Episode 484 - “I Could See The Pilot’s Smile” Pearl Harbor Survivor Shares His Very Close Call / Passionate Genie Takes On Tin Type Photography

podcast episode Dec 11, 2023

Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. David begins Family Histoire News with an update on the damage done in the attack of a homeless man on historic cemeteries in Boston. Then, the 250th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party is coming. David talks about the rapidly approaching celebration. We’ve gotten accustomed to hearing about people discovering they were switched at birth through DNA, but wait til you hear this one woman’s story! It has more twists and turns than we’ve ever heard. Can the extinct Dodo bird become “unextinctified?” (Thank you George W. Bush!) One company thinks so. David will explain.

In segment two, Fisher shares his 2021 interview with the late Jack Holder. Jack passed this year at 101 years old, but his story will live forever. Hear him describe how he could see the smiling face of a Japanese pilot while he was being strafed at Pearl Harbor!

Then, Gage DeWitt returns to the show to talk about his new interest… creating tin type photographs. Not many people do it and for good reason. The chemicals are dangerous. Gage and his girl friend, Molly McNeal, talk about this risky hobby they hope to turn into a little business, and how they have recreated the 19th century process.

Fisher and David then return for Ask Us Anything.

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


Segment 1 Episode 484

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 Roots Sleuth on the program where we shake your family tree, and watch the nuts fall out. Great to have you along genies! Couple of great guests today. We're going to talk to Jack holder. You may have heard Jack passed away earlier this year. But we had him on the show a couple of years before that. He died at 101. And Jack was one of the survivors of Pearl Harbor, wrote a little book about his experiences in the war. And he tells us all about what it was like because he barely survived Pearl Harbor. So that's coming up in about 10 minutes. And then later on in the show, we're going to have Gage DeWitt back on not talking about how he and another distant cousin are digging up our common ancestor in upstate New York. They've already accomplished that they got to rebury them sometime next year. He's actually getting into tintype photography. Who does that? How does that happen? How did he get the interest? What's he doing with it? We'll talk to Gage about that coming up in just a little bit. Right now it's time to head out to Boston because David Allen Lambert is standing by the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. Hello, David.

David: Hey, Fish. How you doing, buddy?

Fisher: I am doing great, I should acknowledge and thank all the people who have been emailing this past week, since our announcement that the show is coming to an end, at least as far as our weekly shows go at the end of the month, but we will still be on with an occasional podcast here and there. So we appreciate all that interest and all your kind words. David, let's get going with our Family Histoire news. Where do you want to begin?

David: Well, your roving reporter decided to take the next step and actually visit Granary Burying grounds site of where that desecration of the cemetery, including Paul Revere’s stone.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: So three days after, I go into the cemetery and I inspected Paul Revere’s stone, so the capstone on top, somebody definitely flipped off the top and set it back down. It's a little damaged, but a little bit of masonry can fix it.

Fisher: Okay.

David: However, one of the tabletop tombs which is probably from the early 18th, or late 17th century, definitely was flipped off the top and has some damage that can also be repaired. And the only gravestone that was demolished, if you will, can be repaired by a conservator. I don't know who that actually belong to but I'm going to try to find out.

Fisher: Wow!

David: But so it's a little better than what we had thought. So I checked it out in person and looked at it and did a little TikTok video to show people it's not as bad.

Fisher: Nice.

David: You know, the other thing I did that day is I walked to the site of the Boston Tea Party Museum, and I dropped off a bag of tea, because on December 16, they are taking all of the donated tea and dumping it into Boston Harbor. Isn't that nice to know I legally can pollute the harbor of Boston.

Fisher: This is fantastic. And then you can go drink it.

David: I don’t know about that. [Laughs] But I'm invited to attend the December 16th, 250th reunion of the descendants and those that are interested in remembering this historic event. And on December 17th, with NEHGS staff Melanie McComb and others I'm going to be doing consultations at the Boston Tea Party Museum to help people to see if they're related to a Tea Party member.

