Episode 251 - What’s Ahead For FamilySearch? / Researching Descendants And Learning About Ancestors

podcast episode Sep 16, 2018

Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. Fisher shares two stories from his recent trip to Indiana, including a unique experience while giving his keynote address at the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference in Fort Wayne. The other story illustrates the unexpected danger of exploring cemeteries in Michigan! Listen to what happened! David then opens Family Histoire News with the awful news of a fire that has destroyed the National Museum in Brazil. The loss is unimaginable. Then Fisher and David talk about a man in England who had a dilemma. His beloved mother-in-law had passed, and the funeral home where she was to have her viewing had gone out of business. Wait til you hear what he did! Then, David shares the heartwarming story of a 99-year-old man who walks six miles a day to visit his ailing wife of 55 years!  David then shines his Blogger Spotlight on Jo Henn at jahcmft.blogspot.com. Jo blogs her family stories hoping to use them as “cousin bait” to learn more about her ancestors.

Next, Fisher visits with Ron Tanner of FamilySearch.org. Ron and Fisher discuss the many changes coming to the iconic website, and particularly “The Tree,” which will soon include same sex couples. It’s a great update on one of genealogy’s great resources.

Then, Fisher talks with Brian Irwin of Legacy Tree Genealogists about descendancy research. To hear Fisher tell it, it’s one of the most important strategies you could ever pursue, especially when trying to break down brick walls.

Finally, Tom Perry, the Preservation Authority from TMCPlace.com, talks about a unique digitization problem he recently came upon, possibly from the 1920s, and how he has been able to resolve it. In part two, Tom goes into the importance of getting those oral histories recorded now if you’re planning to include them in video presentations intended to be done for the holidays.

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

Transcript of Episode 251

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 251

Fisher: You have found us! It’s America’s Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here your Radio Roots Sleuth on the program where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out. And this segment is brought to you by Familysearch.org. Hey, welcome Genies! Great to have you along today. We’ve got a couple of great guests later in the show. Ron Tanner will be here from FamilySearch.org, filling you in on what you’re going to be seeing on that incredible site in the months and perhaps years to come as well, what they’re working on, what they’re fixing, what they’re trying to improve. It’s going to be a great interview coming up, starting in about nine minutes. And then later in the show, if you’re into tracing descendants from ancestors, maybe finding out what some of those descendants have on your ancestors. You’re going to want to hear Brian Irwin. He’s with Legacy Tree Genealogists, one of our sponsors, and he’s got some great advice and great stories from that strategy, and of course Tom Perry later in the show talking about preservation. Hey, and just a reminder, check out our Patron Club at Patreon.com/ExtremeGenes, so just link to it through ExtremeGenes.com. It’s a way for people to support the show and get all kinds of added benefits like a little personal instruction and bonus podcast, all kinds of great stuff there for our Patron Club members, and we look forward to having you join the group. But right now it is time to check in once again with my good friend David Allen Lambert, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. We missed you last week David. You were on a little trip after the FGS Conference in Indiana.

David: Yeah, I went to take the family out to see “The Mouse.” We went down to Disneyworld, had a wonderful time, and now I’m back at NEHGS doing what I do, finding the dead people. [Laughs]

Fisher: It was a great conference in Indiana, and I’m going to share a couple of quick stories here. (1) When I was giving the keynote speech on Wednesday about the importance of story, I had my cell phone in my shirt pocket under my jacket and it was off. It wasn’t obviously going to ring or anything like that, but I just figured better than leaving it up in the hotel room and having to go get it later. So, in the middle of this thing it says, you know, vttt, vttt. I’m thinking, “All right, well fine, obviously someone is texting something. And then vttt, vttt, vttt, and this just kept going on and on and on and it’s like wow!

David: Um hmm.

Fisher: So, when I got up to the hotel room after the whole thing was over I checked, “What was all that messaging about?” [Laughs] It was people in the audience tweeting out quotes from my speech there are, like thirty four of them. I just thought, “Well, that’s just the craziest thing of all, right?” Only in the 21st century.

