Episode 311 - Talking Seafarers: The Wives and Families of Pirates, Man Travels To Ports His Mariner Ancestors Went, Finding Your World War II Navy Ancestors’ RecordsDec 22, 2019
Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. The guys open Family Histoire News with major news about GEDMatch.com. It has been acquired by a company out of California. Hear what we know so far. Then, there’s news that Ireland is working on reconstructing the archives that burned in 1922. Find out how they’re going about accomplishing this immense task! Then a discovery at the site of a Civil War camp sheds fascinating light on how soldiers prepared to have their likenesses taken. It may surprise you! Then another place is asking the people to decide whether or not to open adoption records. Find out where, and what the strategy is. Next, hear about a woman in her 90s who was adopted who recently learned she has siblings. LOTS of siblings! Find out how it all was discovered and just how much family she has!
Fisher then visits with Daphne Palmer Geanacopoulos, author of the book called “The Pirate Next Door: The Untold Story of Eighteenth Century Pirates’ Wives, Families, and Communities.” She explains how pirates were not really anything like the way they are portrayed in movies and lore… and some didn’t even have a say in becoming a pirate! Hear Daphne explain.
Ray Weiss then visits with Fisher. Hear this Maryland man explain how he has been researching his seafaring ancestors for decades and how he continues to travel to all the places they went, even out-of-the-way little islands!
Melanie McComb from NEHGS then takes on Ask Us Anything. Melanie explains where you can obtain your World War II Naval ancestors’ records. She then answers another question about ancestors who helped enforce Prohibition.
That’s all this week on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show!
Transcript of Episode 311
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Segment 1 Episode 311
Fisher: And welcome to America’s Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. My name is Fisher. I am your Radio Roots Sleuth on the program where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out. And we have a real navy, mariner kind of base show going on today, lots of interesting stuff happening. We’re going to be talking to Daphne Palmer Geanacopoulos. She’s written a book about pirates and their families and their wives and what their lives were like. In fact, you’re going to find that pirates weren’t quite the stereotype that you knew them as. We’ll be talking to her in a little more than ten minutes. And then later in the show we’re going to talk to a guy named Ray Weiss, and Ray has been researching his mariner ancestors for decades and then traveling to the places that they sailed to. And in fact, he’s getting ready to go see three more of them in the coming weeks, so we’re going to talk to Ray about how all this got going, where he’s been, what the experience has been like. It’s going to be pretty fun. Plus, at the back end of the show we’re going to our friend Melanie McComb from NEHGS about how you can track down your navy ancestor from World War II and his naval records. There’s a lot of great detail in that stuff. You’re going to want to hear that. Hey, just a reminder, if you haven’t signed up for our “Weekly Genie Newsletter” yet, you’ve got to do it. It’s absolutely free. Make sure you get all the stories that you’ll need as a genealogist to stay caught up on what’s going on. Catch my blog and of course links to past and present podcasts. Right now, it’s off to Boston to talk to David Allen Lambert, the Chief Genealogist for the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. David, how’re doing?
David: I’m doing great! Into Issur Danielovitch Demsky born in Amsterdam, New York on December 9, 1916. Happy 103rd. Might not mean anything to you, but if I told you Spartacus and Issur’s real stage name is Kirk Douglas.
Fisher: Kirk Douglas, 103 this week. That’s unbelievable.
David: It really is.
Fisher: All right, let’s get going with our Family Histoire News. Where do you want to start?
David: Well, the big story right now is of course the acquisition of GEDmatch, which has been in the news and many of you of course have a GEDmatch account and have uploaded your data. It has now been acquired by Verogen, a company out in California. And right now, it doesn’t look like there’s going to be any change to what it is. It looks like it’s still going to be free. We’ll just watch it over the next few months as things transpire.
Fisher: Yeah, see how things evolve.
David: Well, you know, one thing that’s evolved really well is this work that’s been done in Ireland to sort of reclaim the archive. Back in 1922 the Four Courts burned. And if you saw the movie Michael Collins with Liam Neeson years ago, you might have seen the bombing of course. Four Courts had the archives, the census, the church records, the probates for Ireland. Most of them went up in flames. Now, they’re looking to reclaim them by looking at research that people did before 1922 or transcribed or maybe a duplicate copy or something that was in another place in Ireland or in England or somewhere else.
Fisher: Isn’t that amazing? And they say that they have found far more information that was lost in that by doing this technique than they ever imagined possible, and it’s all going to come out in 2022 on the 100th anniversary of the bombing.
