Episode 369 - Nathan Dylan Goodwin And His New Genealogical Thriller / How Does MyHeritage Animate Your Photos?

podcast episode Mar 29, 2021

Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. The guys begin with a 100th birthday tribute to a World War II vet who received a very 2021 appropriate gift. Hear what it was. Then, there’s trouble in Greensboro, North Carolina, where a parcel of land, said to be the final resting spot for twelve Revolutionary War soldiers, may soon be developed. Find out what may be built there. Next, Maryland archaeologists have made a remarkable find dating back to the beginning of their colonial days. Finally, Fisher and David talk about a great article outlining all the remarkable historical finds discovered underneath parking lots! From kings to World War II bunkers… it’s an amazing list!

Next, Fisher visits with British author Nathan Dylan Goodwin. Nathan is the creator of the genealogical thriller genre, as well as its master. And for the first time, Nathan’s new book is centered in the United States. Hear more about it and how to get your copy.

Fisher then visits with Daniel Horowitz, Genealogical Expert with MyHeritage.com. Daniel explains (in understandable terms!) how the new “Deep Nostalgia” tool works to animate your old photographs.

Then, it’s Ask Us Anything with Fisher and David. The guys take on questions about a found World War I British medal as well as dealing with ancestral letters.

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

Transcript of Episode 369

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 369

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, today we’ve got a couple of great guests as always. Nathan Dylan Goodwin will be on with us from over in England. He’s written a new book. This is the guy who created the genealogical detective thriller genre, and he is the master of it. And this is his first book that he’s written that takes place in the United States with an investigation of cold case murders that took place in the 1980s on the East Coast and people trying to solve it using DNA in Salt Lake City, Utah. So, we’re going to talk to Nathan about how he comes up with his ideas and what this new book is about. You’re going to want to hear all about that coming up in about ten minutes. And then later in the show, Daniel Horowitz is here. He’s a genealogical expert from MyHeritage.com. He’s going to be talking about “Deep Nostalgia.” Of course, you’ve seen now how you can animate your still photographs and make them come alive. Daniel will explain exactly how this came to be, what the system, the process is to make these pictures, and what we might expect down the line with these photographs, so that’s all coming up. Hey, if you haven’t signed up for our Weekly Genie Newsletter yet, you can do so by going to ExtremeGenes.com or our Facebook page. You get a blog from me each week, it’s absolutely free, along with links to past and present shows, and links to stories that you’ll be fascinated by as a genealogist. And speaking of which, here is David Allen Lambert the chief genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org in Boston. How are you David? 

David: I’m doing grand. How about yourself?

Fisher: I am fantastic. Thank you very much. Making discoveries, in fact, just 15 minutes before talked I got a will from England that was sent over that was very helpful for me in my research. So, what have you got for us today in family histoire news?

David: Well, I do want to add if there’s a will there’s a way. [Laughs]

Fisher: Yes [Laughs] exactly right. 

David: Well, I want to start off by wishing a special 100th birthday to a World War II veteran Lt. Col. William Bonelli who is turning 100 years old. And for that occasion he is also getting his Covid-19 vaccination. 

Fisher: How cool is that. 

David: He really is. And I’ll tell you, so many World War II veterans are making that 100th birthday mark. In fact, your good friend from Pearl Harbor that was out on the show, he’s going to be turning a 100 this year as well.

Fisher: Yeah, Lou Conter, in September. 

David: Yeah. And well, William Bonelli, he flew 30 missions through Nazi Germany in Italy and he’s celebrating his 100th birthday and like I say, it’s great news to hear we have so many of these vets hitting the 100th birthday mark this year and the coming years. Well, you know, I want to peel back the pages of time just a little bit and this is not good news. There is talk in Greensboro, North Carolina that a site of a historic Revolutionary War cemetery may be in peril. Roughly a 3.6 acre lot on Ballinger Road, Greensboro is now in peril because they are planning to build a medical facility on it on this lot, Fish. Apparently it’s where 12 Revolutionary War soldiers are known historically to be buried. Of course, there’s no grave stones it was just known to be a site where they’re buried them 200 plus years ago. 

