Episode 406 - Your Union Civil War Soldiers In The Grand Army Of The Republic / What 2022 Holds For Ancestry.com

podcast episode Jan 17, 2022

Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org.  David first talks about his significant finds in the newly released 1921 England and Wales Census. He needed to use a little trick to find his ancestor, but he did! He’ll explain what this trick is and how you might use it. Then, the guys talk about the complicated story of the removal of a statue of a Confederate leader with his own remains beneath it. What til you hear exactly where this man’s final resting ground is! Then, it’s an odd story about a man’s DNA test that shows he has no past!  How can this be? You’ll find out! Next, it’s the season for suing over DNA test results, and one organization in Utah has double trouble.

Fisher then visits with Gary Clark, author of the newly released Grand Army of the Republic and Union Veteran Research. Gary talks about the founding of the organization, what their aims were, and what records they left.

Next, Fisher catches up with Crista Cowan over at sponsor Ancestry.com. Crista talks new newspaper databases, genie education opportunities in the New Year and more!

Then, David returns for Ask Us Anything, as the guys tackle a pair of listener questions.

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


Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 406

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, we’ve got a couple of great guests today as always. We’ve got Gary Clark on who’s put together an incredible book on the Grand Army of the Republic. Now if you’re not familiar with that organization, it was an organization of the Union soldiers after the Civil War. They became very powerful in politics and were all over the country. And Gary’s given us a great manual basically on how to find what records where and what you might find in them. He’ll explain in the whole thing coming up in just about ten minutes. And then later in the show from our sponsors over at Ancestry.com, Crista Cowan is back talking about the coming year, talking about an expansion of the marriage and obituary records from Newspapers.com, their baby company, and education in genealogy coming up this year. And of course giving us a little hint what may be coming at RootsTech. Hey, if you haven’t signed up for our Weekly Genie Newsletter yet, you can do that on our Facebook page or on our website ExtremeGenes.com. You can also sign up for our courses in DNA and basic genealogy. Right now it’s time to head out to Boston, Massachusetts where it’s bitter cold for my good friend David Allen Lambert the Chief Genealogist for the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. Hello David. How’re you doing?

David: I’m defrosting.

Fisher: [Laughs] Yeah.

David: But I had warm and fuzzy feeling this last week because as we know, the 1921 census came out. And thank you Jen Baldwin and all those people of FindMyPast and the National Archives in London for doing their hard work to bring me my great, great grandfather.

Fisher: Really: Now how did this work?

David: Well, it worked really easily. I just logged into my account, and I clicked on the tab probably about half hour after it launched last week, and I started looking for him. But I had to get creative, and this is a tip to anybody when you’re looking for something that’s handwritten. I didn’t find him. I know he lived in the house in 1901. He died there in 1946, where did he move to? So, if you take the first name Samuel and you abbreviate it a little bit by SAM superscript L, that’s how you would abbreviate Samuel. [Saml]. Well, someone read the handwriting as SENNL.

Fisher: Ooh.

David: But that’s okay. I narrowed it down just with the last name, to his age, and the place he was living, and I figured out who he was. And now I know his house that I stood in front of back in 1986. It was only four rooms. It’s a brick row house. I know he was retired. I know that he was working for the London and northwest railway company.

Fisher: Wow!

David: And there’s a great little census. And you know what’s nice about it? You’ve also got the back side of the page, they gave you the address, you’ve got all the information from the front of the book, the enumeration itself, and you’ve got a nice map. So, it was really the best $4.50 cents I had ever spent.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: And I proceeded to spend that again, basically the price of a fast-food meal, and got my great grandfather on the other side of the family, his brother and sister and nephew living at what used to be our grocery store in Willaston, England.

Fisher: Wow! That’s sounds like you really had a great find there. And it’s only been 100 years the making.

David: That’s absolutely correct.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: We have some other news that has nothing to do with my family but the family of A.P. Hill, Confederate general, was probably interested in what was going on in Richmond. I see they’re moving the statue. This is one of the last Confederate statues in Richmond. But A.P. Hill who died in April of 1865, shot by a Union soldier, was buried twice. First in the cemetery, secondly in what is pretty much the middle of an intersection underneath the statue!

