Episode 402 - Coming To Our Census With FamilySearch in 2022 / Maureen Taylor On Old Holiday Pix

podcast episode Dec 06, 2021

Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. The guys begin by talking about Fisher’s latest find that took a family ancestor from a Social Security card to a top security World War II Munitions plant. He explains the trail. Not to be outdone, David shares his find of a slew of pictures of ancestral gravestones that he was unable capture due to conditions on a visit to this Canadian cemetery several years ago. David then shares the news of the passing of what may have been the oldest living person ever!  Then, if you ever thought about exploring your Irish ancestors in their home country, wait until you hear the job opening available right now in Ireland!

Next, Jim Ericson from FamilySearch.org visits to talk about the soon-to-be-released 1950 US Census. He’ll explain when you can see the images, when indexing is likely to be completed, and how you may be able to help in the effort. Jim also talks about the remarkable handwriting interpreting computer indexing effort happening right now in Central and South America.

Maureen Taylor, the Photo Detective, then hops on to visit with Fisher about holiday photos of the past and how they can enhance this year’s celebration.

David then returns for Ask Us Anything, taking questions on the reliability of family trees as well as using ancestral signatures to illustrate a history.

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

Transcript for Episode 402

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 402

Fisher: And greetings America! Welcome to America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth on the program where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out. Great to have you along genies! Here we go. We’re coming into the holiday season. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover over the next couple of weeks. Today, we’ve got Jim Ericson on, from Family Search International, because we’re about to regain our census next year, the 1950 census. And he’s going to be telling us all the plans of Family Search to get that out as soon as possible in April. And he’s also going to talk about computer handwriting analysis for indexing. They’re doing this stuff now. And he’ll explain how that works as well. And then later in the show, we’re going to talk to Maureen Taylor, the photo detective talking about your holiday photographs and things you can do with that to enhance your holiday now from holidays’ way back when. Hey, signup for our Weekly Genie Newsletter if you have not done it yet. And also check out the courses we’re offering for you. That would make a great gift in basic genealogy and in genetic genealogy, using DNA matches to crack your cases. You can find out all about it on our website ExtremeGenes.com. And right now, it’s time to head out to Boston, Massachusetts, where David Allan Lambert is standing by, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. How you’re doing Dave?

David: I’m doing great. I survived Thanksgiving, didn’t eat too much turkey. There’s still a piece of pie in the refrigerator somewhere.

Fisher: I slept all afternoon after all that. [Laughs]

David: [Laughs]

Fisher: It was great. Hey, I got to tell you though I had a lot of fun with a social security card. This is something that’s kind of unassuming, a little record that comes along and I was going through an envelope that my brother-in-law sent to us and it had my wife’s great grandmother’s social security card in there. I think oh that’s nice. I don’t know what I’m going to do with this. It’s just typed up. But it had an odd address on it in Indiana where she was from, in a town I did not recognize. And it had the name of a company on it. So, I researched the town and found out that it was a town that was built by the Unites States government in 1942 just outside the gates of the Kingsford Unions Plant.

David: No way.

Fisher: In Kingsford Heights, Indiana. Yeah. And the company on there, Todd and Brown, was the company that was running the factory for the Unites States government so that was her employer. So, we’re starting to think well, could she have worked there alone? What about her husband? Because she was in her mid to late 60s, husband was in his early 70s. Well, the only hint I got was that he was living in the town just outside of this LaPorte, Indiana in 1947 just after the war. So they were both up in that direction and I’m thinking he had to have been there at the same time. And this was an amazing piece of property Dave because they had eight assembly lines creating bombs, bullets, blasting caps, all this stuff. And each facility for these eight assembly lines were a mile apart in case one of them blew up so it wouldn’t take down the whole thing. 

David: You know, I imagine on every one of the buildings there was one sign in particular that stood out, “No smoking.”

