Episode 431 - Woman Taken at Birth Tells Her Story and How She Learned the Truth / New Italian DatabasesSep 19, 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 first acknowledge the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, certainly a most distant cousin to many Americans with British ancestry. David then shares several macabre stories. Hear about the 17 ancient bodies found in an 800-year-old well in England and what has now been learned about them. Then, who knew that ice cream in the 19th century could kill you? David explains why. Next, a construction project in Maine has revealed another occupied leftover coffin from a cemetery that was moved in the 1930s. David has more on this. Another killed-in-action sailor from Pearl Harbor has been identified and buried at Arlington Cemetery. (Thank you DNA!) Then, catch the story of the 375-year-old shipwreck in a river in Germany… found with its cargo intact!
Fisher then visits with Jane Blasio, author of the book “Taken At Birth,” her own story. Jane learned at age six that she was actually purchased from a doctor by her adoptive parents. Later she discovered that the doctor likely told her birth mother that she had died. Jane shares her many years journey to learn the truth.
Then, Sarah Gutmann of sponsor Legacy Tree Genealogists returns to talk about some amazing new documents and databases that are available out of Italy.
David then rejoins Fisher for a couple of listener questions on Ask Us Anything.
That’s all this week on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show!
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Segment 1 Episode 431
Fisher: And welcome America, to America’s Family History Show Extreme and ExtremGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth on the program where we shake your family tree, and watch the nuts fall out. It is so great to be back people! I’ve been travelling most of the last half of the summer. And we’ve got some great guests to kick off what’s turning into quickly our fall season here. First of all, coming up here in about seven or eight minutes, we’re going to be taking to Jane Blasio. She is a writer of a book, writing about her own story called Taken at Birth. Yeah, you’re going to want to hear this one coming up in just a little bit. And then later in the show from our sponsors over at Legacy Tree Genealogists, Sarah Gutmann is back, talking about some new databases from Italy. And this is really fun because who knew that some of these things existed over there. She didn’t know. She’s found them out. She’s going to share with you what you may be able to start finding online either right now or very soon in some cases. So, good stuff coming up there. Hey, if you haven’t signed up for our Weekly Genie Newsletter yet, we would love to have you on board for that. Just go to our website ExtremeGenes.com to do it, or on our Facebook page. Right now it’s time to head out to Boston, Massachusetts where David Allen Lambert is standing by. He’s been doing a little travelling himself lately. He’s with the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org, that Chief Genealogist. David, how the heck you’re doing?
David: I’m doing great! But I’ll tell you, I didn’t have to worry about packing and washing laundry between my two trips because my first one was in Orlando, Florida to Disney with my family, and then less than 10 days later I was on a cruise ship lecturing for genealogy cruises in Alaska. So, the shorts and t-shirts were not necessary in Alaska.
Fisher: No, certainly. It’s a little chilly up there even in August. I’ve done that trip. That’s a great time. Yeah, I did three trips myself. Went back to the East Coast and visited my childhood home that my parents built in 1958 that we lived in for 20 years. Boy has that changed a little bit.
Fisher: A little strange. And went to a Revolutionary cemetery where eight of my directs are buried in East Chester, New York. Kind of this little 18th century island in the middle of all this urban sprawl that is now Mount Vernon, New York. That was fun. Saw a lot of family members, old friends, had our 50th high school reunion. It was great! And then went to the West Coast where my son got married, so congrats to Eric and his lovely bride Corinne on a wonderful day, a week and a half ago. That was really thrilling. But it’s so good to be back. We’ve got stories today, we’ve got great guests, so let’s get started with our Family Histoire news.
David: Well, first we have to have a moment of remembrance of Queen Elizabeth the II.
David: Monarch for 70 years. No doubt, the distant cousin of many of our listeners.
David: If you have any early English ancestry, you may have a royal line. King Charles the III. We haven’t had a King Charles since the 17th century.
Fisher: That’s right. And it didn’t go so well with those early King Charles’s I should mention.
