Episode 65 - The Great Fire(s) of 1871... It Wasn't Just Chicago

podcast episode Nov 09, 2014

Fisher opens the show with a review of the ExtremeGenes.com survey on ancestors named for famous people.  The numbers were surprising!  In Family Histoire News for the week, a fourth generation tightrope walker was doing what his family has done for a century... risk death for a living.  This man even tightrope walked in vitro!  Plus, the journals and letters of one man's father have led to a remarkable book on the first Americans to fight in World War II... before December 7, 1941!  He wasn't on the battlefield.  You'll have to hear this remarkable story.
Guest Stan Lindaas of HeritageConsulting.com joins the show to talk about the Great Fires (plural) of 1871.  It wasn't just Chicago that burned on October 8th of that year.  Two other places went up as well, at the cost of even more real estate and lives.  Hear why your ancestors' deaths in these infernos aren't likely to be found in the records.
Jen Allen from FamilySearch.org is on to bring us up to date on the latest developments with this coming year's edition of RootsTech.  Every year brings exciting new technology and information.  Hear why you need to be planning to be in Salt Lake City, Utah in February!

And Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com, the Preservation Authority, is back with news of a new product that just may save your damaged disk, plus other suggestions on how you can salvage your valuable "diskified" data.  That's all this week on Extreme Genes, Family History Radio!

Transcript of Episode 65

Host: Scott Fisher

Segment 1 Episode 65

Fisher: Genies, you’re back! You just can’t stay away. Well, welcome to Extreme Genes, family history radio and ExtremeGenes.com, America’s Family History Show. I am Fisher your Radio Roots Sleuth, and like Hans and Franz of the old Saturday night live sketch, I am here to pop you up in your family history research. And that’s why we say, we’re here to shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out. And everyone has a few of those, well maybe not as many as I do. Anyway, we want to welcome another great radio station to our growing network of Extreme Genes affiliates, 1230 AM KELY in Ely, Nevada. We’re proud to be part of Fred Weinberg and Wyatt Cox’s outstanding weekend line up. Our guest this week, the first starting in about ten minutes is a frequent visitor to the show Stan Lindaas from HeritageConsulting.com. He’ll be talking about the Great Fires of 1871, and it’s not the one you think. Did it affect your ancestral family? Stan will fill us in. Then later in the show, Jen Allen from FamilySearch.org, joins us to update us on what’s going on with the worldwide phenomenon known as RootsTech. It’s coming up on us fast. If you’re not familiar with it, you’ll want to be. If you are familiar with it, you’ll want to hear the latest news for this year’s number one family history conference. It’s going to be a lot of fun, there’s going to be a lot to be learned and you should make plans to be there. Jen will bring us up to speed. And, Tom Perry the Preservation Authority is back to answer your questions, to make sure your family treasures of all kinds, audio, video, home movies, written, slides, photos, survive to continue to enrich future generations of your family. Our Extreme Genes poll for this week asks the question, “Do you have someone in your family who was named for someone famous. 62% of this question was answered with a “Yes” and I will make a guess that many of those had at least one forbearer named George Washington, something. My family had at least two of those, an Andrew Jackson, an Isaac Newton, and two Winfield Scott Hancocks. Now it took me a while to learn he was a well known guy back in the day. Hancock a Civil War general of Great Note ran against Garfield for president in 1880 and lost, which since Garfield was later assassinated was too bad for both men. Both my grandfather and my uncle were given this name. They may count twice by the way, since Hancock was named for Winfield Scott, a general from the war of 1812. You know, naming a child for someone famous often says a lot about the interests of the parents especially if the name is from the world of politics. I mean, would a republican really name a child for a famous democrat? And I bet you know at least one person names Lisa Mary, born in the 1960s. “Thank you very much.” Our poll for this week asks, “Are you lucky enough to own a diary or journal passed down by one of your ancestors?” Vote now at ExtremeGenes.com. We’ll give you the final results next week. It is time once again for our family histoire news from the pages of ExtremeGenes.com. Family history was made this past week in Chicago, where daredevil Nik Wallenda without benefit of harness or safety net, walked on high wires between skyscrapers 600 feet above the streets of downtown Chicago.

