Episode 434 - Another Ordinary Person With An Extraordinary Find / Legacy Tree Genealogist’s Jessica Taylor On Family History Month

podcast episode Oct 10, 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 Family Histoire News with the story of an only child who has grown up to be not so lonely. You’ll want to hear this one! Then, the bodies being found at the receding Lake Mead are being identified… in some cases, with your help. David has details. Then hear about the ship that tried to help the Titanic, but ran into a major problem itself just a few years later. Next, just like we all do, a man received a strange email he thought must be a scam. As it turns out, it changed his life and his identity. Dave explains. Have you heard about the college student who found a fascinating bit of history at a flea market… and has cashed in? You’ll be jealous. David then tells us about a new overseas discovery as old as the pyramids! And finally, our Spooky Season ditty for this week.

Next, Fisher visits with Kevin Desmond. He’s an ordinary person with an extraordinary find. It started with a story of a club that his late Dad belonged to and told him about. That story has taken Kevin deep down the rabbit hole and is now being developed into a book. Find out how each new detail has led to another.

Then, Jessica Taylor, Founder and President of our sponsors at Legacy Tree Genealogists, talks about Family History Month and shares thoughts with Fisher on how you can hook your kids and grandkids into the stories of their distant past.

David then returns for questions about Eagle Scout Projects in history and about the witch prosecutions and executions in Salem and beyond.

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


Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 434

Fisher: And welcome America to America's Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth on the program where we shake your family tree, and watch the nuts fall out. Well, a couple of great guests today. First of all, we're going to have Kevin Desmond coming on. This man heard a little story from his dad years ago and then started meeting people connected to this story. Now he's writing a book about it. It’s another ordinary person with an extraordinary find and you're going to want to hear the details from that, coming up in about seven minutes. Then later in the show, Jessica Taylor is here, the founder and president of course of our sponsors over at Legacy Tree Genealogists. You know, its family history month and a great opportunity to share with your kids and grandkids the stories of your ancestors, so that they can benefit from those as time goes on. So, listen up for that coming up in a little bit. And of course don't forget to sign up for our Weekly Genie Newsletter. You can do it on Facebook or on our website, it’s absolutely free. You get a blog from me each week, links to past and present shows and links to current stories that you'll appreciate as a family historian. And here's a guy I appreciate as a family historian of great note, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. It is, David Allen Lambert. Hello, David.

David: Hey. And how're you doing, Fish?

Fisher: You know, I am doing well today. In fact, as we put together this family Histoire News today, I'm just amazed by our first tale. The story of an only child who was obviously made good.

David: That is true. As a child, she had to go out and try to find kids to play with. Well, that's not the case at Christmas now, because at 99 years old, Peg Koller has 101 descendants.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: Wow!

Fisher: Yeah, well she said she wanted a big family, because she was so lonely when she was a kid, and she did. She went and had a lot of kids and then they had a lot of kids and now they're having kids and so, yeah, 101 descendants at age 99. She's never lonely now.

David: I hope that she lives to be 110 and has twice as many! [Laughs]

Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs] It could happen that way.

David: Well, you know, DNA has done some amazing things for people genealogically and of course we know what it’s done for crime solving. Well, it continues on, this time at Lake Mead where bodies are being located are being identified by DNA, including a body recently for a man that had been lost for over 20 years.

Fisher: Of course this is in Nevada out west where there's such a drought over the last 20 years that all the big reservoirs and lakes are drying up and they're finding these remains there. And yeah, they're actually taken DNA and identified one of them going back a long, long time.

David: You know, if this had happened 50 years, they’d still have them as John Does and Jane Doe, so this is amazing.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: It’s amazing. But one story that never dries up is the story of the Titanic. One of the stories about it I just saw recently I didn't even realize there was a vessel called the SS Mesaba. It was one of the vessels that actually sent a warning radio message to the Titanic about ice on the 14th of April 1912. Well, the message did reach the Titanic we believe, but it never made it to the main control centre. Well, this one is six years had a problem, too. It sank, because it was torpedoed by the Germans while on a convoy during World War I.

