Episode 253 - A Quarter Million Miles Of New England Stone Walls… Why?! / Maureen Taylor On Photo Fishing At Antique ShowsSep 30, 2018
Transcript of Episode 253
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Segment 1 Episode 253
Fisher: Welcome to America’s Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth on the program where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out. This episode is brought to you by BYUtv’s Relative Race. Great to have you along, and we’ve got just a boat load of guests going on today, good people. Dr. Robert Thorson from the University of Connecticut and he’s written an amazing book on New England’s Stone Walls. And if you’ve ever been there and seen these things, it’s almost like a monument to the people who came before us centuries ago. Some of them go back to 300 years, and he did a big study on these things and is talking about their significance, and why they’re important in the history of not only New England, but the entire country. We’ll be talking to him coming up in about ten minutes. Maureen Taylor will be here. She is the Photo Detective talking about her recent photo “scavenger hunt” and how you could do much the same. And we’re going to talk to Team Red from Relative Race about their Week One experience as they prepare for their second week, coming up here on the show. Hey, if you haven’t signed up for our Patrons Club yet, you’ve got to get on it. I mean, for less than the cost of a hamburger a month we give you all kinds of links to great stories. We give you early podcast access and of course bonus podcast as well. You can sign up at ExtremeGenes.com or on our Facebook page. Right now, it is time to check in with Boston and talk to David Allen Lambert. He’s the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. How are you David?
David: Hey, I’m doing good but I’ll flap my wings again and go to Louisville, Kentucky for the Sons of the American Revolution Bi-annual Leadership Conference, but I can tell you this much, I’m going to sneak over to the Louisville Slugger Museum. They’re unbelievable, right around the corner.
Fisher: That is a lot of fun, absolutely. Hey, I got this great email from a guy named Matt. He’s one of our Patron Club members and he said, “I just want to thank you guys for highlighting the story about the Scottish POWs at Durham Cathedral and later New England.” He said, “I went back using the list at the Scottish POW site, and found two of these men in my own tree, John McComb and James McRorie or McWithee.” And he said, “Thanks again for helping me learn more about my ancestors.” That’s what we love to hear, right?
David: That’s excellent. It’s always nice to hear that type of feedback. So, if you found a dead person because of our show, please let us know!
Fisher: Yeah, anytime.
David: Always a dead person, but a dead person from a long time ago. [Laughs]
Fisher: Exactly. All right, let’s get going with our Family Histoire News for this week. Where do you want to begin David?
David: Well, I’m going to start with a really funny story. Martin Schmidt is a 36-year old who lives out at Colorado had known since he was a teenager that he was adopted. After his own children were born he decided to seek out his adopted mother, who he had from the paperwork his parents gave him and he found Michele Newman. Well, Michele Newman decided to contact her former high school sweetheart who is Martin’s biological dad and Dave Lindgren sparked a relationship once again. Here’s the catch, 36 years later their son they put up for adoption marries the mother and father!
Fisher: [Laughs] Isn’t that crazy? Birth son marries birth mother to birth father. Yeah? Yeah.
David: Correct. That’s amazing. So, that’s our story that I thought I’ve heard them all, but that’s a new one.
Fisher: You’re right, because so many stories of discovering birth families are very similar, but a lot of them just have an interesting twist and I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything like that before. That’s crazy.
David: No, that’s a great credible story. Well, my next story is a little bit different. It’s a little older. It goes back to about the fifth century.
David: While archaeologists were digging in the remains of an Italian theater, they decided that they would take a closer look at a stone jar. Good thing they did, in this stone jar were hundreds of mint condition solid gold coins from the fifth century in mint condition.
David: Well, I think that paid for the archaeology work, don’t you?
Fisher: [Laughs] I would think so. You know, it’s fascinating about these coin discoveries and you hear about in Great Britain often things are found going back to Roman times in somebody’s field. I mean, it’s just insane but, to think this could be one of our ancestors. Obviously, we generally don’t go back that far and you’d have no way of knowing it, but these were obviously coins that circulated among many of our people of ancient times.
