Episode 409 - Digital Bible Record Restoration / Sunny Morton On Writing YOUR History / RootsTech Is Almost Back!Feb 14, 2022
Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. The guys talk about Fisher’s recent effort to digitally restore some tattered family Bible pages and the result was astonishing. Then, FamilySearch has announced plans to work with Ancestry.com in the indexing of the 1950 Census when it comes out on April 1. And the big news is that Ancestry will be using special handwriting reading computer technology! Then World War II’s American “Ghost Army” is to receive the Congressional Gold Medal for their service that is said to have saved 30,000 American lives. Hear their story. Next, the oldest pub in Great Britain is shutting its doors due to Covid. It only goes back 1,229 years! David shares the details.
In segment two, Fisher talks with Sunny Morton, long time contributing editor at Family Tree Magazine, about her new book “Story of My Life- A Workbook For Preserving Your Legacy.” Sunny shares some great tips and thoughts on how to go about writing your own history, including how to deal with those “messy” stories.
Andrew Parker, Director of Marketing for RootsTech, then joins the show talking about the upcoming mega-conference that last year attracted over a million participants from around the world. It’s all free, and Andrew will tell you what you can look forward to.
Then, David returns for Ask Us Anything as he and Fisher tackle questions on an old pair of pilot’s lapel “wings,” and lighthouse keepers.
That’s all this week on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show!
Host: Scott Fisher with guest host David Allen Lambert
Segment 1 Episode 409
Fisher: And welcome America to America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. I am Fisher, your Radio Roots Sleuth on the program where we shake your family tree, and watch the nuts fall out. Well, we’ve got great guests today. Sunny Morton is coming back on the show, of course, a very well known genealogist out of Ohio, and she’s going to talk about writing your own history. I’ve been doing a little of this myself lately so I’ll be interested in some of the thoughts she has on the process, and you might too. And then later in the show as we get ready for RootsTech from FamilySearch Andrew Parker is going to be on. He’s going to tell us how you can get signed up for free, take advantage of all the lectures on all kinds of aspects of family history from interpreting languages, to records from Holland, whatever you can think of, DNA, of course it’s all going to be covered at RootsTech. And if you haven’t signed up for our Weekly Genie Newsletter, please do so on our Extreme Genes Facebook page or at ExtremeGenes.com. And you can sign up by the way for our How To DNA course in order to find out how to use your matches to solve your genealogical problems. And right now, speaking of problems, over on the East Coast it’s David Allen Lambert. How’s your back doing after all that shoveling Lambert?
David: Oh, I’ll tell you, I can remember the blizzard of ’78 but my hometown of Stoughton, which I now call “Snow-ton” got a record, ready for this? In one day 30.9 inches of snow. It made the news out to the West Coast.
Fisher: And you know, for a Chief Genealogist you do a lot of sitting. I can’t imagine all that physical labor.
David: I know a guy who has a plow. [Laughs] He showed up twice and $250 of plowing later.
Fisher: Oh my gosh!
David: Yeah, I’ve got a 175 foot long driveway. I think he was charging by the foot.
David: Well, my time would have been better spent with what you are doing. Wow! I’ll tell you, your images are amazing. You’ve got to tell them all about what you were working on while I was shoveling snow.
Fisher: Yeah. Well, here’s the thing. A few weeks ago we talked about on the show, my cousin from back east sent me a bunch of old family stuff, old photos and including these tattered pages from bible records. And these go back to my second great grandparents and their kids, and my first great grandparents and their kids. And my great aunt had held these things for many, many years and put tape on them. And we’re talking about the old tape that was slick on the outside and would turn yellow and brittle and all this. And so a lot of the entries were under the tape. And a lot of the ink from the back side of these pages had come through so it’s really difficult to read anything about it. So, I scanned all of them, kept the original scans the way they are, and then I went through and using photoshop elements have been digitally restoring the bible pages by taking out all the ink that bled through, taking out all the tape, and it was extremely tedious. My brain fog was extreme. Had to get out a couple of times because it just took a long, long time but I think the restoration is pretty perfect. You can see the image of it with the podcast episode and the summery on ExtremeGenes.com.
