Episode 475 - Hidden Histories Hiding in Congregational Church Records / Kentucky Brick Wall Falls After Five Decades

podcast episode Oct 02, 2023

Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. The guys begin with Fisher describing his recent eBay score… an invitation to a New York City firemen’s “hop” in 1860, sponsored by his great grandfather’s volunteer fire company. It also notes the name of his great grandfather’s brother who was also a member of the company and on the dance committee. David then describes his strange journey to the specific place he was born. In Family Histoire news, a UK man is spearheading an effort to identify all the soldiers who served in The Great War… aka World War I… in his village. Then, hear about the recent efforts to recover a sunken boat tied to Benedict Arnold… back when he was playing for our team! And, why are Victorians the official haunted houses of Halloween? David explains.

In Segment Two, Fisher chats with Dr. Tricia Peone. Dr. Peone is using Congregational Church records from centuries ago to reveal “hidden history” in New England.

Next, Carolyn Tolman visits from sponsor Legacy Tree Genealogists. Carolyn had a brick wall in her family research dating back to the days when her great grandmother was the family historian. And Carolyn has finally broken it. Hear the story and learn about the different tools she used to find it.

David then returns for Ask Us Anything answering your questions.

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


Segment 1 Episode 475

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. Nice to have you along! Of course, as always, our guests today include Dr. Tricia Peone. She is doing a project with the congregational church records in New England. And you know, so many people throughout America come through New England and some of the earliest records in the country come from that area. So, she's looking up New England's hidden histories, and you're going to want to hear some of the stories she has dug up through these congregational church records. And then later, we're going to talk to Carolyn Tolman, a researcher with Legacy Tree Genealogists, one of our great sponsors. And she's had a Kentucky brick wall sitting in her way for decades, and it has been solved. You're going to want to hear what the mystery was, how she came through with it, what the resources were that she used, so it can give you a little bit of a model in case you have a similar problem. Right now, it's time to head out to Boston, because standing by impatiently is David Allen Lambert. He is the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. Hello, David.

David: Hey, there! You know, I have a lot of patience. You know, I should be a doctor, I mean.

Fisher: [Laughs] Yes. I’ve got to tell you about a big discovery I made here a few days ago, my friend.

David: Oh?

Fisher: eBay has come through again.

David: [Laughs]

Fisher: You know, it's funny, because it was just recently you and I were talking, I can't remember whether it was on the air or off the air, but just saying, you know, it's been a long time since I scored some family thing on eBay. And just a few days ago, I got a notification. The way this works, by the way, if you've never used eBay to find family things. You do a search on eBay, use the search terms for whatever it is you're looking for. And in this case, it was the Fire Company of my great grandfather in New York City in the 1860s. So, I had the name in there at the time that I did this somewhere between eight and 12 years ago. I saved the search term and that meant that if this was ever fulfilled in somebody's listing something with that search term, then I would get an email automatically that tells me something's up. Well, I got that email finally, after probably a decade. And it was an invitation to a fireman's hop they called it, not a fireman's ball, but a hop.

David: Really?

Fisher: Yeah, I didn't know that that term was used back in those days.

David: I think of the 50s as the sock hop.

Fisher: Yeah, the sock hop.

David: Apparently, it has an earlier origin.

Fisher: Yeah. I asked Chat GPT about it and I also found a newspaper article about it from the 1860s. And basically, a hop was for people of, shall we say, lower standards. [Laughs] Yeah, that they didn't have to dance the quadrille or something like this, that anybody could dance and anybody could come, and it was less expensive, less dress up, that type of thing. But, on the committee members list of names on this invitation was my great grandfather's brother who belong to that same fire company. It was embossed with gold flourishes around it. And with it also was a graphic design ticket, a beautiful thing typical of the 1860s, a lady's ticket to the hop sponsored by this fire company in New York. So, I just got it a couple of days ago. And I'm having actually a copy of it framed, because it's a little bit too small to put in a frame and actually be fully appreciated. So, it’s at the framers right now. It's been a good week, my friend.

