Episode 310 - USS Arizona Survivor Describes Pearl Harbor Attack / Finding Records of Your World War II AncestorDec 15, 2019
Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. David starts out Family Histoire News talking about a Canadian World War II soldier whose grave is looked after by those he fought to liberate. Next, a note has been found. A college in New Jersey has found a message in a bottle from 1907 hidden behind a brick wall that was recently torn down. It’s a fascinating find, and now the search is on for descendants of the authors. David then reports that the last carver of Mount Rushmore has passed away. Catch his story. Meanwhile, one of the ladies who was inspiration for the film “A League Of Their Own,” is celebrating her 101st birthday. Then, hear about the day the United States standardized time across the country. It hasn’t always been the way it is now!
Fisher then shares his 2016 interview with USS Arizona survivor Lou Conter. Lou was a sailor stationed at Pearl Harbor 78 years ago when the Japanese attack came. Lou describes the morning, the arrival of the attack, and how he survived. Lou is now 97 years old.
Then, Ken Alford visits with Fisher about how to obtain records of your World War II ancestor. Some records, unfortunately, were lost in a massive archive fire in the 1970s. Ken will give you some thoughts for other places to look for “replacement” records.
David rejoins the show for “Ask Us Anything.” In the first part, the guys talk about how to create an “ancestral coin book.” It’s a big hit with Fisher’s grandchildren and it began with comment from David’s daughter.
The second question has to do with original records of the Salem witch trials. Yes. They are out there! If you had an ancestor involved, you’ll be interested in what David has to tell you.
That’s all this week on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show!
Transcript of Episode 310
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Segment 1 Episode 310
Fisher: And welcome to America’s Family History ShowExtremeGenes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, on the program where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out. And yes, it is the holidays but it’s also Pearl Harbor weekend. And I can’t believe it’s been 78 years since the bombing of Pearl Harbor. And going back into our archives I just felt it was really important today to dig up today my visit with Lou Conter. Lou is one of the survivors of the USS Arizona from that day that Roosevelt said would live in infamy and he is now 97 years old. We interviewed him back when he was 94, and you can hear his entire story of what happened that infamous Sunday morning. And then after that we’re going to talk to Dr. Ken Alford. He’s going to explain how you can find some records of your World War II ancestors. He’s got a lot of great sources, some of them cost, some of them don’t. You’ll want to hear what he has to say. Hey, if you haven’t signed up for our “Weekly Genie Newsletter” yet, this would be a great time to do it. Yeah, it’s absolutely free. We give you links to past and present shows, to stories that will be of interest to you as a genealogist and a blog from me each week. You can sign up at ExtremeGenes.comor through our Facebook page. Right now, off in Boston, standing by, is the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. It’s David Allen Lambert. How are you my friend?
David:Great. How are you doing on this momentous anniversary of something very tragic, but changed the course of American history?
Fisher: Well, I’ll tell you what, I’m in the middle of it right now, because I’ve been tracking down a couple of uncles. One served in the Pacific, the other served in the Atlantic, and I just got the Pacific vet’s records and they are so detailed. It even had a photo of him when he enlisted and it just gave me all the battles he was in, Okinawa, Guadalcanal, the Battle of Midway. I mean, on and on and on, and it’s just an amazing thing with a lot of detail and I recommend to anybody who’s interested in their World War II Navy vet to get a hold of those personal records. It’s just incredible.
David:Well, you know, it’s funny when you talk about World War II, and of course, I think pretty much everyone in America either knows somebody who was in World War II, or is a descendant of a World War II veteran. Over in the Netherlands there is a gentleman who’s a researcher. He’s worked for quite a while to track down what happened to the family of his Second World War veteran from Beverly, Alberta. And this Alexander Serediak is a person who’s buried over there, who died in World War II, and he tracked down the family in Alberta. There’s a great story on it talking about how Europeans are working to try to get in touch with the family that never got to bring their son home.
