Episode 477 - Reunion! Descendants of the GU272 Enslaved Families of Georgetown University Get Together; What Grandmother’s Asylum Records Told One Genie

podcast episode Oct 16, 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 some encouraging news from our friends at MyHeritage.com, based in Israel. Then, David shares the story of a recent discovery, prior to the war, of an ancient burial in Israel. 23andMe has made some very concerning news as hackers have accessed their site to obtain information on roughly one million DNA testers of Ashkenazi Jewish descent. The hacker’s intentions are not known. In Norway, a woman lost an earring, and in the search for it found something much more interesting. Hear what it was. For some people, it has been a long time since hearing the voice of a parent. Hear what one man recently discovered that gave him back those voices… from 1946! Then, hear about what Conde Naste Traveler magazine has to say about the most haunted places in the US.

Next, Fisher visits with Julie Hawkins Ennis of Maryland. Julie learned in recent years of her family connections to the so-called “GU-272,” the 272 people, identified so far, who had been enslaved at Georgetown University and then sold to buyers in Louisiana in 1838. The sale of these people bailed GU out of financial troubles. The story, which broke in 2016, has led to massive research to identify all the principals in the affair, as well as as many descendants as can be found. Recently, Julie played a key role in the organization of the first reunion of these descendants.

Then, Julianne Mangin talks with Fisher about her finds in a mental institution in Connecticut. She knew about her grandmother… but not all the others! Hear about Julianne’s journey to learn of her family’s trials and particularly the impact they had on her mother.

David then returns for another round of Ask Us Anything.

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


Segment 1 Episode 477

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, we've got a couple of great guests for you today, as always, including Julie Hawkins Ennis. She's tied to what's called the GU272. This was a story that broke about seven years ago about enslaved people at Georgetown University, who in 1838, were sold off to Louisiana, because Georgetown was financially failing. And so when this story came out, of course, a lot of people wanted to understand if they were related to some of these people, and Julie is tied. And so they've had a reunion there in Maryland, and she was one of the founders. We're going to find out all about that and some of the latest news about the GU272. That number might actually go up. And then later in the show, we're going to talk to Julianne Mangin. She got into family history because well, her grandmother was institutionalized at a hospital in Norwich, Connecticut. And when she got the records, she learned some other things about her family. She's written a book about it. She's going to tell us some of the details coming up later on in the show. Right now it's time to check in with David Allen Lambert, our Chief Genealogist at the New England Historic Genealogical Society, and AmericanAncestors.org. Hello, David.

David: Hi, Fish. How you doing today?

Fisher: I am doing fine. Of course, a lot of concern right now for our friends over in Israel, particularly our friends at My Heritage.

David: That's right. In fact, I reached out to General Horowitz who many of our listeners may know if you've been to genealogy conferences. He's a very energetic and friendly genealogist there at My Heritage. And of course, Gilad, you may have met or heard speak, they're all doing fine, from what I understand was my latest message from Daniel.

Fisher: All right, fingers crossed, it stays that way.

David: Well, you know, I wanted to tell a story in regard to Israel before the war broke out, and I think I'm still going to share it because it's from 2,300 years ago. An archeological find of a grave of a 2,300-year-old lady who happened to be a courtesan, who may have been traveling with Alexander the Great’ Greek army, when it went in through Israel. Her grave was found with bronze mirrors, and all sorts of things, but it was a burial, not in the city, but on a road along the path.

Fisher: Unbelievable.

David: Well, you never know what you're going to find when you're doing genealogy. Sometimes it's not good news and Family Histoire News, the latest buzz is the data breach with 23andMe that affects accounts relating to Ashkenazi Jewish customers.

Fisher: Yeah, this is a very serious thing. And it's certainly been a wave of reaction in the family history world this past week. And the story is that somebody has gotten in there and claims to have accessed somewhere around 1 million people with Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry. They have their names, and of course, the connection to Ashkenazi Jewish background. What can they do with it? Who is it going to? Who has captured this? That still remains to be seen, but obviously, a potentially very serious situation?

