Episode 381 – Benedictine Monk on his Worldwide Adventures to Save Historic Writings / Forensic Genealogy and Probate RecordsJun 19, 2021
Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. The guys begin with Fisher’s recent experience that CANNOT be explained! Catch what happened. Then, David shares good news for adoptees in Connecticut. Then, in neighboring Rhode Island a host of new records have been shared online by the state. Hear what you can now find! Who knew that there was still more to explore and excavate at Plymouth Colony. Find out about the latest dig. An underwater explorer has done great work in bringing closure to families who lost loved ones in World War 2 in several sunken submarines. Hear what he has done. Finally, a Massachusetts man has quite a new chapter in his personal history. He was literally swallowed by a whale and lived to tell about it!
Next, Fisher visits with Father Columba Stewart, a Benedictine monk who has traveled the world on a mission to preserve the historic writings of mankind in places subject to war and natural disasters. Wait til you hear some of the things he has endured in his quest!
Then, Jacqueline Tritsche from our sponsors at Legacy Tree Genealogists talks about forensic genealogy, working to connect estates with descendants.
At the back end, David returns for Ask Us Anything.
That’s all this week on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show!
Transcript for Episode 381
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Segment 1 Episode 381
Fisher: And welcome America to America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes, and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth on the program where we shake your family tree, and watch the nuts fall out. Who do we have for your today? Oh, we’ve got some good guests today. I’m going to be talking to father Columba Stewart here coming up in about ten minutes. This is the guy we mentioned a couple of weeks ago who was traveling the world preserving the written word. And he’s been in firefights, he’s been in buildings that were ravished by earthquakes, he’s got an amazing story to tell and you’re going to want to hear it coming up. And then later in the show we’re going to talk to a friend from our sponsors at Legacy Tree Genealogists Jacqueline Tritsch. She’s a forensic genealogist and talks about using genealogy in probate cases. Yes, you can make money when you find that you’re related to somebody way back when. Hey, if you haven’t signed up for our Weekly Genie Newsletter yet, we invite you to do so at ExtremeGenes.com or on our Facebook page. You get a blog from me each week, you get links to past and present shows, you get links to stories you’ll be fascinated by as a genealogist, and it’s free. So, why don’t you do it? We’d love to have you. Right now, out to New England and Boston Massachusetts where inside the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org David Allen Lambert the Chief Genealogist is standing by. David, you guys are open. I love this.
David: Very, very exciting to be back in town, literally. So, if you’re interested in coming to our library, go to AmericanAncestors.org and you can setup an appointment and we hope to see you sometime soon.
Fisher: And David, I love the idea of travel right now. I’ve been doing a little of it. I went to San Diego here a couple of weeks ago and took in a couple of major league baseball games. Watched my Mets lose two games, but I didn’t care. I was with people. We were outside. We were having fun. But I was staying with a cousin in San Diego and a strange thing happened. And Hank Jones, who wrote the Psychic Roots books, would appreciate this.
Fisher: So, I go to visit my cousin and when I get there, he’s got the book that I wrote about the family, my mother’s side of the family, in 1987. He’s got it sitting out. And I went to thumb through it while we were chatting and noticed that he had a bunch of photographs in there that had been photocopied. I think most of them from my mother who had sent them out and they were pictures of the family. And one was a picture of our common uncle who was in the Navy during World War II when he was in his Navy uniform, and I’d never seen this picture of him before. And so my cousin Danny says, “Yeah, I’ve known that picture all my life.” And I thought boy, I’d like to get a good digital copy of the original. You don’t want to use a photocopy in black and white from the ‘90s, you know? So, we visited throughout lunch and we’re talking, and we hadn’t seen each other in years and years, and in the midst of this, I get a text from another cousin in Oregon who had no idea who I was with, no idea where I was, he was visiting his brother and he’s a cousin to my cousin as well. And he sends a photograph of my Navy uncle from his graduating class of 1935 and says, “Hey, look what my brother has” and then he sent this other picture, the same picture that was in the book and said, “Hey, are you putting this in your next book on the family?” And I’m looking at this going, “You got to be kidding me! I had been researching for 40 years. I’ve never seen the picture in my life. I see a photocopy at eleven in the morning and by one o’clock I have a digital copy on my phone from cousin in Oregon of an original. I couldn’t believe it.
