Episode 401 - Nathan Dylan Goodwin On His Latest Genie Crime Thriller / Crista Cowan On Ancestry

podcast episode Nov 29, 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 the show with a shout out to Friend Of The Show, DNA Super Sleuth, CeCe Moore, who recently was featured in the New Yorker! David then talks about the upcoming release of England’s 1921 Census. FindMyPast will have it. Hear why this release is so special. Then, a Louisiana woman has set the world record for the 100 yard dash… for a 105-year-old! Find out more. DNA has finally resolved the identity of an unidentified hitchhiker killed in a car crash in Alabama in 1961. Catch this remarkable story. Then, in Italy, mummified children from the 16th to early 20th centuries are being studied. David will explain this bizarre story.

Then, Fisher visits with Nathan Dylan Goodwin, author of a series of genealogical crime mysteries. Nathan has a new book out called The Foundlings. He teases us with the plot and explains how he began this unique career and how he puts these stories together.

Crista Cowan from sponsor Ancestry.com then drops in to talk about all kinds of things happening there, including the completion of the indexing of Virginia probate records, BIG news for Mexico research, as well as DNA test kits!

David returns for a couple of segments as he and Fisher tackle a pair of questions on Ask Us Anything. One concerns the care of a 19th century document, and the other some confusion from an entry in the 1900 census.

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

Transcript for Episode 401

Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 401

Fisher: And welcome America, to America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher at this end, your Radio Roots Sleuth, on the program where we shake your family tree, and watch the nuts fall out. Greetings! It’s great to have you along and we’ve got another couple of great guests today. It’s been a while since we’ve had Nathan Dylan Goodwin on the show. Nathan lives across the pond in England. He is a writer of genealogical crime novels. He is an amazing author. He’s got a new one out. It’s called “The Foundlings.” We’re going to go through the entire story line with Nathan to find out how he creates these books. He refers to actual documents as he puts these together. It’s a pretty fascinating thing. And then later in the show Crista Cowan is back. Our friend from our sponsors over at Ancestry.com for a monthly visit talking about some things you need to know about what’s happening at Ancestry.com. Hey, you can still signup for our Weekly Genie Newsletter on our website ExtremeGenes.com. It’s all been reworked by the way. If you haven’t checked it out lately, you need to do that. And while you’re there also, you can sign up for courses in basic genealogy. They’re video courses. And genetic genealogy, learn how to use those matches to break through your brick walls and confirm your research. Make sure everything is the way it’s supposed to be. Right now it’s time to head out to Boston, Massachusetts where David Allen Lambert is standing by our Chief Genealogist at the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org.  Hello David.

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

Fisher: Just fine and dandy. We’ve got to send out a shout-out to our friend CeCe Moore - got a little write-up in The New Yorker magazine here recently, so check that out.

David: Well, you know, Family Histoire news is going to start across the pond. In January the 6th 2022, FindMyPast.co.uk will be releasing, drum roll please, a 1921 census. 

Fisher: Ooh!

David: That is great because that has a snapshot of over 38 million individuals in England and Wales. But the hard part about this one to swallow is, you’re going to have to wait till 1951 just past 100 years to see the next available census.

Fisher: Yeah. We’ve got 30 more years because of that 100 year rule they have over there. So, enjoy the 1921. It’s going to have to last you a long time. The nice thing about this too Dave is, it’s a little preview for the 1950 census that is coming out in the United States here in April, being released by the National Archives. And of course, our friends over at Family Search are going to have it and we’re going to actually talk to Jim Erickson from Family Search about the 1950 census release coming up next week. So, be sure you’re around for that. We’re going to hear a lot about censuses I suspect in the first quarter of 2022.

David: We definitely are. In fact, an interesting side bar on the British 1921, the reason you have to wait for 30 more years is because they did not keep one in 1941 because of the war and the 1931 census was destroyed during the bombing of London.   

Fisher: Right. So, the one you’re going to have to cover that time period is 1939, which was basically to see who was where as they went into the war. But that’s going to have to cover that time period and that’s already out. So, you’ve got another 30 years till the new census comes out across the pond.

