Episode 397 - Crowd Sourcing Around the World/ More Genie eBay Finds!

podcast episode Oct 25, 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 open Family Histoire News with the uplifting, yet sad story, of a man who finally found his birth father just days before his own death. Then, another amazing find has come out of Israel. Wait til you hear this one! David then shares the story of a man who has recreated Roman recipes from the 4th century. And one of these recipes would seem very familiar to us. Strange to think, but a reference to the land mass now known as North America has been found in a document in Italy that pre-dates Columbus by 150 years! David explains. And finally a pair of yard sale items in England have turned out to be extremely rare historic artifacts. Wait til you hear what the sale price and what the items were!

Next, Melanie McComb joins the show from the New England Historic Genealogical Society. Melanie was the recent beneficiary of the WikiTree Challenge, where researchers around the world looked at her family tree and went to work extending it, correcting it, and finding stories. And did they ever find a story! Melanie will share it. This is one great example of crowd sourcing. Fisher and Melanie then talk about the various ways crowd sourcing can benefit your research.

Then, New Mexico listener Louise Gennetti Roach shares her crowd sourcing tale with a group of people in a small village in Italy. Her efforts have taken her lines back many centuries, with DNA confirming the accuracy of her name line. Louise’s benefactors in Italy also made a remarkable eBay discovery related to Louise’s family!

David next returns for two questions on Ask Us Anything. The first has to do with ancestral medical records, while the second concerns researching your house and property.

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

Transcript for Episode 397

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 397

Fisher: And hello America and welcome to America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth on the program where we shake your family tree, and watch the nuts fall out. Well, it is great to have you aboard today. We’re going to talk about crowd sourcing today. How do you do that with family history? Well, one group figured it out, WikiTree, and all their people around the world are helping each week on a WikiTree Challenge for a different person. Melanie McComb from the New England Historic Genealogical Society is one of those people who recently benefitted from these efforts. She’s going to be on to talk about that and crowd sourcing in general. Different ways we can do that. And then later in the show Louise Genetti Roach, talk about crowd sourcing. She was doing it with people over in Italy, broke her line way back, plus one of her relatives over in Italy found something on eBay that tied directly to her family here in the United States and you’re going to want to hear exactly what went on, great stories coming up later on in the show. Hey, sign up for our Weekly Genie Newsletter right now. You can do that of course on our Facebook page, you can do it on ExtremeGenes.com, and you can also sign up from our courses in beginning genealogy and DNA analysis. Right now it’s time to head out to Boston and talk to David Allen Lambert. He is the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. Hello David. How’re you doing?

David: I’m doing fine. I think I’ve heard of your guest before. I think I may have run into her once or twice at work.

Fisher: Yeah. She’s what, ten feet away from you now?

David: Ah, she is at the other end of the office. Yes.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: We’re going to start our Family Histoire news with a story of a person who just recent passed away. His name is Sam Anthony. He was 52 years old and he died on cancer. But he was put up for adoption, Fish, when he was young and never knew his dad. Eleven days before he died he actually met his dad. He was a 78-year-old retired airline worker from Arizona. His dad had known the child was born, put up for adoption, but never knew what happened to him. Thank goodness for DNA, this reunion was able to happen and like I say, just a mere eleven days before Sam passed away he got to meet his actual dad.

Fisher: Yeah. And his dad was actually driving back to his home in the west when the news came that his son had passed away. I mean an amazing story.

David: You know, I always, am amazed at the stuff people find on the beaches, or divers finding coins and what not, but this story from Israel is amazing. So, a person out there diving, comes across something that’s encrusted with all sorts of shells and what not, looks kind of like a cross, and picks it up and sure enough, it’s a 900-year-old Crusader sword that somebody probably dropped off the boat, because this just happens to everybody all the time. 

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: The sword now is the property of Israel and it will be protected and hopefully conserved and they can figure out under all the sea crustacean what the sword might look like, so stay tuned for updates on this and other breaking genealogical historically relevant news. 

Fisher: Yeah.

