Episode 441 - “We Can Do It!” Who Was the Real Woman Behind “Rosie the Riveter?”

podcast episode Dec 05, 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 the show with a couple of amazing discoveries they each made in the past week. For Fisher, it was the secret marriage of his uncle in 1927, ten months before the couple publicly married, with no one any the wiser! For David, it was the employment records of his great grandfather in England which led him to the ancestor’s date of departure for North America. The two have a few other juicy details. David then reveals that many family history icons are moving to a new social media platform called Mastedon. Next, hear some good news for another great search source… WorldCat.org. They’re now funneling many family history sources, such as libraries and research centers, into their one searchable database. Did you ever think that the way we cook today may have been through methods passed down by our Neanderthal ancestors? One study says YES! And finally, DNA is showing the stress our grandparents and great grandparents experienced during the Depression. Those born between 1929 and 1939 show evidence of their parents’ stress in their cells today. David explains.

Next, Fisher begins his two part interview with Professor Jim Kimble of Seton Hall University in New Jersey. Jim spent five years analyzing the iconic “We Can Do It!” World War 2 poster, whose flexing factory working woman has traditionally been called “Rosie the Riveter.” Jim will tell you two things about the poster, that we all thought we knew, that are wrong! Then hear how Jim was able, after incredible effort, to identify the woman whose face we all know, and disprove the identity of another woman who was long believed to have been the model.

David then returns for Ask Us Anything, answering your questions.

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

Transcript for Episode 441

Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 441

Fisher: And welcome America’s to America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher at this end, your Radio Roots Sleuth on the program where we shake your family tree, and watch the nuts fall out. Who do we have for you today? How about the guy who figured out who the woman was in that poster that Word War II thing that says We Can Do It! Rosie The Riveter. You’re going to want to hear from Professor Jim Kimble from Seton Hall University. He took five years to research this stuff. You’re going to want to hear the whole process and what led to what, fascinating story coming up for you in about ten minutes in two parts. Hey, if you haven’t signed up for our Weekly Genie Newsletter yet, it’s been a while. Let’s get on it here, right? Yeah, you get a blog from me each week, you get links to past and present shows, and links to great stories that you’ll appreciate as your family historian. And right now it’s time to check in with David Allen Lambert in Boston, Massachusetts. He, by the way, is the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. Dave, how has your week been going? 

David: Well, you know, I love a week where I have a few days off and I can actually play genealogist at home.

Fisher: Nice!

David: And thank you Ancestry.com because a shaky leaf has given me a new clue to my family who emigrated from England.

Fisher: Hmm!

David: I always knew that my grandfather came over with his mother and his sister after their father did, and that he had arrived some time previous. But I didn’t know a whole heck of a lot what he did for work. Well, I do now. The newest story from my great aunt that he had worked for the rail road, but I now know that he was hired in 1896, how much he made for pay every week, and I also know a very exciting date; the date that he resigned his work because he was leaving for Canada.

Fisher: How cool is that.

David: This is a database on Ancestry that covers a good span of years, Fish. It’s called UK Railway Employment Records from 1833 to 1956 and you can find it on Ancestry.com.

Fisher: How cool is that. That sounds like a great new database.

David: What have you found this week?

Fisher: You know those little shaky leaves Dave they reveal all kinds of stuff. And you know, I got to admit that for the most part now, I’ve worked so much on this over the years that when I see a shaky leaf it doesn’t usually reveal something new to me that I haven’t seen before.

David: I can relate.

Fisher: But this past week I found one. It was a church record, my uncle getting married to my aunt. My dad’s brother marrying my aunt back in 1927 and it was the church book record. There it was. I thought okay, I will link that to my uncle’s page on Ancestry. And when I did that of course, it took the index date and information and compared it to what I have on my page and the dates were different. And I thought, did I get it wrong on his marriage date? How would I have done that?

David: Sure.

Fisher: And so I went back. New Jersey of course is infamous for how bad they are about sharing their public records. And the way I actually had my aunt and uncle’s marriage date is from the newspaper stories about them and from their daughter, my cousin. So, I knew they got married June 23rd 1928 in their hometown of Bogota, New Jersey in Bergen County. But this new record showed they actually got married 10 months before that in Navesink, Monmouth County, New Jersey near the Jersey Shore. So, they were secretly married for 10 months before they got married. And so we can kind of put two and two together with that. So, my cousin was in shock. [Laughs] But it was quite fun.

