Episode 420 - Families Exchange World War I Era Pandemic Letters / Japanese Family Koseki Records Are Unbelievable!

podcast episode May 09, 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 begin with the story of the find of a hidden basement in a West Coast house. Then, a jawbone found on a Lake Michigan beach some time ago has been identified through the DNA Doe Project. In Israel, a man has discovered that his house stands on a remarkable piece of history. The guys will explain. Guinness has declared a Brazilian man the record holder for working for the same company for the longest period. Hear how long he has worked for the same organization! Also, the new “oldest person in the world” has been named. Find out how old she is. And finally, a remarkable ring has been found in the waters of the Thames. David will tell you all about it.

Next, Fisher visits with JoAnne Jessee… an ordinary person with an extraordinary find. JoAnne felt the urge to track down information on a great aunt that died young during the 1918 flu pandemic. Find out where it led her and the remarkable exchange coming up between two families. (Originally aired in 2021.)

Fisher then visits with Ryan Rockwood from sponsor Legacy Tree Genealogists. Ryan talks about the remarkable family history record system the Japanese have had in place for some 150 years!

David then returns for Ask Us Anything as he and Fisher take on questions about an old photo and wooden grave markers.

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

Transcript for Episode 420

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 420

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. Boy, we’ve got some great guests today as always. Really excited to be hearing from JoAnne Jessee from Wisconsin. She is a genie who during the pandemic made an amazing find concerning the previous pandemic 100 years earlier. It’s involving a swap of some great family history stuff with another family. You’re going to want to hear all about this coming up in about ten minutes. Then later in the show from our sponsors over at Legacy Tree Genealogists, Ryan Rockwood  is going to be here talking about the mother load of family records waiting for Japanese Americans in Japan. He’ll tell you the history of it and what you might expect to find in that. Hey, if you haven’t signed up for our Weekly Genie Newsletter, we’d love to have you. We keep you up to date on all kinds of things you don’t necessarily hear on the show plus we give you links to past and present shows, and stories you’ll appreciate as a family historian. Right now it’s off to Boston where David Allen Lambert is standing by, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. Hello David.

David: Hey, how’re you doing?

Fisher: I am hanging in there, thank you very much. Boy, we’ve got a lot of news to cover this week in family histoire news.

David: Well, we definitely do. But I want to just first give a shout-out to all the ladies of the DAR who gave me a warm welcome, and many of them are Extreme Genes listeners. I was in DC this week giving a lecture at a genealogy conference they held so I was very pleased to hear they like Extreme Genes. You know, you never know what you’re going to find when you buy a house. You know, you think an old house, the attic, or find something out in the out building might be kind of fun. How about a house only built a few years ago? Well, the owner died and the new owner’s grandson was taking a bag out of a closet to go shopping because it was hanging on a hook.

Fisher: Right.

David: And revealed a secret passage leading to stairs to a basement with dozens upon dozens of boxes. It was all the former owner’s stuff. Clothing, photographs, memorabilia dating back from the 1960s. 

Fisher: Oh, that’s crazy. How fun is that?

David: It is! I mean maybe there’s a Mickey Mantle rookie baseball card or something in there.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: But they contacted the family of the deceased and they’re going to come by and see what they want. And the grandparents who had bought the house, really don’t feel comfortable with selling the stuff of the former owner.

Fisher: Right.

David: So, who’s to say what’s going to happen to all of it. Well, you know, you never know what you’re going to find when you go beach combing. Well, in Michigan about 14 years ago they found a jaw bone. And thanks to DNA in the genealogy work of the DNA Doe Project, they have identified a fisherman who disappeared back in 2000. At least there is some closure to the family wondering what happened to him. So obviously he did drown. But this is a person who died 22 years ago whose actually been given some closure to it.

Fisher: Amazing.

David: You know, you never know again where you’re going to find things. And over in Israel, in the village of Miilya, there’s a gentleman who was working, doing a little bit of renovating on his house. And they know there was crusader castle ruins nearby. Well, under his house was the church, and a mosaic with Byzantine style floor, and passage ways and all that.

Fisher: Whoa!

David: All right there, but here’s the thing; the community is so interested in this almost 1,000 year old historical site, they’ve raised tens of thousands of dollars to actually have it restored and archeological work done, so you just never know what you’re going to dig up.

Fisher: This is amazing! First of all, we get the home with the hidden basement, now we’ve got the home with the hidden crusader church under it, what else do you have here?

