Episode 382 – Genealogist/DNA Connects Families Separated By Holocaust

podcast episode Jun 28, 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 the show with word of a senior center in the Midwest that is home to SIX centenarians! Hear where it is. DNA has revealed the IDs of three brothers killed at Pearl Harbor in 1941. Catch their story. Then, a man working in his garden made a remarkable find that has impacted another family. Hear all about it. Next, a thousand year old discovery in Israel has a lot of people clucking. Find out why! Finally, a new discovery places Native Americans in a whole new era. Catch how far back this discovery puts them.

Next, in two segments, Jennifer Mendelsohn talks about her transition into a professional genealogist and her remarkable work using DNA to connect family members separated during the Holocaust.

David then returns for Ask Us Anything for two listener questions.

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

Transcript for Episode 382

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 382

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, it is so good to be seeing so many things opening up these days, we’re seeing archives opening, the Family History Library in Salt Lake City is opening up on July 6th, the New England Historic Genealogical Society is open by appointment right now, but things are happening there. This is going to be a great summer. Hey, it’s great to have you on the show today. And we’ve got Jennifer Mendelsohn coming up as a guest later on in two segments and they are unbelievable! First she’s going to talk about how she went from being a reporter to a genealogist and some of the experiences that brought her into our little realm, and then she’s going to talk about the experience of uncovering the family members of someone who separated from her family as a result of the Holocaust. Everybody thinking everyone else was deceased didn’t turn out that that’s the case and quite the reunion. We’ll hear more from Jennifer about how that came about and the response of the family members as she located them, just great stuff. Hey, if you haven’t signed up for our Weekly Genie Newsletter yet, you’ve got to do it. Just go to ExtremeGenes.com or our Facebook page, it’s absolutely free. You get a blog from me each week and you get the links to our past and present shows and links to stories you’ll find fascinating 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 in the office David. I love that part of it.

David: Yeah, back in Beantown and not remote in my home. So this is a big change and it’s nice to see both my coworkers and our members and of course, you know, our listeners who come in and say that they listen to Extreme Genes all the time. It’s nice to see those smiling faces as well.

Fisher: Don’t you just love smelling the books when you walk into a place like yours?

David: I do. I do. It’s one of those things that you just can’t get enough old books in your house without your spouse wanting to make you live in the garage.

Fisher: Right.

David: [Laughs] You know, I’m making my retirement plans now. I think I’m going to move to the Independence Village in Plymouth, Michigan where currently they have six residents that are over the age of 100. So something’s in the water out there and I want to drink it.

Fisher: Wow! That’s fantastic!

David: They must have found the fountain of youth.

Fisher: Six of them and I think they have another one possibly coming up next month, having a 100th birthday.

David: Soon they’re going to probably have residents can only be 100 years old to live there, you know, so they can at least all relate to each other. A couple of World War II veterans mentioned in there, so it’s fun stuff.

Fisher: And they’re all enjoying each other, too, that’s the thing. They’re all in great health and enjoying the journey.

David: One of them they say is, he’s crisp mentally as a $1 bill, so.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: You know, I love hearing these stories, but one story that goes back 80 years is December 7th, of course the stories from Pearl Harbor. And as the USS Oklahoma was one of the major casualties, everyone thinks of the Arizona, but the Oklahoma took over 429 sailors to their grave. And they were all buried in a cemetery called the Punchbowl out there in Hawaii. And they didn’t know who a lot of them were. Now with DNA, they’ve been slowly uncovering the identities. But this story is pretty touching. This is a story about three brothers that were on the Oklahoma, Malcolm, Randolph and Leroy Barber were from New London, Wisconsin. And just weeks before their father urged the navy to put them on separate vessels, and lo and behold, they all perished. Just recently, they’ve been identified and are going home.

Fisher: Wow! That’s such great news.

David: From our lost and found department, you never know what you’re going to find when you’re gardening.

Fisher: What?

David: He noted in Nikoma Park, Oklahoma, someone found a Bible in their flowerbed from 1946.

Fisher: What?

David: Apparently, the family had not known this was missing, but the owner had died and they’re not sure if it was a robbery or what the case might have been, but it’s now safely been returned to the family.

Fisher: Yeah, there’s actually a little police work involved there. And they tracked down the family and now they’re reunited with it. And the daughter of this mom who only passed away last October is absolutely thrilled.

