Episode 455 - DNA Finally Links Ancestor To Scottish Hometown / The “Common Cup” Our Ancestors Knew

podcast episode Apr 03, 2023

Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert from the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. David is on a research trip in Washington DC and has a report from the National Archives about War of 1812 records. Hear what the latest is. Then, David talks about working with a woman he learns is a direct descendant of Paul Revere! Next, CeCe Moore is opening a new site for people wishing to contribute their DNA to the cause of solving cold cases. Also in DNA-land, clumps of hair of Beethoven, kept by fans, have been analyzed. Find out what researchers learned about the musical genius. Finally, David has learned something creepy has happened just down the road from his house. He’ll tell you all about it.

Next, Fisher visits with Christy Fillerup, a researcher with sponsors Legacy Tree Genealogists. Christy recently solved a client’s case after nearly seven years after a Y-DNA match they’d been waiting for showed up. Christy explains how it was solved.

Then, professional genealogist and blogger, Gena Philibert-Ortega talks about something few, if any, of us have ever seen. But our ancestors knew it well. It was called the “common cup.” What was it and why isn’t it around anymore? Gena explains.

Then, David returns for two more 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 455

Fisher: And welcome America to America's Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth on the program where we shake your family tree, and watch the nuts fall out. Boy, we're real DNA heavy today on the show! And I'm excited about it, because you're going to hear about some amazing stories, especially the one we've got coming up with Christy Fillerup. She is a professional genealogist and researcher over at Legacy Tree Genealogists. And she worked at DNA case for like seven years before finally being able to break open a line back to Scotland for this particular client, and you're going to want to hear how she did it, because it's quite remarkable, coming up here in about 10 minutes. Later in the show, Gena Philibert-Ortega is back. She's going to be talking about a thing called the common cup. What is the common cup? Well, your ancestors were familiar with it. And maybe it wasn't the best thing for them. You'll hear what she has to say about it later on in the show. Right now it's time to head out to Boston, Massachusetts. David, now wait a minute, David's not in Boston.

David: The nation's capital.

Fisher: You are in the nation's capital. What are you doing in DC?

David: Well, NEHGS does a trip every other year. COVID kind of put a little halt to it. And we are visiting the DAR library, the National Archives and Library of Congress all week.

Fisher: How cool is that! Have you picked up any news while you were there?

David: Well, besides hearing people that love our show that are on the participants, there is some actual interesting news. At the National Archives, many of you have probably used the War of 1812 pension files, and they seem to have gone into a little bit of a halt. Well, the National Archives informs me that they have all the scans done through S. Everything T to the letter V is currently on hold. So, that means you really can't come into the archives and look at it.

Fisher: Okay, that's because they're getting them ready to be scanned, right, to be digitized?

David: Exactly, yeah, they're getting ready for scanning. So they have to prep the documents, etc. So, on a visit to National Archives, if your ancestor has a letter W, X, Y, or Z, you're all set.

Fisher: Right.

David: Those are still on the shelf.

Fisher: And anything from S and before of course, is online. So it just keeps getting better and better.

David: It really is. And they're in color, which I really love. The other news is, I've been talking about Rev War stuff on the show for a while. One of the things I've told it is go to the National Archives and look at the final payment vouchers. Well, they're slowly going on Fold3. And I had somebody wanted to look at it, but unfortunately, they have pulled all of them from the archives from viewing. And they will all eventually be online, could be a couple of years. I'm looking forward to seeing these valuable documents used by more people than the ones who can just simply go to the archives.

Fisher: Absolutely.

David: Well, you know, I had an interesting visitor at NEHGS. I had a lady come in to have a genealogical console with me. And I started looking at her tree and I said, “Oh, you get some people from my local hometown.” And I mentioned that the town name was different when her ancestor lived there. And she says, “Oh, I have another instance of that.” unrolls this family tree, Fish and I looked back and I said, “You're a Revere. You’re Paul Revere’s fifth great granddaughter!” And her response was, “Well, there are a lot of people that are related.” I said, “I've met two in 30 years. That doesn't show that there's a lot.”

