Episode 272 - An Unusual Source For Researching Your Female Ancestors/ A DNA Story 65 Years In The Making

podcast episode Feb 24, 2019

Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org.  They begin Family Histoire News with the tale of a bed that was bought for a song at antique show. It turns out THIS bed could be worth millions! Hear why. Then, it’s the story of a “letter to the editor” that never got sent. Dated in 1893, hear what the discoverer did with her special find. Next, Sundance TV and Ancestry have teamed together to bring to life a remarkable story based on the ancestors of six individuals who are featured in the show.  Find out the moving topic of this unique program. David is excited to report that Paris, France burial records from the 19th century are now on line. David’s Blogger Spotlight this week shines on The French Genealogy Blog at French-Genealogy.typepad.com. It talks about French genealogy that could give you a look at your French ancestry. Then, David talks about an important article recently posted on the New York Times about why people should research their family.

Next, Carolyn Tolman, Project Manager for Legacy Tree Genealogists, shares the story of a client who finally decided it was time for professional help. The client is an adoptee and wanted assistance in finding her birth family through DNA. It’s a heart-warming story 65 years in the making.

Fisher then visits with Gena Philibert-Ortega. Gena talks passionately about how community cookbooks can reveal things about your female ancestors you might never have imagined. Gena feels it is important to find sources unique to women, with this being one at the top of her list.

Then, Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com, talks preservation. This time around, Tom talks about what it takes to preserve old family books… or any book you really value… especially those you may wish to pass on.

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

Transcript of Episode 272

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 272

Fisher: Hello Genies! And welcome to America’s Family History Show. It’s Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. My name is Fisher. I am 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! It returns on Sunday March 10th, at 9pm Eastern, 6pm, Pacific. And this is a show where you can learn a lot about how to do it, how to find your ancestors, some of the stories you can discover. In fact, coming up a little later on we’re going to talk to a professional genealogist Carolyn Tolman from Legacy Tree Genealogists talking about a recent case that she solved, helping an adoptee identify her birth family using DNA, and it’s a really touching story. Later in the show, Gena Philibert Ortega is going to be on talking about unusual sources for researching your female ancestors. You know, the names change every generation and so she’s got some sources I’ve never much thought about. But I think you’re going to really enjoy hearing about one she’s going to really feature, community cookbooks. Who would have thought of that? Yeah, you’re going to want to hear what Gena has to say later on in the show. Just a reminder by the way, we want to invite you to sign up for our Patrons Club. It’s a great way to support the show and get all kinds of benefits like early access to podcasts and bonus podcasts every month as well. You can sign up at ExtremeGenes.com. And right now it is time to check in with Boston and David Allen Lambert, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. Hello David. How are you?

David: Hey, gearing up for RootsTech, other than that I’m just gathering up stories for Family Histoire News.

Fisher: Yes.

David: How are you sir?

Fisher: I am great and you know we’ve got a lot of Family Histoire News today, so let’s get started.

David: First off, how would you like to have a royal bed? You know, we always want to have one for your “king and queen” at home.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: How about one that belonged to a king and queen, possibly? Ian Coulson thought he was just buying a regular 19th century Victorian bed from the Arts and Crafts Movement. This four poster bed with armorial shields on it, he bought for twenty two hundred pounds.

Fisher: Hmm.

David: Yeah. Well, it turns out after a little bit of research this may be one of the only surviving pieces of furnishing of the royal family to survive the Tudor Period that didn’t get destroyed during the English Civil War.

Fisher: Really?

David: There’s more detail on this bed that once belonged perhaps to King Henry VII, the first Tudor king and his wife Elizabeth of York. Their union began in 1486 and ended with the War of the Roses, but this may also be the bed that King Henry VIII may have been conceived on.

Fisher: Oh my goodness. [Laughs]

David: Well, yeah, and of course well we know about all of his lovely marriage situations.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: So twenty two hundred pounds was a bargain because it could be worth millions of pounds.

Fisher: Yes absolutely.

