Episode 376 - WW2 Vet, Jack Holder, Talks Experiencing Pearl Harbor and Midway Plus Another Ordinary Person With An Extraordinary FindMay 17, 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 open with “David’s Find of the Week” involving a document signed by John Hancock! In Family Histoire News the number nine is almost a theme. NINE babies have been born to a woman in Mali in a single birth, and they’re all doing fine! Then nine sets of Neanderthal remains have been found in a cave near Rome. Catch the story behind the discovery. Next, it’s the 20th anniversary of the completion of the human genome. How much has that impacted our genie world?! Speaking of which, using DNA, two brothers who died at Pearl Harbor on the Oklahoma have been identified. And finally a “stilt village” has been found 14 feet underwater at Lake Lucerne, Switzerland. Hear how that changes their history… instantly!
Fisher then has the honor of interviewing his second Pearl Harbor survivor this year. Jack Holder has written a book called Fear, Adrenaline, and Excitement about his survival at Pearl Harbor as the first Japanese bomb in the attack exploded only 300 feet from where he was standing. Then, Jack was at Midway on the search plane that first reported the positions of the Japanese carriers. He is living history at 99!
Fisher then visits with another ordinary person with an extraordinary find. Catch the story of the ancestors of Cynthia Hallen who found themselves in a horrific fire on the same night as the Great Chicago Fire.
David then returns for a pair of questions on Ask Us Anything.
That’s all this week on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show!
Transcript for Episode 376
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Segment 1 Episode 376
Fisher: And welcome 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 falls out. Well, it is great to have you along genies. We've got some incredible guests today. We have Jack Holder on the show, coming up in about ten minutes. Jack lives in the Phoenix area. He's 99 years old and he was like, 300 yards, I mean really close to the very first bomb that was dropped on Pearl Harbor! He was on Ford Island right near Battleship Row and you're going to want to hear his story. He was also in the Battle of Midway and he's got great stories to tell. Look forward to talking to Jack. And then after that, we're going to talk to Cynthia Hallen. Cynthia is one of those ordinary people with extraordinary finds. You're going to want to hear her ancestral story that she dug up not that long ago. Hey, if you haven't signed up for our Weekly Genie Newsletter yet, we are ready to get your email so we can get that off to you. Get a blog from me each week, a couple of links to past and present shows and link to stories you'll appreciate as a genealogist. Now it’s time to head out to Boston, Massachusetts where David Allen Lambert is standing by, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. David, how're you doing buddy?
David: I'm doing great. How about yourself?
Fisher: I am doing fine. But it’s time once again for Dave's Find of The Week! I know Dave you discovered something there.
David: Well, the archival shovel hit pay dirt again.
David: My fourth great grandfather, when he was a lieutenant colonel in the Revolutionary War, I was looking through the Acts and Resolves. These are partitions in the commonwealth of the Massachusetts to the governor, and he sent a partition that a ship should be outfitted and he would navigate it to leave Newburyport to head to Newfoundland, because there was a British prisoner warship about to head back to England that they got word of that had a 130 American prisoners of war. The approval was granted. And how do I know that? Because in the back of one of the documents, it’s got a John Hancock, from none other than John Hancock.
Fisher: That is cool! [Laughs] The six degrees of separation from John Hancock to David Allen Lambert, very nice.
David: I know. I just wish that I had a letter that he sent to my fourth great grandfather and I can have it hanging in my room.
Fisher: All right, and our Family Histoire News today is brought to you by the number 9. Let's get started, Dave.
David: Yes, and that would be for 9 Malian babies born to Halima Cisse who gave birth to a new word for us, nonuplets.
David: In Morocco. So, we've heard of the Dionne quintuplets, but now we have the Cisse nonuplets.
Fisher: Yeah, and its five girls and four boys in a single birth and they all have survived so far.
David: Yes, it’s true. And what an amazing baseball team she has now.
Fisher: Yes! [Laughs]
David: it’s absolutely incredible. And I just, gosh! Well, moving on, staying with the number 9, let's go back about, oh, 50,000 or 100,000 years ago, because nine Neanderthals were found in a cave south of Rome, Italy. And this includes skulls and teeth and bones. And with 23andMe sharing with us how much Neanderthal we have in your genome, we'll, I just want to say, I am so grateful that they finally found my great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandfathers and grandmothers.
