Episode 335 - One Man Seeks 400,000 WWII Obits / Genie Has Successful Italian “Cousin Fishing” ExpeditionJul 19, 2020
Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. In “Family Histoire News,” David begins with a story highlighted in the Smithsonian and linked to at ExtremeGenes.com. It’s about the World War II “Race To Be Ace” that often cost American lives. Then, a national archive has opened. Unfortunately, it’s not ours. Find out whose it is and how it may benefit you. A Texas man and his son recently made a trip to Arkansas where they marked the grave of a man who died some two hundred years ago. Find out what these two learned about him. Why don’t people smile in 19th century photos? David shares several of the reasons. And finally, David passes on a story posted by Dick Eastman who has shared a reason why some genies cannot locate their Confederate families after the Civil War. You won’t believe where some of them went.
Next, Fisher visits with Don Milne of Bountiful, Utah. Don got caught up a few years ago in a project to create obituaries of a few of the 400,000 Americans killed in World War II. But his followers wouldn’t let him stop. And now many more are jumping in to create obituaries of ALL of those who died. Hear about the project and how you can help!
Then, Fisher visits with Zoe Krainik, a passionate genie, who finds time for her pursuit after her day with her young children is done. A short time back she went “cousin fishing” and brought in a big one… from Italy! Hear about her great connection and how she made it.
Then David returns for a pair of great listener questions on Ask Us Anything.
That’s all this week on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show!
Transcript of Episode 335
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Segment 1 Episode 335
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. Well, you know, I’ll tell you what, people are passionate about their genealogy and family history. And I don’t think there’s anybody more passionate than one of our guests today, Don Milne. He’s a resident of Bountiful, Utah, and he’s taken it upon himself to write the obituary of every single American military person killed in World War II, 400,000 of them. Obviously, he can’t do it by himself. It’s a big project he’s got started, and people all over the country and around the world are starting to contribute to it. We’re going to talk to Don about this project and how you can be a part of it as well, coming up here in about ten minutes or so. By the way, if you haven’t signed up for our “Weekly Genie Newsletter” yet, you can do so very easily at ExtremeGenes.com or through our Facebook page. Right now, it’s time to head out to Stoughton, Massachusetts to the home of David Allen Lambert, who’s working remotely as the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. Hi Dave, how are you doing?
David: Doing okay. Happy, warm and summer days to you and all the listeners out there.
Fisher: Yeah well, being out here in the west, we’ve had days typically 105 to 110 recently. [Laughs] I’ve been staying indoors a lot, not just because of COVID. [Laughs] Believe me.
David: Well, I can imagine. For me, an-85-degree weather or a 90-degree weather is a s warm as I needed to get right now.
David: but they say we’re going to get into the triple digits soon enough. Well, I’ll tell you it’s always fun looking for stories and a lot of them are on Extreme Genes.com. And I love the one, because I love World War II stories, is the “Race To Be Ace.” Now basically, this is pilots, besides fighting the Japanese, they were trying to score records and to be the one that got the most kills.
Fisher: Yeah. And it’s funny. They write about this in the Smithsonian and that is what we have linked to there. An Ace didn’t typically use the term “kill.” He typically used the term “victory” because they weren’t trying to kill the pilot.
Fisher: They were trying to shoot down the plane. Yet, the article still references kills in there which I thought was kind of interesting. But, it’s a common misunderstanding of exactly what was going on. But it was quite a competition among some of these fly boys to become the Aces of Aces.
David: Exactly. And those Lockheed P-38 were like a lethal fighter jet, and you would see a lot of pictures of the pilots with either German flags or Japanese flags counting for each plane they shot down.
Fisher: And it often didn’t end well, by the way, for some of these pilots because they were so aggressive to get their records that they themselves wound up being shot down.
David: Exactly. And that’s one of the things which is kind of hard, that you try to fight a war. I’ve got 27 victories. You’ve got 24. I don’t want you to catch up with me, so I’m going to go that extra level to go and shoot down three more planes and maybe run out of fuel, maybe crash or get shot down yourself.