Fisher: Oh, I like that. That's very fun.

David: Well, you know, I've seen some switched at birth stories, but the one you shared with me, talk about, first off, thinking that you were just adopted, and then finding your natural parents. And then on top of it, find out you're actually switched at birth. That's a double whammy.

Fisher: Oh, this whole thing was crazy. It's written up in People. And this woman was told when she was five years old that she'd been adopted. Well, down the line as she became an adult, she got a hold of her original birth certificate, which gave the name of her birth parents, tracked them down, had siblings and all this for years and years and years felt very satisfied with that. And then DNA came along. And guess what, she didn't match any of them. And so as it turned out, she tied in with people who are related to somebody else, another woman who was born in the same hospital on the same date. And they put two and two together, that she had been switched at birth. So she was adopted, got the wrong birth parents, got the right birth parents, and found out that her birth mother was still living and they're just all delighted to be in touch and have a great relationship going. It's a great story. You ought to read it.

David: I love the stories from People and that one is no exception. You ever have a pet growing up that you wish you could bring back.

Fisher: Oh, yeah.

David: But what if it was an ancestor who had a pet prior to 1681?

Fisher: What?

David: He may have had a dodo bird.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: The last dodo went extinct in 1681. However, a billion dollar Genetics Company called Colossal BIO Sciences has announced it wants to partner with the Wildlife Charity in Mauritian to bring back the dodo.

Fisher: Yeah, in France.

David: Yeah, it's amazing. You know, we're talking about bringing back mammoths and all of that. But start small.

Fisher: It's funny. We all thought Jurassic Park was this big, funny movie. But now I'm thinking, Okay, what ancestor would I like to bring back if I could just do one? Because I'm sure it's very expensive. Who would that person be? Do you have somebody in mind, Dave?

David: I'd like to bring back my grandfather.

Fisher: Grandpa.

David: So I could actually interview and get some answers.

Fisher: But the problem is, you don't know where he is. You don't know where he's buried. Don't know where he died.

David: So I can't really dig him up.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: But maybe I can sequence out a quarter of my DNA.

Fisher: Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, don't even get going with that. That's taking science a little bit too far.

David: You know, this week, I want to just mention something a little different. Instead of EXTREME as a coupon code, I want to mention that we would love to see some of our listeners come to an American Ancestors program. We're going to be in Washington, DC on March 24 to March 30 at archives one and archives two. So go to AmericanAncestors.org/events and you can learn about all of our upcoming programs, including our Washington DC tour.

Fisher: And you're going to be part of that and coaching people through it, yes?

David: Yes, sir.

Fisher: All right. Great stuff! Thank you so much, David. We'll catch it the back end of the show for Ask Us Anything. And coming up next, we're going to hear the interview I recorded with the late Jack holder survivor at Pearl Harbor, talking about his experience and as much as we just had the anniversary observance here just a few days ago, on the way in about three minutes and then later in the show, Gage DeWitt who has gotten himself into tintype photography. What's that about? We'll find out. It's all ahead on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 484

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Jack Holder

Fisher: And welcome back to America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, and what an honor it is for me today to be talking to 99-year-old Jack Holder in Arizona. Jack has written a book called “Fear Adrenalin and Excitement” covering his military experiences. Jack, welcome to Extreme Genes.

Jack: Well, thank you so much. It’s my honor to join you.

Fisher: Well, Jack has quite a history because during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th 1941, he had…what would you say, a front row seat Jack?

Jack: [Laughs] I definitely had a front row seat. I had a duty that day it was one of exception role call and in our hanger, we heard fast moving aircraft and moments later a terrible explosion. The hanger beside us blew up. We received the first bomb that fell at Pearl Harbor.

Fisher: You were right there for the first bomb?

Jack: It dropped about 100 yards from me. I was right there.

Fisher: Oh my goodness. So, the beginning of World War II was a 100 yards from you.

Jack: Yeah. That’s correct.

Fisher: Wow! And you, as I understand it were on Ford Island?

