Episode 483 - What’s Ahead at Ancestry? The World War 1 / Pandemic Letter Exchange

podcast episode Dec 04, 2023

Host Scott Fisher opens the show with guest host David Allen Lambert from the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. The guys begin by exchanging stories about discoveries they each made this past week. David then shares the horrible word about a homeless man in Boston who destroyed an array of historic headstones, including that of Paul Revere, this past week. Then, cursive writing is back in schools! Hear what state just made it law. In Georgia, some interesting wills have been found of slave owners who left money for some of their enslaved for a specific purpose. Hear what it is. And, we have a new age record for skydiving. What til you hear this one!

Then, Fisher has an important announcement concerning Extreme Genes.

Next,  Crista Cowan of Ancestry.com comes on to talk about how Ancestry is trying to encourage collective work on family trees. And, no, you don’t need a paid account to be part of it.

Then, in a follow up to a previous episode, JoAnne Jessee talks about her initial find of letters from the pandemic of the late 1910s, and how she tracked down the descendants of the other correspondent to exchange letters back into the family lines. It’s a fascinating story we can all learn from.

David then returns for more of Ask Us Anything.

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


Segment 1 Episode 483

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: And welcome America to America's Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here your Radio Root Sleuth on the program where we shake your family tree, and watch the nuts fall out. Well, it is great to have you along genies! We're going to be talking to Crista Cowan today from Ancestry.com. What is going on over there? She's got some new things that is happening at the great behemoth that it is that she'll want to share with you. Plus later in the show, we're going to do a follow up with listener JoAnne Jessee. A while back we talked to her about a pile of letters she found that went to one of her great aunts from her relative overseas who was fighting in World War I. Well, the woman wound up dying from the pandemic at that time, the other family has the other side of the letters so they actually switched so that they wound up back in the same family. We're going to talk about what was in some of those letters that she discovered and how it all came together. It's going to be a great story coming up later on in the show. Right now, it's time to head out to Boston Massachusetts because David Allen Lambert is standing by the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. And Dave, you’ve been making discoveries again.

David: Yeah, these are immediate family discoveries, not great, great grandparents. My local public library which I sit on the Board of Trustees when we voted to digitize our old microfilm newspapers, I was all for it. And I was looking forward to the last 70 years of papers because that would include me and my siblings, my parents when they came to Stoughton. And within seconds, I found stories about my sister being an 11-year-old in the early 60s, having a fare to raise money to buy schoolbooks independently with our neighbor for hospital kids. So for the pediatric ward they were buying books by selling their own belongings, hotdogs and cold drinks.

Fisher: Awww.

David: But then I found one on me, one of the earliest stories. I'm either six or seven years old. I know it was 1976. And it said, “Dave Lambert is a runner up in a dog show.” And I'm like, what is this? And it mentions my best friend, and I remember his dog's name for the first time in years. The dog's name Sylvie was mentioned. And I remember the breed. It had to be one of my German shepherds that I had that I brought over in the parking lot of the library. But there's a picture, Fish.

Fisher: Really?

David: But you can't see because it's from microfilm and it’s been digitized.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: I know what the original papers are. Guess where I'm going in this week? To see if a seven or six year old Dave Lambert and his best friend are in the picture.

Fisher: [Laughs] Oh, that'd be fun. What fun. What a great find. You know, I had another find this morning myself. And that was that my great grand Uncle Bob Fisher was in the Fire Company of New York that was sent to represent the entire New York City Fire Department at the inaugural parade of President Franklin Pierce in March of 1853. So, there are all kinds of stories about that, and how they had a torchlight parade when they welcomed this fire company back to the city after their adventure. So that was really a fun little find. You know, after many, many years, you don't expect to find little gems like that as often anymore. But let's get on David with our Family Histoire News today. Where do you want to start?

David: Well, I got some sad news actually, kind of makes me angry as well. The dead can't defend themselves. But this is the case of at least the burial sites of 20 individuals in King's Chapel in Granary Burying grounds in historic Boston. A homeless man went in scaled the fence and tip and broke gravestones, including the one for Paul Revere.

Fisher: Oh!

David: I don't know what the extent of the damages because it's only was announced in the news today. So maybe a follow up when we talk again. I'm hoping to maybe have Kelly Thomas, who I believe you’ve had on the show before.

Fisher: Yep.

