Episode 3 – Incredible San Diego Family Bible Story, Identifying People in Unmarked Photos and Preserving AudioJul 30, 2013
Fisher visits with a couple from San Diego, Ed and Dawna Jones, who run a Family Search Center there. They talk about the Bible that was brought in to be donated that had a record of one of their own (the couples’) ancestral families! Then photo expert Ron Fox and software man Brock Bierman talk about a promising new bit of software that compares faces in various photos to see if they're the same! Then Tom Perry returns to talk preservation.
Transcript of Episode 3
Host: Scott Fisher with guests Elder Ed and Sister Dawna Jones
Segment 1 Episode 3
Fisher: Welcome back to another edition of Extreme Genes, of course our website ExtremeGenes.com for everything you need to know about what’s happening in family history around the world this week. I am Fisher your host and I am delighted to be on the line with Elder Ed Jones and Sister Dawna Jones. They are Mormon missionaries in San Diego. And what a miracle I’ve been hearing you two had last week or two in your own pursuits. Fill us in.
Dawna: We were sitting in our office one morning. It was actually a Tuesday morning and the phone rang. A lady I heard on the phone talking to Brother Jones saying she had a bible she’d like to donate. This is not an unusual occurrence. Normally we do not take donations because we are really short on space for our library. And when I heard him talking to her I said to him, “May I talk to her? She might have a family history documentation in that bible.” Took the phone, I talked to her. She said she does have family history notations inside the bible. I said well if you’ll bring it in we’ll take a look at it. Well, she brought it in the very next day with a young friend of hers and laid it on the counter. It was probably a 15 pound bible.
Fisher: Uh! [Laughs]
Dawna: It was quite large, very old and I’ll let Brother Jones describe it to you.
Fisher: All right.
Ed: Yeah well, it was really a funny site because here was this lady. She was no giant and she was carrying very carefully, wrapped up in a pillowcase, this large object. And she actually sort of struggled getting it up onto the counter.
Ed: And she identified herself and said, “Well, here’s the bible.” And I called for Donna and we opened up the pillowcase and pulled it out on the counter and there was this object as Sister Jones said, about 12 inches x 18 inches. And I swear the thing must have weighed at least 15 pounds. It looked like it had been in at least through two wars.
Ed: And the less of the experience, but knowing where most of the history was, we were quite anxious to open things up. And I very carefully opened up the cover and it was detached from the rest of the book so I was really having to be very, very careful. We opened up the cover and then we opened up the next page and then it had happened.
Donna: I looked at the names on the page as they were bantering and talking about the old bible, and I just about dropped my keys right there because every name on the first, second and third page had the name of Hammond. Hammond is a very strong line on my husband’s side of our family.
Ed: The interesting thing about those pages though was the first impression. Normally, when you look into a family bible you notice distinct handwriting styles and so forth. Usually they’re quite hard to read and a real puzzle. This thing, my gosh, it looked like it was done by a professional and it looked like an old monk’s writing. It was old English, a scroll, very, very professionally done. And then when we looked at the top entry on it…
Dawna: I said to my husband, “You won’t believe this dear, take a look at these names.”
Ed: The thing that started off with the marriage record and the marriage record was dated 1791, May 24th 1791 and as my wife said it was Hammond. And then it listed every one of the Hammond children in that particular family and the date on which they were born.
Dawna: And then the next page we looked at showed not only some of the children, but some of their children. We had literally a record in front of us of about 3/4 Hammond families. Now, the interesting part about that, and Brother Jones will tell you about the rest of the bible. The interesting part about that Hammond family was I immediately made copies of those pages and began researching those names. Of course, that’s what I wanted to do. I found that most of the children on the first page had deceased as children, but there were some that had grown to adulthood. And it was those adulthood children whose children I found on the other pages. Then I started researching in Family Search the adult name. I actually found those names scattered through Family Search, never in the same place. But, they were usually somebody’s spouse, not connected to the same Hammond surname.
Ed: Meanwhile, back at the ranch we were enthralled with the book itself. You can’t believe this book. First of all, as we opened up to the front page, it wasn’t a titled page but it was a front page. It was a page that named the illustrator and it was both sides, both pages, the facing page and the basic page were these beautiful etchings, these biblical etchings and so forth. And they announced who the artists were and so forth and the date or the illustrations was 1812. Now, that was wonderful but we had to get to the real page. We flipped over to the next page which was really the title page and so forth and found out that this was not only a standard bible but had the Old and New Testament in it. But it was a special bible in that it had the Apocrypha in it.