Jack: I was on Ford Island yes. Ford Island is a small island right inside Pearl Harbor itself.

Fisher: Um hmm. And I understand that you actually got really close to one of these planes that I guess was strafing?

Jack: Well, he got pretty close to us. It so happens that when we went outside and seeing the aircrafts overhead with the rising sun and signal in the air, it so happens that one of my shipmates remembered there was a shoreline under construction behind our hanger. He said, “Let’s go for the ditch. Follow me.” We all ran, jumped in it, sat there clinging to each other. And of course, one of the pilots had seen us. He circled, straight into the ditch, missed us by five or three feet, he hit the dirt piled up beside the ditch.

Fisher: Oh my gosh! And as I understand, you were actually so close as he came over that you could see his face.

Jack: I could see his face. I could see his unbuttoned helmet flapping in the breeze and all those big shiny white teeth.

Fisher: Really?

Jack: I guess he was pretty happy.

Fisher: He looked like he was enjoying himself.

Jack: I think so.

Fisher: Wow! How long had you been at Pearl Harbor before all this happened?

Jack: Just six days short of one year.

Fisher: So, as you were in this ditch, after this initial attack, what happened then, where did you go?

Jack: Well, this was a two wave attack as you well know. I’m not sure how long we were in the ditch, but it was an hour and fifteen minutes between the two waves. Shortly after the first wave was over, we’d come out of the ditch of course, and we started separating the aircrafts. We had 12 aircrafts parked between the two hangers, BP21 and BP23, my hanger. Half of them were on fire from the first bomb that fell. We started separating the burning aircrafts from aircrafts that weren’t damaged. And I was ordered by the lady chief to grab two other sailors and go into the hanger and get the squadron commander’s aircraft ready for flight. We got the engines ready, buttoned them up, the aircraft was rolled out, refueled, loaded with two 1000 pound bombs. The captain and his crew flew for 19 hours looking for the Japanese fleet but found nothing.  

Fisher: Hm!

Jack: But the devastating thing that I had seen, I can look down Battleship Row and see the Arizona, the Nevada, West Virginia, Tennessee, California, Utah, I seen the Oklahoma turn turtle up, seen all these ships on fire, all sinking. I seen gentleman jumping in the water, trying to swim to water cover and burning all out. A lot of them died in the water, some of them died when they reached the beach, and of course some of them made it. But it was a sight I’ll never forget.  

Fisher: I can only imagine. How many days did you remain at Pearl after the attack on December 7th?

Jack: Well, the normal routine of search and flight training, everything resumed immediately after the raid. This continued until Midway.

Fisher: I see. So, you stayed there. You were still based there.

Jack: Oh, yeah.

Fisher: And so, you were a pilot. Had you received your pilot training before December 7th or was that just a continuation after the attack?

Jack: Well, in the military I was flight engineer. I went to flight school after I got out of the Navy, then I was an airline pilot, was strictly a flight engineer in the Navy.

Fisher: At that point.

Jack: At that point.

Fisher: So, as I understand it, Midway of course was not that long after Pearl Harbor. It was just a matter of several months and was obviously very important because you had four Japanese aircraft carriers trying to lure in what they thought what was left of the United States Navy. They were going to attack it, take over Midway, and then they were in a position where they could attack the West Coast. But we of course intercepted all their messages so we knew what the plan was and so we had our own carriers out there that they didn’t even know existed at that point, and you were part of the battle of Midway.

Jack: Let me run through that complete story of that. Immediately after the journey to liberate Tokyo, the naval intelligence began receiving numerous coded messages using the letters AF and AO. We understood part of the Japanese code. We knew that one of these stood for the Aleutian Islands and the other for Midway, but we could not tell which was which. Our chief of intelligence told Admiral Nimitz he said, "I've devised a plan to ascertain what they mean." He said, "We can send out an encoded message saying, "Midway has just had a fresh water condenser failure." Nimitz Said, "Send it." The Japanese took the bait, they sent out a coded message saying "AF has just had a fresh water condenser failure." Nimitz then sent a small task force to the Aleutian Islands in disguise and the rest of the fleet to Midway, positioning the aircraft carriers in position. The rest of the fleet another, my squadron left Pearl Harbor on May 28, 1942, began our search for the Japanese fleet. June 3rd, we found them, 450 miles north east of Midway, proceeding towards Midway under a weather front.