David: How many years did you work before you retired?

Fisher: Oh, 52.

David: Okay. Well, you don’t have Walter Hoffmann who lives in Santa Catarina, Brazil. Fish, he’s been working since January 17th 1938 for the same company!

Fisher: Oh, wow! [Laughs]

David: This 100-year-old Brazilian breaks the record according to the Guinness Book of World Records and he still hasn’t retired yet. 

Fisher: Amazing! That’s a good one. And then we’ve got another story this week about the new oldest person in the world. And it looks like that number just keeps going up.

David: It does. Well, Kane Tanaka passed away earlier in April. She was the oldest person in the world. She was living in Japan. This lady is now the ripe old age of 118. She’s a French nun known as Sister Andrea. She has been a nun since World War II. She became a nun in 1944 and she is now the oldest known living person in the world and she was born in 1904. And stop to think of it, how many of us knew people born well before 1904?

Fisher: Yeah, a lot.

David: That’s pretty amazing. 118 years old. Happy belated birthday and may you have many, many more. Well, I’ve got one more story I thought I’d share with you. This is called mudlarking. In London you may have walked along the breakwater of the Thames. This is what people do. And you can find pottery dating back to the medieval times, even find Roman items. I find a lot of things when I go there.

Fisher: Well, didn’t you find pipe stems and things like that?

David: I did. I found pipe stems including a pipe that dated back to about the 1640s still whole, which was amazing.

Fisher: Wow!

David: Well, here’s something from the 17th century somebody picked up. And this golden artifact is called a memento mourning ring. These are the rings you sometimes see them in probates where they give you a mourning ring to memorialize the deceased. And inside of it, it says M. Farrington 21 August, ‘75. Well, through the work of the internet, one of his followers figured out exactly who Maria Farrington was who died on the 21st August 1675. Now because it’s gold, under the treasure act in Britain he has to turn this into the British government and they’ll decide whether he gets to keep it.

Fisher: Wow! I remember there was a ring that was found in Massachusetts that went back kind of to that same period. But this person actually got to keep it because it was in his own yard.

David: Um hmm.

Fisher: Little different rules.

David: Exactly. Well, that’s all I have for this week from Beantown. Remember, if you’re not a member of American Ancestors, we’d love to have you become one. And you can use the coupon code EXTREME for Extreme Genes and you can save $20 on AmericanAncestors.org.

Fisher: All right David. Thank you so much. Coming up next, we’re going to talk to a Wisconsin genie JoAnne Jessee. During the pandemic she made an incredible find concerning the previous pandemic. You’ll want to hear this story, coming up next in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 420

Host: Scott Fisher with guest JoAnne Jessee

Fisher: All right, back at it on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth. And the pandemic has caused a lot of people to think back to the one a hundred years ago because they’re still within memory, there’s still a lot of records, photographs of course, dominant from that time period. And my next guest got into it and made a haul of a discovery. She’s JoAnne Jessee. She’s from Waukesha, Wisconsin. And Joanne, welcome to Extreme Genes. Great to have you!

JoAnne: Thank you for having me.

Fisher: So, how did all this start? Your head has obviously gone back hundred years or so.

JoAnne: Yes. My maternal grandma Jean, she had two aunts that she lost that I knew of during the 1918 flu pandemic. And so, after being in lockdown for several weeks myself, I decided to start looking into this. My mom and my aunt have been the caretakers of a hoarder and genealogist’s dream of pictures, and letters, and scrapbooks on that side.

Fisher: Nice. [Laughs]

JoAnne: And it’s been just something that I was able to dig into. So, I had copies of everything that my mom had scanned over the period of several years, and I had decided let’s figure out who did we really lose, and was it more than just the two sisters, and that’s kind of where this all began.

Fisher: Sure and where the circumstances were around that. The stories of the siblings are a part of the stories of your directs as well, I think, because of all the interaction and the relationships. I see as you’ve prepared me for some of this, there was really kind of a step-by-step as this progressed and it was fascinating.

JoAnne: Yes. So, on May 3rd I documented who I thought was everybody who had passed away as a result of the Spanish Flu, and that included my great grandmother’s daughter, her father-in-law, her two sisters, and her brother.

Fisher: Ugh! Wow.