Fisher: Hmm, so both ships eventually went down unnaturally.

David: Exactly. Well, you know, I love stories like the one that was in the Atlantic. This one is by a gentleman by the name of John Temple who thought at first he was actually being scammed by somebody who had reached out, said that, "I believe that your family and my family are related." Turns out it wasn't a scam and he found out he was Jewish. His grandfather had basically been over in Hungary during World War II and a 92 year old cousin, through her granddaughter reached out to find this long lost relative and now he has a whole heritage to embrace and a lot of genealogy to research. It’s amazing.

Fisher: Yeah, and he didn't know his background as a Jew, and he's actually been assigned a Hebrew name, really interesting.

David: It really is. I had a co-worker years ago, Fish that for years thought their last name was one thing, and then it turned out it was Puchinsky, and they went from celebrating just Christmas to celebrating Hanukkah. Grandfather had basically done the same thing, immigrated then didn't tell them about, well, his background. Well, I love stories when you can find something cheaply. In this case, it was a college student who obviously paid attention in art history class because he recognized an illuminated manuscript from the 13th century that he bought at a flea market in Maine, for $75. This item created in 1285 AD, is worth between 5 and 10 thousand dollars.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: Not a bad payday. That should pay for a few college books for his next semester, wouldn’t you think?

Fisher: Yeah. I would be happy to pose with something like that and say, boy, what a great find! Look at that. Give me the money. See you later.

David: Exactly! One of the things I wanted to tell you is that, you thought that Stonehenge was old. You thought that the Pyramids of Giza were old. We’ve got a new one for you. A thing that is called a Roundel is in the Czech Republic. It’s 180 feet in diameter. It was made during the Neolithic period. And they believe this is one of the oldest massive structures in Europe. It dates back 4900 BC to 4600 BC. And wow! You just never know what you’re going to dig up in your backyard.

Fisher: [Laughs] But it is now spooky season of course, David.

David: Ooh it is.

Fisher: And last week we were talking about how we have to dig something up every week to celebrate it, how about the origins of the term “dead ringer?”

David: Oh yeah. One of the things I love reading about of course is cemeteries, even when it’s not Halloween. And there were devices that were created so that if a person was afraid that they were going to be buried alive, they would actually attach a bell to piping that went right down to their coffin and they could ring it if they were alive in there and it would ring in the cemetery and someone would hopefully come and dig them up in enough time. But, it may not be what we think it is.

Fisher: Yeah. That is actually a great a great story and there actually were coffins like that, but there’s a lot of dispute about whether the term dead ringer actually came from that. And of course, it’s little step sister, saved by the bell, which actually was a boxing term from the late 19th century.

David: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Hey, speaking of spooky things, let me just tell you that on October 20th, I’m giving a free lecture on how to research the witches in your family tree.

Fisher: Ooh.

David: So, go to AmericanAncestors.org, and attend that free lecture.

Fisher: All right David. Thank you so much! And of course, we’ll catch you at the backend of the show for Ask Us Anything. Coming up next in three minutes, we’re going to talk to Kevin Desmond. He’s a Massachusetts guy who heard a little story from his dad who recently passed in his late 90s, and he’s turning this whole thing into a book. You’re going to want to hear about the rabbit hole he’s followed to get this story, coming up next when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 434

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Kevin Desmond

Fisher: All right, back at it on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. And it’s always fun to find others who are running down that rabbit hole, another ordinary person with an extraordinary find. And it really started with something not so extraordinary, just a little tale from the family and I have Kevin Desmond on the line with me from Massachusetts. And Kevin welcome to Extreme Genes. It’s great to have you.

Kevin: Scott thank you for having me, and to talk about this project.

Fisher: Yeah. Now, you’ve been writing a book on this thing and this started as a little story in your family that your dad told you about himself and a bunch of buddies just before World War II. What were they doing at that time?

Kevin: Well, they were in high school. They were working in the community. My dad was working on in the state. One of the other men of the club was working in a tavern. But they were just going to high school. Just a bunch of guys hanging out, playing hockey, talking about girls, going bowling, and things that were normal teenage activities for 1941and 1940.