Fisher:That’s a great story and they’re taking care of the grave over there too, I understand it.
David:That is exactly what they’re doing. Well, you know, I’ll tell you, a lot of times we find these great little family mysteries, but how about if it’s found by somebody else? And this is a case of Robert Kanaby who was tearing down a college hall in Montclair State University in New Jersey, a message in a bottle from 1907 was found. I know you found the story too, and I understand you researched it a little bit, and you tracked down some of the family.
Fisher:Yeah, it’s funny because the story says Montclair State’s been researching this for like months to find out about the descendants of these two people who built this brick wall in 1907. And it didn’t take me long to find out that there was actually somebody on Ancestry who had a family tree that included one of them. It turns out the family moved to Ohio, so I’ve reached out to let them to let them know that there was a family memento that is waiting out there. Montclair State is anxious to find the descendants of these two guys. The other one, according to what I could see doesn’t have any descendants.
David:We can always find them behind those brick walls, can’t we?
Fisher:Yeah, literally. [Laughs]
David:[Laughs] Well, you know, I think in genealogy, I mean, I love postcards because you find the place that the family came from. But there was a researcher named Alfonso Del Bayowho’s been a big-time postcard collector. He tracked down postcards sent by a William G. Rohrer of New Jersey back to his family and one of them has a Babe Ruth connection. But I think the fun part is he decided to give the collection to the family.
Fisher:Yeah, these cards go back to 1923 all the way to 1947. They found the family that included the daughter of the recipient of these postcards and her grandson, and so the kid plays baseball. He’s a middle school student and he just can’t believe he’s got a postcard written by his great, great grandfather talking about seeing Babe Ruth in action hitting a triple in 1923.
David:Wow, that’s amazing. Well, one of the people that could have seen Babe Ruth hit triple or a homerun has passed away, and now someone who’s on a baseball team in a little place called Mount Rushmore. In fact, the builder of Mount Rushmore saw this young man, asked him to be on the ball team and then later gave him a job and that’s where Don Nick Clifford worked from 1938 to 1940. Now unfortunately, he just passed away the end of November at the age of 98.
Fisher: And he was the last one too, right? The last carver of Mount Rushmore.
David: He was in fact the last known carver. No one’s come forward and has said they’ve also worked on it, so that closes the door. And you were just there yourself not long ago.
Fisher:Yeah, just last year, absolutely.I saw pictures of that baseball team.
David:Well, the next person I’m going to talk about is a really quick birthday wish to Mary Pratt of Quincy, Massachusetts, 101. She was on the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League from 1943 to ’47. You may have seen a movie that was inspired by this story “A League of Their Own.” Well, you know, I think I have time for this story, and that is when Standard Time was adopted in November of 1883. And before that we didn’t have a Standard Time.
Fisher:Isn’t that interesting? Different states, different localities had different ways of doing the time, and this is when the time zones were created. It is a great article about the history of it and what happened the day the times were all standardized across the continent.
David:I’m sure it’s still probably confusing people and now there’s even talk about getting rid of Daylight Savings Time.
Fisher:In a lot of places. I’d like to keep it year round myself, but you know, that’s just my opinion, so there you go.
Fisher:And you can see this article, by the way, it’s linked to on our website ExtremeGenes.com.
David:Well, that’s about all I have this week from Boston and American Ancestors, and NEHGS would love to have you as a member. Just remember, if you want to save $20 and make a great holiday gift intent, you can use the coupon code “Extreme” on AmericanAncestors.org.
Fisher: All right David, thank you so much. And coming up next, I’m going to talk to World War II veteran Lou Conter. This weekend marks the 78th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor and Lou was on the USS Arizona. He will describe what he went through that infamous Sunday morning. It’s all coming up, starting in three minutes, on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 2 Episode 116
Host Scott Fisher with guest Lou Conter
Fisher:And welcome back to Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. I am Fisher, your Radio Roots Sleuth, and of course this is the week where we remember what happened on December 7th 1941. The day President Roosevelt said “Would live in infamy.”And indeed it has. There are still heroes among us who lived through that day, and I’m very pleased and honored to have on the phone with me right now one of those heroes, Lou Conter. And Lou is in Grass Valley, California. Ninety four years young.
