Episode 85 - Probate: And Helping Others Inherit Money From Strangers

podcast episode May 04, 2015

Fisher is at it again!  He opens the show with his latest case... identifying a birth mother through "triangulation" with DNA tests.  Sounds tricky.  How does it work?  Fisher will explain.  Then on Family Histoire News, an English couple will soon become the newlyweds with the oldest combined age ever!  Just how old are we talking?  Wait til you hear.  Then, a woman has been reunited with the mother that never gave her up 49 years ago.  How did they become separated and how did they reconnect?  It's a touching story.  Plus a 97-year-old woman has received a 125-year-old letter from her grandfather!  Fisher will explain how it turned up, what it said, and what it means to the writer's granddaughter.  
Then Jim Bratt joins the show from the Family History Research Group, Probate Genealogy Specialists.  Jim has helped tons of people inherit money, often from strangers.  His work has led him to research Nazi death camp records and other remarkable archives.  His stories will amaze you.
Stan Lindaas from HeritageConsulting.com returns to take us back to a basic... digitized newspapers.  Fisher says newspapers and DNA are the two greatest tools of our age for family history.  Hear what Stan has to say about why you need to these images and how little it can cost you.
Plus, Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com is back to talk about recovering "moldy" videos.  Possible?  It always is with Tom!  
That's all this week on Extreme Genes- America's Family History Show!

Transcript of Episode 85

Host: Scott Fisher

Segment 1 Episode 85

Fisher: Greetings genies across America! I am Fisher, the Radio Roots Sleuth and this is Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com, the program where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out. I hope your family research is progressing. I had an interesting experience this past week, helping a long time family friend identify her birth mother. She had a profile of her birth mother and her family, how many brothers and sister, even some occupations tied to the siblings, but no names. She done a DNA test, and while I knew about triangulation and how it worked, I had never actually done it before myself. Now, triangulation is where you look at the family trees of the people you match in your DNA test, and try to determine a common ancestor. Well, she had numerous third cousin matches, a fair number of second cousins, and one first cousin. What many of                          them had in common, including the first cousin, was the family name Hunsaker. Now, that didn’t mean that the birth mother was necessarily a Hunsaker, only that she was at least descended from a Hunsaker. Well, after five hours and after researching the lines of descent of the various matching cousins and using what we knew about the birth mother’s family, we were finally able to determine who my friend’s birth mother had been. The birth mother had died in 2008, but my friend learned that she had at least four half siblings. Now she has to decide what to do with this information. Introduce herself to the family or simply be satisfied with simply knowing who her birth mother was, and what her blood linage is? She even found a remarkably detailed obituary of the woman who gave birth to her back in 1959. As this develops maybe we’ll get my friend on to talk about this whole adventure, and what she’s intending to do. For now, she’s just processing the fact that she now knows what she’s wondered about her entire life. I hear from people regularly, who are looking for birth parents and this should give you hope, that one day, you too will find what you’re looking for.

Hey, I’m excited about our guests today! First up, will be a man who started his career working with probate records for division of ancestry. He eventually left there and began a company who helps people who may be in line for an inheritance from a distant, sometimes unknown relative. Now this line of work has led him to research Nazi records and have experiences that can only be called, remarkable. Jim Bratt from the Family History Research group, a Probate Genealogy Specialist, will tell us some of those stories coming up in about eight minutes. I’ll tell you from finding next of kin to a long missing murder victim, to helping people inherit money from strangers. You never know where genealogical research will take you. And, after Jim, our friend Stan Lindaas from HeritageConsulting.com returns to talk about one of the basics, digitized newspapers. What you can find, what are the big sources, and how is it growing. We’ll have all that coming up for you later in the show. So what about preserving old documents? Tom Perry our Preservation Authority from TMCPLace.com is a bottomless pit of information. You’ll undoubtedly pick up a tip or two from him at the back end of the hour.  Just a reminder, the podcasts of past Extreme Genes shows are a library of information, and hold great stories. You can listen to all of our past shows on iTunes, iHeart radio’s talk channel, and ExtremeGenes.com. and if you haven’t downloaded our free podcast app for your iPhone or Android, you need to take care of that. Just go to your phone store and punch in “Extreme Genes.”