Fisher: That's a lot of greats.
David: [Laughs] And probably I would have to continue to say greats for the rest of the season to do this.
Fisher: At least the rest of the show that's for sure.
David: And speaking of DNA, happy 20th anniversary to the human genome discovery. It’s amazing to think that it was that short a time that we were only even anticipating genealogical evidence within the DNA. I didn't even think it was going to be possible. You know, the human genome is about as complex as a mouse or a fruit fly, having about 21,000 genes, but its three times less than an onion.
Fisher: That's crazy, isn't it, to think that that's all we are, that's it.
David: That's it. So, the next time you kill a fruit fly, you might feel kind of bad.
Fisher: Yeah. Yeah, I suppose that's true.
David: You know, the USS Oklahoma was one of the ships that actually sank and flipped in Pearl Harbor, and many were trapped and that includes two brothers, Harold F. Trapp, age 24 and his brother William H. Trapp, age 23, both from La Porte, Indiana. They were killed in the Oklahoma. These two brothers are now identified. According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency who have been actively working to identify DNA matches with the remains of unidentified sailors and marines from Pearl Harbor.
Fisher: That’s an amazing project and they just keep coming up with new identifications. This is great to get these boys home.
David: Truly is. Let's go across the pond to a lake in Switzerland. Lake Lucerne, where a 3000 year old village has recently been found. Now if you ever saw The Hobbit and you know of the village of Lake Town, that Smaug destroys. Well, it’s kind of like that. It’s was a stilt village out on a lake and it was 3000 years ago when it started to be constructed and its only 14 feet in the water. Apparently, it’s been there for millennia under the boats and they never knew to look. And until now, they have found artifacts, including wooden portions of the structures still there.
Fisher: Wow! That's insane! [Laughs] How do you miss that? It’s right there.
David: Well, apparently they're finding wooden pieces that are just happened to be in the silt and they realize that it’s not just logs, it’s actually a structure, because they're all hewn. And they're finding metal objects as well. So, yeah, maybe lake front property isn't the best, but for archeologists in Switzerland, they're benefitting by it now.
Fisher: Pretty much so, yeah.
David: So that's all I have from Beantown this week for you. And remember, if you're not a member of American Ancestors, I welcome you to join. And you can save $20 if you use the coupon code "EXTREME" on AmericanAncestors.org. Talk to you real soon.
Fisher: All right David, thank you so much. We'll catch you at the back end of the show for Ask Us Anything. And coming up next, we're going to talk to 99 year old Jack Holder. He was at Midway. He was at Pearl Harbor. He was really close to the very first bomb dropped. You're going to want to hear his story from his own lips, coming up next on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.
Segment 2 Episode 376
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Jack Holder
Fisher: And welcome back to America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, you Radio Roots Sleuth, and what an honor it is for me today to be talking to 99-year-old Jack Holder in Arizona. Jack has written a book called “Fear Adrenalin and Excitement” covering his military experiences. Jack, welcome to Extreme Genes.
Jack: Well, thank you so much. It’s my honor to join you.
Fisher: Well, Jack has quite a history because during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th 1941, he had…what would you say, a front row seat, Jack?
Jack: [Laughs] I definitely had a front row seat. I had duty that day I was one of anticipating roll call and in our hanger, we heard fast moving aircraft and moments later a terrible explosion. The hanger beside us blew up. We received the first bomb that fell at Pearl Harbor.
Fisher: You were right there for the first bomb?
Jack: It dropped about 100 yards from me. I was right there.
Fisher: Oh my goodness. So, the beginning of World War II was a 100 yards from you.
Jack: Yeah. That’s correct.
Fisher: Wow! And you, as I understand it were on Ford Island?
Jack: I was on Ford Island yes. Ford Island is a small island right inside Pearl Harbor itself.
Fisher: Um hmm. And I understand that you actually got really close to one of these planes that I guess was strafing?
Jack: Well, he got pretty close to us. It so happens that when we went outside and seeing the aircrafts overhead with the rising sun and signal in the air, it so happens that one of my shipmates remembered there was a sewer line under construction behind our hanger. He said, “Let’s go for the ditch. Follow me.” We all ran, jumped in it, sat there clinging to each other. And of course, one of the pilots had seen us. He circled, straight into the ditch, missed us by five or three feet, he hit the dirt piled up beside the ditch.