David: What a great piece of English history. Take a look at it on Extreme Genes. The news story is fascinating and the bed is beautiful. 

Fisher: I’ve got to think the antique shop has got to be kicking itself for not doing little of their own research, right?

David: Proper antique research is something that most antique galleries do ahead of time, but you can still find some bargains on eBay. [Laughs]

Fisher: That’s true.

David: Apparently on this catalogue as well. Well, sometimes when you lose something you find it in the strangest places, and a 125-year- old lost letter to the editor was found in a book a thousand miles away in Oklahoma. So this letter, dated back in 1893, was something that somebody just found tucked in a book, but it has an interesting story behind it. It was discovered by Emma Smreker, a high school French teacher in Oklahoma, who admitted her odd hobby of researching weird things in old books, so essentially kind of like returning pictures to their owners.

Fisher: Right.

David: And she did the research and it turns out this was a letter to the editor for the Lancaster Gazette. So, it looks like this letter, over 125 years later, finally got the recognition it needed.

Fisher: Yeah, isn’t that great? She got it published and she’s getting it back to the descendants of the writer.

David: A little bit of genealogy involved in that trip I’m sure.

Fisher: Yep.

David: You know, I’ve always looked forward to exciting things that are going on with collaborations. And with Ancestry, they’ve collaborated with Sundance TV to do something really special. We all know about the heroic efforts during the Civil War era and before of the Underground Railroad. And a TV show called Railroad Ties brings together six individuals that were descendants of people involved in the Underground Railroad. They meet in a church in Brooklyn, New York and these stories will be told.

Fisher: Wow! That’s going to be a great show and that’s starting this month on Sundance TV.

David: That is true. Well, I’m always glad when people dig up things. In Paris, they decided to find the burial registers, digitize and index them and put them online. So, Paris cemetery records, do you want to find out where your favorite Parisian is buried from the 19th, probably even early 20th century, these old registers are now searchable online. I think it’s great. I wonder if I can find Jim Morrison, where he really is buried.

Fisher: You know, that’s a funny thought, but of course he’s a little too late, I would imagine, for this record set.

David: That’s true, but I can always hope maybe that later ones will go on. But, I did find this on our blogger that I wanted to plug in. The blogger spotlight shines on The French Genealogy Blog @french-genealogy.typepad.com.

Fisher: Wow.

David: So this is a great little blog, talks about French genealogy, and not so much French Canadian, but European mainland, France. You might have some connections and you may interest even if you’re French Canadian, or Acadian, but well, that’s where they came from to begin with, so take a look at that blog. I love when news stories, TV shows, like Henry Lewis Gates TV show “Who Do You Think You Are,” The Genealogy Roadshow, it excites people in genealogy. And when a major newspaper like The New York Times publishes an article like it did just recently this month called “Why you should dig up your family history and how to do it” gives the basics and it’s not like in depth. It’s not talking about controversies and DNA, or finding out that you’re adopted and you were in a hospital and you were sent 3000 miles away.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: This is how to find your roots. And for the people who don’t have dotcom subscription or maybe have just a little bit of interest in having their DNA done, this article cuts it to the real basics about talking to your family, understanding the limitations and what you could be up against and also to be sceptical of what you find.

Fisher: Right. Absolutely true. This is a great thing to have The New York times doing this.

David: Well, speaking of NEHGS, if you’re not a member of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and you want to join, give you a little hint. You can save $20 by using the checkout code “Extreme.” That coupon code will save you $20 on a regular membership at AmericanAncestors.org. Well, I’ll be seeing a lot of you really soon at RootsTech. Maybe we can get some selfies with them Fish.

Fisher: Sounds like fun. All right David, thanks so much and we’ll talk to you again next month.

David: Talk to you soon.

