Episode 481 - FindAGrave Volunteer Shares Her Adventures / Nat Taylor Explains Heraldry

podcast episode Nov 13, 2023

Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org.  Fisher lauds David for his successful efforts to get an 1837 census of Boston digitized after years of prodding. David then talks about a massive project revolving around Fort Ticonderoga and the many soldiers and civilians who came through there in the 18th century. Another coin hoard has been found…and it’s massive! The guys explain the wheres and whys on this amazing discovery overseas. David shares a summary of an article in “The Conversation” that claims that two thirds of genealogists are distressed by finds they make. Fisher then shares a new find he made in a very local newspaper database in New Jersey. He reminds us that there are still places to look when the big sites fail to reveal what you’re looking for.

Next, Fisher visits with Jennifer Truelove, a volunteer for FindAGrave. Jennifer wanders cemeteries in New York City to photograph tombstones for genies everywhere. She shares her motivation, her experiences, and unusual stories from her service on our behalf.

Then, Nat Taylor, Editor of The American Genealogist, comes on to talk about a huge international conference that will be held in the US next year that you can be a part of if you act quickly. It combines genealogy and heraldry. Nat explains some of the history of heraldry and what it means.

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 481

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. It is great to have you along genies. We have Jennifer Truelove on the show today. You don’t know her. You know why? Because she’s just an ordinary person doing extraordinary things on behalf of all of us. She is a volunteer for FindAGrave. And she actually helped me out to find a gravestone and get a photo of it, of one of my ancestors in Brooklyn, New York. Yeah, so we’re going to talk to her about how she got engaged in this work and how long she’s been doing it and what she gets out of it because she has a lot of fun and you’re going to want to hear everything she has to say. Plus later in the show, we’re going to talk to Nat Taylor. He is the editor of the American Genealogist and there’s a big international convention coming to the United States in 2024. You can be a part of it, it covers genealogy and heraldry. If you don’t know much about heraldry Nat will explain that coming up later on in the show. Right now it’s time to check in with Boston. David Allen Lambert is standing by, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. And Dave, I’ve got to throw you a little love here, I’m pretty excited to see here that you have brought about a great thing. And you know, we’re always talking about how not everything has been microfilmed and not everything has been digitized yet. And for a long time there was this 1837 census there in your neck of the woods in Boston, in the possession of the Boston City Archives, and you were always bugging them saying, we’ve got to get this digitized. This has got to be made available, and it has finally happened.

David: It’s right online for free. It’s a great collection of records, including both immigrants, long time Bostonians, African American families. So it’s a great way to do your genealogy and a census that’s kind of snug right between the 1830 and 1840, those 19th century censuses that don’t give us a lot of information, great to have this new resource available to search.

Fisher: Yes, absolutely. And you pushed forth. And I know a lot of people are going to be appreciative of that. It just goes to show there is still a lot more stuff out there to be found and to be gotten out there.

David: That’s not the only place that’s put new information out. Fort Ticonderoga, out in New York is active for the past month now starting a project. They’re looking between 1755 and 1783, so the French and Indian war and the Revolution.

Fisher: Right.

David: And to look into the lives, ready for this? 45,000 soldiers and civilians that had connections from both North America, Africa, and Europe.

Fisher: Yeah. And they were all gathered there because this was kind of a gateway militarily to Canada, and of course back to the United States. And both sides typically took control of Fort Ticonderoga. I know a lot of people who had ancestors there, including me, and I think you did too. 

David: I surely did. It’s a place I’d like to visit.

Fisher: Yes.

David: But, I’m so glad to see they’re doing this work it will definitely increase tourism if you can find a connection to Fort Ticonderoga.

Fisher: [Laughs] There you go.

David: Well, you know, I need that metal detector for Christmas and I need to go to Wales and I hope I can find what somebody found out in a farm field. How about a clay jar with over 2,700 silver and bronze coins dating between 32 BC, and 235 AD?

Fisher: Yes!

David: Yeah, two thousand, seven hundred and 33 coins were found in this jar.

Fisher: Yeah. And the suspicion is this was pay for Roman soldiers.