David: Hmm no. So I hope he doesn’t lose his head over being the king.
Fisher: [Laughs] Right.
David: Well, all the stories I have for you are very macabre, but you know a guy who writes cemetery books makes sense right?
Fisher: Yes, of course.
David: So, the remains of 17 individuals were found in 2004 at the bottom of a well. This well we 800 years old, so it wasn’t like a modern crime scene. This was in Norwich, England.
David: So there were 11 children and six adults. But now they’ve determined from DNA that they have Jewish heritage.
David: And it’s most likely, Fish, that they were killed during rioting in the year 1190 during the third crusade.
Fisher: Wow, so this was an anti-Semitic period of time in that area.
David: Um hmm.
Fisher: And so they found 17 people in an old well that’s over 800 years old. Crazy!
David: If it wasn’t for DNA they’d probably still be wondering who they were.
David: Well, you know, I love ice cream as much as the next person. And sometimes it can give you a little bit of a bellyache, but in the 19th century it could kill you. There is a great story on JSTOR on ice cream basically killing you because of the way it was served and what was in it. Like bowls not being washed out, but just being wiped clean and then given to the next customer. Talk about bacteria.
David: You can find all sorts of things in the ice cream, including the ingredients.
Fisher: Yeah. And they’re saying the reason the dairy products were changed so much to make them healthier and safer was because of all this danger from ice cream leading up to the 1880s.
David: Well, I’m glad they got rid of vanillin poisoning.
Fisher: Yes. [Laughs]
David: It was actually a term that you probably never heard of folks, but your great grandparents may have heard of it.
David: Now we have yet another veteran who died in 1941 on the Oklahoma, and he’s finally laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.
David: And this sailor’s name is Herbert Jacobson. He was another Oklahoma boy buried as unknown. But DNA, yet again, has helped out this mystery.
Fisher: Isn’t that great? He was 21 years old. And if he were around today he’d be 101.
David: Yep. My friend Horace, he’s 98 and he was 17 at Pearl Harbor and he’s on social media and sharp as a tack.
David: He calls himself Old Salt.
David: In Sanford, Maine a few years back they were putting in construction on a new Cumberland Farms and found a casket. Well, recently found another casket. And what they’ve determined is, and this happens so many times around the world, they moved a cemetery. Well, not that well apparently. And the Woodlawn Cemetery in Sanford, Maine was moved by the 1930s, except for this one and how many more, we don’t know yet.
Fisher: Wow, and there was a little girl in it I understand.
David: It was.
Fisher: But the coffin itself is pretty much deteriorated. But what an amazing find. Imagine digging a hole to put in a restaurant and finding these things in there. It makes for quite a story, doesn’t it?
David: It does. And with DNA, who knows.
David: How about a shipwreck in a river in Germany nearly 400 years old that had over 80 barrels of a substance called quick lime, and it’s still intact.
David: The thing about this is you think about pollution in rivers and what not, well this river was polluted with a shipwreck 36-feet into the water. The barrels are still intact in quick lime, incidentally if you don’t know, quick lime was used in the production of metals, also in paper. It was used for a variety of different treatments of iron and steel and pulp production. Well, that’s all I have from Beantown. But remember, if you’re not a member of American Ancestors, we’ve been waiting 177 years for you to join.
David: Use the coupon code EXTREME and save $20 on AmericanAncestors.org.
Fisher: All right David. Thank you so much. We will talk to you again at the backend of the show as we do Ask Us Anything.
David: All right.
Fisher: And coming up next, we’re going to talk to a woman who has written her story, Taken at Birth. You’ve got to hear what Jane Blasio has to say about this, coming up next when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 2 Episode 431
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Jane Blasio
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 it wasn’t that long ago when I heard from one of our listeners about a book that she read that she thought maybe I should know about and talk to that author. And that author is with me on the phone right now. Her name is Jane Blasio, and she’s written a book called Taken at Birth, which gives you a little idea where this is going. And Jane, welcome to Extreme Genes.
Jane: Oh, thank you very much.