David: It’s amazing. I tell you, if I ever come across an old family bible page as bad as that, I know who I’m going to call.
Fisher: Well, it’s going to cost you more than your plow guy did I’ll tell you that. [Laughs]
David: Ah! Well, at least we know what you’re doing on the side now.
Fisher: There you go.
David: One of the things we can all do on the side now is the 1950 census and volunteering with FamilySearch to help index that.
David: I can’t wait. My grandparents are on it. My parents are on it. You must have a batch of family too that you’re looking forward to reacquainting yourself with.
Fisher: Well, yeah. My dad’s side was completely missed in 1940.
Fisher: My dad and his wife and two kids and my grandfather were all living together and they completely skipped the household. I can’t tell you how mad I was about that, 10 years ago. But this will be a lot of fun. The other big news that came out with this announcement with FamilySearch is that Ancestry is going to be using this proprietary computer assisted indexing where the computer will interpret the handwriting, and then the volunteers are going to go back and also make sure hey, are these records correct? And that’s part of what it’s going to be this year. It will be a very different experience than it was in 1940 and of course it will be the biggest census yet since the founding of the country.
David: Um hmm. It’s going to be amazing. I can’t wait until April rolls around and I can just start digging.
David: Well, I’ll you one thing that kind of disappeared from most people’s memories, the unknown story that’s now in the news of the Ghost Army. Joe Biden has put forward congressional gold medals for the survivors. There are nine survivors.
David: And I think it’s great news. These guys are all about 100 years old.
Fisher: Yeah, just about, 97 and 99 years old for the most part. They did amazing things. Bill Blast, the fashion designer was one of these guys. And they took all these folks largely from ad agencies, very creative people, and they created two fake divisions. And they created for instance inflatable tanks and inflatable jeeps.
Fisher: And they had fake uniforms with fake patches on the side, people posing as generals and they’d go into a bar and they’d start talking loosely so that spies would report back about this other divisions that are in their area.
David: Never existed.
Fisher: Never existed and that way the Germans would then bomb these fake things and the real divisions would be out fighting somewhere else.
David: Amazing. They probably could have just deflated them and packed them up like a tent and just taken them to the next spot.
Fisher: That’s what they did.
David: Amazing stuff.
David: Amazing. In England right now the oldest pub has closed its doors not after 100 years, 400 years. How about 1229 years.
Fisher: That’s insane.
David: It’s from the dark ages in St Albans. The pub known as Ye Olde Fighting Cockes dating back to 793 because of COVID has closed its doors. Just not getting the customers they used to.
Fisher: You’ve got to imagine though somebody is going to pick that up and reopen it.
David: I would hope so. I mean gosh, you survived the Black Death, world wars.
Fisher: Well, this was before William the Conqueror. [Laughs]
David: Um hmm. It’s sad when you see history with the potential of changing forever. So, hopefully someone who hears goes over to England. Maybe Bill Gates can buy it and open it up as an internet café. Well, that’s all I have from Beantown this week. Remember, if you’re not a member of American Ancestors, please us the coupon code EXTREME and save $20 on a membership. I’ll talk to you in a bit.
Fisher: All right. Thank you very much David, as always, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. And coming up next: Sunny Morton talking about writing your own personal history when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 2 Episode 409
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Sunny Morton
Fisher: And welcome back genies to America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com along with my long time friend a long time contributing editor at Family Tree Magazine Sunny Morton who’s joining us. She’s just written a book called Story of My Life: A Work Book for Preserving Your Legacy. It’s available at Amazon.com. And Sunny, this is really appropriate right now because actually just recently I have resumed writing my life story and I’m sure you’ve got some important stuff to share about this.
Sunny: Well, thanks for having me Scott. It’s always a pleasure to be here. For sure, life story writing is a big part of the process of recording your family’s story. I think it’s just part of the process of being human, don’t you?
Fisher: Yeah I do. I mean, some people will carve their initials in a tree in a forest to say they were there, right?