David: You just never know what you're going to find out there. And with genealogy, you just never know what you're going to find, as we both know very well. In TheConversation.com, they put out an article it says, nearly two thirds of family historians are distressed by what they find. Should DNA kits come with warnings?

Fisher: Yeah, interesting. And they go through like five different things that people run into, ancestors behaving badly.

David: Treated cruelly, sad stories, family secrets and betrayal.

Fisher: Yeah, and also, whether you should reveal those things to people. I mean, a lot of folks wind up getting a lot of counseling as a result of these things. You know, there are some legitimate points there, but I think we all have some of those things back there and we know that going in. So, we just hope it’s not too close to home, if you know what I’m saying.

David: Exactly. DNA has given us such a window into our past that even records can't share with us.

Fisher: Yep.

David:  So I think we're very grateful to have it. Sometimes it can be a bit of a pickle.

Fisher: Now, David, I'm seeing that in Massachusetts there, the witch thing has come about just like we had in Connecticut, the exoneration and the AP put out a story on that. And there you are smack dab in the middle of this national story. You are a national star because of your witch ancestor.

David: I almost wish that she didn't have any attention, and that I didn't have to claim her as an ancestor other than just some sweet lady who lived in 17th century New England.

Fisher: What happened to her, where was this?

David: Well, she lived in Salisbury and she was slated to be executed in September of 1692, but either she or her husband bribed the jailer and she made it off to the northern reaches of New England, and she died in 1700. We're trying to get an apology from the commonwealth of Massachusetts for the 211 individuals that were accused, not just those executed. Being a descendant I think it's a nice gesture if it goes through and I’m hoping it will.

Fisher: Sure, absolutely. Hey, we got to mention here, David, I've made a little discovery this week. And it's kind of put it in my mind that I need to remind everybody about places to find newspaper stories. They're not always on the big sites. We can't live without the big sites, our sponsors, newspapers.com. But you can go around and find places and cities and states and local historical societies that have things online. And I just found some information in Elizabeth, New Jersey, they have a searchable site for digitized newspapers and their paper, their main paper in Elizabeth, it's been there forever, is not available anywhere else. And I found a story about one of my relatives who was a driver of a cart drawn by a horse. They had a laundry business in 1897 and I guess he got off the cart and the horse kicked him in the leg, broke his leg, sent him to the hospital, and the doctors were going to amputate his leg. It was going so badly. And then I found another follow up article later that he was back home and walking around the house with a cane. And then another one a few weeks later, all the neighbors came over and threw a surprise party for him.

David: Wow!

Fisher: It was great to see this series of stories that you wouldn't find anywhere else. And it's just a great reminder to me that I can't get stuck in the mindset of oh, I can only look in a few places. And if it's not there, we just can't get them. You know what I mean?

David: Yeah, exactly and my own town has done the same thing.

Fisher: All right, David, thank you very much. We’ll talk to you at the back end of the show with Ask Us Anything. And coming up next, we're going to talk to an amazing volunteer with FindAGrave find out what she does. Coming up next when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 481

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Jennifer Truelove

Fisher: Hey, welcome back to America's Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here your Radio Root Sleuth. And, you know, we all are dependent and grateful for all the volunteers who do so much work, say for Family Search, indexing records, and also some of the indexing going on right now for the National Archives and doing those pension records of revolutionary soldiers. We also have a passionate group of volunteers with FindAGrave. And these are the people that will go out and wander through a cemetery to take a photo of a grave for you, if you request it. And recently, I actually did this for the first time. There are so many grave pictures I've taken myself, but I came across a news story I wanted to investigate and I put out a request on that. And who should show up but my next guest, Jennifer Truelove. She's in New York City. And Jennifer, how long have you been doing this?

Jennifer: I've only actually been doing it about nine months taking photographs.

Fisher: Really?

Jennifer: Yeah, yeah, I kind of just started but I have a lot of free time. So I've done. I mean, even at this point is probably certainly hundreds if not thousands of photos.

Fisher: Wow!

Jennifer: Not always requested. So I've sort of done side projects.

Fisher: Sure. Do you have a favorite cemetery that you work?