Fisher: How are you Lou?
Lou: Fine, thank you.
Fisher: Take us back to that day because most of us weren’t even alive at the time that happened, yet alone have the ability to remember. Give us a little background about your time in the military and what brought you to Hawaii at that time.
Lou: Well, I went aboard the Arizona in Long Beach in the end of1939, after three months of Boot Camp in San Diego. The fleet was anchored in Long Beach at the time. I went in the second division, to mess cooking and back to second division. Then I was transferred into the Quartermaster gang for navigation training and then in April 1st of 1940, the fleet left Long Beach and went to Honolulu at Pearl Harbor. Then after the exercises were done, they based the fleet permanently in Pearl Harbor instead of Long Beach. And so then, we operated from April 1st on. Half the fleet would go out for ten days and then come back in. Then up to the end of 1940 we went to Bremerton for overhaul for two and a half months and came back to Honolulu on the 1st of January of 1941.
Fisher: So you enlisted then during the time of the Depression, yes?
Lou: Yes, right out of high school.
Fisher: A lot of people did that at that time, didn’t they, because of the economic situation?
Lou: Well, you know, you in the Navy for four years. We got seventeen dollars a month for the first three months, and then twenty one dollars a month till we made second class, and thirty six dollars and we had board and room too. We had hammocks that we slept in. We had a hook and the beams and the ship. We slept in hammocks until they put in bunks, four high. A lot of guys rather stayed in their hammocks till they got used to it. You had three guys sleeping underneath you.
Fisher: Wow. Did you anticipate at the time that you enlisted that you might wind up going to war during those four years, or was it just “Hey, here’s a way to make a living?”
Lou: Well no, I think that there was half and half at the time, ‘38/’39, but then after we went to Pearl Harbor in April of ‘40, we all knew that we were going to war but we just didn’t know when.
Fisher: Um hmm.
Lou: It was just a matter of time because you know, we operated up and down the 180th meridian and we couldn’t cross it because we had fourteen inch guns aboard the battleships. And when the Japanese came across in the Northern Pacific on December the 4th with their battleships and carriers, it was really an act of war on the 4th of December instead of waiting till the 7th because they crossed the 180th without permission and under silence.
Lou: That was the date, December 4th that President Roosevelt got the message from the embassy in Jakarta that the Japanese fleet had gone to sea and they had sent the message “East Wind Rain,” which meant that Pearl Harbor was to be attacked within seventy two hours.
Fisher: Now what were you doing that day? December 7th 1941. You were a young kid, you are what, twenty years old at that point?
Lou: Twenty years old. I just took over quartermaster of the watch. When we were in port, quartermaster of the watch is on the quarter deck down by where the gangplanks are going over to the vessel and over the liberty boats, and when they were at sea, it’s up on the bridge with the captain. Because the quartermasters do the navigation and star sights, and keep the logs and things like that. So our station was between two or three in the main turret.
Fisher: And you were on the Arizona the morning of the attack?
Lou: Yes. When they first came over on the quarter deck we sounded general quarters, and the band was getting ready to play for colors at five minutes to eight and as soon as they sounded of general quarters, they went back to their battle stations. They were all killed. Same as all my quartermaster buddies were killed, and five minutes later I would have been on the bridge with the captain. But he said to secure the quarterdeck first. So we had to throw the lines off from Arizona the vessel get the vessel away from us so we could get into her and get to sea because we had just come in on Friday and we had refuelled. We had a full load of fuel and ammunition and everything else. We had to get the vessel away from us to get away from the docks.
Fisher: Right. So you were on the ship at that point. Of course it was a panicked situation.
