Episode 378 – Memorial Day Show: Progress On WW2 War Dead Bios / Crista Cowan on Fold3 Memorial Day Weekend Access

podcast episode May 31, 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 Family Histoire News with word on the release of a massive military database being put out by FamilySearch.org. Hear what it is. Then, Ancestry has bought up a company overseas with huge numbers of British military records. A new society has been created to recognize African ancestors who were present in British Colonial America. David will share more about the new group and how you might join it. A lot of people help salvage ancient records, but David has the story of an American monk who has gone above and beyond to salvage records around the world. Finally, happy 100th birthday to “Cheese-It!” It’s a classic snack that generations of ancestors have enjoyed.

Next, Don Milne of Stories Behind The Stars joins Fisher for an update on his project to write biographies for every American service person killed in World War 2. One state has already completed all of theirs! Hear who it is and what you can do to help where you are.

Then, Crista Cowan joins the show from sponsor Ancestry.com to discuss your free access to Fold3.comthrough the Memorial Day Weekend to mine the stories of your military ancestors. Crista will then share an update on newly released Ancestry databases.

David then rejoins Fisher for Ask Us Anything. First up… a question on jewelry heirlooms. Then, a DNA match seems to be a… um… mistake? (Not so fast!)

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

Transcript for Episode 378

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 378

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 fall out. Well, happy Memorial Day, America! It’s great to have you for the Memorial Day weekend. We’ve got a lot of great content concerning that today, including a return visit from Don Milne. He’s the guy we introduced you to last July who set a goal to write a biography on every single American service person killed in World War II. He’s made some progress. One state has already completed the task. You’re going to want to hear about that. And Don’s got some ideas for you and how you can be involved with that project. Then later in the show, Crista Cowan is going to be coming on from Ancestry.com, talking about a great database release available for you for free on Fold3 over this Memorial Day weekend and new databases from Ancestry as well. So, join us for that coming up a little bit later on. Hey, if you haven’ signed up for our Weekly Genie Newsletter yet, we are still looking for you. Just sign up at ExtremeGenes.com or on our Facebook page. You can get all kinds of great links to past and present shows and great stories that you’ll appreciate as a genealogist and you get a blog from me each week. Right now, it’s time to head out to Boston, Massachusetts. David Allen Lambert is standing by, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. Geez Dave, by the time I get your title out, the show’s almost over! So, let’s just get onto it.

David: Ahh, just call me Dave. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs] I’ll call you Dave, all right. What’s going on, bud? What’s our Family Histoire News today?

David: Well, fresh hot off the press is from FamilySearch. We have an exciting collection of 36 million United States enlisted and officer muster rolls and rosters covering 1916 to 1939. So, pre-World War II, but right after the beginning of World War I. So, that’s great and that’s all from the National Archives in St Louis. There’s also over 100,000 Louisiana Orleans Parish cemetery records from 1805 to 1944 plus vital records from Alaska, Illinois and Washington State.

Fisher: This is great, because this means more of these incredible volunteers have been indexing so many of these and the others that haven’t been indexed are at least available for us to browse through as if we’re sitting in a library, except you get to do it at home in your pajamas.

David: Well, you know, that’s not the only acquisition that’s happened for great records for people to look at. Ancestry.com has recently acquired Clever Digit Media which owns Forces War Records. Now if you’re not familiar with that, Forces War Records based in the UK has over 26 million military records from the UK and other commonwealth countries. Mostly, it deals with World War I, World War II, but has some great records in contextual material that are excellent for family historians, including ways to find out where they were, medals that they may have earned and all sorts of great things. So, hooray for Ancestry for acquiring one more thing in their digital library! You know, everything I love about genealogy are people honoring their ancestors. And of course we have the general Society of Mayflower Descendants and the 400 commemorationals last year. A new hereditary society that many of our listeners may have never heard of, the Society of The First African Families of English America. This is a group for African Americans who can trace their ancestors back to at least somebody prior to March 5th, 1770. Does that date ring a bell to you at all?

