Episode 24 – Creating Family History with Best-Selling Author Richard Paul Evans

podcast episode Jan 13, 2014

Fisher talks about a remarkable tribe of nomads in India whose living is family history. And they’ve been at it for 900 years! Plus… it’s a pedigree chart/group sheet nightmare… what happens when a woman gives birth to her own granddaughter? It’s about to happen! Best selling author Richard Paul Evans of “Christmas Box” fame then joins the show to talk about his family history journey.

Transcript of Episode 24

Host: Scott Fisher

Segment 1 Episode 24

Fisher: And welcome back genies to another edition of Extreme Genes, Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com. I am Fisher your congenial Radio Roots Sleuth. And before we get started today, we want to welcome our new affiliates WTKI AM and FM in Huntsville, Alabama and WEKI AM and FM in Decatur, Alabama, great to have Fred Holland and his team as part of the Extreme Genes Family. I’ve got to tell you about a find I made this past week, an ad for four tin spice jars from the 1880s. They sold at auction in 2007 on eBay for $19.99. And what made them special to me was that they were from my great grandfather’s Coffee, Tea and Spice Mill in New York City with his name and his brother’s on the label along with a location and a fisher monogram on the back. And what made them even more interesting was that they all still had about half the spices in them. No, I wasn’t able to obtain the jars themselves, but the close-up stills and description were good enough. I’ve never seen a product from the spice mill. If I’m ever able to track down these jars my question is, “Should I taste the spices?” I mean they’ll be over 120 years old now. Fortunately, I don’t have to make that choice because there isn’t a clue as to who these things went to, so I can’t even make someone an offer. It’s probably for the best. Let us know when you have unique finds. We’d love to share it with everyone. I’m very excited to have as our guest tonight, bestselling author Richard Paul Evans, best known for his classic “The Christmas Box.” Of course, there are twenty some odd other bestsellers he’s written too. Richard’s been a friend of mine for over 20 years since before he was famous and I’m excited to have him here to talk about his family history and writing stories, important subject for all of us. Richard joins us in about 10 minutes. 

Our Extreme Genes “Find Line” is 1-234-56 GENES. That’s toll free 1-234-56 GENES. If you have a story you’d like to share, a question, or comment, that’s the place to go. You can call at any time 24/7 and be sure to leave us your name and contact information so we can get back to you. Our poll question this week in keeping with the visit of author Richard Paul Evans on ExtremeGenes.com is a simple one. “Have you ever written a family history?” It doesn’t matter how long it is, just let us know “Yes or No.” A lot of great comments on last week’s show with Henrietta Christmas. Juanita in Albuquerque emailed, “I had no idea that Hispanics from our area typically had Jewish blood. This was really interesting and thanks for having Henrietta on.” Well, more importantly Juanita thanks to Henrietta for coming on. If you didn’t catch the show, catch the podcast on ExtremeGenes.com, iHeart radio’s new “Talk” Channel, iTunes or Stitcher. And from the pages of ExtremeGenes.com here is this week’s Family Histoire News. We’ve always said we will scour the ends of the earth for interesting family history stories and I think this story more than proves it. It’s from the Hindu online publication in India, and I hope you take a minute to go to ExtremeGenes.com. Click the link and check out the photos tied to this story. They are amazing. It’s about a nomadic tribe called Helavas. [Laughs] I hope I said that right. They wander from place to place all over the country and their arrival everywhere is always widely anticipated. They are traditional archivists. They carry with them documents with the pedigree and family record of virtually every family and every village on their circuit. This is their occupation! When they arrive in a village they split up into groups and go door to door even if a family doesn’t have a door. They read aloud the genealogy of that family and then record any new data that changed since their previous visit, births, marriages and deaths. It’s believed that this tribe is the only one in India to make a living by archiving family history. The families give them cash, items made from precious metals and foodstuffs. They make enough basically just to get by. Their archiving skills are passed down from one generation to the next and they’ve been doing this, get this, for 900 years. One lawyer said he received ten generations of information from these people. He says the oldest details are etches in copperplates. He also says that courts in India recognize the last three or four generations of the Helavas records as official when used in legal matters. [Laughs] They’re that good! One of the tribe members says that in addition to the early copperplates they also have records written on palm leaves. They get around in steer-drawn carts and stay in tents at each stop. Their women mostly do housework and again you’ve got to see the pictures of their records shown with a story by going to ExtremeGenes.com

