we will get into that in just a moment. I do want to mention you and I are doing a Meet and Greet from your booth at NEHGS on Thursday morning at 11 o’clock, Thursday at 11 at RootsTech. So, this is a chance to meet a lot of the listeners and have some good conversation and I’m really looking forward to that.

David: Yeah, it’s going to be a lot of fun. I really enjoy RootsTech and it’s a great opportunity to do selfies with us and post them on the internet.

Fisher: Yeah, it should be fun.

David: [Laughs]

Fisher: All right, let’s get into our Family Histoire News. Where do you want to start today?

David: In light of the Super Bowl and to the honor of the Philadelphia Eagles, I’m going to devote this first story to the fans, the fans that really weren’t even watching the Super Bowl. That goes out to Dustin Slaughter who took his grandfather’s ashes and brought them to the parade.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: Vinny Chevu took his uncle’s remains and somebody who flew a thousand miles from Tampa, Florida to make sure their grandfather’s ashes are at the parade. You know, when I was a kid, we’d go to parades and drop something on the ground and my mother would say, “Oh it’s okay it’s a ten second rule.” I’m going to really rethink that ten second rule from now on.

Fisher: [Laughs] That’s a good point because some of these people are actually throwing the ashes along the parade route. You know what? I talked to a friend of mine. He used to be a vice president for a major league baseball team. And he said, “Fish, do you know that there are more ashes in major league parks in every sport all around America than you would ever imagine?” And he said because of the connections that people have with their teams, a lot of folks will go out and keep some ashes in their pocket and they get the opportunity to walk out on the field and they just kind of pull it out of the pocket and drop it into the infield or the outfield.

David: Well, the thing I get about parades is I remember seeing street sweepers after parades.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: I suppose here, there, and everywhere, there your ancestors will go.

Fisher: That right.

David: [Laughs] One person who didn’t think their remains would probably be this popular was Cheddar Man who was a person found out near Bristol, England a number of years back. And this was a skeleton of somebody who lived ten thousand years ago. Of course, in the light of new DNA findings and all that they’ve drilled a little hole into Cheddar Man’s head, looked at his autosomal DNA and some of the characteristics, and I know CeCe Moore has talked about this. And what they were able to determine is that he may have been a very dark skin to black, so the earliest Britons were not Caucasian.

Fisher: Interesting. All right.

David: Yeah. Okay, my next story actually has to do with 2020 census coming up very shortly. We’re going to have some new questions this year which is typical. And this one, if you’re white, they will ask you what your ethnicity is.

Fisher: Interesting.

David: German, Irish, English, Italian, whatever the case may be. But think of it, it’s 72 years in 2092 when this census is released of course we’ll still be doing the show then.

Fisher: Right.

David: We’ll be able to say, “I remember back leaving my ethnicity down as blank. The big question that I ask here is, “What is your ethnicity based upon your autosomal, by your heritage? What are you going to choose?

Fisher: Interesting.

David: The next story, New Jersey has now changed rules. So, adoptees in New Jersey can start to discover their identities, which I think is really nice the way they’ve been changing.

Fisher: Yeah, this has been in process now for a while, and I guess they passed the law concerning this a few years ago and gave the birth mothers and fathers the chance to actually say, “No, I don’t want my information made available.” And now, all the pre-requirements have been met and the adoptees can get their original birth certificates. They’re discovering the names of their birth parents and it’s quite an emotional time in New Jersey.

David: It truly is. It supersedes an old ruling from 1942 which basically kept all that information secret. Well, my blogger spotlight this week is someone we’ve actually had on the show before, Melissa Barker from Tennessee. Her blog is agenealogistinthearchives.blogspot.com. In her most recent blog it’s about preserving old family letters and postcards. And it makes me want to leave a postcard from RootsTech, not a virtual one, but one with a stamp on it that you write on. More and more you don’t see postcards but how valuable of a time capsule they are. Well, that’s all I have for this week for news from Beantown, but I do want to say if you are a member of NEHGS like Carol Ackerman, I appreciate you listening to the show. She gave us a shout out on an email that she loves the show. And if you’re not a NEHGS member, and you’re considering it, you can save $20 membership by using the check out code “Extreme.” See you real soon at RootsTech and I hope that some of our listeners will come and join us.

