Episode 356 - A Grandfather’s Military Uniform Finds Its Way Home, and Holiday Traditions That Point to Our Heritage

podcast episode Dec 14, 2020

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 the show talking about their discoveries this past week. Then, David plows into Family Histoire News starting with a little talk about the 79th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and an online message from one of the survivors. Then, genetic genealogy for solving cold cases has now spread to Canada. Hear about how one of their first cases was solved by a genie who was just doing his thing. Sweden has made another great find concerning those Vikings whose remnants keep popping up everywhere! Then, it’s a new site that’s devoted to memorializing the millions of people enslaved over the first several centuries of European settlement. Learn more about Enslaved.org.

Next, Fisher visits with David Gervais. The North Carolina man was the beneficiary of the kindness of a group of people who had a mystery on their hands, a 70-year-old military uniform without a name tag. Hear how David and his family were able to get his grandfather’s uniform, complete with ribbons from two world wars, back in the family.

Then, Jim Beidler of Legacy Tree Genealogists talks about holiday traditions that could help you start family history conversations or even point to your heritage. Jim also delves into a pair of eyebrow raising traditions from other countries.

David Lambert then returns for a pair of questions on Ask Us Anything. The first concerns what to do with your records and heirlooms and how to plan for their future, while the second considers the subject of “gateway ancestors.”

That’s all this week on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show!

Transcript of Episode 356

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 356

Fisher: And welcome genies, to America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes 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. Well, as we get into the holiday season here we’ve got a great segment coming up later on in the show with Jim Beidler from Legacy Tree Genealogists. He lives in Pennsylvania. We’re going to talk about family traditions and holiday recipes and how these can open up conversations about your ancestors, about your heritage, and Jim’s going to share with us also some very strange family traditions in different countries. You’re going to want to hear. And coming up in about ten minutes we’re going to talk to a man from North Carolina. He’s a military guy from a military family that goes way back and is continuing on in the coming generations. He recently got back the uniform of his grandfather who served in both World Wars. It just kind of dropped out of the sky for him. We’re going to talk to Dave Gervais coming up in about ten minutes. Hey, if you haven’t signed up for our Weekly Genie Newsletter yet, you can do so of course at ExtremeGenes.com or on our Facebook page. You get a blog from me each week, a link to past and present shows, and links to stories that you’ll appreciate as a genealogist. And right now it’s time to head off to Massachusetts, somewhere in Massachusetts, I don’t know if it’s in Boston or Stoughton today, but David Allen Lambert, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org is standing by. Hello, David.

David: I am sitting by, but I am always glad to talk to you no matter where in Massachusetts I am. So what’s new with you? I understand that you got something in the mail the other day.

Fisher: Yes, I did. That’s true. I get a new spit kit.

David: [Laughs]

Fisher: And we talked about this not too long ago, I think a week or two ago about this full genome testing that was being offered at an incredible discount. And I will tell you, that discount disappeared right after Thanksgiving, but I got the kit, one for myself and one for my wife that I don’t think we’d have done at the full price. So we’re getting ready to spit in that see the results coming up in about 8 weeks. This has nothing to do with DNA matching or extending your lines, but it has everything to do with health and tendencies, and if you heard our segment with Dr. Scott Woodward a few weeks back, he talked about how he was up til 2 in the morning looking at this stuff, because it’s quite entertaining. So, I think that’s part.

David: I know.

Fisher: That’s part of our holiday gift giving I think this year.

David: Well, I was going to take advantage of it, but unfortunately I didn’t act quick enough. So if they say, act now or forever hold you spit.

Fisher: Exactly. [Laughs] So what about you, Dave? Have you had any great discoveries this past week?

David: Well, actually I’ve kind of got a sentimental artifact if you will. My family came over from England, at least one branch of it in 1911 on the Empress of Britain. She was a Canadian Pacific railway liner, Fish. She had a sister ship, the Empress of Ireland. She sank in 1914, just months before the start of World War I. So a lot of people don’t know about her. She lost over 1000 people onboard and back in the ‘60s to the ‘80s commercial divers are diving on her and I bought an artifact off the ship. Not a personal possession, because I feel a bit weird about that, but something that was used in the dining room, and it’s kind of nice, because it’s something to keep a momentum, because there’s nothing that I’ve ever seen from the ship my family came over on, but this one will allow me to think of the ship that my family came over as well.

