Episode 446 - Finding Your Roots... Tech... What's Ahead for the TV Show and this Year's ConferenceJan 23, 2023
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 by talking about David’s recent gift from a relative of an 80-year-old multi-page letter that talks about his wife’s 2x great grandmother who took her first airplane ride at age 100 in 1938. Then, in Family Histoire News, a sunken barge has been found in Michigan that was once Al Capone’s floating speakeasy. David has details. Then, it’s another amazing DNA project involving Viking skeletons from 1676 in Norway. Hear what’s been found. David then shares the incredible story of a Viking woman who visited both America and Rome! And finally, an American institution is headed to the scrapheap. You might not have known it was even still in existence! David will tell you about it.
Then, Fisher visits with Sabin Streeter, Producer of the PBS series "Finding Your Roots." Sabin talks about this season's guests, the impact of the show on past celebrity guests, and how maybe YOU could be a guest next season!
Next, Jen Allen from FamilySearch International talks about the upcoming RootsTech. It's finally going to be live again, along with all the online assets developed during the two pandemic shut down years.
David then rejoins Fisher for a pair 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 446
Fisher: And welcome 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. Hello genies! It’s great to have you back again. Oh, we’ve got stories today because we’re going to be talking to Sabin Streeter. He is the show runner for Finding Your Roots on PBS with Dr. Henry Louis Gates. A new season is underway, and they’re getting ready to highlight one of us, an ordinary person looking to find out some of the mysteries of their family. And he will explain how you can sign up potentially to be that person. We’ll hear more about that from Sabin in about ten minutes. After that, we’re going to talk to Jen Allen from Family Search International. She’s heading up RootsTech and its back live as well as online this year so she’s got all the information that you want about what’s coming up this year in 2023, really excited about that. I’m going to be there and I’m sure David Allen Lambert my good friend is going to be there as well, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. Hello David.
David: Hello. Yes, I will indeed be there. I’ve got three lectures that I get to get behind the microphone and teach. So I’m really excited about that.
Fisher: Oh that’s going to be so good. And you know, I had a real quiet week. I mean, after the holidays and digging up dead ancestors, literally, and all those other things.
David: Literally, yes. [Laughs]
Fisher: I have really had such a quiet week. It was almost like living in a library just reading a book. How about you?
David: Ooh, I had a really exciting week and not from my side of the family, but from my wife’s. My wife’s father has a cousin that lives a couple of towns off. Never met him before, but his wife knows I like genealogy and came across a four page letter that was written probably between 1938 and 1940 about my wife’s great, great grandmother. See Fish, this great, great grandmother of hers was born in 1838. She came over on a clipper ship into Boston from Nova Scotia in 1851. We knew a family story that she actually flew in an airplane when she was a 100 years old.
David: But this letter gives more detail, like when she was a young girl at the age of 11 she was chased by the Mi'kmaq Indians in Nova Scotia and escaped from being captured. This is back in the 1840s. I didn’t think there was an Indian problem in Nova Scotia at that point in time. But that’s her own words. It talks about her in the airplane, about her first experience, and it even said the type of plane and the airport. Now, the airport doesn’t exist anymore but you know the internet, I was on it in seconds. Found the exact plane style happen to be next to the hanger, and an aerial view of the airport that someone took. So, I got to see the same view that she did from 1938 at her 100th birthday.
Fisher: Wow! That’s a great letter. And this is the thing too, everybody knows you’re into this so when they find things like that who do they call? You!
David: [Laughs] Exactly.
David: Now that I’ve been organizing things, needless to say, these letters are already printed out, in a binder, scanned as a PDF, and I’ve added pictures, I’m “Scott Fisher-ing” the work so it has that appeal for others versus just my genealogically centered mind.
Fisher: So you’ve posted these on Family Search and Ancestry?
Fisher: That’s great. Isn’t that great? I mean, these were sitting in a closet, right, for who knows how long, decades. And now they’re available to everybody.
David: It looks like this letter was crumpled up and somebody just happen to say oh, I guess I should save this.