Fisher: Sure.

Kevin: So that was a very exciting thing for them.

Fisher: And they were in Beverly Cove, Massachusetts, which is a section of Beverly Massachusetts.

Kevin: That’s right.

Fisher: And they called themselves the Cove Terrors, which is really kind of funny because I’ve never heard of terrorists actually keeping minutes for their meetings for which they had no purpose. 

Kevin: That’s correct.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Kevin: It is pretty funny.

Fisher: Tell us about that.

Kevin: So, they liked to have a certain decorum. So when I was transcribing the minutes of the meetings, the president would bring up the minutes from the last meeting that needed to be discussed.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Kevin: Things going forward. What section of Beverly that they would play a hockey game on a Saturday. They would talk about going bowling and things like that.

Fisher: Okay. But they had no purpose like public service, or that they were going to be organizing to support the war drives, right, for food, or metal, whatever that might be. They had no purpose. 

Kevin: No.

Fisher: The other question is too Kevin is where did you get the minutes?

Kevin: So, one of the members who was the secretary who became eventually the mayor of the city of Beverly Carl Joslin. His daughter had the notebook that he kept all the minutes of the meetings. So, from November 26, 1940 through March 4th, 1941 they had 11 meetings. They held them at the various members’ homes. And she had the book and she scanned the pages and made a mixed book, a daughter of Stuart Corning, and that’s how I was able to actually get a hold of it in March of 2019.  

Fisher: Okay. So, at this point your dad was how old?

Kevin: Just turned 95.

Fisher: Wow. So you were actually able to talk to him about this and actually go over the minutes of the meetings. He probably hadn’t seen those in what, almost 80 years? 

Kevin: He didn’t even remember them.

Fisher: [Laughs] That’s great. Well, this is the fun thing though. This is a real rabbit hole, right? I mean, he had told you about the Cove Terrors when you were younger, and as you’re describing this, this only went on for a few months, right, about four or five months. But they were obviously really close friends going right into the war. And I think that’s kind of what adds to the drama of this whole thing as to what happened in their lives. And this has kind of stimulated your interests, right? Because this is a story you could have easily let go of, but all of a sudden you’re finding the children of the other members of this little group, and you’re finding out that they knew the stories at that they had minutes, and they had had conversations. Talk about some of that and what you learned about these families. 

Kevin: Yeah. So, one of the things that was really interesting about transcribing the minutes of the meetings, it really gave me an insight of what these young men were really like. And they were really in a lot of ways really not that much different from kids of today.

Fisher: Sure.

Kevin: They talked about girls, they talked about food, work, playing hockey. They’re just young kids. But they were all dedicated to their country and one of them, Stuart Corning his nickname in the high school year book in 1942 was the colonel. And he went on to become a colonel in the United States army.

Fisher: Okay. And did they all wind up serving in the war?

Kevin: Yes they did.

Fisher: And did all of them come home?

Kevin: Yes, they all made it home. One of them continued to serve in the Air Corps into the Korean War and was killed in action. He was a pilot for a spotter plane and he was killed in 1951.

Fisher: Hmm.

Kevin: I have connected with two of his sons and they have some tremendously wonderful letters their father wrote to their mother before he passed away.

Fisher: Wow. So, have you ever done a project like this before where you connected into something and then developed out the full story from it?

Kevin: Well, I just finished a book about the ship my father served on during World War II.

Fisher: Okay.

Kevin: And I started that many years ago but finished it up during Covid because I actually had plenty of time on my hands. But it’s about the ship’s history, and about three or four of the members of the crew that my father was friendly with and about the man who the ship was named after who was killed in the early days of the war. And I was able to find some amazing articles about him and about his life and about his service record. And that kind of got me thinking about the Cove of Terrors, about looking at what they did before the war, just after their coming back home from the war and then going forward having their families, the careers that they had, and tell that story. Because I think some of the people that I’ve talked to as family members of the club, they just didn’t have a clue that their father did anything like that.