Fisher: Yeah. We’re talking about the Boston Massacre, right?

David: Correct. And that is the day Crispus Attucks fell at Boston Massacre, which is their starting off point, then of course going back to one of the first enslaved individuals that came to these shores in 1619. So, an exciting and new hereditary society that could be reached at SOFAFEA.org. You know, I love when people rescue records. Well, Columba Stewart who is a 63 year old Benedictine monk out of Minnesota, he went all the way to Nepal. He rescued these records from these monasteries, which were possibly going to fall in.

Fisher: Yeah. He’d been out there where the earthquake had shaken this place and killed many people, thousands of people just a few years ago. And he goes all over the world looking to rescue documents relating to history and family history. What an amazing man!

David: Hats off to him. And I hope that he’s able to rescue and also preserve this history for future generations. Speaking of people who have a lot of ambition, we have just lost Robert Marchand. Name might not sound familiar to a lot of people. He was a Parisian who was a record breaking cyclist. He died at 109 just recently. For 90 years, he rode a bicycle. In fact, he won the world record for those in the 100 to 105 age group and those over 105.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: Can you imagine there were many people keeping up with him?

Fisher: No! I mean, how many are in the category there? I don’t get that. That’s amazing! [Laughs]

David: Very sorry to hear of the passing of Robert Marchand, but it does go to prove that riding a stationary bike is healthy for you. But I guess riding a regular bike is even more healthy for you.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: 109 years.

Fisher: Amazing.

David: Well, one thing that may not be exactly healthy, but it’s been around for 100 years is, I tip the birthday hat in the direction of the Cheeze-it. Yes, May of 1921 saw the invention of that little 11 month shelf staple cracker that we’ve probably all munched on once or twice in our lives and so would our parents and maybe our grandparents.

Fisher: And Dave, those things are supposed to last like 11 months. I mean, it makes you wonder what is in them. Have you ever looked at the ingredients? That’s incredible.

David: I don’t know, but I’m sure there’s a preservative, so any centenarians that are listening, please tell me you’ve been eating cheese since you were a baby. I’m going to start now.

Fisher: Absolutely.

David: Well, you know, I love when I hear these type of stories even if it’s about food that’s turned 100 years old. Just don’t eat food that’s 100 years old. Well, that’s all I have from Beantown this week, but if you’re not a member of AmericanAncestors.org, you can become one by going to our website and even saving $20 by using the coupon code “EXTREME.” Well, Fish, thanks for having me on once again. What’s it been? Six years now?

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: Guess I can come back next week.

Fisher: That’s true. It’s coming up next month, it’s going to be six years, that’s awesome. And of course we’ve got you at the back end of the show for Ask Us Anything as well, so thanks much, Dave. And coming up next, we’re going to talk with Don Milne. He is the man behind a project to write biographies of all 400,000 of our American service people killed in World War II. You’ll want to hear the discussions coming up next as we celebrate Memorial Day weekend on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 378

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Don Milne

Fisher: Well, it’s been almost a year since I had my next guest on the show for the first time and I got to meet Don Milne. Don is a Utah native who’s now in Louisville, Kentucky. And he’s the guy behind the project called The Stories Behind the Stars. You can go to their website StoriesBehindTheStars.org. This is the man that wants to get a biography written of everyone killed in World War II from the United States and [Laughs] what an ambitious project. Don is on the line. Don, it’s been almost a year. I thought we’d check back in and see how things are coming.

Don: Yeah. Thanks for having me on again. Things are going great, and I think a lot of it actually has to do with your listeners because we got a super boost from the people listening to Extreme Genes. And it’s not just your person whose going to write one or two stories, many of them have written dozens or more stories because they’re really passionate about this and have made a huge contribution to the success of what we’ve been able to see so far.

Fisher: Well, that’s exciting. And now back in July, how many had you had done at that point? 

Don: We didn’t have a good count but I’m guessing it might have been probably below 500.

Fisher: And now?

Don: More than 6,000. It could be in the 8,000 range. But it’s at least 6,000.