Ed: And it had evangelical comments as they call them.
Dawna: It was compiled by a Reverend Joseph Knight. There are probably two that we have found in the United States. One is in Chicago in a library not allowed to be loaned out.
Dawna: And apparently we have the second one.
Fisher: So this is very rare?
Dawna: Yeah. They do make modern day copies of them, but the other two we found, one was in England, the other one was in Africa. Now, those Hammond names that we found within the bible that I did research, because of the bible I was able to take those names in Family Search and literally create three complete new families that were connected to our line.
Fisher: Was this a wall for you? Was this a brick wall?
Dawna: Yes it was and I’ll tell you it was not only a brick wall broken for us but there were other patrons from the church in this area who would come and look at the bible who also had Hammond ancestry. One of them actually was related to one of the spouses of one of these Hammond children listed in the bible.
Ed: Right, it was a gentleman. You know, we were showing off the bible like we always do. [Laughs]
Ed: I was showing him the lines on there and he was tracing down some of the names and he saw an Atkins and he looked at the date on the Atkins and the name on the Atkins and he says, “My gosh! That’s in my line. I know that person.”
Fisher: No kidding.
Dawna: And we were able to find his line with that Hammond then connect it to our line on Family Search.
Fisher: it’s a very special story though about how the person who brought it to you actually obtained this bible in order to bring it to you. Fill us in on that.
Dawna: Yes, I’ll be glad to. That was the most wonderful miracle of all. The Whitlock family, Mrs Gwen Whitlock is the person who brought the bible in. She did not tell us that day how she happened to come by the bible, but her husband Pastor Carl Whitlock reminded her and she called us the very next day and said, “My husband reminded me to tell you how we acquired the bible.” Early in the 1970s, over 40 years ago an elderly neighbor of theirs had been doing his morning stroll through a Southern California alleyway and he happened to find the bible stuck out in a trashcan. He picked it out of the trashcan, had no reason to keep it, took it to his friends the Whitlocks and they kept it in their possession for over 40 years. They would bring it out every Christmas just for decoration because it was an antique relic. But Pastor Whitlock would take it to his church in his congregation on a yearly basis when they’d bring it out to see if they could find anybody connected to the Hammond family whose names were contained in the bible. Over 40 years every time they took it to the congregation they could find no one who was connected to that family. And when Mrs Whitlock brought it to the library, I kid you not, she stood there with all those tears in her eyes as well as ours. I had a really amazing conversation with the two of them when we were asked to get more information on the Whitlocks. I went to their home. They graciously received me. I promised Pastor Whitlock that we owed him. [Laughs]
Dawna: And because he found us that bible, and they were so kind to donate it to the family for its library and find our ancestry, I was going to help him track down what happened to his Whitlock genealogy
Fisher: What an amazing story. Thank you so much Elder Ed Jones and Sister Dawna Jones for sharing your miracle with us. [Laughs] What a great story! And Elder Jones was telling me yesterday when I was setting this whole thing up that he’s making plans on putting together a display with a glass case and maybe a little video tale because this is something that’s going to be talked about especially where you are for a long, long time. And coming up for you on our next segment of Extreme Genes today, very excited to have Ron Fox and Brock Bierman on. These are both experts in antique photographs. Now, if you have photos that go back maybe to the 1800s, you know, 1880s/1890s, you can’t recognize who people are, maybe you want to try to match them up, maybe you have somebody you think that might be Aunt Margaret but I have this other picture, and I’m not sure. There’s now a technology that will help you know within a great degree of certainty if that is or isn’t the same person. So, you are going to want to stay tuned for that segment coming up. Don’t forget also, you can leave your questions, your comments on our Extreme Genes “Find Line” at 1-234-56 GENES. And we’d love to hear from you. It’s Extreme Genes Family History Radio.