Fisher: I mean, it’s the same thing except I think people want to say maybe a little bit more than what your initials were. [Laughs]
Fisher: And I think for people to ever remember you or to learn from the lessons of your life, you have to write your story.
Sunny: Absolutely. I think this is one of the most universal topics. Really, everybody’s got a story to tell. And in fact, I have a story about that.
Sunny: You want to hear it?
Fisher: Yeah, absolutely.
Sunny: So, a few years ago I was invited to be the lunch speaker at a wealth management seminar. So, they were there all day long learning how to take care of their millions, and I did mean millions. This was quite an elite event. And it was my job at lunch to be this sort of light hearted relief from these heavy topics about wealth management.
Sunny: And it was my job to make the case that their personal story was actually their most important legacy, more important than their millions.
Fisher: Oh yeah.
Sunny: And I’ll tell you Scott, I was a little intimidated by this lunch.
Fisher: [Laughs] I would have been.
Sunny: When I stood up, I remember pitching it to them. I remember encouraging them to stop and think about the moments in their lives where everything changed, where things would never be the same again. Whether they knew it at the time or not, things had changed. They had changed. And I remember the room, I remember people leaning forward going perfectly still, I remember even seeing a few tears glistening in people’s eyes, and suddenly I was not intimidated. I was in a room full of friends.
Fisher: Um hmm.
Sunny: The thing is, we all have those moments where everything changed.
Fisher: Right. Yes.
Sunny: Where nothing was going to be the same again. And that is our common thread of humanity.
Fisher: Yeah, I think you’re right. I mean, we can obviously all point to a time we lost a loved one as changing everything, or a career decision that you made, or an illness that you suffered through, or some other experience that threatened your life that made you reevaluate what your values are. What your goals are.
Sunny: Yeah, that’s absolutely right. And some of those like you said are really obvious. There’s this sort of spotlight moment that we expect to have be our life changing moments.
Sunny: But some of those happen a little out of the spotlight. Maybe it was the summer you discovered a passion for running, or maybe it was a horrible moment in your career that finally made you decide to try something different and that made all the difference.
Fisher: Yes. Absolutely. I’m in the middle of writing right now and I’ve kind of completed up through college and a little bit beyond. And I remember writing about a train crash I was in, in 1973 in Mount Vernon, New York. And somebody was killed, and there were 40-some-odd hospitalizations, and a 100 and some odd injuries, and just what an amazing experience and trying experience that night was. And getting out of that train and climbing up onto the platform, and then looking out and seeing that our train had ploughed into the back of another train that was stopped at that station. And just realizing how devastating it could have been, but also seeing the challenges for so many people and the rescue workers when they showed up, and dealing with that situation. It’s an amazing experience and I devoted a short chapter to it but lots if photographs too because it reminds me how lucky I was to have gotten out of that unscathed.
Sunny: Well, and I imagine as you go back and look at that memory you don’t just have to rely on the memories you have right now. I imagine you could actually research that event.
Fisher: Yeah. To a great extent that’s true. In fact, somebody had a website that had pictures of it posted that I had never seen before in my life. It’s like well, hello, that’s terrific, really helpful. And yeah, it did bring back a lot but it really has never changed much in my mind through the years. It’s pretty much stayed the same. But it is interesting, there are books about memory that talk about how every time you tell a story it’s changed just a little bit and it’s rewritten in your mind, which is something I had never considered. The more emotional things you tend to recall, but this is kind of why it’s important also to keep a journal and try to remember those things as soon as they happen because they’re going to be the most accurate rendition of the story that you’re ever going to have.
Sunny: Right. People will ask sometimes is it better to keep a journal or is it better to look back later and write with the value of hindsight and perspective, and they’re both great for different reasons. Like you said, the immediacy of the emotions and the details that go into something if you write about it or record it right about when it happens. Like, there’s no replacing or recovering some of that even if you use all the very best memory jogging techniques.
Fisher: Right, exactly.
