Episode 48 - The Journey of Beethoven's Hair and A Research Shocker:  Prominent Californian Wasn't Always Who He Said He Was

podcast episode Jul 07, 2014

Fisher’s Family Histoire News talks about a real life “Saving Private Ryan” family.  Only they weren’t American.  And it wasn’t in World War II.  He’ll tell you all about it.  Plus, there is one nation in the world with solid family records going back over a thousand years, minimal immigration, and a population that generally came from the same place.  No research challenge there!  But geneticists love this place.  Fisher will tell you just what country we’re talking about.

Family memorabilia can often lead us on a journey through a family’s history.  Stan Lindaas of HeritageConsulting.com returns to tell us the remarkable story about the journey of a locket of hair from Ludwig von Beethoven, and the family that owned it.  Stan did some of the research on this project, and you’ll want to hear it.

Just about anyone who has ever started a family history research project can tell you, rarely does it go in the direction you expect.  It was certainly that way for Janet Lancaster of Modesto, California who was asked to dig up just a few, simple facts on a prominent citizen of Modesto from the 19th Century.  Both Janet and the town were astonished at what she learned!  You’ll enjoy both the story and learning about the process.

Tom Perry, our Preservation Authority from TMCPlace.com returns to talk about your best options in a digital video camera, and to answer a listener question about preserving her great grandparents’ “courting” letters. 

That's this week on Extreme Genes!

Transcript of Episode 48

Host: Scott Fisher

Segment 1 Episode 48

Fisher: Oh it’s kooky, crazy stories in Research Info this week. I don’t even know how we find these things. Hey, it’s Fisher your Radio Roots Sleuth and welcome to America’s Family History Show, Extreme Genes where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out. By the way, thanks so much to so many of you Genies who’ve been Liking our Facebook page, and checking out the Amazing Hall of Family Treasures I told you about last week that included the 1840s Era family bible record from New York. It’s been fun to share. The bible records are now all safely housed in acid-free sleeves and next in her sight are the nine 1850s Era Daguerreotypes. Photo expert Ron Fox and I are going to attempt to put them through a homemade electrolysis treatment that is supposed to eliminate the tarnish of 160 years. We’ve got some practice Daguerreotypes we’re going to try it on first. If it works, we’ll tell you all about it, maybe even do a video instruction. It involves batteries, alligator clips, and special solutions. Ron and I will be mad scientists for an afternoon. All right, this week two fascinating guests; the first coming up in about seven minutes is our friend Stan Lindaas of HeritageConsulting.com. Stan’s story this week involves a lock of hair kept in a locket, collected from the body of one Ludwig von Beethoven. Yes, Stan was part of an effort to track the movement of the locket down through the years, and the family that had it for most of its existence. You’ll be amazed how you can take an item such as this and use it to learn about your ancestors.

Later in the show, we’ll talk to Janet Lancaster, Modesto, California. Janet was given what she thought would be a simple assignment; research the original owner of an old home; a man whose name is found on buildings and streets throughout her town and come up with something more about him than is in the local history books. What she thought would maybe a weekend’s worth of work turned into something much more. And wait till you hear why. You might learn something that could apply to your own ancestral research. Then, Tom Perry our Preservation Authority from TMCPlace.com will be here to answer another listener question on preserving what she calls her great grandparents’ “courting” letters. Tom will have some great suggestions for her and you. Our ExtremeGenes.com poll for this week was. “Are you taking a family history vacation anytime this summer?” And you can include reunions. Eighty eight percent (88%) said yes! Sounds like a good time to me. This week’s poll has to do with Independence Day. Yes, coming up. Did you have an ancestor in the Revolution? You can vote yes a Patriot, yes a Loyalist, yes both or no neither. Cast your vote now at ExtremeGenes.com. Just a reminder, if you missed any of our past shows or there’s one you’d like to hear again, catch the podcast at iTunes, iHeart Radio or ExtremeGenes.com. And you can download our new free podcast app for iPhones or Androids. It’s time for this week’s addition of Family Histoire News from the pages of ExtremeGenes.com. We start with AP story that might sound familiar to you. Several brothers go off to war to defend their country. All, but one, are killed, at which point a missionary is ordered to bring the one remaining brother home to his grieving family. No, it’s not “Saving Private Ryan.” It’s not even from World War II. It’s the very real story of the Smith family of Barnard Castle, England. John McDowell-Smith and his wife Margaret sent six sons off to war in the trenches of France in World War I. 

