Episode 396 - “Mr. Genealogist, Tear Down This Wall!”Oct 18, 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 Fisher’s strange tale of finding a DNA match to his wife’s family… a man who, along with his brother, murdered his grandmother and her boyfriend in the late 1980s when they were teens. Yes, this guy is doing family history now! Then David opens Family Histoire News talking about the 150th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire, and how the O’Leary descendants are still dealing with the misdirected blame on their ancestor, Elizabeth, and her cow. Next, a rare piece of 19th century “hair art” is again being displayed. It features hair from Abraham Lincoln, his Vice President and others from his Cabinet. Hear all about it. Finally, imagine finding hidden steps below your rented place that leads to an entire network of underground rooms! It has happened. David has the details with speculation as to what the purpose of this complex once was over a century ago.
In segment two, Fisher talks with Helena Bouchez of Ohio. Helena struggled for twenty years to break through her Belgian “brick wall,” only to have it smashed by others in just 45 minutes! Hear how it was done and how far back it has taken her. Helena also talks about the near murder-suicide in her family from 1916 and how what took place that night entirely changed the trajectory of her family members’ lives. Here’s the link to the site of her Belgian heroes!
Next, Fisher chats with Kate Eakman of sponsor Legacy Tree Genealogists about a bizarre genealogical puzzle where two women appear to be rolled up into one. As her client was not inclined to use DNA to help with the problem, Kate was left to sort through the very few clues she was given to come up with the answer and break down a strange brick wall.
Then David returns with Fisher for Ask Us Anything answering questions about researching an ancestral circus performer and tracking down the living for reunions.
That’s all this week on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show!
Transcript for Episode 396
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Segment 1 Episode 396
Fisher: Well, hello America! And welcome to America's Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth on the program where we shake your family tree, and watch the nuts fall out! Great to have you along. Great guests coming up today. You're going to appreciate Helena Bouchez. She's from Ohio. She's an ordinary person with an extraordinary find out of Belgium. And she's got quite a tale to tell from her family as well. And then later in the show, from out sponsors over at Legacy Tree Genealogists, genealogist Kate Eakman is back talking about, what am I missing? It’s a question we often ask when we're trying to put together a genealogical puzzle and it just isn't coming. She'll talk about one such case coming up here a little later on in the show. And by the way, if you haven't checked out our Extreme Genes website, it’s been redesigned. We've got courses for you there, including basic genealogy and how to use DNA matches to break through your brick walls and find birth families and to confirm your genealogical lines. It’s all right there, so check it out. Hey, David Allen Lambert is standing by in Boston right now, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. David, that doesn't all fit on one badge that you wear around the center, does it?
David: It wraps around a couple of times, but that's okay. [Laughs] How are you?
Fisher: I am doing well. I had a really weird experience this week. I was working on my wife's matches, actually working through her uncle and her mother to try to find some matches to do a breakthrough on a second great grandmother. I was making some good progress on that, and as people who do DNA research know that sometimes you find a match and if they have a tree up, sometimes it’s a little bit short and you're trying to figure out, well, how do they match to me or to the person I'm trying to work on here? And so, I found this one match and looked at its short little tree and started to extend it, because he had a mother with a very unusual name. And so, as I went to Newspapers.com to see if I could find the marriage of his parents that might name the parents of his father, I found this horrible story that talked about this pair of brothers who murdered their grandmother that was in this family.
Fisher: A blunt instrument… murdered grandma and grandma's boyfriend. And apparently the reason was, they were going to be the heirs after their mom to her fortune and they feared that if she married the boyfriend, then they wouldn't get any of the money. So, they both knocked off these two people. The younger brother then turned on the older brother. He got a reduced sentence of like 35 years. The older brother got life. So, I thought, boy that's a terrible story! And then when I went back to the match, I realized that the match was the younger brother! And I'm like, "Ohhh man, that's so weird!" I did not message him to ask him to Thanksgiving by the way.
David: Yeah, I was just going to ask you that. So, are they on your holiday card message?
