Episode 403 - Survivor Talks Pearl Harbor On His 100th Birthday / Researching Your WW2 Ancestors

podcast episode Dec 13, 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 a reminder that you can now sign up for RootsTech Connect 2022 at RootsTech.org. Then David opens Family Histoire News talking about the new way authorities in Australia are using DNA to solve crimes. It could be a game changer! Speaking of DNA, who ever heard of a getting DNA off a murder weapon that was a conch shell?! It has happened! The Band of Brothers, portrayed in the HBO series, has lost its final officer at age 99. Hear who it is. Then, another kid has made another remarkable discovery with a metal detector! Catch what this 13 year old girl has found. And speaking of historic finds… King Richard III is making news again with this one. Find out what someone else has found! And if you thought Herman Melville’s Moby Dick lacked true history, wait til you hear about this most recent discovery.

Next, Jack Holder, a survivor of Pearl Harbor who narrowly escaped death, talks about his experience of being missed by the first bomb of World War II by the length of a football field, and then being strafed by a Japanese fighter pilot. While that was just the beginning of the war, it was also just the beginning of Jack’s part in history. And by the way, he turns 100 years old today! (December 13.) This segment originally aired back in May of this year.

Then, from sponsors Legacy Tree Genealogists, Kate Eakman joins us again to talk about her favorite type of research… military. She’ll talk about researching your World War II ancestors.

David returns for Ask Us Anything, talking about surprise finds he has made when researching the lines of celebrities, and then the guys talk about collecting documents and autographs of ancestors.

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

Transcript for Episode 403


Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 403

Fisher: And welcome America, to America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth on the program where we shake your family tree, and watch the nuts fall out. Well, great to have you along today. Of course, this past week we have heard so much about the 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbor and as a result of that we’re going to reply my interview with Jack Holder, one of the survivors at Pearl Harbor. We talked to him back in March [actually May!] as he released a book at that time. In fact, he’s turning 100 years old today. So, congratulations to Jack. You’re going to hear his description of what he went through on December 7th 1941 and how he went on to be part of the Battle of Midway as well. I mean, this guy had quite the career. And then after that we’re going to have Kate Eakman on over at our sponsors at Legacy Tree Genealogists and she’s going to talk about researching your World War II ancestors so she’s got some great ideas for you there as well. Hey, if you haven’t signed up for our courses yet on genetic genealogy, how to use matches to break open those brick wall, find out more at ExtremeGenes.com as well a basic genealogy course waiting for you right there. It’s a great gift at this time of year. And of course you can sign up for our Weekly Genie Newsletter. It’s free and we’d love to have you keep track of what’s happing in our world. And right now it’s time to head out to Boston, Massachusetts where David Allen Lambert is standing by, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. Hello David.

David: Hello sir. How are you today?

Fisher: I am grand. I just spent a bunch of time with family for the last few days and visited with some grandkids, had a great time playing games with them. There’s nothing to make you feel more like a kid than being around kids for a while. It was great stuff.

David: Oh for sure.

Fisher: Hey, we’ve got to remind everybody by the way, if you haven’t signed up for RootsTech 2022 yet the signup is open at RootsTech.org. It’s free. Join the millions of people who are going to sign up around the world and find out how to do what you want to do in your research.

David: Well, I’ll tell you, we’ve got a lot of Family Histoire news for us today, including straight from Australia. And I remember being at RootsTech where CeCe Moore mentioned about the DNA that will eventually be able to tell us what our ancestors look like. Well, Australian federal police are now using next generation DNA sequencing Fish, to be able to predict what a criminal may have looked like after a crime. 

Fisher: Wow!

David: So, this is exciting news.

Fisher: Yes. Including what sex they were. What their ethnic background may have been. It would be fun if some day we could actually take DNA and actually recreate what they looked like, I mean like a photograph. 