Fisher: Right.

David: So, she was excited. And then I notified a local DAR chapter near where she lives. And they were very excited and hope that she had called the same day that I notified them.

Fisher: Well, yeah. Wouldn't that be fun to have a descendant of Paul Revere in your chapter? Not bad. In fact, just this weekend, I spent the whole day documenting my wife's line back to one of her Revolutionary ancestors who was at Valley Forge, and he had a couple of battles at Germantown and Monmouth. And so, we're waiting to get her in through him. And that's going to be really interesting stuff. It's really quite an exercise, isn't it, David to join a lineage society. You go back and you have to document every generation. Some of them, maybe you haven't even touched in 20, 30 years.

David: Well, right, because you may have found a published genealogy and the rest are oral. Well, those hereditary organizations aren't going to accept that. So, you do need to get those births, marriages and deaths or proof like a probate or a deed to confirm that your lineage is verified.

Fisher: Yep, exactly.

David: Well, I am very excited for our friends CeCe Moore and her colleague from Parabon, Margaret Press, who have launched a new nonprofit DNA database called the DNA Justice Foundation.

Fisher: Ooh! Okay, so what she's looking for is more matches down the line and more people who are willing to help out to get DNA matches to help fight crime.

David: And her website is called DNAJustice.org.

Fisher: Okay, how much does it cost to add your DNA? Do you know?

David: I believe it's free. I think that it's nonprofits. So I would imagine that there is no cost, but we'll have to find out, because it's the brand new company. Like I always said, if my fourth cousin 10 times removed decided to do a crime, I'll let my DNA help.

Fisher: There you go. All right.

David: Well, DNA of someone that we've all heard of, Beethoven. Well, Beethoven had a really lousy health. And now the DNA from his hair that was given to an admirer has helped unlock that clue. But they found a paternity issue as well.

Fisher: Yeah, this goes back to I think one of his grandparents very interesting, too, because apparently a lot of people collected Beethoven’s hair as a souvenir. And he was happy to oblige many of them, although I guess he gave goat's hair to somebody once as a joke. And she was so humiliated. He felt bad and gave her some real hair. But there's a lot of it out there. So people went and tested it and found that all these clumps of hair all match, so they believe it's also fits with the location of where he was from that this is actually his hair. So, interesting stuff. They didn't solve all of the questions they had medically, but nonetheless, what a fascinating project.

David: You know, you think of all the hair samples that are out there, Lincoln, and Washington and Jefferson, how amazing that people started to sequence all of those and had a database.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: Amazing to see how many other descendants there may be.

Fisher: Yes.

David: Well, my wife contacted me while I was in DC and gave me some unnerving news. Now, I have always loved Find a Grave. In fact, when I was a kid, the cemetery down the street, I had already photographed them, did rubbings, the whole nine yards, and now they've found two burials in it that I didn't know about. Two bodies were found, not in a casket when grave diggers were going in to put in a new grave, but it's a little unnerving. Because this happened a half a mile down the street from my house.

Fisher: Ooh, crazy!

David: DNA is going to solve this.

Fisher: Yes it is.

David: And they’ll figure out who they are.

Fisher: Yep.

David: I'll tell you, I love being in Washington, DC. But look forward to going back to Beantown and American Ancestors. Still love to have you as a member if you're not already. And don't forget that coupon code “Extreme” will save you $20 on AmericanAncestors.org.

Fisher: All right, David, thank you very much. And coming up next, we're going to talk about a DNA case for the ages. Christy Fillerup will be here from Legacy Tree Genealogists, coming up in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 455


Host: Scott Fisher with guest Christy Fillerup


Fisher: Hey, welcome back. It is Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show. I am Fisher and my next guest is an old friend Christy Fillerup from our friends over at Legacy Tree Genealogists our great sponsors. And Christy every time you come on, there's some amazing story that you have done for a client and this may be the biggest one of them all. I love this.