Fisher: Wow! But you have so much to do here. You’ve got over 400,000, right?

Don: Yeah. So, that’s why we have this callout to get more help because you even did the math for us last time. I remember you saying if we just had 1000 people do one story a day, you could get it done in just over a year.

Fisher: That’s right.

Don: So, we’re not necessarily wanting to turn people into doing this with that huge time commandment. But if we just had 2,000 people doing one story a week, which takes a couple of hours on average, our goal is to have all these done by September 2nd 2025, which is the 80th anniversary of the end of World War II so, I think that’s totally doable.

Fisher: It is doable. Absolutely. Well, you’ve hit some real milestones here. One of them is an entire state’s worth of those lost in World War II has been completed.

Don: Yeah. It’s never been done before. The State of Utah had 2,100 people who served in World War II and didn’t come home. Because that was my home state and I had a lot of contacts and got some great feedback from Extreme Genes and KSL and a few other sources. I just got a huge influx of volunteers and we ended up with 125 people helping me to write these 2,100 stories. So, now we just have to duplicate this, put in the other times, and actually have at this point people in eleven other states where they’ve already started the process of creating a master database because you can’t write the stories unless you know the names. And although after the war the navy and the army put together a couple of huge books with all the names that they identified as the World War II dead, those books are not accurate and are not complete so we’re basically having to create the list first of those who died in World War II so we can do all their stories.

Fisher: Now, have you had circumstances where people died of their injuries or their wounds after the war that was not counted as among those dead from the war?  

Don: So, the way we’re doing this is, the army they set a guideline and the dates they picked were May 27thof 1941. Because at that point we were not actively involved in the war but we were helping to transport supplies to England and so many in our navy were actively at risk so that’s the start date. And then the end date they decided would be January 31st of 1946 so a little before the official start of the war of the United States but afterwards part of the reason why the dates go later into January is the Japanese surrendered on September 2nd in Tokyo Harbor but a lot of them didn’t give up. They kept fighting on in the islands. There’s records of people I think on Guam was the last person from Japan that surrendered in the 1970s. That’s how long they held out.

Fisher: Yeah, I remember that.  

Don: And so we still had people trying to get the Japanese to surrender as some of them were killed.

Fisher: So, they made it January 31st of 1946, so that also allowed for the possibility that they died of wounds when in battle earlier so that’s fascinating. What I’m amazed at is we have a Vietnam memorial that has the name of every single person who died, and yet we don’t have an accurate list of everybody who died in World War II, which was really eight times the amount of loss.

Don: Yeah. It’s kind of crazy. When I started with the Utah project, I went to the Utah historian and said, “Can I get the list?” and he said, “There isn’t one.” And these 11 other volunteers said they heard the same thing in their states you’ll find the exact same thing. We’re hoping that eventually one of these 50 states somebody will have done it maybe a history graduate student, or maybe some other historian along the way. We do know that the state of Virginia, which is not a state that we’ve done yet, after the war the state legislature told all of the 92 counties to put together a gold star book with everybody from their county who didn’t make it back. So, that may be one state that when we get to we’ll have a more accurate list to start with than the others. And people listening to this, if you want to find out more and maybe volunteer to take on a state that will be great. We have a quick acting list of states. We already have someone filling in the database.

Fisher: Yeah.

Don: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, New York, Michigan, Missouri, and Oklahoma. So, if you’re not from one of those states and you like dealing with databases and you want to take on a challenge of building this database with all the World War II fallen, we can get you the national archive registry list and you can kindly go on and sort out the rest.

Fisher: So, you go to StoriesBehindtheStars.org and there’s an obvious place for you right there to sign up and take on a project like that.

Don: Yeah.

Fisher: Wouldn’t that be something for somebody’s home state, or at least your county, or your town, or something like that.

Don: Uh huh.

Fisher: It all contributes to it. And hopefully it can get done by 2025. That would be absolutely amazing. Now, you were just at Gettysburg and you’re running into stories. We’ve got World War II dead at Gettysburg, which is amazing to me.  

