Episode 247 - Edison’s Great Grandson Talks Thomas Edison- His Legacy, And Family Stories

podcast episode Aug 12, 2018

Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. David talks about his recent lecture that gave him the opportunity to shoot World War II era guns with World War II vets. Family Histoire News begins with a summary of Olivia Coleman’s recent experience on “Who Do You Think You Are?” in England. Hear what ethnicity makes her now feel a little less “ordinary.” Then, it’s the story of a food truck. But not like the one that visits your office on Wednesdays. This one collects family recipes and gives people the opportunity to cook them up! A woman whose DNA results devastated her with news that her father wasn’t her father has started an on line organization for people in her situation. And it turns out that there are a lot more than she imagined. David then talks about a tale from the Titanic that has not received a lot of attention. You’ll know more about it soon. David then shines his “blogger spotlight” on Kenneth R. Marks. Ken blogs about helpful techniques to make your journey less “bumpy.” Visit his blog at TheAncestorHunt.com/blog.
Next, in two segments, Fisher visits with Dr. David Sloane, an English professor at the University of New Haven in Connecticut. Dr. Sloane is a great grandson of Thomas Edison. He talks about how that relationship has influenced his life, the challenge of living up to the legacy, and challenges to the Edison legacy. In segment two, Dr. Sloane shares some family stories and memories of his mother and great grandmother, Edison’s wife.
Then, Tom Perry, the Preservation Authority from TMCPlace.com, talks with Fisher about attics in the summertime. If you ever imaged there were monsters in the attic, you were right! Especially when it comes to your family photos, home movies, and videos, and the heat and critters of summer.
That’s all this week on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show!

Transcript of Episode 247

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 247

Fisher: You have found us! It’s America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here on the program where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out. This segment is brought to you by Legacy Tree Genealogists. Nice to have you along this week. Oh we’ve got a guest for you a little bit later on today. He is a professor of English at the University of New Haven. He is Dr David Sloane, and he’s the great grandson of Thomas Edison. Yeah, and we are going to talk about Edison and his legacy and controversy surrounding that legacy, and also some family stories that were passed down that you probably never heard before, or I’ve heard before. We’re going to start with him coming up in about nine minutes or so. Hey, just a reminder, if you haven’t signed up for our “Weekly Genie Newsletter” it’s absolutely free. Why wouldn’t you want to do that? You just go to ExtremeGenes.com or our Facebook page and sign up right there. We give you a blog each week and of course links to great interviews and stories that will be fascinating to you as a genealogist. Right now, let’s head out to Beantown and talk to my good friend David Allen Lambert, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. I know he barely has a voice left.

David: Ah yes, there’s a lot of lecturing going on in the month of July for me, so I’m just starting to get it back. How are you doing Fish?

Fisher: [Laughs] I’m great! I want to hear all about this trip. You went to Pennsylvania, you were shooting World War II weapons with World War II Vets in their 90s. How did all that go?

David: Oh, it was great. I got to fire Thompson submachine guns, I got to fire 50 caliber machine guns with guys that were aged 93 to 98 years of age. These are guys that were on B-17s and B-24s in the Pacific part of the 43rd Bomber Squadron. And my thanks to Michael and Susan who are in charge of the group and having me out there to give my lecture in the US Army Heritage Center at the War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

Fisher: Very nice. Well, speak softly David. I don’t want you to hurt yourself as we go through this today, okay?

David: Well, I was talking over at the guns. That was the problem. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs] Oh okay, I see what you’ve done, yes.  

David: [Laughs]

Fisher: Well, let’s get to our Family Histoire News today and where do you want to start?

David: Well, let’s go across the pond to jolly old England where actress Olivia Coleman was stunned to learn about her hypocrite ancestor who had publicly accused his wife of adultery, but he had also already fathered two children with another woman. This is on “Who Do You Think You Are?” this year, and I think it is great because you just never know what you’re going to find in your family tree.

Fisher: No, and you know these scoundrels are in everybody’s tree. We all have them and I am kind of proudly displaying mine just so everybody else is enabled to do the same with theirs. It doesn’t change anything.

