Episode 373 - War of 1812 Project Tying To Your Ancestors / Sunny Morton On Digging Up Those StoriesApr 26, 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 by talking about the recent passing of America’s oldest person. And you won’t believe how many descendants she has left! Then, it’s a happy birthday greeting to one of the last two survivors of the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor. Hear who he is. Then, an Illinois man has made a fascinating discovery under his home dating to the 1840s! It’s quite a find! Next, it’s a Civil War discovery in South Carolina that is more than unique. Find out what was found in a 19th century house. Finally, a man in Seattle picked up a photo album at a yard sale and historians are going nuts!
Next, Fisher visits with Mary Kathryn Kozy and Cara Jones of FamilySearch.org. Mary Kathryn and Cara are deep in the weeds in something FamilySearch calls the War of 1812 Project. You might find an unexpected link to your ancestor on FamilySearch involving this project. Hear what it’s all about.
Then, genealogist Sunny Morton shares her thoughts on discovering ancestral stories. Sunny’s got a great story of her own!
Then, Fisher and David take on a pair of listener questions on Ask Us Anything.
That’s all this week on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show!
Transcript of Episode 373
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Segment 1 Episode 373
Fisher: And welcome America 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, we've got a couple of great guests this week as always of course, genies. First of all, we're going to talk to Mary Kathryn Kozy and Cara Jones, they're with FamilySearch.org and they've got an amazing project going on right now, it’s called The War of 1812 Project. And this is actually going to connect the entries for your ancestors on FamilySearch to these War of 1812 pension applications, which in some cases can include 100s of pages and all kinds of information, things that you might not even be able to find in church records or vital records provided by government, so you're going to want to hear more about that, coming up in about 10 minutes. And then later in the show, Sunny Morton is back on the show, talking about developing stories on your ancestors, and she's got a great one to share herself, so hope you'll join us for that. Hey, if you haven't signed up our Weekly Genie Newsletter yet, it is time! Just go to ExtremeGenes.com or our Facebook page and sign up for free. You get a blog from me each week, a couple of links to past and present shows and links to fascinating stories, at least you'll think that as a genealogist. Right now, off to Boston where David Allen Lambert is standing by, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. Hello, David!
David: Hey, how're you doing, Fish?
Fisher: I am doing great. Every week of research is a lot of fun, and sometimes the news is really interesting, especially this oldest woman in America, Hester Ford who just passed at 116! That's got to be our lead family histoire news story today, Dave.
David: It really is. I'll tell you, Hester had 12 children, 48 grandchildren, 108 great grandchildren and approximately 120 great, great grandchildren according to this article. That gives you a whopping 288 living descendants.
Fisher: Wow! It must have been the hardest thing in the world for her to keep track of birthdays.
David: Birthdays, holidays, goodness, she must have kept Hallmark in business!
Fisher: [Laughs] Singlehandedly. Well, that was an amazing life, well lived. Of course I don't know who the oldest person in America is now. I'm sure we'll find out soon enough, but to die with 288 living descendants has got to be some kind of record.
David: It’s got to be up there, that's for sure. But you know, Hester could have been the babysitter for our next birthday wish and that goes to Ken Potts who is one of only two living survivors of the USS Arizona from Pearl Harbor. Ken, who is a native of Provo, Utah, just turned 100 years old.
Fisher: Wow, that's great! And they did a little drive by birthday party for him too, I understand.
David: They did. He's a little bit older than Lou Conter, who is our frequent flyer on our show.
Fisher: That's true.
David: He'll be on later this year.
Fisher: Yeah, Lou's going to be 100 coming up in September. We look forward to checking in with him then.
David: Absolutely. Well you know, I'll tell you, I always love when people discover things you know, occasionally people will find things when they're digging in their garden. But an Illinois man who was able to discover a tunnel under his house really kind of tops it off. I don't think I would be expecting that when I was digging in my backyard.