Don: Yeah. And these are national cemeteries that had room. They would allow people to be buried there. So, when they shipped, I think it was about 80,000 bodies back to the United States after World War II. Often times the families would select the national cemetery that was close to them. So, these families of eleven fallen on D-Day are buried in Gettysburg National Cemetery. And one other name that I found super fascinating when I was there, was a young man by the name of Walter Schmidt, and what struck me as interesting when I looked at his gravestone is he’s born in 1928 and he died in 1944. I was there with my grandson whose 16 years old. I asked him, “Can you see how old this guy was when he died serving his country in World War II?” And he looks at it and he’s kind of surprised and he says, “He’s my age!” We don’t know much about him yet. I have one of my Pennsylvania writers doing some more research and it’s only been a few days but we found something super fascinating. He was on a destroyer, seaman out on a destroyer, 16 years old. He was a black man from Philadelphia, so here’s this man, he’s buried just a few feet away from where Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg address, he’s probably the only black man buried in a [national] cemetery that I know of that’s 16 years old.

Fisher: Isn’t that amazing?

Don: Many people have actually connected with some of the descendants or relatives of the people that have died, and we’ve been able to get more information that way. And people are contacting and saying, “I just happened to look this up, and we’re just kind of curious about Uncle Harold and nobody knows much about him. But now that we’ve seen this, we got more information.” Where we’re going with this eventually is we’ve got the initial 100,000 stories and we’re developing a smart phone app so that you can to any gravesite in the United Sates or anywhere in the world, scan the name using your start phone it will lead directly to the story and you’ll be able to read it right there. It’s really going to change the experience of people living in cemeteries. I think you look around and it’s mostly the older folks that are more interested in that sort of thing.

Fisher: Sure.

Don: Maybe because we figured we’re going to be there soon ourselves. But I can really see foresee the young people going from grave to grave and reading the stories of someone who died about their age.  And I hope one of the things that it does is it gives people a challenge to do something with their lives. Because we’re here in this great country because these people paid the price to win the war in such a way that Japan became a free society, Germany became a free society, a lot of the world got freedom that if we hadn’t been involved Germany probably still would have lost to Russia, but could you imagine what the world would be like if the Germany lost to the Soviet Union and the United States had stayed neutral the whole time. It would be a very different place.

Fisher: Yes. What about these overseas cemeteries, Don. How are you handling that?  

Don: They’re mostly taken care of by the American Battle Monuments Commission so we’ve had someone reached out to them. We haven’t done too much with them directly but it will work exactly the same whether you’re at the cemetery in Normandy or the ones in Belgium or in Italy or the one down in the Philippines. This app is going to work with all those and I think it’s going to make a much more enriching experience because millions of people when they go to Europe that’s one of the things they want to visit. When you go to cemetery, all you can see is names and dates. But this is the 21st century and the internet just has so much wealth and information. And thanks to Fold3 that has offered to make this common database available, we can now have names, and not just names but stories and photos of probably everybody. With the information that’s what our researcher here is finding. Very rarely do they run across a name that there’s just a roadblock and absolutely nothing. You can almost always find something. In Utah, we’re doing all the names from D-Day. There were 2,502 people there. That’s why I was at Gettysburg because I wanted to show the local media there, hey, we’ve got everybody from D-Day we’ve got their story. Those will be wrapped up by D-Day of June this year June 6th to have more projects for people to work on. They’re free to work on their home state, but it’s kind of fun to have some general national projects. So, we’re going the next over 2,335 people who died at Pearl Harbor their 80th anniversary is this September 7th so we’ll be done before then.

Fisher: Amazing.

Don: I think it will be cool when people visit the Arizona Memorial and instead of just seeing names on that plaque on the wall, they can hold their phone up, scan the name, and read that person’s story right there. The park service might be a little mad at us once this is available because people will want to stay longer than they’re allowed to on that tour.

Fisher: [Laughs] Yeah.