David: My next story really makes me want to go back and have French fries for lunch. Andrew Colletti, through his story, dives into all sorts of stories like cuisine, Victorian, 11th century Persian, 13th centaury Egyptian, has now tried his hand at 4th century Roman recipes from an old cookbook. And this is quite interesting. So, they’re actually making French fries and sauce.  

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: Now the sauce, itself is intriguing, but of course, North America is where French fries come from because of well, potatoes. This is actually not made from potatoes but from parsnips. 

Fisher: Really?

David: Does this make you want to run to McDonalds and get your parsnip fries. But the sauce, it’s not like our old fashioned bottle of ketchup. It’s made out of red wine and fish sauce. Oh, yum.

Fisher: Wow!

David: It probably tastes pretty good.

Fisher: So, our Italian ancestors might have enjoyed these back in the day.

David: Exactly. It’s how to make French fries back then. But wouldn’t it be called gauls fries?

Fisher: Yes, something like that. Yeah. [Laughs]

David: [Laughs] Well, you probably heard of Columbus in 1492, right? I mean every school kid probably has.

Fisher: Sure.

David: You probably heard the story of the Vikings were a longtime part of their sagas of Erick the Red etc. Well, there’s actually documented proof of existence of North America 150 years before Columbus. This is a new study that comes out of the University of Milan where they’ve found a documented record that mentions west of Greenland in a work called Cronica Universalis written by a Milanese Friar back in 1345 before Columbus or his parents were even thought of. So, [Laughs] it’s amazing as we uncover history that may have just been there all the time in its archives in Milan.

Fisher: Yeah. If Queen Isabella had known about that, maybe she wouldn’t have had to send Columbus over there to check it out.

David: Exactly. They could have just send the friar and maybe he could have brought Roman French fries with him into the new world.

Fisher: [Laughs] There you go.

David: Well, my next story is from England. This is an interesting story. So, about 15 years ago, a couple bought a couple of weatherworn sphinxes, you know like the sphinx in Egypt?

Fisher: Yeah.

David: For their garden. They paid a few hundred dollars for them and they were going to sell them in an auction. They thought they would fetch between $400 and $600 or so. Well, it turns out they’re not regular garden variety because they’re real ancient Egyptian sphinxes and they sold for, ready for this, $266,000 American or 195,000 pounds.

Fisher: Wow!

David: That’s a lot for something you just had in your garden for 15 years. And the elements are pretty worn down but you know, they probably been out there for a long time even before that, thousands of years.

Fisher: What a great find.

David: So, you just never know what you’re going to find at a yard sale, right?

Fisher: Right. [Laughs] Very nice.

David: Well, that’s all I have from Beantown. But remember, if you’re not a member of American Ancestors, for $20 you can use the coupon code EXTREME and become a member at AmericanAncestors.org. Well, we’ve got some Ask Us Anything at the backend. I’ll catch you soon.

Fisher: All right David. Thank you so much. And coming up next, David’s compadre Melanie McComb, the Shamrock genealogist to talk about the WikiTree Challenge, to talk about crowdsourcing, and then in about twenty minutes it’s kind of funny the way things work out sometimes as you line up your guests, we have this theme of crowd sourcing going on, we’re going to talk to Louise Genetti Roach. She is from New Mexico. She’s been into crowd sourcing also all the way over in Italy, actually translating messages back and forth with people who have provided her with a plethora of information about her family. And over there, they made a breakthrough discovery on eBay that involved Louise’s direct ancestors here in America. So, you’re going to want to hear all of this coming up when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 397

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Melanie McComb

Fisher: And we are back on the job at Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth. You know, crowd sourcing has been on our minds a lot lately, myself and David Allen Lambert, and also my next guest Melanie McComb, the Shamrock Genealogist over at NEHGS. And Melanie welcome back to the show.

Melanie: Hey, Fisher. Yeah, thanks for having me. Long time no talk my friend.

Fisher: It has been a bit. Well, you know, you’ve just been a guest on the WikiTree Challenge as David and I have both been in the past.