If you’re listening to this by podcast you might find that the story is no longer featured so just enter “India” as a keyword and it will take you right where you need to go. We never eliminate any stories from ExtremeGenes.com. Next up, a pedigree chart nightmare. [Music] Julia Navarro, a Peruvian who lives in Provo, Utah is expecting, very expecting. She’s due in early February. The child she awaits is her granddaughter. She is 58 years old. She’s acting as a surrogate for her daughter Lorena McKinnon who’s a flight attendant for SkyWest Airlines. Lorena and her husband had no trouble getting pregnant over the years, but Lorena’s suffered miscarriage after miscarriage, perhaps as many as a dozen. So that left Lorena with two options, adoption or surrogacy. Well, they started looking for a surrogate mother when Julia stepped up and said, “Hey, how about me?” They’ve all been through counselling together. Julia had to receive hormone shots. Finally, the implant came and it took. It’s an amazing story. [Laughs] I think about how this works on the pedigree chart and if Julia’s giving birth doesn’t that make Lorena her own daughter’s sister? And as her mother’s sister the baby is also her own aunt. And when the baby has her own children down the line, Lorena would be both grandmother and aunt, right? Very complicated. You can only wish them all the best. Find the links to this amazing story on ExtremeGenes.com

Our next story is also a little complicated. It’s from NPR. Imagine learning that your surname which you’ve had from the day you were born was fraudulent. That’s been the case for numerous Chinese American families who arrived in the US before WW II. In those days the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was in effect. It banned Chinese laborers from coming to America. Chinese workers at that time received very low wages and were considered unfair competition. As such, Chinese wanting to come here used forged papers to make their entry. Seventy years ago that law was repealed due to our alliance with China in WW II. But even then only 105 immigrants from China were allowed in a year. It wasn’t until 1965 when the Chinese were given the same opportunity as people of other nations. So as you can imagine, descendants of those who lied about their American ties are now stuck with trying to figure out just who they really are. People like William Wong, a former journalist who lives in California who says that as a child he knew that his real last name was Gee. The concocted names were created to make these immigrants “Children of Chinese American Citizens on Paper.” They’re referred to in the story as “paper sons and daughters.” As relatives of American born Chinese they were exempted from the law. Students, teachers and merchants from China were also exempted. The mother of a woman named Felicia Lowe got here in 1937 and took on an assumed name of a known Chinese American girl who had previously died. Of course the government didn’t know that. Felicia’s father also used an assumed name. He later legally reclaimed his actual surname Lowe when the legislation was rescinded. One descendant was quoted as saying, some of the information of the immigration files were based on truth and some of these were lies. And he thinks that’s why few Chinese Americans talk about it today because they don’t want to talk about the lies. There are a lot of “paper sons and paper daughters” out there now, still trying to figure out who they are, where they came from and who their ancestors really were. It’s a great NPR story. The link is easily found on ExtremeGenes.com. And coming up in three minutes, it’s one of America’s most prolific authors, Richard Paul Evans who wrote “The Christmas Box” and countless other bestsellers talking about his family history, writing and storytelling on Extreme Genes, Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com.

Segment 2 Episode 24

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Richard Paul Evans

Fisher: Hey, welcome back to Extreme Genes, Family History Radio ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth with a long time friend of mine here as our guest today, Richard Paul Evans, the bestselling author of... how many best sellers? 31 last I counted. 

Richard: Best sellers, I think 26. 

Fisher: 26.

Richard: Yes.

Fisher: So I’m exaggerating a little bit?

Richard: No.

Fisher: 26 works just fine.

Richard: Well, maybe they’re all best sellers.

Fisher: [Laughs] 

Richard: Some of them are kids’ books so, yeah.

Fisher: And of course best known for “The Christmas Box” which then became a fantastic holiday movie and Rick, we just wanted to talk to you about some of the influence because you and I have had this conversation before about family history on your writings. I’ve shared some stories on my research and you would always light up with that. Christmas Box itself was written as a gift to your family and has become part of your family legacy at this point. 

Richard: Exactly. Christmas Box, my first book, was something I wrote as a family gift for my then two young daughters, which is kind of amazing now because the little Jenna Christmas Box has now given birth to our first grandson, which is awesome. 

