Episode 327 - Virtual YOU! How You May Answer Your Descendants Questions About You a Century from Now!May 10, 2020
Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. Fisher begins by talking about a method he figured out to date a photo of his great great grandfather. David begins Family Histoire News talking about several aspects of life we can take from the pandemic of 1918-1920. First is the story of unique recipes of the time, including one including ‘possum! Then the guys discuss the unique circumstances surrounding voting in the 1918 midterm election. David then talks about a family that is benefitting from a diary kept by their ancestor during the Spanish Flu outbreak.
Fisher then begins his two part visit with Heather Maio Smith who is a key player with the USC Shoah Foundation. Heather was recently featured on 60 Minutes. Heather talks about her pet project of the past several years, interviewing Holocaust survivors and then using technology so they can seem to be having a conversation with you. Ask the question, they will answer!
In part two of the conversation, Heather talks about how any of us will soon be able to use similar technology so that descendants generations from now can ask us questions about our lives and have us answer them!
Then Melanie McComb from NEHGS visits to help us out with Ask Us Anything.
That’s all this week on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show!
Transcript of Episode 327
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Segment 1 Episode 327
Fisher: And welcome to another episode of Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show 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. Broadcasting direct from Fisher castle in social isolation, hope you’re all to and well Genies. It’s great to have you along. And I’m really excited and glad to hear from Heather Maio Smith today. She is my guest for two big segments. You may have seen her on “60 Minutes” because she’s done all these interviews with survivors of the Holocaust and done these over five days in a special thing they call the “dome.” Anyway, they answer virtually every question you could possibly ask a Holocaust survivor, so that after they’re gone, people could actually ask a question and they respond to it. And get this, she’s going to make a version basically where anybody can do this to preserve their own family history. So, imagine 100 years from now one of your descendants asking essentially a hologram a view about your life, and everything you’d like to tell them about it. So, we’re going to have that coming up here in about ten minutes or so. The back end of the show, Melanie McComb returns to do Ask Us Anything this week. We’ve got your questions lined up and we’re looking forward to helping you out as you continue with your genie journey. Right now, it’s time to head out to, let’s see, Stoughton, Massachusetts, the home of David Allen Lambert, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. How are you doing David?
David: I think the man of this manor is doing just fine. How are things with you sir? [Laughs]
Fisher:You know, it’s been fun, keeping really busy. In fact, I had an interesting breakthrough with a little carte de visite of my second great-grandfather Fisher.
Fisher:Yeah, there had long been speculation about when that picture was taken. I had a clothing expert guess that it was in the 1850s. I kind of wanted to know how old he was in the picture. And I took it out of an antique frame, and I was going to put it in a sleeve instead with some other stuff. It was just time to make a change, and I hadn’t look at this card in over 25 years and I thought, well, I’m much more educated now than I was then. Let’s see if I can figure something out. So, I looked on the back of the card and saw the name of the photographer and I researched that in the New York City directories and found she was at that address. It was a woman photographer, interestingly, from 1857 to 1867, so a ten-year period. But there was also a revenue stamp on the back of this photograph.
David: Oh, that narrows it down.
Fisher:That helps a lot because those were issued only between 1862 and 1871. It was to raise money for the Civil War. So, that lopped five years off the beginning of the time period that this picture could have been taken. So, now we’re down to ‘62 to ‘67. Then I studied the stamp and learned that that particular stamp wasn’t issued until October 12th of 1864. Now, we’re down to late ‘64 to ‘67, and then I found out that photographers protested the tax on their photographs and Congress put an end to it as of August 1st of 1866. So, the window was now from October 12th of ‘64 through July 31st of 1866, so right about 1865. And it was just a fun little exercise, and really interesting to me that these two clues could basically help you narrow down the window.
David: Yeah, and some of those photographs, because I collect antique photography, right around that same era CDV, they’re date stamped like they had a little stamp. Looks like a postal mark.
David: Or they put their initials and the date on it too. So, sometimes if you don’t get the photographer’s name, their initials or their last name or something is enough to give you even an additional clue when there’s no back mark to where the photography was taken.