David: You know, it just goes to show you where things might turn up when you’re digging in your garden.

Fisher: Yes.

David: You know, the next story I have is not all it’s cracked up to be. In fact, it actually isn’t cracked. And this goes all the way out to Israel where the Israeli Antiquities Authority has authenticated an unbroken chicken egg.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: Now you might not think that’s a big deal, until you find out that that chicken egg is 1,000 years old.

Fisher: Wow!

David: Yeah. It was found in a cistern intact and they occasionally find old ostrich eggs, because they have a harder shell, but this is the first intact chicken egg that’s 1,000 years old. There’s small crack on it, but not a lot of damage to it. A story from Extreme Genes, it’s no yolk at all.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: Let’s get a little older. So let’s go 30 times that age of that chicken egg and go to Puebla, Mexico where they have uncovered in a cave, bones of humans that date to about 28,000 to 33,000 years ago, pushing back the age of when humans came to North America to approximately 30,000 years ago or a little earlier. So that’s exciting, especially for those with Native American ancestry, to think that your ancestors are here even a little further back than what you thought.

Fisher: You know, I’m just always awed by these discoveries these people make. It just never ends.

David: That really is the case. And you know, in 100 years after we’re gone, they’re still going to make these discoveries and probably change dates and things and probably find a dozen chicken eggs in a cistern someplace in the Middle East and it’s going to just basically eclipse the stories that we’re telling today.

Fisher: Sure.

David: Well, that’s all I have from Beantown for you this week. And don’t forget, we’d love to have you as a member of NEHGS and you can save $20 on your membership by using the coupon code “Extreme” on AmericanAncestors.org.

Fisher: All right, David. Thank you so much. We will talk to you at the back end of the show with Ask Us Anything. And coming up next, a two part visit with genealogist Jennifer Mendelsohn talking about an amazing experience, putting together a family that had been separated by the Holocaust. You’ll want to hear this whole thing, coming up next, beginning in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 382

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Jennifer Mendelsohn

Fisher: All right, back at it on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, and my next guest is a professional genealogist by the name of Jennifer Mendelsohn. And Jennifer, welcome to Extreme Genes. It’s great to have you.

Jennifer: Thank you so much. I’m delighted to be here.

Fisher: You have taken on an amazing area of genealogy, I think, for a lot of people because there is this myth among Jewish Americans, as you’ve spoken about publically many times, that there’s no way to reconnect with people lost in the Holocaust and families, and you’re actually making some inroads in this. Before we get to that, I want to get to how you got started in this direction.

Jennifer: Well, it was sort of a happy accident. I had never been a genealogist. I was a journalist for many, many years, which I later learned is actually very good training to be a genealogist. But family history was just not my thing. I have an older brother who was the genealogist in the family and he actually got a lot of acclaim and attention because he wrote a book telling what happened to our family during the Holocaust, specifically to my grandfather’s brother and his family. And he showed that it is possible to get to the bottom of the faiths of some of these people who were lost during the Holocaust. But I just let that be his thing and went along until I sort of fell down accidently down the rabbit hole.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Jennifer: I Google searched that led me to the 1940 census. And I had never seen the census before, and I just was sort of fascinated and thought how cool. There’s all this interesting demographic information. I was looking at the census listing for cousins of my mother. And I just, as many people do, said, “Oh, let me look up my grandparents in the 1940 census.” And then I started going back to my great grandparents and the next thing I knew, I was looking up –

Fisher: And there you were. [Laughs]

Jennifer: But, what happened, very fortunately for me is, about two weeks after I joined Ancestry, I was in the car with my husband’s 95-year-old Holocaust survivor grandmother. She had been born in a little town in Poland in 1917, and she and her husband were the only survivors from each of their respective families. She lost both of her parents. She lost all six of her siblings. She lost her only living grandparent, and she lost about 99% of every aunt, uncle, and cousin that she had ever known and grown up with. She finally came to the U.S. in 1958 and made her own family. But to say that she had very few relatives was an understatement.

Fisher: Sure.