Fisher: Um hmm.
David: And it’s laid flat. But four pages of great history, I’m really excited about that.
Fisher: Did you transcribe it?
David: I sure did. That’s what I did and I added the images associated with the story that it told.
David: Yeah, it was fun stuff. Well, you know, I always love a good week of stories and a couple of them are quite damp. The first one comes from Al Capone.
David: Thanks Al.
David: Yeah this is in regards to his speak-easy. Not a building, but a boat.
David: The boat’s name was Keuka.
David: And it was sunk in 1932 in Lake Cheboygan in Michigan. There was somebody murdered on the ship. It was originally a 200 foot barge, still mostly intact. Not too deep water so people who scuba dive can go see it. There are some impressive pictures online. And I don’t know if I’d want to go Scuba Diving under it.
David: But hey, you might find some bottle of rum or something like that.
Fisher: You never know. You never know.
David: Well, still staying in the water, but this time going all the way out to Scandinavia. They’re actually working on getting DNA. They’ve analyzed 297 ancient Scandinavians over 2000 years from graves and whatnot, but what they found was a war vessel called the Kronan from a battle back in 1676.
David: Yeah. You think of the King Philip's war around here.
David: So that same era, and there’s pictures of the wood, and the skeletons that are from the shipwreck, and they were able to extract DNA from some of the remains.
David: This connects a lot with Scandinavian ancestors and gives another strong connection with your Viking past. That being said, you know you can have DNA tied to the Vikings, how about stories? Here’s one I never heard of. Now you’ve probably heard of Erik the Red and Leif Erikson?
Fisher: Of course! Oh yeah.
David: Well, how about Gudrid the Far Traveled?
David: It almost sounds like something from Tolkien.
Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs]
David: This is a Viking woman who was overshadowed by her in-laws Erik the Red and Leif Erikson. And she traveled all the way to North America, and she also walked to Rome.
Fisher: Across Europe?
David: Across Europe. Just around a 1000 AD.
David: She was born in 985 AD and they say she died around 1050 AD.
Fisher: Good long life for back then.
David: Yeah. You know, when I was a kid, when I was doing genealogy you know we had telephone books. I’d always pour through them and see if I could find something. But I didn’t have a phonebook for Ohio or Arizona or Utah so what did I do? Call 411, right?
Fisher: Yeah, of course, “information please.”
David: Uh huh. Well, that information is going bye-bye. AT&T will be dropping digital landlines access to 411 or 0 to reach an operator.
Fisher: I had no idea it still existed. That’s amazing.
David: Ah. I haven’t used it in years because oh, wait, there’s something called Google. [Laughs]
Fisher: Yeah. Right.
David: Well, that’s all I have from Beantown this week. But just remember, if you haven’t joined American Ancestors, we’d love to have you join. You can use the coupon code EXTREME, save $20 when you go to AmericanAncestors.org. Catch you in a little bit.
Fisher: All right David. Thank you so much. And coming up next, we’re going to talk to Sabin Streeter. He produces and directs. He show runs Finding Your Roots on PBS, on the way in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 2 Episode 446
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Sabin Streeter
Fisher: Well, as we start to dig into the New Year, it’s time to look into what’s coming up ahead for us in family history. And of course, we can’t get too deep into the New Year without talking about our friends over at Finding Your Roots on PBS and we’ve got Sabin Streeter on the line. He’s the show runner, which means producer, director. I mean he does pretty much everything over there. Sabin welcome to Extreme Genes. Great to have you back.
Sabin: Thank you. Great to be on again. Thanks so much for having me.
Fisher: Another great season underway here, and a nice little twist this time around. We’ve been waiting for a long time to see if one of us, the ordinary people of the world could get on the show. But I know that doesn’t mean we’re eliminating the celebrities. Where do we begin?
Sabin: So, right now we’ve begun the broadcast of season nine, which is 10 episode run that started broadcasting January 3rd and that’ll run through some breaks for PBS’s pledge weeks, which will basically run through late March. Then we are beginning also in the background the shoot for season 10, which will obviously be a big season for us, 10th anniversary. Most shows don’t get more than one season.
