Episode 422 - Founder of “Dead Fred” Talks Photo Reunions / Maureen Taylor On New Facial Recognition Sites

podcast episode May 30, 2022

Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org.  Fisher shares a remarkable experience he had in the process of donating a book he wrote to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. David starts Family Histoire News with the story of an incredible 2,000 year old find at an antique store. Hear the history of this remarkable object. Then the dog tag of an American soldier, found in a lake in England, has been returned to the family. Catch the details. Then, hear the story of a 98-year-old woman who has just met the 80-year-old daughter she gave up for adoption during World War II. Next, the oldest survivor of Pearl Harbor has just celebrated another birthday. Find out how old he is! Then, one woman is thought to be the oldest person to ever live. Catch how old she is thought to be! (Do you believe it? Fisher doesn’t!)

Next Fisher visits with Dead Fred founder Joe Bott. Joe explains how the site works to reunite ancestral photos with descendants, how he started the site, and where that name came from!

Then, Photo Detective Maureen Taylor talks to Fisher about new facial recognition sites for your photos. How do they work? What do they do? How much do they cost? Maureen explains.

Then, David returns for two more listener questions on Ask Us Anything.

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


Host: Scott Fisher with David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 422

Fisher: And hello America! And welcome to America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, on the program where we shake our family tree and watch the nuts fall out. Great guests today! We’re going to have the guy on who is behind Dead Fred. If you haven’t been to the Dead Fred site yet, it’s a place you’re going to have to check out. We’ve got Joe Bott on the show coming up in about ten minutes, talking about how he founded it. What it does. What it can do for you and how he came up with that crazy name. Then later in the show, the Photo Detective Maureen Taylor is back as we talk photographs again today, how you can find them, how you can make sure your unmarked photos get to somebody that they belong to, and how you can identify them. So, we’ve got a busy day with photographs today. Hey, if you haven’t signed up for our Weekly Genie Newsletter yet, our community just keeps on growing, you can do it on our Facebook page or ExtremeGenes.com. It’s free. You get a blog from me each week, you get links to past and present shows, and links to stories you’ll appreciate as a family historian. Right now, it’s time to head off to Boston, Massachusetts where David Allen Lambert is standing by, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. David, how are you? Welcome back!

David: I am, and yourself? Any adventures in the genealogical realm for you these days?

Fisher: Absolutely, I’m always having them. In fact, I was in Salt Lake City just last week and had a unique experience. I went to the Family History Library there and I had digitized five books that I had either written or had revised during the pandemic. So, I took it to the booth there and I had the guy download them from my little thumb-drive, and as I was writing down the titles on the donation slip, I wanted to make sure they matched. So, I said, would you go to the title page on those books so I can make sure I have the wording just right? And he looks at the one and he goes, “Spjut” and I said, that’s right. He says, “Are you a Spjut?” I said, no, my grandmother was. He says, well, I’m a Spjut. Yeah, my great grandfather was Swen.” I said, “Well, that was my grandmother’s brother!” So, it turned out this guy was my second cousin once removed! And it happened to be his shift at the Family History Library. We had never met before. I don’t even know his mother who is my second cousin, but it was really fun. We both wanted to take a picture with one another to commemorate the event because it was really strange. You know Dave, these things do happen when we do this stuff, right?

David: Well, it’s all relative that’s for sure.

Fisher: Exactly.

David: [Laughs] Well, you know I love eBay, you love eBay, and I also like to go to the thrift stores occasionally because you kind of find some neat stuff. Usually I find signed books or something kind of cool. So, in Austin, Texas at a goodwill store Laura Young a few years ago bought for $34.99 a 50 pound marble bust of a man, and she thought it looked fairly old. Well, she was right. It’s from the first century.

Fisher: Oh wow!

David: Yeah. This marble bust was lifted out of a museum in Germany. They don’t know if it was from a soldier, or was stolen and a soldier bought it and brought it back to America, but anyways, it ended up in goodwill. It’s now going back over to Germany after being pilfered from a museum. It was there over 100 years ago. It was a bust of a young German man.