I mean, the whole thing was carried live on discovery channel which used a ten second delay in the event of any, shall we say, un-pleasantry that may have occurred. Of course it didn’t. Nik set two world records in doing this walking a high wire between three skyscrapers, with each being higher than the Washington Monument. On one leg Wallenda walked on a steep incline and on another he was blindfolded. His biggest concern? Wind, of course! Where does the family history fit into this? Well, Nik who is 35, is the great grandson of Carl Wallenda who created the famous flying Wallendas, described as a circus family. Carl died at the age of 73 back in 1978. Yes, from a fall from a tight rope between a couple of buildings in Porto Rico. So, experience doesn’t always matter in their line of work. Even Nik’s mother Delilah was six months along with Nik when she walked the tight rope. Back in 2012 Nik set a record crossing Niagara Falls from the US to Canada. You don’t “Tight rope walker” in a lot of census records, you notice that? Hopefully the Wallenda family continues to create many more of those and not so many early death certificates. Well, imagine hearing that your family member was already fighting World War II before December 7th 1941. Tom Ellsworth, the son of a onetime FBI agent named James Ellsworth, has contributed fascinating information from his father’s journal and letters for a new Scribner book called “Double agent” the first hero of World War II and how the FBI outwitted and destroyed a Nazi spy ring. The author Peter Duffy was given access to James Ellsworth’s papers to put together a timeline to this fascinating story. It began in early 1940. The Ellsworth family was living in Huntington Park, California. James received a message from J. Edgar Hoover to report to New York City, where two other agents met him.

On the way into the city from the airport the other agents took away James’s gun, his ID, everything, and gave him credentials under a new name. He was then taken to and introduced to a man named William S. Sebold who had been born in Germany. Sebold was the first double agent in the history of the FBI. Ellsworth had served a Mormon mission in the same German town in which Sebold had been born, and on that day became Sebold’s handler. Within three months, 36 Nazi spies were arrested, and what is still considered the biggest case of espionage in the history of the United States. Tom Ellsworth had kept his father’s journals and letters written by his father to his mother, for family history purposes. It was when author Peter Duffy came along, the Ellsworths knew their father’s story was in good hands and they allowed him unlimited access to the materials. They gave Duffy a timeline to the events involving James Ellsworth who was truly one of the first Americans to fight for his country in World War II. There’s another great argument by the way, for keeping your ancestors letters and diaries for future generations. Find out more about both of these great stories and at ExtremeGenes.com. And that is your family histoire news for this week! And coming up next, we call him Stan the man. Stan Lindaas from HeritageConsulting.com returns to tell us about the Great Fires of 1871 and it is not the one you think it is. Most families had been affected by fire one time or another in their history, but few had the impact of this one. We’ll tell you about it in three minutes on Extreme Genes, family history radio and ExtremeGenes.com, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 65

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Stan Lindaas

Fisher: Hey welcome back to Extreme Genes, Family History Radio ExtremeGenes.com America’s Family History Show. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth with my guest Stan Lindaas from HeritageConsulting.com. Welcome back Stan. Good to see you again.

Stan: It’s great to be back Fish.

Fisher: Hey we’re talking fires today and I think a lot of family histories have been affected by fires especially in large urban areas. I know mine did with various fires in New York City 1835, during the Revolutionary war was another one, and then you were telling me about the Great Fires of 1871, and of course I immediately think, “Ah, Chicago!”

Stan: Which happens to be a reasonably great one.

Fisher: The reasonably Great Fires of 1871?

Stan: Yeah, same day same everything.

Fisher: Really?

Stan: Oh yeah. There were multiple fires. Before we go to that fire, can we talk about another fire?

Fisher: Sure.

Stan: You know, people like to cook their turkeys for Thanksgiving?

Fisher: Right, we’re coming up on that.

Stan: And if Mr Franklin Roosevelt had his way, you’d be doing it on a different day.

Fisher: What day would we be doing it on?

Stan: You would be doing it on the second to the last Thursday of the month.

Fisher: As opposed to the last.

Stan: As opposed to the last.

Fisher: Right.

