Episode 394: Classic Rewind - Genie Learns Grandpa Was Very Active In The Community / Lockbox Discovery Reveals WW2 Jewish Rescue Efforts

podcast episode Sep 05, 2022

Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. The guys begin Family Histoire News with the story of the National Archives release of a remarkable database… Confederate Slave Payrolls. David explains the significance. Then, a new dig is underway at the Outer Banks to learn more about the 1585 settlement at Roanoke… the Lost Colony. In Utah, a young woman who found her birth father through DNA a few years ago had a remarkable wedding. Find out what made it so special for her and her two Dads. Did you ever know that a tombstone could be used to make fudge? Apparently so! David shares this bizarre story. Finally, there’s been another remarkable find that was totally unexpected. It involves an ocean cleanup by some divers off the coast of Spain. Wait til you hear what they came upon!

In the next segment, Fisher chats with Massachusetts resident Robin LaCroix. Several years ago, Robin interviewed her mother and aunts for family stories. What she learned has led her to a true hometown adventure following in the footsteps of her very friendly grandfather!

Then, Steve Gruber of Elkhart, Indiana talks about the mysterious lockbox that once belonged to his grandfather. Discovered under the floor at his grandfather’s one time place of business, its contents has led Steve to research and create a remarkable documentary on his family’s efforts to rescue Jews who were under the control of the Nazis.

David then returns for Ask Us Anything, answering questions on military ranks that no longer exist and state censuses in New York and New Jersey.

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

Transcript for Episode 394 Classic Rewind

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode CR 394

Fisher: And welcome America to America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth on the program where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out. Well, it’s one of those days where we have incredible stories, ordinary people with extraordinary finds and you’ll be amazed by what these two have done with these stories. First, coming up in about ten minutes we’re going to talk to Robin LaCroix. She is with the Massachusetts Society of Genealogists, and she has found out that her grandfather was, shall we say, very involved in the neighborhood back in the day. You’re not going to believe the story she has to tell. And then later in the show after that, we’re going to talk to Steve Gruber. He is a man from Elkhart, Indiana. He’s story involves a locked box left by his grandfather, hidden under the floor in his grandfather’s shop from back in the 1940s. What did that locked box contain? What did it lead to? You’re going to want to hear what happened to Steve. Hey, and if you haven’t signed up for our Weekly Genie Newsletter, yet, just go to our shiny new website ExtremeGenes.com, and get your name in there. We’ll be happy to get it out to you every Monday morning and you can also sign up for our courses there. Right now, it’s time to check in with Boston, and David Allen Lambert, the Chief Genealogists of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. Hello David.

David: Hello Fish. How are things with you these days?

Fisher: You know, pretty darn good, keeping busy. I’m working on that cold case we talked about last week and those are always interesting to me. And how about you?

David: Well, I’ve been keeping busy here at work here in Boston at NEHGS and I’ve got some lectures lined up for later in October. I’m going to be lecturing October 23rd with the Dallas Genealogical Society. You can find out more at DallasGenealogy.com. You don’t need to be a member of the Dallas Genealogical Society to find out.

Fisher: Good luck with that. And by the way, I hear Melanie McComb had her final results on the WikiTree Challenge the other day. I didn’t catch it, but hopefully you did. Did she have a big reveal?

David: Well, I would say that Melanie is probably the best person to ask on that, but it was exciting to say the least. I think every one of these WikiTree Challenges, from yours to mine, and all the other ones proves that genealogy isn’t done by one person.

Fisher: Nope.

David: I was grateful for my surprises as I’m sure Melanie has been for all of the ones they revealed to her the other night.

Fisher: Exactly. All right, let’s get on with our Family Histoire news today. Where do you want to start?

David: Well, I want to start with a surprise collection I didn’t even know existed. I do a lot with the Civil War, Fish, as you can imagine.

Fisher: Um hmm.