Fisher: I’m just tickled to death to have you on. You know, ever since the DNA era has come to light, we have had so many different stories and each of them unique, and this seems to be even more unique. Let’s go right to the beginning.
Jane: All right. So, in the 1940s, ‘50s, and ‘60s there was a doctor in North Georgia up in a small mountain town, McCaysville, Georgia, that was selling babies. From what the town folk had told me over the years, that there were always cars lined up there. He was a known abortionist but he also did the adoptions. The thing that was probably the most heartbreaking part of the adoption is that some of the women were local women or they would come from Atlanta, and Chattanooga to have their babies, thinking that they were going to go home with them. And the doctor would lie to them and tell them the babies had died.
Jane: And he would sell those babies to somebody else. So, a very, very complicated character was Dr. Hicks, the man that was doing this, the man that sold me. Most people in the town didn’t know everything he was doing and so half of them thought he was this angel, while the other half knew what he was doing and they thought of him as just this devil basically.
Fisher: Yeah. And I’m just amazed that there are doctors out there like that. He’s certainly not the only one.
Jane: Oh, no.
Fisher: There were many of them out there and I just don’t think they can get away with it anymore because of the tools that we have knowing that eventually they’re going to get uncovered. So, where did you grow up, and tell me about your family that raised you.
Jane: So, I grew up in Akron, Ohio. My adoptive parents could not have children and so through a family friend, through another friend of a friend here in Akron and there was a connection to Dr. Hicks there in McCaysville. So, they went down and got two babies. My sister Michelle was born four years before me. Basically they just drove down, gave him cash or a check and turned back around with a baby in their arms with a fake birth certificate.
Fisher: And so over time did you begin to notice that there were differences between you and your parents that you couldn’t explain, or your sister? What kind of brought about the initial suspicions you must have had at some point?
Jane: Well, I was six years old when my parents called me in from outside from playing in the yard. And my sister was sitting there and she was crying, ad she was four years older than me so she understood a little bit more about what was going on. The kids on the playground had said the phrase “black market baby” and so talked about how our parents paid cash for us. Basically, friends of the family and some family members had been talking about it and their kids must have been listening. So, with ears perked up they heard that and then of course they went ahead and started using those terms with my sister on our little playground.
Fisher: The playground is a cruel place you know.
Jane: [Laughs] It is. So yeah, so it went from there. So then at six years old my parents were forced to tell my sister and I that not only were we adopted, but they had to explain that maybe somewhere later in your life we’ll explain what black market means. But we learned that we were adopted that day yeah. From that time on, there was always this well, what was that. I didn’t fit in with them. They were red heads, fair skinned, and I was dark hair and light olive, and green eyes verses their brown and blue eyes.
Jane: So I always felt like I just didn’t belong. So yeah, that just started it. I started asking questions, and then of course my parents didn’t want to even tell us that we were adopted so they really didn’t want to tell us any details. And they really didn’t want to tell us details that they paid cash and that it was illegal. So, they didn’t say anything. And you know, when a child’s growing up and they ask questions and somebody doesn’t answer them, well, that’s just worse.
Fisher: Yeah, absolutely. Wow!
Jane: You might as well tell them the truth because they’re just going to keep digging.
Fisher: Sure. Yeah. So, did it impact your relationship with your parents during your teens years and early 20s?
Jane: Yeah. I didn’t trust them. You start to question. It’s like well, if they lied about that, what else are they lying about?
Fisher: Sure, of course. And what about your relationship with your sister?
Jane: You know, we always had each other’s backs. She wasn’t interested in finding her birth family like I was. For me it was like a fire had been lit inside. It was constantly there in the background for me.
Fisher: Sure. So, for how long then did you have to sit on this before the tools were available for you to find out where you came from?
Jane: [Laughs] Well, I knew at 18 I could do whatever I wanted. So, at 18 I started researching. And got to remember, this was back in the early ‘80s before DNA is what it is today.
Fisher: Yep. Of course.
