Episode 393 - FamilySearch Completes Digitizing Of 80 Years Worth Of Microfilm / Learning To Use The Top Sites

podcast episode Sep 27, 2021

Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. The guys begin with kudos to FamilySearch on their historic announcement (with plenty more on it coming in Segment 2). Fisher talks to David about his latest research project… tracking a suspect in a cold case murder. David then reviews some of the finds the WikiTree Challenge people made on his own tree last week. There were some fascinating discoveries, as usual. Next, hear about the oldest “art” probably ever found… made by children. In a cave. A LONGGGG time ago! Then it’s a happy birthday greeting to America’s oldest living World War II vet. You won’t believe how old he is!

In Segment 2, David Rencher, Director of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, comes on to talk about the remarkable milestone FamilySearch.org just achieved… the digitization of some 2.4 million rolls of microfilm that were accumulated over 80 years! They haven’t all been published just yet, but this collection covers BILLIONS of name listings. David also explains the Library’s reactivated look up service, and on line consultations. The rerouting of resources due to the pandemic has brought about remarkable upgrades!

Then, Fisher visits with Bob Taylor, the originator and Director of Development for The Family History Guide website, TheFHGuide.com. This site can train you, for free, on how to use any of the major sites including FamilySearch.org, Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com, and FindMyPast.com. Bob explains how it all works.

Then David Lambert rejoins Fisher for a pair of questions on Ask Us Anything.

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

Transcript for Episode 393

Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 393

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. And there’s going to be a lot more trees we’re going to be able to shake here soon because big news this past week from FamilySearch.org. Dave Rencher, whose the director of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah is going to join me here in about 10 minutes to talk about it. I’ll give you a hint right now; they have completed a project they thought would take 50 years to do, in 20 years. And if you’re a researcher into your family history, this is a really big deal. So, we’ll explain that coming up. And then right after that, how do you get on to places like Family Search, and Ancestry, and MyHeritage, and FindMyPast, and how do you run things there? Well, there’s a website to help you out. It’s called The Family History Guide, it’s thefhguide.com and I’m going to have the originator of that, Bob Taylor, on to talk about it right after we talk to David Rencher. So, we got a lot going on today. And by the way, Ancestry has adjusted your DNA story so it’s been updated if you haven’t looked at those maps and all the colorful circles around them lately go check it out and see what’s new at Ancestry.com with their DNA. Right now it’s time to head out to Boston and talk to the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org it’s David Allen Lambert. Hello David.

David: Well, that’s 2.4 million reasons to be happy about Family Search.

Fisher: [Laughs] Yeah.

David:  Amazing! Since 1938 they started microfilming.

Fisher: Yep.

David: It’s unbelievable. Well, I’m so delighted that they’re able to get this done in such a short order. And I’ll tell you, it’s amazing to think of how many millions.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: Unbelievable.

Fisher: Yeah it’s going to be really fun to see this. I didn’t think I would ever live to see the end of that project so [Laughs] this is really good.

David: Well, I never thought I’d live to see the end of Family Search doing microfilming. That happened what 2018?

Fisher: Yeah. That’s it.

David: Great, great progress. Well, hey, what have you been up to?

Fisher: This past week?

David: Um hmm.

Fisher: Actually working on a cold case, a cold case murder that goes back 50 years in the West. That’s all I can really say about it right now, but it’s exciting when you start finding things that can start circling the perpetrator, if you know what I’m saying.

David: I do. I do. Well, I guess there’s been over 50 people working on sort of a cold case for me, my own ancestry, hats off to WikiTree Challenge. I’m delighted to say that they made 3,729 records setting edits to my profiles. They found 19 brick wall ancestors for me. Do you want to hear the highlights?

Fisher: Sure. Yeah.

