Episode 284 - Expert On Old German Handwriting Shares Tips / BYUtv’s Relative Race Host Dan Debenham Talks Season 5 / Irish Records AUAJun 02, 2019
Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. In Family Histoire News, the guys first talk about a Frenchman who has searched his whole life for the identity of his father. His dream has come true. Hear the amazing details. Then, DNA has turned a British care worker into a Lord of the Manor! Find out about what you wish would happen to you. The Statue of Liberty Museum has opened, and what a gala kicked it off! Hear who all was there. Then, it’s quite a find along a road in England, where remains dating back to the 6th century are being compared to Tutankhamen. Learn more about this remarkable find. David then wraps things up with the reading of a hysterical menu from 1944. It was a special occasion! David’s Blogger Spotlight this week shines on writer J.L. Bell’s site, Boston1775.blogspot.com. The site focuses on events leading up to the Revolution.
Fisher then visits with Dan Debenham, host of BYUtv’s Relative Race. Season 5 has just wrapped and Dan shares some behind the scenes info about the show.
Next, it’s time to talk about the scrawl we call German writing from the 18th century and behind. Specialist Katherine Schober talks about the origins of this challenging type of writing and how you learn to use it to follow your German ancestors.
In Ask Us Anything this week, Melanie McComb of NEHGS answers questions about Irish research. Isn’t about time you dug in to find your Emerald Isle ancestors?
That’s all this week on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show!
Transcript of Episode 284
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Segment 1 Episode 284
Fisher: And welcome to America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. My name is Fisher. I am your Roots Sleuth on the program where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out, and this episode is brought to you by BYUtv’s Relative Race. If you haven’t caught the season, which just ended this past week, you’ll want to stream it. We’ll talk more about that a little later on today because Dan Debenham, the host of the show, is going to be joining us here doing a little wrap up on the season and give us a little taste of what we might expect in the next season later this fall. Plus, we’re going to talk to Katherine Schober. She is an expert in analyzing that old German handwriting that looks like kids’ scrawls. How do you decipher all that and what does it mean? She’ll give you some clues on how to dig into it if you’ve got some German ancestry. And then in the back end of the show we’ve got another Ask Us Anything segment. We’re going to talk to Melanie McComb from the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. She’s talking Irish research today so we’ve got a couple of great questions for her about researching your Irish ancestors. And by the way, if you haven’t signed up for our “Weekly Genie Newsletter” yet you need to do that. Yeah, we give you a blog each week and a couple of links to some great shows past and present, and links to stories you’re going to take a particular interest in as a genealogist. Right now, it’s time to head out to Boston, Massachusetts and talk to David Allen Lambert. He is the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. Hello David, how are you?
David: Hey, I’m doing great Fish. How about yourself?
Fisher: You know, I am amazed at the number of stories we have this week. [Laughs] We’d better dig in for our Family Histoire News. Where do we begin?
David: Well, DNA has done it again and of course we are now approaching the 75th Anniversary of D-Day and this is a story that kind of connects in with an American and a French twist. There is a gentleman by the name of Andre Gantois who is 73, and he knew as a child, thanks to his mother, that his father was an American serviceman, but he didn’t know who, and his research turned up nothing, but then his daughter-in-law suggested, “How about a DNA test?” He now knows his half-brother.
David: His half-brother, in fact, says that Andre looks so much like his own late father, the serviceman that had been at D-Day and died in 1997, Wilburn Henderson, so he feels like he’s talking to his dad again.
David: So DNA has brought together a family that had been separated for over 70 years.
Fisher: And I’ve got to tell you these two look a lot alike. It’s unbelievable.
David: Hmm it is true.
Fisher: And the story is posted on ExtremeGenes.com of course, so check it out.
David: Well, I’ll tell you DNA once again as I say, we’re full of DNA stories here today.
Fisher: Yes we are. [Laughs]
David: This story has to do with a day laborer, 31-year old fellow, who found out that his dad was actually a multi-millionaire. His dad has died. He has now inherited a $63 million country estate in Cornwall!