David: It’s always good to air your dirty laundry.

Fisher: That’s right. Exactly right.

David: [Laughs]

Fisher: That’s a great show by the way. I guess she found out she had some background from India as well, Olivia Coleman.

David: That’s true. And she says that because she now has Indian roots, she has more interest in family tree than she originally thought.

Fisher: She thought she was a dull person and there you go, she’s rather exotic.

David: Exactly. Well, my next story goes west to Manitoba, Canada where there is a food truck called the Manitoba Food History Truck. In fact, it’s traveling the province this summer gathering recipes and stories. So they’re not just selling food, they’re looking for your family stories and hey, maybe if your grandmother come over and cook some family recipes at the food truck.

Fisher: Isn’t that cool? Wouldn’t that be great to have those all over the country?

David: I’d love to have one in Boston. I’d be there with my mother’s blueberry muffin recipe and my grandmother’s chocolate chip cookies, and just gain calories thinking about it right now.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: [Laughs]

Fisher: Swedish meatballs on our side. That would be good.

David: Ooh, are they better than the ones from my aunt Kia?

Fisher: Yes, yes.

David: [Laughs] All right, the next story is from the Atlantic where they talk about DNA testing, Shattering Your Identity. And Catherine St Clair did her DNA test identity to find out that her paternity isn’t what she thought it was. So, she went out and started a Facebook group called DNA NPE Friends, referring to the Non Paternity Events, but this NPE is for Not Parent Expected.

Fisher: Yes, and you know all of them kind of feel like they’re alone. And she’s got about a thousand followers already that all felt that way from the beginning and they support each other and what a great thing. And they get new people joining it all the time who find out the shocking story that Dad wasn’t Dad.

David: That is very true. Our next story takes us back to 1912 on the RMS Titanic. Now, I’ve studied the Titanic for many years and I didn’t even realize this. There were actually eight Chinese men on board the Titanic when she set sail in April of 1912, six of them that actually survived, but they seem to be erased from history. So this is being featured in a new documentary about the actual story of the Titanic and these men. They came to New York, but because of the Chinese Exclusion Act they were not allowed to stay.

Fisher: Really?

David: Yeah. It’s an interesting story and I can’t wait to see it.

Fisher: That’s kind of interesting because they were on the ship to go to New York originally anyway. Were they not aware at the time that there was a problem with that?

David: I don’t know and I hope that this show will actually reveal the whole story.

Fisher: Sure. Of course.

David: I mean, I can’t imagine that some of them hoped to come in as laborers and maybe slip between the lines and not be noticed.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: But, I don’t know. It’s a tough story.

Fisher: Boy, the Titanic was just the most amazing story of all time, don’t you think?

David: And if you think about it, the Titanic, you know, the “ship of dreams” as they say, how about if she didn’t sink? Would that just be another commercial liner that went back and forth? The other thing is by World War I the Titanic could have been torpedoed as many as those ships were that were troop ships and what not, starting with the Lusitania. It was just a commercial passenger ship. They could have lost it in World War I.

Fisher: Yeah that’s right.

David: This week’s blogger spotlight shines upon Kenneth R. Marks out of Arizona. He has a blog called TheAncestorHunt.com/blog and he talks about his adventures in genealogy and likes to share some of his valuable tidbits to help you get over the bumpy road of genealogy.

Fisher: And it can be bumpy.

David: Lots of puddles too. All right, don’t forget, if you’re not a member of American Ancestors, NEHGS’s website AmericanAncestors.org, you can join and save $20 off our regular membership by using the checkout code “Extreme”.

Fisher: All right, thank you so much David and we’re going to be seeing you in Fort Wayne, Indiana coming up on August 22nd through the 25th. I’m going to be lecturing there. I’m going to be a keynote on Wednesday. David, you’re going to be lecturing there as well. It’s going to be a lot of fun and we hope you can join us in the midwest for the FGS Conference, the Federation of Genealogical Societies.

