Episode 54 - Descendants of the Slave Holders and the Enslaved

podcast episode Aug 11, 2014

In segment one, Fisher's Family Histoire News covers the research results covering an 18th century boat found under the World Trade Center four years ago.  You'll be amazed what researchers were able to learn about this 200 year old ship!  Plus, the odds were ridiculous.  Find out about a young girl who drew the name of an Englishman who was killed in World War I, and learned he was her great great great uncle!
Fisher visits with guest Chris Tomlinson about the first family history he ever wrote.  (It just made the New York Times Bestsellers list!)  "Tomlinson Hill" tracks Chris' ancestry back to his great great grandparents who were slave owners in Texas.  He then followed the history of the "white Tomlinsons" as well as the "black Tomlinsons," descendants of the slaves his ancestors owned.  Those descendants include football great Ladainian Tomlinson.  He discusses the differences in the course of these families through the years and how this creates a broader view of race relations today.
Then Tom Perry, Preservation Authority from TMCPlace.com, returns.  He and Fisher share insights into the best ways to get the best stories out of your senior family members... and some are a little sneaky! 
That's all this week on Extreme Genes!

Transcript of Episode 54

Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show

Host: Scott Fisher

Segment 1 Episode 54

Fisher: Hello genies, great to have you back! It’s Extreme Genes Family History Radio, America’s Family History Show where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out. I am Fisher your Radio Roots Sleuth. We are here to inspire you, share great stories of discovery with you, and give you some how to’s along the way. I want to welcome our newest affiliates on the Extreme Genes Radio Network KMAS News Radio AM 1030 and FM 104.1 and 92.9 FM in the Seattle, Olympia, Tacoma, Washington area. We’re thrilled to be part of Jeff Slakey and Dale Hubbard’s great weekend line up. We have an awesome guest this week. His name is Chris Tomlinson. His unique family history, the first he’s ever written, has just hit the New York Times Bestseller List. It is his first time there with any kind of book. Chris is a foreign reporter and decided a few years back to begin researching his name line Slave Holding ancestry in Texas. He then traced down the descendents as well as the descendents of the slaves these people once held which includes by the way future NFL Hall of Fame Running Back LaDainian Tomlinson. Chris will talk about the big picture of what he learned concerning his family’s past and share some insights about both the white Tomlinsons and the black Tomlinsons, how they view things today and what it all means in the broader of race relations in America. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover and I’ll be talking to Chris in about eight minutes. Then later in the show, Preservation Authority Tom Perry returns. He’s got a great book recommendation to help you know what questions to ask your senior family members plus we’ll both have some tips on techniques, some of them admittedly sneaky for the information from them that you’re wanting to know. By the way, if you have a story that you’d like to share, or a question or comment we’d like to hear from you. Just call our Toll Free Find Line at 1-234-56-GENES, G-E-N-E-S. We’ll be happy to get back to you, and of course you can always email me at [email protected]. I’ve had a great week on the trail with a stranger kindly emailing me to tell me she had information on an old German line of mine dating back to the late 1600s. The information she provided took the line back on various branches two, three and four generations, so that’s why it’s important to make sure you’re linked in on various sites, both free and paid so others can find you. And hopefully, you’ll also reach out to people who may be lacking information and material that you have. It’s a great time to be a family history researcher. This week’s Extreme Genes poll asks, “In how many States were your direct ancestors born?” Now, obviously this doesn’t cover the immigrants. “In how many States were your direct ancestors born?” Most families have stayed in the same area for generations, so it might not be as many States as you think. My American born folks have all been born in eight different States. I think the results for this one will be interesting. [Laughs] Cast your vote now on the homepage at ExtremeGenes.com. Find it on the lower right side. Ashton Johnson of Greensboro, North Carolina dropped us a comment about last week’s show. Ashton writes, “Loved the show with Ralph Gates and his story about how he became a teenager working on the Manhattan Project. My uncle was a part of that effort as well. I just wish he had lived long enough for me to get his stories! It’s nice to get a taste of my uncle’s experience through Ralph. Thanks for having him on.” You are welcome Ashton. Ralph is still going strong and plans to be skiing in Utah on his 90th birthday next January. If you didn’t catch last week’s show by the way, listen to the podcast. You can find it on iTunes, iHeart Radio’s new Talk channel and ExtremeGenes.com. You can also listen to it on your mobile device by downloading our free podcast app for iPhones and Android devices. It’s free in your phone’s Store. It is time once again for our Family Histoire News from the pages of ExtremeGenes.com. Four years ago last month as the rebuilding was going on at the World Trade Centre site in Manhattan workers discovered the crumpled remains of a Centuries old wooden ship. Well, a lot of things were discovered by archaeologists at that time, you know, ceramic dishes, bottles, 18th and 19th Century shoes among them. Nothing excited them more than this 32 Foot long partial hull. To prevent damage the vessel was hurriedly removed from the site with timbers being sent to the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory. Some others were sent to the Tree Ring Laboratory at Columbia University in Palisades, New York. The results of the studies are now out and researchers using the Tree Ring patterns within the timbers determined that the trees used to build the ship were cut down right before the Revolution, about 1773. The trees which included hickory were also determined through the ring patterns to most likely have come from the Philadelphia area. It’s thought the ship may possibly have been sunk where it was found as part of New York’s effort to strengthen the coastline around lower Manhattan.  The presence of a type of shipworm in the timbers suggested the ship had been to the Caribbean some time, and that it may have been the reason the ship lasted only twenty to thirty years. It was amazing what the researchers were able to determine. Read the full story and see pictures at ExtremeGenes.com. Here’s a story of serendipity for you. A seven year old British girl was randomly given the name of one of one thousand two hundred and forty five soldiers and sailors from her home town of Stockton who were killed in WWI. The name was William Brown. It was part of Stockton’s Sunflower 1245 Project which asks all the citizens to research one of the dead and then in his memory, plant a sunflower. Keira Wilson showed Brown’s name to her mother Nicola who knew that her own mother’s maiden name had been Brown. So she asked her mother Val about it. She recognized the name from her interest in the Brown family history. Through relatives they learned that indeed William Brown was family and that he had been on the HMS Vanguard which exploded, killing eight hundred and four men in 1917. He was Keira’s great, great, great uncle. Keira wore a Brownies uniform to present William Story, concluding we’re all very proud. And that’s your family histoire news for this week. Read more at ExtremeGenes.com. And coming up next his first effort at writing a family history has landed him for the first time on the New York Times Best Seller List. Chris Tomlinson will be here to talk about his new book “Tomlinson Hill.” It digs into his Slave Holding Ancestry from Texas while following the generations of the descendents of both the Slave Holders and the Slaves, which includes by the way future NFL Running Back Hall of Fame LaDainian Tomlinson. Chris will tell you about what he learned, how he went about his research and his thoughts on the importance of airing out ugly events of the past to heal us as a Nation. We’ll talk to Chris in three minutes on Extreme Genes Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com.