Stan: Because in 1939 there were five. Count them, five Thursday in the month, the last being on the 30th. Well, the retail lobby was not thrilled.

Fisher: Oh [Laughs]

Stan: Yeah, you got the idea.

Fisher: Yep.

Stan: We don’t have enough days for Christmas shopping so Mr Roosevelt changed it to the second to please them. But it wasn’t a federal law or federal holiday at the time, and so some governors changed and some did not. And so about half and half when it came time for the cutting of the turkey, half went with Mr Roosevelt and half went with the old traditional last Thursday. And so as a result, the second Thursday became known as “Franksgiving.”

Fisher: [Laughs]

Stan: Yeah ad I’m not kidding. [Laughs] There was a little tid bit in the newspaper, a little diddy that went, “Happy Thanksgiving to you, Happy Thanksgiving to you, Happy Franksgiving Dear Misguided who chose today, Happy Franksgiving to you.”

Fisher: But this is important because in the 30s as I recall, there seemed to be a little economic trouble going on.

Stan: You might put it that way.

Fisher: Yeah.

Stan: So maybe...

Fisher: I probably would have sided with Uncle Frank to with the earlier one.

Stan: Yeah, there wasn’t a problem with many people getting a turkey to cook, they did chicken or bologna or something.

Fisher: Sure.

Stan: What would that do for Black Friday?

Fisher: I don’t know. Let’s not even go there.

Stan: I know I’m with you.

Fisher: I want to hear about this fire in 1871 now

Stan: Well, in the process of looking for meat to put on the bones on my own genealogy...

Fisher: Right, creating stories.

Stan: Exactly, the stories to go around them. My mother’s family, part of them lived in Holland Michigan and I’ve been to Holland many times from the time of my youth up until just a couple of years ago. Wonderful little town, Dutch community, but I’d always noticed that there was a very radical difference between the architecture of the college in Holland then the rest of the community. And I got to doing some digging and I found out that on October 8th 1871, all of Holland burnt to the ground.

Fisher: Now that’s the same day as the Chicago fire.

Stan: That’s the exact same day as the Chicago fire. Both of them starting on October 8th, as did the Peshtigo fire in Wisconsin. I know you’re shaking your head.

Fisher: What? The who?

Stan: The Peshtigo.

Fisher: Okay.

Stan: It’s a community close to Green Bay. In Chicago the fire consumed about three square miles of property.

Fisher: Then this was the cow that tipped over...

Stan: Well actually, actually this was a reporter in 1898 who confessed to making up this story Mrs O'Leary's cow. Sadly there were three hundred people killed in the Chicago fire.

Fisher: Right.

Stan: In the Peshtigo fire there were in access of fifteen hundred people killed.

Fisher: Oh my!

Stan: Entire towns burst to the ground. People spent the night standing in Lake Michigan in October up to their neck in water trying to avoid being burnt to death. It was a voracious inferno. Personal accounts talk about it as a hurricane of fire. And within about thirty minutes the town of Peshtigo, the fire started and it was gone in about thirty minutes.

Fisher: Wow! What fuelled this and what started it?

Stan: What started it was, and it contributed to the Chicago fire, was that in 1870 and throughout 1871 there had been a historic draught in the Mid West. And then there was a major low pressure system that moved in that brought with it, great winds. Well, in the Northern parts of Wisconsin where Peshtigo is, and around Holland, Michigan, Manistee and Port Huron, it was greatly forested and there was a lot of lumber being done and as they cut the trees, they didn’t do as they do today, they did not clean out the brush. They left it behind. Also, that time of year the farmers, the normal practice were to burn their fields to clear any weeds and such.

Fisher: Sure, as it still is in many places.

Stan: Well the winds picked up and caught hold of these fires and they just went raging through the area. The Chicago fire as I said, consumed three square miles. The great Michigan fire it’s called because there were several communities around Holland that were consumed. It took three thousand nine hundred square miles.

Fisher: Whoa!

Stan: Yeah.

Fisher: Thirty nine hundred square miles.

Stan: That’s two and a half million acres.

Fisher: Unbelievable.