David: We knew in the Civil War of course the Confederacy used enslaved labor in a lot of cases, but I didn’t realize there were payrolls that survived because so much of the things of the Confederacy have been lost. The National Archives have these payrolls and it has the names of the enslaver, the names and occupations of the hired enslaved person, the days hired, how much they were paid, the signature of the person receiving the payment. And you find all this at the National Archives in their digital collection under Confederacy Slave Payrolls. And it’s under archives identifier number 719477.

Fisher: There’s like six thousand of these things.

David: There are six thousand of them. I know, I sent you the article about it and it’s great. To think that this is just one more set of records that might give a clue or may help you substantiate a family story that you may have heard.

Fisher: Sure.

David: Well, you know, digging into genealogy is always great and of course I always love to hear the stories archeologists have because they’re digging into our ancestral past. I don’t have a connection to Roanoke Island, but the story of the Lost Colony has always fascinated me. And recently, this past month there’s been archeological digs going on looking for a forge where they believe the fortress may have been for Roanoke. So, more on that as it is uncovered. You know, I think it’s great with DNA so many people are finding their birth parents if they were adopted. This is a great story. A gal in Utah by the name of Kara Miller was walked down the aisle by both her dad. She had used My Heritage a couple of years ago and found her biological dad. Her biological dad walked her the first half down the aisle, the other half of her walk was by her adopted dad. And that is just a great story to share.

Fisher: That’s fantastic. Isn’t that great?

David: Well, this next story makes it seem like you just can’t take gravestones for granted. This story comes from Michigan. At an estate sale, somebody turned over a piece of marble that was in the kitchen. They were selling everything out of the house. And it turns out this piece of marble had inscriptions on the back. Yeah, it had been a gravestone, a gravestone for a Peter Wilier from 1849 in Lancing, Michigan. His gravestone was thought to have actually been moved with his body to Mount Hope Cemetery. His body may have been moved, but his gravestone never did. For 146 years it’s been in somebody’s house used for… ready? Making fudge.

Fisher: Making fudge?

David: The smooth marble surface was perfect and cold for making fudge. You’d think somebody could have flipped over the stone and saw what it was for. So yeah, gravestones have multiple purposes in genealogy, also for culinary arts.

Fisher: Who knew? That’s crazy.

David: Folks, please do not go to the local cemetery and attempt to make fudge on the back of grandma’s gravestone next week. Not a good idea.

Fisher: Wow.

David: I have a great story about cleaning up trash at the beach.  Well, in this case it’s a little further, it’s in the ocean. Divers went in Spain, they were cleaning up trash in the ocean and thought they found some shiny probably a bottle cap or something. Turn out to be a horde of 53 gold Roman coins.

Fisher: Wow!

David: The largest horde, Fish, ever recorded in Europe that’s been found, especially in the ocean. They’re not sure how they got there, but they date back to the 4th and 5th centuries. Probably, they were hidden from a barbarian looter, maybe somebody threw the box overboard and into the water thinking that they would go down and fish it out later. Well, it took a little longer for them to fish it out with these divers. It really goes to show you, it pays off to be green.

Fisher: Yes it does. [Laughs] Absolutely.

David: Well, that’s all I have this week from Beantown and don’t forget, if you’re not a member of American Ancestors, we invite you to use the coupon code EXTREME, on AmericanAncestors.org and save $20 on your membership.

Fisher: All right David. Thank you so much. We’ll talk to you at the backend of the show for Ask Us Anything. And coming up next, we’re going to talk to another Massachusetts resident Robin LaCroix who I would call an ordinary person with an extraordinary find. Wait till you hear what she has to tell you, coming up next when we return in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 394

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Robin LaCroix

Fisher: You know, one of the things I always enjoy about Extreme Genes is finding ordinary people with extraordinary finds. And we’ve got another one for you. She is Robin LaCroix. She is with the Massachusetts Society of Genealogists. She’s the Vice President of the Bristol Chapter there. And Robin, welcome to the show. It’s great to have you.

Robin: Thank you for having me.

Fisher: You know, you have always had an interest in doing family history and your little story here starts back in 2013 when you were interviewing your mom and two sisters, and they told you something rather interesting.