Lou: Everyone knew it was the Japanese. Like Commander Fuqua said after the raid, his official statement said, “Everyone on the ship performed extraordinarily well, and there was no one individual that outlasted the other one.” Because we were well trained; we’d been to sea since April 1st, 1940, practically two years.
Fisher: Um hmm.
Lou: And all we did at sea was train for war with Japan.
Lou: In the Pacific. So we were well trained and everybody went to their stations immediately. It took us fifty years to get off of the news reports and everything that the band had played in the battle of bands the night before, which they did not. There were a few people of the band over there watching them, but they did not play. They were going to play the following week or week after that. And the newspaper said that they were allowed to sleep in that morning and they got killed in their bunks. And none of them were killed in their bunks they were all at their battle stations. Everybody was at their battle station by three minutes to eight. We sounded General Quarters at five minutes to eight. It didn’t take them two to three minutes to get to their battle stations and secure all the watertight doors and everything else.
Fisher: So, for you that day, this attack came along, you’re below deck, so you escaped harm while all your buddies were lost.
Lou: We were on top of the deck between turret three and four on the quarter deck, and that’s why everybody below deck practically got killed, except a few of ‘em we got out of turret four. Everybody else that survived was above decks and in turret three or four. And then there were five men in the foremast above the bridge, the fire control men. After the blast, the vessel threw a line across to them and they came down the line and three of them got over to the vessel, burned about 75% of their bodies, and the other two dropped into the water.
Fisher: How did you escape, Lou?
Lou: Well, you never know how you escape, you’re just lucky that you didn’t get killed that day too. But we were on the quarterdeck and when Commander Fuqua got knocked out by a bomb over by turret four he came to and took charge. He was our senior officer aboard, our first lieutenant. As the people come out of the fire, we laid them out on the deck to save them, to get them into the motor launches to the hospital. Then water started coming up on the deck. He said, “Abandon ship” it was about twenty five to nine or something when he said that. The ones that survived got over the side and into Ford Island or else they got into the motor launches. And then we got into the motor launch and picked up bodies and parts of bodies out of the water because the whole fleet was burning. We fought the fire on the Arizona until Tuesday, and they got out. Then we took a rest for three or four days and then we started diving on the ship to try to bring up bodies. After five or six days we were in shallow water helmets, and Pete Uzar was our main diver, he was a water tender first, and he dove in a regular suit and stayed down four, five, six hours and we stayed down maybe thirty -forty minutes is all in the water. Shallow water helmets while somebody’s pumping air on the deck.
Lou: But after five or six days, Pete decided it was too dangerous, we were getting air hoses caught on the doors and everything else, and so they called it off. We abandoned ship and that was it. The survivors went to other ships. From base force went to other ships. To destroyers and everything, it was able to go to sea. I went to Commander Base Force, and captain Geiselman who was our Executive Officer, was made Provost Marshall in Honolulu. Since Marshall Law was declared immediately, without an environmental impact report or any other hearings. The military took over and Captain Geiselman was appointed Provost Marshall. He called Pete and I in to patrol the streets and help, and anybody in Honolulu after sunset was restricted from going out or before sunrise or they get shot.
Lou: And so I lasted there until the first part of January. We had our orders. Johnnie Johnson and I had orders to flight school, November 1st. Captain Van Valkenburgh called us down and said, “We’re going back to Long Beach to pick up our 1.1 December the 19th. So you either go back with us you go to Pensacola from there. But we lost our orders on the Arizona December 7th. So it was about the first week in January when I was over at Hitchcock’s house for dinner, Admiral Calhoun came in and said, “I thought you went to flight school.” I told him we lost our orders. And it wasn’t three or four days, they pulled Johnnie off the destroyer and myself, we were on the Lurline back to San Francisco, and went to Pensacola Flight School, as he was a Gunner’s Mate and I was a Quartermaster Second Class.