Fisher: [Laughs] Isn’t that crazy?
David: And if you don’t have a DNA kit done yet folks, go out and get one. You never know what you might inherit.
Fisher: Right. Who knew?
Fisher: This is an amazing thing too because the dad kind of fell apart and was addicted to drugs and died in his sixties.
Fisher: And they’d had some contact over the years, but they never did the DNA test. So, finally they got to it and here the dad is gone and the 31-year old son who could barely make ends meet now has a sixty some odd million dollar country estate. It’s unbelievable.
David: Well, that will change his life, and hopefully he won’t be like his poor dad living in his car even though he had this great estate, and unfortunately his dad’s mental health was not that good then later in life. Well, heading on to this side of the pond, the Statue of Liberty Museum had an opening star-studded billionaire crowd. Hilary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey and a variety of star-studded celebrities were there for the opening of the museum where they rubbed shoulders at the foot of the 133-year old statue.
Fisher: Including, by the way, Dr Henry Louis Gates. He was part of that along with Oprah.
David: You know, you never know when you’re driving around that mound of earth might be a goldmine. Well this is what has happened over in England. An Anglo-Saxon tomb, supposedly the brother of an Anglo-Saxon king, has been found in Prittlewell in Southend-on-Sea in Essex, England, not very far in fact from the London Southend Airport. This piece of earthen mound has been basically there forever. No one ever thought twice about it. They were going to extend the road and about 15 years ago they opened it up and found out that it’s a burial tomb. They’re comparing it, Fish, to what Tutankhamun’s tomb was like with gold, and being very pristine with the collections that are inside there, and they’re really getting a good insight into the whole story of the Anglo-Saxons in Essex back in the fifth or sixth century.
Fisher: It’s unbelievable, and the pictures are incredible. Also, this story is on ExtremeGenes.com.
David: We had a wonderful event here in Boston. The Greater Boston Concierge Association had their meeting here, and we pulled out some of our artifacts about hotels and menus and I wanted to share one with you. This is from 1944 from a menu from the American Society of Genealogists, which is still around. The Fellows of Genealogy Society still meet. The menu had assorted items including pickles and watermelon. The entrée was a “pedigree chicken” with “unknown gravy,” vegetables that could have been “rest in peas,” has beans and “s-boo-ghetti!”
David: The salad was “crypt lettuce,” including mustard walls, date bread and pipe rolls and for drinks you can have “tea or coffin” or “spirits to order.” Now, this is not a Halloween mind you, but it definitely could be.
Fisher: Yeah, absolutely. That’s funny. That’s great stuff and a real genuine menu from 1944.
David: Exactly. My blogger spotlight shines right here at home. There is a great local history blog. We are now fast approaching the 250th anniversary of the start of the American Revolution and J. L. Bell, a Massachusetts writer and historian specializes in the American Revolution in around Boston. So, if you check out Boston1775.blogspot.com you’ll have an added advantage before the 250 comes up and have all this great knowledge. And don’t forget, if you’re not a member of American Ancestors, NEHGS would love to have you over as a member and you can save $20 by using the coupon code “Extreme” on AmericanAncestors.org.
Fisher: All right David, thanks so much. Great stories today. Look forward to talking to you again next week.
David: Okay my friend, talk to you soon.
Fisher: All right, and coming up next, he’s the host of BYUtv’s Relative Race. Season 5 has just come to an end and I’ll be talking to Dan Debenham about it, coming up next in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 2 Episode 284
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Dan Debenham
Fisher: And welcome back to America’s Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. And as you know, we just wrapped up Season 5 of Relative Race on BYUtv the other day. And naturally, I had to get my friend Dan Debenham, the host and creator of Relative Race on the show to talk about all the things we just saw on the big wrap-up. Hi Dan, how are you?
Dan: I am fantastic but I’ve got a question.
Fisher: Young man in the front-row, yes, your question?
Dan: Thank you. Thank you sir. We’re not fooling anybody. I’m the only one in here with you.