David: I love when you went to the next gen meet-up at the conference when you called out a couple of the people who had been the culprits of the buzz, buzz, buzz. You talked and I think they turned crimson. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs] And then the other thing, after you left and the conference was over, my wife Julie and I, we rented a car and we went up to Michigan. I’d never been there, and we wanted to go to a little cemetery in one of her ancestral towns called Mottville. And in the process of brushing away some weeds from tombstones so I could get a picture, I drove something into my thumb.

David: Ooh.

Fisher: And I thought I had been bitten by something, and I looked down and I go, “Oh, I’ve just got two stickers on my thumb.” And I went to pull one, and the other started to pull IN and I realized I had driven this thorn all the way through my thumb! [Laughs]

David: Aghh.

Fisher: So I took it out. It bled like crazy. My hands were all dirty from rubbing on tombstones and then the next day I had to go and get a tetanus shot because I hadn’t had one in ten years. [Laughs] So, a crazy finish to the Indiana trip.

David: Well, you know you can now do two separate genealogical projects at the same time. Now apparently, you can do DNA testing and rub a gravestone at the same time thanks to Scott Fisher! [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs] At the same time, there you go. All right, we’ve got to get into our Family Histoire News today and there’s some big news out of Brazil.

David: There really is. The National Museum in Brazil, over 200 years old this year, unfortunately had a devastating fire which claimed over 20 million artifacts potentially, ranging from ancient Egypt to Pompeii, let alone the ancient history of Brazil, including the skull of a twelve thousand year old Paleo-Indian woman which is one of the oldest finds in the Americas. Now it’s probably lost. The pictures are devastating. They’re asking the public however, Fish, if you ever visited, to send the photos. And I actually did a blog piece on the Pastfinder.wordpress.com so you can find out who to write to if you’ve ever been there. An insignificant photograph may be the only image they have because their archives burned too.

Fisher: Aghh, that’s the ultimate nightmare. This has got to be the worst museum/archive disaster ever, right? Twenty million pieces. Twenty million?

David: Yeah, they are like I say, going to be sifting through thing, hopefully, finding this and that, but I mean, really, the context is gone, and who knows what fragments they even have.

Fisher: Aghh.

David: Another thing that you can obviously do in family history is go to a cemetery or you can go to funeral home and get your mother-in-law’s body because they went out of business.

Fisher: [Laughs] Yes, I saw this. This is over in England. Yeah, the funeral home was going out of business and so he just went in and said, ok he called the police first, said, “I’m going to go rescue my mother-in-law’s remains.” [Laughs] And they just rolled her out of there and took her to another funeral home, and to this day the wife doesn’t know what happened.

David: Well, I see that he remained anonymous, but I’ll tell you it really gives a new meaning when “business is dead.”

Fisher: Yes. [Laughs]

David: Ohh. Well, our next person I’m going to talk about is a 99-year old gentleman out in Rochester, New York. His name is Luther Younger, which is a great name for someone who is almost 100 years old.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: He walks six miles a day to visit his wife in the hospital, proving that love truly is worth the extra mile.

Fisher: Yeah, they’ve been together 55 years. He’s 99 and he does push-ups. He’s an ex-marine, and he’s proving his strength. You ought to see this guy. He looks like somebody in their fifties.

David: That’s amazing. My blogger spotlight this week Fish shines upon Jo Henn, and she has a blog at Jahcmft.blogspot.com where she likes to go out and put out as she calls “cousin bait.” She puts out stories about her family with the idea that maybe she’ll find some distant cousins who’ll be searching for the same information.

Fisher: Great idea.

David: It really is. It just goes to show you can write a blog on your family and find new family because of it. Well, that’s all I have from Boston. I’d like to invite, as always, our Extreme Genes listeners to become a member of NEHGS. And if you use the coupon code “Extreme” you’ll save $20 on membership. Catch you next week my friend.

Fisher: All right David, thanks so much. Good to have you back! And thanks of course to Brooke Ganz who filled in for David last week, who also did a great job. And coming up next we’re going to talk to Ron Tanner with FamilySearch.org about their plans for the future. Great website with a lot of information. You’re going to want to hear it, coming up in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 251

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Ron Tanner

Fisher: Welcome back. It is America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, and my next guest is a guy I saw at a conference at Brigham Young University. I want to say in 2014, and what a dynamic speaker. And this guy is with Family Search. His name is Ron Tanner. And Ron, it is great to finally get you on the show. You’re a busy man.