Fisher: Wow!

David: So, pretty neat.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: You never know what you’re going to find out there. So, any 2,000 year old marble bust you can have for $34.99 available, please give me a call.

Fisher: [Laughs] Yeah. Right.

David: Well, you know sometimes you’re finding things by metal detecting, or you’re picking it up off the ground, but reconnecting it with the family I think is always a special kind of magic. And this is what happened over in Cheshire, England where a person had found a dog tag in a river. The dog tag belonged to Robert Luetgert who was an American Air Force veteran who was stationed in the 1950s over there in Cheshire. Now, he’s no longer with us but now his family has his dog tag.

Fisher: Wow! That’s a great story. What fun would that be to get this thing in the mail and go, “Wait a minute, what?” That’s incredible.

David: Exactly. And now I guess the question they’ll never know is how did it get there?

Fisher: Right.

David: Maybe he went for a swim. Well, I love stories that reconnect people and we hear about adoption reunions all the time. But Gerda Cole aged 98 got to finally meet her daughter who was 80 years old.

Fisher: Yeah. She wanted a dual citizenship for Austria.

David: Right. And Gerda’s son replied to her on Facebook because she had contacted him and because she needed the death record to complete the application. [Laughs] Guess what, he said, “You can’t have it. She’s still alive.” And they’ve finally been reunited after 80 years.

Fisher: Wow!

David: The story basically was that her mother had been in a refugee camp in World War II. She was Jewish and had been placed into a refugee camp and her daughter was born there and was adopted out. So they were finally connected after 80 years.

Fisher: Unbelievable.

David: Well, you know, speaking about 80 years ago, that was Pearl Harbor. And some of our vets are still with us, including who I think is the oldest living vet, a Pensacola, Florida man by the name of Frank Emond who was actually the musician on the USS Pennsylvania. He celebrated his 104th birthday. You know, 104 is pretty old but Juan Vicente Perez from Venezuela Guinness Book of World Records has him now as the oldest living male in the world. He was born the 27th of May 1909 in Venezuela. He is the 9th child of 10. So think, some of his siblings could even have been born in the 19th century. But all of those people are gone, right? 

Fisher: Yep.

David: So we thought.

Fisher: What?

David: Up until the recent news story. Now the jury is still out on this. Guinness hasn’t confirmed this, but Johanna Mazibuko born May 11th 1894 in South Africa they believe she is 128 years of age.  

Fisher: You know I’m going to tell you Dave, I’m skeptical. I mean sorry, I don’t know that in my lifetime I’ve ever heard of anybody 128. There was that Jeanne Calment who was over in France right?

David: Um hmm. That was proven to be a fraud.

Fisher: That was a fraud. And she was what, 120-121-122?

David: 125 or so.

Fisher: Something like that. Yeah. I mean and they proved that wrong so it makes you wonder is this going to be another one of those stories? Stay tuned.

David: Well, that’s all I have from Beantown this week. But remember, if you want to go to AmericanAncestors.org and you want to be a member, use the coupon code EXTREME and save $20 on an annual membership.

Fisher: All right Dave. Thank you so much. And we will catch you at the backend of the show for another round of Ask Us Anything. But coming up next, we’re going to talk to the founder of a place called Dead Fred. Yeah, it’s a virtual place but you’re going to love what they do if you’ve never been there before. I’ll be talking to the founder Joe Bott when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 422

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Joe Bott

Fisher: And welcome back to America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth. And you know, for all the years we’ve been on the show, I’ve heard this term “Dead Fred” for a long time, often from Maureen Taylor- the Photo Detective, talking about this place where people can actually find missing relative’s photos. And it just seemed right that it was about time maybe I find out a little bit more about this on your behalf. And so we’ve got Joe Bott on. He is not dead, he is not Fred, but he is the founder of the site. And Joe, welcome to Extreme Genes. It’s great to finally have you.

Joe: Thank you Fisher. People call me Fred, by the way.

Fisher: Do they? [Laughs]

Joe: Yeah they do. Normally when they write to me they say, “Hey Fred”. 