David: Well, a lot of things are closed, including our National Archives in Washington D.C. but there is the opening of the British Archives. The British Archives will open on July 21st. You need to book an appointment before you visit and you can go to the nationalarchives.gov.uk to find out more about it. But it’s a sign that things are starting to get back to the new normal. It will be nice to know that a place that has records back to the Domesday Book are going to be available for researchers once again.
Fisher: I’m glad you said that too. I’ve heard more people talk about the “Doomsday Book.” [Laughs] It’s like no, no, no, it’s Domesday, a whole different thing.
David: Well, a father and son out in Texas decided to take a road trip out to Alabama to the Pea River Cemetery in rural Pike County. And this is where they located the site of where their ancestor from the Revolutionary War was, but he didn’t have a gravestone. But they did do some research Fish and they found out that he was buried next to his son. So, there’s a gravestone that’s been erected there. A great way to keep history alive.
Fisher: Yeah, the dad in this father and son team is quite the historian and he figured this out and went out there and he said it was just one of thrills of his lifetime to visit the burial site of the ancestor he knew so much about who fought in the revolution. What a great thing to be able to do during this pandemic.
David: You know, I always say people don’t smile enough. I looked at an old photograph, people don’t smile. Ever wonder why? One of the misconceptions on this is that people didn’t smile because it took so long for the exposure, and that is true, but there’s actually other reasons behind it. A great article on FamilySearch.org about why people didn’t smile goes beyond photography, back to the days of painting because most people did not have a wide mouth toothy grin because back then it was associated with madness or being drunk or otherwise an informal immature behavior of some sort.
David: So, you smile and it’s like, “What are they up to?” You know that Cheshire cat grin? So, when did we start smiling? Well, they estimate it’s probably around the time the Brownie camera came out in the early 1900s because these were affordable to the general public. You’re not going to a studio, or either someone’s going to be there for a long time. They are quick and you could get that accessibility of everyday life, and you get the spontaneity of smiles and laughter. Say cheese!
Fisher: That’s awesome! And it makes you wonder, by the way, how many people didn’t want to smile because their teeth were so bad back in the 19th century.
David: There’s that. In Sao Paulo, Brazil, you may find Confederate flags flying. Why? Because they celebrate their Confederate heritage. Sao Paulo, Brazil saw after the Civil War many people that were Confederate soldiers move there. Why? Because Brazil still had slavery, and there are descendants still there today. And they have annual celebrations, stars and bars are flying and they celebrate their Southern heritage, a great article by Dick Eastman that came out just recently.
Fisher: Yeah. Talks about that and it’s causing some tensions there in Brazil now. They’ve even maintained their English language, and the Southern accents down there. It’s kind of crazy.
David: And the village down there that Dick talks about, it’s called Americana in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Take a peek at that article. It’s really good. All right folks, well, that’s about all I have for this week. If you’re not a member of American Ancestors, you can do so and save $20 by using the coupon code “Extreme” for ExtremeGenes.com. Thanks so very much and I’ll talk to you soon.
Fisher: All right David, thank you so much. Actually, sooner than you think we’re going to have you back of course for Ask Us Anything at the back end of the show. And coming up next, I’m going to talk to a Utah man, Don Milne about his project, writing obituaries for all 400,000 American World War II dead, when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 2 Episode 335
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Don Milne
Fisher: So, just the other day I read about this story for the first time. A man in Utah who’s made the decision that he wants to record the stories of every American soldier killed in World War II. You’ve got to be kidding me. That’s over 400,000, and that man has is Don Milne. He’s from Bountiful, Utah. He’s on the line with me right now. Hi Don. How are you?
Don: Hey, I’m doing great.
Fisher: Welcome to Extreme Genes. Tell me about this. What got you going in this direction?
Don: Well, three and half years ago, it was more of a personal project, right after the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, they were interviewing a bunch of veterans. It’s great to honor them, but they’d be the first ones to tell you that the real heroes were the ones that didn’t come home. And I always thought that those who died in World War II kind of got the short end of the straw for obvious reasons. They didn’t make it home. But really, as a nation, we do the best we can at remembering them. We have Memorial Day. But if you’d asked your average American, “Can you name ten people, five people, one person that died in World War II” they’d probably have a hard time telling you that. They could tell you which of the Avengers died. It was Gamora and Black Widow. So, spoiler alert if you didn’t know that. Most people do.