Christy: Thanks Fisher. It has been a long time coming for this client. It's been exciting to finally be able to give him some answers.


Fisher: Well, you were telling me before we even started this, that this goes back to like 2016. He's been bringing you guys back and bringing you guys back to a problem every year since.


Christy: That’s right. Yeah, we've been working on this for as long honestly, as I've been with Legacy Tree. So long time.


Fisher: [Laughs] Yes. Well, let's start with the basics here. Who are we talking about? What was the problem?


Christy: Yeah, so we're talking about a man whose name is Alexandra Campbell. What we started with is that he was in the US by at least 1810. We knew he was born in Scotland sometime about 1780. There had been a county history that had been written about most of the founding families in this area in Illinois. And one of the most mysterious parts of this county history was a reading in document. Because he was Scottish, he was Presbyterian. And one of the things that they often did was bring a document with them from their church in Scotland to their new place of residence here in the US, which basically said, “Hey, this guy is a good guy, we think you should let him be part of your church.”


Fisher: Okay.


Christy: So we had this document, it said that he was the son of Ivor and Anne, that he had been born in North Knapdale in Argyll, gave us everything that we would need, if we could actually prove that the Alexander Campbell in the transcription of the record was the client’s Alexander Campbell, which we could not prove.


Fisher: Ah!


Christy: Somebody somewhere along the lines had made the connection, but there was no original document, no way to prove that they were actually the same man, other than we had the same name.


Fisher: And you also had a history right with a different set of parents for this guy, right?


Christy: Yes, thank you for bringing that up, same history. So, one of the things that you want to be really careful with in published histories and any kind of published documentation is making sure that people haven't drawn conclusions that are not supportable.


Fisher: Right.


Christy: So, in this county history, the researcher that had put it together, had included this reading in document, but then had also made the claim that he, Alexander, was the son of an entirely different set of parents.


Fisher: [Laughs] Okay.


Christy: In an entirely different area of Scotland.


Fisher: Oh, boy.


Christy: So we have the different set of parents, no way of knowing which, if either, of these documents were correct that had been connected by other researchers with no reasoning behind it.


Fisher: Right.


Christy: I could confirm that both baptisms had taken place in the places they were claimed to have taken place in Scotland. So, both Alexanders did exist.


Fisher: And they were in play.


Christy: They were both in play. Both of them did not stay in Scotland as far as we could tell. So we couldn't kill either of them off.


Fisher: [Laughs]


Christy: So they were both in play. We didn't have any way of proving, which, if either of these two men were the client’s ancestors. And although the client had done extensive DNA work, the client had tested his Y DNA, which is the paternal line father to father to father had tested that Y DNA to as many markers as were available at the time, which would be 111.


Fisher: Sure.


Christy: There were not close enough matches, or really not enough differentiation between the matches to point us in any one direction.


Fisher: Okay.


Christy: Come along some new technology, which is called Big Y, Big Y DNA, two options, they're Big Y 500, and Big Y 700, and instead of testing 111 markers, those tests 500, or 700.


Fisher:  Yes, it's amazing.


Christy: You're getting really an exponentially larger number of markers. And what they do, Family Tree DNA specifically is the company that does this, what they do is the look then and start to branch off all of these different men who have tested their Y DNA, they'll branch off into much more specific branches based on all of these markers. So, the client was able to branch off far enough down for us to pinpoint a common ancestor with some of these matches into the late 1700s, which is so much later than a lot of these Y DNA matches are able to get us.


Fisher: Yeah, that's right. A lot of those go way, way back.


Christy: Exactly, exactly. So once we had that, excitement abounded until we realized that where this was all leading was Canada in the 1820s, not anywhere near Tennessee, which is where this client's ancestor was.