Recently, a local historian researched the story which is well-known in the little village. The first son to die was Robert in September of 1916. George died just a couple of months later. Frederick was killed in July of 1917, while John died in October of that year. Finally, a fifth son Albert died in October 1918. Only a sixth son Wilfred remained. A tiny article in the digitized area paper of the time told the rest of the story. The wife of the local vicar felt such pain for Margaret Smith in her grief that she wrote to the wife of King George V, Queen Mary, to explain the situation. The article quoted the response from the Royals. “I’m demanded by the Queen to thank you for your letter of the 16th and to request you to be good enough to convey to Mr. and Mrs. Smith an expression of Her Majesty’s deep sympathy with them in the sad losses that they have sustained by the death of their five sons. The Queen has caused Mr and Mrs Smith’s request concerning their youngest son to be forwarded for consideration of the war office authorities.”

No one knows exactly the circumstances by which Wilfred came home, but of course he did. He had endured a mustard gas attack which caused him ongoing respiratory problems. One report said it had caused him temporary blindness. Wilfred went on to live a full life. He worked as a mason and chimney sweep and became a doting father and grandfather who is well remembered by his family. Read the full story with photos at ExtremeGenes.com. Next, from the BBC, it’s a nation whose family records go back more than a thousand years. With low immigration and a population of only 320 thousand people. What country is this? Iceland. And for these reasons it is considered a geneticist paradise. Over a third of the population, most all from Norwegian origins has provided DNA samples to assist medical researchers. Scientists are now trying to double that number, but are getting some resistance from some citizens over privacy issues. The nation is so homogeneous that researchers say the DNA samples include very little so-called background noise in identifying faulty genes, ideal conditions for working to eradicate diseases that plague mankind. It is a noble cause in an ideal location, but from a family history viewpoint what an easy research situation. Coming up next our friend Stan Lindaas of Heritage Consulting returns. He was once part of a research project following a locket containing a lock of hair from Beethoven. Through space and time, generation to generation, it’s a remarkable story of a family that owned it for generations. Stan will be here in three minutes on Extreme Genes Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com.

Segment 2 Episode 48

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Stan Lindaas

Fisher: And welcome back to Extreme Genes, Family History Radio ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth with Stan Lindaas from HeritageConsulting.com. Stan welcome back to the show. Good to see you again.

Stan: It’s great to be here Fish. It’s been a while.

Fisher: Fresh back from London too.

Stan: Yeah. I got a suntan in London this time.

Fisher: I’m waiting to hear if you got a little bit of an accent working here, but I’m not catching it.

Stan: If I did, it probably would sound like something from Alabama.

Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs] Well, Stan has always been involved in some unusual types of research projects and we heard about one recently that I had to ask you about, what’s the story behind the research with Beethoven’s hair? 

Stan: Beethoven’s Hair actually is a title of a book by Russell Martin. I got a phone call back in 1998 or so from Russ Martin who lives in Denver. He had been asked to track down and figure out what had happened to a locket that contained a lock of hair from Beethoven. The locket had gone on sale through Sotheby's of London and a doctor in Texas by the name of Ira Brilliant. A great name.

Fisher: [Laughs] I want my name to be that. It’s Doctor Brilliant, please.

Stan: Yeah. Well, Ira was a little bit enamored with Beethoven and had over the years started collecting all kinds of things, first edition copies of scores and musical pieces that Beethoven had done and other artifacts. And as it turns out, he and another man by the name, you’re going to love this one, Che Guevara, not that one, not the rebellious one. 

Fisher: We are talking about Beethoven as in Ludwig Von. 