Don: They’re pretend heroes and we say oh they did such a great sacrifice for the Avengers and for humanity, but this is make-belief. But of these 400,000 people, most of us don’t know anything about them. There are about 400 that were awarded the Medal of Honor so, they kind of represent the rest of them and they get mentioned more than most. But what about the others that didn’t get the Medal of Honor? We really don’t have a good way to remember them. In the past, for obvious reasons, you couldn’t find your information real easy, but now in the 21st century, anybody with internet connection and just a little bit of researching skills can find a story about anyone of those people. So, three and a half years ago, every day, I’m going to pick someone, 100th anniversary of when they were born. I’m going to write their story to represent the people that were born that day. So, now I’ve done more than 1200 of those. I have a few people that have been helping me along the way and so as a group we’ve done over 1300.
Don: And I’ve always planned to stop this coming September 2nd because it’s the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, and I will have one name for every day that America was fighting in World War II, so about 1370 names. So, when people who have been following this project, they were kind of upset that I was going to stop this. And I kind of did the math and I said well, there’s an obvious reason why I’m stopping this. I’m never going to live long enough to do 400,000 names.
Don: So, I started a project called Stories Behind the Stars, and now I invite people from all over the country and I even have now people from a few other countries that are helping me out. And it takes about an hour to find the information. You need to write a short 200 to 600-word obituary style story of that person who died in World War II.
Fisher: Think about this though, are you talking about if you got 1000 people to do one a day for a little over a year, you’d get all 400,000 of them done. It just doesn’t seem that undoable, especially in this day and age.
Fisher: So, is there a site people can go to, to see where this is going on?
Don: Yeah, they just have to go to storiesbehindthestars.org. It’s a non-profit initiative that I started. And they’ll have a way to put in their contact information and I can get them the details of how they start doing the research.
Don: And the first few might trickle along. But on average it’s going to take less than an hour to do the research and write this little short snippet of that person’s life.
Fisher: Wow. So, do you write about just their lives, or do you talk about how they died, or what battles they were in? What do you include in the information, or is it just what you can find?
Don: Yeah, it’s just what I can find. Sometimes there’s very little, not even a photo of the person. But sometimes it’s like a goldmine. And if anybody is kind of like doing detective work, I know a lot of people do family history, they start off researching somebody. They just have a name and they realize, wow, when I started this, I had no idea this is what I was going to find.
Fisher: [Laughs] Yeah.
Don: So, it can be kind of addicting and a lot of the people so far helping me have got interest so far from 31 states in two countries. They may have started because they had a relative, a grandfather, a great uncle, or somebody that they personally knew, and they write their story and they said well, I already know how to do this, maybe I’ll write the story about the eight other people that were on that bomber, and then they’ll find out their stories. So, don’t do this unless you think you may want to do this.
Fisher: [Laughs] It’s a rabbit hole, huh? Is that what you’re saying?
Don: It’s so much fun. For the kind of person drawn to this, it can be a really very fulfilling type of hobby. Really, something in the age of Corona virus where a lot of people that are interested in this are older and they’ve got more time on their hands, and everyone’s telling them you can’t go out as much. Well, how many times can you watch Tiger King?
Fisher: Right. [Laughs]
Don: You’ve got to find something more productive to do with your time.
Don: So, you’ve got access to a computer. It doesn’t cost anything. My organization will give you the tools that you need to know how to do this. And I’m surprised at the quality of the stories that’s been written so far. It’s like, no, I don’t want to write anymore stories because the people that are writing them are doing a better job than me. I should just go on ahead.
Fisher: [Laughs] So, Don, tell me then, a couple of the stories that stick out in your mind. You’ve done 1200 of them so far.
Fisher: You must have a couple that are really outstanding.