David: Absolutely. You know, let's go across the pond once again. And this time, we're going to go to the island of Jomfruland in Norway, where a family went looking for a lost earring, got out their metal detector, they started digging around the yard and happened to find two 1200 year old bronze brooches covered in gold that belonged to probably an aristocratic lady.

Fisher: Wow!

David: So you just never know when you lose an earring what you might find in its place, and who knows, Fish, 1200 years from now on Extreme Genes, our descendants will be talking about an earring that was found from 2023.

Fisher: [Laughs] Yes, very possible. That's a great story. It's just amazing how many things are still digging up over in Norway and Sweden and England that just goes on and on, and Israel of course.

David: Well, you know, the best discovery is somebody had in their attic, a record that their parents made in 1946. And this gentleman got to hear his parents’ voice for the first time in decades. His dad died in the 60s, and his mother's singing a song to him telling the story. And this 70 plus year old man was brought to tears to finally once again hear his parents’ voice.

Fisher: You know, that is a unique experience. I remember back in the 90s, I found an old reel to reel tape of my dad and my mom and me from back in the 50s when I was a little kid. And I hadn't heard my dad's voice in 20 years. And when I first started playing it, I thought, well, that's not his voice. That's not what it sounds like. Because somehow over all those years of not hearing it, it changed in my mind, and I'm listening to my mother's voice and it's like, well, that sounds just like her. My sister was on there too, and it sounded the same, and I thought, wait a minute, and then the more I listened to it, there was a certain moving of the cobwebs within my mind. And suddenly it's like, oh, yeah, that is his voice. Listen to that! And now it's locked into my brain again, because I listen to it every once in a great while. But I'm sure he had that same experience, because if it's been 60 years since he'd heard his father's voice, I just can't imagine that he would retain it.

David: Well, you know, it's amazing when you can find things like that. I have a reel to reel tape of my grandfather yelling at my sister for practicing her clarinet, and I'm going to get it digitized, because I've never heard my grandfather's voice.

Fisher: [Laughs] Wow!

David: So you know, as we approach Halloween, the most haunted places in America were detailed in Conde Nast Traveler magazine.

Fisher: Yes.

David: And it's fascinating. I've been to some of them like Lizzie Borden’s house. I haven't been to the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California, but that's long known to be haunted.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: How about Gettysburg?

Fisher: Gettysburg is a great one. There's some videos online that kind of tie into that. How about Salem, Massachusetts, not far from you?

David: Yeah, one that is very obscure, hard to get to, The Red Onion Saloon, built in 1898 in Skagway, Alaska, former brothel is haunted by one of its workers.

Fisher: Ooh. I think this is the freakiest one though, The Honolulu International Airport. I mean, anybody who's ever been to Hawaii has been there. And supposedly there is a lady in waiting, who's supposed to be the apparition of a blonde woman in a white dress. And she shows up in areas of the airport that are off limits. So, you can read all about this in the Conde Nast Traveler online. What a great list fun stuff.

David: Well, that's all I have from Beantown this week, but don't forget, if you're not an American Ancestors member, you can use the coupon code Extreme and save $20.

Fisher: All right, David, thank you so much. We'll talk to you the back end of the show with Ask Us Anything. And coming up next, we're going to talk to Julie Hawkins Ennis, about the Georgetown University 272, in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 477

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Julie Hawkins Ennis

Fisher: Well, you know, it was back in 2016, that we first reported on Extreme Genes about the situation at Georgetown University that came to be known as the GU272. And it was the story of the enslaved people who worked at Georgetown under the Jesuit there, who were sold down into Louisiana because Georgetown University was running out of money. And it became quite a story that has resulted in compensation for descendants and all kinds of research into who those people were. And as a result of this all these years later now, they're having reunions of family members who connected to those who were sold off to Louisiana. And one of the organizers of that recent reunion is on the line with me right now. She is Julie Hawkins Ennis. And Julie, it's great to have you on the show!

Julie: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Fisher: You learned how long ago that you were connected to these people in Louisiana?