David: Um hmm. And if that’s the case, I have a few ancestors I’d like to have produced at 8 by 10 color glossies in the living room.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: Not mug shots in that respect. There’s another mug shot related to DNA, and that would be someone who committed a crime 20 years ago. And you know, you would think of a murder victim, you would find something that has the DNA, maybe a knife or something like that. No, this is a seashell, a conch shell.

Fisher: [Laughs] Really?

David: Yes. And this is in Massachusetts not far from where I live, and now a family member is in jail for a murder of over 20 years ago in Bedford, Massachusetts.

Fisher: Because of DNA on a conch shell.

David: Yep.

Fisher: Wow!

David: You know, we’ve probably all have seen or heard of the Band of Brothers who was on TV, and Edward Shames, the last surviving officer from the Band of Brothers has now passed away at the age of 99.

Fisher: Hmm.

David: Colonel Edward David Shames from HBO’s Band of Brothers died this past month. I tell you, I think that I really need a metal detector for the holidays. So, if you’re looking for a gift for your teenager, don’t think of an ipod shuffle, or an Xbox, buy them a metal detector because a 13 year old girl went out with her dad on her third trip Fish, and found the largest horde of axes, 200 artifacts in fact that date back to the bronze age in England, including axe heads and all sorts of items. I can’t find anything better than a bottle cap sometimes when I went with my old one.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: I’d say in this case its luck of the English. [Laughs]

Fisher: Right. I mean this is a Roman horde we’re talking about. And I don’t know the rules over there, but as I understand, I don’t think the 13 year old can keep the stuff but obviously she’s got herself in the history books and probably would never have such a success again in her life. [Laughs]

David: Probably not but she now says she’s looking for gold, which actually leads me to our next story also in England where something about the size of an amulet from a Pandora bracelet was found. A tiny gold book found that dates back to the time of Richard the III. Yep, he’s back again in the news.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: They’re saying that this 50th century artifact has a striking similarity to a Middleham jewel gold pendant that was probably most likely some connection to King Richard the III found in a parking lot. Now they’re finding bits and pieces of his belongings all over the place.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: Maybe they should have just checked in the adjacent parking lot.

Fisher: Right. You know, this is the thing David, I mean, when we first started this show back eight years ago, he was on like every week because I’m going to correct you here, he wasn’t found in the parking lot… that would be disgusting… but he was found under the parking lot! Then there was this big battle over who had the right to actually display all the remains and things related to it. Was it his birth place, or where they found him? I mean, it was kind of crazy. It just went on and on and on. So, every time he comes back it’s like we almost got to list him as a co-host on the show. 

David: I know. You know, we’ve all probably read Moby Dick or heard of the story of Herman Melville’s famous light whale. Well, in the Caribbean, they’ve actually spotted a white sperm whale that is pretty close to the description from Melville’s mythical Moby Dick. This is quite amazing. I’ve seen the video. It’s definitely not made up. There is a white sperm whale out there in the Caribbean and hopefully we don’t have anybody going to hunt it. 

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: Well, that’s all I have from Beantown this week. You got to finish your holiday shopping, don’t forget to include a membership to American Ancestors and hey, why not save a little? Use the coupon code EXTREME and save $20 on a membership on AmericanAncestors.org. Well, time to go do some shopping after we do Ask Us Anything.

Fisher: All right David. Talk to you at the backend of the show. And coming up next, if you’d like to know firsthand what it was like to be under attack by the Japanese in 1941 at Pearl Harbor, hear my visit with Jack Holder coming up. One of the Pearl Harbor survivors, he’s on the way next in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 403

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Jack Holder

Fisher: And welcome back to America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, you Radio Roots Sleuth, and what an honor it is for me today to be talking to 99 year old Jack Holder in Arizona. Jack has written a book called “Fear Adrenalin and Excitement” covering his military experiences. Jack, welcome to Extreme Genes.

Jack: Well, thank you so much. It’s my honor to join you.

Fisher: Well, Jack has quite a history because during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th 1941, he had…what would you say, a front row seat Jack?