Fisher: Okay, and coming up next I’m going to talk to Carolyn Tolman from Legacy Tree Genealogists. Boy, what a great story. She helped an adoptee with their DNA and what a great result. We’ll tell you about that, coming up next in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 272

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Carolyn Tolman

Fisher: You know, I recently blogged about the idea that sometimes even the most expert researcher needs a professional. Hey, it’s Fisher. It’s Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com and I have one of those professionals on the line with me right now. She’s Carolyn Tolman. She’s a project manager for our friends at Legacy Tree Genealogists. Go to LegacyTree.com. Hi Carolyn. How are you?

Carolyn: Good, Scott. How are you?

Fisher: You know, just awesome. I was reading your recent blog and talking about this great story of how you helped some sisters reunite. One was adopted and she’s in her 60s and she’s been looking for her birth family since her 20s. Let’s talk about this and really how somebody like you is necessary to help people find what they’re looking for.

Carolyn: Yes. Well, Colette came to us. She had a good life with her adopted family and she felt it was now time, she was now ready, to learn about her birth family and she wanted our help to do it. She had taken DNA tests but wasn’t quite sure what to make of her matches and what it all meant. It was a little overwhelming.

Fisher: Yeah.

Carolyn: That’s where we as professionals could help her make sense of it.

Fisher: Yeah. I think the cousin matches are very challenging for a lot of people who get their DNA results back. I think so many people just ignore them. They’re just interested in the ethnicity and they kind of wonder on. But when you’re adopted, that means everything.

Carolyn: It does yeah. And it just makes such a difference when those matches post their tree with their results. But even if they don’t, our DNA specialists are amazing at figuring out their trees just with little clues and being able to figure out where they fit in the client’s tree. So, it does make a big difference in that way.

Fisher: Well, maybe something just as simple as an email address, right? I mean can help you identify somebody and then plug them in and go from there and match them to other cousins and triangulate and bingo, there you are.

Carolyn: Yep. That’s what we do best.

Fisher: Yeah. Absolutely. So, let’s talk about Colette now. She’s in her mid 60s as I’ve read here, and she actually went to court and tried to get records unsealed that were in Florida?

Carolyn: Yeah. And that’s often kind of a brick wall for adoptees because of the laws. And so it’s just amazing that DNA is able to skirt around that situation.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Carolyn: And we can still identify their family without all of the legal battles.

Fisher: Yeah, that’s right. And it’s interesting now a lot of states are adjusting their laws just because of the fact that they’re really not very affective any longer because of DNA.

Carolyn: Right. And we have just such an open culture now where there’s not a stigma, and people just want to know who their ancestors are. I don’t see a reason for the restrictive laws so much anymore. I hope they continue to become more open in that way.

Fisher: What do you think it was that convinced Colette to go DNA? 

Carolyn: Well, I think it’s just growing in popularity especially in the adoption community. People are hearing success stories. We’ve seen them in the papers and TV shows and people are realizing that it is possible. So, I’m sure she must have heard of this and figured she probably had a good chance. She also had some fairly close matches in the first and second cousin range, so she was confident and we were confident that we would be able to figure it out. As a matter of fact, we did. It wasn’t very long before we started to build her tree and trace the descendents of the common ancestors of her matches. And we identified her parents and we built her tree out to the fourth generation and we were preparing to share this information with her when a niece match showed up in one of her databases.

Fisher: Oh wow.

Carolyn: [Laughs] And she emailed me and said, “Oh, what does this mean?”

Fisher: [Laughs] Yipes! She had a hit. She was beginning to get the hang of the game, huh?

Carolyn: She was. But that’s why she hired us because this was all overwhelming. And so I actually emailed her and said, “We are ready to let you know who your parents are and I would like to call you.” And she said, “Oh yes, that would be good.” And so I called and it was a wonderful emotional experience as I introduced her parents and her grandparents and her great grandparents to her. And we were able to figure out where this niece fit in, and we also were able to give her the contact information of her siblings. Two of which were still living and fairly nearby.

Fisher: Wow. And they were from Canada, right?

Carolyn: Yes. And we have their naturalization records and how they eventually made their way down to Florida. And her adopted family, she had grown up fairly close to her birth family but not ever knowing who they were.