Jennifer: Yeah, I like going to Calvary in Brooklyn. And the reason I like them is available online is not just a map of the whole cemetery showing you where the different sections are, but there are a section maps. So within a section you can find out exactly pinpoint where you know, if you have plot info, you can pinpoint exactly where that will be, which, for instance, at Evergreens, which is another cemetery. It's actually in both Brooklyn and Queens.

Fisher: Yeah.

Jennifer: You can stand on the border.

Fisher: The line goes right through there.

Jennifer: Yes, exactly. I think they're mailing address is Brooklyn, but you walk in depending on which entrance you might be in Queens, which is kind of fun. Anyway, at Evergreens, their sections are named instead of numbered, and they don't have section maps available. So you're just wandering around like, oh, you know, so I like I like Calvary, because it's a little more orderly. And that's my preferred place to go and a little closer on the subway too.

Fisher: Wow, you know, I'm just thinking about traveling around New York City. And I've done it many, many times. I worked in New York City many years ago. And it's not an easy thing to do all the time. And for you to actually take requests from people, how far across the world have you done photos for some of these folks?

Jennifer: Oh, you mean the request photos?

Fisher: Yes, yeah.

Jennifer: Oh, gosh, you know, I haven't inquired, certainly across the country. And there was a priest in Ireland who was very grateful for my help, which was really fun. And he had a lot of holy priests and nuns and things that were buried in New York that he had asked me to do. He's the only out of country person that I know of, but sometimes I just don't know the person at all. I'll just be you know, they made requests and here's your photo and nice doing business, you know, and sometimes people will say thank you, which is always very nice, which I appreciate but sometimes they won't and that's okay too. Request fulfilled. But yeah, definitely someone from Ireland but I think you know, probably across the country and that's, I think the main reason that people aren't in the area, you know, they live in California.

Fisher: Right.

Jennifer: It's always nice when its family, you know, something somebody important to them. Because on FindAGrave, you'll find a lot of people that are just uploading thousands of obituaries or thousands of death certificates. And they'll just click request photo, you know, to go along with it. So it's impersonal to them.

Fisher: Sure.

Jennifer:  So it's always nice when it’s family, like, my favorite response is going to be “Oh, my goodness, by seeing this, I now know that my great grandmother is buried here. I never knew that.” You know, that’s like a little happy that you get when you really help out someone on a personal level. So, yeah.

Fisher: But certainly a number of graves don't have markers on them, right?

Jennifer: Ugh, so many.

Fisher: Probably too many.

Jennifer: Yes, I think so. And it's what I've learned as I went along, because oh, they're buried here, certainly they will have a stone. It's more common. It feels more common. I haven't done like the data or anything like that.

Fisher: Right, right.

Jennifer: But you know, is it 50% of the time? I feel like it's less that there is a stone.

Fisher: And it's not always because of the fact that a stone wasn't there. But over many, many, many decades, maybe even more than a century, the ground just swallows up a lot of those things, don’t you think?

Jennifer: Yes. You had mentioned to me, I think that something had sunk in that you were looking for their sunken ones. So at Calvary, the good thing is they're mostly upstanding stones, you know, like taller ones. But you know the cemeteries that are all in ground, those are really tough. I went to one in Jersey one time in Newark. I was looking for a family member and the literal grass. I was like, Oh, is there a stone there? I thought that was just a rock, you know, like, so those ones that are in ground can really get overtaken. But yeah, they can disappear. I've also seen like just the bases left, and for whatever reason, whatever was above it either crumbled away or was taken away for repair or whatever reason, but you'll see just the base sitting there. And then of course, there are tons that are just worn down.

Fisher: Right, you can’t even read them.

Jennifer: You know, and so like, this could be it, you know, it's in the right place, but I can't be sure.

Fisher: I was just talking with David Allen Lambert from the New England Historic Genealogical Society about this last week about the fact that even when you're dead, you have an address. Isn't that weird, when you think about that?

Jennifer: [Laughs] You can find me at.

Fisher: Yeah, yeah. [Laughs] It's the strangest thing. So you said you've been doing this now for nine months, how often do you go out?

Jennifer: Like every other day, pretty much.

Fisher: Really?