Fisher: Oh my gosh! And as I understand, you were actually so close as he came over that you could see his face.
Jack: I could see his face. I could see his unbuttoned helmet flapping in the breeze and all those big shiny white teeth.
Jack: I guess he was pretty happy.
Fisher: He looked like he was enjoying himself.
Jack: I think so.
Fisher: Wow! How long had you been at Pearl Harbor before all this happened?
Jack: Just six days short of one year.
Fisher: So, as you were in this ditch, after this initial attack, what happened then, where did you go?
Jack: Well, this was a two wave attack as you well know. I’m not sure how long we were in the ditch, but it was an hour and fifteen minutes between the two waves. Shortly after the first wave was over, we’d come out of the ditch of course, and we started separating the aircrafts. We had 12 aircrafts parked between the two hangers, BP21 and BP23, my hanger. Half of them were on fire from the first bomb that fell. We started separating the burning aircrafts from aircrafts that weren’t damaged. And I was ordered by the lady chief to grab two other sailors and go into the hanger and get the squadron commander’s aircraft ready for flight. We got the engines ready, buttoned them up, the aircraft was rolled out, refueled, loaded with two 1000 pound bombs. The captain and his crew flew for 19 hours looking for the Japanese fleet but found nothing.
Jack: But the devastating thing that I had seen, I can look down Battleship Row and see the Arizona, the Nevada, West Virginia, Tennessee, California, Utah, I seen the Oklahoma turn turtle up, seen all these ships on fire, all sinking. I seen gentleman jumping in the water, trying to swim to water cover and burning all out. A lot of them died in the water, some of them died when they reached the beach, and of course some of them made it. But it was a sight I’ll never forget.
Fisher: I can only imagine. How many days did you remain at Pearl after the attack on December 7th?
Jack: Well, the normal routine of search and flight training, everything resumed immediately after the raid. This continued until Midway.
Fisher: I see. So, you stayed there. You were still based there.
Jack: Oh, yeah.
Fisher: And so, you were a pilot. Had you received your pilot training before December 7th or was that just a continuation after the attack?
Jack: Well, in the military I was flight engineer. I went to flight school after I got out of the Navy, then I was an airline pilot, was strictly a flight engineer in the Navy.
Fisher: At that point.
Jack: At that point.
Fisher: So, as I understand it, Midway of course was not that long after Pearl Harbor. It was just a matter of several months and was obviously very important because you had four Japanese aircraft carriers trying to lure in what they thought what was left of the United States Navy. They were going to attack it, take over Midway, and then they were in a position where they could attack the West Coast. But we of course intercepted all their messages so we knew what the plan was and so we had our own carriers out there that they didn’t even know existed at that point, and you were part of the battle of Midway.
Jack: Let me run through that complete story of that. Immediately after the journey to liberate Tokyo, the naval intelligence began receiving numerous coded messages using the letters AF and AO. We understood part of the Japanese code. We knew that one of these stood for the Aleutian Islands and the other for Midway, but we could not tell which was which. Our chief of intelligence told Admiral Nimitz he said, "I've devised a plan to ascertain what they mean." He said, "We can send out an encoded message saying, "Midway has just had a fresh water condenser failure." Nimitz said, "Send it." The Japanese took the bait, they sent out a coded message saying "AF has just had a fresh water condenser failure." Nimitz then sent a small task force to the Aleutian Islands in disguise and the rest of the fleet to Midway, positioning the aircraft carriers in position. The rest of the fleet another, my squadron left Pearl Harbor on May 28, 1942, began our search for the Japanese fleet. June 3rd, we found them, 450 miles north east of Midway, proceeding towards Midway under a weather front.
Fisher: And when you say, "We found him." you were part of the group that did find them.
Jack: I was in the aircraft that made the report of their position.
Fisher: That is amazing to me. And it’s a little personal too, because I had an uncle, Donald Olsen who served on the USS New Orleans at the Battle of Midway and I've reviewed his naval records and the experience at that time. It was a world changing battle, the Battle of Midway, because it protected the West Coast, it pushed the Japanese back. I believe they were also planning on attacking Australia.
