Episode 385 - Naming Kids After Assassins, British Naval Press Gangs

podcast episode Jul 26, 2021

Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. Fisher begins the conversation revealing coming changes to the Extreme Genes website and some coming new video courses. Fisher then talks about researching Civil War figures he’s reading about to see who he and his wife Julie might be related to. In the process he learned a remarkable thing about Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth. Wait until you hear this! Then David talks about a fascinating story about how people kept cool back in the 19th century. (They were pretty creative back then!)

Next, Fisher visits with author Lori Erickson. Lori discovered family history research after losing several family members and describes her journey in her new book “Soul of the Family Tree: Ancestors, Stories, and the Spirits We Inherit.”

Then, Professor Christopher Magra of the University of Tennessee talks about British “Press Gangs” and how their virtual kidnapping of young men to man their Navy contributed to the breakout of the Revolutionary War.

David then returns for two questions on “Ask Us Anything.”

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

Transcript for Episode 385

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 358

Fisher: And 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. Well, it is great to have you along. If you are new to the show, what do we do here? Well, we share great stories, we talk to expert guests who help you figure out how to trace your family history and we just have a lot of fun. So, we're glad to have you. We've got some great guests today. First of all, we're going to talk to Lori Erickson. She's an author of a new book called, Soul of the Family Tree: Ancestors, Stories, and the Spirits We Inherit. That's coming up in about ten minutes. Then later in the show, I'm going to talk to Professor Christopher Magra from the University of Tennessee, talking about the British Navy and impressments and how that impacted the Revolutionary War. This is basically where the British folks would come along and to say, "Hey, you!" and kidnap you and put you on a ship and take you away from your family and friends for who knows how long, totally against your will. It was a long standing practice and you'll want to hear that segment. Hey, if you haven't signed up for our Weekly Genie Newsletter yet, hey, we've got a new format coming out. We'd love for you to see it. Just sign up at ExtremeGenes.com or on our Facebook Page to get it and get a blog from me and a couple of links to past and present shows as well. Right now, out to Boston, Massachusetts where David Allen Lambert is standing by. He is the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. Hellooo, David!

David: Can I ask you, do you ever sleep? All this stuff that you get going on with the website and the courses.

Fisher: Yes!

David: So, I think it’s time you tell people about it. [Laughs]

Fisher: Okay. Well, yeah, we're doing a new format for the Weekly Genie that's coming out right away and then very soon on the heels of that, our new website will be unveiled and all bright and shiny, and then we're going to be offering some courses, the very basics of genealogy and genetic genealogy, the fundamentals of that as well. So, if you wanted to get into DNA and understand how it works in dealing with the matches, we're going to have that up for you here real soon, so pay close attention. We'll let you know when you can get it, so thanks for asking about that.

David: I wonder if we should call you the genealogy professor.

Fisher: Ahh, there you go! [Laugh]

David: [Laughs]

Fisher: I've got to tell you, I'm very excited about this book I've been reading and this is an old one. I think a lot of people are familiar with it. It's called Team of Rivals from Doris Kearns Goodwin. And she wrote about all these people who ran for president in 1860 in the Republican Party against Lincoln. They lost and he brought them all into his cabinet and just brilliantly managed all the different personalities and egos and ambitions. So I thought, David, you know, as I read this book, it might be kind of cool to find out how any of these people might be related to me or to my wife.

David: Oh, sure.

Fisher: Because it just makes for a better read. I don't know if you've ever done that with a history book where you go through and say, "Hey, I'm I related to any of these people?" so I thought I'd try and do that. I discovered that I'm related to Stephen Douglas a couple of times through Yelverton Crowell and William Hough and Sara Calkins and then there's General Sherman and General McClellen and the Vice President, Hannibal Hamlin through Henry Howland who was the father of the Mayflower passenger, John Howland, and my wife had Clara Barton and Edwin Stanton and Schuyler Colfax, all these people from the Civil War era, so it’s really interesting. And then I decided to go look up, well, what's the tree look like for John Wilkes Booth? And you know what… I discovered something really interesting.