Fisher: [Laughs]

Richard: And Alison. And they’re both grown up and on their ways.

Fisher: Isn’t that insane?

Richard: Yes. And I just keep writing. 

Fisher: Did you ever think about the legacy of the fact that this will go on in your line for generations? That people will know that they descend from the guy that created this amazing book that has inspired so many millions around the world. 

Richard: It still surprises me. Like I once asked my daughter Jenna, if people ever made the connection between the book and her, and she was like, “Are you serious dad? I’ve been Jenna Christmas Box my entire life.”

Fisher: [Laughs]

Richard: And then my daughter Abigail who has graduated from high school, she’s actually in Cosmetology school, and she gave a copy of one of my books to an instructor there and she goes, “Oh I love this guy! Do you even know who he is?” And my daughter looked and said, “You mean dad?” 

Fisher: [Laughs]

Richard: And she like totally freaked out so yeah, it’s part of the kids’ lives and now that I have the Michael Vey series, this young adult series that I had this whole new generation of readers, and they are young. I have nine year olds, eight year olds, coming to book signings, which is really strange. And to realize that my grandchildren will be old enough to read them by the time I’m finished and that’s going to be a lasting legacy as well.

Fisher: And it is fun. I don’t think anybody starts out anticipating the idea of legacy. It’s just, “Hey, can I make this thing work? Will people enjoy what I do?” Andy you’ve obviously found the magic to make that happen over, and over, and over again. Talk about family history. I mean, obviously you’ve had your kids in mind, your grandkids in mind for much of what you’ve been doing, how does stories like that from the past influence you? You mentioned off air earlier that you have like what, a hundred some-odd cousins?

Richard: Well, I have kind of a strange background. I have it being done on such an advanced level and my mother’s side. She came from a very large family, eleven children. Just on my mother’s side. She has one of the smaller families with eight kids. We’re considered a small family with eight kids. 

Fisher: [Laughs]

Richard: So I have 101 first cousins on my mother’s side.

Fisher: Just on your mom’s side.

Richard: So I’ll have them come to book signings and someone will say, “Oh, you’re my cousin.” Or, “My mom’s your cousin.” And I’ll say, “I believe you. I have no idea who you are.” In fact this is really interesting, on the Michael Vey series, the first book just exploded. It’s a number one New York Times best seller and the second one is a number one best seller, but the artist we chose for it realized he didn’t like working for a publisher because he normally does video games and they don’t make him change things or ask him to. So we asked him for the third book, it’s a seven book series, we said, “We need to get ready.” And he said, “Well, I’m just really busy right now.” We said, “Well, how long are you busy?” And he said, “Indefinitely.” So it’s like okay, you don’t want to do it.

Fisher: [Laughs] Okay.

Richard: And my publisher is like, “No sweat. There’s talent all around the world.” And what they do, they go through the catalogues and you know Simon is used to it. So they have access to the top artists in the world.

Fisher: Sure.

Richard: And so, they send us three different pictures. And my agent and my partner who’s Glen Beck, the radio show host, and my publisher and I we all chose the same artist. It’s like we all like C. There’s no name on it, just C. And so I said, “I do need to talk to him before he makes the next cover because he needs to know what we’re working on. I don’t want it to look like a different artist. He’s got to kind of work into it.” So, I arrange this phone call and just before I go on the line with him I say, “Well, what’s his name?” And they say, “Owen Richardson.” It’s like oh, okay. So he comes on and I say, “Owen, where in the world are you right now? And he said, “Closer than you think. Salt Lake City.” 

Fisher: [Laughs]

Richard: He goes, “Oh let me really blow your mind, you mom’s name is June.” I said, “How did you know that?” He said, “You’re my cousin.” 

Fisher: [Laughs]

Richard: So family history has always been a huge part of this family. 

Fisher: Sure.

Richard: And so it fell on my aunt who is really old enough to be my grandmother. She’s no longer alive. But she is the one who really pushed it and it went back hundreds and hundreds of years and she taught her daughters. And so we actually have a family fund and we put some money into it to help. But they go back generations and generations. I’m not even sure what they’re up now, but we’re pretty close to Adam by this point.

Fisher: So you’re pretty much supported financially and let the others do the work.