David: Well, my family is long since gone by that point in time but I’m hoping to find my great, great grandfather who would be 74 in 1921.

Fisher: Nice.

David: Speaking of people that are alive in 1921, the next story is from Baton Rouge, Louisiana where we have Julia Hawkins, who is known as “Hurricane” Hawkins because she’s 105 and one of the oldest, fastest people in the world. She ran the 100 meter in one minute and 2.95 seconds in this recent race. And there’s a great video of her. And Hurricane, I hope she has many more races. But again, if you want to find her in the census, you’ve got to look at the first one she’s on as a preschooler in 1920.

Fisher: And that David is a world record for a 105 year old.

David: It really is.

Fisher: I don’t think every lane was filled for that race, if you know what I’m saying. [Laughs]

David: Well, Usain Bolt set the record of 100 meter at 9.58 seconds. But of course, let’s see how fast he is when he’s 105.

Fisher: Exactly.

David: Our next story is from down south in a small town called Centreville, Alabama. In 1961 there was a car crash that killed a hitchhiking teenager. Now, for the past 60 years Fish, the grave has remained without a name. Until recently when his body was removed from the grave and they extracted DNA. They now know that this teenager, a 15 year old, who was a runaway from Tennessee, is Daniel Danny Armantrout. He had run away from his Tennessee home and now we know who he is after all these years. 

Fisher: Wow. Great closure for the family. But imagine that, 60 years later exhuming the body, getting DNA, and now they know who he is and the family knows what happened to him. 

David: This is the oldest case from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that’s ever been used for genetic genealogy and DNA. So, hopefully this will put some closure for his family.

Fisher: Hopefully it’s going to lead to a lot more kids being discovered in this manner. 

David: The next story I have is from Palermo, Italy and it’s not for the faint of heart because this is the Capuchin Catacombs. There are over 1200 mummified and skeletonized bodies in this catacomb, and they date from the late 16th century to the early 20th century. Now, children were allowed to be buried in the catacomb starting in 1787 but they’ve mostly been overlooked over the years. But now they’re going to be spending 70,000 pounds for a two year project. And this is with the University of Staffordshire, and basically, they’re going to x-ray all of the remains of the children from the 19th century. There are approximately 41 mummified children, and they’ll be taking these x-rays to determine their age, their sex, and identify any pathological or traumatic lesions that caused their death. I’m thinking that there’s also possibility of DNA.   

Fisher: Oh yeah.

David: To maybe figure who they are. And maybe they’re considering that. I mean, there’s a lot of non-invasive ways to extract that. So, here’s to more science helping identify children from both 1961 and some from 1861 and before.

Fisher: Absolutely Dave. Great story!

David: Well, that’s all I have from Beantown for you this week Fish. And don’t forget, if our listeners are not a member of American Ancestors, they can save $20 on membership by using the coupon code EXTREME on our new website of AmericanAncestors.org just recently updated.

Fisher: All right David. Thank you so much. We’ll talk to you at the backend of the show as we get into Ask Us Anything once again. And coming up next from England, its Nathan Dylan Goodwin.  The author of a brand new genealogical crime thriller called “The Foundlings” when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 401

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Nathan Dylan Goodwin

Fisher: And welcome back to America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth and it’s time to go across the pond to talk to our good friend Nathan Dylan Goodwin. He is the author of a series of genealogical crime books and his latest one is out, it’s called “The Foundlings.” Welcome back to the show Nathan. I’m really excited to dig into this.

Nathan: Hello. Yes, great to be back. Always a pleasure.

Fisher: Well, you know, your last book was on The Chester Creek Murders and it was your first effort some new characters in the United States, and it was fabulous! And now you’re going back to the Morton Farrier series. How many books have you done on him so far?

Nathan: [Laughs] So, this is book nine in the series. Then there’s also then The Asylum, which is a short prequel to the series, so yes, it’s actually the 10th story but it’s officially book nine. 