Jennifer: I mean, how it started was, so I told you, I was looking for my family. And I actually went to Evergreens. I came home. I uploaded it to FindAGrave. And I said, oh, look, other people want photos from Evergreens, I had a nice day. I like to do at least 7,000 steps a day.

Fisher: Sure.

Jennifer: This is a way instead of like walking to the park, and just walking around in circles, I'll go to the cemetery, and I'll accomplish something. And I'll have a lovely day and treat myself to lunch out. So that's why I went again, is really just like to get my steps in and help somebody out. So it was nice, you know, so then I would come home, upload the photos that I got. Sometimes I gradually started doing a little genealogical research on the side for the people that I was uploading for, you know, I'd say, oh, look, you don't have a birth date here. Let me see what I can do about that. So I'm a big fan of the municipal records for New York City.

Fisher: Yes, me too.

Jennifer: That website is you know, like literal scans of death certificates, birth certificates, marriage certificates. Fantastic! So I'll just poke around, and I'll say, oh, look, they were born in this year. And so all I can, you know, suggest an edit, add the photo and be like, here you go, or if there was someone listed on the stone that does not have a memorial, sometimes I'll add a memorial, you know, it adds a picture there. So it's not just throwing the photos up there. But once I do that, I'm like, all right, let me go back out and get some more photos, you know, so it kind of ended up being every other day. And like I said, I like it better than just going to the park and walking around. So I was going pretty often.

Fisher: Sure.

Jennifer: I work in the film business. And lately people may have heard there's been a lot of strikes.

Fisher: Um hmm. Yeah.

Jennifer: So I have had a lot of free time.

Fisher: Yes. That’s affected my own son in that department as well. So let me ask you this, you must run into some interesting people in cemeteries.

Jennifer: I don't see that many people. But today, I can tell you. And this was the second time I've seen her in a week or two. There was a woman playing an alto saxophone standing in front of a grave and the first time I saw her, I thought, oh, isn't that nice? Maybe it's her dad or her grandfather and she's serenading and then I thought, well, she's not very good. She might just be practicing. And then today, I saw her again in a slightly different area. And I said, oh, yeah, she's just here because she doesn't want to like disturb her neighbors. And she's not disturbing anybody where she is. She’s just practicing the saxophone.

Fisher: [Laughs] No, that's really true.

Jennifer: So I laughed about that. On occasion, I'll step into the office that they have run there. And let me tell you, the people that work in cemeteries have such nice hearts, you know, like they have that job because they have a way to speaking to people in a hard time because that's what I think their main part of their job is arranging.

Fisher: Yes.

Jennifer: You have a death in the family, how can I help you? What would you need, you know, like you have to have a certain kind of personality? And of course, I'm going in there to be like, hey, can you tell me where this person might be buried? And sometimes they have time to do it. Sometimes they don't. But they're nice people. They're really like they care.

Fisher: Yes. So I'd say even 80 or 90% of the time, if I request information from pretty much any cemetery, I will get a kind response in a fairly timely manner. Some better than others Evergreens is fantastic. There'll be like, same day service, you know?

Jennifer: Yeah. I think is that how we met is that you didn't have plot info on your request.

Fisher: Yeah.

Jennifer: So I just wrote to you and I said, hey, Evergreens is great. And you're like, they were a great, here's the plot info. And I was like, okay.

Fisher: Yeah. That's it. Yeah. You got a picture of my great, great grandmother’s sister’s grave, which I had no idea would be there.

Jennifer: I was so happy there was a stone.

Fisher: Yeah.

Jennifer: I hate when I come back with bad news.

Fisher: Yeah, well, there were like six requests. And that was the only one that was there, which is not uncommon, you know?

Jennifer: No, not at all. I wish more people knew that. Some people have been really brokenhearted and think immediately it's been stolen. I'm like, I don't think anybody really wants to make off with your 200 pound stone.

Fisher: No.

Jennifer:  But no, maybe you know, like, try and make them feel better. And sometimes people will say, “Oh, now that I know, there isn't one, I'm going to look into putting one there.” I’m like, great. You know?

Fisher: Yes, yes I’ve done that.

