Episode 473 - New York Born Texas Man on his Decades-long Journey in Search For His Freedom Fighting Birth Father

podcast episode Sep 18, 2023

Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. They begin Family Histoire News with the story of a dog that served on both sides of the Revolutionary War! David explains. Then, how would you like to have access to over 59,000 dissertations on countless subjects? Dave will tell you where to find them. Who knew that pants were so controversial in Roman times? David will tell you how pants went from banned to required! In Israel, those caves that brought us the Dead Sea Scrolls have now given us more ancient treasures. Hear what they are. In Egypt, 19th century graffiti, where Europeans left their mark on ancient edifices, is being researched to learn who those people were. And finally, DNA work on 1,100 skulls is tying these dead people to their descendants. Hear who is doing the work.

Next, over two segments, Fisher visits with Matamba Austin of Frisco, Texas. Matamba was born and raised in New York City. He also saw the world in travels with his mother, a worker at the United Nations. Hear how a dream and a revelation from his mother changed his life and sent him on a decades long journey to identify his freedom-fighter father in Africa.

Then, David returns for more of Ask Us Anything.

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


Segment 1 Episode 473

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 is great to have you along today. We have a fascinating guest to talk to. He's a Texas man. Well, actually from New York originally, though he doesn't sound like it. His name is Matamba Austin. And he grew up believing he was a Caribbean boy, because both his parents were Caribbean, so he thought. And then at 27, without the benefit of DNA, he learned something that took him on a journey that has lasted over two decades. And you're going to want to hear this story coming up, starting in about 10 minutes or so. Right now, it's time to head out to Boston David Allen Lambert is standing by, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. Hello, David.

David: Hey, Fish, how's it going today?        

Fisher: Grand and glorious. Let us get going on our Family Histoire News, because we got a lot of it to cover.

David: We do indeed. Well, you know, I'm going to talk about a rebel. And during the American Revolution, most of our ancestors were rebels.

Fisher: Yep.

David: Unless you're me and have some loyalists in there. Well, anyways, I'm going to talk about General Richard Montgomery, who was slain at the Battle of Quebec. He was on the rebel forces and was killed December 31, 1775. He was quickly buried. And when the British saw his burial, they decided he was an officer, dug him up. And he was buried in the snow, mind you. And there was a rebel with him. Well, this rebel was a Newfoundland dog. It was his companion and he stayed by the general side, even after he had been buried. And this is a remarkable story, because after they reburied the general in the ground, the dog started to dig him up. Well, this dog became part of the British Army.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: Probably not willingly signing over from the American side, and traveled all the way back to England in 1783. And his offspring later were in the British Army.

Fisher: That's crazy! So, this dog was on both sides of the Revolutionary War through no choice of its own.

David: I know. It's amazing to think this dog might have a chance of joining the SAR.

Fisher: Right! Yes. [Laughs]

David: But he'd have to have really good pedigree. American Historical Association, Fish. Have you heard of that before?

Fisher: I have not. Have you?

David: Well, I did recently. In fact, our good friend Melanie McComb was telling me about dissertation she was searching on this website and it's called Secure.Historians.org. Fish, on there, there are over 59,000 dissertations that you can search for free from over 204 history departments in the US and Canada. So, you know, it's like AI technology. Well, put it in the topic, see what you can find. Well, you can see what somebody already wrote, so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

Fisher: Wow! And I'm looking at this and it looks like you can actually have a free account.

David: Free is good for me. So, give it a try. You might find an ancestor who was famous or a battle or a town or a subject matter and see how to get that dissertation or contact the student that’s currently working on it. Maybe you can add to what they're working on. Well, one thing that I found fascinating, I've really never given a lot of thought, what did my ancient ancestors wear? Well tunics, I suppose if they have Roman connections. You know, Rome is great for fashion now, even then. So in 113 AD, we know that there's a 12 foot thick 98 foot tall face relief called Trajan’s Column that has the Romans, ready for this, not wearing tunics, but wearing pants.