Jack: [Laughs] I definitely had a front row seat. I had a duty that day it was one of exception role call and in our hanger, we heard fast moving aircraft and moments later a terrible explosion. The hanger beside us blew up. We received the first bomb that fell at Pearl Harbor.

Fisher: You were right there for the first bomb?

Jack: It dropped about 100 yards from me. I was right there.

Fisher: Oh my goodness. So, the beginning of World War II was a 100 yards from you.

Jack: Yeah. That’s correct.

Fisher: Wow! And you, as I understand it were on Ford Island?

Jack: I was on Ford Island yes. Ford Island is a small island right inside Pearl Harbor itself.

Fisher: Um hmm. And I understand that you actually got really close to one of these planes that I guess was strafing?

Jack: Well, he got pretty close to us. It so happens that when we went outside and seeing the aircrafts overhead with the rising sun and signal in the air, it so happens that one of my shipmates remembered there was a shoreline under construction behind our hanger. He said, “Let’s go for the ditch. Follow me.” We all ran, jumped in it, sat there clinging to each other. And of course, one of the pilots had seen us. He circled, straight into the ditch, missed us by five or three feet, he hit the dirt piled up beside the ditch.

Fisher: Oh my gosh! And as I understand, you were actually so close as he came over that you could see his face.

Jack: I could see his face. I could see his unbuttoned helmet flapping in the breeze and all those big shiny white teeth.

Fisher: Really?

Jack: I guess he was pretty happy.

Fisher: He looked like he was enjoying himself.

Jack: I think so.

Fisher: Wow! How long had you been at Pearl Harbor before all this happened?

Jack: Just six days short of one year.

Fisher: So, as you were in this ditch, after this initial attack, what happened then, where did you go?

Jack: Well, this was a two wave attack as you well know. I’m not sure how long we were in the ditch, but it was an hour and fifteen minutes between the two waves. Shortly after the first wave was over, we’d come out of the ditch of course, and we started separating the aircrafts. We had 12 aircrafts parked between the two hangers, BP21 and BP23, my hanger. Half of them were on fire from the first bomb that fell. We started separating the burning aircrafts from aircrafts that weren’t damaged. And I was ordered by the lady chief to grab two other sailors and go into the hanger and get the squadron commander’s aircraft ready for flight. We got the engines ready, buttoned them up, the aircraft was rolled out, refueled, loaded with two 1000 pound bombs. The captain and his crew flew for 19 hours looking for the Japanese fleet but found nothing.  

Fisher: Hm!

Jack: But the devastating thing that I had seen, I can look down Battleship Row and see the Arizona, the Nevada, West Virginia, Tennessee, California, Utah, I seen the Oklahoma turn turtle up, seen all these ships on fire, all sinking. I seen gentleman jumping in the water, trying to swim to water cover and burning all out. A lot of them died in the water, some of them died when they reached the beach, and of course some of them made it. But it was a sight I’ll never forget.  

Fisher: I can only imagine. How many days did you remain at Pearl after the attack on December 7th?

Jack: Well, the normal routine of search and flight training, everything resumed immediately after the raid. This continued until Midway.

Fisher: I see. So, you stayed there. You were still based there.

Jack: Oh, yeah.

Fisher: And so, you were a pilot. Had you received your pilot training before December 7th or was that just a continuation after the attack?

Jack: Well, in the military I was flight engineer. I went to flight school after I got out of the Navy, then I was an airline pilot, was strictly a flight engineer in the Navy.

Fisher: At that point.

Jack: At that point.

Fisher: So, as I understand it, Midway of course was not that long after Pearl Harbor. It was just a matter of several months and was obviously very important because you had four Japanese aircraft carriers trying to lure in what they thought what was left of the United States Navy. They were going to attack it, take over Midway, and then they were in a position where they could attack the West Coast. But we of course intercepted all their messages so we knew what the plan was and so we had our own carriers out there that they didn’t even know existed at that point, and you were part of the battle of Midway.