David: To talk with you and perhaps bring us an update on what was damaged and maybe how the public can help. So stay tuned for that. Well, remember when we said that we were going to be a dying breed being able to read cursive? Well, maybe not so much anymore. California is actually putting the law forward to make cursive handwriting part of the curriculum again.

Fisher: Yeah. And this is happening in other states as well. There was some kind of misunderstanding that when the core curriculums of various states came out that somehow cursive wasn't supposed to be included. And since we're seeing the damage that that's been doing this last generation, but lots of states are doing this. So this is really good news, especially for people in our areas, right?

David: Exactly. Well, the next story I want to share is in Fulton County, Georgia, where the probate records are telling a new story. Amongst the probate records of Fulton County, they're finding probate documents relating to enslavers. Well, these documents aren't your typical where they're selling the enslaved. They're actually setting aside money in the probate to pay to have their enslaved go back to Africa.

Fisher: Wow! I wonder if any of them actually pulled that off.

David: Exactly. So this is an interesting find. This is on Fox Five Atlanta, and a very interesting discovery.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: Another discovery, you know, I love looking at those free books nooks or community libraries that where you put a book, take a book?

Fisher: Yeah.

David: How about a 318 year old Scottish family Bible with all of the names inside of it?

Fisher: Wow! Now wait a minute here, this was a Bible from 1705. Isn't that kind of the time where the government kind of controlled who printed what?

David: It was a punishable by death crime. In fact, this Bible was published in Selkirkshire, Scotland and was printed illegally, Fish.

Fisher: And so now we have all the names in there for somebody to track down, what fun.

David: Exactly, and a better mystery is, who is the family member that left it in that library?

Fisher: Right.

David: Well, I love high flying news. And a Guinness Book of World record that was set by 104 year old Chicago woman has now been dashed. Because 106 year old World War II veteran Al Blaschke has decided to jump out of a plane at 8000 feet. By the way, tandem the next person over was the Governor Greg Abbott of Texas.

Fisher: [Laughs] Amazing. Wow!

David: Well, that's all I have from Beantown for you this week. And I know that we have some other news to share.

Fisher: Yeah, we do. You know, we've reached the point, David, where I've made the decision that we're going to end Extreme Genes at the end of the year, our regular weekly get-togethers because it's a lot to get together each week. And so there are other things I want to move on with in my life. But in the future, I still hope to do an occasional podcast and share some things without some of the limitations that having set segments for radio time and all that does. So we're going to end it at the end of December. And we'll talk more about it over the next couple of weeks. But looking forward to a new phase!

David: Well, happy retirement part two.

Fisher: Yes, that's right, exactly. All right, coming up next, we're going to talk to Crista Cowan from Ancestry.com. And find out what's happening at the great behemoth that is Ancestry, when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 483

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Crista Cowan

Fisher: All right back on the job here at Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, and it's been a while since we've talked to my good friend Crista Cowan, over at Ancestry.com. And Crista, you guys have a lot of things coming up here in the next little bit. And some interesting stuff too, involving family groups right now.

Crista: We do absolutely. Yeah, research has shown there's a really strong interest in doing family history together. And so we are moving more from me solitary activity to a we activity with some of the new tools and features we're releasing.

Fisher: You know, I really liked the idea of this. And I certainly feel that way myself. There are a lot of things I'd like my family to work with me on. And I had a conversation recently with one of my daughters. And she said, “Oh, Dad, I want to do some family history things. But I hate research. I just could never, in my mind ever imagine myself spending time doing research.” I said, well, there's a whole lot more to this than just research.

Crista: Yeah, absolutely. You know, one of the things that we find that people like your daughter and my brother, one of the things that really sparks their interest are stories and photographs.

Fisher: Yep.

Crista: And so Ancestry has continued to improve and evolve the gallery and that storytelling experience on the trees. And it's a really easy way to get people interested and invested and involved without having to give them full editor access to the family tree that we've so carefully curated.

Fisher: [Laughs] I think we all know what you're talking about there, because there are some people that just should not have that kind of access.

Crista: Yeah, you know, until we've given them a little more training, maybe,

Fisher: Maybe, maybe then that's absolutely true. And you know, we kind of see that on various sites that have Wiki models, we have people going in and often changing things that they shouldn't change in making the rest of us pull our hair out. So this is a great concept here. So you got the family groups, what is this look like?

