Episode 228 - “Fairy Hole” Family Legend Spreads Through Generations / Ron Fox On Odd Places To Find Family Photos

podcast episode Mar 11, 2018

Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org.  David opens “Family Histoire News” with the story of a woman who discovered a relative’s business card from over a century ago and the adventure it has led her on. Then, the guys talk about the recent discovery of a lock of George Washington’s hair. Hear how it was found, and why it is believed to be authentic. Next, a baby has defied 48 million to 1 odds! Hear why this child’s birth has created such a family history stir. David then chats about how researchers recently found the remains of a pirate on a ship wreck in Massachusetts, and how they’re hoping DNA will reveal his identity. Finally, property in Arizona is on the market for $3 million. But, it contains a 19th century gold mine that may contain $60 million worth of the precious metal. Interested?

In the next segment, Fisher visits with Kathleen Kaldis and her distant cousin David Stone. Both descend from Donald Campbell, a man who was born in the 18th century in Scotland, who became a noted fiddler in Nova Scotia. The story surrounding him through the generations is that he fell down a “fairy hole” and the fairies “blessed his bow.” Hear the details and the song musician David has written and performed about their ancestor and his mystical adventure.

Then, photo guru Ron Fox shares his thoughts on out-of-the-way places you might find photos of your ancestors and relatives. They’re not always where you think they are!

Then, Tom Perry again taps into his vast knowledge of all things preservation. Tom warns us about bad advice being given to people who’s materials are damaged in floods and mudslides.

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

Transcript of Episode 228

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 228

Fisher: You have found us, America’s Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. I am your host Fisher. Nice to have you along on the program where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out. And this segment of the show today brought to you by 23AndMe.com/DNA. Boy, do we have some guests for you today. First of all, we’re going to talk to a lady who discovered that her fourth great grandfather fell down a fairy hole and became a great musician as a result! Yeah, kind of strange, isn’t it? And because of this legend in her family, she met another distant cousin, we’re going to have him on as well, who actually created a song around this story. So, it’s going to be a real fun segment with Kathleen Kaldis and David Stone coming up in 9 or 10 minutes, so stay close for that. Then later in the show my good friend the photo expert, Ron Fox is going to be back, talking about some unusual places you might find some ancestral photos. So, we are loaded up today and glad to have you along. And don’t forget to sign up for our “Weekly Genie” Newsletter if you have not gotten to it yet. It’s absolutely free. Just sign up at ExtremeGenes.com. We give you a column each week, a couple of links to some great shows and there are some great stories that as a genealogist you would find to be a lot of fun. We have thousands of people on there now and we’d love to have you on as well. Plus, sign up for our Patron Club where you can help support the show and get all kinds of bonus podcast and early access to shows and all kinds of great benefits. Sign up at Patreon.com/ExtremeGenes or through a link at ExtremeGenes.com. Now, off to Boston for David Allen Lambert the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. He’s the guy that brings us our Family Histoire News. What do you have for us today David?

David: Well, I’m going to start off with a story from good old jolly England in regards to a lady named Janice Sharp who found an old business card for her great aunt who was actually a suffragette. Because of this she decided to do some genealogy and dig into the woman’s story.

Fisher: And you know what I love about this story David is the picture of the card, I mean it is just tattered and worn, but it says on her business card “suffragette.” [Laughs]

David: Hmm.

Fisher: There’s not just a belief it was her occupation as far as she was concerned.

David: Yes, founder and organizer of Suffragette Crusaders. This lady was arrested a couple of times and actually her own husband was involved in the movement. And it’s amazing to think that it’s less than 100 years ago that our own female ancestors in the United States didn’t have the right to vote.

Fisher: Incredible. That’s right and it all kind of broke through on both sides of the pond about the same time.

David: Um hmm. You know, my wife will complain occasionally about the hair in the sink. You know, I’m not exactly keeping all of it on my scalp these days.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: Maybe I should put it in a book. Well, somebody did do that and George Washington’s hair was found recently in a college in Schenectady, New York. The Union College librarian ran with glee after they opened up the Gaines Universal Register of American and British Calendar for the year 1793. No, it wasn’t an optional bookmark. The book itself was owned by the grandson of Washington’s first secretary, Alexander Hamilton.