Jack: Let me run through that complete story of that. Immediately after the journey to liberate Tokyo, the naval intelligence began receiving numerous coded messages using the letters AF and AO. We understood part of the Japanese code. We knew that one of these stood for the Aleutian Islands and the other for Midway, but we could not tell which was which. Our chief of intelligence told Admiral Nimitz he said, "I've devised a plan to ascertain what they mean." He said, "We can send out an encoded message saying, "Midway has just had a fresh water condenser failure." Nimitz Said, "Send it." The Japanese took the bait, they sent out a coded message saying "AF has just had a fresh water condenser failure." Nimitz then sent a small task force to the Aleutian Islands in disguise and the rest of the fleet to Midway, positioning the aircraft carriers in position. The rest of the fleet another, my squadron left Pearl Harbor on May 28, 1942, began our search for the Japanese fleet. June 3rd, we found them, 450 miles north east of Midway, proceeding towards Midway under a weather front.

Fisher: And when you say, "We found him." you were part of the group that did find them.

Jack: That was in the aircraft that made the report of their position.

Fisher: That is amazing to me. And it’s a little personal too, because I had an uncle, Don Olsen who served on the USS New Orleans at the Battle of Midway and I've reviewed his naval records and the experience at that time. It was a world changing battle, the Battle of Midway, because it protected the west coast, it pushed the Japanese back. I believe they were also planning on attacking Australia.

Jack: That's right.

Fisher: This was kind of the end of their pushing east and their aggression in that direction. They had to go into a more defensive position after this, right?

Jack: That's right. They wanted to control all the shipping lanes to the Philippines.

Fisher: Do you think back on this, Jack? I mean, you're 99 years old now. You must look back on this, 80 years ago it seems, I'm sure, like another lifetime ago.

Jack: It does seem like an awful long time, but I remember it like it was yesterday.

Fisher: I bet it does. It’s life defining when you go through something like that, yes?

Jack: That's very true, yes.

Fisher: How many of your friends from those times are still with us?

Jack: Recently, I have a very good friend here, a rear admiral by the name of Jim Simons. He had some contacts and I come up with a group of at least 30 or 40 names that I remembered in my squadron and they did research on these and they could not make contact with a single one.

Fisher: So you're it.

Jack: Well, I'm the only one in Phoenix. I think there's only two of us in Arizona. You know, you're talking about us very long ago. I've been back to Pearl Harbor on December 7th several times, checking back by The Greatest Generations Foundation. The person is a gentleman by the name of Timothy Davis, he's an Australian.

Fisher: Hm!

Jack: When I first met him, I says, "How come you Australians got mixed up in all of this?" He said, "Jack, if it hadn't have been for you boys, Australia might have been speaking Japanese."

Fisher: [Laughs] That's absolutely true. You did a lot of stuff. You also fought in the Atlantic Theatre.

Jack: I was transferred back to San Diego, went to training in the B24 Liberator. In April 1943, flew 56 missions till December and patrolled the English Channel and the Bay of Biscay, which is the western coast of France.

Fisher: That's unbelievable. I'm seeing a number here that you flew 315 navy missions. How is that even possible?

Jack: I don't know. [Laughs] When they say go, you've got to go.

Fisher: You go and you go, but I mean, really, what were the odds of survival with that number of missions under your belt?

Jack: Well, I can tell you this, every time you board that aircraft, you say, well, you know, maybe this might be the last one. You never know.

Fisher: I can only imagine. Two Distinguished Flying Cross medals and then afterwards you worked as a corporate pilot. What a life!

Jack: Yeah, that was. The charter airline, I had my fair share between California for 7 years and then I went to the Union Oil company as a corporate pilot for another 10 years.

Fisher: Well, what a piece of family history you've written for your family, Jack. And this has been a real honor to talk to you. Did your dad serve in the service?