Fisher: Now let’s talk about how this has affected your life. You were twenty years old at the time I mean you were just a kid. Obviously it was a horrific thing and I’m sure that it was more painful as you looked back on it. Talk about that a little bit, how that impacted you and your ability to function going forward through the war and since.
Lou: Well, we handled it the way we were trained. We had hard trained on site and we handled it that way and that’s what we had to do. We knew we had to win the war and go. So we did what we had to do. Like Loren Bruner was on the Arizona, he lives in La Mirada now. He’s ninety five. He was one of the ones that came off the foremast with burns to 75% of his body. They put him in the hospital until July of ‘42, and he was pretty well then and they said, “You’re well to go back to duty.” And they put him in a destroyer and he didn’t see the United States till January 1946. Don Stratton, who was on the Arizona, got burned and he spent two years in the hospital and he came out with a medical, but he’s livin’ in Colorado Springs, too. John Anderson he was our Senior Petty Officer. He was a Boseman’s Mate and he’s ninety nine now. His twin brother was killed on the Arizona. So they have different thoughts, you know?
Lou: I’ve learned in survival the will to live, and you’ve got to be positive thinking all the time and the will to live.
Fisher: He’s Lou Conter. He’s a veteran of World War II. Survived the Arizona and being shot down over the Pacific. Sir, we thank you for your service. Thank you for your time and sharing your story with everybody, and we wish you well through your current trial with your wife’s illness.
Lou: Thank you very much!
Fisher:And coming up next, I’ll be talking to Dr. Ken Alford who will tell you how you can find the records of your World War II ancestors and what’s out there to be found. That’s coming up in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 3 Episode 310
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Dr. Ken Alford
Fisher: And welcome back to America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, and I’ve got to tell you I’m still just taking all of it in that we just heard from Lou Conter about surviving the Japanese attack on the Arizona at Pearl Harbor back on December 7th, 1941. And with that, I think it makes a lot of sense to bring on Dr. Ken Alford, he is a professor at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, to talk about researching your World War II ancestors. So many of them I think now Ken, are gone, more than are still with us, where do we start if we want to research our World War II ancestor?
Ken: The great news is World War II was documented from beginning to end and so listeners that have ancestors and relatives that fought in World War II, are bound to find something. Unlike other wars this is probably the best documented war we’ve got and everything is available is the good news. When you start what you want to do is, there are four key pieces of information that you want to find on your veteran, and you may not find them all in the same place, you may not find them all at the same time, but these are the four things you want first. You want to know which branch of service they were in. Second, you want to find out generally their periods of service. Third, you want to know where they serviced, where they in the Pacific, did they stay state side, did they go into Europe, where they in North Africa? And then fourth, you want to know how did they serve? What was their rank? Where they enlisted? None commissioned officers? Some kind of sergeant, or did they serve as a warrant officer? Or even as a commissioned officer? Because it turns out, the higher the rank the more records you’re going to find. It’s just kind of the relationship.
Fisher: That makes sense. Sure.
Ken: Then, once you do that, a lot of people think that military records are just kind of all homogenous, but there are many different kinds of records and interestingly, especially for World War II there are military records for people who didn’t serve in the military.
Ken: And I know it sounds a little bit weird but actually what happened is, it was a period of the draft in which the draft was extended very broadly. So, most male ancestors will have some kind of draft registration record and that’s the first category of these records, they’re called “Pre Service” records.
Ken: They’re records created by the government and the people may or may not serve. And so draft registration records for example, my grandfather never served in World War II. He was too old and they didn’t take the draft that high but he was in the age group where they had to register. So, we’ve got his registration records and they contain a wealth of information. I mean, including eye color, hair color, and height.