David: I hope my voice is back by then. [Laughs]

Fisher: I think it will be David. We’re counting on it. All right, and coming up next I’m going to talk to a man who’s a professor at the University of New Haven. He is the great grandson of Thomas Alva Edison and he’s got stories. That’s coming up in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 247

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Dr. David Sloane

Fisher: Welcome back to 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. And I’ve always found it fascinating to discover the stories of people and their families and how it’s influenced their lives, and I really can’t imagine that there is a more influential figure in American History than Thomas Alva Edison, the inventor of so many things that we still enjoy today in obviously more modernized and different forms. And on the line with me right now is Dr. David Sloane. He is a Professor of English at the University of New Haven and he’s a great grandson of Thomas Edison. How are you Dr. Sloane? Great to have you on the show!

Dr. Sloane: I’m fine. It’s nice to be here.

Fisher: You know, I admired your great grandfather for many years. I have a letter of his hanging on my wall that he wrote to a neighbor’s aunt in 1885 when he was wiring New York for electricity and she invited him to dinner. So what I have is his handwritten acceptance of that invitation to dinner, and I’ve always enjoyed having that. And I was reading your story a little bit and I was seeing for instance a few years ago you had a visit with a guy who was the great grandson Édouard-Léon Scott De Martinville. And he of course was one of the early people to delve into audio as well. He had the...what do you call it, the phonautograph? Where he was actually able to record some audio but was never able to play it. And I guess there has been some controversy over the years about Thomas Edison and this guy de Martinville. But you were delightful. I saw this video of you meeting with him and just sharing that commonality. I cannot imagine that your ancestor’s influence has not extended into your life to some degree.

Dr. Sloane: Well you know, it’s something to think about. It’s a hard act to follow.

Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs]

Dr. Sloane: I will say that I recall being interviewed at one point when I started working on the life of my grandmother Madeline Edison, as Edison’s daughter, that the interviewer said to me, “How is it that none of the descendants of Thomas Edison did anything noteworthy?”

Fisher: [Laughs] Wow ouch!

Dr. Sloane: [Laughs] And I said, “By nothing noteworthy, do you mean my seven books on Mark Twain and American Humor, or my brother’s fourteen medical patents?” And he said, “Oh, I guess that was a rather rude question, wasn’t it?” [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs]

Dr. Sloane: But the interviewer was very sweet about it. He was a lovely guy. It’s just that people don’t think about that. You can’t follow an act with a thousand and seventy-eight patterns in it, and look like you’re a massive inventive genius.

Fisher: No.

Dr. Sloane: You know, that’s a one of a kind thing. 

Fisher: Well and you know, the reality is, I would imagine, inventors like your great grandfather also got a lot of credit for things that people came up with in their employed, did they not?  

Dr. Sloane: Yeah, and by design. Edison, one of his best inventions, and there was no patent on this one, was the working invention factory, the laboratory and the clinical experimenting empirical lab. And he was very much dependent on guys like John Kruesi the mechanic who built all the machine models that he used to test out and to work things.

Fisher: Right.

Dr. Sloane: So the first phonograph was not built by Edison it was built by John Kruesi to Edison’s design.

Fisher: Specifics. And I think that’s really kind of typical of the era. The difference is of course is that we hear all the credit going to one person. I had a great uncle who lived in the late 1800s and he created a double stage on Broadway. And it was the Madison Square Theatre. And so in order to cut down time in between scenes to like forty seconds or so, they had a elevator that they lifted and lowered, and then when the stage was way up at the top, they were changing for the next scene or if it’s down in the pit underneath, they’re changing for the next scene, and it revolutionized theatre at time. But the guy who got the credit for it was the guy who hired him who had the idea. But it was this ancestor of mine who actually went and put together the mechanics for it and he got all the patents for it.

Dr. Sloane: Well, you know that takes me right back to the first thing you mentioned which was Scott De Martinville and the invention of the phonautograph. And thank you for your compliment on my little talk, which I was very flattered to be invited to give. But I think that it doesn’t take anything away from Edison to say that this Frenchman De Martinville had indeed recorded sound. Yeah, there it is. And it’s wonderful, but also amazing that it wasn’t until the year 2007, about 150 years later that the technology was created and in place so that you could actually listen to the sound he recorded.