JoAnne: I later discovered that there was also a half nephew who was part of this loss as well. So, that was obviously more than I realized of family members who had been lost during the pandemic and who knows, there could even be more that I didn’t realize about.

Fisher: Sure.

JoAnne: But there was one in particular and I found out that we had her whole scrapbook and letters that her husband had sent her from France during World War I to her.

Fisher: Wow. So, this all ties back to the war as well. 

JoAnne: Yes. So, Anne met a man named Stuart, and in 1916 they started dating. And he had registered for the draft in June of 1917 and got drafted pretty much right away. By August his name had been drawn. And so, they ended up getting married August 15, 1917 before he went pretty much right away to Fort Sheridan in Illinois for Second Reserve Officers Training Camp. And by January 13 of 1918 he was on his way to Liverpool where he would then join up with the AEF in France. So, they didn’t have a lot of time together from when they got married to when he was deployed.   

Fisher: Right. No children.

JoAnne: No children, right. You can tell from some of the letters that I’ve seen that they definitely wanted children. So yeah, they were separated pretty much right away and they wrote many, many letters to each other. We know this because they numbered their letters, even to the 200s. Sometimes there’d be multiple letters going in a day. Stuart went to France in January of 1918, and then in October is when they had their two-year dating anniversary.

Fisher: Okay.

JoAnne: And it just so happens that the day before that is when we discovered, through this whole adventure, that she had contracted the flu the day before that.

Fisher: Oh, boy.

JoAnne: And things kind of progressed quickly from there.

Fisher: So, as a result of all this then you knew that you had certain information that you could develop from there, but you went even further than that because I know that the survivor, this Stuart, he went out and got married again after she passed away, right?

JoAnne: Right. So, I decided on May 13th to see does Stuart have any descendants. So, I went on Ancestry and found someone who had his name in her tree. So, I sent her a message saying, you know, I’m related to his first wife who died in the pandemic and we have copies of the letters that he sent to Anne while he was in France, and I was wondering if you knew anyone else in the family, and on a real long shot, if anybody knew if her letters to him had been kept. So, within five days I had heard back from the second cousin of Stuart’s granddaughter, and she said, “Oh my goodness, we know Stuart very well because he and his second wife only had one daughter. We spent holidays with him and his grandchildren growing up, and I’m going to work on connecting you with four grandchildren.”

Fisher: That’s a good start.

JoAnne: Yeah. [Laughs] I was amazed to hear back so quickly in the first place. And then it just kept going faster, and faster from there. One of Stuart’s granddaughters who I’ve been in contact with the most, she had a copy of his memoir that was transcribed by the local library back in 1975.

Fisher: Oh wow.

JoAnne: And it turns out when everything started in March, with the shutdowns and everything, they all remembered Stuart’s first wife had died of the Spanish Flu in 1918. So, she was just reading the little bit in his memoir that discussed that. I think she also had some photos of the couple. You know, they loved their grandmother so much they never really gave much thought to his first wife, kind of out of reverence and respect for their grandmother.

Fisher: Of course.

JoAnne: But at the same time they had kept all these things. So, she reached out to her bother and it turns out that he did have the letters from Anne to Stuart in France during World War I. 

Fisher: Oh wow.

JoAnne: Yeah. That was on May 24th we discovered that.

Fisher: What a haul!

JoAnne: Right.

Fisher: So, did he scan them, did he give them to you, how did that work?

JoAnne: He scanned them so that we could take a look, and he did that really quite quickly I would say. It turns out he also had a couple of the Telegrams that arrived way after she died actually, trying to let him know that she was sick and that she had eventually passed away. He notes later in his memoir and other places that the lines with the cables were just jammed and messages were not getting through at that time. But, in addition to the letters, they actually had a detailed letter from one of their friends who was actually the doctor who took care of her and her sister. Those two sisters died one day apart.

Fisher: Ugh.

JoAnne: And he gave a very detailed account of how they were doing leading up to their passing. It’s just astonishing. Fevers over 105, things like that.

Fisher: Oh my gosh. Awful!

JoAnne: So, yeah.

Fisher: Well, you know, when you consider that he survived long enough to write his memoir and include all this information in there, and then you had the letters he wrote, and then they had the letters that she wrote, you’re able to put this entire century old story together the way you have. And for a lot of people who pass away without having any descendants, any children, they’re just kind of forgotten as that aunt back there, or that sibling that died young, or something like that. But they’re real people now with all the information that you have.  