Segment 2 Episode 54

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Chris Tomlinson

Fisher: And welcome back! You have found us America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes, Family History Radio. It is Fisher here your Radio Roots Sleuth with my guest Chris Tomlinson, Author of the new book called Tomlinson Hill. Hi Chris, welcome to the show!

Chris: Hey Scott, good to be here.

Fisher: I am excited about your book. And first of all I want to tell you, whoever put it together for you, it is a beautiful publication. It is well written. You are a professional writer, but this is your first family history book!

Chris: Yes, I’d like to think of it as a piece of journalism. I’ve been a Journalist for twenty years. I’m a Columnist for the Houston Chronicle. It’s about family; it’s about two families, but I’d like to think it’s about a lot more than that too.

Fisher: Well, from what I’ve seen of it, it certainly does and what a heritage you have. A lot of people with Southern roots have your situation, Slave Holding Ancestors. And we can’t pick our ancestors and can’t pick what they’ve done, and it’s often very difficult to put into context of modern times what the circumstances were back then. But, let’s go through the process that you went through to research your ancestry. Did you know some of these stories as you were growing up?

Chris: The only story I had to start with was what my grandfather would tell me when I was a little kid. And that was our family held slaves on a plantation called Tomlinson Hill and the slaves loved it so much that they took Tomlinson as their last name upon emancipation. So, I knew there was a plantation. I knew that there was a history of slave holding in Texas. But that’s really about it and when I started the book in 2007 that was my starting point.

Fisher: You’d never had much curiosity about your lineage up to that point?

Chris: Well, as a little kid I did read some obituaries about my great grandfather and a few things but it wasn’t something I really delved deep into until I set out to write this book.

Fisher: What caused you to decide to write it?