Fisher: Yes.

Dr. Sloane:  And say oh yeah, this is the real thing. He actually got it but we didn’t have a way of visibly reading it. Edison developed a way of recording sound that was not so very dissimilar in its recording process from what De Martinville did. But he also developed a mechanical as opposed to a visual way of playing it back.

Fisher: Right.

Dr. Sloane: And that’s the only difference. 

Fisher: Sure.

Dr. Sloane: So yeah, they were both part, as you rightly said, they were both part of the same wave of technology, and more credit to both of them.

Fisher: Yeah absolutely. Was this the recording of Clair De Lune that I recall from the 1860s that they played back?

Dr. Sloane: Yes.

 Fisher: It was amazing. It was like on paper, wasn’t it? It was all these little lines and somebody figured out how to level out the variations in the speed of whatever it is he used to make these marks on there. And you could hear a woman in the 1860s singing Clair De Lune in France. Just an unbelievable thing but as you mentioned, there was no way ever to hear it. [Laughs]

Dr. Sloane: Yeah. Now we understand this because we see sound on a screen, on an oscilloscope and we don’t think anything of it. We see the lines going up and down every time you play something on a computer you could see a little up and down jagged line, every time you record something. And to us that seems, “Oh yeah of course, that’s the way you do it.” But there was no way of reading that until the oscilloscope and its children and grandchildren themselves were invented by inventors who were looking visually through tubes and wires and a whole lot of complex technological elements that never even existed in 1856.

Fisher: So these types of controversies, which I think to a large extent are conjured up by media people [Laughs] don’t bother you too much, do they?

Dr. Sloane: No. They really don’t. And the Tesla / Edison thing is one of the ones that’s been around for a long time.

Fisher: Yeah.

Dr. Sloane: And people try and make some kind of conspiracy, and the Tesla advocates vilify Edison, but in fact Tesla and Edison weren’t opposed to each other. They had very different ways of thinking about transmitting power. And Tesla’s AC power ideas were picked up by Westinghouse, and those are the ones that we went with whether for good or ill because transferring power over long lines is one way of doing it. The problem is that the DC power that Edison backed was locally generated. And while it might have been slower to develop, we would have had a far more diverse ability to use and manufacture power for ourselves and we might not be in this pickle we’re in now of having energy problems and energy transfer problems.

Fisher: Yeah. Well, maybe we could just go back and pick up where he was.

Dr. Sloane: There are all these different arguments but the fact of the matter is Tesla wasn’t a very good businessman and his problems were not caused by his inventiveness or lack thereof, his problems were caused by the fact that he couldn’t manage what he was doing in a way that could appeal with investors.

Fisher: I’m talking to Dr. David Sloane. He is a Professor of English at the University of New Haven. He is a great grandson of Thomas Edison. How much do you think about him? How many things you deal with everyday remind you of him?

Dr. Sloane: Oh, I don’t think of him that often now. When I was more actively consulting and going around the country teaching writing and speaking courses, every now and then I would fly into LaGuardia or Kennedy at night and say, “Gee, I wish I had a penny for every one of those light bulbs I’m looking at.”

Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs]

Dr. Sloane: [Laughs] But that’s not the way it works out.

Fisher: No it doesn’t I’m sure. I mean, your family really didn’t make a whole lot in the generations that ensued, did they?

Dr. Sloane: No, no, no. Edison, he was not really very interested in setting up big inheritances. And most of the Edison money in his own time he ploughed back into the business and into the business of making more inventions. So really, all of the descendants of Thomas Edison are basically working like you are, you know, teachers, dentists, engineers, there’s a financial manager in there, one whose in ecology, I’ve got a daughter who is taking a law class and a cousin whose a lawyer, you know, they’re typical middle class Americans.

Fisher: Sure. Are you all in touch? Do you have reunions?