Julie: I actually learned about 2018, the story came out about 2016. My children at the time had entered the Catholic high schools in Washington DC. My son was at Gonzaga. My daughter was at Georgetown visitation. I had heard sprinklings about the story, because I think when it came out, he was on the news here. And I said okay, and it also alerted me to the fact as I spoke to you earlier, I started connecting to a lot of families in Louisiana, Alabama, just down the Deep South.

Fisher: Sure.

Julie: And coming from Southern Maryland. And originally from Southern Maryland, we had always grew up believing or knowing that we were strictly from Southern Maryland, nowhere else my family generations really didn't start leaving there until my generation actually.

Fisher: So, you're saying then that none of your people were among those who went to Louisiana, but through DNA and other sources, you started to connect to those folks who were obviously from some of the same people you were from before that event took place in 1838?

Julie: Right, right. Those families are my cousins. They could have been aunts and uncles. We're still looking into my family line because it is currently GU272 or the Jesuit enslaved we like to say. We think it might be more than 272. It’s still being researched. One of our committee members, her name was Henrietta Pike, her third great grandmother, although she was on the list, I guess you should say to be sold away.

Fisher: Yes.

Julie: The priest hid her grandmother in the woods, her family in the woods in Maryland. So, they never left but they were supposed to be sold away. But they remained here because they hid out.

Fisher: Had you long known that story or was it revealed to you through the course of all this?

Julie: It was revealed to me through the course of all that even Henrietta says she grew up not really knowing the story. And then she found out too, like around 2016/2017. So, when I found out my kids were going to Catholic high schools, and my son called me to say that, well, I think it was his history teacher found out that I was from St. Mary's County, which is in Southern Maryland.

Fisher: Right

Julie: And told Justin, hey, I think your mom could be connected to this. So, I ended up meeting the history teacher and there was a professor from Georgetown, Adam Rothman. He is the history professor at Georgetown. And he is kind of the expert in this history, or he's the one studying the history and all the descendants.

Fisher: Sure.

Julie: I met him that day. And that's when I realized I'm like, okay, I connect, because there were certain criteria that they had for families from Southern Maryland, and from Louisiana, but I know from Southern Maryland, if you were black, Catholic, bi-or-tri racial, or mixed race from that area and had certain names in the family. You see, Hawkins is one of the names of the families. So, the names are like Dorothy, Brown, Yorkshire, Eaglin, Barnes. Well, I have all of those names in my family.

Fisher: Wow!

Julie: My grandmother's mother was a Barnes. I'm a Hawkins. My paternal grandmother's mother was an Eaglin, you see what I’m saying? So, those families connect.

Fisher: Yeah. Let me ask you, then, how did you feel about it when you learned about this?

Julie: Oh, because I grew up as a Catholic, and we were devout Catholics, okay. And from Southern Maryland, you know, if you know the history of Southern Maryland, that area is the seed of Catholicism. So, everybody the majority of families, black, white, Native American, you were Catholic. Our life wasn't just a religion. Catholicism was our way of life.

Fisher: Sure.

Julie: So, I’m trying to explain to you how deeply Catholic we were. You know, some of us younger ones, we strayed here and there, but my grandmother, sat with the rosary every night, the novena, she went to church every Sunday. She called us, you know, even when we left St. Mary's County, she would call us to make sure we were going to get our ashes on Ash Wednesday, you’ve got to get to church.

Fisher: Right. [Laughs] So, you were devout and this was really a shocker to you.

Julie: So it was a shocker. And it bothered me. I'll be honest, it bothered me. My grandparents had just passed both of them who were devout Catholics. They had passed like the year before. And I was almost glad they weren't alive to see that. We’re talking about priests and Jesuits who we grew up thinking, if anybody's close to God, they are.

Fisher: These are the ones, yeah.

Julie: Right. They're the one. And to think that they did the same thing, as I'll say it normal people because you know, according to Catholicism and priests, the priests are the closest thing to God almost. And they did the same thing as the regular people. [Laughs]

Fisher: Wow!