Fisher: You know, the thing about this, David is, this is not an ordinary tunnel. When I first read that, I thought a dirt tunnel under the house and he was talking about setting up tours if they deemed it safe. But when I saw the picture, it’s all bricked. It’s almost like, you know, one of those subway stations. It’s amazing!
David: Yeah, from the 1840s and they don’t even know what the original purpose of the structure was for. You know, you can think, maybe it was a place where runaway slaves could have been hiding. But it also could have been used for a subterranean tomb, maybe a family burial ground, because that harkens to what burial tombs look like, at least up here in the north east. When they go in to check out the condition, they're all barrel vaulted like that. It’s quite amazing. There's a great little video on the ExtremeGenes.com website, so you can see that link and find out more about it.
Fisher: And then similarly, we go from tunnels now to walls and I love this story from Fold3.
David: It is great! These walls do talk. The Civil War signatures discovered beneath paint layers in a 19th century building in Beaufort, South Carolina. Beaufort, South Carolina had a variety of stately homes that were taken over by the Union Army in 1861 and used as hospitals. Well, when the soldiers, the Union soldiers that is, were bored, they would put graffiti on the wall, write their name, draw little pictures and they removed the layers of wallpaper only to find this. It almost seems like, I wouldn't want to put the wallpaper back. [Laughs]
Fisher: Right. I mean, this is an amazing thing to find. And hopefully they're going to get enough pictures that people who descend from them can connect.
David: Wouldn't it be amazing to get a note in the mail that, "By the way, we found the signature of your ancestor on a wall." [Laughs]
Fisher: Yeah, in a home taken over during the Civil War. I mean, that's a great story, love it.
David: It really is, it really is. So thank you, Fold3 for making that possible. And then we have a great story for a Seattle, Washington man who purchased at a yard sale an old photo album a few years ago, but it has such historic photos of early Washington State that it’s probably priceless.
Fisher: Yeah, they're saying this was actually a photographer's photo album. So he would go out with his equipment and take pictures that are capturing life at the beginning of the last century. These photos are very much revered now by historians and archivists alike.
David: You just never know what you're going to find, maybe on eBay or at a yard sale or under your wallpaper or in your backyard. Just tune into Extreme Genes to find more similar stories in the weeks ahead.
Fisher: Absolutely. In fact, next week on the show, we're going to talk to Kathrin Andrew who made an amazing discovery on eBay connected to her family. You're going to want to hear her whole story when we get to that next week.
David: Well, that's all I have from Beantown this week. But remember, if you're not a member of American Ancestors, you can become a member for $20 off the annual membership price by using the coupon code "Extreme" on AmericanAncestors.org. All right, talk to you in a little bit.
Fisher: All right, for Ask Us Anything at the backend of the show. And coming up next, we're going to talk to a couple of ladies involved in the War of 1812 Project on FamilySearch. You may find an amazing source linked to the name of your ancestor at FamilySearch.org. You'll hear all about it coming up next in three minutes when we return on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.
Segment 2 Episode 373
Host: Scott Fisher with guests Cara Jones and Mary Kathryn Kozy
Fisher: It has been over 200 years since the War of 1812 and yet we’re still studying this as the second war for independence for the United States against Great Britain. Hey, it’s Fisher. We’re back on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com and our friends over at FamilySearch.org, one of our great sponsors, is working on an amazing project right now. It’s called The War of 1812 Pension Project, which means you might actually find links to your ancestors on the FamilySearch family tree that connects you right to these incredible records. And I’ve got two of the people involved in the project right now on the line; Cara Jones, she’s the VIP research specialist at the Family History Library with FamilySearch. And Mary Kathryn Kozy, the project administrator, and she’s taking care of all kinds of sanction volunteers from FamilySearch to put this project together. Hi ladies! Welcome to Extreme Genes.
Mary Kathryn: Hey Scott.
Mary Kathryn: Thanks for having us.
Fisher: Tell me about this project. First of all, how long has it been going on?