Fisher: Wow!

David: So, sometime around the 110s this was fashionable enough to put it in stone.

Fisher: [Laughs] You know, you think about that they went from being banned to required by the Roman Empire.

David: Exactly. Well, you know, speaking of Romans, over in Israel right now, while they were in that same caves that they were looking and found the Dead Sea Scrolls. Well, they found, ready for this, four 1900 year old Roman swords still in the leather and wooden scabbards.

Fisher: Wow!

David: And it's amazing, because you know, you would find a sword, generally in an archeological find, and it's rotted away.

Fisher: Right.

David: And it’s rusty. Yeah, these are, you know, there is a little bit of rust in them, but to have the leather or wooden scabbard is a rare thing. And to find four is amazing.

Fisher: That is astonishing. Those caves, I mean, they just are the gift that keep on giving.

David: They really are. And what else will they find? Well, you know, one of the things about archaeological sites, and of course I've seen recently in the news about tourists putting graffiti on the Colosseum and getting caught and it’s becoming a big problem now. Well, this has been going on for hundreds of years. In fact, they're looking at European 19th century graffiti and earlier graffiti in ancient Egypt where people would go and visit a temple and scratch their name in it. Well, these scratches now are more interesting than before. And the vandalism in the names and carvings are being studied.

Fisher: Really? So they might actually connect them to people back in Europe. Is that what you're saying?

David: Um hmm, exactly. The vandalism from long ago, now you can find out about it from an archaeologist. [Laughs]

Fisher: Um hmm.

David: Well, the last story is a little hideous, but I want to share it, because it has to do with DNA and of course, people's ancestors. A Berlin Museum is now studying the descendants of skulls that were stolen from an African colony. In fact, they've now found descendants from these burials that were probably dug up in the 19th or pre World War I. And they're connecting it to people in Tanzania. Fish, they have, ready for this, over 1100 skulls.

Fisher: Wow! So they're tying them to the people that owned those skulls. And what are they going to do with them, return them to the family?

David: Yeah, there's repatriation planned. Pretty amazing. And apparently they have a collection of over 7700 skulls that they're working on, but the first 1100, they're from the German East African colonies, and now, just Tanzania.

Fisher: Wow!

David: Amazing!

Fisher: That is incredible.

David: Well, that's what I have for you right now. But don't forget, if you're not an American Ancestors member, we'd love to have you join in. The coupon code “Extreme” will save you $20 on that purchase.

Fisher: All right, that's a great purchase too. Lots of great stuff on AmericanAncestors.org. David, thank you very much. We will be back with you at the back end of the show as we answer some questions on Ask Us Anything. And coming up next, we're going to talk to Matamba Austin, a Texas man with a story you won't believe, when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 473

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Matamba Austin

Fisher: Hey, welcome back to America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher, here your Radio Roots Sleuth. And as you know, if you’ve been a regular listener of this show over the last 10 years, we love those stories from ordinary people with extraordinary finds. Not that we like to call anybody ordinary but it just means that anybody can find remarkable tales in their past. And that is certainly the case with my next guest. He is Matamba Austin and he lives down in Frisco, Texas. And Matamba welcome to the show. Just delighted to have you!

Matamba: Thank you Scott. I really appreciate you doing this with me.

Fisher: Now, you don’t sound like a New Yorker, and I’m very familiar with them. But I know you were born in Manhattan and raised there with a mom who worked in the UN. So, you’ve got a lot of background there.

Matamba: Yeah. I kind of grew up in a melting pot instead of a melting pot, at least how I think of it. In addition to growing up in Manhattan, I got to go to school in a place called United Nations Internationally School. It’s a school in Manhattan for children of diplomats and employees. So, I guess I don’t have an accent because there are probably a 100 different countries represented in the student body. And so that was how I grew up.

Fisher: Boy what a great experience for you too. Now, your mom served in the UN for how long?