It’s time once again for your family histoire news for this week. We begin with congratulations to England’s George Kirby and Doreen Lucky, they’re getting married in June, at which time their combined age will be, get this, 193! Yeah, today she’s 91 and he’s 102, but there’ll be a birthday somewhere in between here. That will make them the oldest newlyweds in the world, ever! You’ve got to wonder who’s going to catch the bouquet that day.  In Olivette, Missouri, the most unique reunion has taken place. Zella Jackson Price met her daughter, Melanie Diane Gilmore, for the first time. Now Zella is 76 and Melanie is 49. Melanie flew into Saint Louis, with her own daughter and son, where her brother Harvey was there to greet her, also meeting him for the first time. Now here’s what this is all about, back in 1966 at Homer G Phillips hospital in Saint Louis, Zella delivered Melanie, but Zella was told that her infant daughter had died. The only thing that’s known after that is that Melanie was adopted out certainly the victim of a kidnapping. Zella and Melanie are thrilled at the second chance to be a part of each other’s lives. It was a DNA test that brought them together. An investigation will soon be opening into just what happened in that hospital 49 years ago. In the meantime, Zella says, “There’s nothing greater than this, nothing.”

In Grand Forks North Dakota, 97 year old Molly Olsen recently received a fascinating letter from her grandfather. It was written on September 26th 1889, using perfect handwriting. The letter was sent to his fiancée in Pennsylvania, Molly’s namesake and later grandmother, Molly McFarland. Well, grandfather, named Sylvester Bessie Marshal, had moved from Pennsylvania to Emirator, North Dakota to settle the land and was begging his love to leave Pennsylvania and join him. This multi page letter was in its original envelop with a 2cents stamp. Sylvester had already waited a couple of years for Molly to join him, and he was becoming more and more anxious to see her. Molly Olsen says eventually she came. The most remarkable part of all this is how the letter came in to Molly’s hands. Well, some ten or twenty years ago in Dassel, Minnesota’s public library, a woman named Velma Jorgensen found the letter inside a book. It eventually ended up in the hands of Diane Rosenow, who is in the pursuit of some of her own family history research. Well, she tracked down Molly Olsen. Molly says she’s going to make copies of the letter for each family member of her grandfather Sylvester. She says he was the nicest old man who ever walked the earth. Wherever he went, I went with him and that’s your family histoire news for this week. Read about these and other stories on our website ExtremeGenes.com. Coming up next, you’ll hear from a man whose involvement in family history has taken him in a whole different direction in life, which has included researching the records of Nazi Germany. We’ll talk to Jim Bratt of the Family History Research Group, Probate Genealogy Specialists, next, when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com.   

Segment 2 Episode 85

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Jim Bratt

Fisher: Welcome back to Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, with Jim Bratt. He is the president, the CEO, the Grand Imperial Poobah of Probate Genealogy Specialists at the Family History Research Group. Jim, welcome to the show!

Jim: Thank you, Scott. It’s good to be here.

Fisher: Nice to have you. You know, probate is an area I think that, to those who are just getting through their beginning stages of research, and are thinking maybe there’s something there. I think there’s an education you can share that could help us out in this. Of course, everybody knows about wills and that they name the next of kin, and they can name siblings and certainly spouses, maybe even in-laws. Maybe that’s from the school of the obvious, but there’ve got to be other areas that give us information that are a bit less talked about.

Jim: Absolutely. Wills can be some of the most helpful tools of genealogy because it lists a lot of the information about the family. But, beyond that, for some of those who are out there doing genealogy a lot and feel like they’ve kind of reached the maximum amount of research that they can do on their own families. What began for me was helping other people do their genealogy work through Expert Connect, which was part of ancestry. One of the people that contacted me was a person who had a cousin who had died, and for 12 years they had been trying to solve this probate case where the inheritance had not been distributed, because the family couldn’t prove the relationship to the first cousin that they had. They contacted me and asked for my help in solving this case. For some genealogists, this is a great opportunity to help other people solve mysteries, solve cases, and receive those inheritances for the family and then get a portion of the inheritance for them.