Stan: As in Ludwig Von. As in composer, musician, the whole thing, and the deafness plays into this. Che and Ira had wanted to purchase another piece of music. They had established foundation and a center at San Diego State University which is still there. It’s a Beethoven research center and it has all kinds of Beethoven artifacts. Originals. They were going after this one piece of music and they didn’t get it. And as just kind of a side note, the locket came up and they bid on it and got the thing for seven thousand dollars. 

Fisher: Okay.

Stan: One would think it would go for you know, half a million or something like that. 

Fisher: Well, there’s always the doubt of authenticity when it comes to hair.

Stan: Exactly. And that’s where –

Fisher: Especially in ‘98. I mean you’re talking about a time where the DNA wasn’t there yet.

Stan: Oh no, DNA was there.

Fisher: Was it?

Stan: Oh heavens, yes. Yeah, they had the use of DNA and as a matter of fact, through the process were able to match that locket with other pieces of hair that were known to be Beethoven’s. So they know without a doubt that it is his hair. 

Fisher: Hmm.

Stan: They did a lot of other testing on it too that revealed some things that were never known before and kind of explained some of the melodies that Beethoven had experienced throughout his life, and potentially the cause of his death. The book explains all of that. The bottom line is what they discovered is that he had in his system, forty times the normal level of led.

 Fisher: Wow! 

Stan: He consumed copious amounts of wine and in the day they would use led to take the bitterness out of the wine, and so he drank a lot of that. And most of his silver that he ate with and plates and goblets were made with led. And so, everything that he touched virtually had led in it. They think that this is part of the cause of his deafness. The led poisoning symptoms all match very well with the circumstances that he was living under. The pain and the constant stomach troubles that he had, his deafness. 

Fisher: Now, could this apply to a lot of our ancestors who would have lived similarly?

Stan: Oh yeah. They would have had probably high levels of led because of the circumstances in which they lived. 

Fisher: Well, and depending on where I assume.

Stan: Yeah, where, and also economic class. The higher the economic class the more of the fine serving items that you had and the more wine you’d be drinking as opposed to home brew.

Fisher: Right. And beer wasn’t served that way?

Stan: Uh no. The fact is that the lower the status in the economic levels, the less likely they were going to be exposed to that level of led contamination.

Fisher: We saw a lot of royals go through this.

Stan: Yes. Exactly. And it explains a lot of those, but at the time that Beethoven was dying, one of his very dear friends Johann Hummel was the mentor for a young musician by the name of Ferdinand Hiller. They got word that Beethoven was dying and they went to Vienna and they stayed there for a few months before he died. And during the course of those several months they visited him regularly and young Ferdinand Hiller got to visit with and even records later in his life how he laments the fact that he wasn’t wise enough as a 15 year old to write down more descriptively the information that Beethoven had expounded during these visits. 

Fisher: Because you forget over time for sure.

Stan: Without a doubt, and for me and you, and probably even for the 15 year old, time means next week.

Fisher: Right. [Laughs] 

Stan: You’ve forgotten a lot of the details.

Fisher: That’s right.

Stan: And so at the time that he was there, he visited personally with Beethoven. And most people hadn’t heard of Ferdinand Hiller, but he became a really, really prominent musician. As a matter of fact, he was in a quartet that did little studio concerts in their apartments or another apartment with Chopin, Mendelssohn.

Fisher: Oh. Not a bad group.

Stan: Yeah, and Liszt

Fisher: Oh. [Laughs]

Stan: So the guy had the aptitude.

Fisher: And so what was your role in all this?

Stan: My role goes with Ferdinand Hiller. At the time that Beethoven died, he and Hummel were there shortly afterwards, and the custom of the time was for a prominent or famous individuals, that people would snip lockets of their hair and take them as a keep sake or remembrance.

Fisher: They still do that today. John Lennon his hair is out there, Elvis’s hair.

