Episode 472 - “Photo Angel” Finds and Gifts Antique Pics to Descendants / Researching Cuban Records

podcast episode Sep 11, 2023

Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. Family Histoire News begins with the story of a pair of adopted siblings who learned something remarkable about each other. Then, DNA has come through again in another cold case. One hundred eleven years since its sinking, Titanic continues to make news. David has the latest. Another ship wreck has been found, this time in the Great Lakes. David explains. Next, Amelia Earhart continues to fascinate, and a new clue concerning her disappearance is being investigated.


Fisher then visits with “The Photo Angel,” Kate Kelley. A few years ago, Kate started investigating old photos found in antique stores that identify the person in the image.  She would then research them, track down descendants of the ancestor, and pass the photo along. She’s done this with thousands of pictures sent all over the world!

Then, Elizabeth Murray Vargas of sponsor Legacy Tree Genealogists comes on to talk about the difficult challenge of researching Cuban ancestry.

In Segments 4 and 5, David returns for Ask Us Anything.

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


Segment 1 Episode 472

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

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. Well, it's great to have you along. We got a couple of great guests today as always. First up, coming up here in about ten minutes or so, we're going to talk to Kate Kelley. She's known as the photo Angel. And she goes to antique stores, finds 19th century photographs, researches the people in them, traces down their descendants and gives them to them. Yeah, you're going to want to hear her story, coming up here in just a little bit. And then later in the show from our friends over at Legacy Tree Genealogists, our great sponsors, we've got Elizabeth Murray Vargas on, talking about Cuban genealogy. Yeah, talk about tough stuff. You're going to want to hear that too. It's time now to head out to Boston, Massachusetts, where David Allen Lambert is standing by. He is the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society in a little place called AmericanAncestors.org. Hey Dave, how’re you doing?

David: I'm doing great. Enjoying the last days of summer as we roll into fall and watching the leaves change and fall over my driveway.

Fisher: There you go.

David: [Laughs] Well, you know, I love to start Family Histoire News with a heartwarming story. And this one has to do with family and DNA. And the chances of this happening twice, well, I'd be very surprised. A family in New York adopted two children. Both of them were abandoned. One was found in a diaper bag outside of a building and another one was found in a bathroom stall. So, one of the children, Vicki, who's 19 years old, decided to do a DNA test and thought she might find some surprises on her biological family. She did. Frank, the other baby that they had adopted into that family, well, it's her full brother.

Fisher: Wow! So, the one is thrown out in a diaper bag, the other found in a toilet, both of them from the same mom, obviously, and from the same dad and she abandoned them both. But now they find out they're full sibs. That's incredible!

David: What is the chances of that?

Fisher: [Laughs] Crazy! Well, that's what DNA does, right? I mean, it just breaks open all these secrets.

David: I wish them all the best. And it looks like they've had a lovely life after a rough start.

Fisher: Sure.

David: You know, DNA also is responsible for closure of many cold cases. This one is a 42 year old cold case of Laura Kempton who was 23 who was found dead in Portsmouth, New Hampshire back in 1981. Through DNA and genetic sampling, they've been able to figure out who her killer is. Unfortunately, the killer also died 18 years ago, but the thing about it is, it's now given closure. The family doesn't have to wonder.

Fisher: It's a shame, though, when you hear some of these people pass away before they're punished for their deeds, you know.

David: Yeah. Well, you know, in 1912, the Titanic sank and we've lost 1,500 individuals and probably for the past 30 odd years people have been going to the Titanic. And since 1994, RMS Titanic had exclusive rights to salvage the Titanic. Well, the US government wants to stop that. There’s a planned expedition in 2024. They're trying to stop from having more artifacts brought up, because in the government's eyes, they think it's still a graveyard. It's a little late now since 1000s of artifacts have been brought up.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: But, why not? I had many friends that were on the Titanic as children, and my dear friend, Millvina Dean would probably agree that it should have been left as a cemetery and a memorial for those, not a yard sale.

Fisher: You know, it's a strange thing, though. I don't understand how the United States government can do anything about it, because the ship is in international waters, you know.

David: That's very true. Unless you did Canada, Great Britain and America, forcing something like that. They should have protected it years ago.

Fisher: Interesting.