David: Well, that sounds amazing. Well, last week, I actually had the chance twice to go to Norwood, Massachusetts, which probably doesn't mean anything to anybody, but it means a lot to me, because it's a place I lived for the first three days of my life.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: I got off the train, and I knew that there was a flood about three years ago that washed in all this water and they were going to tear down the hospital. Well, I kind of expected to see a pit and I was going to hopefully grab a brick.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: Nope, that's all cleaned up. It's now a brand new hospital being built on the very site. So, it's strange that you can't go home. I'm lucky a couple of years back I walked in the hospital and walked out the front door. My wife thought I was goofy. I'm like, “No, you don't understand. This is the first door I would have been outside through. I want to do it again.”

Fisher: [Laughs] Your wife is right!

David: Well, Family Histoire News is quite interesting. And I'm going to lead off with a beautiful story from a person in England who's researching over 100 individuals that were in the Great War before it was called World War I. The Great War was fought by many people from the UK and a lot of them perished. The effort of this historian, Fish, is to go out and gather all the stories and publish a book ultimately on everyone from that community, and try to contact the descendants. I think it's a great project.

Fisher: That’s a great project. You know, anybody can do that pretty much anywhere. But this guy who's engaged in this thing has got many other people helping him with it. So, good for him.

David: The British military in World War I, it's very tough, because during the Blitz in World War II, many of the World War I army records for Britain were lost. They burned. Talk about a different war with the British, but on the opposite side and before Benedict Arnold became a bad guy. [Laughs] As we learned in grade school, he actually was on a failed battle on Lake Champlain. Well, you would think that there's no evidence of that anymore. Au contraire. A gunboat, one of them known as the Spitfire rests at the bottom of Lake Champlain with its guns still on the deck.

Fisher: Wow!

David: And they’re thinking now about raising it. That would be fabulous to see if the battle of Valcour Island could have a vessel raised after 240 years. It's quite amazing.

Fisher: Incredible, wow! That would be amazing.

David: You know, Halloween is almost upon us. It's one of my favorite holidays whenever the kids were young, and even still now, I love it. But you ever think of, you see all that Halloween decorations, always a spooky Victorian house?

Fisher: Yeah.

David: Well, at NewEngland.com, they have a great article about how the Victorian home became the official house of Halloween. The story goes back to Charles Addams.

Fisher: Yes.

David: And I’m not talking about that Adams family, but the Addams, Double D Family.

Fisher: Hey, well it's really true, because it was a very popular cartoon back in the day. And then it became the TV show. So yeah, that's why they always use Victorian houses for the Halloween spooky house.

David: Exactly, 1959 Vincent Price to the House on Haunted Hill. And of course, the Psycho mansion. I mean, that's a Victorian up on the hill.

Fisher: Yep.

David: Even though it's on the Hollywood lot. And don't forget, if you are not a member of American Ancestors, you can save $20 with the coupon code “Extreme” anytime on AmericanAncestors.org.

Fisher: All right, David, thank you very much. Of course, we'll talk to you again here real soon at the back end of the show for Ask Us Anything. And coming up next, she's finding hidden histories. She's Dr. Tricia Peone. She's coming up next in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 475

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Dr. Tricia Peone

Fisher: You know, it is always fun to run into somebody who shares some of the same interests no matter what your interests are. And you know, you could talk with them for hours. Hey, it's Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show. And my next guest is one of those people. Her name is Dr. Tricia Peone. And she's in New Hampshire. And Dr. Peone, it's great to have you on the show.

Tricia: Thanks Scott. It's great to be here.

Fisher: She is tied up in witchcraft in New England. She's tied up in New England hidden histories with the Congregational Library and Archives. These are a couple of amazing projects.

Tricia: Yes, I'm so excited about New England's hidden histories. There are enough resources in there to keep someone occupied probably for centuries.

