Episode 395 - Connecticut Genie On Finding And Dealing With DNA Shocker

podcast episode Oct 11, 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 by talking about the National Archives and their fun way they are celebrating American Archives Month. Then, a toilet has been found! So what? Well, it’s 2,700 years old and likely used by Biblical kings! There’s an opportunity for you to help in a project indexing and transcribing letters that were sent to Teddy Roosevelt. David will tell you where to sign up. Great Britain is looking for relatives of war dead as they prepare for reburials and grave marker dedications. Then, it’s a cave that, 40,000 years ago, was apparently home to Neanderthals. (Like the Flintstones… with more hair!) Hear what was found inside.

Next, in two parts, Fisher shares his 2019 interview with Connecticut resident Jenny Hawran who was shocked to find out she was only a half sibling to her brother. She describes how the discovery was made, the emotional turmoil, the confrontation with her mother, and what she has had to do to manage her previously unknown family identity. Jenny also offers advice on how to help others who make similar discoveries.

David then returns for Ask Us Anything as the guys tackle questions on war medals and an odd place name.

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

Transcript for Episode 395

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 395

Fisher: 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 great to have you along today. We’ve got a great guest lined up for you for two segments talking about her experience of discovering that her father wasn’t her father, and the implications that had for her, how it impacted her life, what other people said to her, how her family reacted to it, and what she had to do in order to come to grips with it. She’ll also have some advice for you should you ever somebody with their DNA results and run into the same situation. Her name is Jenny Hawran. She’s from Connecticut. It’s a couple of segments we first recorded back in 2019. I think you’ll find it interesting and important information. Hey, and don’t forget, we’re offering great courses now on how to get started in genealogy, and how to use DNA to help you break through brick walls, find birth families, all kinds of stuff. Check it out on our brand new website ExtremeGenes.com. And right now it’s time to head off to Boston, Massachusetts. David Allen Lambert is standing by the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. Clear your throat David. Here we are. Good to have you along.  

David: [Laughs] How are you doing?

Fisher: I’m doing great my friend. It’s been a great week. I’ve got another batch of photos from a distant cousin who found an old album and there are some new pictures of my grandfather and grandmother in there, my mom as a teenager, so that’s stuff’s always fun especially when you take it and clean it up and even colorize some of them. 

David: You know, it’s funny, I got a co-worker the other day who showed me the only picture she had of her mother as a child. And I said, “You ever seen it in color?” And I took it, scanned it, put it on to MyHeritage [Laughs] cleaned it up, printed it off, and I brought it back. She said, “How did you do that so fast?” I said, “That’s a secret I can’t tell you.”

Fisher: [Laughs] Exactly.

David: Then I of course did. But yeah, I love technology. It’s great.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: You know, it’s October so it is actually National Archives month and a great post from our National Archives in DC. It’s “Archives Bingo” - The strange things that archivists have found in boxes in the National Archives. You’re not going to believe some of these.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: Well, they found fireworks, a roll of toilet paper, the watch an archivist lost the last time that file was pulled…

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: …cow hair for a mattress stuffing on Air Force One, Civil War era soap flakes, used chewing gum, hair picks, snake skin, and lots of rocks.

Fisher: What is not available in the National Archives?

David: Exactly! And you know, it’s just funny because I retweeted it and I got some very humorous responses from people from what they found in their own family archives. So, I guess a question to our listeners, what have you found when you’ve gone through the attic of your relative?  

Fisher: Ooh.

David: Anything you want to tell us? So, there it goes. It’s a new episode.

Fisher: Yep.

David: Well, we’re going to take a small break here and go to Jerusalem for our first bit of Family Histoire news where a little digging had us reveal one of the oldest toilets found in Jerusalem. It’s 2,700 years old, not currently working. But this old throne of a potential king of Jerusalem as they may have used, has added some new mystery to history.           

Fisher: Yeah, that mystery is how do you use that thing? I mean, have you seen the pictures of it?