Fisher: Interesting. [Laughs] 

Kevin: Yeah.

Fisher:  So, you’ve been working on this thing now and obviously you’re going to write a book about it.

Kevin: Yes.

Fisher: And this has been quite the rabbit hole for you. Have you worked on the war records of some of the other terrors in your group? 

Kevin: Yeah. So, I currently have almost all their draft cards or their registration cards. I have obviously my father and my father’s brother obviously a little more information about them because their family members have more information. But I do have several requests with the National Archives.

Fisher: Oh, that will be a bit.

Kevin: Yeah, they were closed for two years and now the backlog, you know.

Fisher: Sure. It’s huge.

Kevin: It’s going to take some time. But I do want to include so much that the service record as part of these stories as possible. Several of them do have photographs, and some anecdotal stories and letters from the war. So, those are nice additions to the book.                  

Fisher: To the narrative.

Kevin: Yeah. One of the things that is kind of funny, in the meeting though it’s written about different things and then there was always a P.S. at the end of the note. One was “P.S. we didn’t go bowling because we’re all broke.

Fisher: [Laughs] Okay.

Kevin: Another one was, “P.S. who is the blondes in the car that drove by us coming back from bowling?

Fisher: [Laughs] Okay. 

Kevin: They did at one point put a motion up to put some sort of purpose to the club, but they just couldn’t get a resolution it. They just couldn’t figure out what they wanted to do.

Fisher: What their purpose was. 

Kevin: No. They just decided to keep on meeting and have fun and hang out. It wasn’t on a weekend. They were doing it in the middle of the week. Started at 7:30 and they weren’t getting home until 10:30-11:00 at night. But they all lived within, I don’t know, I’d say maybe a quarter to half a mile from each other’s homes.

Fisher: Did they stay in Beverly all of them? 

Kevin: Most of them did. I think one went to Illinois. It’s the one who was killed in action in the Korean Conflict. He ended up marrying a gal when he was on leave in Illinois. John Harvey eventually moved from Beverly to New Hampshire and lived up there for the remainder of his life, but the rest were either in Beverly or Danvers, Massachusetts.

Fisher: Okay. And they're all gone now. Did they ever get together again later in life?

Kevin: They did. In 1975, the 50th birthday party of Carl Joslin, the mayor of Beverly, and they got together to reunite one last time in 1975 at his birthday party. And there was a tremendous article written in the Beverly Times and a nice picture, and I have a copy of that and it’s pretty amazing.

Fisher: [Laughs] Had you seen that article before or did somebody give it to you?

Kevin: I hadn't, until I connected with Carl V. Joslin’s daughter and Stuart Corning's daughter. I had not seen it until then.

Fisher: Okay. So.

Kevin: That was quite a surprise.

Fisher: Yeah, so this began with a story from dad. And then, as I understand it, he had very late in life one more reunion with one of the other guys, right?

Kevin: That's correct. A couple of days after his 95th birthday, he had been thinking about Cove Terrors and who was left and he was kind of going through his mind, members of the club who had passed away. And he hadn't recalled or read any obituaries on Stuart, so he actually made some phone calls. He kind of had an idea. He was living in Danvers, Massachusetts and he found them at an over 55 community, and two days later, my father and I went and met with Stuart for the first time since 1975.

Fisher: Wow!

Kevin: And they had a tremendous reunion for a couple of hours. And Stuart brought the mix book down that had the minutes of the meeting and showed me some of his military memorabilia, because he was a retired colonel in the army. And we just had a wonderful couple of hours. Unfortunately Stuart died a few months later and my father passed away in late March 2020.

Fisher: Isn't this great that you've been able to put this together, starting with a story leading to other members and family members who shared with you a newspaper article, who present you with the minutes of the meeting that tell you more details than you’d ever heard from your dad, down the rabbit hole you go and now you're writing a book about it. How cool is that!

Kevin: It is. It’s very exciting. It’s a story that needs to be told. These young men were part of the greatest generation. Their character really showed that in the lives that they lived after the war and the members of the community that they became.