Sunny: There’s also really no replacing the value of when you look back on it though too. I imagine you’ve looked back on that experience many times in your life and that maybe your feelings have changed about that over the years, even just in terms of understanding how precious life is, or what a narrow escape you had, or whatever. And one of the reasons that the stories change as we retell them is because we think about them a little bit differently. We’re processing them.
Fisher: Yeah, that’s true. I mean, that’s how you get the lessons out of life. I mean, a lot of times people look back decades later and have an entirely different perspective on what they learned from something that took place. So yeah, you’re right. I mean the benefit of writing your own story now compared to just journaling, I mean they both serve different purposes. One can be a great source for the history.
Sunny: Yes, absolutely. And I find that if I’m trying to write about something that happened a long time ago, I go back to anything that I can find that will tell me more.
Sunny: And you know what, I have found my own personal history on Facebook. I have found it in photo albums. I found it in email threads. I found it in my day planners, there’s lot of different places where little bits and pieces of your life story is already stored.
Fisher: Well, and it’s important for people to know that when you write your story, the idea isn’t to write every minute of every day of your life. It’s really just the touch points, the highlights, because first of all, people are only going to read so much of it if it isn’t interesting, And if you have too much information in there and you’re not just touching on those things that made the most impact on you, they’re likely to just look through a page or two and put it down forever more.
Sunny: You know, I think that knowing that you really don’t have to record every moment of your life is also really freeing because I think sometimes when people say, “Tell me your life story” the thing that you go to first might be the thing that’s hardest to talk about. I’m like, oh no, everybody’s going to want me to talk about this, and I don’t want to talk about this. I don’t want to go back there in my emotions or in my mind. I’m not ready. And the deliberation of feeling like, you know what, I have lots of stories in my life and I am allowed to pick and choose the ones that I’m ready to tell now that would bring me the most joy, or that would be the most meaningful to me right now to tell. And I don’t have to pick them all right this second. I may change my mind and sort of gradually walk my way towards some of the messier stories. But it is liberating. It’s so freeing to feel like oh, I can tell the stories I want to and I don’t have to tell everything.
Fisher: So, give us some tips here because you’re so good at this Sunny, at boiling some things down if somebody’s going to start working on their history. What would you suggest they start with?
Sunny: I think honesty is the most important part of any story that you tell about yourself. I would rather have five minutes of somebody’s honest opinions and memories including whatever vulnerability that they’re willing to show and humanity, I’d rather have that for five minutes than an hour’s worth of superficial stories, or I was the hero, or you know what I’m talking about.
Fisher: [Laughs] Yes.
Sunny: We all might be tempted to fudge things a little bit to make ourselves look a little better in a story.
Fisher: It’s kind of like the obituaries where you read them and you go, I don’t think I knew that person. [Laughs]
Sunny: Yeah. Like if you can just approach it with an honest and sort of refreshing voice. I think that you do two things, and the first is that you free yourself, and the second is that you gain your audience’s trust in a way that you don’t in any other way. When you are willing to show yourself for who you are, then your audience, your readers, are going to trust you and they’re going to be more interested in what you have to say.
Fisher: I think you’re absolutely right. And those who come later generations down the line are going to feel that they knew you.
Sunny: Yeah. That’s absolutely true. Because when you tell good stories, it’s not just the life changing moments that come out and what you took away from them, but it’s also the little every day moments and gestures and habits and sayings that make your life recognizable as uniquely yours both to yourself and then to other people. They’ll start to, “oh, that’s such a you thing to do.” You know, the way that somebody wore their hair, or the way they walk into the room, or the way they would turn a certain phrase, or respond to a stressful situation. So, in telling stories you reveal some of those things about yourself also.
Fisher: I think there’s a certain therapeutic side of writing your story too, don’t you think?
Sunny: I think there is. And sometimes people ask me like what do I do with the messy stuff, do I put it out there for everyone? What about feelings that aren’t quite resolved with or that are really deep and heavy? I think the only advice I’m going to give on this is to not be afraid of messy stories or feelings. But do respect your readers.