Segment 2 Episode 3
Host: Scott Fisher with guests Ron Fox and Brock Bierman
Fisher: Welcome back to Extreme Genes, Family History Radio. It is Fisher here. It’s all brought to you by the Multimedia Centers preserving your memories for over forty years. And my guest this evening, a couple of guys that I’m just absolutely blown away by with what they can do with photographs. A while back, about two years ago, I was in search of a picture of my great grandfather. I had pictures of his parents, pictures of his siblings, pictures of his children but none of him because he was...well, a bit of a scoundrel. And from my research I kind of came to the conclusion that they must have thrown his pictures out because he had women here, and women there, and he was involved with Tammany Hall in New York City. It wasn’t a pretty picture but nonetheless, the picture I was looking for [Laughs] was him. And I discovered that he had been a New York City volunteer fireman, and started through digitized newspapers to track a trip that these guys took from New York City to San Francisco in 1887. And they went from train across the country stopping at all the major cities and paraded with the local fire departments in each place. And as a result, I decided to take the trip with them and got all the digitized clippings from each town just to see what I could learn about the group and perhaps my ancestor as an individual. And lo and behold, there are three different that did a little something unique on him. One was in Omaha, one was in New York City, and one was in Salt Lake City. All stops along the way on this trip. The Salt Lake City one indicated that he had sent a photograph after the trip to a former colleague who was in Salt Lake City, a former New York City fireman, along with some thanks for the hospitality they had enjoyed while making that stop on their route to San Francisco. So I was kind of shocked to know that there was a photograph floating around of him in the Salt Lake City area. So, I contacted my friend Ron Fox, who is my guest. Hi Ron, how are you?
Ron: Good morning.
Fisher: And Ron ran off to the Historical Society in Salt Lake City, Utah to try to find something. We didn’t have a lot of luck there but he said, “You know, the word is there might be something up and this is the place, Heritage Park.” And that’s where the Mormon pioneers came into the Salt Lake valley in 1847. And they had kind of recreated old Salt Lake. They had the old firemen’s hall there. And to make this long story a little less long, basically I found a photograph of the group that travelled to San Francisco, on the wall, and it had the only key known to exist that had the names of all the people along with a number next to them. And we were able to spot a little number on each figure that had been written in, and I found this photograph of my great grandfather after thirty years of searching. It was unbelievable. Ron you were instrumental in that. And that is because Ron is an expert in photographs and how they work. Our other guest is Brock Bierman with a great company called PhotoFaceMatch.com. And if you are ever at Roots Tech, the incredible convention that’s put on at Salt Lake City every year, you might have seen this. Brock welcome to the show.
Brock: Well thank you Scott. It’s nice to be here, and hello to everyone from Koblenz, Germany, where it’s actually evening here.
Fisher: Koblenz, Germany. Now, you were talking to me earlier this week as we were setting this up from Belgium, what are you doing over there?
Brock: I’m doing a little family research. We were in Belgium where I traced my Belgium ancestry and now I’m tracing my German ancestry in the Koblenz area. They immigrated into the United States in the 1700s.
Fisher: Well, [Laughs] PhotoFaceMatch.com is this amazing new product that Brock and his people have put together to help you match up photographs of people when they were young and maybe when they were old or maybe in a certain situation. We’re going to talk a little bit more about that, but the one thing I’ve learned about photographs guys, is that basically when one, especially somebody that you’ve come to know after a long, long time of researching. It’s a game changer isn’t it?
Ron: It absolutely is. I mean, being able to look into the eyes of an individual and see your traits, your similarities, and how you look. That certainly was the case in your case when we looked at the picture of your great grandfather with his fireman helmet on but there was still the Fisher look.
Fisher: Yes. [Laughs] I could see some traits there. And in fact, it led to a second picture because we were able to match it up and recognize that this was the same person. In fact, Brock, we could have probably used your technology on it and maybe for a demonstration we will put that on our website ExtremeGenes.com.
Brock: Yeah we’re excited about our new technology. We think it’s going to break down a lot of brick walls and help people identify their ancestors. Not only at different ages, but we also think it will help find their ancestors in other people’s photographs.
Fisher: Well and you and Ron both deal with the same issues and that is helping people identify. Most photographs are just not identified. They’re not marked.
Ron: That’s really the truth. In fact, just to give a quick history, photographs came about, about 1839 as far as Daguerre in France made the public announcement. There was an American in that crowd that day and his name was Samuel F.B. Morris. Now Morris was much more well known for his invention of the telegraph and...
Fisher: The dits and the dots.
Ron: The dits and the dots. And he’s one, in about 1840, brought it to America and it just grew like wildfire. We have a process called the daguerreotype. And that was a copperplate that was coated with silver which could get you an image of yourself which was a marvel of science. And it was really looked at as a chemical process and a scientific process. So it was quite interesting. But you know, it costs the average person $5 dollars and back then that was a week’s wage.