Fisher: Sure. And it keeps you connected with dad as well at this point, I'm sure.

Kevin: Absolutely. And it’s something that, you know, I want my children and other nieces and nephews to be able to know about their grandfather.

Fisher: Absolutely. Great stuff. Kevin Desmond, thank you so much for coming on. Appreciate it. Great story!

Kevin: Well, thank you very much, Scott. I really appreciate you reaching out to me about this. And it’s been a real pleasure. I enjoy your show every week.

Fisher: Thank you so much, sir. And coming up next, we have Jessica Taylor, president of Legacy Tree Genealogists, talking about family history month and what can you do to get your kids involved in family history. She's up next in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 3 Episode 434

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Jessica Taylor

Fisher: And welcome back to America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, and I’m so excited to have to have my good friend Jessica Taylor on the line, of course, she the CEO, the founder of our good friends, our sponsors over at Legacy Tree Genealogists. Jess welcome back to Extreme Genes!

Jessica: Well, thank you Fish! It’s so nice to be here and talk with you again. I’m so happy to have this conversation.

Fisher: Well, we’ve got a great month coming up right now, it’s family history month! So, this is an opportunity to really talk about how we can instill in the kidlins and the grand kids how they can get involved and interested in family history.

Jessica: That’s right. It’s a great month for that, great time to talk about it. The kids are back in school and the parents have some minutes to themselves again. So it’s a great time to sit down and think about things like this, some inspiration for kids and how to get those family narratives strong.

Fisher: Absolutely. I was thinking about this topic last night and I was thinking, you know, actually, so many of the things that we would talk about that apply to kids, really apply to adults as well.

Jessica: Absolutely. I mean, we want to have fun too.

Fisher: Right.

Jessica: But yeah, you know kids, grand kids, there are some really great opportunities to bring family history into the conversation, help inspire them in ways that aren’t overwhelming or boring. I know for me, and many people I work with at Legacy Tree, the grandparent in our lives is the one who inspired us in the first place to love family history.

Fisher: That’s right.

Jessica: It’s so common how often I hear that phrase, what got you into family history? “Oh, my grandma. Oh my grandpa.” It’s just fascinating.

Fisher: And usually, those people are the storytellers in the family, right, they’re the ones that have all that good stuff from back in the day that they pass along.

Jessica: Absolutely. And I think that can be so helpful for kids. What we want for kids is for them to feel a sense of belonging and safety in their family.

Fisher: Yep.

Jessica: And those family stories can really be inspiring, especially the ones that weren’t easy, where they’re thinking here, oh, great, great grandfather, this was his story. It was very difficult. This is all the works that they did. This is why we’re here. And you know, just to instill that sense of appreciation for where we are now and the hard work that goes into life.

Fisher: Sure.

Jessica: You know, it’s wonderful for kids to be able to grow up with that when possible.

Fisher: You think about all the things that people have to overcome, and when you see that your ancestor did this, they got through this situation. They got through that situation, a health crisis, a financial crisis, maybe a challenge trying to get over to America from overseas and a war torn situation. And they survive those things, when these things come along inevitably in the lives of the children and grand children, they can draw on the strength that they discovered in their ancestors.

Jessica: Um hmm. Absolutely. And I always want to bring in, we talk a lot about biological history, but cultural history is also really important as well. So you know, you might have an adopted grandchild, but they’re part of a family and that is still culturally affecting them. And for them to be able to hear about that family that they’re growing up in and those roots is also helpful for them. So, I never want to leave out adoptees or situations where you might not know the biological history but there’s still plenty to draw from.

Fisher: Sure.

Jessica: Does that make sense?

Fisher: Yeah, absolutely. And it’s really important while we’re talking about the stories here that can influence people to make sure those stories get written down somewhere or they’re recorded somehow, either audio or video that can be maintained forevermore. I mean, we’re really fortunate to be living in an era right now where all these things can be preserved digitally. And be accessible forever more. That wasn’t the case even 50 years ago.

Jessica: Right. And we have a lot more tools to make it fun and digestible now, right?

Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs]

Jessica: So, it’s great to put together an entire family history book and those are very valuable. But, for kids especially, I love to give it to them in smaller pieces.

Fisher: Sure.

Jessica: So, in conversation it’s great. You can do one page bios. When my kids were young I would print out one sheet of paper and that sheet of paper had the name of one ancestor at the top, it had a photo, then three to five bulleted items about things that I thought were cool or kind of connected to the kids in some way. So, this ancestor’s birthday was also in July like yours, or, this person liked to play with some kind of doll or whatever. Something that’s kind of connectable to the kids and we would stick that right by the dining room table. Just something that’s a little bit shorter with interesting facts. That’s something we enjoyed.

Fisher: Absolutely. I like that.

Jessica: You know, other ideas maybe if you want to do something this month for family history month. We talked about family history books, but you can put together much smaller story books. What I’ve done in the past is just made like one liner story books per page and we leave the page blank and the kid gets to draw what that page is talking about. That helps the kid have more fun with the story and integrate it a little bit more into their own memory and it’s a fun activity.

Fisher: Totally.

Jessica: So, you kind of go through great grandpa’s life and the kid gets to draw each part of what that storybook is talking about.

Fisher: I like those trading cards that are out there too, you can have their picture on the front and on the back you can have some of the facts, kind of like you were talking about. You can make a whole stack of them. And then photographs, when you consider how common they became in the 20th century, I mean, there’s just an endless supply. I’ve got grand kids who really crave having pictures of ancestors, especially originals because they just love that feeling of it being old.

Jessica: Yeah, that can be a lot of fun. Well, and then there are always family traditions and meals. I don’t know Fish, do you have any favorite meals connected to your heritage?

Fisher: Oh, [Laughs] well, a couple of them. One is on my birthday. Every year when I was growing up, my mom would make this toasted coconut cake. She’s long gone but my wife has continued that tradition and my grand kids love it too. So, they all know it goes back to their great grandmother, and that’s kind of fun.

Jessica: That is cool. My grandma used to make peas and potatoes soup. I loved it. I made it for my kids but they were not fans.

Fisher: They were not fans. [Laughs]

Jessica: We will not continue that tradition. It was really simple, milk, butter, cubed potatoes, and frozen peas. I thought it was super good when I was a kid. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs] My grandmother had Swedish meatballs, and that was always big. We also had another little fun thing that was for kids, it was called ice cream clowns. Basically, it was a scoop of ice cream with a cone on its head for the hat and then you put little cinnamons in for the eyes and the mouth, then you take some whipped cream and put it around the neck for the collar and you sit it on a little dish. Oh, that was so fun. The kids loved that. And of course that goes back a long ways too in our family.

Jessica: How cute!

Fisher: It can be junk food you know. It doesn’t have to be really intense Swedish food or German food or something, right.

Jessica: Yes. Well, you can always start your own too, right? We’ve started a lot of traditions here, but I hope the kids keep doing it when they get older because it really does create that sense of belonging as a group.

Fisher: Well, creating memories, that’s the thing where family vacations come in. I’ve heard about a lot of people who said they really got into family history because as kids they would sit around and listen to the grownups talk and the grownups tell their stories, and all the laughter involved in that. And they had nothing to contribute to it but they just took that all in and that’s where they started to get that feeling of, these are my people. This is what I belong to. Those stories are mine as well. And that’s what’s so fun. I think about those family gatherings, I wish we could do them more often but in our case, our family is scattered all over the world. So, to get everybody together as we did just a month ago for a wedding was a real rare treat.

Jessica: Yeah. I feel incredibly lucky because on my maternal side there were 10 siblings and they like clockwork growing up, each sibling would take a turn in the summer and they would plan a family reunion and that really added to my sense of family history and who this big family was. It’s such a great opportunity when people are able to create something like that.

Fisher: Well, Legacy Tree Genealogists does such a great job of helping people find their ancestry and connect with these stories and often pictures and using every tool available. I’m just amazed Jessica, how many experts you have all over the world at your disposal to help people with really tough questions and problems. So, congrats on that! You’ve been doing this for how many years now?

