Episode 400 - 400th Episode! / Family Docs Found In Chicken House / History Of Genealogy Societies Explored

podcast episode Nov 22, 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 some Thanksgiving thanks for the 400th episode of the show! Fisher then thanks FamilySearch.org for featuring him on the FamilySearch.org blog section. David then shares some stories he picked up on his recent visit to Utah, including a woman with a bizarre tale about Extreme Genes as she listened to it in Florida. In her shower. Then, in Family Histoire News, David talks about some relicts that were recently found in Utah tied to the Chinese workers who played a large role in the construction of the Trans-Continental Railroad. In the east, the Washington Post reports that the Wampanoags are not looking forward to the recognition of the 400th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving. Hear why. Then, the BBC has come up with a great story about the general populace and their likely ties to royalty.

Next, Fisher visits with Wendell Affield, the author of a series of books on his family history called the Chickenhouse Chronicles. They’ve been created with a large assist from 200 years worth of family history records found in his mother’s chicken house in Minnesota! Catch his remarkable story.

The conversation then turns to genealogical societies. Shannon Combs Bennett has been researching the history of these organizations and has learned about the timeline, and attitudes within and toward these groups over the years. She even has a count of how many have existed and still exist in the United States.

David then returns for Ask Us Anything, including a question of foster children’s inheritance rights, and FBI records.

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

Transcript for Episode 400

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 400

Fisher: It was a little over eight years ago that we celebrated episode number one of Extreme Genes and today we celebrate number 400! 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. I can’t believe this is Episode 400. I’m trying to remember who our first guest was back in 2013, but we’re only still here today in 2021 because so many chosen to support the show in so many ways, listening on radio throughout the country and of course in podcast form as well. So, thank you so much for your support over the years! We have some great guests today as usual. First up, is a guy named Wendell Affield and he’s going to be on in about ten minutes or so. He found like 200 years worth of family history, in a chicken house, in his mother’s back yard. And that’s turned into a series of books about his family’s history. You’re going to want to hear all about that. Then, later in the show Shannon Combs-Bennett comes on, out of Northern Virginia. She’s going to talk about the history of genealogical societies and their impact on society as a whole, and some of the different types of societies that you can join as well. She’s a great conversationalist. You’re really going to enjoy hearing from Shannon a little bit later in the show. Hey, don’t forget to sign up for our courses on genetic genealogy or basic genealogy at ExtremeGenes.com, and signup on our Facebook page or ExtremeGenes.com for our Weekly Genie Newsletter. And now, it’s time to head out to Boston, Massachusetts for the incredible David Allen Lambert, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. David, welcome back. It’s great to have you. Our 400th episode! I can’t believe it.

David: I know! I mean, whoever thought that we’d live long enough to see a quarter centenaries of our episodes.

Fisher: [Laughs] Something like that. You’re correct.

David: [Laughs] Yes.

Fisher: And you know, Family Search has gone and featured me in their blog this week too. So, check it out at FamilySearch.org/en/blog. And you’ll find my face right at the top there and they did a really nice job with it. So, thanks so very much for that! And David, you were in Utah recently, speaking at Family Search’s headquarters and you got to meet some great people, folks digging into their past.

David: I did. I did. Congratulations on your blog piece, by the way! The other thing that really blows my mind away is people at dinner that never knew each other that find out they have connections. There was a gal from Massachusetts, at our table and she was talking about her ancestor who fought in the 20th Maine, Little Round Top, with Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain at Gettysburg. Well, the fellow sitting next to her that she didn’t know from the group said, “Well, my ancestor was climbing Little Round Top with the 47th Alabama.” And I got up to the microphone and announced, isn’t it nice that people who were shooting at each other 158 years ago can get along and have dinner with each other now?

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: Another one was a family member connected with the Hatfields and the McCoys. I’m not sure which side they were shooting with but at each other nonetheless. But, the best one was a lady from Florida who after recognizing my voice and said, “Do you do Extreme Genes?” and I said, “I sure do.” And she said, “I listen to you every morning in the shower.”

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: The echo of the high ceilings of her bathroom transmits outside and it was interesting, she says, her husband wonders who the men were that she’s talking to in the shower! [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: Apparently the neighbors can hear it too.