Sabin: Most things I’ve worked on in my career. So, we’re very excited and to mark that we’ve begun outreach for, and we will continue outreach for it to cast “an ordinary person” someone from our audience who wants to be on the show. We’ve gotten a lot of requests for this over the years and we’ve talked about different ways to do it. Obviously, we want to do it in a thoughtful, respectful way.
Sabin: A lot of people want to be on the show when you’re talking about casting only one.
Fisher: Well, how do you do it? I mean first of all, what are you guys going to be looking for exactly?
Sabin: Well, so first of all, we talked about it a lot internally, and obviously everybody has a story. That’s the principle of the show.
Sabin: Everybody’s family tree is interesting. Our belief is we can look at anybody and we can find something to ask.
Fisher: Yeah. No question. [Laughs]
Sabin: But it is a challenge to be on camera.
Fisher: Yes it is.
Sabin: That is something I think that the audience doesn’t appreciate enough. Frankly, I don’t appreciate enough.
Sabin: Sometimes these guests that we do who are by large people who spend their whole lives in front of the media are really emotionally challenged by sitting down and going over their family history. People watch the show and have seen, it can be an uplifting experience but it can also be a lot of our ancestors went through some very sad things.
Fisher: Devastating sometimes.
Sabin: Yeah, it can be really devastating. So, we definitely want to choose someone who we think will be able to handle that challenge. That’s part of the casting process we’re talking to people about. An initial filter we decided would be people who had a family mystery because those are often some of our best stories, just in terms of narrative, in terms of engaging the audience, but also, it means that they have thought about this for a while before they get to us, if there’s a family mystery.
Fisher: Right. And it might involve DNA too, which is a nice piece.
Sabin: Yeah, which is a great piece for us, and it might involve surprises that are anywhere from uplifting to devastating, but at least will involve surprises that they are to some extent prepared for. You have a grandparent who was adopted. You have a family story that your great grandfather wasn’t actually the person that the family rumors said he was.
Sabin: You are at least prepared to hear some news. And so that we thought was a good way to get into it.
Fisher: Right. That’s a nice filter.
Sabin: So, we put out a request for people with family mysteries through our website to tell us what the mystery is, tell us a little bit about themselves, shoot a little video and submit it.
Sabin: We’re working with a person who does this casting basically for a living and she’s an expert at this. And we have people on our team sort of working with her and going back and forth on it. We’ve gotten a ton of submissions already. A big challenge is going to be to whittle it down to one.
Fisher: Sure. [Laughs]
Sabin: We’re in the process of doing that.
Fisher: Wait a minute, where do coin flips come into this?
Sabin: There may be coin flips. There has not yet been coin flips, but I would not rule out the possibility of coin flips. I don’t mean that in any sense. Again, the basic idea is that the story is interesting.
Sabin: And there’s so many people who have sent charming, funny, interesting, warm, really compelling videos. It’s already been hard for us to begin to whittle them down.
Fisher: I just can’t imagine. I’m glad I’m not on the screening team. It has to be very difficult. So, among the celebrities you’ve got this year, where do we begin?
Sabin: Well, we have quite a number. We have, in terms of well known people, our cup runneth over.
Sabin: We’ve got Edward Norton and Julia Roberts, Claire Danes and Jeff Daniels, Carol Burnett and Cyndi Lauper, Brian Cox, Viola Davis, David Duchovny, Angela Davis, Van Jones.
Sabin: We’ve got a lot of people. Niecy Nash
Fisher: Cyndi Lauper, I mean she has got a personality. I interviewed her once. That accent just overwhelms the room, right? It’s like a strong perfume. And she’s just a delightful person.
Sabin: She is really charming and really interesting and really just very much who she is.
Sabin: I mean, we’ve had lots of guests who have had sort of ambivalent feelings about certain members of their family. But Cindy, her mo’s side is largely Sicilian, and she feels that the men in her Sicilian family really mistreated the women. And she’s just very, very upfront about it. Which is really, I mean, it’s bracing in some ways.