Julie: You enslaved people and you sold them for money. You sold them to say Georgetown pretty much. And they tell you or you know the history, if you read the history of the GU272. Two things, I guess that made them feel better that they were sending the families to Louisiana and family units. That's why you have the bonds family, the ground family, or whatever the name is in their hands. Okay, well, we're selling them, but we're going to keep them together.

Fisher: Ugh.

Julie: I almost left the Catholic Church, I'll be honest. That year, I thought about pulling my kids out of Catholic school, but then I had to stop, because that's all I knew.

Fisher: So, let me ask you about the reunion because you put a lot into this. And you've kind of been the person up front and center for media coverage of it. Tell us about the reunion and how many people showed up and where you held it. And what were some of the things you did?

Julie: Oh, wow. So, upfront was myself, Rochelle Praighter, Henrietta Pike, and Francis and Steve Hawkins. I just want to give them credit because we all put a lot into this.

Fisher: Sure.

Julie: You know my name, it just happens to be on the press release, and because I was from Southern Maryland. And I was kind of directing what to do and how to do it in Southern Maryland. But what we did was we put together tours of all the missions in Southern Maryland, which included St. Ignatius chapel and St. Indigos, Newtown Manor and Lennar town, they call it now Newtown Neck, or Newtown Neck, Maryland, which was also St. Francis Xavier church. So, we took the families to all those missions. Then we went to Charles County, to another mission, which was Port Tobacco, which is St. Thomas Manor, St. Ignatius chapel point was the name of that church. And then we took the families to what was the mission in Buoy, Maryland, which was Sacred Heart and White Marsh man. And all of those locations were where families were located, that was sold down to Louisiana.

Fisher: Okay.

Julie: So, that was the first two days and that was beautiful. I didn't realize how important it was for the families or the descendants of those sold away, to come back to what they would call ancestral lands. It was beautiful those two days. Then on the third day, which was Saturday, and this is all during Labor Day weekend, we had almost kind of like an opening ceremony where some of the descendants spoke and talked about their history. We had a county commissioner from Charles County, Ruben Collins, who spoke. We had the executive director of the Southern Maryland Heritage area. Southern Maryland was just designated as a national heritage area. I think it was in May. So she also came and spoke. We had Father Kiseki, a Jesuit. I think he's from Canada. So, we had several speakers. We had several descendants that spoke. And then we just had a big dinner after that where everybody got to meet each other and share their stories and hug, because we are the descendants of our ancestors who left and this was the first time of everybody coming back together since 1838.

Fisher: Wow! And the pictures I saw, it just looked like everybody was just having a grand time and emotional, and just this sense of connection, not only with each other, but with the past.

Julie: Oh my god, yes!

Fisher: And understanding, maybe for the first time for many of them, who they were and what their history is.

Julie: Exactly. One gentleman came to me while I spoke, he came to the stage. And he told me, he said, you know, I'm a 50 year old man, and I consider myself pretty hardcore. He said, what you did for me and all the rest of our descendants. He said, it was the greatest thing that you could have ever done because it brought us back home. We got to see the land that our ancestors walked on. And that's when it touched me. I was like, wow! It was emotional because these families that were sold away were separated from us.

Fisher: Yep.

Julie: I mean, and what I compared it to was, if you ever saw Roots, and remember this part in Roots, where I think it was Kizzy, the mother and her son she was separated from, and she's hollering and screaming because they were taking her son away to be sold away. That's how we were as families.

Fisher: Yes, of course.

Julie: Yeah, that's the way I can describe it. But it was beautiful. As a matter of fact, we're going to do it again possibly, because we're finding more descendants. And we're going to bring everybody back together, just to concentrate more on more research of who we are to each other.

Fisher: Yeah, I hope you get some books out of this, because I think there have got to be some amazing stories from each branch of all these families. And you'll see that 272 number go up I'm sure.

Julie: We think it will. There's a lot of historians and genealogists and professors from Georgetown that is still researching. I'm still trying to figure out if maybe we did have somebody from my side of the family that was sold away, or just Jesuit enslaved, you know what I mean?