David: Oh. What was that?

Fisher: And that was that there were eight people named John Wilkes Booth to Booth family members and presumably not related to that Booth family.

David: Sure.

Fisher: But they named their sons John Wilkes after John Wilkes Booth after Lincoln was assassinated and all eight of them were born in the South before 1900!

David: Interesting!

Fisher: Oh yeah. And I thought, okay, so they're naming their child after an assassin. And then I thought, okay, there are a lot of people who name their kids after somebody and they give them the full name as first and middle names and then they add their surname. 38 others were named “John Wilkes Booth (Something).” Most of those were also from the South. There were a few actually born in the 20th century as well, so you can really see an indicator of the bitterness of those who were in the former Confederacy in the decades after they got beat. So I write about this in our Weekly Genie Newsletter this week. I just think it’s amazing. By the way, David, I went and looked to see if there were any other assassins that people named their kids after and I found there was one Native American family that named their son after the assassination of William McKinley that would be Leon Czołgosz. And yeah, they gave him the full name. I guess they were kind of pleased about what he did. And there was someone where the father was named Earl Ray (Something) and he named his son, James Earl Ray (Something) for the assassin of Martin Luther King. But those were the only ones.

David: Did you find anybody named after Lee Harvey Oswald?

Fisher: Nope, nobody, and nobody after…

David: John Hinckley Jr.?

Fisher: No, and nobody after Charles Guiteau, the Garfield assassin. So, isn't that interesting though that people would name their kids after an assassin?

David: Well, that's pretty crazy.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: Well, summer had been pretty hot out in your part of the country and it’s not been much more pleasant in my part of the world. In fact, on my birthday, it was the hottest day on record in Boston, like 97! So, I thought it would be fun to share the wonderful article you have on ExtremeGenes.com on the Eight Creative Ways People Kept Cool Before Air Conditioning. I'm not going to go through them all, because I want them to see the story.

Fisher: Yes.

David: But fan chairs, a patent from the 19th century, this chair that you rocked that generated a fan above your head, kind of ingenious.

Fisher: [Laughs] Yeah.

David: The one that is scary is the sleeping porches and the photograph of this little baby hanging in a mesh net over a tenement window.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: That they could have easily climbed around and fell to their deaths, but it kept them cool.

Fisher: It did keep them cool, yeah.

David: Yeah. I don't know how the mother kept cool though, canvas awnings on buildings. We thought they were just ornamental. No, they actually helped people keep cool. Then there was one, I love that description, it says, "An immense pressure blower and an ice chamber of tremendous proportions." [Laughs]

Fisher: Wow!

David: Good sales pitch items. So, the last thing I want to say is, summer is here, NEHGS is open, we'd love you to come in, make an appointment. And if you're not a member, go to AmericanAncestors.org and use the coupon code "Extreme" and save $20 on your membership.

Fisher: All right, David, thank you much. We'll catch you at the back end of the show for Ask Us Anything. And coming up next, we're going to talk to Author, Lori Erickson, she has written a new book called, Soul of the Family Tree: Ancestors, Stories, and the Spirits We Inherit, when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 385

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Lori Erickson

Fisher: All right, my next guest on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show is Lori Erickson. And Lori lives in Iowa City, Iowa. She is the author of a brand new book called The Soul of the Family Tree: Ancestors, Stories, and the Spirits We Inherit. Welcome to Extreme Genes, Lori. Great to have you!

Lori: Well, I’m happy to be here.

Fisher: Tell me how you got going on all this because this is quite an adventuresome book.

Lori: [Laughs] Well, the book got started in one sense because I entered my 50s and I started losing family members.

Fisher:  Hmm.

Lori: My mother died. My brother died. And I think even though genealogy hadn’t been an interest of mine before, I think once you start losing living relatives you become more interested in those who have passed on.  