Sabin: You don’t actually get people on the show who are like, “I didn’t like that person.” [Laughs]
Fisher: [Laughs] Terrible people.
Sabin: Yeah. Yeah. But she’s just wonderful. She’s so open. She had a really tough childhood and she is really just very open about it and just a lovely person. And her stories are very interesting. She’s basically Swiss on one side, Sicilian on the other side, with lots of other things thrown in.
Fisher: It’s funny though. People who have had a tough upbringing, often when they get into family history there is a healing that comes from understanding why some people were the way they were.
Sabin: Yeah. We’re doing an episode this season with Brian Cox and Viola Davis and that’s really all about that. Both of them also had very, very difficult childhoods. And a lot of it is about what was lost in that process and what it means for those two people to regain it.
Fisher: Let me ask you Sabin, have some of these celebrities that you’ve had on over the last 10 years, and actually your show’s parallel with mine. I didn’t realize we started around the same time.
Sabin: [Laughs] That’s funny. That’s incredible.
Fisher: Yeah. We’ll have our 10th anniversary in July this year. But has some of the celebrities from earlier seasons, have they ever gotten back to you and just talked about what they did on the show, what they learned, how that has affected them that it’s still impacting them today?
Sabin: Yes. That’s definitely something that’s happened. We’ve had family mysteries. For example, George R.R. Martin, you know the Game OF Thrones author?
Sabin: He came on and you know he grew up believing that Martin, his last name, was a shortening of his father’s, father’s Italian name Mazucola. He believed he was really George Mazucola. And his grandfather Louis Mazucola, who he knew a little bit as a child, but Louis had left his grandmother, had abandoned the family, moved to Florida, had another family of his own and really wanted no connection. George wanted to know a little about his Italian roots and the Mazucolas. And he had met his grandfather Louis once or twice as a kid but then he just disappeared. George is very close to his grandmother, who I believe is Irish.
Sabin: Mary Louis. Well, we look at George’s DNA, George didn’t have any Italian markers. Instead, he was 25% Ashkenazi Jewish and there was no explanation for that in his family tree. So, as we dug in and tested and whatever, we realized that it wasn’t so much that Louis left George’s grandmother, is that she cheated on Louis with a Jewish man and had George’s father, and then he left.
Sabin: The family story was that he was like a womanizer who ditched his family for another family in Florida. The reality was his wife had cheated on him, got pregnant with another man, and he moved along. But this story was never passed down by anyone. George had never heard it.
Fisher: Of course.
Sabin: George had no idea he’s corrective accorded Jewish. But we were not able to go any further than that at the time of the broadcast. George kept in touch with the show and CeCe Moore who does genetic genealogy, she kept looking.
Fisher: I know. She never puts anything down.
Sabin: She eventually determined who the man was, and got a name, and proved it and we presented that to George in private, and he was delighted.
Fisher: Boy, that will really change your self-identity, right?
Sabin: I would think so, yeah.
Fisher: Not only to lose the grandfather, but to lose the whole national identity from Italy.
Sabin: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. No, I remember it was a big deal for him. He’s a very sweet guy. He took the whole crew out to dinner after the shoot and he was just like you’d hit him on the head with a hammer.
Fisher: [Laughs] This is what this stuff does.
Sabin: That would probably be the most dramatic, but we have had many post interview interactions. One of the most amazing stories we’ve done is coming in this upcoming season is a DNA story. This guy Joe Manganiello, I don’t know if you know who he is.
Sabin: He was an early Spiderman. He’s a great actor. But he came to us because on his mother’s side he’s Armenian. And he has a great grandmother and a grandmother who are Armenian genocide survivors. His great grandmother, basically her entire family was murdered, her husband and seven children. And she escaped on foot, caught up in one of those death marches, ended hiding in a cave, got picked up by the Red Cross and sent to this transit camp. This was all done by the Ottomans after the Turkish government was murdering these Armenians. The Ottomans allowed in Germany in World War I. They were German observers and German officers there throughout Turkey. And somehow Joe’s great grandmother became a typist for a German officer at one of these transit camps, had an affair with him, an eighth child with him, and then somehow he got her on a boat to America. He went back to Germany.