Dr. Sloane: No we don’t have reunions, alas, and I wish we did. Getting us all together from different places in the country would be a little tricky. And some of us are in direct touch through the Edison Birthplace Association which is in Milan, Ohio, which is open as a little house tourist museum. And several of us are on the board of that and are interested in seeing that it’s financially sustainable, which is it basically through tourist dollars and a few grants here and there but it’s a very modest operation.

Fisher: Now, how many of you are there as far as living descendants go right now do you know?

Dr. Sloane: Living descendents, oh somewhere around sixteen or twenty. Interestingly enough, Edison had six children. He had two wives. His first wife died after having a girl and two boys. And he married again a married woman named Mina Miller from Ohio. And Mina Miller and Edison had three children also, Madeline, my grandmother and Ted and Jack. Edison’s daughter was the only one of his six children to have children.

Fisher: Wow.

Dr. Sloane: So no, not a big group at all.

Fisher: Well you know, I’d love to hear some of your inside baseball stories of the family history coming down that I’m sure you heard from your father and your grandmother who was Thomas Edison’s daughter. Can we do that?

Dr. Sloane: Sure. Let me think.

Fisher: All right. You take a break and we’ll be back and we’ll do that in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.                        

Segment 3 Episode 247

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Dr. David Sloane

Fisher: We are back! It is America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, talking to David Sloane, he is a professor of English at the University of New Haven. He also happens to be a great grandson of Thomas Alva Edison. It’s obviously a family history that whether you like it or not, I’m sure Dave, looms over you to some extent and it’s obviously quite a challenge as we talked about in the first segment. Tell us some of the stories that you heard passed down. Did your mother know Thomas Edison?

Dr. Sloane: Um, no. My own mother and father were married in 1938. Edison died in 1931.

Fisher: Okay. What about your dad as a grandson?

Dr. Sloane: My father had memories of Edison but chief among the memories was that he was very hard to communicate with because he was just about stone deaf during my father’s childhood.

Fisher: Ha!

Dr. Sloane: He really tended to get lost in his own thoughts. He was always, always working on something. It became very obvious to Edison in the 1920s that America was dependent on foreign sources of rubber in a way that made us extremely vulnerable in the event of a world war that might cut off the supply lines for rubber from Asia.

Fisher: Okay and we’d just been through a world war and obviously another was yet to come.

Dr. Sloane:  Yes and he I think may have had that sense. A lot of people I think at the end of the First World War were looking very gloomily at the world situation and weren’t pleased. And especially weren’t pleased at what was going on, on the Pacific end because of Japanese resentment and American intrusions.

Fisher: Um hmm.

Dr. Sloane: And Edison was thinking, we need a domestic source of rubber so he started working on goldenrod and he was growing goldenrod up to fourteen feet high and getting the sap.

Fisher: [Laughs] And did it work?

Dr. Sloane: He was just starting to get the kinds of sap that he thought he needed and the returns he was looking for, when the Germans developed a chemical process for synthesizing rubber using petroleum and that made his goldenrod experiments commercially unattractive.

Fisher: Yeah, that makes sense. So, did your dad see some of this in his youth?

Dr. Sloane: Yeah. There are pictures of Edison standing beside a mountain of 14 foot plants on a board and things like that.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Dr. Sloane: And that was pretty much what he was doing at the Edison winter home in Florida for years and years. Ted, Jack, and Peter the three boys of Madeline who were young enough to go to Florida during the winter and have tutors down there for a month or two sometimes, and they would have auto trips and they would do some fishing. That’s where they learned to swim. They had some experience of that winter home. Madeline, my grandmother gave me a number of Edison stories because he was a much more direct figure in her life.

Fisher: Sure.

Dr. Sloane: And one of the most memorable I’m recalling, it certainly was one of the most memorable for her in fact, took place in Glenmont, West Orange, New Jersey where Edison lived and which he is often identified with. And Madeline, we called her Toots by the way.

Fisher: [Laughs] Great name.

Dr. Sloane: Toots told me that she was leaning back on a sort of ottoman and she had high laced boots on, and the maid was pulling up the laces for her and papa walked by the door and saw that and was very angry and yelled at her and said he never wanted to see anything like that ever again from one of his children. He never wanted to see them lying back and letting somebody else lace their boots.

