Episode 61 - Just What Do The Dead Want, Anyway?  Probate Records Tell Us!

podcast episode Oct 12, 2014

This week, Fisher leads off with news of the discovery of another piece of rare footage... the 1924 World Series!  Where was it found and how good are the images?  He'll tell you.  Plus... if you've ever wondered what it would be like to taste bread the way the Pilgrims tasted it, now you can!  Fisher will tell you where to have the experience.
Then, Senior Genealogist at ProGenealogists.com, Gordon Remington, visits to talk about how the dead really communicate with us... through probate records.  We all know about wills, but there are lots of other records that tell us about who and what our dead left behind.  This is likely to be a real eye opener to a lot of family historians, so be sure to listen!
And, Preservation Authority Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com talks about the potential for storing data using QR codes.
That's this week on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show!

Transcript of Episode 61

Host: Scott Fisher

Segment 1 Episode 61

Fisher: Hello Genies! Glad you found us. It’s America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. Where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out. Fisher here your Radio Roots Sleuth. Hope you’ve had a great week on the trail and have found some exciting information and memorabilia. I myself had some good fortune turning up what is called a “Partition for letters of administration.” Who? What? I hear you. I mean, I know if you’re just working out what you find on various census records, this might sound a little unique, and it is. It’s a document people fill out when their recently deceased relative didn’t leave a will and someone needs to become the administrator of their estate. That means all the heirs have to be listed in this partition before someone is selected by the court. In the case of the document I found, it covered three generations because my third great grandfather had died before my fourth great. So his kids, the grandchildren of the deceased, had to sign the record in the stand of their deceased dad and since this has been a tough family to piece together, it’s an exciting and important find. And that’s why we have Gordon Ramington, a senior genealogist with ProGenealogist.com, an addition of Ancestry.com. Gordon has a terrific book out on how to make your way through these amazing records that all fall under the category of Probate. The hardest thing about making a record like this is, you have to be dead first. We’ll be talking to Gordon in about 8 minutes. Our ExtremeGenes.com poll for this week asked, “Do you have any 19th century photos of a family member after they died?” They used to be common as it was often the only way people had to remember their loved ones and was often the only image ever made of the dearly departed. This kind of has a Halloween theme doesn’t it? Well, we didn’t get a lot of votes on this one, but I was surprised that at least a couple of listeners do indeed have at least one picture of a deceased ancestor, or I should say, after they were deceased. Thanks for responding to the poll. This week we ask, “Do you have any samples of hair that have been passed down through the generations?” My wife Julie and I have an old family bible that goes back to her line in Michigan in the 1870s. Both of the parents in that family died young; each was 32. And in the bible are at least two small samples of hair wrapped in thread that appeared to come from children. Maybe one of these days we’ll see if 23andMe or FamilyTreeDNA.com can do something with them to tell us just how the individuals they came from were related. Do you have samples like this? Cast your vote now at ExtremeGenes.com. It is time once again for your family histoire news from the pages of ExtremeGenes.com. We start with a story from the site of an excavation at the Nashville Zoo. Near the turnstiles remains of nine individuals, almost certainly slaves were exhumed from a long forgotten cemetery. The bodies told researchers from Middle Tennessee State University much about when they lived and how they lived. Shannon Hodge who is an archaeologist for the school and her team of students determined that all of the dead were under fifty years of age at their passing. They were particularly tall for their time, standing between 5’8 and 6’1. Several of them had skull traits suggesting African ancestry. The bodies were well preserved. They’ve been buried in clothing and the team discovered beads, buttons and other interesting artefacts. Their study determined that the people had been buried between the 1820s and about 1850. The remains have all been reburied but in a different location nearby. Plans are now in the making for an exhibit to tell all that’s known about the people who’d been buried right on the fringes of the Nashville zoo. Well recently we told you about the discovery of some ridiculously rare footage of the inaugural parade of FDR in 1941in color no less, found in some home movies. Well, now the Library of Congress has announced that an old house in Massachusetts yielded 4 minutes of footage of the final game of the 1924 World Series between the New York Giants and the Washington Senators. The place where the film was found was in no way climate controlled, and the hopes that it would somehow be viewable were practically nil. But when the Library of Congress looked it over, to their shock and delight, the images were in unbelievably good shape. In the film you can see the fans race onto the field after the Senators record the final out for legendary Hall of Fame Pitcher Walter Johnson. The library then hired a musician to write some era piano music and play it to fit the film just as would have happened in movie theatres back in the 1920s. If you’re a baseball fan as I am, you’ll be amazed at the clarity of the piece. You can watch the whole thing through the link to the Washington Post story on our website ExtremeGenes.com. If you’re a Mayflower descendent or even if you’re not, next time you make the trip for Plimoth Plantation, you’ve got to check out the Plimoth Bread Company which just opened. They create bread the way it was done centuries ago using corn. And the corn actually comes from a gristmill now operating at Plimoth Plantation near where the passengers of the Mayflower created Europe’s first successful American settlement. Word is, the taste is totally different and I’m looking forward to trying it on my next trip to the Boston area. Read more about these stories now at ExtremeGenes.com. And finally, BillionGraves.com is continuing to turn up the heat on Find A Grave, announcing several new features this past week. These include global mapping so you can pinpoint where all your ancestors are buried, wherever in the world, an enhanced virtual cemetery walk-through so you can see what is near and who is buried close to your ancestors graves, and records notifications so you can program the site to tell you when they find one of the graves of your ancestors. There are other new features as well that’s at BillionGraves.com. And coming up next, a guy we haven’t had on the show in too long a time. He’s nationally known among the nation’s elite researchers. His name is Gordon Remington and he’ll be filling us in on some of the ins and outs of researching Probate Records, what they are and what information they might contain; probably a whole lot more than you think. That’s in 3 minutes on Extreme Genes Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com America’s Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 61