Fisher: Hmm. 

David: As a member of the SAR, I can tell you it angers me to think that they would even put any threat on cemetery site, let alone a site of cemetery of Revolutionary War veterans. So, I hope that archaeologists are on hand meticulously looking for any remains if this site cannot be preserved. 

Fisher: Right.

David: Really sad.

Fisher: Yeah, absolutely. 

David: Of course, in the past decade or so, we heard about Jamestown fortress being located, historic Jamestown dating back to 1607. The site originally thought lost by the James River was found by the archaeologist William Kelso. Well, exciting news comes from Maryland. The historic Saint Marys City has been located where Saint Marys’ fort dating back to 1634 has now been located. And it would be the fourth oldest English colony in North America. 

Fisher: Fascinating.

David: And Maryland’s oldest English settlement. So, archaeologists were finding all sorts of things, pottery and things that are associated with it. But what the archaeologists initially have found, Fish, are the palisades, the fortress walls that surrounds Saint Marys fort. And of course, that’s where the settlement first started up in 1634. 

Fisher: Isn’t that incredible? That’s got to be a real thrill for these people to go do a dig and make a find like that. 

David: Well, I hope that some of our listeners are actually descendants of those that lived in Maryland that long ago.

Fisher: Yeah. 

David: Who knows, they might find something archaeologically relevant to your family’s home.

Fisher: Sure.

David: And I love digging into history really but I’ll tell you, the one article that you shared with me earlier it’s graded as the top 11 things found in parking lots and associated other places you wouldn’t expect to find history. 

Fisher: [Laughs] Yes.

David: And I think the corpse of Richard the third truly is the one that takes the cake. 

Fisher: The number one thing. I mean, imagine how many people actually parked on top of King Richard the third over in England all those years ago. And then they found him and then you look at this list. We’ve talked over the course of history of Extreme Genes, which is now almost eight years, how many times have we heard about somebody’s digging up a parking lot, or they call it a car park overseas, and they find something historical under it. So, here’s a list of 11 things and we should go through a few of them. 

David: The next one in the line is the bunker of Adolf Hitler.  

Fisher: Yes. [Laughs]

David: Then of course recently a black church in Colonial Williamsburg where they found basically there’s a cemetery that’s been under a parking lot, and I hate to say it, it’s a parking lot that I’ve parked in, in Williamsburg. What I didn’t know about, in a parking lot my own ancestor Saint Margaret of Scotland, she brought Christianity to Scotland so long ago she used to pray in a cave and apparently that cave is accessible below a parking lot in Dunfermline, Scotland.

Fisher: Isn’t that something. 

David: There’s a Native American shell mounds that was found and over a 100 burials were removed and that dated back to 5700 years.

Fisher: And we’ve got Henry the eighth’s chapel the one where he kind of figured out, “Do I get rid of my wives, or do I not?” 

David: Exactly.

Fisher: And that was under a parking lot.

David: You just never know when you park your car, what history you’re parked above. 

Fisher: Yeah.

David: Well, that’s about all I have from Beantown this week. Talk to you on the second half of the show when we talk about Ask Us Anything, right? 

Fisher: Exactly. We’ll talk to then David. And coming up next, we’re going to talk to Nathan Dylan Goodwin over in England about his new book. It covers a cold case mystery in the United States. You’ll want to hear all about it coming up next in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show. 

Segment 2 Episode 369

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Nathan Dylan Goodwin

Fisher: All right, my next guest is Nathan Dylan Goodwin. He is an author based in Great Britain, and Nathan, it’s great to have you back on because you have come up now with an American genealogy-based novel, never seen this out of you before.

Nathan: [Laughs] Yeah. Thank you very much for having me. Yes, it’s the first one set in America with just American characters too.