JoAnne: Yes. And it’s been really interesting to see, I mean, Rockford Illinois where they all grew up, is not very small. I think the population is well over 100,000. But my maternal grandma Jean, she was connected to the family of Stuart’s second wife throughout her life. In fact, I think we have a wedding invitation to Stuart’s daughter’s wedding from the 1950s.

Fisher: Okay.

JoAnne: And my mom and her siblings were classmates with a lot of his nieces and nephews. I don’t think they knew his grandchildren per say, but they knew the other people in the family. And they also were in some of the same friend circles. For example, there was a famous architect in Rockford named Jesse Barloga that they were all friends with. So, it’s just kind of interesting how they watched each other throughout their lives. I mean, part of the record that my family kept was a newspaper clipping from 1970 showing Stuart, he was a painter, and you know, they thought enough to save this article where it mentions how he didn’t find out about his wife’s death until weeks later.

Fisher: So, he was still family then?

JoAnne: Yeah. I mean, I don’t know if they’re directly spent time together, but they kept track of each other.

Fisher: Sure. Right, of course. He had been part of the family at one time many years earlier. That’s amazing. What a great find. How did it make you feel when you discovered all this information, and what are you going to do with it?

JoAnne: Well, when I especially figured out that Stuart was still writing letters to Anne after she had passed away, she died on October 19th and he was still mailing letters on November 3rd. Obviously there’s a delay in the mail but I think he was involved in the telegraph office, but the fact that he hadn’t received any information over the cables was kind of shocking, so that just made me feel so heartsick that he had gotten word that she was sick, but he had had no updates after that.

Fisher: And this is just like a week before the end of World War I.

JoAnne: Oh, yeah. I hadn’t even thought about that timing.

Fisher: November 11th. Yes.

JoAnne: Yeah. That makes it even more surprising. I hadn’t layered it in the history with this. But basically the next step is I’ve talked with my family members and Elizabeth has talked with her family members, and we decided that since they don’t have any children together, that we are going to swap our sets of letters, which seems a little bit strange that Anne who wrote the letters will have her letters back and they’ll have Stuart’s letters back with their family. But at the same time there’s little tidbits and morsels in there about their friends and family at home, or from his end what it was like in France. You know, he was going on about fleas and things. They had a flea problem for a while. He himself actually had a slight attack of Spanish Influenza around the same time that she did, so we thought that that would be the way that we decide to preserve this family history.

Fisher: Appropriate. Are you writing up the story?

JoAnne: Well, I feel like I’m well on my way. I was putting a timeline together last night. We’ve got letters, we’ve got newspaper articles, the information is there, it’s just a matter of how it will come together and when. [Laughs]

Fisher: Great stuff JoAnne. Well done. Congratulations.

Joanne: Thank you very much.

Fisher: What a great story. And coming up next; project manager Ryan Rockwood from Legacy Tree Genealogists, talking about the mother-load of family records waiting for Japanese descendants. He’ll tell you all about it coming up next on Extreme Genes.

Segment 3 Episode 420

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Ryan Rockwood

Fisher: And welcome back, to America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. And you know, long time listeners may remember back in 2015 when I visited with Olympic skater Apolo Anton Ohno about his Japanese ancestry. And he talked about this holy grail of research facilities over in Japan that he accessed in his past and it was a pretty amazing thing to hear about and of course Apolo’s enthusiasm for it. If you missed it by the way, it’s Episode 115. And on the line with me today is a project manager over at Legacy Tree Genealogists, our great sponsors, Ryan Rockwood. Ryan specializes in working on Asian projects and overseeing Japanese genealogy in particular for Japanese Americans. And Ryan, welcome to Extreme Genes! It’s great to have you.

Ryan: Thank you so much for having. I’m so excited to be with you.

Fisher: So, how long have you been doing this?

Ryan: My decision to kind of specialize in Japanese genealogy technically started back in 2014. I was living there as a volunteer representative for my church doing missionary work and I noticed that there were all these different people of all these different backgrounds within Japan that I talked to culturally. A huge center of the culture was learning about their family and remembering and reverencing their ancestors. I was so impressed by it. But, I felt like in America it’s an industry. We have all these different companies and it’s kind of a full-fledged industry with resources. Whereas over there, I didn’t feel like there was much of an industry but rather the culture. I just thought, I feel like we can tie this together and then we can utilize the cultural focus of genealogy there to tie in the American industry and really help people of Japanese descent to find their ancestors.