David: Yeah, it’s peculiar.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: I’m not exactly sure. I tell you what, if we want to have some investigative reporting, I’m not volunteering for that one. So, I’ll let the archeologists write a report, I’ll read it later.

Fisher: You know, I’ve always maintained that even the poorest among us these days often live better than the kings of the ancient times. And when you look at a toilet like that, you know what I’m talking about.

David: Um hmm. Oh, yeah. Teddy Roosevelt is one of those people that I think most people recognize in history right away but would you like to be part of his story? The Library of Congress is looking for volunteers to help index thousands of letters to Teddy Roosevelt. And there are still thousands more that need to be done. So, you can go to the LibraryofCongress.gov and go and volunteer to help find the stories of Teddy Roosevelt that maybe we haven’t read yet.

Fisher: Wow!

David: So, happy indexing.

Fisher: So, is it just indexing or are they transcribing too?

David: Well, I think they’re indexing, transcribing, and proofreading, so there’s quite a bit.

Fisher: Wow!

David: Because these are letters to him. Some of them are going to be transcribed already easily because they’re typed. But the handwritten ones, you’re dealing with different styles of handwriting so it should be quite interesting to see what they find. 

Fisher: Right.

David: You know, there’s a great appeal from the Common Wealth War Graves Commission, and that’s of course for the UK, and they have a listing of veterans that they are now putting new monuments up for. And it’s really nice because some of these have not had adequate memorials. Like William Arthur George Arnold who was in 1920 a driver for the royal filed artillery, and until recently they didn’t know that he had military service and now they’re putting an adequate gravestone for him. Isaac Burston a Royal artillery gunner who’s buried in the cemetery and now they’re in the process of a new gravestone for him. So, they want to find family members, Fish, so they can be there for the unveiling, which I think is really nice.

Fisher: Isn’t that great? And we do that over here too.

David: We do. The American Battlefield’s Monument Commission is great especially for looking for graves over in Europe. And of course, here in the states at Arlington National Cemetery or maybe your local veterans cemetery has been important, and of course for DNA discoveries. All those people from the USS Oklahoma and Pearl Harbor burials they have identified. There’s been a lot of new memorials setup for veterans who were unknown previously.

Fisher: Absolutely.

David: Well, I’ll tell you, you got to dig really far into the past when you want to go to this story, and this is our Neanderthal story from Gibraltar. A cave that is approximately 40,000 years old for occupancy from the Neanderthals, they found a 42-foot deep chamber in the back. And in this cave they’ve so far found bones of lynx, hyena, griffin, vultures, as well as scratch marks made by an unidentified carnivore. 

Fisher: Boy!

David: Maybe it was your ancestor, Fish. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs] You know, the Neanderthal hotel there sounds like it was a little different.

David: Apparently, you could bring pets to this hotel.

Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs]

David: Well, that’s all I have from Beantown. Just remember, if you’re not a member of American Ancestors, if you go to AmericanAncestors.org you can save $20 with the code EXTREME for a membership at NEHGS.

Fisher: All right David. Thank you so much. We’ll catch you at the backend of the show as we get into Ask Us Anything. And coming up next, my two-part visit with Jenny Hawran from Connecticut talking about her shocking DNA discovery and what she had to do to cope with it. That’s coming up in three minutes when we return on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 395

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Jenny Hawran

Fisher: You know, the day may come as a genie where you help somebody with their DNA test and then realize that something isn’t quite what was expected. Hi, it’s Fisher, your Radio Roots Sleuth. It’s Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show, and my next guest I actually met at the Federation of Genealogical Society’s conference in 2018 in Indiana, and she told me her story and she’s now ready to share with you her story and it’s a fascinating one and it actually has implications for any of us who may out of the blue have occasion to help somebody else with their DNA problem and a surprise result, and Jenny Hawran on the line from Connecticut. How are you Jenny? Nice to have you.

Jenny: Hi Scott. Thanks for having me.

