Episode 383 - Experiencing Your Ancestors’ Experiences / Ancestry App Redesigned, Plus New Databases

podcast episode Jul 09, 2021

Host Scott Fisher opens the show. (David Allen Lambert is off this week.)  In Family Histoire News, an Irish woman who accurately predicted an Atlantic storm, resulting in a key postponement of D-Day, has been honored by the US House of Representatives. Hear more of her story. Then, descendants of Betsy Ross, who legend says stitched the first American flag, have made a tremendous gift to a Philadelphia museum. Hear what you can now see.  Next, some Senators of both parties are actually working together! They are trying to preserve Revolutionary War battle sites and connect them with a trail. Catch where this proposed project is intended to come together. Of course we all know Lizzy Borden is believed to have knocked off her parents in 1892. Now the house she allegedly did it in has been purchased. Find out what the new owners plan to do with it. Leonardo DaVinci’s known living relative count has increased seven fold! Find out about the new study that, of course, involves Y-DNA.

Next, Sunny Morton visits the show again. This time she tells us about her recent adventure following in the footsteps of her ancestors. Hear where she went, why, and what she learned.

Crista Cowan from (sponsors) Ancestry.com has some great news in the third segment. The Ancestry app has been redesigned! Crista will tell you about all the wowy features, plus fill you in on Ancestry’s most recently released databases.

Fisher then handles two questions on Ask Us Anything, one concerning “reverse genealogy,” and the other on midwife birthing books.

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

Transcript for Episode 383

Host: Scott Fisher

Segment 1 Episode 383

Fisher: Hello, America 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. First of all, I hope you had a great 4th of July weekend. Summer is upon us. And we've got a couple of great guests today. First of all, Sunny Morton is going to be here. You know, it’s one thing to learn about what your ancestors experienced, it’s another thing to actually go out and personally experience some of the things they experienced. And Sunny Morton is going to talk about her recent experience at doing exactly that, coming up in about ten minutes. Later in the show, Crista Cowan is back, our friend from Ancestry.com, our sponsors. The Ancestry app had completely been redesigned and you're going to want to hear what's available for you on it now, plus Crista will tell us about some of the new databases that are available for this month. So that's coming up a little bit later on in the show. Hey, it’s about time you got signed up for our Weekly Genie Newsletter, you can do it at ExtremeGenes.com or on our Facebook Page. You get a blog for me each week, a couple of links to past and present shows and links to great stories that you'll appreciate as a genealogist. Well, David Allen Lambert from the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org is off this week, so let's cover what's going on with your Family Histoire News. And we begin with the story of an Irish lady, she's 98 years old. But back at the age of 21, she was working at a weather station during World War II in 1944. She noticed from her barometer that the air pressure was dropping very quickly, so she knew a major Atlantic storm was coming along, so she put out her report, and as a result of that, General Dwight D Eisenhower postponed D-Day by a day. Yeah, it was supposed to take place on June 5th, but had our military gone after the invasion on the 5th, the casualties in all likelihood would have been much higher, because there was no way to provide air support. So now, 77 years later, Maureen Flavin Sweeney has been honored by the US House of Representatives for her part in the war. Because this young Irish woman got it right and saved a lot of American lives.