Melanie: Yes.

Fisher: First of all, I just want to find out, how did it go for you? Did you make some nice breakthroughs with these great people crowd sourcing for you?

Melanie: Oh, it was fabulous. They found actually quite a few things on both sides of my family. My father’s ancestry is Irish and they went to Prince Edward Island, Canada. And my mother’s side is Eastern European Jewish. So, there was definitely some brick walls busted. Even on not direct ones as well. They actually had gone back on my grandmother’s paternal line, the Corcorans. And they uncovered that well, I had a little bit of an error with one of the records and that revealed a whole other spouse for one of my greats. So, it was a nice find though because I was always kind of struggling to find the DNA matches and now that makes a little more sense maybe why I’m not finding it on that line.

Fisher: Isn’t that interesting how that works sometimes? You know, I think a lot of people think because we’re all so into this that once in a while we’re not going to have an error on there that maybe has extended back our earliest days as genealogists and we never found what was necessary to correct it. 

Melanie: Right. And in this case it was the quality of the microfilm, which I think was misleading. 

Fisher: Ah!

Melanie: We thought we saw Corcoran in the film and it was actually Carlin.

Fisher: Oh.

Melanie: And it was actually with the assistance of one of their Irish genealogist, because they have genealogists all over the world that help with these challenges, and he had actually manually gone through the right parish and uncovered a different spouse. I have a whole other wife to go through, so it’s definitely opened up some more branches.

Fisher: Any stories?

Melanie: Oh yes. The biggest story uncovered was they found my great grandmother’s brother. He had actually been an elusive one. He had come over to America from Romania a few years prior with one of his sisters. And they had settled in New Jersey and then I just lost the trail altogether. So, some of the Jewish genealogists actually had tackled this Segal line to see if they could find him. And in the course of looking for him, not only did they find him. They found out that well, he was a bit of a naughty boy. He got involved with a crime gang.

Fisher: Oh wow!

Melanie: They actually had a scheme going on where they would open up these merchandise stores in different cities around the US, and they would have some goods shipped there. First with some good check and later they would write bad checks. They would then ship to Brooklyn, close up the store overnight and then just completely walk away from it.

Fisher: That’s quite a scandal.

Melanie: Yes. And apparently they were found in a hotel in Chicago under different names and they were wanted by police who were looking for them. He got a little bit of trouble, but doesn’t look like he was imprisoned very long. I think he might have given up the gang because he’s back with his family in 1920. 

Fisher: That fills in a lot of blanks for you. That’s great stuff. So, thanks once again to the WikiTree people, the volunteers all over the world who do these challenges take them on because it really helps to illustrate the power of crowd sourcing in genealogy. And this is not something we could have done fifteen to twenty years ago quite like we can today.

Melanie: Absolutely. Yeah. I’m so thankful just having the power of volunteers wanting to put their minds together because that’s how we really can crack open these brick walls. Getting other pairs of eyes on a different question, looking at different types of resources, looking at different ways of answering the question, and yeah, along the way you actually can chip away and actually bust open some of these brick walls. 

Fisher: Well, the reality is, no matter how good a genealogist you are, you can’t be aware of every possible source at which you can take a look. And some people, maybe even a beginner might know of some source you’re not aware of that can reveal exactly what you’re looking for. 

Melanie: That’s so true. Especially when we think about all the different items we may have at our home, think about all the family bibles, the photographs, even just the family lore. You can’t just put that in a book somewhere and expect to find that. You have to really reach out and try to get in touch with cousins or even potential cousins to try to identify if they have maybe just another piece of the puzzle that will help you look for the next clue. 

Fisher: You know, you really talking about two different versions of crowd sourcing. I think most people when they hear crowd sourcing, oh, it’s all online. It’s done trough Facebook. It’s done through a website maybe that people collectively share information on, which is all great and enormously powerful as the WikiTree Challenge demonstrates. But crowd sourcing just among the people you can track down within recent generations among your first, second, and third cousins can be enormously powerful.