Mary Kathryn: So, back in the early 2010 the project started to try to raise money to digitize the War of 1812 pensions as they had never been preserved before and they were really starting to deteriorate, you can imagine after 200 years.
Mary Kathryn: Fran Jensen at FamilySearch, she was deputy CGO working under David Rencher, she saw the amazing information in the pension files and around 2014 decided to pitch a project to David about trying to locate these soldiers in the family tree to try to help aide people who were using the family tree to find the genealogical information in the pension files.
Fisher: Yeah and there’s a lot of genealogical information in these pension files, just as there were in the Revolutionary War pensions and the Civil War pensions as well. But this is an amazing collection and this is a project that’s going to keep your volunteers busy for a while.
Mary Kathryn: Yes. We figured there are probably somewhere around 80,000.
Fisher: And how many so far have you connected to actual people on the family tree?
Mary Kathryn: Around 8,000.
Fisher: Oh, okay. So, you’re about 10% through it. Talk about some of the things that are in these pensions because this is going to be really fun if one of listeners is lucky enough to actually find that one of their ancestors has this link added to their page on FamilySearch.
Mary Kathryn: Okay. So, Cara do you want to talk about the one you found a couple of weeks ago?
Cara: Oh, sure. So, our group of volunteers worked through the pensions, and one of them emailed me a really interesting pension file, and it was for an African American individual who was applying for a pension. And in those records it stated that he was a bodyguard for Andrew Jackson.
Fisher: Oh wow!
Cara: So, that was really fascinating.
Fisher: That is really fascinating. Did he get approved for his pension?
Cara: He did not actually. He was denied. That’s an important point to bring up. But even if they aren’t approved for a pension, there are still these amazing records to go through.
Fisher: Yeah, that’s really true. I had an 1812 ancestor also, and he had actually substituted for somebody else, so I guess he got paid off by somebody who had a few more bucks than he did and he spent like three weeks or a month or something in the service in New York. And then when he went to apply for a pension of course, he couldn’t prove that he was the other guy that he had substituted for because he actually answered to that man’s name in service.
Mary Kathryn: I see multiple cases like that where they would say, “I was called this when I fought” or, “I answered to my brother’s name” I just had one like that a couple of weeks ago.
Fisher: Yeah there’s some amazing stories in there. And those are typical of stories that you can actually find in these pension records. Have you found any funny stories in there Mary Kathryn?
Mary Kathryn: Yes. Actually, one of my favorites is a letter. So, as you know, these are pensions for the soldiers themselves but also for their widows. And a lot of cases we had what were called Pension Widows where we have these women who were 30 or 40 years younger would marry these older men, take care of them until they died, and basically know that they were then going to get a widow’s pension after he died.
Mary Kathryn: Because the men already had a pension. So, there’s a letter dated, I have, from Millersburg, Pennsylvania dated March 29th 1895. “Dear Sir, would you please suggest how we may be able to prove, by persons now living, and though the dead will be raised they cannot now be raised for this purpose, that this soldier rendered service in 1812, 83 years ago. Is not this silly, or don’t we understand each other? Prove by living witnesses that soldiers rendered service 83 years ago, witnesses must necessarily be about 103 years old!”
Mary Kathryn: So, I thought that was hilarious. I just laughed out loud when I was reading that. You find sad, funny, poignant, I mean just about any human emotion you can imagine as you’re reading through some of these letters.
Fisher: There’s so much interesting stuff in there, including like old bible records, family bible records.
Mary Kathryn: Yes. Yeah we find those quite frequently actually. Either the records themselves where people tore the records out of their bible and sent them in and pleaded, you know, “Please return this to me.” And of course they didn’t.
Mary Kathryn: They’re still sitting in a file in NARA. But that’s actually a blessing to us because the chances that that bible record would have survived down to 200 years or whatever are probably less than they would have survived in the archives. But yeah, bible records originals torn out, you get affidavits signed where they brought the bible in and the county clerk transcribed the bible records, sometimes with all of their children, birth date, birth places, information that just doesn’t exist anywhere else, marriage records. Fran Jensen actually found in one of these, because it was such a late pension, I think it might have been a daughter who was applying. There was actually a photograph of her in the pension file.