Fisher: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you had Morton, one of your primary characters in your British series, come to the United States at one point looking for his father. But this is the first time you’ve had a whole new set of characters. And I will tell you that I devoured this thing in two days. And it’s called, for everybody’s benefit, The Chester Creek Murders and if you haven’t read any of Nathan Dylan Goodwin’s books in the past, first of all, you can learn a lot about family history research and genealogy research because you use real techniques and actually in many cases, real names.

Nathan: Yes. It’s very important to me to do that. Since writing the Morton Farrier books I’ve always wanted to get that correct. I’m very aware that lots of genealogists read the books so I want it to be real for them and to be authentic. And so if I say something is online in that location, and then that’s where it really is, or if you have to go to a library to go and look at that document, then that’s what you really have to do. It’s really been very important to me. And lots of people have said over the years that they found the books really helpful. So yes, they’ve enjoyed them as a piece of fiction, but I’ve had people say you know, you’ve helped me find my great grandfather, or various things and documents and records that they didn’t know existed. So, it’s really important to me that I get that genealogy correct. 

Fisher: Yeah. Some of these records are pretty obscure aren’t they?

Nathan: Yes. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs] 

Nathan: But I quite like using those ones because it’s very easy to default to the census and vital records, and I think, you know, if you can kind of put some of these other slightly obscure ones in then it’s quite good just to liven things up. And also like I say you know, people could, “oh, I didn’t know that existed. I might try that one.” You know?

Fisher: Well, this new book “The Chester Creek Murders” is based in Salt Lake City, Utah at least as far as the investigation goes. And the murders themselves took place in Pennsylvania. We’ll just say Nathan that this is a pretty bad dude, this killer, and it was terrible things that happened there and if the violence causes you problems just skip over the details of that stuff and move on to the investigation. 

Nathan: [Laughs] 

Fisher: And what’s really interesting about this I think is that this really helps people to understand the process that genetic genealogists go through to solve a cold case crime. And you’ve actually consulted with of these investigators who have done just this.  

Nathan: Yes. So basically in Britain we don’t do investigative genetic genealogy so law enforcement can’t send off and access to databases like this. It’s just completely illegal. So, just after the Golden State Killer was caught, I thought I want to write something in this vain because it’s not been done before. So, I knew I had to set it therefore in America. I knew if I was going to do this, I needed to really get it right and so I spoke to various detectives in America, in different parts of America who gave me advice but I also spoke to Barbara Rae-Venter who was one of the genealogists who helped cracked the Golden State Killer, and so she gave me lots of information about the process. And so yeah, that’s as accurate as it pretty well is really.  

Fisher: Well, and I think any experienced genealogist wouldn’t necessarily find something new in the sources that you discuss here, but they might in terms of the overall process and making sure they got it right. And of course we’re dealing with that in genealogy every day. We have to make sure that our conclusions are correct. You want to test your theory, right, if you find the person you think is your ancestor. You want to prove that maybe you were wrong.

Nathan: Yes. 

Fisher: Not only that, you cover the legalities of what you’re dealing with. I mean, I think it’s really fascinating for people to understand exactly how these cold cases are solved.  

Nathan: Yeah. Thank you. I think lots of people don’t fully understand the processes. And it is a very divisive thing for the genealogical community at the moment I think, particularly with the privacy issues you know. There are some who are very staunchly, “No, I uploaded my DNA to this website because I want to do family history and that’s that. I don’t want to help catch killers and identify remains. That’s not what I’m doing it for.” And then there are others who are very much pro that use of DNA. And so it’s a very new territory really for us to navigate and I think it’s not been completely ironed out yet all of the ethical issues and so I tried to put that into the book as well, trying to discuss that slightly. 

Fisher: So, this takes place, at least as far as the investigation goes, right after RootsTech last year! 

Nathan: [Laughs]

Fisher: And of course we were all together at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah at that time. And from what I’m gathering here and from I’m reading, I sense that you went around Salt Lake City after the conference was over to scout out places to put into your book. Am I correct? 

Nathan: [Laughs] Yes. You are correct, yes. 