Jennifer: That’s why if there is no stone, I still try and take a photo of their resting place. And then copy that photo and do a notated version that says this is exactly where there would be a stone if there was one. So that people can look around and I have notated this, this is number seven, and this is number six. So therefore, this is number five, you know, right. So your guy’s grave five. So they can with confidence see that. But I noticed on FindAGrave, you know, I'll go around and I’ll look. And some people that fill photo requests are just like, there wasn't a stone. Here's a picture of some grass. Good luck. You know?

Fisher: Yeah, I've gotten that actually.

Jennifer: Yeah, I'm like, I'd rather you not do anything.

Fisher: Well, and I should brag on you a little bit here, Jennifer, because when you got done on your second trip to Evergreens on my behalf, you sent me two videos, pacing around the area to show me where they are somewhere in here because there's no stone. And I so appreciated that and got such a kick out of it that you enjoy what you do so much, so passionately. And I know that you're representative of many people who do this for FindAGrave. Have you talked to others who do this?

Jennifer: I just kind of message back and forth sometimes. And what I did notice, because you know, I haven't lived in New York for so many years, you got to be careful, because even if you're like, hey, do you mind if I - you might get a bad response, you know, like, a little on edge, like, how's this going to go? But I'll say something like, yeah, it looks like the picture attached to this memorial doesn't quite look right. And you know, you might get back, so when it goes mind your own business. That has never happened. In fact, it's much the opposite. I remember one guy said to me, well, that's why they have erasers on pencils. It's not the first mistake I made. It's not going to be the last and thanks for letting me know. And I'll fix that right away.

Fisher: She is Jennifer Truelove. She's a volunteer for Find a Grave. And you can see why I wanted to have Jennifer on the show this week. Jennifer, it's been an absolute delight to meet you. And thank you so much for the work you did for me, and the work you do for so many other people in a place where a lot of people think they're unfriendly.

Jennifer: Oh, quite the opposite. It's so nice to get to meet you this way is so unique. And thanks for having me on. It's a pleasure.

Fisher: Great to have you on. Thanks so much for coming on.

Jennifer: All right, take care.

Fisher: And coming up, we're going to talk about genealogy and heraldry. What is that? You'll find out from Nat Taylor editor of the American Genealogist coming up next when we return in five minutes.

Segment 3 Episode 481

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Nathanial Taylor

Fisher: Hey, welcome back. It's America's Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here your Radio Root Sleuth. Big things coming up next year, a bi-annual conference! It's the International Congress of Genealogical and Heraldic Sciences. And I've got my next guest on the line who is tied to this greatly. It's Nat Taylor. He is the editor of the American Genealogist. And Nat welcome to the show. This is a big thing coming up next year.

Nat: Absolutely. It's held every two years. And it's been going since the 1950s, mostly in Europe. This is only the third time it's been in North America, and it's the first time in the United States. It's really a conference of a different flavor and different tone. It will be off the beaten track for people interested in genealogy or heraldry.

Fisher: Right. And this is in September of next year in Boston, which sounds great.

Nat: Yes.

Fisher: Let's talk about heraldry a little bit. I don't know that most amateur genealogist who I think most of us are, who listen to this show and are learning heraldry is just not a really commonly understood thing. This goes way back, doesn't it?

Nat: Yeah. So genealogy and heraldry are really thought of as sister disciplines, and they have evolved together over hundreds of years, really, from their roots in Europe in the early modern period. Heraldry is all about coats of arms. It's all about visual symbols of family identity. And the people who became experts in this both as artists and also keeping track of who used what symbols, they were really our first genealogists and that's just evolved ever since then. It kind of fell off the radar a little bit in more modern times. But with the internet and with access to visual sources heraldry is having a real resurgence now.

Fisher: Interesting because you were telling me off air before, that this kind of disappeared in the 70s. And now it's making a comeback because we have all this wave of interest in genealogical research, DNA, family history. The old coats of arms, they really kind of only followed one line, right?

Nat: Yeah, so the idea of heraldry is that they are symbols that were inherited in families, and that they were originally symbols used by the upper classes. But one of the things that happened, not just in the United States, but all over the world, in areas influenced by Europe, where heraldry really originated, is that people realize that heraldry could be for anyone. And certainly in the US, where there's no government regulation of heraldry, people have been and still are designing coats of arms for themselves. And it's part of the same process of exploring and then expressing your family identity, it still goes hand in hand with genealogy that way.