Matamba: Over 30 years. Served all over the world doing all kinds of things.

Fisher: So you got to see the world then?

Matamba: I did. More than most people get to. I was grateful for that.

Fisher: [Laughs] That’s incredible. And then your mom was of Caribbean background, as was your father as you grew up.

Matamba: That’s right. My mother is from Guyana, my father is from Haiti, and I thought I was Caribbean-American, you know, that’s the family I was presented with.

Fisher: But 24 years ago there was not DNA as we have today. You found out something entirely different. Let’s go through this remarkable story.

Matamba: Well, I had just graduated from law school, and my girlfriend had saved up her airline miles and surprised me with a gift of a trip anywhere I wanted to go with her in the world. And so I had never been to Sub-Saharan Africa, so I went to my mother who literally knows somebody in every country in the world you might think.

Fisher: I’ll bet. Yeah.

Matamba: And I was hoping that she could help me pick a place to go to and maybe send me in a direction of somebody she knew there. And the conversation got into a fight because she was really uncomfortable about the notion of me going to Africa, and I didn’t understand why. And so in the middle of the fight she kind of yelled at me, she said, “You’re just like your father. It’s always you against the world.” And that really puzzled me.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Matamba: Because the man I knew as my father was the most conflict-averse person you’ll ever meet. He’ll never ever, ever, ever starts a fight. But you know, I didn’t think of it in the moment and we went our separate ways. And then I went to sleep that night and I had the strangest dream that I hadn’t had since I was a child. It was me as a very young child, and I could tell I was young because I had to reach up to hold the hand of the adult I was with. I couldn’t make out the face of the person I was with but I could tell it was a man. And we were somewhere in New York, and he was walking down the street and I think he just wanted me to understand that he had to leave for some reason.

Fisher: Okay.

Matamba: And that was the whole dream. I woke up. And then the next night I had it again. And then the next night I had it a third time. I’m kind of going crazy. I’m like, what is this?

Fisher: Sure. 

Matamba: So, I went back to my mother and I told her everything I’m telling you and I asked her why am I having this dream? And she looked at me and she just said, “That’s because your father is not your father”.

Fisher: Ohh.

Matamba: That’s how I found out, at the age of 27.

Fisher: 27. That has to be a sick in the gut.

Matamba: Well, it kind of turns your world upside. I mean, the one thing you think you know is who you are.

Fisher: Sure. Right, your identity. And you’re a Caribbean through and through?

Matamba: Well, I thought so. So I asked her, “Okay. Well, then who’s my father?” And she said that when she was younger, she met and fell in love with a man from Angola. They got married. They had me. And that he went to go fight in the battle for independence for Angola against the Portuguese colony. And he was killed. And that was that. And so she met the man that I know as my father, right after, and they thought I was so young at the time that they probably shouldn’t burden me with this and so they never did.

Fisher: And that was it. And so did she give you names? Did she give you family? What did she tell you about this man?

Matamba: Well, I asked a whole bunch of questions and she gave me his first name. And I asked about surviving family and she said that he was an orphan because there was a massive civil war in Angola that lasted for over 30 years.

Fisher: Yes.

Matamba: I asked if she had any artifacts or anything. And she said that she was so mad when she found out that he was killed that she threw everything out. And so that’s all I had to go on was a name.

Fisher: Roadblocks.

Matamba: She didn’t even have a picture. Just nothing.

Fisher: Yeah. Wow! You have seen the world, obviously you’ve gone through law school, you’re a practical person, toy can put these things together, but you didn’t hardly have anything but like a tiny little thread to start with in this journey to identify who this man was, right?

Matamba: That’s right. And so I went to my girlfriend and I told her this story and she asked me how I was feeling? And I said, well, I was feeling kind of upset but more at him than at her. Because I was thinking no matter how patriotic you might feel, why would you leave a young woman and a baby to fend for themselves alone in New York City in the 1970s?

Fisher: Hmm.