Fisher: Yes. [Laughs] I saw the picture of this. Literally there was a statue there. He’s buried underneath it and there’s cars going by in all four directions and it’s on this round base. I don’t know if you call it a round-about or just a busy intersection, but there he is. What a strange place to be buried!

David: And who knows what it looked like in 1885, but it’s a far cry from what it looks like in 2020, and of course that’s going to look completely different and I’m sure they’re going to take that little circle of earth out of there permanently. You know, every so often we get stories and I wonder are these real? Well, I’ll let you judge on this one. There’s a great little story in the news, just came out about a guy who got his DNA tested and it said the origins were not available. It went further on to say that he has no ethnic, or biological or cultural discern ability to his DNA results. Well, then I read the best part of it, he basically said he was going to call his parents but then he realized he couldn’t recall having any parents.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: Thank you The Onion for the best chuckle I’ve had all week.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: And as you know, The Onion has what appears to be good news stories but they’re obviously fictional.

Fisher: They twist the knife just a little bit at a time before you finally realize it’s all fake. It’s great stuff.

David: Well, speaking of DNA, I wish I could say that this story was actually made up, but it looks like a DNA test from 23andMe and Ancestry are leading to surprise paternity discoveries for some families in the Utah area. 

Fisher: Um hmm. Yeah.

David: You probably saw that one.

Fisher: Yep, the University of Utah Center for Reproductive Medicine. The best part about this story was this lawyer who said yeah, every February after everybody’s gotten their DNA kits for Christmas and then they waited for their results to come in, that’s when I start getting all these calls from people demanding that something be done. So, yeah, this is a story of a couple of families. One found out that they had gone in for in vitro fertilization, found out somehow things got switched up so daddy wasn’t daddy. And there was another problem with the other family so both families are suing over the whole circumstance.

David: And we thought swapped at the hospital was a really big story. This is swapped before the hospital.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: Well, that’s all I have for all of the news in genealogy this week. And don’t forget, if you’re not a member of American Ancestors, NEHGS would love to have you as a member. You can go on our website AmericanAncestors.org use the coupon code EXTREME, I’m sure you know where that comes from, Extreme Genes, and save $20.

Fisher: All right, very nice David. Catch you at the back-end of the show for Ask Us Anything. And coming up next, we’re going to talk to a man who’s written an amazing book that may be of great use o you if you’re tracing your Union soldier from the Civil War. He’s Gary Clark. He’s coming up in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 406

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Gary Clark

Fisher: And welcome back America, to America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. And my first guest is a man out of Kansas who was deep in the weeds in the Civil War, he’s Gary Clark. He is the author of a book on the “Grand Army of the Republic and Union Veteran Research” and Gary, welcome to Extreme Genes. It’s great to have you.

Gary: Thanks Scott. Thanks for letting me share some information on this great topic that really grabbed me over the last couple of years. I’ve been working with it for about 10 to 20 years so thought I had to put it down on paper to share what I’ve learned.

Fisher: Well, I’ve gone through this book and you’ve got a lot of interesting and important information in there for anybody wanting to research their Union veteran through the lens of the Grand Army of the Republic. Let’s start with, for people who aren’t familiar with it, what the Grand Army of the Republic was.

Gary: Well, it was a post Civil War fraternal organization founded by two Union soldiers and they had actually conceived of it on the march to Atlanta. One was a doctor and the other one was a chaplain. So, once the war ended they thought about well, we need an organization for men who can still  participate in the camaraderie, and one of them being a doctor knew that they were going to need help also. So, within about a year after the Civil War, they had the first draft and started the organization and called it the Grand Army of the Republics. So, it’s all Union veterans. It kind of floundered for about 10 years, but then once 1880s came along it just finally took off. It finally smoothed out what it was all about and really resonated with Union veterans all over the country. 

Fisher: Yeah, it really did. And there were chapters all over the place. But the other thing that I got a kick out of was their political impact. I mean, they were all over everything.

Gary: And that is part of their downfall in the 70s because they got too political. And then they tampered that a little bit and there was this amazing number of men who were veterans. So they started backing certain candidates, whether it’s at state level, the city level, or the federal level. And many, many, many governors, senators, and presidents were actually GAR members. So, there was a symbiotic relationship there that they had kind of an in with the political scene, which helped them then in getting pension and veteran benefits through much easier.