Jack: My father was a royal World War I veteran. He never talked too much about it, but he did tell me he spent a year crawling through the mud in France.

Fisher: Oh wow! That had to be just as difficult as everything you went through.

Jack: Oh, that's true, yeah.

Fisher: Unbelievable. And you turn 100 in December.

Jack: December I'll be 100, yes.

Fisher: Unbelievable. He is Jack Holder. He's from Phoenix, Arizona, a survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941 at Ford Island and actually was able to look right into the face of one of the Japanese pilots who was strafing him and his buddies. What a life what a story Jack! You've written this book about your life. What's it called?

Jack: It’s called, Fear, Adrenaline and Excitement.

Fisher: Did you come up with that title?

Jack: Yes, I did.

Fisher: And what does it mean to you?

Jack: Well, it means exactly what I experienced. There's a great difference between being afraid and the moment of fear. If a person's afraid, it creates bad decisions. But a moment of fear tells the adrenaline to start flowing, then it changed to excitement.

Fisher: So where can people get this book?

Jack: On Amazon and my website, JackHolder.org.

Fisher: Wonderful. Jack, thank you so much. I look forward to reading the book.

Jack: Okay.

Segment 3 Episode 403

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Kate Eakman

Fisher: All right, this past week, we commemorated the 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, and of course we just heard our great visit with Jack Holder who was there and barely survived it. And I thought this might be a great time to bring back to Extreme Genes, Kate Eakman from our friends over at Legacy Tree Genealogists, our great sponsors, to talk about researching your World War II ancestors. And you know, there’s a lot of things to be found still, a lot of things have been lost too because there was a huge fire in St. Louis at an archive there from 1973. Kate, welcome back to the show! It’s great to have you.

Kate: Hi! Thanks for having me on again.

Fisher: You have a great military background in your family.

Kate: Yes, I do. My father served in the air force. My uncles and cousins were army air force, navy, back to the Civil War, Revolutionary War era. So, we have a lot of history of military service in my family.

Fisher: Probably makes military research something even more interesting for you.

Kate: It is. It feels more personal.  Even when I’m doing for other clients it still feels like I’m connected to it.

Fisher: Sure. Well, let’s talk about first of all the records that are available, personnel files, because I think that’s what most people would find the most personal and the most fascinating. And having just completed this year a book on all my family in World War II, which included two sailors in the Navy and another who was in the army air corps. I found that the personnel records of my Navy people were absolutely incredible. 

Kate: They are. The personnel records are so helpful because they provide us with potentially a lot of detail about our ancestor’s serves during World War II. You might have enlistment papers. You’ll have the records of what occurred during their service all the way through to their discharge.

Fisher: Yeah. In fact, there was an actual recruitment photograph of one of my uncles standing next to the measuring stick that they have on the door.

Kate: Yes.

Fisher: And in his Navy suit from the first time. And I was actually able to colorize that picture. It’s just absolutely fantastic. And the other thing about getting these personnel records aside from the things that you’re talking about, you can see for instance when they advanced in rank or for misbehavior knocked down in rank, or go through something like that. What their duties were for instance in the Navy on the ship. What ships they were on and when they transferred from here to there. And the thing that I really learned in the process of putting this book together especially in the instance of these two Navy members, was that, if you get the name of the ship then you can research the history of the ship. Then it will tell you what battles they were in, during what dates and then you can research the battles to find out what they entailed and what maybe happened there. And in the case of each of my sailors, I found online a digitized version of a journal that one of their ship mates kept during the same period they were there. So, we actually got a personal account from somebody of what the experience was like.

Kate: Wow.

Fisher: And a lot of it was quite different than what my uncles described because my uncles tended to downplay, at least my one uncle tended to downplay exactly how severe the battle was. He would talk about, oh, he’d shoot at some German planes flying by when in fact they were dive bombing on the ship trying to sink it. And they were zigzagging trying to avoid bombs. It was amazing though, to follow it from the personnel files out to the actual battles themselves.