Fisher: What? Wow!
Mary Kathryn: Yeah. That’s the only one I think we found so far.
Fisher: So, how many people are working on this project now?
Cara: We have about 12 volunteers on our team that are going through the files and then trying to find the individuals in the family tree. And in addition to that, we also have about six people on a review team that then check the work that our volunteers do just for quality control.
Cara: About 18 in total.
Fisher: Well, you know, there is always the question right, do we have the right John Smith when you go to link the one document to the other. And that makes total sense so you got quite a crew there. Are they working on this full time?
Cara: No. Well, first we should say that we are remote and we were remote before the pandemic so our team is all over the country, and it is on a part time basis. So, some individuals work 10 hours a week, some up to 20, and I’m sure Mary Kathryn works on it more than that, but it is a part time volunteer project.
Fisher: Well, how many hours a week are you putting into this Mary Kathryn?
Mary Kathryn: It varies, you know because it is kind of an ebb and flow thing. I do the administration of the files so I check in files from volunteers and then I assign them a new file to work on. So, the administration part takes maybe an hour or two a week and then I’m also part of the review team, so that just sort of ebbs and flows. I spend as much as 40 hours a week in a given week, and then it’s maybe about 5 or 10 just depend on what’s going on in my own life. [Laughs]
Fisher: Right. You know, you think about all the conflict that was going on, especially up North in the War of 1812. New York does not have a lot of marriage records, does it Mary Kathryn?
Mary Kathryn: No it doesn’t. And they’re really hard to find. But I was stunned actually because I just didn’t know that much about the War of 1812 when I started this project. How many men from New York fought in the War of 1812, and then obviously lived long enough to apply for a pension. Because that’s the other thing you have to understand, the first pension acts were during the war from widows and men who were disabled in the war. But as far as the service pensions where you just had to serve for a specific time, that didn’t start until 1871 and so they had to live a long time to even apply to get a pension. So, I amazed how many men were there from New York. And what stuns me is how often I can go into the family tree, I can look in the pension file, especially widow pensions, it will mention when and where they married because they had to prove that they were the widow of this soldier. And I will go into the family tree and there is no marriage dates on the tree because nobody’s been able to find a record of their marriage.
Fisher: Wow! Do you add it then?
Mary Kathryn: We have in the past, yes. But what we’re doing now to try to facilitate the pace of the project is to not do that and just attach these pensions now. The last 2,000 out of the 8,000 or so have been added as a source to the individual in the tree, so that then the descendants can come in, look at the source material, find that pension on Fold3, go through it themselves, and then find that information. That’s what we’re hoping to inspire is that people will actually go look at these amazing records.
Fisher: Wow! For people who actually had an ancestor who may have been involved in the War of 1812 and you don’t know if they actually applied for a pension, the pension requirements for these things became less and less over the years. All you had to do was serve like a week or two or three and you could apply for pension. It just didn’t matter how few days you served. So, if somebody was in there even for the shortest of time, you may be able to find a record where they applied. My wife had an ancestor whose arm was lost when a cannon misfired as he was tamping in the gunpowder, and it went off. So, we got full descriptions in there about the accident he was in, and how this has affected his life, and what he was hoping that the government would do to help him through that. But it’s amazing the details that you can find in this stuff.
Mary Kathryn: Yeah. That’s really true. And the other thing that we found that was sort of surprising that I didn’t understand when we started, is how many men actually have more than one pension file.
Fisher: Oh wow!
Mary Kathryn: There’s a soldiers pension where he applied as an invalid or first service pension early, but then may have been rejected or he may have actually gotten a pension but then he died. And then his widow applied.