David: That’s true. I mean, and if you think you have people from the UK, I mean, obviously England of course was populated by the Romans for so many years. I mean, we all have probably Roman ancestors tied in somewhere if you have British Isles. So yeah, that’s a fascinating one. I can tell you I’ve looked around at the parking lot of my local theater, and didn’t even find a quarter so I stopped it.
David: You know, I’ll tell you sometimes you gather a lot of things and I’ve talked about, blogged about what time is it on your genealogical clock, and on ExtremeGenes.com a great story about decluttering, examining the relationship between your family and it’s stuff, a great post and I wanted to just mention that because I mean it’s really true. We talked about “Swedish Death Cleaning” before, about picking up something and saying, “How much enjoyment do I get out of this?”
David: And the other thing is what are we leaving our family with? Are they going to know the good from the bad, the valuable from the junk in making these decisions ahead of time? And this is a really great way of going through. One of the things in the article I thought was really nice is that the author mentioned, “Get the story behind the item and then get rid of the item.”
Fisher: There you go.
David: I mean, I wouldn’t say get rid of a gold locket, but you might want to get rid of the old... [Laughs]
David: Okay, my blogger spotlight this week shines on Emma Jolly over in the UK. And her blog at EmmaJolly.co.uk/blog talks about her review of genealogical books. So you kind of get an insight of what’s good, bad and indifferent. She also talks about different DNA testing, companies and she also talks about her work going to historic places in the UK and photographing where someone’s ancestor may have come from. So, if you can’t make it there yourself, she can do it for you. So again, Emma Jolly and that’s my blogger spotlight. And don’t forget if you’re not a NEHGS member, you can save $20 by using the coupon code “Extreme” [wonder where that came from] at checkout on AmericanAncestors.org. Thanks again my friend. Talk to you soon.
Fisher: All right David, great stuff as always. Thanks so much. And coming up next I’m going to talk to a professor at the University of Connecticut. He’s a midwestern guy. He moved east and discovered New England’s incredible stone walls. He’s written a book about it that people are still asking him to lecture about after many years. And we’re going to find out about the history in those stone walls and why you might find them pretty fascinating, coming up next in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 2 Episode 253
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Professor Robert Thorson
Fisher: You know, many moons ago growing up in the backwoods of Connecticut, it was a real interesting feeling when you’d walk by some of the old stone walls that are all throughout New England, and it was just that sense of, “Who put these here? How old are they? What does this mean? Why are they here?” And there’s a man back in New England in Connecticut at the University of Connecticut there as a professor of geology. His name is Professor Robert Thorson and he’s put together a great book called “Stone by Stone: The Magnificent History in New England's Stone Walls.” And if you have New England ancestry, maybe even if you don’t, you’re going to find this absolutely fascinating stuff. It’s Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show. I am Fisher and Professor Thorson it’s great to you on the show. You go by Thor I understand.
Professor Thorson: Yeah. That’s right. My little brother whose real name is Thor doesn’t like that, but that’s the nickname I inherited.
Fisher: [Laughs] He’s Thor Thorson, is that it?
Professor Thorson: Yeah. His name is Thor Peter Thorson.
Fisher: Oh! Okay. [Laughs]
Professor Thorson: He goes by Thor.
Fisher: Now, you’re a Midwestern guy. How does Midwestern guy wind up in New England investigating those old stone walls?
Professor Thorson: If you are not in control of who you fall in love with it might make a difference down the pipe.
Fisher: Ah! [Laughs]
Professor Thorson: I married a woman from Maine, and we found ourselves back here in New England years later moving here from Alaska. But that’s not the whole story. New England is a fascinating place because the time depth through the stone walls through the history is evident everywhere you look. And it’s ironic. I moved here from Fairbanks, Alaska. And Fairbanks is founded in like the early 1900s and they talk about deep history there.
Fisher: [Laughs] Right.
Professor Thorson: Here it goes right back to the first intentional English settlement in 1607, which is the same age as the Virginia colony.
Professor Thorson: In fact, that’s the oldest stone wall.
Fisher: And I’ll point out Professor that we’ve got folks listening to us in England right now who are laughing at this conversation crazily.
Professor Thorson: Oh yeah [Laughs] that’s right.
Fisher: [Laughs] And so you wound up in New England and you’re looking around at these walls, and what’s going through your mind?