Fisher: Interesting. Well, tell us about this holy grail of records over in Japan. I know they’ve got an amazing record set there. I don’t know how far back it goes, what all it covers, explain the whole thing. What’s it called?

Ryan: So, it’s called the Koseki. It’s the longer version of the Koseki Tohon. Like you said, it’s a family register. So whereas, in America and other countries a lot of our records are tied to an individual and they’re tied to an event, so, one person’s birth, one person’s death, a couple’s marriage, things like that. In Japan, the difference is it’s not necessarily tied to an event. It’s actually tied to the entire family. So, this Koseki is a register for one family where you have the head of the household. You have the wife, because the head of the household is almost always a male.

Fisher: Sure.

Ryan: And then you have their children. And then throughout the life of each individual in that family the record is updated with each one of those events. So, what you get is a full record that has the birth, the marriage, the death, and the adoption, even location where they lived, all that information is on one record for the entire family. So, it’s pretty incredible.

Fisher: Wow! I guess so. And so, the question would be then, are there privacy concerns? How long has it been going on?

Ryan: Yeah. That is kind of the unfortunate part. Once you get it, it’s amazing but it’s difficult to get because it’s on those privacy concerns.

Fisher: Okay.

Ryan: But what happened is, this record was instituted across Japan in around 1872.

Fisher: Okay.

Ryan: This was when Japan was kind of coming out of the Samurai era, and they were getting more modernized. They have then what’s the Meiji period, which was kind of their modernization/westernization period. So, this was kind of an attempt to have a civil registry where they could have a more established modernized government with the register of everyone. It started in 1872 where every person in Japan had to register themselves as part of a family with a surname and a given name. Before then, there was even a time where people didn’t even have a surname. Only the samurai had surnames. This was a big, big event where everyone had a name, everyone had a registered domicile, everyone had a family, and that was in 1872. Now, it went great for 100 years, and unfortunately, it was actually in the 1970s, 1976 to be exact. Like you said, there were these privacy concerns where even though as a society they had modernized as far as their political and social structure, culturally, there was still a lot of baggage from the samurai period which had a bit of a cast system.

Fisher: Sure.

Ryan: So, samurai at the top and then witling your way down even to, this term wasn’t used but it’s easier for us to understand. You know in India we know the untouchables, right?

Fisher: Sure.

Ryan: So, they even had a cast similar to that there. So, even though it was more than 100 years before, even in the 70s there was this problem where employers, colleges, even families of potential spouses would look up the Koseki records of potential employees, potential students, potential courters and find out, oh, this person is in a samurai class. This person is of a lower class. There would be blackmail. There would be discrimination and it became a huge problem. So, it’s so unfortunate that in 1976 there became this restriction where only a descendent of someone on the Koseki record could request it directly. You couldn’t access it publically.

Fisher: So, are you saying that they don’t maintain it any longer in terms of keeping it current?

Ryan: Good question. So, no, it’s still kept current. There is some record loss where if every single member on a certain Koseki document has either died or been married or adopted off. There has been cases where those records have been destroyed which is really unfortunate. The Japanese government have been doing a lot of things to make sure they they’re digitized and their system is now obviously completely digital. But rather than record loss, it’s mostly restriction of, you know, a researcher can’t just go in and find a client’s records online or even find it through an onsite without a power of attorney.

Fisher: Sure.

Ryan: Without the actual client being able to go in and prove their lineage and do it directly that way.

Fisher: And that’s where you come in?

Ryan: Exactly. So, that’s something that we specialize in. We have onsite researchers in Japan that are obviously highly specialized in this and me as the project manager as I work with the client to make sure that we first get all the information they already have, second, do any kind of other immigration research that we need to do here to kind of get some of the information from the immigration records and things like that for the immigrant ancestor. Once we do that, and we kind of hit that roadblock of, okay, we’ve gone as far as we can in America. Now everything else is in Japan. Then we’re able to work with our onsites and they can go into these specific municipal courts because you actually need to go to the municipal office where the record is housed. So, it’s not only that you have to go to any government entity. You have to know the specific municipal office that it’s tied to.

Fisher: Right.

Ryan: And then our onsite researchers get that and they translate them and we send them off to our client.

Fisher: Wow. So, basically, your people already have a relationship with the government and that trust so that you get in there once you get all the paperwork taken care of.