Fisher: Absolutely.

Lori: So, that was the impediment for it. And I am also a writer with a long standing interest in the intersection of travel and spirituality and I was really struck by the ways in which searching for family roots often involved physical travel and often is a kind of pilgrimage for people.

Fisher:  Yes.

Lori: And so I think there’s a layer of spirituality in genealogy that hasn’t been written about a lot, and so I thought well, that’s what I want to do, so that’s what the book is about.

Fisher: So, you went exploring into your Norwegian ancestors, and let’s talk about that.   

Lori: So, I grew up in Decorah, Iowa, which is probably the most Norwegian/ American town in the United States. It was a center for 19th century immigration, sort of a mother colony in lots of ways, and still has a very strong Norwegian/American identity there. And like many people who grow up surrounded by a certain sort of character, you know, I took it for granted and not that interested in it.  

Fisher: [Laughs]   

Lori: Until I started thinking more about my family roots. And then suddenly it became a real passionate interest for me; why is the town the way it is, and how did my ancestors contribute to that, and also, this larger story of Scandinavia. Not just Scandinavian Americans, but also the history of the Vikings. 

Fisher: So, did you have any older relatives left that could talk to you at that point?    

Lori: No.

Fisher: There were all gone at this point.  

Lori: They were all gone, yes. Uh huh, and I was really starting from zero in terms of genealogical knowledge in fact.

Fisher: Okay.  

Lori: But I did go to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, but the real help came from the Norwegian-American Genealogical Center in Madison, Wisconsin. And they helped me identify two people in particular. And you know, the book couldn’t be about all my relatives because I’m not sure how much of interest that would be to the rest of the world. 

Fisher: Sure.

Lori: So, I chose two as sort of representatives, you know I picked them somewhat at random off of my family tree because I like the sound of their names. 

Fisher: [Laughs] What were their names?  

Lori: Hans Olbrich Henriksen Boriger and Sila – some long…and it had all those odd Norwegian vowels, the “o” with a slash there. I said, “Oh, they sound so Norwegian,” but what was a really nice piece of serendipity is that they really turned out to be interesting people to follow.

Fisher: Sure.  

Lori: For example, they both were baptized in the most beautiful church in Norway, a stave church. Looks like the sort of church Vikings would build, you know, it’s got dragons coming off the top and everything. And it was such a wonderful coincidence. You know, if I was sort of choosing ancestors to have, I think I would have chosen ancestors who came from this beautiful part of this affluent country and this beautiful church.

Fisher: Absolutely. Yeah.

Lori: So, their story is started through the book, but then also cultural history and also this real theme of spirituality.

Fisher: So, had you ever been to Norway before, and did you go?  

Lori: I went, and I went with my two sons and my husband and my sister and so it was a real family pilgrimage. And I got the chance to go to this small where Hans, my great, great grandfather was basically a sharecropper. He never owned any land. It’s just this tiny rocky little place. I took a little bit of soil from there and my husband said I took like half the soil that was there.

Fisher: [Laughs]   

Lori: It was all rocks.

Fisher: Why didn’t you take the rocks?

Lori: Well, because I knew that I wanted to have some soil to sprinkle on Hans and Sila’s graves in Northeast Iowa.

Fisher: Ah!   

Lori: And I was really struck by the difference between the rich fertile soil of Iowa and the rocky soil of Norway.

Fisher: Right.  

Lori: It just sort of symbolized the two strains of my heritage. So, it was actually dirt. I never even thought of the rock. I wanted to have the soil instead.

Fisher: You know, it’s not like you can just get one or the other. You can have both if you wanted. I’ve done this before. [Laughs]

Lori: [Laughs] That’s right. But truly that was one of the most meaningful parts of my genealogical journey, was to stand in the spot where my ancestors had been. And to get there was somewhat of an adventure that’s described in the book too.