Richard: And these gals they love it and that’s what they do. 

Fisher: Sure. So they bring the results of their efforts to your reunions and the like?

Richard: Exactly, and I mean, this is the cool thing about family history. I’m at a book signing and a woman came up and she said, “Your grandfather on your mother’s side is Herman Thorp.” He goes, “He was my great grandfather’s brother. And here’s the family history.” And I’m reading letters that my grandfather wrote. I was two years old or 18 months old when my grandfather died so I have no recollection of him. And it was amazing to be able to read these things.  I have a very interesting family history on my father’s side. At the time that my ancestors came back west with Brigham Young and the Mormons, and then he sent them out to colonize. They went across the border into Mexico. So they founded –

Fisher: It’s kind of like the Romneys, like Mitt Romney’s family.

Richard: That’s exactly who we were with. 

Fisher: Okay.

Richard: And so my ancestors were with the Romneys. And so down in Colonia Morelos and Colonial Juarez. My grandmother has met Pancho Villa.

Fisher: Oh wow. [Laughs]

Richard: Yeah, that’s pretty cool. Its like, “Yes, I’ve seen him. He came to us and talked to us and told us to leave.” [Laughs]

Fisher: So you had a firsthand account of her meeting with Pancho Villa.

Richard: Exactly. So every now and then I get some of these stories and they’re just invaluable because one of my books I wrote, I had someone immigrating across the city. And my mother used to always tell me a story about her grandmother, so my great grandmother, when she came across the sea, that she had joined the Mormon Church and her family had disowned her. And they had offered her large sums of money if she would stay and turned it down. And so she left and she went to catch the boat alone and her mother came and she said she didn’t want her to leave without saying goodbye. And her mother was there and they’re crying and she goes, “I didn’t bring you anything. I need to bring you something.” And she goes, “Just a minute. Don’t leave.” And she ran to get her a fruit basket. Right after she left, they called and said, “You need to board. We’re leaving.” So she gets on and looks down and sees her mother one last time. Never saw her again. You know, some of these stories are just incredible.  On my father’s side, they came over on a boat called “The Dreadnought” and while they were on the boat her child took sick so they put him down beneath the deck which they do with everyone else who was sick. So it just became this huge morgue. And the tragedy, it was so sad. She’s holding her baby and her baby dies in her arms and she’s not allowed above board. So she stayed by the side and they told her where they would throw the body over and she went to the porthole to see them throw her baby over the side. 

Fisher: Ugh.

Richard: These stories of course are just so rich and pathos that they’re great fodder.

Fisher: And anybody who writes with the amount of material that you do, you have to draw obviously on all kinds of sources that really touch the human heart and obviously you have a lot of it from your background. Tell us about some of the stories you may have integrated from your own past into your various books.

Richard: In a way, they’re all integrated. Probably the most autobiographical of all my books is a book called “Grace” And this is where I met Glen Beck. He made his book of the month and really promoted it. Grace is a story of a young man and his little brother. A coming of age story, and a Christmas season where they hide a girl that they find dumpster diving. 

Fisher: [Laughs]

Richard: He works at the Taco Time. He finds this girl in the back trying to find food in the dumpster. He brings her home and they keep her in their clubhouse. That was the most autobiographical of all my books. Because at that time my father had lost his job, we moved from Pasadena to Salt Lake City, Utah. We lived in a slum. The home was just dough as soon as we moved out. It was just rat infested and I had so many rich memories of this time that it became very powerful in the book.  

Fisher: All right. We’re going to take a break right now. We’re with Richard Paul Evans, the bestselling author and when we come back we’re going to talk about the family history that you’re writing, fabricating, for another book you’re working on. That’s coming up next on Extreme Genes, Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com.        

Segment 3 Episode 24

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Richard Paul Evans

Fisher: Welcome back to Extreme Genes, Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com. It’s Fisher here with Richard Paul Evans, my good friend and long time bestselling author. Isn’t this twenty years now for the Christmas Box?  

Richard: Twenty one years.  

Fisher: Twenty one years, wow! The time goes really so fast. You’ve come up with so many since then, and you were telling me earlier that you’ve actually had to create a family history for something else you’re writing. 