Fisher: That’s right, and those who love you who might be impacted by some of the things that you have to say. You’re not obligated to reveal absolutely everything in your life. This isn’t a confessional. [Laughs]
Sunny: Right. And so don’t be afraid about writing about those messy things but do think about the ultimate respect that you have for your readers and what you’re sharing.
Fisher: She’s Sunny Morton, long time contributing editor at Family Tree Magazine. Author of Story of My Life: A Work Book for Preserving Your Legacy – at Amazon.com you can pick it up there. Thanks so much Sunny. Great thoughts here and it is a new year so it’s a great time for new projects for a lot of people so this will be a good one.
Sunny: Thanks for having me Scott.
Fisher: All right, and coming up next: Andrew Parker from FamilySearch. He’s the director of marketing for RootsTech. We’ve got another one coming right up. He’s going to fill us in on what to expect early in March, when we return in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 3 Episode 409
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Andrew Parker
Fisher: All right, welcome back! It is Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. We are coming in on RootsTech, March 3rd through 5th, and I’m so used to saying in Salt Lake City, Utah, at the Salt Palace Convention Center, but for the second year in a row we cannot say that. It is all online and it’s bigger than ever. And last year I think may have been a surprising success for so many people who didn’t expect it to be what it was. And I’m very excited to have Andrew Parker on the line from FamilySearch. He is the director of marketing for RootsTech. And Andrew, last year a million plus were part of RootsTech which really extended for much of the year.
Andrew: Yeah. I think that was a surprise obviously to all of us. When RootsTech is in-person we just have an absolutely wonderful crowd, but it’s not a million people, right.
Fisher: No. [Laughs]
Andrew: [Laughs] So, it really was a huge kind of surprise to all of us. It speaks to the power of family history, of genealogy, and more specifically, I think it speaks to the power of connection, right?
Andrew: Even though we’re kind of in the midst of this pandemic that’s kind of thrown the world for a loop. People were still able to get together more so last year through virtual means. It kind of brought the world together a little bit. So, we’re all very proud of all the work that went in there.
Fisher: Well, it really shows the universality of family history and people’s interest in that. How many countries participated? I mean it’s probably somebody from every country on the planet, right?
Andrew: Yeah. It was a little over 240 countries, I think 242 if I remember my stats right.
Andrew: It speaks to the fact that those things that we want to know about who we are, it’s universal. It doesn’t matter where you live or how you grew up.
Andrew: You want to know who you are and why you matter.
Fisher: Absolutely. Well, this year it’s March 3rd through 5th. It’s online again. I think the first thing we need to say to everybody, those million people didn’t pay a dime, not one of them, which is the most amazing thing about RootsTech. It’s the same thing this year. And the other good news is when you sign up for free at RootsTech.org, you have access to over a thousand plus presentations on “how to” for the rest of the year.
Andrew: Yeah, absolutely. You’re going to have it at least until next RootsTech when we put out some new content that will be fresh and fun. You get access to thousands of classes and some of the classes are very technical for those are into specific research stuff, but a lot of the classes are just great stories that you can come in and listen to and be inspired by.
Andrew: It’s one thing to sit in a class about probate records, and for us genealogy monks that’s fun. But it’s a whole other thing to sit in a room and listen to somebody’s story of discovery and how they learned about who their family was and how that’s defined who they are now.
Fisher: Yes. That really is what lures people into family history and that’s what I hear about Extreme Genes all the time is people want to hear the stories and how people found them. So, you can sign up and RootsTech.org, it doesn’t cost you anything. You get access to all this incredible content. So, let’s say for instance, you found a German ancestor in August, and you wanted to research that individual. You might be able to go onto RootsTech.org then and find some kind of class in German research. It’s as simple as that. I love the fact that it’s not just limited to these few days. Although, I really miss the community when it gets together live because it really is a giant family reunion.
Andrew: Yeah. There’s so much energy with everybody there and everybody is always glad to see one another. It’s a gathering place for people each and every year. We hear stories of how people come to RootsTech in Salt Lake and it’s the only time that they see family from across the world.