Stan: Peshtigo, they thought was probably around fifteen hundred square miles.

Fisher: So we lost fifteen hundred people, fifteen hundred square miles in Wisconsin.

Stan: Pretty much. In Wisconsin.

Fisher: Three hundred people in three square miles in Chicago and in Holland.

Stan: And another fifteen hundred that they know of in the great Michigan fire. But they figured that in 1870 and ’71 there was a very large number of salesmen and lumberjacks that were in the forest. And in that small communities that were in the forest for whom they have no way of accounting for these people.

Fisher: Right.

Stan: So there are guesses that it could go as high as three thousand people that lost their lives.

Fisher: So was it thought that October 8th 1871, all three of these major area fires maybe started from the same cause, the same low pressure?

Stan: Oh it’s interesting that you should ask because there was a crackpot out there. History was that a massive meteor had come and split off and had gone into these people on fire. Now the reality is that there’s not been one fire ever reported throughout recorded history, where a meteor had started a fire.

Fisher: Right.

Stan: But it sure did, excuse me, catch fire in the media.

Fisher: Yeah.

Stan: The interesting is that so many records, I mean in Chicago when you go to look for records, you kind of up the creek when you get back to 1871 and before, around Peshtigo the same problem, but in Holland, it was interesting because some really quick thinking Dutchmen grabbed all of the records and they buried them in the sand on the beaches of Lake Michigan. After the fire was over they went back to dig them out and there was a glaze of glass on the surface on the surface of the sand.

Fisher: Oh! Because it had been so hot.

Stan: It had been that hot.

Fisher: And yet it protected the records.

Stan: It protected the records. Some of them were scorched a bit, but it protected them sufficiently enough that they have them even today. There are many personal accounts of the fires and the people standing in water as I said, up to their neck, and the smoke and the ash and the dust being so thick that they could not breathe, or they were trying to get to the water and they would just be overcome with all the stuff that was in the air and they would be in the water and they would have to dip their heads to clear the stuff off their face. But even having done that, there were about half of them that their faces were severely burnt being out in the water. It was so very, very hot.

Fisher: So are there lists now of those who were lost in Chicago, lost in Wisconsin, lost in Michigan on that day?

Stan: Yeah there are lists of people who are given in newspapers listed as missing. If it was my family, I’m looking for my wife and my children, or there are lists of bodies that have been identified. A great number of the bodies that were found could not be identified because the entire family had been wiped out. And there’s one case of a father with several small children who is just yards away from the lake and he’s got them in an embrace when they were consumed by the fire. Yeah and there are lists that are available, but they are by no means complete lists but you can look for them. In thirty eight years I had never had anyone who has looked for that was a victim of the fire. That I know of. It could be that in looking at the standard vital records that it just doesn’t show up because there was no one to report it.

Fisher: Right.

Stan: And so you don’t know.

Fisher: Isn’t that unbelievable?

Stan: Yeah.

Fisher: And you think back on some of the family trees that we come across, if you have that date, October 8th 1871 somewhere in the region.

Stan: 8th, 9th and 10th. It went on for three days.

Fisher: Oh my goodness.

Stan: Or it gets better, the thumb of Michigan in 1881, it was consumed again.

Fisher: Ten years later.

Stan: Ten years later.

Fisher: If you have this date and you only have your data, you might want to find out what was going on there at the time because your people may have been a part of this. So this is the important part of knowing the story of what’s going on in a place and a particular time.

Stan: Yeah. It’s not unique to Chicago and Wisconsin and Michigan, it happened all over. It’s something get don’t see anymore because of the change of materials that are used, the zoning rules, fire escapes, alarms, all that kind of thing. There are still massive fires but nothing on the scale of this. Thinking about it though, it was the Chicago fire that took Chicago from being a backwater place into being a modern thriving city after the fact, and it resurrected you know, did the Phoenix thing. Much like London did in 1666.

Fisher: Unbelievable. Stan Lindaas thanks so much! There was more than one fire October 8th 1871.

Stan: Yeah, and the other one was the Chicago fire.