Dan: So, what did you think of the season overall? How did you like it?
Fisher: The emotion was off the charts. I mean, I’ve watched the other seasons and I’ve enjoyed the other seasons very much, but I think we had more parents being met this year than we’ve ever seen before.
Fisher: And a lot of things getting worked out as a result of that.
Dan: Yeah. You know what, this season was really, really interesting because we had this unusual dynamic of teams. We’ve had Keith and Marcus that were half brothers, same mother different fathers. Their mother, as you remember, passes away on Mother’s Day in a car accident while they are creating mother’s day cards for her.
Fisher: Ugh it was the worst.
Dan: Then you’ve got Maria and Elizabeth who are sisters through adoption.
Fisher: Right no blood.
Dan: Then you’ve got Demetrius and Chonta. Man, I’m telling you I love those people by the way.
Fisher: Great people. Great people.
Dan: And then you’ve got the sisters.
Dan: Yeah. You’ve got identical twins which by the way, it’s so funny they went through the entire season asking their relatives and asking us all the time, “Do we look like identical twins?” We’d say, “No, you don’t.”
Fisher: [Laughs] Kaley and Kristen. No they don’t. It’s the hair color, don’t you think?
Dan: I think that too.
Fisher: It had everything to do with it but it was really fun to watch. And the thing that strikes me about Relative Race that I really like about it is that at the end of the day, whoever wins on Day 10, that isn’t the most important thing. The prize isn’t the most important thing. But it’s fun to watch them compete, and then along the way have these incredible moments that you know they’re going to carry with them the rest of their lives.
Dan: That’s true. And yet, that is often a conversion process. And what I mean by that is it is not unusual at all to have at least one member of each team coming on to the show specifically to win $50,000.
Fisher: For the money. Yeah. Of course.
Dan: And then you watch them discover family in the most unusual, difficult, emotional, challenging, unique ways possible. And there is at some point there is an “ah ha!” moment where they either say or they feel it. And you can see it when it’s this is not about the money anymore. This is about discovering family.
Fisher: Yeah. And I’m just amazed how many parents were found on this particular season starting with Episode 1 the first day when you get a driver for Keith and Marcus. Oh by the way, Marcus, “Meet your father. He is going to be driving you because you don’t have a license!”
Dan: Well, let me tell you, that dropped into our lap. Meaning, we had done the research and we knew that we had Marcus’s father. We had found him. And he was supposed to meet his dad on I think it was Episode 3. But what happened is, sure enough one week before we went out to St. Louis to film, the producer of that team, we have four producers, one for each team.
Dan: The producer comes into my office closes the door, and any time they close the door of my office I know there’s a challenge. There’s a problem. And he said, “Dan, we have a problem.” I said, “It had better not be with your team.” And he said, “It is.” And I said, “What?” And he said, “They don’t have drivers licenses.” And I said, “What are you talking about?”
Fisher: They live in LA. They don’t need them.
Dan: Well, the thing, when they submit to be on the show one of the things that they have to mark the box is they have driver’s licenses.
Fisher: Uh oh. [Laughs]
Dan: Well, actually Keith did but it had been suspended for I think some parking tickets or something like that. I don’t remember what it is.
Fisher: Okay. Yeah.
Dan: But it had been suspended, and then Marcus, so their plan was that Keith would drive, and Marcus who never has had a driver’s license, but we found out their license was suspended.
Fisher: Oh my gosh.
Dan: Because we have to insure all these people.
Dan: Their producer called us and said their license is suspended. And we said, “We’re in trouble.”
Dan: I mean, how many ways can you put this, we’re in trouble.
Fisher: Yeah because you have this show scheduled, you’ve got your crews all set, everything’s mapped out.
Dan: They can’t get pushed. We can’t find another. I mean, we’re one week before. We spend sometimes five months doing the research and contacting the relatives.
Dan: So it’s like we’re in trouble. And then it was that same producer that about two days later...because first of all that producer flew out, met with the DMV in Los Angeles trying to see if we could pay any kind of a rush fee to fast pass them up to the front of the line to get them licenses.