Matamba: And my girlfriend, who I’m now married to by the way, she’s very empathetic and very intuitive. So she just looked at me and she said, “Well, your mother said you’re just like him, so what would make you do something like that?” And it stopped me in my tracks because I hadn’t really considered that.

Fisher: Wow!

Matamba: But I took a pause and I said, “Well, I would only do it if I would be leaving to accomplish something that would be hugely important for the independence movement and for my family. It would have to be something that I was uniquely qualified to do. And I would have to have a reasonable chance of success so I could get back to my family.

Fisher: Yeah.

Matamba: And she said, “It makes sense. So there’s got to be more to this story.” And that started us on a 20 year quest to figure out why he left.

Fisher: Yeah. I’ll bet. And to find out who he was, and to go to your home country, and all of this.

Matamba: Exactly.

Fisher: What an incredible thing. And so where does this begin? I mean, you had a first name and you had a country and that’s it, right?

Matamba: Well, we started in the traditional way that you and your guests so well explained on your other episodes. We said let’s go hit the paper first.

Fisher: Yeah.

Matamba: And so I went with the birth certificate that my family has for me, and that’s the first time that I ever realized that there were no parents’ names listed on it. And so I had to go to the state and request a reprint of my original birth certificate, and that’s when I saw my father’s full name. And the next thing I thought was, okay, maybe my step-father formally adopted me and so I thought let me go check the court records to see if in those proceedings there was any details about what happened to my father.

Fisher: It’s good to be a lawyer, isn’t it? [Laughs]

Matamba: Exactly. You put certain lens on, you know, so you can look at the world in a certain way.

Fisher: Yeah.

Matamba: So, I literally went to the New York City court systems, and back then, I mean this is before digital anything.

Fisher: Sure. Of course.

Matamba: So I literally had to go to the court offices. And so I went to the county court office, and I gave them my names and I looked up in the system and they literally handed me a laminate about a newspaper article that described a warehouse fire, which had occurred a few years ago that destroyed thousands of records from that time.

Fisher: Ugh.

Matamba: So that’s as far as the paper shakes to dust there.

Fisher: And so now you had to start in a whole different direction?

Matamba: Exactly. Exactly. And that’s when we had to start getting just really out of the box creative. And so I went back to my mother. I said, “Well, how did he get here? How did he get from war-torn Angola in the 1970s as a refugee to New York?” And she said, “Well, maybe it was kind of a mission scholarship.” And so I thought okay, a mission sounds like a church scholarship, maybe the Catholics. And so I literally got out the phone book, Scott, because it was phone books back then.

Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs]

Matamba: And I started co-calling every single Catholic university in the New York City. And I eventually got the registrar of Fordham University on the phone and I asked her if she was a genealogy fan, and she said she was. And so I told her the story I’m telling you, and I asked her if she’d be willing to just check the records for a college transcript of somebody with my father’s name around the 1970s. And she did. She said yes. And that’s how she found my father’s college transcript. And that was the second piece of paper I ever found that proved that he existed.

Fisher: Wow! Wow, and did it give some information in there to help you going back to Africa?

Matamba: It gave us his birth place in Angola. A place called Malanje.

Fisher: Okay.

Matamba: And when we looked it up, we found that it was the location of a queendom of one of the greatest queens in African history. Her name was Queen Nzinga. And the name of her queendom was Matamba.

Fisher: Ahh! And that’s your name.

Matamba: Exactly. So, that’s how we started realizing that we must be on the right track.

Fisher: Um hmm.

Matamba: And so we tried for years to figure out how does one find a family history in the middle of a country that’s had a 40 year civil war.

Fisher: Yeah.

Matamba: Before the digital age. And it’s really, really, really hard. We reached out to people and nobody could tell us anything. And it wasn’t until newspapers started digitizing records that we started finding anymore of a paper trail. And back then, the mainstream newspapers didn’t have a lot of articles that talked about what was going on in what we now today call the Black Power movement. But there were black newspapers, really small newspapers all over the country and cities all across the country that did report on it. And my wife, who’s a super sleuth in her own right and a big genealogy fan, she found this newspaper archive of this small newspaper of a black revolutionary in New York New Jersey. And they had articles talking about my father as a revolutionary leader that helped start one of the independence parties that was fighting for independence for Angola.