Jessica: So, we began in 2004.

Fisher: 18.

Jessica: Yeah, about 18 years old now.

Fisher: Wow! That’s amazing. Well, thanks so much for coming on the show. It’s a great month and it’s a great time to focus on this just a little bit. Thanks so much for the thoughts!

Jessica: Absolutely. Thank you Fisher!

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

Segment 4 Episode 434

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, it is question time, Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. David is back. It is Fish here. And David, question number one from Danbury, Connecticut, Jason. He says, "Guys, I'm a Boy Scout and I thought I might do a community history project for my Eagle project." I like that!

David: It's really good.

Fisher: Yeah. "Can you guys share some ideas with me? Thanks, Jason."

David: Well, I mean there's so many different things you can do with community history. I mean, obviously you probably have a small historical society in town and a historical commission or at least a town historian that you want to definitely partner with, because they may have something that they never had the resources or the backbone to get behind. I mean, it could be anything from creating a new fence or a local cemetery or perhaps making signage at a historical location or a trail.

Fisher: Digitizing things.

David: Yeah!

Fisher: Usually these places have so much that needs to be digitized and they just don't have the manpower to do it.

David: Exactly. And you may be able to recruit local businesses that have things, like hard drives or equipment, that way you can create and maybe that could be a database either online for people to use for years to come on a standalone computer at the historical society, maybe even the public library, transcribing vital records for instance that may not have been done. That's important, too, because you're helping people connect to their family whether they live in the community or they've moved further away over the years.

Fisher: You know, I've seen so many of these done over time and a lot of them tie into cemeteries, Dave as you mentioned. I think part of it is often restoring one that has just gone to the weeds, you know.

David: That's true. Actually, one of my nephews up in Maine, for his eagle project restored a fence and actually made a path that got to a cemetery which was off in the backwoods. So, you know, that's great, because then they could find it and it wasn't just hunters that stumbled across it or the occasional deer. So, genealogy I think personally is the best part to embrace, because it makes it both a family related and a community related project.

Fisher: Sure

David: So if you could put in genealogy. And of course you reached out to us, so you must have listened to Extreme Genes maybe at least once.

Fisher: Sure.

David: So, I would embrace the local people in your town, the historical society and see what projects they have near and dear to their heart. I support any scouting does and especially when scouting supports history to preserve the past.

Fisher: Well, and think about this too, Dave, if they did something involving a cemetery, there's a part two to that. If you're restoring one, you might be able to actually create some kind of indexing of all the names on the tombstones assuming that there isn't a burial record in existence somewhere.

David: That's right. And of course you can put it on Billion Graves or FindAGrave.

Fisher: Yep.

David: Transcribe it, you can make a booklet out of it, an index, you can even do a map where to find the graves or even use GPS locating the walk right to them. So there's a lot of technology out there that's going to come into play for your project that a scout 30 years ago, well, he probably wouldn't have had the same added advantage.

Fisher: [Laughs] Good point. You know, it is fun to look back sometimes. I've gone to cemeteries where I've seen a little marker that said this was an Eagle Scout project. You know, the things that you do sometimes in these projects last for a long, long time. I saw a bridge between a couple of rocks that was on trail not far from my home recently and that little bridge was created back in the 1980s as an eagle scout project and I'm thinking, boy that kid's now in his 50s, yet his project is still carrying people to this unique viewpoint and sight. So you know, these are things that go on forever. But when you do genealogy and you create information and databases like that, they're going to help people for a long, long time.

David: They really are. I mean, one of the projects could be just as simple as painting an old one room school house that's in your community or finding the oldest resident in town, maybe interviewing them and transcribing it. 

Fisher: Nice! 

David: Interviewing your veterans in your community, your World War II, Korea, Vietnam era veterans or current veterans.  I mean that's getting history for future generations to embrace before it’s gone.