Fisher: So, let’s start with the process here. You got into DNA how long ago?

Jenny: I mean genealogy I’ve been into about 25 years. DNA I actually had very little interest in but it was about three years ago that I took my first DNA test.

Fisher: And you tested with whom?

Jenny: My first test was with Ancestry.

Fisher: Okay.

Jenny: And I was just interested in finding out ethnicity. Everybody was doing it at the time.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Jenny: And I said all right, let’s do this. It will be fun. And I got the results and they were pretty much what I expected and I just kind of left it there for about a year. I didn’t even really look at it again. It wasn’t really my area of interest.

Fisher: And then you went on and did it again?

Jenny: So yeah, about a year later I was at a genealogy conference, and the new thing everybody was talking about was 23andMe and the health reports and I said you know, this sounds kind of fun. This is kind of different. Let’s do that one. And when I was there, they had a great sale and I said you know, I should pick one up for my brother. My dad had passed away at that point and they say it’s good to get all your siblings done. So, I picked one up for him and brought it home and said, “Here, do this.” [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs]

Jenny: And I’m going to do it too and I’ll share the results with you.

Fisher: Okay. And so what happened from there?

Jenny: We got the results back and they were pretty much what I expected again, British, Irish, Scottish, we’re all kind of lumped together and we have some French and some German, nothing again extraordinary. He had similar numbers but it’s different with siblings. So I said, well that’s good. That’s fun. And then one night, I was kind of just going through the 23andMe site. I was sitting in my bed with my iPad and I clicked on a tab that said “Match your DNA with someone else.” And I was not interested at all in the science of this or centimorgans or anything like that. And I wasn’t interested in finding cousins or having cousins find me because as far as I knew, I knew my lineage.

Fisher: Sure.

Jenny: My dad just had one sister who did not have any biological children, and my mother had one sister who had two biological children. I’m like…

Fisher: That’s your cousins. [Laughs]

Jenny: So, I was like yeah you know, let me just in case somebody finds me or something. You should know what I’m talking about. And so when I compared my brother and I, all this scientific stuff came up and I was like yeah, yeah, yeah, and I kind of went down lower on the page and it said estimated relationship, half sibling.

Fisher: Ooh.

Jenny: And I can’t explain it unless you’ve gone through it. But it’s a feeling that when they say that the floor dropped out from under you, that’s an understatement. Because I just looked at it and I was stunned. I was just like, “what does this mean?” And then my first reaction was that I wasn’t understanding it correctly.

Fisher: Um hmm.

Jenny: My second reaction was my brother somehow messed something up and didn’t do this right.

Fisher: Yeah.

Jenny: It had to be.

Fisher: There had to be an explanation other than what it looks like.

Jenny: Right. And at the same time there was this pit in my stomach and I just knew, and I was just devastated.

Fisher: Sure.

Jenny: I was like all right, I’m going to prove this wrong. And I didn’t tell anybody for over a year. I kept it to myself.

Fisher: Oh, wow!

Jenny: Yeah. I just, I couldn’t believe it and I wasn’t going to believe it. And I’m the kind of person that I need all my answers. As many answers as I can before I start telling other people. And so really in that year, I was mostly in denial but I was also like, I’ve got to figure this out because this can’t be right. It can’t be right.

Fisher: Sure. So, I had all my other siblings test. I didn’t tell them the reason why of course. They all tested and they all matched up as full siblings to each other and they all matched up to only half siblings to me, and I’m the youngest.

Fisher: Oh, wow.

Jenny: And so, it just got worse and worse as these results came in. I was just hoping, hoping, hoping, and then I didn’t completely accept it until I tested my father’s first cousin who is an elderly woman, god bless her, I didn’t tell her why. She was like in her 90s. And I said, “Would you do this for me? I’ll send you the results.” And she was wonderful. We did genealogy together. She shared a lot of my dad’s stuff with me and she did it. And when I got those results I compared it with my brother’s first and they shared the DNA that they should have, and then I shared her with me, and we shared no DNA.