David: Well, not all ships are as famous as the Titanic. Have you heard of the Trinidad? Well, that's from 1881 when it sank off the coast of Wisconsin, and it was found in Lake Michigan, just recently.

Fisher: Yeah, I saw the picture of this thing and it is in incredibly good shape. I mean, you talk about preservation. I don't really understand the science behind why a ship this old would still be in such great condition. I mean, they're saying some of the sailors’ equipment is still visible on the ship's deck!

David: Um hmm. The wheel is sitting upright.

Fisher: [Laughs] Yes!

David: [Laughs] It's amazing. It's like you're just saying 20 years ago, not 140 years ago.

Fisher: Right, yeah.

David: So, stay tuned. There will probably be artifacts brought up from that one.

Fisher: Yeah, could be.

David: One other search and rescue that's been going on for 86 years is Amelia Earhart, of course, a famous aviator who vanished. Well, now that looking again at a photograph from 2009 from an expedition in the Pacific Ocean around Nikumaroro Island is a remote atoll that is located between New Zealand and Hawaii, appears to show part of an engine cover buried underneath what could have been part of the Aviators plane. It’s a style of engine cover that matched her plane. Stay tuned.

Fisher: Hmm, well they’ve been looking for her for a long time. My uncle was on one of the original Navy ships that was out looking for her back in the 30s.

David: Wow!

Fisher: It's incredible to think that somebody could find them now and maybe even run DNA on some bones or something at some point. So, hopefully that will happen. She's so iconic.

David: Definitely a part of history. Well, you know, some of our stories of our ancestors, we always like to know where they lived. Well, if you have ancestors that lived near Albania, they have just discovered an 8000 year old village built on stilts in the Balkans. Yeah.

Fisher: Wow!

David: And the wooden stilts are still there, Fish. They say that it probably dates from somewhere between 5800 to 5900 BCE.

Fisher: Now, are we talking about stilts to keep the structures out of lakes and ponds or oceans?

David: Um hmm. Yeah. So you'd have like fishing villages, right on the shores of places that you could fish, and you know, transportation. No different than what we look at as modern docks that vessels use today.

Fisher: In fact, in Florida during the recent hurricane, there were a lot of homes that survived, because they were on stilts right near the ocean. So, interesting stuff to know that that technology goes back so far.

David: Well, it looks like this one's lasted a long time. So whatever they did correct, its lasting.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: Well, American Ancestors would love to welcome you in 2024 when we open our new building in Discovery Center, but until then, you could still join as a member on AmericanAncestors.org. And don't forget the coupon code “Extreme” to save $20 each time.

Fisher: All right, David, thank you so much. And we will talk to you at the back end of the show as we continue with Ask Us Anything. And coming up next, we head back to Massachusetts for Kate Kelley. She is known as the photo angel. She finds antique photos from all over the place and antique stores, and then traces down descendants of the people in those photos and gives them back to them. You're going to want to hear this story. It's coming up next in three minutes when we return on Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 472

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Kate Kelley

Fisher: Hey, welcome back. It’s Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth. And we head back to Massachusetts once again because I have Kate Kelley on the line. She is known as the Photo Angel after the last couple of years. And you know, we’ve got angels in our space all over the place. They do DNA on behalf of people who need some help. Well, Kate goes out and finds old photographs and tracks down who they should go to. And Kate, it is a pleasure to have you on the show. When did you get started with this?

Kate: Oh, thank you so much for inviting me to be on your show. The Photo Angel project started about two years ago, although I’ve been into genealogy since I was a child.  But my mom and I were going through some old photos that belonged to my grandparents and we were separating them into two piles; our relatives, and people that we weren’t related to. They were either friends of my grandparents, or war buddies, or neighbors, and they were all labeled on the back so we knew who the people were but we didn’t know them personally. They meant something to my grandparents and we’re a couple of generations removed, so we were thinking wouldn’t it be wonderful to see if we could track down the relatives in the photos. And because I’ve been into genealogy for so long, I was familiar with the genealogy websites. So, I jumped onto Ancestry.com and I started plugging in the information that was on the back of these photos, and I met with success. I connected with this gentleman from Tennessee. He was ecstatic when I was telling him about the photos that we had. He said, “Oh my goodness, you have photos of my family members, some of which are my ancestors that I’ve never seen before.

Fisher: Wow!