Fisher: Okay, laziness.

Dr. Sloane: He was a very active person and also a very egalitarian person. And you know what I mean when I say, he believed in the equality of the people who worked for him and himself in a way that was very, very uncompromising. And in fact, there is a story and it’s not in the books I recall but Madeline told me specifically that at the end of World War I they were having a reception for soldiers and there was a lot of bunting being draped around Glenmont and there were several hundred soldiers coming back to be celebrated, and the Irish maid who was working from the kitchen was asked to take sandwiches to a black seamstress who was sewing up some of the curtains for the reception, and she refused. At which point Madeline’s mother Mina fired her on the spot.

Fisher: Wow, that’s a statement.

Dr. Sloane:  As far as the Edisons were concerned there was no barrier racially to, you know, working together.

Fisher: And that’s interesting because a lot of the major industrialists back at that time that he hung with like Henry Ford is well known for his racist positions.

Dr. Sloane: Um, yes. [Laughs] Well, I’m not going to comment on that and I’m not an expert in it. I do know that the Edisons themselves believed pretty strongly in the equality of people.

Fisher: Now, I read somewhere that the Lindbergh baby kidnapping had an effect on your family.

Dr. Sloane: Yes very much so. My dad worked as a time study engineer in the rubber industry in the Naugatuck Valley in Connecticut and he didn’t make a lot of money. In fact, the only money he made was pretty much spent on household expenses and stuff and our parents were very afraid because of the Lindberghs and that if it were known that we were related to Edison that would encourage some kidnapper to want to kidnap my brother and I and I think my aunts and uncles felt the same way for their children. So we were very strongly cautioned never, never tell anyone that we were related to Thomas Edison.

Fisher: That’s fascinating. At what point did you become aware of him in your life and his significance to the world?

Dr. Sloane: Well, you know there are different levels of awareness.

Fisher: Sure.

Dr. Sloane: I met Mina Edison as a three or four year old and she was a kindly old lady. You know, sitting in a chair with a woollen comforter over her legs.

Fisher: And this is your great grandmother?

Dr. Sloane: Yea, this would be Edison’s wife.

Fisher: Um hmm.

Dr. Sloane: But as a four year old I don’t think I registered Edison in any way. [Laughs]

Fisher: All right. [Laughs]

Dr. Sloane: We had a picture book, Thomas Edison, father of invention. I’m trying to think of it.... copies can be gotten from the gift store at the Edison National Historic site or from the Edison birth place. But it was a picture book, sort of a cartoon book of Edison’s life about forty or fifty pages long. So, pretty thick and very good and I was sort of given that and I basically learned what I knew about Edison out of that picture book.

Fisher: Ha!

Dr. Sloane: And learned it very incompletely because I didn’t read the text, I just looked at the pictures. [Laughs]

Fisher: Yeah right. [Laughs] Like all four year olds.

Dr. Sloane: [Laughs] Yeah. And I’m not sure how much that awareness impacted me. All I knew was that it was something that shouldn’t be mentioned out in public and made much of because it was potentially a bad thing.

Fisher: A bad thing. Did you actually understand the risk that was involved when you were being told that young, we don’t talk about it, did you understand the reason behind it at the time?

Dr. Sloane: I understood that my parents were concerned and that was the level of understanding. It didn’t strike fear into me because I don’t think an eight or ten year old kid really thinks about that.

Fisher: Sure.

Dr. Sloane: What an amazing background Dave, and we sure appreciate you taking the time to share some of these stories and its impact on your life. What a fascinating man and what a fascinating life you’ve already lived as you mentioned earlier writing all these great books and doing great things yourself.

Dr. Sloane: Well, I thank you very much. It’s fun to talk about all this good stuff.

Fisher: I appreciate it Dave. Thanks for coming on!

Dr. Sloane: You bet.

Fisher: And coming up next, we’re going to talk preservation with Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show. 

Segment 4 Episode 247

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: It is time to talk preservation on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth with Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com, he's our Preservation Authority. Hi Tom, how're doing?