David: Oh, I bet.

Fisher: Yeah, absolutely.

David: Well, social media is one way genealogists communicate and there’s a new show in town, well, not really that new, but it’s called Mastodon and a lot of genealogists are going over and they’re becoming #genieaddons. And this platform is similar to Twitter and it’s just another way for people to stay connected and reach out across the world. It’s available in over 93 languages. Well, I love a website where you can find a catalogue to what’s at your local library. But how about a catalogue that goes to every library around the world practically? Well, maybe not all of them but it’s called WorldCat.org. And their newest release, Fish, has an emphasis on genealogical resources and it always has been good in the past. It’s great for looking up books, original manuscripts like somebody’s diary, or maybe you’re looking for the diary kept by the minister who married your aunt and uncle back in 1927. Maybe they know where it is.

Fisher: [Laughs] Interesting.

David: So you just go to WorldCat.org. It’s free and it indexes many libraries including where I work in Boston. Well, you know on 23andMe when we could find out how much more Neanderthal you are than me or vice versa?

Fisher: Right.

David: Well, the next time you go into the kitchen, you may be applying some of that technology from way back then to your modern real. They’re saying now that Neanderthals use the same cooking techniques as humans. In fact, they apparently they’ve gone so far as to make the food edible and to detoxify essential different plants and things. So, you remember Aunt Mary when she used to make those parsnips that you didn’t want to eat?

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: She may have been reaching back thousands of years to prepare it so you would find it edible.

Fisher: Amazing! Who knew? I mean, I always thought the Neanderthal thing and I have apparently a lot of Neanderthal in me, that they were a little behind the humans. But it looks like they brought something to the gene pool so that’s good. 

David: Um hmm. We have always looked back at the greatest generation and many of them were actually children or born around the time of the Great Depression 1929 to ’39 seems to be the range. But they’re now looking at DNA, Fish, to find that certain cells from people born and conceived during that timeframe are actually having an accelerated form of aging. Now most of these people are in their 90s and 80s  now anyways, but just in general and they’re saying that at that point in time due to stresses from people that were out of work, 25% of the US workforce was unemployed, that this is something that is now noticeable in DNA. 

Fisher: Fascinating!

David: That’s all I have from Beantown and around the world for us right now. I’ll check with you in a little bit for Ask Us Anything, but remember, if you’re not a member of American Ancestors, the holidays season is approaching. You can save $20 on a membership on AmericanAncestors.org with the coupon code EXTREME.

Fisher: All right David. Thank you so much. See you at the backend of the show. And coming up net, I’m going to talk with Professor James Kimble. He’s with Seton Hall University and he spent five years researching one poster from World War II. It’s that We Can Do It poster with the woman holding up her fist. Who was she? Well, he figured it out. He’ll tell you how and who it is coming up in two parts when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 441

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Professor Jim Kimble

Fisher: Well, as you know, when we get going on our research, sometimes we can end up down the rabbit hole and find interesting things we never imagined when we’re research our family or researching history. And I recently made that discovery of some work of a man I’m talking to now as my next guest. Professor Jim Kimble a Communication professor at Seton Hall University who worked on researching who was it behind that Rosie The Riveter poster that says We Can Do It. And it took a lot of years but professor; it looks like you made some great progress on this and finally came to the correct conclusion.

Jim: It was quite a treasure hunt for a number of years but I was pretty happy with the results of this research.

Fisher: So, what was your interest in Rosie the Riveter? Was it a World War II connection within your own family?

Jim: A little bit in my own family, but more involving my own research. When all this started, you know that part when you jump into the rabbit hole?

Fisher: [Laughs] Yeah.

Jim: I was working on my dissertation at the University of Maryland, which was about World War II so it’s a history oriented look at how the US Treasury Department used the strategies of propaganda to persuade Americans to buy war bonds. As it so happened in the course of discussing the implications of that book, I mentioned the We Can Do It poster, except, I referred to it as Rosie the Riveter. And in the course of editing the project, I came across a book called Design for Victory, which was done by two tutors at the Smithsonian Institution, Harry Rubenstein, and the other one was the unlikely name, Larry Bird, or William L. Bird. He prefers Larry.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Jim: And they had access to, by virtue of their position, to thousands of wartime posters, including, and they reprinted in this book, six or seven posters by a guy named J. Howard Miller.

Fisher: Okay.