Professor Thorson: Well, I arrived having never seen one, and that’s really important.
Professor Thorson: Because if you arrived to a place that has trees and you’ve never seen a tree in your life, let’s say you grew up in the deep desert you know, where your idea of a tree is a Sonoran cactus.
Fisher: Right. [Laughs]
Professor Thorson: That’s the first tree you see, you know one of these open canopy maples or something like that. You don’t just walk by and say, “Oh, that’s a tree.” You say, “What is that thing? What are those, branches? Does it have any nails?”
Professor Thorson: And I felt the same way when I saw my first stone walls in New England coming from places having never seen one.
Fisher: And I have always kind of felt like when I went by them or I even sat on top of some of them, or just rubbed my hand across them, that this is one of those actual rare things left in the open by our ancestors that survived.
Professor Thorson: Oh yeah. There are so many of them. That’s the most interesting thing to me is that they’re so massive, 240,000 miles is my estimate for New England alone. And that’s enough to wrap the earth ten times.
Professor Thorson: And that could reach the moon. So, you just don’t do something that big because it’s cool to do, or it’s a fad, or it’s fun.
Professor Thorson: You do it because you have to do it. And the stone walls crisscrossing New England are on literally an abandoned agricultural civilization landscape.
Fisher: And that’s funny you say that. I never understood that growing up.
Professor Thorson: Yes.
Fisher: I always thought this area that we built our home in, my parents obviously, built it in a place where trees had always been there, that it had just been a very wooded area, and that the walls made no sense to me at all.
Professor Thorson: Yeah. Well, in a place like Fairfield County down there, you probably had about 80% deforestation.
Professor Thorson: Around 1860-70 depending on where it is. And that means that when you look out from any hilltop you see mostly cleared land and there would be woodlots here and there. And clearly the edges still had forest and some of the edges of flood plains, but most of the areas were cleared. And then of course it all grew back and now it’s back to about 90%. And that amazes me. That amazes me.
Fisher: Yeah absolutely. So, explain why these rocks exist, number one, and then because I know they keep coming back, because we’ve dealt with that every year when we go to try to plant a garden. There’s just nothing but rocks in New England. And I’m assuming that that has something to do why these large chunks just keeps winding up getting piled up by these ancestors.
Professor Thorson: Yeah. Well number one, why are there rocks in New England? Well, first of all, the whole region is a natural mountain route. But what I mean is if you’re in Salt Lake City and you look out you see tall mountains, right? And you tend to fixate on the mountains that you can see. But there’s a root below those mountains that’s holding it up. And it might be down five, six miles vertically. You know it’s light, warm, ductile crust down under the mountains but it’s hard.
Professor Thorson: Because it’s been pressure cooked and some of it has cooled from a melt, and some of it is just intensely pressure cooked essentially. And what happens is if you strip away the mountains long enough, those roots rise like the midpoint of an iceberg rises when the top melts. And it just keeps rising up. And then you get these real old, strong, hard crystal and rocks right at the surface. And then you bring on an ice sheet, then you bring the ice sheet down and you cover the entire place.
Professor Thorson: Then the ice sheet is running into these ridges and these hard rocks and there’s a very complicated stress regime underneath the irregular glacier beds and it just tears up that rock. When you clear the fields by stripping away the forest canopy, you remove the snow holding capacity. You increase the exposure. You increase how cold it is. You cause more erosion, more frost heave, more loss on the soil. And what eventually happens is the rocks rise up from below as the surface is being eroded down from above. And then you find just a scatter of stone, is what I call it, and these are then picked up and hurled to the edges of fields and dumped. And that happens over and over and over again for maybe the first half century or so. And then eventually over time the rock rubble on the edges becomes perfectly good fencing material and perfectly good boundary material you know, just to do stuff with.
Professor Thorson: So, the stone walls of New England, I like to think of them as somewhat organic in their showing up.
Fisher: So this field was for animals or for planting or both?
Professor Thorson: Most of New England agriculture was pasture. You know, sort of a beef and butter and bacon and livestock kind of economy, and sheep were also kind of big at various times. But most of it is grazing land because that’s what it was best for. Animals are particularly hard on sloping rocking hillsides you know, that are exposed to the rain and the now and the frost.