Fisher: [Laughs]

Nathan: In fact, it was the last two years so last February-March and the year before was actually when I started to have the idea. And so for those two periods of time while I was out in Salt Lake City for RootsTech I was location hunting, so I was walking around the main city streets kind of looking well, where could their building be that they’re based? And I found the Kearns Building and I thought this is good. It’s on Main Street. It’s got a bit of history behind it.  

Fisher: Um hmm.

Nathan: And so I just went inside, and the security guard was kind of looking at me a bit strangely because I was aimlessly wondering around and taking photos and things. But yes, and it meant going into all sorts of lovely cafés and restaurants, and last year I went skiing up at Park City as well, purely because I had to, you know, write about it of course.

Fisher: Yes, of course. That way you can write it off right? 

Nathan: Yes, exactly. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs] It’s a tax expense. 

Nathan: Exactly. It was completely. It wasn’t just for enjoyment at all. It was for research.

Fisher: Absolutely just for research.

Nathan: [Laughs] 

Fisher: By the way, did you go over to Pennsylvania and start to research the area in Delaware County?

Nathan: I planned to. [Laughs] 

Fisher: [Laughs]

Nathan: Basically, I was due to attend a wedding nearby and so I thought well, while I’m going over there that would be a good place to set the murder scenes. So, I started to then look before I went to this wedding and look at the locations and came up with them intending then to visit them, and didn’t go to the wedding. So, I was like okay, I’ve picked the locations, I’ve done lots of work, as much as I can do at home on the computer. And so I kept that location without actually visiting it.  

Fisher: Do you use Google Street View for some of your work?

Nathan: Oh yes, all the time. [Laughs] Definitely.

Fisher: Do you?

Nathan: Yeah, definitely. Otherwise I think it’s very difficult to just look at a map and go, “Oh, that place will do” you know? So yeah, I completely go into the Street View and look around and try to get a feel, particularly when they’ve got a good date range on the Street View so you can see how its changed or not, you know, over the years and get a really good sense of what’s going on there. So, I did do research into the location but just didn’t actually get there.  

Fisher: So, have you gotten any feedback from some cold case researchers on the book?

Nathan: I haven’t yet. I sent it to Barbara Rae-Venter and I’ve sent it to the detectives who helped me and one of the detectives have read it and said to me it was brilliant and amazing and very good, but I haven’t had feedback yet from people who actually do it, so I’m waiting on that. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs] Well, I’m thinking, somewhere down the line that this might be required reading for a lot of detectives around the country who really don’t understand the process. 

Nathan: [Laughs]

Fisher: It could be a real education for them exactly how it works. 

Nathan: [Laughs] And entertaining. Yeah.

Fisher: Yeah, and entertaining at the same time, which I think would be fantastic. So, in this particular story you’ve really got kind of two story lines going, The Chester Creek Murders, which okay, I’ll reveal it, yes, they do catch him at the end. 

Nathan: [Laughs]

Fisher: But there is another story that’s developing here and it just kind of ends without touching it, so, I’m sensing that you’re setting up a follow-up. 

Nathan: Yes. Yeah, basically I’ve planned it as a series but certainly lots of the things were raised in this book. Yes, there’ll be another one set pretty well straight after that book finishes. So, yeah, that will be coming soon. Yes. 

Fisher: Excellent. Well, that’s great. So, you’ve got another series, so you’ve got Morton, now you’ve got this, I mean, do you have any time for anything else?

Nathan: [Laughs]

Fisher: Do you do your own research on your own family? 

Nathan: I do yes. I probably don’t give it quite as much time as I would like to, but yes, I’m currently looking into my ancestor that lives on Saint Helena, the little British island in the Atlantic off the West Coast of Africa. It’s very tempting when I’m down in my cabin writing and I’m obviously using Ancestry, and MyHeritage, and FindMyPast, and FamilySearch, and all the rest them, it’s very tempting to think I’ll just do a little bit of my own family tree.   