Fisher: Right. Right.
Dan: And it was like, “Nope. Sorry.”
Fisher: Wow! And now you need a driver.
Dan: So now he came and he said, “What if we supplied a driver?” And I said, “Absolutely not. That’s completely unfair to the other teams.” And he said, “But I’ve got an idea.” I said, “What is it?” He goes, “What if the driver is ‘Dad’?” And I said, “Oh my goodness that is awesome!”
Fisher: [Laughs] It was awesome!
Dan: And so we moved forward that way.
Fisher: You talk about turning lemons into lemonade. Because here’s the first episode and everybody’s like, “Yeah! We’re ready to go. We’re gonna get em!” And to watch especially Liz and Maria, their response and all of a sudden everybody is in tears and all the competition thing just washes away. Because it’s like, this is not fair, but oh it’s so cool!
Dan: You know, you just actually hit on something that we hear from our fans through social media all the time. And that is this season, meaning Season 5 that just wrapped up, and by the way, season 6 which we are creating right now, the same is true. And what I’m speaking to is that there’s this competition going on but in the video conference calls every night, you see them. There’s this juxtaposition.
Dan: And you see them start rooting for each other. They care about each other. They’re encouraging each other.
Fisher: Every season.
Dan: And it’s this very interesting dynamic because they’re competing against each other and the stakes are real. It’s not only that you get to stay on the show to meet more family, but there’s $50,000 at the end of the line.
Dan: And $50,000 changes people’s lives, but so does meeting family. And yet you have this dynamic of being fierce competitors that you’re actually often more fierce than you know, and then they really, genuinely want all the others to succeed. And that is a fascinating study of human nature in this world of cynicism, and I want to beat somebody else down, and they’re my competitors so I’m going to win at all cost. Here, you just don’t see that.
Fisher: No. It melts away. It really does.
Dan: They’re competitive but boy do they care about each other in the same breath.
Fisher: Wow. And now I know Season 6 is coming right up and you’ve been in the middle of filming that. How’s that season shaping up?
Dan: That’s going really, really well. You know, there’s not a lot I can say about it yet because it’s going to air this fall.
Dan: But I can tell you that…how do I put this? [Laughs] There’s going to be the group overall, there’s often a frenetic pace to the show when they’re scrambling from one thing to the next especially when they’re overcoming the challenges that we’ve created and put in place.
Dan: Or they’re running to get a city selfie, or they’re running to dash to get back in their cars, and while you will see that in Season 6, let’s just say that they’re not all as agile as some of our past competitors.
Fisher: [Laughs] Oh, wait a minute, we’ve got more Joes and Jerricas, is that what we’re talking about? [Laughs]
Dan: I’m just saying that these people… one of the things I love about our show is that it is not about celebrities, it’s not about people you know, this can be you. This could be you. It could be your neighbors. It could be your friends.
Fisher: Ordinary people.
Dan: And that’s what we have in abundance in season 6. And they are heart-warming. These teams they are heart-warming. And you will see how much they also care about each other while competing against each other. And again, I come back to as a television producer, it is a unique dynamic that I have never seen on any other show. Not a competition show let me qualify that. And I’ve never seen a competition show where the competitors care about each other.
Fisher: Yeah, that’s right. And you got a Synopsis TV Award nomination, which is incredible.
Dan: We did yeah.
Fisher: I mean, you were up against the Kardashians!
Dan: Yeah. Yeah that’s who won unfortunately. But to be a finalist, not only were we nominated for best reality show, but we were a finalist. There were only five finalists and we were a finalist. Relative Race was a finalist.
Fisher: That’s incredible.
Fisher: That’s exciting stuff. Congratulations.
Dan: Thank you.
Fisher: And congratulations to all the teams. You know, we haven’t plugged who actually won it because we really want you to stream it if you haven’t seen it.
Dan: That’s true.
Fisher: You’ve got the BYUtv app, you’ve got BYUtv.org.