Fisher: [Laughs] No smoking. And they say they had incredible security there so that makes me think well, then they had to have government clearance, right? I’m betting that there’s an FBI file out there on both of them.

David: Hey, we just talked about that the other day.

Fisher: Yep.

David: I hope you hit rewind and get the details on how to do that on another episode.

Fisher: Yeah, how to do that. How about you, any breakthroughs lately?

David: I was digging a little bit on Find A Grave, which of course is owned by Ancestry.com and about oh, 10 years ago I was in Newfoundland and I went to the cemetery where my great, great and my third great grandparents are buried in Saint Lawrence, Newfoundland. But the grass was so high Fish you could almost not see the tops of the stones and some of them were down. I figured all right, I’ll go back. Well, fast forward to last week when I decided for some strange reason to look at Find A Grave and see if that cemetery was online. Yeah, high resolution photos, 394 completed every grave stone. So now I have photos of my ancestors. I can read epistles at the bottom of the stone.

Fisher: Nice!

David: I was able to look for the stones of my great grandmother’s siblings, her aunts and uncles, her nephews and nieces, and so forth and so on. I think probably a third of that cemetery in that small town is probably my family.

Fisher: [Laughs] Wow.

David: So, I added a lot to my ancestry with images of people who I don’t have photos for but now I have gravestones.

Fisher: Nice! What a great find. Well, we had a good week then didn’t we? Lot to be thankful for there. All right Dave, let’s go on to our Family Histoire news. Where do we begin?

David: Well, don’t forget, coming up in 2022 there’s a lot of exciting things but RootsTech 2022, which is virtual, now has open registrations. So you can go on to RootsTech and sign up and we hope to see you there virtually.

Fisher: Yep. RootsTech.org or Family Search can get you there as well. And it’s free. It’s so much fun. And we had over a million people check it out last year.

David: It’s going to be great. I’m giving six lectures myself. Well, I’ll tell you there’s a really fun story here and it kind of makes us stand correct. Do you remember a year or so ago I reported that the last person born in the 19th century had died?

Fisher: Hmm.

David: Well, they determined that a lady who was 124 years old documented who lived in the Philippines born on September 11th, 1897 lived three centuries. In fact, she was born a year before the Spanish relinquish reigned over the Philippines and you’ve heard of the Philippine insurrection that took place in 1900? Yeah, she was a toddler when America was over there fighting with Dewey and the Great White Fleet.

Fisher: Wow!

David: Yeah. So she might be the last person to be alive in the Philippines when the Philippine Insurrection went on.

Fisher: She’s actually thought to have been perhaps the oldest person who has ever lived at least since Methuselah.

David: That’s probably true. Especially since gene clement has now proven to be fraudulent. So, we are sorry to have lost Francisca Susano affectionately known as Lola Isca, who died just recently at 124. Well, that’s all I have from Beantown this week. And remember, if you’re not a member of American Ancestors, the gift that keeps on giving has a membership and you can save $20 on your membership by using the coupon code EXTREME on AmericanAncestors.org

Fisher: All right David. Thanks so much.

David: Talk to you in a minute.

Fisher: Yeah we’ll be back for Ask Us Anything at the backend of the show. And coming up next, Jim Ericson from FamilySearch.org as we get ready to come to our census, the 1950 census. He’ll tell you how Family Search is going to help get you to those images and another piece of your family’s story, when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.  

Segment 2 Episode 402

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Jim Ericson

Fisher: Well, here we come. A brand new year and it’s going to be a big one. Hey, it’s Fisher. It’s Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. And in the family history world we’ve been looking forward to 2022 for a long time because we have censuses coming out. We have the 1921 English census coming out in January, and then in April, the United States census of 1950 will be unveiled. And then of course over at Family Search they’re getting ready for their every 10 year release of material and I’ve got my good friend Jim Ericson on the line from Family Search and Jim, welcome to Extreme Genes. I’m really excited about what’s coming up. 