Fisher: Great stuff. Thanks so much for joining us. And coming up next from FamilySearch.org, Jen Allen is going to be on to talk about what’s coming up with Roots Tech in February, the world’s largest genealogy conference from Extreme Genes, Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com America’s Family History Show.

Segment 3 Episode 65

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Jen Allen

Fisher: And welcome back to Extreme Genes, family history radio, America's Family History Show. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, and I'm talking to Jen Allen from over at FamilySearch.org. And, Jen, we're moving in on Roots Tech and getting exciting.

Jen: We are moving in, and we have some really fun and exciting things coming for Roots Tech this year, and we can't wait for everyone to join us.

Fisher: So, for people who don't know anything about this and they maybe have a casual interest in Family History, let's start from the beginning, what is Roots Tech?

Jen: Roots Tech is a really great conference that you're able to come to and it's now the largest family history conference and event in the world.

Fisher: By far.

Jen: By far. And it's extremely exciting and fun. Not typically what people may think of when they think of family history, which is why it's so great, and it's the best place to be when it comes to family history.

Fisher: Well, and a lot of that has to do with the word "Tech" in there because a lot of younger people get into, you know, the technical side of making this thing work, and a lot of older people are trying to master some of it, and everybody wants to see what's out there now that makes things get easier and easier for not only capturing the data but the stories as well.

Jen: That's right. And what's so great about Roots Tech is it does focus on that technology that helps you do the work and find people, and there's so many great resources and tools out there today that Roots Tech is a perfect place to highlight those and to find out about all the new and exciting things in the industry.

Fisher: It's taking place along with the Federation of Genealogical Societies, the FGS conference, same time, February 11th through 14th in Salt Lake City at the Salt Palace convention centre. And how many is this now, five?

Jen: Five years, yes.

Fisher: Oh my gosh. And it keeps getting better each year, and I think there's something there for everybody. And Donny Osmond, the Entertainer, shall be there to be one of the key note speakers this year.

Jen: That's right. And that's what's so exciting about having Donny Osmond. We all see him as the entertainer, and he does that great. But now we get to see a little bit different side of him and maybe talking about his family and what inspires him in life.


Fisher: How do people find out about how to get to Roots Tech?

Jen: So we have a really great website RootsTech.org that has all sorts of pages that give all the answers and highlight the great and exciting things you can do and see.

Fisher: Now even though we are one big, happy world family, we're not going to all be staying in the same person's basement. I would assume we have plenty of places for people to stay in Salt Lake City?

Jen: Oh yes, there is a whole list of hotels that are easily able to fulfil needs, for people who are coming from out of town. And we actually have a lot of people from over twenty countries represented at Roots Tech.

Fisher: Wow! Now, fill me in on some of the hands on stuff that's going there, because I know a lot of kids came last year, and a lot of local people as well, they came on Saturdays, but there was some great things that kids really got into.

Jen: That's right, yeah. One of the biggest features of Roots Tech is our very large and exciting expo hall. There are companies that come in there and showcase their latest and greatest products. But in addition to that we have some really fun, interactive areas where you can come in and actually record a story or a memory that you have, and you walk away with a flash drive of that recording. Or we have a section where you can Call Grandma, it's called, and interview her, ask questions, her or any of your relatives, obviously, and you also walk away with that recording to preserve in your own family history, you know, files and records.

Fisher: Boy, and I think that is so exciting to be able to do that. And I've got to wonder, how many new stories kids never knew until they actually had that opportunity to sit down and call grandma and record her right there at Roots Tech.

Jen: That's right. And it's so much fun, especially for those younger kids who maybe, again, it's the technology that gets them exciting, and as soon as they start talking to grandma or thinking about some of those memories then it really kind of sparks their interest and they want to keep going, which is perfect and great, especially for an industry bringing in those youth.

Fisher: Now, there are a lot of people there also to help you with the research, and I remember there was a night at the library, the famous family history library which is in downtown Salt Lake, is that going to go on again this year?

Jen: You know, we actually don't have a night at the library this year. What we're highlighting is that the library is there and open at all times for anybody who wants that research help. And particularly of interest this year is that the library will be open for some extended hours, and on holidays that they aren't usually open, because they know the crowd comes in.