Fisher: Nice pickup. Well, let’s get on with family histoire news today, Dave. Where do we start?

David: Well, 79 years ago, the beginning of December, on December 7th, we just observed the remembrance of Pearl Harbor Day, but sadly, Fish, because of Covid, this is the first time that no veterans were present, but a good friend of yours gave a video message, who we had on the show, Lou Conter.

Fisher: Lou Conter, he’s like 99 years old now and he’s the last living guy who was on the Arizona when it was attacked. There’s one other, right?

David: Yeah, Ken Potts. And he lives in Utah. There are two left that were on the crew of the Arizona. It’s quite amazing to think that after 79 years, we still have, they say nearly 2000 living American veterans from that attack in 1941.

Fisher: Isn’t that amazing? And none of them could be there which is so sad, but hopefully next year. We’re getting closer to that vaccine, right?

David: That’s right and the average league is between 96 and over 100.

Fisher: Wow.

David: You know, we hear a lot about the cold case files and most of them are American, right? I get one in Canada. In Ontario, a genealogist by the name of Ken who has been dabbling in genealogy since the 1980s, built a tree out, got some DNA matches, and put his own in and didn’t realize genealogy he put online caught a killer. Somebody who killed someone in 1984 and its gone unsolved until now. So, thank you Ken for giving up your DNA, and putting a tree that made the law enforcement put some closure for a family who lost a child back in 1984.

Fisher: Isn’t that amazing? The guy is in Canada and now he discovers apparently the killer was something like a third cousin to him.

David: Um hmm.

Fisher: They had a common second great grandparent back there somewhere and they were able to put that together. I love hearing these stories. They never get old because every one of them is a unique person and a unique case.

David: Well, I know a lot of our listeners read the transcript of our show because maybe they don’t want to listen to us talk all the time, right? You might miss something. Just to think that in a thousand years these may be runestones for someone to read, right? [Laughs]

Fisher: Right, yeah.

David: These Swedish runestones go back to the time of the Vikings, dozens of them. They’re in a village and I’m probably going to pronounce it wrong, Vallentuna in Sweden. It’s in Northern Sweden and it basically has these Rosetta stones if you will, of the Swedish language that are lined along this park where they’re absolutely amazing looking and it’s something right out of a Viking TV show.

Fisher: Isn’t that something? Wow.

David: And since we’re all probably Vikings somewhere it’s part of our past. So, here’s to ancient ancestors.

Fisher: Right and what a great discovery. And of course you can read about it on ExtremeGenes.com.

David: You know, one of the websites that have come out recently is Enslaved.org. And this is really an amazing effort. They are basically documenting the lives of thousands of individuals who were enslaved in America. And also those who owned slaves and who participated in the slave trade. It’s really exciting and you can find more at Enslaved.org. And in fact, a good friend of ours Henry Louis Gates is part of their advisory board.

Fisher: Well, it can’t do much better than that, right?

David: Well, that’s about all I have from Beantown and I will talk to you soon as we do our Ask Us Anything segment.

Fisher: Absolutely. And coming up next, we’re going to talk to Dave Gervais. He is a North Carolina man. He’s a military man from a military family and what a gift was dropped from the sky into his lap. You’ll want to hear what happened, coming up next in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 356

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Dave Gervais

Fisher: You know, there are times where you go out and you search and you look and you try to put together something that ties to your family history, and then there are those other times where it just kind of comes to you. Hey, it’s Fisher. Welcome back. Its Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com and my next guest was one of the recipients of those kinds of experiences. He’s Dave Gervais. He’s a former Navy man. He lives in North Carolina, and Dave, what a remarkable story and what a background. I mean, there’s so much to talk about here because you are the son of a military man, you’re the son-in-law of a military man, your grandfather was in the service, tell us a little about these people and your background.