Jack: That's right.
Fisher: This was kind of the end of their pushing east and their aggression in that direction. They had to go into a more defensive position after this, right?
Jack: That's right. They wanted to control all the shipping lanes to the Philippines.
Fisher: Do you think back on this, Jack? I mean, you're 99 years old now. You must look back on this, 80 years ago it seems, I'm sure, like another lifetime ago.
Jack: It does seem like an awful long time, but I remember it like it was yesterday.
Fisher: I bet it does. Its life defining when you go through something like that, yes?
Jack: That's very true, yes.
Fisher: How many of your friends from those times are still with us?
Jack: Recently, I have a very good friend here, a rear admiral by the name of Jim Simons. He had some contacts and I come up with a group of at least 30 or 40 names that I remembered in my squadron and they did research on these and they could not make contact with a single one.
Fisher: So you're it.
Jack: Well, I'm the only one in Phoenix. I think there's only two of us in Arizona. You know, you're talking about us very long ago. I've been back to Pearl Harbor on December 7th several times, checking back by The Greatest Generations Foundation. The person is a gentleman by the name of Timothy Davis, he's an Australian.
Jack: When I first met him, I says, "How come you Australians got mixed up in all of this?" He said, "Jack, if it hadn't have been for your boys, Australia might have been speaking Japanese."
Fisher: [Laughs] That's absolutely true. You did a lot of stuff. You also fought in the Atlantic Theater.
Jack: I was transferred back to San Diego, went to training in the B24 Liberator. In April 1943, flew 56 missions till December and patrolled the English Channel and the Bay of Biscay, which is the western coast of France.
Fisher: That's unbelievable. I'm seeing a number here that you flew 315 navy missions. How is that even possible?
Jack: I don't know. [Laughs] When they say go, you've got to go.
Fisher: You go and you go, but I mean, really, what were the odds of survival with that number of missions under your belt?
Jack: Well, I can tell you this, every time you board that aircraft, you say, well, you know, maybe this might be the last one. You never know.
Fisher: I can only imagine. Two Distinguished Flying Cross medals and then afterwards you worked as a corporate pilot. What a life!
Jack: Yeah, that was. The charter airline, I had my fair share between California for 7 years and then I went to the Union Oil company as a corporate pilot for another 10 years.
Fisher: Well, what a piece of family history you've written for your family, Jack. And this has been a real honor to talk to you. Did your dad serve in the service?
Jack: My father was a royal World War I veteran. He never talked too much about it, but he did tell me he spent a year crawling through the mud in France.
Fisher: Oh wow! That had to be just as difficult as everything you went through.
Jack: Oh, that's true, yeah.
Fisher: Unbelievable. And you turn 100 in December.
Jack: December I'll be 100, yes.
Fisher: Unbelievable. He is Jack Holder. He's from Phoenix, Arizona, a survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941 at Ford Island and actually was able to look right into the face of one of the Japanese pilots who was strafing him and his buddies. What a life what a story Jack! You've written this book about your life. What's it called?
Jack: It’s called, Fear Adrenaline and Excitement.
Fisher: Did you come up with that title?
Jack: Yes, I did.
Fisher: And what does it mean to you?
Jack: Well, it means exactly what I experienced. There's a great difference between being afraid and the moment of fear. If a person's afraid, it creates bad decisions. But a moment of fear tells the adrenaline to start flowing, then it changes to excitement.
Fisher: So where can people get this book?
Jack: On Amazon and my website, JackHolder.org.
Fisher: Wonderful. Jack, thank you so much. I look forward to reading the book.
Segment 3 Episode 376
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Cynthia Hallen
Fisher: And welcome back to Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth. I’m always amazed at how many people have somebody in their family history who was involved in a disaster. And how many of these disasters have led to commemorations over multiple generations as people think back to what may have happened. For instance, descendents of the Titanic still of course remember what happened then. The General Slocum disaster along the East River in New York City in 1904. I have a cousin whose German ancestors were in that and many of them died, and many of those descendants still gather every year in New York to commemorate what took place then. Well, I’ve got Cynthia Hallen on the phone right now from Springville, Utah. She’s a former professor of linguistics at Brigham Young University. And Cynthia, you’ve got a similar situation in your family.