Fisher: Where did this name Dead Fred come from in the first place?

Joe: Well, I collect photographs of course. And I saw a photo on eBay of Frederick the Third. Frederick the Third was the head of Germany and he was dead. He was in his coffin. And I don’t buy people that are dead.

Fisher: Yeah. That was a thing though in the 29th century, wasn’t it?

Joe: Yeah. Well, people couldn’t get to see their relatives so they took pictures of them.

Fisher: Yeah.

Joe: So, my family and I were sitting around the dinner table trying to come up with ideas on what we were going to call the website. And it was like genealogy faces and any kind of number you could do. 

Fisher: Um hmm.

Joe: But nothing that really caught us. The mail came that day. I had bought it off eBay for 10 bucks, that was a deal so I couldn’t let it go, so I bought it and it came to the house about the same time we’re trying to figure out a name for the site. And there he was in his coffin. And one of my son’s says, “Let’s call him Dead Fred”.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Joe: [Laughs] Yeah, and that’s how he got his name.

Fisher: Well, it’s a great hook. I mean, how can you forget the name, right?

Joe: That’s right. That’s good.

Fisher: They won’t have a difficult time remembering where to go to check out DeadFred.com right?

Joe: No, they won’t. You’re absolutely right.

Fisher: So, tell me now, you’re a photo collector and you gather these things. You sort them out on your website, and I see that people can go on there and search for their relatives. You must have some amazing stories because you started this thing in what, 1998 or so?

Joe: Yes. That’s right. 1998. Yeah, I do. I’ve had a little over 3,000 reunions so far.

Fisher: Wow!

Joe: And every one of them is a wonderful story even in itself. Even the ones that aren’t so wonderful. Some people take it for granted; that’s where you go to get your ancestor’s photographs. Thanks a lot. See you later.

Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs]

Joe: But most of them are very, very happy to get their ancestor’s photograph.

Fisher: Sure.

Joe: Some of them even cry and is very emotional.

Fisher: Um hmm.

Joe: You know, before I retired, I traveled quite a bit. And I was up in Idaho, and I went into an antique shop. And inside that shop was a whole group of family photos. So, I bought them and I brought them home and put it on my website. And about two weeks later a woman called me from Saskatchewan and she said, “That’s my whole family.”

Fisher: Oh wow!

Joe: They had picked up and they moved down to Iowa. That was there her whole family. She had it all laid out. He had all the information. But back then I was pretty stringent about making sure I got good proof that these people weren’t just taking photos and selling them on eBay.

Fisher: Sure. Yeah. Good point.

Joe: And sure enough, there was like 22 photographs and it was her great, great and their relatives all the way down to the cousins, and uncles and whatever, and she got them. And that caused other people to come to the website.

Fisher: Sure. Yeah.

Joe: And it was built from there.

Fisher: How many photos do you have in your collection right now?

Joe: I have eleven thousand that I have put on the archive. And I have another eleven/twelve thousand that I still have to put on the intenet.

Fisher: [Laughs] This is your day job Joe?

Joe: Yeah, this is my day job. This is what I do for a living.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Joe: I get up in the morning, I have my coffee, I kiss my wife, we sit around and watch a little TV, and I head downstairs and I scan until nap time.

Fisher: Oh my gosh, you must have a really good back.

Joe: I do.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Joe: Then I do the same thing again. I’ve been scanning photos now since I retired, and even before of course with work, so more vigorously now that I have more time. 

Fisher: Sure.

Joe: And I get photos all the time. I get photos every week from people who have photos, they don’t know who they are. One person sent me a bunch of photos they found in the trash. That makes me sick. I can’t understand why people would throw their photographs out. I got two photo albums from a family up in Hampton, New Hampshire. The names were Godfrey. And it came in the mail with no return address. And the two albums represented the family’s life from the 1850s to the 1920s.

Fisher: Oh wow!