Sabin: She never saw him again. That baby she had is Joe’s grandmother, Joe’s mother’s mother.
Sabin: And she’s half Armenian, blue eyed, half German. And the great grandmother brought back a photo of this German officer and this story but would never reveal his name. So nobody knew his name, nobody knew anything about him. And so we were able to identify him. One thing, [Laughs] he had a family of his own in Germany. He was there as a soldier but he had a wife and three kids in Germany. It really blew Joe’s mind. And when we looked at his DNA, not only were we able to identify this German great grandfather, but we noticed that Joe’s father had some very, very unusual DNA markers.
Sabin: And I won’t get into too much detail.
Fisher: No, no, no.
Sabin: But basically, Joe’s father thought he was an Italian American, but it turns out he’s basically a quarter African American. Joe’s grandmother had an affair with an African American.
Fisher: This is going to be a season to remember here I’m thinking Sabin.
Sabin: Yeah. It’s an incredible episode.
Fisher: With 10 years of this show Sabin, you guys ought to do some specials where it’s just circling around. Going back to some of these folks and finding out what it’s done for their lives.
Sabin: We’ve definitely thought about that. That would be a fun thing to do.
Fisher: He’s Sabin Streeter. He’s the show runner, the producer, the director for Finding Your Roots on PBS. The new season is underway. Another season filming is coming up. You can be part of it. You can sign up on their website FindingYourRootsCasting.com. Sabin it’s been great talking to you as always. Please send our best of course to Skip Gates, and we look forward to seeing the season.
Sabin: Thank you so much.
Fisher: And coming up next, Jen Allen from Family Search International talking about what we can expect at RootsTech this year, when we return in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 3 Episode 446
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Jen Allen
Fisher: All right, here we go, the most wonderful time of the year, for genealogists of course, as we anticipate RootsTech. Here we are coming up on the 13th year of it. And this time, it’s the first time really we’ve got the full virtual version and the in-person version. And it’s great to have Jen Allen back from Family Search International. Jen, thank you so much for taking a few minutes to talk to us because I know you are slammed from now until the end of this thing and even afterwards.
Jen: You know, it’s kind of a busy season all year, but Scott, I’m so excited to be with you again and to share with your wonderful listeners all the incredible things we have in store for RootsTech this year. 13 years, can you believe it?
Fisher: I can’t. And when I think back to the beginning of this thing, it was really about technology and it’s evolved in so many different ways. And I remember it wasn’t that many people that showed up by comparison to even five or six years in. And to compare it to today, it’s ridiculous when you look back at the first year, right?
Jen: It really is. And who would have thought that something that would change the whole world would change our little event RootsTech so much.
Jen: I mean, having to go virtual, what seemed horrible at the time, and so hard, and yet now, so many more millions of people have been able to engage with RootsTech and really learn genealogy in the comfort of their own home.
Jen: So, I never could have predicted that a few years ago.
Fisher: No, who could have? Let’s talk about the last two years. How many people would you say were in there in 2021 and 2022 watching online?
Jen: Yeah. So, the first year in 2021, we had 1.5 million people from around the world tuning in to RootsTech during those few days of the virtual event.
Fisher: Um hmm.
Jen: And then fast forward a year later, we did our second all virtual event in 2022 and doubled that. So, we had over 3 million people that were tuning in.
Jen: Now, outside of that there were millions more because we shared it on TV in certain markets. We shared it on YouTube and on other social platforms. So, that brought in even more millions, that we had over 3 million people join RootsTech.org, during the events. It was just incredible.
Fisher: Insane. So, let’s think back now to the first year which was 2011, right?
Fisher: How many people attended in-person for that event because there was nothing online?
Jen: No, nothing online. It was all in-person and we had just shy of two thousand people that first year.