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Gordon Remington

Fisher: And welcome back to Extreme Genes, Family History Radio ExtremeGenes.com America’s Family History Show. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, and after much prying and digging and scheduling, I finally got my friend Gordon Remington to come back on the show. He is from ProGenealogists.com. He is a Senior Genealogist there. He is the author of New York State Probate Records, Genealogist Guide to Testate and Intestate Records. Gordon, welcome back finally!

Gordon: Thank you very much Scott. Glad to be here.

Fisher: Where have you been all over the place?

Gordon: Working hard.

Fisher: Yes you have. [Laughs] And you know, we’re half way through October this weekend much pretty much, so I’m thinking October Halloween. It’s good to talk about what happens when you’re dead, right, as far as the records are concerned.

Gordon: Yes.

Fisher: And recently I called Gordon because I was dealing with some of these questions and I was asking about a thing called “Letters of Administration” Everybody knows what Wills are, but when it comes to probate records there are a lot of other things involved, and that’s where Gordon is kind of an expert in that. So he told me, “Hey, you’ve got to listen to me. You got to get this petition for letters of administration if somebody doesn’t leave a will.” Right, Gordon?

Gordon: That’s right.

Fisher: They may get a letter of administration for a member of the family to take care of what should normally be a fairly small estate or maybe not necessarily, right?

Gordon: Well if they had property at all, then there might be a letter of administration if they did not take care of it in a will.

Fisher: Okay. And so I ordered one of these from New York and wound up getting an interesting document back because it lists all the potential heirs to somebody that you would normally see in a will and also three signatures of my ancestor on there and I’d never seen this person’s signature. So this is kind of an interesting thing. So I thought let’s get on and talk about what happens with dead people in October, and probate records. So where would you start? I guess you’ve got to start with Wills, wouldn’t you say Gordon?

Gordon: Yeah, wills are what everybody’s familiar with, but they’re not the only records.

Fisher: Right.

Gordon: A will is when somebody, in advance of their own death, decides to plan out what happens to his or her estate. And usually that means it’s a person who has something that they want to give away to their children or grandchildren or nieces and nephews. There’s a wide variety of reasons to make a will, and a will is made sometimes well in advance of the death.

Fisher: Sure.

Gordon: And when the person dies, if they know where the written will is, they take it in to court and they prove that the will was signed by the witnesses who would come in to court and say yes, I saw this man sign this will. This is the actual authentic will. And that’s where the word probate comes from, because in Latin to prove something is Probātum or something like that.

Fisher: Probātum.

Gordon: Yeah something like that.

 Fisher: Oh that’s very good.