Chris: Well, I was a foreign correspondent for the Associated Press. I spent fourteen years covering nine different wars in Africa and the Middle East and I also covered the reconciliation in those countries, particularly the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, and the Kinshasa Traditional Court System in Rwanda. And the one thing I found was that to get to justice, to get to reconciliation, you first have to establish what happened, a full and complete truth, fact finding, if you will.

Fisher: Right.

Chris: And I realized that I had never done that with my own family. I knew that they were slave holders. I knew that there were probably sharecropping and I knew that my family probably did some bad things and after all those years of looking at other people’s difficult histories, I decided it was time to look at my own.

Fisher: And so off you went. And so how did you learn to do it, because this is not the easiest thing in the world to trace history.

Chris: No, it’s not and I was very fortunate to have on the black side of the family the most famous Tomlinson of all, a Running Back for the San Diego Chargers named LaDanian Tomlinson, a future Hall of Famer.

Fisher: Absolutely.

Chris: He’s into retirement now but because I knew him, because I knew he was out there, and I knew the New York Times had done a story about how his father who still lived on Tomlinson Hill on the old plantation. That was my first step, was figuring out that side of the family and realizing it was Falls County. Once I had the County, I had his name, his father’s name, and then of course my family’s names then I could start working through the census records.  

Fisher: Right and this is a good lesson for everybody who’s looking to track their ancestry. We’re talking to Chris Tomlinson, author of Tomlinson Hill, the story of his ancestors the Slave Holders and the black Tomlinsons who came from the slaves that his ancestors held. So, as you went through this process what were your feelings, Chris? 

Chris: Well, as an adult I knew that what my grandfather had told me about being descendent from good slave holders was probably false. I also knew that more than likely the slaves my family held did not love us and probably did not take Tomlinson as their name willingly. They were more than likely coerced. So, just with my general knowledge of history my assumption was that this was not going to have a happy ending and that there would be some dark bits to the story. I was pleasantly surprised to find both good and bad as I started down journey which included frankly provincially going into County courthouses, local libraries and local genealogical societies.

Fisher: And so, as you went through this process you said there was good and bad. What were some of the good things you found?

Chris: Well, I found a book written in 1950 to mark the 100th anniversary of Falls County and discovered that one of the very first black schools in Falls County was built by a Tomlinson and was called the Tomlinson Negro School up until in the 1940’s when it was finally closed. I found that my ancestors were involved in building up the white schools as well and that there was a love of education and a commitment to good public education. Now of course there were a lot of dark things too. There was involvement in lynchings, there were members of the Ku Klux Klan so it’s a deeply fascinating story I think, and one that I’m more proud of because of its complexity than I think I would have been if I had only concentrated on the good things.

Fisher: Right, no I understand that. And you’re right because there is an effect that goes down. I think everybody who does a family history can see that generations carry some of the things from those days. I mean it takes a long time. I’ve often wondered throughout my life, it’s like okay at what point does the race problem resolve itself? I mean it’s been a hundred and fifty years since the Civil War, because we think of it I think in terms of how long is a period of time compared to a lifetime? We tend to think of oh the life, 70, 80 years, and so this was so long ago, but if you do it in terms of counting just how many generations it is, oh, it was four generations ago, five generations ago, six generations ago, it wasn’t that long ago. And it takes a long time to process that out.

Chris: Well, as part of my interviewing I did about two hundred oral histories with the residents of Falls County and members of both sides of the family. And I met people who knew people who were born into slavery. I interviewed a woman named Lizzy May who told me about her grandfather whom she knew who was born a slave. So when you think of it in that way that I know someone who knew a slave, it wasn’t that long ago.

Fisher: That’s right. And that kind of helps me to understand why it takes so long to work through this thing. There’s a lot of pain that carries on through many generations, and what you’re finding is that it’s a different legacy that’s come down your line then it has through the slave’s lines.

Chris: Right. When I brag about being a fifth generation Texan that changes signal of Texas Rangers and that’s the history that we’re taught in school. It’s a history that we’re proud of. When LaDanian talks about being a sixth generation Texan, because he’s a man with black skin that immediately means slavery and sharecropping. It means a darker and less proud part of our history and that’s where it gets really complicated. I was very nervous when I first approached the descendents of the slaves my family held, and I was expecting resentment and anger or being told to go jump in the lake. But none of that happened. I discovered that these were people who grew up with this reality. Who knew other white Tomlinsons, even though I never met a black Tomlinson myself. These were people who were reminded of their ancestry every time they find their name with a surname that belongs to the masters of their ancestors. So what I did encounter, there was this slight reluctance amongst some to revisit the past, basically because what little they knew was that it was shameful, embarrassing, tragic. It wasn’t until I did the deep research and shared with LaDanian the leadership that his family had showed through five generations of living on that hill. That they helped build churches and schools and mason lodges that he began to really appreciate what I had done and appreciate his family name even more.