Fisher: No! Just keep at a distance a little bit. But that, I haven't had that kind of thing happen before. Have you?
David: Well, I think that's a great story. He needs to be a guest on Extreme Genes. [Laughs]
David: Well, you know, for me, I'm really excited, because you know, a lot of us are travelling around now. I went to Florida at the end of summer, but my bigger trip that I am looking forward to is to the Family History Library in November. NEHGS is running a tour and it will be the first time the staff of NEHGS will be back in Utah since 2019 other than RootsTech.
David: Well, I'll tell you, the stories are great. I love them when they're anniversary stories. And if you've ever heard of Mrs. O'Leary's cow, you probably know I'm talking about the about the 1871 fire that destroyed most of Chicago and a lot of genealogical records. Well, you really can't blame Mrs. O'Leary's cow now. Great, great granddaughter has come forward and said that she has basically been unjustly accused, because she was an Irish immigrant.
Fisher: Yeah, well, the story goes that there was a group of people partying across the street and it wasn't unusual for them to go over and try to steal milk from the cow that was over there for whatever the reason is.
David: Oh, not cow tipping?
Fisher: No, not cow tipping.
Fisher: But it’s believed that one of those people actually started the fire in that barn. Mrs. O'Leary's been exonerated in this whole thing and yet it’s still been taught in various schools over the years that this was a fact that it was Mrs. O'Leary's cow. So, that has been officially disproven by the Chicago City Council.
David: You know, it’s the strangest things that people collect, but hair art was a very big thing back in the 19th century. This is the story about the hair of Abraham Lincoln, and Hannibal Hamlin, and William Henry Seward, and others that created this eagle made out of hair that was created for a fundraiser for the U.S. Sanitary Commission during the Civil War. It’s really ornate and it’s owned by the Onondaga Historical Society in New York, but it’s quite amazing to see. It’s all woven together. If you’ve ever seen hair art from long ago these are usually little small pieces that are put into jewelry or into rings, but it’s haunting how much this looks like an eagle all made out of hair.
Fisher: Yep. And they say the person who actually wound up owning it, it cost like a dollar and the person owned it for years, and years, and years before turning it over to the Onondaga people in Syracuse, New York. And they say, because they tried to protect it from the light it’s only been publically seen like three or four times in the last 150 years.
David: Just think of the DNA potential. [Laughs]
Fisher: Stop it David. Stop it.
David: Well, I’ll tell you, when you rent a home the next time or maybe go on one of those vacations, be careful where you look because a lady was doing some work and found out that the house she was renting in Lompoc, California, has a hidden basement under it. The house was built in 1908 and these hidden stairs under her patio led to a corridor, to doors, and she did a TikTok video as she walked down it and it was something shy of watching an Alfred Hitchcock movie late at night.
David: Yeah. So, always be aware you might have more than you bargained for when you have an unexplored basement the size of your entire rented apartment under your patio. [Laughs]
Fisher: [Laughs] Crazy. And they say, it may have had something to do with bootleggers back in the day.
David: That’s exactly it, yeah. So, they’re not looking for Jimmy Hoffa there, but they are in fact looking for the remnants probably of something that would have been from the days of bootleggers, maybe my grandfather was there.
Fisher: Right, could have been.
David: Yeah. Well, that’s all I have from Beantown, but I want to remind you, if you’re not a member of American Ancestors you can save $20 by using the coupon code “EXTREME” on AmericanAncestors.org.
Fisher: All right David, thanks so much, talk to you at the backend of the show of course for Ask Us Anything. And coming up next, another ordinary person with an extraordinary find and how she did it so we can learn from her, when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 2 Episode 396
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Helena Bouchez
Fisher: You know, one of the things I enjoy most doing Extreme Genes is finding ordinary people with extraordinary finds, and finding out how they did it so we can all learn from them. And one of those people is Helena Bouchez. She’s on the line with us right now from Ohio. Helena welcome to Extreme Genes. It’s great to have you.
Helena: Thanks. Yeah. This is awesome!