Fisher: Oh, that’s crazy, unbelievable. And that’s not the first time I’ve heard this that people are listening in the shower.

David: Oh yeah, we had somebody who was a swimmer listening to us, jogging.

Fisher: Um hmm, all that.

David: Probably not a good idea to ask people to send photos when they listen to us.

Fisher: No, no, no, no.

David: No, no, no it’s a family show. Well, speaking of Utah, the Smithsonian Magazine ran a great story on some archeology that was done in Utah where Chinese workers who helped build the first Transcontinental Railway in the 19th century remains of a building that housed some of the workers, contained different pieces of porcelain, medicine bottles, tools for writing Chinese characters, in fact, even a 17th century coin that was probably minted in China and kept as a good luck charm.

Fisher: Wow! That’s amazing stuff.

David: Well, you never know what you’re going to dig up when looking for the past.

Fisher: Right.

David: Even if it’s with a shovel. Well, the 400th commemoration of the first Thanksgiving is upon us here in Massachusetts. There’s a great article in the Washington Post by the point of view by the Wampanoag where they still regret 400 plus years later helping the pilgrims.

Fisher: Hmm. Yeah, can’t change the past.

David: That is very true. Well, you know, one of the things that people discover in Salt Lake City and other places when they’re doing their genealogy is that they might have a royal connection. But BBC in their recent article says millions of people don’t know they’re related to royalty. Well, maybe some don’t even care. But I think the idea that you may have an ancestor descent from Edward the first that would probably join hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people when you figure how far back Edward the first lived, 700 plus years ago.

Fisher: Well, it seems to me somebody has determined that the most recent common ancestor of virtually everybody in Europe was born somewhere in the 1400s, pretty recent. Like only 600 years ago. And everybody in Europe descends somewhere from this person. But royal families, I mean they’re huge. And certainly to find descent from a king or a queen is not unusual and most of us have them. I think the question is David, how many of us can find the records that actually make the connections back?

David: Well, that’s very true. Even on the two royal lines that I have, there are so many of these other English lines that I have that go back but we don’t know where. We know who the parents are beyond say the 1600s. So, there’s a lot of potential that may never be realized even with the help of DNA.

Fisher: I remember another one Dave, where they talked about for every British person who was alive in the year 1000, the story is that anybody who still has living descendents today that we all descend from everybody [Laughs] who had children back 1000 years ago in Great Britain. That’s just nuts.

David: That’s pretty amazing. I’m just glad they’re not all on my Christmas card list.

Fisher: Right. Yes.

David: Fun stuff. Well, that’s all the Family Histoire news I have for you today. But I’ll be back for Ask Us Anything in just a few minutes.

Fisher: All right David. Thanks so much. And coming up next, we’re going to talk to a man who has started an entire series of his family history books called the Chickenhouse Chronicles, because he found 200 years worth of his family history in a chicken house. You’re going to want to hear what Wendell Affield has to say when we return with Extreme Genes coming up in three minutes.     

Segment 2 Episode 400

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Wendell Affield

Fisher: Welcome back! It’s America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, and my next guest is a man who has put together a series of books based on his own family background. His name is Wendell Affield. And Wendell, it’s great to have you on the show. The “Chickenhouse Chronicles” and you’ve got a whole series of books and a whole new one coming out here on November 20th called Barbara. Tell me about the Chickenhouse Chronicles and how you got going on this because it’s all the real deal. It’s your real life story. 

Wendell: It’s all based on primary source documents Scott. First of all, my mother struggled with mental illness, borderline personality disorder. In1949 she was homeless in New York with four children, and she put an ad in a single’s newspaper Cupid’s Columns, and a bachelor farmer in Northern Minnesota answered her ad. In late October 1949 we moved from New York City to Nebish, Minnesota, about a 100 miles south of the Canadian border. Fast forward 70 years, in 2010 my mother passed away. And we didn’t know but I ended up being her probate administrator.   

Fisher: Okay.

Wendell: After she died, locked in the chicken house, literally, there was a padlock on it, my sister and I opened it and there was this mountain that first looked like trash and we started digging into it and we discovered it was 200 years of our family history.

Fisher: [Laughs] Wow!