Fisher: Wow! Isn’t that cool? And I actually had somebody ask me this, “Well, how do they know? How can they prove it was Washington’s hair?” Number one, it looks like other samples of his hair and secondly, it was in the line of Alexander Hamilton so, I would think they would know what they had there.

David: Do you know what the sad thing about it is because there’s no ball at the end of the hair you can’t get DNA from it?

Fisher: That’s right. That’s right. You can’t just get it from hair. You have to have the root as well which means you’ve got to give it a good tug. And if they’re actually pulling it out of a living person, that might be the wrong way to go.

David: Yeah, that might be true. Well, my descendants make me pull my hair out all the time. I’ll be sure to keep it from now on.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: Well, speaking of descendants, I want to say congratulations to Lou Aidan Moreno   who was born recently with the same birthday as his mother and his grandmother. The chances of that they say are one in 48 million.

Fisher: Isn’t that incredible? I think that’s the most incredible aspect of it. It’s his maternal grandmother and I guess she felt a little put out that her own daughter was born on her birthday. It took some of the fire away from grandma’s birthday at the time, and now this little guy comes along and steals a little glamour from both of them or brings a lot more attention to them. But those odds, I mean, 48 million to one, I mean we played lotteries for a lot worse odds than that, right?

David: Exactly. And you know what, doing my own autosomal and looking at my own genealogy, I don’t even recall any ancestor in my tree that has a birth date of mine in June.

Fisher: Yeah, yeah, interesting.

David: So mother to grandmother, it’s amazing.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: Well, my next story kind of has a “creepy” pirate theme to it. “Dead men may tell tales in Massachusetts.”  The pirate ship Whydah was found by Barry Clifford over 20 years ago now and they’re still recovering artifacts and it’s not just cannons and gold coins. They found this clumped pile with artifacts from sand and everything mixed in but also with human bones.

Fisher: Ooh!

David: We don’t know if it’s Bellamy the captain of the Whydah, but it could be one of the crew. Some of them actually made it to shore, or was washed up to shore and then buried. This could prove to have DNA. And maybe if you have an ancestor you suspect was a pirate from Massachusetts, you should be calling the museum in West Yarmouth now.

Fisher: Wouldn’t that be interesting to match up and find that you actually have DNA ties to a pirate on that ship? That’s incredible. I hope that works out for somebody.

David: I wish it was my ancestor.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: You have a good batch of ancestors! I have boring farmers, but that’s okay, they’re still cool.

Fisher: I have a pirate ancestor, but it’s not this one because he wasn’t on that ship.

David: Ah shucks, I’m sorry. One thing that I do find in gold is the bloggers that are out there because they give you all kinds of things to read. For a genealogist, I’m always looking for new and exciting things to talk about. Amy Johnson Crow is no exception and on her blog Amyjohnsoncrow.com, she has a current blog that talks about the five things you need to know about DNA testing for genealogy which is a good common question. And also she talks about where to look for church records to your ancestors.

Fisher: Nice.

David: So, it’s great stuff, Amyjohnsoncrow.com and they could check that out. Well, that’s about all I have for this week in Beantown. Don’t forget if you want to become a member of NEHGS, our website AmericanAncestors.org, will bring you right to the portal and from there you can go online and you can save $20 if you use the check out code “Extreme” for Extreme Genes. 

Fisher: All right, thank you so much David. Good to talk to you again. We’ll see you next week. And coming up next, we’re going to talk to a lady who discovered her ancestor fell down a fairy hole and became a great musician! We’ll tell you a story about how this has kind of changed her life as a result, coming up in 3 minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 228

Host: Scott Fisher with guests Kathleen Kaldis and David Stone

Fisher: You know, it’s always about the stories to me that make our ancestors come alive. Hi it’s Fisher, and its Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com and this segment is brought to you by FamilySearch.org. And I’m really pleased to have on the line with me right now from NEHGS one of the genealogists there Kathleen Kaldis who recently wrote what they call the Vita Brevis, it’s just basically a blog, and she wrote about one of her ancestors from up in, what’s it, Nova Scotia, Kathleen?