Crista: Yeah, so most people now we've rolled it out here at Ancestry to 100% of our customers here in the United States. And so when you log on to Ancestry, you're logged in homepage, you should see a new widget called family groups. And it allows you to send out invitations to family members that you want to come in, maybe even just start with come and look at the family tree, they do need to sign up for a free registered guest account on Ancestry, if they have never taken a DNA test or never used Ancestry before, but no subscription is required. And that's an important thing to note. A lot of people think, oh, well, they have to have a subscription to see my tree or to look at the stories or photos I'm uploading. And that's absolutely not true. So you decide who in your family. In my family I've got my parents and all of my siblings and a couple of my cousins that have shown some interest. And so we're in a family group and now that's going to allow me to decide exactly what level of permission or access to the family tree they have. It also is going to allow us to have group conversations. One of the things that has come up over the summer as I've took a family history vacation with my dad, and some of his cousins are some of the stories about their grandparents and how they remember things, different things about their grandparents, and so soliciting those stories and photographs that different members of the family have, has been a great group conversation that we've been able to have.

Fisher: Isn't that interesting, you know, travel and photographs trigger so many of those things that may not have come to mind in decades for some people, right?

Crista: Yeah, absolutely. This trip we took this summer, it was my dad, five of his first cousins, his last surviving aunt, and then myself and two of my siblings. And it was just not only was it an amazing experience, to walk where our ancestors walked, but you're exactly right, that trigger of both just the place, but also just the time together in a concentrated way, brought out stories that I have never heard in my 50 years of life fully engaged and interested in wanting the information.

Fisher: And where did you go?

Crista: We went to England and Scotland.

Fisher: Nice! Oh, wow. What a great time to have there. So what's been the response from your family to having this material now shared? Are you starting to see some engagement there?

Crista: Yeah, you know, it's really interesting because I think as the family genealogist, we're so all in on this and we geek out over it, and we’ll tell anybody who will listen. And sometimes our family members’ eyes glaze over.

Fisher: Oh, you think?

Crista: But one of the things about this is it allows people to dip in and out of the experience at a degree that they want to. So I'm creating this family tree and collecting and discovering this information, and I'm all in on it. But my family then can like pull up the mobile app on their phone and look something up when they have a moment or when they're curious about something. I just helped my 10 year old nephew this last week, he had to do his state report for school. And he got assigned to Connecticut. And he was not happy about that because it was like 10th on his list.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Crista: But my brother, who had dipped in and out of the family tree, remembered that we had a family history connection to Connecticut. And so instantly the two of them were on the phone with me saying, “What's our connection to Connecticut? Now our connection to Connecticut is that this little 10 year olds 10 times great grandmother was the first woman accused and executed for witchcraft in the new world.

Fisher: Ooh, and who was that?

Crista: Her name was Alse Young.

Fisher: Okay.

Crista: And she was executed on what is now the lawn of the state capitol in Hartford.

Fisher: Oh, well, that gives him something to talk about. Is the 10 year old happy now?

Crista: He is very pleased. Yes. You got 100% state report.

Fisher: [Laughs] Isn't that fun? Yeah. Witchcraft in Connecticut, they kind of go together. And I'm tied to that. One of my people was one of the accusers in like 1653, in Fairfield. So those are really fascinating things to find it. You know, it is interesting, and I'm sure you have the same experience Crista that you do have the family that kind of makes little fun of us now and again, about our geekdom for this stuff. But at the same time, boy, when some question comes up, they're right on the phone, hey, what was the story about so and so? And when did this happen? And where did they go? They always come back to us. But it's great when we can engage them in this way. So you'll look now on the homepage at Ancestry for this new feature for family groups, and they log in and so you can get a free guest membership then to participate, right? What can you not see with the free guest membership?

Crista: Yeah, that's a great question. So if I give my brother, for example, he signs up for this free registered guest account, I share our family tree with him through this family group. And I give him guest access, which means he can't edit or change anything in the tree. He doesn't want to and I don't want him to so it works out well.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Crista: But he can see everything in the tree that I've added. So he can see people, he can kind of explore through the tree. He can see any photos or stories that I've uploaded, he can then in that family group ask questions when he has them. And then I can respond. And so it kind of moves some of these conversations, I don't know if you've ever had this experience in your family where you have like six group text threads going on, that all have different people in them. This just takes that family history discussion and moves it on to Ancestry where the tree lives. The only thing he can't see with that free account is any of the Ancestry records that are behind that subscription pay wall so he can see the 1940 -1950 census for example, but he can't see the passenger list for that ship manifest of my ancestor coming over.