Robin: Yes. Well, we had known that my grandfather, their father, had had a long time mistress when they were growing up, but while I’m interviewing them for family history stories in 2013, they told me that they had seen the mistress pregnant around 1953.

Fisher: Ah ha! And off you go.

Robin: Yeah, off we go. And I want to find that baby.

Fisher: Your mom got involved in this at this point as well, and she’s quite a genie.

Robin: Yes she is. She should have been a detective.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Robin: But she loves family history and genealogy too. And I guess there had been a few other things that had been mentioned to the girls, the sisters, over the years that led them to think that they had a half sister who was in the next town.

Fisher: Okay.

Robin: And so mom, by asking some subtle questions to keep people she thought who might know something, she figured out who it might be.

Fisher: And did it check out?

Robin: It did check out. It turned out to be a woman that I had met when I was in my teens because I had worked with this woman’s sister and I hadn’t seen her for 40 years.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Robin: We did a DNA test, so it turned out she was just two years younger than my mom’s youngest sister.

Fisher: Okay.

Robin: So, she was born in 1944 but she was not the mistress’s daughter.

Fisher: Oh, so this is much earlier then?

Robin: Yeah. So, as I’m thinking I’m looking for the mistress’s child, this turns out to be some other woman’s child and not the mistress’s.

Fisher: Okay.

Robin: So, now I’m still looking for the mistress’s child.

Fisher: [Laugh] Yeah, but now you have another mistress here obviously.

Robin: True.

Fisher: What was the clue, by the way, to finding this first sister?

Robin: You know, Thornton’s a small town or was back then, and the address that my mom lived at there was a cottage in the back where they lived and there was two houses that each had two apartments right out front, and people talk. The people that lived in one of the apartments were sister to Sandra’s mother. And it was just between gossip and someone finally said, yeah, I think that’s who it is.

Fisher: That might be who it is. All right, so there was your first one. So, you continue the search for the guy or the woman who was born in 1953. Where did it go from there?

Robin: Correct. So, then I took to Ancestry and I found a three person public tree that had my grandfather’s name in the location of where he lived, the mistress’s name, and it showed a living daughter whose info was private.

Fisher: Wow!

Robin: I quickly sent her an email and had lengthy conversations with her, and I did discover that she was the mistress’s daughter and my grandfather was her biological father.

Fisher: Okay. And what year was she born?

Robin: So, she was born in ’43, which was another shock.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Robin: So, still we don’t have the baby from ’53.

Fisher: So, this next child of his that you found, how did she know the story? Did she track down her birth mother at some point?

Robin: So, she did, in the ‘80s. She had tracked down her birth mother who eventually told her who her father was. Gave her the name and said, well, he was married with five children.

Fisher: Wow! So, now you’ve got two new aunts. And how did they take to all this?

Robin: Actually, wonderfully. The first, Sandra, 20 years previous to this someone had told her in her family that she had a different father and no one knew who it was or could tell her who it was. So, she was actually trying to find out who her father was, so she was thrilled. And the second aunt, Aunt Susan, knew long before we did. She had figured it out in the ‘80s and she didn’t want to disrupt our family if no one had known that he had a mistress. So, she was trying to be polite but now she and my mother are as thick as thieves. 

Fisher: [Laughs]

Robin: She hasn’t missed a beat yet.

Fisher: Wonderful. And then you went looking for the third one, and this is a really interesting thing and I don’t think I’ve ever heard in a genealogical search before.