Fisher: All right, I hope so too. Thanks so much David and we’ll talk to you again next week, and coming up next, Black History Month in progress. What’s happening as far as progress with black history and black family history? Carolyn Tolman from LegacyTree.com/Genealogist has the latest on that, coming up next in 3 minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 226

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Carolyn Tolman

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 is brought to you by 23andMe.comDNA. And of course, it is Black History month in the United States and recently we had CeCe Moore the Genetic Genealogist come on the show talking about DNA and how it is really making some headway in helping African American researchers find out what specific country in Africa their ancestors may have come from. And so that’s exciting news and I thought we’d get our good friend Carolyn Tolman on the line as well from Legacy Tree talking about some of her recent research, some of the breakthroughs that people are having in their African American research. Welcome back to Extreme Genes, Carolyn. Good to have you.

Carolyn: Thank you Scott. It’s good to be here.

Fisher: Boy, this is always good news you know, for the last five years since we’ve done Extreme Genes, we’ve always heard about the big roadblock in the 1870 census as an African American researcher would work backwards because of course that was the first year of the census after the Civil War. And before that, you get into the slave families and things are very, very difficult so very few African Americans can trace much before that. But things are starting to happen.

Carolyn: Yes, that’s right. They’re making more and more records available, more accessible online, and DNA is making a huge advance in being able to identify relatives who may know more about their ancestors than your family might have told you. And so with all of this more and more people are able to trace just a little further back on their lines and they can keep going.

Fisher: Isn’t that exciting? I hope so. From what CeCe was saying, a lot of African American people now are doing DNA and they’re getting lots and lots of matches, which is great because it creates that collaboration that really hasn’t been possible to this point. And then you add to that and the companies I think are getting better and better information about where to match up in Africa with specific countries.

Carolyn: Yes. I know a lot of the DNA testing companies are hoping to expand to Africans whose families have never left the country and that will be really key to helping those who are in the United States and other countries to identify the source population that their ancestors came from. So it’s just a snowballing affect and it’s just going to get better and better.

Fisher: You know it’s interesting you say that, that kind of reminds me of back in the 90s when DNA first started and the testing companies or the testing organizations at that time actually had to go out to certain populations and ask them to test. They were gathering all these samples so they could make the connections to these certain areas and it sounds like it’s kind of a similar situation with Africa right now. It’s not that a lot a lot of Africans are testing, but that the companies themselves are actually requesting that the Africans test and providing them with what they need to do it.

Carolyn: Yes. They’re making it easier and more accessible. Helping them to understand exactly what can be done if they go ahead with it. I think that’s the big hurdle, many people don’t understand how it can possibly help because we can’t test our ancestors DNA. But when you explain to them that no, it’s just testing your DNA and then when you match, finding out what you know about your ancestors that maybe your match doesn’t know about theirs. So, once people understand that they’re more willing get involved and be a part of it.

Fisher: Yeah, absolutely. Now, let’s talk about some of the record sets that are available now that were not available just a few years ago, and one of them of course is the Freedman Bureau Records. Talk about that a little bit Carolyn because they’re pretty exciting.

Carolyn: Yes. That was the government’s effort during brief instructions to help these newly freed people to establish bank accounts and insurance. So, they were required to come in and fill out forms and tell them everything they knew about their families. So we have these written records where there were none before where they’re explaining what they understand and what they remember about their families. So they are amazingly valuable, and you know, maybe after that time they were not, and maybe things changed and maybe they forgot, and so those written records are a wonderful anchor in times right after emancipation that I think, fill a filling link for these families. Especially when they have been scattered, sold to different plantations, even taken across state lines. This is a way to start gathering them back. And maybe if they didn’t know how to write, well, then the person in the office could write for them as they spoke.

Fisher: Sure.

Carolyn: So, incredibly valuable records.

Fisher: Right. And they’ve only been completely digitized here in the last few years. And to me it’s kind of like this, it’s almost as if all of them suddenly had a family Bible record that they created, that’s what they’re similar to me in my mind, would you agree?

Carolyn: I would agree. Absolutely.