Kate: Yes. And so that felt wonderful to be able to get the photos back to where they belonged. And actually, the process triggered a memory for me. Years ago, I had gone into an antique store for other reasons and I saw a box of photos with price tags on them.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Kate: And I think my jaw hit the floor. I could not wrap my head around that. Being the genealogy buff that I am, my own family photos are such precious items to me, I couldn’t believe that they were in a box for sale. So, anyway, I’m a school teacher, and at the time there was an antique store down the street from my school so I thought I may as well pop in after school one day and see if I can find some photos with identifiable information on them.

Fisher: Okay.

Kate: So, that’s what I did. And I was going through the dusty boxes and taking everything that I could find that had a first name, a last name, and a location on it, going through this method.

Fisher: And off you went.

Kate: Yes. And then the stories, they started rolling in. I started chronicling them in a Facebook group and encouraging other people to do it. And before you knew it, I was on the Today Show. It was just insane.

Fisher: [Laughs] No kidding!

Kate: Yes.

Fisher: Now, wait a minute, wait a minute. You go from antique store to the Today Show. And how much were these pictures that you were looking at in the store?

Kate: yeah. So, your average cabinet card goes for about $5 and those are the photos that were taken in the late 1800s, early 1900s. And then you have snapshots from the 1940s. They can range a couple of dollars apiece. And so, you know, I had $20 and I spent $20 and that’s what I bought for the day. I can’t even tell you how exciting this project is, and how wonderful the connections have been. I’ve met the most fascinating people.

Fisher: I bet you have. And I bet you, you have stories too that they’ve told you back about these individuals.

Kate: Oh, oh love it. I love the research, I love hearing the stories, and my absolute favorite is when I get to hand-deliver the photos to people. Now these photos are going all over the country and internationally, but on occasion I get photos from, you know, the New England area. And when I get to have that personal experience, it’s such a blessing.

Fisher: So, you mentioned overseas.

Kate: Yes.

Fisher: You found some photos that go back over there and you’ve been able to track those people down. Let’s talk about some of the furthest ones you’ve been able to send out.

Kate: Sure. So, the furthest photos that I’ve been able to send so far are to Australia and New Zealand.   

Fisher: Oh. [Laughs]

Kate: Yes. [Laughs]

Fisher: That’s insane.

Kate: Yes, and early on in the project, believe it or not. Yeah. And I’ve sent quite a few back to the UK, and some to Canada, some to Germany. So, really I’m a first name basis now with my friends at the post office because these photos are just going out all the time.

Fisher: I’ll bet. Well, do some of these people actually reimburse you for your cost?

Kate: They do. Yes. So I don't charge for returned photos or other pieces of ephemera, or items that I find in antique stores. But people have been incredibly generous. They will send me photos to research or they will send monetary donation, they'll send me stamps, which helps so much, envelopes all that good stuff.    

Fisher: Wow, that’s amazing. So, how many pictures have you returned to owners over these last few years? It’s only been a few years now, right?

Kate: That's correct. So oh, I regret not keeping better records. But if I were to estimate, I would say I'm in the 1000s at this time.

Fisher: Wow. Now you're married. You have a family. How do they put up with this? [Laughs]

Kate: Yes, I have an incredibly supportive family. I have a husband of over 20 years and a 17 year old son. So, I'm the Photo Angel, I'm a teacher, I'm a mother, I'm a wife, yeah, I wear a lot of hats with pride.

Fisher: That's amazing.

Kate: My husband's great. He'll go with me to all the antique stores, all the in person photo returns. He is the unsung hero of the Photo Angel project.

Fisher: So he's loving it too.

Kate: He is loving it. Yeah, it's a lot of fun. It's, it's a thrill of the hunt. I have plenty of photos that I can work with. But I will never pass up a chance to go to an antique store. It's just so fun.

Fisher: Kate, let me ask you then, what is like the biggest story that you've ever found that you will never forget as long as you live, and every time you go and talk about this, say on Extreme Genes or the Today Show, whatever it might be, what do you tell people?