Fisher: You had quite a brick wall that you had to smash through and you got a little help. But let’s just get to the basics here. Start us at the beginning and tell us what your whole story was.
Helena: Okay. Well, I started out with my second great grandfather who I knew his identity. But I could not figure out who his father was. And so I went to a group on Facebook called “The Belgian Researchers” and I put my stuff up there, and they came back in about 45 minutes and said, “Your third great grandfather is Anaclay” and from that they all went nuts and took me back to about 1565. It was crazy.
Helena: They have a great quarterly magazine that they put out called Belgian Lacers. It’s like $15 a year to subscribe, and they’re spectacular.
Fisher: And how long had you had this brick wall?
Helena: Oh my gosh, probably 20 years.
Fisher: 20 years, and then in 45 minutes there’s your answer.
Helena: That’s right.
Helena: It was wow, yeah.
Fisher: [Laughs] And did it take you back in all different directions there to the 1500s?
Helena: Yes. But I think the one thing that I learned from that is that my family had been in Pâturages, which is now part of Colfontaine area of Belgium for 12 or 13 generations. They’ve been there since coal was discovered in Belgium in the 12th century.
Fisher: Wow! So, your family was all coal miners then, till how recently?
Helena: That ended with my grandfather and that’s a very interesting story how that took place. My great grandfather came over from actually from France because they had migrated from Belgium to France in 1879. And by 1885 he was like, “You know, the French don’t like the Belgians here. They look down on us.”
Fisher: [Laughs] Ah!
Helena: Yeah. And there has to be something more. There was a big depression in that area in that part of the country until about 1895. So, the economic conditions were pretty bad. So, he is 22 years old, and he’s been working in the mines at this point since he was 11 years old. And I have his work book that says that he went into the mines at 11, and that was very common. So, he decided to pack it up and go to the United States. He land and he ends up in Central Illinois. There were Belgian tavern owners and they would run these ads in the French tabloids saying, “Hey, better life, more pay” of course leaving a lot of stuff out.
Helena: So, by 1885 he is in Pana, Illinois, which is Central Illinois, and from ’85 until ’97 when he marries my great grandmother, Sarah Siminam, he started floating around from Pana to Coffeen, which is about 45 minutes north. So, he marries Sarah Siminam, and probably because Victor Siminam, who’s her father, they’re working together in the mines. Now, Victor is French.
Fisher: That’s a problem.
Helena: Yeah, so he cannot be excited about his new son-in-law.
Helena: The other thing about Victor, he was originally a farmer, so he had a little property. He had a little money of his own. And Louis, who from age 22 to 34 didn’t have a family, was able to put some money together too. So, they get married in ’97 and they have three kids, the oldest, which is my grandfather Seraphin, and two girls, Sylvie and Adelaide. By 1909 it’s not going well. Sarah is like, “This guy is a jerk and I’m suing for separation and injunction.” Catholics did that because they didn’t want to get a divorce.
Helena: And she said he was cruel. By 1916, he is a terrible raging alcoholic and he comes home one day in May of 1916 and she has just sold a cast and has money. She’s using this money to buy my grandfather a scholarship to the international correspondence school. She is saving up to send the girls to nursing school because she’s like, “No way are they going to marry a miner, and no way is my kid going to stay in the pit.”
Fisher: [Laughs] Right.
Helena: So, he comes home day, she sold the cast and he wants the money and she says no. He pulls out a pistol and he takes aim at her and comes so close that the bullet knocks her hair down and he shot some more, and my aunt Adelaide who’s ten years old at the time, and she’s got powder burns on her hair. They run out of the house to a neighbor’s house. He thinks he’s killed them, he dives under the bed. He shoots himself.
Fisher: Oh wow! So, he thinks they’re all gone, they survived and then he takes himself out. Wow!
Helena: Yeah. But nobody in the family knows what actually happened. And so, I, on a whim, type the name into Newspapers.com.
Fisher: Yeah. Newspapers are the best, aren’t they? I mean, they give you all the details because when you said “May of 1916,” I thought, “Now, where did she get that?” Well, that had to be a newspaper. Yeah.