Fisher: Oh my goodness, that had to be a key find for you.

Matamba: Well, there were pictures of him talking to crowds of people about the revolution in Africa, and how people here needed to do what they can to support him.

Fisher: Wow! What was that like the first time you saw a picture of your birth father?

Matamba: It was unbelievable, because I look just like him.

Fisher: Is that right. So you knew then, it’s like yep, this is all for real.

Matamba: Yeah. It became really, really real at that moment. He was just a concept, just a shadow in a dream for me until then. But looking at his face felt like I was looking at myself, just 20 years older.

Fisher: And then we find out that there are other connections that ties him to the United States. We’ve got to take a break here Matamba, and continue with this conversation about the mysterious father he learned he had at the age of 27, when we return in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.  

 Segment 3 Episode 473

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Matamba Austin

Fisher: All right, we are back on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. I am talking to Matamba Austin, he lives in Texas, he's a New York native thought he was a Caribbean lad as he was growing up. And then found out at the age of 27 his father wasn't his father. Now 24 years later, he knows the identity of that man, as a revolutionary from Angola, who was killed in a war there. And we're just talking about the trail you've been following all these years, Matamba, over two decades, how did you finally get this thing going and what did you learn?

Matamba: Well Scott, there was a lot of luck and there's a lot of kindness of complete strangers that just decided to help. So, maybe a perfect example of that is the trail had run cold for us, up until 2020. And in the middle of everything that was happening that year, and how crazy it was, I was looking for some inspiration. And I found a blog post of an interview with some professors talking about Angolan politics in the 1970s during the revolution, and I reached out to one of them. And they suggested I contact a journalist who told me about the party that my father helped to form. And that's how we started learning not just about what he was doing, but who he was doing it for.

Fisher: And who he was with. Yeah, the fan approach, friends, associates and neighbors.

Matamba: Exactly, exactly. And this journalist, he turns out, he was a child soldier for that very same party. And so he was really committed to helping us find more about what my father was doing, and maybe even how he got killed. And so in the course of doing that research my wife found this article written by a journalist for The Washington Post in the 1970s that actually got escorted on foot hundreds of miles to the secret base of this party in the middle of the jungle in Angola. And he thanked this graduate student with getting him the intro to the leaders of this party. And my wife picked out that article because the graduate student went to the same university that I did. She was a graduate student at Harvard. And so when my wife found that she came running to tell me because there's an online directory of alumni that you can look up, and so she suggested I go check that directory. And we did. And it turns out that that graduate student is no longer graduate student. She's now a professor right here in North Dallas.

Fisher: No kidding! Right near where you live.

Matamba: Right where we live. And so we reached out to her, and she agreed to talk to us and it turns out that she met my father. She knew who my father was.

Fisher: No kidding. Wow!

Matamba: So again, it was 2020 in the middle of the lockdown. So we did this by Zoom. As soon as I came on the screen, she's just gasped. She said, “you look just like your father.” And that's how we knew that she'd met him.

Fisher: Incredible. Yeah, that would be the first clue, right. So, was she able to tell you stories about him or something about her interactions?

Matamba: Well, she blew our minds. She told us that she got to work with him because she had fallen in love with and married another member of the party who was based out in Europe. And so when she came back to the United States to continue studies, he introduced her to their US representative. So, it turns out that my father was representing the party in the United States, and that's what he was doing when he met my mother. And then she told us that he was here on a scholarship that was secretly funded by the CIA.

Fisher: What?

Matamba: That's what we said, we're like, really?

Fisher: [Laughs]

Matamba: And she said, yeah, that was happening a lot in those days. And so Scott, I, as my day job I worked on, I'm not a genealogist. I'm not a historian. I work on mergers and acquisitions, right. That's what I do for a living.