Dave: Well, it’s great talking to you. And you know a little bit about this story because it is quite amazing. Yes, I do come from a military family and so does my spouse. Her father was in the army. In fact, he was a POW in World War II and later served almost 30 years in the Air Force. My father was retired Air Force. He graduated from West Point 1944, became a part of the Army Air Corp and then subsequently went in the Air Force and retired after 30 years. I have a son-in-law who’s a marine, so we have a long history. I have three brothers. All three of them were in the military. 

Fisher: Well, and you were in the Navy for what, 40 years? 

Dave: Almost. 37 years.

Fisher: Wow! That’s a long haul.

Dave: I went in and enlisted in 1963 and the Navy, after several years, gave me a commission and I retired in 2000.

Fisher: Wow. Congratulations on that. And then you had your grandfather and he served what, in two wars?

Dave: Two wars. And that’s probably an interesting thing. My grandfather, in fact he’s my middle name, his name is Royal Leonard Gervais and he was in World War I, he was in World War II, and prior to that he was in the National Guard for the state of New York and they were down on the borders. The Boarder Wars when we were fighting Pancho Villa.

Fisher: Yeah. Wow.

Dave: He was in that Border Wars for a year or so down there. And then initially, right around 1916 and then he subsequently went into the army and was in World War I in Field Artillery, and then he went into World War II, continued in the army in artillery.

Fisher: Did you know him at all?

Dave: I met him as a young teen. That’s when I finally got to meet him. My father, as I said, graduated from West Point in the army and then subsequently in the Air Force. So, we moved all over the United States as well as some places overseas. In my early teen years my grandfather finally retired to Sarasota, Florida, he and my grandmother Helen. They had a really nice house. We went down there in some summer visits to enjoy Sarasota, Florida, go out in his boat, do some fishing, hang around with my grandfather, great man. 

Fisher: Did he ever talk about his service at all with you?

Dave: No, he never did. We knew he was in the war and we had some artifacts, and my father had mentioned that he was in the war, but any great discussion, no, and the same with my wife’s father. He rarely talked about his time in the army in Italy and getting captured. Until his last few years before he passed and then he seemed to start talking about it a lot.

Fisher: Um hmm. And so as a result of this, you must have quite a heap and helping of all kinds of memorabilia from all these various military folks in the family.

Dave: We do. My daughter, she’s kind of become the curator, the caretaker of history. She’s got a lot of my stuff and she’s got her grandfather’s of my wife’s dad, and she’s got stuff from my grandfather and my father, but the best thing now is this uniform that we’re talking about here that just came out of nowhere after what, 30, 40, 50 years and it’s still in perfect shape.

Fisher: Yeah. I mean, it just kind of dropped in your lap and the nicest thing about the family history world is people who get involved in this stuff, when they get on a mission to accomplish something they are the nicest people in the world and they will go to any ends to make it happen. So, tell us the background of this story of this uniform. This belonged to your grandfather who was in both World Wars.

Dave: Right.

Fisher: And it was lost to your family years, and years, and years ago. How was it lost and how was it found?

Dave: Well, oddly enough, just before my grandfather retired probably late 48-49 he owned a home in Alexandria, Virginia on Green Street. While I was still in the Navy and stationed up in Washington D.C. my father, before he passed, he used to come up and visit and we would drive downtown all over Alexandria. And we’d pass Green Street and he’d always point out that his father owned a home there many, many years ago. Well, fast forward, a woman by the name Ann Siegel who lives up in Alexandria, her mother bought a home in Alexandria many years ago and on Green Street. And she bought it from someone else, but lo and behold, that happened to be the home my grandfather had owned. Her mom died in the late 80s, and so Ann emptied out that house, all the stuff that was in the attic. And when she did that, she found a uniform, an army uniform with all of its medals and ribbons hanging on a peg in the attic. And so, she took that along with everything else and put it in storage. And she had not looked at it for absolute years. Well, when this Covid virus hit this past year, she started looking through her mother’s stuff because she was kind of sequestered at her home, and she found that uniform again.

Fisher: Sure.

Dave: And she got it back out and looked at it. She has a neighbor who’s a military historian up there in Washington D.C.

Fisher: And off they go.