David: Okay. Well, I always knew that my mother’s paternal line came from England. My grandfather is from there. Well, they disproved the parents of one of my fourth great grandfathers. Well, it’s not too big of a deal because it turns out the father, that they prevailed to me, is actually the brother of the ancestor I know. So, it only screws up two people, and then I have lost an entire side of my family tree.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: But you win some, you lose some.

Fisher: That’s right.

David: They also found a land dispute with one of my third great grandfathers who was up in New Brunswick where he had settled on land, and well, 20 years later the descendants of his uncle decided they wanted the land back.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: So, I guess he couldn’t be there anymore where he had planted buckwheat and potatoes. [Laughs]

Fisher: Isn’t that great? And if you’re not familiar with this, the WikiTree Challenge is done by all the volunteers over at WikiTree. And they have done these cases basically for people like David and myself and CeCe Moore just to see what they can find on our trees that we ourselves haven’t discovered. And these are experts in countries all over the world and David, I watched your YouTube live to see the revelations and boy, there was talk of murder and all kinds of interesting stuff. So, congratulations once again to the volunteers on another incredible evening with WikiTree Challenge and a great reveal. And I know all of us who are the beneficiaries of these things are very appreciative.

David: Well, I can tell you that Melanie McComb, who you know The Shamrock Genealogist, gave me grief all week long as I couldn’t look at my tree.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: Well, revenge is sweet because she’s the guest starting this week.

Fisher: Ah! Nice.

David: Moving on to Family Histoire News. I have to move really, really far back in time. 169,000 to 226,000 years ago. And what I’m going to make reference to means you’re never going to be not in trouble by your parents. Remember as a kid when you may have got greasy handprints on the wallpaper or something?

Fisher: Yeah, of course.

David: Yeah, well, this evidence found in a Tibetan plateau dates from that many years ago. And it’s the handprints and footprints of children on this wet stone dust that was transported down in a now extinct hot spring. “Cave art!” Needless to say, somebody’s going to get in trouble, but I don’t think the parents are around to get them in trouble for it.

Fisher: [Laughs] That’s got to be one of the earliest, if not the earliest example of human made art created ever!

David: It is! Because I mean basically we’re dealing with European records above 40,000 years ago the caves that you find with the bison, the deer, and everything that they put in the cave art. But this is 180,000 years older than that.

Fisher: Yeah. It’s nuts.

David: Speaking of something not as old, wishing a happy birthday to a Louisiana man who is Lawrence Brooks. We’ve talked about him before. He is the oldest living United States World War II veteran, hats off to a happy and healthy Lawrence Brooks who celebrated his birthday in New Orleans - at 112.

Fisher: Isn’t that incredible. And the thing that’s so amazing is last week we talked about Lou Conter whose one of the last two survivors of the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor, and Lou just celebrated his 100th birthday. This guy is 12 years older than Lou. [Laughs]

David: It’s nice to know that Lawrence could have babysat Lou back in the day.

Fisher: [Laughs] That’s right. It could have been!

David: It’s amazing. Well, that’s all I have from Beantown this week. But I want to let you know that nobody’s genealogy is safe from corrections. So, thanks again to WikiTree Challenge, and I’m so delighted and appreciative for that. And if you’re not a member of American Ancestors, you can always use the coupon code Extreme on AmericanAncestors.org and save $20 off the membership. Talk to you again real soon Fish.

Fisher: All right David. Thank you. At the backend of the show of course for Ask Us Anything. And coming up next; the director of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah to talk about the amazing milestone reached by FamilySearch.org. They’ve actually digitized all of the millions of micro films they collected over an 80 year period. You’re going to want to hear what this means to you coming up next in three minutes when we return on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 393

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Rencher

Fisher: Well, it was quite an email that some of us received earlier this week. It was a message from FamilySearch saying they have completed the project of digitizing all of the millions of rolls of microfilm accumulated by FamilySearch.org over 80 years. And I’m so excited to talk to David Rencher. He is the director of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. And Dave, this had to be quite a party this past week.