Stan: Yes. Well, Lincoln. At the time Lincoln died, by the time they had him to burial, the back of his head was virtually bald. People had taken that much hair. Well, Ferdinand Hiller asked if he could have a locket and they said yes. And so he grabs Beethoven’s hair and he pulls and he snips some and places it in a locket. Well, he dies, he passes the locket on to his son, it goes down to the next generation and during that generation is a time when Hitler came to power. The Hiller family was Jewish. They tried hiding their Jewishness at the time. As a matter of fact, the grandson of Ferdinand when he died they published his obituary in a Lutheran newspaper and even went so far as to have a Nazi symbol in it so that it you know...

Fisher: Protects the family. 

Stan: Hopefully protects the family. 

Fisher: The survivors.

Stan: And so he dies and the family is trying to get out of Europe. As they do so, the locket ends up in Denmark. We find it there, a doctor in Eastern Denmark who facilitated on a lot of Jewish refugees in getting them from Denmark into Sweden, which was neutral. And the doctor was called to the church house in the little village one night to go up into the loft where there were 250 so Jews hiding and he helped one of the people medically and he was given the locket as payment.  

Fisher: Wow!

Stan:  And the next morning the SS showed up and got everybody in the church and they all went to the camps. And as far as we know, none of them survived. The locket later was passed down through the doctor’s adopted daughter and she had it in the 90s and needed money and put the thing up for auction. The Hiller family had two boys and one of them ends up in Hollywood and takes the name Marcel Hillaire. Well, my job was to find the Hiller boy coming into America. Well I find him coming in to New York but after that there is no sign of him. And we checked with HIAS which stands for the Hebrew Immigration Aids Society and they helped a lot of Jews who were coming out of Europe into America. And that’s who sponsored him when he came. And they had no record as to where he went. We had researches working in Israel. We had people working in Germany in various archives.

Fisher: Why was there this interest in finding him?

Stan: Because we wanted to find someone who could tell us what happened to the locket. He, as we discovered later after we had found out that he had changed his name to Marcel Hillaire, he had died by the time we had discovered that. But he had a girlfriend that he had lived with for some 30 years, and when we finally got in touch with her, she said, “Oh yes, he talked about that locket many times. And he knew that there was an inscription on the back of the locket hidden inside that his great grandfather had put on there. And sure enough, it was there. But she did not know the story of how it came to go to Denmark. 

Fisher: Right. And so you needed to find that?

Stan: That was the reason I was doing the research was to try to find out how it ended up in Denmark, and to locate someone who could tell this story.

Fisher: This was about provenance.

Stan: Exactly, and not just provenance but a mystery of a Jewish family coming out of Germany during the war. Marcel Hillaire before he came he was in the German army. 

Fisher: Whoa!

Stan: He had joined the German army to hide his Jewishness. However, he had this thing for women and he didn’t care if they were married or not. And he was serving at Normandy and he had a dance with his commander’s wife and his commander didn’t take kindly to it and arrested him and was sending him back to Berlin to stand trial for various crimes, and while he was in Berlin in jail the Russians took Berlin and a bomb blew up the side of the jail.

Fisher: [Laughs] And he was spared.

Stan: And he and others escaped. But because he was serving in Normandy he had access to the plans for the fortifications in Normandy and he personally handed over to Eisenhower the plans for...

Fisher: Wow!

Stan: Yeah. The whole story, I mean just the Beethoven aspect but then also the story of the people that had the hair.

Fisher: It’s like a movie.

Stan: Without a doubt. And it’s that way with most families. Fish you’ve had the same thing.

Fisher: Yeah. 

Stan: And searching your family you find all kinds of things collaterally that are magnificent stories that give you a greater sense of who they were and thereby who you are.

Fisher: Well said Stan. Always great to have you on!

Stan: Thanks Fish.

Fisher: Stan Lindaas from HeritageConsulting.com. And coming up next, it was a simple request, find out a little bit more about the prominent 19th century Modesto, California citizen whose home is now a museum! But what Janet Lancaster found, wasn’t necessarily what they had in mind. We’ll talk to Janet next about the unexpected detour he research took into a man with streets and buildings named after him. It’s coming up in five minutes on Extreme Genes, Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com.     