Fisher: Do you think there’s a healing that’s going on between your side, the slave owner side, and the descendents of the slaves?

Chris: You know, I’m in touch with black Tomlinsons every day now. Particularly now that the book is out and I’m doing interviews like this one and they’re very proud, and they call me cousin and they call me brother and we talk about having this shared history. Many of these people are younger than I am so I wouldn’t say that we’re friends, but we do have a sense of being distant relatives whose families have been intertwined for 200 years. 

Fisher: Chris tell me now, you are really digging up some dirt from your neighborhood there where you’ve been for so many generations, what has the reaction been from outside of the black Tomlinsons and the white Tomlinsons to you bringing all this to the surface and making it a national discussion again?

Chris: Well you know, I hear a lot of people saying that this had nothing to do with me, these were my ancestors, I’m not responsible, why should I care what happened in the past? And that really gets to the heart of the book. You see, I don’t want to lecture anyone. I just want to show these two families one black one white, sharing a name, sharing a history and showing why race still matters today and how the sins of the past still echo and affect how we live today.

Fisher: Was it what you expected to find as you got into this?

Chris: Yes, I’d say it’s what I set out to do. Because the one thing I’ve learned as a foreign correspondent is that where you start has a lot more to do with where you end up then any of us would like to admit. 

Fisher: That’s well said. And I found that in some of my exploration of my family too and different problems that emerged several generations back. Once I had decided they were going to change things and they went in one direction, and the other side perpetuated what had happened before, and you can still see it down to this day 125-150 years later.

Chris: That’s absolutely correct. I see that on both sides of the Tomlinsons family.

Fisher: All right. When we return we’re going to talk more with Chris about the process he’s gone through in not only researching the white side of his family but the black slave side as well. When we return on Extreme Genes, Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com 

Segment 3 Episode 54

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Chris Tomlinson

Fisher: And we are back to Extreme Genes, Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com, America’s Family History Show. I am Fisher, and I’m talking to Chris Tomlinson. He’s the author of a new book, it’s called, “Tomlinson Hill” about his slave owning ancestors and what has happened to those descendents, as well as what happened to the descendents of the slaves. And Chris, I wanted to talk to you about the process you’ve gone through. This is the first time you’ve actually ever done this kind of research, even though you’re an AP correspondent, this is a whole different thing than investigating what’s happening now or even in recent times. Talk about the process and the learning for you because I’m sure there are a lot of people who are just getting started and you probably have a lot of things that will be helpful to them in their journey. 

Chris: Well, I was lucky in that the Tomlinson side of the family were pretty straight forward. I was looking at six generation to get to the folks who came to Texas, and it was well documented going through newspaper archives and census records, and county and state records. The historical record was fairly complete, there was even a book written in the ‘60s, it was a compilation of some of my family’s letters. So that was a matter of trying to piece that all together and build it. The more challenging side of course was the African American genealogy, the records are so incomplete. In many cases, a birth would be recorded but there would be no death records. 

Fisher: Hmm.

Chris: And that would require basically going through cemeteries, going through funeral home records, talking to family members who collected little pamphlet handed out at funerals, to try to piece it all together. I t was remarkable to me how little frankly county officials and state officials cared whether a black person lived or died. And the census records before 1870 for the most part are just slave schedules. In Texas that meant only the gender, age and whether or not the slave was mixed race, that’s all I had, to work on. So it was very difficult journey, it was a lot of detective work. We also had the problem that slaves names were often mispronounced and misspelled. 

Fisher: Yes.

Chris: So Milo, M-I-L-O was often Mayo.

Fisher: Umm hmm.

Chris: Vincent was V-I-N-S-O-N, as well as Vincent.

Fisher: Yeah you’ve got to make the choices or you’re going to use the traditional spelling or you’re going to use some that mostly common comes up, it happens frequently. 