David: It’s amazing.
Fisher: Isn’t that nuts? So, I dropped a note to Hank Jones and he said, “Hey, if I ever do a volume three of Psychic Roots, that story’s going in there.” [Laughs]
David: That’s amazing. Well, speaking of Connecticut, I have a first story for you and this is really going to help out people in their genealogical work especially if you’ve been adopted. The city of Connecticut now has its July 1st, 2021, if you are at least 18 years of age or older, you can apply for your original birth record.
Fisher: Oh this is great news. So, they’re following just what New York did a couple of years ago. That’s great!
David: Speaking of things from New England, the state of Rhode Island has now digitized, not indexed, all of the Rhode Island birth, marriages, and deaths from 1853 to 1920 and they are now available online from the state of Rhode Island.
Fisher: That’s great. And it’s free!
David: That is always the price is right. [Laughs] You know, I’ll tell you, the story of Plymouth commemoration from last year is not getting old and neither are the new historians. There’s a dig at Cole’s Hill. You may have seen this before if you’ve ever been to Plymouth Massachusetts and stood in front of Plymouth Rock, the hill that juts out behind you is a historic site and has been known for occupation between the Wampanoag Indians as well as the first burial spot of the Pilgrim Fathers who died the first winter. So, they don’t know what they’re going to find, and there’s going to be a historical park that’s being built there. So far, some pottery has been found, some animal bones, but no human bones yet. So, stay tuned for that story. You know, I always love digging into history but when people can dig into the stories of people who have died. Especially during World War II, that really always touches by heart. Now that story on Extreme Genes of the five located sunken World War II subs, wow! That’s amazing.
Fisher: Yeah, this is great stuff, brings a lot of closure to people who lost those submariners during the war.
David: You know the researcher, Kim Taylor who was involved in the story got in touch with relatives of the victims because apparently there was never ever a funeral. And back in 2011 when they started to locate a couple of these subs, he got in touch with them. So, he’s brought closure for a lot of families who may have never known that the subs are actually discovered. You know, we always love our family stories when you get that whale tale that someone tells you.
David: Well, there’s a 56-year-old man in Massachusetts who does have a whale tale story. Michael Packard is now recovering at the Cape Cod hospital after being swallowed by a humpback whale.
David: Yes, it’s a true Jonah in the whale story. This guy is a commercial lobster diver and he thought he was going to be attacked by a great white shark and thought it was over. And then, he wiggled around in the darkness for about 30 seconds and as he said, the whale spat him out. He got bruised. No broken bones. And he has all his parts still connected. So, there’s a whale of a tale that ended well.
Fisher: Wow! What an amazing thing.
Fisher: All right David. Great! And coming up next, one of the most fascinating interviews we’ve ever had on Extreme Genes. We’re going to talk to a Benedictine monk who travels the world seeking to preserve the written word. You’re going to want to hear from father Columba Stewart coming up next when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 2 Episode 381
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Father Columba Stewart
Fisher: You know, I’m always looking for interesting people to bring you on Extreme Genes, and once in a while you run across a story and you say, “That’s going to be a good get” and we’ve got him for you today. He’s father Columba Stewart, and you may have noticed on ExtremeGenes.com a couple of weeks ago we shared a story with you from Smithsonian about this Benedictine monk who travels the world in trying to preserve the ancient writings from all over the world. And father Columba, welcome to Extreme Genes. I’m just thrilled to have you.
Father Columba: Thank you very much Scott. I’m delighted to be with you.
Fisher: So, you’ve been a Benedictine monk since your 20s I assume?
Father Columba: That’s correct.