Fisher: No DNA. It’s time to talk to mom now.

Jenny: Yeah. And that is when I knew and that is when it really, really hit me. But I didn’t talk to my mom then. I still kept it to myself.

Fisher: Oh my gosh. That’s a lot to keep inside.

Jenny: Yeah it was. My mother, we just had moved her back up here to Connecticut. She had lived in Florida. She had some health problems and I had to have that conversation in my head first before I had it with her. And I hadn’t even told my husband or my adult children at that point.

Fisher: Wow! That’s a lot to keep inside to yourself.

Jenny: I hadn’t told anybody. I finally did tell somebody and it was not my husband at first. The first person I told was actually Bill Griffeth who wrote “A Stranger in My Genes.”

Fisher: Yep.

Jenny: And we’ve had him on the show talking about this because it was the same situation for him. Great guy. Great guy.

Jenny: Great guy and we’ve become very good friends. I’m very grateful for him because finding his book and then contacting him. Just finding somebody who shared what I was going through, it gave me the courage really, the validation to just say, “Okay, I’m going to be okay.” like, Bill is on the other side of this now. I can’t imagine getting to that point but I know I can. 

Fisher: Had you read the book before you had this happen, or did you become aware of it in the middle of it all?

Jenny: I became aware of it in the middle of it because just when the book came out, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and it came through my Facebook feed and I just stopped dead in my tracks and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I have to read…who is…I’ve got to read this.”

Fisher: Yes.

Jenny: I read it that night. I downloaded it on my Kindle that night and I read it and I contacted him the next day via Twitter and he had a lot of people contacting him at this point coming out of the woodwork.

Fisher: Yeah right. [Laughs]

Jenny: And he was very…we joke about it but he was very kind because I think he just knew I was just didn’t know what to do at that point.

Fisher: Sure.

Jenny: Talking with Bill and seeing what he had gone through, I told my husband shortly after that and my adult children. So they were the first ones to know. That was hard telling my children because it was their…

Fisher: Yeah, their grandpa.

Jenny: Their lineage. Yeah and they remembered my dad.

Fisher: Of course.

Jenny: And they all reacted a little bit differently but they were more concerned about me, which I appreciated a lot and they had a lot of questions but they were okay. They were okay with it.

Fisher: Yeah, but you still got your siblings and your mother to deal with in this.

Jenny: Right.

Fisher: To find peace, right, and to find the story.

Jenny: Right. So, I knew once I got those results from my dad’s first cousin that I was not related to her. I knew who my biological dad was. I remembered this person from when I was a child through the time that I was maybe 15 or 16 and I just said, “It has to be him. It has to be.”

Fisher: Was he a relationship with the family that continued on that you knew him from that?

Jenny: Not with the family, but with him. My parents did divorce, and I remember my biological father coming over and visiting my mother and I just remember him in and out of our lives.

Fisher: Sure.

Jenny: So then it was time to confront my mother. That was probably the hardest thing because she was ill at the time. But I talked about it with my husband and I talked about it inside my own head and I said, if I let her die without asking her something about this, I’m always going to regret it. I have to.

Fisher: Yes, right.

Jenny: And I was afraid that it would make her sicker and all that but I just thought I have to do it. So, I went over there.

Fisher: Well, you were owed that. You’re owed that. It’s your identity.

Jenny: Right. Just a quick back story on that, I made my mother take a DNA test during this whole process because your mind goes in all kinds of weird places, and I’m thinking maybe I was adopted. Maybe she’s not my mother, you know?

Fisher: Oh, wow. Yeah.

Jenny: So she was.

Fisher: Of course. Well, she had to be for the siblings to be half siblings.

Jenny: Yes. But they took all that at the same time and I was relieved because I’m like okay, like my world isn’t crazy enough, I don’t need to deal with that too.

Fisher: [Laughs] Sure.