Jen: So again, looking at that incredible growth in 13 years. I mean, even in 2020 that was our last in-person event we had over 30 thousand people just at the Salt Palace, let alone the opportunities online that we had at that time.
Jen: We were thrilled with that.
Jen: So, just growing even more through the virtual years has been a really, really good opportunity for genealogy.
Fisher: Sure. Let’s talk about some of the complexities. Now, you’re doing the virtual this year as the last two, and you’re doing in-person. So, how does this all work with your team?
Jen: [Laughs] You know, we’re not sure yet. We’re hoping it will work.
Jen: We’ve learned a lot in the last two years and what’s been nice is we’ve been able to focus on that virtual event. So, now coming into this hybrid year, that’s what we call it internally. Is just looking at how to remember what worked when we were in-person, but then add this great flavor that we’ve learned in the last two years and mashing it all together. It’s been a lot of work and a lot of brainstorming and grassroots growth, but we’re excited to see how it all plays out.
Fisher: And I remember last year, you did this thing where you basically went around the globe as the sun was coming up and you focused on those countries that were awake during those 8 hours. Is that going to come back this year and how does that work?
Jen: Yeah, it will. Really what you’ve come to love about the virtual event will stay. There will be 11 core languages with many classes in languages above and beyond that. We end up having classes that are around 30 to 40 languages, which is incredible.
Jen: So, that global aspect of it will stay. You’ll even share some exclusive keynote speakers only in Spanish or in other languages that will be aired at a time when that part of the world is awake. So that part will stay.
Fisher: Isn’t that fun. Let’s talk about the classes because we’ve had hundreds of them in the past, what is that number up to now?
Jen: Well, now that RootsTech is all year long and all virtual, we really have a library of thousands of classes that you can now go and search and find and watch specific to your need, whether it’s a part of the world that you’re trying to research, or even a type, or a tool, or a feature you’re trying to use. So, there are thousands. And then, you’ll now be able to see classes in-person at the Salt Palace. A few of them will be exclusives. So only those people that come to the Salt Palace will see those classes, but there will be hundreds more on the virtual platform as well, especially when you start looking at all of those again around the world because a lot of classes aren’t translated. They are just in the original language in which they are taught. It’s pretty incredible.
Fisher: Sure, Yeah, absolutely. And you know with the live even going on, I’m sure there are a lot of people who just want to feel the energy from it happening right now. If people are like me, [Laughs] then they would not want to be putting it off because you just tend to forget about it after a while. And hopefully folks will come around and go, gee, it’s August, I want to go to a certain place. I want to research, let me take a class online, let’s go to the RootsTech site.
Jen: Yeah, that’s right. Exactly, that’s what we’re building it for, not just an event. The event is fun and we get to gather in-person and now virtually and a lot of people are watching it at the same time, but the goal really is to have these great classes by experts in the field available all year long, and by the way, completely free.
Fisher: Yeah, that’s the thing. What is the cost to get into the live event this year?
Jen: So, in Salt Lake City at the Salt Palace, for a three day event, the pass is $98, which by the way for any of you who remember, I know you have to brush away the cobwebs, but it was a lot more expensive before. We have really drastically decreased the price because we want to allow anybody to come. You remember a one day pass was $99 two years ago. So, this year you get the whole event, all three days for $98.
Jen: It’s a really, really good price.
Fisher: Well, it is. And you can actually met relatives there by using the app of course from Family Search and going through the expo hall and finding out about all the new products and I’ve got to think since it’s been three years since the last live one there are going to be some products there that we’ve never seen before, which is going to be incredible. So, first of all, keynote speakers, who have we got?
Jen: So, we are so excited to announce, hopefully you’ve already heard but Jordin Sparks will be joining RootsTech this year as our headlining keynote speaker.
Jen: I know right! The youngest to win American Idol, if you just look her up, she has a light of sunshine in her whole life. Everything she talks about is family oriented and we are so excited to hear from her. Her life’s experiences on a stage and really in front of so many people and have her bring that to light for our people and be inspired by what she has done in her life.