Fisher: [Laughs] Really, five bucks? That’s actually more than what you would pay for one now even under today’s economy by a long, long way.
Ron: Yes. And daguerreotypes they lived for a short while. But in the 1840s to about 1845 they really were a big hit. And then they moved to a cheaper process called an ambrotype. And ambrotype was a process where chemicals were placed on glass and the glass became the negative as well as the positive. And what they did was, they added a black sheet of paper or a black piece of fabric behind it to give it the contrast so you could see it. But if you took it out of its case and held it up to the light, it would be a negative. So it was a really interesting process and that basically went through the Civil War and into the 1880s.
Fisher: So most of the Civil War photos we see are ambrotypes?
Ron: Ambros or daguerreotypes. Daguerreotypes kind of faded out about 1855. But some people should also look at we became a society where people wanted color even in that period of time. And the daguerreotypes, they developed an art called a colorist. And a colorist would take a very fine brush because these plates were not very big you know, most of them they call a full plate was like six inches by eight inches, but then most of them were sixth plate or ninth plate which really made them small that you could carry. But the point is, people would actually paint in blushes and the color of their eyes and maybe dot the buttons to make them gold on the picture just to enhance them.
Fisher: Wow. So in the process then of all this, the challenge was always to identify them. Now I would imagine because of the rarity of photographs at that time, people didn’t mark them because they knew who they were. It was like probably the only photograph they owned, right?
Ron: Absolutely. And that is our biggest dilemma today. People want to know, when they look at their collection, they want to know who is this and what time, and where is it? So those questions can be answered by a number of different ways.
Brock: You know I was just going to add that they are also a work of art as you mentioned earlier. And you know I can remember my grandmother talking about some of these old photographs and she would just be afraid to actually write on them. I can remember her telling me these stories about her mother and her grandparents not actually wanting to write on them in fear of damaging it. So you had not only the fact that they knew who they were, but also the fact that they were basically told not to write on them.
Fisher: Now how did you get into this whole thing with the technology, Brock?
Brock: Well you know, I’ve been looking for photographs of my ancestors, like you, for the last twenty five years as I’ve been involved with family history. But we all have that proverbial shoebox full of old photographs that are unnamed and I have a load of them tintypes, daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, cdv’s and the like, carbonate photographs. And so you know, there were always photographs that I’ve had, my collection that I’ve identified, of people that were older, and I looked at the pictures of younger people that were unidentified and I you know, “Gosh, it looks just like that person.” There’s got to be a way to be able to find out if that is the right person. And about five years ago while I was working with government, a group of folks who invented a technology that’s used in homeland security and used by airports, or bus stations, or night clubs, or in other types of secure locations, and they came to me to see if they would be interested in having it used in a lost prevention or if you will, a space where people were looking for their relatives after a disaster if you will. And so I dealt with them during that period of time and shortly after I left the government I re-contacted these folks and I just asked them if we could possibly look into see how we could take photographs from people who were young and old and match them up, and they said they could do that. So that’s kind of how we ended up where we are.
Fisher: Wow! Well, we want to hear more about that and how it’s used, and where people can go to actually try this technology out. We’re going to tell you all about it coming up in next when we return on Extreme Genes.
Segment 3 Episode 3
Host: Scott Fisher with guests Brock Bierman and Ron Fox
Fisher: We are back, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. Don’t forget to “Like” us on our Facebook page. I am Fisher. We’re in the middle of an incredible conversation here with Ron Fox a photograph expert and Bierman from photofacematch.com. And we were just finding out from Brock about how he started this company where you can identify people and determine the likelihood of them being the same people in pictures from way back in the day, maybe from the 1880s and then again from the 1940s. So, Brock let’s get into that a little deeper now. How does this technology work?
Brock: Scotty, it’s basically the same technology, the facial recognition technology that you would see at an airport where their security systems are matching up people that walk through the facility against known mugshots of people of interest. So, you know I had met the developer of this technology of five years ago when I was working for the government as I mentioned. And I asked them if they could really translate this information federal family platform where we had taken an old photograph or two old photographs if you will. One person at a time in their life and then another at an older or younger time and try to match them up and they said we could. And we developed this technology. We’re offering it at PhotoFaceMatch.com, a free service. Right now, we’re offering it to people to utilize, to play with to see if they can basically use the technology to match up their photograph.