Robin: Well, it wasn’t planned that way.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Robin: So, now I’m hounding my Aunt Susan for more information, “What do you mean three women? What do you mean is there three babies? We’ve only found two.” So, I became obsessed with that. So, as I’m doing searches everywhere, it just so happened, my local historical society was having a psychic fair as a fundraiser. Now, my daughter and my mother they’re both really into astrology and psychic readings and things but I’m not. I don’t want to be fooled. But I did agree to go because it was a fundraiser, it was just going to be fun and I kind of really did think at the back of my mind okay, let’s see. Let’s see maybe I can reach Grandpa George somehow.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Robin: So I went. I said to my mom and my daughter, I said, “I’m going first. I can’t risk you guys saying anything. So, I go, and this woman who I’ve met for the very first time said, “I don’t want you to tell me anything about yourself. You’re going to answer me with yes, no, or maybe. And that’s it.” So I’m like, perfect. Well, she begins to describe a man that she has connected to and he is the exact description of my grandfather. Tall, his handsome, blue eyes, he’s charming, so I knew it was him and there was no way she could have made that up. She says, “If you’d like to ask him a question, you may.” I said, sure. I’d like to know how many children does he have? And she said, “Well, let me see.” And she indicates he’s holding up five fingers. So, she says, “Five.” She said, “Does that make sense? I said, “Yes, it does.” So she said, Okay, well, oh, wait a minute, he’s holding his other hand behind his back.” So, she closes her eyes and she then says, “Oh, now he’s flashing five fingers on one hand, three fingers on the other hand. But he’s flashing. He’s not just holding them up. He’s flashing five, three, five, three.” 

Fisher: [Laughs]

Robin: She says, “Does that make any sense to you?” And I just said, “Yes.” She continued and it got to the time when he gave a message at the end of this reading and she says, “I need to give you a message.” I expected it to be something like, you know, I love you, you’re my favorite grandchild, something like that.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Robin: The message was, “It’s a boy that looks like me.” And I said, “Oh, what is a boy?” She said, “I don’t know. That’s all he’s saying. He keeps saying it’s a boy that looks like me, a boy that looks like me.” I mean, I knew what he was talking about. So, my time was up and she said, “I just have to ask you, why didn’t he say eight children? Why would he go five, three, five, three?” And I said, “Well, probably because he had five legitimate children and three illegitimate children that his family didn’t know about.” It was pretty shocking. 

Fisher: [Laughs]

Robin: So, my mom goes back into detective mode and she begins looking at everyone, just everyone she sees in the supermarket, friends, family. “Does he look like my father? And literally about a month later she’s cleaning on Saturday morning like she always does and she’s dusting the box that she has in her family room down in the basement, and she’s about to dust off a bottle that she and my step-father had bought as a souvenir in the Caribbean. 

Fisher: Okay.

Robin: So, they had a picture of them, my step-father and a friend on the label of this bottle. And this bottle’s like 20 years old or something. So, she dusts it off and she looks and she says, “*Gasps* He looks just like my father!” the friend. 

Fisher: [Laughs] And this friend, how long had your mom known him?

Robin: Well, it actually turns out that he grew up next door to my mother when they were kids.

Fisher: Oh, boy.

Robin: She’s known him her whole life.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Robin: But then, you know, life happens and they got married and my mom married my father and moved to the next town. And then it wasn’t for another 20 years my mom and dad were divorced and my mom starts dating the man that is now my step-father. And he says to mom, “I want you to meet my best friend. We’ve been best friends since we were kids.” He mentions the name and mom said, “Are you kidding me? I grew up next door to him.” This couple and my mom and my step-dad they are just close friends with these people. They live a mile down the road. They’ve traveled cross country. They winter in Florida together.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Robin: And my mother is about to faint because now she thinks this friend is her half brother.

Fisher: Oh, that’s crazy. So, did you go through the exercise here of getting DNA and how did he react to all this?

Robin: He thought it was pretty funny that I had found two half sisters for my mother. And so, we went over to visit and gingerly brought up the subject and I said, you know how mom has these new sisters, “Oh yeah, ha, ha, ha, that’s really funny.” I said, I have been doing more research and I actually think there’s a possibility you might be my mother’s half brother.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Robin: And he laughed. He laughed. He said, “Oh, you are crazy.” And I said, well, if you wouldn’t mind humoring me, I have a DNA test with me. And we did it. We did the test. It came back. It was positive. He’s her half brother. And it turned out that his parents had divorced when he was about two, probably when his dad found out that he wasn’t his child. And that’s when at two years old the mother gets divorced and takes her two children back to where she grew up at her mother’s house, which happened to be right next door to where my mother lived, and my grandfather. 