Gordon: Yeah. And so a probate record refers to wills and not administrations except in today’s genealogical lingo, everything that has to do with an estate of a deceased person is filed under probate records in the catalogues and books and so forth because it’s easier to understand.

Fisher: Sure, right.

Gordon: And even Black’s Law dictionary, the most recent version of it says probates have become known as understood to be any record of a deceased person’s property.

Fisher: What happens by the way if the witnesses are dead by the time the person who made the will dies?

Gordon: That does happen. Usually they try to get witnesses who might be around for a while.

Fisher: Right. [Laughs]

Gordon: But the other thing is, it’s rare that you have a will made too much before the death, so usually the witnesses are around. I’ve seen cases where if the witnesses are deceased or moved away and they can’t find the witnesses, which happen sometimes, there’s some other special provision by which the will can be administered.

Fisher: Now let’s talk about things other wills okay, somebody dies, they don’t leave a will or a will is not proven, what happens next for the family then? They need to get control of the property. Is this where the letters of administration come in?

Gordon: That’s correct Scott. Typically what happens when somebody dies whether they’re testate, which means leaves a will, or intestate, which means doesn’t leave a will, the first thing that’s done when they come in the court is to take an inventory of the estate. And a lot of cases, the man’s real property or the person’s real property is landed property is pretty well documented, but the inventory would also include all other things that belong to them, furniture, books, tools, livestock.

Fisher: All stuff in the kitchen.

Gordon: Oh yeah, anything that was of value. And they would appraise that and that inventory would then have a value attached to it and then from there if the will specifies where the things should go, it would be distributed that way by the executer of the will, and that’s the person who executes the will, or the administrator of the estate, that’s the person that is charged with distributing the man’s property.

Fisher: Right, without a will.

Gordon: Without a will. That’s an administrator.

Fisher: Right, and so that’s where the letters of administration come in.

Gordon: That’s right. There actually are two types of letters.

Fisher: I hope you’re keeping notes at home because this is good stuff.

Gordon: You will see letters testamentary which are issued for a will. We don’t often deal with that because we’re more interested in getting to the will.

Fisher: Right, right, right.

Gordon: But letters of administration are issued to the person who’s actually going to administer the estate, and then that person has to take out what’s called an ‘Administrators bond’ saying that they pledged to faithfully administer the estate, make sure the man’s property is disposed of properly. And they have to put up some money so if they don’t do that job, then they forfeit that job. 

Fisher: So, does every letter of administration document that we see include a bond record that should be available as well?

Gordon: They’re usually not combined. There should be letters of administration at administration bonds. Sometimes you might find them on the same document but usually they’re separated.

Fisher: And does the bond have anything of value to a genealogist or a family history researcher?

Gordon: It does. Because any bond that you would pledge before a court, if anything happens to you, like you die, or if you don’t faithfully execute the will, then there’s somebody called a surety to the bond which is basically someone who ensures that you will pay, and if you don’t pay, that person will pay on your behalf. And usually if somebody is willing to take on the responsibility of making up for your either death by administrating the state and paying the bond, or if you have failed to do it then you forfeit the bond and that other person as to pay it.

Fisher: Now, is that other person somehow tied to the deceased?

Gordon: Yes. Usually someone who knows the administrator well enough to put up the money. Now, most administrators are family members, a widow, an older son, some other relative. I’ve seen cases where a man owed a lot of debts on his estate and the creditors become the administrators to make sure they get their cut.

Fisher: Sure. [Laughs]

Gordon: But when the administrator is related to the deceased, the surety to the bond that the administrators put up, may be put up by a close relative of that person. Someone willing to say yeah this will be done. And they could all be ultimately related somehow.

Fisher: Somehow. So that’s a good record to get as well.

Gordon: Yeah. That’s particularly important if the surety has a different surname than the administrator, they might be an in law, a son in law perhaps.

Fisher: Right, like that.

Gordon: Any time in a genealogical record you got to look for any names that could be important.

Fisher: All right. We’re talking about what happens when we’re dead, perfect October topic with Gordon Remington. He is the author of New York State Probate Records. He’s a Senior Genealogist at ProGenealogists.com. Gordon, let’s talk about now the petition for letters of administration. Often the wills will of course already list all the family members. That’s pretty straight forward. When they don’t leave a will it gets a little more difficult. And you gave me the advice, don’t just look at the letter of administration, look for the petition. Because?