Kathleen: Yes, up in Cape Breton from Lynches River, which is near St. Peters.

Fisher: And the story was just fantastic. I just figured I’ve got to get this person on the phone and talk about this because [laughs] it’s not only in your branch of the family, it’s pretty much everywhere. Tell us what you found.

Kathleen: Well, when my family first told stories about this ancestor who was in this magical land of Cape Breton. And he fell down a hole when he was a young child and was given the gift of music by the fairies.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Kathleen: And my great grandfather and my great grand uncle had actually told the stories to the generation above me, and when I was probably in my older childhood/early teenager years I actually heard the story and was always fascinated by it but never went onto the details. My family left Cape Breton in the early 1800s. So, over the generations the story kind of became more of a skeleton than anything really colorful and full. And many years ago, I actually hooked up with another genealogist up there and I started doing research with the books and history books and I found out that it wasn’t just a story from like my family it was a legend up there.

Fisher: Really?

Kathleen: So, the more I learned about it the more fascinated I became.

Fisher: How do you research fairy holes, Kathleen? That’s the thing.

Kathleen: [Laughs] Well, it started coming up and I didn’t even think anything of it when I saw it in some notes from my great grand uncle. And it wasn’t until I started Googling the name Donald Campbell and the fairy stories started to come about from many resources. And the more I learned about it, the more I had to find out more. And then I started to hook in the key word “fairy” and it just... [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs]

Kathleen: That’s when I realized the whole scale of this story.

Fisher: Is there art related to this? Do they have photos of him up there? You know, pictures that people have created from this fiddler? What era are we talking about?

Kathleen: It was probably the late 1700s.

Fisher: Okay.

Kathleen: And what happened though is, the stories are always told that it happened in Cape Breton but he wasn’t on Cape Breton at the time, or that he was a young child.

Fisher: [Laughs] Well, that’s the nature of stories, right?

Kathleen: Yeah. It just became a tall tale. And the thing about tall tales is you remember them.

Fisher: That’s right.

Kathleen: And the larger they are the more that they’re remembered. And for my family leaving in the late 1800s to actually carry even a portion of that story to the late 20th century is reflective of sort of the tall tales become legendary in a family and that’s what’s remembered. So when I was writing this blog, I started to remember that that’s probably how it was, you know, before people were writing reports in their word processor and writing down genealogy. You had to remember the stories.

Fisher: Well you know, Judy Russell once said that people who don’t pass their stories along, those stories are lost within three generations usually.

Kathleen: Right.

Fisher: And look at you though, because of the power of this one it continues on and now as you look back into it you found, “Oh it just doesn’t live in your branch of the family, it’s all over the place!”

Kathleen: And the musicians still continue to this day up in Cape Breton to supposedly the legends, and David Stone can explain more of the legend, but the legend somehow included that the fairies gave the gift of music to a few generations, from multiple generations. And it has actually lasted till today. One of Donald Campbell’s direct ancestors through one of the other sisters, I’m also through one of his daughters, and this cousin up in Cape Breton is also from another sister. I met him for the first time in the fall and he is a talented musician as well up there and he’s a direct descendent of Donald Campbell. And he’s kept the fiddling, and that music and storytelling throughout. David Stone is a cousin of a cousin so we actually share the same cousins.

Fisher: Right. [Laughs]  Okay.

Kathleen: So, it’s interesting because they’re all musicians up there.

Fisher: Isn’t that crazy. And it goes back to this one guy Donald Campbell. Now, he’s your what fourth great?

Kathleen: Fourth great grandfather and I’m of his daughter Anne.

Fisher: Okay. And then this guy David you met, he comes through who?

Kathleen: He’s actually through the Stone family which lived right next door. So, his ancestors, he has cousins that are mutual relatives and the collateral relatives of one of the other daughters of Donald Campbell.

Fisher: Well, that’s what happens in small communities, right? Everybody is related in multiple ways and that’s exciting. I want to talk to David. I know we’ve got him on the line. Let’s bring David in and find out his version of this, and what his heard, and how it’s kind of captivated his life in music. So David, how long has fairy-hole story been in your clan?