Fisher: [Laughs] Wow! So grandpa got around, and none of these were born in ’53. Does that leave you with one short?

Robin: Well, does it? I’m not sure. Because the mistress was adamant that there were three women pregnant, and then I have the medium ship reading, he said three. So, is there three, or four? I’m still looking. 

Fisher: [Laughs] Well, maybe he didn’t know either Robin, you know. What a great story. Unbelievable! She’s Robin LaCroix. She’s in Massachusetts an ordinary person with an extraordinary find. It’s the gift that keeps on giving Robin. Great story!   

Robin: Thank you very much. Thank you for having me.

Fisher: And coming up next, we’re going to talk to a man who discovered that there were some documents hidden under a floor that had to do with the rescue of family members and others caught in the Holocaust. We’ll tell you more about it coming up in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 3 Episode 394

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Steve Gruber

Fisher: All right, welcome back to Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth and what a story we have for you today with my next guest Steve Gruber from Elkhart, Indiana, up near the Michigan border. And Steve is one of these people who suddenly got a phone call one day about a mysterious find in a shop that was once owned by his grandfather and his great grandfather. Hi Steve, welcome to the show!

Steve: Hi Scott. Thanks for having me.

Fisher: Tell me about this locked box discovery. Who found this thing? How did they find you? It was amazing.

Steve: Well, Goshen, Indiana where my mother grew up and my grandfather lived is a very small city and everybody knows everybody. So, it was kind of a city ordinance thing that happened. Goshen no longer allowed partial what we call Michigan basements that had a partial packed dirt floor. So, the new owners were preparing that surface to have concrete poured and there were odd bits of old cement in another part of that basement. And there was a stack of old furniture, an old desk. So, they cleared it all away and they found this locked box. They were the new owners of the store and it was several years after my grandpa died.

Fisher: Right.

Steve: And they called my mom and said, “Hey, we found this locked box.” I was living in North Carolina at the time and my mom called me and said, “What do you think it is?” I said, well, I hope its money. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs] Well, it was well hidden wasn’t it?

Steve: Yeah, very well hidden. She called a locksmith locally and it had to be taken apart. So, mom said, “These are affidavits of support, what should we do with them?” At that time I was running a business and I was not living in this area. So, it sat with her for several years and then I went through them one day and said, oh my gosh! We had known that my grandfather and great grandfather had sponsored German Jews to come to the country. In fact, there were three couples who did settle in Goshen.

Fisher: During the Holocaust, right?

Steve: Yeah. A couple were able to come right before the war. The first was Betty and Herman Lowenstein. They came in July of 1938. They had seen the marginalization and the terror of the Nazi machine. But the formalization of ghettos and mass extermination hadn’t yet happened. So, I knew about the effort and for several years I had tried to pull information out of my grandfather about that. And he would just say, “Stevie, why do you have to know such things?”

Fisher: [Laughs] Right.

Steve: He told me, his dad and he had each sponsored 14 individuals, which in the ’30 even if you were a Rockefeller that was the max that you could sponsor. And because of the depression at that time the policy was you had to guarantee employment and housing in perpetuity. So, it was a very expensive arduous nine year journey that eventually did get 28 individuals to this country.

Fisher: Wow. So, let me ask you about the documents in the locked box. Did some of these give you a little more flesh to work with?

Steve: Absolutely. A couple of them were family members who later perished that they couldn’t get out. I think that’s why it was hidden because of the shame, because once those BBC news reels when they liberated Dachau and Auschwitz, and they began to show the enormity of the Holocaust, nobody knew it was this extensive.

Fisher: Right.

Steve: And it absolutely horrified my grandfather because his first reaction was, “Yeah, I did the max we could, but I wish I could have done more.” And, “Oh, by the way, I had direct relatives who perished that we were not able to reach or in any way sponsor.”