Jenny: So, I went over to her place and said to her, “I want to tell you something that I found out.” And I said, “Remember I took that DNA test?” And she was shocked. I swear she knew what I was going to say.

Fisher: Sure. Of course she did.

Jenny: Because she started shaking. And I said you know, “I found out that dad isn’t my biological dad.” And she didn’t say anything for a good minute, and then she said, “I wasn’t ever going to tell you.” And I said, “Well, okay, I got that.” And her feelings was that why did I need to know? I had a dad. I had a dad who I loved and who loved me, and she just didn’t think it would help anybody if I knew.

Fisher: Yeah. Sure.

Jenny: And then when I told her who I thought my biological father was, she was stunned. She was stunned that I had figured that out. And then I tried to ask her. She really did not want to talk about it. I could tell she was embarrassed and she didn’t want to talk about it but I think we talked about it maybe two or three more times and I was able to get some information out of her but she did not want to talk about it.

Fisher: A lot for her to process too I’m sure, rocked her world as much as yours.

Jenny: Yeah.

Fisher: We’ve got to take a break Jenny, but I want to continue this conversation into another segment here, and talk about how people have tried to help you through this and maybe some advice you can give to others as they experience friends or relatives who make similar discoveries. Can we do that?

Jenny: Sure.

Fisher: All right, coming up next in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.      

Segment 3 Episode 395

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Jenny Hawran

Fisher: We are back! It is America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth and I’ve been talking to Jenny Hawran out of Connecticut, about her shocking DNA revelation just a couple of years ago where she discovered that her dad was not her dad. And she kept it as a secret for many years and then finally confronted her mother who admitted it. She reached out to Bill Griffeth the news anchor who had written a great book about the same thing that happened to him called “The Stranger in My Genes.” Jenny, you’ve been through it and I actually revealed this same kind of information to somebody else in 2017 that learned her father wasn’t her father. And she’s still dealing with the aftermath of that. And I know that you have a lot of friends and family that undoubtedly did everything that they could to support you through this adjustment because let’s face it there’s a real problem here. There’s kind of a dichotomy because what in your life has changed, right? You’ve had the same childhood, nothing changed from that. You had the same relationship with your late father, it was a good one. This was all something that happened before you were born and yet everything has changed. So, nothing has changed and everything has changed because it’s two different things, right? Memories versus identity.

Jenny: And that’s the thing people don’t realize when they’re trying to be very kind and saying that nothing has changed. It is the furthest from the truth because you cannot go through this process and not be profoundly changed because the very essence of who you are, the foundation of who you are. You get your identity from your parents and when one half of you is gone. The people that you thought you came from, you don’t anymore. It doesn’t mean you don’t love them and they didn’t love you but you know, you identify a certain way.

Fisher: Right.

Jenny: And now’s that’s gone. And even if you know who your birth father is it’s not like they take the place of that loss.

Fisher: Nope, couldn’t possibly.

Jenny: They’re strangers to me.

Fisher: Yeah.

Jenny: I don’t know them. I haven’t shared my life or life stories with those people. So, you’re left with this empty hole that is just gone. So, people have been great that I’ve shared this with and I tell them thank you for saying that but things have changed and there’s this grieving process you have to go through to kind of accept this is your reality. This is what happened to you.

Fisher: And to some extent it’s a longer grieving process than if somebody had just passed away because not only is your dad gone in a certain way he’s physically gone, now his legacy is gone to some degree, right?

Jenny: Right.

Fisher: And you’re trying to figure out well, who am I now, right? And you don’t belong to this birth family.

Jenny: Right. And in my case my ethnicity changed. All of a sudden I’m Irish and I was never Irish before. There was not one Irish person in my genealogy. And all of a sudden I am 77% Irish and it’s like, what do I do with that?

Fisher: [Laughs]

Jenny: So, people reach out to me and try to say the right things and they do. Nobody ever says anything wrong but it’s almost like you have to be around people that have experienced it just like any support group.

Fisher: Yes.