Fisher: I actually had that happen once.

Jim: Did you?

Fisher: Yeah, got a letter one day. My wife and I went out and she said, “I’m going to go for a jog.” I said, “Well, you go do that.” I checked the mail, and I got this letter from somebody in California, “The Bureau of Missing Heirs.”

Jim: Okay.

Fisher: Addressed to my wife, but I thought she’d let me read it. [Laughs]

Jim: [Laughs]

Fisher: Because it caught my attention pretty quickly. I found out that there was somebody who had died and they had somehow determined they were related to my wife. As we got into it, the common ancestor dated back to 1786.

Jim: Oh, wow.

Fisher: And there were no relatives, and, you know, your mind is just going crazy. How much money could possibly be involved here?

Jim: Right.

Fisher: There were crazy rules that the person who inherited could be no more than 19 years old and had to overlap the life of the deceased by at least a day. And so we had to work it out with some cousins and it was like about $11-12,000 involved.

Jim: Yeah.

Fisher: So it was, you know kind of fun more than anything else.

Jim: Right. In most cases, when somebody dies without a will, it’s called intestate, and in those cases, the money goes to the state. They’re kind of like overseers of that money until somebody comes forward and says, “Yes, I am an heir. I am a relative.” Then they proceed to claim and then make proof of that claim through the court system. In New York it would be called a Surrogate’s Court.

Fisher: Right.

Jim: The attorneys get involved, those that attack the rights of those who are unknown heirs, and also the state, to make sure that they’re taken care of, making sure that they don’t give the money to somebody who it rightfully doesn’t belong to. So they protect it and then the Guardian ad litem, who protects the rights of those who are unknown heirs, maybe even adopted heirs or something to that effect. They protect those rights. Then you have the attorneys for those who think they are correct heirs and they present their case before these referees, or the judge, or the Guardian ad litem and the public administrator’s office. And it’s really interesting to go to the court and see this procedure, and see all the cases as they unfold. There’s interesting cases such as, in New York, right now there’s Roman Bloom, who is a holocaust survivor. He was also a real estate developer in Staten Island and he had millions of dollars when he died. He had over 40 million dollars, hence, the largest estate that the state of New York has ever seen.

Fisher: You mean as far as not having anybody to give it to?

Jim: Right. So the state had to go and make sure that they did the genealogy research to find out his ancestry and they hired several different companies to do the research, and none of them could find any heirs. Then, one or two people came forward and said, “Oh yeah, we have a will for this person.” Well, some of these claims are really outlandish.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Jim: But then this one is really interesting. Before he died, he had sent the letter to his girlfriend that he knew before the war started, and they were separated. He was going to marry her, but because of the war, they got separated. Her family, I think, went to Russia. He got sent to the concentration camps, and, he had wanted to leave something for this girlfriend of his. She also had a child with him, but, they weren’t married, and so he wrote a will. Wrote all this in a love letter back to her, and I think she lived in Poland at the time, and with the will, his desire for her to receive everything when he died. So now this housekeeper who is in this woman’s will, she is now going to the court saying, “I’ve got the will of this man who died and the lady who hired me as her housekeeper, she put me in her will to receive her inheritance.”

Fisher: [Laughs]

Jim: And so now, this person, this housekeeper, is going to eventually receive all this 40 million dollars.

Fisher: Oh my goodness. You know, the thing that’s always frightening is that, the kind of money that ruins people’s lives.

Jim: Oh yeah.

Fisher: One way or another.

Jim Bratt: I’ve had...

Fisher: Although I think we’d all take the risk.

Jim: Absolutely. I did have one person that turned down an inheritance. He was about in his 90s, and he said, “I’m just too old to receive this money. I really don’t know what to do with it. So I don’t want anything to do with it.” And some of them have a little bit of a feeling like, if they take the money, they might be cursed for taking that money, and so there’s that, you know, little bit of a reluctance on some of the people’s part. But most of the people are very, very happy to hear from me when I tell them, you know, you have an inheritance coming to you.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Jim: Here’s the situation. Most cases, nine times out of ten, it’d say “contingency fee” just like the lawyer who would.