Fisher: So, for people who aren’t familiar with Nathan, you are like one of the few authors in the world that does books based on genealogical work to try to solve crimes. And some of them go way back in time, but they always have some kind of influence on what’s going on right now, so they’re really quite dramatic. When did you start doing this Nathan?

Nathan: [Laughs] So, I started actually when I was doing my masters in creative writing, which is way back in 2007 – 2009. And I started to write this story just as part of my course, which was basically what would become the first book in the past. I totally didn’t intend for it to be anything that would be published, never mind a series that would run for so many books. So, I started there and my classmates were really supportive of it and they were like, “Yes, it’s really good. Keep writing.” And so I did. And by the end of the two year course I’d got something vaguely resembling a first draft. But I put it to one side and didn’t do anything more with it. And then actually, I think it was about 2012, something like that, I read another author, Steve Robinson who also writes in this genre, and I thought, oh wow, there’s a market for these books. Someone else has done something similar. So, I dug it out, and did lots of editing and polishing and published Hiding the Past the first book.

Fisher: And now here you are. You’re kind of the guy for this genre at this point.

Nathan: Yeah. There are actually a few. There’s about five of us now. We actually, along with three of the other authors, have started up a Facebook genealogical crime mystery book club.

Fisher: Really?

Nathan: Yeah. So, if you like my books then go along to that Facebook group and you’ll see other authors doing very similar things. It’s a small niche, but it’s growing.

Fisher: Um hmm. Do they also follow the same characters in different circumstances, or do they create new ones each time?

Nathan: So, it’s pretty similar, these other four people, the main ones, there’s Steve Robinson, Wendy Percival, M. J. Lee, and Steve Harmon. Basically, they’ve got one character who has to solve a crime in the past using genealogy. They’re all kind of slightly different. Some of them don’t have a past narrative. Mine is partly set in the modern day with Morton as the main character trying to solve the crime, and then part of the book is set in the past. And so some of them do that and some of them just have all in the present day, there’s no past flashback. But yeah, if you like them take a look at that group and you’ll find other authors as well.

Fisher: Well, what I really love about your books, first of all, as a genealogist I like to go back to the past. [Laughs]

Nathan: Yes. [Laughs]

Fisher: And I love the way you find a way to tie it to the present. I look at it and I’m thinking, “Boy, that’s just really clever.” Obviously, you have to be thinking about this stuff constantly of how this is going to tie into that and that into this.

Nathan: Yes. [Laughs]

Fisher: But the one thing about it is, if you ever want to learn about how genealogy works in the practical modern world for crime, for just finding living people, for solving mysteries of the past, read Nathan Dylan Goodwin’s books.

Nathan: [Laughs]

Fisher: Because first of all, you’ll be entertained, you’ll be enthralled, and then you’re going to learn exactly what the process is because everything you put in these books is absolutely correct and the way it works, and you even quote actual records.

Nathan: Yes. Yeah, I do my best. I know my main readership are genealogists so I know I’ve got to do it right or I know I’ll be told off, “That’s not how that’s done.” So no, I do really try to keep up-to-date with the world of genealogy, use real websites, real documents, real archives, and all I do really is I fictionalize the content of those archives you know. So, if someone takes a document out, it will be really how you do access that document whether it’s online or Ancestry, whether you have to go into a library, or whatever. And that’s all real. The actual process and documents, So, yeah, I’ve got to make sure I stay up-to-date. 

Fisher: [Laughs] Well, when last we saw Morton Ferrier, he’d found a half aunt that he didn’t know about.

Nathan: Yes.

Fisher: And so you skipped over then The Chester Creek Murders for a while and now you’re back with Morton. Fill us in on the gist of this new book, The Foundlings.

Nathan: Yeah. So, basically, it picks up on some of the loose threads that I left deliberately dangling at the end of The Sterling Affair, which was Morton book eight. Basically set soon after that one ended, so December 2019 so luckily pre-Covid.

Fisher: Yep.