Fisher: And then what then brought you into this idea of preserving the books and the records of the world?
Father Columba: I wish I could say it was my idea, but it wasn’t.
Father Columba: The project that I’m director of now the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library was actually started as a project of our modest era, the 1960s. And the idea back then time of the Cold War, was to go to Europe and microfilm manuscripts in monasteries that might be at risk if there were a World War III. And some of your listeners who remember those times know that we thought that there might be a nuclear war in Europe.
Fisher: Oh yes.
Father Columba: And we Benedictines were worried we’d lose our libraries.
Fisher: What kind of records are in these libraries? I know there’s books. There are manuscripts. I would assume you may have some scrolls. What kind of material is written on these?
Father Columba: You know, it’s changed from place to place. So, that initial mission in Europe was focused on Latin, handwritten books so, copies of Bibles theological writing, liturgical books, the sort of standard type books you’ve expect to find in a monastery. But very soon we got involved in places like the Island of Malta, which has a very interesting history as the cross roads to the Mediterranean, and lots of really interesting archival material. Letters, records, legal documents, and things like that.
Fisher: Um hmm.
Father Columba: So, over the years as we’ve moved from Europe to places like Ethiopia, other countries in Africa, the Middle East, and now South Asia. We generally looked for, again, books, literary text of some kind. Although, once you get into places like South Asia, they’re not in book form. They’re written on little pieces of palm leaves that are all strung together, kind of like a Phoenician blind, and so we adapt our techniques and our cataloguing to the particular handwritten materials of that culture.
Fisher: Now, I know you’ve recently been in Nepal dealing with records and documents there that were affected by an earthquake in the not too distant past. And that building isn’t particularly safe. Were you able to actually deal with extracting those records out of that building?
Father Columba: You know what’s remarkable, Scott, in all of these places where we work, whether it’s natural disaster, or it’s war, or it’s some other type of catastrophe, communities are incredibly good at holding on to what is most important to them and making sure that these materials are safe, even at great personal cost to the people who care for them. So, fortunately, in Nepal there was a lot of damage to buildings, but the actual libraries were preserved.
Fisher: And you were able to get in there and rescue these. Let’s just talk about some of these challenges that you were just mentioning. You’ve been in Iraq. You’ve been held in a situation with gunfire going on all around you. Talk about that, because you had just landed as I understand it.
Father Columba: So, we tend to go these days to places which have manuscript collections, which we think are either endangered or are functionally inaccessible and the scholars can’t go look at the stuff so they need to rely on the digital photos. So, this takes us to places which are either coming out of a conflict situation or going into a conflict situation, or maybe teetering on the edge of some kind of political collapse, or economic crises. So, you mentioned Iraq, we’ve done a lot of work in West Africa in the country of Mali. That’s where we had an incident up in Timbuktu where we had gone to start a new project. First visit, brand new project, and we were sort of in the wrong place at the wrong time. And a group of the local jihadists attacked a United Nation’s military installation next to the place where we were staying. And we got pinned down by that gunfight for several hours until we could be rescued by the UN troops. But we went back a few months later. We were successful in getting the project going and we recently wrapped it up. So, there’s an element of chance in risk, but there’s also the importance of perseverance and partnering with these local communities.
Fisher: Sure. So, you also had an incident where you narrowly escaped ISIS coming in and destroying all the documents.
Father Columba: So, that actually was our partner in Iraq, Father Najeeb Michaeel who’s now the archbishop of Mosul at the Chaldean Catholic Church.
Father Columba: And he was the one who had a sense, just like our partners in Mali had a sense before they had their crises in 2012 that something was in the air. And so, Father Najeeb was able to move a very important set of manuscripts away from the path of ISIS, which your listeners may remember back in the summer of 2014 seemed to come from nowhere.
Father Columba: And conquer Mosul, and then later in the summer march through all these villages between Mosul and the Kurdish capital of Irbil. Many villages, which are historically ancient Christian villages, all of which had manuscripts, some were lost, most were saved, and that’s thanks to the efforts of people like Father Najeeb.