Fisher: Wow.

Jen: And we also have

Fisher: What do you mean by, wait a minute! What do you mean by extended hours? How late are we talking?

Jen: Well, I think they're normally open until 9, and they extend those a little bit later because we have a lot of those hardcore genealogists that want to come in and research all night.

Fisher: Absolutely. Well, they should, this is the place, as you say, in Salt Lake City, right?

Jen: That's right. And it's the best of family history research centre in the world, really, so it's a great place to go and help. And we also have a lot of the people from the library actually in the expo hall in what we call the Cyber Cafe, and we have a bank of computer, and they're there to help you on site as well if you don't want to walk across the street.

Fisher: Well, and we should mention though that, you know, most people kind of think, I think a lot of people getting into it now that if it's not online it just can't be found anywhere. And there is so much stuff in the family history library that cannot be found anywhere else yet.

Jen: Not yet. It will be, but it certainly takes a lot of man hours to get all that digital, so it will be, there's so many things and we hear endless stories every year of people who do go to the library and, you know, miraculously find people that they've been trying to seek forever. And so there are a lot of resources there that you can't find online yet, like we said, some day.

Fisher: I think one of the highlights last year for me was seeing a girl I remember named Carol Moss, and she actually had found her half sister,

Jen: That's great.

Fisher: And I guess she lived in Salt Lake City, so Carol came out to actually meet her for the first time, and their first experience together was at Roots Tech, and they were having a great time.

Jen: That's right. They experienced a really good time, they were able to find each other through, you know, genealogy and finding each other, and she was able to connect with her family that she didn't even know. It was really exciting.

Fisher: And interesting too, to see how they embraced one another, when that sometimes can awkward situation.

Jen: That's right. Especially meeting for the first time, but if you know Carol, she is so sweet and so great and it was so fun to experience that through her last year.

Fisher: Yeah there was a real bond between the two of the, I have no doubt they’ve probably been on the phone two or three times a day every day since then. [Laughs]

Jen: [Laughs] That’s probably true. Yes.

Fisher: So, talk about some of the unique inventions. Now I know the first day, which is around ... was it February 11th?

Jen: That’s right.

Fisher: You have the innovators day and this is kind of fun because you see people who are creating new things, typically technical hence ‘Roots Tech’ where people are actually going to go around and judge which are the best of 2014.

Jen: That’s right, yeah. We have what’s called ‘innovators summit’ which is a pre-conference kind of event for the developers and entrepreneurs who are in the family history industry, come and they take classes and learn a lot on site. But in addition to that, we actually have a very exciting innovators challenge that will be going on again this year. We have some really great sponsors coming in with great prize money, and those developers out there who are thinking of creating a product can submit their product to the challenge and it’s like a mini contest. And we as participants at Roots Tech get to watch those finalists present their products and a panel of judges will determine who of those finalists are the best and receive the grand prize. And it’s really exciting this year and we’re really looking forward to seeing those contestants come out again.

Fisher: We should emphasize to people, you don’t have to be there for each day of the conference. If you can only be in Salt Lake City for a day or two, there’s plenty going on that you can still catch even if you missed that first day.

Jen: That’s right. And you can buy one day passes and if you’re a getting started level, for those who have never really dabbled in family history, then you’re welcome to buy that one day getting started pass that starts at just nineteen dollars.

Fisher: The address once again to find out more is RootsTech.org you can sign up there, you can find out everything you need to do to make it to Salt Lake City in February for the FGS conference and Roots Tech the fifth annual. Jen Allen from FamilySearch.org thanks so much!

Jen: Thank you.

Fisher: And coming up next from TMCPlace.com Tom Perry our Preservation Authority is going to talk to you about what to do when your disks have scratches on them. Can they be saved? He says yes, and he’ll tell you how, coming up next on Extreme Genes, Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com America’s Family History Show.    

Segment 4 Episode 65

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: Hey, welcome back to Extreme Genes, family history radio, ExtremeGenes.com, America's Family History Show. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, with Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com, he is our Preservation Authority. Tom, welcome back to the show, good to see you!

Tom: Good to be here.