Melanie: Absolutely. I’ve definitely had a lot of luck even with just connecting with some of my Segel cousins. We actually formed a private Facebook group where we just can connect and share stories and photographs and different things. And even if they’re not actively doing genealogy, they know someone else in the family that is connected to what we’re researching so they’re like, “Oh, that’s so and so’s kid, and they had these other children. Or, they’re living over here.” That helped me track down more and more so now we’re adding onto a group that originally started as just me and two of my cousins and now we’re up to like almost 10 people in it now.

Fisher: That’s fantastic. And everybody can kind of divide up responsibilities to search in different areas and see what they can come up with. You know, we’re talking about family Bibles here in the midst of all this. The family archives. To me, that is the hidden resource that’s out there. I mean with all the family bible records that are online. There are many, many, many times that sitting in people’s attics or in closets. Things they never even actually look at and so many people have never even bothered to scan or put online, yet alone to find on a place like Family Search or Ancestry

Melanie: Very true. Which is why it’s always important, especially during a time like this at home more, trying to go through an inventory the different things that you have in your family to make sure that it doesn’t get lost in time. We don’t want these treasures to go out with the estate sale or into the trash without capturing what’s in there first because we never know when that piece of information could be crucial for your own line or maybe someone else researching that family. 

Fisher: Well, it’s funny you mention that. Back several years ago, I found a lady who had a website devoted to one particular branch of this family that I was looking into. And she had listed among the data that she had collected information on this third great grandmother I was looking at. And I didn’t know where it all came from. So, I reached out to her and she said, “Oh, it came from a family bible.” Oh great, well, where did the family Bible come from? And she told me that somebody out there who is connected to the family was cleaning out her house where this great aunt had passed away, and all these folks were there ahead of her and she went to the trash bin and the family Bible was in the trash bin.

Melanie: Oh!

Fisher: And she rescued it.

Melanie: Oh good.

Fisher: And she digitized it and she shared it with this person with the website and as a result of that, I was able to break open this line. There was no other source for the information that was in that Bible.

Melanie: Wow.

Fisher: And it was absolutely invaluable. It went back to the late 1700s. So, I was able now to plug her into her parents and carry those lines back like five-six more generations as a result of that. But I often picture that bible sitting there in that trash bin. How close that came to being thrown out. Somebody was watching out for us, you know?

Melanie: Right. Yes. Sometimes it’s that serendipity. Because you’re right, record keeping, especially in the 1700s and earlier was very spotty. Ministers on a circuit for example, those records are just not consolidated in one place or may not even survive.

Fisher: Sure.

Melanie: The fact that you can find anybody recording at least their own personal family information can be such a great lead. I’m so happy that helped you with your line.

Fisher: Well, there was another story that came out of this that was interesting. Up that same branch of the family I was looking for a marriage record on a couple of my ancestors. Could never find it where they lived in upstate New York, but went to Newspapers.com and found that there was a Putnam County newspaper that in 1886 published the marriage records of this particular minister, circuit minister, a preacher who had been up in that area, and they even made some references from the book about money he noted that he had gotten paid for providing the service, and then went through the whole list. The book no longer exist anywhere that I’ve been able to find, but it was all published in the newspaper seventy years after the marriages. And I found not only my direct ancestors, but their siblings and their marriage information as well. So, it was hugely important. You know, to a great extent, this is what crowd sourcing is right, trying to find those unexpected sources, or just putting your energy together, or your time and dedication and focus to try to solve a problem and answer that ancestral question. 

Melanie: And sometimes it doesn’t even need to be a very hard question to answer or something that takes decades to learn. I had a recent crowd sourcing experience, I want to say a few months ago, when I was trying to determine where my great grandmother Tessie Freundlich was buried. And we knew that interviewing family members that she was in a Jewish cemetery on Long Island, and we had a rough idea of when she died so we had at least a decade or so to search. And it was just a matter of putting it out online. I used Twitter actually to just kind of put it out there, and unexpectedly lots of people just popped in and give some examples of different places. I made a bunch of calls and eventually it was just taking a clue that someone gave me about a particular row of cemeteries all lined up next to each other. I went through each of their sites and they actually had their burial records in a database online. And what do you know, I put in her name and I found her. 