Fisher: Could you imagine if everybody had had a record like that from that time, it would be pretty special. But now they’re online, they’re available for everybody, and that can lead to other records like plantation records, and I don’t have any experience at all with that, Carolyn. Have you dealt with those?

Carolyn: Yes, I know that the universities such as the University of Mississippi, the University of Louisiana, they have these collections of plantation records that are more accessible now, and if you can find out where your ancestors were, well, they were working in the plantation they were on where they were from, you can get into these records. There’s a greater likelihood you can find them named in the records. A lot of the county record probate and land, may not have names, they might have just been listed as a male or female and a certain age. That’s certainly how the slave censuses were and that makes it more difficult. But if you can get into the plantation records you can find more details, more of an accounting of where they sold to or where they were bought from, and you can make progress.

Fisher: Yeah, follow that journey.

Carolyn: Yes. There’s hope there were good records kept for your particular plantation.

Fisher: Yeah, all right. Well, let’s talk about one of the cases that you’ve dealt with recently in African American research. I know you’ve had some good fortune, and it’s always great to hear those people breaking through that barrier that comes with the 1870 census.

Carolyn: Yes. We were able to trace our client’s ancestors back to the 1870 census. He had a very unique name, Simon Cooper, and there was a white family nearby with the same surname. And we then went into the land and property records of that family, and found that unique name Simon and his mother Rebecca, and with that name we were able to find other of her children. They may not have come from the same father but they were connected to her, and we were able to trace her back to about 1840.

Fisher: Wow! Now how did you do that?

Carolyn: We went back in the land records and found mention of her name, we would recognize her age and at that time she was younger and we were just really fortunate that her and her children and her family were mentioned in the records. It was a case where we were lucky that those details were mentioned. That’s not always the case, but you have to be able to check and do a thorough search in case they were.

Fisher: Yeah. Well, when you think about all the things that are kind of coming together it’s almost like a congealing effect here, right? Because you’ve got all the DNA that is being gathered now amongst the African American community and people making those connections, and like you say, maybe somebody knows something that you don’t, or a piece of information went down one branch that didn’t go down another. Now you’ve got the plantation records. Are they being digitized by the way? We didn’t talk about that.

Carolyn: I believe they are. I don’t know specifically but I think that’s the direction that most archives are moving in. So, the better funded they are, the more likely it is. Sometimes a small historical society doesn’t have the funding or the manpower to do it, but these universities probably do have the technology and I can see that happening as time goes on.

Fisher: Now, is it general to expect that plantation records are being held in universities now, or are they actually still in the hands of some of the people who inherited them basically from their families from 150 years ago?

Carolyn: Well, that’s certainly possible. So, after checking the university, you would want to check with the local historical society. They tend to have more specific knowledge of the families that have been there, or the families that were historically there, and they may be able to point you in the right direction. You also have just the wonderful power of the internet, social networking, being able to network with other descendents, other cousins who might know those things, who might know who has those records.

Fisher: Yeah, there are a lot of people who are expert on that online that you can find in that way. That’s a great suggestion. The Freedman Bureau Records of course were digitized completely and actually presented to the public for use of what, about a year or two ago now at this point?

Carolyn: Yeah, very recently. And with the help of so many people, so many indexes, probably a lot of African African people were very motivated to help with indexing that collection. It’s a wonderful gift to the community. We’ve made a lot of progress thanks to all of their work.

Fisher: Well, it is Black History month and I think this gives you an idea of how you can make February Black Family History month as well, using DNA, using the Freedman Bureau Records, using the plantation records, and of course all the standard sets, such as the census records going back to 1870. You know what I love about this Carolyn is that you’re hearing more and more success all the time. It just breaks everybody’s heart to hear that you can’t get back any further than typically, maybe a second great grandparent? It’s very difficult isn’t it?

Carolyn: It is, it is very difficult. But what is available, what has survived is becoming more available, and digitized, and out there. So, we’re very grateful for that.

Fisher: And I’m looking forward to next year and hearing what we’ve got going at that time because it seems like there’s always something new that’s coming along that’s just making it better and better, and we’ve had some great interviews on this show with African American researchers who have had some tremendous success that they never expected, having huge family reunions, and writing books, it’s just a great thing to hear. Carolyn thanks so much for coming on and we look forward to chatting with you again.