Jennifer: Though because I had spent the last couple of weeks on Ancestry, and in my case, three of my four grandparents were immigrants. I come from a family where there’s lots and lots of immigration. I was sort of thinking about that great wave of immigration from Eastern Europe in the late 19th and early 20thcenturies. And just to sort of make conversation, because I was thinking about those things, I said, “Mama, when you were growing up, was there a lot of buzz about going to America?” I just had never thought to ask her that before.

Fisher: That’s a great question.

Jennifer: And I thought I knew the answer, interestingly. Because I assumed that there was not a lot of buzz because had there been a lot of buzz, her relatives would have immigrated and then they would have lived. And unfortunately, because they did not immigrate, all of them were murdered. And she said, “No, no one was really that interested.” And then she sort of paused and she said, “Well, you know, my mother had two older sisters who went to Chicago before World War I. My mother was supposed to go too but the war broke out and she couldn’t join them.” And I just sort of looked puzzled at her and I said, “What do you mean your mother had two sisters who went to America?” I said, “Who are they? Who are their children? Who are their grandchildren?” Because I thought as I later wrote about it, this was not someone who could afford to have two aunts unaccounted for. And she got very quiet and she said, “I don’t know what became of them.” The war broke out. She said they somehow lost touch, and when she finally got here in the ‘50s, she did the one thing she knew how to do, bless her heart, she tried to write a letter to somebody who she thought might know where her aunts had ended up and she never heard back from that person. She later heard that he had died. And she forgot all about it. So, I rolled up my sleeves.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Jennifer: And again, remember I had never done genealogy before.

Fisher: No, but you were a reporter. I mean, there are so many of the same skills involved.

Jennifer: Right.

Fisher: Yeah.

Jennifer: Literally that’s what I did. I said, if I was going to write a story about two Polish sisters who came to America before World War I, how would I find them?

Fisher: Sure.

Jennifer: Very important detail… she didn’t know their last names. [Laughs]

Fisher: Oh dear.

Jennifer: She only knew their first names and their maiden name, and she knew the town that they were from, and she thought she knew the name of one of their husbands. And she also told me that one of them died of cholera after arriving in America.

Fisher: What time period are we talking about where you’re doing this research?

Jennifer: This was in the spring of 2013.

Fisher: Oh, okay. Not that long ago.

Jennifer: Yes. So, I made a lot of mistakes. I made a lot of wrong turns. I really was sorting of winging it.

Fisher: That’s how you learn.

Jennifer: But amazingly, I got a few lucky breaks and the very first thing I learned, which was a very good lesson for a novice genealogist, was that much of what she told me was wrong. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs] Yeah.

Jennifer: Well, she told me I’d never find them because she said they both came as married women and she didn’t know their married names. But it actually turned out that one of them had come as a single woman under her maiden name. So, I found her on a ship’s manifest from 1911 headed not to Chicago, error number two, but to Massachusetts. And from there I did what genealogists do, I just sort of followed the trail downwards.

Fisher: Right.

Jennifer: Lucky for us, back in those days you had to give the name and address of the person you were going to in the United States, so she gave the name of her brother-in-law at an address in Lynn, Massachusetts. And I did the residency research and I built the tree down. And the very end, after two weeks, I drove back over to her senior living place and I sat her down and I said, “Mom, you’re never going to believe this but you have three living first cousins.”

Fisher: Oh, wow! That just had to blow her mind. [Laughs]

Jennifer: It was beyond our wildest dreams. I mean, it’s hard if you haven’t spent a lot of time, as I have, dealing with families that have been devastated in this way. You sort of can’t comprehend what it’s like for someone like this who has no family.

Fisher: Sure.

Jennifer: And to tell her that the daughters of her mother’s sisters were alive and well and they had always assumed that everybody had perished during the Holocaust. They had no idea that she had survived. They didn’t even know that she existed. They didn’t know her name. They didn’t know anything, so, it was lovely. So, I was able to reconnect her with her cousins and they had a lovely relationship for the remaining…she lived for almost five more years and it was incredibly special.

Fisher: Wow. So, did you have reunions with them all, and obviously explaining what happened from each other’s perspective?