Fisher: Sweet!

Melanie: She was there with her second husband and she also was there with her son, my grandfather.

Fisher: Great find. So, kind of to review all this here, crowd sourcing can be as simple as reaching out to your distant cousins, can be as simple as setting up a Facebook page for a particular branch of your family, or setting up a website that you can kind of stake your flag in there and people find you, as my distant cousin with the bible records did. I mean, it’s a great way to go. You can do it in person. You can do it virtually, but reach out. Find those people and find what they’ve got.

Melanie: Absolutely. It always helps to get a little help from your friends.

Fisher: Thank you so much Melanie for coming on. It’s great to talk to you again and we’ll catch up again soon.

Melanie: You too. Thanks so much for having me.

Fisher: Take care, my friend. It’s Melanie McComb from NEHGS. And coming up next, eBay does it again. We’ll explain when we return in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 3 Episode 397

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Louise Genetti Roach

Fisher: Well, you know, we just got done talking about crowd sourcing with Melanie McComb from NEHGS and we’ve got another guest here who’s been into that recently and it led into a whole new thing involving eBay. Let’s get started talking to Louise Genetti Roach, she’s from New Mexico. Louise welcome to Extreme Genes. It’s great to have you.

Louise: Hi Scott. I’m really thrilled.

Fisher: So, tell me about this crowd sourcing. You have this wonderful Italian heritage and you got going with people overseas and it really has paid off.

Louise: Right. Well, my family goes back for centuries in the same little village in the very northern part of Italy, in the Alps. So, I have a long family history and I started connecting with them around 2011 and making friends over there. I made a visit first and met a few people, met some of my cousins, and then I joined a Facebook group for people who have their roots from the village. So, the village only has about 650 people in it.

Fisher: What’s the village?

Louise: It’s named Castelfondo.

Fisher: Okay.

Louise: It’s in the Val di Non, which is a valley that runs through the mountains of Trentino.

Fisher: Sounds beautiful.

Louise: Oh, it is. It’s one of the most gorgeous places I’ve ever been and it goes right up into the mountains, and you can hike through it. It’s absolutely breathtaking.

Fisher: How far back does your line go now as a result of all your crowd sourcing with these people?

Louise: Well, my tree goes back to the 1400s.

Fisher: Wow!

Louise: And that’s been documented throughout the centuries. There is documentation that goes back 200 years prior to that. The family line actually started in 1265.

Fisher: Whoa! [Laughs]

Louise: And it’s documented in something called the Codex Cleese, which is a public document for the laws and the rules of the land. It is in documents in Innsbruck.

Fisher: So, you’ve got the documentation and how this line provided to you through the Italian government, is that it or did you get this through the family?

Louise: No, through the family. My family never lost touch with their family lines and their heritage. My great grandfather originally came to America in 1877 and he eventually got married, sent for his bride from Castelfondo. She came over, they got married. They had one child who was my grandfather and then they went back. They went back and had a whole sleuth other kids and my great grandfather became the mayor of the village.

Fisher: Oh!

Louise: He was well known over there. And our ancestral home from the 1500s is still there.

Fisher: Incredible.

Louise: And then around 1902/ 1903 around there, he brought the whole family back. So, by 1906 my entire family was here.

Fisher: What I’m amazed at is you were telling me off-air before we started here that they had a goat skin there in the village, tell this story.

Louise: That’s what I’ve been told. I’ve been told that the family tree was actually kept on a goat skin that hung in the family ancestral home and I’m supposing that was probably like a parchment.

Fisher: Sure.

Louise: Some type of a parchment or tanned skin. Every time a generation was born they kept adding to it. Along the way, they transferred this to paper and then eventually one of my cousins over there commissioned an artist and the artist then created an artwork. It stops at my grandfather’s generation. Then it goes back all the way, I believe it’s to my 18th great grandfather. And it has all the branches. I have it hanging right now in front of me.