Richard: Five years ago, I began writing a series called “The Walk” and it’s become a very large series. They’re all top five New York Times best sellers, the books in this series. I have a huge following in Brazil and Poland. It’s really fascinating as people follow the story. It’s a story of a man named Alan Christoffersen. Alan is a Seattle Adverting Executive who loses his wife in an accident. Before she dies he takes care of her for the last few months of her life. His business partner steals the business, at least steals all the clients. His business goes into bankruptcy. After his wife dies, shortly after he loses his home, he lost his business. So it’s a story about hope. So he’s lost everything, so he decides what he’s going to do. First he’s going to take his life. Then he decides to just walk away from it all. The walk follows his walk literally from Seattle, Washington to Key West, Florida. 

Fisher: Oh wow. 

Richard: The only family that Alan really has left is his father. In the last book of the series called “Walking on Water” I have him going back after his father suffers a heart attack. So he’s all the way in Folkston, Georgia just past the Okefenokee Swamp. I know all this because I’ve driven from coast to coast writing this book. He flies back to Pasadena where his father lives. While his dad is in the hospital, he’s staying in his father’s home. He finds his dad has been working on a family history. It’s fascinating because... 

Fisher: [Laughs] Because you’ve never done it. 

Richard: No I’ve never done. But also, it’s not a real person.

Fisher: Sure you can make it up.

Richard: Yeah, it’d be easier to just copy it. 

Fisher: [Laughs]

Richard: So I’m looking at it and saying, “Okay, what makes someone the way they are? What would make his father the kind of stoic individual he is?” And yet, he’s not a bad man. 

Fisher: To a great extent books have to be written backwards, don’t they?

Richard: Yes. Yeah, that’s true. So I was like, okay this is where he is, how do I get him there? So I go all the way back into the 18th century when the family emigrates over from Denmark. So I had my daughter go back in, I wanted to know why they were leaving, what time were they leaving, what was going on in Denmark at the time. And it was really fascinating the history that came up, and I get him all the way till his father serves in the Vietnam War. So I go online and start researching stories in the Vietnam War, and then I suddenly remember that my next door neighbor, we’re kind of in this compound, there’s only two of us in this area. A very successful, very wealthy man but I know that he had hands on position in Vietnam. So I go over to talk to him and say, “Would you be willing to share your story?” And many times they don’t. And his wife later says to me, “I’m really surprised he talked to you because he doesn’t talk about it.” He was a Lieutenant in the Vietnam War and he spent ten months in the bush. And as a lieutenant that means you lead a platoon. 

Fisher: Sure. 

He was a platoon leader which basically he is in harm’s way almost all the time. For ten months he is out there, fire fight after fire fight, and so I sat down and he relays he story and it is so rich. 

Fisher: He’s a good story teller to begin with. 

Richard: Because he has a good story. 

Fisher: Sure. 

Richard: I mean that’s it he just has a good story. And it’s easy to be good story teller when someone gives you this stuff. 

Fisher: When you’ve got it. [Laughs]

Richard: I mean like he says, he has two guys with him. He goes, “Yeah the palasque brothers.”  Their name wasn’t palasque and they weren’t brothers. That’s what we called them.

Fisher: Sure. 

Richard: They were Polish from the south side of the Chicago from a game. He said, “They were too intense we called them.”

Fisher: [Laughs] 

Richard: In other words, the judge told them, two years in Vietnam or ten years in prison. So they chose two years in Vietnam. He goes, “These men were fearless. I loved them dearly. They spent the entire time trying to figure out how to get a mortar home to the south side of Chicago.” 

Fisher: [Laughs]

Richard: He goes, “Can you imagine having a mortar here in gain warfare. He is just spilling out story after story and so I’ve comprised this into a family history. And what I did to make it legitimate is instead of putting it in the book, I actually created the family history separate and then broke it up and put it back in the stories. So as my Alan is going through, well first he has the question, “Why is my dad writing a family history?” and his dad, his excuse is, “I guess maybe it’s because we don’t know where we’re going. At least we can figure out where we came from.” You know his dad is facing his mortality and possible death.

Fisher: Sure.

Richard: He realizes as his dad gets closer to dying that the dad really wanted his son to understand him. He wanted his son to know, it’s like he’s not writing this for himself, if he dies it does him no good.

Fisher: It doesn’t matter to him. 