Joe: And that’s on the archive. You can search it. Just type in Godfrey Hampton New Hampshire, or just New Hampshire, and you’ll see them. I have another story. I was at a national genealogy show several years back in Austin, Texas, and I met a lady by the name of Marge Rice. We got talking and boy we hit it off because we had the same passion. She was a genealogist. God bless genealogists. They have an amazing amount of patients and integrity of digging down and finding out information.

Fisher: Yeah.

Joe: And she did the same thing, but what she did was she followed it. Marge said to me, at that show first time I met her, “I’m going to leave you my photographs when I die.”

Fisher: [Laughs]

Joe: And I said, well, that’s nice. You don’t have to do that. “No, no, no I want to do it.” I said okay. Well, several years later I get a phone call from her daughter. She had died. And she left me her photographs. I live in Arkansas. I rented a van and I drove from Arkansas to Joliet, Illinois where they lived. And I loaded it up, seven big boxes full of photographs.

Fisher: Oh wow!

Joe: And every one of those photographs had the full genealogy of each one of those people on there. I was totally flabbergasted.

Fisher: Yes. I would be too.

Joe: As a matter of fact, I’m looking at a box right now and I’ve one-two boxes left to do before I’m done posting. So, if any of your listeners want to go on my website, you’ll see a keyword search down in the bottom on the front page.

Fisher: Yep.

Joe: Type in Marge Rice and you’ll see how many photos I’ve posted so far.

Fisher: That’s unbelievable. Now, you have also a large community on Facebook as well. Tell me about what this group is in engaged in when they’re talking with you.

Joe: Okay. Well, not just genealogy, not just photographs.

Fisher: Sure.

Joe: It’s genealogy and history.

Fisher: Um hmm.

Joe: So, I put a lot of history up there but also put a lot of photos up there. We talk about the photos that I have on my website. I give them the links to go to it. I explain to them how to use the site. But we also talk about the photos that I have. There might be a photo of a lady that I have all her albums, she died a few years ago. Her name was Mary Angeline Alpers from Lovers Fort, Indiana. And she was a designer. She lived there all her life. She filled her life through her photographs. She was very artistic. I hooked up with a person through my Facebook page who also got all her drawings for her dresses that she drew. She designed dresses.

Fisher: So, this is good visual stuff that ties to family history, all of it.

Joe: Absolutely.

Fisher: Yeah.

Joe: Here I am searching photos, and here’s somebody else over here that’s searching her other accomplishments. And we hook up and we both have the same passion for that same person, but in different ways.

Fisher: Sure.

Joe: The Facebook page I started in order to bring people onto my website.

Fisher: Sure, of course. I wanted to ask you Joe, what’s the most unusual photograph you’ve ever come across? One you tell everybody about, “You’re not going to believe this.” 

Joe: I got a guy on my website, it’s not so much the photograph, it’s the man.

Fisher: Okay.

Joe: His name is Orange Lemon.

Fisher: [Laughs] I like that. Okay.

Joe: I have a couple of brothers that are from New South Wales. They are very odd looking people. And I get a lot of comments about them. But I can tell you the name of the very first person I found and got the website started.

Fisher: Okay.

Joe: It’s Grigson.

Fisher: Grigson. Okay.

Joe: Grigson. I had a picture of the mother and a baby. I was laid up for four months with a pretty bad illness. So, my wife bought me a computer to get me out of her hair. She did a good job because I labeled my collection and pulled this photo out that had all this information and I was able to track down the baby and the mother on the photo, and able to connect with the son of the baby.

Fisher: Oh wow! [Laughs] That’s fantastic!

Joe: Yeah. And I was able to get another photograph. Well, that really tuned my head.

Fisher: Sure.

Joe: I tell you, I’d go, wow! Look at that.

Fisher: Yeah.

Joe: You know, at the time, this was ’98 there wasn’t, that I could find, any comprehensive collected on photographs or ancestors photographs. So I said, here I have 5,000 photographs. And what if I took all the ones that have names and information and I separate them out from the ones that have no information whatsoever. And I hire a company to build me a website? And I did that. And I was able to put up the ones that had the information; the photographer’s name, the person’s name, the location.

Fisher: Sure.