Jennifer: Well, I tell you, when I made the first phone call to make this connection, they thought I was a lunatic.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Jennifer: Like, I was crazed and excited that I must have made no sense on the phone. They thought I was selling Ancestry subscriptions because I was rambling about Ancestry and cousins and grandmother.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Jennifer: Unfortunately, she was never well enough to travel to see them. But we Skyped so she did get to meet them, and they wrote letters and they exchanged gifts, and one of her cousin’s sent her some lace that her mother had made. So, Frieda had something from her aunt, the aunts she had never known. They’ve traded photographs, and it also had this lovely ripple effect throughout the whole family that I didn’t expect. You know, Frieda’s children had never known an aunt of an uncle. All of their aunts and uncles were murdered, and they had never known a grandparent, grandparents were murdered. And one of Frieda’s sons said to me, “You don’t know how meaningful this is to me. Now I can see photographs of my grandmother’s sisters and I can imagine what she looked like because there are no photographs of her.”

Fisher: Sure.

Jennifer: So, it really was just a beautiful moment for the entire family.

Fisher: Yeah. It is really an astonishing thing when you go down the rabbit hole for the first time with a certain amount of naivety about what’s possible, and then you find out what’s possible and its earth shaking forever, right? For everybody involved and touched in it. And as a result of all of this, this got you in a whole new direction. Explain what has happened.

Jennifer: Well, one thing leads to another, leads to another. I had no idea that this was going to become the focus of my professional life. But what happened was maybe it was meant to be. I wrote an article about this reunion and how magical it was. It appeared in the online magazine Tablet. It came out a few months after I actually did this work. And when that article appeared, I got an interesting phone call. It was from the daughter of one of my parents’ oldest and dearest friends. And she said, “I read the article about Greg’s grandmother. We’re so excited for you.” She said, “I don’t know if you know this, but my father was adopted. He was born to an unwed teenage mother in Brooklyn in 1928.” And she said, “We have a little bit of information that we were given by the adoption agency about his birth mother and we have always wanted to see if we could find her.” She said, “You seem to know how to do this genealogical research. Do you think you could do it?” And you know, flush with one genealogical success under my belt, I said, “sure” so I did the exact same thing I had done, just sort of treat it the way I would I would treat a story, and sure enough, I found his birth mother. I found that she had two living daughter, his half sisters, and I reunited them. And they said, “This has changed both of our lives.”

Fisher: Yes.

Jennifer: I was like, “This is what I want to do.”

Fisher: Right.

Jennifer: So, just got really involved in doing lots, and lots, and lots of genealogy. Initially as a volunteer and then as time went on I realized like this is really what I want to do, so now it’s really the focus of my professional life.

Fisher: Well, and look what you’ve done. We’re going to take a break and come back for another segment, if you’re all right with that Jennifer, and we will delve into an amazing story about a girl who was separated from her parents in the Holocaust and what you’ve been able to do using DNA to bring family back together on that line, when we return in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 3 Episode 382

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Jennifer Mendelsohn

Fisher: All right, back with Jennifer Mendelsohn Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Jennifer is a professional genealogist who has found herself working with DNA to reunite families who were separated during the Holocaust. And Jennifer, you had an article that was recently in the Washington Post, let’s talk about that a little bit.

Jennifer: Well, I just felt the need to sort of make it more widely known that these reunions, while far from being a given that they are still possible because a lot people believe that if people were lost in the Holocaust there’s no way to know more about them.

Fisher: sure.

Jennifer: No way to find any family. There’s a myth that there are no records, none of which is true.

Fisher: Don’t you think part of that is because many of them are quite old and they’re not aware of what DNA can do and the fact that so many records have come online in the last 20 years?

Jennifer: Definitely. It’s a combination of all of that. You know, I do this work kind of behind the scenes and it’s very, very satisfying. But I wanted to use a public-form to just make sure that people know that if you are interested in learning more and/ or possibly connecting with relatives there are these relatives to do it and DNA can be one of the most amazing of all.

Fisher: So, talk about this young girl who separated from her family as things evolved during World War II.

Jennifer: Right. Well, this was the story of a woman named Sarit who has unfortunately passed away a few years ago, but Sarit was discovered after the war in an orphanage in Poland. There was a woman named Lena Kichler who had rescued a lot of children during the Holocaust in Poland and Sarit was one of them. She was only like two or three years old when the war ended. So, she wasn’t even really talking. She didn’t know her name. She didn’t know where she had come from.

Fisher: Sure.