Don: The other project we’re going to be able to do with the volunteers, we now have, I think I mentioned when I was on your show last time, we had like 100 people at that point and thanks to your show we got like another 100 people who joined us. But we’re now at almost 1100 from all 50 states and more than a dozen other countries. The other national project we doing is we’re going to write the stories of every World War II fallen buried at Arlington National Cemetery. There’s more than 6,000 of those. And we want to have those done by Memorial Day of 2022 so, maybe another year we’ll have to get back on your show and we’ll be able to report back.

Fisher: The project is StoriesBehindtheStars.org. He’s Don Milne. He’s from Louisville, Kentucky. Wow, it sounds like you’ve made a lot of great progress Don. And once again, if people want o volunteer they can do it at StoriesBehindtheStars.org. Thank you so much for coming on and giving us the update. It sounds great!   

Don: Thanks for having me on again.

Fisher: And coming up next, I’ll talk to Crista Cowan from Ancestry.com. They’ve got a great project for Memorial Day going on right now that you’re going to want to be a part of, plus incredible new databases that have come out. We’ll get the update in five minutes.  

Segment 3 Episode 378

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Crista Cowan

Fisher: And welcome back to America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth and look who I’ve got with me today, my good friend Crista Cowan from our sponsors at Ancestry.com. And Crista, here it is Memorial Day. It’s a very important day, a very historic day in our country and you guys have a great project everybody can get involved in this weekend.

Crista: We do. So, some people may not know that 2021 marks the 50th anniversary of Memorial Day becoming a federal holiday. It feels like we’ve been celebrating Memorial Day for a lot longer than that, and we have. Memorial Day actually started as Decoration Day right in the weeks following the Civil War and many states have been commemorating that for equally as long. But this is the 50th anniversary of it becoming a federal holiday.

Fisher: I don’t think most people would have realized that because so many folks have celebrated that day and Decoration Day goes back to our parents and grandparents, it was just a big weekend. And so, you’ve got this great project going out to celebrate our fallen heroes right now and I love it.

Crista: We do, yeah. So, Ancestry is providing a couple of ways for people to connect to those fallen heroes and their family history to honor the past generations that sacrificed so much to secure our freedom. Every day the memories of those people are disappearing and I think that’s one of the reasons Memorial Day strikes such a chord with so many of us. So, this year from May 28th through the 31steverybody is going to have the opportunity to find those in their family tree who served our nation and who lived through some of those remarkable chapters in history and also those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. And we’re doing that through free access weekend. So, those dates, everybody is going to have access to more than 550 million military records available on Fold3.

Fisher: Wow! And you’ve got this 50 Story Salute and I love the sound of that. Give us the details.

Crista: Yeah. So, Ancestry has partnered with the Wounded Warrior Project, the Greatest Generations Foundation, Combined Arms, and Jewish War Veterans, to create what we’re calling the 50 Story Salute. And it’s a joint tribute to those who sacrificed their lives to secure our freedom. The tribute will be on Ancestry social media channels, so it will be a video salute. It will be a curetted montage of military heroes throughout time, highlighting really powerful stories of strength and hope, and I think that’s something we all need a lot of right now.

Fisher: And then there’s the #ISaluteFor Campaign. How does that all tie in?

Crista: Yeah. So, we’re going to encourage everybody as they make some of those discoveries, as they find the names of those relatives who maybe perished in the fight, who listed as missing in action or who were prisoners of war, and even some of the veterans who returned. We want to encourage people to share their stories or their photographs on social media, using the hashtag “#ISaluteFor.” And we’re going to curate all of those as part of this campaign to just really show some connection and some solidarity around this particular holiday.

Fisher: You know, it’s absolutely amazing when you look back and you delve into family history and you find those fallen soldiers. We’ve got one on my wife’s side who died in the Civil War. We have a cousin on my side that died in the last three days of World War II. It changes the lives of the families and the friends, and the people. It’s absolutely astonishing too when you get into the records and you understand the circumstances often that surrounded their passing. And these are all available on Fold3, which is a great thing to give this free access.