Ron: Oh yes, [Laughs] well thanks. I always want to be helpful. I always want to be able to share and help people understand how Family Search work and on The Tree and other aspects.

Fisher: Well you know, the thing about Family Search and The Tree is the uniqueness of the fact that it’s really the only model out there that’s a wiki tree, meaning that we all kind of work on it together, which really creates unique problems and also unique solutions in many cases because obviously if you just have your own little segment of your tree of the tree of man on say Ancestry or My Heritage, or elsewhere, you can preserve mistakes there that get copied by many others, but on a wikitree you can actually have people go in and really mess up what is correct or really correct what is wrong. And those are unique challenges just to Family Search. But you’ve made some great progress in that especially since the old days without new Family Search which had a huge share of problems back then, but not since 2012 when you rebuilt the Family Tree.

Ron: Yeah, that’s true. It’s a different model for sure. To be honest, when we were discussing Family Tree and deciding whether we should go in that direction, I was a bit nervous because it is very different from how genealogy has been done for years, you know, centuries even. It was always a very private thing.

Fisher: And a personal thing. It’s yours, right? Not everybody’s.

Ron: Well, but we forget sometimes that our grandfather or great grandfather had other kids, that then made a much broader family. And when family members pass on, all of their information is sort of spread across the whole family. And if that’s many generations back, that information gets spread to descendants that you don’t even know exist. And the idea of a family tree is to be able to get all of those distant cousins and relatives who have all of the little pieces of information and bring them together to get a consolidated great view of a person. Now, you did mention some time up the challenge of people making things worse.

Fisher: Right.

Ron: And it certainly is possible, and often times that’s for a couple of reasons. You know, one is like what you mentioned earlier, there could have been mistakes made by some previous researcher in your family.

Fisher: That’s right.

Ron: And it’s that GEDCOM, or that half file, or Roots Magic file that’s been passed down from family to family but it has errors in it. And a lot of people treat that, well, aunt so and so was a great genealogist, so it has to be all correct.

Fisher: Right, [Laughs] exactly.  And there it goes. And somebody has very carefully done new research and found all the correct dates and answers and maybe new family members, and they go back six months later and somebody has gone in and changed it to this ancient model of the family that just drives you nuts. But that’s really kind of the give and take of what a wiki model is, right?

Ron: That’s right. And there’s things we need to do better in our system to help that. Our goal has always been to encourage people to correct bad data and discourage them from destroying good data. Of course, it’s hard for a machine to figure out what’s good and what’s bad. 

Fisher: Sure.

Ron: So, we look for some elements such as died before birth, or you put kids in that were born after the parents died, those sorts of things. And then we try to use techniques to slow people down so that they can read what’s there. That’s why we ask for reason statements with your changes to say why do you believe this data is correct, and we don’t allow people to change things until they look at it with the hopes that they’ll recognize that ooh, what I’m putting in is very different. And they talk about it in this reason statement as, that old date isn’t the right date. People have been very successful with it but it does take some diligence for several months. There’s one lady who was determined, had this particular ancestor that kept getting changed by all these bad files out there.

Fisher: Sure.

Ron: And she just, one at a time as a person went in change it, they’d contact that person, see how they’re related, explains to them why that was an incorrect change, and then they’d go back to their reason statement and they’ll add to the reason statement, “Hey, if you got this GEDCOM file from this person who originally created it, it’s incorrect and this is why.”

Fisher: Right. And that’s important stuff. And I love the notes there because I think that makes a huge difference. I think another issue that has been largely cleared away is the merging issue with what they call the people of unusual size, a little tip of the hat to Princess Bride [Laughs] which was one of my favorites.

Ron: That’s right, “individuals of unusual size” we called it.

Fisher: Yes.

Ron: After the “rodents of unusual size” in Princess Bride. And the issue there was basically because back in the prior system which was called New Family Search, unfortunately, but the prior system it kept all data. So, when you combined two people together the system had to deal with twice as much data, and then when you combined a third it had three times and it continued to grow to a point where we couldn’t even hold it in the memory of these super computers that we have running. When we moved to Family Tree we changed that model, because in reality you don’t want to see all of the myriad of birth dates that people had put in.