Fisher: Wow! To me, it just blows my mind. I went to the site and saw how it works. I haven’t plugged anything in yet, but we’re going to link to that site on our side which is ExtremeGenes.com for photo face match. Now, I was looking at this. You’ve got little circles around the eyes and the mouth. Is this something that we actually do? Do we try to match certain points?
Brock: No. But, right now what I need people to do is to really crop their photographs when they upload the photographs and not to upload a photograph that’s too large. We’re looking for the smaller 1 megabyte, in or around that area. If they upload a bigger photograph it will systems simply because we just don’t have the capacity right now to handle large, large photographs. And we also ask them to crop the face. Our technology really works based on the facial features and I won’t get into the mechanics of the actual software but it will take the various aspects of your face and it will measure them in a 3-Dimensional program within the system and actually come out with the result and tell you whether the picture is likely to be the same person.
Fisher: So, I remember there was a meter or something that says very likely, somewhat likely, possible, not likely, that type of thing, right?
Brock: Yes, that’s exactly right.
Fisher: Kind of on a percentage basis.
Brock: Right. And you know, right now we’re working with face on face, but as we improve the technology, as we go down the line, we suspect we’ll be able to take large photographs of teams, of group shots, of military yard longs. I mean, eventually we’d like to be able scan large groups of people and pull people’s faces out of it based on a single photograph that we’re comparing it against.
Ron: It’s a great process and there are so many pictures that were taken because of the cost where there were group photos, not individual photos, and so therefore there’s a great need for that.
Fisher: And so, is blurriness an effect? Does it have an effect on the accuracy of the software, Brock?
Brock: Yeah, the more detailed the photograph, the better the result is going to be. You know ultimately, I think one of our real goals is to help people find their ancestors in other people’s photographs.
Fisher: Oh. [Laughs]
Brock: You look at a company like Ancestry.com. It has probably hundreds of millions of photographs that are uploaded by their subscribers. And if we integrate that software, I’m sure that we’re going to find subscribers finding their ancestors in other people’s photographs. And we’re in a really higher percentage of certainty when it comes to matching people when they’re closer in age. So, the closer in age they are the better the results are going to be. And you know, I think that clearly with the hundreds of millions of photographs that Ancestry or MyHeritage or any number of these other sites have we’re going to start making a lot of matches.
Fisher: Wow. And this is where it’s all going. Unbelievable stuff Brock! Now, Ron you helped people match photographs by using more I would say traditional clues which includes dress, the type of photograph that it is, the time period.
Ron: That’s right. You know, you look at different time periods and we’ve talked about albuen and daguerreotypes. And then of course that was followed by what we call the albumen print that was a paper print which started during the Civil War just before. And then the tintype which became a much cheaper image that could be reproduced, and sometimes a photographer would actually put a honeycomb over their lens so could get multiple copies of the same image that they were taking a picture of. If you get a picture of Abraham Lincoln on a tintype, the likelihood of it wasn’t a copy. He actually sat in front of that piece of tin.
Fisher: Wow! [Laughs]
Ron: So it’s a big deal. And believe it or not many ways in which to tell who these people are. As a personal example, I had what they call ruby glass daguerreotype which was actually an ambrotype that was printed on a dark red glass and so the positive was a negative, and it was very interesting. But behind that, hidden behind that wooden case was his proposal to his wife in October of 1865 which was a nice addition.
Fisher: Wow! Yeah. [Laughs] And nobody knew it was there till you found it.
Ron: That’s correct. And you know, there’s a lot of things hidden behind those photographs. Tintypes on the other hand are very difficult because you can’t write on them. A pencil wouldn’t work, a pen wouldn’t work because they were just metal. But when you came to paper or cardboard when an albumen print was put on a piece of paper on a cardboard, people could write their names but unfortunately 90% of the time they didn’t.
Fisher: They did not.
Ron: So, what we looked at were several things. First off, it’s just like as the process goes in a much less sophisticated way that Brock does, is you look at the ears, you look at the eyes, you look at the nose. For example, we have one in our family that has a trait that I’ve got a picture of a woman born in 1812 and I can look at my grandchildren and that same difference in our eyes are so strong in that one line from the genes, the extreme genes that it really carries forward.