Fisher: Sure.

Jim: Take your case charges a contingency fee. Typically around the industry, it’s very typical, 30 to 40 percent of the inheritance. And that includes the cost of the lawyer.

Fisher: Sure.

Jim: The attorney we hire to plead the case before the heir.

Fisher: And really there’s a lot of proof that has to go into this with the courts. It has to be pretty much undeniable.

Jim: It does.

Fisher: I mean, beyond any doubt.

Jim: You have to have great documentation, eye witnesses. If you can provide friends, neighbours, third-party witnesses.

Fisher: Support.

Jim: That don’t have anything to do with the case, those are strong cases. For instance, this last case that we worked on in New York, we had the doorman of the apartment building where the deceased lived, and he knew her for 20 years. He had been the doorman for that long of a period of time. And she had been there for a long, long time. And he knew her well, and he was able to testify in court. And then we had like a 93 year old friend of hers who was very close and they partied a lot, and the two of them even ran a house, staying, when a fire broke out and they had to be rescued. And the newspaper wrote a story about it.

Fisher: Wow!

Jim: And this lady...

Fisher: [Laughs]

Jim: She came to New York from Palm Springs, Florida, and testified in court to plead the case.

Fisher: Now what’s the most money you’ve ever dealt with in terms of inheritance?

Jim: The Bloom case I worked on a little bit with those that were working on it. But the current case that I do have right now is a 4.2 million dollar case.

Fisher: Is that a significant, unusual amount?

Jim: It is. Most of the cases tend to be about a million to $500,000. Even a case like $250,000 doesn’t seem like a lot, but if there’s not very many heirs.

Fisher: That can be a nice thing.

Jim: Yeah.

Fisher: Yeah.

Jim: On this holocaust victim, the first one that I did was only about 250,000 after the state and all the attorneys took all their fees. It probably was a $500,000 case to begin with, but you know, 250,000 split between two heirs was basically all it was. That was a lot of money.

Fisher: Sure.

Jim: And this one was a 93 year old woman survivor from the holocaust. She was living in Sweden, and she was wonderful. Very, very alert, very energetic. I was amazed by her testimony. It gave great information about the holocaust and what they went through at the beginning of the holocaust before they all got split up.

Fisher: Wow.

Jim: She and her husband actually got sent to a work camp where they made glass. They didn’t see each other for the entire war. She thought her husband was killed on the death march. And then six months later, after the war ended, she was in a hospital in Sweden and she got a phone call. Well, all the women on that floor all went to the office to see what was going on, you know, because nobody got phone calls very often. And here she was, she’s talking, and it’s her husband on the other side of the phone. He tells her, “I’m alive. I’m still in Germany.” It took him six months to get to Sweden and get re-joined together with the two of them. And, it was just a beautiful story of how they survived the entire holocaust. We researched a lot of the Nazi records that had holocaust victim information that showed different death records for some of the other cousins that had died during the holocaust. It was just...

Fisher: Wow! This had to be the most consuming thing for you.

Jim: It was. It took about two years to finally complete in the court room. It helped me to get a better understanding of what the holocaust was.

Fisher: He’s Jim Bratt; he’s with the Family History Research Group, Probate Genealogy Specialists. Fascinating stuff, Jim! You know, you never know where genealogy is going to take you, and family history. And, you’ve been on world-wide adventures through time and space.

Jim: I have. And this has been an enjoyable adventure.

Fisher: Thanks for coming on.

Jim: I appreciate it.

Fisher: And coming up next in five minutes, our good friend Stan Lindaas from HeritageConsulting.com, talking about one of the basics, digitized newspapers. What kind of nuggets in your family history are waiting for you there? He’ll tell you and he’ll have some great examples I’m sure, on the way in minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show!

Segment 3 Episode 85

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Stan Lindaas

Fisher: Hey, welcome back to Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, the Radio Roots Sleuth with my good friend, a regular on the show, Stan Lindaas from HeritageConsulting.com. Welcome back, Stan. Good to see you.

Stan: It's good to be back, Fish.