David: Oh well, it’s been in one branch of my clan for 160 years.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: The Stone line down in Cape Breton where I’m from had thirteen branches and I come from the last branch and these guys came from the first branch.

Fisher: Okay.

David: It’s been around.

Fisher: It’s been around. And so, you grew up as a musician and you obviously have latched on to the stories from your ancestry and turned them into songs, which I think is unbelievable, and this is a good one for a song.

David: It is. And as I said to Kathleen earlier, songs tend to write themselves and when you hear a story that’s been around and that a lot of people know about, and it’s been published in books, and talked about by people all over Cape Breton for over 100 years, it’s pretty easy.

Fisher: And the song I would imagine relates not just to members of your own family because it is part of the culture of your area, right?

David: Yeah. These people, I mean they grew up with strong beliefs and faith and superstition. I mean, I was born in 1960 and my mother’s parents were born in the turn of the century so we were told every horrible scary story you could believe sitting in their front room and then sent out the door and walk home in the dark. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: You know it’s part of the culture there.

Fisher: So, how long have you been writing these genealogical folk songs?

David: The historical genealogical ones in the last probably ten to fifteen years. I started writing sea songs and pirate songs and that sort of stuff when I was living in Toronto trying to connect with my maritime past. But once I got back here in Nova Scotia in the ‘90s, my focus started drifting more towards history and I’ve worked in the museum here telling stories and playing music there for a number of years in the early 2000s. So, around then, once I started being able to do this as part of my living day and night, it became easy to just listen to the people talk and listen, like one of my friends like to say, they said, “Oh, I can see the wheels turning now. You’re about to say oh there’s a song in that.”

Fisher: [Laughs] Yeah.

David: You know, and then I tend to hear a verse of a chorus in just about everything that has to do with this part of the world here.

Fisher: All right. Well, let’s listen to your song about Donald Campbell’s Fairies, just a little taste of it. 

[[David’s song plays]]

“Donald be a fiddler fine, his talent known from far and wide. From Christmas Island across the lake to big ponds on the pine, that his bow was blessed by fairies, by the little folk they said one time, said three generations fine of Campbell Fenlands peak. His father John, a soldier brave, from Scotland journeyed o’er the waves, boldly fought the rebels off with General McClain. As a boy on Argyle soil, said a fairy paid a call and she handed him her blessed bow and a fiddler grand was he.”

Fisher: That is absolutely brilliant. I don’t think I’ve ever actually heard anybody write a song around their own genealogy quite like that before. That is a beautiful thing. How many songs you say you’ve written based on family lore?

David: Oh, there’s a couple hundred. Not just family, the whole area. I sort of latched on to doing genealogy. I’ve got an uncle in Ottawa who got me turned on to this in the 1980s. He’d been researching our Stone family since the 1950s and he would send me stories and say, “Oh maybe you can write a song about that.” “Oh maybe you can write a song about that.” And indirectly he got me actually hooked on genealogy and researching land petitions, the early land petitions that people filled out that told their life story in some case.

Fisher: Right.

David: Where they came from, how they got there, you know? And then you start reading these things and Donald Campbell, the guy in the story, his father John has about a two page land petition from 1821 that talked about fighting in the American Revolution and going back to Scotland, marrying his sweetheart in Scotland, and coming to Nova Scotia in the early 1800s. And then the folk lore kicks in after you get past there.

Fisher: Well, and I think the ability to absorb the full impact of your heritage through music, through art, through storytelling, is really the way to go. I think those who are just working on a tree, it’s a great start but that’s really pretty limited, isn’t it?

David: It is. Thankfully the onset of the World Wide Web and FamilySearch.org and then Ancestry, I mean half the time you don’t even have to leave your desk. You can just sit here and search and search online, and fortunately I lived fairly close to the public archives here in Halifax so it’s not that big a stretch to go down there, and what you think is going to take your an hour ends up being like eight.

Fisher: [Laughs] It’s always that way David.

David: You shut the microfilm off and they’re announcing that it’s time to close.

Fisher: Right, which is just when you find the thing you’ve been looking for all day long, right?

David: Yeah. And then you say well, I got to go back tomorrow.