Andrew: We do miss that for sure, but one of the good things about the virtual space is we’re able to not only welcome probably more people who may not be able to make the trip over to Salt Lake City, but we’ve done a lot of work this year to try and allow those connections that happen in the expo hall to happen online.
Andrew: It won’t quite be the same, but that is the hope.
Fisher: Got to make it work with the circumstances that we’re in right now.
Andrew: That’s right.
Fisher: You know, one of the fun things that I like, this little invention here, “Relatives at RootsTech” feature that you’ve got going this year. You did it last year. And this allows people to find out who is attending RootsTech virtually all around the world who’s related to you. And I know that when we’ve done this in person at the expo hall in the past we’ve had some amazing discoveries of people. In fact, I remember interviewing an individual who met a cousin she didn’t know she had, and the next day at RootsTech that cousin brought photographs of her family that she had never seen before. And so, you can virtually do that now or maybe even connect with somebody in another country that you’re related to and find somebody who could be an online research partner.
Andrew: Yeah. And that’s one of the joys about the virtual conference, is that it kind of expands that ability to connect with people all over the world. I heard similar stories with relatives at RootsTech. I think, one of the fun things for me was to watch on social media people were posting about, hey, are we related. And their comments would fill up with, hey, I’m your fourth cousin, I’m your sixth cousin. I’m your twelfth cousin.
Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs]
Andrew: There was just post after post of all these people just saying, hey Ashley, I didn’t know this but we’re totally related. I had a similar thing with a gentleman I work with. We’ve known each other for years. We found out that we were third cousins and that he was not only related to my family but he was related to my wife’s family. It’s that kind of experience, that kind of connection that you can do even on a grander scale with the virtual events. That’s one of the reasons we’re so excited about relatives at RootsTech this year.
Fisher: Absolutely. So, who are the keynote speakers this time around?
Andrew: We’ve got some really good ones. The first one that we have that we’ve announced is Apollonia Poilâne, she’s the CEO of the Poilâne Bakery in Paris, France, which is among the most famous bakeries in the world. She’s got just a tremendous story. Her grandparents founded the bakery in the 1930s and her parents took it over. And then both her parents died tragically in a helicopter crash when Apollonia was 18 years old.
Andrew: Her amazing story of resilience just comes to life because at 18 she took over the bakery, went to Harvard and got an economics degree while running the bakery and now it’s a global bread empire. She ships bread all over the world. So, out of tragedy was born this incredible story and this ability for people to connect through bread, it’s really quite wonderful.
Andrew: The next one is Matthew Modine, who is an actor here in the United States. He’s famous for Full Metal Jacket, if you know that movie.
Andrew: Most recently for the Netflix series Stranger things. He plays the evil dad. He’s one of those actors that’s just incredibly talented and when you see his face you go, yeah, I know that guy!
Andrew: A tremendously good actor and just a kind person. We’ve also got a singer from Argentine, his name is Diego Torres. He’s probably one of the leading Latin pop stars in the world. So, he’s going to talk to us a little bit about how music connects family and we kind of learn about how he’s related to some people that he didn’t even know ad there’s a great reveal there at the end, so you won’t want to miss that one. We also have Azumah Nelson, who is a world champion boxer from Ghana, Africa. He’s got a tremendous story about his African tribal heritage, and how that really motivated him to excel in his athletics. We also have Molly Yeh who is the host of the FoodNetwork show Girl Meets Farm. She’s got a very interesting story too. She’s Jewish and she went to Juilliard to be percussion major, so she’s an incredible musician. She met a man there and they got married and apparently his family owns a farm in North Dakota. So, now that’s what she does. She lives on a farm in North Dakota. Her mother was a chocolatier. So, she got this great food and music background. So she’s going to talk to us about those things kind of mash. And then, we’ve got Maysoon Zayid who is a comedian with Palestinian heritage. She too has a great story. Apparently, the doctor who delivered her was inebriated at the time which caused her to have some disabilities, some cerebral palsy
Fisher: Ugh, oh no!