Fisher: So, let’s talk about the records left by the Grand Army. It seems to me that the last Union soldier died in the 1950s, right? Like 1956 or something like that.

Gary: Yep, 1956, up in Wisconsin, a guy named Albert Woolson I believe is his name.

Fisher: Yeah.

Gary: And they hadn’t been a functional organization for probably five or ten years before that because they had all died off.

Fisher: Sure.

Gary: Most of them died off by the 40s. But their heyday was in the 1880s to probably the 1920s.  That’s a long period of time.

Fisher: Sure.

Gary: And the difficulty for a researcher is this is a private organization. There are no federal repositories of the GAR records. I mean, today you have the compiled military records for all the soldiers, you have pension records, and those are all in NARA with National Archives. But the GAR records are scattered about the country with varying levels of accessibility.

Fisher: And also varying levels of information in each chapter, right? I mean, there wasn’t really a standard way to keep these records.

Gary: There was, but there wasn’t. I’m here in Kansas, and at one time there were 500 posts. Now a lot of these guys were just farmers out in the middle of the town, with 10 people in their posts and they weren’t real good on record keeping. They were supposed to send records up to the department, which was the state level. And there is a lot of that. But the records were supposed to be consolidated to stay. A lot of them did end up in state historical societies or in universities. It’s like a lot of things in genealogy research, you don’t know if you’re going to find it till you start looking for it.

Fisher: Right, absolutely. So, it really depends on what chapter or post they wound up in and how good the records were there. It’s just a matter of trying to find these. Where do you start looking for some of these records Gary?

Gary: Of course, the researcher assuming already knows that their ancestor is a Civil War veteran.

Fisher: Right.

Gary: And then I usually tell people one of the first things they can do is go to Ancestry or Family Search and check there. There’s only about six states that had their databases for some information that was consolidated and digitized and is on those, but first they need to do that, Kansas, Iowa, Pennsylvania, New York and a couple of others. So, you kind of have to look in several little places. I’d start there because you can do that in the comfort of your home.

Fisher: Sure.

Gary: Secondly, most state historical societies have pretty good indexes online. Now you may not be able to see the record, but they may show what record sets they have. So, I definitely would look up into your state historical society. Another place is universities. I found a lot of local county historical societies have records. You do the cherry picking, look on the national databases, look on your state historical societies, and actually I’ve got in the book I’ve got about eight pages of the top resources in every state in the country.

Fisher: Yeah, starts on page 107, looking at it right now.

Gary: Yeah.

Fisher: And it’s a great list. And then the question would be what kind of information can you find within some of these posts?

Gary: Well, it’s kind of interesting. You know, you look at most research on your ancestors, you have the vital records. You have names and dates, you know, when they were born, when they died, if you can find their post records, now the post being the local GAR chapter. You only had to have 10 members to make a post. Some posts had hundreds and hundreds of members in big cities.

Fisher: Sure.

Gary: So, if they kept a good record and they’ve been archived, well you’d know where your great, great, great grandfather was every Saturday of the month. His wife might not have known.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Gary: But the records will show it. And it will show what activities he did. I had one great uncle that over the years he was a quarter masters, a sergeant in arms, the surgeon, and a chaplain. A little bit of a misnomer because the surgeon, I wouldn’t trust him with a knife. He was a farmer.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Gary: But the surgeon’s goal was just to document all the soldiers’ wounds and everything they had received in the war.

Fisher: Oh wow!

Gary: Those are reported up the chain and help get pension funds. So, you see such things in that and really the key there is once you find some records that yes, they were here, and they did this, the newspapers even if it’s the smallest town, the smallest newspaper covered all the activities they did. You had mentioned the odd fellows in some of these other organizations. They’re called secret societies.

Fisher: Sure.

Gary: And they did fairly well. GAR couldn’t blast out enough what they were doing. They were nothing secret about them.

Fisher: [Laugh]s That’s really true.

Gary: They said there would be a ceremony and an initiation.

Fisher: And not only that, you’ve got all these affiliate organizations that are tied to GAR so even if you didn’t have a Union veteran, you might have somebody. Like myself, my grandfather Fisher was a drummer boy for events of a GAR post out of Brooklyn, New York. I was looking at this picture I had of him from about 1890 drumming on his drum. He was 10 years old. And I’m thinking, why is he in a Civil War outfit? What does that mean? But he had a badge on that revealed the post he was in. And I actually found that we have the badge from back then and started researching that and found out that the post had been named after a drummer boy who was the first person out of Brooklyn, New York killed in the Civil War by an accidental discharge at a camp. 