David: Oh wow, was it. This is exciting news for us. We have been looking forward to this milestone for a long, long time. So yeah, we’re all celebrating here.

Fisher: I’m trying to remember when was the first digitized microfilm taken care of? Was it like ’98 or something like that?

David: Well, we actually kicked off the project for converting it in 2004.

Fisher: Okay.

David: We were certainly looking at digital imaging as early as ’98. At that time of course looking at having to convert all of our microfilm cameras over to digital cameras and so we actually started capturing digital images before we started converting microfilm to digital images. So, it was all a huge process and a complete shift of mindset for us in the organization.

Fisher: Yeah. And for all of us who are researchers too as to how this was going to work. “What do you mean we can’t do it without microfilm? How can that happen?” [Laughs]

David: [Laugh] Right.

Fisher: And it seems to me, at the time the projection was this was going to take up to half a century to complete.

David: Yeah. Some of those early projections just had us literally all over the map. We didn’t know if was going to take 10 years, 30 years, and of course digitizing is only one aspect of it. I mean, everybody wants to be able to click on the exact image that their ancestors on so you can only do that with indexing. You know, there’s so many moving parts to it.

Fisher: Right. And this is not the finished part obviously. But the fact that it’s all digitized means that we can at least go on and browse just like we’re going through a book and looking for our ancestor’s name in it.

David: Well, yeah. It‘s all been digitized. It hasn’t all been published yet so we still have a bunch of the digitized images in the publication queue awaiting online publication.

Fisher: That’s coming up.

David: Right. So, what people will actually find in the catalogue on some records, they’ll still see the film icon but next to that it will say DGS and it will give a number there. The fact that it has a DGS number and a microfilm icon means that the film has been digitized and is in the publication queue awaiting publication.

Fisher: Okay. So, the indexing is still a process obviously, and you have thousands of volunteers all over the world who work on this material. First of all, let’s just go back and talk about how many microfilms this was that got digitized and what was the last one.

David: Well, I don’t know exactly what the last one was, but we had 2.4 million rolls of microfilm. And we actually digitized the last film in August of this year. And that was obviously just a milestone of epic proportions for us. It represents 3.8 billion records. All of these images are stored on terabytes of storage, about 4.5 terabytes of storage, 2.9 billion images.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: I mean, the numbers are staggering around the size of this collection.

Fisher: Yeah. Absolutely. And what do you do with these old microfilms now?

David: Well, so we have copies of the microfilms here in the library. We are not getting rid of those. There are people who still prefer the microfilm experience. And we still have plenty of microfilm readers. We have both the old style that you can use if that’s what you’re used to, and we have the new ones that are attached to our new computer workstations. So, we haven’t gone away from the microfilm experience simply because we have a number of users who prefer it, and again like I say while we’re awaiting publication of some of these images, microfilm access is the only thing you have. 

Fisher: Sure. Yeah.

David: A number of the Family History Centers still have their copies of microfilm which they’ve retained. The master microfilms, I don’t know that we’ll ever get rid of. We’re committed to long-term storage of those. So, those in the FamilySearch archive are retained there, both the master, the negative, and the print masters for those. 

Fisher: Wow! You’re making my head explode thinking about this. I think the thing that’s really exciting is it makes you wonder what is in these records that some of us haven’t see yet or still can’t find because they haven’t been indexed yet. But what are we going to discover as a result of this great work that we can sit in our homes in our pajamas and make that find in the middle of the night  and start up and give a big *woo hoo.*

David: Well, you know, we prioritized the collection so we started with what we would probably categorize as top-tier records. So, things that had births, marriages, deaths, family relationships, that type of thing.

Fisher: Right.

David: And then we began to work down into the other record classes. And so some of these later films that are going to be published online that have been digitized are records and sources that would add to or might help you break a brick wall problem or that kind of thing because they are sources that support all the other data, you know. Not everybody’s in those vital record events and so in some instances we have to couple together a number of different sources to be able to reconstruct a family. And so a lot of these films that were digitized last were more down in those kinds of categories.