Kate: We have the same ability to do those with army records as well, if you’re fortunate enough to have those records still existing. You mentioned the fire in St. Louise.

Fisher: Yes.

Kate: And unfortunately, that destroyed about 80 percent of the army personnel records from 1912 to 1950. Obviously, World War II is right in the middle of all of that.

Fisher: Um hmm and World War I.

Kate: And World War I as well. So, you have a chance, but only about a 20 percent chance of being able to get those personnel records for your army ancestors.

Fisher: I’m glad you said that because I think most of us, and I thought it too that they were all gone. That the only things left were the Navy, but I talked to someone recently who did obtain the army personnel records of relatives. And I was kind of surprised. I’m thinking, how can that be? But apparently, 20 percent of them did survive. So you have to really apply to find out.

Kate: Well, and they also have auxiliary records. When you apply, if they don’t have the military personnel files they’ll tell you that, but they’ll let you know they do have some other auxiliary records that could be as little as a one page sheet for the final payment when they were mustered out. But it still gives you information. It will tell you the unit with which they served. It will tell you when and where they were mustered out. How much they were paid, where the cheque was sent. So, you can still gather information from that one single page and then as you said, with your Naval records then just follow the path. Take those little pieces of information and learn about the battles that they served in from there.

Fisher: And then you can actually go over to Ancestry, they’ve got a lot of the personnel records, just kind of the indexes more than anything, tells you which ships or what units people were attached to during World War II.

Kate: Yeah.

Fisher: And you can use that to follow through the same thing. Even obituaries might tell you the name of a ship or some battles they were in and you can further expand that research to really put together their story.

Kate: That’s right. You can use some other interesting sources to find that information as well, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) chapters that they may have belonged to. There may be information there. The internet is full of societies or groups of people who were veterans or who the children of veterans of different units and they collect the history and the photographs of that unit’s war time service. And then of course, you can also find things like the Eisenhower Library, has World War II military records that aren’t specific to a soldier but to units and regiments, and the things that they did during the war as well.

Fisher: Yeah. You never know where some of these pictures are going to come up. In fact, one of my Navy guys had a stepson who shortly before he passed, sent over a photograph. It was one of those really long narrow pictures and it was his graduating class from the Navy. He actually joined the Navy during the Depression. And you can see him standing off to the left and we have a marvelous copy of this thing now. I always maintain that there’s an entire family history library for every family in America in attics and basements all over the country just spread out among people we know and in many cases a lot of people we don’t know.

Kate: Yes, yes. I was also thinking about another avenue for research that we sometimes ignore, which is cemeteries. Obviously, if your ancestor was buried in a military cemetery then that’s going to provide you with some information about the unit that he served in.

Fisher: Um hmm.

Kate: But even a non-military cemetery, that headstone may have information on it, often times either unit of service, their years of service, and so those are other places to go look for a starting place to find that information about your ancestor. So many of the men who served in World War II were hesitant to talk about their experience.

Fisher: Oh, yes.

Kate: Their children knew they served but that was it and their grandchildren didn’t even know that much often times. That’s what gets them started, I saw my grandfather’s grave. It said he served in World War II. Tell me about what he did.

Fisher: It really tells me that the number one thing you can ever find about anybody is what unit they served in.

Kate: Yes.

Fisher: And then the number two thing would be, what were the dates? Because you can then go research the unit and then if you figure out, okay he went in or she went in on this date and left at this time then you can find out, okay well, what happened to the unit in between those dates.

Kate: That’s exactly right. Now, I know some of your listeners will be aware of the fact that things like the National Archives, the National Personnel Records that are in St. Louis is closed right now because of the pandemic and they may be concerned, well, I can’t start my research because that office is closed. And it is. It’s still closed right now, but these other things you were talking about obituaries, the headstones, those are great places to start and mine the internet to find what you can get from there. And then once the personnel records center opens up then you can go ahead and order those documents.