And speaking of American history and family history, how would you like to be the descendant of an American icon like Betsy Ross, who of course stitched up the first American flag, at least according to legend. Well, that is the situation for Aileen Edge. Her mother recently passed away outside of San Francisco, and as Aileen went about cleaning up her mother's effects, she was shocked by how many Ross related artifacts and documents had been accumulated in the family for almost 200 years! So now, in memory of her mother, Aileen is donating all this to the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia. So, if you ever drop by that museum at 3rd and Chestnut Street, you'll be able to see some of the original materials relating to the family of Betsy Ross. There's a diary, there's a family bible tied to it, one of Betsy's relative was a prisoner of war, so they already had his sea chest, so they now have a memorandum book manuscript to go along with it. It’s a remarkable collection of heirlooms from the family of Betsy Ross, amazing! Well, imagine this, some democrats and republicans in the US house are actually working together to try to preserve and showcase some important Revolutionary War sites in the Carolinas, both North and South Carolina and they're also working to put together a new trail to link those sites. How cool is that! So, this is one of those rare things where they're all coming together. US representative, Jim Clyburn, a democrat from Columbia is working with all of the GOP house members from South Carolina as they put together this thing they're calling the Southern Campaign of the Revolution National Heritage Corridor Act. Back in 2019, a couple of republican senators tried to do the same thing and made little progress. But this time around, they're all kind of optimistic that this could be the year. So, get out your maps, here's how it would work. The route would start west of Charleston and then it would go through parts of the low country into the midlands and upstate, and then it would cut into western North Carolina and then head east to the ocean.

There's somewhere around 36 specific sites that are covered by this potential trial, so keep your fingers crossed. Last month, Senator Clyburn testified before the house Subcommittee on National Parks to try to pitch the bill and educate law makers on the importance of the Carolinas to the Revolution. So we'll see what happens with that one. Well, a rather historic site in New England history has been sold. Yeah, it’s the house in which Lizzie Borden knocked off her parents allegedly. Yes, the owner of Ghost Adventures is actually planning to paranormalize the house. They're going to do 90 minute house tours, they've got ghost tours, they're got the 2 hour ghost tour, he's also going to do a podcast and theme dinners and virtual experiences, bedtime ghost tours of Fall River and murder mystery nights. So yeah, this is in the house where two people were axe murdered back in 1892. Next to Jack the Ripper, this is probably one of the most talked about murder stories in the history of the world, at least in the last 150 years. And since Lizzie Borden has so many New England ancestors, you might find that you're related to her. I am, three times, what does that say?

Well, Leonardo Da Vinci didn't have any kids himself, but there's an investigation of his family history now and they have come up with 14 living male relatives. So there's a study in a journal called Human Evolution, and they have basically taken the previous estimate of how many relatives of Da Vinci were still living from 2 up to these 14. So, they're hoping that this might help them figure out a few things like genetic quirks, like exceptional eye sight, which might have helped make Da Vinci the great artist that he was. The earliest known patriarch in the Da Vinci line was a guy named Michele Da Vinci. He was born around 1331. Leonardo himself was born in 1452 and he was in the 6th generation of the 21 generations that come down to the present day. Leonardo had 22 half brothers, and so, this new family history takes a look down five different family branches. So, DNA is playing a huge role in this study and of course the Y chromosome DNA is really the only one that has reach back that far. But it will be interesting to see what they come up with as they study the family of Leonardo Da Vinci. And that is our family histoire news for this week. And of course you can check out many of those stories on our website, ExtremeGenes.com. And coming up next, our first guest, Sunny Morton is here, talking about experiencing some of her ancestor's experiences. You've got to hear what she did. It’s coming up in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 383

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Sunny Morton

Fisher: You know, documents tell us so much about our families, but so do experiencing their experiences. [Laughs] Hey, it’s Fisher, its Extreme Genes. Welcome back to the show. And I’m so excited to have Sunny Morton back on. You know, we had her on several months back talking about her family going to the Ohio River Valley. And Sunny, you have taken your research to a whole new level, and thankfully, I think part of this is because of the fact that things are finally easing up with the pandemic.

Sunny: Yes, absolutely. Hi Scott! It’s great to be here, and I have some new adventures to tell you about today.

Fisher: Fill me in. What have you been up to?

Sunny: All right. Well, earlier this week, there’s so much going on I’m just going to tell you about this week.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Sunny: So, earlier this week I went on a research trip to the Ohio River. I don’t live too far away so this was really easy. But my goal was to learn what it was like to travel that first American inland expressway.

Fisher: Right.

Sunny: That was a highway into the interior in the early 1800s.

Fisher: Right.

Sunny: So, that’s what I wanted to learn to kind of see what that experience was like. So, I did spend a lot of hours in libraries reading old travel guides and old travel narratives. But then I spent a couple of hours on the river itself.