Ryan: Exactly. And you know, I guess, even more than maybe an organization to organization relationship between us and the government, it’s really that they have this system albeit strict. There is a way to make it work and we just have people on the ground that have done it and they do it over and over, and over.

Fisher: Sure.

Ryan: They know the questions to ask. They know the places to go and the things to provide where we can work within that system. It’s been pretty amazing. We’ve hit certain roadblocks and then my onsite researcher will say, oh, well, I’ve got some ideas. Let me try some things.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Ryan: And then they’re able to talk to the right person, ask the right questions. It’s pretty amazing what we’re able to find.

Fisher: You know, it’s interesting, 1872, that’s kind of right around the same general area where we started birth, dead, and marriage records here in the United States, maybe a little early for some places, but kind of on-track with say New York City.

Ryan: Yeah.

Fisher: And it looks like just a lot of people around the world at the same time were starting to think about these things.

Ryan: It is. It’s so fascinating. And you even think, even going a little further back to the 1850 census, everything before that there was only head of households and it was around 1850 when they started actually adding members of the same kind of thing. Before that 1860 -1870 range, all you had was the Samurai class, but then moving on from there every individual was accounted for. So, I can’t tell you what it is but it’s kind of cool that that was the era.

Fisher: Wow. That is absolutely amazing. He is Ryan Rockwood. He is a project manager over at our sponsors Legacy Tree Genealogists. Ryan, great stuff, thanks so much for coming on. Appreciate it.

Ryan: Oh, thank you. It’s such a pleasure to be here and I love listening to the podcast. I’m happy to be on.

Fisher: All right, and coming up next, David Allen Lambert will rejoin me as we go through another round of Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 4 Episode 420

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, we're back. It is Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. David Allen Lambert is on the line. And David, our first question is from Marco in Louisville, Kentucky, and he says, "Guys, in a Civil War letter, it was mentioned that my ancestor had a wooden grave marker, but when I visited his burial site in Virginia, his marker was stone. When would the wooden one have been traded out?" Interesting question. I've seen wooden ones. They're absolutely amazing that they survived so long. But what do you have to add to this, Dave?

David: Well, I mean, first off, the thing about the wooden marker is, that's what they originally used. In fact, quartermasters from the time of the Revolutionary War military opposing camps, nobody's going to be carving out a stone marker for you by the way. The problem is, is that the lifetime of these types of markers, Fish, is only about five years before the paint comes off and you can't read them and then this wood eventually rots. So that's why a lot of the early colonial stones would have been wooden stones. These are called like headboards or with a wooden marker of sorts. So they're described a couple of different ways. So, around 1873, the quartermaster general's office petitions congress and they appropriate over $1 million to have gravestones, either in marble or granite, cut to certain specification to replace all these wooden markers, because the cost to replace them every few years would have been astronomical, so might as well get it done once. You're able to find a great collection of these applications, if you will, for someone who's going to have a marker after the fact that they didn't die in the Civil War and they died a few years later. Well, in 1879, these markers till about 1903 you can find a database on Ancestry.com.

Fisher: Ooh!

David: And these are the original headstone applications, which sometimes gives you a little bit more information than what's actually on the stone. Some of these stones didn't record more than the first initial, the last name and the vessel that you served on if you were in the navy or marines or the company and the regiment you served with in the army. Now, the application sometimes has full names, sometimes has dates or birthdates or deaths.

Fisher: Right.

David: So you wouldn't know right away if you're looking at a gravestone from someone from the Indian Wars or who served in the Civil War, especially if it’s an old stone that was put there n the 1880s or 1890s. So, you have to do a little bit of sleuthing to find that out. But you can find those online. The other thing is, there are great websites like FindAGrave and BillionGraves and another one that a lot of people don't use, Interment.net, which has an entire section on American veteran cemeteries that you can search and it has a lot of the national cemeteries right by state and it is exclusively veterans, instead of having to go through everybody on, say, BillionGraves or FindAGrave, so that's a nice option, too.

Fisher: Yeah, that's amazing! You know, I've actually visited a ghost town near Zion National Park in Southern Utah, it’s called Grafton and this is where a lot of the scenes with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were filmed back in 1969 and they have a cemetery there with a lot of wooden markers. Now, I was thinking about what you're saying, a lot of these would last five years, but I would think in the dry heat of Utah, they last a lot longer, because they're still there from the 1870s, 1880s, early 1900s. Some of them talked about being killed in clashes with the natives. I mean, it’s just absolutely amazing stuff to actually run into these things. I don't think I've ever seen them anywhere else. And certainly the whole time I was growing up living in the east; I never saw a wooden marker there, did you?