Fisher: Take a crack at it. She’s Kate Eakman. She’s from Legacy Tree Genealogists. Kate thanks once again for coming on the show always love having you. Have yourself a great weekend.

Kate: Thanks Scott. This was fun.

Fisher: 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 403

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, I love this segment of the show. It is Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, David Allen Lambert back from NEHGS over there. And David, our first question today is from Katy Glick in Minneapolis and she says, "David, I've heard you mention you've done the genealogy for several famous people. What surprises did you find for them?" Good question, Katy.

David: Ooh, well, gosh, there's been a batch of them over the past 20 years that I've worked on, but I can pick up a couple right off.

Fisher: Okay.

David: David McCullough who of course narrated so much of Ken Burns' Civil War and the famous author who wrote True Men, Johnstown Flood, but 1776 in John Adams are very popular.

Fisher: Of course.

David: I found some Revolutionary War soldiers he didn't know that he had in his family tree. That was real fun.

Fisher: Really. What was his reaction to that?

David: Well, I'm sure it was revolutionary.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: Well, actually he was very appreciative. In fact, he said something very important that I've kind of held with me ever since then. He said that if you want to be remembered in the next century, keep a journal. And it’s the truth, because just think of so many things that are electronic now.

Fisher: That's right.

David: That we don't print off. That leads me to another discovery I made, and I talked about McCullough with Ken Burns' shows and of course Ken Burns having the PBS documentary on the Civil War. And I was able to do his genealogy and I found out that his ancestor on the Flowers family, which were from the mid Atlantic states were the same family that was Abraham Lincoln's. So, I was able to give Ken Burns a cousinship with Abe Lincoln.

Fisher: Wow, how cool is that! What was the distance?

David: It was way back of course, it was in the 1600s. But just for the fact that he didn't know, he told me how thrilled he was.

Fisher: Sure.

David: So that was really nice.

Fisher: I'll bet.

David: Doris Kearns Goodwin, I was able to give the historian the Kennedys a connection that I have, Mary Perkins Bradbury, a witch accused at Salem in 1692. Nathaniel Philbrick was another person. Now, Nathaniel Philbrick wrote the book "In the Heart of The Sea".

Fisher: Yep.

David: Which Ron Howard turned into the movie. It’s loosely based on the story of the whale ship, Essex that was the story that Melville heard, which then turned into Moby Dick.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: Now, Philbrick lives on Nantucket. Always thought he was an off-islander until I told him that Tristram Coffin, the only governor of Nantucket was his ancestor. He incidentally is my ancestor and also your wife's ancestor.

Fisher: That's true, yes! [Laughs] And you know, the thing is too, those early families of Nantucket were all pretty much interrelated, so there may be several others on that island that tie together. But that's a great story, especially if Philbrick thought he was an off-islander, was considered as such. If you're a descendant of Tristam Coffin, it’s a whole different thing. And by the way, he wrote I think what is the definitive book about the pilgrims and Plymouth and that is Mayflower, one of the great books of all time. If you have any Mayflower connection at all, you have to have that book for your library. It’s absolutely unbelievable. Any others?

David: Well, I was going to say that I've had the honor of working on Angela Lansbury, Michael and Kitty Dukakis’ genealogy, so, there's been some fun stories. Some of them are just small little connections to connect an ancestor back. But we found dozens of different presidents and royal lines for people over the years. It’s been really fun and I hope there are many more to discover down the road.

Fisher: And these are basically people that come in as guest speakers at the New England Historic Genealogical Society, yes?

David: Right, for any of our annual dinners, usually our April dinner or sometimes our fall dinner.

Fisher: Interesting. Great stuff and what a great opportunity for you, David. What fun!

David: It really was.