Fisher: [Laughs] Well, we don't have that. We only have about 13 minutes. So let's, let's talk about that a little bit. What are some of the hidden histories that you've been digging up with this project that few of us are aware of?

Tricia: Well, I think when most people think about congregational church records they're thinking about sermons, they're thinking about maybe lists of baptisms, descriptions of meetings, that sort of thing. So people tend to think that that's really only interesting if that's what they're looking for. But because we have this very long history in New England, starting from about the 1620s, we've got church records that are really intimately connected to the whole history of New England. Sometimes these are really community records. So they have a lot to tell us about the everyday lives of people living in early New England. And there's a surprising number of very personal stories in these records, stories of heartbreak, stories of grief, a lot of stories of slavery connected to these churches, and every once in a while stories of witchcraft too.

Fisher: It's kind of like that box of chocolates we hear about right? Don't know what you're going to get.

Tricia: That’s true.

Fisher: So you must see a lot of things about conflicts because you probably have members of the churches who are going to the ministers is trying to resolve issues over water rights, and property lines, and fights, and things like that. What do you find with that?

Tricia: One of the, I think, really surprising ones is a story from Byfield, Massachusetts. And so these are contained in some of the letters and then the records of the church in Byfield, which is North Shore, Essex County, Massachusetts. And there was a conflict between the minister and a church Deacon. And so the church deacon’s name was Benjamin Coleman, and he raised a public complaint against his minister. He accused his minister of the wicked practice of man stealing because the minister enslaved people.

Fisher: Ah! Interesting. So, even at that early time, there were conflicts over slavery.

Tricia: Yeah, this takes place actually, during the War of Independence. This is in 1780.

Fisher: Okay. And so this was an accusation that would result in what kind of punishment if found guilty within the church?

Tricia: Well, I think Coleman, who was protesting slavery was hoping that the members of the church would all agree to, at least within their own community, that they would abolish slavery. And so that hadn't happened in Massachusetts yet. But interestingly, the church voted and they decided that the minister was not guilty. And so the minister then had his deacon kicked out of church.

Fisher: Oh, and where did he wind up going?

Tricia: Well, at first he published some complaints or remonstrance against his minister. He went around town and read his remonstrance to anyone who would listen. He went to the minister's house and asked the enslaved people there if they wanted to be free. And of course, they said that they did. And the minister felt like his authority was being undermined in the community.

Fisher: Sure.

Tricia: And so he, he then accused Coleman of doing Satan's work. And all of these records, show us how divided the community was over this issue. And it's also taking place during the war. So Coleman, in these records, he argues that the reason the Americans were losing to the British at this time in 1780, was because of the sin of slavery.

Fisher: Interesting. That is a hidden history right there, isn't it? I mean, that's just not something you normally hear.

Tricia: Right. You wouldn’t expect that.

Fisher: Is this published anywhere?

Tricia: It's on our website. These are manuscript records, so handwritten church records and letters. And some of them are on our website in the New England’s hidden history’s digital archive.

Fisher: Unbelievable. All right, what else have you found in there?

Tricia: Some really interesting stories about women and church discipline.

Fisher: Ah.

Tricia: So, a case of a married woman in Connecticut in the 1730s, who left her husband and the church intervened. And so they ordered Mary to return to her husband. And she wrote a series of letters explaining why she didn't want to. She said that her husband had committed the sin of fornication. And so she wasn't going to go back to the household. The church ordered her to apologize in return, but she simply left town.

Fisher: Well, that's an easy solution, isn't it?

Tricia: So she just didn't comply with the church. But you can see this it's really interesting to read the letters because you can think about how did women respond to church discipline? She decided to leave her husband in the 1730s at a time when she couldn't get a divorce, really.

Fisher: Right.

Tricia: And then the committee of the church orders her to comply, but she simply doesn't.

Fisher: Was there any punishment for the husband?