Tom: Really, really good. How're been doing?

Fisher: You know, it’s been hot! And I've been thinking, you know.

Tom: [Laughs]

Fisher: Yes, I've been driving past homes and I'm thinking, “Okay, in the west, it’s like triple digits, very dry, and in the east, its upper 80s, lower 90s, 100% humidity.” And it crossed my mind that, “Oh my gosh! Look at all these houses!” and I wonder how many of them have old home movies and old photographs and whatever up in their attics right now. The bugs are at their peak right now. This would be the worst time, right? This is when they go lay eggs. And it will get bad again in the winter when everything's too cold and you've got rodents up in there. What a great time this would be before the kids are back in school to get up in there and rescue your family treasures before they're further destroyed.

Tom: In fact, you mentioned some great things about the bugs. Even something as simple as a mosquito, how small they are, if they get inside a box with photos and lay eggs, even though they're never going to hatch because there's no water involved, they're going to make these little black spots the size of a pinhead all over your photos, and those are almost impossible to get off. So even though there's not going to be any eggs that hatch, you're still going to have those. Whereas the roaches, they are going to climb in there, they are going to lay eggs, and as soon as the roaches are hatched, they're going to start munching on the closest thing, and unfortunately they're your photographs.

Fisher: They do get hungry after hatching, don't they? [Laughs]

Tom: They do, yeah. And they're carnivorous, they'll eat anything.

Fisher: Well, and we talk about this all the time, about where to store your things. And Tom, you've given some great advice over the years about not putting it, say, in a closet with an outdoor wall that borders on the outdoors, because that's where the temperatures change from one extreme to the other every six months. So this is the time to get those things out of those extremes. I'm just thinking, we've got to call for a rescue mission here for some people who've been sleeping on the job.

Tom: Oh yeah, absolutely. And a lot of our new listeners have no clue about that kind of information that they need to make sure that get these away from places that are going to be extremes, like we've talked about. Cold isn't good for them, hot is not good for them. But even if you're kind of in not too hot, not too cold, but it’s going back and forth with air conditioners and heaters and the ducts running over on top of your photos and slides and videos and things like this, those changes in temperature are actually going to be worse than extreme heat constantly or extreme cold constantly. So that can actually be a bad thing, having it in your closet by a heating duct.

Fisher: And I should mention, too, there is hope. I mean, if you're going up there and it’s that hot. I had a friend of mine who did this. He went up in the attic and it was just smoking hot, and he was just going through some things and he found a whole bunch of reels of old home movies from the '50s and '60s and he was horrified, "Oh my gosh! They're going to be destroyed!" Went out and got them digitized, and they were decent! They can be salvaged, but remember that every day the clock is ticking on these things.

Tom: Yeah, we've had people that have brought things in and they go, "I don't want to put this on my projector and ruin it." And sometimes we open them and they're fine. We had one customer that had about eighteen reels of 16mm film up in a closet, and unfortunately it was right on an air duct, so it had hot and cold constantly going through it.

Fisher: Ugh!

Tom: And the first can, totally toast! All it was, was dust. But the farther it got away from it, it kind of insulated it, so the last six reels were fine. They looked beautiful. But the first few reels were totally toast. Some of them were disintegrated, some of them had warped and cracked so bad that there was nothing really there to transfer. And also, if they have warped a little bit and stretched a little bit, we have a special device that's actually called a belt transfer. It doesn't use the sprockets. It’s a belt. And so, we can still transfer some things that have been warped. So don't think, "Oh, you know, all hope is lost." Come in with the best that you have or contact somebody in your area that does the same kind of services and say, "Hey, this is what I have. What can I do?" and get them to help you. If you have questions, you can always email us or go on our Facebook page and ask us questions. And we're more than happy to help you and tell you who's in your area that's the closest that can help you if you're too far away to bring it in here.

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

Segment 5 Episode 247

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: We are back at it for our final segment of Extreme Genes for this week, America's Family History Show. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, talking to Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com, he is our Preservation Authority. Tom, we were just talking about this idea of going and rescuing stuff right now in the peak of summer from out of attics, wherever they may be. Humidity's destroying things, heat's destroying things. Six months from now, we'll be talking about the cold and the rodents up there.