Jim: I am too Scott. And it’s a pleasure to be with you today.

Fisher: So, tell me about this, the release schedule for the 1950 census. It’s coming out April 1st. How does this go?

Jim: So, April 1st the National Archives is going to be releasing the images for the 1950 census along with some metadata. They already know what the enumeration districts were. And those are going to be released in the Cloud. Meaning, instead of having to take hard drives and pick up the images, they will be immediately available to anybody who would like to download those images in the Cloud.

Fisher: Right. And the reason this is coming out now is because the law of the United States says you got to wait 72 years before you can release this material. So, as of April of 1950 all this stuff was done so they can release it now in April of this year. You mentioned enumeration districts Jim, and for people who aren’t familiar with the maps and how this thing works, explain the significance of that. 

Jim: The enumeration district is the location, locality where the enumerators went. It was their kind of jurisdiction to go to every household and to enumerate, or to account for every person who was living in that area. So, when you look at the United States, there are thousands of enumeration districts. And in terms of understanding where your family was in 1950, the enumeration district is the smallest location how these records are organized.

Fisher: So, if you knew where your family was in 1950, theoretically, then we should be able to use this material to find out the enumeration district and locate that information even before an index is out right?

Jim: That is correct. For larger cities of over 50,000 people, they break it down even further. For smaller townships sometimes they’re combined within the same enumeration district. But if you have a good idea of where your family was living in 1950, even without a searchable index you can go and browse the images and start to see if you can find your family.

Fisher: So, we just talked about NARA (the National Archives) on April 1st putting it into the Cloud. When does Family Search get a hold of these images and when do they release them?

Jim: So, we are going to have those images up on our website, as will other people, on day one. It will probably take a few hours to get them uploaded with the appropriate metadata to make them browesable. But everybody is going to be a race because we know there’s the demand. We know that we have people who are anxious to find their family and to see where they were. I think there’s a lot of pent up curiosity around the 1950census.

Fisher: Oh yeah.

Jim: So, that is our goal, is to get those images up as close to immediately as possible. 

Fisher: Okay. And then the question of course that follows from everybody who’s into this is how long is it going to take to index, and how’s the indexing process going to work?

Jim: Well, it will be 10 years since we did the 1940 census that means there has been some innovation. The 1950 census however, because of our experience we know that we want to capture more of the actual fields that were captured by the enumerator, more of the information. So, the population increase from 1940 to1950 was 14.5% increase, so going from 130 million people to 150 million plus in1950. The images however, there are about twice as many images because they asked more question and there were fewer families per image, and then we are trying to capture more fields. So, from just the size of the effort, it’s actually about twice the size of the effort when it comes to the indexing over what we did in 1940. 

Fisher: Wow!

Jim: That being said, we do have some new technology, new innovations, new ways to get people volunteering that should make it go a little bit faster. So, in terms of when it will get done, we’re hoping to have it done within six months like we did the 1940 census.

Fisher: So we’re talking about September/October of next year somewhere in there?

Jim: Yeah. And hopefully with the innovations and getting more people involved, we can shorten that time length.

Fisher: Wow! That would be amazing, twice the material in a shorter timeline. Give me that every time, right?

Jim: [Laughs] Well, that’s a hope right now.

Fisher: What are some of the questions in the1950 census that might be unique to that year?                                       

Jim: Well, so they always have the standard questions, and then they have some questions that they ask a small percentage of the population. Those questions will include if they served in any wars, World War I, World War II and the others. It will include more information about occupation and employment. It’s kind of an echo from the 1930 census. 

Fisher: Hmm.

Jim: And 1940 where employment and the challenges of having a secure economy were very much on peoples’ minds still in 1950.

Fisher: Anything further about children and how many they lost, how many they had, or where your parents were from?

Jim: That type of information is still captured. Whether or not you were a naturalized citizen, where your parents were from, languages, school, education level, that type of information is still captured in the 1950 census. More is captured as part of the sample data as opposed to asking everybody those questions.