Fisher:Sure. Yeah, this particular photographer wrote her initials on it. There’s no date, but still, it was pretty interesting to go through the exercise. Maybe that will be of use to somebody to know that with photographs, they were only taxed from 1864 to 1866. So, if you’ve got that revenue stamp on there, you’ve really narrowed down the time period. Well, it’s time to get down to our Family Histoire News David, and we’re really kind of stuck in World War I because there so many similarities to what’s going on right now. I thought maybe we’d start with the World War I recipes. [Laughs]
David: Yeah, let’s cook along with that one for a little bit. I think Granny Clampett would approve if you remember the Beverly Hillbillies folks, you may remember that granny could fix a skunk and also fix a possum.
David: And yes, there’s a possum recipe that was popular back then. They talk about how people were raising chickens in their backyard in cages and normally didn’t raise chickens in little back alleys.
David: And they had certain days where there should be meatless days and porkless days.
David: It’s just a great article on ExtremeGenes.com. You’ve got to check that out.
Fisher:Yes. All right. Next, they’ve got the mid-elections in November of 1918. We of course, got the presidential election this year. I’m seeing some similarities as to be what’s going to be going on.
David: Well, I can tell you people will probably be wearing masks. They’re saying there’s possibility this could upswing again in the fall, right in time for the election.
David: And in 1918 they only had about 10% less from the previous mid-term election, so they got 40% of the voter turnout, the previous year 50%. So, it will be interesting to see what they do. I mean, as I was thinking about this, if they can do the US census electronically and securely, why can’t we do voting that way? So, that might be a possibility too.
Fisher: Boy, you are correct Sir. I love this story about the diaries in Ohio from 1918. They’re helping some people in that area get through the current pandemic.
David: Yeah, this lady’s great-grandmother kept her diary between 1899 and 1964, 65 years, almost her entire lifetime. And it’s just a little pocket diary and sometimes it’s just talking about the weather, but this family out in Ohio is using it to kind of get through the current quarantine and the pandemic we’re experiencing now. This is perfect advice again to shout out to all our listeners, if you’re not keeping a journal, you’re missing an opportunity of recording history for your descendants down the road.
David: Well, American Ancestors is always interested in interacting with you and now we’re on Twitter. And if you’ve got your ancestor experts on Twitter, on Tuesdays at 3 p.m. we have a Tweet Live where we talk about all sorts of things about what you can do while you’re home, and just exciting topics on genealogy. Catch you there and catch you on Extreme Genes next week.
Fisher:All right, thanks so much David. And coming up next, I’m going to talk to Heather Maio Smith. She’s put together a project you won’t believe, and it may have a spin off to something that you are going to want to use at some point in the future. That’s coming up in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 2 Episode 327
Host Scott Fisher with guest Heather Maio Smith
Fisher: Well, just a few weeks ago you may have been watching 60 Minutes and a segment with Leslie Stall about a unique project going on at USC, what they call The Shoah Foundation there, which is organized by Stephen Spielberg some time back, and she visited with a woman named Heather Maio Smith. And Heather has put together a project interviewing survivors of the Holocaust. And in a unique way where you can actually go and speak to the person in this recording and they will answer your question. It was such an intriguing thing I knew I had to track her down. I went to a great trouble and now I have all your personal information Heather. [Laughs]
Fisher: I’m just delighted you agreed to come on the show and talk about your project Dimensions and Testimonies that you started in 2009, and now everybody knows about it.
Heather: Thank you so much for having me.
Fisher: So, tell me about this. How many Holocaust survivors have you interviewed so far?
Heather: For Dimensions and Testimonies we interviewed 22 Holocaust survivors I believe.
Fisher: And how many of them are still living?
Fisher: Twenty of them. So, you’ve lost a couple of them. The way you do this is so unique because you’ve built this thing that some people call the dome, other people call it the sphere, it’s all these cameras from all these different areas, and then, you can verbally ask a question and they will answer it because you go on with them for like five days of interviews in the same clothes. [Laughs]
Heather: Yes, that’s the key. And they don’t wear the same under garments though, so that’s good. [Laughs]
Fisher: [Laughs] Well, I saw where you have like five sets of shirts all the same, that kind of thing.
Heather: Yeah. We buy multiple. You should see the sales people at Nordstrom when I go in and I say, “Okay, I like this pair of pants. Now I need four more exactly like it.” [Laughs] It’s like, “What?”