Andrew: But, her keynote is hilarious. She’s taken kind of this tragedy and just turned it into this unbelievable story of resilience, and humor, and warmth, and you’ll love her. And the last one that we have is Thaís Pacholek who is a Brazilian actress and performer. She generally plays a villain, but in real life she is the kindest, sweetest person in the world.
Fisher: At least she’d like you to think she is. [Laughs]
Andrew: Right, right. [Laughs] She’s wonderful. You’ll just love hearing from her. And of course we have our CEO from FamilySearch, Steve Lockwood who is going to have some great new things to share with us about the direction of FamilySearch. So, it’s going to be great.
Fisher: Sounds great, so looking forward to it. It’s March 3rd through 5th everywhere. He is the director of marketing for RootsTech, it’s Andrew Parker. Andrew thanks so much for your time. Really looking forward to this year’s RootsTech Connect, once again this year.
Andrew: My pleasure. Thanks so much.
Fisher: All right, thank you. David Allen Lambert is back in moments as we resume with another round of Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 4 Episode 409
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Fisher: All right, back on the job for Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, David Allen Lambert back over there from the Boston area. And Dave, our first question today comes from Rob in Monmouth, New Jersey. He says, “Hello genie people.” I don’t think we’ve ever seen that before.
Fisher: “My second great grandfather was a lighthouse keeper in New Jersey. Are there any sources to tell us about people who did this job? Rob.”
David: Well, first thing I would do is, I would turn to your friendly neighborhood genealogical website that has newspapers and take a look for that person in an article. Then I would start on the state level and I would contact your state archives and see what you can find out about that lighthouse. Maybe somebody wrote a history. The state library might have a book on it. Or maybe if it’s still standing there’s a museum or an archive associated with it. But the best place for lighthouse records, because they were all federally taken care of, would be the National Archives.
David: Yeah. So, Record Group 26, RG 26 has the record of the US coast guard, but it also has lighthouse site files from 1790 to 1939 and all these annual reports sent to the secretary of the treasury about lighthouses. So, you may find names mentioned there as well. They have the Journal of the Lighthouse Board. I didn’t even know that existed, 1851 to 1908. They have general correspondence that goes back to the administration of George Washington right down to the administration of William McKinley about lighthouse keepers.
David: 1700s right on down to the 20th century. Correspondence relating to personnel of lighthouse vessels exists as well.
David: Nominations for employees of the lighthouse board exists who did really well. But the most important one are the registers of lighthouse keepers 1845 to 1912 on six rolls of microfilm. And it’s the personnel listing of the names, the district and name of the light that they kept, the date of their appointment, the date of their resignation or discharge or even death, so you’ve got vital records in here, and sometimes their annual salary.
David: Part of the list don’t begin until about 1849, but they go right through to 1912. And there’s probably even later ones that exist that aren’t in this collection that may just not be public yet. Great stuff!
Fisher: Boy, that’s really good. Have you studied lighthouse keepers before or lighthouses?
David: I did a question for NEHGS a number of years ago on lighthouses, so when I saw that earlier I just decided to trace back with muscle memory and remember where I had found it and I remember it now, I had something and that’s where I found this great website on www.archives.gov/research/lighthouses and you can find all of this great collection right there.
Fisher: Wow! And I know also on Amazon there’s a book about lighthouse keepers also. Just do a search on it and it will take you right to it. It’s like 18 bucks or something like that, so that would be really helpful. How did they get the job? Was this a political appointment?
David: You know, I would think early on it was probably somebody who had something to do with the nautical trade I would think, because I mean, lighthouses have been around since before the federal government for obvious reasons.
David: And some of the Boston lighthouses are really ancient, Boston light. It’s probably somebody who had some knowledge of seafaring trade I would imagine.
David: I mean, but there is a lighthouse association for descendents, that exists as well.
David: It’s great fun, but the best part is, some families may have kept journals and diaries that may give more detail than what was officially kept by the federal government. Life Saving Stations are also nearby. And if a ship was floundering out in the surf or people were having trouble getting back, they would row out and get them and bring them back in. So Life Saving Stations are often near lighthouses as well. It’s fascinating stuff. And the Archives also has lighthouse plans and drawings that cover the 19th and 20th century, so if you want a nice engraving or a color image of that lighthouse that may no longer be there, the National Archives can hook you up with one of those as well.