Fisher: Don’t you think they often do though? It often works that way. And what’s interesting too is that she was raised to speak French because the adoptive family thought she had French ancestry coming from French Canada and all that. But the DNA revealed no, no, no French, just Irish that they’d come in to French Canada from Ireland. Amazing. That had to really throw her for a loop because it’s like wait a minute, if I’m not French, what am I? But that’s one of the common things from DNA, DNA doesn’t care what you want, DNA doesn’t care what you’ve heard, DNA doesn’t care what you think, DNA just tells you what is, right?

Carolyn: Yes. It’s like you say, DNA doesn’t lie. Only people do [Laughs] and for various reasons.

Fisher: And so as a result of this, she had learned even from some of her own background research over the years that her parents had given her up. She was the youngest in the full family because they just couldn’t afford her at the time that she was born in the 50s. It was really rough times. And mom couldn’t stop working and dad was blaming himself because he couldn’t earn enough money. That had to be a really tough thing. That probably is reassuring to her that it wasn’t that they didn’t love her, but they just couldn’t afford her.

Carolyn: Yes. Yeah. I’m sure it was difficult to know that your family had stayed whole and that you had full siblings and that your parents were married yet you weren’t a part of that. And I think that helped to make up for it. And I’m sure that her adoptive life had been good and that she appreciates the sacrifice that her parents made.

Fisher: Yeah, absolutely. So, let’s talk about this contact with the niece and how that all went.

Carolyn: Well as far as I know, the niece contacted her mother and said, “I think we have a surprise relative.” And I believe that the niece helped to facilitate the contact between the two sisters and they arranged a face-time and it was love at first sight.

Fisher: [Laughs] Yes it was.

Carolyn: [Laughs] The family was very open and welcoming to her, and the children and grandchildren of her sister welcomed her and they have had a close relationship ever since. As far as I know.

Fisher: Isn’t that amazing.

Carolyn: It’s wonderful.

Fisher: I mean, I still think the thing about DNA, you hear a lot of stories about it and there’s that tendency to think well, they’re all kind of the same, the adoptee locates the birth family. They’re not all the same. Everyone one of them is unique. They’re all different. They have a different twist. There’s a different reason maybe why an adoptee was given up. There’s a different reason why a parent would say, “Hey, I’ve got to move on from this and give the child a better life.” And there are other reasons also why, just like there are different reasons why people came across the ocean, you know. There are different reasons for this.

Carolyn: Right.

Fisher: And they all seem to react to it quite differently too. I mean I know some adoptees who have absolutely no interest in knowing anything about their birth family. They say, “We’ve got enough family as it is.” [Laughs] You know?

Carolyn: Yes.

Fisher: And yet there are others who just can’t sleep at night wanting to know who the birth family is. And this is just the beauty of what’s going on right now and how we can get that information not only through DNA but through professionals like yourself who can help people along the way.

Carolyn: Yes. As a matter of fact, Evette and Colette’s brother, the last I heard was not open to this new relationship and he needed time to adjust to the idea.

Fisher: That’s not unusual.

Carolyn: No.

Fisher: I mean some people, especially you know when a person comes along and they’ve been working on this information for some time and they’re ready to do it. But I’ve seen it’s not unusual for the people who find out about them. They need some time as well. And you need to give them that space.

Carolyn: That’s right. Yeah. We respect that. These are big surprises for some families and yeah, it takes time to get used to the idea and decide how you’re going to react to it.

Fisher: Absolutely. So how many of these cases do you work on at a time, Carolyn?

Carolyn: I usually have between 40 and 50 clients at a time. But we’re at various stages of their projects and communicating with their researchers, and every client has different needs and different personalities. So I stay very, very busy, and a lot of them are unknown parentage cases where DNA is helping. And they are my favorite.

Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs] It’s sure more fun than those surprise cases. Don’t you think, where they find out, uh oh, we have the not parent expected.

Carolyn: I have had a few of those and those have been more difficult.

Fisher: Yeah. Those are the ones where we don’t sleep because we have to tell somebody that information, you know, and kind of go from there.