Fisher: [Laughs] That’s fun. Tell us how it started. How you got going in this and how you found your initial interviewees.
Heather: Oh, the Holocaust field for years and years has been wondering what was going to happen to Holocaust education and awareness once the survivors were no longer able to speak in the public as they have been for the last good 50 years.
Heather: So, it’s been a growing concern and my previous company was doing exhibitions for museums that revolve around the Holocaust and genocide and in particular, intergenerational memory.
Fisher: Um hmm.
Heather: So, I was talking with a lot of Holocaust survivors, a lot of families obviously, generations of them, a single time, and over my history I had seen hundreds of Holocaust survivors speak in the public. And what always struck me was the moment that they opened the floor up to questions between the audience and the survivors, the energy changed dramatically. And if you asked those individuals at that moment, A) what it meant to them to ask their own question, and B) how the connection to that story changed once they were able to ask that question and actually have that engagement, that blew it out of the park. So, what we thought was okay, we have, obviously the U.S. Shoah Foundation has over 55,000 audio/visual testimonies and they were all in narrative form, which is the methodology they use.
Heather: So, it’s the largest audio/visual archive in the world right now. It’s an amazing archive and it will be for all time. It’s a cannon that we need to preserve and definitely protect. And there’s no question that you can’t ask that archive that that it can’t answer. However, it’s not in a conversational form, so you wouldn’t be able to necessarily engage with it as if you were being immersed in an environment where you felt you were actually with an individual having a conversation, a one-on-one, or even with a group of between 10 people and the survivor, a back and forth. They wrote autobiographies. There have been countless movies. There have been countless documentaries made. None of them engage a person like a Q&A.
Heather: So, we thought all right, what would it look like if we tried to replicate that Q&A experience for future generations to be able to have, when the survivors are no longer able to have those conversations in the public?
Fisher: Wow. And what you’ve accomplished here is to track these people down. So, they’re going to be interviewing dead people.
Heather: Yes. [Laughs] So, I went to the Shoah Foundation, because obviously since this content was going to be audio/visual and if it was going to have a life in the world after we were finished, it needed to be a Shoah Foundation project.
Heather: It needed to be led by them. So I knew that going in, and it took me about a little over a year to convince them that we were serious and that we could possibly do this.
Fisher: And you got some push-back too didn’t you?
Heather: Oh yeah. One of the first remarks that I’ll never forget was, “You want to talk to dead people?” [Laughs]
Fisher: [Laughs] Well, I’ll tell you from a genealogical standpoint, that’s what we’d all love to do.
Heather: Well, there you go. Fifty years from now you’ll be able to talk to anybody. Like you always say, what do you say about your past?
Fisher: Oh, I just say we’re living in someone else’s past.
Heather: So, you will be able to talk to anybody in your past.
Fisher: Yeah. Well, we’ll talk about that a little bit later on. Let’s stay on this.
Heather: So, I was charged with okay, you want to do this. A) figure out how to do it. Once we talked it through and they agreed it might have legs, and I think a little part of them thought that if they gave me this charge that I would go away and never come back.
Fisher: [Laughs] They didn’t know you too well, did they?
Heather: No, no. So, A) go figure out how to do it, if it’s possible, and B) what would this cost. That was kind of key. However, I had a couple of ideas. The key was to find who was being innovative, who was leading the field. I happened to find it in Playa Vista, California, The Institute for Creative Technologies. And they at the time were pretty much working on pushing the boundaries and pushing technology, and their primary client was the U.S. government.
Fisher: That’ll work. [Laughs] Yeah.
Heather: So, what I originally thought that we’d use some sort of the search capability the Shoah Foundation had already built. They actually built the first search engine for audio/visual content, some video content. So, when you go on YouTube and Netflix now, you’re using the search capability that they built. So, I originally thought okay, we could probably use that. And then I was looking for the visualization. So the original vision was, I’m sitting in a room, maybe a kitchen or a living room with a person sitting across from me, and I’m having a conversation, that back and forth.
Fisher: One-on-one. Right.
Heather: I’m asking them questions, they’re sitting in front of me and they’re responding. So, I needed that visualization part, which by the way has not been developed yet. So, I met this person that was the furthest along in true hologram technology in the world at the time. And I found him, it was a TedX conference at USC, tracked him down stood in front of him, he’s about a foot and three inches taller than me, about 15 inches taller than me.