Fisher: What are some of those categories, Dave?

David: Well, things like tax records, or name lists, or things like that. Some of the histories, different types of things, they’re not what you would classify as a church record for a Baptist marriage or burial, they’re not a civil record that’s birth, marriage, or death, they’re not a probate record or will that names children and families and family groups and that kind of thing. So, they are records that are more what we would say not primary evidence of a specific event, but they are secondary evidence of family relationships and those kinds of things.

Fisher: Well, that’s exciting. So, if somebody goes on FamilySearch and they come across a record that is among these that have just been digitized, you may see that they’re linked right there and you can go right to it and go through it, you might find that some of them are linked and they’ve been indexed, and then you might find some of them with that special code you mentioned Dave that just says, “Hey, it’s coming.”

David: Right.

Fisher: How long usually is the queue for that?

David: I hate to give you the lawyer answer, but it depends.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: The easiest way to search browseable images at this point is to go into the Family History Library catalogue and in keyword search type in the film number.

Fisher: Ah!

David: And if you type the film number in the keyword search then it will take you to the browseable images straight away.

Fisher: And then you can see whether or not it’s available.

David: Right. So, that pretty much will help you there. So, it’s a little bit different tip than typing it into the film fiche number in the catalogue but use it in keyword instead.

Fisher: Nice. Okay. You’ve got some other things though that has happened now during the pandemic that has really changed things for FamilySearch especially because the libraries have been closed for much of this time. It’s now reopened in what you call phase one. Let’s talk about that for a second and then talk about these new services. What is Phase 1?

David: So, we reopened on the 6th of July and Phase 1 hours were 9 to 5 Monday through Friday.

Fisher: Okay.

David: And we’re having to watch the numbers to see when we will move to Phase 3. And Phase 2 will involve then some evening hours and Saturday hours. And then when we get to Phase 3 we’ll be open full hours again like we were before the pandemic shut us down. And so it’s a process at this point and we’re just having to watch and monitor the situation.

Fisher: So, among the new services though that resulted from everybody being at home over the last year and a half, you have a lookup service now.

David: Right. So, one of the things that we try to do was to obviously connect people with the data that they needed with our doors closed. We reinstituted our lookup service that had been shut down for many, many years. But we now can do lookups in books or on microfilm. We can’t do research for you, but if you have a specific reference that you want us to look up, we can look that up and send the image to you and it’s all done via email and through the lookup service. And we also do online consultations now so you can meet with a member of our staff who’s a specialist in that specific area and they can give you assistance there. You can also do it by topic for example. So, if you have Jewish research, we have Jewish researchers that can help you. If you want DNA consultation, those consultations are actually a little bit longer. We do 45-minute DNA consultations. So, it’s really helpful in a distributed environment now and globally you can get help wherever you are.

Fisher: Is this in multiple languages, Dave?

David: Multiple languages, yes. Spanish, Chinese, and we’re adding a couple other languages so it really is going to expand as the need and the demand expands.

Fisher: Wow! And is this by chat or by video?

David: It’s actually by video.

Fisher: Okay.

David: And so we do ask people to kind of fill out a brief questionnaire because a lot of times our consultants will like to look at the problem before the appointment and that helps give them up for the problem that you need. So, you know, I did an Irish consultation here a little bit ago. I helped a lady in Australia, and within 30 minutes after the consultation ended she emailed me back and said she’d found what she needed to connect. She’d been working on it for years. So, it was kind of gratifying to just be able to help somebody clear around on the other side of the planet with their research.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: And it’s just a lot of fun.

Fisher: Well, it says a lot about the library that it’s director is online doing consults as well.

David: Well, I’m kind of a records nerd at heart.

Fisher: [Laughs] I think most of us are. And where do you find the lookup service and the online consults when you go to FamilySearch.org?