Fisher: Ugh.

Steve: So, I think he didn’t share the story because of shame and regret. Nobody could have convinced him, wow, you did an amazing job, because he just looked at the enormity of it and he thought, well, more people like me should have done more things.

Fisher: Sure.

Steve: And it was about 2000, the locked box contents came to my mom and it was probably six or seven more years before I actually went through them and it was all kinds of stuff. They had three attorneys, one of them, his name was Iggy Rosenhag and he had escaped Germany right before Kristallnacht and he was a New York Attorney. So, he was extremely familiar with all of the mounting restrictions. So, he advocated for Cubans visas.

Fisher: Ha! Oh, that’s interesting. So, was that kind of a work- around?

Steve: Yeah, exactly. Some came to Cuba and then Cuba all of a sudden had quotas and they were then sent to South America and one of them stayed. So, it showed the tenacity of it and how organized they were.

Fisher: Wow. So, were they part of a group them, of folks trying to get individuals out?

Steve: No. You know, at that time Goshen’s Jewish community was really eroding and in Indiana and even Chicago there weren’t any relief organizations specific. There were a lot of appeals to the state department, even the Red Cross wasn’t equipped to deal with the communications breakdown, the expense, and the uncertainty. Back them consulates closed, policy changes, things just went dark. The other thing was assets. You had to put up a $2500 surety bond for each person you sponsored.

Fisher: Oh my gosh.

Steve: Back then that’s a lot. That’s like $50,000.

Fisher: Sure, for each one and your family did this 28 times.

Steve: Right. In today’s dollars they spent about 3 million dollars, and who knows what they spent in bribes and other legal fees. We just kind of looking at the requirements then and the correspondence we have.

Fisher: How many documents were in the box?

Steve: There were 26 different documents in a span from 1937 to about 1942.

Fisher: Okay.

Steve: My great grandfather died in 1942. So it really fell to my grandfather.

Fisher: and how old was he at the time?

Steve: When he first started the effort he was 30, in 1937.

Fisher: Okay.

Steve: What really sparked his action was that he and my grandmother took a delayed honeymoon to Europe in 1937, and they went through the Mediterranean, docked at Naples. They were just horrified by Mussolini’s Italy, and even as US tourists there was curfew. There were restrictions and just lots of bureaucracy just even to see historical sites there.

Fisher: Sure.

Steve: They took a train up to Switzerland and then from Switzerland into Germany. The seminal moment was that my grandfather and grandmother were on this train and when they stopped at the German border there were customs officials and SS officers who went through the train asking for passports. And this guy saw my grandfather and saw the last name Plaut, obviously Jewish and he didn’t believe he was American. He thought he was travelling on a forged passport. My grandmother was not in the compartment at that time. So, she came back and kind of defused the situation. Showed a label from her coat, this is from Indiana. They rifled through her checks and through her purse.

Fisher: Wow.

Steve: But my grandfather said, “Stevie, he looked at me as if I was a piece of rotted meat.” He just looked at me with utter hate. They took him off the train. He finally got back, but as they went through Germany they started seeing these signs that said “Judenfrei” (Free of Jews) in some of these train stations. They got to Frankfurt where there was family. They talked to his uncle and cousins and they said, “Yeah, it’s bad, but we’ve been through worse before. The Jews have been persecuted forever and this too shall pass.”

Fisher: Ugh.

Steve: And my grandfather thought, hmm, I don’t think so.

Fisher: So, tell me really quickly because we’re running out of time, you put together an amazing documentary with some kids in a college in your area. Tell me quickly about that.

Steve: Well, we wanted to put together a testament to these efforts. And FiveCore Media put together this thing, but there’s even a reenactment sequence and special effects. We thought it would be a 12-15 local historical video and it became a 57 minute featured documentary.

Fisher: Oh, wow. And you’re in all kinds of film festivals too.