Heather: And as you can imagine, I’m five foot two, so I’m not very tall. I stood in front of him and I said, “I want you to film a Holocaust survivor and I want to be able to sit in front of that person and feel as if I’m having a conversation with that individual. And in true engineering style, picture it, he’s a complete techno nerd standing in front of me.
Fisher: [Laughs] You said it, not me.
Heather: He looked right over my head and didn’t say a word and he went into this daze like his eyes were glassed over. [Laughs]
Fisher: Rolling over in the back of his head. Yeah.
Heather: And I could actually see his mind working.
Fisher: Oh, wow.
Heather: It was just amazing.
Fisher: Well listen, we are running tight on time for this segment. So tell me, what was the one story that you gained from any of these 22 people that you interviewed that sticks in your mind all the time? It is the first one you ever tell anybody about when you talk about this project.
Heather: I can’t that would be like picking…
Fisher: Among your children? [Laughs]
Heather: Yeah. That’s definitely a Sampson or Sophie’s choice thing. No, probably the first interviewee that we had, he was interviewed for the 60 Minutes piece, his name is Pinchas Gutter.
Fisher: Um hmm.
Heather:And we’ve had a really long relationship with him, but he’s been tormented most of his life after the Holocaust by the fact that he cannot visualize his sister’s face or remember a lot of things that he would think that he should remember about her previous to the war. So, that pain, should I say, in all of his answers with regards to the interview that we did, and he also happens to have the largest database. So his conversation would probably be the most natural conversation you could have, because he has the most responses. He’s a real example of the struggle to survive, the ability to be resilient and living with that, and the power of the human being to want to persevere.
Heather:Most of them, obviously all of them had a lot of elements within that, but I think he embodies that. For me personally, he’s an amazing, amazing individual.
Fisher: I’m talking to Heather Maio Smith. She’s with the USC Shoah Foundation. She is the person behind Dimensions and Testimonies, which are the interviews with Holocaust survivors. And some of them are all gone now, but you can still do interviews with them and that’s the ideas to get their testimonies preserved for future generations. And Heather, I want to talk to you about the ideas you have moving forward that may have a lot to do with what genealogists are interested in and that’s sharing our family histories in the same way. So, can you stick around for that?
Heather:Yes, yeah, be happy to.
Fisher: So genies, as we take a break for five minutes here, just picture 50 years down the line your descendants seeing this image of you and they can actually ask you questions and you respond. Yeah, that’s what we’re talking about, that’s what we’re going to get to when we return in just a few minutes on America’s Family History Show, Extreme Genes.
Segment 3 Episode 327
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Heather Maio Smith
Fisher:All right, welcome back. It’s Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, with Heather Maio Smith from the USC Shoah Foundation. She is the creator behind Dimensions and Testimonies, interviews with Holocaust survivors, so that you can actually have an interactive experience with them, as seen recently on 60 Minutes. And Heather, in the middle of that show, they made a reference to something that really made my eyebrows raise and that was the talk that just anybody might be able to use this technology to answer questions from descendents in the future, as you referenced in the first segment. You know, I always like to say that we’re living in somebody else’s past.
Fisher: This is a great opportunity for us to share our story and this would be a unique and totally new way in which to do it where our descendents are great-grandchildren, second, maybe third great-grandchildren could ask us questions about our lives and our experiences. When do you see that type of thing actually coming to pass?
Heather: Oh, very soon actually. We started a company called StoryFile, everyone can check out, go to the website, sign up to be a beta user on the app and we will give you information about when the mobile app launches. What the mobile app will do for everyone is, you will have the opportunity to record on any smart-phone, record your own story answering a whole list of questions that will be on the app and those will be processed automatically and saved in perpetuity. And anyone coming in the future or anyone now that wants to get to know you can have a conversation with you and just ask you questions about your life. As far as oral history though, the key thing is, it’s in your voice.
Heather: And you are telling the story, so it’s your narrative. It’s not multiple generations going through telling that same great story and how it gets altered obviously throughout the generations. It’s you being able to tell that story in your own words from your perspective.
Fisher: Sure, firsthand.
Heather: Yeah. And the real revolution here is, I can see you. I can watch your body language which we all know non-verbal communication is most of communication.