David: So, if you go to the FamilySearch.org/family-history-library that will take you to the new Family History Library web pages, and if you click on services you’ll find the lookup service there, and also the consultations are there. 

Fisher: Wow. There’s so much to talk about today I’m just overwhelmed. And it’s really exciting because you really took advantage of the time that was created during the lockdown to do things you never could have done otherwise.

David: Well, we were challenged to see if we could accelerate the work and I think we rose to the challenge. 

Fisher: I think you did. He’s David Rencher. He is the Director of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. It is now open in Phase 1, Monday through Friday 9 to 5. Dave, thanks for your time, and thanks to all the volunteers who work with you. I know that everything that you do is built upon those volunteers and this is an astonishing accomplishment to digitize all of those millions of microfilms and make them available online.

David: Well, thank you Scott. It’s exciting times.

Fisher: It really is. Thanks so much. And coming up next, I’m going to talk to Bob Taylor. He is the director of development and the originator of thefhguide.com and this will show you how you can freely learn how to use Family Search using projects and goals. He’s got a lot to tell you coming up next on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show in five minutes. 

Segment 3 Episode 393

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Bob Taylor

Fisher: Well, with all this good news happening in the way of FamilySearch and completing their digitization of all of their microfilm acquired of an 80 year period from 1938 to 2018. It seems appropriate that I talk to Bob Taylor today. Bob is a former tech writer who came up with a pretty cool idea a while ago and it can benefit all of us. It is the Family History Guide. And Bob, welcome to Extreme Genes. It’s great to have you.

Bob: Oh, nice to be here. Thank you very much, Scott.

Fisher: So, you’re a former tech writer. You’re retired now and look what you’ve done here. Let’s talk about this great guide that you’ve originated which is a great way to educate people on how to use FamilySearch and other sites as well, especially now knowing how much material is available for us all to use there.

Bob: Sure. I’m retired but I basically have a fulltime job in keeping the Family History Guide website up to date. So, there’s a lot going on and when FamilySearch and other sites make changes to the website, then we accordingly update our website to keep in sync as well.

Fisher: Oh, wow. So, do you have to be in touch with them or do you just keep an eye on the news releases?

Bob: It’s a combination, we’re in touch and we keep an eye out for developments as well.

Fisher: [Laughs] So, how did you get started with this? What brought this about?

Bob: Okay. I was originally working as a family history consultant at a local family history center and people would come in each week and ask me kind of the same types of questions, which is fine I understand that. But, I thought there’s probably a more efficient way to handle that. So, I put together kind of a working guide with some resources. One thing led to another and it turned into a website and then I showed it to my business partner and we formed a company because he and I both thought that this could have some good implications worldwide.

Fisher: Yeah.

Bob: And sure enough FamilySearch found out about it and we are now an authorized training resource for FamilySearch. We’re in the family history center portals across the world in all five thousand of them and we have visitors from over 150 countries to our website.

Fisher: And of course there’s so many people working from home and they have been through the pandemic. If you want to find this site you go to, thefhguide.com. So Bob, talk about what are some of the assets here and what people can learn there.

Bob: Okay. So, in the Family History Guide, first of all, it’s free, we should know that. There’s no subscriptions, no signups. You just go to the website address and you’re ready to go. But, one of the things of note is that the Family History Guide has a built-in learning system and there are four partners that are highlighted, FamilySearch, Ancestry, My Heritage, and FindMyPast. So, if you go to the top menu you’ll find those entrees there and if you go to the Family Search drop down menu, you’ll find a complete learning system for just about anything you want to learn in FamilySearch, whether it’s how to navigate your FamilySearch Family Tree or record and upload memories, or get used to the FamilySearch catalogue, or the research tools, the Wiki, anything you’d like to learn there’s step-by-step instructions and links to articles and videos to get you going.

Fisher: Then there’s always merging, right? That’s the question I hear all the time because it’s so complex.