Fisher: Okay.


Christy: And about the same time, which was challenging. I was going to say frustrating, but we’ll keep it positive, it was challenging.


Fisher: Yes.


Christy: However, once we started digging into the common ancestor, this farthest back ancestor of the client's closest match on his Big Y, we discovered that he was born in New York. He married in 1820 in Ontario, his name was James Campbell. He was married by a man named Dugald Campbell, likely or relative. He had travelled quite a way to get married. And this Dugald Campbell was a fascinating character, whose life history was actually able to get us where we needed to go. Dugald was a dissenter, meaning that he had joined a non Church of Scotland Church before he had emigrated.


Fisher: Yes.


Christy: He was one of the very earliest Baptists in Scotland. He was an acolyte of a famous Baptist minister, who had actually been pressed gained during the War of 1812.


Fisher: Oh boy.


Christy: And after this press ganging, they left on mass. So Dugald Campbell brought his small group to Ontario, where they started an entirely new life in the wilderness. By researching this Dugald Campbell through scholarly articles, because he had been such an important religious figure, we were able to discover that he had been born in North Knapdale, the very parish that had been pointed to in this Illinois reading and record whose provenance we couldn't prove, which was thrilling, it was exciting.


Fisher: Yeah.


Christy: We didn't know how the client’s ancestor Alexander was directly related to Dugald. But what we could say was that they had both originated in this small parish in Scotland. And because we had the reading in record, we could then say who the client’s ancestor Alexander's parents were, we could then definitively say, this is our man. We don't know how the researcher who had done the original research knew that her records we had searched and searched for them, we had gone through the National Registry of Manuscripts, we had tried to trace her descendants, could not find her original research anywhere. Somehow she knew. Somehow she knew this was the right man, the reading and record no longer existed, but because of DNA connecting both of these men in Tennessee and Ontario living at the same time, we were able to say definitively, yes, your ancestor was the son of Ivor Campbell and Anne McAlpin in North Knapdale in 1780.


Fisher: Wow that is so cool! And do you have any further generations beyond Ivor or Anne McAlpin?


Christy: We can say for certain that Ivor had several brothers. And right now we're trying to determine which of those brothers was the likely father of Dugald. Beyond that, the parish registers no longer exists. So, the likelihood that we'll be able to push it back farther than Ivor is limited unless they were from another parish.


Fisher: Sure. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. That is so much fun, Christy. I mean, you know, we get to do this stuff in family history. How cool is that, you know?


Christy: We do. If I could tell any researchers out there any advice, it would be, don't give up.


Fisher: Yeah.


Christy: Don't give up. There are records somewhere that will help guide you to where you need to be. And sometimes they're not what we would consider genealogical records.


Fisher: That’s Right.


Christy: Sometimes they’re religious thesis published in 1900 about a sect that is just small, and maybe has about 20 members now.


Fisher: You never know. Well, that's the amazing thing too. And I think as time goes on now with AI, we're going to be able to pull up some of those things that we haven't been able to find so easily doing regular Google searches, right?


Christy: Absolutely true.


Fisher: And we're seeing it already really for research, it's terrific to ask say, Chat GPT to explain what some small group was doing in the 1850s in Philadelphia.


Christy: It really is.


Fisher: At this point, you still got to go back and you know, check some of these things for their accuracy, because we're in the Model T Ford version of AI, but it's only getting better and better and faster and faster. So, unless they take over the world, we're going to be able to harness this for so much more information. And I love the use of Big Y in this case, because Big Y is not something that you use all that often, I think. I mean, it's a pretty rare case to use Big Y.


Christy: It is. It's not often that you need to upgrade that far, you'll often be able to get your matches and the information that you need at the 111 or the 67 marker. But when you really need to differentiate and delve into a much more specific pattern when you just don't have what you need to drill into the guy that you need to follow, Big Y can really be kind of the magic bullet.