Fisher: Yeah exactly. Well, you sir are a family historian. Way beyond just a researcher and I’m very impressed with the music and the tales you tell and how you’re passing them along. David Stone in Halifax Nova Scotia, thank you so much for your time, and look forward to hearing more of your music.

David: You’re very welcome.

Fisher: Boy, you’ve got to appreciate that, somebody taking their family history and turning it into classic music, good stuff. Coming up next, I’m going to talk to my photo buddy Ron Fox and we’re going to get into some unusual places you might not have thought of for finding some of your ancestral photographs. But it’s going to require a little digging, stay close we’ll get to it in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.     

Segment 3 Episode 228

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Ron Fox

Fisher: All right back at it, 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 LegacyTree.com. You know, we’re really lucky on Extreme Genes to have great photo experts and perhaps one of the great photo finders in America is my friend for over 20 years, Ron Fox. And Ron, welcome back. Good to have you on, your first time in 2018 on Extreme Genes.

Ron: Yes, it’s always great to be here and to be able to discuss finding photos and their connections to families.

Fisher: Yes, absolutely. You and I have been talking a little lately about some out of the box ways of thinking about locating photographs because really those are the greatest treasures that you can get a hold of, in my mind. In fact, I was going through some pictures with my granddaughter Hailey not long ago, she’s five years old and she’s already into it. Loves the pirate stories, loves to hear about the volunteer fireman, and we were looking in the ancestral coin book and at one of the coins that was connected with an ancestor and she said, “Well, where’s that person’s picture? We don’t have the picture.” She was upset that we didn’t have a picture of the pirate from 1695. [Laughs] I had to explain to her, no there are no photographs of pirates from those times. So she’s just trying to figure that out. So, we all want to see what our people looked like and sometimes those photos just don’t make it down our branch of the family, sometimes they weren’t taken at all. Sometimes it was too early, but there are ways to find some things when you just think there’s no place left to look. So, where would you start, Ron?

Ron: Well, you know many people went to high school and most people I should say, and then college, and even a high school newspaper. I’m a student of the high school of the mid ‘60s and ’70 and we had a well photographed and oriented newspaper in our little high school, it went back into the ‘50s. And if you look at colleges, they have college newspapers and some of their photographs in those go back to the 1910 period.

Fisher: Wow! You’re right. I was aware of the college ones. We had one in my school. And by the way, mine have been digitized for my college. And I actually found an article about me online from my college newspaper. I would not have thought about high school newspapers but you’re right, everybody has them. But most of those have not been digitized. So, in my mind that kind of means you’ll have to go pay your alma mater a little visit and see what they have in that storage room.

Ron: It’s a storage room but usually it’s the school library that has them or the principal’s office at the vault being kept along with all of the diploma records and grade records. But I’m telling you there are shots of family members that may be gone or were camera shy, or never really had a lot of photos being taken at home. You can find them in those high school newspapers and especially if they were participating in sports, sports of course was the most covered, or the cheerleaders, or the queen and prince of the high school dance.

Fisher: Or the class leaders.

Ron: And the class leaders, and the thespians, and then of course there’s pictures of all the clubs. The future farmers, the future scientist, the future business people, those photos are there. It’s the source where if you’re in a community where your family grew up, it’s very easy to go down to the school or the city library that may have them now if the schools are no longer there. But ten to one they’re still in the schools and the schools also keeps at least one set of annuals.

Fisher: That’s right. Well, a lot of these annual year books are getting online. They are getting digitized. I’m still looking for one for my half brother who passed away when I was 8 years old. And he went to a school in New Jersey, but it’s not out for his year yet. So I’m hoping at some point that will come along and I can see what he was up to when he was school because I just didn’t know him that well. Now, you know one question that comes up a lot and I think for people who are getting older about photographs is, “What do I do with these things?” You know, sometimes they don’t have somebody that will value the pictures, maybe they don’t have descendants, or they have nieces and nephews who just aren’t that interested and they’re fearful they’re going to be thrown away. What would recommend to people in that situation?

Ron: Well, one thing that people are doing now is that they are having them digitized. And when they digitize a 16mm film, or an 8mm film, or a series of photographs, those are all on digital format and the originals are the things that they say, what do we do with this now that we’ve scanned all of these?