Helena: Well, it is in the Decatur Herald, “Pana man shoots at family and dies” is one of the headlines. “Wife had the money.” It was all over the place. And so, these articles described exactly what happened, which is why I was able to describe it in such detail.
Fisher: Do you have pictures of him?
Helena: Yes. Yes I do.
Helena: Very handsome guy.
Fisher: So, your great grandmother’s dream was not to have any of the kids work in the coalmines. Was she able to get them out of there?
Helena: Yes. Yes. In fact, the International Correspondence School course, and I have all the receipts, it’s like a two year program, I have all the receipts but one is missing. The Correspondence course was mining for engineering mind you, so he could get a better job in the mines.
Helena: But what he did was, he took the receipt for surveying, and he’s listed on 1920 census as being a surveyor. So, he took that education and he lifted himself out of the pit.
Helena: Then he went into the Navy and acquired more education that way, and he was sort of a lifelong learner and became an engineer for Hercules Aircraft Motor testers. And he worked in all kinds of other stuff.
Fisher: Wow! That’s a long way from the mines in Belgium.
Helena: Yeah. He made sure that all three of his kids were educated.
Helena: My dad ended up going into the Army so he went with the GI Bill and there’s a whole story there. But he also educated his two daughters who were born in ’29 and ’31, very unusual for the time. So, basically, his mother’s decision to invest in him and to say this is the end, has basically changed the trajectory of future generations.
Fisher: You know, this is one of the things I’ve really enjoyed about family history over the years. I didn’t know anything about my great grandfather, and he had all kinds of issues himself. And my grandfather had one brother who followed after his dad’s pattern and that side of the family was a wreck, and my side of the family has stuck together through the thick and thin and has been very successful at what they’ve done because my grandfather broke the pattern. So, it sounds like your great grandmother broke the pattern as well and she’s really kind of a hero to all of you because of what she’s done.
Fisher: And you wouldn’t have known that without the Newspapers.
Helena: No. She was just this quiet unassuming – my aunt said that she met her a couple of times, they lived in different states, and she said she just had an apron on and was always cooking. But to say no to this guy who was not nice, and to live through that and to have made sure that in spite of all that was going on, that her kids were not going to follow the same pattern. I mean, that’s just amazing to me.
Fisher: Well, and the fact that the kids survived that along with her, obviously an attempted murder-suicide, thankfully what she did I mean really saved all of you.
Fisher: Unbelievable. So, Helena, let’s go back over to Belgium here and the work you did with this Facebook group, tell us about them. What’s the qualification for getting into that group or is it a wide open public site?
Helena: Oh, it’s a wide open public site, and they’re super generous. And if you want to know anything about Belgium either the French side or the Dutch speaking side, they’re very, very knowledgeable folks. There are tons of Facebook groups. I actually joined one that’s [coal] miner specific, and specific to Pas-de-Calais, which is where they had moved from Belgium in 1879. It spans all the way from the mid 1800s to present, but there are tons of photographs of the different mines, including ones that my great grandfather worked in, and that has just been a treasure trove. And thanks to Google Translate, even if it’s in French, you can pretty much figure out what they are saying.
Fisher: Right. Absolutely. I’ve done a lot of exchanges like that. You know, it’s interesting because we had DNA come along 10 years ago, I mean really started to explode at that time, it was here before that. And then we’ve also had the newspapers come along. I think it’s been a while before we came to realize you know, we actually can communicate with people across the pond who are just as into this as we all are, and they love to communicate as well. And I’ve found not only the people at WikiTree, but also at Geneanet. They provide a lot of information there that we don’t have access to. And I’ve broken some lines open as a result of that in France, and it’s just absolutely amazing the assets that are out there right now if people want to research their history.
Helena: Well, speaking of Geneanet, I think it’s really important if you have French heritage, to get some information up there.