Fisher: Right.

Ron: You want to see the correct one, or the most recent one.

Fisher: Sure.

Ron: And so, that’s when we moved to the change log and we moved it when you merge. Today when you merge, you just taking data from the duplicate and only moving over the data that’s best to keep.

Fisher: Yes.

Ron: The rest of it is archived away, and so the person doesn’t grow any bigger and bigger, so we don’t run out of space to store it.

Fisher: Right. And that was a huge plus moving forward. So, now with the way things have changed, particularly in the United States, and certain have over in Europe, as I understand it, Family Search is moving towards accepting same sex marriages also as part of a tree.

Ron: That’s correct. Because our goal is to accurately document the families and genealogy of human kind. And these relationships have existed in the past and exist today. So we want to accurately reflect today’s and past relationships including as you said, same sex relationships. We haven’t completed the work to allow this to happen yet, because we still have a couple of older systems that were developed when we only allowed male-female relationships for instance as parents or male-female spouses. Once we get those systems completed, which we expect to happen early in 2019, then we can make our final changes in Family Tree and sometime after that, early 2019, will allow the ability to enter in same sex spouses and same sex parents of a child.

Fisher: You know, I was just thinking of getting back again to these old sets and the changes that people make, changing the good stuff to bad stuff, and the bad stuff to good stuff. I’ve heard talk about maybe panels being assigned to certain older families. For instance, there’s not new information coming out on Mayflower families, right? I mean that information is very limited where it came from in the first place. Maybe there’s an old book that has some bad information in it that could cause somebody to go in and change what has long been established by very few records from that early time. Is there talk of putting in for instance, a panel to oversee certain families or just to lock them up and say there is nothing further to add to this, and maybe present that to a panel should something come up that truly is new from some record over in England for instance?

Ron: Yeah. We’re still exploring various options there. Certainly, we have some locked records today in Family Tree. We actually have too many locked records in my opinion, because in the past, in the prior system, it was sort of used as a mechanism to eliminate conflict between users and when we were first running the first tree at New Family Search. And so, we’re going through a process of evaluating all the locked persons in the system, make sure that the ones that we are planning to lock are well researched based on documented things from user groups. There are societies that would have this data. And while we’re examining and exploring, we haven’t made a final decision yet, is the concept of having them locked but having discussions, which is an option we allow on each person where people can post comments about the person and the data that’s on it. And then have individuals or groups potentially monitoring those discussion boards, and if they see something there that seems reasonable to explore then we can explore further to see if there’s new evidence that have come to light and then make those adjustments and then relock it so to speak.

Fisher: Oh. That would be great.

Ron: Or allow some people to assist us in updating that.

Fisher: So, who would make those decisions? Is this like a panel of just Family Search users who then work with somebody actually associated with Family Search itself?

Ron: That’s the thing we’re trying to explore. Initially, it would probably be the person who makes the actual changes or allows those changes to happen, would probably initially be a Family Search employee that’s in the research departments or in support organizations, but a very high-up support person not a frontline support. And then eventually, we want to explore the concept of community involvement and community administrators in these areas. That’s been a successful thing in Wikipedia for instance.

Fisher: Sure.

Ron: Slow some bad changes. So, we want to explore that, but we kind of want to dip our toe in a little carefully at the beginning. So, it will probably be Family Search employees appraising now or making the actual changes based on community involvement.

Fisher: Yeah.

Ron: In gathering all the sources and varying their accuracy.

Fisher: It sounds like frankly a monstrous project to take on because there are a lot of early families that this would most likely be affected by, right?

Ron: Absolutely, and especially early church and also prominent people. And we have relationships with large societies you know, New England Society, and all those large societies. We have relationships with them and we’re interacting with them to see how we can collaborate together to make sure it’s documented properly.

Fisher: All right. He’s Ron Tanner. He’s with FamilySearch.org. Ron thanks so much for your time and the update on what’s going on at Family Search. Always amazed by the new record sets. How many pages by the way of new records are you adding every day at this point? Do you know?