Fisher: Dan, it’s always great to see you buddy.
Dan: It was great to see you. I really enjoyed this.
Fisher: Always fun to talk about the behind the scenes stuff that you’ve got going on.
Dan: There’s more than you know.
Fisher: And when is Season 6 going to be out by the way?
Dan: Season 6, right now we’re hearing either the very last part of September or the very first part of October. But as soon as we know we’ll certainly let you know so that our listeners will know, and most importantly be able to enjoy an all new season of Relative Race.
Fisher: He’s Dan Debenham. He is the creator. He is the man behind the cell phone that sends all these little texts out. He is an evil man. [Laughs] Thanks so much for joining me Dan. We’ll see you again next season.
Dan: See you.
Fisher: All right, back to gaining knowledge now because coming up next we’re going to talk to Katherine Schober. She is a German to English translator and she specializes in genealogical and historical text. That means all the crazy old German writing that looks like it was scrawled all over the place [Laughs] you’ve seen it before. And then later in the show in our “Ask Us Anything” segment we have our friend Melanie McComb back in to talk about your Irish research and certain things you may need to know as you go about getting across to the Emerald Isle. And I’m sure that Melanie will explain some of the history of why it’s so difficult to research in Ireland. So, switch your brain to German. We’re going to talk to Katherine Schober next when we return in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 3 Episode 284
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Katherine Schober
Fisher: Back at it, on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth and this segment is brought to you by Legacy Tree Genealogists. You know, I’ve got to tell you, it’s been a long time since I worked on my German research. I have one third great grandparent who was directly from Germany and I got into the records long before anything was online with this. And I remember the first time I cracked open a microfilm and put it on the machine, and started turning the handle and looking at that handwriting and going, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” But, a funny thing happened. Once we got going with this thing and started looking at it more and more over the next several days my brain started changing, my eyes started adjusting and I was actually able to read that old German handwriting from the mid 18th century. And there’s one woman who’s out there informing people on how they can learn to do the same thing and I’m excited to have her on the line with us right now. She is Katherine Schober. And Katherine, welcome to Extreme Genes, great to have you!
Katherine: Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here.
Fisher: I know that your mom was German and you really took the whole German thing to a new extreme. Moving to Austria and teaching English over there and then you married an Austrian guy and brought him back here and all you do is speak German. So, I think you might have an idea of what you’re talking about.
Katherine: Yeah, I have kind of. I decided to start learning German in high school and that one decision when I was 14 years old really changed my entire life.
Fisher: I would say, yeah. So, is my experience typical of a lot of people who get into the German research?
Katherine: I would say so. You said that your brain gets used to reading the handwriting after a while.
Katherine: In my case I’ve really found that to be true. I read the handwriting everyday but I have found that there are some scripts that are just a lot harder than others. So, what I do with those scripts is that I just start. I make myself sit down, start reading and I just skip the words that I can’t read.
Katherine: At the beginning there may be a lot and as you said, as you go through page after page all of a sudden you’ll find that your eyes adjust and your brain is all of a sudden reading those words that looked so hard at the beginning.
Fisher: And I think it’s really important for people to understand because I’m assuming that there are people listening right now who have gotten into the German records, saw what I saw in the beginning for the first time and went, “Oh, that isn’t going to happen.” And put it aside.
Katherine: [Laughs] Exactly.
Fisher: So, where do you take people in the beginning to help them at least get a start? Because I know a lot of folks at least need a few words, right? So you would recognize what they would look like in the old German handwriting, like birth, death, or marriage. So, that you can at least get a certain handle on what you’re seeing.
Katherine: I actually wrote a book about all this. It came out last year and it’s called, “Tips and Tricks of Deciphering German Handwriting.” It has the most important words that you’ll need in German genealogy. You know all those milestone words like birth, death, marriage, things like that. And then what those look like in the handwriting. So, I always recommend my book for people and I also have three other books that are really good and helpful with the handwriting. One of which is, “Ernest Thode German to English Genealogical Dictionary.”