Fisher: Well, it’s really a feeling, isn’t it, when you stand where they stood, and you walk where they walked, and you see the places that they were so familiar with. I mean, there’s just such a connection that you have with your people when you that. I’ve actually been inside the home of my fourth great grandparents over in England, because it’s a pub now. [Laughs] It used to be a butcher shop but it allowed me to be able to go in there. And then their apartment overhead is where they lived in the 1700s.

Lori: Oh, wow.

Fisher: And so I got invited up there, and of course it looks pretty modern today but still, the building went back to the 1500s. And it’s just so astonishing to be in a place like that. Especially the first times you’ve done it.  

Lori: Right, right. And I think it’s really about the power of place, you know. Much of genealogy is about the power of story, I think, and the power of research and imagination. There’s also the power of place, and that’s why I think people want to go to a grave and they want to go to a farm, or something concrete that they can touch and relate to.

Fisher: Yeah, I think that’s kind of the debate a lot of people have about do I get buried, or do I get cremated?   

Lori: Yeah.

Fisher: Because there’s no place when you’re cremated, unless it’s everywhere, and that’s just too broad, you know?

Lori: Right.

Fisher: Tell me about some of the conclusions you came to about spirituality and spiritual DNA. You mentioned that in your book.

Lori: So, one of the things I describe in the book is doing a family tree on my spiritual influences. I’m Christian, I’m an Episcopalian, but I also have wandered in my spiritual path and have gained a lot of inspiration from other faiths, especially Buddhism. So, I put together a family tree of all the influences on me, and I really liked that sense of being connected to and influenced by a lot of different parts of the world and a lot of different people, a lot of wise people, wisdom teachers, and many traditions. And so that really got me thinking about the fact that we are a product of our genetics. We are a part of our cultural heritage. But we also are a part of the spiritual beliefs of those who came before us, and our own spiritual quest.

Fisher: Yep.

Lori: Part of my book is arguing against sort of extreme individualism. This idea that we are self made and that we sort of create ourselves out of home cloth. Instead, I think we should appreciate and at times examine what we’re given because sometimes it’s not a positive legacy. And I think sort of confronting that and examining that, and looking at the broad sweep of your family including the cultural tides of it. It gives you a much deeper understanding of who you are, and then I think it also can help you pass on better patterns to your descendants and those that you influence. There’s a metaphor from pre-Christians Scandinavia that relates to wird w-i-r-d, which is the Old Norse word for something like faith or destiny. And the web of wird was this belief that wird connected everything in the past, in the present, and in the future.

Fisher: Ha!

Lori: I really play with that in my book, this idea that genealogy really is the web of wird. And another fun thing about the web of wird w-i-r-d is where we get our word “weird” – strange.

Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs] Okay.  

Lori: But the Vikings had a much deeper sense. Wird in their sense was something that would make the hair rise up on your arms, you know, it was some sort of sensing of a connection that was a brush with a numinous with something beyond. So, that’s what I think genealogy can be. Not just connecting their ancestors, but connecting with something with larger kinds of spiritual forces.

Fisher: Well, and seeing how they actually helped you become who you are.   

Lori: Yes.

Fisher: I mean, I’ve looked back, my father was a well known musician. He was with The Ed Sullivan Show, and his brother had a big band back in the 20s, 30s, and 40s. And I looked back to see well, where did all that come from? And there’s a great picture of my grandfather in 1890 in New York in a little drummer boy outfit and he was playing the grand army of the republic.

Lori: Oh wow!

Fisher: And I found out that his father’s father had actually sung in his church meetings back in the 1830s and ‘40s, so you can see this thread of music through the family. All the way down to my dad and to my own children. But it skipped me pretty much! [Laughs] I don’t know why.  

Lori: Well, you’re in entertainment and larger media.

Fisher: True.