David: Well, I’ll tell you, my Lamberts are going to be searched high and low on that one because that’s my biggest problem. There’s not a lot of early Irish records when we came over in 1792, well before the famine.
Fisher: And all of this, by the way, is going to be indexed as well, so you’re going to be able to research this in a way that nobody’s ever been able to do it before.
David: Well, I’ll tell you, in the next story we have to dig a little deep to find that many of you may have photographs of your ancestors in the Civil War. In Camp Nelson, Kentucky, they’ve done some archaeology and they found a lot of hair dye bottles. Were our ancestors vain? No. It could be that their hair color was so light it would have looked washed out in a photograph. So, it looks like before you had your picture done, you did your hair.
Fisher: Yeah, this was an amazing story. I had no idea that if you had light hair during the Civil War era the picture would come out like really, really white, so they would dye their hair. And this was all from this camp extraction. They were doing all kinds of digs at this Camp Nelson. They also found, for instance, the name of the photographer carved out on a piece of metal that they found in this camp. Isn’t that incredible?
David: Yeah, it’s like a stencil or something they probably would have used.
David: It’s a great calling card. They’ve also found who the photographer was. There’s an image of him in the article which you can find on ExtremeGenes.com. I tip my hat to Dick Eastman who always has some great ideas for our Family Histoire News. I’ve used him from time to time, reading through his great newsletter which has been going on for years. Nova Scotia reaching out to the general public whether you’re an American or a Canadian or wherever about adoption records. They have adoption records Fish. They go over 100 years. In Canada, adoption records are locked down pretty tightly, so this might give a clue to other genealogists researching their roots. If you go to ExtremeGenes.com you can find out all about it with a link to Nova Scotia Provincial Government. And thank you Dick Eastman for that great story.
Fisher: I think we’re seeing an awful lot of people now around the country in government taking another look at adoption sealings. New York, of course, their governor just signed the adoption bill that was passed earlier this year by their assembly. So, starting next month adoptees who were adopted out in New York City and New York State can actually start applying to find out and obtain their original birth certificates which is, you know, something that’s just a basic right for everybody else. Hopefully, we’ll see more of that in the years to come.
David: Well, coming up, on our most extended family you never knew you had story.
Fisher: [Laughs] Yeah this is it, isn’t it?
David: [Laughs] Imagine being 92, and never knowing much about your family because you were adopted, but then to find out you have 19 half siblings.
Fisher: Yeah! This is in Michigan. This one family historian got going and of course, through DNA he discovered, oh wait a minute, I’ve got a sibling, a sister. She’s in her nineties. And now they’ve had this massive reunion with her and nobody can believe it.
David: It’s amazing.
Fisher: Yeah, it’s great. And of course, there’s the next two generations, maybe even three that have followed since. So, it’s a massive family and she’s having a really hard time getting her brain around it all because she’s never known anybody.
David: You know, I’m working on something similar right now. My wife’s grandmother was adopted and we don’t know who her natural father is. And through DNA, and working with Chris Child, he’s pretty much determined down to three families, so I’m excited.
David: I’ve got to get some more DNA from one of my wife’s uncles to get some closer connections. Are you stuck in your holiday gifts? Well, you can save $20on a membership to AmericanAncestors.org by using the coupon code “Extreme” from Extreme Genes. Well, this is all I have from this side of the country for you today my friend. Talk to you soon and hoping you’re putting together your genealogical Christmas list for ancestors you hope to find under your tree.
Fisher: All right, thank you so much David. And coming up next we’re going to talk to Daphne Palmer Geanacopoulos. She is the author of the book about pirates and their wives and their families and how they lived. It might just surprise you, coming up in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 2 Episode 311
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Daphne Palmer Geanacopoulos
Fisher: And welcome back to America’s Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth and pirate descendant. And today we have a real seafaring flavor to the show with a couple of great guests, starting out with Daphne Palmer Geanacopoulos. And Daphne is the Author of a book called The Pirate Next Door: The Untold Story of Eighteenth Century Pirates' Wives, Families, and what else? I can’t turn that many pages, Daphne.
Daphne: [Laughs] Communities.
Fisher: Communities! I couldn’t even read my own writing there. This is like a 300 page title before we even get to anything else. It’s like as long as your name. Amazing.