Gary: Oh no.

Fisher: Yeah.

Gary: That’s so unusual. They would name their post after maybe some local luminaries or some famous person, some heroes or something. There’s a lot of then named Grant, or Sheridan, and all that also after the generals.

Fisher: Sure.

Gary: But a lot of their activities were covered in the newspapers for ‘city owned” I use that term with quotes around it, they owned Memorial Day for about 20-30 years.

Fisher: Oh, I bet.

Gary: They had the pictures of it. They organized all the parades and the services at the cemetery. And it frequently listed all of the GAR members that were in attendance, or at least the officers.

Fisher: What about the affiliate organizations, were they part of that as well? Like the Women’s Relief Corps, and The Ladies of the GAR, and The Sons of the Union Veterans.

Gary: Absolutely. And I don’t want people to think it was just all these men in uniform. They had affiliate organizations. One was called Women’s Relief Corps, one was called Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic, and those were the two primary women’s. And there was a Daughters of Union Veterans organization. And they all have records that are parallel with the GAR records because they were loosely they were official allied organizations of the GAR. They met with them. They were at their national encampments, and women’s records can be found alongside the men’s GAR records. 

Fisher: And what does that tell us?

Gary: Kind of the same thing. The GAR had several primary purposes. One was to assist down and out and those in need veterans, the other was widows and orphans, which the Civil War created a tremendous number of those.

Fisher: Sure.

Gary: And kind of thirdly, this morphed into a bigger item as it moved along, was education and the patriotic teachings in the schools, which kind of reached into the peak in 1890. And I don’t have any great memories that support this, but I’ve seen the Women’s Relief Corp in particular and the Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic, they were responsible for the success of the GAR as much as the men.

Fisher: I bet they were. They always are.

Gary: Well, there’s an old saying, “If you want a job done, get a women to do it.”

Fisher: Yes.

Gary: They were the ones who would run around. How many men would get together and have a bake sale to make money to donate to the school?

Fisher: [Laugh] yeah.

Gary: They did a tremendous number of bake sales including things like that. And it’s even in their records in the yearly journals how much money they contributed to the funds of the GAR. The women also sponsored and pushed for a lot of soldiers’ homes, sailors and soldiers’ homes of the late 1880s. They didn’t just come out of the kindness of their hearts, they had to be pushed. The Women’s Relief Corp, the name of the a lot of the homes early on were The Women’s Relief Corp, soldiers and sailors homes. So, they were just as responsible for the GAR’s success I think as the men.

Fisher: Amazing. He’s Gary Clark. He’s the author of the Grand Army of the Republic and Union Veteran Research. It’s a great soft-cover book. And Gary, where can people get it?

Gary: All the books are on Amazon.com so obviously they can do a search on that. The easiest way to do that, remember, is to just go to my website it’s called PhotoTree.com. It’s P-H-O-T-O-T-R-E-E. It’s only been out since October so the ink is still wet. 

Fisher: [Laughs] Yes it is. Well, thanks so much for coming on the show. Interesting stuff and Happy New Year to you!

Gary: All right. Thanks Scott.

Fisher: And coming up next, it is a brand new year over at our sponsors at Ancestry.com. Crista Cowan joins us once again to fill us in what’s happening there of course in this year of the census. We’ve got a lot to talk about coming up next when we return in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 3 Episode 406

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Crista Cowan

Fisher: Welcome back America! It’s Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, and as we now start to dip our toes into the New Year, it’s great to have my good friend Crista Cowan back from Ancestry.com. Crista, look into your crystal ball, what are you seeing up ahead for Ancestry?

Crista: Oh, so many great things. I always love a new year and a new start, but just in the month of December as we wrapped up the year we were able to launch some collections on Ancestry that I’m really excited about. I know that the last time that we talked about the Newspapers.com obituaries and marriages index, those were just for the US and Canada. We’ve now been able to create those same indexes for the UK and for Australia. And that allowed us to put out about another ten to twelve million records for those particular countries for Newspapers.com.

Fisher: Wow! How far back do some of these newspapers and obituaries go?