Fisher: Wow…unbelievable. So, when you started out with this, you were microfilming, as most people were 20 some odd years ago, and then you flipped into digitization. Tell me about the process. How do you manage these books, who does this digitization process, and how much time does it take say, to do just one book?
Father Columba: We switched to digital technology in 2003. We wanted to wait until it was solid, that the image quality was as good as the microfilm.
Father Columba: And we’ve never looked back. Full color images. They’re spectacular. So, one of the important principles of our work is that the actual work of photographing the manuscripts is always done by local people, members of the communities to whom the manuscripts belong.
Father Columba: So, we provide equipment, we go and train the people, we provide technical support, and we pay the workers for that actual process of digitization. Now, how long does it take? It’s actually pretty fast. You can do fairly that handwritten book in about a day. The slow part is not taking the picture. The slow part is cataloguing.
Father Columba: Describing what’s in the book so that when we put it online people can actually find what they want. And that’s a laborious process. We have a team of experts located around the world who work on the digital images and create the descriptions for our website.
Fisher: In the past, I would imagine being Catholic would be a challenge with working with people of other religions. Do you find now that those walls have kind of broken down as you’ve gone about preserving all the records of all the different groups and cultures?
Father Columba: To be honest, it has not been a problem. And if anything, it has been an advantage because a Benedictine monk is the sort of incarnation of not for profit, right? So, they know that our interests are really truly humanitarian and intellectual.
Fisher: Um hmm.
Father Columba: We don’t work with them with a religious agenda. We’re not there to try to convert them. We witness who we are and witness who they are, and we reach across our differences in faith and religious practice, united in the effort to preserve what human beings historically thought was worth writing down.
Fisher: What’s your oldest record that you’ve salvaged?
Father Columba: Oh, let’s see, over the years we have photographed some pieces of papyrus, which might date from just before or just after the time of Christ. Actual handwritten books, complete books, we have some from 6th and 7th centuries. Those are few that’s simply because there are very few of them anyway. Most of the manuscripts that we’ve photographed in Europe would be from the Middle Ages and the other countries, some are that old and remarkably enough, some of them are as recent as 25 years ago in parts of the world where people kept making manuscripts because they didn’t have printed copies of the text they loved.
Fisher: So, I was reading about how some of the people who put together these ancient books and manuscripts actually had a way to prevent bugs from destroying their records, basically insect repellent. Tell me a little about this.
Father Columba: That’s a really interesting thing that we find in a lot of these traditional cultures that before things like moth balls and modern insecticides, traditional cultures knew that certain sorts of spices or certain sorts of dried herbs and things would repel insects. And so often, for example, you find in places like India, in a way they kind of embalm the manuscript with spices and herbs that they know will protect them. So, they wrap them in cloth, which has been treated with these traditional cures or remedies. They’ll include spices and herbs in places where they keep the manuscripts. And all that is what they’ve learned is necessary to protect them.
Fisher: Wow! I have never heard of that or considered the possibility. But you do have to wonder how some of these things would have been preserved for so many centuries or thousands of years as the case may be. So, as you look forward, where do you see yourself going next? You’ve been to Kathmandu, you’ve been to Iraq, you’ve been to the Balkans, the Himalayans, you’ve met the Pope, is he aware of your efforts?
Father Columba: He is aware of our efforts. I normally meet him in the context of ecumenical dialogue that I’m involved in. But we always make a point of reminding him of what we do and ask him for his prayers. So, where are we going next? We have our eyes on countries in central Asia, and some of them have a very rich manuscript culture, which is part of the spread of Persian thoughts from the Middle East all the way through Afghanistan and into Pakistan and India. And we’d love to retrace the Silk Road and what we might find along it. So, that’s going to be on our agenda for 2022.
Fisher: Wow! He’s Father Columba Stewart. He’s a Benedictine monk based in Minnesota but I suspect you don’t spend a whole lot of time there. Do Benedictine monks ever wear a cape? Because you should.