Fisher: I see. So, it’s more like a survey almost.

Jim: Yes. It’s not quite as rich when it comes to the questions that they asked everybody, but the sampling data is actually quite rich but they did not ask what they did in 1940, which was how many children have you had and how many of those were lost at childbirth.

Fisher: And you know, to go in a little but different direction here Jim, we’ve been talking a lot lately and you were sharing with me how we’ve got some new technology working right now down in central and South America. Tell me about this automated computerized handwriting recognition technology that’s working for Family Search now.

Jim: So, we’ve been using some handwriting recognition and some automation for some collections down in Latin America, Spanish and Portuguese, and it’s proving quite effective to even help us understand the relationships between people. But our technology today is working on paragraph based data as opposed to form based data, like the census. We’ve been able to help index millions of records and then it’s just a human review after that with this new process we’re using down in Latin America.    

Fisher: Wow. I mean, this is amazing to me because it’s in another language, and then this picks out words such as born, baptized, Christian, died, things like that, correct? 

Jim: That’s correct.

Fisher: And then it’s able to recognize the names and potential relationships, is that right?

Jim: Yes.

Fisher: And so this is able to go through then paragraph based records where it’s kind of written in a narrative form. And then you’re saying, as I understand it, you’re going to be able to do line-based material like census records. You’re going to be able to adapt that to those types of things in the future?

Jim: Yes. In some point in the future we’ll be doing that. We won’t be doing that for the 1950 census. We’re not going to be there in time but we will be continuing to develop our technology and we’re going to be applying it to new languages. But it’s proving very effective. The people who are going and reviewing those records are having a wonderful experience as opposed to starting the index from scratch.

Fisher: Wow!

Jim: So yes, we’re seeing a lot of success.

Fisher: You know, that’s a mind blowing thing to me because I can think back decades where we’ve talked about could we ever have some kind of technology that could read handwriting. And it’s here! And it’s just getting going and it’s already doing a great job and I would assume 10 years from now we won’t think anything more about it because it’s just going to be the norm. 

Jim: Yeah. Yeah. And that’s how technology is, right?

Fisher: Yeah.

Jim: Right now it seems like magic. And then in10 years from now it’s like well, of course, it was obvious. We’ve always had this.

Fisher: Right, of course. So, let’s roll into RootsTech then because that’s coming up here real quick. And I would assume we’re going to hear a little more about the census at RootsTech this year.

Jim: Yes. So, RootsTech last year we had over a million people who came and participated in RootsTech and relatives at RootsTech seeing how they were related to each other. And for the United States, the 1950 census is going to be one of the biggest reasons for people to attend RootsTech this year. We’ll be talking about the 1950 census but so will every other major organization in the United States. So, if you want to see what we are doing around the volunteer effort, or understand what any of the commercial players are doing in terms of their experiences that they’re going to be launching around the 1950 census, attend RootsTech. Because that’s where I think there’s going to be a lot of new information that’s going to be shared. And if you want to understand on day one what you’re going to be able to do, and soon thereafter what opportunities are going to be available around the 1950 census, I think RootsTech is going to be really exciting this year.

Fisher: And of course it’s all online once again this year as we have to acknowledge the fact that large gatherings are kind of difficult in many circumstances especially with a lot of older people who may be participating in it. Hopefully the year after, 2023 we can get back together face-to-face and see each other again in person, which would be great. It’s RootsTech Connect this year again. 

Jim: Yes, it’s RootsTech Connect. If you just go to RootsTech.org it will redirect to the RootsTech Connect website. It’s going to be exciting. We expect it to be bigger. People are really excited about the ability to attend virtually. And that aspect of RootsTech will always continue. People who can’t afford it or can’t find the time for it, it makes it really convenient for everybody to be able to participate.