Tricia: No. In fact, the church in this case hired him to build a new meeting house a couple of years later. So his reputation clearly did not suffer.

Fisher: Apparently not because a woman had made the accusation, right?

Tricia: Likely so, yeah.

Fisher:  Yeah. Yeah. All right. So, you've talked about now Connecticut, Massachusetts, where else have you found some of these hidden histories in New England?

Tricia: We've seen some interesting stories in Maine. We're getting a new collection from Rhode Island next year. So that'll be exciting. And we do have representation from all six New England states, but we focused on 17th and 18th century congregational church records. So we're mostly just looking at New England.

Fisher: Oh, that's great. And you mentioned that you see a lot of the community history in some of these stories give us an example of that.

Tricia: Well, you can find a lot of really interesting records about who was paying taxes, who resisted paying taxes, these kinds of community stories about arguments in a community. In both of those cases, I talked about the case of slavery in Massachusetts in this case of a woman leaving her husband in Connecticut, the whole community gets involved. You have the whole, you know, the whole congregation hears about it, if someone was punished for their behavior, they would have to confess and speak in front of the whole congregation. So you can see communities kind of ripped apart in some of these cases, but you also see community leaders and often the minister playing a role in trying to bring everyone together.

Fisher: Um hmm. Yeah, well, you think about it, too. I think because we all have so many early New England ancestors, no matter what part of the country we live in these days, that we kind of have this impression that there was this large body of people throughout New England, but it was really just a series of small communities. I mean, that's why we all kind of go back to many of the same people why we're all so related to each other.

Tricia: That's right.

Fisher: And you think about how when we have an accusation of one, really, most of the community’s related to each other anyway. Laughs]

Tricia: [Laughs] Right. They’re often cousins.

Fisher: Yeah. So no wonder they're all you know, tied up in that. So you mentioned witchcraft at the beginning of our conversation, Dr. Peone, fill us in on some of the things you found in the congregational records about that.

Tricia: Well, there's another really interesting story in Massachusetts, recorded by a minister and his name was Ebenezer Turell, and he was the minister in Medford in the 1720s and 1730s. We don't know too much about him. We have some of his letters. And we have his diary, which is where some of this comes from. And he decided that he would write a treatise about witchcraft because he had a parishioner, actually three sisters in his congregation, who had moved to Medford and wanted to join his congregation, and he claimed that when they heard him preach, they were moved by one of his sermons to confess about an incident that had taken place a few years ago. So he doesn't name them in his treatise. But he says that they were young at the time, but the oldest was a teenager now, when she's telling him about the story.

Fisher: Okay.

Tricia: And she says that it started because she was having strange dreams, and that she was having trouble reading the Bible. And all of a sudden their house became haunted. The people in the house heard strange noises, they saw stones falling down the chimney, and Reverend Turell noted that they would find her far away from the house. She'd be up on the top of a barn. She'd be out by the pond. She was on tops of trees, and they didn't know how she was getting there. She said she was flying.

Fisher: Wow!

Tricia: The parents were very concerned. They called in a physician.

Fisher: I'd be concerned too if my kids were on tops of trees and mountains and rocks. What's that about?

Tricia: Even more so in this period, right?

Fisher: Yes! So they call in a physician to examine them. They ask the church elders to pray. So it's a couple of sisters who are doing this. And then Elizabeth, the oldest girl, so he withheld her name, but we know that it was it was Elizabeth, she accused a woman in town of being a witch and that she was afflicting her. So this is taking place about 30 years after the Salem Witch Trials.

Fisher: Right.

Tricia: So this is something that's it's you know, it's a familiar pattern to people in Massachusetts at this time.

Fisher: Weren't many of the people kind of over the witchcraft thing by this time? This is kind of a leftover, right?

Tricia: That's right. Yeah. So they were certainly over having trials for witchcraft, but of course they still believed in it. So, most people still believed that witchcraft was a good and a reasonable explanation for strange things that happened.