Heather: I can get to know you in a different way than if I was reading an autobiography of you or if my relative was telling me about you and relaying funny stories at different family gatherings about your life. It will be a completely revolutionary way to know who your relatives are and who you are because of them.
Fisher: Wow. So, you say this may be coming sometime soon. What kind of price points do you think this app is going to have? Obviously, for the masses to consume it it’s going to have to be done in certain ways. You’re not going to be able to do this obviously the way you did the Holocaust survivors because that was a massive production with future uses and technology in mind.
Fisher: This is the same concept just a little bit different, right?
Heather: Exactly. So, it will all be automated. You can spend as much time or as little time on it as you want. You can do it in parts. You can take one script that will be divided out into what ultimately we’d collect a whole lifetime of experiences and life cycles. It will be very reasonable but we would like to make it, if you’re doing your whole life story and perpetuity and you want to do a single shot at it, one time buyout so that none of your relatives have to pay ongoing costs for it, etc, etc. We’re hoping it comes in around $500.
Heather: There will be a couple of scripts that will be free to the public. So anybody will be able to do what we call, “What’s your story script?” Think of it as, I’m meeting you at a party and I’m kind of asking ice-breaker questions type of thing, little things to get to know you.
Heather:That script we intend to always keep free. And then there’ll be other scripts that you can supplement. You can do it all in one go like I said before or you can do it in different stages. You could even do the whole life story at multiple points in your life. I mean, how cool would it be for my grandchildren to talk to my 15 year old self when they’re 15.
Fisher: Right. [Laughs]
Heather: Or, there are things that come up in your life when you’re in your 40s or 50s that maybe you didn’t think about in your 20s and you want to ask your parents those questions and they’ve already passed or grandparents those questions and they’ve passed so you didn’t get a chance to ask those questions.
Heather: So, all questions about how you made decisions in your life. What did you do in certain things? We’re all humans and we all actually go through the same experiences. We have knowledge within us, no matter who you are. And whoever we are is an extension of who lived before us.
Fisher: That’s right.
Heather: So, to know more about that and to identify with it and learn from that would be an amazing gift for future generations.
Fisher: Totally. So, can you write your own questions then?
Heather: You will be able to. At the first iteration of this mobile app version of the StoryFile app will not be able to.
Heather: That technology actually does not exist yet. So we are building that. We are hoping to have in spring 2021, maybe summer 2021.
Fisher: So, how many questions then are in the system?
Heather: So, when we launched the mobile app, when we launched the formal one, we’re thinking that the scripts will total about 450 to 500 questions.
Fisher: Wow! Boy, that’s pretty comprehensive and a lot of this based on your experience then with the Holocaust survivors?
Heather: Yes, because we’ve covered their life from the minute they were born till the day that we were filming them. We had a lot of partners. We had a lot of people that we connected with to develop these scripts and then we refined a lot of it. For StoryFile, I’ve gone back and asked input from other sources and got other advisors, and we’ve compiled these lists based on years and years of interviewing people. We tried to keep it as universal as possible.
Fisher: Do you have questions in there where you can ask people about their interaction with their own parents or grandparents?
Heather: Oh, sure. What was their relationship like? Tell ask what you know about them. What did they do? Then, from there it gets drilled down into how much you do know about them. What were their personalities like? What was it like at home? You could even get as minute as, how did you see them as parents or grandparents?
Fisher: Wow! It just sounds like an endless number of applications here. You mentioned not only for generations in the future but you could also use it for meeting people today or job interviews, right?
Heather: Yeah. There are so many people that have come to us with so many amazing ideas with this technology. Different areas, job interviews, FAQs, I mean, think of iconic people, expert advice, things like that. These people in those areas get asked the same questions over, and over, and over again.
Heather: If they were all to have their own StoryFile page that had all of those questions that people normally ask them, that would free up so much time of theirs and so much time of the person that’s actually engaging with them, to get out what you really want to know.
Fisher: So, with the app, if somebody wants to see, say for instance, my life story, would they go to that app and then ask the question verbally and it would play or would it be that they click on a question and the answer comes up?
Heather: Oh, no, no, no. That version of it museums have been doing for the last 30 years probably but we wanted it to be as immersive as possible. A lot of people have said to me, is that person on Facetime with me or are they in another room answering these questions?