Crista: Yes, absolutely. And again, those dates are May 28th through the 31st, 550 million records on Fold3 pertaining to military service.

Fisher: And when they go there, will they find information on how to connect all these stories and make that happen?

Crista: Absolutely, yeah. The records there are going to give you information about their age at enlistment, or when and there they enlisted in addition to just basic birth, marriage and death information sometimes. If they were prisoners of war, if they fought in particular battles, all of that information is going to be available in those records that exist there on Fold3.

Fisher: I am just absolutely astonished at some of the records because every era has a different record set connected and many of them are the same. I mean, right down to this very day. But when you can find out where somebody was stationed during a historic moment in history and tie that in. Military service is often the defining moment in a person’s life, especially when they do that in the course of a historic war and you can tie them in and find out where they were at certain times or perhaps they saw George Washington, or perhaps they were there for an important battle that you’ve only read about in the past and suddenly that story becomes part of your story. And to share this and put this all together, this is going to be a lot of fun.

Crista: Yeah, it is. Military records are fascinating to delve into and they are very story rich when you start to connect the dots.

Fisher: All right, so go to Fold3 over this Memorial Day weekend and you’ll get everything you need to know to get this going to celebrate the fallen heroes, the 50 Story Salute and of course the hashtag #ISaluteFor, it’s good stuff. All right Crista, you’ve got a whole bunch of new databases that have just been released on Ancestry and we want to talk about those. In fact, recently I’ve seen that you’ve done a series of great databases from London and one of them resulted in me finding a new child of a third great grand couple, and a result of that I was able to pull her forward a little bit, find some grandchildren and link her descendants in to finally figure out how this one DNA match that I had fit in, because she didn’t know and she lives in London and I couldn’t figure out, but once we got the name of this grandchild through a couple of daughters there then it worked out perfectly. So, she’s over in London celebrating because she’s back about seven or eight more generations because of the work I’ve previously done and I’m excited because it gives me further validation through my DNA of this third great grandparent couple. So it’s good stuff. What else is going on right now at Ancestry with these new databases?

Crista: Well, I love hearing stories like that because that’s exactly what we hope when we release these new records is that new discoveries in records will connect with new discoveries in DNA and help you to expand your family story. So, we’ll start with England since that’s where you started.

Fisher: Okay.

Crista: We have updated some databases. We’ve updated the London Tax Record collection which as a lot of people know is a great gap filler between censuses. We’ve updated the 1939 Register. So, the 1939 Register actually has some redacted records until they’re notified of a person’s death and then they un-redact those records and Ancestry receives that update and we update that database every few months with those.

Fisher: And that’s important too because you get birth dates and all kinds of information on that. That 1939, that is absolutely essential.

Crista: And households, yeah. It’s a treasure and especially when you consider that they have a 100 year privacy law on their census records and then they have a couple of censuses that either were not taken or were destroyed because of the world wars, so, great information in that register.

Fisher: What else do you have going on? I know you’ve got something going on with Denmark.

Crista: We do. So, Ancestry just released six databases of Danish records and what they are is the Danish censuses. Danish censuses date back to 1769 and they go through 1901. Now, the 1901 census we didn’t finish indexing it yet, but we went ahead and released the images anyway. So the index is forthcoming but all the rest of those censuses 1769 up until that 1901 census have been indexed. There’s about 16 million records in that collection of databases.

Fisher: Wow! That’s like one of the earliest national censuses I think I’ve ever heard of.

Crista: It is, yeah, and very comprehensive for that tiny little country. [Laughs]

Fisher: All right, I want to keep grabbing from you, what’s coming out because it’s always fun to see if something is going to tie into what I’m working on.

Crista: [Laughs]

Fisher: What else do you have? Keep it coming.

Crista: Well, the next big chunk of records that we just released recently is a set of records out of New Hampshire. It’s 8 million records, which again, when you consider the population of New Hampshire today, I think is only a million people.

Fisher: Right.