Fisher: Yeah, absolutely true. I love it. That's the thing about DNA. There are so many different ways to use it, including mitochondrial, you can use the X chromosome for various things. Obviously, we use autosomal and Y now routinely, and we're seeing more and more tools coming along to really help us drill down, and match up, and find the answers to these things that plague us.


Christy: Absolutely. And when paired with documents research, you can have the combination that will get you your ancestors.


Fisher: Yeah, absolutely true. She's Christy Fillerup. She's a senior researcher and professional genealogist over at Legacy Tree Genealogists. Thanks so much for coming on Christy. Congrats to you and to your client for never giving up. That is a remarkable case, and I always enjoy hearing those.


Christy: Thanks for having me.

Fisher: All right, and coming up next, we're going to talk to Gena Philibert-Ortega about a thing called the common cup. What was it? Why was it a bad thing? You're going find out more coming up next in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.


Segment 3 Episode 455

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Gena Philibert-Ortega

Fisher: Welcome back to America's Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com My next guest is Gena Philibert-Ortega, a very well known researcher and blogger and recently I ran across one of her blogs that was very intriguing. And Gena, welcome back to the show!

Gena: Well, thank you, Scott, for having me. It's great to be here.

Fisher: Yeah, let's talk about this common cup. And this is something I think many people in their lifetimes today have never seen before. It goes back quite a ways. Tell us how this was set up when it was around where it was around. And who did this?

Gena: Well, think about how did your ancestors get a drink of water if they weren't at home? You know, they were in town or at school, or on the train? Well, the common cup was either a bucket with water and either a ladle, or some kind of cup chained to it. Or it was a ladle or cup chained to a water fountain. And so what would happen was people and we're talking about, you know, probably the 1800s, early 1900s would go to get a drink and they would all drink from this common cup. Now, the problem is, now these cups they’re glass or metal or whatever they're made from is they weren't typically washed.

Fisher: Right. Who was going to wash them, right?

Gena: Exactly. So, in fact, one of the articles I found talked about a school here in Southern California, that they hadn't washed the cup for two years.

Fisher: Oh, wow! Okay.

Gena: Yeah.

Fisher: And what year are we talking about, when was that?

Gena: That was about 1910. So, what happens is in the early 1900s, there is a physician named Samuel Columbine. He's a Kansas physician. He's on a train. And he's watching people use the common cup. And there's a tuberculosis patient who uses it, and then a little girl.

Fisher: Oh!

Gena: And he realizes this isn't a good idea. And this is how we're spreading diseases, right?

Fisher: Yeah.

Gena: So, he starts talking about it. And he actually is able to get Kansas to stop and legislate against the common cup in 1909. And then slowly other states start. Now, you know, by about 1925, pretty much every state had a law about this. And about 1912, you start seeing the federal government, outline that on trains and saying, hey, you've got to have a paper cup or something that people can use. So they're not drinking from that common cup.

Fisher: Yeah, and throw it away.

Gena: Yeah, but that doesn't stop the practice. Some places, they're charging a penny, which doesn't seem like a lot of money, but not everybody can afford. But some people do start carrying their own cups. And so you know, there is an effort, but not everybody thinks this is a good idea.

Fisher: Sure. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So, public health is now in everybody's mind over this and there's an evolution but people still. I mean, I remember as a kid passing the soda can around among a group of friends, taking a hit.

Gena: Absolutely. And I've had people talk to me about this article and say, oh, my family did that all the time. We had a bucket outside and everybody drinks from a common ladle. Well, it's different if your family's doing it. I mean, yeah, we pass along germs in our family, right. But if you're on a train with 50 of your closest friends, it might be a little different, right?

Fisher: Sure. Could you imagine that today with what we've just gone through the last few years? I mean, nobody would touch that thing. [Laughs]

Gena: No, exactly.

Fisher: So, would sometimes this cup actually wind up in the bucket with the water?