Fisher: [Laughs] Insane.

Louise: I can actually go to each one and I see all the dates of my male ancestors on this tree and their wives.

Fisher: And then you did a Y-DNA test on one of your male relatives and that proves this line is accurate.

Louise: Yes. Yes, my brother took the Y test. We waited a few years before we had any matches and then we had one match and it was someone that I recognized who lives in Illinois.  So, my branch is from Pennsylvania. And this gentleman, we had the same surname and I was able to trace back immediately looking at our tree that our common male ancestor was born in 1650.

Fisher: Wow! That is an amazing story. And it gets better too because here you are in touch with these people over there. Is it Genetti Facebook group, is that correct?

Louise: No. No. Well, actually I’m related to everybody in the village. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs]

Louise: Just about everybody there is some kind of a distant cousin of mine.

Fisher: Sure.

Louise: The Facebook group that I’m connected with, its Chei da Chastelfon. It’s based on anyone who either was born in Castelfondo or has roots from Castelfondo.

Fisher: What’s so cool is, they made a discovery on eBay that somehow as diligent as you are, you missed. [Laughs]

Louise: Yeah. I have alerts setup and I never saw it. I don’t know how I didn’t see it but it may not have been an alert that I had because I don’t believe it was under Genetti.

Fisher: Um hmm.

Louise: And this was a whole group of photographs and postcards, and cabinet cards that had been kept by someone in the village from the late 1800s. They went online about 2015/ 2916 maybe. I have become friends with a lot of people in the group because we had a lot of common connections.

Fisher: Sure.

Louise: I have third and fourth cousins over there. So, one day I got a private message from Giovanni and he said, “You know, you need to look at this collection I just put online.” He said, “I think some of these people belong to you.” And of course he speaks Italian and the local dialect and I speak English. I only speak a smattering of Italian, so we translate. We have to go through Google translate. [Laughs]

Fisher: Well, sure. That’s the way it works sometimes. I do that with people over in Sweden.

Louise: Yeah, and it works great. So, I got on and he says, you have to look at this card. So, I looked at it and it was a cabinet card and I knew immediately it was my grandfather. I recognized him right away. He was a young man of 21 and he was pictured with his first cousin who is also related to me several times. So, they were both from the village and they were sending a Christmas note back to their aunt.

Fisher: Wow.

Louise: I believe it was dated 1908 if I’m not mistaken.

Fisher: Incredible.

Louise: Yeah. So, then said look at some of the other ones. So, I found about four or five I believe, but the most amazing one was a cabinet card of my second great grandfather. It was dated 1871 on the back. I had no idea. I had only been able to find photographs going back to my great grandparents and on the back of this cabinet card in dialect it actually says, “Uncle Leone, Padre Damiano.” So, it means Uncle Leone, father of Damiano. Damiano was my great grandfather.

Fisher: Wow!

Louise: So, this was my great grandfather’s father. That was like a huge discovery.

Fisher: Yeah, a big gap. [Laughs]

Louise: Yes.

Fisher: So, did you get any of the originals or are they still over in Italy.

Louise: No. I liked it that he had them because Giovanni is a big historian and he worked with another person who’s from his family. He had spent years putting together this huge ethnology of family memories going as far back as when photographs started being taken.

Fisher: So, it’s in the right hands then?

Louise: Oh yeah, yeah. And Giovanni shared these photographs with Dino and then Dino had them all scanned and put into this gorgeous book. So, I’d rather that Giovanni kept them. [Laughs]

Fisher: Sure. No, it makes sense. But I think it’s very impressive that you’ve got the search terms on eBay so that you can get those emails when something comes up. Have you ever found anything there yourself?

Louise: Oh, yeah. A lot of my uncles and great uncles they had businesses in Pennsylvania. So, I found a lot of things from their businesses, promotional material like postcards, and matchbook covers, and every once in a while I’ll find something that actually was in their businesses, like a mug that might have been etched with their name or something like that.