Steve: Yes. We’re in Orlando, Heartland, Miami Jewish Film Festival, the Victor International Film Festival, I just went to that. I think the message right now of perseverance in the face of evil is something people need to hear. And as anti Jewish violence has escalated here, anti Asian violence has escalated here. I think it’s time that people learned you’ve got to take a stand.

Fisher: He’s Steve Gruber from Elkhart, Indiana. Well said. Congratulations, what an amazing story. A locked box under a floor, hidden, that turns into this amazing adventure and this documentary. I wish you the best of luck with the story and getting it out Steve. Thanks so much for your time. And thanks so much for your time.

Steve: All right, thanks.

Fisher: 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 394

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: And welcome back to America's Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. I am Fisher, your Radio Roots Sleuth with David Allen Lambert. And it’s time once again for Ask Us Anything where we answer your questions. And we're going to start with one from Max in Poughkeepsie, New York, Dave and he says, "My family lived in New York and New Jersey back in the day. Are they among the states that had state census records?" Yeah, that's an easy question for us.

David: Oh yeah, of course! In fact, I think it really helps out with a state like New Jersey that doesn't have a lot of early records.

Fisher: Yeah, that's really true. In fact, New Jersey's very difficult and state censuses there are really important for research in the Garden State.

David: That is very true. And of course New York, whether or not your ancestor lived in The Big Apple itself, New York City or in a place Upstate New York, state censuses are valuable for a state that, well, doesn’t keep vital records till a little later.

Fisher: That's true. They actually started doing state censuses in 1855 that I'm aware of. Well, let's see, that was the New York City census that was done that year. Was there a state census, Dave? Do you have that on the list?

David: Yeah, actually there were some early ones. In New York, there was one in Albany only, in Albany County that survived and that's from 1790.

Fisher: Okay.

David: But of course it’s a federal census then, too.

Fisher: Sure.

David: That's the first federal census. In 1825, there is a census for New York that is for the head of household and basically has the number of males and females, etc. So that exists as well. There's a '35 and there's actually an 1845. But again, some of these have very limited returns, but you should find all of them on FamilySearch.org and probably a lot of them on Ancestry.com as well.

Fisher: You'll find the 1865 New York one is missing many of the counties for some reason. I don't know the reason, but like you say, Dave, sometimes they're just really limited on either what was taken or what has survived.

David: You know, one of the ones I love about the 1865 is that actually whether or not you had been currently in the US Army or Navy or still in the Army and Navy. So if you had been in the service during the war and already home, it asks that question, then it also asks who's still enrolled, which is a great military teaser if you're doing Civil War research.

Fisher: Yes, indeed!

David: And then the censuses after that is actually in 1875 New York State and 1905 and then 1915, and also 1925.

Fisher: And I should mention that 1855 New York City census will actually give you the county that your ancestor was born in, if they were born in New York State.

David: Um hmm.

Fisher: And that's helpful.

David: It really is. Well, I mean, anytime you can find where they're living in between the decennial censuses. The federal censuses of course happened like 1790, 1800, 1810. That middle part should be important, especially if your ancestor is an immigrant and coming into the country, they have not been on, say, the  1850, but they might have arrived in '53, '54, they're going to be on the '55.

Fisher: And we should mention, there's an 1892 New York census.

David: Exactly. And that census of course is great, because it has a lot of detail for families that are not of course in the 1890 census, which doesn’t exist anymore from New York, because of the fire.

Fisher: No, but there is the New York police census from 1890, which replaced it entirely.

David: That is entirely true. So, there's all sorts of things you can find for the non federal censuses. And for New Jersey, there's an 1855, a '65, a '75, an '85, a '95, a 1905 and even a 1915.

Fisher: And those are really helpful, because that state is so difficult! Thank you, New Jersey for making it a little easier of late. [Laughs] Hopefully you’ll continue that. We should mention I think the New York state censuses go up to 1925, at least those are the ones that are available. Do you know if there are any after that, that just aren't out yet, because they're too recent?

David: I'm not aware if there are, but I wouldn't be surprised that there may be some post 1940 censuses that may have been conducted that may just be sitting in the wings. So, that would probably be a question for the New York State Archives in Albany.