Fisher: And when you say, "We found him." you were part of the group that did find them.

Jack: I was in the aircraft that made the report of their position.

Fisher: That is amazing to me. And it’s a little personal too, because I had an uncle, Donaldson who served on the USS New Orleans at the Battle of Midway and I've reviewed his naval records and the experience at that time. It was a world changing battle, the Battle of Midway, because it protected the west coast, it pushed the Japanese back. I believe they were also planning on attacking Australia.

Jack: That's right.

Fisher: This was kind of the end of their pushing east and their aggression in that direction. They had to go into a more defensive position after this, right?

Jack: That's right. They wanted to control all the shipping lanes to the Philippines.

Fisher: Do you think back on this, Jack? I mean, you're 99 years old now. You must look back on this, 80 years ago it seems, I'm sure, like another lifetime ago.

Jack: It does seem like an awful long time, but I remember it like it was yesterday.

Fisher: I bet it does. Its life defining when you go through something like that, yes?

Jack: That's very true, yes.

Fisher: How many of your friends from those times are still with us?

Jack: Recently, I have a very good friend here, a rear admiral by the name of Jim Simons. He had some contacts and I come up with a group of at least 30 or 40 names that I remembered in my squadron and they did research on these and they could not make contact with a single one.

Fisher: So you're it.

Jack: Well, I'm the only one in Phoenix. I think there's only two of us in Arizona. You know, you're talking about us very long ago. I've been back to Pearl Harbor on December 7th several times, checking back by The Greatest Generations Foundation. The person is a gentleman by the name of Timothy Davis, he's an Australian.

Fisher: Hm!

Jack: When I first met him, I says, "How come you Australians got mixed up in all of this?" He said, "Jack, if it hadn't have been for your boys, Australia might have been speaking Japanese."

Fisher: [Laughs] That's absolutely true. You did a lot of stuff. You also fought in the Atlantic Theatre.

Jack: I was transferred back to San Diego, went to training in the B24 Liberator. In April 1943, flew 56 missions till December and patrolled the English Channel and the Bay of Biscay, which is the western coast of France.

Fisher: That's unbelievable. I'm seeing a number here that you flew 315 navy missions. How is that even possible?

Jack: I don't know. [Laughs] When they say go, you've got to go.

Fisher: You go and you go, but I mean, really, what were the odds of survival with that number of missions under your belt?

Jack: Well, I can tell you this, every time you board that aircraft, you say, well, you know, maybe this might be the last one. You never know.

Fisher: I can only imagine. Two Distinguished Flying Cross medals and then afterwards you worked as a corporate pilot. What a life!

Jack: Yeah, that was. The charter airline, I had my fair share between California for 7 years and then I went to the Union Oil company as a corporate pilot for another 10 years.

Fisher: Well, what a piece of family history you've written for your family, Jack. And this has been a real honor to talk to you. Did your dad serve in the service?

Jack: My father was a royal World War I veteran. He never talked too much about it, but he did tell me he spent a year crawling through the mud in France.

Fisher: Oh wow! That had to be just as difficult as everything you went through.

Jack: Oh, that's true, yeah.

Fisher: Unbelievable. And you turn 100 in December.

Jack: December I'll be 100, yes.

Fisher: Unbelievable. He is Jack Holder. He's from Phoenix, Arizona, a survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941 at Ford Island and actually was able to look right into the face of one of the Japanese pilots who was strafing him and his buddies. What a life what a story Jack! You've written this book about your life. What's it called?

Jack: It’s called, Fear Adrenaline and Excitement.

Fisher: Did you come up with that title?

Jack: Yes, I did.