Gordon: Well, the petition, and this was originally New York State was the only one of the states that did this but now you see them in other states in the union. The petition was to petition for an estate to be probated or administered so you have them in both cases. And the purpose of the petition was to make sure that all the legal heirs to the deceased were named.

Fisher: And notified?

Gordon: Well they weren’t notified individually necessarily, but an advertisement in a newspaper was supposed to take care of that. The reason that the petition was resented both in an intestate and a testate matter, a will and not a will, is because sometimes a family member who should have been named in the will wasn’t, and they object. And they have that opportunity to come and object. Like a son might’ve been cut out or something.

Fisher: Right, or maybe somebody dad was mad at it.

Gordon: Yeah. And I’ve seen cases where a man didn’t leave anything to the children from his first marriage because the second marriage wife had influenced him not to. And those cases do go to court.

Fisher: Oh boy.

Gordon: And witnesses are produced which are his goldmine. But that’s usually not in the actual document that’s usually a court record that’s associated with it. Now that’s in a will where you do have people named, but if there’s anybody left out of the will, they should be in the petition. For administrations it’s even better because administrations don’t typically name every heir, the letter or the bond, but the petition will. Now in New York State those petitions started about 1830. And I know when my brother died in New York I had to create a petition with the names of all his heirs which would be his children. 

Fisher: Sure. So do they still do that to this day?

Gordon: In New York they do yeah.

Fisher: And a lot of other states as well?

Gordon: I’ve seen it in Iowa, I’ve seen it in New Jersey. Some of the states may not have adopted it till the later 20th century.

Fisher: Is it every county as well in New York?

Gordon: Yes it is. In New York they call the person in charge of the states, the county surrogate, because technically the governor of New York is in charge of a probate of estates, of administration of estates in New York. But he can’t be in every county. So the county surrogate is the governor’s representative in that county.

Fisher: Ah! So that’s what surrogate court means then. 

Gordon: Right, and if you go to a surrogate’s court, it’s often times housed in the same building as the other county officers. But you can see on the door of the surrogate’s court it will have the seal of the state of New York and not the seal of that county.

Fisher: So it’s the extended power of the governor that operates the court?

Gordon: That’s right. And fees charged by the surrogate’s court which in New York can be quite high, are set by state law. They can charge you up to ninety dollars just to look up a file.

Fisher: Wow!

Gordon: And if you want certified copies of the pages that’s the difference. Certified copies are as much as five dollars a page. You don’t need them certified. Go for the lower amount like fifty cents.

Fisher: Yeah. Well and most family researches don’t need a certified copy. I mean what’s the point.

Gordon: Yeah that’s usually used if you’re actually going to court over an inheritance or something like that where you need that record.

Fisher: And one other thought I had was working with this recent petition that I obtained. It had my great grandmother’s signature on it three different times. As I mentioned, I’d never seen one of her before.

Gordon: Um hmm.

Fisher: But more importantly, when she died her son from her first marriage became her administrator. I’ve never been able to find him. He has a common name, James Moor, but if I can find on that letter of administration petition his address, which I can now match among all the James Moors in the city directory and a signature that I might be able to compare against a signature on a marriage document, I can now get an idea of who I’m following herewith a common name.

Gordon: That’s very correct, yeah.

Fisher: All right. We’re going to talk more with Gordon Remington about other probate records you may have never heard of and I know there are many I haven’t heard of so I’m looking forward to hearing this coming up next when we return in 5 minutes on Extreme Genes, Family History Radio and ExtremeGeness.com

Segment 3 Episode 61

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Gordon Remington

Fisher: Hey, welcome back to Extreme Genes, Family History Radio ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth with Gordon Remington. He is the author of New York State Probate Records, the genealogist guy to testate and intestate records. He’s also a Senior Genealogist with ProGenealogists.com. And Gordon, just during the break here you’re telling me the story about a librarian you ran into. [Laughs] You’ve got to tell this.

Gordon: Well, you know as I mentioned in the first segment there in New York State the officer in charge of Probate Records in each county is called the County Surrogate.

Fisher: Right.

Gordon: It’s also called the Surrogate New Jersey and Ontario, Canada, maybe because they neigbor New York.

Fisher: Um hmm.