Fisher: Sure.

Julie: My home is like in Leonard town, where I'm from. I literally grew up about 15 to 20 miles from each of the missions that we're talking about. If our home was still there, you know what I mean?

Fisher: Yep.

Julie: Somebody may have been enslaved by the Jesuits. Like I said, we have the criteria, the names and surnames and stuff. But this was even going on though, before 1838. Somebody said to me, and not taken away from that sale in 1838, at all, but someone said to me once, she said, you know, that was just a moment in time. That was one of the moments and it was captured on paper is documented more than others. She said that I really think there were more and I believe that too.

Fisher: It's possible, absolutely. Well, that's where the research comes in. My guest is Julie Hawkins Ennis, she's from Maryland, and has put together a remarkable reunion of the Georgetown University 272 who were sold off in 1838, to Louisiana to raise money for Georgetown University because it was financially failing. Julie, thank you so much for your time and coming on and telling us all about it. And congratulations on a great event! And I look forward to hearing about more.

Julie: Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.

Fisher: And coming up next and institutionalize grandmother's records, leads to a whole lot more when we return in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 3 Episode 477

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Julianne Mangin

Fisher: And welcome back to America's Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here. And you know, there are a lot of folks out there who start digging into their family tree and discover a few secrets, some of which have cast their long shadows even to the present day. And that is certainly the case for my next guest. She's an author. She's a researcher, she lives in Maryland. She's a former librarian for the Library of Congress. It's Julianne Mangin. And Julianne, welcome to the show! It's great to have you.

Julianne: Well, thank you. It's great to be here.

Fisher: You have been researching now for how long?

Julianne: Shortly after I retired from the library. So, it was early in 2012 that I started researching genealogy.

Fisher: And off you went and found yourself researching your mother's side in my home state of Connecticut, wound up not too far up the coast and a little town called Norwich, and tell us about what you discovered there.

Julianne: Well, one of the things that I did know even before I got into genealogy was that my grandmother had been mentally ill and she was in a state hospital. But it wasn't until after I retired that I got the exact name of the hospital, which is Norwich State Hospital in the town of Preston just outside Norwich. And I also had been hearing my mother's family stories and the kind of genealogy she did and things didn't add up.

Fisher: Yeah.

Julianne: She had never gotten her mother's patient record from the state hospital and I decided to do that, and it was a very surprising thing. First of all, I thought, oh, Bill will give me the records. Well, they did but I found that that's not true for every state.

Fisher: Right.

Julianne: But Connecticut seems to be a little more liberal. I did have to prove that I was a descendant. But one of the surprising things that they said right away was, “Oh, by the way, she had three other family members that were patients at the hospital.”

Fisher: Whoa! That's quite a find right there.

Julianne: Yeah, that bowled me over. And they asked, “Would you like us to send them too?” And I’m like, yes!

Fisher: [Laughs] Yeah, turn them over. Did they have diagnoses in there as to what the trials were that these people were suffering from?

Julianne: Yeah. So, what I found out was my great grandmother also was there, and also her sister, and then my grandmother's sister. So, there were those four women that represented two generations of mental illness. And so it gave me a multi generational story.

Fisher: Are you seeing that mental illness is continuing down your lines from this period and these people?

Julianne: No, I think most of my family now is just sort of the normally neurotic types.

Fisher: Right. [Laughs]

Julianne: I did a lot of general reading about mental health care in the early part of the 20th century and state hospitals. And I did come across something that implied that well, there may be a genetic component to schizophrenia both also usually there needs to be some sort of environmental trigger that makes it come out. And we all in our generation wasn't on welfare.

Fisher: Um hmm.

Julianne: What I'm saying is like, my great grandmother was a French Canadian immigrant with her family, and they were very poor. And they worked in the mills. And then my grandmother, she was also the end from a poor family. And so that was the family legacy. But my parents, especially my mother, I'm very thankful were able to break that cycle.