Fisher: Now wait a minute, wait a minute, did you hire a boat or do you own a boat? What did you do?

Sunny: So, I have a dear friend who is both a genealogist and a river rat. She comes from several generations of river rats who lived by the Ohio River.

Fisher: Okay.

Sunny: And that’s what they call themselves.

Fisher: Right. Yeah, you’re not denigrating her. I get that.

Sunny: So, not at all. That’s how she describes herself.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Sunny: So, I called her up and said, “Cathy, I want to get on the river.” And she said, “Well, I just happen to know a guy.” So, we went and spent a glorious couple of hours with an expert Ohio River pilot. He’s been on the river most of his life.

Fisher: Okay.

Sunny: So, of course, as I’m on the river I took a selfie on the water and I sent it to my 14 year old daughter. I have teenagers and this is how we keep up with each other right.

Fisher: Sure.

Sunny: We just send each other pictures of what we’re doing.

Fisher: Of course.

Sunny: And so this is her response, she’s like, “Mom, are you working hard, or are you hardly working?” 

Fisher: Um hmm. [Laughs] Well, as a genealogist, these are the things you do when you work, right?

Sunny: Yes. So, I feel the need to justify myself [Laughs] to her and then to anybody else out there who might be ready and wanting to get out there this summer and explore the past. Was being on the water actually research? Was it working? Yes! I really feel Scott, like we need both. We need the books and we need the experience.

Fisher: I love this. I totally agree with you. I had my ancestor I’ve spoken about many times on the show who took a trip with the New York veteran firemen across the country from New York City to San Francisco in 1887 on a train. And I followed the whole trip in newspaper accounts. I got their whole story and it’s like I really want to take a train trip across the country and follow what that may have been like. Obviously, a little more modern, but still you can learn a lot.  

Sunny: That’s absolutely the case. And that’s what I found too. So, let me tell you about some of the things I figured out. So, I told this story in part about my ancestors on your show before. They left Vermont in 1801 and they headed west across New England, New York, Pennsylvania to get to the Ohio River so they could float down to Marietta, which was the oldest settlement in what is now Ohio. It was the Northwest Territory. It was really the wild frontier at the time. So, one of my questions is, they left in September and they arrived in November. Why in the world did you take that trip? I’m out on this water and I’m there, and it’s beautiful summer weather. I’m thinking, why would they do this from September to November? Wouldn’t you prefer to travel in a little bit warmer weather? And I’m just figuring there’s like 20 people there, they got out the door late.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Sunny: Like, if you’re a big family and you go on a road trip, you plan to leave at six in the morning and you’re just pulling out of the driveway at noon. Maybe they planned to leave in June but somebody got sick, or someone got pregnant, they had to sell the house, and you don’t actually get on the road till September. So, that’s what I’m thinking is that they didn’t really plan this very well.

Fisher: Yeah. It doesn’t sound it.

Sunny: But this actually turns out not to be the case at all Scott. So, I did all this reading and these old travel guides, and the stories, and they told me that the best time to travel was either spring or fall down the Ohio River because the river level was high enough.

Fisher: Ahh!

Sunny: So, as it was, and I read about in their narrative, they still got hung up in the shallows on the Allegheny River on their way through the Ohio River. But once they got to the Ohio, because they were traveling in the fall, it was smooth sailing. The water level was high enough so they weren’t getting grounded.

Fisher: Interesting.

Sunny: Yes! Wasn’t that interesting? So, I’m thinking but November, really?

Fisher: Yeah. Right.

Sunny: And these travel guides that I’m reading that were saying that the spring season for Ohio River travel actually started as soon as the ice broke up, so that could be like mid February.

Fisher: Yeah.

Sunny: And that could go for about three months. And the fall season, they actually said it’s more like October till the beginning of December when the ice comes back. So, that was a good time to travel.

Fisher: Interesting. And you wouldn’t have known that really if you hadn’t gone out there and researched the details of all this and actually rode on the river.