Carolyn: Yes. Uh huh.

Fisher: Well, it’s a fascinating story. Once again thanks so much Carolyn for sharing it with us, and our best to Colette and Evette and their brother as they try to kind of put this new family together. But what a great thing that finally, 65 years along she’s been able to figure this out and actually connect with those people that she’s related to through blood. It’s a great story as always.

Carolyn: Yes. It’s been my favorite. Thank you for letting me share it.

Fisher: All right Carolyn. Take care and we’ll talk to you again soon.

Carolyn: Thank you Scott.

Fisher: She’s Carolyn Tolman. She’s a project manager for Legacy Tree Genealogist. And you know, it’s always good to hear these kinds of stories where there’s resolution and filling missing holes in people lives. And when you compare it to what we talked about last week in two segments about the woman who found that her father wasn’t her father and she had to actually go and confront her mother about the circumstances surrounding her birth. I mean what a different situation. But it’s really good to know that there are both of these types of things that happen so that if you’re considering doing a DNA test, know that know none of the people who get the unexpected results, obviously expected them. And many other people though are able to make incredible breakthroughs and finds as a result. So DNA can very much be a double-edge sword. And coming up next, we’re going to talk to Gena Philibert Ortega, a Southern California woman who’s all about some unusual ways to track and find information about your female ancestors.   

Segment 3 Episode 272

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Gena Philibert Ortega

Fisher: Hey, welcome back! It is America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth and this segment is brought to you by FamilySearch.org. You know, not all family history has to do with charts and pedigrees and just researching through the census. There are a lot of people who aren’t even into any of that, who love their family history especially through things like ancestral recipes and heritage recipes and one of those people is Gena Philibert Ortega. Let’s see Gena, you’re French, your husband is Hispanic and you’ve got a lot of stuff behind you here to draw from when it comes to ancestral recipes and your heritage.

Gena: I definitely do Fisher, and isn’t that great?

Fisher: Yes it is!

Gena: That’s all about genealogy, all that international flair.

Fisher: Exactly. I’ve got the English pudding on one side and I’ve got the Swedish meatballs on the other side, and stuff from Norway. It’s fantastic to discover these things.

Gena: Absolutely.

Fisher: So, tell me how you got going in this because I know you’re out there. You’re doing panels and talking to a lot of people who are discovering their heritage through this.

Gena: Well, you know, what initially happened was, my background in one of my degrees is in women’s studies and I’ve always been interested in researching female ancestors. And as you know, a lot of people lament that they can’t find their female ancestors. So, it got me thinking about, why can’t we find them? Well, most of the time when we research, we use government documents.

Fisher: Yep.

Gena: And sometimes women aren’t represented well in those. So, maybe we need to think about researching women in the things that they left behind. And one of the items that women are represented in, are community cookbooks. Now, this isn’t all women obviously but let me tell you a little bit about community cookbooks.

Fisher: Yeah please.

Gena: Yeah, they’ve been around since the Civil War and a lot of you and maybe Fisher you’re familiar with them, we kind of think of them as those wacky cookbooks that people submit their recipes to when they have that plastic comb binding and maybe you get rid of them because sometimes the recipes are sometimes not so great.

Fisher: Right. Antiquated perhaps.

Gena: Yeah. But actually, those have been around like I said since the time of the American Civil War. They were meant to raise funds for groups that women cared about and I know this is hard to believe but those would be recipes that were important to them, that were part of their family heritage. That were the recipes that they thought showed their culinary skills. So, if you think about those books, what do they have? They have recipes, right?

Fisher: Sure.

Gena: But they also have names. They often are from a certain place or location. They’re published by a certain type of group. Let’s say an organization for example or a church. And so they provide genealogical information. When we look in the census, a census is a name list, right?

Fisher: Yes.

Gena: Well, so is a community cookbook. And in fact, I like to think of community cookbooks and city directories of women.

Fisher: Perfect.

Gena: Because we have those women’s names. We may even have more information. You know, you talked about Swedish meatballs there might be recipes that a woman provides that has been in her family and hints towards her ancestral homelands, for example.