Tom: [Laughs]

Fisher: But you know, off air you had a great idea. The idea was, you know, take the kids up into the attic with you and go search for some of this stuff and pull this stuff out and share stories and record it while you're doing it. I mean, what a great family history experience right there that can cover multiple generations.

Tom: Oh absolutely! Bring your iPhone, your Android, recording device, whatever you have and just put it on record. And then start going through boxes, and the interaction with you and your kids. You might get some incredible stories about showing them photos, and maybe they even remember some of the people in the photos even though maybe they were eight or nine years old. You'll get some great stories that later on you'll be able to go and drop it into an editing program, put these photos that you're looking at with them and you're going to have a keepsake that's just absolutely incredible.

Fisher: You know, it’s funny as we talk about this stuff, I'm able to actually smell what my attic smelt like in Connecticut when I was growing up. And remember the mouse traps my mom had to put up there periodically, because in the winter, you could hear them scattering around. It was awful! I've been thinking, "What a terrible place to store things!" And fortunately, she kept them in cabinets in a living room away from vents. And I don't think she had any idea of what she was doing or why she was doing it. But we didn't have any issues with things being stored in extreme heat or cold or even the alternating things. And we've been very fortunate, because as a result of that, pretty much everything we've had that dates back, even to home movies from the 1940s have preserved really quite well.

Tom: Yeah, you're one of the fortunate ones. And that's smart that your mother was inspired or whatever caused her to do it that way. But a lot of us unfortunately just have shoe boxes and things like this that the bugs can get into. And the thing is, once you go in and clean them up and take care of them and scan them or do whatever. If you don't have time to scan them right now, at least repatriate them, take them out of those boxes. Put them in the double boxes with the Styrofoam. If the attic's the only place you store them, it’s either that or nowhere, then you can do that. But make sure you do the things we've talked about on other episodes. Get a box within a box with Styrofoam from Lowes or Home Depot that's going to insulate it. Get the long grain rice and cheesecloth tied up with string to get the moisture away from it, all these different tricks we've been talking about over the years are going to make it a lot better. So if that's the only place you can store it, you know, if you've got to do so, let's make the best of what we have in this situation, and then as soon as you can, start getting the things transferred. If it’s one tape a month, that's fine. That's twelve more tapes in a year than you would have had otherwise.

Fisher: Yeah, that's a really good point too. The kids will be back in school here in a few weeks, then maybe you'll have a little more time to get to see somebody like Tom around the country who can help you out with that. And you're right, you chip away at it, because if you were to try to do the whole thing at one time, it’s expensive! There's no doubt about it. But what price is too much to preserve those memories. I mean, they're irreplaceable, they're one of a kind, and wouldn't your mom and dad be very upset if you let them rot, right Tom?

Tom: Exactly. And that's one thing you have to look at, it’s not just your preserving them, these make great Christmas gifts, anniversaries, birthdays, all kinds of things. And you know, you go and spend a couple hundred bucks on a new flat screen television for them, that's going to last them six months, a year, two month, as technology changes. But these memories, they're going to have forever. And use them as creative gifts. It just makes it so much better and it'll save you money in the long run.

Fisher: There's your thought, right? Use it as a part of your Christmas budget.

Tom: Exactly.

Fisher: All right Tom, great thoughts. And get up in that attic and get things cleared out people! All right, we'll talk to you again next week, Tom. Thanks so much.

Tom: My pleasure.

Fisher: Hey, that's it for this week. Thanks so much for joining us. And thanks of course to Dr David Sloane, great grandson of Thomas Edison who joined us earlier on the show. If you missed any part of it or you want to hear it again or you want to share it with someone of course, catch the podcast. It’s on iHeart Radio, iTunes and ExtremeGenes.com and other places. And don't forget to sign up for our Weekly Genie Newsletter. We link to all kinds of great interviews from the past and the present and links to stories that you as a genealogist will find fascinating. Talk to you next week. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!

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