Jennifer: And she was sent with this group of other orphans to Israel and she ended up living most of her life in Israel, and she obviously always wondered about her family of origin but she never knew who they were. There was no paperwork on her at the orphanage. No one knew anything about how she had gotten there. Well, fast forward to a few years before she died in 2010 and a thoughtful neighbor decided to give Sarit the gift of the DNA test because it was becoming more known that you can use DNA to locate family. So, she took the test before she died and to make a very long story short, she had a distant match to a woman on Long Island who is sort of a good hobbyist/ genealogist. And she wasn’t sure exactly how Sarit was related to her but she became really, really invested in trying to figure out who Sarit’s parents were because Sarit has a daughter.

Fisher: So, they had contacted each other than in the process?

Jennifer: Right. Well, she came up as a match but unfortunately, if you work Eastern European Jewish DNA, we are an endogamous community which may be a familiar term to some of your listeners.

Fisher: Right.

Jennifer: We all sort of look like we’re related on paper and it can be very, very confusing.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Jennifer: But one of my specialties over the last few years has become working with Jewish DNA and getting beyond endogamy. So, this woman on Long Island reached out to me and said, “You know, I’m trying to help this woman. She was an orphan in the Holocaust. We have no idea who her family is. Do you think you may have any ideas how I can get further?” Well, this involved into a search that took over a year. It was very complicated. One of Sarit’s best matches was a woman whose parents were also survivors. So, we had a lot of dead-ends because there wasn’t sort of easy access to people and records, but there were some. And last October, as the pandemic wore on I sort of decided that with some extra time freed up by the pandemic I was really going to focus on Sarit’s case. And sure enough, we found them.

Fisher:  Wow!

Jennifer: Something that we never ever expected which broke all of our hearts. Sarit was not an orphan. Sarit was a child who had been separated from her intact family who then spent the rest of their lives looking for her.

Fisher: Ugh.

Jennifer: And they lived actually not far away from one another in Israel. Her parents both died broken hearted. They lost two children actually. They lost Sarit and they lost a child who was murdered in the Holocaust. But, Sarit had two living sisters last October. So, we were able to reunite her daughter with her aunts and her cousins and it was pretty unbelievable. And that was done entirely through DNA.

Fisher: Isn’t that something? I mean, there are so many uses for it and you’re right. And for people who aren’t familiar with endogamy, it just means there are lots of cousins intermarrying with lots of other cousins. And that changes how your matches appear to you in terms of how many shared centimorgans that your matches have. So it does become very complicated, especially in situations like this with Eastern Europe. Eastern Europe itself is difficult, yet alone in an endogamous situation. But for you to find them has to be incredible. So, the daughter is now in touch with her aunts?

Jennifer: Yep.

Fisher: Are the aunts still living?

Jennifer: Unfortunately, one of them died since October but they couldn’t believe it. They were astonished because they had searched for their sister forever and had given up on ever finding her. And it’s heartbreaking that she didn’t live to see the reunion. But now her daughter can have the peace of mind knowing who her mother was. She knows her real name. She knows where she came from. She knows her parents and grandparents. It’s amazing.

Fisher: Wow! The whole family tree.

Jennifer: Yep.

Fisher: Isn’t that something? So, we’re just kind of short of on time here, but for people who are descendants of those lost in the Holocaust or families lost in the Holocaust or involved in it. What would you say to them in terms of what they need to do to try to figure out if they might have some connections out there somewhere?

Jennifer: There are so many things you can do but if you want to get started and you really don’t know how, I would say a good first step would be to connect with your local Jewish genealogy society. They can kind of get you on the road to getting started. There are some great Jewish genealogy groups on Facebook. The two that come to mind immediately are “Tracing the Tribe and Jewish Genealogy Portal.” Where there are very helpful volunteers, including me when I’m available, who are very happy to sort of help people start the search. It’s important though, that you sort of have to be able to do the basics of your own tree to get started, to sort of know how to branch into the Holocaust world. Another really easy place to start if you know your family’s surnames and you know the towns that you are from already, the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem has an excellent database.