Fisher: Yeah.

Gena: Depending on the community cookbook, I’ve seen those that include everything from photos of the women, to family histories. There’s one that I especially love, it’s about Paxton and it’s a church back east and it includes information about their church cemetery and this is from the early 1900s. So, these community cookbooks provide us a lot of great information about women. So, there’s that aspect of the ancestral side that I especially love.

Fisher: Now wait a minute, before you go any further, I’ve got to ask, how do you find these things? Because I’ve never really researched it. I’ve certainly seen some in modern times. I’ve got probably two of them in my home right now. Is this the kind of thing you find on eBay or on AbeBooks?

Gena: Oh absolutely and you bring up a good point, always start with your house first or your mother’s house, or someone else in the family but you can find these on eBay and on eBay you can just search for the name of the location that your ancestor lived or the phrases community cookbook, or church cookbook, or fundraising cookbook. These are in libraries. There’s actually some major collections around the United States of community cookbooks and culinary collections. What I like to do as well when I go to do research in my ancestor’s hometown, I like to go to the library and see if they have a “Friends of the library bookshelf.” I also like to go to the antique stores and sometimes I can pick them up there.

Fisher: Wow.

Gena: You know, one of the first places you should look are the various digitized book websites there are, including Google Books, Internet Archive, and HathiTrust, those often have these cookbooks for different time periods.

Fisher: See and this is not a source that I ever have really considered, ever. That’s amazing.

Gena: Well, they’re fabulous and I’ll tell you on my blog FoodFamilyEphemera, I often spotlight these and I’m always amazed at the information that can be found. And it’s information that is ignored by most family historians.

Fisher: Yeah. I can see that. So, my question to you then is, when you find some of these things are they recipes that often hint at ancestry that you may or may not know of or are these things that outright state, oh this came from my grandmother, that kind that hint at the long line of tradition within the family?

Gena: Definitely because sometimes will have a little introduction about how this is grandma Smith’s recipe, or I got this from my husband’s mother, or whatever. So, it will give you that but the other thing is with food, not so much today but in the past food really was regional. And so what you ate on the East Coast was somewhat different from what you would eat, let’s say in California. And so, some of these recipes are going to have that regional muff that is going to point to where the family is from so that’s an important part of it. And as time goes by we also see food fads, right?

Fisher: Yeah.

Gena: So for example, in the 1800s eating turtle soup was a big deal.

Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs]

Gena: It became such a big deal that turtles actually became over-harvested because of it. Then there were mock turtle soup recipes and so mock turtle soup became a big deal.

Fisher: Where was this though Gena? Where did they eat the turtle soup? Was it the East Coast, the West Coast or was it everywhere?

Gena: Everywhere. Now, today you’re probably not eating that in California. In fact, I’ve never gone anywhere in California where there’s turtle soup. But, you would find this in Louisiana for example, maybe even in New York. But it used to be that everybody ate it.

Fisher: Hmm. I had no idea.

Gena: Yeah, so food not only has that ethnic background but it also has a regional background and what people ate and what was popular. When I go give presentations on cookbooks and through history, I make deviled ham sandwiches. And I’ll tell you, people have an instant reaction to that. Now, most of us probably don’t enjoy that anymore but for many of us we grew up with that. So, eating that takes us back in time and it helps us remember things about growing up. One time, I did this and I also added baked bean sandwiches which is exactly the way it sounds.

Fisher: [Laughs] Yeah.

Gena: It’s squashed baked beans on white bread with mayo.

Fisher: Ugh.

Gena: Well, yeah that was their response. But, an older woman in the class she came forward and ate one and said, “Oh my gosh! I totally forgot we used to eat these when I was a kid. We were poor so my mother would make these.”

Fisher: Wow.

Gena: So, food is a catalyst not only for research and finding those women’s names, and dates, and all that. But, it’s also a great way to jog memories and pass down our own heritage to our kids and grandkids.