Fisher: Look at this brainstorming session on the air!  So, thank you very much for the question, Jason. It's given me a few ideas in fact. We've got another question coming up next when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 434

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, onward to question number two on Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show. David Allen Lambert, Fisher here, and this question, Dave comes from Dana in Wyoming and Dana says, "David, I'm looking to steal a little thunder from your witch lecture that is coming up if you don't mind. Can you tell me how many places other than Salem tried witches and were the guilty always burned at the stake?" [Laughs]

David: Oooh!

Fisher: Well, let's take part one first.

David: One of the earliest places around in New England was Connecticut.

Fisher: Yes, huge.

David: Hailing from your home state.

Fisher: Yes.

David: And that was going on at least a half century before the Salem hysteria that was going on.

Fisher: Yeah. In Fairfield in fact and one of my ancestors was one of the accusers. I think it was like 1652 or something like that.

David: Oh yeah, yeah. They were fairly early. And they went all the way down into the Virginia colonies. In fact, at colonial Williamsburg, I’ve attended the recreation of the trial of a witch from Virginia in the 17th century and it was called Cry Witch. This happened pretty much everywhere, and more so the burning of witches didn't occur in New England, especially not in Salem. That occurred over in Europe. They burned witches in Germany and other places. And of course these aren't witches. These again, to stress the point, are people that were accused of witchcraft. One of my biggest pet peeves being the 10th great grandson of somebody who was accused of witchcraft. You can find people being accused of witchcraft into the colonial era after 1692 as well.

Fisher: Really?

David: I mean right into the 1700s. These neighbors are accusing somebody based upon that they had a sickness or their cow died and that they were hexed by someone.

Fisher: Right. And they talk about strange behavior and that they were humming or something. I mean, it was just kind of weird.

David: Oh, my ancestor was turned into a blue pig and was running around the person's yard. Luckily she escaped the gallows, but she was supposed to hang as a witch.

Fisher: So did most of them get hanged then when they were found guilty in all these different locals, do you know?

David: Well, at least in Salem there were 19 that were hanged and then there was one that was pressed to death unfortunately. His last words were, “more weight.” He was just not going to confess to being a witch. Sometimes they died in prison. It's just terrible to think of the amount of people that were accused and how their lives were changed for a number of years. One of the people who was executed, was Mary Towne Easty. Her son moved to a little part of Massachusetts after the fact that was called Dorchester. And in his lifetime, the town was renamed, Stoughton, named after the Chief Justice of the Salem witchcraft trials that put his own mother to death.

Fisher: Oh wow!

David: And that's the town I've lived in my whole life.

Fisher: Oh, that's crazy!  [Laughs]

David: Yeah.

Fisher: Tell me about the burning of the witches over in Europe. How far back does that go?

David: Oh gosh! I mean, it goes back until the middle ages. I mean, primarily the largest portion that I read through history occur in about the 1500s.

Fisher: Okay.

David: But any outspoken, well read lady who was in society that seemed like she was a threat during this time was put to death.

Fisher: Was targeted, yeah.

David: Yeah, exactly.

Fisher: All right, great question, Dana. Thank you very much. And David, when is your lecture and how do we see it? I know it's free.

David: So, my lecture is, Verifying Descent from Salem's Accused Witches, on October 20th, 2022. And you can register online at American Ancestors. And the price is right, it's free.

Fisher: [Laughs] Very good. It sounds fun and thanks for a little taste of that and thanks for the question, Dana. And thank you, David. We'll talk to you again next week.

David: Thanks a lot.

Fisher: All right, that is our show for this week. And thanks to our guests for coming on, Kevin Desmond for talking about his dad's little story that's turned into his dad's big story. Really interesting stuff. As we have another ordinary person with an extraordinary find. And to Jessica Taylor president and founder of our sponsors at Legacy Tree Genealogists, talking about family history month. If you missed any of it, of course catch the podcast on AppleMedia, Spotify, iHeart Radio and ExtremeGenes.com and wherever fine podcasts are found. We'll talk to you next week. Thanks for joining us. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!

Subscribe now to find out why hundreds of thousands of family researchers listen to Extreme Genes every week!

Email me new episodes