Fisher: And what does it mean to you?

Jack: Well, it means exactly what I experienced. There's a great difference between being afraid and the moment of fear. If a person's afraid, it creates bad decisions. But a moment of fear tells the adrenaline to start flowing, then it changed to excitement.

Fisher: So where can people get this book?

Jack: On Amazon and my website, JackHolder.org.

Fisher: Wonderful! Jack, thank you so much. I look forward to reading the book.

Jack: Okay.

Segment 3 Episode 484

Host: Scott Fisher with Gage DeWitt

Fisher: And welcome back to Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Really excited to have my distant cousin who's actually more of a close cousin now after this past year, Gage DeWitt, you may remember him early in the year. He's been on the show a couple of times because he was actually digging up our common ancestor Tjerck Claessen DeWitt, in upstate New York. And as we got to know each other, we learned a few other things like Gage is getting into tintype photography. And Gage, welcome to the show.

Gage: Thanks for having me again Scott, I appreciate it.

Fisher: You know, we've talked so much about the DeWitt thing, but we never got into at least on the air, talking about how you got into tintype photography. I mean, this is something that dates back to the late 19th century. I have a few of these in my collection also. But I had no idea anybody could even do this anymore. How'd you get started in this?

Gage: Yeah, that's right. Not a lot of people are doing it anymore. It's pretty much the original form of photography. And it's kind of a very complex process. And it's not really easy to learn how to do and it's definitely not easy to get the materials to do it. So there's not a lot of people doing it anymore. And that's really unfortunate, because it's definitely the most beautiful form of photography. And the way I got into it, I've always been interested in ancestry and history, genealogy and antique photography, because researching my family history of course, there's a lot of early tintypes in the DeWitt family. And it just got me interested, the beauty of the photographs, and the detail. You can't find anything like it nowadays, even with really expensive digital cameras. You can't find pictures that look like these extremely detailed images. So I've always been interested in it. And I started researching the process. It was quite difficult and I’ve always liked a challenge. So I decided to one day pursue it. And my girlfriend Molly is a photographer. And so she really encouraged me to try it. And actually we kind of put our knowledge together of photography and history and just started doing it together.

Fisher: All right, we got Molly on the line right now as well. And you were doing like weddings, right? And what are you doing hanging out with this knucklehead, Molly?

Molly: [Laughs] I have no idea. I'm just trying to keep him out of trouble and keep him alive. And it's a challenge sometimes.

Fisher: [Laughs] I got you. Well, you guys then are now going about actually starting a business in this thing. But I'm still fascinated by the process. You did a lot of research on it. This is not the kind of thing where you can order a camera that's ideal for tintype photography. You can't necessarily order the type of tin that you need. I mean, there's very specific things involved here.

Molly: Right. It's a lot more complex than your typical mediums of photography today. And there are no tintypes for dummies, because it's such a old and almost lost art form. After we got everything that we needed for it, we still didn't know how to do it yet. I mean Gage, bless his heart. He took a whole week sunrise to sunset, just experimenting and figuring out what was working and not working. And those chemicals you're not supposed to breathe them in. I don't think I think that's where the mad and mad scientist comes from. After work one day, he was in the thick of experimenting with it. I mean, he looked like a mad scientist in his lair. The chemicals they stain too, really badly. And he had chemical stains all over the walls in the ceiling. I don't even know how he did it. But we've been doing it ever since.

Fisher: Wow, that's incredible. So Gage, where did you get the chemicals and how did you figure out exactly what makes them all work? And how many times did it take for you to get it right?

Gage: Well, there's only a couple of companies in the world that still sell some of the chemicals you need. And there's not any one company that sells everything you need. There's a lot of chemistry involved. And obviously, I'm not a chemist. So actually, after about a week of experimenting with the tintype I came down with bronchitis. And that was even wearing a respirator while I was working with these chemicals. So a lot of it's mixing different chemicals and putting salt and collodion and things like that. And it's just a lot of experimenting. There's not one place you can go buy everything from to do this.