Don: Yeah, I’ll tell you a couple. I’ll tell you one by the last name of Fisher and I’ll tell you another one. So, the Fisher family, there was an individual by the name of Dale born on October 12th 1918. So, back in 2018 I did his profile because I wanted to get a hundred years from his birthday. So, he actually wasn’t the first one in his family that volunteered for the war. His younger brother volunteered before Pearl Harbor. But the day after right after Pearl Harbor, Dale volunteered to join the army and he got in the Army Air Force. He became a bomber pilot. And a couple of weeks after D-Day his B-17 was shot down over Lyon, France. And his younger brother, his name was John, unfortunately, about a month later, he was killed in action. He was an infantry soldier and he was killed in Normandy in the 13th Infantry Division, so, two brothers from the same house. But this is what’s even more fascinating. And of the 1200 this is the only one that I found like this. Their father, when those two sons were born, that was his second marriage. He was actually married many years before. He was older when he had his sons Dale and John. He had a son named Frank who was born in 1900. He volunteered to fight in World War I. He was killed in World War I.
Don: So, from one family, this Fisher family from Michigan, they lost three sons. One in World War I who died before his other brothers were born and then these two other brothers that died in 1944 in France. And the one that was shot down, his plane was shot down about 120 miles from where his older brother was buried.
Don: The two younger brothers are now buried in Michigan. So, when I started this project for that day, I only have a name, Dale Fisher, and that’s what I found out.
Don: So, the other story that I want to share is very interesting is there’s an individual by the name of George Hutchison. He was born July 2nd of 1917. So, he was actually one of the people I researched the first year when I was doing this. He died on the last day of the war, September 2nd 1945. He was a B-29 pilot based in Guam. His plane was actually broken down that day, so he just kind of stayed on base because his plane wasn’t flying. But his squadron had been invited to fly over Tokyo Bay during the surrender ceremony on the battleship Missouri. So, while MacArthur’s on the battleship Missouri and the Japanese represented to be signing the surrender documents, the American Army Air Forces were flying in hundreds of planes over the harbor to show the Japanese you’re making the right choice to surrender because you wouldn’t want to have to deal with all our might, so he could have been a pilot. They could have taken him as an extra pilot to fly over the battleship Missouri, and that would have been quite the story he could have told his kids and grandkids that I was there when the surrender was signed and I flew over the battleship Missouri.
Don: But they also were looking for pilots to help with dropping supplies to American POWs in Japan. The Japanese weren’t fighting anymore, so they were allowing American planes to fly over and drop supplies to the POW camps because they were very low on medical supplies and didn’t have enough food. The Japanese really didn’t even have enough food to feed their own people, so the POWs were really needing food. So, he volunteered to be a third pilot because it’s a long distance to fly from Guam to Japan and back. So, he volunteered to be on this plane. After the plane took off from Guam, it developed some mechanical issues, so it had to fly back. You don’t land a B-29 full of gasoline so, for about three hours they just circled a field until most of the gasoline had been burned off. Then when they landed unfortunately, maybe it was a mechanical issue that they had in the first place, but the plane crashed and three men survived after they crashed and blew up, but one of them wasn’t George Hutchison. So, he and seven other men on that plane died on the very last day of the war.
Fisher: Wow! What an incredible story.
Don: Doing a mercy mission.
Fisher: Yeah, a mercy mission. That’s just two of your 1200 and there were 400,000. You mentioned you’ve got people all over the country, all over the world who are participating in the project with you. How many people are involved in this right now?
Don: So, right now, there’s about 100 from those 31 states and two foreign countries that have expressed an interest.
Don: Not all of them are writing stories yet, but I’ve got probably the one lady from Minnesota that’s written the most so far. In just a few weeks she’s done like 150 stories.
Don: She just started off with a relative who was on a bomber and after she wrote about him, she said, “I’m going to write about the other guys from his unit that didn’t come home.” You’d be surprised how many of the people that were flying the bombers and fighters didn’t come home. There’s more than 30,000 deaths there, and almost that many died from just crashes, not in combat plane crashes.
Fisher: Sure. Sure. And what about people who died of disease during the war?