Kate: So to date, my absolute favorite return, goes like this, I was giving an in person presentation. Sometimes I do them on Zoom, but an in person presentation on the Photo Angel project in Rhode Island for Historical Society. And after the presentation, this woman came up to me with this gorgeous antique photo album. And I thought hey, she was probably just going to show me some old pictures from her family. I love old photos, I'll take a look. And she explained to me that she had purchased this album about 50 years ago at an antique store. And over the years she had tried to connect with a relative to return the photos to but she didn't have any success. So she had heard about the project and she wanted to donate the entire album. And it was like Christmas came early. It was the most gorgeous album full of all of these beautifully labeled photos. And I said to her, “Please let me give you something for this”. And she said, “No, no, this is my donation”. And then I said okay, I vowed to do my best. So I went on to Ancestry and I connected with this gentleman from Freeport, Maine named Stuart Bridesman. He was ecstatic because he said, “I can't even believe that you have photos of virtually all of my relatives.”

Fisher: How far back did this book go?

Kate: Oh, my goodness, Civil War era.

Fisher: Ooh!

Kate: Oh, yeah. It was unbelievable.

Fisher: So did you do reverse genealogy then? You have these very early ancestors, and you pulled them all forward looks like four or five generations to find Stuart and he was interested.

Kate: Oh, yeah. So I said to him, what's your address? I will send the album. He said, “Oh, no.” He said, “I'm retired. I'm coming down. And I want to meet you.” I said, well, let me meet you halfway. “No, no, I'm coming down. We'll meet on a weekend.” I said, Okay. So he came down, and he brought his laptop, and we spent an awesome afternoon, going through each photo, and he would verify his relationship to each person in the photograph. There were only like a handful of people that we couldn't find the connection. But in this album was a picture of his dad as a little boy that he had never seen before standing with his grandfather, and then everybody else was aunts and uncles, and cousins and other ancestors. So the most historically significant photo in this collection was of his Civil War ancestor that he had never seen a photo of before.

Fisher: Oh, wow!

Kate: It was unbelievable. And he was in his uniform. And this ancestor of his had survived multiple Civil War imprisonments and wrote of his experiences in these Civil War prison camps. And so he has this book that you can buy online, and no one had ever seen a picture of him and now we have a photo to go along with it.

Fisher: Oh my gosh!

Kate: Oh, and here’s the cherry, this is unbelievable, Stewart is a retired photographer.

Fisher: Oh, wow.

Kate: So it was the most fitting gift for a retired photographer, and he and I have become fast friends.

Fisher: Of course.

Kate: My family went up to Freeport, Maine to do some antiquing and he said, “Is it okay if I come?” I said of course. So, he was so good. He was following us around to all the antique stores and he was really getting into it and he said, “Oh Kate, now I know what you mean. I understand how addictive this is.” I said, I told you. So he looks for pictures for me in Freeport, Maine.

Fisher: Isn't that incredible? I mean, his head must have exploded.

Kate: Oh pretty much. Yeah.

Fisher: I mean, you don’t get things like that. Yeah.

Kate: Oh, yeah. It was unbelievable. It was just it was meant to be it was so exciting.

Fisher: And do you share some of these stories with your students at school when you teach?

Kate: You know, people have asked me that and at school I'm Mrs. Kelley. And so I haven't really, right.

Fisher: But you'd be a great history teacher sharing some of these things. You know?

Kate: I know, I know. I will say this. If an opportunity presents itself, then I share, but we're focused on what we need to do at school.

Fisher: There you go. Well, she is Kate Kelley. She is the Photo Angel. And where can people find you, Kate?

Kate: People can find me on Facebook on the Photo Angel Facebook and Instagram. And I also have a YouTube channel.

Fisher: Wow! Well, awesome stuff. Thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing the story. It was incredible.

Kate: You're welcome. Thank you so much.

Fisher: And coming up next, you think you have a tough road to hoe with your ancestors? How about researching in Cuba? Hear what Elizabeth Murray Vargas has to say about Cuban genealogy coming up next when we return in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 3 Episode 472

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Elizabeth Murray Vargas

Fisher: All right back on America's Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Root Sleuth. And, you know we talk about a lot of different research places, ancestral towns, ancestral countries, and some are a little harder than others like Eastern Europe. And one place I don't think we've ever talked about in 10 years of Extreme Genes that's really difficult has got to be Cuba. And believe it or not, we have a researcher on the line from our sponsors over at Legacy Tree Genealogists. She's Elizabeth Murray Vargas. And Elizabeth, you've become something of an expert on Cuban genealogy. Let's talk about it.

Elizabeth: Thank you for having me on the show today. I appreciate it.