Fisher: Okay, so to some degree, it's kind of like you can have the DNA test but you need the membership to see those connections, right, with people on that side?

Crista: Yeah.

Fisher: Very similar there. And the whole thing kind of reminds me a little bit of social media, except it's just done through the website.

Crista: You know what social media sometimes gets a bad rap. But really, it has changed the way that we interact with each other.

Fisher: Sure.

Crista: It has changed our view into the world and our view into the connections that we're able to make, both with our family as well as with total strangers on the other side of the world. And I think family history is such a natural fit for connection and for that socialization of some of those conversations that we have around the holiday dinner table.

Fisher: Yes, yes, absolutely. And we've got another holiday coming up here in just a few weeks. And it's a great time for gathering stories, and maybe really a great time to sign some of these people up and help them get that free guest account so they can participate in it. I think that's just a great plus, whether or not these folks actually wind up subscribing and geeking out like the rest of us are just helping the member to add more material. I bet you you've gotten a few stories out of this as a result of this.

Crista: Absolutely. Yeah, you know, my parents, I finally gave them editor access to the family tree recently.

Fisher: Ah!

Crista: And, it's because they have photographs in their house that I don't have copies of, and I wanted them to be able to use their mobile app to take pictures of those pictures and upload them to the tree. They both have stories that I have heard, but have never taken the time to record. And now that they're both retired, they have a little bit extra time more time than I have at the moment to be able to start to either audio record through the mobile app, or type out and write up the stories and attach them to the people in the tree that they knew personally, or to the people who they know the story is about.

Fisher: If I may ask, how old are your folks?

Crista: My parents are both in their early 70s.

Fisher: Okay, so they've got probably a lot to share at this point. Are you starting to see an increase among those who are doing the tree sharing?

Crista: Yeah, absolutely. Tree sharing has always been available on Ancestry.

Fisher: Sure.

Crista: But there’s some confusion around exactly how to use it, and exactly what I was giving people access to. And so this new family groups thing is designed to just make that really clear that when you share your tree, you can share it as a guest so they can see it, but they can't do anything to it. You can share as a contributor so they can upload photos and stories that they might have in their possession or in their brains, or you can give them full editor access. And you have control over that as the tree owner and the group creator.

Fisher: Wow. So it's all available right now to everybody in the US. And what about the rollout internationally?

Crista: That's coming within the next few weeks? I think actually.

Fisher: Ooh, so getting close. All right. Well, that's great stuff. And it's always fun to hear what's happening in Ancestry. And we look forward to 2024 and what may be ahead there because I know you know, and you're just not telling.

Crista: [Laughs] You know what, we’re near enough right now for RootsTech, and there will be a whole lot of announcements there.

Fisher: Oh, that's exciting stuff. She is Crista Cowan, of course from Ancestry.com. As always a joy to have you on Crista and we will talk to you at RootsTech, if not sooner.

Crista: Sounds good. Thanks so much.

Fisher: All right, and coming up next, we're going to pick up on an old story from listener JoAnne Jessee when we return in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 3 Episode 483

Host: Scott Fisher with guest JoAnne Jessee

Fisher: All right back on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here talking to another ordinary person with an extraordinary find and of course how she did it because that's how we all learn from these folks. And she's JoAnne Jessee from Waukesha, Wisconsin. You may have heard that name before because we've had her on Extreme Genes back in episode 364, a couple of years ago, where she talked about discovering and recovering a bunch of letters from the 1918 flu pandemic that tied into her great grand aunt Anne. And Joanne, it's great to have you on the show.

JoAnne: Thanks for having me back.

Fisher: First of all reset the stage on this whole thing back a few years ago, you had made a discovery of these letters and incredible stash that involved your great grand aunt Anne who had just been married to a guy named Stuart, tell us the background on this.

JoAnne: Okay, so in 2020, I reflected on my family's experience from 100 years ago in the previous pandemic, when my great grandma Gertrude had lost two sisters Anne and Brenda as a result of the Spanish flu. And that led me into seeing what we had in the family archives, which are mainly held by my aunt, in terms of what was going on with Anne. And so part of what we'd held on to was a subset of letters written from Stuart when he was serving in the army in France during World War I back to Anne that had been kept all this time. At some point someone must have gone through and not kept all of them but that then made me decide to go on to Ancestry and see if I could find anybody with Stuart in their tree.