Ron: Well, we average about 250 million new records every four weeks.

Fisher: Wow! That is insane. So, if you’re missing a record, you can’t find somebody, just keep checking back in with FamilySearch and they can help you out. Thanks so much Ron. Look forward to seeing you at Roots Tech.

Ron: Thank you. I’ll be glad to be there and I’m happy and excited to talk more.

Fisher: And coming up next, we’ll talk with Brian Irwin from Legacy Tree Genealogists about tracing down descendants and some great tips to making that work, in five minutes.

Segment 3 Episode 251

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Brian Irwin

Fisher: Back at it, at Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. I am Fisher, your Radio Roots Sleuth and my next guest is a Project Manager at Legacy Tree Genealogists. His name is Brian Irwin. And Brian is into descendancy research. And what this means is basically, you’re trying to find other descendants of ancestors and this is largely because, well, other descendants might have things that you don’t have, photographs, Bible records, letters. I mean you could name all kinds of things. You’re always going to be surprised at what you find. You know Brian, back in around 1989, I started doing this with great success and found things I could never imagine, all over the country and this was before the internet. I was writing letters and calling 411 for directory assistance and calling people. It was expensive, but boy, it worked out so well. And I thought I had invented this particular technique at the time you know, because I had never anybody else doing it. But it really is, especially in this day of DNA and trying to figure out who some of these people are. Descendancy research is a hugely important aspect of family history research.

Brian: It really is. You know, you mentioned how with traditional genealogical research you work back in time and connect yourself with your ancestors further and further back. And with descendancy research you’re going in the other direction.

Fisher: Yeah.

Brian: And in some respects it can be more difficult than doing traditional research, but there are a number of tools and things that are helpful in that regard.

Fisher: Well, you’ve got the one problem obviously with the closer you get to modern times you’ve got privacy and it’s a little harder to find people, but the rewards from doing this are great. And the reason I started doing this was because I was stuck and I was still kind of new to the whole thing. And I had been doing it for about seven years and I was stuck on my name line and I just determined well, I’m never going to find where he came from in England. He had a common name. We didn’t have a set birth date. We didn’t know where in England he was from other than the county. It was like one of the biggest counties in all of England, Yorkshire. And I just figured okay, well, to learn more about the family, let’s research the descendants, but when I got into that I found people that had records, that had letters, that had oral tradition, that had all kinds of information. We even found the family photo album from the 19th century with a third cousin in Minnesota and we bonded very quickly. We had a great time. I went to spend a weekend with them and it was just like we had been family forever, which we pretty much had but who knew, right? That’s the fun of it.

Brian: Yeah. I think that’s one of the most fulfilling things. My father and with a lot of people I went back in time, they were traced back to see how far back they could go. I remember having a conversation with my mother saying, “You know, I kind of wonder who some of the living people are? Who are these cousins?”

Fisher: Right.

Brian: And as I started doing my own descendancy research, I’ve actually been able to talk to quite a few people, and form some nice relationships with them and we often talk about family history but other times we veer from that. It’s just I find it very fulfilling just from that standpoint alone. But when you start talking to them and finding out what they know and what other people in your family tree know, your genetic cousins, it’s amazing what you can actually find.

Fisher: Yes. In fact, that’s how we broke open the line. I got it back in England because one of these cousins had some notes that were left by a great grandparent to his grandmother and he still had that, but it isn’t shown anywhere else in any record that would have given me the link in any other way. And another thing that came out of this as you were mentioning, the great relationships you developed. We had two or three family reunions back in the day getting together with these people and we had a great time. It was a great experience, and we’re still in touch with a lot of these folks that I found twenty or thirty years ago. One thing I’m noticing though Brian, with today so much easy access to people online, those relationships aren’t developed as easily as they were when you just were reaching out to individuals one at a time.

Brian: That’s true. And sometimes people can be a little wary I think when you first reach out to them. But I think if you go into it with the attitude that you have some things that they might be interested in and not really expect anything in return, that often goes a long way.