Richard: Yeah. It’s like he’s doing this for me. He’s trying to give me as the last leaf on this branch of the Christoffersens, he’s trying to get me to connect this is who we are. This is who our family is. This is who we are as a people. And I think this is something your listeners understand.

Fisher: Sure. 

Richard: That we’re trying to understand who we are. We’re trying to understand why we are the way we are. And if you believe in cellular memory that part of our ancestors are still in us and that we’re carrying on who they are. So it’s actually been a really fascinating exercise. And make me more and more to read my parent’s family history. 

Fisher: Well, and you think about writing a fiction story. I mean it is about creating a person to understand who they are, why they behave the way that they do. It isn’t much different writing a family history that way. You want to find that motivation or whatever it may be. You know I find the most fascinating people in my lines are the scoundrels. 

Richard: Oh of course. Everyone wants a scoundrel in their line.

Fisher: Yes! And I have so many. [Laughs] 

Richard: [Laughs] 

Fisher: Did you have some back there?

Richard: First of all, it doesn’t surprise me that you have so many.

Fisher: Of course not.

Richard: I don’t know of any scoundrels in my history actually. They’re all pretty squeaky clean. I’m not saying we don’t have extortioners and rapist. I’m sure there are some. 

Fisher: Um hmm. Oh we all have them. It’s just a matter of where to find them. 

Richard: And I’m not sure that my cousins who are doing the history would expose it if they did. 

Fisher: Oh that kind! 

Richard: [Laughs] 

Fisher: They scrubbed it first. 

Richard: I think they might. I’m not sure but they might. 

Fisher: Ohh. Well, you know the truth to me is always far more interesting than the scrubbed versions and the fabrications.

Richard: And it also means a lot more. I hate it when we take these incredible histories and we try to dearfy people. The thing that’s amazing about them is that they were just like you. 

Fisher: That’s right. 

Richard: They were a real person. And would you do what they did? Would you have the capacity to do what they did?

Fisher: Struggles, mistakes, overcoming I think there’s so much to it that makes writing a family history interesting and obviously creating the great novels that you do. Richard Paul Evans thanks you so much for taking the time to come and see us.

Richard: Oh my pleasure. Thank you.

Fisher: I’m excited about reading this new book next year. What’s it called? 

Richard: It’s “Walking on Water” and it’s book five, the last book in the walk series. 

Fisher: All right, I expect the first copy. 

Richard: Okay. [Laughs] 

Fisher: All right, great to see you. Thanks for coming. 

Richard: Thank you my friend. 

Fisher: And coming up next, our Preservation Authority Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com, talking about the proper way to protect and handle your photos and slides and a lot more coming up next on Extreme Genes, Family History Radio ExtremeGenes.com.

   Segment 4 Episode 24

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: Hey, you found us, Extreme Genes, Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here your Radio Roots Sleuth with Tom Perry, our Preservation Authority from TMCPlace.com who joins us every week at this time. And Tom is going to be filling us in today on photographs and slides and scanning them. It’s kind of a special discipline I guess, Tom, to get the best out of your scans. Fill us in with what you've got.

Tom: All right. The first thing you want to do is make sure you start off with a good device. Most of the time in this business, you get what you pay for. If you pay $200 for a thing that scans your photos, it faxes, it makes you breakfast, it makes color copies, you know?

Fisher: [Laughs] Its not specializing, is that what you're saying?

Tom: Exactly. Get something that's specialized. You know, if that's the only way you can do it, if that's all you can afford, it’s better than nothing. But, you know, save up a little bit, get it done right, and it’s something that you'll have a treasure for generations to generations.

Fisher: Do you have a recommendation for different types?

Tom: I like the Nikons and the Cannons. Kodak makes really ones too, but they’re out of most people’s price budget. You can get a good Nikon. You can get a good Cannon one sometimes for under a thousand dollars. When you’re buying something on Amazon or eBay make sure you buy from somebody that you can trust so you don’t run into problems down the road. You’ve got to be really, really careful. But you know, talk to people, read their lists, see what other people have written reviews from him. But some of the tips and tricks are universal, whether you’re doing photographs or slides. And some of the items that you definitely want to have in your quiver, your arsenal, so to speak, you want to blow the dust and stuff off, don’t really want to touch your pictures at all. With a blower, don’t buy the compressed air, because if you have the kind of compressed air that if you move it around, it kind of liquefies and it can get really, really cold, and it’s not good for your slides or your photos.