Nathan: The case on this book is to find who his half aunt’s birth mother is. In The Sterling Affair, the reader learned that the half aunt has two half sisters as well so all three women share the same birth mother and they don’t know who she was. She basically had these three children and then a few days after birth she left them in doorways, abandoned them. So, hence the title, “The Foundlings.”

Fisher: Yeah.

Nathan: And so Morton’s case basically is to try and work out, first of all using just DNA because he’s got no other evidence so he uses their DNA to look at who they match with.                                                                                                                                                        

Fisher: Sure.

Nathan: And once he’s identified who she is and then tries to build up a profile of her life and what happened to her, is she still alive, you know that kind of thing to tell his half aunt and her two half sisters about their birth mother. That’s the gist of the case.

Fisher: Sure. So, this goes back obviously what he shares with this half aunt is a grandfather.

Nathan: Yes.

Fisher: And if I recall, there was something about the grandfather killing somebody that he discovered through his research in the previous book.

Nathan: Yes. So, he looked up to his grandfather.  He was very shocked and surprised in The Sterling Affair to find Venator. The Chester Creek Murder company basically solved this case where his grandfather, Morton’s grandfather traveled to Reno in America. And whilst he was in America for work purposes, he basically killed this prostitute. And so Morton found this out in book eight in The Sterling Affair, and so that has also got links to The Foundlings, this current book, so he’s kind of working on that and kind of trying to figure things out because he looked up to his grandfather and couldn’t quite believe that he would be capable of this. I can’t give too much away.

Fisher: Right.

Nathan: But that also plays a part in this story in his investigation. It’s linked, shall we say.

Fisher: Sure. You know, the thing is for any genealogist, none of what you’re describing here sounds outside of the realm of reality.

Nathan: [Laughs]

Fisher: I mean, these things happen now all the time, right?

Nathan: Yeah.

Fisher: We find half aunts that were fathered by a grandfather we had no idea. And they have had sisters who were abandoned on a doorstep some place. And we do find links between ancestors and crime, and things that can or can’t be proven, and so, all of this has this very comfortable familiar feeling when you’re a genealogist reading this genealogical crime mystery. You kind of get to certain points and you say okay, I’m looking at this record, yep, that’s exactly where you go, yep, you got to check that DNA, yep you got to go.   

Nathan: [Laughs]

Fisher: I mean, it’s a great teaching tool at the same time as very entertaining. And you’re right, I mean as a genealogist I’m checking your boxes here Nathan to make sure you got it right.

Nathan: [Laughs]

Fisher: I’ve never seen you get it wrong. I’ve never seen it off at all.

Nathan: That’s good to hear. Actually, I get told quite often by people it’s finally explained in a kind of digestible way and in a real way. And people that’s been on courses to learn DNA, they’ve kind of said that this was much simpler to understand and much more helpful, and I can now apply this to my own family tree.

Fisher: Yeah.

Nathan: So, it’s always good to hear.

Fisher: Well, it’s because you can see the applications in each case, right?

Nathan: Yes.

Fisher: I mean, it’s like learning to drive a car. You know, when I put together a course myself, it’s like okay, well, I’ve got to explain where I go when I run into this, and what I do when I go there, you know, it’s like learning to drive a car. You don’t think about it anymore.

Nathan: You just do it.

Fisher: Yeah, and the same thing for you in this book. You know exactly where you need to go next and what you would do to resolve a certain problem. And so that’s kind of the challenge that anybody faces when they’re trying to teach or help somebody to understand. The concept is you’ve got to just get them to where it’s just kind of automatic, oh, well, here’s where you go, here’s what you do. 

Nathan: Yes.

Fisher: And this book is really, really good for that. How many more Morton Ferrier books are in you?

Nathan: [Laughs] Well, funnily enough actually, I’ve obviously started on Venator 2 next, which is the follow-up to Chester Creek. That’s what I’m writing now. But yesterday for example, I had some notes and ideas for Morton 10 and I put them in my writing file, and suddenly I’ve written the first thousand words to Morton 10.