Carolyn: Thank you so much Scott. I look forward to it too.

Fisher: And coming up next, Loren Rhoads an author who wants you to visit 199 cemeteries before you die, coming up in five minutes on Extreme Genes.     

Segment 3 Episode 226

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Loren Rhoads

Fisher: And we are back, it is America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth and this segment is brought to you by FamilySearch.org. My next guest is in San Francisco. She’s written a whole bunch of books over the years and her eleventh book kind of strikes me as something we genies need to hear about. It’s called “199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die” because really you can’t see them too well after you die. Loren Rhoads welcome to Extreme Genes!

Loren: Thank you for having me.

Fisher: This is a real treat. How many of these 199 cemeteries have you seen?

Loren: About a third of them.

Fisher: And why is it that you’re able to write about them when you haven’t even seen them yet?

Loren: Well there’s so many resources online these days. So many people travelling and blogging about it that I got to discover all kinds of really interesting things that I didn’t know about and Pinterest is huge. There are so many cemetery people on Pinterest pinning these gorgeous photos. So that was a rabbit hole I went down. [Laughs]

Fisher: Well I think it’s really true. I mean cemeteries are some of the most beautiful places you could go to in the world, right? Compare them say, to certain parks you might go to. I mean, they are just such peaceful places if they’re well maintained and if they’re in certain locations, even urban cemeteries can be absolutely amazing.

Loren: Exactly. You know that cemeteries are the reason we have urban parks now, right? The park’s movement grew out of Mount Auburn Cemetery in Boston.

Fisher: Is that right? I did not know that.

Loren: Yeah. There was a while that the Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn was the biggest tourist attraction in the US, bigger than Niagara Falls. More people went to Greenwood Cemetery. It’s so beautiful.

Fisher: I’ve been there. [Laughs] It is. Actually all of the Brooklyn cemeteries are amazing places. Evergreens is an excellent place to go. And what’s so amazing about it is, here you are really in a borough of New York City and you’ve got these beautiful trees and it’s very quiet. And you can look between the monuments there and see the RCA building in Manhattan right behind it. [Laughs] I mean, I’ve got some amazing pictures from some of these places and that’s what makes it so fascinating. What got you started in all this?

Loren: I fell in love with the sculpture. That was kind of my entry to it. I ended up by accident in London and picked up a book in one of the train stations of these cemetery photos which led me to High Gate. Which was a very well maintained Victorian cemetery, Charles Dickens’ family is buried there. So you know, it was kind of a key cemetery that fell into disrepair after the Second World War, very badly vandalized. So a group of friends of the cemetery took it over and it’s open now for tours. It started to be used again for as a cemetery and they’re doing repair work but part of the cemetery they’ve left is kind of a managed woodlands so it’s full of foxes and squirrels, and rabbits, and all kinds of things, and these beautiful Victorian graves crumbling in what’s basically a jungle.

Fisher: Isn’t that amazing?

Loren: It’s gorgeous.

Fisher: Yeah, and what’s fun too sometimes is to run across some of the famous people that are buried in some of these larger ones. And I’ve seen some that looked like kind of Greek architecture, [laughs] and you wonder, wow, who has that? What did they do, you know?

Loren: Yeah. Well, you know my dad was in the Cleveland clinic a couple of years ago and in a gift shop they had a guide to the cemetery in Cleveland, so I went down there one day to poke around and James Garfield is buried in a spectacular tomb. Beyond knowing that he was a president I didn’t know much about him but he was assassinated in office.

Fisher: Yes, in 1881.

Loren: Yeah.

Fisher: It’s interesting because I was actually able to pick up a little dish and it says in memory, our nation mourns and it’s got his image on it from 1881 and I just have it in my office. I have no idea why I was attracted to it but it wasn’t that expensive.

Loren: [Laughs]

Fisher: But I think that the nation at that time made a lot of things in memorial to the president as a result of that. I think any assassinated president, it’s that kind of situation and that’s probably why he has a grave like that at that cemetery.