Wendell: Yes. My grandmother had died in 1984. My mother inherited her estate and had it shipped from Seattle, Washington to the farm in northern Minnesota. It was packed away and my mother never looked at it. I think she was afraid to dig into her past because there were packets of letters in plastic bags. Some was really badly damaged. Most of it, probably about 85% was very well preserved. Just for example, there was a little packet of letters, V-mail letters my grandfather wrote while he was in World War II on doing convoy duty on north Atlantic.

Fisher: What treasures.

Wendell: Oh, yes. It truly was. But I had grown up being teased by my two older brothers that I didn’t have a father, that I didn’t know who my father was. And in these documents, I found the first clues to finding my father. My mother would never talk about it. 

Fisher: Um hmm.

Wendell: So, in 2014 my sister Laurel and I, who was an infant when we moved to the farm in 1949, I was two years old, we submitted DNA tests. At that time it was to a lab in Las Cruces, New Mexico. And we got the results back and we learned that we were in fact half siblings. We kind of thought we were full siblings but we weren’t, we were half. We submitted our DNA results to Ancestry.com and the following year, Laurel and I drove down to Illinois and got DNA samples from the two oldest brothers and submitted those. And we learned that they in fact were full brothers. So in effect, there were three fathers involved in the four children.

Fisher: Okay.

Wendell: And Laurel and I did not know who our fathers were. And in 2017, Laurel received a phone call from a man named David in Cincinnati, Ohio, and he said we have a very close match. Laurel was so excited because she had gone her whole life not knowing who her father was too. I said, “Pack your bags. Cincinnati is not that far out of my way.” So, we drove down there from northern Minnesota and I left Laurel there. I went down to Chattanooga, did my business and came back and spent a couple of days. And I met David, the man who made the connections. And Laurel and I started calling him a wizard because he was just so amazing.  

Fisher: [Laughs]

Wendell: But he’s a very humble person. He says, “I’m only a geneticist in the same way a guy who fixes his own car in his driveway like a mechanic.”

Fisher: [Laughs] That’s like most of us. Yeah.

Wendell: Yeah, like most of us. Well, David’s a master mechanic if that’s the case. So, when David learned that I didn’t know who my father was, he dug into it. We stayed in touch and emailed back and forth. And in April of 2019, David sent me an email message and it says, “Boom! Guy Grignon was your father.” He sent me a lot of graphs and charts and on my monitor screen I’m looking at a fan chart that goes back seven generations. 

Fisher: Oh my gosh! What a gift.

Wendell: Oh my gosh, it’s just incredible. The summer of 2019, Laurel and I packed our bags and we drove to Cincinnati, we picked David up, and the three of us went out to New York and met the Grignon family. It was just such an amazing, amazing week.

Fisher: And so this is the foundation of the Chickenhouse Chronicles, all these documents and the adventures that that chicken house led to. 

Wendell: Very much so. And my Barbara book takes my mother through the 1930s and 1940s. Her struggle with homelessness, with broken relationships, and her greatest fear was fear of abandonment. And you know, the dysfunction that we grew up with, that was our normal. When you grow up with someone that is mentally ill, it’s…you know, you just try to keep your distance from them and try to just survive I guess would be the best word.

Fisher: It sounds like you had a real tough time with that. And according to the information on the Chronicles, your step-father was rather abusive too.

Wendell: You know, he was a very mild mannered person. The symptom of borderline personality disorder is self-injury behavior. And Barbara would torment Herman until he would just become enraged and he’d take his belt off and start just belting her. And us little kids would just through the ‘50s we were witness to that. In 1960 she was committed to Fergus Falls State Hospital for the mentally ill, and we nine children ended up in foster homes. Those chicken house documents were such a treasure to me. It opened the doors.

Fisher: You mentioned that you got about 200 years worth of family history in there. What else was among the documents you found in that chicken house?

Wendell: Well, I found a letter written in 1822 from John Armstead to his children. Armstead had marched with George Washington in the Hudson River campaigns. One of the things I found was my mother’s divorce papers from her first husband. There were so many dead-ends in my research, on a really long shot I contact Third Judicial Court in Las Cruces, New Mexico were the divorce was granted and I incredibly received back 42 pages of information, two depositions, and oh my gosh, that filled in a part of 1940s that I never would have learned. Part of that deposition, my mother had a psychiatric interview in 1947. And that psychiatrist out in New York owned that she had a personality disorder.