Professor Thorson: And so it makes sense that if you have fairly small fields and a lot of intensive use by livestock and they’re trampling and they’re grazing and you’re just going to get a fair bit of stone. And it gets moved to the edges and this is the normal wall, the organic one that you can explain that way.
Fisher: Sure. All right Thor, when was the earliest wall that you’re aware of? Is there any way to date them?
Professor Thorson: Yes. The earliest wall that I’m aware of in New England that is not native or indigenous is 1607. And that was in the Kennebec River County in Maine, and it was the first northern intentional settlement. Its thirteen years before the Pilgrims landed the Mayflower. And the reason we don’t know about it is that they weren’t successful.
Fisher: And so you go back to 1607 on that and then when did it become common to create these walls from these piles of rock you described?
Professor Thorson: Well, it became common probably a generation after the first settlement. But it takes a while to cut the trees and get your fields planted and get organized and pay off the mortgage.
Fisher: So it depends on the settlement itself, whatever the settlement is a generation later. Okay.
Professor Thorson: Yeah. One thing that’s interesting over the years is that if you looked at the dates on forest clearing and town taxes and records, probably there was a real surge in wall building after the American Revolution, which let’s just round it off to 1775.
Professor Thorson: You know that’s Patriots Day, Concord and Lexington bridge, you know, that’s 1775. And then let’s round off the day to the Erie Canal which is 1825. And at that point western immigration and western goods and produce, I mean we were really beginning a westward transformation there in agriculture. And then that’s only fifty years between those dating.
Fisher: Yeah that’s right.
Professor Thorson: But I’m guessing that about half the walls in New England went in during those fifty years. Because people have a baby boom and they want to really build a nice country now you know. All of that is like post revolution.
Professor Thorson: But before that people were just staying put and making the land work, and the ambush of stone coming up from below you know, just sort of surprised them and they just made a lot of stone walls out of it.
Fisher: He’s Dr. Robert Thorson. He’s a professor of geology at the University of Connecticut. He’s the author of Stone by Stone: The Magnificent History in New England's Stone Walls. And thanks for sharing us with Professor. Some of this information about why our ancestors did all this work, you’ve got to think that every stone represents a different person and a different reason for setting up these walls, right?
Professor Thorson: Yes. And then every stone wall is essentially a piece of folk art, if you think about it that way. Because nobody can stack stones without giving at least a little bit of thought about where this should go, where that should go.
Professor Thorson: So I like that idea. And one thing before I go, I want to say something is that you’ve got it right twice. You’ve read the subtitle of my book. It’s not the Magnificent History of New England Stone Walls. It’s The Magnificent History in Stone Walls.
Professor Thorson: Because most of the understanding about them comes from actual observation. There is probably a record of who built what wall, why, less than 1% of the time. So the vast majority of these are sort of anonymous folk art by the people who were real hardworking new Republican Americans trying to make a difference in their land. And then ultimately, that way of life didn’t last. There is a whole abandoned landscape out here in the woods of New England that makes it very interesting. And the geology of New England is fascinating even to someone who moved here from Alaska. And then Alaska, it’s about space and magnificence and power. And I think because I love that and I really grooved on it when I was in my 20s and 30s. But when you move to New England, it isn’t about the magnificence, it’s about the texture and the depth and the detail in the landscape.
Fisher: You sound like pretty much an artist yourself there Dr. Thorson. [Laughs]
Professor Thorson: Well I’ll tell you, you know it really struck me after I’ve been here. But man, I really grew attached to the time depth that we have here in the hard rock and the gorgeous seascape that surrounds us.
Fisher: Hey, its’ been great having you on. Thank you so much. And once again, the book is Stone by Stone: The Magnificent History in New England's Stone Walls. You can get it on Amazon. Thanks Dr. Thorson.
Professor Thorson: Thank you very much. I really appreciate the time.