Cynthia: Yes, I do. On both sides of my father’s family I have ancestors who survived the terrible Peshtigo fire of October 8, 1871, the same night as the Chicago Fire.
Fisher: That’s a strange coincidence, isn’t it? Same day as the Chicago Fire, yet that’s pretty much the only one we ever hear about from that era.
Cynthia: Yes. And people aren’t aware that the only telegraph line up to the Peshtigo area in that part of Wisconsin was burnt by the fire. So, people had to go to give the news to the people that had already been gathering supplies for the Chicago fire to try to get aid and get supplies up to the victims of that fire, which killed, some reports say 1200 people, others say up to 2400 people died. It’s the deadliest forest fire and basically the deadliest natural disaster in the history of the United States.
Fisher: Wow. So, this is going on, we have a rural fire in the woods and then you have a city fire in Chicago going on at the same time and not that far apart.
Cynthia. Right and it could have been the drought conditions and the weather there off of Lake Michigan, there was drought. They were building railroads. They were clearing land. It was fires all north of Chicago. So, some of the conditions that may have contributed to the Chicago fire were definitely at play in the fire up north which extended around Lake Michigan into Door County, Michigan.
Fisher: So, let me ask you this, has this been a story that’s been in your family that you’ve known, say, since you were a little girl?
Cynthia: No. I did not know until I was 19 years old. After my father died I went to live with my great Aunt Elizabeth, he’s favorite aunt in Tucson, Arizona, so that I could attend the University of Arizona, where she had been a humanities tutor. From time to time she would tell me about the family history and one night she started telling me about how her Hallen family had emigrated from the Düsseldorf area of Germany. And she started describing her siblings and how her youngest uncle who came over from Germany with her father had died in the Civil War. And then she told about how her father went north from Waterford, Wisconsin up to Marinette, Wisconsin to work in the lumber industry and met a new immigrant from Austria. They married and they went down south again to Waterford where his family was living. And then after Godfrey’s mother died they decided to go back up to Marinette where Barbra’s family was living. And on the way back to Marinette, probably to show the new baby who was about 18 months by that time, they ran into the Peshtigo fire.
Cynthia: So, as they approached Peshtigo, they encountered the fire and the only way that they could survive was by going into the river.
Fisher: Oh my gosh.
Cynthia: So, great aunt Elizabeth told me this story that they survived by standing in the river. Godfrey held up baby Lisle. He held her on his shoulders and every time their hair caught on fire they had to go back into the freezing water because it was October already. The river was crowded with animals and people. Some people drowned. Ethan says, well, if they were wet and they’re in the river, how can their hair catch on fire? Well, the air itself was on fire.
Cynthia: The temperatures were so hot that the air itself plus there were flying embers. So, Elizabeth told me this story, she even said that Barbra gave birth to a baby boy on the banks of the river and they had to use her apron to cradle him on a tree branch, a surviving tree since the ground was still too hot.
Fisher: Ugh! Wow.
Cynthia: And my great aunt Elizabeth never knew about the little Elizabeth who survived the fire, the one that was nicknamed Lisle. And she didn’t find out about it until Elizabeth was herself grown up and she went home and Godfrey, the man who built our Hallen homestead and his wife Barbara they were becoming empty nesters, and so they were remodeling and when the handyman knocked out a wall, they found a little doll that had been stuck between the walls.
Cynthia: And Elizabeth said, what’s this? And her parents just started crying and they hugged each other and wept, and wept, and wept. And that’s the first time they ever told any of their children about their first daughter.
Cynthia: The little girl who survived the fire with her.
Cynthia: At the same time the family dog disappeared and three days later they found the dog dead on the little girl’s grave.
Fisher: Ugh. So, obviously, with so many casualties to this fire you’re not the only family of descendents that have to look back on this experience. Are there any commemorations coming up that you’re aware of?
Cynthia: Yes. There are three day events for the Peshtigo historical days coming this September to celebrate the sentinel of the great Peshtigo fire. So, they have three days of events planned. For example, on Friday September 24, the embers 1871 genealogy organization will be hosting a memorial dinner. And they’ll have a show enacting some of the stories of the people who perished in the fire or who survived the fire.
Fisher: Wow. It sounds like this whole story has dramatically impacted your own life.