Fisher: Right. I totally agree. In fact, it is interesting because I generally have tons of material to share with them and they’ll say, “Oh well, all I have is this one little photograph.” And it’s like, man, that’s a gold nugget to me. And when you reach out to people who aren’t online for instance, there are tons of distant cousins who haven’t posted anything on any site anywhere but they have the Bible. They have these old pictures that they can share with you and a lot of them, especially the older ones. Has it been your experience that the older ones are happy to find somebody who cares or who is interested and are often willing to share things with you?

Brian: Yes, I have. And they’re the ones who have some of these keepsakes. I was sitting at my son’s graduation one day and I got an email, a picture of my great, great grandmother and one of the children that we had not known anything about. It was just fascinating. Here I am sitting at a graduation and I get this photograph of somebody that I had never seen before. It was thrilling how that even came about. I had heard about it through somebody else so I kind of reached out to one of my other cousins and I said, “Hey, I understand there’s this photo out there somewhere. Have you ever seen it before?” And he searched around, and sure enough he produced it. So, that was a lot of fun and those are some of the really neat things you can get. You know, when you look at how do you do descendancy research? This side of the 1940 census, the records, they were just not as available.

Fisher: Right.

Brian: You know, you go and look for obituaries. You look through some of the public databases. Social media sites are fantastic, Facebook, LinkedIn. A username somewhere that might be on Ancestry tree or something like that. You do a search for an email address or something and it’s amazing what information you can find out there and how it makes it possible to reach out to some of these people and work together. Again, I think that’s one of the most exciting things to me, is being able to meet some of the people that you share a common ancestor and they have these stories, they have documents, they have other things that can help. That’s really fulfilling to me.

Fisher: Yeah, absolutely and it’s another great way by the way to find potential DNA matches that you can test out, you know, various Y-chromosome matches or even autosomal that can give you a breakthrough in that way and that’s something that’s obviously unique to this time period that could never have been done fifteen to twenty years ago.

Brian: Yeah. It kind of works both ways, now if you look at your DNA matches and you can say, “I know I’m related to this person. How?” [Laughs]

Fisher: Yeah.

Brian: So, you look at their trees and try and find some things out and in other cases you’re working down the tree and you say, okay I want kind of a tree completeness. Start with like a second great grandfather or something and work down and try to figure out all of the descendants there. And if you go back over your match list you may just find that you’ve discovered a few people. Some are just interested in their ethnicity.

Fisher: Sure.

Brian: But, many of them are interested in finding out more about their past. So, I’ve really enjoyed that aspect of it. And like you said, being able to identify certain people, you actually have a targeted test plan, a DNA test plan. It can allow you to find people that you may be able to test, to verify that you do share a common ancestor. That’s something we do a lot at Legacy Tree.

Fisher: That’s right. Yes, absolutely. I’ve done it a lot myself. We’ve traced down a fifth cousin because his Y-chromosome would give us an indicator on the direction to go with the ancestor we were trying to break through on. And so, doing descendancy research helps us go backwards. You know, there are just so many benefits to it now. The only thing like I say that I think is a little harder is that we don’t develop necessarily the relationships that we did when we reached out to people individually because there’s so many folks now that we can find online with all the great tools you were talking about Brian. But it’s a technique that a lot of people I don’t think have ever considered. They just think okay just go back, back, back. But when you can’t go back any further, the way to get back might be to come forward first, get information that they have, photographs, materials, and maybe even some documents, records, or oral history that you weren’t expecting that could get you over the hump. It’s a great way to go.

Brian: Yeah.

Fisher: He’s Brian Irwin, the Project Manager at Legacy Tree Genealogists, talking about descendancy research. Thanks so much Brian! It really is a lot of fun and the stories that come from it are unbelievable. In fact, in my experience the best stuff comes from descendancy research.

Brian: I would agree.

Fisher: Thanks so much for coming on and we’ll talk to you again.

Brian: Thanks for having me.

Fisher: And coming up next, it’s Tom Perry our Preservation Authority from TMCPlace.com. He’s getting you ready for the holidays and he’s got a great story to share too, on the way in minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 4 Episode 251

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: Hey, welcome back, its America's Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. I am Fisher, your Radio Roots Sleuth. And this segment is brought to you by Legacy Tree Genealogists. Tom Perry is on with us right now from TMCPlace.com, he is our Preservation Authority. How’s it going Tom?