Fisher: Oh. [Laughs]

Nathan: I know roughly what’s going to happen in book 11 then 12, and I’ve got a rough outline of book 13. So yeah, I’ve got several more yet, don’t worry.

Fisher: You got a ways to go, and then you’re developing these other characters for Chester Creek Murder and the follow-up from that as well.

Nathan: Yes.

Fisher: So, you can really create quite a long line here and keep this thing going for a long time.

Nathan: Yes. I hope so. As long as people like them and want to read them then yeah, I don’t have any plans to kill them off yet.

Fisher: [Laughs] Well, I’m looking at this book, its 241 pages. How long does it take you to write a book like this?

Nathan: So it varies. It’s quite difficult with that one to know because I interrupted it during lockdown to work on something else. They’re usually roughly about a year from I’m starting the research, to the books published, roughly a year. Sometimes if the books slightly shorter, like Chester Creek Murder is slightly shorter, then it’s slightly less time. The Sterling Affair was the longest book I’ve ever written. It was 140,000 words so that was 14 months from starting the research to publication. So, it varies. But a year is an average really.

Fisher: Somewhere in there. So, you can get the book from Nathan Dylan Goodwin. The new one is called The Foundlings. You can get it at Amazon.com and you can also get what, signed books at NathanDylanGoodwin.com?

Nathan: Yes. And that’s also got links to all my social media things and it’s got links too if you read on Nook, or Barnes & Nobel, Google Play, Apple Books. It’s on Kindle, paperback, and audio book is in production now.

Fisher: Nathan Dylan Goodwin great to have you on the show again and we look forward to seeing more and more from you over the coming years.

Nathan: Lovely. Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Fisher: And joining me next, Crista Cowan from over at Ancestry.com, our sponsors, to talk about what’s going on over there that’s going to help us in our research. You’ll find out coming up in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 3 Episode 401

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Crista Cowan

Fisher: And welcome back to Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, and it is my pleasure. It is my honor to bring back Crista Cowan from our sponsors over at Ancestry.com. It’s been a couple of months since we spoke to her and there are so many things that have happened and so many things that are coming up that is going to impact those of us who are researching our dead. Crista, it’s great to have you back on the show.

Crista: Thank you. I always love being here.

Fisher: Where do we even begin? I mean, there’s so much happening. We could start I suppose with the Virginia Probate Records because that’s a really big deal.

Crista: Yeah. I think we’ve talked before about how Ancestry is currently going through each of the states in the United States and re-indexing the probate records for that state so that we can index every name, executors, testators, children, spouses, enslaved individuals, anybody mentioned in that will, we’re going back and re-indexing those. Virginia is not only the latest to come back online but Virginia is a little unique in that these records haven’t been online for a few years. So, having them back online is fantastic for those of us with ancestry there.

Fisher: It’s a big deal. But, it’s also a big deal because you’ve got about three quarters of all the states completed now.

Crista: Yeah. We expect to be done with the last 12 or 13 states here in the next few months.

Fisher: Wow. This is huge. And for anybody wanting to go through the probate records this can lead then to land records, and piggyback into other things as well. So, it’s a really big deal and pretty soon we’re going to have an entire national set of probate records with every name in it which has never happened before. And then, we’ve got all this great news about what’s happening with Ancestry internationally. I’m personally very excited about what’s going on with Ancestry.com and a site called Geneanet.

Crista: Yeah. So, the big genealogy news of the last few months has been the Ancestry acquisition of Geneanet in France. And if people aren’t familiar with that site, it’s a big deal for those of us with French ancestry. There are family trees and about 4 million subscribers to that site who have done research in country, in the regional records, and attached those to those trees. So, we’re really excited. The relationship is brand new. The contract was just signed. I think the ink might still be wet, but we’re excited to embrace them and bring them into the Ancestry family and provide those opportunities for all of our customers.