Fisher: Welcome to Extreme Genes and it is great to have you. And I am very interested in all you’ve got going with this because I think there are a lot of people who descend from pirates and privateers and it really all kind of fits into the same category, don’t you think?
Daphne: Yes, sort of. [Laughs]
Fisher: [Laughs] Sort of. Of course, one was a little more legal than the other. But nonetheless, it was the same type of person. But you know, being a pirate descendant myself, I’m fascinated with the idea. For instance, in my case, I have a pirate who married a Puritan, the great granddaughter of one of the Mayflower passengers, John Howland. And it’s just kind of a head scratcher to me that a Puritan woman would marry such an old salt who had committed a lot of, well, shall we say who had had a lot of adventures on the high-seas. I mean, they did some nasty things and yet these were supposedly pure Christian people. How did that come together? How did that happen that way?
Daphne: Well, she may not have known that he was a pirate, and he may not have started out as a pirate. He could have started out as a sailor on a privateering vessel, and he thought that he was just going out to do the King’s bidding of capturing the King’s enemy ships and cargo.
Fisher: Um hmm.
Daphne: Often what happens on privateering vessels is that once they get out to sea, the men change their mind about sharing their loot and turn pirate so they can keep it all for themselves.
Daphne: So, your Puritan ancestor may not have known that he was on a pirate ship and he may not have known at first either. Although there are the other cases where men signup knowing that they are going to be on a pirate ship and they know what they’re getting into. But I suspect maybe your ancestor didn’t know that he was going to be that.
Fisher: Well, he didn’t start that way. You were right. He actually came out of England and he was on a ship, a privateering ship that wound up in Spain. And then they were being held there and it’s a long drawn out story. But there were a lot of these wives who did marry these pirates knowingly, right?
Daphne: Some of them did. Some of them did not. Like I say, some of them turned pirate once they were out at sea. And the reason my book is called The Pirate Next Door is that you didn’t really know who was going to be a pirate and who wasn’t going to be a pirate.
Daphne: Your neighbor may have started out as just a regular guy and then ended up being on a vessel that turned pirate, and he comes back and he’s a pirate. It was just men who went to sea. They were mariners who needed jobs, and it turned out to be something much different. And the wives were women back home who were keeping everything going in the home-nest and they were raising the children alone, and participating in the community but they didn’t have any money coming in. So, a lot of these women suffered terribly from lack of funds, because when a man went out on a privateering job, it may or may not pan out that they caught any enemy ships and captured any cargo.
Fisher: Um hmm.
Daphne: So it was risky business. And for a pirate ship, if he was on a pirate ship he may very well have succumbed to disease and died. And fortunately, on pirate ships they were very well organized. They were a democratic, self-contained community with rules called articles, and they provided health insurance, and retirement plans, and death benefits.
Fisher: Wow! Really?
Fisher: Something we can learn from pirates.
Daphne: Yes. Well, they were very democratic. Every man got a vote. And for the women back home, if their husbands died in the line of duty, his share of the booty was smuggled back to her so that she could have his share of the loot.
Fisher: And what kind of hints do you have sometimes if a wife was a pirate wife? Are there clues that show up in records anywhere because a lot of that loot had to be hidden, right?
Daphne: It was hidden. There are no clear records that say she had an extra 160 pieces of aed in her pocket.
Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs] Have you seen that before though where there was some indication basically, in the inventory of her estate?
Daphne: No I have not. Captain Kidd’s wife, Sarah, there’s some documentation about her where she is struggling with the authorities because Captain Kidd was imprisoned in Boston for piracy. And they came in and they took all her clothing and seized her personal belongings like her silver plate and her porringer and her tanker, and her cash. That money was her own money, not from Captain Kidd’s treasure. It was her own money. It was very hard to decipher what was what, what belongs to who.
Fisher: Um hmm. Yeah. I bet that would be very difficult. So they just lived normal lives. What parts of the country did you mostly find these, in New England?
Daphne: Yes. I focused on two pirates from New York, Captain Kidd and Samuel Burgess, and one from Rhode Island, and one from Cape Cod, who was Captain Samuel Bellamy. And the one from Rhode Island was actually from Block Island. His name was Paulsgrave Williams and he is actually the one who first gave me the hint that pirates had wives. Because I’m a journalist, and I was writing an article for the New York Times about a pirate museum on Cape Cod called the Whydah Pirate Museum. And when I was reading the primary source document about the Whydah Pirates, there was a deposition from a captured pirate that said that he had been on the ship that had veered off course to go to Block Island so that the pirate captain, who was Paulsgrave Williams, could go visit his mother and three sisters. So imagine this, a pirate ship loaded with pirates and stolen booty, turning off and pulling into the harbor of Block Island in Long Island Sound and getting off to go say hi to mom and his sisters.