Fisher: Yeah. Okay.

Matamba: But part of that job involves screening companies for our clients, right, in terms of our clients want to know, is this company really real? Are they as good as what they claim? Are their finances in order? And so I thought, well, okay, let me see if I can find the scholarship that she's talking about. And let me see if I could follow the money and see who's really funding them.

Fisher: Wow. Okay.

Matamba: And so we found the scholarship. But the reason why we found it is because what she talked about is my father had the United States passport, and that was a key fact. Because back in the 70s, there are a lot of countries in Africa and in Latin America, that were fighting for independence. And there were a lot of revolutionaries that were for all intents and purposes classified as domestic terrorists by the European countries that were colonizing those countries, and were resisting their moves for independence.

Fisher: Sure.

Matamba: And so if you were a freedom fighter, you were effectively also a refugee, which means you had no papers. You had no passport, you had no nothing. And so the question was allotted to get a US passport, the research that we did, we only found one scholarship program. That was for freedom fighters in Southern Africa, that if you were selected for the program, you could get a United States passport as opposed to some kind of a temporary visa. And the details of the scholarship were really, really fuzzy. It was supposedly through the State Department, but they were like no details. But they did contract with a third party organization to administer the scholarship. And that was the company I looked into because they said okay, if it's a normal company then they'll have paperwork.

Fisher: Sure.

Matamba: And the company is now defunct, but it turns out that they had donated all of their corporate materials, to the special archives department at UMass Amherst. And so that archivists team, by the way, they're amazing. Archivists are like the heroes of genealogy.

Fisher: Oh, yes, they are. Yep.  

Matamba: So, I contacted them and they agreed to let me route through their company documents and do good old fashioned corporate due diligence, which is what I did. And sure enough, I was able to find paperwork that proved that even though it was State Department program, it was actually a CIA program.

Fisher: Wow.

Matamba: Actually, the CIA has this whole archive that you can find at, cia.gov, if you can believe it, of documents that they've declassified over the years, and I found a declassified memo where they talked about that specific company as one of their secret affiliate organizations, and they wanted to keep it secret.

Fisher: What a discovery. So as a result of this now, did your contact in Dallas actually have any pictures of him?

Matamba: She didn't. But when I finally went back to my mother's siblings, one sibling in particular, who's one of my favorite aunts. Everybody has one relative, that's always the one that takes pictures at family gatherings.

Fisher: Yep.

Matamba: So, we went to that aunt and my uncle who she's married to. And we told her that we know the truth that my father is somebody else. And so they agreed to show me the pictures that they had of him. And they showed me my parents wedding photo.

Fisher: Oh, no kidding. So you have that now?

Matamba: So we have that now. And that's how I was able to confirm that the person you've been hearing about is the same guy, the same guy in that newspaper articles, same guy in the transcript, the same guy in the pictures, that's how we're able to confirm it.

Fisher: Have you been able to meet any relatives over in Africa? Have you been to Africa?

Matamba: Well, my mother told me he was an orphan, remember? And so we weren't even looking for that, because we believe that. But it turns out that that wasn't the case either. I do have relatives that are also revolutionaries, and some of whom were some of them weren't. It turns out I have a huge family in Africa that never knew I existed.

Fisher: And when you found them, how did they receive you?

It was the most amazing life changing experience I've ever had. They treated us like we had been lost to them for 50 years, which I had to add to it was the most amazing thing and went to jail to go last year. Just last year, we had to wait for all of the lock downs. Sure, yeah, and all of that stuff. And so he was unbelievable. They took us to where I'm from, where my father was born. They introduced us to hundreds of relatives it felt like.

Fisher: Wow, is there a grave for your father?

Matamba: No, because he was assassinated. And so there's no grave. His body has never been recovered. But there is an eyewitness to his assassination. And we're still looking for her. And I'm hoping she's listening to this.