Fisher: And coming up next, we’re going to talk to the Photo Detective Maureen Taylor. She has been detecting actually lately and she’ll be giving you some great ideas on where you might look to find an unexpected photo or two of someone in your family. That’s coming up in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 3 Episode 253
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Maureen Taylor
Fisher: We are back! It’s America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. I am Fisher, your congenial host along with my good friend Maureen Taylor. She is the Photo Detective. She is based out of Rhode Island, and Maureen has been going a little nuts lately because in her area, in a little place in Massachusetts... what’s the town? What’s the town Maureen?
Fisher: Brimfield, Massachusetts. They have this two miles with six thousand antique dealers for five days and they do this three times a year. And so they just had this recently in Brimfield again, right? You were there?
Maureen: I was there last week... September right, early September.
Fisher: And you did the July one as well and you know I’m thinking this is great stuff for people to think about. You know, a lot of genealogists or people who get into their family history research don’t necessarily think out of the box as much as they should because if you’ve got something like this or even just a local shop, you can find things often that relate to your ancestors. And in your case Maureen of course, you’re a collector of the rarest of the rare photographs, including photographs for instance of Revolutionary War soldiers. How many have you identified? These are very old men obviously, when the photographic era came along and their pictures were taken.
Maureen: I have about 200 images.
Fisher: Two hundred images. Now, they’re all originals that you have or you’re saying you’ve identified 200?
Maureen: No, I’ve identified 200. I only have 15, I think.
Fisher: Fifteen or so but they’re valuable too. I mean, they are collectable are they not?
Maureen: Oh, they are very collectable. I mean if you have a daguerreotype, one of those early, early photographs with the shiny, reflective surface.
Maureen: Well, one of them went for $16,000 dollars.
Fisher: Sixteen thousand dollars. That’s for a Revolutionary soldier, right?
Fisher: Okay not just any old daguerreotype.
Maureen: No, not any old daguerreotype. And of course I’m looking for the ones that are overlooked and I obviously cannot buy one at $16,000. [Laughs]
Fisher: No. Yeah. That’s not the idea.
Maureen: It’s a little card photograph.
Fisher: Sure, the carte de visite, that type of thing. Sure.
Maureen: Exactly. The cartes de visite were copied and sold to local celebrities so there are more of those.
Fisher: Yeah, absolutely. So, this is in Brimfield, Massachusetts. Let’s talk about this. Two miles, it’s been going on for what 60 years almost now? I think this was the 60th right? And it’s billed as the largest outdoor antique show in the world. They do is May, they do it in July, and they do it in September and it’s like a Tuesday through Sunday thing. Six thousand dealers, what did you find this year? I’ll include both now and July.
Maureen: Okay, can I just say that it’s both sides of the street.
Fisher: Both sides. [Laughs] So it’s really like 4 miles.
Maureen: Right and I don’t want you to think that it’s just like one little stand next to another like a ribbon. Think cornfield or field of grass.
Fisher: [Laughs] Oh my gosh.
Maureen: And it goes into the fields as well.
Fisher: Really? And well, 6000 dealers from all over, including Canada, right?
Maureen: Right. They’re from all over the place. Pretty much you can find almost anything at Brimfield.
Fisher: Okay. And what does this thing do to their population when this goes on? It must be huge.
Maureen: Brimfield is a very small town. It increases seven times.
Fisher: Wow! Unbelievable, somebody had a really nice idea back in 1959, didn’t they?
Maureen: Yes they did. Who would have thunk it?
Fisher: Yeah. All right, so what have you found there this time around and in July when you went earlier this year?
Maureen: So, this time around I picked up a friend of mine and off we went and we got there at quarter to nine in the morning and let me just tell you, we were very late to the party.
Fisher: Really? [Laughs]
Maureen: This time there was one particular booth I went to this September and I actually went back there three separate times and she laughed at me and said, “Are you back here again?” I’m like, “I can’t stay away.” She had the best stuff. The last time I went, I somehow had a little money left in my pocket and I knew what I wanted to do with it. I was going to go back to her booth for the third time and buy all the little carte de visites that had a name on the back.
Fisher: Oh yeah, okay. Are most of them from that area?