Fisher: There you go. All right, Max, thank you. Great question. And we have another one coming up for you here when we return with Extreme Genes in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 394

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, we're back for our final segment. It’s Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. And David is back. And David, our question now is from Leigh Ann in Kansas City, Missouri and she says, "Guys, I had an ancestor who was in the War of 1812 in the army and he was listed as an ensign. I thought that was only in the navy. Is there an equivalent today? Good question.

David: Well, actually you would know that rank now as second lieutenant. It did exist in the army until the Army Organization Act of 1815. So, that was an old rank that you might see in the Rev. War, War of 1812, etc, but there are others that don't exist anymore. For instance, Army Cornet. That was the equivalent to a second lieutenant today and that was for the Army cavalry and that lasted until 1815 as well.

Fisher: Sounds like they did a little re juggling with the ranks at that time at the end of the war.

David: Yeah. And then there's ones that don't exist anymore, well, for obvious reasons. That would be like for instance the airship rigger second class.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: You know that existed from the 1920s to World War II, but because we don't have any dirigible afloat currently, we don't have to worry about that. You know that the Empire State Building was actually designed for airships to dock there.

Fisher: You know, I think I knew that at one time, but I'd forgotten, so thank you for bringing that up. Yet I think there are pictures of it in the 1930s.

David: You know, and there's other ranks, like for instance Commodore. You don't see that much anymore either. In fact, the last Commodore was George Dewey who was largely remembered for his victory against Spain during the Spanish American War at Manila Bay in 1898. And there was an old saying that some people still remember from that, do you?

Fisher: I think it was, "Damn the torpedoes! Full steam ahead!" or something like that.

David: That would make sense, because they were steamships.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: And I think they were a great fleet. You know, so it’s amazing when you look at military records and you find ranks like it. When I had my War of 1812 discovery last Thanksgiving, my ancestor, Henry Poor, I mean, what the heck is an “artificer.”

Fisher: Huh!

David: And I thought to myself, I'd say, I didn't know what that was right off the top of my head, so I turned to Wikipedia like everybody else does and it turns out it was somebody that was there to repair the carriage of the artillery. And that what he was, he was a carpenter. So, probably you know, if the cannon got hit, they had to rebuild the carriage for it or something like that, he was right there for it. So, I joined the War of 1812 Society for a guy that was handy with a hammer and nail.

Fisher: And see, this should be encouraging to a lot of people, because we all know that David Allen Lambert is an encyclopedia of things, especially military and he didn't know what that rank was from his own ancestor, so he had to research it just like the rest of us do.

David: Well, wait, I mean, and this is the thing, we can't have all A to Z for everything in our head. You know, we have to have brain space that you can fill the details in from dictionaries, encyclopedias or our modern day Wikipedia.

Fisher: Yeah, absolutely. Wikipedia's a great help for a lot of things and I know there's a lot of inaccurate information there, but for factual things like that, it’s not too difficult.

David: I find the Family Search Wiki good for researching places I don't do normally, like Czechoslovakia.

Fisher: Sure.

David: Or Romania. I mean, I wouldn't know the first thing to do on researching that. Again, we don't know all things. And genealogy is wet cement, we're always learning.

Fisher: Yeah, always learning. So, that is a great question, Leigh Ann, we appreciate that. And David, thanks for sharing your knowledge.

David: My pleasure.

Fisher: All right, buddy, we'll talk to you again next week. And that wraps up our show for this week. Thank you so much for joining us. And thanks also to Robin LaCroix for coming on and talking about her amazing discovery about her wondering grandfather, and shall we say, the evidence that remains to this very day. And also to Steve Gruber for coming on and talking about the family lockbox that was recovered several years ago that's now led to an incredible film about the story of his ancestors helping to rescue people from the Holocaust back in the day. If you missed any of these stories or want to catch them again, everything's on podcast, you could find it at iHeart Radio, ExtremeGenes.com, Spotify and Apple Media. We'll 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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