Sunny: Right.

Fisher: So, what did you see on the river that enhanced this whole experience?

Sunny: Okay. So, I get on the river, it’s a perfect summer day. For me, that means it’s nice and warm but it’s not super hot. It’s sunny but it’s not really intense. There is the perfect gentle breeze. So, perfect day to me. Now of course, I wasn’t traveling with plenty of people and hauling my stuff, right?

Fisher: Right.

Sunny: But for me as a leisure traveler of course the experience of being on the water, like you said, its different today just like it would be on that train. The water levels first of all are much more controlled now. You know, you’ve got the Army Corps of Engineers responsible for the Ohio River, which is still a major amicable water way.

Fisher: Where were those guys back then, right, you know?

Sunny: Right. Now we have the obstructions out of the way. We have save modern boats. I get all that. That said, I still think it’s really valid to get out on the river. Because the first thing I learned was what a difference a few feet of water makes. So, I’m on the river, the water was kind of choppy and churning, and it was a muddy, muddy brown. So, my river captain that I was out with commented that this was because the water level was about four feet above ideal conditions.

Fisher: Ha!

Sunny: There had been a lot of rain, which of course I would not have known. I would have thought it was always like that. He said, “No, no, no. When the water level is right, it’s almost like glass.” He said it’s smooth, it’s really easy. You can see down into the water. And that’s the kind of conditions you want. And I’m picturing in my mind, I knew from my relative’s travel account that they traveled in canoes that they had built themselves.

Fisher: Oh, wow! [Laughs]

Sunny: Yeah. They were from Vermont. They were not boat builders. They said so themselves. They didn’t know how to navigate on the water. So, they built their own canoes, latched them together once they get to the Ohio, and this is how they’re going down the river. And I’m picturing that in my head and I’m like yeah, that would be a lot more comfortable if there weren’t all this choppy muddy brown water. If they had calm water and they could see into the water ahead of them. 

Fisher: Sure.

Sunny: But this travel guide that I’d read said that there was always enough water for canoes. And maybe that’s why they took canoes.

Fisher: Or made them.

Sunny: Yeah. Maybe that’s why they made them and took them themselves because they knew they would have a lighter time up on the water. So, it took me back to those travel guides I’d been reading though. It’s funny because this travel guide that I’d read through is published in 1802, so just after my folks took their trip.

Fisher: Perfect.

Sunny: And it was warning them, it was like, “There’s a lot of shoddy boats out there. We should have boat inspectors all up and down the Nantahala River, the Allegheny, the Ohio. We should have people looking over these boats. But since we don’t yet, if you buy a flat boat, get somebody who knows what they’re talking about to look it over so it doesn’t break up on the river.” I’m like, okay.

Fisher: Well, you can imagine there are an awful lot of people lost in these things because they didn’t know what they were doing.

Sunny: Yeah.

Fisher: My wife had one who drowned crossing the Ohio.

Sunny: Wow…I could see how, especially if there was high water or if there was snags or if there were other things that they couldn’t see below the water.

Fisher: Sure.

Sunny: That was very common and all along the settlements along the Ohio River even after it was well settled it was still really common for people to drown in the river.

Fisher: Yes.

Sunny: Okay, back to something else that I learned on the water. I’m still justifying myself.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Sunny: So, I took my seat on this nice turner boat, which was really nice because it was really close to the water. It wasn’t up high like some of the tour boats you might go on. So, I’m on the water and of course, I couldn’t sit still for very long. I had to go up into the front and stand there next to the captain and ask him questions the whole time. One of the most interesting things was, he showed me how to follow the current so you stay in the channel. And that was really interesting to me because I’m like this river is so wide. I would think you could go wherever you wanted on this entire river and you’d be fine. 

Fisher: Sure. Well, do you think your ancestors had any idea how to navigate that way?