Jane: There was no Ancestry.com. There was the Mormon Church [Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] which I could use their indexes. I just started to do as much research as I could. And a detail in the book about what that process was for me and it basically was that I had found a private investigator in New York and had called him and said, “Can you help me find my birth family. I have a fake birth certificate. I have no paper trail.” And he said, “Okay. It’s going to be 500 bucks.” Well, back in 1982-’83 I’m working at a dry cleaner. 500 bucks a day plus expenses, there’s no way.
Jane: And he said, “You know what, what have you done so far?” And I told him, and he said, “When you come up against a hurdle, you call me and I’ll help you through.” So, I started doing what he said and it just rollsed from there. He said, “Go and get you a job with a private investigation firm and start honing in your skills and just let me know if you need any help.”
Fisher: That’s awesome!
Jane: So, I did what he told me do and I consider myself to be fairly good at surveillance [Laughs] that workers call fraud and all of that.
Fisher: [Laughs] Oh wow.
Jane: But I learned in those early years with a private investigation firm. He definitely set for me not just the tone of an investigation, but he also set the tone of supporting and serving others doing the same thing.
Fisher: How cool is that, that a guy would do that and take you under his wing. Did you wind up in that field?
Jane: Well, I work in federal law enforcement.
Fisher: Okay. [Laughs] I guess you do. That is absolutely amazing. So, how did you connect with Dr. Hicks ultimately?
Jane: Well, I had that birth certificate that said that I had been born at the Hicks Clinic. And Thomas Jugarthy Hicks was the attending physician. So, I had that information and before today’s technology and all the information systems that we have, the best place to start investigation for an adoption search is usually in cemeteries.
Jane: Because you have date of birth, you have date of death, you have other family members, you may even find out exactly what they died from, or you have military experience and what churches they may have gone to, so that’s where you get your point of beginning. And so I found Dr. Hicks, where he was buried, because he was passed at that time.
Jane: And just started searching it from there. Just letting it spread out like wild fire.
Fisher: Was it publically known at the time that he had been doing this at the point that he died?
Jane: It wasn’t publically known. Like I said, half the town thought he was this saint were the people that were the ambulance drivers, they were the furniture deliverers, the people at the banks, the people that worked doing insurance and stuff like that did intimate business with him, they knew what he was up to. The town officials, some of them knew because they themselves went to him to use his services when they got themselves into a bind with a woman. So, some of them knew and some of them didn’t, which made that hard because the ones that didn’t know, put up a wall. And the ones that did know, wanted to be very, very careful what they said.
Jane: Even though he was deceased, they still all knew who Dr. Hicks was.
Fisher: Right, so you’re being stonewalled on both sides.
Jane: Yeah. [Laughs] Essentially correct, yes.
Fisher: Wow! So, how old were you at this point now? How far along are we?
Jane: So, I was in my very early 20s.
Fisher: That’s great progress at that age. Unbelievable.
Jane: I don’t like being told “no!”
Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs]
Jane: [Laughs] People say, “Oh, you were so brave.” And “Oh, you were so fearless.” I’m like, no, I was just stupid, and don’t tell me no because I’m going to find a work around.
Fisher: Yeah. So, let’s talk about now the next thing, you want to find out who you came from, right?
Jane: Oh, absolutely, yes.
Fisher: And how long did it take? Did you have to wait for DNA to come along, or were you able to do it sooner than that?
Jane: Well, back in 1997 I had dug around and I got a lot of information about birth families, about the towns’ folk, about Dr. Hicks and his family, just all these great colorful stories. But I hadn’t received anything that was specific to birth family. In the process of finding all those stories and all the information, I also found out that he had sold roughly 200 babies to the Akron, Ohio area. So, I sat down and I’m like what do I do? So I went to a local newspaper here the Akron Beacon Journal in 1997 to a columnist and said, “Can you help me bring out people that were born at the Hicks Clinic? Just give them this information and have them get a hold of me.”
Jane: So, I’ve been doing this on my own for fourteen-plus years.