Fisher: And this is because Stuart and Anne had not had any children by the time she passed away, right?

JoAnne: Oh, correct. Yes. So they did not have any children. They were newlyweds in August of 1917. And he went to New Jersey for training probably in about December and then shipped off to France in January of 1918.

Fisher: And then she was left behind, and then she got the flu and she was gone.

JoAnne: Correct.

Fisher: Wow.

JoAnne: It was very tragic. But I connected with a second cousin of some of Stuart's living grandchildren, and then said, hey, you guys, any chance that you would have letters that Anne wrote to Stuart? And they did.

Fisher: Oh, wow.

JoAnne: So, we've been in contact since May of 2020. And it's taken until this summer that we finally were able to meet up. And because they did not have any children together, we decided to exchange those letters back to the original families, so that they could have some of the color of what it was like for him in World War I in France. And we could hear kind of what was going on in the home front back in Illinois.

Fisher: Oh, that's amazing. And of course, he remarried not long after her passing. And that's where these descendants are coming from. So, it took you three years because of the fact there was another pandemic.

JoAnne: Yeah.

Fisher: And that delayed everything, obviously. So this finally took place this summer. So, my question to you is, you got these letters, and I would assume you've seen some copies of them previous to this. But you must have made some new discoveries as a result of this connection.

JoAnne: Yeah, it's been kind of interesting to see where my great grand aunt Anne was traveling around to without her husband at home. She kind of would still go visit friends, maybe in Wisconsin, or go up to her sisters in law's family cabin. So there's a postmark from up there. Mentions of a sick niece, this is my grandma's sister who died as a young girl, not from the flu as I had originally thought, but still a big loss in 1918, as well and then discovered that a different nephew from a different sister also had contracted the Spanish flu and died from that as well.

Fisher: Wow. Yeah, a lot of impact back then. And I think sometime in the future, they'll look back on this period and see how many people were impacted by COVID in much the same way.

JoAnne: Right.

Fisher: So you made another discovery, though, along the way since we last talked, and I thought this was pretty interesting.

JoAnne: Yeah. So actually, right after we spoke before, I received a copy of a letter that Stuart's dad had written to him about the funeral for Anne and her sister Brenda. They had a double funeral. And it was held at the family home. It was a private service. It was conducted by a minister from Camp Grant, which is the place that they were volunteering, helping the sick soldiers when they themselves ended up getting sick. And it took place in the front hall, where Anne and Stuart had been married just over a year before.

Fisher: Wow!

JoAnne: So that's very touching, but very eerie, I'm sure, yeah, totally different occasions. So my great, great grandparents had asked not to be praising the girls or anything or doing lavish flowers, but of course, how could people not.

Fisher: Sure.

JoAnne: So, Stuart’s dad wrote that the relatives brought in baskets of the loveliest flowers I had ever seen. And they drove the two hearses side by side to the cemetery, which is the place where I met up with Stuart's granddaughters this summer. And he said that although it was a private funeral, there were over 400 people gathered at the cemetery to show their sympathy and respect for the girls.

Fisher: Boy, it doesn't sound like too private a funeral there, does it?

JoAnne: No, not at that point in time.

Fisher: You know, this is so interesting, because I love some of the things that you've done here. First of all, you found your letters, which had to be a thrill right there because somebody in the family had them. And then you reached out to try to find what happened to the widowed husband and learned that he had remarried had children hopefully had descendants and gee, maybe there's that possibility that there were some letters written by your relative Anne back in the other direction and sure enough, that took place. And so look at how this just continues to grow the story revolving around this tragic death during the time of the pandemic back in the 19 teens. And you know, you think about newspaper stories, right?

JoAnne: Um hmm.

Fisher: We've got Newspapers.com as one of our great sponsors. And we gained so much from it, but boy when you can find personal letters and personal accounts of these things, it really drives things home, gives a lot more detail than you would get with newspaper coverage. Boy letters are real gold mines, aren't they?

JoAnne: Yes, I'm amazed by what has been revealed from some of these things between this and previously, when we spoke, I had had a detailed account from the girls’ doctor about kind of what they had gone through. And so if I hadn't connected with Stuart's family again, I would never know those details. And of course, some of them are very grim. But it's still about my family. And I get a sense of what was going on with the girls’ parents as well.