Fisher: You could damage them, couldn’t you?

Tom: Oh, absolutely, absolutely! I’ve seen people that go to an automotive store and buy a little compressor to fill up their bike tires with. And you can use something like that, just turn on the blow mode, and just very softly blow over your slides and things like that. And on a slide, be really.

Fisher: So more of a gentle breeze than a tornado.

Tom: Exactly.

Fisher: Okay. [Laughs]

Tom: You do not want a tornado. You want a gentle breeze. But don’t blow on them. Just like a microphone, you don’t want to blow into it, because the humidity is not good for it. Use a little, you know, blower that has just air, there’s no moisture in it, there’s nothing that’s going to damage your photos and then on your slides too, which we’ll get to more in a minute. Only touch the non emulsion side, the shiny side. The dull sides, never ever touch those. Another thing you want to do is, get like a soft camel hair brush, which is really good for dusting them off. If there’s something a little bit more substantial on it that will work great. And I really recommend you getting a pair of white lint free gloves to handle your photos and your slides with, because there’s nothing worse, there’s nothing more damaging than an oily based fingerprint that’s going to get on them. Those are tough to get off, and especially if they’re on the emulsion side or they’re on an old photograph that’s already fragile.

Fisher: You know, I was on a family history trip back east in the fall, and I stopped at a historical society. And they brought out all kinds of documents and said, “Here you go.” And they had no gloves for you to wear.

Tom: Oh no!

Fisher: Nothing to hold any of it. And it’s like, well, how do you go through this without touching it? I was really kind of horrified, because these things when back literally 350 years.

Tom: Unbelievable! That’s just crazy talk there.

Fisher: Yeah. At home, we need to treat our stuff like the archive that it is.

Tom: Oh absolutely. Especially some of the older pictures, you need to be very, very careful, because they’re fragile, especially if they’ve come out of like a photo album where there’s adhesive and stuff on the back. If you have old pictures that somebody used double sided tape or a glue stick on that adhered them into page and you take them off and there’s still sticky on it, you can use something like onion skin or some parchment paper and put that on the back of it, because that will stick to it. And then if you cut it to the same size as your photograph, you can generally still get it to go through a scanner without any problem. But what you want to do is, very gently remove your images from the frames or the plastic sleeves they come in and be really, really careful. If you have some that are kind of sticking and they’re not coming out easy, don’t take them out. Leave them in it, because any good scanner will still be able to scan through the plastic covering or the glass on a fine frame. I don’t really recommend it because it takes a lot longer to do it that way. 

Fisher: Do you not see a light reflection when that happens? 

Tom: If you have a good scanner you won’t, because most good scanners have glass anyway. If you have another level of glass and it’s a good quality scanner you won’t pick up reflections. We do it for people all the time. We had a customer come in once that had a photo of forged figures that they had their pictures taken with, it was priceless to them. But they couldn’t get it out of the frame because somebody had spilled some water on it or something.

Fisher: Ooh. 

Tom: And it actually melted itself right to the glass on the cover of the frame. So we took the frame apart, put the glass on our scanner and scanned it and you could tell that it was not just flat on the scanner. But you know we have a high quality scanner that again is you get what you pay for. Get a good quality scanner and you shouldn’t have problems with items, and the same thing with plastic. A lot of times it can go through plastic. Sometimes it can’t. I remember one of the things that we had when I was young and they were really bad. They had wax in them and you stick the pictures to the wax and you close the top sheet of them. The wax as it went through temperature changes it would start to liquefy, it would stick to the pictures and it was brutal trying to get those off. But some of them we had to shoot them with the plastic on them or we would have ruined the photographs. So if you have a good quality scanner you’ll be able to do that. 

Fisher: All right, great tips on photographs, and when we return in just a few moments, Tom with more tips on dealing with your slides, coming up next on Extreme Genes, Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com.

Segment 5 Episode 24

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: Welcome back Extreme Genes, Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com. And of course part of the whole thing with family history is preservation. A very key part if you’re ever going to get to the part of sharing with other people. 

Tom: Exactly. 

Fisher: And Tom Perry is here from TMCPlace.com, our Preservation Authority. We’ve been talking about photographs and how to carefully handle them and make sure they don’t get damaged for future generations. Now let’s talk slides. 