Fisher: [Laughs] Well, what a story. It's Matamba Austin from just north of Dallas, Texas in a little town called Frisco. What a tale, talk about ordinary people with extraordinary finds and how they found it. I don't think we can get into all the details of how you found all of this Matamba but I wish we could talk longer. This is an incredible tale and congratulations on it. And I'm sure the story is not over yet.

Matamba: Oh, my encouragement to everyone listening to this is, if you don't think your family has anything interesting. It's worth looking stick with it. You never know what you're going to find.

Fisher: It really is true. All right, thanks so much for coming on.

Matamba: You bet. Scott. Thanks for what you’re doing.

Fisher: 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 473

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, let me catch my breath after that last story. Unbelievable stuff! Welcome back. It's Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show. David Allen Lambert has rejoined us from Boston as we consider some new questions on Ask Us Anything. And Dave, this first question comes from Spencer in Pleasant Grove, Utah. And Spencer writes, “Guys, I am considering framing some original documents from the 19th century that I recently inherited from a great aunt. Are there any details I should be concerned about with the preservation?” That's a good question and an intelligent question, right Dave?

David: Well, that’s an intelligent question right up your alley, kiddo, because you have framed more 19th century stuff that I think that maybe then the Smithsonian has.

Fisher: Well, I don't know about that. But yeah, there are a lot of details you need to worry about with those documents. First of all, you need to worry about things fading. And I will tell you, as a baseball memorabilia collector, I framed a lot of things when I was young and didn't know any better. And so, many of them have really faded, including a Babe Ruth signature I had in my collection. It's faded quite a bit. So over time, you kind of learn these things. The first thing I would suggest is, if you're going to frame the original, and that's another question, you want to make sure that you use acid free mattes, so that the acid from a non acid free matte doesn't seep into the paper and overtime, destroy it and destroy the look. So, that's number one. The second thing is, you want to make sure that light doesn't get through. Now, with UV protective glass, which is a little more expensive, it will keep the light out for the most part. But even with that, it will fade it much more slowly. So, if you keep it kind of in a dark hallway or something like that, the UV glass and the acid free will be really good for anything original that you want to frame. I would suggest, however, that if you want to be really protective of original stuff that you consider actually framing a copy. And David, you’ve see mine. I’ve got this Bible record about nine years ago that I inherited from a third cousin. It was the Fisher Bible records from the 1840s. They were not in the book itself, but they had been removed. And they were in an envelope when I obtained them, and they were very tattered. So, what I did was, I went through and I scan them. And I used Photoshop and cleaned up the discolorations and cleaned up the edges and got them looking actually better than the originals. And then I framed those copies. And as a result of that, I didn't need to have UV glass or anything else to worry about, because of the fact they're copies! If they fade or something happens with them, I can make another copy and just pop them in there. So, the other side of this then is that you can keep the originals kept away in acid free sleeves, in binders and off the floor, of course to make sure that if any flooding ever happened in your home or something like that, then it's not going to be damaged. And you can protect them for as long as possible. You want to take care of those precious originals. So, those are some of the thoughts I have on that. What would you add to that, Dave? What am I missing?

David: Well, you know, I think the same thing is true with your autographs. I remember framing something back 25 years ago, and just doing whatever I could to get regular matte, I wasn't using acid free, and it stained the photograph.

Fisher: Yes!

David: And you know, and the ink even if it's a Sharpie can fade.

Fisher: And break up.

David: Um hmm, exactly, it will bubble. I've had that happen with autographs on baseballs, you get the light and you think “Ah, this is not going to have any problem.” So, a lot of times my autographs aren't displayed, for the originals are in binders or in acid free boxes. And I put copies on the wall. And I changed that out in a frame of mixing it up with a picture and a copy of the autograph. That way, I can show people that I'm not putting the autograph at risk.