Maureen: No, no they’re from Ohio. So this stuff is not necessarily New England based. Remember, these antique dealers are from all the place and photographs and stuff get passed down in the family. I mean you can find family photo albums although most of the vendors have already taken them apart which is why you get lots of people with the same last name in these piles. You can find family bibles, you can find photo albums, you can find samplers, you can find furniture, you can find memorabilia. How about a Revolutionary War Pension Deposition?
Fisher: Oh wow! No kidding.
Fisher: How much?
Fisher: That seems reasonable to me.
Maureen: It seems reasonable. It was an original.
Fisher: Yeah. Yeah, especially if it’s your guy. [Laughs] That would be incredible.
Fisher: But that’s the hard part, right?
Maureen: Yeah, and you can find like business finds. There’s a guy who buys those old Victorian cast iron stoves and reconditions them and sells them. And he does the same thing with kitchen stoves. So if you really want the kitchen stove that your great, great grandmother had in 1900, you can buy it. They’re beautiful!
Fisher: Well, I was going to mention there’s one in the Midwest that goes on in August of every year and it’s 690 miles long. It’s called the 127 Yard Sale because that’s the route, and it goes from Addison, Michigan to Gadsden, Alabama with thousands of vendors each year. I don’t know exactly how many. Well, it’s four days. It goes on for four days. So, 690 miles. [Laughs] Can you imagine taking that trip?
Fisher: That would be crazy.
Maureen: The two mile one pretty much kills me.
Fisher: Yes, two miles is plenty, I’m thinking.
Maureen: It’s plenty. You know, I bring my loot, I bring some cash, I bring a bag, I bring little sleeves to put them all in. And this time I bought something really quirky, just for the heck of it. And I just want to say that my husband said, “Hmm.”
Fisher: [Laughs] Because he wasn’t so sure huh?
Maureen: Yeah, it’s kind of interesting, but let’s put it over there. [Laughs]
Fisher: What I picked up on between you and your husband is that when you want something that he doesn’t care about too much you always make the statement, “Well, it’s for the business.” [Laughs]
Maureen: [Laughs] Oh, come on. He has old cars.
Fisher: Old cars? Okay, that’s his thing.
Maureen: They’re a lot bigger than a photograph.
Fisher: All right, there you go. So you can’t complain too much.
Maureen: What I bought was…there was a guy at the show who has a business turning old cameras and camera memorabilia into lamps.
Fisher: So if you’re a collector like yourself that could have some appeal.
Maureen: I thought it was pretty cute and quirky.
Fisher: So how much did you spend overall? Come clean.
Maureen: Probably $150.
Fisher: $150? You drove all that way and spent only $150?
Maureen: Hmm. That’s a lot of dough to drop in one.
Fisher: Yeah, I suspect. Well, you know, the bottom line here is antique stores especially in ancestral home towns can often have things that you never would have imagined. And a lot of people like the bookstore dealers will list stuff on AbeBooks, AbeBooks.com.
Fisher: There’s some great stuff there. Some of it is highly overpriced. Some of it is underpriced, I think. It just depends on the dealer, but it’s just a collection. It’s almost like one of these online antique shows just like you’ve described, right?
Fisher: But I wish they had them just for antique stores and not just for book dealers. But still, it would be a great thing to do to check out your local ancestral home towns and see what they’ve got, even make phone calls if you’re out of state. And you never know what you’re going to come upon.
Maureen: You never do. What’s sad though, I have to say, is the same vendor that had a lot of photographs. One of the reasons I kept going back is because she had a bowl on a table, and in it were little carte de visites. They were $1each and they had names on them.
Maureen: And sad.
Maureen: Because you know that is somebody’s relative.
Fisher: Well, that’s true.
Maureen: You know that and I know that.
Fisher: Yeah, it is sad. It would be nice though to pick up a whole bunch of them and just go online and find people who are researching that line and say, “I got something for you,” you know. [Laughs]
Fisher: It’s a great service.
Maureen: And that’s what I’ve done.
Fisher: She’s Maureen Taylor. She is the Photo Detective. Where do they find you Maureen?
Maureen: They find me online at MaureenTaylor.com.
Fisher: Very nice, and thanks for coming on and sharing that because I think that’s a really great suggestion. You know, sometimes we’ve got to look under rocks. We don’t know what we’re looking for. We don’t know what we’re going to find, but sometimes that’s when the magic really takes place. Thanks so much Maureen.