Tom: Okay. Some of the things was slides and photos kind of overlap. Sometimes we have people that bring in slides that have gotten warped and damaged. Pieces are falling apart on them, just like a photograph and they try to get tape and tape them back together. 

Fisher: Ooh. 

Tom: Or a glue stick. And I go, “No, no, no, no.”

Fisher: Oh this was so that they could put it in the machine?

Tom: Right, so that they could get it back into the little cardboard thing. And I’m going, “No, no, no. As small as they are, unless you’re a surgeon you’re not going to be very successful with that.” But, there’s a great way to do it whether you have the photographs or the slides. Just take all the little pieces and scan them individually, don’t try to put them together. Scan them apart from each other. Then either a digital dark room or photoshop, then you be the surgeon and move them around, place them where they need to go. And it’s amazing how easy it is when you do it that way. But don’t try to put them together with tape or anything like that it’s not going to work. 

Fisher: Is it even necessary to put them together at this point of time?

Tom: No. 

Fisher: Because really the only use anybody would have for slides now is if you get them digitizes, yes?

Tom: Exactly. 

Fisher: And so, to fix them actually might cause more damage to the slide and it’s future usability if you haven’t had it digitized yet. 

Tom: Absolutely. We prefer and suggest people, if they’re in carousals that’s the best way to keep them. IT’s the best way to keep them dust free. It’s the best way to keep them organized. 

Fisher: Because they’re separated right? They’re not sticking together.

Tom: Exactly. That’s one of the biggest problems with photos and slides that aren’t separated like that, they do. They get humidity around them. They stick together. They can even get mold on them and a lot of times we can clean it off. But if they’re touching each other, they’re glued to each other and you’re going to pull the emulsion apart trying to get them apart. So that’s not the way to do it. Keep them in carousals. If you bring them in or send them into us, bring them in or send them in the carousals. They’ll ship better that way. They have the air around them so there’s less chance of them getting dirty and stuff. Just keep them in a nice zip lock bag or something like that, that goes over the entire carousal box, and that’s the best way to store them. Now one thing you need to remember when you’re scanning your photographs or you’re scanning slides. 

Especially slides, do not ever, ever throw them away! If you have a real good scan of your photo and you’re happy with it and you don’t want to keep a gazillion photos, if you’re not a pack rat like me and you want to get rid of them, so be it. But with slides, do not do that. Because slides are optical and as new technology comes out we can scan your slides, or you can scan your slides at home with better technology. Like three years ago we couldn’t scan slides in high def. Now we can scan slides in high def. In fact, we scan them at 16.2 megapixels. Last year in 2013 we had three different upgrades of slides. We had a customer where we had just something for his wife and came back all excited how beautiful they looked and said, ”Hey, here’s the disk you did for me two years ago, make them like hers.” 

Fisher: [Laughs]

Tom: We go, “Oh no, bring your slides back in and we’ll scan them with our new equipment, then they’ll be like hers.” And he kind of looked down at the floor and said, “She made me throw them away.” 

Fisher: Oh! 

Tom: So slides, film, anything that’s optical, never throw it away! Always keep them because they can always be rescanned with a better way with a light and stuff through it. So anything that’s optical don’t ever throw it away. 

Fisher: I think that’s great advice. And obviously there’s a lot of regret on the part of that particular customer and probably many others too who got rid of them before they even made any kind of digital copy. 

Tom: Exactly. 

Fisher: Wow. Well Tom, thanks so much. Great advice today on photos and on slides and we look forward to seeing you again next week. 

Tom: See you then. 

Fisher: Well that’s about it for this week. Thanks so much to Richard Paul Evans the bestselling author, for joining us on the show. Next week, an exciting tale of a man who found a photograph of his father, a man he lost when he was very young and the journey that photo took him on. To Scotland, to England, to people he never met and the things that resulted, you will not believe the story. We’ll have it for you next week on the show. Plus, people from FamilySearch.org, talking about the upcoming Roots Tech conference. It’s the biggest of it’s kind in north America. You’re going to find a lot of interest in it and you can participate from wherever you are in the country. So join us again next week on Extreme Genes, Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com, and remember as far as everyone knows, we’re a nice normal family! 


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