Fisher: So, with these documents now, you’ve created this entire series. Do they go from different time periods or from different individuals, how did you set it up?

Wendell: I had so much information, thousands and thousands of documents. I struggled with finding a door into the story. And I finally came to the conclusion that since my step-father made first contact with Barbara through this Lonely Hearts Club newspaper. I had to start out with Herman. And so I interviewed a few people that were surviving, one of them being his 102 year old sister, Alfreda, who was just a really sharp lady. So, Herman was my first book. It’s kind of an overview of a German homesteader. He was first-generation American okay because his parents came over from Germany. After he married Barbara and had his family. I thought, how do I step into this? Well, up in the attic of the old farm house, I found five singles catalogs. It was a precursor of eharmony.com and what dating sites are.

Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs] Sure.

Wendell: They’re actually on my website, and there’s hundreds and hundreds of womens’ names with their advertisements. In one of these, I found my mother’s ad. The name of the newspaper was Cupid’s Columns. And like I said, I realized that’s where the story had to start. 

Fisher: Right.

Wendell: So, I wrote my Herman book. And then the second one I wrote, I had to make sense of my childhood. I started working on what ended up being titled Pawns, and it’s the farm in Nebish, Minnesota 1950s. And it explores the dysfunction we grew up with. Lots of first-person accounts from a child’s point of view. One of the things I might mention real quick. One of the greatest resources for researchers is negatives. When Barbara passed away, some of my siblings took all the photo albums out of the house but they left bags and bags and bags of negatives. And I went and bought a light box and a magnifying glass that stands up on the light box so I can explore like 12 strips of negatives at a time. And it was incredible the pictures that I discovered. When you think about photo albums, the person that creates that album always puts in the picture that presents them in the best light. 

Fisher: That’s right. [Laughs]

Wendell: The true story is in the negatives. And quite a few of the pictures in all my books came from those negatives that I had reconstructed and developed.

Fisher: My guest is Wendell Affield. He’s from Minnesota and his next book in this series the Chickenhouse Chronicles is called Barabar. It’s coming out November 20th. You can get it at Barnes and Nobel, you can get it on Amazon, where else Wendell?

Wendell: Well, you can get it on my website wendellaffield.com. For libraries and what not, you can get it through IngramSpark. Yeah, it’s out there to be had and it’s available in Kindle.

Fisher: Thank you so much for your time Wendell. Really fascinating thing. I mean, a chicken house full of documents, who would have ever imagined? Great stuff.  

Wendell: Who would have thought?

Fisher: Great stuff and good luck with your book.

Wendell: Thank you Scott. Take care.

Fisher: And on the way next, researcher, blogger, genealogist Shannon Combs-Bennett talking about lineage societies. How far back do they go? How many of them are there? What have they done to change society? She’s got a load of material to share with us on that coming up in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 3 Episode 400

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Shannon Combs-Bennett

Fisher: All right, back at it on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, and I’m very excited to talk to my next guest Shannon Combs-Bennett. She is a researcher out of Northern Virginia. Researcher really doesn’t cover it. She’s a genetic genealogist. She’s a blogger. She’s a researcher. She’s studying for her doctorate in family history work. Shannon, it’s great to have you on the show.

Shannon: Hi, thanks for having me.

Fisher: You’ve been doing a little study here lately that I found quite fascinating, on the history of genealogical societies and their impact on society, and what people join them for. Let’s dig into this a little bit because I’m sure there are a lot of people who have considered joining societies and may want to look at these. And also, many of us who are in societies, like I’m in the Mayflower Society, the SAR, and I would imagine you are in a couple yourself.

Shannon: Yeah, I am actually. I am a member of not only the DAR but also the Mayflower Society and 1812, and there’s more I could join, but I’m kind of busy. [Laughs]

Fisher: Oh. [Laughs] There are so many you could join, the witches descendants, the royalty thing. I mean, the number of societies and many of them don’t even have meetings. It’s just like, pay a fee and get a card or a certificate or something, and that’s good.

Shannon: Yeah.

Fisher: I mean there’s a real wide range of things that these groups do.