Crista: They go back to the early 1800s in a lot of cases. Of course, the large bulk of them are going to be from the late 1800s and the early 1900s as lots of little towns spun up their own printing presses and started printing local newspapers and local news and they needed to fill column inches so they would tell all the details. I would often compare newspapers to the Facebook of their day. [Laughs]

Fisher: No, that’s a very reasonable thing. And when you consider now that we put it all online, it really is the Facebook of their day brought up to modern technology standards.

Crista: Yeah, absolutely. So, we’ve launched this for the UK and Australia. And as Newspapers.com continues to acquire new titles and new newspapers are being published of course still. We update the US and Canadian indexes as well.

Fisher: Yeah. I’ll tell you what, we always talk about DNA because it’s the mind blowing science technology because we can spit in a tube and find out all this information. But, newspapers to me, is just the companion that goes along with it that reveals the actual stories as they happened, as they took place. It’s just great stuff. Well, we’ve got RootsTech coming up, and I know we’re going to be talking more about Ancestry’s role there next month, but let’s talk about a little genealogical education, what we’re looking forward to this year.

Crista: Yeah. You know, genealogy conferences have always been kind of tent poles in the genealogical community. They’ve always been an opportunity for us to get together and learn from some of the best in the industry new methodologies, how to research in different countries and time periods. And with things in the world they way they’ve been the last couple of years, so many of these conferences have gone virtual and RootsTech of course is no exception. Last year, they held the first ever virtual RootsTech and it was completely free and they had more than a million attendees. This year, they’re expecting at least that many. It is a little bit later this year, so it’s actually the 3rd through the 5th of March, and registration is already open. So, if you’re interested in attending, it’s free, you just have to go to RootsTech.org to sign up.

Fisher: You know, I love the fact that we get a million people around the world. But I think we all kind of miss that getting together with everybody because really, RootsTech in-person is like a big family reunion.

Crista: Yeah.

Fisher: But you’ve got to think this too, that when we do get back to the point where we can get together personally, how much bigger is that going to be?

Crista: Yeah, I don’t know. It will be interesting. A lot of people in the genealogy community know that the National Genealogical Society and the Federation of Genealogical Societies merged a couple of years ago. And the first joint conference that they held of course had to be virtual last year, but so far for this year they’re planning an in-person conference at the end of May in Sacramento, California. And it will be interesting to see if that in-person event is able to be held and how different it will be and if more people come.

Fisher: Yeah, no question. I mean, obviously we’re having a huge surge right as we are talking about this right now. So, who knows what’s going to happen with anything live. But, I would think the online education right now is bigger than it’s ever been, possibilities are endless. There are so many courses out there to be taken on so many different aspects to genealogy and what a great thing to do during the winter too if you’re stuck indoors a lot.

Crista: Yeah, and you know it’s interesting because here at Ancestry we’ve been playing around with different formats and different lengths of time for different educational pieces. A traditional genealogy conference, you go, you sit in a room with your notebook on your lap in the conference chairs and you write on your notebook and you’re there for an hour. Then there’s like a ten minute Q&A at the end. You may follow the speaker to their booth in the exhibit hall to ask more questions and virtual has completely flipped that on its head.

Fisher: Yes. [Laughs]

Crista: So, one of the things that Ancestry has been playing around with is, every other Tuesday on the Ancestry Facebook page, I just do a 15 minute Facebook live, here’s what I’m thinking about or want to talk about this week. And then let’s do 15 or 20 minutes of Q&A. And people have responded really well to that, just to that interaction, and to that shortened format of education.

Fisher: Where are we seeing more and more people? What parts of the world are we seeing more and more people getting engaged in genealogy where they haven’t in the past?

Crista: You know, it’s interesting because I think Ancestry has records for more than 80 countries around the world. I think RootsTech, their numbers from last year said something like 96 different countries and territories around the world. So, we’re seeing people from all over. But what I’m seeing is the biggest growth opportunity is the youth. Like more and more young people are getting interested or intrigued about family history, technology has mad family history more accessible to them. You can walk around with an app on your cell phone and access your grandma’s family tree. I think that’s a really intriguing space for us as a genealogy community, to kind of open our arms and find more ways to reach them, both to share family history but also to educate them.