Loren: It’s amazing and it’s up on top of a hill with a view of the lake and one of the Rockefellers is buried nearby with a giant obelisk. It’s really a spectacular place and it was exactly what I needed that day. I had been worried about my dad but to go for an hour and kick through the autumn leaves and just absorb some peace was exactly what I needed. I could come back and take care of my dad after that.

Fisher: So tell me how you chose the 199 cemeteries we need to see before we die.

Loren: [Laughs] Well, I’d started with things I’d been to that I feel really strongly that people should see and then extrapolated from that. I got on Facebook and asked people, “What’s your favorite cemetery?” and tried to fill in some of my gaps, and then I went to Pinterest and looked on there. It’s one of those projects that the more I talked to people about it the more people that I wouldn’t have expected had suggestions. So I wanted it to be as global as possible which means that I needed to include places that I hadn’t been like the Holy Land that I’d like to go to but haven’t had an opportunity yet. I’ve been lucky enough to go to Singapore and Japan and do cemeteries there but there’s still many more places to go.

Fisher: Did you see big differences from country to country in how their cemeteries are laid out or just the feel that they have?

Loren: Yeah, yeah that’s a good question. In Japan land is so precious that their cemeteries tend to be very small but families are buried there for generation after generation because they’re cremated. So there’ll be a family monument with a reservoir underneath it where they’ll place the urn. So they’ll have big bamboo blades, I can’t remember what they’re called in Japanese. But after death, the name is written there in Buddhist tradition and as long as that blade stands that spirit is lingering and after that it eventually will fall to pieces, and then they burn what’s left of the wood. The spirit is released to be reincarnated, which I thought was fascinating. I had never seen anything like that in the US.

Fisher: Wow! No. That’s incredible. I’m looking at this and I’m thinking, why 199? Why not a nice round number? You fell short. Is it just deadlines or how did that work, Loren? [Laughs]

Loren: [Laughs] No, no. People have been teasing me that the 200th one is where you stop.

Fisher: Ah! I see, okay.

Loren: But I can tell you that I’ve been to far more than 200 cemeteries.

Fisher: I’m sure.

Loren: So either I’m immortal or, you know.

Fisher: [Laughs] Well, she’s Loren Rhoads. She’s the author of the book “199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die” and you can get it on Amazon, you can get it Barnes & Noble. It was the October pick from Barnes & Noble, how cool is that!

Loren: Yeah, that was really excellent. I’m so excited that so many people can see this and start to discover cemeteries in their area, add a little peace when they travel.

Fisher: Don’t you think that most every area has one or two maybe or even more, special cemeteries in their areas? And what would you say to people about kind of discovering what those things are about?

Loren: You know, people drive past the cemeteries all the time and they never think to stop in. People feel strange about it or like they’re intruding but they’re public places for the most part. You’re welcome to come if you behave yourself and you’ll just be amazed at what you discover. You know, the gardening can be really lovely. I like to listen to the birds, smell the flowers, you know walk around. For me it’s sculpture but I’ve learned so much just about local places you know, where you find the names of the streets on the headstones.

Fisher: Um hmm.

Loren: It gives you a sense that these were real people at one point that was kind of forgotten.

Fisher: Yeah, that’s right. It’s just what’s left there and typically the ones that I like most are on hillsides. They’re either up on a hillside behind a church or on a hillside overlooking a beautiful valley or a city. You would think that would be more valuable property that they wouldn’t turn into a cemetery. But often they put the cemetery there because it was so out of the way when a city was being organized, right?

Loren: Right. There was one right downtown in Detroit. You know it was practically, you could stand there and see Renaissance Center. So this must have been prime real estate in the ‘20s when the auto industry was booming. One of the Revolutionary war battles was fought in this cemetery.

Fisher: Well, this sounds like a great book and I’m excited to check it out, Loren. Loren Rhoads is the author, R-H-O-A-D-S. She lives in San Francisco. She’s the author of “199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die” and I look forward to seeing what you’re highlighting there, Loren. Thanks so much for coming on!

Loren: Thank you so much!

Fisher: And coming up next, we talk preservation with Tom Perry from TMCPlace, in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 4 Episode 226

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: It is preservation time at Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth. Tom Perry is onboard. He is from TMCPlace.com, our Preservation Authority. Hi Tom, how are you?