Shannon: Yeah, there is. One of the best places there is, there’s a lineage society database out there. They have a listing of these societies. If they send in their information, they’ll put them up on their website. Not all of them are still active out there. I took that as a basis and started doing my own spreadsheet and I am just under 500 lineage or heritage organizations in the United States.

Fisher: Really?

Shannon: That’s not counting the international ones because there are groups like this overseas as well. So, if you have an ancestor who did something there’s probably a society that will cater to that. We have ones that do bartenders, lawyers, clerks, farmers, teachers, and Rosie the Riveter society. So, if your mother, grandmother, great grandmother, was a Rosie the Riveter, you can apply with a very reasonable onetime fee and become a member of Rosie the Riveter Society. If you can think if it there’s a group out there and there’s several that have started. So, it’s not just like it’s something that was done a long time ago, they’re constantly being created even to today.

Fisher: They come and they go, right?

Shannon: Yes.

Fisher: You mentioned the ones that have disappeared but I remember the farmers one just came along here fairly recently in the last few years and it’s grown to remarkable size.

Shannon: Yeah, it did. I think most people in the Unites States have at least one farmer in their family, I think. [Laughs]

Fisher: Yeah, right. Yes, which really opens it up and that’s a great way for people to learn about farming and what it what it was like back in the agrarian days of the country. You’ve done a lot of the research on this though through newspapers. What have you learned there?

Shannon: I did. So, my supervisor, I go to the University of Strathclyde, it’s a Scottish University. And while my lead supervisor is familiar and has done work in the United States, and his doctorate it actually on a US topic, there were some things he just didn’t quite as a historian understand about genealogy. So, one of the tasks he sent me so that I could have some information to explain to people was, when did these start? How did they evolve? Try to find primary documentation, and of course this was last fall, we’re in the middle of Covid. So, I’m like, good thing I have some newspaper databases. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs] Yeah.

Shannon: Because that’s about all I have. And I discovered some very interesting information because I had to start limiting it to specific topics because putting genealogy or genealogist into those databases you get information, some of it back to the 1700s. And you get information on the database you’re searching, all the way up to this recent year. There was actually an article about the DAR in a newspaper last week. So they’re still coming out.

Fisher: Yeah, absolutely. Well, when did these societies actually begin in the Unites States, did you find out?

Shannon: Yeah, so the first lineage, heritage society in the United States is, it’s still around, is the Society of Cincinnati.

Fisher: Yep.

Shannon: And that was formed with officers who fought in the United States Revolution, and George Washington was actually the first president of the organization. That is not to say that he felt okay with it. There are things that I’ve read, including in newspapers of the day and slightly afterwards, that state he was even uncomfortable with the idea because he was afraid that we were creating a new aristocracy with this type of lineage society.

Fisher: Well, there was a resistance to genealogy back in those times, right, at the beginning of the country? Because of what had happened in England with these long running families of importance.

Shannon: You’re right. There are lots of documents in newspapers, articles, opinion pieces, editorials. And as today, people in our country were not afraid back then to speak their mind. [Laughs]

Fisher: Right.

Shannon: And while there were people who were for it, especially, the antiquarians, historians, people who enjoyed research. I mean, NEHGS was founded in the 1840s. So, at least back that long we’ve had those types of libraries, but there was a real fear that we had just fought a war and now we have people trying to divide themselves up from us and basically try to set themselves a head taller than some people.

Fisher: Right.

Shannon: Now, whether that’s justified or not it was in the newspaper, it’s an opinion piece, people have opinions, we all have one.

Fisher: Yeah.

Shannon: But, what I found interesting is how pervasive that thought was and heaps coming up all through the 1800s and then the early 20th century.

Fisher: Right and I would imagine DAR was probably head and shoulders above all the others in terms of criticism, yes?

Shannon: Um, well, what’s fascinating about it and as a DAR member, that part really fascinates me because there are some people who find that they have these stereotypical images and thoughts in their heads. And I learned that some of them go back to the 1890s when they first started. So, some of these derogatory comments about conservatism and those types of things and how the DAR is this or that, really go back to its founding, which is interesting seeing that some of the first women in that organization were people like Susan B. Anthony, and suffragists, and really liberal, radical, out there in your face, I am picketing the White House women. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs]

Shannon: And then there is right after World War I, a huge shift in almost all women’s lineage organizations in the United States. And they started information about campaigns, that’s when they really started getting involved. We don’t do it anymore. The DAR is a non-political organization.