Jim: One of them was the We Can Do It poster. And it absolutely threw me for a loop because I hadn’t ever thought that there would be more than one. So, it turns out they were produced by Westinghouse. I had to correct the reference to Rosie the Riveter because Westinghouse didn’t have riveters. They wouldn’t have called it that.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Jim: And so that was the leap into the rabbit hole. I started working with a colleague at the University of Pittsburgh, that’s where Westinghouse was located during the war so the connection was good. Lester Olson and I worked very hard to come up with all the information we could gain about that poster. And what we discovered was that almost everything our culture thinks we know about that poster is based on a myth. 

Fisher: And what is that myth?

Jim: So, there’s actually a couple of them. Probably the most common myth is that that poster was famous during the war.

Fisher: Okay.

Jim: We assume that because it’s famous now so we project ourselves back in time.

Fisher: Sure.

Jim: But if you look closely at the poster, on the bottom it says post February 15 to February 28, it gives you a two week window. And it’s clear from Bert and Rubenstein’s book that this was a succession of posters. Of course, paper was rationed during the war so they would have recycled all those posters after they took them down.

Fisher: Okay.

Jim: It simply didn’t have a chance to become famous because it was in Westinghouse for two weeks.

Fisher: You mean within the business?

Jim: Yeah, within the Westinghouse factory.

Fisher: Okay.

Jim: So Westinghouse, like most large corporations, was involved in war work in the 1940s.

Fisher: Sure.

Jim: So, they made helmet liners, lots of electrical products for the military. And so they hired this freelance artist in the Pittsburgh area J. Howard Miller, and they said, “We want you to do some motivational posters for our workforce. And so, that poster really wouldn’t have been known during the war. Not until it was recovered by the National Archives and then the Smithsonian, the only two remaining copies that we know of, did it start to become popular in the 1980s. But when Lester and I were doing this research, nobody else knew that.

Fisher: Interesting. And this is from what year?

Jim: So, the Westinghouse poster was in those factories in February 1943.

Fisher: ’43.

Jim: For those two weeks.

Fisher: Two weeks.14 days just among the factory workers. And then what’s the other myth behind this?

Jim: So, we also question whether or not the poster would have been seen as feminist.

Fisher: Okay.

Jim: Of course, that’s a common interpretation today. Rosie the Riveter, this empowering image, we women on the home front can do it.  That depends on the interpretation that it was everywhere, that it was recruiting women to the factories, which of course is wrong. But we also found some imagery within the Westinghouse in-house magazine that showed people raising their fists up just like her at in-house rallies. What we concluded was this up-raised fist had a special meaning for Westinghouse workers. In fact, the picture that we found was of a male labor leader, not a woman. So, it was a community building gesture within Westinghouse, not this feminist we can do it, we are powerful heroes, we women.

Fisher: Fascinating! That’s amazing. I’ve never heard that before. So, now you have this actual history behind it, and you have several other posters that compete with the We Can Do It poster. Where did it go from there?

Jim: So, Lester and I published that work in 2006. And while we were in the publication phase getting close to publication, we kept coming across this name of a woman who was said, who was pretty widely accepted, that she was the model for that poster.

Fisher: Okay.

Jim: Now, that wasn’t part of our research, but she passed away not too long after that and her obituary went across the world. You can still find them online. Her name was Geraldine Hoff Doyle. She lived in Michigan. And when she passed away, the obituaries said, “The face of Rosie the Riveter has died, The face that you know from the We Can Do It poster.”

Fisher: Yeah.

Jim: Having already questioned just about everything else about that poster, I started asking myself, “How do we know it’s really her?”

Fisher: Um hmm.

Jim: And that got me deeper into the rabbit hole.

Fisher: Yeah. So where did you begin? You obviously wanted to find out why it was thought that she was Rosie. And how did you disprove it and move on to the correct answer?  

Jim: So, there were some fundamental questions that I had to ask at the start, and you answered the first one, which is what is her story? Why does she think? 

Fisher: Right.

Jim: Because all that you found in the obituaries was other people saying that she was that person. So this basically required some detective work, go back and see who said it to whom. It all goes back to an experience that she had in the 1880s at some point when she came across a photograph in a Modern Maturity magazine. Modern Maturity was doing a retrospective on women during the war. Rosie was a tribute to them and so on. And in this photo montage, it had a picture of a woman in a bandana working at a lathe. And she looked at this photograph and she recognized herself, kind of an amazing moment. And she showed her friends, and she brought out pictures of herself from the 1940s that looked a lot like this woman in Modern Maturity the photograph.