Ron: But let me tell you there are thousands and thousands of photos for example on eBay every day. And there are daguerreotypes. There are albumens. There are tintypes. And you know, every once in a while you find one that is unidentified that you might recognize, and that discovery is exciting. Earlier this year a friend of mine brought me a daguerreotype that he bought in a collection from a fairly well-known family. And that photograph was recently sold in major six figures to an institution.
Ron: And so there are many times that you can find great photographs. Another friend of mine found one a couple of, well actually 30 years ago, but it now sits in the National Archives and considered one of the five finest photographs of American history. It’s of Frederick Douglass speaking at a 1840s abolitionist meeting in New Hampshire, and one person offered $1million for that photo.
Fisher: Brock, I’ve got to ask you then, do you see this technology then working for establishing the identity of historic figures?
Brock: Absolutely. I think that only will we be able to identify individuals but we’ll also be able to incorporate other characteristics other than faces into our technology. You were talking about the hairstyles, you were talking about what they’re wearing and you know, it just had me thinking that our technicians have already been thinking about how we incorporate those characteristics into our software so it’s calculating more than just the face, it’s also calculating the items they’re wearing, the jewelry, the houses, the style of hairstyle or the style of dress and type so that there’s a lot of different opportunities that will be just on the face for the technology.
Ron: One quick thing you know during the period, especially the earlier period many of the people who had their photos taken would add something that was relative to their occupations. So a lot of times you could tell a carpenter would be holding a hammer, a soldier would be holding a rifle or a gun. And of course, the Civil War uniform pictures are always fascinating. It’s a really good clue when you see someone holding a particular object that that was something that was actually their trade.
Fisher: And so you would go and research the individual, find out what their occupation was and you’d have a pretty good clue of who you were looking at.
Ron: That’s right. And is a lot of times you’d find at the back of these daguerreotypes or ambrotypes or even the albumens they would always say you know, who the manufacturer is either of the case or the photographer themselves. And of course you can go online today and find out where that photographer took his pictures, the period of time he took his pictures and even the location down to the street address.
Fisher: All right, so Brock the question for you is, will this technology start to identify potentially the age range of the subject of the photograph and help us that way?
Brock: Absolutely. And in fact as I mentioned again, identifying the clothes and the backgrounds and other materials, we also think we can incorporate getting technology to help us with the photographers. As Ron just mentioned, photographers basically put their logos on the front. They put their names on the front. We start collecting that data and we’re going to be able to pinpoint that time and place.
Fisher: This is exciting stuff guys and the website for Brock’s company is PhotoFaceMatch.com. We’re going to link it up on our website ExtremeGenes.com. You can find it there and you can play with it for free! You’re our hero Brock!
Brock: I just want to tell you that this is long since coming. We’ve needed this technology for a while. We’re going to push the envelope. We’re going to make it better. And we appreciate people’s input. We want to hear from you. Let us know exactly what’s working, what’s not working and we’re going to make it better.
Fisher: And Ron has offered the same if you need a little help on maybe dating an old photograph, getting some historic background on it, you can contact him at [email protected]. Ron Fox, Brock Bierman thank you so much for joining us this week. I wish we had nine hours to get into this because this is really exciting stuff. But we will have you back and we’ll continue to explore. Tom Perry from the Multimedia Centers with incredible information about how you can preserve your audio coming up next on Extreme Genes.
Segment 4 Episode 3
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry
Fisher: Welcome back to Extreme Genes, ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here. We've got Tom Perry back in the studio from The Multimedia Center. And Tom not only does the home movies, the videos, but he does amazing things with audio. And in fact Tom, you took a movie I had with sound, I mean from the 1930s and digitized that for me with my father playing in a band, a big band in 1936. And I was just so amazed that you were able to capture all the audio, just like off the filmstrip, unbelievable!
Tom: Oh yeah, it’s amazing all the different kinds of film technologies out there. We can do the kind that either has a magnetic strip or the optical strip. And it’s usually 60mm Super8. But we actually had one time when one of the local anchors, when he was young, he made a movie on 8mm and wanted sound. So he took it to some place and they laid down a magnetic strip for him and he put audio on it. When he brought it in for us to transfer, I'm going, "No, this is 8, this can't have audio on it."