You can find it right on their website, the Shoah database. There’s a lot of useful information about Holocaust victims in there, including what are called, pages of testimony. They try to account for every person who was lost. So, if you lost a relative or even just a friend, there you have the opportunity to write a page of testimony and it’s just sort of basic demographic information, name, date of birth, place of birth, parents’ names if you know it, occupation, etc. So, that can be a really valuable way to get more information about people who were lost. The Unites States Holocaust Museum and Memorial also has what’s called the “Victims and Survivors Database” and then there’s the Bad Arolsen Archives. If you know someone was specifically in a concentration camp there’s a lot of information about them. I recently, just very recently got the file from Ban Arolsen on my step grandmother who we knew was a survivor but we knew no details about exactly where she had been and I learned that she had actually been in the concentration camp that’s featured in the movie Schindler’s List.

Fisher: Ugh!

Jennifer: And she escaped from there, which none of us knew. There is information. There are records. Not everything is knowable. No, not everyone is traceable. But I just want people to know that there is so much more out there than you probably realize.

Fisher: She’s Jennifer Mendelsohn. She’s a professional genealogist, specializing these days in Holocaust genealogy and bringing miracles to families, incredible stuff. Jennifer thanks so much for your time, it’s been fascinating.

Jennifer: Thank you so much for having me.

Fisher: And coming up next, David Allen Lambert returns for another round of Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 4 Episode 382

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, back for Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth with David Allen Lambert from the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. And David, our first question today comes from San Diego where Lou Halter says, “Do either of you guys collect rocks tied to your ancestors?”

David: [Laughs] Do I have to admit to this?

Fisher: “If so, what do you do with them? I have rocks from an ancestor’s wall and from a cemetery.” Yeah, I do.

David: From the cemetery, not the gravestone?

Fisher: Not the gravestone, no.

David: [Laughs]

Fisher: Okay, I’ll confess, I have a few of those, picked them up years and years ago. One was from actually out of a wall in the oldest church in London, it had fallen out. It’s like actually the ceiling. And I cleared it with the minister there, because they had this area marked off so that you wouldn’t wind up underneath this. And I said, “Do you mind if I kept a piece of that?” “Oh no, go right ahead.” This is where my third great grandparents, my immigrant ancestors were married in 1801.

David: Oh, wow!

Fisher: And so, I have that and I have a little piece from a rock wall behind my ancestor’s pub in Northern Yorkshire and a couple of others from various churchyards throughout England. So, yeah, I have these things and I display these in a little shadow box with just a little note written next to them. I mean, they’re not something you’d necessarily put up on a wall somewhere, but maybe just on a shelf, like in a library or something to display with it. So, I have a few of those and I enjoy having them. But that’s not something I’m going to make a major career out of.

David: No. We’re genealogists, not geologists.

Fisher: Right. [Laughs]

David: But I admit that I do the same thing. When I was in England, I have like a piece of stone that had crumbled off from the wall of the church that my family went to in the 15 and 1600s, you know. Not a very big piece, just enough to put in like a film canister.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: And that’s just to me how I would mark them. I would put them in a film canister and write on with a sharpie what it is or put a label on it like an old medicine bottle or something like that. The bigger rocks that I got on a more local level, like stones from a field wall that my ancestor had built, I’ve got one rock that’s out of a cellar hole of my ancestor’s house, I was up in New Hampshire. So I’ve got that just along the wall. I mean its nondescript. I don’t know, I may have written something on it at one point in time, but it’s probably worn off since then, but I know it’s there. There’s a lot of great things that you can do, even with like fragments of bricks.

Fisher: Sure.

David: I mean, look at just going on eBay, how many pieces of this or that that you can buy, you know, piece of the brick from the White House when Truman was doing the renovations or wood from the White House. It’s not uncommon to have this. In fact, in New England, we have an entire museum section at the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company building in Faneuil Hall in Boston has a brick from this building or a stone from this chapel or a rock from this place from the Battle of Hastings, it’s not uncommon. And because our ancestors were collectors, there’s people like you and I and obviously our listener that are too.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: And I’m sure a few of the people listening probably have a shoebox of rocks or something that they picked up like from their childhood home, “I want to keep this from our garden.” And then put it in the garden where you’ve move to.

Fisher: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.

David: But only that stone from the graveyard is not a gravestone. I suggest if your ancestor’s stone is crumbling, don’t take a piece of it with you. It could be deemed as illegal. I’ve seen a lot of people that go visit the cemeteries now and the tradition that you see in the Jewish faith, people will put a stone on the top of my family’s monument they have now for well over a decade. I think one of my cousins started it. So, we pick up a little rock and when we go visit mum and dad, we put them there. I mean, there’s not a lot of it on the top of it. Some of them have fallen down. But you know, I guess, I suppose that’s the way of kind of letting them know you were here.