Fisher: So, who was the first person you actually photographed and turned them into a tintype photo?

Gage: I think the first person was Molly actually, wasn't it Molly?

Molly: I think so.

Gage: Yeah, you were the first person that I took a tintype of. And I still have that picture. It's turned out pretty well. And we've since done more of Molly and myself, and they look really, really beautiful now.

Fisher: So do you dress people up in the period clothing for these things?

Gage: We haven't done that yet. I think that's definitely going to be an option. Of the people that we've photographed so far they have just been in normal clothing, because typically what we're doing right now is portrait photography. And we're going to do more landscape photography, too. But we're doing a lot of portraits right now. So mostly from like the upper chest up anyway. They're turning out really well, though.

Fisher: So are you considering the idea of actually matching people up, say to an old photo of a 19th century ancestor?

Molly: Yeah, I'm really glad you asked that because I have an old portrait of my great, great, great, great grandmother.

Fisher: Ooh!

Molly: She's wearing a locket and her portrait, Gage, I think that first tintype that you did of me, we put that same locket on me.

Gage: Yeah, we did. So we are actually doing that, Scott, we just didn't realize it. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs]

Molly: So there's some potential there as well. I do want it to stay authentic, even if we go into that direction.

Fisher: Yeah, fascinating. So have you been messing with the chemicals too Molly, your brains still intact.

Molly: [Laughs] I'm really more careful with it than he is, I think. Yeah, I tend to wear gloves more often than he does. I have the color coded chemical bins. And I can tell when he's been doing tintypes without me, because usually when I get there, he's been doing that and they're not in the right order anymore. He scares me with that.

Fisher: It’s a little scary. Now, I’ve got to ask you, is there a fire risk with all this stuff? I mean, or explosion risk? I mean, I just have these pictures in my head, kind of like you described Molly of the mad scientist down in the basement. And what about the fumes? I mean, I know reading back to the history of photography there were definitely some people who got damaged by what they were doing in the early years.

Gage: Oh, yeah, there's definitely a fire risk involved. I think just about every chemical we use is pretty flammable. I'm not sure of explosion risks. But definitely a fire hazards there, because part of the process is called baking the plate. And you have to hold the plate over and open flame, and you have all these wet flammable chemicals. So, you do have to be very careful not to get the plate too close to the flame. Otherwise, it definitely will catch on fire.

Fisher: And you found a 19 century camera that was just perfect for this that you had to pick up. Tell us about that.

Gage: Yeah, it was actually Molly that found that. So, going back to how we got into this Molly was encouraging me to do it. So I told her I've always wanted to do tintype photography. And I showed Molly some examples of it. And she was really encouraging me to do it. And then she just bought a camera. I mean, she just bought this old wooden camera from the 19th century, and just told me she bought it and then we got started with it.

Fisher: Wow! And Molly, how much was that camera?

Molly: Oh, over $1,200.

Fisher: Ooh! Wow! And how did it work?

Molly: Great. I was in contact with the previous owner and he kind of helped us figure it out and told us what the different parts are used for and things like that. So he was he was really helpful.

Fisher: So, to make one of these things is there a pretty good cost? I mean, if I were to say to you guys, hey, I'm going to go visit you and I want you to make a tintype of me or my family. What would one of those things cost me to make? Because obviously, if you're going to do this and turn it into a business, there's got to be some underlying costs. What do you think Gage?

Gage: Oh, yeah, absolutely. We're not trying to get rich doing this.

Fisher: [Laughs] No.

Gage: This is fun. You know, it's our business. So we're trying to be very fair with the pricing. And there's not a lot of examples to go off of. There's a few tintype companies in the country. And we've looked at their prices, and we've kind of broken down what it costs to do this. And it's very hard to get an exact number. I guess it depends on the setting. That was just a walk in person that wanted to come in and do a tintype. I mean, you're looking at the very least about $130. And that could change tomorrow, because some of these chemicals have silver in them. And the price of silver fluctuates, it goes down, it goes up.