Fisher: Awesome.

Louise: Yeah. Then I have a couple of distant cousins and they are artists, occasionally their work comes up too. So, almost every day one of my search terms will show up in eBay for somebody.

Fisher: For something. Isn’t that amazing?

Louise: Yeah.

Fisher: I still think it’s still one of the most overlooked resources for family history.

Louise: Oh, yeah.

Fisher: Well, it’s been great talking to you Louise. She’s Louise Genetti Roach. She’s in New Mexico. What a great story. Congratulations on all your success through crowd sourcing and on eBay. Amazing!

Louise: Thank you!

Fisher: Take care. And David Allen Lambert is coming up next as we do another round of Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show in three minutes.

Segment 4 Episode 397

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, it is time once again for Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. David is back. And David, before we get to our first question, I've got this great email with a follow up from last week. It’s from Brad Myers in Hornell, New York and he says, "Just listen to your Ask Us Anything segment from the lady looking for her ancestor's circus career. I think it might be fruitful if she could find some early copies of Billboard Magazine. Yeah, Billboard known for their famous top 10 music list. They started out as a trade magazine for the circus industry." I had no idea! And he says, "Maybe it would be worth the call to Billboard or a call to the circus museum at Baraboo, Wisconsin." So, there's a little crowd sourcing right there. So, thank you very much for that, Brad.

David: Well, that's great. You know, our listeners are a great resource as well. And anytime you hear anything that we mention that you want to add something to it, let us know. Thank you, Brad. [Laughs] That was great.

Fisher: Yeah, very helpful. Who knew? All right, so our first question today is from Wayne Connor in Seattle, Washington and he says, "Guys, David in particular." Ah, he's pointing at you, David. He said, "My first great grandfather's diary tells me he sought medical treatment at Mass General Hospital. How far back do medical records go and could they be accessible? I also had a great uncle in an asylum after World War I. Anything there? Thanks, Wayne."

David: Well, I want to admit that you sent this to me earlier, because I had to do a little homework on this one, because I didn't know it off the top of my head. Hospital records in Massachusetts or anywhere in the country can be sort of tricky, because you don't know what their retention schedule is. So that means that they could get rid of the records later. My own birth record that's recorded in the hospital actually doesn't exist anymore.

Fisher: Really?

David: I ordered it over 30 years ago and they have no record that I was born there other than the copy in the town. Yep, they purged all their old record years ago. Now that being said, sometimes Fish, records show up in the darndest of places. In a dumpster in the 1970s, somebody found an 1867 and 1870 Boston City Hospital register, because apparently they threw out all the old records and those were just the two books they forgot to throw away. We have them online. So, doing my homework on the Mass General Hospital, which is the oldest hospital around in Boston and that basically dates back to the time when ether was used for the first time. And there are medical and surgical records of those involved date from 1821 and go to 1903, over 950 volumes.

Fisher: Wow!

David: Now that's pretty amazing, because you got to figure that's 200 years ago when the hospital starts.

Fisher: Right.

David: And I think it’s a tremendous genealogical value. And their archivist and curator named Jeff Mifflin has basically said that if you send him an email, and we can provide this to our listeners, you can get a copy of the records. So, if you have a date from that diary, they will help out a great deal. Now, on the second part of the question, obviously PTSD and World War I, came arm in arm and there may have been somebody in an asylum. That could have been a private asylum, it could be a state asylum or it could even be the early makings of a VA hospital visit.

Fisher: Sure.

David: Now, VA hospital cards are on FamilySearch.org, which is great, because you can scan them and look at them for free. They're alphabetical from A to Z and a couple of World War I and World War II veterans, etc. The private asylums that are still around, where the records are might be a bit of bare to find. But if it’s a state, at least in the commonwealth in Massachusetts, because of HIPPA, you really don't stand a very good chance of getting those records, because of privacy. If you're having to research somebody that's in mental health records. You have to go to a court judge in Massachusetts and assign yourself as a temporary executor of your deceased relative's estate and then from there go to the department of public health and keep your fingers crossed and maybe, just maybe, as long as I always say, you don't mention genealogy and you say family health, good chance you may see the file. And some of the mental health records go back equally as long, like the 1830s for some of the Massachusetts state asylums.