Bob: Yes. We actually do have a project on merge. It’s project number eleven in the Family Search menu with links to articles and videos. Some people prefer to learn step-by-step in the material we have and other people want to learn from articles or videos that FamilySearch has published or other people. So we have a mix of learning tools there.

Fisher: Right, because we all learn differently, some by video, some by audio, and some by writing. And then what do you teach on Ancestry?

Bob: On Ancestry it’s basically the same type of format. We have a number of projects there from get started, how to build an Ancestry account, how to build your tree, how to upload documents, stories, and photos. How to do research and how to handle queries, and results of research queries, searching collections, even up to DNA, so lots of important resources there.

Fisher: Right, right. And then My Heritage is really quite different than both FamilySearch and Ancestry. What do you cover there?

Bob: Yes, right. Each of the partners has their own spin on things. They have a different focus in records. MyHeritage has more European and Asian records. Ancestry a little bit more North and South America, as well as Europe. FamilySearch has kind of a mix of everything.

Fisher: Yeah, they sure do.

Bob: So, you’ll find different focuses but again, it’s the step-by-step learning that takes you through MyHeritage and all of their resources.

Fisher: And you, there are so many people I think that are afraid to try more than one place to plant their flag so to speak. But really, there are so many things you can find on each site that is unique to that site.

Bob: Yes I totally agree. And by getting familiar with each of the partners and by establishing accounts with them you can pick up learning, tools, and resources, and record collections that you didn’t know about.

Fisher: That’s right.

Bob: And it just expands your base quite a bit.

Fisher: Yeah, just a couple of years ago I located a third cousin back in Sweden through a DNA match and that person happened to have posted a photograph of my second great grandmother that nobody on this side of the pond ever had. We had never seen a picture of her before. And if I hadn’t been over there at MyHeritage I’d have never seen it. So it was a pretty great find.

Bob: Yes.

Fisher: What else do you have?

Bob: FindMyPast, that’s one of the other partners there. FindMyPast has more of an England, British Isles focus in their holdings, in their collections. They’re wonderful for research in that sphere. So, we have links to articles, videos, and step-by-step instructions for building a FindMyPast tree, as well as links to a lot of knowledge based articles, videos and so forth. They’re all integrated into the website.

Fisher: And what I like about FindMyPast is they link to a lot of institutions like the Borthwick Institute and in Nottingham. You’ll find photographs of graves and things that you’re not going to find anywhere else. So again, every place you’re talking about has unique material that you can’t find anywhere else, as well as some overlap. But how to use it and make it really work for you is a really key thing.

Bob: It is. Each one has developed their own partnerships and that’s kind of the nice part. There is some overlap as you mentioned but the individual partnerships really expand your reach as you’re sitting in your chair and going online you have access to all of those connections that those partners have made for you.

Fisher: [Laughs] I always think about how I’ll often get ready for bed and it’s like, let me see if I can make one little find before I go to bed. The next thing I know it’s 3:00 a.m. and I’m sending texts or emails off to somebody in England and it’s just kind of crazy. So, those are the four main sites but you have more than just that.

 Bob: Yes. We also have a country’s menu for example and it is divided up into regions, North America, British Isles, Scandinavian, so forth around the world. And you can click on those regions and then open up a particular country page. I’ll say Denmark and across the top you get a list of different topics like census records, church records, immigration, military, and so forth. And you can go into each one of those and look for articles, videos, learning resources, and so forth. So, once you’re ready to dive into a particular area you can access those country pages. And one other feature that we have is called quick links and basically, quick links take you directly to a record search collection page without having to wedge your way through the menus and so forth of a particular partner. So, if I see a quick link for FamilySearch I click on it and up comes the search screen, or for MyHeritage or Ancestry. One click and you’re right there which speeds up the research process.

Fisher: Wow. So, going back to these country pages though just for a moment, are these links then to particular sites in those countries or are they just resources there?