Fisher: Yes, [Laughs] that makes sense.

Tricia: But after the Salem Witch Trials, they no longer believed that you should necessarily accept the same kind of evidence and that you should put someone on trial and take away their life at the time of witchcraft.

Fisher: Sure. So how was the story resolved?

Tricia: So they accused this woman, but the people in the town did not believe the accusation. The woman was ill at the time. And so she died actually. And on her deathbed, she forgave the girl. She forgave Elizabeth for accusing her. So, it just sort of stopped.

Fisher: Just went away and of its own volition. Yeah. Interesting stuff!

Tricia: Yep. And so eventually, the children got better. They thought that they were under an evil hand that they'd been afflicted by Satan. But they later admitted to this minister, that they had enjoyed some of the attention, and that they had actually just been climbing up the trees not flying to the tops of them, that they've climbed up to the barn and had not actually flown.

Fisher: [Laughs] Really?

Tricia: Surprisingly.

Fisher: Yes, incredible. She's Dr. Tricia Peone. She’s in New Hampshire. She's a doctor of history, part of the New England hidden histories project with the Congregational Library and Archives and Trish, it's been great talking to you as always. Like I said, we could talk for hours. This is just great stuff. And we look forward to hearing more of your hidden histories down the line.

Tricia: Thank you very much.

Fisher: And coming up next, researcher Carolyn Tolman from Legacy Tree Genealogists had a breakthrough of her own. She'll tell you all about it and how she did it coming up when we return in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 3 Episode 475

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Carolyn Tolman

Fisher: And welcome back to America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes. I am Fisher, your Radio Roots Sleuth. Very pleased to have my friend Carolyn Tolman from our sponsors over at Legacy Tree Genealogists, back. And you know Carolyn, it’s kind of fun to hear your story that we’re about to tell here because it just tells people that even the experts, even the professionals have those brick wall in their ancestry, and it’s just as big a thrill for experts to find these breakthroughs as it is for anybody else.

Carolyn: Absolutely. We all have our pet brick walls that we work on.

Fisher: Yeah.

Carolyn: And sometimes we just have to resign ourselves to maybe there’s just no record, but any little clue we can latch onto and follow the leads, we try, and sometimes it works out.

Fisher: Yes.

Carolyn: Sometimes we get breakthroughs.

Fisher: And it did for you. And here it is family history month, October, and this is kind of an inspiring tale you’ve got to tell here.

Carolyn: Yes. I have an old Kentucky brick wall that’s earl 1800s when there were just no government birth or death records, very few church records. It’s my dad’s’ second great grandfather, so it’s my third great grandfather, Alexander Green. We have his headstone that gives us his birth and death dates, but no names of parents, no names of siblings. We know his marriage and everything later in his life. We just had no record of his early life. So, with the advent of DNA it gave me new hope.

Fisher: Sure.

Carolyn: And with my dad’s DNA results, over time, many, many hours, an hour here, an hour there, I have been sorting my dad’s DNA matches and zeroing in on the ones from that Green line.

Fisher: Um hmm.

Carolyn: And over a period of a couple of weeks, I realized that I was getting multiple hits on a Martin family of Mercer County, Kentucky. And I didn’t know how they would connect to my Greens. But I know, if you’re matching with more than one child of one of those families that is a significant sign that I have a new lead.

Fisher: Yes.

Carolyn: So, with the Martin name in mind, I decided to search an old un-indexed court book that I never took the time to search when I was in person at the Family History Library because it would have taken the whole day in old difficult handwriting.

Fisher: Oh year.

Carolyn: But I thought, I can take a half hour here and there at home, to go through a few pages at a time.

Fisher: Sure. Let me ask you before you go any further, how many years had this brick wall been standing in your way?

Carolyn: Oh, at least 50. I found an old letter of my great grandmother begging the Kentucky Historical Society to tell her who were the parents of her grandfather. So, I know that she worked on it and worried about it and when I majored in family history in college in the ‘90s that was the first brick wall that I worked on, so, many, many decades of not knowing and trying to accept that we may never know.