Maureen: Thank you.
Fisher: Well, as you recall, last weekend we saw the first episode of Relative Race on BYUtv and coming up in just a few moments we’re going to talk to Team Red and get their take on the first episode of Season 4. That’s on the way in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 4 Episode 253
Host: Scott Fisher with guests Austen Williams and Mike Brown
Fisher: Welcome back, it is America's Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, and Season 4 of Relative Race is back on BYUtv. It happens Sunday nights at 9 o'clock Eastern time, 6 o'clock Pacific. But I've got the two members of Team Red on the line right now. And of course they were featured very much in the first episode last week. And I've got Austen Williams and her dad, Mike Brown on the line. They're from Charleston, South Carolina. How're you guys doing? Nice to have to have you.
Austen: We're doing well, thanks.
Mike: Great to be here.
Fisher: Fill me in you guys, how was it that you wound up being on Relative Race? Who's fault was this?
Mike: That's Austen.
Austen: Totally my fault.
Fisher: [Laughs] What was your goal here, Austen? What were you looking for?
Austen: So growing up, I always had a lot of questions about why I look so different than my dad. And really, my dad didn't know, because my grandmother never really shared that information with him. So, as I got older, my dad kind of was content not to know who his father was, but I kept asking questions. And that's how we ended up on Relative Race, because of all the questions. [Laughs]
Fisher: How did you feel about Austen's pushiness, Mike?
Mike: Well, you know, I'd resigned myself, the elder statesmen on the show more than fifty years old, I'd resigned myself to the fact that I just wouldn't know who my biological father was. And then when Austen showed up and said, "Oh, by the way Daddy, guess what we're doing?"
Mike: I have a hard time saying no to my only child, so I was like, "Well, Pookie, if this is what you want to do, I guess we're going to do it."
Fisher: Is that your nickname for her?
Austen: It was also $50,000.
Fisher: Oh, and $50,000, that will do it. Is that your nickname for her, Pookie, is that it, Mike?
Mike: Yeah, Pookie is what I call her for short.
Fisher: Okay, yeah, of course.
Fisher: Shorten it, absolutely.
Fisher: So, tell us about your journey. Your mom would never tell you about your birth father, and so you guys went about the task of figuring out who he was with the help of the Relative Race people. And what was that experience like for you?
Mike: Tension, there's trepidation, there's just, there's a whole bunch of nasty words I can think of, but it was just, it was uncomfortable.
Fisher: Why was it?
Mike: Well, in 1962, in Connecticut, being a bi-racial relationship, it was illegal. And I guess my mother's trying to protect me, so, there's weird stories going on. She'd just tell me bits and pieces.
Fisher: I see.
Mike: So at one point, I just had to say, you know, the end. And I was adopted by Jim Brown who was a wonderful man. And they afforded me the opportunity to go to private school. And you know, I didn't have a bad life. He's a white guy that was in the navy. Stationed there in New London where I'm from. And he met my mom and they adopted me, and they had three more kids.
Fisher: Well, as we watched the episode last week of course, I think it was kind of a disappointment to some extent, was it not?
Mike: Well, Austen, I don't know if I would say disappointment, would you?
Austen: I wouldn't say that it was a disappointment. I think the answers that we were looking for, we got answers, but we did not get the answers that we were expecting.
Fisher: Right. Well, you weren't expecting him to be deceased.
Mike: Well, being kind of older, I kind of mathematically realized that it was a possibility.
Mike: But we just didn't realize the circumstances behind his death.
Fisher: Sure, absolutely. Austen, what was your feeling about the whole experience?
Austen: It’s been a wonderful experience. You know, I think having an opportunity to meet Kamiel, my cousin, my first cousin and dad's niece, you know, it’s so cool to find out that we have this whole new family that we never knew about. And she showed us so many pictures. And immediately it’s, "Wow, there's so many of us!"
Fisher: [Laughs] All right, that's Austen and Mike, Team Red from Relative Race. And of course it’s coming up again Sunday night 9 O’clock eastern, 6 O’clock Pacific time BYUtv. Good luck you guys! Look forward to following you the rest of the season.