Gena: Of course.

Fisher: Oh, boy.

Gena: Of course they would. So yeah, then there's that problem. Now, what happens is after there's some legislation against this and then reluctantly some states are getting on board. What happens is paper cups like Dixie cups become popular.

Fisher: Right.

Gen: But also water fountains that have either bubblers or spouts that people can lean over and drink from and we're all familiar with that.

Fisher: Sure.

Gena: But what happens is if you don't have the water, if it's turned down too low, then people are putting their mouths on the metal part of the mechanism there. And so that's not solving the problem. In fact, I was reading an article that in a dorm at Wisconsin, they were finding it was about 1920, that all the young women the water was turned down so low that they were all putting their mouths on and they all got strep.

Fisher: Oh, boy.

Gena: So, it's not just having, you know, the drinking fountain. It's having in fact, if you remember at a certain point water fountains had kind of a little shield, so you couldn't put your mouth on the metal.

Fisher: Right.

Gena: So that's why.

Fisher: Yeah, but you could still put your mouth on the shield.

Gena: You could. You could.

Fisher: I remember that. [Laughs]

Gena: [Laughs]

Fisher: I mean, I think back to first grade, we all put our mouths on the water fountains at school.

Gena: Absolutely. Well, absolutely. And kids, you know, even today, kids are bringing home all kinds of germs.

Fisher: Yeah, that’s true. They're little petri dishes with legs. There's no question about it.

Gena: They are. Well, and so it makes sense that a few years ago when COVID hit, they turned off all the water fountains if you remember and they put, I went to my son's college, and they put a big yellow tape around it, turned it off the whole bit, because people today still accidentally put their mouths on the water fountain guards there, and that could spread germs, and it could have some repercussions there. So we still see that a little bit today.

Fisher: Sure. Some echoes out there. Well, also back in the 1940s is that when the soda fountains came along somewhere in there 40s and 50s.

Gena: Well, so yeah, then you've got the soda fountains and even a little bit earlier, and what happens is they're using glass to put in the soda and the ice cream and all that kind of good stuff, but they're not always washing those glasses and so that's a problem.

Fisher: Oh. [Laughs]

Gena: So, then you get public health officials who are saying, hey, you know, you've got to use a new cup for every person. You've got to wash them. So, the fight to make sure people aren't using the same cup and spreading those germs continues.

Fisher: Yeah.

Gena: And you know, Scott, I'm sure you remember this, I do, going to a public restroom where there's either one towel, or a cloth towel, or that roller that you would pull on it.

Fisher: I always hated that roller thing. That's terrible.

Gena: Yeah. Oh, the worst.

Fisher: Yeah.

Gena: So, that's another thing that spreads germs. So eventually you get paper towels.

Fisher: Isn't it interesting when we dig into this stuff, we find out how many of these things that we had way back in the day still echoes today.

Gena: It does. And you know, when I think about our ancestors and the time period, so you know, by 1925, most states had the law to ban the common cup. Now, that doesn't mean that everybody followed it.

Fisher: Right.

Gena: Now, you think about 1970 1980 When we have the influenza pandemic, it kind of makes sense, doesn't it?

Fisher: Yeah.

Gena: I mean, yeah, people might be coughing on you. But if you're all drinking from a common cap, that's no good, either.

Fisher: Yeah, that's a real problem. And what did they do in the military? I mean, that had to be a difficult thing too.

Gena: Absolutely. And, you know, I know one of my friends was telling me he served in Vietnam. And he was telling me that when they were doing different activities, they would have kind of this bag with water in it. And so that was kind of trying to not drink from the same cup or canteen or whatever.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Gena: So I'm sure they had to deal with it.