Mary Kathryn: So, we have both of those pensions. Sometimes they’re all combined into one file, and sometimes they’re not. The other thing that a lot of people don’t know about these pension files that as NARA was processing these things, if the pensioner, or soldier rather, had applied for bounty land, then the bounty land files were actually combined with the pension file. So, right now, the only way you can get a bounty land file for War of 1812 is to actually write to NARA and pay and request that. But in the case of some of this War of 1812 pension files, they actually include the bounty land applications as well. Some of these files are a 100, 150, 200 pages long especially if they were contested. These people kept writing back and they’d get more people to sign up and say, “Yes, I really did marry this guy.” Or, “Yes, I really did fight in that unit.” And so they can get 100, 200 pages long.
Fisher: This is incredible stuff. It is the War of 1812 Pension Project. It’s being performed right now by FamilySearch. My guests are Cara Jones… she’s the VIP research specialist at the Family History Library at FamilySearch, and Mary Kathryn Kozy the project administrator for this. And ladies, thanks so much for coming on and talking about it. This is pretty exciting stuff. And just to think that at some point we might look on our part of the family tree on FamilySearch and see a link to this incredible material. It’s fantastic and we thank you for that service.
Cara: Thank you again for having us.
Mary Kathryn: Yeah, thanks Scott so much for letting us talk about these amazing records.
Fisher: And coming up, genealogist Sunny Morton talking about the process of developing ancestral stories as you go about your research, when we return in five minutes on Extreme Genes.
Segment 3 Episode 373
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Sunny Morton
Fisher: Well, it has been a while since I had my good friend Sunny Morton on the line. She is based in Ohio. And Sunny today has a great story for us about process. The process of finding stories that nobody knows. And Sunny, it’s great to have you back on Extreme Genes.
Sunny: Scott, I’m thrilled to be here because I really want to tell someone this story.
Fisher: [Laughs] Well, you know for people who are just getting going in genealogy, perhaps you need to understand exactly what’s involved in developing stories about people you don’t know much about to begin with. And I think what you’ve got here is a real good example of that.
Sunny: Yeah, I think so too. So, this is a story about my grandfather’s cousin Anna. So, this is the only cousin he ever knew and it’s someone that I really only met when she was a really old lady. My only memory of her is that it was a really big deal when we visited her, that my mom was so excited, that we had to be really good as kids, that’s all I really knew.
Fisher: Oh, all dressed up and everything, bring her a little gift, be polite.
Fisher: But this is interesting because this is kind of a far fledged branch then from your line, right?
Sunny: Yes. This is my grandfather’s cousin but it was someone that I at least met and I knew from the way my mom was with her, I knew that my mom loved her. So, I call my mom to ask about Anna. So, she is a genealogist too, so her voice immediately turned into her happy genealogy voice.
Sunny: Like you just asked a million dollar question.
Sunny: So, she immediately starts spouting off all of her favorite memories of Anna and I could tell from her voice how much she loved her, which is interesting because she also freely admitted that Anna was you know “quite a character.”
Sunny: And in her family language that means she probably pretty cranky and difficult to love.
Fisher: Right, the language of the family.
Sunny: So, my mom in fact thought she might have been estranged even from her own children.
Fisher: Oh, well, that tells you something.
Sunny: It does. So, my thought also as somebody who really cares about family legacy was then, well mom, if Anna was so estranged even from her own children is it possible that maybe her own grandchildren and great grandchildren never learned anything about her or never learned anything good about her? Are you the world’s leading expert on the good things about Cousin Anna?
Fisher: [Laughs] That’s a good question.
Sunny: Right? And maybe should we be setting the record straight online or straighter? And my mom was like, well, yeah absolutely. So, she immediately began to go write something up. So that’s really great. Then, I decided that I would go look for Anna’s children. I didn’t really know anything about the mother than some basic things that my mom already knew. So, Anna was born in about the 1890s and her kids were born around the World War I era. Beyond that, I found hardly anything else that my mom had already told me. So, she knew Anna had four kids, three of them were boys. And one of those boys was a five month old baby who had passed away.