Fisher: Well, it’s such a benefit to them as well because when they learn their family stories, as we all know from that famous study, what was it, Emory University?

Crista: Emory University, yeah.

Fisher: Just said that people learn to manage their struggles in life better when they know their family story, so what a great thing. And then just to touch on what you brought up there, what do you see happening, what’s the next big thing as far as technology, do you think is going to be coming ahead?

Crista: You know, Ancestry is working on some really cool things for this year, so next month when you and I speak we’ll get a little bit of a sneak peek about some of the things that Ancestry will be talking about at RootTech. But a lot of it becoming more mobile which for those of us who are hardcore genealogists who use two or three screens to do our research, it’s kind of baffling. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs] Yes.

Crista: But, I’m the researcher. I’m the family historian in our family, but my family is interested and so siblings have loaded the app on their phones and I’ve shared that with them and Ancestry is looking for some more ways for me as the tree owner, as the family historian to share more story driven information with them, rather than just saying, oh, here’s our family tree figure out for yourself how to navigate that.

Fisher: Don’t you think it is more difficult to research on a small phone because like you say, you need those screens.

Crista: Yeah, yeah.

Fisher: People who are just coming into the picture, they want stuff fast. They want stuff easy, so yeah, ultimately this is where it’s got to come from. It’s got to be able to work on the phone for so many other people.

Crista: And I think there’s a difference between researchers, which you and I would probably classify ourselves as, and people who are just super curious about family history. They just want to be consumers of information and that’s fine. Like, I am more than happy to share that information with anyone of my family members who is going to show any level of interest. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs] Isn’t that the truth. You ever have that feeling like, oh, you just took the cork out of the bottle and here it comes.

Crista: [Laughs] Yeah. I do have to have to temper it a little.  

Fisher: Yeah, temper it just a little bit. [Laughs] She’s Crista Cowan from Ancestry.com. A whole new year ahead and I know that there’s going to be a lot of fun stuff we’re going to be talking about in the coming months. So, thanks for your time again Crista, and we will talk to you again real soon.

Crista: Absolutely.

Fisher: All right. And coming up next David Allen Lambert as we do another round of Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 4 Episode 406

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, welcome back genies. It is time once again for Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here with David Allen Lambert over there in Boston, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. And Dave, our first question today comes from Pam in Mason City, Iowa and she says, "Happy New Years guys. I have been sharing my family tree on Family Search, because it’s free!" [Laughs]

David: Hmm, that's a good price.

Fisher: A good reason, yes. "What I don't understand is merging. Can you explain what merging does and why and how I do it?" That's a good question. You want to start?

David: Well, obviously the thing with free trees or any trees for that matter, you want to be able to make sure that if there's more than one person on the database, you're merging them together, so there's not 85 versions of Alexander Livingstone Poor.

Fisher: Right, yes! And this has been going on for a long time, especially since Family Search went to what they call a Wiki type tree, and what happens is, is there are many people over the years where they took all these databases. And so, you might have duplications of people going back 100s of years and I've heard of some ancestors who are showing up, what 100, 200 times. And so, to deal with this, they have to come up with a solution that they call merging. And if you look to the right when you're on the family members view of any of your ancestors, you'll see under tools, it will say "merge by ID" and it will say "possible duplicates." So, under possible duplicates, you might see a number there and it will give you an idea of how many versions of the same people might be on the family tree at Family Search. So, you have to click on that and then it will give you this view of both of them and you can decide what from one entry you want to keep and what from the other entry you want to keep until you merge them all together. You give a nice reason at the end and now you've at least narrowed it from maybe five people down to four and you just keep going until eventually you get one person.

David: That's pretty easy to do. And it’s just a matter of spending a little time to do it. But I think it’s great, because you're going to get closer connections, because people are going to probably have put information on and maybe there's a photograph of one of the relatives that's been matched up.

Fisher: It’s really true. It gets a little harder though, Dave, as you know when you get back to like 1750, 1700, 1600s. In fact, there are so many duplicates from back there they really haven't been able to resolve it. I guess you'd call it a glitch, because the system cannot handle that many merges into one person, so you have to mostly do this within the last couple of centuries. The other thing that happens though is that you're going to wind up with the spouse showing up more than one time married to the same person, so then you have to go in and start merging the spouses. Oh, and then you start getting the children! [Laughs] So, some of these merges for families can take a long, long time, an awful lot of work and you have to really make sure that you've got the most accurate, the most correct information, that its types in right, that the spelling's good, because otherwise then you're going to have people start coming in and correcting your corrections and sometimes that can get a little tricky.