Fisher: [Laughs] That doesn’t fit the stereotype, the image, does it?
Daphne: It does not.
Fisher: And so that kind of led you to a whole new line of research?
Daphne: It did. I never really thought of pirates as other than what I had read in books and movies, as one-dimensional characters. But that really opened my eyes to the fact that pirates were not just sea monsters. These were men, three-dimensional characters who cared about their families.
Fisher: Now, what areas did he raid as a pirate? The Red Sea?
Daphne: Paulsgrave Williams raided the Caribbean.
Daphne: Captain Kidd was in the Red Sea, and the other two, Sam Bellamy were in the West Indies and the Caribbean. And Samuel Burgess is a very interesting fellow in chapter four. He’s another one who shed light on the pirates’ wives because he was a merchant captain who turned pirate, and he worked for a New York merchant named Fredrick Phillips running kind of a commuter’s service between New York and Madagascar, which is on the east coast of Arica.
Fisher: [Laughs] Wow.
Daphne: And what he did was, he brought a cargo full of daily needs that the pirates needed down in Madagascar, like combs, and thread, and needles to mend their sails, and shoes, and hats, and rum, and wine, and beer, and limes to prevent scurvy. And they sold these provisions to the pirates down in Madagascar at a real premium price. But on the way back, he brought back pirates who had had enough of the pirate life and wanted to retire. And so he would bring back a dozen or more of pirates who would pay a hundred pieces of aed, and provide their own food and drink and take them back into New York. And these pirates would assimilate back into 18th century society.
Daphne: But in addition, Samuel Burgess carried the pirates’ mail bag.
Fisher: [Laughs] You just don’t think of things like this with pirates, retirement accounts, mail bags, taxi service. That’s incredible.
Daphne: Exactly. And it’s in the pirates’ mail bag because Samuel Burgess was captured by a British privateer and he, his men, his ship, and his mail bag were all turned over to the British authorities. And the mail bag was deposited in the admiralty records in London, and those records are available and I read them and transcribed 250 of them. And many of them are from the pirates’ wives to their pirates and the pirates to their wives.
Fisher: And what a great identifying record for this as well.
Fisher: That’s incredible. And so what year was that?
Daphne: That was 1694 to 1699.
Fisher: So, this is like the golden age, right, Henry Every and all those groups?
Daphne: That’s correct.
Daphne: It was a very, very organized sophisticated system. And the pirates’ mailbox was on Ascension Island which was in the Atlantic. It was a tiny little island that mariners would stop at because it was rich in turtles. And they would collect turtles for food and put them on their decks. But at a little spot in the harbor, there was a rock with a hole in it. And that’s where they would leave their letters to go home.
Fisher: Oh wow. And no flag, and no skull and crossbones on the side of it?
Daphne: No. No. [Laughs]
Fisher: [Laughs] Wow. I mean, you’re just painting some amazing pictures here, Daphne, and I’m absolutely astounded by it. I’m really looking forward to reading it. And where can people get this book?
Daphne: So, this book is on Amazon and it’s also on BarnesandNobel.com on their website.
Fisher: Okay. And the book is The Pirate Next Door: The Untold Story of Eighteenth Century Pirates' Wives, Families, and Communities. And Daphne Palmer Geanacopoulos is our guest today, and Daphne, thank you so much for your time. This is just absolutely amazing. It really paints a different picture in my mind about my own ancestor.
Daphne: Well, thank you. It’s a pleasure to speak with you Scott. Thanks very much.
Fisher: And coming up next, we’re going to talk to a man named Ray Weiss. And Ray has been researching his seafaring ancestors, finding out where they went, and then traveling to those places. He’s just got like three more to go out of like three dozen. It’s going to be a fascinating visit, coming up in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 3 Episode 311
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Ray Weiss
Fisher: Hey, we are back at it on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth. And as you know, I love finding stories of people connecting to their ancestors and the way they go about it is a little different from person to person. Ray Weiss is on the line with me right now from Rockville, Maryland. Ray, can I reveal your age here because you’re an amazing man?
Ray: [Laughs] Certainly.