Fisher: There you go Rob. You asked the question. We’ve got another question coming up next when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 5 Episode 409
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Fisher: All right, time for question number 2, its Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. And David, this question comes from Elise in Canton, Ohio and she says, "Guys, my grandfather was a pilot in World War II. And recently my aunt passed and we found some wings, like you put on a lapel with the initials QB on it. Do you know anything about this? Is it from World War II? And are there records relating to it? Elise." Dave, I know you're the military guy on this show, but I bet you know nothing about this.
David: I am stumped.
David: Inform me. What do I get to learn about QB? I am all ears.
Fisher: Yeah, this is actually an organization my dad belonged to. It’s called the Quiet Birdmen and it’s a secretive social club for pilots, for male pilots.
Fisher: Yeah. In fact, my dad was buried with his QB wings when he died in 1972 and they took his mug with his name on it at the club that they would meet at. And when somebody passes away from the group, they actually take the mug and they turn it upside down to remember them by. And it’s just kept up there. But this organization was founded in 1921 by World War I pilots.
David: Oh wow!
Fisher: And it stems from a group that had a drinking club, it was called, The American Flying Club. And they started it over in France right after the war was over, like 1919. And then they kind of reconvened in New York City in 1921, a couple of years later. Some of these guys began meeting regularly on Monday nights in New York City. My dad actually met in Westchester County, New York. And these guys would hang out and talk about everything, but particularly flying. They loved to talk flying. And I remember, dad came home with a signed picture of one of these guys. He had been a wing walker back during the World War I days. [Laughs]
Fisher: And I thought that was pretty cool. And he loved talking flying with the old timers. And he said to him, "Well, who taught you how to fly?" And he says, "Well, Orville Wright, of course." [Laughs]
David: Oh my gosh! Here are people that knew Eddie Rickenbacker and people like that.
David: That's amazing.
Fisher: Absolutely. In fact, that World War I widow we had on the show awhile back knew Rickenbacker also. But I'm looking through this list of notable members that they had in the QBs, the Quiet Birdmen, Buzz Aldrin was one of them, Floyd Bennett, you know, they named Floyd Bennett Field after, Richard Byrd, the explorer was a member, the astronaut, Gordon Cooper was on there, I mean, it’s a long, long list. Linburg was a member of this organization.
David: Of course.
Fisher: Rickenbacker, you mentioned him, he was on there. Wally Schirra.
David: Oh wow!
Fisher: Yeah, I mean it was a real, it’s an amazing group that still carries on to this day, but we don't know much about what they do other than get together and just chat it up. You have to be invited by the way. So, at least your grandfather had to be asked by a member if he would like to join, and then they would actually have a ceremony to let him in. I don't know anything about that.
David: He didn't have to walk a wing, did he?
Fisher: No, no, he didn't have to do any of that. But they're in for life once they're in there.
Fisher: And so, they all kind of look out for each other. So, that's quite a little piece of family memorabilia you have in that QB wings. So, congratulations! Hope that answers the question, but I'm not aware of any records that are out there concerning these guys, even though they've been around now for over 100 years.
David: Well, keep us informed if you do find anything. And I hope that you get to visit your dad's mug someday, Fish.
Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs]
David: That would be kind of cool.
Fisher: There you go. Well, that's it for this week, David. Thank you so much.
David: Always a pleasure.
Fisher: And we'll talk to you again soon.
Fisher: And of course if you have a question for Ask Us Anything, you can always email us at [email protected]. Well, thanks once again to our guests this week, Sunny Morton, the long time contributing editor at Family Tree Magazine, talking about her new book about writing your own personal history. And also to Andrew Parker, the director for marketing for RootsTech, bringing us up to speed on what's coming up March 3rd through 5th. If you missed any of the show, of course catch it on podcast on AppleMedia, iHeart Radio, Spotify, TuneIn Radio and ExtremeGenes.com. Talk to you next week. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!