Bob: It’s a combination. So, I’m looking at the Denmark page right now and there are links to Family Search articles, Archives.com, BYU Family History Library, and then there are also databases. For example, Forebears.io, Museum of Danish Americans, the list goes on and on.  So, you get local resources plus the partners that we’ve talked about to give you a well balanced array of resources.

Fisher: Wow. It’s a lot of stuff. That’s great. He is Bob Taylor. He is the director of development. The originator of the site, The Family History Guide, it’s thefhguide.com. and you can find the portal in all the family history centers. It’s free you can use it at home. It’s a great way to educate yourself on individual sites and places you may want to go. Thank you so much, Bob, for your time, appreciate it. We’ve got a big week this week with the big announcement.

Bob: Yes. And thank you very much, Scott, for the opportunity to talk a bit about the Family History Guide and FamilySearch.

Fisher: Thank you so much. And coming up next, David Allen Lambert is back for another round of Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 4 Episode 393

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, we're back for Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. David is back from Boston to join us. And David, this question is from Kris in Carteret, New Jersey, Kris with a K, and he says, "Guys, I just wanted to let you know, I recently found a photo of my second great grandfather from 1874 on eBay! Thanks to your tip about searching eBay. What is the largest number of items related to ancestry you've ever heard anybody obtain?" [Laughs] That is a really interesting question. First of all, congratulations Kris!

David: It’s amazing.

Fisher: And I don't think enough genealogists spend time there on eBay. How many are you aware of, David? How many have you found yourself relating to your family?

David: Ohh, gosh! I've been on eBay now for over 20 years and I probably found related things like postcards of the places my family went to school, documents as far as like maps. Never found any document related to my ancestor that they sold, but there's still hope yet. So, I would say dozens of things that I probably find every few years, yeah.

Fisher: Well, and that's really part of the question I guess, ultimately is, what do you consider a family related heirloom. Some of them are as simple as a postcard. Although, I found actually a postcard of the bed and breakfast my great, great uncle in New York City on Staten Island ran at the turn of the century. They had a picture of it right there in the postcard with his name on and the sign in front of it. That was kind of interesting. So that's one. And there were four yearbooks from my dad's high school years signed by him in each case that was pretty good. Then there was the film I found of him playing in a big band in the 1930s.

David: What you secretly don't know is, your wife is selling stuff that you own out of your garage. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs] Yeah, I'm reaching that point. I wouldn't miss it, right?

David: Exactly.

Fisher: Yeah, and I did find a document that was signed by my great, great uncle who was in business with Commodore Vanderbilt and it had his signature on a stock certificate. And that was pretty exciting.

David: That’s great.

Fisher: I think as I've counted it in the past, there's somewhere around seven items, but that's over many, many years, so for people who are starting out and haven't found anything related to anybody in their family, this is one of those things that, it just sometimes shows up. I did get the invoices to my great grandfather's business in New York. Those showed up on eBay. So I mean, it’s a long list of things. You just never know when it’s going to happen. You could wait 10 years, find nothing and then something [Pooh] out of the blue shows up.

David: Well, you know, and the other thing is, you put in those search criteria, so something will pop up, but again, you could also be your best searcher by picking something to look for. Like for instance, my great grandfather in Canadian Expeditionary Forces in World War I, I don't have any of his medals. I know what he had for medals, so I purchase 2nd hand medals to create what he would have had on his uniform. So now I have a World War I uniform from Canada and all the medals that he would have received after the war.

Fisher: You know, that is exactly what I did with my great grandfather who was the volunteer fireman. There was a badge from a trip that they took to Upstate, New York that they gave all the guys on that trip. Well, I know he was on the trip. His name was listed in the newspaper, so I found one on eBay that he would have owned, so I have that, and also ribbons from his cross continental trip in 1887 from New York to San Francisco, three different ones found on eBay that he would have had and brought back home. Now they don't exist in my family anymore other than the fact I got these that his buddies had.