Fisher: Sure. Now, she was the sister of your great grandmother, were there references to your great grandmother in there in any of the letters?

JoAnne: So, at the time that she was writing, when she had first gotten sick, she had been out and about riding her bike the day before, and just casually mentioned how they were taking families from the train station to see their sick sons at Camp Grant and shuttling them back and forth. And so there is a mention of I don't know if it was my great grandmother, but it was definitely another sister tending to her bedside. And at one point, they had to wear masks of a different sort than what we wore.

Fisher: Sure.

JoAnne: So it was interesting. There was probably more mentions of my Grandma Jean, who is Anne’s niece, and they share a birthday, as well as Jean sister Louise, who's the one who had died earlier in 1918. Yeah, the family's there in the letters.

Fisher: Well, this really kind of completes the story for both Stuart's side of the family and your great aunt’s side, right?

JoAnne: Yes, I mean, there's so much material, which is a blessing, but getting it all written down in one place is still a trick. But all the material is there, and there's just things like what Stuart's dad wrote to him was very poignant. He said how unexpectedly events occur. We were all worrying about you over in France, where we thought the danger lay and lo, the disaster came here at home. And so there was a gap for a couple generations, but now we're in touch again.

Fisher: Isn't that awesome? She's JoAnne Jessee. Thanks so much for your time JoAnne.

JoAnne: Thank you.

Fisher: All right. And David Allen Lambert is coming up next as we return for another round of Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 4 Episode 483

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right back for Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show. Fisher here, David Allen Lambert has returned! And David, our first question comes from Bethany in Montana. And she says, “Fisher and Dave, I have a batch of old family photos in little cases that I found. They look like they are on glass or metal. How can I go about figuring out who these people are?” Good question. David, I've got a lot of ideas in my head, but you start.

David: Oh, yeah. Well, you know, I always get jealous when people have older photographs than me. So, what you have are photographs that probably started about 1839 or a little later. The earliest of those are on metallic plates and those are called to daguerreotypes. The process evolved into glass plates, which are called ambrotypes. And lastly, you can still see them in these cases, if you will, they could be a tintype. That just means that they're put in with a fancier frame and maybe even put under glass. Their age range is what your key thing is. You want to look at your family tree, and first off, know where does this come from, your dad's side of the family or your mom's side of the family. Then start looking for people living between 1840, say, and the 1870s, ballpark. Then look at how old the person is. So, if you have a mirror image, it's a daguerreotypes and it's a metal photograph. And it's an 80 year old person, you're looking at somebody that could have been born in the 1770s, 1760s, or even a veteran of the Revolutionary War. So, looking at your trees and seeing, who fits that time frame. That’s one way of doing it. But there may be more than meets the eye. Very, very carefully, if you can use a very gentle way of lifting the image out of the case, not out of the frame and the glass, you don't want to uncase that. Sometimes in the back, you'll find names written or the photographer's information is on a little slip of paper. Or maybe somebody even put a lock of hair. The things that we have found in American Ancestors by gently lifting daguerreotypes, ambrotypes and tintypes out of the cases is as simple as taking one of those very thin paper clips in the corner and just seeing if it gives. If it doesn't give, that means it's glued in. most of them are not glued in. So that's one way of doing it.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: And of course, looking at other pictures. Does this have any resemblance to a person later on in life?

Fisher: Exactly. And, you know, if you don't have pictures to compare these to, you can go on Family Search or you can go on Ancestry or My Heritage and you can see if somebody has a family tree up there with the pictures of some of your common relatives. That's assuming you know your family tree back to then. If you don't, then you have some work to do. And what an adventure it would be to try to figure out who these folks are.

David: You know, it's a great adventure. And the other thing is digitization. If you digitize it and put it on your tree on Family Search or on Ancestry, somebody may have another copy of a similar image. Generally speaking, these are one of a kind. But somebody may have had a copy made as a regular paper photo and on the back wrote who it was. It is a great bit of research ahead of you. And I wish you luck.