Fisher: Right.

Ron: And you know what? There are city libraries. There are universities, specifically universities. And if your film happens to capture something like a major parade, or a visit of a president, or an opening of a bank, or things that were important in the community whether it was the Oaks Club parading, or whatever it might be, those universities many times they love donations and you get a tax deduction for it.

Fisher: Ha!

Ron: But they will also purchase them sometimes.

Fisher: And then hopefully they’ll digitize some of those historic things and share them with everybody. But it also means hopefully other people have done the same and you might be able to find some things in their archives that are getting digitized through various universities that are useful to you in your genealogical research.

Ron: It’s true. It’s a major process. I’m a part of these universities and colleges. I’m aware of many mid to large size universities that will have over a million photos that have not been digitized yet. And some of them not in catalogued yet. So, the likelihood of you being able to find something in a community which your family was either a prominent person or even just a person that was active in the community, there’s a good likelihood that the university may have photographs of that individual but you’re going to have to dig. But everyday more and more are coming online.

Fisher: Now, you had some connections to a university back in West Virginia, right?

Ron: Right.

Fisher: Because you had family from back there. How do you research there? Because I know you don’t go there very often.

Ron: No, I don’t. But they have it online and they’re one of those universities that’s increasing in the number of individuals that, a) in their collection and, b) they’ve been out reaching to smaller county and community libraries and historical societies and working with them. And everybody is sorting putting in their own collection onto the university’s website. So I did find a number of my relatives in the University of West Virginia.

Fisher: Wow. Some of them that you didn’t have pictures of previously?

Ron: Absolutely! And you’re know, you’re going to get rare opportunities where you’re going to find a daguerreotype, or an ambrotype, or a tintype, something that’s really old, 100- 150 years old. And you’re going to get real lucky and you’re going to find an early ancestor.

Fisher: And you know it happens all the time. The thing that’s hardest I think as the so called “expert in genealogy,” is you think you know a lot and then you always find out, oh there’s something you never thought of. There’s something you never considered because we just don’t know what we don’t know. But we can know that there are things out there that we haven’t even thought of and we just need to keep looking.

Ron: That’s right. There are city directories. There are phone directories that will help us locate an individual but once you’ve located them, see what the community has and many times you know, newspapers will have photographs that they will keep, smaller newspapers, for a long time. They may have thrown away the old glass negatives but in many cases they still have a print of that original photograph. How many people submitted photographs for their marriage?

Fisher: Wow!

Ron: They might have a shot of them as an intended bride or you’ll have a shot of mom and dad at the altar or coming out of the church that was placed in the newspaper. And I really think about those families who have had a fire or a flood and have lost all of their family photos.

Fisher: Right.

Ron: This is another source where you might be able to rebuild at least some important photos.

Fisher: So the newspaper archives, are they usually open to the public?

Ron: In some areas, in others you know depending on the size of the newspaper but of course the first thing is you’ve got to do the hunt you know through one of the services and see, a) if the newspapers in that community have already been scanned, or b) contact the newspaper and see what they’ve done as far as their holdings. Many of them have photographs but others don’t. And they’ll have hard copies or micro filmed copies of their newspapers.

Fisher: He’s Ron Fox. He’s my photo buddy, and thank you so much Ron, great advice as always and we look forward to seeing you soon at RootsTech.

Ron: We’re going to be there.

Fisher: Tom Perry talks preservation next on Extreme Genes.

Segment 4 Episode 228

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: And welcome back! It is time to talk preservation on America's Family History Show, Extreme Genes, and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, the Radio Roots Sleuth and this segment is brought to you by MyHeritage.com. Tom Perry's here from TMCPlace.com. Hi Tom, how are you?

Tom: Super!

Fisher: All right. [Laughs] Let's talk a little about this. You know, we've been hearing a lot about the disasters. They're still cleaning up in Puerto Rico. I think there's still a lot of folks in Texas dealing with the aftermath of everything that happened there, Florida as well. And I'm hearing more and more talk about the disaster after the disaster.

Tom: [Laughs]

Fisher: When it comes to preserving things that people had damaged, mostly by water.