Dave: Yeah. And then some of her other neighbors, they started talking as they talk in their little neighborhood there on Green Street, somebody else worked someplace else where they can do some research. And before you know it, they started researching this uniform to try to find out because there was no name tag on it who it belonged to. I think that’s an amazing story.

Fisher: Yeah.

Dave: They couldn’t go to the places because of the Covid so they started doing online research. One of them figured out how to get into City Hall records and find out who owned that property and worked it back to my grandfather.

Fisher: Wow. [Laughs]

Dave: This military historian, he looked at all those ribbons and he started figuring out what those campaigns and wars were. And then they started looking out on Ancestry.com and found one of my nephews who’s a U.S. attorney. He lives up in the Minnesota area and contacted him. His name is Matt Ebert. And Matt filled in a few lines. And that really got this neighborhood group of people going. They really did some massive research.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Dave: Once they narrowed it down, they figured out that it was my grandfather’s uniform.

Fisher: And now the hunt is on to track down the next of kin to get it to you.

Dave: That was it. And of course she did that and found Matt. And then Matt started an email chain to everybody in August/late September saying she had this uniform, she wanted to pass it back to the family. Another one of my nephews, Todd, he works for the government there in D.C. and he and my daughter ended up going over to Ann Siegel’s house, sitting outside in the backyard because of social distancing, and they sat out there and I FaceTimed with him. And it was one of the most amazing things. I think you or any of your listeners would probably feel the same way.  

Fisher: Yes.

Dave: They ended up knowing more about me than I did about me.  

Fisher: [Laughs] About you.

Dave: You could listen to them talk to me about my aunts, my uncles, their kids, where they lived, who did what and when.  

Fisher: [Laughs]

Dave: I was just amazed. These people were just on a hook and very smart and very passionate about what they did.

Fisher: Did it frighten you a little bit that somebody could go out and learn that much about an individual?

Dave: I don’t know. That’s an interesting question. I guess if you’re good enough and know what you’re doing, people can do that.

Fisher: [Laughs] It’s there.

Dave: I mean, they really focused and narrowed it all the way down to somebody, and an address, and a name, and a face. Of course, we ended up taking a picture over there to them so they could see his face because we had a big photo of our grandfather.  

Fisher: Right. Did you have a picture of him in the uniform?

Dave: We had a picture of him yeah, in a very similar uniform.  

Fisher: Okay.

Dave: Not particularly that one, but it was a very, very similar army uniform. We had a little bit of footage from when he was at my father’s wedding at West Point, New York and you could see him there. And then we provide a picture of my family with all the boys and we were all with my mom and dad and we were all in our uniforms just before we all retired.   

Fisher: Wow! Interesting. So, how did you feel about this Dave?

Dave: I thought it was just an amazing event. I was very impressed with these folks. But I just think that it’s very wonderful what they did, how they researched it, how they got in touch with our family and how they got the uniform back to us.                                                               

Fisher: Isn’t that great.

Dave: Yeah. Because you know this uniform, if you think about this, it was hanging on a hook in somebody’s attic and so that’s probably a 1948 – 1850 uniform at the very latest.   

Fisher: Okay.

Dave: So, it was there for almost 70 years.  

Fisher: Wow! And it’s in great shape and it looks like you could wear it today?

Dave: Yeah, perfect shape. My daughter now has got a hold of it so she’s got a special case that it can hang in. She put glass on it some sort of seal so it will be sealed in there. It’s 70 years old now but she wants to preserve it for quite some time in the future.

Fisher: Oh, absolutely. This is something that’s got to stay in the family for a long, long time to come. So, this has really kind of lit up everybody in your family and I would imagine you’ve got you sons, sons-in-law who are in the military. They must get a kick out of this too. 

Dave: Oh, really, yeah. My brother-in-law is retired Navy he is with my wife’s sister, and he was just amazed. And of course, when the story hit, we’re a small community down here in North Carolina, they were all amazed hearing about this uniform and what these people went through to try and track it down and ended up tracking us down.   

Fisher: Well, and you know, in such a time such as now when so many people are trapped, I mean ,to have something so good and such a good feeling knowing that they were looking out for you to make sure this got back to you. That really had to help you get through the pandemic a little bit better.