Helena: Because I had a cousin, Frederick, reach out to me late last year. There were three brothers: Louis, Adolf and Albert. And Albert followed Louis to America in 1907. But Adolf didn’t come and we didn’t know anything about him. So, one day I get this email from Frederick Bouchez and he says, “Hey, you know, I think we’re related.” And long story short, he was able to fill in all the blanks about Adolf because he was a descendant of Adolf.
Helena: He had a picture of Adolf, which I’d never seen before.
Fisher: Where was Adolf located?
Helena: He was near Pas-de-Calais in Bruniquel.
Fisher: Okay. And for people who aren’t familiar with that area, it’s actually kind of close to Belgium.
Fisher: It’s the northern part of France.
Helena: Right. It’s about an hour and a half by car from Colfontaine.
Fisher: Wow. And so you made that connection overseas and now when we get through the pandemic and you go over there, you can actually get to meet these people and maybe get a little tour of the area.
Helena: Yeah, that is definitely on my bucket list to walk the grounds for sure.
Fisher: [Laughs] Absolutely. Helena, great talking to you. Thanks so much for haring your story, and congrats on the breakthrough. And thanks for the information too I’m sure it will help a lot of researchers in their journey.
Helena: Awesome. I’m happy to help. Thanks for having me.
Fisher: And on the way next, Kate Eakman, a genealogist with Legacy Tree Genealogists is going to talk about that question that we always have, “What am I missing?” and how she needed to rely on that question to solve a fascinating case. It’s coming up next in five minutes on Extreme Genes.
Segment 3 Episode 396
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Kate Eakman
Fisher: And welcome back to Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth. And it happens all the time to anybody who’s in genealogy. The questions comes to your mind, what am I missing? Yeah, sometimes things get a little complicated, you can’t sort people out. That’s why I’m talking to my friend Kate Eakman from our friends over at Legacy Tree Genealogists, one of our great sponsors. And Kate, you had a client like this not too long ago. These are fun as long as you can solve it through, right?
Kate: Oh, yes. They are a lot of fun and this one started out as quite the puzzle. The client had three pieces of information. Three documents about her grandmother, presumably about her grandmother because they didn’t quite match. Her grandmother, she knew her always as Miriam Neighbors. And she had Miriam Neighbor’s death certificate. Then, she also had Miriam Neighbors social security card. But, the problem was the number on the social security card was a different number than on Miriam’s death certificate.
Fisher: Uh, oh.
Kate: So, she started wondering, can you have two social security numbers?
Fisher: [Laughs] Not usually.
Kate: Not usually. Then, she continued looking at other things that she had and there was a birth certificate for a girl named Lucy Anderson, who had nothing to do with, as far as she knew, her grandmother.
Fisher: Now where did that come from?
Kate: It was some of the papers that she had from her grandfather’s home after he passed.
Kate: But the date of Lucy’s birth was the same day as the date of Miriam’s birth.
Fisher: [Laughs] Oh, boy. Okay.
Kate: So, she thought there must be a connection, but what?
Kate: And that was her question. How do these three records fit together?
Kate: Are they for the same person? If not, why do we have Lucy Anderson’s birth certificate with Miriam Neighbor’s papers?
Fisher: So that would be a good question. So, off you go and it sounds like it was pretty complicated.
Kate: It was. I started by just tracking Lucy down because I had a starting place for her with her birth certificate and her parents. And Lucy was an incredibly interesting young woman. She was very intelligent. She won awards in school and seemed to have a very active social life. And then she eloped at the age of 17.
Fisher: Ah, okay.
Kate: And actually married her cousin who was 10 years older than her and that marriage didn’t last very long because about six months after she married him, she disappeared.
Fisher: Oaky. I mean gone, gone, gone?
Kate: Just disappeared. She went to go visit friends and then never came back again.
Fisher: Was this one of those things where the family thought she was dead, or murdered, or something?
Kate: The family actually thought that she was a victim of the white slave trade. This happened in the 1950s and they were very concerned that their daughter had been kidnapped and taken off to someplace.