Sunny: So I knew that she had lost one kid. So, I knew that was somebody I didn’t need to research for kids and grandkids. So, I started looking into some of these others and the first thing I found was about her son John. So, he served in World War II. He came home and he got married. In 1948 he was 26 years old, three weeks later he’s killed in a car accident.
Fisher: Ugh. Wow.
Sunny: So, I found the death certificate and it’s in Washington and it names the place as the Snoqualmie Pass Highway in Washington. So, I go to Newspapers.com to get more of the story if I can and I find this article, and a three car crash. “A spectacular three car collision this morning eight miles west of here, and the rain slicked Snoqualmie Pass Highway killed three persons and injured five others.” And it mentions him and then it mentions his wife. So she was in the car with him.
Sunny: Like they’re newlyweds and he’s killed and she sustains head injuries but she does survive. So, then I go and look for her remaining son Clarence. So, he also served in World War II. He also survived, came home and started a family. And then I find a Montana death certificate for him in 1955. So he’s only about 38 years old. And Scott, you’re never going to believe this cause of death.
Sunny: An airplane crash, followed by a hundred percent cremation.
Fisher: Oh my gosh, he burned up. Oh, that’s awful.
Sunny: I’m like, mom you didn’t tell me any of this. And so I’m assuming she has no idea.
Fisher: Right, yeah.
Sunny: Cousin Anna outlived three sons.
Fisher: How awful.
Sunny: So, I call my mom to tell her and meanwhile I’m pulling up on Newspapers.com to look for anything else that I can find about this plane crash. I’m telling my mom this stuff and she’s telling me that she had no idea about any of this. So, I’m on Newspapers.com and my mom is like, Oh, I love your Newspapers.com subscription!
Sunny: Do you have relatives who do that too?
Fisher: Yeah. Would you look this up for me?
Sunny: Would you look this up? So, I go on to look for any article about this plane crash and I find a series of stories and I start reading them to my mom. So, we are discovering this together in real time. So, the first article I find, bad weather delay search for men in planes. And it talks about poor flying conditions. It’s preventing a search for men who have been missing for a couple of days. The weather is still terrible and smokejumpers are standing by for rescue efforts if they need them. And there are uranium hunters from Tacoma, Washington.
Sunny: So, I’m finding out like dang, wow. And a couple of days later a couple of more articles come out, his wife has come in town to wait out the search. So, she’s there and she’s all like, you know what? They’re going to be fine. She said all three of these people on the plane were experienced woodmen. The company plane was really well equipped. She said they had rations for three days. They’ve got a rifle. They’re going to be fine. Well…
Fisher: Uh oh.
Sunny: It took more than a year to find the follow up article. “Plane identity definitely established. Wreckage of a small plane found in a wilderness area about 65 miles south east of Kalispell has been positively established as the craft which carried three Tacoma, Washington uranium hunters to death more than a year ago.”
Fisher: How incredible.
Sunny: “The gas tanks ignited when the craft crashed into a mountain about ten miles south west of a ranger’s station. The three uranium hunters had been seated between the gas tanks. The fire was so hot that even the aluminum melted.”
Fisher: Oh my gosh.
Sunny: So, this prompts my mom to remember that there was a family bible entry in Cousin Anna’s handwriting where she wrote in the death of this son. And all it says is, “buried in the mountains of Montana.”
Fisher: How tragic. This woman lost all these kids, unbelievable.
Sunny: She did. So, now we’re left with these two different sets of information that we have about Anna’s family. In her life, we have my mom’s memories of this woman who was both cantankerous and compassionate. Who was extraordinary and extraordinarily cranky and then we have these records unfold about what she went through in the loss of three at least of her four children. And we still can’t find that daughter. And if Cousin Anna was kind of cranky sometimes, I think I have a better idea why.
Fisher: Sure, yeah.
Sunny: So, now it’s become even important to both of us to do two things, Scott, and the first is find those descendents.