Sunny: No. They didn’t.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Sunny: And that tells you why they started publishing some of these travel guides that they started publishing the very next year. Because they were telling them for people who had never done this before, there is a current and there is a channel that might only be 10-feet wide that’s a deep enough channel to let your boat get through. So, you wanted to make sure that you stayed where the current went because where the current is most active on the river, that narrow part where you see it rippling faster than it ripples across the rest of the river, that part is going to be the deepest because that’s where the water churns and removes the debris from the bottom. 

Fisher: Interesting.

Sunny: So, he showed me how to follow that current. And I found myself, because the Ohio River and all its tributaries are super bendy. It was nice because if you had an obstinate wind against you it would change in 10 seconds because you’re going to be going in a different direction.

Fisher: Right.

Sunny: But the idea was that you wanted to make sure that you followed this sort of narrow part of the river that was most active so that you would not get hung up on anything. And the old guides even said don’t bother with the oars, because if you’re trying to steer yourself, it will actually keep you outside the best currents and it might cause you to hit an island. Trust the current.

Fisher: Fascinating. Wow.

Sunny: Yeah. Trust the current. Keep a good look out, but trust the current.

Fisher: She’s Sunny Morton. She’s a professional genealogist and lecturer, and Sunny, fascinating stuff. We really do need to step into our ancestors shoes sometimes, literally, to find out what their stories were all about. 

Sunny: My pleasure. That was really fun.

Fisher: And coming up next, so there has been a rebuild on the Ancestry app and I’m going to talk to Crista Cowan from our sponsors over an Ancestry.com about what you can do now on your phone, plus all the new databases that have come out, coming up in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 3 Episode 383

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Crista Cowan

Fisher: And welcome back to Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth and it is that time once again to represent my good friend from our sponsors over at Ancestry.com, Crista Cowan is here. Crista, how are you?

Crista: I am doing fantastic. How are you?

Fisher: Awesome, enjoying summertime. And of course, new releases for you, not only of databases but a brand new mobile app that that we’ve got to talk about right now. For anybody who’s got Ancstry.com this is going to be a big difference.

Crista: Yeah, absolutely. So, we’ve had a free Ancestry mobile app for IOS and for Android in the past. But we’ve just re-launched it with some really amazing new features and yeah, I’d love to run through some of those with you.

Fisher: Boy, let’s talk about it. I mean, for you to redesign the whole thing I know there’s got to be some good stuff there for us.

Crista: Yeah, absolutely. So, one of the first things that we’ve done is we’ve created this feature called “Photo Line” so what we were seeing was that a lot of people were kind of cluging together these little sets of photos to try to say, “Oh, do you think I look like mom or my grandma?” and we’ve just taken that right out of the mobile app. If you’ve got photos attached to yourself and your parent and your grandparent, even your great grandparent, we’ll create this little photo collage for you that you can then automatically from the app share out to social media, and if you do, be sure to use hashtag #PhotoLine, because we’d love to see what you’re creating out there.

Fisher: Sure.

Crista: We also, in the “discover tab” we’ve completely re-designed that for a few things. One of them is we now have this section called “your daily pics.” So, we actually look at the work that you’re doing in your family tree and we show you the hints that we think are the most relevant. We show you if there’s stories of photos that have been uploaded to other trees on Ancestry for some of those ancestors that you work the most with, in your tree. We think that’s fantastic.

Fisher: Really. I love that idea that you guys know what we’re working on the most.

Crista: Yeah, for sure. And I don’t know about you Scott, but I have my favorite ancestors. [Laughs]

Fisher: I do too. It’s the ones that give me the most trouble.

Crista: Right! Also, on that discover feed in the mobile app, we have a pick up where you left off. So, like I have double screens and I’m constantly when I’m researching, I want all of that real estate. But I use this mobile app as a companion to the desktop experience for when I’m on the go. So, we have this feature in the discover tab “pick up where you left off.” So you can see exactly the last person you were working on. We’ve also added an, “on this day” feature, a companion with Newspapers.com. So you can see what was happening on this day in history which is kind of fun as well.

Fisher: Wow! Do you think you could ever tie that in with what happened in your family on this day?