Kate: So, they posted want ads, searched for her in their home state in New Jersey. They searched all the way down the eastern coast looking for her. I’m not sure if she ever showed up again at home or not, to be honest.
Kate: Except for the fact that she was mentioned when her father died. She was listed in his obituary as one of his children. So, that’s the family being hopeful that she’s still alive.
Fisher: Of course, yeah.
Kate: But then they also started proceedings to have her declared legally dead so they could settle the dad’s estate. So that’s sort of where Lucy ends.
Kate: Her family is trying to have her declared legally dead.
Fisher: What year was this?
Kate: This was in 1956.
Fisher: Okay. All right, so, she’s born in ’23, and now this is ’56, and she’s gone and they want her declared deceased, but apparently she’s still alive somewhere.
Kate: Yes, apparently. But I couldn’t find anything else about Lucy at that point.
Kate: So, now I go back to Miriam’s papers and I start digging into Miriam’s life a little bit more. And I discover that the client’s father… remember Miriam is the grandmother. The client’s father was born to Miriam and a man named Jacob Neighbors in New York City, in 1944.
Fisher: Okay, during the war.
Kate: During the war. And I track that family forward and discover that Jacob Neighbors was actually Jacob Nabi. He was an immigrant from the Middle East. And I had parts of paperwork, just pieces of his application for citizenship status. I didn’t have the whole file. I had just a page of it where he said that his wife was named Lucy.
Fisher: Ah! Okay, that’s the first time.
Kate: So, now I have something connecting potentially Lucy to Miriam here.
Fisher: Um hmm.
Kate: And I said, let me get the rest of that whole citizenship application. Let’s look at that whole A-file. Unfortunately, Covid restrictions are preventing us from getting those records.
Fisher: Oh, no! [Laughs]
Kate: So, the National Archives in Kansas City is currently not able to process that request.
Fisher: All right.
Kate: So, we have two choices. We can just wait until they get opened or we can keep looking and I’m curious so we kept looking.
Fisher: And did you find something new? I mean you would have wanted to keep looking anyway I would assume.
Kate: I did. Well, we had two social security numbers. So, let’s get their SS5s. those applications for those social security numbers.
Kate: Let’s see who the women are who applied for them and their dates of birth and they would name who their parents are.
Kate: So, I sent off and asked for them. And the social security administration was very kind and they sent me one of those social security applications and redacted the parents’ names.
Fisher: Oh, no!
Kate: Because I couldn’t prove that the parents were dead.
Fisher: Did you storm around your office screaming?
Kate: And shook my fist and said, track you social security administration.
Fisher: Right. Parents from a child born in 1923, you’re not revealing anything that’s private anymore. They’re gone. They’re dead.
Kate: But their rule is because she was not born more than 100 years ago, with her death record, I couldn’t get this.
Kate: So, in another two years I could get those names un-redacted.
Fisher: So, now what?
Kate: Second social security number, let’s try that one. And they said, well, no you can’t have that because that person could still be alive and you haven’t provided us with a death certificate, because remember we had a death certificate for one number but we only had a social security card for the other number.
Fisher: Which would be for Lucy?
Kate: Well, they both said that they were for Miriam.
Fisher: Oh, really? Okay.
Kate: Both social security cards said they were for Miriam with two different numbers.
Kate: So, I’m still sort of stuck. I don’t have an A-file. I don’t have social security card applications and this is where I had to ask that questions that you were asking at the start of this is what am I missing?
Fisher: Yeah. What am I missing?
Kate: Genealogy is a game of patients and one of the things that we say a lot at Legacy Tree Genealogists is that the good news is everyone we’re working with is already dead, so the answers aren’t going to escape us. It’s just a matter of us finding those answers.
Fisher: They’re still going to be dead. That’s right.
Kate: Then I remembered, I hadn’t quite finished all of my research. And I suspect some of your listeners have already caught onto the fact that I talked about Lucy’s father, but what about Lucy’s mother? And that was the person I had neglected to pay attention to. So, I started looking for Lucy’s mother. I began with newspapers because I was hoping for an obituary and I love newspapers. They always have the answers, well, often. And I found Lucy’s mother’s obituary. She died in 1968 and the obituary mentioned her children. It did include a daughter named Lucy, but it wasn’t Lucy Anderson her maiden name. It was Lucy Neighbors.