Fisher: You’re right. And here are all these different things you’re using, a great tool in DNA.

Carolyn: Yes.

Fisher: And now you’ve zeroed in on a family, and now you have an area and a family that obviously has some tie to this Green line. Where did this go from here?

Carolyn: Well, I decided to search this Mercer County court book because I knew that the Martin family came from Mercer. I also knew that Alexander first appeared in the 1840 Mercer County census. So, this book spanned 1789 to 1833, and I thought, the only way I’m going to recognize an ancestral record is to go to the year that Alexander was born, which was 1813, and start from there.

Fisher: Right.

Carolyn: And lo and behold, 7 February 1814, I come across a record of a set of 8 siblings and a Polly Martin Green, upon the death of these children’s father Henry Green, an Alexander is listed as the last of those 8 children, which usually means he was the youngest.

Fisher: Sure.

Carolyn: Which ties in with his birth the year before in 1813, and these children were being bound out to the community. So, that was such a huge discovery.

Fisher: Yes.

Carolyn: Such a thrill. The thing we all dream about. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs] Yes it is. And have you been able to learn more about Henry Green?

Carolyn: I have not learned too much more about him, that’s still on my bucket list. But I did start to research those siblings and I found some of their marriages and deaths. And I noted that they were tied to the community of Pleasant Hill in Mercer County. And I then noted that the family library catalogue had records from Pleasant Hill and realized that was their Shaker community.

Fisher: Ah!

Carolyn: And in the Shaker records I see the same set of siblings and their mother joining the community in 1814, after this father died, probably the mother was unable to afford to care for her children. The Shakers were known for taking in widows and orphans because they had a celibate lifestyle.

Fisher: Yep.

Carolyn: And they took good care of the children. They fed and educated them, and gave them a good life. And this record of these siblings has their birth dates, exact dates and places of birth.

Fisher: Wow!

Carolyn: Which was even more of a thrill because you don’t find these kinds of records in early 1800s Kentucky.

Fisher: No. Not in the south at all in that time period. You’re absolutely right.

Carolyn: Yes.

Fisher: So, how many different pages did you have to go through, how many weeks or months was it as you studied this un-indexed court record?

Carolyn: Well, to tell you the truth, I finally reached the end of the book just last week. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs] Oh! You were looking for lots of stuff then, to see what else was there.

Carolyn: There were 1150 images in that book online and I have combed through every one of them and I have found little clues about this family and probably some related Greens and what happened to them. It is so worth it to wade through that old handwriting when you know that your ancestors are hiding amongst that chicken scratch. [Laughs]

Fisher: Isn’t that funny too because we really learn how to have our eyes adjust when you go through that old handwriting, sometimes you start out even with foreign languages, you can’t make out a thing and then something about the brain just adjusts as you keep working at it.

Carolyn: Yes. You start to recognize the surnames and your eyes go to those capital letters and that’s what you’re looking for is the surname. And then if you see a Green, if I see that or a Martin then I can zero in and really figure out what the rest of it says. Otherwise you skim right over it.

Fisher: Sure. Have you been able to extend the Martin line?

Carolyn: I have. According to those Shaker records they were from Chester County, Pennsylvania, and with that information I was able to tie in this Martin family and then the family that my DNA results showed me was a Llewellyn Martin and it turns out he was the brother of Polly. And I’ve learned all about those siblings and their parents and they tie back into Wales, a Welsh community that came to Pennsylvania.

Fisher: Wow! So, now you’re overseas and across the pond. Have you been able to do some research there?

Carolyn: Nope. That’s also on my bucket list. It goes on, right? There’s always more.

Fisher: [Laughs] I love this because of the way you logically put all this together and obviously it was very time consuming I’m sure, to work with your father’s DNA to find and discover that hey, wait a minute, this couple keeps coming up and we keep coming up related to descendants of the different siblings that came through couple, leading you back to where it did. I mean, it’s a great process.