Tom: And it did. He had a machine that played it. And so we rigged up his machine into our system so that we could get the audio to it. It’s like the craziest thing I probably even seen in 8mm. The only 8mm I've ever seen that had audio, but it was all done post. It’s incredible.
Fisher: Now back in '99, I read an article in USA Today that said, "Gee, it’s a shame there are no videos, there's no movies of the play by play of the World Series between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Yankees." And it said, "The more astounding thing is, there's no audio of that." Well that kind of was a surprise to me, because I had some audio of that that had been given to me by a former step father of mine who had grown up in Brooklyn, worked in radio, and he actually gave me, he gave me some tape from 1952 that they'd rolled right off the board for Armed Forces Radio at that time. And so I was able to actually rescue that, and you've digitized that for me. And what kind of things can you save?
Tom: We can do just about anything! I mean, we have five cylinder machines. And when we talk about that, people say, "What do you mean a cylinder machine?" Back before vinyl records and wire records, they had these cylinders that were made out of wax, and it was called an Edison Cylinder Machine.
Fisher: Right. I think every antique store I've ever been in has a little bucket of those things. [Laughs] They're pretty common though, aren't they, even though they're very old.
Tom: Oh yeah, because they are common. The biggest thing you have to be careful, if you keep it in an attic or a barn, they'll melt.
Tom: Because they are made out of wax. But I tell people, if you ran into them, you never know what's on it. There could be, you know, some famous president or somebody that's on that that just doesn't even know it exists. So anytime I have customers that say, "Hey, I've got these things. I don't want them. Do you want them?" Yeah, give them to me. The same thing with old photographs, don't throw them away. Give them to me. You know, if you don't know who they are and they're old pictures, we might be able to find out who they belong to. So bring them in, we can run them through our machine. And it might be something dumb, but it might be something absolutely incredible that nobody knows even exists anymore.
Fisher: Now what have you found in some of these?
Tom: Mostly just people talking and people signing, usually poorly and stuff like that.
Fisher: So it’s not a professional recording like they did. Because they used to have you know, the great opera singers and they would sell these, just like records were sold in the '60s, and CDs much later. So you're saying these are personal recordings maybe that were in families.
Tom: Oh yeah. Most of the ones we've had come in are like that. I haven't had any professional ones come in, but I'm sure they're out there. And you never know. Like for instance, we had somebody bring in some old reel to reel tape and they didn't know what it was. They had no idea, no way to play it. And so we transferred it and it was Bill Cosby, and when we told them.
Tom: Yeah, it was Bill Cosby. And they go, "Oh, that's too bad." I go, "Wait! Wait! This Bill Cosby is so old, this was before he was famous. This could actually be worth something. Don't be feeling bad about it right now. You might be able to sell it on eBay for, you know, and pay for your whole job."
Fisher: So we've also talked about wire recording. Now I've never seen any of that. I don't even know what it looks like. Can you describe wire recordings? Because some people have these. They must bring them to you.
Tom: Oh yeah. It’s just on a little spool. Just like if you've ever been fishing, it looks just like fishing wire, but instead of being made out of the mylar type stuff, it’s made out of wire. And it could be gold wire, tin wire, different kinds of wire. And to look at it, it just looks like, you know, super thin, you know, wire, but it’s actually a recording. And people that have brought those in says, "Do you know what this thing is?" And it’s a wire recording. And because it’s made out of metal, the sound is incredible! When we're transferring, it’s like the person's standing right next to you and talking to you. It’s better than vinyl, it’s better than wax, it’s better than, you know, a lot of stuff we have today, but it was really expensive. To do wire recording now, besides being so hard to work with, you know, it’s very expensive.
Fisher: So what era are we talking about?
Tom: I honestly don't know. I've never, there's no labels usually on it that has the year, but I'd say probably the early 19th, maybe some into the 18th. I'm, you know, don't know for sure.
Fisher: Really? That far back?
Tom: Oh yeah! Oh, this is old stuff. And it’s incredible, the sound is amazing, but the machines are very temperamental. You have to stand there while you're doing it. You can't like walk away and multitask. You have to stand there while the bobbin's going up and a bit down. And the funny thing is, if its splices, if you're a boy scout and know how to tie knots, that's how you splice it back together.
Tom: Just put a fish line type knot right on it.
Fisher: So it will jump a little obviously when you do that.
Tom: Yeah, more than a little.
Fisher: Because the speed's pretty slow?