Lori: Well, in my case, my example of that is I have always said I’m a descendant of the explorer Leif Erikson who was the first European to be in North America that we know of at least. And he was Norwegian, and he loved to travel, and he was adventurous. And I really had him as sort of a role model all the time that I was growing up. And it’s somewhat tongue-in-cheek of course because I could never claim any real genetic connection to him.

Fisher: Right.

Lori: But this idea that he was an inspiration. He’s part of my clan. And then there was a woman, his sister-in-law Gudrid, the Far Traveler, who ended up being more of an inspiration through the course of the book. So yeah, I’m going to continue on my genealogical search, and I certainly have genealogy on my radar now in a way that I never had before. And I think it’s fascinating all the people I didn’t realize who are fascinated by tracing their family roots.

Fisher: So, what are the questions now that you wish you had asked your loved ones who’ve recently passed as a result of all this?

Lori: Oh, I wish that I would have asked about what their parents and grandparents talked about their first years in Iowa. What was it like in the boat coming over, why did they leave, did they ever have contact with the people that they had left behind, did they ever see any of their extended relatives, so, really about that immigrant era.

Fisher: She is Lori Erickson. She is the author of “The Soul of the Family Tree: Ancestor, Stories, and the Spirits We Inherit” and where can you get the book Lori?

Lori: Well, the usual place, of course Amazon, but your local independent book store is a great place. There’ll be an audio version of it as well, a kindle of course too, so it should be widely available once it comes out on August 24.  

Fisher: Thanks so much for coming on Lori. Appreciate it.  

Lori: Oh, thank you for having me.

Fisher: And coming up on the other side of the break, we’re going to talk to Professor Christopher Magra from the University of Tennessee talking about impressments, yes, done by the British with their Navy, leading up to the Revolution, and you’ll want to hear it’s affect on that when we return in five minutes. 

Segment 3 Episode 385

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Professor Christopher Magra

Fisher: All right, welcome back genies to America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here your Radio Roots Sleuth and I’m very excited to introduce you to my next guest he is Professor Christopher Magra. He is with the University of Tennessee. He is a history professor there. And in recent weeks, David Allen Lambert and I were talking about this great article that was based on an article that he had written some years back about Naval Impressments by the British and how that affected the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. And Professor Magra, thanks so much for coming on. This is a really interesting topic to me because I think many of us have heard about the British basically kidnapping people to put them in their Navy but I don’t think we understood the full extent of it and its impact on history.

Professor Magra: I’m happy to be here. Well, most people out there will know that Great Britain had one of the most powerful navies in the world in the 1700s. What a lot of people don’t realize is that navy was built on the acquisition of labor and that labor was not always voluntary. The British Navy was not the only navy to take men by force and force them into military service navies across Europe did this. It was common in war time, even extended into peace time. But naval captains wouldn’t be given orders to set sail with a full complement of men and if they didn’t have that didn’t have that full complement of men they could apply for press warrants that the admiralty office provided. That’s government sanction for you to go into coastal communities and you’re supposed to take men with seafaring experience into military service. At certain times that was not always possible. And what’s known as a hot press occurred where press gangs led by British lieutenants would enter into coastal communities and take anybody that they could and anybody that they needed for British war ships.

Fisher: So, what was the cost for resisting impressments in that circumstance?

Professor Magra: Well, that’s the thing. Just about everybody resented us as you could imagine.

Fisher: Sure.

Professor Magra: You are either taken off of a port before you’re about to go to work. You’re been taken off of a ship while you are working. And you have your earnings for yourself and your family that yourself and your family depends on, you’re being taken away from those earnings and out of your workplace, and away from your families and forced into military service for years at a time. And the British Navy had a bad reputation of not paying their men.

Fisher: Oh, wow.

Professor Magra: So, not only are you being taken away by force and separated from your family but also your entire future is up in the air.

Fisher: And I was reading here in this article that 40 percent of the British Navy was fulfilled through this impressments’ process.

Professor Magra: Yeah. The estimates run between 40 and 70 percent.