Fisher: He is 80 years old and has taken a great interest in his seafaring ancestors. How much work have you done on this research, Ray?
Ray: Oh, hours and hours from starting in 2002, right up to as recently as yesterday.
Fisher: Oh, wow! And how many seafaring ancestors do you have, and where are they from mostly?
Ray: These are all on my mother’s side of the family and are from Massachusetts and particularly, New Bedford, Massachusetts, which is a former whaling capital of the US and Nantucket.
Fisher: Okay. And how far back do you go with your seafarers?
Ray: The first one that I can verify was a captain and was actually whaling in 1702.
Fisher: Okay. And who was that?
Ray: His name was John Butler. One of the reasons that I got interested in this issue is that my middle name is Butler, based on my mother’s ancestry and the fact that she had an interest in this family name.
Fisher: To think about this, most of us will research our ancestors, maybe take up an interest like this, but you, Ray, have figured out all the different destinations these seafaring ancestors went to and you’ve been visiting them, which is amazing. How many years have you been visiting these seafarers’ destinations?
Ray: The first one was back in the early 2000s and the most recent one was this past May. And next week I am destined to go to New Zealand again to see the last three that I can define and validate.
Fisher: That you’ve identified. So, you have researched these ancestors. How many seafaring ancestors do you figure you have?
Ray: Well, I’ve verified that 24 are at least “mariners” in some records.
Fisher: Um hmm.
Ray: And 19 of them were whalers of which 16 were whaler ship captains. And these are either direct ancestors or brothers of a female direct ancestor.
Fisher: So, you did all this research and then you started keeping track of where all they went.
Fisher: And then you obviously followed it all out on a map, and then when did you get this incredible idea that, I want to go to these places and see what they saw?
Ray: The very first one that I started searching for was a great-times three grandfather by the name of Peter Butler and my mother had family records that Peter Butler fell from the mast on a whaling ship and “broke every bone in his body” and died.
Fisher: Ugh. Okay.
Ray: This was an interesting fact and I said, “I wonder what ship that was and under what circumstances.” So, I set about validating that information and it took me about five years of off and on work, but I finally found the ship’s log that recorded that information and I have the exact date that happened. It was the 30th of July in 1832 when the ship of which his son Peter Butler junior was the captain and he was about 60 years old and apparently was along for the ride, and was up on the mast in the crow’s nest looking for whales near the Island of Faial in the Azores. When he slipped and fell, and the log says, he hit the deck and lived “three hours.” His son, the captain of that voyage then took him to that island and they buried him there.
Fisher: Oh, what a sad story. But did you go to that island?
Ray: Oh yes, I’ve been there twice, and had to go again because I found a new lead that might allow me to find a burial site, and both times I struck out. They might have just buried him in any convenient place for all I know.
Fisher: Sure. That’s incredible. And where was this again?
Ray: The Island of Faial, that’s the island. The town is Horta in Portugal.
Ray: And that was a very favored whaling stop for ships from New Bedford.
Fisher: That’s incredible. Where else have you been? You mentioned you’ve been to 32 places out of 35. What were some of the more unique places you visited?
Ray: Yes, the other three I’ll start visiting next week, two in New Zealand and one in Australia.
Ray: Some very unusual places are Tristan da Cunha, which is the most isolated, inhabited island in the world. It’s 9000 miles straight west of Cape Town, South Africa, in the Atlantic Ocean and there are about 270 inhabitants there.
Fisher: Okay. And did they have any history to share with you?
Ray: Uh, no. [Laughs] But I have the verification that one of the two direct male ancestors, are just a great uncle times three or four, or what have you, stopped there and the most recent direct ancestor was a great grandfather and he stopped there too.
Ray: Another one is a country that very few Americans have ever heard of, it’s called Nauru. It’s an island in the South Pacific Ocean that is an independent country all by itself.
Ray: A member of the UN too.
Fisher: So, how do you get to all these places? I’m assuming you’re not a mariner yourself. You’re not sailing off around the world. Are you flying there?
Ray: Yes, I did to Nauru. It’s hard to get to, but I did. To Tristan da Cunha and another place is Saint Helena Island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The only way you can get there to both of them is by ship. These trips were on cruise ships that happen to stop at these islands.
Fisher: Oh, wow. So, you were able to plan it out and go, okay, I’m going to take that particular cruise?
Ray: Oh yes, absolutely.
Fisher: Now, do you travel alone? Do you have somebody to go with you?