Gordon: But anyway, I was in a library once and someone was looking through the catalogue and they said, “What’s this? What’s surrogate records?” And the librarian didn’t know, but had to say something.

Fisher: Of course.

Gordon: It was an aide, you know, a volunteer and she said, “Oh those are records of surrogate mothers.”

Fisher: [Laughs]

Gordon: And I just stood. I couldn’t believe it because...

Fisher: [Laughs] Did you explode?

Gordon: No.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Gordon: I wanted to be able to keep coming to the library.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Gordon: But I just thought, “Right. Surrogate records began in 1830. I don’t think they had the technology.

Fisher: No.

Gordon: They probably didn’t need the technology. [Laughs]

Fisher: Surrogate mother records, that’s awesome. [Laughs] All right, so we’ve been talking about wills and then when wills are not left, and that’s when you get an administrator to take care of your stuff. Is there ever a time when there’s no probate record of somebody who dies, under what circumstance?

Gordon: If they had little or no property.

Fisher: Okay.

Gordon: That’s basically it. You might often find an ancestor who’s described as a laborer, probably not and especially in large urban areas.

Fisher: Okay.

Gordon: Interestingly enough this isn’t peculiar to New York State. But if you have an ancestor who was a farmer and owned real property, if that person did not leave a will there would usually be an administration. Because the heirs can’t sell the property until there’s an administration.

Fisher: Right, until somebody has control.

Gordon: Right. Until they’ve figured out how much property there is and how they’re going to divide it. So the heirs would like to often times sell it, but until that evaluation has been made they can’t go forward with the sale of the land. It’s in limbo until a probate administration has granted it.

Fisher: Right. Well, that’s good. But let’s just say now, there’s no letter of administration so you can’t follow that. There’s no partition then that comes with that.

Gordon: Right.

Fisher: There would be no inventory I assume.

Gordon: If there’s nothing.

Fisher: And there’s no will, is there anything else that could be followed as far as probate goes?

Gordon: Well, basically when a person dies either they have property or they don’t. And if they left a will that’s a probate record and if they have an administration, that’s an intestate record.

Fisher: Okay.

Gordon: Now, there are the types of records that relate to a deceased but usually one of those two elements has to be in place.

Fisher: Okay.

Gordon: For instance, guardian records.

Fisher: Yeah let’s talk about that.

Gordon: Well, guardian records, a lot of people misunderstand the term genealogically. Because today we know that children who have lost their parents have to have a legal guardian to do certain things.

Fisher: Sure.

Gordon: In the old days, 19th century and before, a guardian was only named if there was real property or some substantial amount of property that had to be guarded on behalf of the child.

Fisher: Okay.

Gordon: Now, guardianships typically were found among the probate records, and the interesting thing about guardianships is that the guardian, if it’s not the widow or widower of the person who died, usually the widow.

Fisher: Right.

Gordon: It could be somebody else related. And there were two ways that guardianships were done. Under the English common law, which a lot of the laws of this country were based initially, someone under the age of 14 had their guardian appointed for them by the court. Somebody over the age of 14 could come into the court and partition for a new guardian if they didn’t like the one they had before.

Fisher: Really?

Gordon: And often times when children who were over 14 came into court they were partitioning for someone they like, maybe a favorite uncle rather than the uncle they got stuck with.

Fisher: Right. [Laughs]

Gordon: So guardianship records are always very important because whoever the guardian usually has some close relationship with the child, some family member. And like the partition the guardians also had to fill out a bond. So you had bond where they issued letters of guardianship and then there’s the guardian’s bond where again somebody has to be a surety and sure of that bond in case the person getting the bond couldn’t execute the guardianship. And that person also was usually a close relative.

Fisher: So, if you’re going through this process because you know, I’m thinking of examples in my own mind. I found a guardian record of a third great grandfather I looked for, for 30 years and finally got that breakthrough I’ve been looking for and it went way back. And it gave his birth date in there, it said “Last July, his previous birthday he turned 19 on this date.” So that gave me his birthday in essence. His father died when he was 16, his mother died when he was 18. Yet they still referred to these children as infants which was interesting, an infant son.

Gordon: Yeah, an infant child in English common law was anyone under 21.

Fisher: Right. [Laughs] Sure.

Gordon: These bundles, these packets of records are ones that are ultimately transcribed into a book. A guardianship book, will book.