Jane: If there’s a group of us, we can storm some place together instead of it just being me!
Jane: So, I talked to the columnist and she said, “Yeah, okay.” And she got off the phone. And I didn’t hear anything back so I called back a week later. And she picks up the phone and I tell her again and she’s like, “Uhh” she asked me a few questions, she says, “Let me call you back.” So then a week later she calls me back and she says, “You know, we fact checked what you said and you were right!” I’m like, “Yeah!” I’ve got like a whole lifetime of being right about this. They went ahead and did a story, which hit the AP wire in ’97.
Jane: So it became a bit of a media frenzy for about six to eight months. So, that brought out some of the other what we call “Hicks babies.” Through that I got a lot of leads on everything and we setup what was in its infancy, the DNA registry with a DNA company. I don’t want to give too much because it’s all outlined in the book and I don’t want to give anything away.
Fisher: No. That’s right.
Jane: But I did find my information. And I found my birth family just recently. Just really up in the last five years ago.
Fisher: That’s unbelievable. Wow! What a story. And your determination is just absolutely astounding. She is Jane Blasio. She’s written a book called Taken At Birth. Where can they get it Jane?
Jane: They can get it at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, from the publisher of Baker Publishing House, basically any book seller.
Fisher: Thanks for taking the time to come on and tell us about this. And congratulations! You did some incredible work.
Jane: Well, thank you for having me. And if I can leave a few words, don’t lose hope. Just keep digging!
Fisher: Absolutely. Thank you so much. Coming up next, we’re going to talk to Sarah Gutmann, she’s a researcher with our sponsors over at Legacy Tree Genealogists. She’s going to be talking about some brand new record sets that are coming out of Italy right now for those with Italian descent. You’re going to love what she has to say, when we return in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 3 Episode 431
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Sarah Gutmann
Fisher: And welcome back genies! It is Fisher here. It’s Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. And it has been quite a while since we’ve had our good friend Sarah Gutmann back on the show. She’s with Legacy Tree Genealogists, based out of Long Island, New York. Sarah welcome back! It’s great to have you.
Sarah: Thanks Fisher! It’s great to be back.
Fisher: You are always filled with all kinds of interesting things, particularly relating to Italian genealogy research. And these are things I tend to say, who knew? There are so many things we’re always learning from each in this field, and let’s start with something you’ve learned here in the last little bit.
Sarah: Well, like you said, I’m always learning new things too and it’s always so exciting especially when these new records pop up when you’re doing a search, and you said, Oh, let me take a look at that and see what this is about. And one thing that’s coming on the radar with some of these Italian records, the military records are starting to be available on Family Search and also the Italian archives Antenati. And what’s really cool about this is just like how in America we have the World War I, World War II draft cards, every male over the age of 21 was required to register for the draft and they would fill out their card and have all that information about where they live, what their parents’ names were, what their occupation was.
Sarah: Really great stuff, just kind of how we have in America.
Fisher: Yeah, but how far back are we talking here?
Sarah: Oh, right when the kingdom of Italy became Italy as we know it. So, we have the 1860s, so we can get really far back.
Sarah: Yeah, and what’s really interesting is during this time period, a man under 18 was not allowed to leave Italy unless his entire family had also gone over to that other country.
Fisher: Ah, so he can’t flee. He cannot escape the military draft, right?
Sarah: Right. Only if your whole family goes over to America then you can go. You can’t just be the one that up and leaves and tries like you said, try to run away. And another record collection that Italy has is once people were drafted, you were supposed to go and physically appear before the registry and present yourself.
Sarah: And you could have another family member maybe do it if you were ill and they really had to kind of vouch for you to make sure that you were not available. And some of the reasons that people were given exemptions for were if you were a third or fourth son or later on and you had two other brothers who had served in the military, you could be exempt. You could be exempt also if you were the sole male of the household whether you’re the father or the only son and your father had passed or wasn’t around, you could be exempt and that would all be written down. And something I thought was really interesting was if you went to another country, say your whole family, like you did it legally. You went to America, and your number, your name gets called and if you’re not there you’re considered pretty much a draft dodger.