Dave: Oh, I would think much more so for them. They are up there in Alexandria in the Washington D.C. area, probably much more difficult for the folks up there than it is for us out here in rural North Carolina. But for them it gave them a purpose. I think it gave them a focus.  

Fisher: Sure.

Dave: And this didn’t happen just overnight. I think they started clear back in early spring I think is what Ann told me, and they worked it all the way through the summer until they narrowed this whole thing down. It was August by the time they finally contacted my nephew and really got this ball moving to get this thing to us.

Fisher: Amazing, amazing stuff. He’s Dave Gervais. He’s from North Carolina. Former Navy man and his grandfather’s military uniform has been returned to the family from the kindness of someone else looking out for him. Dave thanks so much for coming on and sharing your story with us. And enjoy that uniform.

Dave: Well, thank you very much. I appreciate you taking the time.  

Fisher: And coming up next, Jim Beidler from Pennsylvania talks about holiday traditions and how that can affect the telling of your family story over the holidays. It’s coming up in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 3 Episode 356

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Jim Beidler

Fisher: Well, it is that time of the year again, hopefully we’re going to get some people together, but even more, obviously going to be getting together virtually this year. Hey, it’s Fisher. It’s Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show. I thought I’d get my friend Jim Beidler on the line from Legacy Tree Genealogists because we have a holiday season of traditions that is underway right now. And that can really help us out in our family history exploration for lots of reasons, right Jim?

Jim: Oh, you better believe it Fish. It’s been said that the best way to somebody is through their stomach.

Fisher: Right.

Jim: And holiday food traditions. Yeah, especially if you’re able to pay attention to the family elders, the special side dish that they do. The special dessert, and use that kind of as an entryway to further family history exploration. Say, how long have you been making that pie? Well, I got the recipe from my grandmother. Well, what was grandmother’s name? You know?

Fisher: Yeah. It starts a conversation, doesn’t it?

Jim: Yeah. It really does and you may find out some of these traditions are older than you think.

Fisher: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So, talk about the fact though, that if somebody doesn’t know their origins and yet they have this tradition in the family. This traditional meal or treat at the holiday times, how can it actually somebody figure out where they’re from?

Jim: Yeah. Some people are very definite in knowing their ethnic extractions but there are a lot of names that really could go either way or even a multiple number of ways. I mean, one example I use is a surname High. There are Highs from the British Isles. There are Highs from Germany who were originally Hoax.

Fisher: Right.

Jim: So, with that sort of hidden ethnicity, I think it’s helpful if you pay attention to the traditions in the family to see if those traditions may give you a clue. I’m not thinking so much today, but keeping your ear open for again, what your family elders tell you. Because we just started putting brussel sprouts on our table this year for Thanksgiving. Well, that’s no family tradition. That’s because I decided if you put some bacon, add some good dressing on brussels sprouts that it makes a great side dish.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Jim: But you go back to mid 20th century and before that. Usually, those type of things did not just pop up from nowhere. They were really handed down for traditions. For instance, if you had a family that was doing the traditional Pennsylvania/Dutch potato filling, that’s not somebody who came from the British Isles, I can pretty much guarantee. [Laughs]

Fisher: Sure, yeah. Well, you know, my daughter and her husband and my three grandkids all moved to Germany this past summer and they just celebrated Saint Nicholas Day, the first time ever. I had never really heard about it and we were doing a video call with them, I want to say late last week and they were polishing their boots.

Jim: Yeah.

Fisher: Because they have to leave them out and I guess they were getting candy put in them and the kids were all excited. They didn’t know what this was about but they sure liked the tradition.

Jim: Yeah, and this again is something to pay attention to because really this holiday season just even as far as Christians are concerned really depending on the culture, some as early as Saint Nicholas Day in early December and others as late as Epiphany that’s in January, kind of at the end of the 12 days of Christmas. And not every culture does it the same. Some emphasize the early, some emphasize the late. Depending on like, they’re Italian Americans, they usually have a Christmas Eve feast that they call the Feast of the Seven Fishes, with various fish dishes. No turkey for them.

Fisher: Right.

Jim: These are all kind of clues when you’re building a family tree that you should be paying attention to.