Segment 3 Episode 48

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Janet Lancaster

Fisher: And welcome back to Extreme Genes Family History Radio ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth. And on the line with me from Modesto, California is Janet Lancaster who is a volunteer at the McHenry Museum. Hi Janet, welcome to the show!

Janet: Thank you.

Fisher: Janet has gotten involved in a little situation. It’s just a little sticky there in Modesto, isn’t it Janet?

Janet: Well yes, perhaps a little, but much fun.

Fisher: Definitely much fun. I ran across the story and wanted to find out about it. Tell me a little about Robert McHenry who was one of the founders of Modesto.

Janet: Well, I wouldn’t call him one of the founders of Modesto, but he was here in Stanislaus County earlier on and he was a major contributor to this area in terms of helping with the establishment of irrigation. He’s a big farmer, raised a lot of grain raised cattle, and became a banker and did all the things that bankers do. But, he was a very conservative man, had only one son, and died in 1890. 

Fisher: Okay. And a lot of things in Modesto are named for him.

Janet: Well, our major highway early on was out to his house, and then it went on across the Stanislaus River and it became known as McHenry Avenue. So, many businesses on that street took the name McHenry also.

Fisher: So the reason we’re talking to you about this is that suddenly the history changed just a little bit when somebody asked you an interesting question not that long ago. What was that question and who was it?

Janet: Well, the Director of the museum said, “Could you find something else about Robert McHenry? Robert McHenry is a period in our history books with a very short bio, and just countless articles in newspapers about McHenry that all says exactly the same thing, and it adds up to a lot of nothing. 

Fisher: Okay and he knew you were a researcher and off you went?

Janet: I thought it would be easy because, gee whiz, he was born in 1827 in Vermont. It says that right on his tombstone, so how can you be wrong? And I’d just put it out in a couple of weekends. It wouldn’t be a problem. So I decided to do that. Born in the 1827 so I went to the 1830s census and thought, in Vermont, well possibly there would be eight or ten McHenry families. 

Fisher: Of course.

Janet: I guessed I might have to chase down each one of them, but that wouldn’t take too long. But, when I discovered there wasn’t a single McHenry in Vermont, it’s was all different.

Fisher: [Laughs] Uh oh.

Janet: So, I started to work on it. First of all, I read everything I could and nothing said anymore actually than the tombstone. They said he had been a gold miner, but nothing was documented. He had done this and he had done that, but nothing was documented.

Fisher: Did at some point Janet, your antennae start to go up and go, “Hmm, something’s different here.”

Janet: Well yes, something is very different and so I’m thinking, first of all, I’ve got to find out was he really born in Vermont, yes or no. So, I made an appointment in the Archives and went down and I thought I’m going to find out when he actually got here by looking at the tax lists. I asked for the tax lists and there was no McHenry listed. So that was now another big zero. But then I said you know there just has to be, so they looked again and said, “Well, there is a McHenry and Brewster.” And I said, “McHenry and Brewster?” And they said to me, “Who is Brewster?” Now, feeling a little embarrassed because I had gone to a research facility and hadn’t done my homework, I didn’t know who Brewster was and didn’t have any initials, anything else about it. So, I had to come home and trace Brewster and found that in the 1860 living in his household there was a man L.O Brewster. And to make a long story short, after following Brewster, I found out that Brewster’s first name was actually Oramil. And Oramil was the name of Robert McHenry’s only son.

Fisher: Oh boy, and that’s a rare name.

Janet: So the plot begins to thicken. So, then as I looked more for Leonard Oramil Brewster, I find that he’s born in Vermont also.

Fisher: Okay.

Janet: But he’s never been mentioned in any of the articles or the book about McHenry or anything. No one had ever mentioned that there was a person that he was in business with. Then I began to look at deeds and I found that McHenry and Brewster had quite a business together and they were actually running cattle and they were selling them in Tuolumne County in Chinese Camp. So that was interesting. But the other thing was I found an obituary for him in the Los Angeles Times, very short. But, it said that he had served in the Mexican War. We had rumours of that before also but I thought perhaps.

Fisher: Well that’s a lead for records.