Chris: Well, and with every set of records you have to look for both and try to piece things together based on age and geography. As much as I love Ancestry.com, you can’t trust the green leafs for the black side of the family because you’ll miss so much if you do. 

Fisher: Well that makes a lot of sense. Were you trying to make a complete record of all the slaves that were held originally and then what happened in each line of descent? 

Chris: I did that for at least five families that I was able to trace. Another course for me that I think is really underappreciated is the Freedmen's Bureau Records. 

Fisher: Yes.

Chris: They were kept by the Freedmen's Bureau Agents after the Civil War. There was an agent in Marlin, the closest town to Tomlinson Hill, and he kept these diaries of disputes between former slave holders and the former slaves. And I found five instances where the black Tomlinsons were complaining about the white Tomlinsons or vice versa, and it gave me a sense of what life was like back then and some description that went into the book. 

Fisher: What were some of the disputes about? 

Chris: Well in one case, one of my ancestors bought a horse from a black Tomlinson on the condition that he would pay in bushels of corn at the end of the growing season, and then the white Tomlinson never paid up. In another case, my great, great grandmother complained that the blacks who were working for her weren’t working hard enough and she wanted the Freedmen’s Bureau Agents to come out and order them to put in their best effort to get the cotton crop in. And she was bankrupt at the time and every penny she earned was going to pay off the debts that she owed. Because when the slaves were freed she lost all the collateral for the loans that she’d taken out for land. So it was weird to see her complaining that the former assets for which she had taken loans were now supposedly not working hard enough to help her pay off those debts. And all of that comes from those Freedmen’s Bureau records.

Fisher: Do you see growth in your ancestors as they went from the slave holding era, what they were born into, they knew nothing different really, to the sharecropping era and then on to Jim Crow era. Did you see changes in their attitudes or their interactions with their black counter parts,  either former slaves, families or just neighbors of different color?

Chris: Well, I noticed actually that as my ancestors moved away from the farm, the ones who moved into the city, the ones who longer worked with the black Tomlinsons, became the most racist. They are the ones who joined the Ku Klux Klan. The ones who remained on the hill who continued to work side by side with African Americans didn’t do those things. So I think there was a question of segregation making things worse. My father is the one that broke the chain in our family and he described listening to Miles Davis and realizing that no one could make something that beautiful could be inferior. And that was what cracked the facade of bigotry in my family and led him to join the Civil Rights Movement. I’m also pleased to say that talking to LaDanian who is a good fifteen years younger than I am, that he grew up in a very different Texas. Where racial epithets were used as a tool to try and shake him up rather than as an expression of white supremacy. So things are changing and I believe that we’re making progress but we still have a long way to go. 

Fisher: Well sure, and you’re making an effort in that direction as well. Your father sounds like what we would call a transitional descendent. He wants to break the path that your family had followed for many generations beforehand. Would you agree with that?

Chris: Oh absolutely. You know his grandfather went to Texas A&M. Was one of the very first graduates. His father went to Texas A&M but he only lasted a semester before he dropped out. My grandfather was an engineer, a builder and a banker and my father walked away from that high society Dallas life to have a much more middle class blue collar life. So, absolutely! He rejected so much and lost so much and for that I have to always be grateful to him.

Fisher: So where do you go from here? The book is out. You’re doing a lot of visits around the country and stirring up discussion on this very important topic, Chris. Are you going to follow this up with something more in the future do you believe?

Chris: Well, I am fascinated by the stories of the Freedmen’s Bureau Agents. You know, I really had no idea what they were about until I began researching this book. Because I grew up learning that they were carpet baggers who were basically just trying to take advantage of the poor Southerners. And I now realize that that’s just so untrue. And some of these guys lived very cinematic adventurous lives so I think I’m going to dig back into that. The other idea is looking at the Freedom Colonies that were established by freed blacks and whites who decided to build their own community when they were excluded from the white towns and villages. And they just did these remarkable things, their own pioneering to guarantee that their children had better lives. So those are the two things that I’m left wanting to know more about. 

Fisher: Well it’s a very courageous book. It’s called “Tomlinson Hill” it’s about two families, the slave holders and the slaves, and what happened to their descendents over the past several generations. Chris Tomlinson is the author. Chris thanks so much for your time and best of luck with the book. 

Chris: Thank you Scott. I really appreciate it.