David: Yeah, it’s great stuff. So you can really fill shadowboxes like that with medals. You can find the postcards of the schools your folks went to, your grandparent went to, find postcards of the center of town that your great, great grandparent would have seen, say, in the 1890s, 19 odds.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: I mean, it’s a great way of illustrating your genealogy as you well enough know with the stories we've heard from you, Fish, there's always room for photographs and you can find them on eBay.

Fisher: Yep, you can find all kinds of stuff. Thanks for the question. And we've got another one coming up for you next when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 393

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, time for another one! It’s Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, it is David over there. And Dave, our question this time around comes from Sam in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and he says, "Fish and Dave, my grandparents were Japanese Americans and were sent to the internment camp during World War II. What kind of records might I find their names on?" Interesting.

David: It really is. In fact, I think we've never had a question on this before.

Fisher: No.

David: These records up until probably about 20 years ago, you would only be able to get if you went to National Archives, Archives II out in College Park, Maryland. But thanks to our friends at Ancestry.com, you can search over 109,000 of the records of the Japanese Americans relocated during World War II on a database on Ancestry, covering 1942 to 1946. Now that isn't the only thing they have there. There's a couple more databases which I'll mention, then I'll tell you what you can find in this one. There's a final accountability roster of evacuees, of relocation center '42 to '46 and 1000s of records on that. Then there are documents specific to each one of the camps that you can find. And what you can locate are camps that were in California. Idaho, Central Utah for instance, Colorado, Arizona, Wyoming and Arkansas. And you're going to find that the records are going to give a variety of great genealogical information. It’s a shame that they had to be created in the first place.

Fisher: Yep.

David: But you get the name of the evacuee, you get their relocation that they've been assigned to. So, you find out where they were sent, you'll find their sex, marital status, birth year, age, and birthplace. So if they're born in Japan, you're going to get the place in Japan that they were born in. That may not even be recorded on an American record other than this.

Fisher: Right.

David: Birthplace of parents, their father's occupation, the religion, education, whether they attended Japanese language school, their highest grade completed in school, so you're getting all of that. You're finding out any physical defects that they might have and an indication of an alien registration number or social security number is also given. So, it’s really interesting to see that this type of information, which was of course recorded not for genealogical purposes. It’s such a strong database now and for decades to come.

Fisher: Wow, that just kind of blows my mind that that much information would he available there. And you know, you can also then once you've identified the camp that your grandparents were sent to, you can then do a study of the history of that particular place and I know that many of them have been retained as historical sites. So these are places you could actually go and visit for yourself to find out what life was like there.

David: And you could simply Google Search for instance the name of the camp and you'll probably find photographs from that time and learn the history of it. What a great way, Sam, too remember your grandparents to visit where they were and learn about it and find their story.

Fisher: Yeah, absolutely, because that's really a part of your story now as well, so, what a great question. And David, great database to refer back to. I wasn't aware of that one myself, a first time kind of question. So, thanks so much, Sam.

David: You know what, I'll tell you, we always look for World War II records on our relatives, but we don't think of World War II relatives for other people's relatives over civilians. So, this is important, so I hope some other people that listen will take this and tuck it away for their future genealogical pursuits.

Fisher: Absolutely. Thanks so much, David. Thank you, Sam for the question. And of course, if you have a question for Ask Us Anything, just email us at [email protected]. That is our show for this week. Talk about chopped full of information and really good news from our friends at FamilySearch. Can you imagine this, taking a project that was supposed to take 50 years and getting it all done in 20, to actually digitize all of their millions of microfilm rolls so we can actually research these things at home and at the library! So congratulations to them. If you missed any of it or want to catch it again, of course catch the podcast on Spotify, ExtremeGenes.com, Apple Media or iHeart Radio. We will talk to you again next week. Thanks to joining us. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!


Subscribe now to find out why hundreds of thousands of family researchers listen to Extreme Genes every week!

Email me new episodes