Janet: Yes. So when I went to Salt Lake City to the Family History Library, I went through all of the enlistees in the Mexican War with the last name of McHenry, but there was no Robert of course. And went over them again, and all the McHenrys moved in the South. There wasn’t anyone from that part of the country. But I had decided that perhaps I’m looking for a female Brewster married to a McHenry. Maybe that was the connection with this family

Fisher: Right.

Janet: I couldn’t prove that either. And then I remembered back when I was in College, I was taking a Psyche class and we sat in on a few adoptions and I remember the Director talking to many families who were adopting children and saying to them, “Please don’t change their first name. Give them a nickname, or whatever it is, but it’s too traumatic to change their first name by the time they’re seven or eight years old because it’s become such a part of them. So when I remembered that I thought why don’t I look for a Robert Brewster and see what I can find. 

Fisher: Hmm.

Janet: And so I found a Robert Brewster from Ohio, the exact place that Leonard Oramil Brewster was from who enlisted in the United States army and he was born in Cambridge, Vermont.

Fisher: Uh oh.

Janet: So I thought, “My, this is interesting.” So I went back and looked at the census records and in the Brewster family that Leonard Brewster came from in two censuses there’s an extra male just the right age. And so in the meantime I’m back at the military records and I hadn’t realized that it was a double page when I read his enlistment papers. So, when I looked at the microfilm on the other side of the page, here are all of these other little spaces and one has a big check mark. So I look up at the top to find out what that refers to, and it said deserted.

Fisher: Uh oh!

Janet: Then I knew I had a reason for changing his name. He ran off!

Fisher: And now, here he is, this prominent citizen of Modesto, California, years later. Nobody knows his background. As you mentioned, he’s got streets named after him, you’ve got the museum; you’ve got the mansion. How has this set with people to know that he wasn’t a McHenry, he was a Brewster and that he was a deserter?

Janet: Well, people are interested in it. Some are not real happy about it because they had rather preconceived ideas.

Fisher: [Laughs] Right.

Janet: But, many find it interesting and it tells a lot about Modesto’s history.

Fisher: And have you been able to prove it through DNA or anything?

Janet: Yes I did. I was convinced that that was true, but at the same time the people I had made connections with in Ohio had a grandson and I found McHenry’s great, great grandson and they both agreed and so I got them to donate the DNA and it was a match and it was also a match with the Mayflower Society’s Brewster Project. 

Fisher: Isn’t that something? What a find! You’ve really kind of turned the town upside down a little bit with that one.

Janet: Well, things have simmered down now, but I still get calls from people that are interested and that’s the way it is.

Fisher: Yes that’s right. It is the way it is and sometimes you don’t know where the trail’s going to take you, and obviously you never imagined it when you started this thing Janet. But, thank you so much for your time and telling us the process because there are individuals who may search for their own ancestors and have a similar situation and maybe something you just talked about will trigger an idea for them.

Janet: That would be exciting.

Fisher: Janet Lancaster from Modesto, California, thank you so much!

Janet: Okay. Thank you for calling.

Fisher: And coming up next, Tom Perry our Preservation Authority from TMCPlace.com will be answering another one of your questions in three minutes on Extreme Genes Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com.

Segment 4 Episode 48

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: And welcome back. You have found us, America's Family History Show, Extreme Genes, Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth with Tom Perry, he's our Preservation Authority from TMCPlace.com. And every week, he answers your questions. And we have Sarah May Jenkins on the phone right now. Hi, Sarah May.

Sarah May: Hi.

Fisher: Where are you from?

Sarah May: Close to the sea, the Appalachian Mountains.

Fisher: The Appalachian Mountains. And you have a question for Tom. What is your question?

Sarah May: Well, he talks of saving stuff all the time. I've got these letters of my great grandparents, it’s their courting letters, and I've got letters from grandma and my grandpa to each other. And I don't know, that's why I saved them, so I can like look at letters of my mom and stuff.

Fisher: All right, let's find out from Tom.

Sarah May: Thank you.