Sarah: And if you had to come back to Italy you could be imprisoned. And your name was also written down that you did not show up, and kept there. So, that was another way of making sure that maybe you got a letter home in America saying that your name was just called and you’re supposed to go into the military. You know that you’re not going to be coming back pretty much for a very long time because if you come back you’re going to jail because you didn’t show up.
Sarah: I just can’t imagine, that had to be very stressful for the people to decide whether they want to try out living in America, like you’re not coming back.
Fisher: Yeah. Don’t try it out, you either do or you don’t. [Laughs]
Sarah: Yeah. And if you do serve, they do have a record of course of your service and where you went and how long you were in, and the ranks that you rose to. So, you can find all that information as well, which is really cool.
Sarah: They had these records, so they’re a little bit different finding them. So, in Italy we have the provinces. So, a province can have up to three military districts or a military district can cover two provinces.
Fisher: That’s good. You know, Holland is like this a lot. They’ve got fantastic military records and they go back even earlier than that.
Sarah: Oh, that’s great.
Fisher: And they’ll often talk about who the parents were and what your occupation was. A lot of the same things you’re talking about here. And before we came on, you were telling me that you found actually some new documents that are available that reveal three generations of a family in one record. Tell me about this.
Sarah: Well, this is one of those really fun surprises. With Legacy Tree, we work with a lot of really great onsite researchers who really are very familiar with the record set and they come up with archive collections that are not yet digitized. And hopefully, they’ll come into our hands one day, but they’re not there yet. But, what Italy did which is so cool and I wish America had done this because this would have been amazing. They have the family status certificate. And what that is, it’s basically a three generation report. So, imagine that you have to fill out the names, the birth place, and the ages of all your children. You have to tell yours and your spouse’s information and then you have to go back and tell your parents and/or even sometimes go back as far as your grandparents and put all their information down.
Sarah: So, we have names, dates, places, occupations. The one that I got which was such a wonderful surprise for the client was 17 pages.
Fisher: Oh! [Laughs]
Sarah: So, imagine getting like a 17 page census report just for your family. And it covered about three generations because it was the individual and he went back and he did it all for his parents and his grandparents, and his wife’s family. And then he went and did the descendents of each of them. So, you get a really nice picture. And again, it’s telling you the names, the ages, the occupations of people. They also told some of them had immigrated to America, and they wrote down the addresses of them in America, like what an easy find that was.
Fisher: Oh, wow!
Fisher: So, hopefully, your client was then able to maybe even contact some descendents and share that.
Fisher: That’s amazing.
Sarah: So, they started this in 1820 and it’s still something they do to present day. And they have about a 95 to 100% return rate basically. So, there’s a very good chance that your family has one of these. And as of right now they can be found in the state archives, but also if you’re able to maybe get an onsite researcher, they can usually be found in the village of where your family is from, really, really cool finds.
Fisher: And then you also mentioned passports.
Fisher: Are these online now?
Sarah: Some of them are starting to be online. This was actually brought to my attention in one of the classes that I was teaching. A person came up to me and showed me the passport. So, right at the same time that they were instilling these military drafts, they wanted to make sure that the men were not leaving.
Fisher: Okay. [Laughs] Yeah, it makes sense, don’t go away.
Sarah: Yeah. So, in 1869 they started issuing passports to all the men. And again, it’s going to be telling us the names of the individuals, it will give you the address. They want to hunt them down. Sometimes they give the names of the parents and all men were required to have these passports. Now, the catch is America do not require the individuals when they’re coming over here to show their passports. So, they had the passports ready to leave, but a lot of these local villages have kept those records. And some of them are starting to be able to come online. So, this is another great find. I wonder when they started or if they started showing the pictures of the people.
Sarah: So that could be really cool if you find something.