Fisher: All right, and thanks so much for the question, Katy. It was a really good one. Lots of good stuff in there, too. What fun to work on celebrity genealogies! And coming up next, we have another question on Ask Us Anything, this one having to do with collecting ancestral documents and autographs. Yeah, hear what we've got to say about it, coming up next when we return on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show in three minutes.

Segment 5 Episode 403

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, second time around for Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. And David, we've got an email from Rick M. in Tampa, Florida. And Rick says, "Fisher and David, I've heard you two talk about collecting documents and autographs. Do you collect signed stuff of your ancestors?" The simple answer is, Rick, yes, we do when we can.

David: Yeah, that's true. I mean, a lot of times its not getting the originals, unless we can swindle away from…I mean, “obtain” from a cousin a signed document or a letter or a postcard and I mean, I have a couple of those. But a lot of times, its copies. How about you, Fish? Have you lucked out on the eBay circuit finding relatives online?

Fisher: I found one signature online. It was the brother of my second great grandfather. The brother's name was Theodosius Seacor and he was a famous shipbuilder in New York City in the 1800s, actually built part of the Monitor.

David: Oh!

Fisher: Yeah. And he was in business with Commodore Vanderbilt and there was a document online that he and his son in law both signed, so I snarfed that. Also picked up a signed document between my great grandfather and his brother in their business partnership in New York City in the 1880s, and that came through the estate of a third cousin who passed away. And then all the family stuff came my way and that was with family bible pages and other things. So, I really treasure those. And I was thinking about it, it’s like, yes, I have a couple of first greats. I don't have any of my second greats on anything original. But there are so many places to get the copies. And over the years, I've written histories of the various branches of both my family and my wife's family, and I like to put a page in there somewhere at the beginning or the back where it’s just filled with different signatures of the people we wrote about and just try to collect them that way. It’s really fun, because certainly you can do a handwriting analysis on it through certain people and they can give you an idea what their personalities were like or what they may have even been going through at the time they signed a certain record.

David: Right. And it’s true with family. I mean, you can get signatures, somebody when they were a child and just learned how to do penmanship or you can get a young adult or later in life or better yet, the maiden name signature of your mother and then her married signature. Part of your life with one name and then having another one later!

Fisher: Well, we're working right now on a history of my wife's father side of the family and I have a folder on him and I was going through it the other day and found that there were all kinds of cards in there, like a fishing license that he signed back in the 1950s I think it was. Then he's got his military card that he signed and several other things. I have things like that from my grandfather as well. So you can take those items and either frame the original carefully with UV glass and acid free stuff obviously to protect them if you do it that way or make a great copy of it and protect the originals. But they really personalize an item of family history when you have that signature on them. So, I always found that really interesting. And it makes any item like that much more personal.

David: It really does. In fact, I have my grandfather's Canadian passport and I have books from the funerals of my uncle and my grandparents, and you know got signatures of other cousins that you may normally just get a card that's signed, you know, Uncle John and Aunt Doris, but this is their full signatures on an item, so that's pretty good.

Fisher: Sure, the guest book from the funeral or something like that. I have a couple of those.

David: Exactly, yeah.

Fisher: Those are really interesting, too, because sometimes you go check out some of the folks who signed them that you didn't know much about and see what their history was. And we found several who did some amazing things in World War II, including one who escorted the atom bomb on a train across the country with the bomb actually handcuffed to his wrist. I mean, it was just a crazy story!

David: Wow!

Fisher: Anyway, thanks so much for the question, Rick, we appreciate it. Hope that answers that for you. And David, thank you very much for coming on, and we'll talk to you again next week.

David: All right, my friend.

Fisher: All right, that's our show folks. Thank you so much for joining us. Thanks once again to Jack Holder, the Pearl Harbor Survivor for talking about the experience, and to Kate Eckman from our sponsors over at Legacy Tree Genealogists, talking about World War II research. If you missed any of it, of course catch the podcast on Apple Media, iTunes, iHeart Radio, ExtremeGenes.com and Spotify. Talk to you next week. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!

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

Email me new episodes