Fisher: Sure.

Shannon: We would like to keep our not for profit status as anybody else would like to keep their not for profit status. But, in the 1920s when that wasn’t there, [Laughs] there were lash outs and in the newspaper you see these fights between factions of lineage societies fighting each other.

Fisher: Oh, wow.

Shannon: In the newspapers, people being blackballed from joining organizations and being kicked out of organizations because in that day and age with the red scares they were seen as being too liberal.

Fisher: Oh, okay.

Shannon: And then of course the DAR can never get away from the Marian Anderson incident, which you know, she did go back and sing there several times at Constitution Hall.

Fisher: Right.

Shannon: And the DAR actually participated in the Marian Anderson show that came out last year on PBS, helped give them documents and records and all sorts of things.

Fisher: It’s hard to run from your history and the perception and that’s the challenges.

Shannon: Right!

Fisher: I wish we had more time to talk about this. This is a fascinating topic.

Shannon: Oh, I’m sorry!

Fisher: No! It’s great. I hope you’ll come back again sometime Shannon, love talking to you. I know you’ve got a wealth of things to chat about and we will get you back sometime next year, all right?

Shannon: That sounds great.

Fisher: Thanks so much! It’s been great having you. And coming up next, David Allen Lambert returns for another round of Ask Us Anything, on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 4 Episode 400

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, 400th episode in progress and it’s time once again for Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, David Allen Lambert over there. And David, our first question comes from Rockland, New York, Jillian Treat, she writes, "Fish and Dave, I had some family that lost their parents young and were taken in by other families. Would these kids as foster children have had any legal rights to the foster estate? Thanks, Jillian." Well, actually, no, but I mean, at the same time, I don't think that any kid has a legal right to an estate if the family doesn't leave it to them, unless it just passes onto them normally, right?

David: Well, right. I mean, how many wills have you looked at that have codicils and changes that they may have left something to a son or daughter, but changed their mind or they received their portion in life and didn't get a penny.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: In the will.

Fisher: That happens, too. But you can also have a foster child or even somebody with no ties to the family that they're fond of that receives something in a will as well. So, yeah, you want to check that out. But I want to bring this up, because I had this kind of thing happen with me recently, too in some research. We had a family of three kids that lost their parents in 1870, and I started looking at who brought them in, as I kind of wrote a little thing up on the history of that family, and I learned that this one son was taken in by this family in Indiana in 1880, and then I was going back to the mother's side of the family in Butler County, Ohio and I found that same foster couple in Butler County, Ohio! So I thought, what's going on there? So, I researched it and found out that the wife was a White, just the same name as the family we were looking at. I can only conclude she had to be another unknown sister of my wife's second great grandmother.

David: That's a great discovery.

Fisher: Yeah, it was an interesting find. And who knew that there was that sibling, because as you know, Dave, in the 19th century, there are not a lot of documents that always name the parents. So, that was a great find. And then there was another case where I saw a person who took care of my wife's second great grandmother when her parents died. Turns out that he was the brother in law of the older sister of the man the second great grandmother ultimately married. So we kind of figured out, oh, well that's how they met. That's how they made things happen. So, you know, there are a lot of things these foster parents can tell you if you research who they are, find out the maiden names and see if there's a family connection, because there often is and sometimes its hidden.

David: Um hmm, and DNA is also a way of determining if your foster family is your real family.

Fisher: Yeah, that's an interesting way to look at it, too. I would imagine you would stumble across maybe some matches that come up with a name for the foster folks and you go, "Wait a minute! What's going on there?"

David: [Laughs]

Fisher: You know, because sometimes maybe you find out there's a biological parent in that coupling that you might not have recognized otherwise.

David: And hats off to all the foster parents of maybe millions of children over the years.

Fisher: Oh yeah, they've done some great work and give them hope and give them an upbringing with a family and stability and that type of thing, and thankfully, we don't have nearly as many today as we did back then, because parents don't die as young as they did back in the day. But it’s fascinating when you study these things and then see what happened in their lives. And this one fellow I was just researching that had that family where it connected into his mother's side. Turned out he was an entertaining singer and piano player and he was also a dog trainer, who knew! [Laughs]

David: [Laughs] Well, that's an interesting life, for sure.