Carolyn: It is. And it is time consuming and it takes patience, but so worth it.

Fisher: Yeah.

Carolyn: It’s so worth it to gather these tiny bits of evidence and then suddenly you can connect those dots and it all comes together and makes sense. It was probably the best thing that happened over COVID. [Laughs]

Fisher: Over COVID. [Laughs] Well, I think we all had a lot of fun things like that happen over COVID. I think COVID actually, the silver lining in that was there were so many records that were digitized and are now available to us that would not have been otherwise.

Carolyn: Definitely.

Fisher: She’s Carolyn Tolman. She is a researcher over at Legacy Tree Genealogists, our great sponsors. And very inspiring work there, Carolyn, strong work. Congratulations on that! I feel your thrill because those of us who have ever had a breakthrough of long standing know that feeling. I’m sure you’re still smiling just thinking about it.

Carolyn: I totally am. And it’s so fun to have you celebrate it with me. Thank you!

Fisher: You are welcome. Thank you Carolyn! And coming up next, David Allen Lambert returns for another round of Ask Us Anything, on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 4 Episode 475

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: Okay, it is time once again for Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show. Fisher here, David Allen Lambert is back from the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. And David, this question comes to us from Dallas, Texas. Angeline writes, she says, “Dave and Fish, I've got a grandson who likes to go metal detecting. And he recently found what appears to be a World War II era dog tag. How might I go about finding who this should go to?” Great question from Angeline, Dave. Do you know anything about dog tags?

David: Well, I have a few of them in my collection. And every time I try to find the next of Kin, it's usually the next of kin that’s selling it on eBay. So, what you want to look for is a great little websites, it’s for free. It's called WW2DogTags.com. And they give the breakdown of the different eras of the dog tags. It wasn't just one type. The first type that was issued between December 1940 and November ‘41 had some basic stuff. It had five lines. It had your name, Army serial number, your blood type, your next of kin, name and address of next of kin and city and state. So, if you can date one for that, it's 1940 to November ‘41 right before Pearl Harbor. Ironically, right before Pearl Harbor in November, they changed the format and now they listed also on the last line, your religion. So, that's something that had not been on. So, if you find a dog tag that has religion on it, those listed from 1941 to ‘43. Now, from ‘43 to ‘44, I guess people that typed up the dog tags got lazy, because there's only three questions.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: And it has your name, your army serial number, your blood type, and your religion. So, no next of kin is included on there, etc. And the last one was type four and that went from March 1944 up to April ‘46. And it's quite similar to the other. And it's like the style of the dog tag, just like any collector, you can tell one from another. So, it really depends on what's on the dog tag, Fish, that dates it. But to track down the next of kin, I would start with Ancestry.com. There’s a great World War II database on there, it has a lot of veterans’ records. If you get the next of kin on your dog tag, try the 1940 census. You run those two names together.

Fisher: Sure. And then there's also Newspapers.com. I mean, you want to talk about and a great way to use our sponsor is to try to find some of these local papers. They have lots of information about locals participating in everything from birthday parties to battles in World War II. Any news that they get, they generally like to publish. And you can find people that way. And then you start pulling forward. It actually gets trickier when you get within the last 30, 40 years. But then, I would use FamilyTreeNow.com, which is a fabulous free site. Works kind of like WhitePages.com, and some of the other places. And those will not only give you the names, they'll give you the ages of people. So you can separate people who have the same name, find the next of kin. And generally they give addresses they've lived at the last 20 years, current phone numbers, both mobile phones and home phones, if they still exist, and you can also find email addresses there. So, it's really helpful, not only just for returning objects to people, but for tracing distant cousins that you might want to look into who might have some information about some ancestors.