Fisher: Oh, wow!
Kate: And that to me was proof that connects that her daughter Lucy Anderson became Lucy Neighbors, the only wife that Jacob Neighbors had was Lucy/Miriam that in my mind was sufficient evidence to close that circle until we get that SS5 or the A-File from the National Archives.
Fisher: Well, that’s just additional nails right, to button this whole thing down?
Kate: That’s exactly it.
Fisher: Great stuff. She’s Kate Eakman. She’s with our friends at Legacy Tree Genealogists. It’s a great conversation Kate because we all have to go through it now and again being patient and finding what we’re looking for.
Kate: Yes. Thank you. It was fun talking with you too.
Fisher: Always enjoy it. All right, you’ve got questions, hopefully we’ve got some answers, David returns in minutes as we go through another round of Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show, next.
Segment 4 Episode 396
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Fisher: All right, David Allen Lambert is back. It’s time for Ask Us Anything once again on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. David, our first question comes from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Ann Langrig is asking the question. She says, "Guys, I'm trying to prove that my great aunt, Nelly worked for the circus in Missouri in the 1890s. Where do you suggest I look to find more on this story? Thanks, Ann."
David: Well, we can rule out the 1890 federal census now can we.
Fisher: Yes. [Laughs]
David: There could be a number of places you're going to find probably a reference to them, but maybe if she had employment, a small town newspaper which is now online or maybe a larger paper, maybe if she was a star of some component of that circus, you could probably find her. I would try like Newspapers.com.
David: On Ancestry to start.
David: The other thing you want to identify is, what were the circuses that were travelling through Missouri in the 1890s. And that might be a hard thing to determine, but that could be your first basic search on Newspapers.com.
David: Because you could say, "Circus" and "Missouri" and see what you get.
Fisher: Yeah. You could start with that and then make a little list and then perhaps you can find the name there. Depends also on how common or uncommon her last name is. Nelly was a pretty common name in the 1890s and if it’s Nelly Smith, you might have a hard time knowing it was the same person even if you found that name listed. But nonetheless, if you know what kind of act she did, if it’s been passed down orally, that might give an extra clue to you. And you might want to talk to cousins. Talk to people who are related through that side of the family to get all the information you can about what that circus career was about, where did she sign up? Was she part of the animal acts? I mean, even if you found nothing more in newspapers, if you get enough information through the cousins, you might be able to find something there. Also, some of the cousins might have those newspaper articles clipped back in the day that can help you prove.
David: Or photographs.
Fisher: Yes, or photographs, which would be really fun as well. But if you do identify which circus she was at, maybe through that oral tradition, you might even be able to go onto eBay and find pictures or postcards or something from that particular circus that may feature your ancestor.
David: You know, one place you might try is the Missouri State Museum out in Jefferson City, Missouri, because you never know, they might have circus posters or photographs. Perhaps they had an exhibit on circuses in the recent years and that could pull a little bit of the hard work that you might think you have to start with, somebody else may have already done it for you.
Fisher: Wow! This is a really interesting question. I don't think we've ever had a question about circuses before and obviously they present certain problems, because circuses are constantly on the move, and so, it’s not like there are records constantly made of the people that are involved there. I don't know, have you ever seen a circus reference in a census record, Dave, like from 1900?
David: Well, remember, wherever the people are on a certain night of the census, they have to be there, so maybe the enumerator walked through the circus tent and took down all those clowns that he found.
David: And one place you might want to try is at the end of her life. Find out if she had an obituary. See if they actually wrote something about her career when she was younger before she got probably too old to be running around the high wire or as a clown or whatever she did in the circus, riding on the back of a horse.
David: Look at the obituary. That might give you a clue as well.