Fisher: Sure.

Jim: And so they all concluded this is her. It was kind of a brief moment of minor fame among her and her family and so on. Fast forward another ten years, Smithsonian Magazine places the We Can Do It poster on its cover, and she sees that too.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Jim: And she holds that cover up to the Modern Maturity photograph that she believes is her, and she sees more similarities. And so she says to friends and family, “This is me in the photograph, and look how much this poster on the magazine looks like that photograph. I think, me too.”

Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs]

Jim: That’s how the story got started. The local media in Michigan picked that up and at first it was sort of qualified she thinks she may be. But as it got repeated, the doubt was left out and eventually it became an accepted fact over a number of years.

Fisher: Okay.

Jim: And she of course believed this. She would go to parades dressed as the We Can Do It poster holding up a big copy of it.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Jim: She was invited to address the Michigan senate.

Fisher: Ooh!

Jim: She was in the women’s’ hall of fame. Little kids would write to her and ask for her autograph as Rosie the Riveter.

Fisher: Wow! She had really quite a story. It’s kind of nice that she passed away before the truth was revealed, right?

Jim: In fact, that was something that my wife had said at one point. She said, “You know, if she were still alive, you would probably have wanted to hold off on this because that would be…the news that she wasn’t actually would have been pretty hard.

Fisher: Yeah, really quite devastating. And I would imagine for her family and those who were close to her who kind of reveled in all of the attention.

Jim: Indeed. And in fact, there was what was one of the harder tasks of this project was once the initial publication came out of the second article that I did, I wrote a letter to her daughter and broke the news. But we had a good exchange.

Fisher: Did you? She took it okay?

Jim: Yeah I think so. It wasn’t easy for her but it’s the historical truth.

Fisher: Where there any other people who claimed to be Rosie the Riveter?

Jim: You do see occasional folks with a tie to that name. Many of them were named Rosalind or Roseline, and a few of them even were Riveters. But no one else that I know of claimed to be the model in that poster. 

Fisher: Okay. So this was probably it. She was the one. So now that you found the one who wasn’t Rosie the Riveter, the challenge would be to find the one who was. And that sounds a lot more difficult to me.

Jim: That was in fact the hardest part. Once I had begun to question Doyle’s story, the woman from Michigan, I started to focus on that photograph that had been in Modern Maturity Magazine. And I started to ask myself, you know I’m a historian of propaganda so I have some of these research skills, how can I figure out who’s really in that poster? If in fact it’s Doyle, then I’m willing to affirm her story. But if it’s not, we need to know.

Fisher: All right Jim, we need to take a pause here for a moment because we’re up to break time. And we will continue with Professor Jim Kimble from Seton Hall University talking about his discovery of the identity of the real Rosie the Riveter, when we return in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 3 Episode 441

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Professor Jim Kimble

Fisher: All right, we’re back! It’s Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, talking to Professor Jim Kimble from Seton Hall University. He is the man who discovered the true identity of the woman in the “We Can Do It” Rosie the Riveter, poster from World War II. And Jim, we were just talking about how you disproved the woman who claimed it was her all those many years ago. And now, let’s talk about the discovery of the actual Rosie the Riveter on the We Can Do It poster. We all assumed it was out during the war, but it was only inside a factory for a couple of weeks.

Jim: You bet. Well, the principle moment here, or the principle artifact was this photograph that had appeared in Modern Maturity Magazine. So, in trying to find out who that woman really was if it wasn’t Geraldine Hoff Doyle from Michigan, I thought what I should do is look at war era 1940s publications, reasoning that it was published at some point.

Fisher: Sure.

Jim: So, this was a years’ long process, literally years where I would go to a research library that haven’t retired it’s older printed volumes of old magazines. I would take down from the shelf five or six volumes of say Collier’s Magazine or Time, you name it, there were hundreds and hundreds of magazines at that time. I would just take them to a study carrel and spend a couple of hours going page by page looking for this photograph. It’s the most elusive needle in a haystack which you could imagine.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Jim: This wasn’t a full occupation of course, I had other research to do, and teaching to do, but whenever I had some free time I would start leafing through these things. I even bought publications from eBay sellers and I was able to not go to a library but do it in my office and at home. So, one day I was sitting in my office, on campus and I was leafing through page by page, it was my method, a copy of the New York Times insert, the publication, the weekly magazine that’s every Sunday. So I had some bound volumes of that and I was listening to voicemail messages kind of half paying attention to what I was doing and then this photo appeared right there in the New York Times Magazine.