Fisher: Yeah, that’s fun. I think we started in the United States somewhere in the 1910s, the early teens. You know, the thing about this too is that even if you don’t have ancestors in Italy, it really goes to illustrate how many records are still out there. How many records you probably don’t even know about from those countries? How many records are getting digitized and how much we can anticipate coming online in the future and probably not the too distant future. This is really exciting stuff.
Sarah: Yeah! You can access this on FamilySearch and this is for Italy and you can do this for other countries too, type in Italy and then type in the location of where your family is from. Go from bigger to smaller and just see what record collections are available.
Fisher: Yeah. Well, Sarah Gutmann, great to talk to you again! And thanks for sharing this. This is always great stuff. And for people with Italian ancestry I think there’s some good stuff for people to start digging into and see what they can come up with.
Fisher: There’s some really great records now available all over the place. Thanks so much!
Sarah: Thank you very much!
Fisher: And coming up next, David Allen Lambert with another round of Ask Us Anything when we return on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 4 Episode 431
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Fisher: All right, back on the job. It’s Fish and Dave and it is Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show. And David, our first question today comes from Loreen in New Hampshire and she says, "Guys, hope you had a great summer. Recently I started researching some 17th century ancestors and found out online that they were part of the founding of my hometown. What a surprise! Any thoughts on how I can find out more about what they did?" Good question, Loreen. That's actually kind of fun, isn't it, Dave? And I've had that happen myself. How about you?
David: Oh absolutely. In fact, most are from my wife. We live about a half a mile from where her ancestors lived in the early 18th century and the family has gone full circle since the 1760s when they left.
Fisher: Well, one thought I have is, I just got back from a trip to my hometown in Connecticut. And I went to my elementary school just on the other side of the Mianus River in a section of town called Riverside and there was a little bridge that went over there. And I had no idea growing up, riding my bike there to play baseball, every time I'd go over that bridge. I'd go fishing off that bridge. Never knew that the original bridge there was built in 1687 by some of my relatives. It was a couple of uncles, you know, my great, great, great, great, great, great uncles, something like that from the Lockwood family, which was a big surprise to me. And then I started looking online and started digging a little more and found out it was part of the old Kings Highway that went up to Boston. Later, the Boston Post Road took the place of that. George Washington had gone over this bridge on his way to Boston at the beginning of the Revolution. And then they replaced that bridge in 1907, but I found a picture online of this bridge before the replacement that I knew all my life that was built in 1907. So, it's amazing the things you can discover, but I would say the best thing you can do is find out who's in charge of the historical society for your town or for your county, because they're going to have things there that you can't possibly find online. The small town, small county places do not digitize a lot of material.
David: Right. I mean, if you're trying to find out what they did, one of the greatest resources are deeds, because they often say, "I, David Lambert, a genealogist purchased..." so it gives your occupation right there.
David: So that's usually from the 17th century, 18th century as well.
Fisher: Have you found, Dave that when you find something about one of your ancestors in one of those old histories, either of the town or of the county that there's a lot of errors in there?
David: Um hmm, historical interpretation with no footnotes.
David: All through 19th century and early 20th century histories, because a lot of its speculation or old yarns that people have spun for years about this family or that.
Fisher: Yeah. And this was the thing with this bridge. I was finding out, they said it was these two brothers and they named them and I started going through the records and I couldn't find those two brothers among any of the early families to know that didn't make any sense. I think I know who the other brother was, but you know, this is the point, Loreen as to why you want to work with the original records like David is talking about, some of the land records. Obviously histories are terrific if they have provided you with the sources from which they wrote what they wrote. But you can find a lot of the stories and the myths and all those things and those can be very helpful.
David: Primary source, primary source and wait, primary source.
Fisher: Yeah, always. [Laughs] The other thing that's fun about going to some of these historical societies for counties and towns and cities is, they often have photographs that you can't find anywhere else.
David: Historical societies are dotted with them.