Fisher: And you know... Digitized newspapers, we've talked about this from the beginning and several times through, but you know, the reality is we all need to be reminded about some of these fundamentals, because there is no better source for stories anywhere than digitized newspapers and they're just hidden there waiting for you.

Stan: As we were talking before, it's not unlike me as a child, and my mother having to constantly tell me over and over again do something or how to do something. But as a professional, even, I work in the field every day, and I get a little bit tunnel visioned where I will do certain things to the exclusion of other resources that I know are there, that I've used over and over again. All of us do that, so.

Fisher: I think so.

Stan: I think you're right about needing to revisit and be reminded of certain basic resources that are just a gold mine of information and a treasure trove of stories.

Fisher: You know, I had a friend of mine talking to me casually one day about his background up in Canada, and I thought, "I'm going to go see what I can find for him." And the first thing I did was I popped the names in Google and it brought up Canadian newspaper sites.

Stan: Yes

Fisher: Their names were in there, just through a Google search. So I came back later to his home and I shared some of these stories from his own childhood, his parents, his grandparents from Calgary, Canada. And I said, "Take a look at that." And he says, "Oh! Where did you go to find these?" And I said, "A very little known site called Google."

Stan: Yeah.

Fisher: And that's a great starting point just to find digitized newspapers.

Stan: For anything.

Fisher: For anything, yes.

Stan: For anything and everything. You may think oh, you know, I need to be looking in all of these records, but there are times when... Well, virtually on every case I do, I put names and places into Google, just to see what pops up. Why Wouldn't I?

Fisher: Right.

Stan: I mean it's a freebie, for crying out loud.

Fisher: It's a starting point. Others may have given you some information, maybe they haven't documented it the way you want.

Stan: Yeah.

Fisher: But, newspaper stories come up on there. Google has their own digitized newspapers that they're collecting.

Stan: They do. And they're constantly adding to them. Now there are a multitude of sites that specialize in newspapers. There's Genealogy Bank, there's Newspaper Archives, there's Newspapers.com, there's Google.

Fisher: There's FultonHistory.com

Stan: Yes, exactly.

Fisher: For New York, especially.

Stan: And they may have duplicated their efforts in some cases, but in every one of these, they each have something that the others do not.

Fisher: That's right.

Stan: And you need to look at a multitude of these sources. Even going back to your Google in Canada thing, I have an ancestor by the name of William Brown, and he had a sister, Elizabeth, they were from Scotland. They came to Canada in the 1700s. You know, I'm thinking I'll never find out where they came from in Scotland. For heaven's sakes! William Brown? Give me a break.

Fisher: Yeah, right. [Laughs]

Stan: Give me a break. Oh, by the way, he married a Marry White.

Fisher: Oh boy!

Stan: I mean, yeah. I looked and I looked and looked for William, and I just, out of curiosity, went to Google and I put in Newspapers in Ontario, and there was an obituary for the sister. It was a three liner. Basically a death announcement as opposed to an obituary, and in it, it provided the exact place of birth in Scotland.

Fisher: Oh.

Stan: For the sister. I would've never found it.

Fisher: Right.

Stan: Never ever found it. Now, having said that, I have since discovered while in Scotland, that I probably would have looked for it for a long time because the place is completely gone. The village doesn't exist anymore.

Fisher: Wow!

Stan: So, anyway.

Fisher: But still.

Stan: But still.

Fisher: Do the records exist there?

Stan: Yeah, there are records there. I mean, they were kept in. It was a gateway to more information.

Fisher: That's right.

Stan: I mean, I'm back five or six more generations in Scotland because I went to this newspaper.

Fisher: And what I love about it even more than just gathering more vital material about it is the information about them. Some of the stories are hysterical. You know, keep in mind that people do not write newspaper stories because they're everyday things. And although there's a lot of that too, especially in the smaller towns, but the unusual stuff, it just absolutely blows your mind. Now here's one story that I came across a few years ago. My wife's great, great grandfather, we were warned when we first started in the 80s, my mother in law said, "Oh, you don't want to do that. We've just got a bunch of cattle thieves and rustlers back there." We had a cattle thief and rustler back there. He was a guy, he was a big time rancher in Indiana, and it turns out that he ran off with the wife of a ranch hand, a young wife... Left his wife and 9 children behind, and defrauded a bank out of like $10,000 - $20,000 worth of Steer and then sold those before he'd paid for them, took the money from that, changed his name and moved with the woman to another state, where he was found living under his mother's maiden name, which was Turner.