Don: Yeah, those would be included. The US actually has a start date and a finish date that comes from before Pearl Harbor and actually goes in a 1946. They have the book that they published in 1946 that lists all the names of the fallen. The army put together one for the Air Force and the navy put one for the Navy and Marines. So, we already have a database of names. Ancestry.com, they are providing free access to these source records. If you don’t already have a membership to Ancestry, they’re partnering with me to get people free access. And also, they have newspapers.com that has 1940s newspapers so you can find stories about those individuals from their hometown newspapers that’s real helpful.
Don: And then all these stories are saved on Fold3. And by having all the stories in one database, that’s what’s going to make it possible for us to be able to do the link from the Smartphone App because everything will be in the database. And that’s actually the easy part. The hard part is writing the stories. But to do this in the day of facial recognition, all the software is doing is just reading letters on a piece of stone, and it knows the GPS location for where it’s at. And with just that basic information, all it takes is once you’ve scanned that, bingo, you’ve got the story.
Fisher: He’s Don Milne. He’s from Bountiful, Utah. He’s the man behind this incredible effort. It’s storiesbehindthestars.org. You can be part of it. And Don, as I hear the numbers, I’m thinking it’s actually really doable isn’t it, if you’ve got enough people involved. So, let’s hope we can help with that.
Don: Definitely. As I’m thinking, it took 44 months to fight World War II for the Americans. I think we’ll have this done in less time than that.
Fisher: Wow! Unbelievable. Thanks so much for coming on. It’s been great talking to you.
Don: Okay, thanks for helping spread the word.
Fisher: And coming up next, you’ll meet a woman who went cousin fishing around the world with great success, when we return in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 3 Episode 335
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Zoe Kranich
Fisher: Hey, we’re back at it. It is Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth. This segment is brought to you by Legacy Tree Genealogists, LegacyTree.com. And you know, we like to do a thing now and again that we call, “ordinary people with extraordinary finds.”We get their stories. We find out how they did it and I’m always so appreciative when somebody reaches out to me to share their story with me because they know I’m going to share their excitement. One of those people is Zoe Kranich. She’s out of Burke, Virginia and she’s on the line with me right now. How are you Zoe?
Zoe: I’m great. Thank you.
Fisher: How long have you been a genie?
Zoe: Well, pretty much all my life. I mean, I was a little kid who would ask my mom for family stories and I knew all my grandparents’ brothers and sisters’ names. I just always thought it was really fascinating. But I guess, I really ramped up my research maybe a couple of years ago when my daughter was born.
Fisher: Oh, that changes everything, doesn’t it? You know when your family comes along and you realize, oh, I’ve got things I’ve got to pass down to this child.
Zoe: Yes, exactly. That’s how I feel.
Fisher: So, give us the background here, you had a great grandfather who came over from Italy in 1920 but he left behind a lot of folks.
Zoe: He did. One of his brothers came here with him but we found out from an obituary, his obituary that he actually had 4 sisters who survived him and who remained in Italy. And this side of my family I’d always been really close to and I had never heard about these sisters and immediately I wanted to know who they were and who their families were. And I wanted to know my second cousins and those people in Italy. Unfortunately, my great grandparents, my grandfather and his generation had all passed away at this point and none of the following generations, my mom’s or mine had any information about this.
Fisher: They didn’t know anything about the aunts left behind. They never even heard of this?
Zoe: No. I mean, all we knew were 4 sisters who remained in Italy, that’s all anybody knew.
Fisher: That was it?
Zoe: Um hmm.
Fisher: Wow. Because I was still thinking, somebody had to know it to put it in the obituary.
Zoe: That’s true, yeah. I think it was probably my grandfather’s generation because it was in my great grandfather’s obituary.
Zoe: Some of them had gone to visit family in Italy but only really a handful of my mom’s generations had ever even been there.
Zoe: And what they might have known was kind of gone at that point.
Fisher: That’s lost. It happened a lot. So, what did you do?