Ken: So, they’re just wonderful records. The other kinds of pre service records are the documents that actually turn someone from a civilian into a soldier or a sailor, or a marine. There are enlistment documents for none commissioned officers and enlisted and there are commissioning documents for the officers because there are many different commissioning sources such RTC, officer candidate school, direct commissions, and so on. So, those are all kind of pre service records. The second category of records is what are called “Service Records” and as the name implies, these are records that are generated while the people are on active duty and there can be just a host of records depending on how long they served, where they served, if they received awards, the orders that transferred them, and eventually if there were discharge papers, or if they were captured, all of those kinds of records are kept by the government because they’re all official.
Fisher: That’s exacting though, to know that’s out there.
Ken: The third category of records is as you would expect if there’s a pre service there’s going to be “Post Service.” Post service records contain things like, killed in action records, or a separation, or discharge, because no matter when you serve or how long you serve, at some point you will leave the service, either through death or through some kind of separation or discharge. The government documents that in forms. Everyone that also served gets something called a Form DD214. And that DD214 is a record of your military service. It’s family history gold, because what it has in just two pages is a summary of the entire service of that service member. If you only get one document from a family member who served in World War II, you want to search for that DD214.
Fisher: Ooh that’s good to know.
Ken: Another great piece of documentation and it’s not going to be nearly as concise [Laughs] are pension papers.
Ken: Because when you receive a cheque from the government they’re going to require a huge amount of documentation. And you can also find things in pension papers like vital record information. Complete spelling of names, military units, description of service, including campaigns, battles and awards. Their physical description, a description of their health, where they lived, who their heirs are, I mean it’s just wonderful.
Fisher: And that really applies to most wars of the United States, the pension records are fabulous.
Ken: It does indeed. So, where do you look for this information? You know what you want, and you’re just not sure where grandpa served. I would recommend that listeners simply start with the obvious choices of Ancestry.com and Fold3.com. They have digitized a lot of government records and that’s the one shop where they will find more in the quickest amount of time than any of these other websites I’m going to give you, so start there. Next, I would actually do a search for your local newspapers. If you know where grandpa or great grandpa lived and went into the service from, there was probably a newspaper article generated at the time.
Ken: Absolutely. And many states have taken the bull by the horns and have digitized state newspapers.
Ken: For example, for listeners that live in the state of Utah, there’s a website called Utah Digital Newspapers that has many, many newspapers archives and they’re just wonderful, and they’re all free. The Federal Government as you would expect, since they collect all this stuff has started making it available, it’s not all digital yet but much of it is. Let me just give your listeners some of these websites and places that I would send them to for the next round. After you have found everything you can find at Ancestry and Fold3 then go to the Federal sources. I would go first to the National Archives.
Ken: If you go to their website it’s just Archives.gov. And they have a huge wealth of information, much of it is digitized. You can obtain these microfiche and microfilm through genealogical centers across the nation and if you’re in Washington, D.C. I highly recommend a visit to the National Archives, it’s free but you can actually find your grandfather’s records in many cases in your hand.
Ken: Then you can make a copy of them there and that’s just something fun.
Fisher: And that’s a thrill in itself isn’t it?
Ken: It is a huge thrill. The next thing I would recommend is to check the National Personal Records Center (NPRC) at St. Louis.
Ken: You can actually find it through a link off of the National Archives website. Now, the good news is if your ancestor’s records are there, you will receive a folder and there are small charges that apply but I have seen some of these that are two and three inches thick of just genealogical gold. That’s the good news. The bad news is, in 1973 a fire destroyed 80 percent of their records.
Ken: And most of the World War II records, I just hate to say this, were burned. But you always try. The next place I would check is the Veterans Administration, that’s VA.gov. Then I would send them also to the Library of Congress and that’s just LOC.gov. And the Library of Congress will not have records but they will photos and unit histories.
Ken: And you may grandpa or great grandpa in those secondary sources. I would also encourage your listeners to go to State Archives and local military museums, and lastly I will just add before we close this off, that since this is World War II, this is now really the first war in American history where we have sizable numbers of women who serve in either the waves or the wax, or in the auxiliary course and there are millions of female records as well.