Fisher: Oh, wow.

Professor Magra: The conservative thing here with a book that I wrote, but estimates run as high as 70 percent. There’s no way to count and this is one of the difficulties of doing this kind of history. When press gangs took men they were given a choice, you could be entered onto the ship’s muster rolls as a pressed man, meaning you do not agree to this. You don’t want to be here.

Fisher: Right.

Professor Magra: And that you’re serving the British nation against your will. You’d be entered on the muster roll as a pressed man and will keep you below deck in chains when you’re not working. And when the ship pulls into port you will not be let off of the war ship. Or, you can enter into the muster rolls as a volunteer and be allowed to move about the ship at will and when we pull into port you can have your liberty to go on shore.

Fisher: Wow! So how many people ran off then when they went ashore?

Professor Magra: Yeah. Desertion was rampant in the British navy throughout the 18th century.

Fisher: So, this was going on long before the Revolution.

Professor Magra: Yes, it was.

Fisher: And this article kind of argues and this story basically leads up to the fact that the Revolution was in part brought on by this kind of behavior by the British government towards its own citizens.

Professor Magra: Yes. I think your listeners will most appreciate the family separation involved in British Navy impressments.

Fisher: Sure.

Professor Magra: And they can appreciate the fact that women with children were writing letters to the British admiralty trying to get their husbands, their brothers, their sons off of these war ships. You’ve taken away our principle bread earner. The entire family is at stake and there’s a lot of resentment against the institution of impressments. And I want your listeners to remember three dates.

Fisher: Sure.

Professor Magra: 1708, 1746, and 1775. Those three dates I want you to remember. In 1708, the British government bans naval impressments in North America. Wonderful. Fantastic! The act in 1708 is specifically to benefit our economy. It says, naval impressments hurts overseas trade, hurts merchants, and hurts mariners and their families.  Wonderful, the British Empire works for us. This is fantastic.

Fisher: Sure.

Professor Magra: It doesn’t work for the British Navy though. They violate the 1708 law very year after it’s passed. And Americans continue to partition the British government saying, hey, this thing is still going on. You guys have got to do something about it. And other members of the British Empire are doing the same thing. And in 1746, the British government passes a second naval impressments law that bans impressments in the Caribbean to benefit the sugar planters and the sugar plantations in the Caribbean.

Fisher: Okay.

Professor Magra: And the Americans are up in arms about this after 1746. They say, “What about us? You don’t mention anything about North America in the 1746 law.”

Fisher: And you’re ignoring the 1708 law, right?

Professor Magra: Yeah, and oh, by the way, that’s still on the books. And the very next year 1747, the British Navy comes down the coast of North America from Halifax, Nova Scotia, from the naval base there. The naval squadron is ordered to the Caribbean to protect sugar planters there and they don’t have enough men. So where do they stop between Halifax, Nova Scotia and the Caribbean, where do they stop? The principle seaport in North America in 1747 was Boston. So, they pull into Boston and they have a huge hot press in Boston and Bostonians resisted, what’s known as the Knowles Riots. And Bostonians take over Boston for three days. They kidnap British naval officers they hold them hostage.

Fisher: Wow!

Professor Magra: And they say, “You will not press our mariners here.” And this leads to a whole string of protests and letters to the governor of Massachusetts, letters to the parliament. And in 1775, parliament says, “We’ve had enough. We are formally legalizing impressments in North America and we are keeping the 1708 act off of the books.

Fisher: Oh! And there we go. And that takes us right up to the Revolution.

Professor Magra: Yeah.

Fisher: Wow, what a mess.

Professor Magra: John Adams who is in Boston and his law partner react to this and talk about the disruption of family life in Boston that occurs as a result of this 1775 act. Adams refers to it as the piratical act.

Fisher: Yes.