Tom: It’s awesome! Family preservations is so much fun, it rocks!

Fisher: It really is fun. And you know, I know that this time of year means you're starting to get some new projects in, maybe things you wouldn't see at any other time of the year because of the holidays and all that. Have you seen anything unique lately?

Tom: Yeah, we had something come in really strange. It was from one of your listeners. And when the film came in they told us, "Hey, we have no idea where this came from." You could see where there's old Scotch tape on it that was gone now, so there's no label on it. And it kind of looked like it was 16mm of film, but it wasn't the normal 16mm can. It was like somebody found an old tin and that's what they put it in. And as we started looking at it, we're going, "Wait! These sprockets are a little bit different." And the film looks like it’s a little bit wider than 16mm, so we're going "Hey, now this is unusual." So, we looked at it on our 16mm machine and some things were getting cut off and we're going, "Okay, now this is really weird." So then what we did is, we went and put it on our sprocketless machine, which we usually use when your film is like warped, because it’s been through a fire or it’s been too hot in your attic or something. And we can run it through that. And so what we would do is  we would setup a gate on our machine that would shoot every single frame, one frame at a time as a jpeg, which later on we'd go and lace it back together so it looks like a continuous movie. But these frames were a little bit off 16mm, so we're kind of confused of what it was. We don't know if somebody had the gate on their camera had broken and somebody tried to fix it themselves or it was just a weird gate or maybe this was some format in some, you know, old communist country that did everything internally that they made their own system and it just never ever got out.

Fisher: Now wait a minute, it sounds like your imagination's running a little wild here, Tom. I mean, what era are you thinking this is coming from?

Tom: Looking at the photos so far, I would say this probably is the '20s just by what their dress is, kind of how everything moves, everything's kind of off kilter a little bit.

Fisher: Um hmm.

Tom: So it looks like something that was shot back in the '20s. But once we get these pictures together and we can actually look at them better and compare them to other things, we'll know a better time frame. Because a lot of times, in some other countries, maybe their dress was a little bit different than what we would expect in the US. So we kind of look at this and try and figure out what it is. These people are going to go to their Facebook, they're going to go on websites, Instagram and say, "Hey family! Does anybody recognize these people? Does anybody recognize this scenery?" And who knows, somebody may come in and, you know, you talk about imagination, we have no idea who these people are or where they're from, so we're just going to have to take it piece by piece, try and see if somebody recognizes what country it is by a mountain range in the background or something and then from that, we can go and think, "Okay, this looks like it could be the, you know, '20s to the '40s. What was going on in this area? Do we have relatives from there? Do you know people from there?"

Fisher: Amazing. I'm thinking though, I mean, how many feet do you have of this film so far? Do you know?

Tom: There's probably about 1200 feet, which sounds like a lot, but you've got to realize, this is kind of a pseudo 16mm, where 2000 feet is an hour, so it’s only about 30 minutes worth of film. And we're not sure how much of it's going to be usable, how much is going to be totally gone.

Fisher: But you're talking then if I've got my math right, over 24,000 individual images that you're doing one at a time, right?

Tom: Oh, exactly.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Tom: This is a process that we're praying that we'll get it done before Christmas. But they don't care. They're not in a hurry. So, we just want to get it done, we want to get it done right. And if it’s not done for Christmas, it really doesn't matter. So, we're doing it as we can. As we have Christmas rushes, people need to start getting stuff in, because we're running into deadlines, people across the country's running into deadlines, that we can push it to the side if we need to, but it’s really fascinating.

Fisher: Boy, that sounds like an amazing project and I look forward to hearing more about that as time goes on, but wow! By the way, if you're just an average person looking to bring in your stuff, don't expect a project to be that complicated. [Laughs] It won't be! All right, well, coming up next, Tom, let's talk about Oral histories, getting these ready right now, because that's going to be an important part of family history gifts when the holiday season comes up in December. We'll talk about that, coming up in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 251

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: Hey, we're back! It’s our final segment on Extreme Genes for this week, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here with Tom Perry, our Preservation Authority from TMCPlace.com. And Tom, we were talking a lot recently between ourselves about boy, what are the big projects coming up right now? And I would imagine, the most complicated ones are the ones where you start getting your old home movies and videos and then you have to edit them and then you want to add some music and maybe the important aspect to adding Oral histories from the older members of our families, telling us who some of the people are in some of these scenes that we might see, or when they took place or where and what the significance was, some stories behind the stories. Are you starting to see a few of those right now? And what do we have to do to start getting ready with those oral histories?