Fisher: Well, it's great to have you. How did you get interested in such a difficult area?

Elizabeth: Well, I actually started my research path not in Latin America, but in Scotland, which is my other half.

Fisher: Okay.

Elizabeth: But I am a first generation American on my father's side and my mother's side half Scottish and half Dominican. So, immigrant research really became a passion for me and helping people connect themselves to their country of origin.

Fisher: Sure.

Elizabeth: I was born and raised in the Northeast in a bilingual household, and I've recently moved back to New Jersey after living in Miami for the last 20 years.

Fisher: Ah, there you go.

Elizabeth: That was the reason why Cuban research really became a focal point for me because that was the community that I lived in.

Fisher: Yeah.

Elizabeth: My husband's Cuban my children are proud Cuban descendants and it became something that I did a lot just as a result of my geographic location.

Fisher: Interesting. I lived in Miami for some time, there's a huge Cuban community there. Are there a lot of people who like to research their ancestry and are they finding success?

Elizabeth: Well, we do have a large group of people that research their ancestry and the Cuban genealogy club of Miami is very large and very active. But I think that people become very disillusioned by their inability to find records online. And I think that's where the struggle happens for many people who are researching their Cuban roots.

Fisher: Sure, they haven't probably been over here very long. I mean, probably two, three generations at the most, right?

Elizabeth: They have not. And when they came here, like in many countries, they did not come with anything. So they have very few records that they have in their possession, because they weren't able to come with documentation.

Fisher: Right.

Elizabeth: Except for the basics of what they could bring. So they have very little information on paper. But they do have a lot of information in stories, because the closeness of a Cuban family in Cuba, and here in the United States, oftentimes, homes contain several generations.

Fisher: Right.

Elizabeth: And there's a lot of storytelling about life in Cuba. So people do know their story. They just don't have a lot of genealogical details for it.

Fisher: So you have oral tradition, in many cases?

Elizabeth: Yes, for sure.

Fisher: So, where do you start with somebody pursuing their Cuban ancestry?

Elizabeth: Well, like in most genealogy, the most important thing is to start and do a preliminary research of records that you have within your family. And that is really important, because in Cuba, you need to know the exact location of where someone lived. There are 15 different provinces in Cuba, and those provinces are divided into many more municipalities. Havana in and of itself has about 15 municipalities. And records are located either in the civil registry, if it occurred after the 1900s or they're located in each individual church.

Fisher: Are people actually able to write to Cuba and obtain records, does that happen regularly?

Elizabeth: You can, it is possible. And you're able to write to the archdiocese and the different areas or the different churches. However, getting a letter to Cuba and it finding its path to the church and getting a response is almost impossible. It's not unheard of, people do it. And they'll wait and they may get a response. But really having somebody on the ground in Cuba is what we call the holy grail of Cuban genealogical research. You really have to have somebody that is in Cuba, and will go to the churches for you to locate the records that you're looking for,

Fisher: Are there professionals there? Professional genealogists who will do that?

Elizabeth: There are. In particular, for Legacy Tree, we have an educated historian. This is her life's passion, family history. And she is really wonderful, and going to the churches and finding records to help our clients build back their family trees.

Fisher: That is absolutely unbelievable. Now, how far back do Cuban records take you?

Elizabeth: Well, it depends on the location as is in many other countries. There has been some record loss as a result of the 10 year war, or the war of Cuba's independence. But Cuba was founded and settled in 1514. And I have personally seen records for family history dating back to the early 1700s, late 1600s. So you really can go very far back with Cuban genealogy.

Fisher: So, are there records other than church records? I would assume the Catholic Church is the best place for most family records.

Elizabeth: There are. Well, there are two different types of records that you can find in Cuba, the civil registry, which became compulsory in about 1900, maybe a little bit earlier than that, where people were required to go to what is called the La jueza municipal, which is the municipal judge, and to register their births. Before that all events took place in the Catholic Church. So some people have a marriage or a birth that is registered in the civil registry. But that same event And occurred in the birth so they will have duplicate records, one in the Catholic Church and one from the civil registry. Before civil registration, then yes, Cuba being a Catholic country, all events were required to take place in the Catholic Church. And so all baptisms and marriages were recorded in the local church where the person lived.

Fisher: So they don't have a central repository for all of the Catholic records or they're just church by church.