Professor Magra: That’s meant to plunder America of their husbands, of their sons, of their brothers. And he said that this act above anything else has separated America from Great Britain he thinks forever. Adams then serves on a five man committee to draft the declaration of independence in 1776. And he includes one of the grievances written on the Declaration of Independence pertains to naval impressments, that the British government has constrained our mariners.

Fisher: This was a much more impactful series of acts then I think we’ve been led to understand over the years.

Professor Magra: That’s right. There’s long standing grievances and there are short-term grievances that caused the American Revolution, like the 1764 Sugar Act, like the 1773 Tea Act. There are also these long standing lesser known grievances like the 1708, 1746, 1775, Impressments Acts.

Fisher: Wow. He’s Christopher Magra. He is a professor of history at the University of Tennessee, talking about British Naval Impressments and what it did leading up to the Revolution and of course later the War of 1812 as well. I wish we had more time to talk about this, Chris. Thank you so much for coming on.

Professor Magra: You’re very welcome and I hope your listeners will read more history.

Fisher: Thank you so much.

Professor Magra: Thank you.

Fisher: And coming up next, Mr. Lambert returns as we go through another round of Ask Us Anything answering your questions about family history when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 4 Episode 385

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, on to your questions on Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here with David Allen Lambert back to answer this question. It’s our first question today, David, and it comes from Robert Rust in Denver, Colorado and he says, "Hey, Fisher and David. I have a brick wall in my years long research into my immigrant ancestor, Henry Rust, 1618-1684. He was from Norwich, U.K., died in Massachusetts. He was made a freeman in Hingham in 1633 and he doesn't appear in Robert Charles Anderson's migration series and I can't find his ship arrival information or the name of his wife. There was a published family genealogy from about 1899 that names her as Hanna with no maiden or surname, also no marriage information has been found. Hingham very early records seem to be lost before about 1640. Whatever help you can give would be appreciated. Cheers! Robert." David, this is your neck of the woods.

David: Yeah. Actually, my Gilman family would have probably attended church with them in Hingham at that very same time, which would make Robert Rust's ancestor friends with Abraham Lincoln's ancestors, because the Lincolns were also from Hingham.

Fisher: Ah!

David: And it’s very true the old records for Hingham, a lot of the early ones are lost. However, what puzzles me is that freemanship, so I would love to have Robert contact me at NEHGS. It’s really easy to do. If you look at the staff directory, you'll get all my contact information right there, because the earliest we know and this is according to Robert Charles Anderson's Great Migration Directory, Henry is of unknown origin, so we don't know if he's from Norwich. We also don't have a name of a boat, nor do we have him here anytime before 1637.

Fisher: Ah!

David: Now the reason that he would not be included in Robert Charles Anderson's Great Migration series is because that really deals with 1620 to 1635. That being said, genealogy is like wet cement. If you have a record that states that he's there in 1633 and you can pinpoint it to us, I would be more than happy to put you in contact with Mr. Anderson and we may have a new discovery to share with people. But again, just reach out to me at NEHGS, I'll be more than happy to share that with Mr. Anderson for you.

Fisher: That's a great question and that's a great answer too, David, because sometimes we kind of get confused about why they're not showing up in immigration records, and in this case, it sounds like the years might be off by a couple and he wouldn't fit into that time period.

David: Right. And that's really all it is. And a lot of times, these early genealogies that are written, like Albert Rust wrote a book called, The Book of the Rust Family and it was published in 1891. I mean, it’s possible that somebody made a conclusion or read a 3 as an 8, so that's possible.

Fisher: You know, you bring up a really important point here. I see this all the time, especially on Family Search where somebody goes in and changes information that is much more current and they quote a book that was written maybe in the 1880s or ‘90s, and often times, those books, they may be old, they may be closer to the ancestors than we are, but those books are loaded with errors in all kinds of families and we see it all the time.