Cynthia: Uh, yes, because those were the trials of my ancestors and I think that if they went through those challenges of their time then we can go through the challenges of our own lives in our own time.
Fisher: Sure, and we’re sure having them right now, aren’t we?
Cynthia: Yes we are. And we have the courage of our ancestors to inspire us.
Fisher: You know, I think this is why it’s so important for people to find out about their family history and to research those ancestors and to ask the old the people about what they know and what they remember. And try to push those stories and get them out there. And you’ve done such a great job by the way, of getting your story out to where your family can quickly and easily access it by creating a family history website and it’s very artistically done. Did you design the whole thing yourself?
Cynthia: I did not. I was a professor of linguistics at Brigham Young University and one of my students was in a digital humanities class and she had to design a website using Wordpress and she needed content. And she knew about my family history experiences, so she asked me if I had any content for a website and I said yes, please help me with my family history. So, Anna Kamras designed the layout for the website. I provided the art work. So for example, one of the photos that I found when my grandfather invited me to go through the house that his father built after the fire in Marinette, Wisconsin, there was a photo of a young mother holding a baby. So, we took the color scheme, the green and gold color scheme of the mud stone picture of the young mother and we used that as the design template because as you know, the Green Bay Packers colors are green and gold. And I was born in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Fisher: [Laughs] I was really, really wondering how it was going to be, we were going to get through this whole thing with somebody from Wisconsin without bringing up the Green Bay Packers.
Fisher: We didn’t make it. Oh my gosh. Well, it’s a beautiful site. It’s well done. She’s Cynthia Hallen from Springville, Utah, a former professor of linguistics at Brigham Young University. Cynthia thanks for coming on and sharing the story about the fire, a remarkable tale of survival and to hear about the commemorations coming up. I’m sure it’s going to be very meaningful to a lot of families.
Cynthia: Thank you Scott.
Fisher: And coming up next, it’s another round of Ask Us Anything, as David Allen Lambert and I answer your questions. We’re going to be talking about church records and some new military database info that’s out, when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes.
Segment 4 Episode 376
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Fisher: And it is time once again for Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fish here with David Allen Lambert back from AmericanAncestors.org. And David, our question number one comes from Cheryl Dewinter today. She's in Maryland and she says, "Guys, I've got ancestors from different religions from different countries. Would churches have any useful records to help me know more about these people?" Well, that's a good question.
David: Wow! Yeah. Church records are amazing. In fact, in a lot communities where vital records, birth, marriage and deaths are not being recorded, it really is the church record that we have to turn to. And of course it’s important to try to take you out first off, what church your ancestor went to.
David: And that is really easy in a way. If you find the marriage record for your ancestor, it may have been abbreviated where you found it online with just the bride and groom's names and the date and the place, but dig a little deeper and see who the minister is or the clergy that performed the ceremony. Now it’s possible they got married by a justice of the peace, but the majority of the early marriages would have been done by ministers. So then you basically look up in that community and find out, even sometimes by Google what minister was associated with a particular church in a community and then start looking for the records, and the first place I look are Family Search catalogues online.
Fisher: Yeah, there's so much information to be found there. A lot of times you don't even have to go that far. A lot of times it will just tell you what the church was they were married in and now you know where to look for the records. But what I love about so many different churches is, they will tell you which congregation they belonged to and then where they were moving to. And so, you can often follow them around. The Quakers especially are really good for that kind of record.
David: Right. Their monthly meetings are amazing, because they also give you disciplinary actions. And, well, if you find that the bride and the groom go before the church to confess the sin and that the baby is baptized soon after and you kind of look at as my grandmother used to say in New England, "Second child takes nine month. First child can arrive at anytime." [Laughs]
David: So, you might find the church records give you a little clue as to the who, what and the where of your family tree when the vital records don't. The other thing church records are great for are mini censuses, because sometimes there's a listing of church members when they may not be a federal or a state census that you have available to you for those between census years after 1790, or even censuses of church members prior to 1790 that would give you a listing of who the congregants are, who signed the covenant of the church. And that really helps out a lot piecing together a community. As a town historian, that's the earliest access I have for my community, because the men are listed in the census and the men are paying the taxes the majority of the time and it lists everybody who is a member of the church. Then of course you can just kind of piece them together.