Fisher: She’s Gena Philibert Ortega. She is a family historian of course but an expert regarding ancestral recipes. Gena, I wish we could go on and on. We’re going to have to have you back.

Gena: Great!

Fisher: And continue and do some of this in the not too distant future. All right, great stuff! Thanks so much for coming on.

Gena: Wonderful. Thank you for having me!

Fisher: We talk preservation coming up next with Tom Perry on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 4 Episode 272

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: Hey, we're back at it. It is Extreme Genes America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth. And it is time to talk preservation with our good friend, Tom Perry, the Preservation Authority. And Tom, we're getting away from all the modern stuff today to talk about preserving books, because there's really so much to talk about and we've never really delved into this before.

Tom: Yeah. I don't know why over the years we've never really got into books, but books are so important. My mother taught me over the years how to take care of books from her parents, her grandparents, my great, great grandparents. So we're going to talk about several different parts of preserving books.

Fisher: I love this, Tom, and I know that most people have some old books somewhere and many of them were favorite books of their people, not necessarily books that relate to the family or whatever. But I love holding a book, knowing that this was my mom's favorite when she was a little girl maybe in the '30s or that this belonged to my dad, it was a gift from him in the '20s for his birthday or something like that. And to have these things, obviously you want to make sure they’re in the best condition. Where do we start? Do we start talking about where things have been damaged or need to be restored or is it just how to keep them from being damaged?

Tom: Yes, all of those things. And over the two segments, we'll try to hit as many points as we can. The first one that I think is really important that we need to discuss is environmental conditions, which a lot of people just take for granted that a book's a book, it will last forever, which is not the truth. One thing you want to be really careful with books is, light, temperature and humidity. Those are your most important things that you have to regulate. So of course you don't want books left out in the sun where the southern exposure is coming through the window is going to damage your books.

Fisher: Right.

Tom: You don't want them around fluorescent lights, because they have great ultraviolet radiation that can damage them the same as, you know, photographs. So you want to make sure you have like LEDs or incandescent lights or something like that. And when you're not in that room, always make sure the lights are off and the blinds are always pulled.

Fisher: So essentially you're talking about creating a little dark room as your library, right?

Tom: Oh absolutely. Just like we talked about videotapes and audio on other segments, you need to make sure that you keep these things away from the light. And heat registers, it can be an outside wall, it can be a wall that’s going to a food cellar or to an attic. You want to make sure you have good airflow around them where you can really keep away from extreme temperature changes and also humidity changes as well.

Fisher: So you have all these things that you're concerned. It sounds so much like the photographs and documents, well, of course it’s made out of paper, right?

Tom: Absolutely. The experts recommend 70 degrees Fahrenheit and about 50% humidity, which is perfect of course, but not everybody can have that. The biggest thing you want to remember is you have airflow around everything that nothing's so tight that it can't breathe. So that's really important. And shelving is important also. You need to make sure you always keep your books standing upright. Don’t lay them on the side. Don't let them stay open, because that can actually damage the structure of the book. Make sure when they're on the shelves they're not at the edge of the shelf, they're pushed back about an inch, because this does several things, it lets you see if dust is accumulating, you can see if there's any droppings of maybe some rodents or some other bugs that got in there. So you want to be able to continue to keep your books in the best possible condition.

Fisher: So why is it that you can't have a book on its side?

Tom: Well, the thing is, it actually puts all the weight on the structure of the book and can cause problems. And leaving it all the way open can actually damage the spine. So you want to be really, really careful you keep them standing up. And that's the same reason you don't want your books so tight, because if you start grabbing it by the top edge and pulling it out, you're going to damage the structure of the book. You want to be able to very easily grab it by the spine and pull it out. If your books for some reason are too tight, take the two books on the side and kind of rock them back and forth a little bit till you can grab the spine of the middle book that you want and pull it out.

Fisher: That's really good advice. You're absolutely right. I think about some of my library shelves and how tight some of the books can get, and that could be really tough on them, especially if you take some of those books out frequently.

Tom: Exactly.