Fisher: Sure. And getting conversation started. I mean, if somebody says, my grandmother passed it down, then okay. What was grandma’s name?

Jim: Exactly.

Fisher: And what do you remember about grandma? What was she like? What did she look like? What was some of her quirks, you know? Get all those things. I mean, you pretty much put a family story together right around a meal very easily that way. I remember there are different stories also out of Holland with Santa Claus. What do they call him over there, do you remember?

Jim: Sinterklaas.

Fisher: Sinterklaas, that’s it.

Jim: Sinterklaas, and the Dutch are a culture where they’re looking at Saint Nicholas because Sinterklaas or Santa Claus is short for Saint Nicholas.

Fisher: Right.

Jim: And his day is December 6th and for the Dutch, there’s no reindeer. Sinterklaas rides the roofs on his horse and he has an assistant called Zwarte Piet, who kind of looks like an elf. And he’s the one who goes down the chimney, gets dirty, and gets black in color.

Fisher: [Laughs] Right, covered in soot.

Jim: Covered in soot and he puts the treats in the wooden shoes of the Dutch children.

Fisher: Wow. Do they still have wooden shoes over there, do you know or is it just a traditional thing?

Jim: They do. Well, it’s mostly a tradition. They’re not wearing them day by day. Probably they shifted over to the plastic crocks. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs] So, there is some variation on the Saint Nicholas Day throughout Germanic Europe, right?

Jim: Yeah.

Fisher: All the countries.

Jim: Yes, different ones. Some it’s the stockings, some it’s the shoes, the boots like you described. They have a variety of traditions. A lot of times for the ones that don’t emphasize Saint Nicholas Day as much, it’s usually Christmas Eve more than Christmas day.

Fisher: Yes.

Jim: That is emphasized by nachtarbeit Deutsch, and that’s usually when the meal, the fellowship, church for those inclined and so forth, giving of the presents. I know one couple who are distant relatives and they take off Christmas day, under normal circumstances and go to a distant resort spot in Germany. They’re from western Germany and they go to a spot in Bavaria. The name is Regen.

Fisher: Sounds Irish to me.

Jim: Well, no “A” in that, just Regen.

Fisher: Okay.

Jim: Regen which means rain in German.

Fisher: Right.

Jim: It’s a very cold area of Bavaria so the winters is as Im Schnee in Regan. (It always snows in rain.)

Fisher: [Laughs] Okay. You know, we all come from all kinds of different ethnic backgrounds. You got to think it would be a really fun thing to do with kids and grandkids to present a different meal or a different tradition from these various countries as another way to engage them in understanding their backgrounds.

Jim: Well, yeah. As a matter of fact, my colleague at Legacy Tree Carolyn Tolman, she’s written a blog on Christmas traditions and says, in their family where they have quite a few different ethnicities, one thing they decided to do is every year to do different traditions in their holiday celebrations.

Fisher: Hmm.

Jim: So, that’s again a very modern way of doing things. Great learning exercise I think for the family. Again, they knew their origins because they’re genealogists and have meticulous research.

Fisher: Right.

Jim: But for those who are more casual genealogists that’s when this truly can be turned into a learning opportunity.

Fisher: So Jim, you’ve got to explain to me some of the weirdest traditions you’ve run across.

Jim: Oh, yeah well, in Caracas, Venezuela on Christmas Eve, the city’s residents go to church in the early morning on roller skates.

Fisher: That’s pretty strange, okay.

Jim: Yeah. [Laughs]

Fisher: Where did that start?

Jim: That I do not know.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Jim: But they even close the roads to cars so that people can skate to church safely.

Fisher: Wow. And the hospitals are open with extra hours I guess, right?

Jim: [Laughs]

Fisher: For those that are not great roller skaters.

Jim: For the skinned knees.

Fisher: Oh, broken arms and elbows, terrible. I wouldn’t want to live there at that time of the year, that’s nuts. What else?

Jim: Yeah. Well, in Norway they hide their brooms on Christmas Eve because they believe that witches and evil spirits come out on Christmas Eve looking for brooms to ride on.