Fisher: So, this has a great tie in with our friends over at the New England Historic Genealogical Society. Tell me about their registries that they have going on there. They're really two types, right?

Nat: Yeah, so I'm a volunteer there on the committee on heraldry, which is actually the oldest group of people studying heraldry, that's not connected to a government organization, the oldest group of its kind in the world, older even than any European groups. Since 1864, there's been a group within the New England society, studying coats of arms, preserving information about them, researching them and then in the last 100 years, recording coats of arms. So, we have two registers. One is called a roll of arms, which is historically attested coats of arms brought to America by immigrants from mostly European countries, also from Canada. And this has been published serially for over 100 years. The most recent updates were published in the Quarterly Journal, The Register, and are coming out as a book in the next few months. But it's also a living thing. People are always designing new coats of arms for themselves. And we register modern coats of arms. And we published their textual descriptions in our annual reports. And that's something we've been doing and publishing and keeping track of for decades as well.

Fisher: Interesting. So people are actually using probably a lot of modern symbols that you never would have seen centuries ago to represent occupations and where they lived and things like that.

Nat: Yeah, I mean, the symbolic language, the vocabulary is constantly expanding. But we still adhere to some rules that really are all around recognizability, that bring forward kind of traditional conventions, but explore them and display them in new ways. So heraldry is very much a living art as well as a science.

Fisher: So help people understand, you know, they may be listening to this and going well, I can just go down to the shirt store there, there's a Johnson Family shirt with a coat of arms on that, that isn't really how it works, is it?

Nat: Yeah, that's the one faux pas the one thing that you shouldn't do, unless you know with your research and your own family that takes you back, usually in the male line, because it's one of these patriarchal things to an ancestor who you know, use that particular coat of arms. The purchase and sale of existing designs, the problem with that is that they go with a family, every coat of arms that exists in the world goes with a specific family, not a surname. So, that's really a faux pas to simply get one at a gift shop and have it on a mug, or a t shirt or a keychain. The way it was originally done always was to design your own if you want to use one.

Fisher: It's fascinating to me that it's gone from, you know, the upper class to now pretty much anybody can do that. And it's really the way it should be, especially as we get deeper and deeper into more and more family lines that have been extended through this tidal wave of information, especially the last 20 years.

Nat: Absolutely. And one of the beneficiaries of the tidal wave of information is that it's not just about the traditional kind of ruling families of the colonies out of which our country grew. Heraldry comes to the United States from over 20 different countries, and a lot of different national traditions. You can see them in the design, kind of the design flavor heraldry, mostly from European countries, but as I said, also from Canada and Mexico, into the United States. It's a very multicultural, varied and addictive discipline to look into.

Fisher: [Laughs] Fascinating. Now, you've got a deadline coming up here, like in just a couple of days. Let's talk about that.

Nat: Absolutely. So the Congress is next September 2024. And the registration for the Congress hasn't opened up yet. It's going to open up pretty quickly. But if you are a genealogist or interested in heraldry, who wants to participate as a lecture, as a speaker, the call for speakers is still open, and it should close right here in the middle of November. So it's open for just a couple more days till the 15th. It may be extended, but if you have a genealogical speaking because it's genealogy and not just heraldry. You don't have to link them both to participate.

Fisher: Right.

Nat: You should go to the website, AmericanAncestors.org/icghs-2024, or BostonCongress2024.org, for the call for speakers, proposals to present are accepted until the upcoming deadline and possibly afterwards, but then anybody who's going to be in the area or able to travel to it will be welcome to register as an attendee, after that.

Fisher: All right, and it's important to understand there's a lot of genealogy at this conference. That's half of it at least, right?

Nat: Yes. So traditionally, it's half and half. And the idea is you're rub elbows with people maybe who come for other reasons. And you're going to get new perspectives. And because it's an international congress, it's going to be bringing a lot of people over from Europe and down from Canada. It's an opportunity to learn from them and also to show those folks how we do it here.

Fisher: I would imagine then each country has its own little take on how this is done.