Zoe: So, I had done some research on an Italian record site and I was hunting for them. The surname is a little uncommon. So, I pretty much assumed that any records with this surname were probably in some way related to who these people were and I found one woman who the birth date was kind of similar to my great grandfather’s and I assumed she was one of his siblings but I couldn’t prove it. So, trying to get that information was tricky because I felt like I was so close but I couldn’t get there. But around this time, I decided that I wanted to write a genealogy book for this side of my family because we didn’t have one and we were very close and about half of them were on Facebook. So, I thought, what better way to get information quickly rather than writing letters would be to just tag them all in one Facebook post and talk together about this.
Zoe: I figured early on in the process when I realized that I wanted to write a book that I really wanted to write not just dates, birth dates, and death dates and that kind of thing. I wanted to record the stories that were passed down in my family. It wouldn’t be the typical genealogy book but that’s what I wanted.
Fisher: Oh, absolutely. The stories are the key. That’s what makes them live.
Zoe: Yes, exactly. And I was interested in what they looked like and what they acted like, what their traits were. So that was really important to me. So, I figured I would do a series of posts and just ask people, beg them for their stories about my grandfather and his siblings and if they had any of the great grandparents’ greats. But my grandfather was one of 7 children. So what I did was, every few days I would release a new post with one of the sibling’s names and ask for stories and photos from my family members. I’d tag them all and make it private.
Fisher: Great idea.
Zoe: Yeah. It worked out really well. [Laughs] I was afraid they wouldn’t respond but they responded quickly with these wonderful stories and photos, some I’d never seen before.
Zoe: And I think it really brought us closer together too. It was just a wonderful experience.
Fisher: Well, you’ve got to have a reunion then at some point as a result of this, right?
Zoe: I would love to. We used to do that every year but when my grandfather died, his house is where we would have them and when he died, we tried to keep it up, but you know, we stopped doing it.
Zoe: But on one of the posts I asked for information about the 4 sisters and one of my cousins had inherited a photo album from her brother who was one of the only members of the family to visit back in Italy. And he went in the 1970s, but unfortunately he passed away a few years after he visited. But he left us this beautiful gift of his memories and this album. His sister posted a few of these photos on Facebook and the surname on a picture of an older gentleman matched the married surname of the woman I had found previously on the Italian record site.
Fisher: Oh, boy.
Zoe: Yeah. So, that was kind of confirmation for me that this was one of the sisters. And that same surname showed up again in a photo of these three children. The little girl in the photo was named Anna. So, again I took to Facebook because it’s worked for me so far and I looked for her.
Fisher: Right. This is how it’s done.
Zoe: Yes. [Laughs] Facebook is a wonderful tool. So, I found a woman who was the correct age and correct name and living in a part of Italy that I thought would be you know, matched. So I figured this had to be her. And I knew that if I was able to connect with her this would solve the mystery. I was so excited. So, in March I send her the photograph of the three children. I messaged her and wrote something like, is this you? So, I think we’re related.
Zoe: And I never heard back.
Fisher: That was it?
Zoe: Well, meanwhile, I was continuing with my genealogy research and I came across a blog from one of those distant cousins who had written about a shared ancestor we had and I thought that’s a great idea, I should have a blog. [Laughs]
Fisher: Good point.
Zoe: Yes. [Laughs] So, around the end of August I started a blog. I did kind of secretly hope that like I had found this blog of my distant cousin that maybe one day some long lost relative would stumble upon it and we could connect. That would be really exciting. So, one of my first posts was about the 4 mystery sisters in Italy and I included the photo of the three children and wrote about trying to connect with Anna and my disappointment with not being able to. And I concluded the post with like I hope someday she does respond. I think she might be the key to putting this puzzle together.
Zoe: And I never assumed that would be.
Fisher: Ah, but we never assume anymore, do we? [Laughs]
Zoe: Yeah. [Laughs] Who knows? But about a month later, I opened up Facebook and I saw that I had a message and I clicked into it and to my surprise and shock it was from Anna’s daughter. And she said, her was very sorry she didn’t respond months ago but she didn’t know who I was and she said they had found my blog the night before and she wanted to connect and she confirmed I was correct about the woman that I suspected was one of the 4 sisters. In fact, she was Anna’s grandmother. And she concluded with the line, “We want to help you put the puzzle together.”