Fisher: Right, they’re typed up.

Gordon: Not necessarily typed up.

Fisher: Or handwritten.

Gordon: Now they are. But in the old days they would be a copy of a copy.

Fisher: Sure.

Gordon: So you always want to look if you can at an original piece of paper rather than ones put in the book, because scribes back then made mistakes just like we do today.

Fisher: Sure. Now, what are the minutes and orders?

Gordon: Minutes and orders are basically the sitting of the probate court. They vary in different estates as to what the court is called in each county. But that’s the court where you initially go to present the partition for probate or for administration or to ask for a guardian. And the minutes and orders are basically the day to day business of a court which is so and so came into the court today and paid for this guardian record or be named a guardian. And that’s an issuance by the court then for that to be done. So it’s like a minute book.

Fisher: Is it valuable?

Gordon: Oh absolutely! Because sometimes loose papers don’t survive, loose papers don’t survive as much as books do the bound books.

Fisher: Okay. So when does an inventory come into play? We’ve talking about wills, is there always one on association with letters of administration?

Gordon: If there’s property that needs to be counted, yeah. What usually happens is someone comes into court and presents the partition for administration or for a probate, and the first thing the court does is order an inventory to be taken. So that gives you an idea of when the person actually died. As I said earlier, someone could make a will and it wouldn’t be probated until maybe 5-10 years later.

Fisher: Right.

Gordon: But if you get the date of the inventory or the date of the order for the inventory, that’s usually pretty close on the death.

Fisher: Right. That would make a lot of sense.

Gordon: Yeah. Now going back to the surrogate records Scott, you mentioned the guardianship record that gave an age and a certain date for one of your ancestors. Well, the partition for probate or administration is also supposed to list any minor children by their ages and some of them do that age at a particular date thing. So what you do is you get a good list of the children and their dates of birth and sometimes where they’re living at the time, that’s one of the most valuable. And also, all heirs supposed to be where they’re living at the time. In fact, I’ve seen partitions in New York where they’re listing the heirs and one of them said, “Went West” and was never heard from again.

Fisher: Oh! [Laughs]

Gordon: So he’s supposed to read this newspaper back in New York and say, “Oh I’ve got to go back to New York from California to get my $2.”

Fisher: Well he probably was listed in the ad but probably didn’t read it.

Gordon: Probably didn’t. Well, the guy in California prospecting isn’t going to have access to a New York newspaper.

Fisher: No absolutely, although he’d probably want it if he was prospecting.

Gordon: One of the other things I wanted to mention about guardianship records. Sometimes a child is left an inheritance by a grandparent and the guardian is not the guardian of property for his own child because he is dead, but he is the guardian of the property that they receive from the grandparent. You see that often the case, especially is the paternal grandparent and so the inheritance go to that child. And the father who is not the son in law becomes the guardian. It’s just a way to protect the property.

Fisher: Well, there’s a lot of stuff to know about this, isn’t there Gordon?

Gordon: Oh yeah!

Fisher: And that’s why he’s written the book “New York State Probate Records, a Genealogist Guide to Testate and Intestate Records.” Gordon Remington, he is a senior genealogist at ProGenealogist.com. Actual researcher periodically for, “Who Do You Think You are?” And others and you’ve just got a long list of stuff here.

Gordon: I’ve been at this for 35 years this month. By the way, you can get the book “New York State Probate Records, a Genealogist Guide to Testate and Intestate Records” by going to AmericanAncestors.org which is the website for the New England Historic and Genealogical Society, which did publish the book.

Fisher: All right. I hope people are taking notes. I’ll make sure we let people know about it on our website ExtremeGenes.com. Hey, thanks for sharing all this and hope you’ll come back again in less than a year or two. [Laughs]

Gordon: All right Scott. Good to be here, thanks so much for having me!

Fisher: And coming up next, our Preservation Authority Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com. He’ll be answering another listener question and sharing some ideas with you on how to preserve your special memories and your records, coming up next in 3 minutes on Extreme Genes, Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com.

Segment 4 Episode 61

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: And welcome back to Extreme Genes, Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, with Tom Perry, our Preservation Authority from TMCPlace.com. Welcome back, Tommy.

Tom: Good to be back.