Fisher: Yes, that's right. They're kind of the heroes generationally, when you see these situations come up. How was your mother raised and impacted by her mother's situation?

Julianne: Well, my mother had always told me that she went into a county home when she was six years old, because her mother had become mentally ill and went to Norwich State Hospital. And when I got the records, what I discovered was she actually didn't go into the county home until she was 10.

Fisher: Okay.

Julianne: And this was a kind of discrepancy that I kind of laid to the fact that my mother was so traumatized. It was like she was trying to erase the worst years of her life, because my grandparents apparently fought very bitterly.

Fisher: Um hmm.

Julianne: They had a very bad marriage. And my grandmother was paranoid schizophrenic. And my grandfather was a World War I veteran who had been gassed and had shell shock.

Fisher: Ugh.

Julianne: Which is now what they call PTSD, and so they couldn't cope.

Fisher: No.

Julianne: And my poor mother must have witnessed all this.

Fisher: Sure, of course. And then the question is, is your grandfather then I would imagine, wasn't able to take care of her because he himself was not well.

Julianne: Right. And the thing is that my mother didn't tell me the complete story. So, I always had a bad impression of my grandfather that he abandoned her in the county home and so forth.

Fisher: Yeah.

Julianne: And when I really dug into the history, this is one of the things that I like about doing family history is that I found redemptive aspects, and one was finding out how ill he really was. I had no idea.

Fisher: Yeah, so you were able to forgive him a little bit for that. And you found out also didn't you, as you dug into this, that he may not have been your mother's biological father.

Julianne: Yes, that was the very first day that I looked at the patient records. They sent me about 200 photocopied pages of all four patients. And I'm reading through it. And I get to this one part. And it's a transcript of my grandmother telling the social worker that she had slept with her aunt's husband, and we did not know that.

Fisher: Ah.

Julianne: And then I looked at the timing of my mother's birth. And I started thinking, you know, it's a 50/50 chance.

Fisher: Right, right. So, have you done DNA to figure it out?

Julianne: Yes, I did.

Fisher: And?

Julianne: And the man I know, as my grandfather was not my mother's biological father.

Fisher: Okay. So it's been proven. Wow!

Julianne: Yes. And it was funny, because at first when I was doing it, I didn't know it was 2012. I still didn't know about DNA for genealogy. But when I did put my DNA test on Ancestry, I got matched up with a second cousin, who I didn't know. And it turns out that person's great grandfather was the other man's father.

Fisher: Ah! So, kind of matched the record you found among those 240 pages, which is incredible.

Julianne: Right. But I just remember reading that I had to call my husband over and say, you’ve got to look at this.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Julianne: My mind wasn't ready to wrap around it. And my husband was more removed from the family story than I am and so he read and he says, she's saying that the uncle was your mother's father. And I’m like, oh!

Fisher: Yeah, right.

Julianne: And I really needed an outside person sort of give me the reality.

Fisher: I’ve been there.

Julianne: I think many of us who have done this work have been there where you just have to say read this. You can't quite get your brain around it. You need another set of eyes that are less emotionally tied to it to kind of come to that conclusion. So, you put together this beautiful book. It's called “Secrets of the Asylum, Norwich State Hospital and My Family.” I got to ask you, how has this made you feel as you've made these discoveries, and how has it impacted your life?

Julianne: Well, first of all, it consumed my life for several years.

Fisher: Sure.

Julianne: I really think in the long run, it's just very important to know your own family history. And especially if there's family secrets, because I think the fact that my mom was hiding something, because I think she suspected what was wrong with the family. I couldn't have an authentic relationship with my mother at certain points just because she was hiding something. And I didn't know what it was.

Fisher: Um hmm.

Julianne: So, I feel like finding out the truth of the family history was empowering to me. And it also made me more empathetic to her and to grandma. And to grandpa, when I knew their stories, and just saw what a hard life they had, and they didn't have the social services we have now to work things out.

Fisher: Sure.

Julianne: So, things happen like they happen for a reason. One of the purposes of the book is to show that family history has the power to empower people and to heal old wounds.