Sunny: And the second is to tell the story.
Fisher: Yep. Get it online. Get it out there.
Sunny: Get it online. We have shared family trees online in a couple of different places where we collaborate and we put everything we find. So, the idea is now, anyone who happens to take an interest in Cousin Anna in the future like I did. There’re going to have a much better and bigger story to learn about her.
Fisher: Isn’t the sharing process fantastic? Sometimes you can put something up there and years go by and then suddenly you get a message from someone going, wow, hi. I’m your cousin and thank you so much for posting this or that, or the other thing. I mean, I think it’s a huge thing to do and I love the process Sunny and the thoughts, how it all comes together. I mean, it’s an amazing journey you just took.
Sunny: You know, it is. What I think is kind of stunning to me is that this is someone I remember and whose life was still a real mystery to us. We thought we knew about her and we didn’t know jack squat.
Fisher: [Laughs] She’s Sunny Morton. She’s a genealogist. She’s a teacher. You can follow her and learn all kinds of stuff like this at Sunnymorton.com. Sunny, thanks so much for coming on the show. Love the process. Love the results of it and good luck as you work on phase three.
Sunny: Thanks so much, Scott.
Fisher: And coming up next, David Allen Lambert with another round of Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show in three minutes.
Segment 4 Episode 373
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Fisher: All right, back at it with Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. I am Fisher, that is David Allen Lambert, he is the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. And Dave, our first question for Ask Us Anything today is from Adam in Augusta, Georgia and he says, "Guys, my ancestor was connected with Andrew Carnegie back in the day even though he wasn't famous. Do you know of any sources that can tell me more about this association?" That's a good question.
David: It really is a good question, because you know, the first thing that would come to mind is, let's see what papers and diaries and letters of Andrew Carnegie that may mention his ancestor show up. And they must be in some archives around there. I'd have to take a little bit of deep digging to look for an Andrew Carnegie archives.
David: But the Carnegie Foundation probably would be the first place I'd contact.
Fisher: It might be as simple as finding an autobiography or biography that talks about these things. I've got several of these types of relationships in my lines as well. I had one guy who was said to have helped build the engine for Fulton's Folly with Robert Fulton, so tried researching the records of Robert Fulton. Haven't found any mention of my ancestor in there, but still, it’s a source of research. And then there was another relative who was connected with Commodore Vanderbilt and they were in business together, so I have found references to him in autobiographies and histories of Vanderbilt and some of the businesses he was involved in, and so as a result, this relative of mine became fairly well known on his own, even though he himself didn’t warrant a biography or an autobiography. And then there was one more on another branch of the family where my relative was connected to David Belasco, the famous producer of plays along Broadway. He was a stage carpenter. And this was very early in Belasco’s career, so they kind of crossed paths for a brief period of time, about 10 years in 1880s. So studying about Belasco, I would find something more about my relatives. So that's a great way to go.
David: Yeah, it really is. I mean, for me, I found that I have a couple of close relatives who's siblings were more famous in history than my own. My ancestor, Ann Sewall, who was married to William Longfellow, she had a brother who was a judge at the Witchcraft Trials. But Samuel Sewall was a great diarist and actually kept a diary from the late 17th century till when he died in the early 1700s and they're published. But he talks about going to visit Sister Longfellow or better yet, he's talking about the Witchcraft Trials. So to have somebody that's written up like that allows me to see a context of a great, great, great, great uncle. And sometime relatives have a more famous sibling that may have papers that survived.
Fisher: Yeah, that's right. Any connection around that family, you can dig up the story. And for me, that's really so much of the fun of family history research is discovering those stories in obscure places. And one day, I actually talked to a cousin who found a reference to a cabinet, a big book case that my ancestor, Fisher had built in the 1840s in New York City and it was apparently part of the apartment of Leonard Bernstein in his place at the Dakota Building where John Lennon was eventually killed. And so, they had pictures of it and described it, so I was actually able to reach out to the owners of that after Bernstein had passed away. It was auctioned off at like $50,000, but here was this write-up in New York magazine, never expected to find that. And so, sometimes finding these famous connections like that can lead you to all kind of fascinating discoveries and it’s really worth digging into. It might take you a long time, but if you keep scratching away at all these possible sources and get imaginative, you might find some things that might raise a few eyebrows.