Fisher: David, you’ve actually legitimized people collecting these little ancestral rocks. I feel so much better about myself now.

David: [Laughs]

Fisher: Thank you so much, Lou for the question. We’ve got another one coming up when Ask Us Anything returns in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.


Segment 5 Episode 382

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, once again it’s Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. This is where we answer your questions about family history and family history research and whatever else is on your mind concerning the space. And David, this question comes from Leticia in Grand Rapids, Michigan. That’s not the home of Gerald Ford? I think so. She writes, “What are you guys planning this summer for family reunions or picnics?” Yeah, I think we’re hearing an awful lot of concern about that right now, because things are just now opening up. And in my mind, David, it’s kind of hard to throw together a family reunion real quick at this stage of the game. Usually, you need a good year or so.

David: Well, you know and that’s one of the things that I created with Facebook. I created these family homesteads if you will. Like on my paternal cousins and my maternal cousins, so I can toss out this idea to them and say, “Do you want to do a cookout this year?” We start planning these things sometimes February or March, because you know, you’re never going to get the weekend that works for everybody or someone’s got to work, someone’s going to be on vacation somewhere now that we can actually go places.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: But a lot of people are still doing virtual. I gave a RootsTech talk on virtual family reunions. The idea is that, you know, initially, this was pre-Covid, not everyone can make it. Someone might be in the military or you might have a shut in relative that’s in a nursing home that can’t get out or can’t travel. Look at you. You have a daughter who lives over in Europe. There may be the get together that you’d like to have her at, but maybe doing it through Facebook Live or even setting up a Zoom. I think we all know how to Zoom now like we know how to tie our shoes.

Fisher: [Laughs] Yes.

David: After this past year. I should have bought stock and that early on. But Zoom or Skype or Facebook Live give you that option, so you can have like a family get together and have aunt Mary who can’t visit who’s at the rec room at the nursing home that she was at in front of a camera and a laptop and everybody can for like an hour, come over to the laptop in your house and chime in and talk with her and visit with her or maybe there’s somebody that’s overseas in the military and you want to have them included as well. But the nice thing about doing like a reunion like that, it allows the people who can make it there to be back in touch with family, to see family members, but it doesn’t exclude the ones that can’t be there.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: And this was true even before Covid.

Fisher: Yeah, this is something that came out of the pandemic that’s pretty cool that we all now know how to do things like Zoom meetings and Facebook Live where many people didn’t before that. I think more people are comfortable with the idea now. And the idea that we can do a live reunion and a virtual one at the same time is fantastic. That’s really something that couldn’t have been done 10, 15 years ago. You either made it or you didn’t.

David: Right. I mean, and sometimes the people would videotape them or use the old 8mm camera and tape them. Now you stream it, you can hit record on Zoom and record the whole thing for posterity, put it up on your family group or make some recording of what’s going on and people can check it out on your private YouTube channel. I mean, the technology is there. It’s just how you want to utilize it.

Fisher: And I’d suggest by the way for anybody who has some technological concerns, get your kids, your grandkids involved to help you put this together, because for them, it’s just old hat.

David: True. Well, I hope that whatever reunions or get together our listeners have that they add some sort of virtual component for those who can’t make it there. And I know that I’m doing that when we have our get together in August.

Fisher: So, thanks for the question, Leticia, a great one. And by the way, David, before we go, I’ve got to with you a Happy Birthday! 28th of June, David, same as my son in Los Angeles, so congratulations, you’re a much older man!

David: Well, I will be and I’m going to reverse the numbers. This year I’ll be 25.

Fisher: There you go. [Laughs] Thanks much, bud. Talk to you soon.

David: Take care, my friend.

Fisher: All right, that’s our show for this week. Thank genies for joining us. Thanks to Jennifer Mendelsohn for sharing her stories about reconnecting families who disconnected during the Holocaust. If you missed any of it, you want to hear this, catch the podcast on iTunes, iHeart Radio, ExtremeGenes.com, TuneIn Radio and Spotify. Talk to you again next week. Thanks for joining us. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we’re a nice, normal family!

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