Crista: So, there is a group of databases, they are birth, marriage, and death records, divorce records, and then Revolutionary War records and that entire collection runs from 1631 to 1971.

Fisher: Wow!

Crista: So, three hundred plus years of records for the state of New Hampshire, all fully searchable now on Ancestry.

Fisher: I love it, great stuff. Crista thanks so much! We’ll talk to you again next month.

Crista: Absolutely.

Fisher: And coming up next, David Allen Lambert returns for Ask Us Anything when we return on Extreme Genes.

Segment 4 Episode 378

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, welcome back, its America’s Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fish here with David Allen Lambert, the Chief Genealogist for the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. And it’s time for Ask Us Anything. And Dave, our first question today comes from Los Angeles, California. Colby Martin is writing, she says, “Hello, Extreme Genes.” Hello. “I am 26 years old. I’ve inherited some family jewelry and would like your thoughts on dating it and preserving it.” Good question.

David: Colby, that’s great to know that you’re considering it a family heirloom and not something to put on eBay or sell at the local antique shop.

Fisher: [Laughs] Right.

David: But that local antique shop might be, Fish, where she needs to go, because they can tell you how old it is. The average person may not be able to date jewelry, but because of styles of jewelry, like maybe from the 1920s, like maybe a flapper necklace or some sort of piece of jewelry from the 1800s, someone can date that very easy. Another thing is there’s maker marks on jewelry.

Fisher: Right.

David: And the other thing occasionally, there’s even inscriptions inside of rings. So, like my grandmother’s wedding ring from 1916 on the inside band, it says “Forget me not” and that’s from her first husband who sadly died at, he was only 24 years old, but she kept that ring.

Fisher: Oh wow!

David: Oh yeah.

Fisher: And you have that?

David: I do. Like I say, it’s not my grandfather, but it’s something that is a family heirloom, because she thought it so important to hold onto that for so long. And the other thing is, Colby, photographs. Look at those family photographs and see who’s wearing what at the holidays or maybe at a wedding or any special religious celebrations in your family. Contact your older relatives, say, “Do you remember my grandmother wearing this or my great grandmother wearing this?” And some family member may recognize it. That might help, too.

Fisher: Yeah, that’s true. And I’ve had that experience as well. I actually had a ring that was passed down from my great grandfather’s sister in law, which is kind of a strange thing to wind up getting, but somebody had actually put a little string on it with a label and just said, “This belonged to so and so” and it has these little emeralds inside it and it goes back to the 1860s. So it’s a really neat piece to have. And when you know about it, it’s really fun, because then you can take a photograph of it and you can write a little history of it and maybe create a file just of heirlooms that you have in your family. This is what I’ve done for a lot of things, because I know for the material I inherited from my mother when she passed and even from my dad that came through my mom, there were many, many things where I didn’t recognize what they were and I thought, boy when it comes down to it, I don’t want to be leaving stuff that I know what they are and not giving anybody any way of knowing what those pieces are. So whether its jewelry or, you know, a photograph or something else. For instance, we have a bread warmer that was given to my grandmother when she was married in 1902 and it has her initials engraved on the side. You might not notice those things. All you’d think of is maybe, this is just an old piece of junk. What is dad doing with this stuff? But if we can create a little book of all these things with pictures of it and a little write up and share that file with everybody of interest in the family, the next generation, or in your case perhaps your brothers and sisters or your cousins. They might find in interesting. And it’s a great way to share it since there’s only one and only one person can have it.

David: The other thing that I find is very useful is the internet. If you take pictures of it and go on into social media, there are so many people out there, random acts of kindness that might be able to say, “Oh yeah, I have a similar piece here. Here, here’s a picture of my great grandmother wearing it in 1915.” So using the internet too is one of your tools as well. The other thing is Google! Take a photograph of it and put it into Google Image Search. See if you come up with a match.

Fisher: Sounds great. I’ve never done that. Have you?

David: I have done it with larger military pieces, which are, I guess could be considered similar to jewelry and it’s worked out pretty well.

Fisher: Really?

David: As far as medals and things as concerned.