Heather: It’s a very similar experience, except the responses have been pre-recorded.
Fisher: Wow, that’s incredible.
Heather: Ultimately, we want you to feel as if you are having a Q&A with an individual.
Fisher: So, it’s StoryFile, where do people go to look into this? It’s not fully available yet but where can people look into it?
Fisher: That’s it.
Heather: Keep your eyes and ears out for it because it’s coming.
Fisher: Well, we’re going to keep checking back with you Heather, so that when this happens we can let everybody know about it.
Heather: Oh, that would be awesome.
Fisher: You’ve got a lot of genealogists right now who I know are just frothing at the mouth over something like this.
Fisher: We look forward to chatting with you again down the line.
Heather: Thank you Scott.
Fisher: Because I have your phone number.
Heather: Great conversation. Yes, you do! [Laughs]
Fisher: [Laughs] Melanie McComb joins us for another round of Ask Us Anything, coming up next on Extreme Genes, in three minutes.
Segment 4 Episode 327
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Melanie McComb
Fisher: All right, back at it for another edition of Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. This is where we answer your questions. And Melanie McComb is with us today from the New England Historic Genealogical Society. And Melanie, our first question comes from Debby SargentCravens. She said, "I had my brother tested at Family Tree DNA and was told by those who are in the Sargent family project, our family surname, that he is not genetically related to the Sargents." So it sounds like he had a Y-DNA test taken. "We're both genetically related to my second great grandfather, Moses Sargent and his wife. Someone suggested that Moses might have been adopted. He was born in 1820, but no birth certificate. He lived most of his, if not all of his life in Loudon, New Hampshire. Could you think of other scenarios where the DNA does not match? Any ways to carry on traditional research to discover an adoption? Should one of us take more DNA tests? Could Moses' father have been the adopted person? I've been looking for Moses' parents for 40 years. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Debby." Well, here we go, Melanie. [Laughs] Lot of things to cover here. It’s great to have you on.
Melanie: Yes, yes, lots of great questions there. So you're right, there are going to be a couple of different things to consider. One is that based on that time period, there are not going to be any statewide birth records.
Melanie: Now there could be something that's at town level, so given that she knows about the town where he was born in, that will be really helpful, because a lot of those town records are going to be online on Family Search, so that will be one place to see is there a birth recorded for that family in that town.
Melanie: And if not, then you need to look at like baptism records based on any churches they might have attended. And that's important to understand is what religion they might have been attending to. Mostly it’s going to be congregational churches, but you might see some early Methodist and other churches as well, so it’s important to understand that. But I definitely do think most autosomal DNA will need to be done just to help determine.
Melanie: Because until we know for sure that there actually is an adoption and there is that break, it will be helpful to see, past the second great grandparent, are you getting 3rd cousins, 4th cousins that are coming up under the Sargent name at all. So that might be helpful too, to see, is it truly an actual break in the DNA or is it that the person that was comparing the DNA of the Sargent maybe they had a break on their end. So that's something also something to consider.
Fisher: I would think though with a Y-DNA test, you're going to wind up with a whole bunch of people that are similar for that family study and that would be the question, are you mismatching them or are they mismatching you? Do you have other matches? And you might find that you actually match some other family in a Y-test. You're getting a surname that comes up consistently that matches this Y-test that might tell you what the line actually is, because the reality is, the break in the Y-test could come anywhere.
Fisher: Yeah, if you already know that you match Moses way back there, then you might have to find out that Moses came through somebody else or his father or his grandfather, as you suggest.
Melanie: Correct, right. So, it will be helpful to test other male relatives that you know of in your family from the line to help test to see that everything is still consistently coming down consistently as Sargent on that end, and then continuing to look for more distant cousins to continue to go back and to see where that break might have occurred and try to pinpoint the exact generation.
Fisher: Yeah, it’s very difficult to do sometimes, to find that, "Oh, wait a minute, my name really wasn't my name." The same thing with my Fisher side. I don't believe my second great grandfather's father, Fisher was his father. And there're various reasons having to do with DNA, but it’s very difficult to prove when you get that far back. But, great question, Debby. Hope that's helpful to you to some extent and you've got a lot of work ahead of you I think, still, but nonetheless, you've got to see who you're matching and if there's another name that comes up consistently among your Y-matches. So, thanks so much for that. We have another fascinating question from the Revolution, coming up for you here in just a few moments when we return for Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.