Austen: Thank you.
Mike: Thank you so much.
Fisher: And coming up next, Tom Perry talks preservation on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show in three minutes.
Segment 5 Episode 253
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry
Fisher: Hey, we're back at it for our final segment this week of Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth. This segment is brought to you by FamilySearch.org. And I'm talking to Tom Perry. He's our Preservation Authority from TMCPlace.com. How're you doing, Tom?
Tom: I'm super duper, thank you.
Fisher: You know, I've been talking to people recently who were a little concerned that there is no interest within their family to properly preserve things like old family Bible records and photographs and what they're going to do with them. And I've been talking to them about archives, places that will actually accept these as donations.
Tom: That's great. You need to have places like that that will accept your donations, that you can give them things that might be very useful right now for people or maybe even down the road, somebody may be looking for some old archives, putting together some old WWII items that people can then have access to, you know, around the globe, because you've donated it to these archives and made it available for everybody to enjoy.
Fisher: Yeah and I'll tell you, NEHGS is one place that actually takes family Bible records. Now they don't take the full Bible. And if you've ever actually own one of these things, you'll know why. I actually had to do the same thing. We inherited a family Bible on my wife's side, and it was big and dusty and falling apart and the pages were pretty bad. So essentially, I just took out the family pages, the photo pages, any items that were found inside it. Sometimes you find little notes or drawings and you put those in a separate acid free binder and then you throw away the Bible. But if nobody's going to preserve those things that you've kept in your acid free sleeves and kept protected all those years and you're concerned about it, maybe you don't even have any descendants. NEHGS is a great place to go for family Bible preservation. And then it’s accessible to descendants many years from now or even researchers into your family.
Tom: In fact, if you have some old film or photographs that you know go to a certain place that maybe you grew up or your grandparents that you're not there anymore. Contact them and say, "Hey, I've got this stuff and I'd like to make a donation. This is pictures of these things." And nine out of ten times, you're going to be able to not only want it, they're going to be thrilled to be able to have a different look on some things that your great grandparents took.
Fisher: Yeah. Look at the list here by the way. I found this on one particular site of all the materials that could have historic value and might be accepted in archives. They're not going to accept everything. Let's just be clear on that, because it takes resources for them to maintain things forevermore, and they want to make sure there is some value but they may take letters. And this list even includes email, which I think is kind of crazy. Memories, reminiscences, diaries and blogs, scrapbooks, photo albums, professional papers, obviously genealogical information, speeches, lectures, your county archives could be a home for your material eventually. There are also brochures and flyers, awards and certificates, photographs, films, videos, audio tapes, all the stuff that Tom's making for you could wind up in one of these places and be accepted.
Tom: There are so many unique things out there that places would just love to have. And like when people come into our store sometimes with unique things I say, "Hey, you need to get a hold of the people back in Maine that have this big archive and contact them, tell them what you have and say you'd like to donate it to them, and they would be thrilled to get it." And you need to get that stuff back to where people can actually access it and enjoy it.
Fisher: Yeah, that's the bottom line, isn't it? I mean, you want to make sure that if this is your life’s work and you've put all this material together and then you don't even have a niece or a nephew or a grand niece or a grand nephew who's interested in this, find a place where it’s going to be properly taken care of. And you'll be sleeping a lot better at night.
Tom: The only place that's worse than leaving it in your attic is, ending up in the garbage.
Fisher: Ohh! Tom, ouch! [Laughs] You're right. All right, Tom, thanks so much, we'll talk to you again next week.
Tom: My pleasure.
Fisher: Hey, that's it for this week's show. Thanks so much for joining us. And remember by the way, this weekend, Sunday night 9 o’clock Eastern, 6 o’clock Pacific, it’s another edition of Relative Race, its Episode 2 in Season 4. We already know that one team has a strike against them moving forward. But it’s an amazingly emotional show and perfect for those of us who are into family history research. Hey, don't forget to sign up for our Weekly Genie Newsletter. You can do so on our Facebook page or at ExtremeGenes.com. You can also signup to support the show through Patreon. We have a link to it through our Patron's Club at ExtremeGenes.com. Talk to next week. Thanks for joining us. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!