Fisher: All right, great question. Thank you, Sarah May. And, Tom, it sounds like she's looking to make her letters searchable.

Tom: Oh, absolutely. And that's you know, it’s a pretty easy fix. The most important thing you want to do, which we've talked about numerous times on this show, first get these digitized before you do anything else. You want to get them digitized, so if you have a fire or flood or something like that, you've still got them. So don't put off doing what's down the road so you can get the other things in line for it. Get these things scanned ASAP! You want a good high quality scanner, and what I suggest you do, go and scan these so you have them in your mom's handwriting, your family's handwriting, whatever it is, and then go and transcribe them in a searchable PDF, which the software's very inexpensive to do.

Fisher: Sure.

Tom: And then what you can do is, if somebody's looking for aunt Ethyl, they can type in aunt Ethyl and it shows, okay, page 6 line 4 is aunt Ethyl talking about this. Then you can go to your other PDF which you've created, the actual documents that you scanned and then you can read it in aunt Ethyl's handwriting, whoever it is. So you're seeing it all in context. So the searchable one is just to find a thing, but then you want to go to the one that's handwritten to kind of get the feeling and the flavor. And another thing I highly suggest, if any of these people passed on and you can't get them to read their own letters, you go do it yourself. Even though you're the daughter, the granddaughter, even the great granddaughter, because one day you'll be the grandma. So it'll be easy and really cool to have, you know, generations down the road to be able to have somebody reading those letters. And as people are learning less about cursive, it’s just really, really hard for people to really appreciate and be able to read cursive. It really surprises me. So this way, you can kind of be looking over the letter, hearing Sarah May or whoever, in her voice, reading these letters, and it makes it really, really special.

Fisher: Boy, that's great advice. And you know, last week, of course, we were talking about this big haul of family history material I received. We got a bunch of World War I letters in there from a cousin from the front in France in the trenches. And so, I did exactly that, I typed them all up so that I could have them searchable and also make it easier to read. And so the letters themselves wouldn't have to be handled again, because they're so fragile.

Tom: That's absolutely the perfect advice, Fish. In fact, you can go to our website, TMCPlace.com, and click on scrapbooking, and what you can do, we have made all kinds of templates and you can go and take these letters and drop them into the templates and you can add embellishments and stuff if you want as well. And then I suggest you get a CD. We sell these plastic sleeves that are self adhesive, they stick in the front of the book, you put a little CD in there of you reading them. So you've got your PDFs that are normal type that are searchable, you've got your little book that somebody can handle, you've got PDFs on your computer, so you've got all these different options where, if you're on a road trip or you're looking at home, all these different things add a flavor to it and make it unique. And they're priceless! The best gifts you can give to somebody.

Fisher: And one more piece of advice on that, make sure you take images of what you're scanned and load them up to places like Ancestry.com, like FamilySearch.org.

Tom: Oh, absolutely, because other people can find them. Plus, you always remember, you want it on a disk, you want it on a cloud, you want it on your hard drive.

Fisher: And thanks so much, Sarah May, for the question. Hopefully that answers it for you. And if you have a question, you can always [email protected] or you can call our toll free find line at 123456 GENES. And coming up in our next segment, Tom, camcorders! There's a lot of choices out there.

Tom: Oh, absolutely. It’s incredible. We'll talk about ones that have been thrown out of a Ferrari at 100 miles an hour and ones that have been dropped out of buildings.

Fisher: [Laughs] All right, its coming up next in five minutes on Extreme Genes, Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com.

Segment 5 Episode 48

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: And welcome back, final segment of Extreme Genes, Family History Radio ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here with Tom Perry, he is our Preservation Authority from TMCPlace.com. And we're always hearing about this, Tom, because there’re all these camcorders out there, some of them that go way back! I mean, it was almost like a TV camera on your shoulder at one time.

Tom: Exactly!

Fisher: And now we have the modern ones where you have so many different choices as to what to get. I'm assuming, depending on the purpose, there's got to be a different camcorder for everyone.