Tom: Oh absolutely. We've had people call in and check in with us. Everybody who wants to wait until last minutes. We tell them right now you need to get this done. If you've already got your oral histories actually on a cassette tape or something or CD or a thumb drive or something, then you can get those and put them with your photos, your slides, your videotapes. It makes very unique gifts for Christmas. But if you haven't gotten that far, you need to get rocking and rolling right now. The kids are back in school, so you have no excuses with them running around the house. You need to get out, talk to grandma and grandpa, uncles and aunts, especially those that are kind of getting on the older edge. You need to sit down with them and get them recorded. And remember, it easy to do, don't really tell them what you're doing, say, "Hey you know, I want to film this thing, but before we do, I want to sit down with you with this ledger page and let's just talk about different things. I want to write these notes down, then we'll film later." Little do they know, the camera's actually recording. Your iPhone or your Android in your pocket is actually turned on and recording.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Tom: So, you're getting the really good bits right now when they’re relax. Once that camera goes, they're like deers in the headlight and they freeze and they forget their name and it’s really tough to do stuff. That's why you want to do it incognito, and you'll get really, really cool stuff.

Fisher: [Laughs] I like this. It’s like “Dr. Evil does family history interviews.” Very nice, Tom!

Tom: [Laughs]

Fisher: Well, you know, this is true. And I 'm glad you brought up the idea of old cassettes. I mean, I have some that go back to the '60s and '70s with my father and a grandfather, and the stories are on there to be had if they can get digitized. And once they're digitized, you can do all kinds of things with them and editing them and adding them to video records that you might want to put together. And you talk about a holiday gift that just gives for generations on end. It will be truly treasured.

Tom: Oh absolutely. This stuff, you can't put a price tag on it. Like you say, it'll be treasured forever. Like if I had my great great, great, great grandparents had done something like this, I would love to go back and listen to it. The oldest thing I have is when my grandmother died  when I was about 6 or 7 and I love to go and listen to the recording I made from the old reel to reel at her funeral to learn all the stuff about grandma that I had no idea about whatsoever. And these things are so priceless and it’s so fun. It’s kind of like, once you stick your toe into the golf and see how warm it is, "Oh this is great! This feels good! I want to do more of it." And it will just consume you. You'll have fun times. And now is the time to get started.

Fisher: Yeah, this is it, because you're running out of time as far as the ability to put that together, because that's just one aspect, right Tom? Because you want to add titles potentially, or some other kids of visual effects, and then there's the audio and maybe even the individual wants to record some things on their own to add to it, in addition to whatever recording. And if you don't have old interviews, well then you want to get new ones with old people who can share all that material.

Tom: Absolutely. Because you need to look at this project as multiple layers. So you have to have all those layers put together. And what you mentioned is great too, because you might be looking at some photos or something that's never really talked about, but you remember it, so you need to add to grandma's narration that, "Oh, hey, I remember going to this place with Aunt Ethel, and we had some special experiences." And if you want to do this stuff yourself which is really a lot of fun to do, you need to get doing it. If you want to get the local company in your area do it, make sure you check with their schedules and give yourself plenty of time to get it done right the first time.

Fisher: All right Tom, as always, the best advice. And we look forward to talking to you again soon.

Tom: My pleasure.

Fisher: Hey that’s it for this week. Thanks so much for joining us for the show. Don't forget to sign up for our “Weekly Genie Newsletter.” Easy to do, just go to our Extreme Genes Facebook page or go to ExtremeGenes.com. It costs you nothing. We don't sell the list. We just share all kinds of great family history linkage for you to great stories and other episodes of Extreme Genes from the past on my own blog. Talk to you again next week. Thanks for joining us. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!

Subscribe now to find out why hundreds of thousands of family researchers listen to Extreme Genes every week!

Email me new episodes