Nat: I suppose. And sometimes there are some arguments or disagreements or at least sort of bewilderment, when folks rub shoulders with others. The language is also interesting. You know, heraldry has a language of its own. There may be languages other than English spoken at the Congress. And we've been working on different models for whether translated summaries are available, but it adds to the mystique and the fun also of hearing people from other countries for whom English may not even be their second or third language, who are really telling us something that we don't know much about.

Fisher: He is Nat Taylor. He is the editor of the American Genealogist, talking about the International Congress of Genealogy and Heraldic Sciences, coming up next year in Boston. It sounds like a lot of fun, Nat and we appreciate your time coming on and telling us about it.

Nat: Thanks so much. It's been a pleasure and we're all looking forward to it.

Fisher: 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 481

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, we're back for Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fish here and David Allen Lambert is back from NEHGS. David, our first question comes from Washington, Utah. It's Anne Marie. And she says, “Fisher and Dave, a while ago, I remember you guys talking about ancestral trading cards. Would this be a good thing for a Christmas gift? Anne Marie.”

David: Oh, yeah, absolutely. You know, if anybody in my family is listening, please do so. I can send you my GEDCOM file and access to all my accounts on Ancestry. Get going! There’s only 60 or so days left.

Fisher: That's just the point right there, David. I don't think it's a good thing for Christmas at this point if you were to do this.

David: No, no.

Fisher: I did this project a few years ago during the pandemic, and then sent a set out to one set of grandkids in Germany, and sent a set to some other grandkids right here within my own state. And they all love them, especially my grandkids in Germany. They talk about this all the time to this day, that they still love going through and learning from the stories on the back. But I will say this, have you ever done this by the way, Dave?

David: I haven't. I've been really tempted to do so. I think that my kids, maybe when they were small. I don't have grandkids yet, probably would have loved it. Now they're probably like, “Dad, you know who this person is? The picture is in the living room!

Fisher: Well, it was like $80 a set for what I was doing. And it took a real long time, because if you've ever collected baseball cards, you know what it's like, what's on the back, all these little details, statistics. Well, you’ve got to put the date of birth. You’ve got to put the place of birth. You’ve got to do the same for marriage and death. All the spouses’ full names, information about them, a write up, what was their occupation, for each card! Unless you don't want to have anything to do with thanksgiving. [Laughs]

David: Yeah, that’s true.

Fisher: I just think it's too tight, you know.

David: Well, think about the baseball card. Every year it says the teams they played for. How about every year what address someone was?

Fisher: Oh!

David: You have so many options here. And then you could even do Limited Edition like, oh, remember the ancestral coin thing we talked about a couple of years ago?

Fisher: [Laughs] Yep.

David: You could have a certain coins, a limited edition. It has the coin of the year of their birth embedded in the card.

Fisher: Stop it!

David: Signature cards.

Fisher: And bubble gum, I know. Stop it.

David: Ahh. [Laughs]

Fisher: Now here's the thing, though. And you're right. I mean, actually, if you want to talk about a good Christmas project, the ancestral coin thing would be a great way to go, because that is something you could do fairly quickly. And you don't have to complete it by Christmas, you just have to get started and show them how it works. And then add something to it periodically.

David: And I thought of a new one.

Fisher: Yeah?

David: How about ancestral stamps? Cheap, from all the different countries, stamp from the year of birth of your immigrant ancestor from Czechoslovakia. It's possible.

Fisher: Actually, probably could be easier to get those and actually find the records of ancestors from Czechoslovakia, right?

David: That's true.

Fisher: So, I do love the trading cards, the ancestral cards, if you Google them online, you will see there are all kinds of different types that are available, some that are already pre made that talk about different ancient customs and the like. That isn't what we're talking about here. We're talking about a template basically, by which you make a set of cards and how many go in it is really up to you. They are quite expensive, as I mentioned. But you know, at the end of the day, if you really want a real meaty project that is a real good way to go and eventually maybe have that ready for next year. And they'll have something maybe they don't appreciate when they're really young, but as they get older, they will. And I can tell you right now, I have one granddaughter in particular who absolutely loves breaking out those cards. We were visiting her this past summer in Germany, and she brought it up. And it's several years old. She still loves looking at them.