Zoe: Yeah. [Laughs]
Fisher: Did you jump up and down? Did you scream? What did you do?
Zoe: I had just come in from lunch at my job and I just walked into the building and was just reading it before I got to my desk. So I couldn’t really have reacted like that.
Zoe: I did laugh and cry a little bit though, like privately to myself.
Fisher: I think I’d have probably gone out to the car, shut the door and screamed for a moment and then gone back to work.
Zoe: I did that internally. [Laughs]
Fisher: [Laughs] She’s Zoe Kranich from Burke, Virginia. Zoe what a great find. You talk about ordinary people with extraordinary finds. From the other side of the world, only in this era can things like this happen.
Fisher: Great work Zoe. Thanks so much for sharing it and we appreciate you coming on.
Zoe: Oh, thank you so much. It’s been wonderful speaking to you.
Fisher: Love it! And coming up next, David hops behind the mic once again for another round of Ask Us Anything, on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 4 Episode 335
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Fisher: All right, back at it for Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. David Allen Lambert is back, the Chief Genealogist for the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. And David, we have a question from Greg Paris in your neck of the woods, Charlton, Massachusetts. And Greg asks, "New England towns are famous for their town meeting form of governance. Have records of these meetings been kept? How far back can these be a useful genealogical resource? Might they include lists of attendees or speakers and might they be indexed?" David, what say you?
David: Indexed, probably not.
David: But I can tell you where you can find them. The town records are often included with the vital records, because often a town would only have one book or great book that they would use. In my hometown of Stoughton, we were incorporated in 1726 and that first page talks about how was assigned as a constable and the tithing man and who was going out to be the fence viewers and who was laying out the roads. And then on the next page, it has, "John Wittington's children were born on this day" and they give the children. And it’s like, okay, why are they separate? You're only seeing them separate years later when they were copied over. Town records are great and you will find them on FamilySearch.org. If you go under a town in New England for instance, look for other than vital records, look for town records. And these are often on the non-affiliate access level, so you should be able to get them for free. They're going to have things like cattle marks that instead of having a brand on your cow, you cropped a part of the poor thing's ear off.
David: And that was you would know that that was your mark or your cattle mark. So if the cow got strayed, and that's why we have common land in New England, because it was a town common where all the cows would be out to pasture at sunshine. The other thing you'll find is, occasionally you'll have tax records in them, you'll find, again like I said, people being assigned a town office, like a constable or the town clerk. The thing you probably won't get is those who attended the town meetings, because you were expected to attend town meetings back in those days and it was held as sometimes a parish meeting, they would be at the parish meeting house, because they didn't have a town hall early on, you'd just meet at the church and instead of the minister being on the pulpit, you'd have the town clerk or the town manager or the selectmen or you'd have a moderator. So, these are records that are preserved. They're not as common as vital records, because a lot of people just want the births, marriages and deaths. If you want to get an insight to what your ancestor’s life was in his community, definitely look at the town records. And ladies are in there too. If you were brought for slander at the town meeting, you may be brought up on charges, maybe not just at the church, but maybe at a meeting of a public institution. So, one of the things that you'll find in these records is, you're getting the day to day activity of the community and they're not indexed, so that's why a lot of people don't use them. So if you go through them and you're searching for your ancestor's name, you may get some insight. One thing, when they arrived in the community.
David: Because they may be proprietorship records within the town records itself, because a proprietorship is how the town was laid out often. People would be assigned a parcel of land and a community. And there would often be a proprietorship that would be setup, so the records of that proprietorship you got lot 10, then I got lot 11 and lot 12, and those records are often in the town records as well. But the verbiage of what went on in the town meeting, you may have what's called the town warrant and the town warrant was what was going to be brought to the table during the town meeting. My hometown of Stoughton still has an annual town meeting. And this warrant would be, “Okay, this is what the business is going to be. If it’s not on the warrant, we're not going to discuss it.” And that would be there, but the exact verbiage until the days of audio and video recording, you're probably not going to find out what your ancestor said, but if there was some sort of an outburst, if you will, if they were rabble-rouser, they might be in the record.