Fisher: [Laughs] Yeah, but you know that’s a rabbit hole. [Laughs]

Nathan: It is totally a rabbit hole. Yes. One little thing leads to another little thing and then suddenly the day is gone and I haven’t actually done any writing. So, I try to be disciplined and do my writing, but yeah, I’m always doing my own family tree as well.

Fisher: Have you ever based anything in any of your books after any of your own ancestors?

Nathan: Not directly, but I get lots of ideas and snippets and records and documents from that, and the Spy Glass File, the fifth Morton book, is very loosely based on my grandmother’s story of the illegitimate child in the Second World War. But that’s kind of as close as I’ve come really. I think probably because most of my ancestors are AgLabs [agricultural laborers] from the south of England and so they haven’t led very exciting lives so far.  

Fisher: [Laughs] You haven’t found any spies or any military heroes?

Nathan: Not so far. That’s why the Saint Helena ancestors are so interesting. It’s like wow, I’ve got ancestors that came from this tiny little island owned by the East India Company and so this is very exciting for my family. 

Fisher: So, do you plan to continue writing books based on genealogical research, or do you think there’s something else waiting inside of you to be expressed? 

Nathan: Hmm, that’s a really good question. Down in my cabin I’ve got a white board and I’ve loads and loads and loads of ideas on there. I really love doing the genealogical crime fiction. I really love it so I can’t see an end coming anytime soon for those books. But I probably will try and put other things in between if you like. But actually, most of the ideas that I tend to be coming up with at the moment have some kind of family history or historical or DNA links to them, so yeah I think that’s what I’ll do is probably intersperse these other projects with Morton and the Maddie series as well.

Fisher: Interesting. All right. So, for people who want to get The Chester Creek Murders book from Nathan Dylan Goodwin, where can they go?

Nathan: So, the easiest place is probably from Amazon but you can order it from book shop in America like Barnes & Nobel etc. You can go to my website which is NathanDylanGoodwin.com basically all the links are on there and you can get them from Apple, and Google Play, Kobo, and also signed copies from my website so pretty well anywhere. And it’s also in Kindle and paperback, and the audio book is almost finished in production so that won’t be long.  

Fisher: Well, he is the world’s supreme genealogical historical fiction writer [Laughs] Nathan Dylan Goodwin.

Nathan: [Laughs]

Fisher: Hey, thanks for coming on.

Nathan: Thank you for having me.

Fisher: And coming up next, how did MyHeritage make your old pictures move and come to life? Find out in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show. 

Segment 3 Episode 369

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Daniel Horowitz

Fisher: All right, back at it on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, and of course at RootsTech Connect I can’t think of anything that took over the entire online conference more than this shocking new tool to play with your photographs that was put out on MyHeritage.com. Hey, I’ve got Daniel Horowitz on the like. He’s one of the genealogical experts there at MyHeritage. And Daniel, I can’t tell you the reaction from so many people who I showed this to and of course my reaction initially. I mean, people fall off their chairs over this new this tool that converts photographs into real short little videos where they actually move around. 

Daniel: Yes Scott. Thank you very much for the invitation and yes, this is just one of the many tools MyHeritage has in the toolbox. But, definitely being able to see our ancestors moving and smiling, and actually coming back to life it is really impressive and it is amazing all the people around the world. 

Fisher: Now, each of the last few RootsTechs you’ve released something to do with photographs, you’ve got colorizing, you’ve got sharpening. I’ve got to tell you, when this came out I was like mad at myself because it never crossed my mind that this is something you could do with a photograph and I kind of think of myself as a creative person. But, when I first saw my great grandfather in 1890 looking at me, smiling, looking left, right, blinking, I mean I just about fell over. It’s unbelievable. And I’ve got a couple of photos that date back to the 1850s, to actually see them moving, and living and breathing is absolutely astonishing. 

Daniel: Well, the technology was there and it was applied to a lot of things for quite a long time. What I personally think is the greatness of the whole idea, is just thinking to apply this technology to all these photos, to your family ancestor photos and being able to put the human touch on it and that is actually also why we decided to call it “Deep Nostalgia” because the people mostly have the nostalgia to see their ancestors moving and smiling. And MyHeritage now fulfilled that desire.