Segment 4 Episode 54

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: Hey, glad you're here, its Extreme Genes, Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, and by the way, I should have mentioned Chris Tomlinson's book, Tomlinson Hill is of course available through Amazon.com. Chris will be doing a book signing at Austin's George Washington Carver centre in Texas on August 21st at 7pm, also on September 10th at 7pm at Louisville Kentucky's Authors at the Library event. Tom Perry, our Preservation Authority from TMCPlace.com is here. And thanks so much for your questions. You can always send them to [email protected]. What do you have for us today, Tom?

Tom: Last week we talked about how to get the answers to questions out of people, and people said "What are some tips? What are some other tricks? I just can't come up with stuff."

Fisher: [Laughs]

Tom: And I have found some really good books. In fact, I'm going to tell you about just one.

Fisher: Yes.

Tom: Its Nannette Stone’s book, The Book of Me. It’s written for you to do an oral history or written history of yourself. But if you take these questions and just reformat them a little bit, they're great interview questions. One of the biggest things that she talks about is, you need to be specific. Precise details will add authenticity and make stories come alive. You should always encourage your subject to use first and last names, because somebody can be talking about uncle Henry down the street, da da da da da, and find out, uncle Henry isn't really your uncle, but everybody calls him uncle that lives in the neighborhood. So your kids one day are going to be looking for Uncle Henry in your genealogy or your family history.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Tom: "There is no Uncle Henry. Who is this?" So you need to explain uncle Henry down the street used to fix our tires when we had flats on our bicycles. Everybody called him Uncle Henry. So that's why it’s important to always make sure you say first and last names, and explain, don't assume anything, because a couple of generations around, they'll have different colored glasses, so to speak, that they're looking through.

Fisher: Right.

Tom: And they'll see things different.

Fisher: So you're talking about in terms of your own personal history or as how you ask your grandparents or great grandparents or your great uncles.

Tom: Exactly. And if they're not giving you the answers you need, just dig a little bit. So make sure that somebody that knows nothing is going to understand the response to the questions that you ask. And another example, like if you're talking about dad and you say, "Oh, dad's car was used at, da da da da da." Well, are you talking about dad's fiery red Mustang that he used to have so much fun in or are you talking about dad's state issued highway patrol car? Knowing that vital information is really important to the story to be able to understand exactly where you're going. So instead of, "Oh yeah, we love to put flowers on grandma's grave. We love to put petunias, pink petunias on grandma's grave, because she loved pink or she was into snapdragons or whatever."

Fisher: Yes.

Tom: Be specific. Go into things and find out why exactly there were flowers, not just why we put flowers on the grave. But we did these specific ones because of these specific reasons. Back to what we talked about last week about cutting off the ends of the rose, because it didn't fit in the pan, same kind of story.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Tom: You've got to be careful with stuff like that. You want to be as descriptive as you can. The one neat thing about Nannette’s book also, she's kind of divided into seven sections, including great questions that you can ask. This will help you, in questions about yourself, about who you went to school with. Ask your parents, “Who you went to school with, where was your favorite place to eat and why was it your favorite place to eat.” Go in depth in these kinds of things. You know, too often we have people bring video tapes or audio tapes into our store to have us edit them, or they ship them from around the globe, and there's these big pauses like, "Oh, I don't know what question to answer." or "Mom says, yes." or "Mom said, they're thinking." And like you talked about last week, it’s good to actually maybe even give them questions ahead of time, so they can look over the questions, formulate their thoughts.

Fisher: Okay, one other thought too, because we're running out of time of this segment, and that is, when you reach a point where there's silence in the room, don't be anxious to jump in and fill it. Make them sit and think, and then answer it. Just quietly sit and wait, even if it’s a minute or so. Eventually they'll come up with something. You can edit all that later, but that's a great way to go about it. Otherwise you cut off that thought process, and you might lose some gold.

Tom: Oh, that is so true, because like you say, you're cutting off the thought process. They don't have time to think. And another good way to get these interviews if grandma and grandpa doesn't want to talk to you about it, sit in the back seat, turn your recorder on, have these questions written down, or get her book and read them the questions. Then it’s just a conversation. She doesn’t even know you’re recording, grandpa doesn't know you're recording, and just get them. And they'll be wonderful stories you cannot repeat.

Fisher: It’s called, being sneaky.

Tom: That's right.

Fisher: All right. [Laughs]

Tom: In the next segment, we're going to be a little bit selfish, we're going to talk about ourselves and how we need to get our own personal histories down.