Fisher: Well, I know there are an awful lot of people who have never heard of Geneanet, but I can tell you because I have French ancestry that I’ve had experience with them and these French researchers, they know what they’re doing. They’ve done some great stuff. So, they post their trees. They’ve got specific dates, very specific dates attached to them, plus the documentation as you’ve referred to, Crista. I mean, these folks are really on top of their game and have been for a long, long time. And the other thing that’s going to come from this is a lot of Americans are going to be making connections with French cousins and developing those relationships. I mean, these researchers over there are people who have not been really in touch with the American genealogical community for a long time or if ever. So, now they’re going to have that chance to connect with us and us with them. I think it’s going to be an absolutely incredibly new experience.

Crista: Yeah, absolutely. I’m excited to explore my own French ancestry which I haven’t done before now.

Fisher: And then Crista, we have to talk about the new Spanish language feature on Ancestry.com. We have so many Spanish speaking people in the United States right now. This is a whole new direction, isn’t it?

Crista: It is, yeah. So, typically, the way that Ancestry works around the world is when you log into Ancestry based on whatever country you’re in, you’re automatically redirected to the Ancestry website in the language of your country. But here in the United States, like you said, we have a lot of Spanish speakers that are native Spanish speakers and we wanted to be able to make sure that Ancestry is an opportunity for all. Everyone should have the opportunity to discover, craft, and connect to learn their family story. And so we’ve now added a Spanish language toggle to the Ancestry.com website here in the United States. So, if you’re a Spanish speaker you can just toggle the website into a Spanish language website and continue to explore the resources that we have available, and of course that includes tens of millions of records from Mexico.

Fisher: Well, no question. And when you think about all the work your tech people put into this. I mean, all you’ve got to do now is just throw a toggle button and you’re in another language.

Crista: A little bit more complicated than that, but yeah.

Fisher: Well, not for us it’s not, but this is 21st century genealogy. This is incredible stuff. And then you consider that you’re now offering DNA kits in Mexico. And I’ve helped so many people from that country over the years who have had challenges in trying to connect back where they came from and this is going to make such a big difference for so many people. 

Crista: Yeah. Ancestry is always looking to see how we can expand into other countries. And of course there’s legal implications and tax implications any time we sell a product, particularly a product like DNA in another country and so we have been working on this for a while and now, super excited to announce that we can sell DNA kits in Mexico that can be shipped to people in Mexico. And for those with roots from that country this will be a game changer, like DNA is for anybody who gets involved in it and is able to make those connections in other countries to those cousins.

Fisher: Well, and as we all know DNA is only really affective when it’s used in combination with the records. And right now, as we talked about before we came on, you guys at Ancestry are gathering all kinds of material now in Central and South America, including places like Guatemala where you have like 9 million records there, 7 million of which are civil registration records. So, when you combine DNA with these records, you can see a time coming where we’re going to have so many breakthroughs for people from that area or people who descend from that area. And then add to that, we’ve got the best time of the year for DNA pricing.

Crista: Yes, absolutely. Right now actually, we’re in the middle of our sale for the Thanksgiving holiday here in the United States and it is the lowest prices of the year on the DNA kits. That sale runs through November 30th at 1:00 AM Mountain time. So, depending on when you’re listening, you want to make sure you get in before that deadline. We will have some additional sales leading up to the holidays in December, but these are the lowest prices of the year.

Fisher: Oh, this is such a great time of the year to actually start stocking up on DNA kits to last through the year to share with your relatives. All right, there’s so much we can still talk about Crista, fill us in if you will on what we might expect from Ancestry coming up in 2022.

Crista: Well, I will say, we are doing a lot of things with our social media accounts. So, every other Tuesday, just about, on the Ancestry Facebook page, I go live for about 30 minutes, talk a little bit about what’s new, do a live Q&A which has become a very popular thing and we’re going to continue that into 2022. Ancestry also has an Instagram account and you can see some genealogy in a minute, videos from me on Instagram and some other resources there. And then, for the holidays this year, we’re starting a TikTok activation, which might seem a little younger than the average genealogy demographic, but there are more than, I think the last count I heard was 19 million posts on TikTok about family history or DNA.