Elizabeth: There is no central repository for Catholic records, even the civil registry. There are several civil registries throughout the island. Havana in and of itself has a little over six I believe. And then in the church, church records are held by the different parishes where the event took place throughout the island.

Fisher: Wow! So it's really essential that somebody goes literally to each parish, right?

Elizabeth: Well, it's essential that you know where you're from, like I said, Havana is divided into 15 municipalities, and there's about 105 neighborhoods within those municipalities. So when somebody says, my family was from Havana, that's really not precise enough.

Fisher: Okay.

Elizabeth: We really need to know which of the 15 municipalities that somebody may have lived in Havana, because just in Havana alone, there are I believe, about 60 historical Catholic churches.

Fisher: Oh, wow!

Elizabeth: So if you do not know exactly where in Havana your family lived, then you'd have to go to 60 churches to be able to find a record. So it's really important, which is why I talk about interviewing your family and trying to find out as much as you can from the abuela that you have, your grandmother sister that you haven't spoken to in a very long time.

Fisher: [Laughs] Right.

Elizabeth: It's really important to find out as much as you can, even the most trivial of information is important to know.

Fisher: And if you want to read Elizabeth Murray Vargas’s article about Cuban genealogy, you can do so at the Legacy Tree Genealogists website LegacyTree.com. Elizabeth fascinating stuff! Thanks for coming on and filling us in on this.

Elizabeth: Thank you so much for having me. It's been a pleasure.

Fisher: And coming up next David Allen Lambert rejoins me for another round of Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 4 Episode 472

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, we're back on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. And David Allen Lambert is back. And David, we get this question from Leanne in Detroit, Michigan. She says, “Guys, my ancestor was a Mason in the 1850s in New York City. Are their records and how do I find them?” That's a great question, because I think so many of us have ancestors or relatives who are in Masonic lodges, especially in the 19th century.

David: That is very true. You actually, you're in luck, because the records do survive, and especially for the state of New York. One of the first things just to toss out in general to you is that every lodge kept its own records. But there was a grand secretary of each colony or then later, state that preserved the records and kept a record of them. So there was a duplicate copy. The grand secretary of each state generally supplies the information for free. In fact, Massachusetts, where I live, American Ancestors digitized all the Masonic index cards from 1733, right down to about 1980.

Fisher: Wow!

David: New York is the sticky wicket, they charge. In fact, they’re only state that I believe does charge that I recall. Livingston Masonic Library in New York at 71 West, 23rd Street on the 14th floor, you must mail a check for $35 made payable to the Robert Livingston Masonic Library. They will actually allow you to where you can do an online donation through their website, which is NewYorkMasonicLibrary.org/Research.

Fisher: Now I know that one of my great grandfather's brothers, two of them actually were masons, and one of them shows up in a database on Ancestry.

David: Right. The Masonic worldwide database from 1860, right before the Civil War, it's a really strong database.

Fisher: Yeah, it's really good, and it mentions his occupation where he lives. So, even though he had a very common name, David Fisher, it was really easy to identify him, especially through his address.

David: And the nice thing is, you get occupation. The other thing about Masons is, when they died, and if they were in the Masonic brotherhood until that time, oftentimes you'll find a square and compass with the letter G in the middle of it on their gravestone, obituaries exist, photographs of Masonic lodges, Mason Lodge is old enough to still have their collections. You might sometimes find a femoral like swords or gauntlets that somebody would have worn, the apron, Masonic apron somebody had, so there's so much treasure out there. The one thing that I find with Masonic records, just to let you know what you might find, Leanne is, the name of the person, the full name, the date of birth and place of birth, which is great if your ancestor was foreign born, because it will tell you where in Germany he was born in 1827.

Fisher: Oh wow!

David: It will give you the first, second and third degrees of masonry, usually they're a month apart, when they were raised as a Mason, which is at the end, if they served in any office, if they died while they were a member of the Masons, it will give you their date of death and place to death. Now, this is going to vary state by state. And of course, the earlier records, the less information on there, but that's typically what you find.

Fisher: Wow!

David: For a mason that was around the late 19th century.

Fisher: You know, it kind of reminds me of the draft registration cards for World War I and World War II. I mean, pretty much everything that you mentioned is in there. Obviously, they're going to have those unique dates for becoming Masons. But, that is a real worthwhile document to come across, especially if you're having trouble identifying key information on one of your people. I'd love to get that on some of my people had they belonged to a particular Lodge.