Fisher: Yeah, absolutely. By the way, if you’re looking for it, it is a free tool. It’s on MyHeritage.com. You go to the family tree tab, from the home page, and in the little drop down there it will just say “Animate Photos - new” and that’s where you do it. You just upload your digitized photograph, push a button and it’s automatic. And what I like about it too Daniel, I’m realizing, I’m sure you do too that there are some pictures where certain versions of this animation don’t work. They make the people look a little bit different, right? Funny teeth or a funny expression, but there are ten different variations of this. So, for some of mine I went through and found, wow, I could actually use eight of them that would be different, that would work and it would keep their personality and keep the integrity of the original photograph. And there are some where I went through and only like two worked, where it worked that way. 

Daniel: Well, there is a lot of things that are being taken care here and you need to take into account the position of the head and the lightening of the picture, and if you have like a smile or not, if the eyes are open, if you have glasses, and the technology at the beginning scans this image and first of all, enhance it because we don’t rely on the quality of the image that you are uploading. So, by applying automatically the enhancement technology we guarantee that the final product, the movie that we are creating is going to be a high quality video. And then again, depending on if the person is smiling, if you have a beard or a mustache, then we decide what driver to use and to put it as a default driver.

Fisher: Yes. 

Daniel: And you have as you said, currently up to ten different drivers and you can test all of them and definitely ones will be better than the others. And most of the time I have to admit, the default is actually the best one, but I will invite everybody to try the others because sometimes the others are also good drivers. And we’re keeping an eye very closely on that because yes, some images will look a little strange. I have seen people moving and the beard just stay in place.

Fisher: [Laughs] Yeah. 

Daniel: The technology doesn’t catch that the beard is there and we focus only on the very round faces, but most them are very good. And then you can download them and share them with everybody else. 

Fisher: Yeah, that’s what I like about it too and I have shared this with some of my correspondence in family history, distant cousins. One of them wrote back, “What kind of evil have you brought upon us?” I thought he was ready to burn me at the stake. 

Daniel: [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs]

Daniel: Well, I can definitely tell you that people have lost hours of sleep playing with this technology. And one of the other things that I would like to point out and I think it’s actually great from this technology, is that the drivers are actually recorded from a human being. In fact, he is one of our employees that we selected as being the model. So, it’s not just artificial intelligence applied to that. So it’s actually human movements and human expressions being applied to the image or to the photo to reproduce whatever the real person is doing. 

Fisher: So, do you anticipate down the line you’ll actually come up with more than ten versions of this?

Daniel: Come on Scott, you want me to get fired if I tell you yes?

Fisher: [Laughs] This is my job. His lips are sealed. 

Daniel: [Laughs]

Fisher: Oh my goodness. 

Daniel: By the way Scott, if you’re talking about lips sealed, same as the ancestors movie animations and that is totally on purpose. And we have received some comments from users that they would like to see their ancestors talking or singing, and totally on purpose MyHeritage has not permitted the drivers to move the mouth because we don’t want to fall onto the deep fake technology or usage of this technology. We want to keep this into the family history scope and we just want to bring your ancestors back to life. 

Fisher: Well, I think you’ve really done that. It was really interesting to see Jimmy Kimmel actually had it on his talk show here in the United States not too long ago, and had fun with his co-host in putting him up there with deep nostalgia, although, he’s still breathing.

Daniel: Well, yes. We suggest and we encourage people to use only photos of dead relatives and if they plan to do this on the living individual, to ask their permission before they do that and you can read that MyHeritage tries always to encourage people to do the right thing and the legal thing always of course. But yes, some people just play with the images of living individuals. I think also, as a genealogist not only to fulfil the needs for the genealogy world but to try to bring others into this family history world and to show them that it’s not just an issue of building family trees or searching records in archives.

Fisher: Right.