Ray: My wife has gone with me on some of these trips but she doesn’t like to travel, so most of them have been by myself.
Fisher: Okay. What an incredible experience. So, how often do you make a new discovery? Because you said you were researching as recently as yesterday. What else have you found?
Ray: One thing that I’ve used to validate where the ships stopped is the website GenealogyBank.com which has newspaper articles.
Fisher: Sure. Yes, they do.
Ray: The newspapers in New England used to keep detailed information about Ship X1 sailing on a whaling voyage on a certain day, with the captain being so and so. And that’s been a valuable source of information because many of the logs for these voyages have disappeared over the years. And some of the voyages I do have access to logs in the museums in New Bedford, Massachusetts. So, I can read the log and know exactly where they were.
Fisher: It’s incredible. He’s Ray Weiss. He’s in Rockville, Maryland. He’s 80 years old. He’s been to 32 different places seafaring ancestors have gone on their voyages and he’s got three more. You’re leaving next week. Where are you going again?
Ray: New Zealand for two of them and an island off the coast of Australia for the third one. That will complete all 35.
Fisher: That’s it. What are you going to do after that?
Ray: [Laughs] I’m getting a little old, so maybe I will quit travelling internationally which is a favorite hobby of mine.
Fisher: [Laughs] Okay Ray. Well, God bless and have a great time, and we look forward to hearing about your adventures.
Ray: Thank you.
Fisher: Ask Us Anything is coming up next on Extreme Genes.
Segment 4 Episode 311
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Melanie McComb
Fisher: And it is time once again for Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth. And today we have Melanie McComb on from the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org to answer your question. And the question we have today, Melanie, is from Kalen McCormick. He's in Atlanta, Georgia. And he says that he had some ancestors who were in World War II in the navy and was wanting to know about finding naval records. And I know you know a lot about this. I know the army records aren't out there, though, because of that horrible fire back in St Louis in the '70s.
Melanie: Right, that's correct. With the fire in '73, a lot of the files were burned in the army and air force files. There are some that have been recovered, but you're right, largely, there's not a lot intact. But the naval records, marine records, those did survive though. So those can be obtained from the National Archives in St Louis and they have the personnel service records that can be requested. And they give a lot of great information about anybody that served in those areas.
Fisher: You know, I had two uncles that served in the navy during World War II, one in the Pacific, one in the Atlantic, and I have just started recently researching. And through a company called, Golden Arrow Research, I was able to obtain the records of my uncle Don who was on the cruiser, New Orleans and he was in the battle of Midway and there was Okinawa and Guam and Guadalcanal, and I had no idea and neither did his kids. And everything that was in there was just amazing detail. They were his original records from when he enlisted on December 8th, 1941. The very next day he signed up. And I guess it didn't become official till like the 19th and they show his physical records and any unusual marks. I didn't know he had a birthmark on his leg. He had some issues with his hands and some things that they didn't have any problem with. And he was in the service there for three years, saw tremendous action. In fact, his ship lost the bow from a torpedo shot by the Japanese in a battle on November 30th of 1942 and 180 of his shipmates were lost at that time. And we'd always heard this, but here was the account now in the records and then I was also able to find a book that was written by one of his shipmates about his experience on the same ship at the same time, which provided a lot of color that I wasn't able to get anywhere else. But you know what? The coolest thing in this whole thing was, it was the picture of him on the day that he enlisted.
Melanie: That's wonderful you can find that, because sometimes finding those pictures are not always found in the service records, so if you can find them, that's wonderful.
Fisher: Yeah, it’s a pretty rare thing. It was pretty great thing. I was just amazed they showed what battle stars he was allowed to wear after certain activities. It showed what his occupation was, what his responsibilities were in his civilian work before he signed up. I mean, they got into so much detail, who was going to be the next of kin to receive any benefits should he be killed in action, something like that. And that changed, because he got married during the war. And you could see where he lived and then what they assigned him to do. There's actually an entire sheet that's just devoted to his rank at various times and when it went up and actually when he got in a little trouble sometimes and it went down, but you can see all of those things as well. But if you can get a hold of those through the St Louis record depository, that's a great way to go. And I will say that Golden Arrow did an amazing job for me, very prompt. They charge between $75 and $100, depending on the size of the file, which generally you don't know going in. But this was like 80 pages.
Melanie: Wow! Yeah, definitely those records don't disappoint. They give you such a great profile and breakdown of everything they were looking on during the service.