Fisher: Yeah. And sometimes these lines die out, so you're really the last person left who can even leave a memorial of them and what they did in their life. So, it’s been really interesting to find some of these folks. Get a picture, get a story of two and post it up there where somebody else can find it somewhere down the line. So, hopefully that answers your question, maybe a little more than you were looking for, Jillian. Good luck in your research. And coming up next, we'll have another question, talking about ancestors, jails and the FBI, when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 400

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, time for another question on Ask Us Anything on our 400th episode of Extreme Genes. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth. David Allen Lambert over there in Boston, Massachusetts. And David, this email says, "Hello, Guys. I love on your show when you talk about ancestors who went to jail." Really?

David: Ooh.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: I can relate.

Fisher: They go on and say, "I had an uncle I suspect lived on the run and was in the sights of the FBI. Any way to check this out? Lynn Paige. Austin, Texas."

David: Ooh, yeah, I’ve kind of had that suspicion myself on some of my family members back long ago. Grandpa was in the jails, bootlegger, but this database on Ancestry.com may help you. It doesn't help me, but FBI deceased criminal identification files, 1971 to 1994. And this collection from the National Archives is part of the Collection of Deceased Criminal Identifications that you may find your relative in.

Fisher: So David, is this then a period of time in which those people died or during which they were under investigation?

David: That's a good question, because it doesn't really denote whether or not it is for people under investigation for that time, but they had to have died during that time. So, they may have had some run in with the law back in the '50s maybe, and had still spent a little prison time and probably had an active file, but died between 1971 and '94. And you can find some interesting stuff, including their name, birth place and birth date, their gender, their race, their date of death and eye color, hair color, height and weight. So, if you ever wondered how heavy your uncle really was, and was his natural hair color brown, well, this will tell you.

Fisher: Well, and I'm thinking of course there are also going to say what they were investigating them for, which would be really interesting. I really do wonder how far back that goes. I've got to check this out, because I think my grandfather got interviewed for having communist sympathies back in the 1930s or something, so I've got to learn about that.

David: The actual record group is record group 65 at the National Archives under the Collection of Records of the Federal Bureau of Investigation 1896 to 2008. So, this is just a fraction of the collections that probably do exist. And, do you know, you can request your own FBI file. You can go to a website called FOIAMapper.com and then they have a section, How to request your FBI file. It’s a real easy process.

Fisher: Your own?

David: Yes, your own, because you know that the FBI fills out on a daily basis 1000s upon 1000s of new files. Yeah, so, hey, you just thought your grandfather was interesting, maybe you're as interesting to the FBI as your grandfather was.

Fisher: Hmmm.

David: Fill out and sign the Certification of Identity Form and then type an email saying that you're interested in all your records and any records that concern any of your activities. So, I mean, if you're not in trouble with the FBI, but let's incriminate yourself and throw out why you might be a future interest to the FBI, so they might create a file for you just there and then.

Fisher: [Laughs] Man!

David: State the maximum amount of money you're willing to pay, not to not be in an FBI file, but to actually get it. So maybe, you know, $20-$25. And incidentally, the first 100 pages are free, so it shouldn't cost you much of anything, unless you really have a lot of interest to the FBI. And you can send an email to FOIPA, for Freedom of Information Privacy Act, [email protected] and when you get an email back from the FBI, don't be worried. Remember, you wrote to them.

Fisher: That's right, that's right, I have to remember that always. David, great answer. Thanks so much. And Lynn, great question. Thank you very much. And if you have a question for Ask Us Anything, you can always email us strangely enough at [email protected]. David, thanks so much. Talk to you next week.

David: All right, we'll talk to you then.

Fisher: All right, buddy. Well, that is our show for this week, our 400th episode and I just can't thank everybody enough for all the support through all the years as we just keep this thing going. Thanks to our guests, Shannon Combs-Bennett and Wendell Affield. If you missed any of the show, of course you can catch it on podcast, on iHeart Radio, Apple Media, Spotify, TuneIn Radio, we're all over the place. Talk to you again next week. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!

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