Fisher: That is going to be so fun. And where can people then signup to get their tickets online?
Jen: Simply go to RootsTech.org. All the information is there for you whether you’re coming in-person or just to the virtual event. You can register for both of those experiences so that when March 2nd comes you are ready to roll and can watch and participate in all the great experiences.
Fisher: Oh yeah. And you know, there’s great food there. It’s easy access to hotels and things going on downtown and it’s a chance to meet people from all around the world if you’ve never done this before.
Jen: That’s right.
Fisher: And for all different levels too of abilities. So, this is what makes RootsTech the biggest family history conference in the world every year, over and over again. [Laughs]
Jen: Exactly. [Laughs]
Fisher: And you get to run it Jen. Good luck with that!
Jen: Well, you know I probably need the luck, Scott. Thank you so much.
Fisher: [Laughs] I don’t think so. I think you’ve shown your skills over many, many years. So, Jen Allen thank you so much for taking the time to tell us what’s going on this year and we can’t wait! What are the dates, by the way, one more time?
Jen: March 2nd through the 4th, 2023. We are so excited to have you join us.
Fisher: Going to be there. We’ll see you then. Thanks so much! And coming up next, David Allen Lambert with another round of Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 4 Episode 446
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Fisher: All right, onward on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show with Ask Us Anything. David Allen Lambert is back from the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. Dave, out first question today comes from Angela in San Antonio, and she says, "Guys, I loved hearing about Fisher's indoor wedding photo you found from the 19th century. I have one from 1890 of my third great grandfather in his living room along with all of his old knick knacks and stuff, some of which I own. Is there a way to find out where the rest of that stuff went? Thank you." Interesting!
Fisher: You know, I like her ambitions, you know. Here's the thing, Dave, so many people, they just look at the picture and go, "Oh, look at that great stuff there!" buy they don't think about, how might I get my hands on some of it? They might just think, oh, that's not even possible. But the reality is, it is possible.
David: Um hmm. Right away, the first thing that would come to mind is, probate. His inventory might list all of those knick knacks and things. And if you see who the executor of the estate is, that would be the person may be responsible for dividing that up. The will itself may name things, "My daughter gets my China set. My son gets my rocking chair." Besides money and land, there are sometimes individual things that are divvyed out.
Fisher: Family bibles.
David: Exactly. That's the most important thing really. The thing about the photograph, if you can zoom in really, really close on all of the items and make individual pictures, I would create a page on social media, like Facebook for your cousins and say, "Does any of this look familiar?" His descendants might have this stuff in their attic. The other thing which would be kind of fun, try to figure out what it is and go onto our favorite website, eBay and buy something for yourself and replicate your great, great, great ancestor's living room!
Fisher: Right, or possessions. You know, I actually did that with my fireman. My great grandfather was a volunteer fireman in New York in the 1850s and '60s. And when I found out that his veteran’s organization would go to other towns and march with the locals, they typically exchanged ribbons and little commemorative medals. And sometimes on eBay I would find that the people who had these medals and ribbons, they passed them down to the descendants who put them up online, and I've bought several of these things from the very events that I know my great grandfather was involved in. So, while I don't have his medal badge from that event, I have one of the medal badges that was handed out and he would have had the exact one.
David: That's exactly what I did with my Canadian great grandfather, Fish. I knew what medals he received from his paperwork and I bought those Canadian World War I medals and I put them in a shadow box and I know exactly what would have been his.
Fisher: Yeah, there you go.
David: Great stuff. You know, I've had a lot of times where I remember going into someone's house and saying, "Who owned that?" "Oh, well that was a candy dish given to me at my wedding." So, you know, one of the things about our possessions is that usually an inventory was done after you're dead. Why not create an inventory of your really most important family heirlooms, like an inventory in a probate and write down where you got it, who owned it, did it belong to your grandparent?