Joe: Any small piece of information. Even a sign that’s hanging behind them outside that says, “Isel Drugs, Hoboken, New Jersey” it puts them in a place. Now when I had that put up. This is a free website. It’s free to use, and when we send the photo to you, you don’t pay anything. You just don’t feel it’s right to sell people their ancestors.

Fisher: Their own pictures, yeah. [Laughs]

Joe: Their own pictures, right.

Fisher: He’s Joe Bott. He is the founder of Dead Fred. If you’re looking for an ancestral photograph, why not start right there. Go to DeadFred.com and check it out. And Joe thanks so much for what you’re doing. I love finding passionate people who are deep in the weeds in whatever aspect of helping people find their family stories. Thanks so much.

Joe: Thank you very much Fish.

Fisher: And speaking of photographs, the Photo Detective Maureen Taylor joins us here in five minutes talking about not only Dead Fred, but an amazing new technology out to help you find more pictures. Is it a good thing or a bad thing? She’ll tell you what it is, where to find it, coming up on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 3 Episode 422

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Maureen Taylor

Fisher: All right, we’re back on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, the Radio Roots Sleuth with my good friend Maureen Taylor, the Photo Detective. It seemed like a natural follow-up to talking about Dead Fred and Joe Bott. Maureen it’s great to have you back on the show. It’s been a while.

Maureen: It’s great to be on the show Scott. It’s been months I think, since we’ve spoken.

Fisher: Yes. And Joe has been a friend of yours for some time. Dead Fred has been a great asset for people in the photo world.

Maureen: Oh, no doubt about it. I mean, Joe Bott of Dead Fred is one of the original photo reunion people. I’m not sure if he mentioned that in his interview or not, but I saw on Facebook recently, that he has right now 11 thousand photographs to enter onto the site.

Fisher: Yeah, he mentioned this. I mean, there’s just thousands of them and they just keep growing and he gets these collections. He’s going to keep this going until the day he drops himself.

Maureen: I know. He loves it. Instead of a way a lot of these new photo reunion people are working where they buy a photograph and then they do all the research online in the databases and then send it to the person. This is in your control.

Fisher: Yeah.

Maureen: You can go to Dead Fred and do the searching and there’s so many things you can use it for. You can search by photographer, you can search by mysteries. You can just do amazing things on Dead Fred. It has stood the test of time.

Fisher: Absolutely. Well, it was great to have him on. It’s great to have you on too because I wanted to you about this whole thing that’s coming up now about facial recognition in photography. It’s getting a little bit different. It’s going in directions I don’t think we anticipated and it’s happening everywhere. And it can be really helpful for us too.

Maureen: Yeah. Let’s talk about the positives first.

Fisher: Sure.

Maureen: It’s built into a lot of photo organizing programs now. Like Memory Web for instance, has facial recognition. If you have more than three photographs of a person it will start prompting you. It may think you have other photos of the same person that you haven’t tagged yet. So, that’s a huge positive.

Fisher: Right.

Maureen: The negative is that people often look like other people. So, a friend of mine got pinged by Facebook and it said, it’s your anniversary on having been in New Orleans. And he goes,” I haven’t to New Orleans in years.”

Fisher: [Laughs]

Maureen: He goes, well, my brother went. And he showed it to me and sure enough there was his brother in New Orleans. So, Facebook got a little confusion, they do look a little bit alike, and that was a problem. You know, these image reverse searching sites, if that’s what you want to call them.

Fisher: Yeah. How does this work?

Maureen: So, for years I’ve used a site called TinEye.com. And you can search it. So, what I usually do with these reverse image search engines is, I use my headshot.

Fisher: Sure.

Maureen: Because it’s a good test. I’ve got decades of lecturing all over the place. I’m buried on websites all over. So this is a good test. How good is this search engine? So, I used it on TinEye and I only came up with seven hits.

Fisher: Okay. And how much does TinEye cost, by the way, is there a subscription with this?

Maureen: TinEye is free.

Fisher: Okay.