Jenny: Because they’re the ones that understand that loss.

Fisher: Have you gone onto the social media support groups?

Jenny: I have. I recently just joined the one started by Catherine St. Clare on Facebook.

Fisher: Yep.

Jenny: And that is a secret group. And the reason I actually just went on it a few months ago because that’s when I revealed to my siblings and I think once I told them, I think it just really brought all of this up. Because I’m about three years into this process and I’m still reeling from it and telling my siblings kind of just brought it all up. And I’m like you know, I need something more. I need to go talk to somebody that understands. So, I joined this group and there’s almost five thousand people there.

Fisher: Yes. They’re amazing people and it’s growing all the time.

Jenny: It is growing and some stories are much, much worse than mine. I feel lucky compared to some of them. There was an aspect of love between my mother and my biological father even though they were both married. I’m not romanticizing it at all. It’s just I feel and I grew up in a wonderful home and dad that I adored. So, I try to look at it that way that it could have been worse.

Fisher: That’s right.

Jenny: And I wouldn’t be here otherwise, so.

Fisher: Right. That’s right and that’s the other aspect of this is when you find out you have a different birth father and you’re angry with this person for intruding in your life because it’s hard to imagine well without that person you wouldn’t be there. That’s another dichotomy, right?

Jenny: Right. Well, I’m the family genealogist. I have all the old albums, everything and you feel immediately disconnected in my case to the genealogy that you’ve worked 25 years on. And that’s sad. I still want to be the keeper of these things because I loved my dad and I know that he loved them.

Fisher: Sure.

Jenny: But, when I look at my biological father’s side, and I’m doing it but it’s almost like there’s no connection to these people. So, I’m more just doing it to document it.

Fisher: Yeah. It’s a disconnect. I get that. What advice would you give to people specifically? What things caused you to just clench your teeth the most with what people would say when you discussed this with them?

Jenny: Um, I would say, when people are a little dismissive about it and they think nothing’s changed you know? Your dad was still your dad and they kind of minimalist it because I think it’s more comfortable for them and they kind of don’t understand what a life changing thing it is. So, that’s probably the biggest thing.

Fisher: Um hmm.

Jenny: I think, if people want to reach out to someone who is going through this. I think that they really need to listen and just let the person tell you the loss that they’re feeling because it’s just something that we want to talk about so that you understand that it’s not easy and it’s probably going to be many years to deal with it.

Fisher: Yeah. Have you been through counseling?

Jenny: Um, not officially. No, but I definitely recommend it. I think for a lot of people in this Facebook group, I know a lot of them have. You know, I’ve had a very supportive family and friends that have really, really helped me. And some people don’t have that so I definitely would recommend that.

Fisher: Sure. What about your relationship with mom now?

Jenny: Well, mom has passed away and after I confronted her, I wouldn’t say strange but I would say she was always a little fearful I might bring it up. So, I only talked about it when my other siblings weren’t around but I kind of got to the point where I knew I wasn’t going to get anymore out of her. So, yeah, I was never angry with her for some reason. I just wished she had just told me more. I wished that she once fessed up. I wished that she had just told me everything. But, I forgive her. I didn’t live her life. I can’t judge another person when I wasn’t there at the time and again, I wouldn’t be here otherwise.

Fisher: That’s right.

Jenny: I try to look at it that way.

Fisher: And what about any connections with the birth family?

Jenny: Well, the bizarre thing is that I do know who my half siblings are on my biological side. We live in a small enough community that I actually worked on an event with them and in the middle of this event is when this whole thing kind of exploded and I realized who my birth father was. So, like that wasn’t bizarre enough and then I felt a lot of guilt because I knew who they were at that point and they didn’t know who I was. They didn’t know I was their half sibling. They remembered me as a child and they remembered my mother.

Fisher: As a family friend, yeah. [Laughs]

Jenny: So, it was just all very bizarre for me and unsettling and I just decided at that point that I don’t have any plans at this point to reach out to them. I’m kind of hiding in plain sight.