Fisher: Yeah.

Gage: So it really depends on the market value of the chemicals at the time. But some companies in New York that we see, there's a few in New York City that charge over $200 to do a 4x5 tintype. So it's really not bad for what you get, because you get an image that is extremely detailed. It's very beautiful, and you cannot recreate it with film photography, or digital photography and it lasts forever. And it will last absolutely forever.

Fisher: All right you guys. It's Gage DeWitt and Molly McNeal. They're putting together a little business on this. It's fascinating. And you can see their Facebook page at Heritage Tintype Photography. And guys, good luck with that, this sounds really fun and watch your brains.

Gage: All right, Scott. We appreciate it.

Molly: Thank you.

Fisher: [Laughs] 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 484

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, we are back on the job with Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show. David Allen Lambert is back from Boston. And Dave, our first question comes from Craig in Little Rock, Arkansas. He says, “Fisher and Dave, my great grandfather was a policeman around the turn of the century. I have his badges, citations and some pictures I'm hoping will stay in the family for a long time. What would you recommend I do with these? Craig.”

David: Well, I can tell you, I've been to your house. And if anybody can answer that question, you can, my friend.

Fisher: Yeah, I think so. We've talked about it before. But I think it's really important, because I don't think a lot of people necessarily think about these things until they come into the same situation. And maybe they're getting older and starting to realize, “Oh, well what happens to this stuff when I'm gone?” And it's a question I know you hear everywhere you go. It's a question I get all the time from people. And I tell them, you know, it's just like a fine restaurant. It's about presentation, right? What do these badges and photos and citations mean in a little pile in a drawer or stuck in an envelope? Not a whole lot. And so, in my case, I like to take things like that and create framed items with all of them showing and maybe even putting on a little metallic sign on the front of it that explains what they are. Sometimes you can do them in shadow boxes. I have musket balls and shadow boxes. I have rocks from cemeteries or from stone walls from an ancestor’s old property in shadow boxes. I also have a lot of badges and things like you're describing. There is a badge of my grandfather back in 1890, when he was in a Grand Army of the Republic unit as a drummer boy. He wasn't old enough to have been in the Civil War. But in the picture, he's wearing the very badge that got passed down to me. So, I framed the two things together. And that was one of the first ones I ever did. I’ve actually even created some things using 3D printers that can be framed as well. So you have really a perfect combination of items that you can put together and make into something interesting, because you know, if you start dividing them up, a picture here, a letter to that person over there or a badge to this one, I don't think they have quite the same value, than when you put them together and make a nice display out of them.

David: Yeah, you’ve got to keep the context of the whole thing.

Fisher: That’s it.

David: I mean, because it's almost like a museum dividing up a collection.

Fisher: Yes.

David: It’s like you don't get the whole story.

Fisher: Yeah, I think you're dead on with that. Absolutely. And I think when they're together like that, there's greater interest in the ancestor him or herself.

David: Um hmm, very much so. I mean, one of the things that I find that if you don't have the money to buy shadowboxes and whatnot, you can buy display cases, the ones that you usually sometimes see at antique stores that have jewelry in them. There's a company, the Indian River Display Company, I buy them from them and I use him for my Indian arrowheads that I find. And I have them from every site. And of course, I don't want to divide them up, because they all came from one particular Indian site that I looked for arrowheads in when I was a kid. I don't want to put one and one and mix them up and have styles put together. You want to keep everything in context. The other thing I would suggest is taking a picture of what you have and creating a notebook. And I know you've done something similar to this, Fish.

Fisher: Yes.

David: And basically giving an inventory in the detail of the provenance, because I mean, you can fit so much onto a little plaque, but then there's so much more to tell.