Fisher: All right, Tom, we're going to continue with this conversation talking about taking care of your books, preservation of some really important items I think for a lot of families, coming up when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 272

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: Hey, we're back at it, talking preservation with Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com, talking about something we really haven't gotten into in the past, and that's the preservation of books. And Tom, we talked a lot about the conditions you want to keep them in, but we haven't really talked too much about storage yet. And I've been thinking about this. For instance, I had a book that was almost like a register, it really was a register. My great grandmother took care of it, because she delivered babies. She was a midwife and she kept track of all the children she delivered. That book has a spine that's been falling off, and so we keep it in a great, big plastic sealed bag and then keep it locked away where it can't have any damage done to it. You think there's anything better we could do?

Tom: Yeah. You want to be really careful. You want to make sure you use plastic that's archival plastic. You don't want to use like a drycleaner bag, you don't want to use kitchen wrap, you don't want to use garbage bags, because what happens, as these bags break down, there's harmful gasses that can be released that can actually damage your books. So you want to make sure that you have them in archival plastic or you have them in archival paper and that you use cardboard boxes that are what they call alkaline corrugated cardboard.

Fisher: Are there different types of books that we should be spending more time in putting in that type of archival environment than others?

Tom: Well, you know, it all comes down to what's important to you, just like talked about in audio and video, what your end game is going to be. So you always want to make sure that you store them in these proper type boxes and make sure you keep them in some place that they're going to be safe. You want them to never be within four inches of any kind of wall and especially the floor. If you're in an area where once in a while they do have floods, just assume that you're going to have a flood and make sure they're up higher, so you're not going to have these kinds of problems. You want to keep them away like we mentioned in the first segment, away from any exterior walls, from ceilings that are to an attic that can get really hot. You want to be really careful about how you do store these. And you do them by, what's your priority. If you've only got so much room, you want the ones that are most important on top just in case you do have an unfortunate situation happen in your home.

Fisher: Yeah, right. You want to be able to even grab it to get out of the house with, right, if it’s especially valuable.

Tom: Exactly. And that's why labeling is so important, to put some kind of a label on it to say, you know, what the book is or, hey, this is the most important. And it sounds funny at this point, but when you have a fire coming through, like they had in California or mud slides and you have very little time, its, "Hey, this one says "first box to go out the door." So you grab that one and go and not worry about anything else, because, you know, your lives are at stake, things are important. And you want to be able to grab the ones that are most important. So if you label them this way, you'll have a better chance of getting the right one with you on your first trip out.

Fisher: Boy that makes a lot of sense. You know, a lot of people have, just books that are just really valuable, you know, from way back in the day, has nothing to do with the family, there was no family connection at all. But this is all applicable, not only to books, but to so many documents and photographs as well. But I'm just hearing the similarities are really quite significant.

Tom: That is absolutely correct. One thing we've talked about in episodes before is, a good quality gun safe. It’s one of the best investments you will ever make. You can keep your photos, your slides, your movies, your books, very, very important things in these, because if they're the proper kind, whether you have a flood, a mudslide, a fire or whatever, they have been able to open these after all the debris was removed and everything inside was still fine. So this could be the best investment you could make in preserving your past.

Fisher: Yeah, and I should mention, I've actually had a flood at my house many years ago, and I had some very important things hidden in a safe, like you just mentioned. But it was a fireproof safe, and I didn't realize that a fireproof safe is not waterproof. And so we lost some very important items as a result of that. So make sure you don't just get a fireproof safe. Make sure you get one that can save it from water. Great advice, Tom, as always, great having you on and we'll talk to you again soon, all right?

Tom: My pleasure.

Fisher: All right, genies, that's about all we've got this week, because we just don't have any more time, but thanks so much for joining us. And thanks to our guest today for bringing us some great insight into DNA research and unique sources for tracing your women ancestors. Hey, and don't forget to sign up for our Weekly Genie Newsletter, its free through ExtremeGenes.com.Talk to you again next week. Thanks for joining us. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!

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