Katherine: That is just a wonderful dictionary full of almost every word that you will find in German genealogy documents.
Fisher: And I would thing the other ones would be months of the year because that’s something you can pick up fairly easily because let’s face it, there’s only 12 of them and many of them are similar to English.
Katherine: Exactly. September, October, November, and December are basically the same and August as well. So, months aren’t too hard once you know what to look for.
Fisher: So, once you get to that part where you say, okay I’ve got some of these words. Where do you go next with that? Do you try to work with the different forms that the church records took in particular?
Katherine: That’s when I would kind of tell people to go look at the letters themselves. So, there’s great keys online. The German handwriting is actually called Kurrent Schrist and if you Google that and type in a key, you will get a nice looking alphabet online of what the letters look like in old German handwriting. It’s a good start.
Fisher: Yeah, and you’d go to Google then, right, and do German to English?
Katherine: Yeah, once you know what the word is. Once you’re able to transcribe the word from the German handwriting into a typed German text then you could go to Google if it’s individual words. I don’t usually advise going to Google Translate for sentences because Google will translate things literally.
Fisher: [Laughs] That’s true.
Katherine: So, if you say, it’s raining cats and dogs which is an idiom. It might say something like, oh, literally cats and dogs are falling from the sky. [Laughs]
Katherine: So, you do have to be careful with Google Translate but for individual words like brother, sister, mother, marry, die, that’s usually a pretty safe bet.
Fisher: Sure. So Katherine, are there variant forms of German when you get into the German areas for instance Switzerland and Austria? Does it change at all for that time period?
Katherine: That’s a very good question. I say, a lot of people ask me, does it change based on the region? And in my experience it’s more that the writing changes based on the time. So, if you go only as far back at the early 20th century you’re going to get a different type of handwriting than if you go all the way back to the 1600s.
Fisher: Um hmm.
Katherine: The main type of handwriting I work with is the 1700 and 1800s but I am able to do other time periods as well. But if you go all the way back into the 1500 -1600s it becomes very flourishy, very loopy, very beautiful but definitely more difficult to read.
Fisher: [Laughs] Well, I’m happy to hear you have trouble with it too because if you do then we know that we’re not alone here.
Katherine: Yeah, you don’t have to feel as guilty. And as we said before, the more you work with it the easier it gets.
Fisher: It does.
Katherine: So, even if it looks scary at first, stick with it then your brain will really adjust.
Fisher: Well, I know like H’s have this big dropping letter, big loop at the bottom. I remember the first time I saw Johann Heinrich Anspach.
Fisher: It’s got the H in the middle of Johann and then at the beginning of Henrich and then at the end of Anspach. And these things would come down like a fishhook, you know?
Fisher: You don’t recognize that initially as an H, but once you know that then you can start picking those up and then there are many other letters that are just the same as English and you can start to put those things together. But it is fascinating. Any idea how it began? Because it’s very artistic as you say.
Katherine: Yes. It was actually created by a man in 1538 I believe. And he just created this way of writing but it didn’t become popular until Prussia started using this handwriting in their schools in 1714. And since Prussia was so powerful at the time, the handwriting that they used in their schools began to be recognized as the cool handwriting and the handwriting that everyone wanted to use. So, it really spread around the German speaking lands in the 1700s.
Fisher: Wow! So, that’s what the cool kids wrote like. I got it.
Katherine: Exactly. Cool Prussians.
Katherine: So, if you have Prussian ancestors give yourself a pat on the back. It’s thanks to you all were learning that cool writing.
Fisher: Well, thank you very much because that’s where my guys were from.
Katherine: Well, congratulations.
Fisher: Thank you. Thank you very much. So, Katherine where can people go once again if they want to find out where to go if they want to manage these old German languages?
Katherine: So, if you want to try and learn the handwriting yourself, I recently came out with a German handwriting course where you can do it on your computer. It’s all self-paced and you can teach yourself how to read the German handwriting through my lessons, or if you say, “Hey, this is just too difficult for me. I need someone else to do it.” Then I actually translate the documents myself. You can send me an email through my website which is, “SKTranslations.com” It’s my initials backwards Katherine Shober.