Fisher: It’s exciting, looking forward to it. It’s going to be a great few months going into the New Year Jim. Thanks so much for coming on and talking about this.

Jim: Thank you for the invitation Scott. It’s always a pleasure to talk with you my friend.

Fisher: He’s Jim Ericson from FamilySearch.org. And coming up next, Maureen Taylor, the photo detective talking about holiday photographs when we return in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 3 Episode 402

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Maureen Taylor

Fisher: Well, ho, ho, ho, it is that time of year again and as you’re getting ready for Hanukkah, or Christmas, or New Year, you know that photographs are going to be a big part of your celebration current or past. And that’s why I thought it was a good idea to get on the line with my good friend the photo detective Maureen Taylor. Hey Maureen, how you’re doing? Happy Holidays!

Maureen: Hey Scott. Happy Holidays to you too! Great to hear your voice.

Fisher: You know, we don’t celebrate holidays without digging out the old pictures and obviously adding to them every year as the holidays go by. I was just thinking about this, what are your early holiday pictures, the earliest ones you have?

Maureen: [Laughs] Oh Scott, that’s sort of a sad thing for me.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Maureen: They only go back to my parents’ wedding in 1953.

Fisher: That’s it? No Christmas pictures from the ’40s or ‘30s, or anything?

Maureen: I don’t think so, but we have a lot of Easter pictures.

Fisher: Ah!

Maureen: But not too many Christmas photographs.

Fisher: All right, okay. I’ve got a New Years Eve picture from New York City with the Fishers in 1892. Actually, there’s a pair of them. One is the more formal one where they’re all sitting around and one has a banjo in their hand, but in the other one, they’re all kind of being crazy. One lady has got a knife like threatening somebody. Someone else has flowers on top of somebody’s head. Somebody else is pouring a pitcher of water over somebody. And I thought, you know, that’s my family right there. Those are my peeps. And then our first Christmas one, the earliest one is on my mother’s side. The first Christmas in America in 1910 and that’s a pretty great one to have. And I’ve made copies of both of these and every holiday season I break these out and then they’re prominently in my home and then we put them away again, so they’re always special when they come out.

Maureen: That’s amazing. I wish I had photographs from that time period for the holidays. I just don’t.

Fisher: But one thing I would imagine most of us have, are old home movies or old home videos of the holidays over the last 50- 60 years, yes?

Maureen: Oh, yes. And last summer, I had all my home movies digitized and a good number of them are holiday movies of the family. The challenge was, where was this taken? Whose relative’s house were we at? And then to see my aunts and uncles that are no longer with us, in action. I had an uncle, who was a great dancer, and in one of them he’s asking all of his sisters to dance around the room and they’re doing this kind of thing.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Maureen: Meanwhile, all the kids are in the background opening presents. Well, when was it taken? Well, you just have to look at the popular toys.

Fisher: That’s an interesting thing. So, this is why you’re the photo detective because whether it’s moving pictures or still pictures, there are ways to determine when things were done and that’s kind of a fun game to play if we’re getting together for the holidays. Hopefully, more families are actually getting together in person this time around than last year, and this would be a great thing to do.

Maureen: Oh, I’m going to do it. I bought a projection screen on Facebook marketplace because I couldn’t find the one we had in the family. And I’m going to pop it up in the dining room with the few people that are going to come over and I’m going to play the home movies and we’re going to play the game “tell me a story.”

Fisher: Okay.

Maureen: Tell me what you see. Tell me the story. Tell me about the people in the image, in the moving image.

Fisher: So, you’re using these movies then to prompt memories?

Maureen: Yes!

Fisher: What a great idea. I mean, what a great way to get stories. That’s how a lot of memories come out, is from some kind of association, right?

Maureen: Yes. Yeah, pictures are great memory triggers, movies even better because you see the person moving. I don’t know how to put it, but when you see someone move versus someone standing still in a picture, it triggers a totally different part of your brain.