Fisher: Yeah. And now I’ve ordered the second one on my uncle that was serving in the Atlantic and to find out exactly what he was doing there. So, that's a great way to go. Great question, Kalen. Thanks so much for it. And good luck in your research on that. And coming up next, we'll have another question on Ask Us Anything with Melanie McComb when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.
Segment 5 Episode 311
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Melanie McComb
Fisher: All right, here we go, our final segment this week on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. We're doing Ask Us Anything. It’s your chance to ask your questions about how to find out about your ancestors. And we have an email here Melanie, from Laine Portman from Cleveland, Ohio. And he says, "I remember hearing that my ancestor was part of the effort to enforce prohibition. Is there anything out there that could help me find out more information on this?" That is really interesting. I don't think I've ever heard that before.
Melanie: That is interesting. So now someone’s on the other side of the law this time.
Fisher: Right, right. This is the law enforcer, you know.
Melanie: Ah, yes.
Fisher: Are you aware of anything that could help him?
Melanie: Oh yes, indeed. There are several different databases that are out there. One of them is in conjunction with the National Archives. There is a database for the identification card files of prohibition agents from 1920 to 1925.
Fisher: Oh wow! What's in it?
Melanie: So, you actually can see their card that has a photograph of the agent.
Fisher: Oh wow!
Melanie: Yeah, and these were some really stern looking guys. They're going out and chasing all of the bootleggers. It has their signature on their card, basically saying that they're signing into service here.
Fisher: Wow, that's an incredible thing! So, it’s the picture, it’s their card, it’s their signature. Is there anything else in there that tells the records of some of the busts they made or any of the cases they were involved in?
Melanie: It doesn’t give the case files there, but there are case files at the National Archives, so depending on which area that they were serving in, whether they were on the west or out in Chicago, they have the individual files for them. So, if you ever really want to learn more about such characters, like Capone, you could reach out to the National Archives in Chicago.
Fisher: The case studies, huh.
Melanie: Exactly. They have case files where they were tracking known crime leaders and known bootleggers throughout the area, since they were breaking federal law transferring alcohol.
Fisher: So, let's go through this then. So, you can get the database with the pictures and that's where?
Melanie: That's on Ancestry.
Fisher: Ancestry's got that. See, I've never had any of my people show up in that one. I've never seen it. That's incredible. And then if you want to find out more about the agent, they can go through the National Archives?
Melanie: Correct. Right. And you can see if they have any case files, I think during the time period and maybe even see if the agent themselves if there were any personnel records that were kept there. Largely, these agents were working under the Bureau of Internal Revenue, which were the precursor of IRS, so these were all federal records that were taking place.
Fisher: How's the IRS get involved with alcohol? I guess they got the Bureau of Tobacco and Firearms now, which is probably a spinoff of this.
Melanie: Right. And largely it was because they were transporting alcohol, usually over a federal line, especially when they were importing, and they were actually getting it over from Canada, like the Canada Whiskey and bringing it in. Now it’s becoming more of a commerce issue, because now we're crossing over the border to import alcohol, which was illegal at the time.
Fisher: You know, it is amazing to me the databases that are out there now that are coming out with photographs in them, such as the people who are getting their passports in the 19 teens, the pictures that are attached to those. I found one of my great uncle. There are no other pictures in existence of him, but we found that there. And then there are the military records we talked about a few minutes ago. Now you've got this, the cards of these people who are enforcing prohibition. It makes you wonder what else is going to show up and land in our laps eventually that makes us go, "wow!"
Melanie: Oh yes. And if you want to learn more about some of these busts that take place, also check up the newspapers in the areas where they were living, because a lot of times, those busts would make it into the local news.
Fisher: All right, thanks so much. She is Melanie McComb. She's with the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. And thank you to Laine for the question. Of course if you have a question for us for Ask Us Anything, just email us at [email protected]. Well, we've had quite the seafaring flavor to the show today. Thanks to my guests, Ray and Daphne for sharing their stories, talking about pirates and Ray of course pursuing the places his mariner ancestors went to, over 33 locations throughout his life. Unbelievable! If you missed any of the show or you want to catch it again, just listen to our podcast on iTunes, iHeart Radio or ExtremeGenes.com or wherever fine podcasts are found. Don't forget to sign up for our Weekly Genie Newsletter at ExtremeGenes.com. Talk to you next week. Thanks for listening. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!