Katherine: It was actually last week I got an email from a client who I had translated some documents for her from the 1600s, a few years ago and she wrote me last week that she was able to use those documents to trace her ancestry back to Martin Luther himself.
Katherine: She found out that her ancestor was the maternal cousin of Martin Luther. That was pretty exciting.
Fisher: That was a kick.
Katherine: My family doesn’t have any claim to fame like that but at least I get a little bit of excitement through my client’s documents.
Fisher: [Laughs] Well done. She’s Katherine Schober. She is an expert on translating old German handwriting into English and of course helping out with genealogy. Thanks so much for coming on. Fascinating stuff Kath!
Katherine: Thank you for having me.
Fisher: And coming up next, we switch from German to Irish. We’re going to talk to Melanie McComb from the New England Historic Genealogical Society with another Ask Us Anything segment on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 4 Episode 284
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Melanie McComb
Fisher: It is time once again for our Ask Us Anything segment on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth. And we have my good friend, Melanie McComb on the line right now from the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. She's a specialist in Jewish research, because she's part Jewish, and Irish research, because she's part Irish. So it’s time we talk Irish this time, Melanie, because we talked Jewish last time. And I have a great question here, it’s from Max in Schenectady, New York, and he emails us, "In Irish research, where do I begin to find the location?" That's a great question, because every country is a little bit different, isn't it?
Melanie: That is a great question. And that's one of the question that we get the most of when we help our patrons that want to go back to Ireland. And ultimately, when you want to go back, you need to do a lot of research in the country that your ancestors ultimately came to. So if your ancestors came to the United States, you really need to do the work in the United States records before you can go back.
Melanie: And the reason why is because when you're going through passengers records and those types of records, your John McInty might be the same John McInty of someone else essentially. And you just don't have enough information to go on. So by going through US research, going through the census records and seeing if they potentially maybe even naturalized and became a citizen, that can help make sure that you have the right person coming in from Ireland at the right time.
Fisher: Boy you really hit it though truly, because there's so many people from Ireland with the same name, right, “Michael Burk.” [Laughs]
Fisher: I mean, you can go through a long, long list of names that would be the same and sorting out and making sure you've separated out the right one is a key.
Melanie: Yeah. And one thing you want to look at too, is, look at different things that help differentiate your ancestor from others, occupation, age, different family members that might have been associated with it, you know, do we see similar naming patterns, do we see a family that seems familiar that fits the family group that you're tracing. Religion is also another key factor, depending on what records you found. If you found that your ancestors were Catholic and maybe you trace someone back to Presbyterian, you know, you may want to question that to see, did they actually convert or is it really just another person.
Fisher: Right. And then once you've got that location, hopefully from some record here in the United States, then you go over to the Irish records. And what do you do from there?
Melanie: So from there, depending on which part of Ireland and what religion, there actually are a number of Irish websites that are out there. One of my favorite is IrishGenealogy.ie. And that is where you can look at civil records going back to 1864. They have a really great search engine and you can put in the information for the birth, marriage and death. What's helpful is that you need to know the civil registration district, the area that your family lived in. So you need to have already done your homework and known the county and potentially the district that they had lived in just so that you can help narrow it down. And what's great about the civil records there, is that the site's actually added different images that you can view for the civil records. You can actually see a birth register, marriage register, death register for your ancestor.
Fisher: Wow that's good stuff. And you know, Ireland has a reputation as being a very difficult place overall to research and that's because of course there're a lot of records that were burned, census records in the early 20th century. And so, once you try to get back before 1864, what do you use for those records?
Melanie: Sure. So before you go back to, it is before, at that point, you're really looking at church records. Church records are what are going to take the place of those vital records to help document your ancestor’s life. And there's a couple of different websites depending on the religion. So, one website is the National Library of Ireland has digitized the Catholic parish registers and they're continuing to add more and more on. So in the case of my third great grandfather, I was actually able to use the site in conjunction with the information I've already gathered to actually see the marriage record going back to about the 1828, the big marry on Valentine's Day.