David: That's great. That was a win-win. Think about CDVs, carte visite, those early family photos where somebody wrote the information on the back.

Fisher: Yes.

David: They are the forerunners of baseball cards just in general. That's what they used, that real photo on the front and cardboard stock on the back.

Fisher: Alright, thanks so much Anne Marie for the question. Hopefully that helps you out and good luck. Got another one coming up next when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 481

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, we're going to wrap it up with our final question here on Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show. This is from Jackson in Honolulu. And he says, “Guys, I'm still scratching my head about artificial intelligence and family history. How do you guys use AI or do you?” Oh, there's a loaded question, Dave. Do you?

David: You know, I do, but I'm using it to scour the information instead of just playing Google searches to find something. Like, if I want to find out, tell me about Boston in 1750. It's going to give me breakdowns of information that is found across the internet. Now, taking that and then maybe rewriting it a little bit, so you're not using completely AI, which is one of the problems they're facing in college these days.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: My daughter goes to college.

Fisher: Plagiarism.

David: And the plagiarism of AI, even though AI is really not a person. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: So it's a different type of plagiarism, I suppose.

Fisher: The big difference is, if you Google, you get this whole list of websites that might have an answer to your question. If AI does the question, then they combine all the materials they find. I have found things like you talked about where I said, “Okay, what happened in New York City in 1862?” I was working on my novel, back in the summer or in the late spring, somewhere in there, and it will give me a breakout of what was happening in the city at that time. Then I could go back though and double check it and make sure it's accurate, because AI may be smart at gathering all the stuff, but it may not be smart at knowing which information is true and which information is incorrect. And as we know, especially when it comes to history, there's a lot of bad info out there.

David: Oh, true, because it could be scouring from a book that was written in 1863. That maybe isn't as good as one that was done in 1913.

Fisher: Right.

David: The other thing is the facts. AI doesn't have the technology yet, I believe, to say, give me this, but I want you to give me a footnote and citation and bibliography at the end of all the resources you use. Now eventually I would imagine it's possible. I'd like to think AI is really gone far with photography and being able to create an image of you.

Fisher: Oh, yeah, yeah, yes.

David: I think that's amazing.

Fisher: If you want to know how I use AI, when we post the podcast for Extreme Genes, there's typically a photograph there that kind of illustrates what the topic is. I can actually go to DALL E, which is connected with chat. It's an art site, and I can say give me a photograph. Like last week, I said, Show me a photograph of a teenage boy going up into an old farmhouse and finding a sea chest. DALL E gave me four of them to choose from, and one of them was fantastic! It was perfect to illustrate the story that our guest told us last week. So, that was very helpful there. I don't know that the individual genealogist is using AI nearly as much as we are benefiting from the use of AI by all the major companies. David, you talked about photography, obviously, My Heritage really took the lead with that, with their focusing with their colorization. Now we've seen Ancestry has done some of those same things. And then we also have AI translating handwriting, which was long ago, the Holy Grail. So it's a huge thing that's happening there. In fact, we've had a couple of episodes in recent weeks, talking about AI, where it's going, where it's been, what's happening right now that you might want to go back and catch up on at ExtremeGenes.com under our podcast archives.

David: And coming in 2024, I am sure that at RootsTech in Salt Lake City, Utah, there will be plenty of AI related lectures and vendors. So, stay tuned. You're at the tip of the AI iceberg.

Fisher: Yeah, I think you're absolutely right. David, thank you so much. Talk to you next week.

David: All right, my friend.

Fisher: All right. And that's our show for this week. Thanks so much for joining us. Thanks also to Jennifer Truelove the volunteer for FindAGrave, talking about her experience with that. And Nat Taylor, the editor of the American Genealogist for coming on and talking about heraldry and the international conference that's coming to the US in 2024 and how you can be a part of it if you act fast. If you missed any of the show or want to catch it again, of course listen to the podcast on AppleMedia, iHeart Radio, ExtremeGenes.com, Spotify, we're all over the place. Talk to you next week. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice normal family!

Subscribe now to find out why hundreds of thousands of family researchers listen to Extreme Genes every week!

Email me new episodes