So he went from Thomas Stout to Thomas Turner. Brought back to Indiana, where he was shamed, basically, never faced any kind of prosecution, nothing. I can't find anything where he served any time or no, he had to pay the money back. Promised he'd pay the money back and then he had to go face his wife, which was probably a sentence enough [Laughs] And then when he died, this is the thing that blew my mind is that we get into the papers years later, there's his obituary. Talks about how well respected he had been in the community for decades, and never ever went into the background of his running off with this other woman and defrauding the bank and stealing the cattle.

Stan: It's amazing what you can discover. All those grand things like your story about the cattle thief and other nefarious things.

Fisher: Yes.

Stan: Mostly that's what you find when it's a big story. But like you said before, in the rural areas you get the everyday stuff. My second great grandfather Alfred Abbotsford, he shows up in the newspaper, he was kind of a shaky guy anyway, a whole 'nother story, and I've told it before, I think. But in this particular case he shows up in the newspaper, and it says dear Alfred would be proud to speak with anyone about his hen which had laid an egg.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Stan: Well, you know, you can stop there, but you go, "Is this really news worthy?" Well, I guess the egg measured almost 8 inches around one way and 7 inches the other. I'm thinking Alfred probably had friend chicken for dinner.

Fisher: Hmm.

Stan: But, you know, another one I discovered, a year before great grandfather got married he convinced his brother that they should take violin lessons.

Fisher: Who knew?

Stan: I had no idea.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Stan: I didn't know any of us had.

Fisher: And that was in the paper?

Stan: Oh yeah. And then subsequent to that, within the year you see them showing up as providing music at this wedding or this social event or something of that nature. There's no telling what you're going to find in there. Obviously we think of newspapers and obituaries. One obituary for one of my ancestors I discovered seven additional children that I had no idea that even existed.

Fisher: Wow!

Stan: Yeah. Newspapers are a great resource. Not to mention, its fun to discover that bread cost 52 cent, or whatever.

Fisher: [Laughs] Yes.

Stan: I mean, you can get distracted really easily in the newspapers.

Fisher: And we should mention here too that I think a lot of people here has talked about some of this and you just hear the price tag rolling up in your head, and it's like, "Oh, the cost of another subscription." And this one, there are a lot of freebies out there.

Stan: Yes.

Fisher: There even some where you can get in and you can get a free week or two with it.

Stan: Yep.

Fisher: And let me tell you, with a week or two free, you can get through a lot of information.

Stan: You can lose a lot of sleep, but get a lot done.

Fisher: You really can. So it's available, like we mentioned, in New York, FultonHistory.com is run by a guy who doesn't take any advertising, it's purely a service. He has more newspaper pages than the Library of Congress on that site.

Stan: Yeah. And in addition to that, you can go to libraries or family history centres, and they have access to subscription sites that may be different from the public library having their subscription site access than what you have at a family history centre. You can get to newspapers for free. If you have problems with doing it online, you can still go to your public library and tell the librarian, "I want to order a microfilm of the newspaper for this town, for this time period." And you can get the microfilm, go back to the library, sit down, take your time cranking through it, and have a time of your life flying back in the time machine.

Fisher: It's exactly what it is. I don't think there's any more fun source than digitized newspapers.

Stan: Oh yeah. I'm with you.

Fisher: Great reminder, Stan! Stan Lindaas from HeritageConsulting.com, appreciate having you in again. Tom Perry coming up next, our Preservation Authority, answering more of your questions when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 4 Episode 85

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: Hey, welcome back to Extreme Genes, family history radio, ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, with our Preservation Authority. He's Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com. Welcome back, Tom.

Tom: Good to be back.