Fisher: Right because they could test anytime and discover you.

Jenny: And then I will welcome that conversation. But I feel like I just don’t want to go there. I don’t want to disrupt their life, especially because I know how they felt about their father who they revered and adored and I’m not sure that I’m ready for that conversation. [Laughs]

Fisher: Sure. I bet. It’s unbelievable. She’s Jenny Hawran. She’s out of Connecticut. And Jenny, what an ordeal but that you for the advice, I think it’s useful. A lot of people are going to need it, who are listening right now, who have no idea they’re going to need this in the next few years as more and more people test. Thanks for coming on and sharing your story.

Jenny: Thanks for having me Scott.

Segment 4 Episode 395

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, moving on. It is time once again for Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. And we once again invite the brilliant David Allen Lambert back to the show for Ask Us Anything. And our first question David is from Alice in Jacksonville, Florida. She says, “Guys, I ran into a record of one of my Connecticut ancestors that mentions a place called Firelands or Sufferers' Lands. Can you tell me where these places are?” Good question Alice.

David: Ooh. I haven’t heard that one in a while. Well, actually, it starts off with people who were living in Connecticut. Now, during the Revolutionary war when the British led by a great guy named Benedict Arnold burned and destroyed land along coastal Connecticut, so what happened was this land was then a loss for these people and they wanted to get paid back. So, how did they get paid back? Well, you know how poor the American government was at the onset of the nation. There was one thing they did have a lot of, land.

Fisher: Um hmm.

David: And the Western Reserve part of Connecticut extends into what is modern day Ohio. So, these Firelands or Sufferers' Lands were finally granted in 1792 where Connecticut set aside half a million acres on their Western end, which is now modern day Erie in Hudson County, Ohio.

Fisher: That sure seems like a long way from Connecticut, but I guess, actually, there were a lot of states that had land there in Ohio, yes?

David: Yeah. Well, the Western Reserve extended really far west out of Connecticut and went completely across and this is a strip about 25 miles wide known as the Firelands, and there’s actually a good map of it on the Connecticut State Library. If you go to Connecticut State Library and search on Firelands, you’ll come across a map of the area and all the different towns. And it’s funny because you look at a lot of the towns that are in it there’s like, Townsend and Norwalk. I thought, wait a second, Connecticut towns. [Laughs] So, they’re being renamed in these areas.

Fisher: Interesting.

David: So, you may have ancestors that lived in these “Firelands” and you may not know where they’re from. Well, you may find that a lot of them tie back to these families that were given this land in 1792 as a reimbursement to the victims after they had lost all of their property that were burned by the British and again, Benedict Arnold.

Fisher: And you know, it’s kind of interest too because a lot of these people might be children or grandchildren of the people who originally got the land because there were still a lot of conflicts with the Natives at that time. So, nobody was going out there until after the War of 1812.

David: Right. And the thing is, parentally a full 30 years after the time has been elapsed. A lot of people would have been too old to settle there. It’s almost like the Revolutionary War, Bounty Land. I mean, these guys from the Revolutionary War are getting these bounties but they might be 70, 80 years old, so they were turning it into cash on the barrel.  And you wonder if some of these were the same way, you wonder if they turned around and sold this land as well and just turned it in for cash. I mean, that’s a 25 mile strip of land that may have not all been settled by the people who had lost the land to begin with.

Fisher: Right, yeah. Absolutely. This is fascinating. I had no idea that there was something like that. And it does sound like a lot of the compensation that went to the soldiers in the Revolution. I even have an 1812 guy who received land for his service as well. In fact, it went to his widow after he passed away.

David: My War of 1812 veteran Henry Poor, as I say, when I discovered him last Thanksgiving after all those years of knowing about him. I found out that he lived in Illinois. Well, let me put it to you that way, he owned land in Illinois, didn’t live there.

Fisher: Right.