Fisher: I think there's a lot of wisdom there. Well, it's a great book. It's a great read. Also, you want to check it out, “Secrets of the Asylum, Norwich State Hospital and My Family.” It's written by my guest Julianne Mangin. And Julianne, you can get this of course through Book Baby, Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com. Of course, the print book isn't due out till the end of the month. But you can get that through Book Baby, if you order the Kindle version, correct?

Julianne: You can get both the printed version and the Kindle version now if you go straight to the store at BookBaby.com.

Fisher: All right. Well, thanks so much for coming on and sharing your story. And I know that creating a book is almost like having a child right you realize how much work you've put into that. So, congratulations and thanks for coming on the show!

Julianne: Oh, you're welcome. Thank you very much for having me.

Fisher: And coming up next, David Allen Lambert returns for Ask Us Anything, in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 4 Episode 477

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right back for Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, David Allen Lambert is back from Boston. And David, our first question comes from Sheila in Scranton, Pennsylvania. And she says, “Hello Fish and Dave. I cannot find a death record for my ancestor, and it's driving me nuts. Can you guys give me another way to find that date?” Simple enough question. And really, there's a lot of ways to go with this, Dave.

David: I'm always glad to help people find dates, but I'm not even a dating app. [Laughs]

Fisher: Yeah, right. [Laughs]

David: Anyways. Well, obviously, there are alternatives, because some towns and states did not keep death records early on. First off, you might want to look at religious records. How about a church? Was there a burial record that was recorded or maybe the minister or clergyman recorded in a diary of the funerals that he attended? So, knowing what religion your family was may help you in that. Of course, if you have an idea of where he or she was living, looking at the census, narrowing down the decennial year that they were alive is going to help you. And if they happen to die the year of the census between 1850 and 1880, there's a mortality schedule. They'll give you not just the date of death, but actually the age at death and the cause of death.

Fisher: Yeah, very often. And you know, we run into these things, not only with death records, but with birth records, also, where we want to look elsewhere, marriage records. I remember finding the only record of a marriage of my great grandfather's sister. It was just a journal that was kept by the Minister. And so, these are the same people that take care of the dead when they die. So maybe like you say, there's something there as far as that goes.

David: And that's true. I mean, you never know what family relics you have in the attic. I mean, we talked the other week about coffin plates, those that have the date of death on them.

Fisher: Yep, That’s true.

David: Another source could be looking for the social security death card, or the final payment out from Social Security, because those are going to record those. And many of those you'll find on Ancestry.com. Directories.

Fisher: Find A Grave.

David: Find A Grave is another one. Billion Graves has many gravestones on there. There is Newspapers.com. Search for the person that year in the newspaper, either a death notice or an obituary.

Fisher: Yeah, that's the thing. And you don't just want the date, you want to find out the information surrounding it, people connected to that person. The dates really just provide essentially the skeleton, right, of what we know about a person, when they entered the world when they left the world when they united with somebody in holy matrimony, and brought the rest of us into the world. And so, those dates and places can really help find out more about the other people associated with them and develop the stories about those. Because let's face it, you know, there's not a lot of Extreme Genes without stories. And that's what we're really trying to develop here.

David: And I think the thing about stories as dates one thing, but knowing the background, the why, the what, and the how also helps with your health history, knowing what your ancestors died from, could be a concern of your own health.

Fisher: Yes.

David: Knowing what of sisters die from could be a concern of your own health.

Fisher: Yeah. And we actually heard a little of the discovery that Julianne made in the previous segment about her ancestors, and she's finding she hasn't had any problem in her family with it. But, it was good for her to know that these things exist, these pre existing conditions that could be passed down genetically. So yeah, it's really important that you get that date that you develop all that information around it. And the sources for doing it are countless. One other thought also, David would be that if you happen to know what cemetery some of the other relatives are buried in, perhaps you'll find that he or she is buried right there in the same place. So all you have to do is check in with the sexton of that cemetery, assuming there still is one and it's not one of those old abandoned ones out in the woods, and they can often provide you all kinds of information.