Tom: Really excited to be here today and excited for RootsTech coming up, because we are going to be making a major announcement of our first international facility where we're going to do audio, video, film transfers and duplications.

Fisher: Wow, how fun is that! [Laughs] That's awesome!

Tom: It’s going to be great. It’s great for my Delta Frequent Flyer miles.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Tom: It’s going to be awesome! [Laughs]

Fisher: All right, we've got a lot of emails and appreciate all the questions, really great questions. This is from Nikki Walthouse, and she said, "I have a cassette tape made in the late '60s, early '70s of my great grandmother and her sister speaking about their lives. And the quality is so-so. And at one point, they say something like, "I remember being at a dedication event in 1893," and then the tape sounds like it’s warped after that. And you can hear sounds and no more voices. Is there anything that could restore that portion of the tape? Because it was the best part! Thanks, Nikki.

Tom: Looks like Nikki's one of those Murphy's Law people that have the best parts turn out bad.

Fisher: Yeah.

Tom: What we have to do first no matter what, we have to digitize everything. And once it gets digitized, we use a program called "Pro Tools." We can do it for you or show you how to do it. And we can go in and pull out different sounds and we can find out if, yes, somebody's taking and it’s garbled. And we can change speeds, change amplitudes, do all kinds of fun things to try and pull it out or find out if it’s just blank and Aunt Martha threw her hat on top of the microphone or something.

Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs]

Tom: There's all different things that can happen. But that's the thing, we need to digitize it first, which we'll do. And then we can figure out, okay, where can we go from here? Or, this is how you can do it yourself.

Fisher: So it’s not always hopeless when you run into a situation like this, and it’s good to ask.

Tom: Oh absolutely. We have people that have taken audio tapes and videotapes, especially to the Big Box retailers. And they go, "Oh, your tape's no good." and then they find out somebody that has been to one of our facilities or another place that does pro services and they pop it in and it works, because they have better equipment than these Big Box stores. So never ever give up hope! It’s always worth checking into.

Fisher: All right, here's another one. This is from Dawn, and she said, "I've taken home movies from super8 to VCR to DVD. I did the VCR to DVD transfer myself and I know I got the cheapest DVDs at Staples that I could get. My question is, how do I know it is archival quality? Can I get that quality at my Staples store or should I get them somewhere else?"

Tom: Very easy to answer. No, they are not archival quality.

Fisher: Right. [Laughs]

Tom: They're not. That's just the easiest way. A lot of people put stickers on them that say they are. If they say they are, they still may not be. If they don't say they are, I can guarantee they're not. You always want to use what we call a Taiyo Yuden disk, which you can purchase from us, you can buy them online. Just make sure if you buy them online, you go to somebody that you know has like five stars on their account, you know they've been around for awhile, because there're a lot of people out there that package disks and say they're Taiyo Yuden, they're really not. So you want to make sure you get them from somebody that you know for sure has five stars, people have said they're really, really good, because they don't have the serial numbers on them anymore, so you can't be sure. So buy them from somebody that has five stars at least or call us and we're happy to ship them anywhere in the world.

Fisher: Wow! And you do have great disks and they never fail! And so, if she's got this disk now, it’s not necessarily gone because it’s not archival, but she should still be able to transfer it directly from that disk, wouldn't you think?

Tom: Oh absolutely. In fact, she doesn’t' even have to actually transfer. She can do what's called a duplication. Either come to us or somebody in your area that you know is a true duplicator. They don't use computers to go from disk to disk. They actually use a tower that is made for duplicating, because what it does is, it rewrites the zeros and the ones exactly as they are, so there's no architecture that's coming from a PC or a Mac that can inhibit some of the transfers. So what you want to do is, take all these disks, get Taiyo Yuden disks, go to your neighborhood duplicator and have them just duplicate it onto the Taiyo Yuden disks and then you've got those as backups. And then when the other ones fail, you can pull out your Taiyo Yudens. But always I tell people anyway, you want to go ahead and listen to or play your Taiyo Yuden disks just to make sure that the duplication was done properly before you put them away and assume everything's all right.