Maureen: Then of course, you can use Images.Google.com. A lot of people use this to try to figure out things that are in photographs for instance, buildings, and bridges, and all of that.

Fisher: Wow.

Maureen: I haven’t found it as helpful as some other people in our field have. So, on Images.Google.com, I uploaded the same headshot that I did for TinEye, and I got 209 results.

Fisher: Wow! That’s a lot more than TinEye.

Maureen: Exactly. So, it pulls up things like when I spoke at the Historical Society in Pennsylvania in 2016, my website, Facebook, other sites that I have written for, Twitter, YouTube, but also, other places that I’ve spoken pop up.

Fisher: Okay.

Maureen: And whenever someone has used my headshot to advertise an event, then it pops up.

Fisher: And that’s pretty easy really. If you’re matching the same picture to the same picture, right?

Maureen: Yeah. But it’s attached.

Fisher: Sure.

Maureen: But this matches exactly. It’s always the same headshot. But then I read just recently an article on CNN, there is a woman who used to work for Apple, and she started testing this new website called PimEyes.com.

Fisher: Okay.

Maureen: And she found some stuff from her past that she felt was gone, and this can happen to a lot of people.

Fisher: Ooh.

Maureen: But also, she Tweeted back in January, that in Facebook of October 2021, she had been tagged in an old black and white photograph, like a vintage photo, of a man and a woman.

Fisher: Really?

Maureen: It had been posted to Facebook by, she says in the article, a friend of a friend who she is distantly related to. So, at the time she was like, what is this? And then she did a lot of research on Ancestry.com and discovered that this photograph actually depicts her great, great grandmother who of course she must be a doppelganger for.

Fisher: Wow! That’s crazy.

Maureen: I know, it’s crazy. So, then I thought, well, what is PimEyes? Let me try it. So, I used the exact same headshot that I used on TinEye and on Images.Google.com, because that’s my test.

Fisher: Yeah, yeah.

Maureen: And it popped up 194 results in 2.33 seconds.

Fisher: That’s insane. That’s really good.

Maureen: Well, what’s really insane is it popped up my old headshots from like 2000.

Fisher: Okay.

Maureen: Other sort of candid shots, other speaking engagements, wherever any of these headshots had occurred. But it’s not just the same headshot, it’s all these different headshots that I’ve used over the years, all popped up.

Fisher: Okay. So, it covered a much wider time span.

Maureen: Much wider. There was only on the first page, only one face that popped up that wasn’t me.

Fisher: Really? Okay out of 190 something.

Maureen: Yeah. 193 out of the 194 were me.

Fisher: And did you find that the person who was not you, did they resemble you pretty closely?

Maureen: Yes, actually she does.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Maureen: We had sort of the same haircut. And you know, glasses can definitely skew facial recognition software.

Fisher: Yeah.

Maureen: As can beards and stuff like that. But yeah, she does sort of look like me. I clicked on it but then I discovered that PimEyes is not free.

Fisher: Ah, okay. What’s that cost?

Maureen: There’s a price range. It starts from $29.99 a month and goes up to, are you ready for this? $299.99, so almost $300 a month.

Fisher: What?

Maureen: Yeah, yeah. And it does deep searching. I don’t know what that means and you can export it and stuff like that, for all of that. But who needs that?

Fisher: Maybe the police. I don’t know. [Laughs]

Maureen: I don’t know. Perhaps, they do. But facial recognition is not hundred percent, let’s just start with that.

Fisher: Right, of course.

Maureen: And you can use sites like TinEye and PimEyes, and Images.Google.com, maybe not so much. But people who lift photographs that people have put online whether have permission to or not, can search these sites using that images and find out if it’s appeared anywhere else. Now, I haven’t done this with any of my ancestral photographs but you certainly can.

Fisher: Sure.

Maureen: It doesn’t have to be a contemporary photograph.

Fisher: Right. No, it would be interesting to see if somebody else may have posted a different picture of your ancestor. So, if you had a decent portrait of somebody from way back in the day maybe there’s another one out there that you can find.

Maureen: Right or there could be multiple copies of the same image but you don’t know it.