Tom: You know, a lot of disaster cleanup places across the country, awesome what they can do for your home, but they really don't have experience with your memories, with your photos, your slides, your film. And so, I don't know where they're getting their information from, but unfortunately, a lot of it is not good. For instance, California had all those fires, and then after everything burned, they had the mudslides on top of those. And so, they're got VHS tapes that are covered with mud. And I have people send us email that listen to the show that say, "Hey, the disaster cleanup guys told me to take all my film and photographs and put them in the freezer."

Fisher: [Laughs] Wow! Really?

Tom: Well. [Laughs]

Fisher: Let's think about this for a minute, let's think about this, because you've always been preaching, "Don't store stuff in a closet with a wall that's bounded on the other side by the outdoors."

Tom: Exactly.

Fisher: Because you get the temperature that goes up and it goes down at the different times of year. And that causes expansion and contraction and it destroys things, right?

Tom: Exactly!

Fisher: And so, if you go and put things in a freezer, I'm thinking, "Well, that's just going to bust things apart, is it not?"

Tom: Exactly. How does ice work? When ice gets in a crack in the road, it makes potholes. So I think what's happening is, these people that are disaster cleanup places are thinking, "Hmm, if you put it in the freezer, it’s going to stop mould and stop all these kinds of things." Yeah, that's true, but sometimes the cure is worse than the sickness itself, so I highly don't recommend that, unless you're in a situation where you have to do something now, you're not going to be able to get to it for months and that is your only option. But, you know.

Fisher: But why? Why would that be the only option? I'm thinking, if you've got a freezer, then you must have, say, oh, a refrigerator.

Tom: Exactly.

Fisher: I mean, wouldn't that accomplish what they're telling you to do and the reason?

Tom: Oh yeah! Like if you have a crisper in your refrigerator, you can usually adjust the temperature and the humidity. And the humidity is not going to do too much damage, depending what you have your temperature set at but if you have a high humidity and really cold, then you're still going to get ice crystals on your special memories. And the problems with the ice crystals is the Mylar itself that the film is made on probably won't crack.

Fisher: You’re talking if its film, right?

Tom: Right, yeah, film, slides, anything that's like optical that you can hold up to the light and look through.

Fisher: Sure.

Tom: So your Mylar that the film is made out of is probably going to be okay. However, that emulsion on the other side of it is so thin, that can expand and extract and you can get lines in it, you can actually get physical cracks in it, all kinds of things.

Fisher: And chips?

Tom: Oh yeah, oh absolutely, you can get anything. And the thing is, if you go and then handle that when its frozen and you happen to flex the film a little bit, BOOM! There goes all your emulsion.

Fisher: Argh!

Tom: So, I highly recommend you don't do that. Now just remember, as you mentioned, if you've got a freezer that's working, you must have electricity, so you probably have water. And even if you don't have good water and you can't get bottled water, at least you can clean the mud and stuff off in a bath. And just be really, really careful with it. If you have bottled water, that's going to be better. So just make a bath and clean your photos, your slides, whatever, except your VHS tapes, don't touch those. And then make sure when you stack them back together, you don't set them on top of each other without something like wax paper between them, because otherwise what they're going to do is, they're going to dry to each other and then you've got to go to a professional place and they're going to have to re soak them, take them apart and you're going to have all kinds of other bad options that you're going to have to deal with. If you have that tefal or anything like that that is non stick coating, you can put stuff on that, too, but then you're only going to be able to spread out so many . That's why I recommend going with something like wax paper or laying them out on a cotton sheet face up and letting them dry. And they are going to curl. You're going to have problems with that, too.

Fisher: Right.

Tom: But you can take care of that when you get into scanning.

Fisher: Argh, my gosh! [Laughs] It just gets worse and worse when people go through these tragedies. All right, we're going to talk more about this and pick it up in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 228

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: Back at it, talking preservation with Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com. It is Fisher here with the Preservation Authority. And Tom, we've just been talking about the disaster after the disaster. It’s when the disaster relief people give you bad advice about preserving your photographs. We've been talking about film and slides and all this. Now let's talk about what you put off for a moment and that was the VHS tapes.