Fisher: I wish we had more time Ken. This is fabulous. So helpful for a lot of people, if you missed this, of course listen again on the podcast in the coming week and you can find out all kinds of things to write down about how to track down your World War II ancestor. Thanks for coming on Dr. Alford.
Ken: Thank you very much.
Fisher: And coming up next, we answer your questions with Ask Us Anything. David Allen Lambert will be back when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 4 Episode 310
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Fisher: All right, back at it on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth. And it is time once again for Ask Us Anything. And David Allen Lambert is back from NEHGS to field this question along with me. We're going to start out with this one today, David. It’s from Donna McLeanin Ontario, Canada. And she emails, "Hey Fisher, you have mentioned several times that you do a coin page with your grandkids. Do you buy anything special for these books? I can't seem to find anything readymade and wanted some ideas. Thanks, Donna." Well, this is one of those interesting things, Donna that actually came out of the strange brain of David Allen Lambert.
Fisher: And explain the background on that, David, how this happened.
David: Our daughter Hanna has the middle name of May. That's her great grandmother's middle name. And she asked about when was she born. And I said, "Well, she was born in 1896." And she goes, "Do we have anything?" I say, "Well, the house is about that old, but hang on a second." and I went into my coins and had an 1896 Indian Head Penny and says, "Here you go. This is as old as your great grandmother." And she goes, "Wow, do you have any others?" and I say, "Coins?" so she goes, "No, other relative's coins." and I'm like, "Relative coins." and that was the idea of genealogical change for me. I've been collecting coins from every year of direct ancestor's birth year. You can even do it for your siblings, you can do it for your cousins and it makes a great stocking stuffer.
Fisher: Oh yeah. And when you think each year you could add more coins to it. So, here's the thing, David came up with this idea, kind of mentioned it in passing on the show one week and I thought, "This is brilliant!" So I went to a coin shop and I bought sheets of little slots and plastic that you could put, it’s like 20 coins could fit in a sheet and you could put it in a 3 ring binder. And then they have a little thing there called coin flips and these are for singular coins. And they have a flap on it and that flap can slide down into the slots that are in those sheets. So, I wound up putting the coins in the individual things, hanging them off the front of these slots on the coin sheets. And then inside the slots on the coin sheets, put a little picture like a 1 inch x 1 inch picture of the ancestors and their dates. And so, the coin date matches the birth date of the ancestor. A little hard sometimes finding them from the old country, right, because for instance, Sweden and Norway sometimes one was dominated by the king of the other and you can't find early coins from that time without paying you know, $1000 or something. You can find replica coins though sometimes too for those really valuable ones. For instance, the Continental Dollar, which was engraved by my fifth great grandfather, Elisha Gallaudet. And so, that is unique. Also, the pirate coin. They are coins that date back to the late 1600s. You can get fairly inexpensively that can tie into your sea faring ancestors. So,there's a lot of things you can do with this stuff.
David: It really is amazing the way this is kind of taking off, because besides yourself, I've got a few people come up to me and say, "I've got a great new collection. I collect coins and do genealogy, because you mentioned it on Extreme Genes."
Fisher: Isn't that great! And my grand children have gone nuts for this thing. And I've made individual books just for them with not nearly as many ancestors in it obviously and their immediate family. And you can put these things together, kind of like you would put together any pedigree chart, you can choose how far back you want to go or how far current or if you want to do it for children and just yourselves and your parents. You can put it together any way you want, it’s wide open. I think that's a great question, Donna, and I appreciate the fact that you remember it after all this time. We're still doing it and we're still sharing coins with the grandkids and they still love it when they come over to visit and I will say, "Hey, guess what, we've got another coin!" and then they fight over whose turn it is to put it in the book. [Laughs] That's what makes it really fun. So, tell you daughter, David, she's a genius.
David: I will definitely do that tonight.