Fisher: And, I'm excited! Every time you show up, you seem to have some new technology to tell us about, and today is exception.

Tom: Technology is just absolutely so crazy! I just can't believe how fast things are coming down the pipe. You know, we've talked on past shows about how things are like five to seven years they would double. Now it’s down even more than that. A year ago, back in 2013, we had to update our slide scanner three times because of new technology. We have a lot of people that write to has that have problems with disks that have been scratched or gouged, and it’s not just because you don't take care of them. Sometimes in players that can happen to them.

Fisher: Right.

Tom: And so I want to kind of share some tips and tricks of how to take care of your disks before they get scratched. Once you're pass that point and you have scratched and gouged disks what we can do to try and save them. There's some different options. One of the things that we're going to talk about a little bit and follow up on in a few weeks is, there's a new polymer out. And the interesting thing, this has been developed by a friend of mine and they do stainless steel restoration on fridges and things like that.

Fisher: Okay.

Tom: And they have found out, he has some CD that were scratched and he thought, "Oh, let me see what it does on this!" And it fixed them.

Fisher: Really?!

Tom: Yeah, without any kind of abrasion or anything, because you know, you can't scratch stainless steel or it ruined.

Fisher: Of course.

Tom: And so he found out it’s a special kind of a polymer. And they're working on retail packaging right now. And he's going to drop some by for me this week to test out and try it on some DVDs, BluRays, CDs and see how well it works. So in the next few weeks, you know, I'll return and report, so to speak, on it, and see how it’s going. Because the biggest problem with scratches, what causes it not to be able to read is not really the scratch par say itself, it’s the light that's penetrating through the bottom side of the disk, when it hits a scratch, it fractures the light. Just like when you put a prism up to the sun, it fractures it into, you know, the red, green, blue, violet.

Fisher: Right.

Tom: And so, what it’s doing is, it’s not reading it very good. It’s almost like putting on dirty glasses, your eyes are still the same, they can see fine, but everything's kind of foggy, because you have dirty glasses on. And that's basically what a scratch is in a CD or a DVD or a BluRay disk. So when the light hit this and fractures, it’s not sure if this is a zero or a one. Now, back in the day, when we used to have walkmans that we would carry around, CD player on our hips and they would shake a lot, they built in more what they call "oversampling", where it would go and say, "Okay, here's a whole bunch of zeros, here's a whole bunch of ones." it would find a pattern, and so, if it says, "Oop! I can't read this one, but based on this pattern, I'm going to assume this is a zero, so I'm going to put the zero in there." And 90% of the time, it’s right on. Sometimes you might hear a little skip, but nowadays, since the machines are better, they have better stabilizers in them, they don't use that technology, and why? I have no idea. They've just stopped using it. So you don't have that much of over scan. So when you have a scratch and it doesn't oversample, it has no idea what to do. And unfortunately, some of the cheaper brands, when it doesn't know what to do, it just freezes and stops. And so, your DVD or your CD just stops playing, nothing's going on, and you might hear a "Brrrrrr" like sound.

Fisher: Ooh! That's a terrible sound!

Tom: Yeah. And it doesn't know what to do, where the ones that over sample, would try and figure out, "Okay, this is what it needs to be. Here's where we need to go." Some of the smarter technology on DVD and CD players will say, "I have no clue what to do, but I'm not going to sit here. I'm going to go to the next one." Basically, if you have one that is a kind of a smart player, it'll say, "Hey, I don't know what's here. I'm going to just skip over this." You will hear kind of a "blurb" or something like that, or you'll see one if it’s a video, and it will go pass that and at least it'll keep playing on. Where the cheaper ones, you know, you're stuck. You have to hit eject, take the disk out, put it back in, etc. And in the next segment, we'll go into a little bit more detail of how you can take care of these and hopefully remove some of these scratches at home or send them in to us.

Fisher: We'll get into that, coming up next in three minutes on Extreme Genes, family history radio and ExtremeGenes.com.

Segment 5 Episode 65

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: We are back, final segment of Extreme Genes, family history radio, America's Family History Show for this week. Fisher here with Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com, the Preservation Authority, last segment, we were talking about a new discovery, some kind of new thing that you put on your disk, Tom, to make sure it’s repaired properly, it can read the light. And yet, there are other ways people can actually save their disks right now if there's a problem. Now, what are those?