David: Right. I wish the same thing existed for the Odd Fellows. There doesn't seem to be a great collection state by state of Odd Fellows records. And of course, the same type of thing is these fraternal organizations, once they die off, the records are in jeopardy unless they're preserved, have a central location to be sent to.

Fisher: Sure. And we have the same thing with the Grand Army of the Republic. That's a big problem.

David: Um hmm, right.

Fisher: Well, great question. Thank you so much for it, Leanne. And coming up next, we have a DNA question we will get to when we return and three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 472

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right back for our final question this week on Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. This from Anthony in Afton, Illinois, David, and he says, “Guys, I'm trying to identify a set of fourth grade grandparents through DNA. So far, nothing! Any ideas of what else I can do to make a breakthrough?” Wow, that's a complicated question, but I think I would start with this question to you, Anthony. How many people are you keeping track of as far as their DNA goes? If it's just you, you might be limiting the DNA matches that you could find that ties back to parents of your third grade grandparents. So, if you were then to start reaching out to people, maybe your siblings, maybe your first cousins, maybe some second cousins and see if they would be willing to do DNA tests. I will tell you that I have somewhere around 30 different DNA tests that I actually can go into and look at with the permission of the people who actually took them. And through that, I'm actually able to find many, many more matches than I was ever able to get between just myself and my brother and my sister. And it's made a huge difference. And as a result of that, sometimes you'll find somebody in Australia who spit in the tube, who matched your second cousin, who shares that match with somebody else, who shares that match with another and then all of a sudden, you have the clue you need to start knocking on the door.

David: Well, you know, it's amazing with DNA how much it's been a game changer. If you had that same question 30 years ago, how would you find that? I mean, could you even think of how long it would take you to try to narrow that down?

Fisher: No. I mean, first of all, you got to deal with the paper trail, if there is one. And I would assume, Anthony, you've done your due diligence as far as that goes. And this is kind of the last thing. During the pandemic, I actually had the same thing happen. And it just happened to be some matches that came up from the Pacific, some people over there who are of English extraction. They matched other people outside of my immediate family. And I was able to then triangulate in on that. And then I found the paper trail, and it picked it up. And I discovered my fourth grade grandparents exactly the same situation as yours. The third greats had been in London, couldn't find anything further there, but discovered that they'd had another child we didn't know about. And it was up in Oxfordshire, which is about 35 miles northeast of London. And as a result of that, and the DNA matches, then we were able to go back and find the marriage record, which gave us the maiden name of the mother, which gave us the names of the parents of both of these people. And off we went. And so, now I'm back about five, six generations on both sides as a result of the fact that we got more and more cousins, close and distant, to share their DNA with us, so that we can go and look for these matches.

David: Pretty amazing. And you know, I think that as he does more investigating into his tree, he might find cousins that haven't tested or maybe have, but the results are private.

Fisher: Yeah, that's true, too. And you can ask people who have private results if they'd be willing to share it, because you are a DNA match. I mean, it's not like a cold call, where somebody's like, “Well, who are you? What do you want?” “Well, you know, I'm a DNA match to you. We're related somehow. Let's try to figure this out together what's going on there.” Another thing I like to do on Ancestry with DNA is, I regularly click unseen matches and has common ancestors, those two filter buttons, because sometimes you'll find that you get new matches on there that are below the fourth cousin level. And as a result of this, you can find fifth and sixth cousins. And then you can go back and start to find, well, what do you have in common there? And maybe those people have a tree that you wouldn't pick up on normally, if you're just looking for the new ones within the fourth cousin parameters.

David: I’ll tell you, Fish, we live in an exciting time for genealogy with DNA, and with computers and databases like Ancestry, American Ancestors and all these wonderful tools that when we first started doing genealogy, we were back to the Dark Ages.

Fisher: [Laughs] We were in the Dark Ages. David thanks so much. And thanks, Anthony for the question. And that is our show for this week. And thank you for joining us. If you missed any of it or you want to catch it again, of course, listen to the podcast version. You can find it all over the place, Apple Media, TuneIn Radio, iHeart Radio, ExtremeGenes.com, Spotify, wherever fine podcasts are found. Talk to you next week. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice normal family!

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