Fisher: Wow! Well, we’re always looking for ways to get younger people involved in family history and I think with all the technology we have working right now it’s easier for them and I think a lot more fun for them. So, this is great forward thinking and hopefully that will work out well. Well Crista, it’s always great to have you on the show. Thank you so much for coming on. Hope you’ve had a great Thanksgiving weekend and we look forward to talking to you again sometime next month.

Crista: Thank you!

Fisher: And coming up next, speaking of young people and genealogy, you’re going to hear a question for Ask Us Anything about someone who actually was given an antique document right out of a family Bible. She wants to know what to do with it. David Allen Lambert rejoins me for Ask US Anything coming up when we return on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show in three minutes.

Segment 4 Episode 401

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, back for Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. David is back from the New England Historic Genealogical Society. And Dave, we've got this question from Sarah Ann Hinkley in Ames, Iowa and she says, "Hello, Extreme Genes. I was visiting my great aunt recently and she let me go through her old family bible. In it, I found a letter written by my great, great grandfather in 1876 and my aunt let me keep it. What is the best way for me to take care of this? It’s so special I hardly want to touch it. Thanks, Sarah Ann." Wow, what a great thing, congratulations!

David: Well, that's a great family treasure to have, but safety in numbers. Scan it, share it. Post it. Print it. You know, you don't want to have the sole copy of it and I think that's what's great about family history in the 21st century, Fish. There are websites like Family Search that you can post things in galleries. The same thing with Ancestry, even other websites that you may have just created yourself, putting it online on social media, like a Facebook page. Get that out there, so if your copy gets lost or heaven forbid, something happens to your home, it’s not gone forever.

Fisher: Yeah, think about that. How long that thing has survived without it being burned in a fire or being tossed when somebody died or being lost when somebody moved, I mean, that thing really is a treasure. And I've got many things like this myself. And so, the process that I've gone through, Sarah Ann is, I've scanned it. Yeah, you do have to expose it to bright lights of a scanner one time and make sure you get a good clean copy. You can even clean it up a little using Photoshop or Photoshop Elements and then you can take that and actually make a better version of it and post that on those places that David was just talking about. And then, I've taken these originals and I keep them in an acid free sleeve in a book and I keep that book on a shelf off the floor. So, if you ever had a flood in your house or something like that, it’s not going to destroy these particular documents. So, they're well protected, kept out of light, that's another thing. If you wanted to frame a copy as I've done with a family bible that I found from the 1840s, those key family pages, do the same process here, only in this case, if you don't want to take them out of the book, or its difficult to do, just take a photo with your phone or a good camera and then you can take that and make photocopies of them, physical photocopies and then you can frame those. And I'll tell you, with the old hand writing, these things get a lot of comments when people see those up on the wall. But it’s not damaging the originals and that's really the important thing here.

David: Right. Preserve, protect, but also share. I mean that's what we should do with our history.

Fisher: Sounds like the police slogan, doesn't it? Serve, protect and defend. [Laughs] We want to do the same thing!

David: We are the sentinels of our ancestors' pasts, I mean, so we are really the guardians of it, so we are policing the future of that documents. So, it makes sense.

Fisher: And I'm sure your great aunt really appreciates the fact that you've taken an interest in this and I wouldn't be surprised if you wound up with that bible somewhere down the line as well. So, it’s a great thing. Keep up the search! Hopefully it’s only the first of many family treasures you discover as you go about your journey in finding out your family's past. Dave, do you remember the first family history treasure you discovered, how old you were and what it was and where you found it?

David: 7 years old and it was a tintype photograph of my great grandfather that fell out of the book and my grandmother told me he was on a whaling ship, and well, the rest is history, family history that is.

Fisher: Wow! That's awesome. Do you still have that tintype?