Fisher: Wow! What year?

Jim: That was in the summer of 1942, June 1942.

Fisher: Okay.

Jim: And I thought, ah ha! Here she is. I looked for a caption thinking this was the big moment, they were going to give me here name. And it was just a woman working in a factory.

Fisher: [Laughs] No!

Jim: It did give me a location though. It said Alameda Naval Air Station.

Fisher: Okay, California.

Jim: California, now that’s not Michigan. So this is probably not Doyle, could have been a mistake, never know for sure. The captions come later.

Fisher: Right.

Jim: So that was a frustrating mini lead. So, fast forward a little bit more, I was looking through Time Magazine, and I came across a photo montage of women working during the war, and one of these photographs caught my attention. It wasn’t the woman at the lathe, at least not that picture the famous one, but it looked kind of similar. I realized it might actually be the same woman in a different pose same bandana, different machine. So, I spent a week with my colleagues. I printed it out and enlarged it from the little tiny Time Magazine version and I went from colleague to colleague “Is this the same woman? Is this the same woman?”

Fisher: Right. And how did the vote go?

Jim: They agreed it was the same woman. So, how this finally resolved itself was, I had been doing reverse image searches via Google all this time on the Modern Maturity photograph. Now I had a new one to do a reverse image search. So, I did that and it came up, it turned out there’s a business out of Memphis, the business model is they buy the photo morgues of newspapers that have gone out of business and they sell them on eBay one by one. They had that second photograph. And when I pursued it with them, I said, do you have one that’s similar, might have come out at the same time? They said yes we do. And they sent them both to me after I purchased them.

Fisher: [Laughs] And how much were they, by the way?

Jim: They were as I recall $15 each.

Fisher: Fifteen bucks and this is an eBay thing, right?

Jim: Yes. The business was called historic images and they still do the same thing.

Fisher: Yes. Yeah, so we talk about this all the time for researching your family history. There are so much stuff on eBay relating to that and look at how you are using it as well.

Jim: It just happened that the second image happened to be the one they had uploaded. Elated and of course waited by the mailbox for a couple of days anxious to get these photos. When they came in these were the original printings of the photograph from some newspaper somewhere, on the back they both had a caption tag glued on there that gave me the information I needed. So, it was from Alameda, and the first line told me all I needed to know. It says, I’m looking at it now, “Pretty Naomi Parker looks like she might catch her nose in the turret lathe she’s operating.

Fisher: Wow! Wow! And this is how many years since you began down this rabbit hole?

Jim: Five years.

Fisher: Five years and you got the name. And then you found out that she was still living.

Jim: And then I found out she was still living. I didn’t know that immediately. I ended up hiring a genealogical society out in California to track down this woman. They sent me some tantalizing hints, but eventually they sent me a formal letter that said, “Jim, we have a rule that we can’t do research on people who are alive. We have evidence indicating that Naomi Parker is alive.”

Fisher: Wow!

Jim: Based on that I was able to find a phone number for her and cold called her to ask about her experiences.

Fisher: And did she know that she was Rosie the Riveter on the We Can Do It poster?

Jim: She did, although, that took place in the second phone call. On the first phone call she hung up on me.

Fisher: [Laughs] But she was aware of it herself that she was the person?

Jim: Yes.

Fisher: What did her family think when she told them that?

Jim: Well, she had known for a couple of years that there was this photograph of her going around, keep in mind she is by this point in her early 90s, but she’s aware of this photograph. And she had even contacted the Rosie the Riveter folks. There’s a national park named Rosie the Riveter near Alameda north of San Francisco and Richmond, trying to correct the records that this woman isn’t named Doyle. This woman is me. And she even had a newspaper clipping from the 1940s where a newspaper had published it with her name. But nobody accepted her story because why would you?

Fisher: Yeah.

Jim: It’s a fact that it’s Doyle. So, when I talked to her and she lived with her sister at that time, both in their 90s, she was excited that somebody was finally willing to listen to her story.

Fisher: Isn’t that amazing? And so, obviously you got the word out with your publication and your research. What was the response to that?