Fisher: Oh, of course. [Laughs]

Jim: So, if you hide them maybe those evil spirits won’t come by and won’t visit the family.

Fisher: Well, I’m part Norwegian. I’m going to make sure I hide my broom this year. I had no idea.

Jim: [Laughs]

Fisher: He’s Jim Beidler. He’s with Legacy Tree Genealogists. Jim, it’s been a joy talking to you again. Happy Holidays! And thanks for sharing some thoughts on this. This is really fun.

Jim: You bet. Happy Holidays to you and yours, Fish.

Fisher: All right, getting set for Ask Us Anything here in just a couple of moments with David Allen Lambert. We’ve got a couple of great questions concerning, let’s see, where you might want to consider leaving your family history stuff and gateway ancestors. Who do you trust when it comes to the accuracy of those long, long old royal lines? We’ll find out coming up next in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 4 Episode 356

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, its Fish here back with Dave for Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Dave, we've got an email here from Fairbanks, Alaska, the person's name is Leb, which is interesting. Don't know the last name, but Leb writes that he's been collecting family memorabilia for some time and he says, "Fish and Dave, I hear about your collections of family material. I don't have any interested descendants. Where do you suggest I should consider leaving this stuff?" [Laughs] Great question. We have the same problem, Leb.

David: Oh, that is so true! And the biggest fear is that my kids are going to hate me when I pass away and they're going to just throw it all in a dumpster. Now, I hope that won't be the case or at least they'd get a good penny for it on eBay. It really depends on the collection. I mean, I always believe that American Ancestors would try to be America's attic for genealogical collections and papers and things like that, but I mean, it may be more applicable for instance if you had like a journal for some place in Alaska. It may benefit a local historical society. If you're worried about the stuff getting loss, I mean, we live in the digital age. What a great holiday gift it would be to scan some of the stuff periodically, besides sending a Christmas letter, send a copy so other people can eventually print it out if you're in fear that it’s going to be lost. I mean, what are your thoughts, Fish?

Fisher: Well, part of it is that the kids, the grandkids won't know the significance to many of these items. And so, I've kind of made plans for that by taking photographs of these things, some of them aren't just documents, but for instance, I've got that walking stick that shillelagh that came from the Fishers in the 1880s this past year. And so, I've taken a picture of it, a picture of the ancestor who brought it over from Ireland and just a little write up and I've created a book of heirlooms, so that I can share this with them all, they'll know what they are, so when that time comes, they can hopefully recognize them and understand, "Oh, this is significant." Or "This is important." And if there are things they're not interested in, then hopefully they can pass them on to perhaps a local archive or something along what you're talking about.

David: Oh right, because they may have the picture now and they've got the story behind it, which really the best part of the providence. Just recently myself, we kind of cleaned up a hutch my father made and brought it back to what it used to look like, and we have certain key family heirlooms in it now on display, versus you know, just shove in the mail in there or putting other knick knacks in it. So I'm going to do that, just that same thing over the holidays is, I'm going to take pictures of the artifacts and use my wife who has a far better memory than me and say, "Now, who owned that? Who gave us this?"

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: "Did we just buy that? Is that just an antique that we acquired?" So, the other thing is fold up a little acid free piece of paper or just a regular piece of paper and say what it is or who it belonged to or better yet, who you want it to be given to in your family or where it should be donated.

Fisher: Well, that's true, although I think sometimes our own judgment of what people would like will be completely fouled when the day comes when the grandchild says, "They wanted me to have what?! Why??"

David: This is why Egyptians built tombs.

Fisher Yes! [Laughs]

David: because you just put it all in there.

Fisher And you take it with you.

David: Later, yeah exactly.

Fisher: [Laughs] This is why I go back to the book, because you know, the reality is, we cannot control what happens to any of our stuff, whether its family history related or not after we're gone. We're just caretakers of this stuff and other people ultimately have to make the decision whether or not they want the responsibility of dealing with it and maintaining it and storing it and keeping it up to speed and finding then next person, or they just want to say, "I'll find somebody else outside the family." Or "I'm going to sell it on eBay." or sell it at an antique store or something like that. I mean, that's just the reality of the situation, so in my mind, I want to keep the things while they still give me joy, but at a certain point, I'm realizing that some things are not going to be of interest to anybody in the family and I may start moving some of those things along myself just to save them the trouble.