Fisher: Absolutely. And you know, Dave, a few years ago, I found a list from a Sunday school of a church in the 1790s in Westchester County, New York, and it listed all these people. It wasn't alphabetical, but it was very obvious that these were people who were sitting close to one another. And with the people I knew who were related to each other, I came to realize these people are sitting next to relatives. And so, if I had a suspicion that this person might fit in this way, finding them sitting next to other people actually helped me to verify what I felt was a pretty strong theory having gone through it. So, you know, there's so many different things you can do with church records, from following them across the country or just maybe across town from identifying parents, who were witnesses for instance to a wedding. They can give you some clues as well. I found a wedding just a couple of weeks ago and the witnesses were a known sister, so that validated that I had the right person. So, go to town on that, and best of luck with it, Cheryl. Thanks for the question. And we've got another one coming up for you here in just about three minutes on Ask Us Anything, when we return on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.
Segment 5 Episode 376
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Fisher: All right, back at it for our final segment of Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Ask Us Anything. It is Fisher here with David Allen Lambert from the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. And David, we have a question from Jeff Fowler in Eastchester, New York and he says, "Dave and Fisher, I am looking for my ancestor who was an army officer in California in the 1920s. I know there was some problem in St Louis in 1973. Is there any way to find information on this man?" David?
David: Well, 1973 of course Fisher, there was a great fire, but you can make a request from St. Louis for records that survived the fire. They are called the Burnt Files. So don't give up hope on St. Louis if you haven't tried it yet. The other thing is, your ancestor may have been in a VA hospital. And the VA hospital records you can search those on Family Search. But there's a brand new database, 1.5 million enlisted and officer muster rolls and rosters from 1916 to 1939 are now on FamilySearch.org.
David: It’s an amazing database! And you can search by a first name, last name, birth place, birth year. Now, on every muster roll, it doesn't give all the details, but if you want to place somebody, anywhere they may have been in the military, that's going to be a great asset to you, especially for those pre World War II and post World War I years, because this covers 1916 to '39, so it’s also good for your World War I ancestor.
Fisher: Yeah, it’s going to include World War I and just up to World War II, that's amazing!
David: And so, for all of us who have those Guild of One-Name Studies obsessions for a surname, plug in the last name and find what cousins you didn't realize you had or maybe get more detail about somebody being in the military that you may be earmarked from, say, the 1930 censuses said they were in the military. So this is a great resource and I hope that our listener will find that beneficial to their research. The other thing of course is newspapers, newspaper articles. There's so many different things, like Newspapers.com and Genealogy Bank where you can find stories of the person being commissioned or maybe being discharged or sick in the hospital or being sent overseas, especially if it’s a small town newspaper.
David: They're great for front page news on vets. How about yourself?
Fisher: Yeah, I just went through that very process in putting together a book on my family in World War II. And when you can put together the personnel record for instance of a military member in your family along with maybe the history of their unit, the history of what was going on in the world or in the war if there was one at that time, along with the newspaper accounts and maybe even some letters that might have been passed down in your family, you can put together amazing detail and timelines to really document what was going on with that person throughout their military career.
David: It’s a great way of finding more about your ancestors than just the names and dates. The military chapter has always been one of my favorites.
Fisher: Yeah, me too. And I think for most anybody, any ancestor who's actually served in the military or anybody living today who served in the military, often times those were the periods of their lives that really defined their lives, and they made friendships that lasted forever and they learned a lot. And many people unfortunately were very damaged by some of the things they experienced in the military. But nonetheless, you can get to the bottom of an awful lot of questions by examining those records and then piecing those things together and seeing how they all come together. It’s really interesting when you have those puzzle pieces from different sources, they all come together to create one picture. So Jeff, thank you very much for the question. David, as always thank you for very much for coming on and we will chat with you next week.
David: All righty.
Fisher: All right. And thanks so much to our guests this week, the incredible Jack Holder of course, 99 years old, a survivor of World War II, and Cynthia Hallen for coming on and talking to us about her great discovery about her ancestor. It’s another ordinary person with an extraordinary find. We love sharing those with you. If you missed any of it or want to catch it again, of course listen to the podcast, it’s on iTunes, iHeart Radio, ExtremeGenes.com, Spotify, TuneIn Radio, we're all over the place. Chat at you soon. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!