Fisher: Good to see you. We've got more questions that have been emailed to [email protected]. Lian Long, writing from Michigan, asks, "On last week's show, I heard about storing VHS tapes. I have several that I can see that looks like white mold on the edges of the tape. Can they be cleaned or transferred to a DVD?" Yikes Tom!

Tom: Yes and yes.

Fisher: Okay.

Tom: Absolutely! We can do both. We actually have an industrial tape cleaner made for VHS tapes that we can run it through. And if for some reason the mold is too bad, we have another option. In fact, we had somebody, we'll I guess about six months ago, that had about fifty tapes that had kind of been in a flood. The box that they were in was all wet. It got mold spores inside the video tapes and you could see the white mold. They were really too bad to actually go through our cleaner. So what we did is, we found a VHS tape at Goodwill and purchased that, brought it in, tied it into our system and then just ran all the tapes through.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Tom: Because the problem is, the spores in the mold will get in your heads eventually, and then they will transfer to all the other tapes.

Fisher: You've got be kidding me! Wow!

Tom: Oh yeah! It's just like a disease. You put it in there, it'll get on the next tape, it'll grow, and it's just like an infection.

Fisher: So what do you do to keep this from happening in the future?

Tom: Well, the best thing to do so you don't get that on your tapes anymore is, we suggest you get some uncooked rice. Please make sure it’s uncooked! [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs] Uncooked.

Tom: I've heard of people just thinking, "Oh, rice!" and they cooked up some rice and did this.

Fisher: No! [Laughs]

Tom: It must be uncooked rice. You get cheesecloth and wrap the rice in that. It doesn't matter how much you put in, the more the merrier.

Fisher: Okay.

Tom: And then just tie with a string or something. You don't want to use a rubber band, because rubber band eventually will dry out and crack. So just you know, get some string and tie around it, or one of those little clips that come with a loaf of bread.

Fisher: Ziploc? Would that work?

Tom: No, this needs to go inside a Ziploc bag.

Fisher: Okay.

Tom: So a zip tie would work, just something to hold the cheesecloth with the uncooked rice. And then put that inside a Ziploc bag with the tapes. And that will help to absorb any moisture. Just check from time to time, whenever they're starting to get gooey at all you know, any moisture you know that's in there, throw them away and put some more in there.

Fisher: And this really depends on what part of the country you live in and how humid it is I would assume.

Tom: Generally, but like even places like out west where it’s drier. If you have like, a lot of people out there have these things they call "fruit rooms.” And they get so cold; it causes condensation, even though it’s kind of the desert area. So I suggest, you know, any place, just put it in. It’s not that big of a deal. This way, you won't get the mold spores. If you do, like I say, pick up a VCR at Goodwill, we'll transfer all the tapes and then throw the VCR away when we're done.

Fisher: Okay, we've got another one here from Fred Meyers. All right, it’s spelt different in the grocery store. It's from Memphis, Tennessee. He writes, "Why should we keep optical things like slides and film like you suggested? They are what they are. And how could new technology later make them better?"

Tom: Okay. The way it is, is the resolution. The actual scanning process which we use has a higher, let's call it dpi or megapixels, so it actually can pull out and extrapolate things that the old couldn't see. For instance, my father had a whole bunch of old 8mm tapes; thank heavens he didn't throw them away! Some of the pictures are so dark; all you could see was silhouettes. When we shot it in high definition, we were able to pull out enough information that you can actually make out faces and stuff. So don't even just throw it away just because it’s too dark.

Fisher: Oh wow!

Tom: We might be able to pull it out. And you know, five years from now or maybe even a year from now, we can do better.

Fisher: All right, great question, Fred. Thanks for that. And of course, if you have a question for Tom, you can email him at [email protected]. And coming up next, we're going to talk more about home videos, because every week we find out they're dying, they're going away, coming up next on Extreme Genes, family history radio and ExtremeGenes.com.

Segment 5 Episode 85

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: You have found us, Extreme Genes, family history radio, ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your congenial Radio Roots Sleuth with Tom Perry. He is our Preservation Authority from TMCPlace.com. And for the last little bit, we've been kicking around, Tom, these videos that we all took back in the 1990s, the 1980s even and the early part of this century. And we're seeing that there are a lot of problems happening here that I don't think anybody ever anticipated when these things first came out.