Fisher: [Laughs] I love it. All right, great question and a great answer, David. I'm going to have to look through some of those on FamilySearch.org. We've got another one coming up for you next when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.
Segment 5 Episode 335
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Fisher: All right, back at it 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've got another question here for Ask Us Anything with David Allen Lambert. David, this question comes from Alice Longley in Missoula, Montana and she says, "Fish and David, my research is going to the dogs." [Laughs]
David: [Laughs] Okay.
Fisher: "I have an old photo from the 1890s with a pair of St. Bernards with my ancestor. Is there any way to research these family pets?" Great question. [Laughs]
David: Well, that's a different type of pedigree that I don't generally research.
Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs]
David: But I can tell you, there are resources. Even in the 1800s, people had to license their dogs in most communities.
Fisher: That's true.
David: So there could be on your town clerk level, I mean, check with the historical society and public library too, don't give up with the current town clerk, of the listings of the dog owners, so you know where you ancestor is. It may not say the name of Fido or King or how old he is or what breed he is, but you could find out that your ancestor paid for a dog license or licenses. Those are often put in town reports, too. They have a listing of the dog owners, kind of right next to the list of the jurors.
Fisher: [Laughs] That is a strange thing.
David: Just kind of an odd place to put them.
Fisher: What about cats? What about them? Are they listed anywhere?
David: Probably in the diaries. [Laughs]
Fisher: [Laughs] I suppose that's true.
David: Nobody had to license a cat.
Fisher: Right, okay.
David: So, the other thing that you might find is, see if your dog got out and bit your neighbor. That may be in the newspaper.
David: That could also be that he may have brought you to small claims court, so there are court records, too. And hopefully they didn't have to shoot old Fido. You know, and of course they can always have raided the chicken coop and farmer brown may have been very upset and that may have made the front page news. The other thing is that, who knows, maybe there was an ad in the paper, "puppies for sale", I mean, there's a whole range of news you can look for. And the other thing is of course, you know, pets don't last forever. Sadly, just this past week, we had to put to sleep my car that we've had for 18 years.
David: And she's buried in the back yard, but most pets would be. But back then, they also had pet cemeteries. And you know, not to hark into Steven King's movie, but the idea of a marked gravestone for one of these pets may be a thing. You might find out more than you bargained for when you're doing your pet research, so keep an eye out for different things that’s more than meets the eye when you're doing pet research. So you just kind of have to look for sources that may not be mainstream. I don't think you're going to find them on Ancestry.com, but I can tell you this much, on Find A Grave, yeah, search under Fido Smith sometimes.
Fisher: Oh, and check out the cemetery that Charles Lindbergh is buried in, in Maui in Hawaii. I visited there. He's buried near some monkeys.
David: Oh, geez!
Fisher: And they're marked!
David: Well, Find A Grave now marks pet cemeteries. So when I was doing my cemetery book on Massachusetts, I kept of finding things like, "What the heck is that?! It’s a pet cemetery." But they're included, so you can say Find A Grave may have gone to the dogs.
Fisher: As well, yes. [Laughs]
David: And the gerbils and the monkeys.
Fisher: [Laughs] And all of them. All right, David. That was a great question, Alice and a lot of fun. Thanks for asking that. And of course, if you have a question for Ask Us Anything, you can email us simply at [email protected]. David, stay safe and we'll talk to you again next week.
David: Take care, my friend.
Fisher: Well, we have covered a lot of ground today. Thanks once again to Don Milne for coming on the show. This is a guy who got passionate about writing an obituary of somebody who died in World War II on the American side every day on the anniversary of the war, at the 75th anniversary from the beginning and wrapping up coming up in September. But now his followers are saying, "Oh, you can't stop now. We want to help." And if you want to find out how to help, of course listen to the podcast, get caught up on that at ExtremeGenes.com, iTunes, iHeart Radio, TuneIn Radio or Spotify. Thanks also to Zoe Kranich for sharing her great story of connecting with some living relatives in Italy by not giving up. Hey, we'll talk to you again next week. Thanks for joining us. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!