Fisher: We did get an email from Erin in Huntsville, Alabama, listening on WTKI. And he was asking about QR codes. He was wondering if you could actually make a tattoo of a QR code. Would that work?

Tom: Oh, absolutely! There's no reason it wouldn't. You could either do temporary tattoos as QR codes to have at amusement parks, in fact, I thought about that. Like when you go to Disney Land now, you have to buy a full pass, whether you're a little old lady that's not going to get on any rides, because in the old days, you would buy E tickets, A tickets, different things like that.

Fisher: Right.

Tom: And so I thought, what they ought to do is, issue QR codes. And so if you have the QR code as a temporary tattoo that gets you on all the rides you want to go. If you want to go in and just hang out with your grandkids, you don't have to pay 100 bucks per ticket, maybe twenty five, maybe fifty dollars, and then you just don't get the QR code temporary tattoo on your wrist.

Fisher: Wow, what a great idea! You should work for Disney. Oh, wait a minute, you did!

Tom: I did.

Fisher: At one time.

Tom: Well, back to the QR code. There's so many options you could do with this. If you had little children and they got lost in the park, all they have to do is scan the QR code. They know who they go to, who they belong to and they can page you by name. You can put as much information on as you want. You could tell them what hotel you're staying in, as much details. So if your kid wanders off, they go to one of the first aid stations, they scan the QR code, "Oh, he belongs to so and so. They stay at such and such a hotel." They could get the information out. They would have your cell phone number, they could call you and say, "Hey, you know, your two year old is at station X, Y, Z."

Fisher: You know, you keep coming up with these things. Are people doing this now or is this something you could do with it?

Tom: Oh, this is something you could do. Nobody's doing it.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Tom: But, you know, Disney needs to call me back and say, "Hey, show us how we can implement this!" It could be very simple to do, and it would be awesome! I mean, if I had young kids, even if I have them on those little leashes, I would still want something like that. And, leaving the park, if you have your QR code and you're not with the person you're supposed to be, they could have security that you couldn't get out of the park. So if some little four year old was leaving with somebody that tried to kidnap them, when they scan, the QR codes don't match up, so you don't get to take that kid outside the park.

Fisher: You're always thinking, aren't you?

Tom: I try.

Fisher: Absolutely! So hopefully that answers your question, Erin. And thanks for sending that off to [email protected]. And whenever you do that, you get a twenty five dollar discount on any purchase you make from Shop.TMCPlace.com.

Tom: Exactly.

Fisher: Tom, what else do you have for us today?

Tom: Okay, I've had a lot of people who have questions about scanning. And just quickly, when we were at Roots Tech a few weeks ago, we had people come and say, "Hey, I want to buy my own equipment, you know. What do I need to do?" So I told the people that live locally, back in Salt Lake where Roots Tech was, there's a place called Pictureline, which is downtown Salt Lake. It’s a good resource to go. They also have an online presence. If you don't live in that area and you want to do everything online, there's a great company called BHPhotoVideo.com. B as in boy, H as in Harry, PhotoVideo.com, and you can compare all kinds of scanners. If you want to get a good scanner, you're looking at least $1500. These $200 ones at OfficeMax and stuff, I wouldn't get unless you don't really care about the stuff you're scanning. But if you want to get a real good Prosumer, you want t spend about $5000, or if you want to get Hasselblad Flextech X5 scanner, they're only $25,000.

Fisher: Oh, my gosh! It’s a bargain at twice the price.

Tom: Exactly.

Fisher: [Laughs] Well, and anytime you get into something like that, I think for family history purposes, you want to share that cost with members of the family and spread it out.

Tom: And as we've talked before, if you want to rent one, we can rent you one just as good, so you can split it between your family. If you have enough that you want it around, you scan, send it to the next family, do that as well, but get a good one.

Fisher: All right. And coming up next, Tom's going to talk about videos tapes and why we're losing them as every day goes by, on Extreme Genes, Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com.

Segment 5 Episode 61

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: We are back, and you have found us, Extreme Genes, Family History Radio, ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, the Radio Roots sleuth with Tom Perry, our Preservation Authority from TMCPlace.com. You can always contact Tom to ask your questions at [email protected]. Tom, you've been telling me the last couple of weeks when we've been off the air about you've got to get in these videos, you've got to get in your kid's videos from the '90s and the '00s, because they are deteriorating every day. Talk about this.