David: But one might speculate that he did because he got bounty land. Doesn’t necessarily mean he moved there at all. He owned the property for 27 years.

Fisher: Or ever saw it in his whole life.

David: Yeah, exactly. So, don’t always assume when you see bounty land, why are they showing up in the census? Because well, they may have just rented it out or they may have ultimately sold it.

Fisher: All right, great question Alice. Thank you so much. We’ve got another one coming up for you here in minutes when we return on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 395

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, one more time around for Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show. And David, this question comes from Allen in Salem, Oregon and he says, "Guys, I've got ribbons and medals that have been left by my ancestor who served in both the Spanish American War and World War I. How do I find out what these mean concerning his service?" What a great question! Thank you, Allen. David, what do you think, Mr. Military man?

David: [Laughs] Well, you know, for the Spanish American War, I mean obviously there are going to be medals in every branch of the service. After the Civil War, it’s more common to see medals being awarded. The Spanish Campaign Medal, which was issued back in 1898 is one that is pretty straightforward. It’s got the logo that looks like a square bronze cross at the bottom. It’s got an eagle on top, American flag banner hanger, but you might get other ones. And I've actually had people ask me about Spanish American War medals before, and they actually weren't medals from the war, they're encampment medals for the veterans of the Spanish American War. So, they would have a reunion, just like the Grand Army of the Republic or the Confederate veterans who would have their annual reunions and the same thing is true. So, they would be like, "in Toledo, 1910" "Baltimore, Maryland, 1916." And it’s like, they were just like, you were there. I mean, it’s like, I have the same thing when I'm in the SAR, when we have a congress, we go and you can get the medal from that congress. So, it harkens back to these 19th century reunions such as this, World War I, the same thing. You can basically find that there are medal ribbons that you would have received. One of the quickest ways to do it is, take a picture of it. And if you have a Smartphone like Google Lens or Google Image will actually probably find the image of it quickly for you than any guide book will ever do. The old National Geographic actually had a listing of all the different medals that came out in World War II. There were books and collector's guides for World War I, because obviously the medals for that could range from the cloth bar, the medal ribbon.

Fisher: Right.

David: All the way to the actual medal itself. So you were obviously going to wear your medal ribbon, that straight bar with the medal. It’s either or, so the medal would be worn on dress. But it’s pretty easy to just put it into Google, or another great place that we love dearly, eBay. Chances are one of those medals that you have is probably also for sale on eBay. So if you go to eBay.com and you search on part of the description of the medal, maybe it says something like "received at this battle" or maybe Mexican Border War. There's a Mexican Border War medal that was given right before we entered into World War I and that's often confused with the World War I medal and that's green and yellow and that's for the veterans of the Mexican Border War. So you can find a lot just for a little bit of creative Googling as well as using Google Image. If you have an Android, you can use Google Lens, take a picture of it and it will search the internet for you.

Fisher: I would think also there's probably some sites out there for Spanish American War collectors, obviously World War I collectors and you can ask those questions and maybe even post that picture you are talking about.

David: There is in fact a website for Spanish American War medals called SpanAmWar.com/Medals. And you can see the US Navy campaign medal, the US Marine Corps, The Army campaign, some great detail of these actual medals right there, and chances are you probably will find them. And the same thing is true if you Google search "Victory Medal United States" which is the most common World War I medal, you'll probably find that one is one of the medals that you actually had. Sometimes again, there are the ribbons associated with the medal. So, if you match up the ribbon on the medal to the ribbon bar, you'll see that it is probably for the same thing.

Fisher: All right, David, great stuff. Great question, too, Allen. And if you have a question for Ask Us Anything, just email us at [email protected]. Talk to you next week, Dave.

David: Sounds great, talk to you then.

Fisher: All right, and thanks for joining us this week. If you missed any of the show or you want to catch it again, of course we're all over the place, Spotify, TuneIn Radio, Apple Media, iHeart Radio, ExtremeGenes.com. We will talk to you next week. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice normal family!

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