Fisher: Right. And this is the same thing you want to do with your ancestral documents. I mean, it's, it's really frustrating if you suddenly realize, “Oh my gosh, I've damaged this precious thing that goes back more than a century in the family.” You are the caretaker of this document, so make sure you do it right. So, great question. Thanks for it, Spencer. And we've got another one coming up for you here in minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 473

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, time for our final question this week on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, David over there in Boston. And this question, Dave comes from Albertine in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. And she says, “Guys, I am new to genealogy. I know the US Census has been taken every 10 years starting in 1790. What do you do when you need information from in between census years?” It's a good fundamental question a lot of people could benefit from.

David: Really true. Benjamin Franklin says, what is guaranteed in life? Death and taxes. Well, tax records are going to catch people, because you're going to pay them every year. And as soon as the federal government kicked in, taxes were being done. And even beforehand, you know, your county, your town, maybe you even paid a tax for the Minister a point in time. So, taxes are amazing.

Fisher: Now they just give you the taxpayer though Dave, right, not family members.

David: Correct. But it gives you a name and a location.

Fisher: Yep. Then when a person dies in the middle of the census years, you get their will. That will name that people that are their children, guardianships will be mixed in too, so you can find out who's living with who. Land deeds, of course, people owning land at a particular time or buying land elsewhere is the census substituting, and oftentimes you’re looking at, at least a spouse. And sometimes it's selling within the family, you know, “For love and affection I sell to my son this property.” So you get that, too. Then when you get into the 19th century in more urban areas, one of the census substitutes could be perhaps even a state census, like New York and Massachusetts, have state censuses that are done in the off year. It's like 1855, or 1865. City directories are another great way.

Fisher: Those are so huge, because you can actually see people living in the same household or right next door with the same names, you can start to associate people with their ancestors that way. I love directories.

David: Oh, and it gives you the occupation.

Fisher: Yes.

David: So, I mean, in a lot of times in the census, you find out your ancestor was a laborer, or this might tell you exactly, he was a tinsmith.

Fisher: Yeah, but the directories can sometimes tell you when somebody died, because the year after they'll say, “So and so deceased on.” whatever the date was.

David: Yep. And it's one of these type of things that, we think about the census as being the only thing every 10 years when we start in genealogy, but we pick up these little tips like this.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: And it's going to be regional, because what is good for Massachusetts is going to be different for California and it's going to be different for New York and for Florida. And knowing what census substitutes, one of the great websites I turn to is Family Searches Wiki.

Fisher: Yes.

David: Well, the Family Search Wiki is great for tips like that. Or put in the name of the state and put in the word census on Ancestry. And you'll find these state censuses that have been transcribed or actually digitized. So, there's a lot of ways to find substitutes. I mean, other things are militia lists. So, if your ancestor was in the military, so Civil War went on between 1861 and ‘65, you get the family in the ‘60 census, and he's dead by ’70, finding a militia list that actually says that, well, he was killed at Gettysburg.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: Can be that.

Fisher: And you know, sometimes even towns have censuses in off years for the federal census. They're a lot rarer. But boy, are they fun when you find them! And I know you've discovered one or two, I think for your area, right?

David: Oh, yeah, absolutely. And the thing about it is, you just have to dig locally. And sometimes it's not all online. So, it's going to the local historical societies for that town related stuff or checking with your county historical society, or state historical or genealogical groups to see what people have transcribed. And a lot of stuff may already be transcribed and online, and you just need to seek out the original documents, and those could be at state archives or local archives.

Fisher: Nice. All right, David, thank you so much. And thank you for the question. Albertine. And Dave, that's our show for this week. Thanks for joining us. Talk to you next week.

David: I look forward to it, my friend. Until then.

Fisher: All right. And of course, if you missed the amazing story today, with Matamba Austin, you got to check out the podcast, or if you want to hear it again. I mean, we are all over the place of course, iTunes, iHeart Radio, Apple Media, ExtremeGenes.com, Spotify, you name it. We will talk to you again next week. Thanks for joining us. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice normal family!

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