Crista: Ah! Funny you should ask that. [Laughs] We have a new widget on the app. So, whether you’re using IOS or Android, the functionality for creating a widget or adding a widget is a little bit different, but you can add a widget to your home screen and one of those widgets is events in your family tree.

Fisher: Oh, how fun!

Crista: So, you can see whose birthday it was on this day how many year ago, or whose anniversary, or the commemoration of someone’s death date. We’ll show you three upcoming events. So if there’s one today it will at the top and then the next two that are coming up. I’ve had more than one user say they remembered their parents’ anniversary that way. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs] Well, it’s a better way, isn’t it?

Crista: Right. So, those are the primary new features that we’ve got in the Ancestry mobile app. I’ve really enjoyed using it. Like I said on the go I find myself in different places at different times so I need that access. One of those features that I really love in the mobile app is the “maps” feature. Genealogists know how important maps are so we always want access to know what events happened in what places. And with the mobile app if you find yourself now that the world is kind of opening back up again, driving through a town where you think family members might be buried. You just pull up the mobile app and click on maps and we’ll show you everyone who was born, married, or died in the location that you’re in and you can explore that map globally as well.

Fisher: Wow, and then click over to your Find A Grave app and boy, you’re in business, aren’t you?

Crista: Right! [Laughs] And for mobile maps it just makes sense. We do not have that feature on the desktop but we do have it in the mobile app. So, again this perfect companion experience.

Fisher: Now, anything to do with DNA on this new app?

Crista: There is. So we used to have two separate apps, a tree app and a DNA app. We’ve now combined them so all of your ancestry experiences in the one free Ancestry mobile app. And DNA, you have access to your full match list and to all the features that you do when you’re on the desktop version. But I find that some of the behavior is a little bit easier because of just the way that mobile apps are created. So for example, on mobile apps we’re used to swiping.

Fisher: Right.

Crista: Swiping all the things, right? Well, you can quickly run through your match list and swipe people into groups in mass rather than having to click, click, click, your way through like you do on the desktop.

Fisher: Wow! Your people have been hard at work.

Crista: They have, absolutely. And then the one last thing is the “message center.” We’ve moved the message center now fully integrated into the mobile app so it will be right there on the homepage on your discover tab in the app. And it’s also super easy again with that mobile functionality to message your DNA matches directly from the app as well.

Fisher: It just keeps getting better and better. All right, let’s talk about something else that we enjoy every month and that’s talking about your new databases that you’ve released at Ancestry.com.

Crista: Yeah, absolutely. So, three big things that I want to talk about this month, the first one is one of the most recent collections and that is the Ireland, Casey Collection indexes. Now I don’t remember Scott, do you have ancestry in Ireland?

Fisher: I have some but I haven’t discovered who it is yet. It keeps showing up.

Crista: [Laughs] Okay.

Fisher: I think I know who it is but I haven’t found the connection yet.

Crista: So, one of the things we struggle with in Irish research is that so many of their records were lost during their Civil War in 1922. So, anytime we can find local records that didn’t get rolled up into larger collections, that’s a huge deal Irish researchers. So, the Casey Collection is an individual Albert Casey who wrote a series of books with information about birth, marriage, death, residences for people who lived in County Cork and Kerry. So, in the south… and this collection span 1545 to 1960.

Fisher: Wow!

Crista: So it’s a really big deal if you’ve got family from those locations.

Fisher: Sure.

Crista: So, it’s a really big deal if you’ve got family from those locations. Large populations and for those of us here in the United States huge population centers of immigration out of Ireland into Canada and the United States.

Fisher: What else have you got for us? Come on, keep it coming, Crista.

Crista: [Laughs] So, I think we’ve talked about this before but I just want to make sure people are still aware of it, which is Ancestry is re-indexing the 70 million pages of the wills and probates that we have on our site for the United States. So, when we originally indexed it several years ago we only indexed the name of the deceased. So we’re going back through and we’re now indexing every name.