Jim: So, the article came out and it made a reasonably big splash and captured the attention though of People Magazine. I guess, I never thought before what an impact People Magazine has.

Fisher: Yeah.

Jim: But, they loved the story. They sent a crew to her house which was north of Sacramento, a couple of hours, so it’s really rural up there. They sent a makeup artist, a lighting technician, a photographer, a whole crew. They took all these glamour shots of her dressed as the We Can Do It poster.

Fisher: Unbelievable. Wow, what a live changing thing for her. She must have loved that.

Jim: She did love it. I think she liked the attention, but she’s on record for saying this, what she really wanted wasn’t fame or anything like that. She simply wanted her identity back because for her it was hurtful that somebody else’s name was attached to her photograph.

Fisher: Sure.

Jim: Whether or not that meant she was actually the real model for the poster, we may never know. The artist didn’t leave much in the way of records. But at least she got her identity back for the last few years of her life.

Fisher: What a story and what an adventure for you Jim in your free time going about all this research.

Jim: It was quite a maze labyrinth, but I enjoyed the successful conclusion to it.

Fisher: He’s Professor Jim Kimble from Seton Hall University, teaching communication there. Jim thanks so much for coming on and telling this story. I think there are a lot of things to learn from where you went and how you went about it and your patience too over many years before finally attaining your goal. Great stuff!

Jim: I appreciate it.

Fisher: And coming up next, David returns for another round of Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 4 Episode 441

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, it’s time once again for Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com, where we answer your questions. And David Allen Lambert is back from Boston and the New England Historic Genealogical Society. David, this one is from Ricky in Salt Lake City. And she asks, “Guys, how can I date a photo without a name on it? I have several 19th century photos that must be from the family, some have stamps, most have names of photographers. Any suggestions?”

David: Ooh! I love that, because I collect antique photography. I may be able to answer this for you fairly easily. First off, the stamps are on the back. These aren’t posted stamps.

Fisher: Right.

David: These are revenue stamps.

Fisher: Yes.

David: They were issued during the time of the Civil War, for a limited time in the Civil War. About 1862 to ’64 you started seeing these on photographs.

Fisher: Yep.

David: So you can date the picture from that. You can also date a picture from a certain photo style. And there’s plenty of great articles and things by the photo detective, our friend Maureen Taylor that can help you date the image with clothing styles and whatnot. So, that can help you without a name. The other thing on the back, which is actually a name and a place, it’s a photographer. Think about it, you have a photographer, you have their address and you have their city or town where they’re operating out of. Look at the city directory, it’s going to give you a date. So, now you know that this photographer was operating in, say, Buffalo, New York between 1871 and 1874. Well, first off, start looking at your family tree on Ancestry or Family Search wherever you have it and start to narrow it down where people are listed as residing.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: So, if you found them in a census of 1870 or 1880, somewhere in the county that’s near Buffalo, maybe they went to the intercity, because you didn’t have to live where the photographer was and sometimes you had to go to them. So that’s a good clue. I mean, I’m sure with many of your old family photographs you probably have a good idea who it is, but maybe not all the names on the back, like I do with mine.

Fisher: Yeah, sure. Well, just a couple of years ago, I was able to solve this picture of my great, great grandparent, Fisher from New York City, very much the way you describe it. I actually used the revenue stamp on the back and found that it was only in use that particular one for certain years, and it narrowed it down to about a three or four year period. And then we had the address of the photographer and it overlapped the date of the stamp by like a year. And so, that told me pretty much exactly when my great, great grandfather’s picture was taken. And even though his wife’s picture was taken apparently around the same time period at a different photographer, it was apparent that it was pretty much at the same period. So, she must have liked his, then went out and got her own done.

David: Well, you know, it’s funny, revenue stamps were used right up till about 55 years ago. They stopped using them on New Year’s Eve 1967. But if you go 100 years approximately before the first issuing of American revenue stamps, little thing called the Stamp Act.

Fisher: [Laughs] Yes.

David: That was a revenue stamp, Fish that caused the American Revolution! [Laughs]

Fisher: Yeah, absolutely.

David: It’s amazing how history kind of goes back and forth on how it remembers and forgets things.

Fisher: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you think about the fact that King George issued this thing and he was now a tyrant, but when our own government did it, it was a whole different thing. But it didn’t last that long and I’m sure it had everything to do with paying for the war at that point.

David: Exactly.