Tom: Right. Any kind of magnetic tape, whether its VHS tapes, audio tapes, you’re opening up a whole new can of worms, because the thing is, if you go and put those through a bath, which is nice, you can do that. However, you have to be really, really careful, because if you give it the bath and get all the mud off and everything, that's awesome. However, all that water that's on there sometimes can take the tape and it’s going to stick to itself and then you try to run it and its going to be like trying to pull double sided tape apart from each other.

Fisher: Oohh!

Tom: And it’s really, really, really going to be nasty. So you need to find somebody in your area that's experienced in this. Say, "Hey, if I bring my VHS and audio tapes in to you, how are you going to take care of them?" And if it doesn't make sense to you, send us an email and then we'll try and find out what we can do to help you. If your tapes have been rewound tight, which is not good, but in this situation it would be good, then if you can just real carefully get the mud off with the water, ionized water or something like that, so you don't get any kind of infections in them, because if you get mould, they're going to have to use a special machine that's all they do is mouldy tapes.

Fisher: Aah!

Tom: Because they don't want to put those spores on somebody else's tape and then they're going to have them.

Fisher: Is this the one you throw out when you're done with it?

Tom: Exactly. A lot of times we just get these. We get them at like Goodwill, an old machine and throw them away. The problem is, Goodwill doesn't even have very many anymore. So what we've had to do with some of our machines is, after we're done, we have to have our tech that does all of our maintenance go through and give it an industrial cleaning to get it off, so we can run somebody else's job, because the machines are just really hard to find now.

Fisher: Wow! And you used to do this all the time, you'd buy it cheap and then charge it to the customer and then get rid of the thing, junk it.

Tom: Oh yeah! You used to able to pick one for $100, really cheap, be no problem. Go to Goodwill, any place like this and get them. But they are as scarce as hen's teeth. You just can't find them anymore. And so, we've got some really nice machines that were kind of getting old and weren't the best in the world and had our guy go through and clean them up. Cannibalize some parts of some other machine.

Fisher: Oh!

Tom: And make a good machine. And so, we use that exclusively for ones that come in that have mould on them, because then we just go in and industrial clean it after every job, because the mould's the mould. It’s already there.

Fisher: Yeah, but you've just made a real case why people need to get on this right now if they have old VHS tapes that they need digitized wherever they are in the country, because people aren't going to be able to actually play some of the stuff back as machines fade away more and more, right?

Tom: That is so true, especially with some of the tapes like video 8s that weren't around as long as some of the other ones and some of the other odd tapes, like if you have the old Dictaphone tapes, you're not going to be able to find them probably in five or ten years. So no matter how much you're willing to pay, you might not be able to find anybody to transfers them for you. So this is something that you really need to get moving on. Any other strange tapes you have, you need to get those done. We're going to have reel to reel machines probably forever. We're going to have some of the VHS tapes forever, but they're going to get weaker and weaker. But the digital 8s, the high8s, the regular 8s, they're disappearing.

Fisher: Sure.

Tom: And you just can't find the decks anymore.

Fisher: To play them back.

Tom: Exactly.

Fisher: But then not only that, of course these tapes are fading as time goes on.

Tom: Right. And if you've got the old machine, make sure you keep it, because we've had more and more people bring us in tapes that we call, made it to the machine, which means somehow the camera got dropped or something happened to it and its off so ever slightly, so your tape plays fine on that, because you recorded on that, but you put it on our high end machine and you're going to see lines on, you're going to see different things, because the heads aren't in the exact same spot as yours. They got broken. So you need to bring your machine in, tie it into our system and then we can run it. And most of the ones in your neighborhood will be able to do the same thing for you.

Fisher: Wow! Boy it’s a complicated little world! Thanks so much, Tom. We'll see you again next week.

Tom: My pleasure.

Fisher: Hey, that is our show for this week. Thanks for joining us. Hope you got a lot out of it. Hey, during the rest of the week, stay in touch with us on Facebook, on Twitter, through our Patron Club. This is where you can support us and we can give you some bonus material, early access to podcasts, bonus podcasts and other great benefits. And you can also signup for our Weekly Genie newsletter. It is absolutely free. It’s easy to find. Just click on it at ExtremeGenes.com. Hey, good luck in your research. We'll 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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