David: Or your uncle. And that way, you take pictures of it, you put it and make it a visual item and then you put it with your last will and testament and then you could also even assign, "My daughter gets this. My son gets that. My cousin, Steve gets this." because that way, it goes to the right people that will appreciate it, and it’s not sold on eBay, so someone like you or I will buy it.
Fisher: [Laughs] Well, that's true. And you know, you can make little books of this out of Snapfish or some other great site. You’ll find that there's just a lot of great ways to make sure that people understand what they have in their hands, so it doesn't get thrown out or as you mentioned, show up on eBay for somebody else to enjoy, not knowing the back story or who owned it. So, great question. We've got another question coming up as we continue with Ask Us Anything in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.
Segment 5 Episode 446
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Fisher: All right, onto our final question this week on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show. It’s Ask Us Anything. I am Fisher, that is David Allen Lambert over there. And this question comes from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, David. It is Nicky, and she says, "Fisher and Dave, I was recently in Salt Lake City at the family history library family search center and found several old books on ancestor families. But info there does not match what I found online. Wouldn't older books being closer to the ancestors in time be more reliable?" That is a great question. And you know, this comes up for a lot of people all the time, doesn't it, Dave?
David: It does. Yes, I mean if you're going to have interview done in 1890 with a person born in 1795, that firsthand account may have been done then, but those earlier genealogies and histories, problem with them? They're not sourced.
Fisher: No, they aren't. And often given through the memories of many of the descendants at that time. You know, we talked about eBay last segment, I'm seeing some of those letters that were sent to create some of these old histories back in the day. People would write down their date or the names of their parents that type of thing. But they didn't use original documents, they didn't use church records, there weren't any vital records commonly before the mid 19th century. And I go through this and I'm sure you do, too, Dave, where you'll go onto Family Search where it’s a Wiki model and people are constantly changing what is modernly known and documented and everything back to what has been found in an old book somewhere! One line that comes to my mind in is Louis Dubois or Dubois in upstate New York, I descend from him and his lineage was a matter of speculation for many, many decades until about 15, 20 years ago. There were French records that started appearing online and somebody from over here discovered that the folks over there had all the answers we'd been looking for a century and a half! So, they gathered all this information, disproved all these old books that had been created and as a result of that, you get the information up and then people start going in and changing it based on the old books again. It’s enough to make you pull your hair out. And they want to document it saying “It’s in the book! Well, the book isn't documented, so why would you say that the book is a document that you could rely on, right?
David: That's very true. And again, we have the same problem at work. I mean, the work of a man by the name of Clarence Almon Torrey, he died in 1962, nearly 100 years old when he died and he went through all the published genealogies of the 19th and earlier 20th century and extracted every time anybody would have been married before 1700 and he sourced it. Although it isn't great sources when you're considering the last time he updated was 1960. 60 odd years later. There's been a lot of corrections.
David: I mean, all the work Rob Anderson has done for the Great Migration have place names, passenger lists, corrected a lot of things. So, you really can't rely on a book from 1923 if there's a new one in 2023 that supersedes it if it’s done well.
Fisher: Right. And you can say the same thing about county histories that were very commonly done in the latter part of the 19th century, early part of the 20th century, a lot of stories passed down to the people who were living at that time and is kind of like a game of telephone, things get a little twisted, dates aren't quite right, names aren't right.
Fisher: So, you know, they are great for clues and sometimes there are some real nuggets in there you won't find anywhere else. But you've got to research them and make sure that information is accurate. So, in answer to your question, Nicky, no, because they're closer to the ancestors in time doesn't make them more accurate. There are many more records available to help document those things now than ever before. So, thanks for the question. David, thank you for your contributions again today and we'll talk to you again next week.
David: I look forward to it, my friend.
Fisher: All right, and that is our show for this week. Thanks so much for joining us. Wanna hear about Finding Your Roots on PBS or the coming RootsTech? Then you're going to want to listen to the podcast on AppleMedia, iHeart Radio, TuneIn Radio, ExtremeGenes.com and wherever fine podcasts are found. We'll talk to you again next week. Thanks for joining us. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice normal family!