David: The only time I've ever seen them are in Boot Hill out in Tombstone, Arizona.

Fisher: Wow! Well, there you go. So it’s the dry air and the heat and for some reason they survive for a long, long, long time. So, who would have imagined that? I totally get it that five years would make sense, especially in the humidity of the east and especially the extreme temperature ranges in the winters and the summers. So, that is a great question, Marco, thanks for that. And David, great answer, thank you so much. We've got another question coming up for you in moments when we return on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 420

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, we're back, its Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. I am Fisher, he is David. And Dave, our second question comes from Becky in Pleasant Grove, Utah and she says, "Guys, in my grandmother's effects, I found an old photo of a woman with a mirror like finish. It’s really clear. When would this date back to and how might I find out who she is? Becky." Good question. What do you think, Dave? You want to start that out?

David: Hmm, well, that right away would be a Daguerreotype.

Fisher: Yep.

David: That mirror type finish is essentially the emulsion is on polished metal. And if you get that mirror image, it’s almost like you can see your own reflection in the face of your ancestor.

Fisher: Yeah and they really are clear. There's no question about it. These really date back to the 1840s and '50s for the most part. They were very expensive for people to get. It was like five bucks to do one, which was the average pay for a week's worth of work for somebody back in those times. And I would also recommend that you look up the clothing. Maurine Taylor has a great book that helps you match up the era with the clothing that you might find in the picture. One other thing that I hesitate to recommend this, because it could become a bigger problem than it’s worth, but I inherited a bunch of these eight years ago. We actually had nine from the same family, which was incredible as I'm told from many people who are experts in this field. But I was taking them apart so I could scan them, because they're behind glass, they're in a frame and I found that behind some of these pictures was actually written who they are on a note or on something behind it and then we'd have to put the whole thing back together. But unsealing it after 150, 160 years could cause a problem. Now I have not had any problems with these since I did that eight years ago. Still, I'm not expert enough to say, oh, this is definitely something you should risk. But that might be one way you could figure out who it is. The other thing of course David is to kind of figure out what branch of the family this came from in the first place, if you can, and see who the possibilities are. What is the age of the person in the picture and kind of go from there.

David: You know, with the photograph as you said, add caution to it. You can remove the image. It may be a Daguerreotype or the later ones, which are done on glass, which are Ambrotypes. Occasionally you'll find that it is all encased, the glass, the metal plate or the glass and the negative positive plate, and it’s wrapped. As long as you don't peel back and break the seal, the emulsion is going to not affect air. What happens with the Daguerreotypes is, is you open them up to remove the glass over the Daguerreotype for a long length of time, it will tarnish, because it’s a silver plate.

Fisher: Right.

David: It’s like an old piece of silverware. You just open the air to it. So, it’s always good to just leave it as it is, maybe get a professional person to photograph it if your cell phone isn't doing the trick or your scanner. But these are treasures. I opened one out of the back and it had a lock of the person's hair.

Fisher: Oh wow! Really? I've never heard of that before. That's interesting.

David: DNA. [Laughs]

Fisher: Yeah, yep and did they identify who the person was as well or it was just a lock of hair?

David: Just a lock of hair. Just a very pretty young girl in a green dress, because the Daguerreotype was tinted. And it’s a beautiful image and its one of the ones I own and I purchased. So, I always got curious and it’s like, I wonder what it says back there? Because sometimes you can date them with the photographer, because they used to put their little advertisement piece or sometimes on the metal plate, which is the matting around the actual image.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: You may get the name of the photographer dated by a city directory and you'll know how old the photo is.

Fisher: Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, there are certain things you can do, but you've got to do them with caution. And there are maybe hidden secrets within this treasure that you've got. So congratulations on that. And thanks for the question, Becky. And that's Ask Us Anything for this week. Thanks, David, we'll talk to you next time around.

David: All right, until then, my friend.

Fisher: All right, buddy. And that's our show for this week. Thanks so much for joining us. Hey, if you missed any of it or you want to catch it again, of course listen for the podcast. You can find it on all the standard places where great podcasts are found. Thanks for joining us. Talk to you again next week. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!

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