David: Its hanging about 14 feet from me right on the wall and that's shared, duplicated, cousins have copies of it, so it’s not the only one. [Laughs]

Fisher: All those, that's great stuff. All right, the first one I ever remember was something my mother actually saved, the original newspaper from the end of World War II and I still have it, because after I found it, I mailed it to Harry S. Truman, the president at the time, he was 88 years old in 1972 and he autographed it to me. Unbelievable! Great question. We've got another one coming up for you as we continue with Extreme Genes and Ask Us Anything in three minutes.

Segment 5 Episode 401

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, we have returned for part 2 of Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here with David Allen Lambert from Boston. And David, this next question comes from Hoboken, New Jersey. Linda writes, "Fisher and David, my ancestor is from Wisconsin and in the 1900 census under naturalization, it says he's from Pennsylvania and I'm sure he never stepped foot there. Can you explain this?"

David: No, no, no, no, no, no, okay, what's happening here are three abbreviated items.

Fisher: Okay.

David: One is NA, meaning “naturalized,” not North America.

Fisher: Right, okay.

David: The other one could be AL. It’s not “Alabama,” its alien. And the last one is not “Pennsylvania,” its pending application. So, they have a petitioning, Fish, for citizenship in the United States. So, that's what that is. I mean, they're your first papers that were taken out and probably by the next few years, you should find a naturalization. Now you can find those in a variety of different places. FamilySearch.org has some digitized and online, you'll find a lot of them on Fold3.com, which is an Ancestry owned company and some of them are on Ancestry. So, chances are you're going to probably find by the next census, they're already an American citizen.

Fisher: David, I've got to wonder, how many people then have actually run across PA and wondered if this was something to do with Pennsylvania. Have you heard this before?

David: I've seen a lot of abbreviations that people are confused by. I mean, that is not the first one that thought it said Pennsylvania or Alabama or North America. But where is North America? Well, guess what?

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: But yeah, no, there are a lot of abbreviations that throw people. The 1910 census asks you whether or not you were a veteran and it will say yes or no, and it will say UA or CA or CN or UN. And I had somebody wonder why their ancestor was in the UN that early.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: I’m like, no, it’s the Union Navy.

Fisher: The 1930 census also has military service and it might say, GW for the Great War or WW for the World War, PI for Philippine Insurrection. Then somebody asked me why their ancestor's military dietary restriction was on there. I said, what are you talking about? “And it says SPAM.” I said, no, that's the Spanish American War.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: Not the little can of meat.

Fisher: [Laughs] That's amazing. Well, I get that. You know, the thing about that though when you describe PA under naturalization in the 1900 census. To me, that would be, green light, you've got something to research right now. If he's got a pending application, now you've got the exact timeline for your ancestor to make that application and for you to find the resulting documents.

David: And it’s amazing. Some of the documents are really good. I mean, they'll say the village in Ireland they came from. The name of the vessel they came over on, especially those later naturalizations. The early ones starting in 1791 might just say, your ancestor came from England or it might say they arrive in the port of New York in 1835, no vessel, not exact dates, so it leaves you with a little bit more work to do. But the later ones after 1906, they're great.

Fisher: And this is really how a whole research chain begins, a little clue like that. So, thanks for the question, Linda. And if you have a question for Ask Us Anything, of course you can always email us at [email protected]. David, thank you so much. Have a great Thanksgiving weekend, what's left of it, and we will talk to you again next week.

David: Oh, you too. Have a happy turkey day.

Fisher: You too, buddy. And thanks to our guest, Nathan Dylan Goodwin. He of the genealogical crime thrillers. In fact, he's got a new book out called, The Foundlings. And thanks also to Crista Cowan from our sponsors over at Ancestry.com. If you missed either visit with us on the show or you want catch them again, of course you can listen to the podcast, because we're everywhere, we're on Apple Media, we're on TuneIn Radio, iHeart Radio, ExtremeGenes.com, Spotify, wherever fine podcasts are found, we're there. And don't forget, next week I'm going to be talking to Jim Ericson from FamilySearch.org, because we've got a 1950 census coming out next year and he's going to have a few things to share about that. Hey, talk to you again next week, thanks for joining us. 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