Fisher: All right, Colby. Thanks for the question. We’ll have another one coming up when we return in for phase two of Ask Us Anything in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 378

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, back at it for Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show with David Allen Lambert. And Dave, this question comes from Laurie McAllen in Atlanta, and she says, “Guys, I’m just getting into DNA and my question is, how often do match mistakes happen?” Uh oh! “My maternal grandparents had six kids and I have numerous cousins and I know of at least two that tested and none of them are showing up from that side of the family. What do I make of this?”

David: Ooh, well maybe you need to get a copy of my friend, Bill Griffeth’s book, Stranger in My Genes. That is probably going to be some non paternity event that’s occurring in this family tree.

Fisher: Um hmm.

David: And it’s not as uncommon as you think. It happens in the best of families, as they say, and you know, it may not be in the most current generation. It could be in your great grandparent’s generation. The thing about DNA is, unfortunately, its separates myth and adds it right as science. Give you an example. I had someone years ago that came into the library and their last name was Brewster and they showed me their Y DNA, which is of course inherited from direct male, and all of their matches, Fish, were McGillicuddys.

Fisher: Oh!

David: Turns out the person’s great, great grandfather had a person working in the house in Maine and his name was Thomas McGillicuddy. Well, apparently that was the great, great grandfather and not the one that they thought. So it opened up a whole new meaning for St. Patrick’s Day for this one.

Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs]

David: Got rid of their Mayflower line.

Fisher: Yeah, yeah, and that happens quite often. I had somebody ask me this about three years ago. They had a first cousin that they didn’t recognize and the first cousin reached out and they compared notes and they didn’t have anybody in common and she said kind of what you’re saying, “Hey, this must be a mistake.” You know, there’s a saying that goes around in the field that basically says, “DNA doesn’t care what you think, doesn’t care what you think you know, doesn’t care what you want, it just is what it is.” and that’s really the case. So if you’re finding that their aren’t matches there, then you might want to start looking for matches from another couple, another family back there somewhere, because that may be where this is going to take you.

David: And the other thing is, there’s so many different testing companies. Obviously there’s Ancestry and of course for Ancestry, you’re going to get more matches than any company out there. There’s also Family Tree DNA, there’s My Heritage, there’s 23andMe, I mean, there’s so many options out there. So you may find that maybe that match that you’re hoping to find may have tested with another company. Of course then there’s even GEDMatch, where people can upload their data. I still believe in using GEDMatchpersonally, and I think that it has a really strong suit for finding additional family members. You may have chose Ancestry and they chose another company that uploaded their results.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: I mean, I use GEDMatch all the time.

Fisher: And if you know of these cousins who tested, ask them what company they tested with. That may have something to do with it as well and it might be that you find out that on your mom’s side, there might have been an adoption there, something that might or might not be known within your family.

David: That’s true. And the further generation you go back, the more these adoptions or you know, the child was passed onto another family, because they couldn’t care for them, because maybe they were ill and they were raised with a different surname.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: It doesn’t have to be a formalized adoption. There’s so many different factors that you have to take into consideration. It’s never cut and dry, but it sounds like a genealogical mystery. And these are mysteries that 20 years ago, we never even thought about.

Fisher: Exactly.

David: We just thought that, “Oh, the picture looks a little different.”

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: “Why don’t they all look alike in that same family photo?” So, happy searching. Maybe they’ll come up with an interesting story to be on Extreme Genes as a guest.

Fisher: All right, Laurie. Thanks so much for the question and good luck with your search on that. Dave thanks for coming on the show. We’ll talk to you again next week.

David: I look forward to it as always.

Fisher: All right, and thanks once again to Don Milne for coming on and talking about his great project, writing biographies for 400,000 American service people killed in World War II, and to Crista Cowan from our sponsors at Ancestry.com. If you missed any of it or you want to listen to it again, catch the podcast at iTunes, iHeart Radio, ExtremeGenes.com, Spotify, TuneIn Radio and wherever fine podcasts are found. 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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