David: Exactly.

Fisher: Thank you, Leb for the question. We've got another one coming up in phase two of Ask Us Anything on the way in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 356

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, back for question number two on Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. And David, we have a question from Houston, Texas. Laurie Flanders is writing, "Guys, I've discovered that I have something called a gateway ancestor on my tree and it suggests that I have lineage back to royalty. Can you give me some idea as to the most accurate records I might find on this ancestor, so I can be confident that I have it right?" She's really smart to ask this question, I think Dave, because there are so many bad lines online.

David: There really are, and I guess the thing is, you really don't have to reinvent the wheel. I mean, books like by my friend and colleague, Gary Boyd Roberts and he published in recent years, Royal Descendants of 900 immigrants, and that book isn't the end all, and I like to use the analogy that genealogy is like wet cement. It’s never completely cured, so there's always room for new finds. But if the immigrant's place of origin is unknown on 90% of the sources you look at, chances are his royal line back to Charlemagne may not be real.

Fisher: Right. [Laughs] Good point. And then we've got Frederick Lewis Weis who is the author of Ancestral Roots, the full title being, Of Certain American Colonists Who Came to America Before 1700. That's in its 8th edition, Dave and really, to your point, it’s the 8th edition, because they're always finding corrections, adjustments, new lines, new proofs and those are always added into these books. So, Ancestral Roots is another one in line with Gary Boyd Roberts’ efforts. And there's another one, Doug.

David: Doug Richardson, yeah. He wrote two sets of books. One of them is, Plantagen Ancestry, A Study of Colonial and Medieval Families and the other one is, Magna Carta Ancestry: A Study of Other Families of Colonial and Medieval Heritage, that go back to, you know, 1215 when they overthrew King John.

Fisher: Isn't that something! It’s amazing to me that we can have records like that, but when you get into the hoity toity families of Europe, they left a lot of great records, even the illegitimacies.

David: Hmm, that's very true. Chances are that your autosomal DNA will probably not show you your 12th century king.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: But if you have the correct male, male, male, male, male, male, male, male, male, male, male line, you may have the Y DNA king, because we're all related to Charlemagne anyways.

Fisher: That's true. Yeah, virtually everybody is descended from Charlemagne. He has a gazillion descendants. The thing about these books that I've always found interesting too is that so many of these early American colonists that go back to royalty, they all link in together at some point. So you get all these different lines they'll show you in one little cluster, and then you have to go over to another page and then back over to this page and try to put the whole thing together, but it’s really astonishing to think that you can cover the greater part of 8 or 900 years or further, maybe even an entire millennium using these sources.

David: Well, in Weis’ book, I had to do that. I had to highlight my topic, because the way the numbers go back to a previous part and I think my earliest ancestor according to that was King Cerdic of the west Saxons of England who lived in the 5th century A.D. And all you need is one paternity issue in between him and now and you're going to not have that line, but hey, the paper says it’s so, so it is.

Fisher: [Laughs] Well, you're absolutely right about that and there are a lot of people I’ll run into periodically that say, "Oh, yeah, genealogy, well, mine's all done, because we go all the way back to Adam and Eve." and of course they're saying that they tie into the royal line, which of course went back to the biblical line and then. But the problem is, even in the biblical line, those who wrote the bible, if they didn't like an ancestor, they left him out! So, there's no actual evidence that you have a real line to Adam and Eve. Anyway, great question! I hope that is helpful to you, Laurie. And if you have a question for Ask Us Anything, you can always email us at [email protected]. David, have a great week and we'll talk to you next week.

David: Talk to you soon.

Fisher: And that's it for this week, my friends. Thanks so much for joining us. Thanks to Dave Gervais from North Carolina for talking about his grandfather's uniform that reappeared in the family after decades and decades. If you missed any of it, catch it on iTunes, iHeart Radio, ExtremeGenes.com, Spotify, you name it. Talk to you next week. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!


Subscribe now to find out why hundreds of thousands of family researchers listen to Extreme Genes every week!

Email me new episodes