Fisher: [Laughs] All right, we've got more questions coming up here when we return for Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show in three minutes.
Segment 5 Episode 310
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Fisher: And welcome back for our final segment this week of Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, and we're doing Ask Us Anything. And by the way, you can ask us anything by just emailing us at [email protected] and we may choose your question to be answered on the air. David Allen Lambert is back with me. And we've got an email here, David from Diana Graystonein Albany, Oregon. And she says, "Guys, I have an ancestor who was part of the Salem witch trials, Rebecca Nurse. I've read many books on the trials, but want to know if there are original records to be found out there and how can I find them? Where are they?"
David: Well, that's a really good question, because obviously any book you hope that they used primary source records to complete it, but not a lot of books do things like footnotes. So, I'll give you a little bit of an advanced clue. So what you want to do is, you want to not go to Massachusetts in this case, but online to the University of Virginia.
David:[Laughs] They have on there the Salem witch trials documentary archive and they have documents and published sources and everything you can imagine and its broken down right into those who are accused and even the accusers have some, but mostly on the accused, which is the 19 unfortunates. They were either hanged or in the case of George Jacobs, pressed to death.
David: But there's some great stuff and there's also great records at the Massachusetts state archives in Boston, Massachusetts. Those have been digitized in the mass archives collection by Family Search.
Fisher: So, down in Virginia, these things are available online. Are they free?
David: They are absolutely 101% free.
Fisher: Wow! And they're original documents, that's incredible.
David: Hey, do you remember when we met Doris Kearns Goodwin?
David: Back at RootsTech. Well, I saw her on the plane when I was flying back from Utah last month. And when I stopped to talk, I said, "Do you remember our common ancestor in the witchcraft trials?" She was, "I surely do. Mary Perkins Bradbury."
Fisher: [Laughs] Wow!
David: And I thought that was the greatest thing that she actually remembered the person specifically. But I guess it meant a lot to her. And you have a connection with the witchcraft trials, do you have an accused?
Fisher: Well, it wasn't with Salem. It was actually about 40 years earlier in Fairfield, Connecticut, yes.
David: Oh yeah.
Fisher: There was Susanna Lockwood. She was one of the accusers of a woman who wound up getting hanged. And it’s an amazing thing how much detail was still out there, because the Salem witch trials weren't the only ones.
Fisher: There were other places, other times, and this was kind of really the big culmination to an era that was pretty much the end of it. We never heard anymore about that. Although I will say this, David, in my research on some of my wife's ancestors who were in the Midwest in the mid 1800s, we see references to people who were suspected of being witches, but of course nobody would accuse them or kill them over that.
David: And of course you have demonic possessions into the 20th century where people have had exorcisms to get out the spirits when those big people in the 17th would have been accused of witchcraft, who knows.
David: Do you know, it’s funny, in Salem, they have the memorials to the witches, they are granite blocks that are in a wall near the Charter Street cemetery. But the only real statue per se is of Elizabeth Montgomery from Bewitched.
Fisher: [Laughs] Isn't that bizarre! And you know, it was just a few years ago they absolutely were able to determine where the executions took place on this rock ledge behind a home in just a residential neighborhood now. And the story that one of the people in the neighborhood tells is that many years ago, a car came through there and wanted to see where this had all taken place. Turned out it was John Lennon and Yoko Onodrove through the neighborhood. Well, thank you so much for the question, Diana. And once again, if you have any questions for Ask Us Anything, you can always do just that at [email protected]. David thanks so much, and we will talk to you again next week.
David: All right, talk to you then.
Fisher: Well, happy holidays America! Hope you enjoyed the show. If you missed any of it, you can catch it again just by listening to the podcast on iTunes, iHeart Radio and ExtremeGenes.com. You can also signup by the way for our Patron's Club and support the show and get all kinds of great benefits like bonus podcasts and the opportunity to ask us questions directly. Hey, talk to you again next week. Thanks for joining us. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!