Daniel: That family history can be preserved and can be fun, and can appeal to anybody. And the other consequence that I’m seeing more and more every day, the younger generations are opening their hearts, and their mouths, and their memories and they are starting to tell the stories about those relative that will probably never come out if they will not see the image in the movement and with all those face animations. 

Fisher: It’s very intriguing and I lost an entire work day when it came out. I’m going to send a bill to MyHeritage. 

Daniel: [Laughs]

Fisher: He’s Daniel Horowitz. He’s one of the genealogical experts at MyHeritage.com, my good friend in Israel. Daniel thanks for your time and thanks to the company for this great tool. What a lot of fun it is and a lot more than that it’s a great hook for those who may not be in the field quite yet but they will be.

Daniel: My pleasure always.

Fisher: And on the way after the break it’s Ask Us Anything, questions about a World War I British medal and how to figure out whom it belonged to and how do you get those family letters to add to your family history? Find out more coming up in three minutes on Extreme Genes. 

Segment 4 Episode 369

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, back for Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here with David Allen Lambert, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. And David, we have a question here, it’s says, "Guys, I am a metal detectorest, and a few years ago, I dug up a World War I British veterans medal." Ooh! "And it has a number on it. Any place you know of that can tell me who this belonged to. Lance in Detroit." Good question, Lance. David, you're the military guy around here. What do you know?

David: Yeah. I'm kind of curious where you found this. Well, military medals in the British army were identified, which is very true. There are a variety of different medals and the NationalArchives.Gov.UK actually has British army medal index cards 1914 and 1920. You are going to be able to see, Lance, the different types of medals they have. It wasn't just one. There one that's called a 1914 Star, that was issued for those that served early on in the war and there was a 1914-1915 Star medal. The British War Medal, which looks like a silver dollar with the king's face on it or I should say his profile, there’s the Victory Medal and there's also one called the Silver War Badge, which is sort of like a broach if you will with the center part cut out with the crown and the initials of the king. Now, all of these medals have a number assigned to them, and what you can find on the National Archives website is a way that you can search for the name of the person if that's on the medal. Some of the medals will have the name along the outer rim, like the silver one with George V profile, you may get that. But on the medal like the Silver War Badge, that's just got a number on it, not a name, so you can find out who received that medal without even having to know the name. So, if you go onto that database, and it’s a long URL, so the easiest way I can tell you, Lance is, go to the NationalArchives.Gov.UK and then when you do a site search, search on British army medal index cards and you'll find it in a heartbeat.

Fisher: Wow! That's really exciting. I mean, that's got to be really fun and to create this little mystery when you dig it up, who did this belong to? And how does a British World War I medal end up in Michigan? Well, maybe he didn't even dig it up in Michigan for all we know.

David: That's entirely true, but he could have been a veteran who came over and marched in a parade after facts or the kid played with it at a park, who knows?

Fisher: Yeah, absolutely. And you know, it’s really fun too when you make a discovery like that, whether its pulling it out of the ground or you find something of interest, say, on eBay, the rabbit holes it takes you down as you start to research the history of that medal and the people who were involved in obtaining it and what they had to do to get it and then all these other medals that are associated with the broader war and there's many of those things out there and it’s so much fun. Some of them I would imagine, David are quite pricey, yes?

David: They really are. And it depends on the precious metal that it’s made out of, and of course silver is going to be more than just a regular bronze medal. But I mean, there are some that were very limited medals that were given out and when those are found, it’s usually a tremendous find. A lot of the German medals from World War I, certain iron crosses are worth more than others, because there are different ranks.

Fisher: Sure. The Blue Max, right, for instance?

David: Right, um hmm, exactly. But it’s hard to know who those were assigned to, because they weren't numbered.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: But it’s truly fun to be able to research the medal, whether you find it on eBay or you find it in a parking lot.

Fisher: Right. [Laughs]

David: Well, maybe a park.

Fisher: Maybe a park of something like that. Well, and here's the other thing, too, and that is that if you can identify who this belonged to, wouldn't it be fun to find the family and return it to them? I mean, that could make a great final chapter in the history of your discovery.