Fisher: Yeah, you know, you've really hit it on the head. And that's why it's important to keep kind of an heirloom book that has a little more of the story behind these things, just with a photograph of it. So, when they see them, it really has some provenance, some understanding, the story behind it and it becomes a much more interesting piece. So kind of to review here, don't divide it up. Don't leave it in envelopes or in folders somewhere in the garage. Make sure that you put it somewhere where the story is told and all the pieces are kept together, because at the end of the day, really you might be lucky to have one person who cares about this stuff. And if you divide it all up, then you're denying that person the opportunity to enjoy some of that heritage. So, hopefully that helps, Craig, and congratulations on it and good luck. We look forward to hearing how that goes. And we have another question coming up next when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 484

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, here we go our final question for this week on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, David Allen Lambert over there in Boston. And David, this question comes from Linea in Hartford, Connecticut. She says, “Dave and Fish, a cousin of mine showed me a copy of an old letter written by my ancestor who was in the Revolutionary War.” How cool is that! “It talks about how a government agent finally got him quote “his land.” How can I research this?” Dave, you're the military guy, tell her what you know.

David: Well, I'll tell you. We’re showing you the date of the letter, because two incidents occurred. Now I'm not talking 1973 in San Louis. In 1814, the British burned Washington. And that took out a lot of the early bounty land warrants they could be referring to in this letter. Now, to add insult to injury, it isn't all the fault of the British, because in 1800, a fire took place in Washington and burnt the earlier version of the records.

Fisher: [Laughs] Wow!

David: So, pre 1814, when you look for a pension online on Fold3.com, in the upper right hand corner, it might say B L W, it stands for bounty land warrant, it will give you a number. In fact, there’s a ledger that survives for all the older ones, but it just says, David Johnson, B L W number. Then, when you look at the upper right hand corner, right below it will say, no papers and that’s because of those two fires.

Fisher: Oh, boy!

David: Now, there are records that do survive. And sometimes letters like what you have, or even the pension might allude to give you some detail. Better yet, it's backwards referencing the land itself. So, your ancestor moved to a particular place or did they sell the land. Now, if they move there, Fish, there's always an opportunity that when you get the deed for when the land is being sold, maybe after the soldier died, it has to say where he got it from. So, it could say government land, bounty land.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: For war service. If he sold it for cash on the barrel, there were ads all over the newspapers back then where they would give you cash on the barrelhead for any of this land. And so, it could have been sold over. Some of these records you may find on the government land office records website, and it's,GLORecords.BLM.Gov. And you can search by the state where the land may have been, on the county, or you can just simply put in the state and the last name of your family member. You can see digitized copies of the documents. I was able to use this for later wars, such as the War of 1812 or as my Massachusetts soldier, he got land in Illinois, never settled there, got it in 1815. But he finally sold it in 1839. And using Family Search, I was able to look at the deeds and finding the distribution of that property.

Fisher: Wow! It sounds to me like she's got a real adventure ahead of her.

David: She does. And she needs to go and figure out where the land is and go and visit it. Hopefully it's not a Walmart parking lot.

Fisher: Well, how many people actually went out to the land that they got as a result of their service? Do you know?

David: For the veterans, there are a fair amount, because you see some of these Revolutionary War veterans really far afield west of the Mississippi. However, a lot of times it was sold or a son or a grandchild may have gotten it. Because if you're 90 years old, you're not going to want to pack up everything in Connecticut and head out to Missouri. There's always an opportunity to find exciting things in land records. And sometimes it's reversing your search that connects you back to these bounty land records. And even though the records burned, you may find reference to them if you're looking at the actual deeds, giving you a reference to the date of purchase or where he got it from.

Fisher: All right, great stuff, David, thank you so much. And thank you Linea for the question. And Dave, we'll talk to you again next week.

David: Until then, my friend.

Fisher: All right. And that's our show for this week. Hope you caught the interview with Jack Holder from a couple of years ago, one of those Pearl Harbor survivors with an incredible story to tell, and Gage Dewitt, talking about his new hobby making tintype photographs. How do you do that? If you missed any of it or want to listen to it again, of course catch the podcast we're on all over the place Spotify, iTunes, iHeart Radio,ExtremeGenes.com. We'll talk to you again next week. Thanks for joining us. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice normal family!



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