Fisher: Right. Great question. One that causes me to scratch my head a little bit to think about all the possibilities. But I would think, within the family and newspapers has got to be the best bet, don't you think.
David: Yeah, absolutely.
David: But you know, the one thing that would be really nice is if there's an account book or surviving records from the actual circus company. Those are strange things, but they do surface in historical societies and state libraries. Say for instance that circus was based out of Missouri, maybe there's a place that has a lot of the ephemera in a museum. I know there are of course circus museums around the country.
David: You can try one of those.
Fisher: And also county archives. So, great question, really good one. And thanks so much for it. 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 396
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Fisher: We have returned once again for another round of Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. And David, we have a question here from Minneapolis. Pete Smith is writing, more particularly to me, I guess. "Fish, I heard you mention last week that you were helping your high school reunion committee locate missing classmates. We're working on my reunion for the class of '87 right now. What sources do you suggest for tracking living people? Thanks, Pete." That's a good question, Dave and there are quite a few places for tracking living people. And even when we're doing our genealogy to get back to dead people, we have to do that by finding living people first, quite often.
David: That's very true. And there's a lot of commercial sites that you can use, but you may be able to use things that you use every day, like social media, like Facebook.
Fisher: Social media, Facebook is outstanding, the White Pages. The one I use the most and the one I use the most for tracking classmates is a site called FamilyTreeNow.com. And David, maybe you remember when that came out, I want to say it was like seven or eight years ago, there was a big to do about this site, because there was so much information on everybody in there. They do give you the opportunity to opt out, but very few people actually did, so there's just a ton of material there. And so, you can enter your living person's name in there, where they lived, maybe the year they were born and it will pull up all kinds of options for you. And within the information they provide there, you will see who they're related to, various names they go under, maybe it’s like Pete W. Smith or Peter William Smith or something like that. But finding who they're related to can help you be sure that you have the right person, that in addition to the town they live in and what their age is. And then at the bottom as you scroll down, they'll often have phone numbers, like cell phone numbers, home numbers, and if you go down further than that, you'll often find still active email addresses. So there's a ton of information right there and that's how I'm collecting these names right now. There's a list of 86 classmates they're trying to find, so I just grabbed that and set aright who do I know personally so that I would know extra material that might help me identify the right person of the right name and who has an unusual name. So, you know, I was kind of skimming the cream of the crop, David and wound up finding nine of those people right off the bat and with a few others that I wasn't able to find, I could eliminate them in terms of how easily we're going to be able to find them. So, about 1/10th of the whole thing went away in about two hours worth of research, largely using that and Newspapers.com.
David: Um hmm, that's a good one, because of course with all the ladies in your class, their surname may not be the same as it was when you graduated in 1987. And since that's the same year I graduated, I've used the same techniques to try to track down my classmates. The other thing is, remember, use the association game. You track down a few reunion folks and say, "Hey, do you know how to get a hold of Lesley or Parmy?" and you just ask them and see if they've been in touch with them.
Fisher: There's so many things you can with it. The newspaper stories not only reveal the marriages, but also unfortunately often reveal the deaths, which we are hoping not to find, but that's just the inevitability, especially if you come from a large class, so you can know which list to put them on.
David: You know, one of the things that I use to try to keep track of my classmates and we did this for our 20th reunion. I created a group on Facebook "Class of 1987 from my high school," invited all the people I found and then guess what, its Google searchable, so all of a sudden the classmates might find it. And if you put it early enough, for you obviously celebrating your 35th next year, maybe they'll find it and spread the word.
Fisher: Yeah, that's a great way to go. So, that's how it’s done, Pete, and good luck with the reunion next year. I'm looking forward to mine. David thanks so much for joining us for this. And if you have a question for Ask Us Anything, you can always email us at [email protected]. Talk to you next week, Dave.
David: I look forward to it.
Fisher: And that is our show for this week. Thanks so much for joining us. If you missed any of it or you want to catch it again, of course listen to the podcast on Spotify, iHeart Radio, Apple Media, ExtremeGenes.com, we're all over the place. We'll talk to you again next week. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!