Tom: One of the biggest problems is just particles. It’s just kind of falling off the polyester binding that's on them and it’s caused from heat, humidity it’s just from playing the tape.

Fisher: And so we're seeing that with these old tapes, there're various things though that are kind of unique to each type of tape you may have, right?

Tom: Correct. Absolutely!

Fisher: So let's start with the earliest stuff which would be the VHS, I assume?

Tom: Right. VHS and betamax were the first consumer ones. They had 3/4 before that, but that was mostly professional. Betamax was so much superior to VHS, but unfortunately Sony kind of shot themselves in the foot. They wouldn't license the technology to anybody unless they jump through Sony's hoops, where JVC, they had VHS would license anybody. They would send them a check.

Fisher: Right. [Laughs]

Tom: And so, because there were so many machines out there, the prices came down more and more and more. So people thought, "Wow, this one deck is $200. This other one's only $125, I'll go with VHS." Not knowing that betamax is so much better. And the tapes fall apart. Now one of the things with VHS too that people really get confused with, there's also a smaller VHS format called VHSC, which is totally compatible with VHS. You can get a little adapter, put your VHSC in it and play it on your VHS machines. And the reason that JVC came out with that is to kind of combat the Hi8 tapes that came out. They were smaller, more compact to make smaller cameras. Because if you remember the old ones, the camera and the deck were two separate pieces, and they were heavy, they were bulky, they were just a pain, so, Sony released the Regular 8s, the Hi8 and the Digital8s which we'll get back to in just a minute. And so, JVC came out with the VHSC to kind of, you know, fight them. We have people coming in all the time to say, "Hey, I've got this video 8, I need an adapter so I can watch my VHS machine because I know they make them." No, they DON'T make them. If you look at VHS, Hi8, mini DVD, betamax, all these, look at it, its different countries and different languages. They don't talk to each other. Whereas with VHS, it’s still like, say, like America, but its different parts of America, so they're still totally compatible with each other. When you get into SVHS, which was a better format for VHS which is a little bit more professional, VHS tape will play in it and a VHSC will play in it, but you cannot play a VHS tape in a VHS machine. So if somebody made a professional thing of your kids playing football or soccer or dance club and says, SVHS and it won't play on your machine. Don't worry about it. Bring it in to us or send it in to us and we can transfer it to a DVD for you, because we have the equipment.

Fisher: So, all of this stuff though, ultimately you've got to get digitized, right?

Tom: Oh exactly! Its dying, you know. And in fact, I tell people, "Get your stuff in. Get it transferred or color corordinate, because then you're going to have to pick up your tapes and dispose of them."

Fisher: So at the end of the day, Tom, if somebody goes to their local version of you, whatever that may be, what kind of cost can they expect to incur dealing with these different types of tapes?

Tom: It depends. It’s really inexpensive. You can get it for as little as eighteen dollars, all the way up depending on what you're going for. If your tape's in good condition, you don't need anything special. Most of the outlets that we work with that  we do their transfers for them usually are about twenty to twenty four dollars, but sometimes they run specials for as little as $17.95. But you can go onto our website, and if we have a location closer to you, you can take it in to them, or just order a box from us, we'll send you everything you need, the GPS tracker, send it in to us and we'll get it transferred for you.

Fisher: What are you memories worth, right?

Tom: Oh exactly! And I tell people, I say, "You come in, and you buy your kids for Christmas a widescreen TV you paid $500 for. Five years from now, they won't remember that TV, but they will remember your tapes." And a lot of people that come in, they say they're the best babysitters in the world. Grandkids love watching mommy and daddy when they were little kids. And, it’s better than SpongeBob!

Fisher: [Laughs] Great stuff! Tom Perry thanks for joining us.

Tom: Good to be here.

Fisher: Hey, thanks once again to Stan Lindaas from HeritageConsulting.com with a great reminder about how important a resource digitized newspapers are these days. And to Jim Bratt from the Family History Research Group, talking about Probate Genealogy, what that might mean to you some day when a stranger passes and passes their money on to you! Catch 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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