David: There you go.
Fisher: So, thank you, Adam for the question. I hope that helps out and I hope you find that connection to Andrew Carnegie with your ancestor. And coming up next, David, we have another question, this one having to do with old ships in Connecticut. Yeah, when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.
Segment 5 Episode 373
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Fisher: All right, final segment of Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show. We're doing Ask Us Anything with David Allen Lambert, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org! And David, we got this email from Margret in Virginia and she writes, "My ancestor was said to have owned several ships in Connecticut in the early 1800s. Are you aware of any database that can tell me more about these ships? Thank you guys." David.
David: Very interesting. Well, first thing that quickly comes to mind are the great databases that you can find online for newspapers. So obviously something that may say he owns a particular vessel or vessels, Newspapers.com might be one place to go. So put your ancestor's name in and put in "vessel" or "ship" or "owner" that would be good. But the one thing you might want to look at once you know the name of the vessels is the Lloyd's list. Now the Lloyd's list, Lloyd's of London has been listing in their registrars’ vessels since 1764. Here's the best part, their database from 1764 straight through to 1945 is completely online.
David: Um hmm. So, how you can find this list, if you Google search "Lloyd's Register Foundation Heritage and Education Center", you'll find that they have them digitized right there. You can find that one batch is 1764 to 1804, another is 1805 to 1836 and that goes on to cover right on down to 1945 till the end of World War II.
David: I'll give you an example. One of the ones I have here, here's one from 1854 and it says the number of the ship on the rolls, the name of the ship, the master of the ship. So if your ancestor was an owner and you know, the master, the captain of the vessel.
Fisher: The master of his ship!
David: Exactly! By George! I think you've got it!
David: The tonnage of the vessel, when it was built, where it was built, who the owners are, which is of course relative to our question, the port it's belonging to, so if it says, you know, Connecticut port, that may help. And then it will say the destined voyage that it currently is on. So if you're, you know, finding that the person is looking 1854, where was it going at that point in time. And then it gives you any other specifics on the characteristics on the vessel itself. Now, what's interesting, if you look at the Lloyd's listing, you look at, say, the one from 1912, 1913, you'll find that the Titanic is listed as sunk. And this is going to be true with one of your ancestor's vessels if it was damaged or scrapped or sunk, you'll find reference to that actually in the Lloyd's list.
Fisher: That's incredible, that is great stuff. And you know, this is one of the things about genealogy that we're always doing is trying to find new sources that we're not familiar with. And you know, you talked about what trip they were on at a given point in time, it makes you realize, "Oh, there must be multiple entries for the same ship then, because it would be year to year, trip to trip. The other thing that would be key to this is the fact that many of these ships back in the day had the same name. There were many Mayflowers.
Fisher: But if you have all this information relating to a particular ship, you can really narrow it down to determine which is the one you're looking for based on place, based on tonnage, based on trips and the owners and all these things. So it’s just really like researching a person, isn't it?
David: It really is. It’s the genealogy of a vessel, especially if your ancestor like our listener has said, owned more than one, you may find multiple entries. And you know, when you're searching through this, who knows, you may even find more vessels that you didn’t know they owned, when you peruse these great lists.
Fisher: Exactly. All right, great answer, David. Thank you for that and thank you, Margret for the question. If you have a question for Ask Us Anything, you can always email us at [email protected]. David, talk to you next week.
David: Look forward to it.
Fisher: All right and that's our show for this week, genies. Thanks for joining us. Hey, if you missed any of it, catch the podcast on iTunes, iHeart Radio, ExtremeGenes.com, Spotify, TuneIn Radio, you name it. Talk to you next week. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!