Fisher: It was just absolutely necessary to get done, but they’re really great on those old pictures, especially if they’re from that time period. I think they actually ended, Dave somewhere in the early 1870s.

David: Yeah, most of the stamps itself, I mean were in use for a lot of things, like deeds and playing cards.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: I’ve also seen pictures that weren’t with the revenue stamps that are dated from the same time. So, it’s a hit or miss. But occasionally, you get the initial of the photographer on there. So, if you know the picture was taken probably in Boston, you look at a directory, now you can find out who the photographer is by his initials on the back of the picture.

Fisher: Yeah. Good, good hint. I like that a lot. So, great question. Really interesting one too, Ricky. So, good luck with that. And we do have another listener question coming up next when we return with Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 441

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, here we go, back with Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes. And our next question is coming from Drew Olmire in San Francisco. And Drew writes, “Scott and Dave, you’ve talked many times about archives. How much material is actually there that isn’t already online and what could I typically find there?” It’s a good question, Dave and the reality is, is if you really think about how much stuff is online in all the biggest sites in the world, we’re still probably barely putting a dent into the stuff that’s available in archives everywhere, right?

David: That’s very true. Even with American Ancestors, we have a digital library and we have this great collection of things we’re putting online, but it’s only scratching the surface.

Fisher: Yeah. Do you have stuff at American Ancestors in Boston that haven’t begun to be indexed yet?

David: Oh sure. Yeah, there’s plenty of things. We’re dependant on our volunteers and also, you know, finding a database that may interest people, like when we did the Catholic Archdiocese records. We have the images, but they weren’t indexed. It took a real big community of volunteers to index those and now they’re all indexed online. Its great!

Fisher: Well, and now you’re the oldest genealogical society in America for sure.

David: Actually, probably in the world.

Fisher: Really?

David: Because, yeah, Europe didn’t really have genealogical societies. You didn’t need to find out where you came from if you were still there.

Fisher: [Laughs] That’s probably true. Oh, but there are so many archives throughout the country and libraries and other places, but they’re all done by different outfits. And I like what you said about the number of people involved. But there’s also questions of budgets, what it takes to index things. I know for instance I deal a lot with the Crawfordsville Public Library in Montgomery County, Indiana, because that’s where my wife’s family was from on her mother’s side. And they are constantly adding things and digitizing things, they keep up social media there. And so, local residents who are interested will dig out material from their own archives in the attic and put things up there that you’ve never seen before, like we recently found a photo of my wife’s second great grandparents surrounded by their nine kids. And we’ve never seen that picture before, ever, but somebody said, “Hey, we’ve got to get this out there for others to find.” And we were the beneficiary of that. So, if you can go to a library and see what they have not yet digitized, there can be a ton of things.

David: Well, I mean, just think of the collections that Family Search have had, millions of hands have had a chance to help index, even if you’ve done a couple of pages or you’ve done 20,000 pages. I mean, it helps to come and give genealogy, to spend a little time in giving back. I think it’s good genealogical karma.

Fisher: There’s no question about that. There’s so many places you can go, the states have archives and they can’t get the legislature for instance to provide a budget to go digitize or take photographs of items that may relate to more prominent ancestors or documents that relate to your people. So you go there, you go to the historical society for your state or for your county. There are so many places to go. I wouldn’t even venture a guess as to how much, what the percentage is that’s actually digitized and online, Dave. But could you even think it’s as much as 10%, 20%?

David: I think 20% is a high estimate.

Fisher: Yes, I do too.

David: I mean, I think that just goes to show you that, when you rest upon the walls of all genealogical material is online, you’re really missing out on a lot.

Fisher: Yeah, don’t be lazy. Go out and find the stuff, see what’s in the areas of the places you’re trying to research and you’re going to get a lot more than you can find online. And then you go back to what’s online once you’ve discovered something there that can, you know, take you right back into other things. So, great question. Get on it and good luck with that. Thanks for it Drew. And Dave thanks so much for coming on again. We’ll talk to you again next week.

David: Look forward to it.

Fisher: All right, my friend. And that’s our show for this week. Thanks once again to Professor Jim Kimble from Seton Hall, University in New Jersey. Oh, he worked five years to figure who that person was in the “We can do it!” poster from World War II. If you missed any of it, catch the podcast on all the usual places, TuneIn Radio, iHeart Radio, ExtremeGenes.com, Spotify, you name it. We will talk to you again next week. Thanks for listening. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we’re a nice, normal family!

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