Fisher: Just loaded with them. And sometimes you can find pictures of places that you're very familiar with what they looked like 100 years ago, sometimes 150 years ago. I've actually even also found maps of my hometown from 1867 that showed the names of the people who lived there at the time and where they lived. So there's all kinds of stuff that you can find out there that you would have never thought about otherwise. So, thanks for the question, Loreen. We have another one coming up next when we return on Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.
Segment 5 Episode 431
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Fisher: All right, back at it on Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes. It is Fisher and Dave here. And Dave, this is in some ways kind of similar to our last question. I think a lot of people are thinking about these things from summer travel. This comes from Leon and he says, "Dave and Fish, guys, I'm not a genealogist, but I'm told that genealogical skills could help me research the home I now live in, which is said to date back to the 1770s here in Pennsylvania. Could you tell me where to start? Leon." Good question.
David: Well, I mean obviously the first document you have is the one that allows you to own your home, your deed.
David: You just use a reverse deed search. Title examiners do this all the time to show clear title. But in this case, you want to find out how far back you can take the property. And also keep in mind, your property now might be on a few acres, could have been on a few hundred acres in the 1770s. So don't be surprised if you see a lot of dotting off of different parcels of property. A deed is definitely the first place I would look.
Fisher: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I did this recently also. I found that the online records only went back to the 1930s and if I really wanted to dig into it, I would have to go back into some of the original records, many of which are on microfilm I guess. But there are a lot of places that have not digitized these things, but a lot of places that have.
David: And the other thing that you have, once you have the deeds, you already have the owners and conveniently for a house built in the 1770s, we have federal censuses in 1790. Every 10 years with the exception of the burned census of 1890, you're going to find the family. And then by 1850, you can find, oh, the kids don't live there. Other family members. You may even find there's enslaved people who lived on the property at one point in time, so don't be surprised if you see that. Find out where the local cemetery is. I'll bet you a lot of the early families that lived there were buried nearby, or hey they could even be on your property.
Fisher: Yeah. That's right, absolutely. Well, that is the challenge isn't it. As you go back, you kind of have to figure out how pulling forward the property was divided up, because there are not a lot of people with 100 acre parcels of land still out there.
David: Right. And the other thing is the local historical society. Definitely go there. They could have old maps, they could have photographs, they could even have diaries of the people that lived there. How amazing wouldn't that be to read a diary that took place in the house that you're actually living in now.
David: Go day by day and see what was going on. So, it is very possible to do that. And then crowd sourcing. Create a little webpage about your house. I promise you, some genealogist with ties to those families will come forward and you may find more photos or letters or artifacts. How neat would it be to have something that was in the house in, say, 1910 that somebody still has in their home that they would say, "Oh, here, I've got a whole bunch of these dishes. You can have one of them back."
Fisher: And people do that kind of thing.
David: Absolutely. I wish I could track down some of the things that were originally in my house, but heck, after we've lived here since 1965, I've got enough stuff in the house.
Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs] Don't need any more.
David: No. But you're going to have a lot of fun. And as you learn more about the people who lived in your house, it may even give you an inkling to want to research your own family or where you lived before and where your ancestors lived. So, I think you've opened Pandora’s Box.
Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs]
David: Your house history is going to also want you to do your own history.
Fisher: Yeah. Isn’t that funny how that works. You may not be a genealogist now, but you're going to be really soon. [Laughs] Just wait. All right, thanks so much for the question, Leon. And best of luck in that search. That is a lot of fun. You're going to enjoy the journey. And David, as always, thanks so much for your expertise on Ask Us Anything and on the show. And we will talk to you again next week.
David: All right, until then, my friend.
Fisher: All right, buddy. And thanks once again to author, Jane Blasio, the author of the book, Taken at Birth, talking about her crazy experience that really took her life in a whole new direction. If you missed any of the interview with her, you can of course catch the podcast on AppleMedia, iHeart Radio, ExtremeGenes.com or Spotify. We're all over the place. Also, Sarah Gutmann of course from our sponsors over at Legacy Tree Genealogists talking about some new great databases out of Italy. Thanks to them all and thanks to you for joining us. It’s great to be back. We'll talk to you again next week. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!