Segment 5 Episode 327
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Melanie McComb
Fisher: All right, we are back for our final segment of Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. We're doing Ask Us Anything with Melanie McComb. She's a genealogist with the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. And Melanie, this question, [Laughs] is something I haven't heard before. It’s from Heidi McCluskey and she says, "My friend recently found a Revolutionary War pension file where the soldier describes a battle he was in where the British shot dog heads at them. Well, we've done Google searches, asked staff at the family history library and came up empty, and as you can imagine, we've had some pretty crazy guesses what the pensioner meant by “dog heads.” Any ideas? A $5 bet is riding on this."
Fisher: I'll tell you right now, Heidi, we have been scrambling to find an answer for you as well. We've even brought David in on this, did a little conference call with him, and we have an answer for you.
Melanie: Yes, and what we think is being referred to in the pension is a doglock musket. And this is referring to the piece of the gun, the doglock which is sitting behind the cock of the gun, so it’s more of a safety that's sitting behind it when the front's being loaded. So it’s just another way to help make sure that, you know, you don't get the gunpowder blowing back in your face and making sure that, you know, you're ready to go before you fire off. And it was a very common gun used by the British and brought up into the colony and everything. It would definitely have been something very valuable if one of the colonists had actually picked one up from a soldier and taken it for them.
Melanie: So they're being fired upon. They're being fired on some pretty good muskets, so, they definitely were under some fire there and had to very much be careful, because they had a pretty long range. They're very long guns that were used at the time. And I think they were even known as the perfect pirate musket.
Melanie:So, apparently pirates liked to use them a lot.
Fisher: Oh wow! And specifically, it’s the part of the flint lock or rifle that holds the flint and applies it to the gunpowder, but the reality is, is because it had that part that they referred to them as dog heads. And so, that's what was shot. I can understand, I mean, the pictures in my mind when I first read this, “Wow! These British were really desperate to kill dogs and shoot their heads across!” [Laughs]
Melanie: [Laughs] Yeah.
Fisher: At the Americans. That's just crazy stuff. So, hopefully you won your $5 bet on that and that that answers your question. But that's pretty crazy. And you know, it’s not unusual, too, for different pieces of equipment to be named for unique parts or something that separates it from other pieces of equipment that are somewhat similar, don't you think?
Melanie: Absolutely. And even with some of these dog heads, we find that later on there were even more pistols that were made up that actually resembled the face of a dog. So they definitely made them more decorative. They were pieces of art. And it just gives it a little more character than just kind of, you know, a standard pistol that would come up. So if you ever like, you know, search on those “dog heads” on Google, I’m sure that Heidi’s taking a look at, you know, you can definitely see where the imagination is coming in when they named a lot of these parts.
Fisher: Yeah, and I'm glad they were just talking about a part of a rifle and not an actual dog head.
Melanie: Oh, agreed, exactly, and of war. We don't want to, you know, think of any more inhumane things going on.
Fisher: Oh, terrible! I'm a dog guy. I love dogs!
Melanie: Exactly, little dogs.
Fisher: You know, they were the greatest army in the world at that time. And to think that they would be doing that to try to gain an advantage in a battle is just beyond belief. So, there you go, Heidi. What a great question!
Melanie: Yeah, thank you.
Fisher: And Melanie, thank you so much for your help for Ask Us Anything this week.
Melanie: Oh, you're very welcome.
Fisher: We are done for this time around, but we will talk to you again real soon, okay?
Melanie: Okay. Sounds good.
Fisher: All right. And if you have a question for Ask Us Anything, it’s easy enough to get us that question, just email us at [email protected]. Well, that wraps up the show for this week. Thanks so much for joining us. Thanks once again to Heather Maio Smith for coming on and talking about her incredible project, interviewing people who survived the Holocaust, so that you can actually ask a question and they respond with the correct answer long after they're passed. And this is going to be a marvelous thing for history. And that technique by the way may actually help us to provide our own histories for our own descendants in the future. If you missed any of that conversation, you've got to hear it on ExtremeGenes.com, iHeart Radio, iTunes, TuneIn Radio and Spotify. Talk to you again next week. Thanks for joining us. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!