Tom: Oh yeah! As we speak, while we're broadcasting right now, your tapes are dying, they're going away. The biggest problem with tapes are about anything that's magnetic, it’s like the tire on your car, as you drive down the street, you don’t actually see the wear, but after a while, you see the wear, that's how tapes are, they wear out. We had a tape come in the other week from us that's flaking. It’s actually particles you can see inside the cassette. You can see little pieces of magnetic particles, they're actually falling off the tape, which is generally caused by heat or poor storage.

Fisher: And so, when that happens of course, there's really not a lot you can do.

Tom: Well, I've never tried baking one. One of these days, when I get one in, if the customer is willing to let us try it, we're going to try it. Like we bake audio tapes and that fixes them, but I've never tried it with a video tape. So if somebody comes in with one that's flaking so bad we can't transfer it, we'll go ahead and do that. The problem with flaking tapes is, those little flakes will get caught in the heads of your player and they'll plug them up. They won't be able to hear audio or video, and that's why you have to get the tape cleaners. We actually still sell cleaners for VHS machines.

Fisher: Really?

Tom: Oh yeah!

Fisher: Do they make them or is this something you stored or you find them on eBay or something, what?

Tom: Yeah. Some of our distributors actually have them stacked away. In fact, we have one distributor that has old Betamax tapes still.

Fisher: Oh! [Laughs]

Tom: Blank Betamax tapes. So if anybody wants some, I have a lead for them.

Fisher: [Laughs] Well, it is amazing what's still out there, isn't it.

Tom: Oh, it’s incredible!

Fisher: One of the other problems you've talked about, Tom, is how people store their tapes and at their different ways. Now does this affect audio or video or both?

Tom: Yes.

Fisher: Oh boy!

Tom: It does them all. Yeah, anything that's magnetic, it’s put on a polyester type film. And anything can cause it to take off. When it’s originally made, it’s made through high heat, so if exposed to high heat, the metallic particles can come back off and they'll flake around. So the best thing to do is, always make sure you store your tapes in a cool, clean environment. Keep them away from heat. Heat is really bad for them. The only thing that's worse than heat is water. We have some that go through floods, like we've talked about on the air, when Katrina went through, we got a lot of tapes through there that had been in water and mud, and that's bad. We've had a tape that actually went through an oven that we were actually able to fix, but that got to such a high degree, it actually helped the tape, you know, 110, 120 isn't going to do it any good, all its going to do is hurt it.

Fisher: So you want it to actually bake. [Laughs]

Tom: Yeah, we want it to actually bake. Yeah, make sure it goes through a fire. If the case itself stars melting, it’s probably got to a high enough temperature that the tape inside is okay.

Fisher: Okay, VHS tapes and then the big ones that we used to use back in the '80s.

Tom: Yeah, the U matic.

Fisher: Are those fading away as well?

Tom: Oh absolutely! Anytime you actually play any kind of magnetic tape, even a mini DV tape, it’s going to degrade over time. The nice thing about mini DV tape is they're digital, so we can still have a better chance at getting information off. But the way you want to always store your tapes, you want to store them on end. Don't store them flat, because the control  track on most tapes is on the edge, and if one of the springs breaks inside it and the tape falls down on itself, the first thing that's going to go is your control track, which basically is the brain of your entire tape.

Fisher: And so there's no way for you to fix that.

Tom: Very rarely. We have some, we can run it through a Procam, we can run it through deciphers, all kinds of different equipment, and sometimes it can bring them back, and sometimes it can't, it depends what the damage is. So you want to be really, really careful with the way you store them. And one thing that is a misnomer that 90% of the people out there understand wrong is, when you used to rent video tapes in the old day, you'd always say, "Be kind, rewind." They're not doing that or telling you that to make the tape better, they doing it so the next person has it rewound. That is the worst way to store a tape.

Fisher: Ooh!

Tom: Because when you rewind it, it rewinds really tight. So you want to when you're always done playing it, take it out of your machine and store it that way, because it’s loosely wound that way. So don't be kind and rewind if you're trying to preserve your memories.

Fisher: Ooh! Great advice. Thanks so much, Tom Perry, our Preservation Authority from TMCPlace.com. And if you ever have a question for Tom, you can [email protected]. That's it for this week. 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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