Tom: The easiest, simplest thing to do of course is, send us your disks, as we can repair them. We can even do gouges that are in the back quite often.

Fisher: How is that? How do you do that?

Tom: What we do is, we have a five state sanding process, just like if you have a piece of fine furniture that has got old and has nicks in, it’s been like weathered and such, we use these five different stages of sandpaper. We can actually use six if they're really bad gouges. And what we're doing is, we're taking off the thin layers of the back side of the DVD or CD, which is side like I mentioned before where it reads from, even though the data 's towards the top, it reads it from the back. So depending how deep the scratches, we sand it down. And the best way to tell how deep your scratch is, is just use your finger. If you run your finger over it and you can just barely feel it, you know, that's usually a stage five what we call it. If you run your fingernail over it and it actually stops in the gouge, it doesn't like skip over it, that's a level six, and those are pretty bad, when those are in some game disks, especially the little Nintendo, the little round ones.

Fisher: Right.

Tom: The polycarbonate on those is so thin. We recommend you don't ever do that. When people bring those in that are gouged, what we tell the people, we say, "Hey, we can try it. If it ruins your disks, it won't play anyway. Do you want to take the gamble?" And most people say, "Well, yeah, because otherwise I throw it away."

Fisher: Right.

Tom: And we've been able to recover some. The best thing to do is send them to us and we can fix those. And people always ask what the cost is. Looking customers, it’s usually about five to ten bucks a disk, depending on how bad it is. We do them for libraries which is as little as a dollar. So, if you send us an entire spindle of fifty disks, it’s only going to be like a buck a piece, and then we'll resurface them. If you don't want to deal with that, you want to do it yourself, the biggest warning I can give to you is, DO NOT use these machines that you buy in the stores unless you know what you're doing. We get so many disks in that people have tried to do that and they've actually damaged their disk more.

Fisher: Huh!

Tom: Because what happens is they get dry, they don't use enough liquid in them, and when you're doing this thing, what it does, it kind of spins the disk around and it can actually scratch them and do more damage to it. I've had people load them in upside down accidently, totally nuked their disk.

Fisher: Ohh!

Tom: Because it got into the layer where the metallic is like tinfoil, as I refer to it, and ruined the disk. So I really recommend you don't use those. There are some good products on the market, and like this polymer that I've told you about in the first segment, within the next few weeks, it should be ready for packaging and selling coast to coast. And we'll put it on our website as well, so if you want to but that, that should work really well. One thing you always want to remember is, whenever you're cleaning a disk, start at the hole and work straight out. Don’t clean like you would a record, because what happens is, if you have a little piece of grit in there and you're doing like you would clean a record and it starts scratching and it makes a radial scratch, those ones are really, really bad, because when the laser's reading it, it’s going to read that radial scratch for a whole inch and have no idea what to do, whereas is you have that same scratch, but it’s going from the centre out, you've got this little, teeny, thin part that might take up two or three little zeros or ones. So hopefully there's going to be enough over scan in your device to go over it and read what it’s supposed to be. That's why you always want to clean it from inside out. Don't use household chemicals! The only thing I would ever use that's not specifically made to clean CDs is, you can use like dishwasher detergent, not what would go in a dish washer, but the ones that you could use hand washing dishes. And just put a little, teeny bit on that. Use a lint free cloth. Don't use Kleenex, don't use toilet paper. Don't use anything that can hold dust and such, because that will scratch your disk. So the best thing to do is, run it under a lot of water, get as much stuff off as you can, and then wash it from the inside out. And hopefully that will take care of it. Don't use toothpaste!

Fisher: Okay! [Laughs] I will not use toothpaste! He's Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com. Thanks, Tom, see you again next week.

Tom: We'll see you then.

Fisher: Thanks also to Stan Lindaas from HeritageConsulting.com, for his stories about the Great Fires of 1871, and to Jen Allen from FamilySearch.org, for filing us in on the latest with RootsTech. Talk to you again next week. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!

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