David: "Hint hint" Lance, call us when you've done that.

Fisher: [Laughs] Yeah, absolutely. It would be a great story. So, thank you so much for the question, Lance. And we will return once again in three minutes with another question on Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com.

Segment 5 Episode 369

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, back for our final segment of Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show for this week. It’s Ask Us Anything, and David Allen Lambert is back with me as we talk about question number two this week. And David, this is from Amy Lee-Ann, she is in Huntsville, Alabama and she says, "Fisher and David, you often talk about troves of ancestral letters. What is your secret for finding them and what do you do with them?" I'm not quite sure what she means by what do we do with them, but let's go through this a little bit, because I think ancestral letters are really, really important, don't you, David?

David: I do. But I don't know, do I want to reveal the secrets in how I'm finding them, but how about if it’s my cousin?

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: Yeah no, it’s amazing the amount of things that are out there. Sometimes family members will reveal, "Oh, great aunt Helen had this box of stuff. Are you interested in it?" without even asking the contents of the box, I say yes!

Fisher: Absolutely, yeah.

David: Because you never know what's going to be in them. I mean, when my wife's grandmother died, I went through what I thought was just a sock drawer and there were the letters between her and her husband while they served in the US Coastguard in World War II, still tied up with the ribbons that she tied them in 1945.

Fisher: Yeah, it’s that fun. And this is an important thing to do is, network with your cousins. And I think the thing that happens is, if you become the passionate genealogist in your family on all branches and your spouses and whatever, these are the things that actually just come to you, because people will say, "Well, maybe Fisher will want them." you know, that kind of thing. And so they just send you stuff. And often, there are other things even other than letters in there. For instance, I have that Shillelagh I picked up a couple of years ago from a third cousin and he had it passed down from my great grandfather's brother who had picked it up in Ireland and it’s great to have this 19th century Shillelagh with this Fisher connection. But getting back to the letters, what do we do with them, well, naturally, we keep them, we read them. I like to transcribe them, because there's always a ton of information in there and easier to transcribe, because a lot of people as time goes on, can't even read handwriting, old handwriting.

David: I know. It’s a lost art.

Fisher: Yeah!

David: I always say, train the next generation. They're probably getting some education in school, but they want that extra edge, learn how to read cursive.

Fisher: Yeah. You know, we're not just about genealogy here, we're about the broader picture of family history and history and how it all ties to our relatives. So it’s a lot of fun.

David: Well, you know, I was given a collection of letters for a family that I worked on the surname, Civil War letters from a veteran from Vermont and he wrote beautifully, nice and easy to read, and in it, it talks about other soldiers. So you have to think that FAN approach, Family, Associates and Neighbors. Those letters may not relate to your family, but if you transcribe them and put them out there and share them online, you may be talking about somebody else’s ancestor. And the community history that's in these letters, "Oh, I saw Joe Bolster from down the street. He was at the 27th regiment." I mean, women, Joe Bolster's great, great granddaughter has now found this by Google searching it, because you had put that letter online. So there are so valuable. You don't want to just sit on them. You want to publish them. You want to put them out there for the general populace to read.

Fisher: And don't throw away the envelopes, because there could be DNA on there that you might be able to turn into something great. So there's so many things. Oh, and you can display them as well, but you might want to display just copies, so you don't see them fade overtime. So, great question. Good luck in your search for the letters. And of course, if anybody has a question for Ask Us Anything, you can email us at [email protected]. David, thank you so much for coming on. We'll talk to you next week.

David: Talk to you soon, my friend.

Fisher: And thank you for joining us this week. Thanks to Nathan Dylan Goodwin, the author of a brand new book called, The Chester Creek Murders and to Daniel Horowitz from MyHeritage.com, talking about their incredible Deep Nostalgia feature where they animate your stationary old photographs. How do they do it? If you missed any of the interviews, you can catch on iTunes, iHeart Radio, TuneIn Radio, Spotify and ExtremeGenes.com. Talk to you next week. Thanks for joining us. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!


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