David: Well, I hope that she and her grandson are going to be able to track this down, and maybe even find out the veteran or his immediate family is still around and returning it. I wonder what the story is. Was he in a military camp in Texas and lost it years ago and never made it overseas? Or maybe he did die overseas and this would be a wonderful gift to return to the family.

Fisher: Amazing! I can't believe though that when you've done this, you find people turn around and try to sell them from their own family. That's crazy!

David: Yeah, it's sad what people will do. I would love to have my dad's World War II dog tags.

Fisher: Sure.

David: Maybe I'll find them on eBay tomorrow night.

Fisher: [Laughs] There you go. All right, we’ve got another question coming up next when we returned for round two of Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 475

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, here we go, final question this week on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and Ask Us Anything. Fisher here, David over there in Boston. We've got some similar questions working this week, David. This one comes from Jim in Santa Fe, New Mexico. And he says, “Hi, guys. Loved your recent interview with the photo angel. I didn't think much of it until I found myself in an antique store the other day and found a couple of marked old pictures. I bought them. What is your best recommendation for finding contact info for descendants?” Isn't that interesting, David. I mean, there's so many people who are thinking the same way. I mentioned, of course, in the previous segment for returning the dog tags that we should look at FamilyTreeNow.com, because of all the information it has there, and it's free. By the way, if that freaks you out that your information is out there like that on FamilyTreeNow.com. You can actually have that removed from there. So, go on. I don't know exactly how, but it's right there on the site, so check it out and see what's happening there. That's the funny thing. There's no hiding us now, right, David?

David: No, no, that's true. So here's the thing, though, that's interesting about this. And I loved our segment last week with Kim Taylor, the photo Angel, where she talks about going to antique stores, finding pictures, finding their descendants and getting them back to them. You can actually do this without going to an antique store by going on eBay, which we talked about at the beginning of the show today, because there are just hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands of old photographs on there, many of them with names and places. I found some things sometime back where somebody had actually collected a whole bunch of old genealogies that people had written in the 1850s and ‘60s to help a person write a book about these ancestors that came to, say, New England or the deep south or something early on. And they had this collection of letters and they were selling them off on eBay and some of them went back to the 1850s and ‘60s. So I'd research who were these people who are writing about their own family in a beautiful detailed letter and who might be interested now. And using FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com, I found a couple of people who had these people on their family trees. So, I just simply went and sent them a note and said, “Hey, if you go to eBay at this address, you can actually own a letter that this ancestor of yours that you have posted on your tree wrote about his own family and ancestry.” So, I mean, who wouldn't want that more than a genealogist, right? And so, you can actually do the same kind of thing just using eBay. And then contacting people in the same way, than going about tracking down the descendants. It's great fun.

David: It really is. And I'll tell you, a lot of old family Bibles and photographs.

Fisher: Yes.

David: Have been returned all the time by people just like photo angels. So, keep up the good work. And karma will work back for you, I hope. And someone will send you something that your family may have lost.

Fisher: Yeah, absolutely true. You know, that's the thing, too, David, is that, when people go on eBay and you find people who might be interested in one of those items, you don't have to mail anything out, you know, like we have to do when we go to antique stores or somewhere else. You don't have to do any of that. You just point them in the right direction. If they're interested, they just pick it up themselves. And I've gotten some lovely, thank you notes. People just thrilled, framing these things, hanging them in their homes, sharing them with their families. And it's a great feeling to know that you've added to somebody's joy in tracing down their family. So, great question. Hope that helps. And David, as always, it’s great to have you on and we will chat with you again next week.

David: Sounds great, my friend.

Fisher: All right, buddy. Take care. And thank you for joining us this week. Thanks once again to Dr. Tricia Peone for coming on and talking about hidden histories in New England that she's working on through congregational church records, and to our friend Carolyn Tolman, from our sponsors over at Legacy Tree Genealogists. If you missed any of the show or you want to catch it again, of course the podcast is readily available on all the usual places, AppleMedia, iHeart Radio, TuneIn Radio, 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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