Fisher: Yeah, I think you’re right, absolutely. Are you doing this with the still pictures as well?

Maureen: I have done that in the past, shown people like the still photographs from the holidays, but I think the movies this year is really where I’m going to focus.

Fisher: That’s the thing. That’s the big thing this year. Well, this is fun because I’m thinking, unfortunately, it’s a little late for a lot of people to get material digitized because what better gift is there? So, a lot of these photo places are getting slammed, especially after maybe not doing so much last year, maybe locally you can get something done still at this time of year, but I remember Tom Perry saying a lot of the times in the past that he just couldn’t do it beyond mid-November because he would get hit so hard. Nonetheless, if you can get it done after the holidays for next year, that’s a great thing to do and maybe otherwise break out the pictures this year. If people are looking to analyze a photograph, what are some of the things they should be looking for in terms of just playing the same game, where was it taken, what year was it, who were the people in it? What kind of clues do you look for as the photo detective, Maureen?

Maureen: Well, for me, because I look at a lot of pictures, I try to look for the most unusual thing in that picture. It could be somebody’s spectacular hat because we know our ancestors wore a lot of hats.

Fisher: Right.

Maureen: It could be a prop in the background, a car. I was just researching the lights that were hanging from the ceiling in an image because those were a little bit unusual.

Fisher: Really?

Maureen: Yeah. It was an interesting photograph. It was an operating photo with people in an operating room.

Fisher: Oh, wow. [Laughs]

Maureen: [Laughs] It was an extra special challenge for the photo detective.

Fisher: Yeah, I would say so. The light would tell you though more about the building than the age of the picture, right? Because it could be a 20 year old light fixture.

Maureen: Well, it could be but then you double down because you have that. You have to date that clue. You can date the hat. You can date somebody’s tie. You can date somebody’s dress. You can date things in the background. You add it all up.

Fisher: Um hmm. What are your references for those things? I know you’ve created some yourself and I’ve actually bought some from you at RootsTech and they’re marvelous.

Maureen: I go everywhere I can go. There are an awful lot of things that have been digitized online. We have the historic catalogues of this year’s robot company on Ancestry.com. That’s a great source for 20th century clothing for everyday wear. The auction houses are great sources of information because pretty much anything you can think of, there’s a market for it.

Fisher: Oh, so there are experts out there. So, you can actually probably go on Facebook and find some group that’s connected to something relating to some object you see and you share that picture and get their opinions on it. Do you ever do that?

Maureen: Oh, I don’t do that so much. I did do that once with a musical instrument.  I contacted a curator. Most curators probably aren’t going to call you back, right.

Fisher: Um hmm.

Maureen: Hopefully, someone will come to me with their photo mysteries because I love working on them.

Fisher: [Laughs] Yes, she does, by the way ladies and gentlemen. I remember sending you one of my favorite pictures and you were all over it. And I appreciated that.

Maureen: Exactly.

Fisher: It is really fun. I’m the same way. I’m a real sucker for that stuff. It’s like, oh, give me a rabbit hole.

Maureen: I love it. I love it.

Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs] It’s a lot of fun to try to solve those things.

Maureen: I mean, no clue in a photograph is a wasted clue. Because each little thing that you research, that you find, gives you another piece of the story. For me, every photograph does tell a story. It’s almost a cliché, every picture tells a story, but for me it really does.

Fisher: Sure.

Maureen: Because when you add up all those clues, you know more about the place, the person, and how they relate.

Fisher: Right. I’m thinking through in my mind, okay, I’ve done this before with a couple of things and of course you’ve done it thousands of times, but I had a photograph of my second great grandfather, of course it has the name of the photographer on there and it had an address. And I found out the guy was only at that address for like two different years, right at the very end of the Civil War. And as a result of that, that helped me to date it and then I was able to confirm the clothing he was wearing was consistent with that time period. It was really very helpful. And then found out that guy was right across the street from this other photographer where the first guy’s wife had her picture taken a few years later. And because of again, the addresses and where these photographers were at certain points in time with a little research into that, that really tells a lot, doesn’t it? Because it tells you their age also.