Fisher: Wow! All right, great stuff, we're talking Irish research on Ask Us Anything. We'll have another question for our expert guest, Melanie McComb, coming up next in three minutes, on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.
Segment 5 Episode 284
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Melanie McComb
Fisher: We are back! It is our final segment of Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show for this week, doing our Ask Us Anything segment with our good friend, Melanie McComb from the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org, talking about Irish research. And we were just talking off air, Melanie, about the tragedy of the loss of the census records. What was the history on this thing in Ireland?
Melanie: Sure. So, there was a fire in the public record office in Dublin in 1922 and it destroyed so many records. We're talking about original wills, census returns going back to 1813.
Melanie: So for many decades they were gone, marriage bonds, most pre-1900 probate records and some of the church parish register records as well for the Church of Ireland. So it was a massive loss that happened.
Fisher: So are there alternative records then to the ones that were burned?
Melanie: Absolutely. So there are a couple different things you can look at. One is, depending on the county that your family lived in, there are probably documents that might actually be kept at PRONI, which is the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland. So in the case of my family, I had a second great grandfather that had a will where there was only maybe a small extract of what survived from the fire and they actually had a copy with the original kept in PRONI. So in some cases, the record might have been filed in two different places. And it’s always good to look at records in Northern Ireland where there might have been a boundary overlap with the counties that they took over the records for.
Fisher: Wow! That sounds like a real good alternative, right?
Melanie: Yeah, definitely.
Fisher: In the United States, New York City for instance has an alternative to the 1890 census, because they didn't like the numbers that originally came in, so they sent out the police to do it all over and found like 14,000 other names that weren't in the original. So, this is good to know that's going on in Ireland, because it’s just so tough there.
Melanie: It is tough. But there are other ways you can look at different records too, so there actually were genealogists like ourselves that would actually go into the public record office and would transcribe different genealogical records. And a lot of these collections are actually available on Family Search, so you can see other genealogists that tried to capture history and make sure that there was something that remained, even though a lot of the originals burned. So those abstracts can be a really great lead to additional records to go further back in Ireland.
Fisher: So was this done by Family Search or provided to Family Search?
Melanie: This was provided to Family Search. The Family Search actually digitized several different collections. And there was a number of different gentleman and ladies that actually took care of updating the records. Some of the examples include the Betham's Genealogical Abstracts, the Crossle Genealogical Abstracts and the Thrift Genealogical Abstracts and they're including items like wills, parish registers, pedigree charts, going even as far back as the 16th century.
Fisher: How cool is that! So PRONI, does it have a website people can access and do they have a lot of this online?
Melanie: So with PRONI, they do have a will database online and they have a really great presence. Their website is, NIDirect.gov.uk/Proni. And if you take a look, they'll have a number of things. So the wills I talked about are on the will calendars. They also have an eCatalogue and a historical maps viewer, which can be really helpful.
Fisher: Wow! That's a lot of stuff. Well, this is great to know though. I know Ireland is really embracing genealogical research. Some hotels actually have genealogists on staff to help people, so that people are going to come over and tour their homeland and have a good experience there trying to see where their ancestors lived. Isn't that amazing!
Melanie: It is amazing. I wish I had my own personal concierge for that.
Fisher: Yeah, wouldn't that be great! The genealogical concierges, “Come on over and we'll show you Ireland!”
Fisher: Well, thank you so much, Melanie. As always, great information. We appreciate the question also from Max in Schenectady, New York. And if you have a question for us for Ask Us Anything on any topic, you can email us at [email protected].
Melanie: Thank you, Fisher.
Fisher: We have covered a lot of ground this week, German records, Irish records, how to find them. If you missed any of it, of course catch the podcast on iHeart Radio, ExtremeGenes.com or iTunes. Hey, I'm Fisher, we'll see you again next week. Thanks for joining us. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!