David: Well, I think that this is a great way of learning more about your ancestor by looking at alternative routes and never give up on there is no death record or birth or marriage record. There's always alternatives.

Fisher: Great question. Hope that helps you, Shiela. Good luck with it! Got another one coming up next when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 477

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right back for our final segment on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here with David Allen Lambert. It's Ask Us Anything. And David, our next question comes from Kaysville, Utah. Greg says, “Hi boys. My ancestor was a policeman in a small town in the 19th century. That's all I know about him. Any sources you know of that can tell me more about his time in that job?” Great question.

David: Well, you know, it's funny, I had a reference question a couple of years ago at NEHGS about someone whose grandfather was a strike breaker in the Boston police strike back in 1919. In fact, our governor at that point in time was none other than Calvin Coolidge who would later go on to be our US President.

Fisher: Um hmm.

David: All these people that are strikebreakers had actually careers in the police force. And the ones that had been in the police force who went on strike actually lost their jobs. There are actual files, sometimes photographs of them. Dear friend of mine, Margaret Sullivan of the Boston Police Department is a lecture on the topic of the Boston Police Strike, and what records survive. And I mean, it doesn't happen to be a big city like Boston, it can be a small town.

Fisher: Sure.

David: You can look at places like the newspaper. If you have annual town reports, it always list who the chief is, who the lieutenants might be, and who the patrolman are. And that's usually on most town reports.

Fisher: Yeah, you know, in the smaller towns, there are a lot more little stories, because the hometown papers, they're relying on some of the hometown stories, developing readers, right?

David: Um hmm.

Fisher: And so, the big cities, little cities, I had a relative in New York, who was a cop in the 1840s, and found a story about how he pulled somebody out of the river and saved them from drowning. I think the stories in newspapers are actually some of the most interesting about people in any kind of public service like that, whether they were policemen or firemen or some other field of endeavor for protecting the public, Militia units, things like that.

David: Well, you know, sometimes it's a matter of walking into the cemetery and finding the gravestone of a police officer. Sometimes badges are carved on the stones, or sometimes there's flags.

Fisher: Sure.

David: The flag marker, those can help you, too.

Fisher: I do remember also finding in an archive a yearbook of public servants around the turn of the century, and one of them had a picture of my great grandmother's brother, who was a policeman at that time. It’s the only picture like that that survived in the family of any of the branches that I've seen. So, we were able to copy that, and obviously enhance it with modern tools like they have on My Heritage, and very useful stuff there. So you know, really, there are a lot of things about police officers that you can develop, if you just think a little bit outside the box. But I would start with the archives of your local county or your local town. I would look on Newspapers.com and some other sites like Chronicling America and see what you can discover there, especially the stories about crimes that they may have been involved with. And it's pretty fun stuff. You might also look into other cousins, distant cousins who might have pictures of some of these ancestors in their uniform,

David: And local historical societies are a great place, because you never know what's being donated on a local town level. That can be a group photo from back in the 19 teens and all the policemen fully identified, and you could find a photo just not a name of your ancestor.

Fisher: Yeah, absolutely. And that's a lot of fun, too. Often, they'll have the names right on the back of the pictures. Sometimes they're from newspaper archives, too David, right? You can find them on eBay. In fact, I found something like that for a friend of mine once about a year or so ago. So, think outside the box and look in these strange places, and you never know what you're going to come up with. David. That's it. We're out of time! So, thank you so much for coming on. And we will talk to you again next week.

David: Looking forward to it, and have a good one.

Fisher: All right. And thanks to you for listening to the show this week. If you missed any of it and want to catch it again, of course catch the podcast on Apple Media TuneIn Radio, iHeart Radio, ExtremeGenes.com, Spotify, you name it, we're probably there. And by the way, if you haven't signed up for our Weekly Genie Newsletter yet, it's absolutely free. You can do it through our Facebook page or on our website, ExtremeGenes.com. We'd love to have you be a participant. We'll talk to you again next week. Thanks for joining us. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice normal family!

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