Fisher: Wow!

Crista: So, the witnesses, the spouse, the children, any people they may have enslaved, all of those names are being indexed with the relationships. Rather than doing all 50 states and then releasing them all at once, we are doing this just on a constant bases and releasing those states as they are completed, so be sure to check the card catalogue to see if your state has been published this month.

Fisher: Yeah. I’ve been seeing some of the states that I researched coming up out, it’s like, okay, anything new yet?

Crista: Right. [Laughs] Yeah, wills and probates, they’re just this goldmine of information and it’s super important for individuals who are descendents of slavery, but also for those of us who don’t know the maiden names of women, right? You can find her by her married name listed in her father’s will and now that’s going to be fully searchable.

Fisher: Boy, when I think about that kind of project, how many volunteers do you have working on that?

Crista: You know, Ancestry actually, this is interesting maybe to some of your listeners, employs professional indexes. So, we work with several organizations who do this for their careers around the world. We do have a volunteer indexing program, but we use it almost exclusively to index records from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. So, everything else runs through either our paid program or some of the OCR technology that we’ve developed.

Fisher: Wow! It’s just mind blowing stuff. I think back to when I started in 1981 [Laughs] it was actually 40 years ago this month.

Crista: Oh, there you go.

Fisher: And to see where we are now it’s just that I’m glad that I’ve lived to see it. Great stuff Crista. Thank you so much to Ancestry.com. Always appreciate visiting with you and we’ll talk to you again next month.

Crista: Absolutely.

Fisher: And coming up next Ask Us Anything when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 4 Episode 383

Host: Scott Fisher

Fisher: And we're back on America's Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth. David Allen Lambert is off this week. And it is time once again for Ask Us Anything. And our first question today comes from the great state of Mississippi where Julie Holts writes, "I've recently heard of reverse genealogy. Hey, if the goal is to push my family tree back, how does that help?" That's a great question, Julie. And for those who aren't familiar with the concept of reverse genealogy, it works this way, you maybe start with one set of your great grandparents or second greats or even third greats and you identify all of their children and then you identify the children of the children and then the children of the children of the children and you keep pulling forward as far as you can. And many of them hopefully will land in the present day. And the benefits of this can be many. First of all, you can find living relatives who might have family bibles or old stories or old photographs that you don't have and you can make great connections that way. And another thing is, if you're into genetic genealogy and you've done your DNA testing, you might be able to suddenly start recognizing some of these names as DNA matches to you on Ancestry DNA or 23andMe or on MyHeritage.com. And so, when you have that information, it can really help you identify certain branches.

I actually did this starting back in the 1980s, because I was unable to get any further back than my second great grandfather, Robert Fisher. And he had a real common name. His death certificate in New York City in 1875 only gave his birth date in years and months, so I couldn't even calculate a possible birth date to match to a record back in England. And it said he was from Yorkshire, England, which is the largest county in the entire country. So, I knew that I wasn't going to get any further, so I thought, well, it will be interesting to find out what this man did and what happened to his descendants and if anybody who descended from him as I did accomplished something interesting. So, what happened was, I found this relative in New Mexico and she had a couple of little stories to tell me, but she said, "You really need to talk to this guy in Upstate, New York, who is a son of my cousin." so I called this person up in the Buffalo, New York area and wouldn't you know, he had hand written notes left by his great grandmother and she had known Robert Fisher, my great, great grandfather and his wife, Mariah. And she had written a letter to this guy's mother back in the 1930s mapping out the family history, named the parents of Robert Fisher and gave the name of the village in England that Robert Fisher was from.

I never expected it to happen that way. And so, I went to the records of that little village called Yarm in Northern Yorkshire and sure enough, I found his christening record there, and in time I was able to push the line back into the mid 1600s. I could not have done that without reverse genealogy. And in many other cases, by doing the reverse genealogy as I've mentioned, I’ve gotten to know who all the descendants of certain people are, so when I run across that in my genetic genealogy, I can tie them into the right branch of the family. In one case, I had a second cousin emerge one day in my DNA matches and when I clicked on the shared matches button on Ancestry.com, it turned out he was a descendant of my first great grandfather and grandmother. Well, he had no idea, because he had been adopted. And because I'd done all the reverse genealogy, I recognized that he wasn't on the list anywhere.