Maureen: It tells you their age. But then there are all those sort of clue nuances, like, was your ancestor fashion forward or fashion backward?

Fisher: [Laughs] Maureen, it’s always great to talk to you. Thanks so much for your time. Happy Holidays! And of course, for anybody who wants to follow Maureen, you can do that at MaureenTaylor.com. She’s got some great advice and great ideas for you on working with your photographs, figuring out who those people are in unidentified photographs as well, which is really important. Take care, Maureen.

Maureen: Thank you, Scott. Talk to you again.

Fisher: And coming next, David Allen Lambert with another round of Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show in three minute.

Segment 4 Episode 402

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, back at it on Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth with David Allen Lambert from the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. Dave, our first question is from Lydia Norton in Canton, Ohio and she says, "Fisher and David, how far back would you say a family tree is reliable?" That's an interesting question. It makes me wonder why she's asking it, but you can really kind of go in a lot of directions with this, Dave.

David: You really can. And unfortunately with online trees, occasionally what you have is, it’s not so much the company, it’s the user error that's being placed into the tree. Something of a hint, "Oh, that must work!" and then all of a sudden that one opens up 10 generations beyond and you're like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa! That isn't right! We don't even know where the person comes from in England and now I go back to the 12th century?!"

Fisher: Right.

David: And of course, they're a duke, you know.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: It’s never just, I happened to find a peasant person who actually kept records, oh wait, they were even literate. So, you really have to question a lot of things that you find online and vet them. And don't assume that just because somebody has created an online tree or even published a book. I mean, how many old genealogies you see that go back to, what, Adam and Eve?

Fisher: They are the bane of my existence, the 19th century books, because so many of them keep coming back to haunt us, right? We now have access to records that we didn't have 130 years ago, 140, and those county histories take a lot of liberty with some of these lines, and then you go put in the correct stuff and then somebody goes back in and changes it based on those old books. But you're right, the Adam and Eve lines that was something that people did even as recently as the 1980s and '90s. Quite a bit you would see people linking into royalty and then the royal line back to the biblical lines and the biblical lines back to Adam and Eve. I mean, I guess the bottom line here is, Lydia, that you could have a problem on your family tree anywhere. In fact, you could even start with yourself. How many people get surprise DNA results and find out one of their parents isn't their parent!

David: Correct. And that's one thing with the genealogy, if you're going back 300, 400, 500 years, how are you sure of the paternity way back then? So, we all stand on shaky ground. So, if you do find an online tree or one published in a book, be a genealogist, look for the references. Try to disprove it before you tack it up on your dining room wall.

Fisher: Exactly. You know, one other thought on this too, David, I remember that study they did on the Cowan family awhile back, sometime within the last decade.

David: Yeah, the priestly class.

Fisher: Yeah, the priestly class, and they would be outside what is now the wailing wall in Israel and they did a Y DNA test on the known Cowans who were from there and they matched up with people who descended from them in Africa and in North America and over in Israel. So, you could see if you had a paper trail of that family, it is likely that that paper trail is correct based on the DNA. However, you might have a different Cowan as a father at some point as well, so you never know, right?

David: That's very true. So, anytime you do genealogy, remember you're standing in wet cement. Do your research and feel more confident when you share it at the holiday party this year, that you have a line back to Charlemagne.

Fisher: Right. You know, that's the other thing, too is, we can be pretty confident in our lines back a couple of hundred years now, because of DNA and the records combined. That becomes a little bit firmer cement, don't you think?

David: It does. In fact, with the DNA, we can almost be scientifically certain that we have, say, a paternal line through our dad's Y DNA or even umbilical line through our mother's mitochondrial DNA. It helps sure those up. Its everything in the middle that makes difficulty, so that's when you have to find your second cousin three times removed to do the Y DNA test to prove that your great, great grandfather, Smith is really the same Smith you thought he was.