Fisher: All right, thanks for the question, Wayne. And we've got another one coming up when we return on Ask Us Anything in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 397

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, time we got about question number two this week on Extreme Genes with Ask Us Anything with David Allen Lambert from the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. And David, question number two today is from Tina Richland in Aurora, Illinois and she says, "Guys, I'd like to know if you have any advice on how to research my house. It dates back to the 1800s and I'd love to know the history of it. Thanks, Tina."

David: Well, you know Tina, genealogical work and house history kind of go arm in arm.

Fisher: Very much so.

David: We're looking at the same set of records. The census is going to be the first place, because the 1940 and the 1930, even the 1920 census are probably going to give the house number unless it’s really on a railroad. Railroad mail delivery happens right before World War I in most communities and before that, they would just say your house is on Main Street, and then it would be a little difficult to figure it out. But by the 1920 census, you may find a house number. The other thing is that of course you have your deed. Your deed gives a chain of title that goes back from your purchase, from who you purchased it from and then it should say on that deed by conveyance that they purchased this property at this date from this party, and then you just look at that volume and page and go back to the next one. I mean, deed records are pretty centralized and Family Search has a lot of the older ones for different parts of the country. So you may have to go to your local registry of deeds in your county and research this. It shouldn't be too difficult. There are other things we can use to kind of research who lived there. I mean, you may have poll tax records, you may have voter lists. You would have city directories or town directories. I mean, I started when I was a kid, Fish, researching my house, which is also late 19th century, because I was digging old medicine bottles in the back yard. I wanted to figure out who put them there. So, I went to our local historical society and I went through what are called our Poll Tax Books and they went street by street and said who the head of household was. And then after 1920 when ladies got the right to vote, the wife's name is listed as well. Usually gives their age, their occupation and that they resided someplace in the previous year. And that's helpful, because in a lot of cases, the resident doesn’t necessarily mean the person who owns it, but just happens to be the one living there. So you might find a boarder or a renter. You've probably done some of this for some of your family houses. What have you used?

Fisher: Well, I haven't done a whole lot with that. I've really wanted for some time to go back and research the property I grew up on in the backwoods of Connecticut. My question to you Dave, kind of in the similar vein here is, I'm not sure that the street that we were on was there that many decades before I was born. But somebody had to own the property.

David: That's right.

Fisher: So, would the deed then follow the property back and who would be contact for something like that?

David: So it will be the registry. So you may find that, say, if your house is in a sub division that was built in, say the 1940s or '50s, it probably has a larger reference to deeds, so it might say, you know, say 50 acres of land that was part of this big parcel that was probably associated with a real estate development plan that shows the different house slots. So plans that go along with deeds are helpful, because it might show how it was squared out of a particular lot.

Fisher: Sure.

David: Then you research the land. My house, build in 1897, Fish, I've traced the property back to 1733 when there was no house there.

Fisher: Wow!

David: It went from being a farm field to an adjoining farm that was built in the 1850s. Mine was sold off as a lot in 1897 and I traced before his house the property belonged to the farm across the street that was built in 1845 that was part of a farm that was there in the 1730s before that. And there was a larger piece of property of about 150 acres versus my 2 acres that I have now.

Fisher: Unbelievable! So David, thank you so much. And thank you for the question, Tina. And of course if you have a question for Ask Us Anything, you can always email us at [email protected]. David, talk to you next week.

David: Talk to you soon, my friend. Take care.

Fisher: All right and that's our show for this week. Thanks so much for joining us. If you missed any of it, you want to hear it again, it’s easy to do, just go to AppleMedia, iHeart Radio, Spotify, TuneIn Radio or ExtremeGenes.com and catch the podcast. Talk to next week. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!


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

Email me new episodes