Fisher: Yeah. You know, I'll tell you what, though, these daguerreotypes were very expensive to be made. And that in itself is a clue. They say it's like five bucks, which is the average salary for somebody in a month's worth of work back in that day. And so, if you know somebody say who was of the merchant class who could afford something like this, or if they're all from the same family, that kind of tells you something about them as well, because it gives you an idea that they had means and they had this desire to preserve their images, which is a whole new thing. It was a whole novelty at that time in the 1850s. And even though we have photography going back to 1839 typically, you don't see daguerreotypes to, what Dave, 1850s?

David: Oh, yeah, those are the earliest, right. And then you know that you have one, Fish, if you tilt at an angle, you get a mirror effect.

Fisher: Yeah, absolutely. Great stuff! Great question. Good luck with that, Bethany. Thanks for it. And coming up next, we have another one talking about discharged papers from the army when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 483

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right back at it for our final segment this week on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here with David Allen Lambert. And this next question, Dave is from Guy in Scranton, Pennsylvania. And he says, “Guys, I recently found my great uncle's discharge papers from the army after World War II. I knew nothing about this. Now I'd like to know more about his service. Where do I go from here?”

David: Ooh, well, I mean, obviously there was a lovely fire in 1973, but it didn't burn everything.

Fisher: Well, let's talk about that for just a moment, because most of the army records though were burned.

David: Um hmm, everything after 1912.

Fisher: Yep, everything after 1912. And so, there are some records that survived. And that's the burn unit you were talking about.

David: Um hmm, yeah, these burn files are something that they're working archivally to digitize, but they're able to look underneath the burnt by looking for the ink in the lead of the pencil, and then you can contrast change it negative to positive. And guess what? You can see it even in the burnt part where the writing might have been.

Fisher: And this is all in St. Louis, Missouri, where the Veterans Administration kept everything. And it was just a horrible, horrible loss. But there are many other things that are more likely to bring you success than looking through what they may have.

David: Um hmm, well, how about newspapers. When you came home, if you're a small town, that's big news “Local boy makes good”.

Fisher: Not only that, though. Since you have the discharge papers, you know what unit he served in. And so now you can start researching the unit, whether or not you find the name of your individual doesn't much matter, because you know that he's part of the unit. Whatever you find on them is going to tell you what he was up to.

David: And you know, another clue that people can do and a lot of people don’t utilize it, it's very cheap service. Oftentimes, it's free. The US Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania will allow you to write in and say, “I'm looking for the 158 regiment served in World War II. What can you tell me about it?”And they'll tell you from the time that the unit mustered up to when the unit mustered out, and everything in between.

Fisher: Sure. Now, the thing is, the discharge papers may not cover every unit a person served in, because of the fact they may have moved around a little bit. The other thing is, though, online, you can often find things written about other ancestors or relatives that served in the same unit. And they talk about what their grandpa said about it, or what battles they were engaged in. And you can find photographs maybe that came from that person's grandfather's photo album. Who knows, you might even find your great uncle in there!

David: That's entirely possible. And again, the internet, put a Facebook group out on the unit.Just create a group. you'd be surprised, you might have diaries or photos, or stories, and we do still have 120,000 World War II veterans out there, maybe some 98 year old out there can reach out to you and tell you a little bit more about his buddy that he served with.

Fisher: Isn't that interesting. And you know, the thing is, these army units really are like big families. So, if you put together a Facebook page, it's like a Facebook family group for these particular army vets. And I'm thinking that, you know, this is a great opportunity, since you have the name of the unit, you have the name of your person, for you to find a lot of interesting information out there that you never probably imagined you could if you just dig in. But, use the internet and use it often. I think you could find a lot of things.

David: Oh, exactly.

Fisher: Any other thoughts, Dave?

David: Well, you know, I mean, I think the idea of making copies of the records that you have, but also reaching out to other descendants of the veteran. Maybe one of your cousins has letters that he wrote, and may have talked about different experiences. Of course, letters are censored in World War II, but they might have family photos that might have places written on the back or postcards or things like that. Because remember, your soldier wanted correspondence, and maybe these family members are the distant cousins he wrote to before he was married.

Fisher: There you go. All right. That's it for this week, David. Thank you so much as always, and we'll talk to you again next week.

David: All right, until then, my friend.

Fisher: All right. And thanks to our guests Crista Cowan JoAnne Jessee for coming on and sharing their information and story this week. If you missed any of it, or you want to catch it again, of course, listen to the podcast on all the usual places, TuneIn Radio, iHeart Radio, ExtremeGenes.com, Spotify… We are all over the place. Talk to you again next week. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice normal family!

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