Fisher: Exactly. Well, great question, thanks so much for it, Lydia. And we've got another one coming up next when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 402

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, back at it on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Ask Us Anything. I am Fish. That is Dave. And Dave, our question is from Jim Flowers in Bellevue, Washington. He says, "Guys, I'm stuck. I can't find a photo of my great grandfather and I want to illustrate our history of him with something more personal than a gravestone. All suggestions welcome!" [Laughs]

David: I’ll bet.

Fisher: You want to start this one out?

David: Well, you know, unfortunately being an autograph collector like you and I are, we can't go to eBay often and find a search for great grandfather's signature on, say, a baseball card.

Fisher: Right.

David: We have to look at records and the first thing we have to do is, look at what records would have signatures in the case of the 19th or 20th or even the 21st century for your relatives. The first thing that comes to mind, draft age. Was this great grandfather in draft age in World War I, the World War I draft registrations? That has a signature.

Fisher: Yeah. I like the idea of signatures. That is a very personal thing. And if you were to take something like a draft registration card, which I've always been fascinated by ever since they were digitized. Those cards could be actually framed with a photograph of somebody or put into a history to illustrate somebody who you don't have a photograph of, because it not only displays the signature, but it’s on something that tells a little bit of their story.

David: It does and a physical story, too.

Fisher: Yep.

David: They give you the height and eye color, hair color occasionally. But getting back to being illustrating who your ancestor is, that gives you an extra clue. You might have a physical description. Now that being true, your ancestor may also from the 1940s be on a draft registration card again, even if it’s the old man's draft, would cover people born starting in 1897 and that would be the last line of defense, again has a signature on it.

Fisher: Well, one other thought on that, Dave, having written a book about my family in World War II last year. It’s when I got one of my uncle's navy personnel records it had his enlistment photograph in it. There's another possibility maybe you haven't considered.

David: You know, another thing is, we don't know if this great grandfather of yours was an American citizen at birth. You can look for a naturalization partition and that would often bear the signature. Hey, you might even find a photograph on the partition as some of them had.

Fisher: Yes, my grandmother's had that when she naturalized from Sweden. There was a beautiful picture of her there. So that's a great idea, too. You know, I really think that's true if you've got an ancestor who was living pretty much any time in the 20th century, there's a lot of opportunities to find pictures in places maybe you haven’t even thought of. But if you ultimately can't and you're writing something on a deadline, maybe you're working on that history to get it all finished by Christmas, a signature on an interesting document might be the way to go.

David: A Last Will and Testament, a document they may have had to witness on, it’s on a local level, maybe a church membership book. There's all sorts of places you can find signatures, you just have to look a little deeper than just on the internet sometimes.

Fisher: Exactly. Maybe you can divide your attention and look for signatures on documents as well as different places for photographs where you may not have looked before. So, that is a great question. Thank you so much, Jim for it. And if you have a question for Ask Us Anything, you can always email us at [email protected]. David, I can't believe we're coming up to one more show before we take our holiday break. Unbelievable!

David: I know. What am I going to do with those extra two weeks?

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: Hmm, let's see, eat bonbons, wrap gifts and hope that Santa was good to me this year.

Fisher: Sounds like a plan. Thanks buddy. Good to talk to you. We'll catch you next week.

David: Talk to you later, my friend.

Fisher: All right and that's our show for this week. Thanks once again to Jim Ericson from Family Search coming on to talk about the release of the 1950 census early next year, and Maureen Taylor, the photo detective talking about photographs from the holidays and how they can enhance this year's holidays. If you missed any of the show or want to catch it again, of course listen to the podcast on Apple Media, iTunes, iHeart Radio, ExtremeGenes.com, Spotify, we are all over the place. I'll talk to you again next week. Thanks for joining us. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!


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