Fisher: Man, it's just absolutely amazing when you when you think about how these things just keep coming forward. Well, Gina, great stuff. Really interesting article, and I appreciate your coming on and talking about this. And now I'm a little more aware for my grandkids, hey, don't be sharing that drink that Coca Cola with your friends don't be passing it around. And especially now after all, we've just gone through here now, which of course echoes the 100 years before that when we had the pandemic of 1918. It just goes on and on and on, doesn't it?

Gena: It does. It does. And I think it's important for us to realize that with our ancestors.

Fisher: Yeah, absolutely true. Well, thank you so much for your time, and we look forward to having you on again sometime soon.

Gena: Thanks a lot for having me.

Fisher: And coming up next, David Allen Lambert back from our nation's capital as we do another round of Ask Us Anything when we return on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show in three minutes.

Segment 4 Episode 455

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, it is time once again for Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fish here, David Allen Lambert over there in Washington, DC. And let us start with this question from Annie in Nevada. She says, “Hello, my boys.” Hello, Annie. “I just received a box chock full of photos and documents and old letters from my 88 year old aunt. Help! What do I do next with these?” Well, first of all, congratulations. That is just awesome!

David: Yeah. That is a tremendous family archive to have.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: So first thing, don't throw out anything.

Fisher: Right.

David: Because you never know that connection. Even when you're confused and something may not have a visible link, save it, especially on documented photographs. That happens all the time. People get frustrated when they inherit relatives and like, “Well, this must be people they worked with.” then you find out you've just thrown away picture of all your great grandfather's siblings.

Fisher: Right! Yes, those things do happen. And hopefully at some point, you'll be able to do a little work and figure out who they are maybe through cousins, I'm sure you already know which side of the family they're on. So it shouldn't be impossible. The other thing you want to do, of course, is digitize everything in that box. And if there are actual heirlooms, physical objects that you want to take photographs of those as well and try to figure out where they fit in with the family. As far as the documents go, you want to also digitize those, post them on the Family Search family tree, and also on Ancestry.com, so others can enjoy those. And those old letters, oh boy, are you going to have some fun with that!

David: Um hmm. Because you're going to probably transcribe them, then you're going to find the names, so you'll probably want to index them.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: Then you're going to find the parallels between all the letters that are going to send you down genealogical rabbit holes from now for the next two years.

Fisher: Oh, yeah.

David: Because you're going to be like, what company is that?” Or “who’s Cousin Molly?”

Fisher: Right.

David: What about that baby from England?

Fisher: It all depends really on the era. My mother was a letter hound. She kept everything and I'm so grateful she did, because she kept a whole bunch of them through World War II. And it was interesting the things that got revealed, even if you only got one side of the correspondence, you know, sometimes they reference well, “In your letter, you said this.” and you get this conversation going back and forth. And I wound up doing a whole book about my mother's family and World War II, largely based on the letters we had from her two brothers who were in the Navy and her other brother who was injured while training for the Army Air Force, and then other siblings who were building airplanes and building air strips, they were in construction. I mean, it was amazing what came from those. And it created a whole new project that took me actually three years to complete.

David: It's amazing. I remember you talking about this. I think it was one of your COVID era productions.

Fisher: Yes, it really was, it was a good time to be doing that. And by the way, David, I know you've gotten boxes like this, and I have too back in 2014 was the most recent massive haul that I've had. But it is so much fun. To me, it's like Christmas, and Father's Day and birthdays, and anything else you can think of for like five years in a row piled on top of one another when you get a box like that. So, I can understand though this sense of, “Uh oh! I'm responsible for it now. What do I do?” And so those are some of the things I would suggest.

David: Exactly. One of the things I always say it's important to put with any collection of papers, if you're not sure your children or grandchildren or even nephews and nieces or cousins would be interested it, find a repository, maybe NEHGS in Boston or someplace nearby that could be a caretaker. So, what you ended up with won’t end up in the trash.

Fisher: Right.

David: When you're gone.