David: So, if it’s not done correctly, you're giving people a lot of headaches versus a lot of great discoveries.

Fisher: Yeah, absolutely true. So, hopefully that helps. And the other thing I'll say about this is, you really have to go in and play with it. You can't really damage anything if you make a mistake. There are ways to undo what you've done and there's also helps on Family Search as well. So, it’s a great site, full of lots of great information there, like Dave says, maybe you can find a photo or two and certainly you can find documents that will validate some of the dates and the names and the relationships that you're looking for. So, good luck in your journey with that, Pam and best of luck with learning how to merge! And coming up next, we've got another question in three minutes on Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 406

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, back for our final segment of Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show for this week. It’s Fish and Dave. And Dave, this next question comes from Jim in San Jose, California. He says, "Fisher and Dave, I've heard that on certain census records, my ancestor's history in manufacturing could be better explained. Do you know what I'm talking about?" [Laughs] I don't, but maybe David does. What have you got, Dave?

David: Well, you know, when you've got nothing else to do at the National Archives 25 years ago and you've looked for your ancestors in all the censuses. You look for those non population schedules, and some of those are agricultural, some of them are military, some of them are mortality and some of them are manufacturing. And as a local historian, you may be interested in your own town's history and that's what I was for mine. So, I pulled up the manufacturing schedules. Now, these are kept by the federal government, Fish, between 1820 and then they skip 30 years and did them in 1850, ‘60, '70, and '80. And this is a great picture what was going on in the community. And you find out the names of the manufacturers, and maybe your ancestor being one of them, the type of business or products they made, the amount of capital invested in the actual company, quantity and kinds of raw materials that they used. It also tells you the quantities and the value of the product that they produced annually. Kind of power or machinery used, so, if they using water power for instance. The number of men and women employed. Now we don't have employment record back then, but how fascinating to know that your ancestor had a factory, employed, say, 74 people,

Fisher: Yeah.

David: The average monthly cost of male and female labor is also included in this. Now, the earliest one that I've really used is the 1820 non population schedule for manufacturing. The 1820 census mentions the type of the business, the kind of quantities of raw material, the number of people employed. I mean, this is 202 years ago.

Fisher: Wow!

David: Again the machinery and the cost and general remarks, which are quite entertaining, because some of the people that were writing down the information may have wrote something comical in the lines about your ancestor's business and got away with it and it’s preserved on digital form and microfilm for generations to come.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: Interesting for me is, I was able to find out about factories that I didn't even know existed in my town in 1820. We had like a straw hat factory. We were doing all sorts of different things with shoes by the 1850s and '60s, so I got all the manufacturers and businesses that were producing items.

Fisher: Wow!

David: And so, it gives you an interesting picture. And as we've talked about before, Fish, if you're going to learn about your ancestors, you need to learn about the community. So, if you want to know what was going on, if you know that your ancestor was laborer, you don't know the company, well, look at one of these decennial censuses in that town and see what companies existed and you might find where he worked.

Fisher: Yeah. And you know what I like about this, Dave, is, somebody who likes to write histories of my family, usually it’s just two or three pages on a particular ancestor to get details like that to add to it, really brings them to life, because its more than just tell, here's his name and here's where he lived and he was this or that. But when you can get the details of the factory, and we just had this one with my wife where her third great grandfather, his death record said “He died in nail factory number 5 in 1870.” What did that mean? You know, I had no idea, so we started to research that, went through these manufacturing records, learnt it was the Van Alen Nail Company Northumberland, Pennsylvania and he had been actually supervising a train that when on an elevated rail through the middle of the factory floor and they were working on it and it fell on top of him and that's how he got killed!

David: Ohh!

Fisher: Yeah. All the details though that you can get, because it just leads from one rabbit hole to another. [Laughs] And its great stuff, so thank you for the question, Jim, and good luck in your journey there. And if you have a question for Ask Us Anything, email us at [email protected]. Dave, talk to you next week.

David: All right, until then.

Fisher: If you missed any of the show or you want to catch it again, of course catch the podcast. 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