Tom: Yeah. Yeah, and it’s actually on a little, like a bobbin almost type thing, like on a sewing machine. It’s going up and down, so the wire will lay itself down evenly. But sometimes the bobbins go out and you're having to do it by hand. And you can't buy parts for them obviously. And so, we get them and try to steal parts off of other ones, like.
Fisher: Wow! So what have you heard on some of these?
Tom: Mostly just people talking.
Fisher: And so a lot of this stuff we actually see online now.
Tom: Oh yeah.
Fisher: Because it’s been rescued. But these originals have to have certain value to it as well.
Tom: Oh they do!
Fisher: Don't ever throw anything away not knowing what it is, because it could be something that's been lost forever that some family's been looking for that doesn't think exists, like I mentioned last week, we had somebody that, you know, their home burned down, they lost all their photos, they lost everything. They happened to be at a neighbor's house watching some Video8s that we had transferred for them, and they saw it was only five minutes of their wedding! And that's all they have now. So they had the person make a copy for them. That's all they have left of their wedding. So if you have something, don't throw it away, especially old photographs.
Fisher: What about cassettes? Now those were popular from about the '60s, up till CDs came in.
Fisher: There are a lot of those, tons of those.
Tom: And they usually come in 30s, 45s, 60s, 90s, 120s. We do them all. And we also do the little microcassettes. We've had people that make a little voice recording when somebody calls their house and that their spouse or one of their children has passed away. And that's the only recording they have of them. And so they bring those in, we put it on a CD for them. So, you know, we can transfer just about anything. We have the little mini disks that they used to have, the old walkmans that took a little, teeny disk.
Fisher: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Tom: We do those. Just about anything you can think of. We haven't had something that we haven't been able to do yet. But the biggest thing, if anybody has something that's really strange, but they have the machine it was recorded on, like a laser disk, bring in your machine and we can tie it into our system and still get it transferred.
Fisher: I have something real strange. I wonder if you've ever seen a record about this big, about two feet wide.
Tom: The giant ones.
Fisher: The giant ones. It was done in a studio back in the '40s when my father was recording in big bands and the like. Never been able to do anything with that, because what needle can drop on anything that's that broad. Have you ever dealt with those?
Tom: That's one thing we haven't been able to do, because all the players we've been able to find aren't free floating arms. There's a place where they loop down in a U, but every ones in while, I talk to old radio stations and look for them. And one day, I know we're going to find one. And then once we have it, then rock and roll. But yeah, those things are so big, they were literally long playing albums. They were so large, but you know, the arm is the problem right now. And hopefully they're going to release a laser soon where they'll be read by light instead of a needle. So then if you have cracks and missing parts and stuff, you can still get, you know, what you want out of it.
Fisher: What the sound is.
Tom: Exactly. Like the old, you know, you're probably too young to remember the old Kellogg’s Corn Flakes when they had Christmas albums right on the box.
Tom: And it could come off.
Fisher: No, I remember that.
Tom: Yeah, they get old and cracked. So we can do stuff like that too. But once they release the lasers, it’s going to change the whole industry.
Fisher: Well, Tom Perry is changing a lot of people's lives doing this stuff from The Multimedia Center. Thanks for joining us again Tom. We'll see you next week.
Tom: Sounds good. See you Sunday.
Fisher: I already think this show is too short! Too much good stuff to cover and we've covered a ton of it today. Thanks once again to Brock Bierman and Ron Fox, our photo experts. If you want to compare your unidentified photo with someone you think it might be, you've got to plug both into Brock's website, which is PhotoFaceMatch.com. And if you have any trouble with that, Brock said, hey, just send it directly to him and he'll run it through their special software we talked about earlier. Just write to him at [email protected]. Likewise Ron Fox says, if you'd like to check out maybe the age or era of a photo, something that's historical in nature, you can contact him at [email protected]. Thanks also to the Joneses in San Diego for sharing with us their incredible story about the bible of their ancestors, brought to them by a stranger who had no idea it should be in their hands. What a story! You can read about it on our website, ExtremeGenes.com. And of course you can check out previous episodes there on our podcast, ExtremeGenes.com or you can go to iTunes and check it out as well. Like our Facebook page, helps us to spread the word and get this thing to grow. So we'd love to have you join us there as well. Talk to you next Sunday night at 6 on Extreme Genes. I'm Fisher and this has been a Fisher Voice Works Production.