Fisher: Yeah, that’s true too because if you have a kind of a beat up one, maybe you’ll find a cleaner one.

Maureen: Yeah. I haven’t tried it with any of my historical family photographs yet but it would be interesting to see what pops up.

Fisher: Well, see this is why you are the photo detective. This is all new stuff to me. I haven’t heard of TinEye or PimEyes and I’ve never been to Images.Google.com, but you’ve intrigued me because it sounds like another way to break open some challenging puzzle pieces.

Maureen: You have to try everything.

Fisher: Sure, absolutely. Although, I must say, it sounds kind of scary. And like you said, there was somebody that had something from their past show up that they didn’t want to see. It makes you wonder what pictures might be out there that you just wish weren’t out there at all.

Maureen: Well, you never know. But, I think there are definitely genealogy applications for this type of thing.

Fisher: Yeah, absolutely. She is the photo detective Maureen Taylor. You can follow her at MaureenTaylor.com. Maureen thanks for coming on!

Maureen: Thank you Scott. There’s always new stuff to talk about.

Fisher: Yes there is. David Allen Lambert returns in moments as we get on with Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show in three minutes.

Segment 4 Episode 422

Host: Scott Fisher with David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, Dave is back for Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. And Dave, our first question today comes from Clay in Deerfield Beach, Florida and he says, "Hello Fisher and Dave. My dad was in the Vietnam War. How could I locate some of his old buddies to surprise him for his upcoming 80th birthday?" Wow that's a good question! There's a lot of meat to chew on with this one, Dave.

David: Yeah. I mean, if it was a World War II veteran who's turning 100, I can say there's a variety of different things. And of course, sadly, less likely you're going to find them. But, some of the guys he served with, probably in their 70s, maybe even a little older than him. The first thing I would do is personally create a social media Facebook group.

Fisher: Ooh!

David: If dad's not on Facebook, you don't want to break the surprise, but you could create like, Looking for veterans of the 122nd brigade that was in Vietnam in 1967 to '69, something like that.

Fisher: Right.

David: In that way, it’s also searchable on Google. As long as you make that group not private, you can actually get Google to catch it and then it may be searchable. Now I hope his birthday isn't next week, because that could take a little while.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: The other thing is, if you go back through your dad's scrapbooks or something like that, you may find them. I say Google searching may work, because somebody may have an anniversary and maybe mentioned it and hopefully you're not finding just obituaries. But that's one way of doing it. VFWs are another great way. If you dad's lived in the same area and maybe he had some buddies that attended the same VFW or American Legion, these are places that may be able to connect and help you locate some of the other veterans he served with.

Fisher: Well, I would say though that we could even simplify this further, because maybe dad has been in touch with some of these guys over the years and all you really need is one that you find and then you could network with that person maybe to find one or two others and maybe those one or two others can add a few more to the list, and you can do that often by getting the one name from dad or maybe from his address book or whatever he's kept from back in the day and you can look this person up using a site called, FamilyTreeNow.com. And this is just a fabulous place for getting email addresses, current phone numbers, lot of information is found there on living people. And if you can get that one person and get him on board, maybe it’s something where you just can create a video that can be shared, you know, they get one of their kids or grandkids to video a little greeting and you send these things all off to you and you can put it together in one big thing and shock the heck out of your old man!

David: I think that he will be delighted. And I think that the nice thing about this is, you're going to probably even get some stories, maybe they have photos.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: Or do some oral history. Interview dad and get some of the facts now and those are clues for your project.

Fisher: Yeah, that's a really good idea. And you could also, as you say, get the oral history by having them do maybe a live video chat with some of these folks that you find. And there are ways to record those things too. And so, you put that all together. This could be something that would turn into much more than just a birthday greeting from some old colleges. This could turn into, like you say, Dave all the old stories that will survive your father and be passed down for generations to come.

David: That's very true. Unfortunately, the thing about Vietnam era research is, the ones that you're going to find online are going to be people in the 1950 census when they're kids.

Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs]

David: The 1970 won’t be out for 20 years now.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: And the problem is, a lot of the databases for Vietnam are for those that perished, like the Vietnam Memorial is virtual and online. People that died in Vietnam during the war are going to be memorialized and maybe pages, FindAGrave, BillionGraves, Interment.net. Maybe part of the story is getting your dad the knowledge that that buddy is gone now.

Fisher: Sure. Great thought there, Dave. So, thank you so much for the question, Clay. Hope that works out for you and good luck with that 80th birthday. And we've got another question from a listener coming up next when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 422

Host: Scott Fisher with David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, back for our final question and our final segment this week on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, David Allen Lambert over there. And this question, Dave comes from San Diego. Leah is writing and she says, "Hi guys. I recently learned that I have a half brother living just 32 miles from me. I know his name, his address and phone number. I would like to connect with him, but I'm nervous. Suggestions, please! Leah." Boy that' a tough one!

David: That really is and it’s always hard to know how that's going to go.

Fisher: Sure.

David: Now, with me, with my half sibling, it went fairly well! She was nervous, she reached out to me and I was kind of shocked and it took me awhile to digest it. It actually took me a couple of weeks to digest it and kind of wrap my head around it.

Fisher: I remember that, yeah.

David: But I mean, we're close now and you know, and I've got another sister and I've got enough here because of it. It could also go badly. How is this person connected, I guess is the bigger question I have for Lea. Was he put up for adoption? Is this something you found out through DNA? Was there an affair? So, there's a variety of different ways and you do need to be sensitive that it could go south or you could find your next best friend in this new sibling, you know.

Fisher: Yeah, well it could be. And you know, the idea of a best friend might not be a bad idea. Use an intermediary to reach out to this person is one way to approach it. I will say though and I've said this many, many times on the show, most of these situations turn out positive. I helped a friend of mine through DNA identify both of her birth parents. She was adopted and she found out she had a half sister on her mother's side and a half brother on her father's side. And both of them now have a great relationship with her and it has been seven years. They've had family gatherings together, she's exchanged gifts with the kids and it’s been a real change in her life as a result of all this. So, you can also think of it in terms of, you might be doing this guy a favor too to say, hey, you've got another family out there. It’s possible, maybe even likely that he already knows that he had a birth family out there.

David: Sure.

Fisher: And he may have wondered his whole life who everybody was. So, you know, this is something that might make him a little bit nervous as well. So, you know, you just might want to step up to the plate and take your best shot. And also try to protect yourself a little bit by realizing, okay, this may take some time, because you've had the opportunity to digest the fact that you have this half brother. In the case I talked about a minute ago here, the brother dove right in, but the sister was just in shock, because she was her mom's best friend and didn't realize mom had given up a baby. Mom had never told her before. But after she had the chance to digest that, she came around. And now the relationship is real sweet. And that may be the case here as well. So, allow a little time for this person to take that information in. And if you're too nervous, like we said, use an intermediary.

David: That's very true. I think the thing about these type of reunions is that if you give them all the facts all upfront, it may be too much information unless they ask for it. But also, if you are kind of beating around the bush and someone thinks it’s a scam or not real, that could be a problem, too. So, you really have to weigh out your decisions on what to tell them that is at least going to anchor the fact you're not a fraud, but you're not going to overload them with details that may cause them to be like, “This is too much. I don't want to be involved.” And they push out of the situation. Fish of the people you've dealt with, did it go well?

Fisher: Yeah, for the most part. I can't think of one that didn't, really.

David: Good.

Fisher: I've heard about others through friends who have had people have a situation go sideways. But you've just got to protect yourself a little bit and maybe anticipate the worst, but the best usually works out that way. So, great question, thanks so much for asking it and good luck with your project. Dave thanks so much for your time. We'll talk to you again next week.

David: I look forward to it, my friend.

Fisher: All right. And thanks so much to our guests today, Joe Bott from Dead Fred! Go to DeadFred.com and find out how to deal with your unmarked photographs from way back when. And of course to the photo detective, Maureen Taylor for coming on the show this week. We will talk to you again next week. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!


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