Fisher: Very important to make sure that there's some kind of understanding of context as to who this belong to, what period it was from and what the family connection is. And that is really what gives anything value, right, you know, even including little collection of jewelry or something like that. It can make a big difference. So great question. Congratulations, Annie. I'm excited for you. But I think we all get a little jealous when you hear that. It’s like “I'd like another one of those experiences.” Good stuff. All right, we've got another question coming up for you next, when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 455

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right back for Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, David over there in Washington, DC. And David, our next question comes from Jerome in St. Paul, Minnesota. “He says, “Dave and Fish, you talk a lot about the Civil War and the Revolutionary War. I had a guy in the Mexican American War. What can you tell me about records from that one? Jerome.”

David: Oh for crying out loud! Well, I'll tell you, in recent years, myself and other genealogists were part of doing kind of what we did for the National Park Service for the Civil War. There's actually a national parks website of US Mexican War soldiers and sailors. It has over 89,000 records.

Fisher: Oh, wow!

David: Yeah no, it's not the actual images of them. I mean, this is just a searchable database kind of like to Civil War National Parks. You go to a national park and you can plug in your ancestor’s name, see if they were there at a particular battle.

Fisher: Sure.

David: So that's something to Google. However, you're probably an Ancestry subscriber. So I'm going to cut to the chase and say that you can search over 24,423 Compiled Military Service Records, which is the index right there for Mexican War from 1845 to ‘48 on Ancestry.

Fisher: So that's the index. Can you get the original records then elsewhere?

David: You can. The original records are at the National Archives.

Fisher: Uh huh.

David: And yeah, you make those requests of NARA. And it is $30 for a Compiled Military Service Record, providing it's not over 100 pages long, and most of them usually are not.

Fisher: Wow!

David: So you can get that from NARA and order right online. The one thing that you might be surprised at is how long they had to wait for pensions. Now, the War of 1812, you know gets over by 1815. Their pensions were not given to the veterans until 1871. Now, the Mexican War ended in the 1840s. And they did not get their pension for themselves or their widows or minor children until 1887.

Fisher: Oh, wow!

David: Nearly 40 years.

Fisher: That's interesting.

David: And the last person to collect the pension died in the 1920s. So picture a war they won in the 1840s, this person was well into their 100th birthday when they were collecting last pension.

Fisher: Wow!

David: There's a lot of records that you can find online on Family Search. Those are available for you. If you actually go to the Family Search Wiki under US Mexican War pension records. You'll find a variety of different things, including the Mormon battalion during the Mexican War.

Fisher: Right.

David: Some original records from different states are available there. It's a great resource and a lot of military records now, Fish are on Fold3.

Fisher: Of course.

David: So you can find Mexican War records there. What they've started to do is digitize them. So you can go into a particular battalion and come up with the actual unit information. So like, for instance, Arkansas Gray's battalion, and you can click on the person's name and guess what? They’ve imaged the cards. So, on Fold3, you can find the images as well. And I've seen on Ancestry there's actually a great database for people who enlisted in the army as a whole from like the late 1700s to the early 1900s and they cover the Mexican War there.

David: Right.

Fisher: I had an ancestor on my wife’s side that was part of that and it was amazing the detail at enlistment that included where they were born, how old they were, where they enlisted, who signed them up, how tall they were, you know.

David: Um hmm.

Fisher: It’s really good.

David: Yeah. The database you’re talking about is the US Army Register of Enlistments on Ancestry.

Fisher: Right.

David: And that covers 1798 to 1914.

Fisher: Yes! Very good. So, hopefully that will help. Now you know that there’s stuff out there for the Mexican American War. David, thank you very much. We are done.

David: All righty.

Fisher: Thanks to everybody for listening in this week. We will be back again with another one next time around. If you missed any of the show, want to catch it again, you can do so of course by listening to the podcast, it’s on iHeart Radio, it’s on TuneIn Radio, it’s on Spotify, it’s on AppleMedia and of course ExtremeGenes.com. 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!


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

Email me new episodes