Fisher: Good stuff, all right coming up in three minutes on Extreme Genes, Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com.

Segment 5 Episode 54

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: And we are back at Extreme Genes, Family History Radio, ExtremeGenes.com, our final segment on America's Family History Show. Tom Perry is here, he is our Preservation Authority. You can always ask him a question at [email protected]. And Tom, you were just mentioning, we ought to start talking about ourselves a little bit. And this is a real good point. You know, we go through the same periods of time that our ancestor did, and some day we’re going to be the one in the old picture that people are going to be asking about, "Who's that?"

Tom: Exactly.

Fisher: And this is a good opportunity for us to talk about preserving our own personal history.

Tom: That is so true. We get so caught up in getting grandma's stories or you know, mom and dad's stories, we forget about ourselves. And it’s so important for us to not do that. You know, in fact, let me read again Nannette Stone’s book, it’s called The Book of Me, it will give you great questions to ask yourself. Write them down. Then when you get a second, turn on the tape recorder and actually record yourself talking about them, so they not only have your written word, they have your spoken word too. And it’s so easy to do this nowadays. In fact, I found one of my old journals just the other day, and it’s clear back from the mid '70s. And I'm sitting there going through it and I'm just loving it! This is so great! It’s bringing up all these wonderful memories from the old days. And then some things I'm seeing and I'm going, "Boy, I don't even remember what that is. I have no idea what I'm talking about."

Fisher: That's right.

Tom: No clue. That's why we need to get these things done. So get Nannette book. Go through your old journals and write stuff down and see what's happening. I was one of those guys who were really bad at keeping journals. In fact, in the '70s, I probably wrote down as many pages in, you know, all the '70s as I have in the last two years, because I have never been a journal keeper, but I found a really cool app. It’s called "Day 1" and I've had it for several years now. It was either like 99c or it might have been free. And it’s just every night before I go to bed or whatever's good for you, at dinnertime, anytime, take just five minutes, ten minutes and just write down some things that happened that day. And some days, you’re going to have two lines, but some days, you're going to have a whole page of stuff. And then go through your old journals if you are a journal keeper, and read them into a microphone and elaborate on them, you know, tell these stories. That's what I'm doing with my old journals. Tell these stories. You'll remember things that you had forgotten that's going to help you a lot, plus you need to make sure, everyday, get this Day 1 app, and just every day, write a line, a sentence, a paragraph, anything. You can actually add photos to it, so if you took photos with your iPhone and you're writing your journal today, you can post those photos with it at the same time. And then your family has this incredible history, they have these photos, what these photos stimulated in your mind to write down these, or to vocalize these different things. Then you take all these pieces together and it’s priceless. So just write it down. Write it down, and then read it back to yourself.

Fisher: That's great advice. And you know, another thought on this too, is, most people tend to think, "Oh, my story's not that interesting." And I think you would find that is really not the case when you go back and start to put it together. We should mention our friends at StoryWorth.com too. They do a great job of not only helping you, but also grandma to answer just a question a week.

Tom: Absolutely.

Fisher: So you can come up with all kinds of great stuff.

Tom: That's one of the best services that have ever come out, because it’s almost like journals for dummies. It’s so easy to do. You don't have to think about it. These questions are going to come to you. You can answer them yourself, give them to grandma, give them to brothers and sisters and spread them around. So that's a great subscription that everybody ought to sign up for. It’s just great. And like you said, you may think that your story is boring, however, I can promise you that your kids and your grandkids would love to have these stories. Like I look at my deceased father's stories and my grandparents that have all passed on and I thought, "Oh, I would love to have these stories, even if it was "what I had for breakfast, then I went out and, you know, was milking Betsy and she took off and ran out the barn." That might seem boring to you, but to me, I would love to have stories like that.

Fisher: Well, we are important to somebody down the line and it’s important to remember that. Good advice once again, Tom. Thanks for joining us!

Tom: Good to be here!

Fisher: Hey, that's it for this week. Thanks again to New York Times Bestselling author, Chris Tomlinson for joining us and talking about his unique family history, Tomlinson Hill. If you missed it or want to hear it again, the podcast will be up on iTunes, iHeart Radio and ExtremeGenes.com on Monday afternoon. And of course, you can hear us on your mobile device by downloading the free app for iPhone or Android. Hey, let us know if you've got a great family history story to share. We'd love to hear about it. Talk to you again next week. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice normal family!

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