David: Well, that's true, because the early 19th century genealogies, of course we didn't have Family Search and Ancestry and American Ancestors or access to genealogy libraries for most of America, they did it by correspondence. So if somebody says, "Well, I think my ancestor arrived in 1655," it could be that they were just guessing that's probably when he arrived. It may not be that they were looking at an actual record or a passenger list, so we can't rely heavily on these 19th and early 20th century genealogies. We have to reexamine their sources, as many of them are even cited on the page where the source came from.

Fisher: That's right. So, it’s great to have those books, but take it all with a grain of salt. You know, I've seen some books where for instance it gave the cause of death for somebody and how would anybody know that, except through a correspondence. But a lot of it, as you say, is basically hearsay. All right, Robert. Thanks for the question. We'll have another one coming up on part two of Ask Us Anything when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 385

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, back for our final question on Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth with David Allen Lambert from the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. And Dave, this question comes from Curt Lambier in St. Paul, Minnesota. He says, "My great grandfather is thought to have been an orphan. He lived in the Midwest, but the census said he came from New York, so we've thought that maybe he came over on the Orphan Train. Anything you can tell us on how we can research this man?"

David: Ooh, well, that's interesting, because that New York connection really echoes in perfectly. Well, the Orphan Train, Fish, operated in the middle part of the 19th century, right through to about right about the end of World War I. So we've got 1854 to 1919 of the rough dates, and between that times there were estimated 105,000 children rode the Orphan Train. And of course the trains would stop at different towns and cities and, you know, the kids would be filed out and then paperwork would be filled up. So, there are some forms of paperwork. Not so much on the early ones, but you may find something valuable. I always try the Family Search’s Wiki. And if you don't know about Family Search, just do FamilySearch.org and then you can go to their Wiki. Their Wiki, then just add the word "orphan" or "orphanages" and you'll find this great article on New York orphans and orphanages. And one of the things on it actually has a guide to the records of the Children's Aid Society that cover 1853 to 1947. And this is in the Victor Remer Historical Archives of the Children's Aid Society, located on East 22nd street in New York City and the collection has Orphan Train records, foster care, adoption programs operating between the 1850s and the 1940s. So this might be a great place to start. The other thing is, maybe there's a court record, Fish, where in the Midwest this person was. Maybe there's an official adoption record. So that's a possibility. The other thing is, looking at DNA.

Fisher: Oh, absolutely. I wanted to go there, because I had a friend of mine recently who reached out. His grandfather was an Orphan Train adoptee. And he had never really used his DNA matches. He's like a lot of people, did the DNA test, thought the ethnicity results is all you really get out of it and never really looked at the matches or understood how they could be used. So we worked on it, we eliminated all the other known branches and all their descendant matches and figured, "Okay, these are the people that relate to your grandfather." and we were in fairly short order able to identify his second great grandparents and then eventually figured out which one of those children, it was a big family from Scotland, which one of them came to New York and became the father of this man. And now once we had that sliver of the DNA puzzle solved, we were able to figure out then who the birth mother was of this man. So, DNA is really a huge way to go to find out what their original names may have been. And then of course follow their history from there. But, when you combine the records, you combine the DNA. This is a solvable thing today, whereas 20 years ago, it was not.

David: Oh, right, exactly. And things that Family Search have done to digitize and make these finding guides available, it’s just tremendous. And of course with DNA, you pretty much can find people without even knowing the names. You've got the clues right there.

Fisher: Yeah, that's it. Isn't it amazing, you spit in a tube and all this information.

David: Out comes a relative. [Laughs]

Fisher: Yeah, out comes a relative, that's the craziest thing. Dave thanks so much.

David: Absolutely.

Fisher: And thanks also to you, Curt for the question. And David, we'll talk to you again next week.

David: All right, my friend.

Fisher: All right. And that's our show for this week, genies. Thanks so much for joining us. Hey, if you missed any of it or want to hear part of it again, you can listen to the podcast on iTunes, iHeart Radio, ExtremeGenes.com, Spotify and TuneIn Radio. 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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