So, it was very helpful for him and for me to be able to put that together and we were able to close that case really quick. So that's a great question, Julie. Those are some of the advantages of reverse genealogy. And of course if you're writing a history of the family, that kind of research can be invaluable. Of course, it depends on you actually reaching out and trying to meet some of these people. And remember, a lot of these folks you find in reverse genealogy are not people who are necessarily subscribers to any major service, so you actually have to track them down. So thanks for the question. We've got another one coming up next in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 383

Host: Scott Fisher

Fisher: And welcome back! We have arrived at our final segment of this week's Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth. And our next question for Ask Us Anything comes from Dave Lavin in Long Island, New York. And Dave writes, "Guys, you mentioned recently a midwife's birthing book. Where these books kept by cities and counties? How would I find a record like that? Dave." Well, thanks for the question, Dave first of all. It’s a good one. It’s a little complicated for me to answer, because I don't know exactly what you're looking for here and what the purpose would be for it, but let me go through a few possibilities here. First of all, the book that I referred to had actually been created by my midwife great grandmother. She ran a birthing home at her home in Salt Lake City, Utah back between 1905 and 1909. And these birthing books were not required to be kept by the county or the city. She kept it for her own records in large part, because she wanted to keep track of who her patients were and what they owed her. As she performed her services there, she kept them in the house. So, she would have a pregnant woman come in and stay with her ahead of time. She'd go through the delivery with her and then the woman and the baby would recover together. So this was all part of the record that she wanted to keep. Now, in this particular case, I used that book to identify a birth mother of one of the babies that was given away. And an account of this story was given by my great aunt in something she had written down in the 1950s.

Now this is the thing, the midwives are required to fill out birth certificates just like anybody else today who delivers a child. There are different time periods in different places obviously where birth certificates were required by law and midwives go back far beyond that time period. So, if you're looking to find an extra clue about who somebody might be in your family line or a birth parent or something like that, yeah, you can go look in an archive, maybe a county archive or a city archive might have a birthing book by a midwife, who knows. You can find pretty much anything there as we've heard many times through our archive lady, Melissa Barker who's talked about some of the things that have been contributed to her archive in Tennessee. But if you're looking for that kind of information, you might be able to find it elsewhere. For instance, church records are absolutely fabulous and they can often include notes that might give you a little bit of a hint of something that you're looking for. If you're looking to identify a birth parent, it might be of use to you depending on the size of an area to try to figure out who all the children were that were born on a particular date. If you know the birth date for instance of an adopted child, you can go check out the records of the county or whatever and see how many children were born on that date that might fit the bill of the person that you're looking for.

You know, it’s interesting, because I've often heard, "You know, genealogy is so easy!" and I will tell you this, it is easier now than it has ever been. But there are some things that are never easy and tracking down birth children or birth parents, the best thing you can do for that today of course is DNA, because that gets around all the states that prevent you through law from getting access to birth information on yourself or on your parents or even your grandparents if they were adopted. So, if that's what you're looking for, that might be a better shot than trying to track down a midwife's birthing book. But I appreciate the question. And of course, if you have a question for Ask Us Anything, it’s always easy to get it to us, just email [email protected]. Hey, that is our show for this week. Thank you so much for joining us. And thanks to our guests once again, Sunny Morton for coming on and talking about experiencing her ancestor’s experience. And what an amazing thing it was. And also to Crista Cowan from our sponsors over at Ancestry.com talking about the redo on their Ancestry app and all the cool things it was do for us right now on our phones and also all the new databases that are available on Ancestry.com. If you missed any of the show, of course catch the podcast on iTunes, iHeart Radio, ExtremeGenes.com, TuneIn Radio and Spotify. We will 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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