Tom: Exactly. That's perfect. We have people call all the time and say, "What kind of camcorder should I buy?" And it’s like, what kind of car should I buy? Where should I go on vacation? It depends what you're looking for. You know, this is a lot of old school for some people, but somebody wants something simple, good quality, aren't going to be doing their own editing, I suggest still Mini DV is an excellent way to go. You can still buy them at places, like if you go to BHPhoto.com, you can look through all their stuff. And I really like them. They still take the tape, but it’s a digital tape. It’s not an analogue tape. So it’s easy to shoot. If you take your grandkids to Disneyland and use up your tape, you can go buy another tape. That's one of the problems you run in with SD cards and the HDD cameras, which are the hard drive ones, when it’s full, its full. If you don't have your laptop with you, you're not going to be able to download it. That's why I really like the Mini DVs. They're good quality. The advantage is to the SD ones and the HDDs is, you can take the chip out or take the hard drive, plug it right into your computer, download it instantly. And that's what a lot of wedding videographer use, because they need instant ability to be able to edit and get it done. If you're not in that situation, I suggest get a, you know, Mini DV. They're great! I have people bring them in and say, "Hey, what do I need to upgrade to now?" If it ain't broke, don't fix it! If it’s working and meeting your needs, do it. They have the 4k cameras out now that are like, I mean, amazing quality, but you’ve got to realize, what are you doing with this? If you're just shooting your family, you don't need the high def, you don't need the 4k, you don't need all these whistles and bells, unless your budget is unlimited and you can buy whatever you want. But I would stay with something, you know, really simple. And as we've talked about before, the problem with the SD cards and the ones that take the USB drives and the ones that have the hard drives is, its volatile memory. If you drop your camera, you drop it in a pond, you crack it, the SD card pops open, you stuff's gone!

Fisher: That's painful just to think about. [Laughs]

Tom: Oh, it is, it is! And some people say, "Hey, we have an active lifestyle. I like my kids to be able to shoot, but my kids are crazy, they're always dropping stuff." We have some really cool tips for you. If you want to get the Popular Mechanics, one which just came out, it’s actually the July, August 2014 edition. On page 45, it talks about the GoPRo Hero 3, which is about $400 retail, which a lot of people are going to. But that's not your only choice. Kodak has them, Sony has them, there's one called the Drift Ghost, iON has them, even Garmin has cameras now that are amazing! In this article, they went and dropped the cameras off an eight story building in New York right onto the asphalt.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Tom: Some of them had problems, but most of them survived. Then they thought, "Let's take a Ferrari around a test track and throw it out the window."

Fisher: [Laughs] Somebody was having too much fun!

Tom: Exactly! And I would have loved to have been the one behind the wheel on that one.

Fisher: Yes.

Tom: These cameras are amazing! They range from anywhere from the Sony ones that are only $270 and it’s still a 13.5 megapixel. Everybody knows about the GoPros, the iONs, all of these. The most expensive one in the test was $400, which sounds like a lot, but I remember my first 3 chip camera I bought was $1500, and these blow it away. And these ones are waterproof, you drop them off out of your boat, they'll float. There's a lot of absolutely wonderful advantages to these. So if you have an active family or your kids are going to be using them and they're prone to drop things, I would suggest getting this issue of Popular Mechanics and look at one of these cameras and see what best fits for you. So if you're grandma and grandpa not worrying about dropping stuff, Mini DV cameras are still wonderful. They don't sell them at Costco and Sam's anymore, because they consider them not the newest cutting edge thing, but newest doesn't necessarily mean better. So if you've got a Mini DV camera, keep it. If you want to get something that's simple to use and you're never going to run out of space, get a hold of BHVideo.com, and they can get you all set up. They’re wonderful.

Fisher: All right, thanks so much, Tom. There you go, that's our show for this week. Thanks for joining us. Thanks to Janet Lancaster from Modesto, California, for her amazing story about finding the name change of one of the father's of the city, and to Stan Lindaas with his incredible story about the lock of hair from Beethoven. If you didn't catch the stuff, catch it on our podcast. You can download our free app for iPhones and Androids. We'll talk to you again next week. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!

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