Fisher: All right, great answer, great questions. We've got more preservation questions coming up next when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 226

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: All right, we're back! It’s our final segment of Extreme Genes for this week, America's Family History Show. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth with Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com. And this segment is brought to you by LegacyTree.com. Boy I can't believe how we've been swamped with all these questions here! And if you want to ask Tom a question by the way about preservation, you can do so at [email protected] or you can actually tweet him a questions @AskTomP.

Tom: Exactly. And in fact, it’s funny, I just got a tweet while we were at the break from somebody asking a question.

Fisher: All right, this is from Paul McGill, and he says, "Tom, I've recently discovered two rolls of what appears to be shot 8mm film used in a brownie movie camera." And he said, "I have no idea what it is or the complete condition of the reel. The film is still on the reels and has not been messed with. My question is basically two fold, checking the film for restorability is separate from transfer to DVD, correct? And two, if the film as a whole is not salvageable, can still shots be made from good segments of the film?"

Tom: That's a really good question, because we've had a lot of people that have come in from after Hurricane Katrina after the mudslides in California, all these different things have damaged the film, some of it irreplaceable. So what we've had to do is, go through and there's maybe one foot, two foot, maybe even three feet of film that does have some kind of an image on it. And so, we can digitize those and it’s not really worth making a movie out of, because it just doesn't follow a pattern. Since we're scanning it, we can do jpegs of it, just like we did for you, so at least you can make prints from those sections of that film. So I would definitely recommend doing that. And make sure that your film has actually been developed, because a lot of times, people say, "Oh, I've got these twenty five foot rolls." Well, if you've got twenty five foot rolls, I guarantee they haven’t been developed, because they called them a double roll. You ran them through your camera, brownie or whatever kind you had, flipped them over and ran them again. Then when you send them in for developing, they develop it and split it into two, twenty five foot rolls, combine it together on one, fifty foot roll, which are usually those little three inches. And so, once you have those, then we can go and transfer it. If you've had this done before on VHS, you need to just sit that VHS aside and get it to us or somebody else that does true digitization, because you will not believe the deference. I mean, it is incredible!

Fisher: Yes. Well you did it for me once and just a year or two later, there were new processes out, you did it again and it was night and day.

Tom: Oh, absolutely. See, and a lot of people tell us when they call or stop in or send us emails, they go, "Hey, this film is so low, there's no reason to do it in high definition." Hey, wait just a minute, anytime you're talking about optical, like film, negatives, slides, anything that's optical, it can be enhanced by whatever kind of a product you're scanning it or shooting it with, whereas magnetic, which is like VHS tapes and audiotapes are pretty much what they are. But film can always be enhanced. I don't care how bad it is, how old it is, it’s absolutely incredible what we can do with digitization on film. Anything that's optical.

Fisher: All right, that's a great question, Paul, and I hope that helps you out. And by the way, he asked also checking the film for restorability, is that separate from transfer to DVD?

Tom: Well, absolutely, but not, because it depends what needs to be done. If we're just scanning it for the photos, there's really not a whole lot you do right there, depending on how the film is, but then you get a program like DaVinci, which you can get for free. And you can do all kinds of color correction or we can do the color correction. That's another thing that's not hard to do with Photoshop and other programs. As long as you have the time to do it, you can do it yourself and save a lot of money, but we're happy to help you in any way we can.

Fisher: All right, great stuff, Tom. Thanks so much. Thank you, Paul for the question. And if you have a question for Tom, once again you can email him at [email protected] or tweet him @AskTomP. See you next week, bud.

Tom: My pleasure.

Fisher: Hey, that's our show for this week. Hope you got a lot out of it. I sure did. And we're looking forward to seeing you soon, coming up in Salt Lake City, Utah at the Salt Palace Convention center for the RootsTech convention this year, February 28th and March 1st, 2nd and 3rd. In fact, Tom and I are going to be demonstrating the recording of an Edison wax cylinder. That'll be on Friday the 2nd, a lot of fun. Hope you'll be part of that. Don't forget to sign up for our free Weekly Genie newsletter! You can find the link to do that at ExtremeGenes.com. And also signup for our Patrons Club, you can support the show and get all kinds of great bonuses. Hey, talk 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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