Father Columba: [Laughs] We wear a nice long black robe.
Father Columba: Very stylish.
Fisher: Thank you so much for coming on. We enjoyed it.
Father Columba: My great pleasure Scott. Thank you.
Fisher: And still ahead of course, another round of Ask Us Anything at the back end of the show, and on the way next we’re going to talk to Jacqueline Tritsch from our friends Legacy Tree Genealogists. She does forensic genealogy as she deals with estates. You’re going to want to hear what she has to say coming up next in five minutes on Extreme Genes.
Segment 3 Episode 381
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Jacqueline Tritsch
Fisher: Well, I remember way back in the 1990s when my wife went out for a walk one day, I checked the mail and what was in there? But an envelope from the Bureau of Missing Heirs, from California. Hey, it’s Fisher. It’s Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. And we’re talking about forensic genealogy today, connecting genealogy to probate with Jacqueline Tritsch from Legacy Tree Genealogists. How you’re doing Jacqueline?
Jacqueline: I’m good. Thanks so much for having me on your show.
Fisher: You know, when we think about genealogy there are so many different areas including DNA, and this is area is something I don’t think we talk about too much, but as I was just starting to tell the story here, it can be fascinating when it gets into probate because there’s money there’s money on the line for people sometimes if they can prove their relationship to somebody who has passed away. In fact, in that particular case back in the 90s the common ancestor with my wife was somebody who was born in 1782. [Laughs] It was amazing.
Jacqueline: Well, that is actually incredible that it’s back to 1782. I wonder what the asset was because that’s usually too far of a stretch for a probate case.
Fisher: Than where would the money go then if it wouldn’t go to descendants?
Jacqueline: If it doesn’t go to the descendants it becomes unclaimed property and it’s usually held by estate or sometimes a county will hold unclaimed property until the heirs come forth and claim the property.
Fisher: But if there are no heirs then what happens?
Jacqueline: Usually, if there are no heirs, which is not a very common situation then the assets flow to the state.
Jacqueline: And then after a while most states will just keep that money and some states use it to support the school system.
Fisher: Oh, okay. So it just goes basically into the state budget, it goes from there and that’s the end of that.
Jacqueline: Different states have different laws about how long they’ll hold onto unclaimed property before they’ll decide it’s theirs and then all assets will be converted into cash. For example, a house will sit empty until it’s either repossessed if there’s a loan on it, or it’s sold for property taxes if there’s no loan. And then that money will also be issued to the state until the heirs come forward.
Jacqueline: But my kind of work starts with estates that are actually ready to be probated. I work with the attorneys and I also work with the clients to put together the family tree that’s necessary to either open the estate or find who has legal standing to act as the administrator or to see who the heirs at law are going to be.
Fisher: So, a lot of these people probably don’t even know that they could be part of an estate opening up, right?
Jacqueline: That’s correct.
Fisher: Wow. So, how far back, you mentioned that most states don’t go back that far in time. We were talking 1782. We’re talking fourth or fifth great grandparents or something like that. What is the normal generational distance that’s allowed?
Jacqueline: Okay. The person who has died is called the decedent. So, in most states heirs allow our descendants of decedents either their grandparents or their great grandparents and then it stops there. There are some states like Texas we can practically go back to Adam and Eve, if we have to find heirs.
Fisher: [Laughs] They’re determined to find them, that’s amazing.
Fisher: So, take us through the process. You mentioned you have an attorney and you talked about opening up the estate. So you have to have the heirs first before the attorneys can actually do anything with an estate?
Jacqueline: Yes in some states, no in other states. Each state is very specific about their laws. For example, in Florida the attorney only needs to have half of the heirs to be able to open up the estate, but in other states more heirs are needed. There’s also questions about who is a person who is legally eligible to administer an estate? Sometimes the heirs are not closely enough related to actually step in and administer the estate and has to have a special administrator assigned. Really it’s a tossup what different states require. And then for example, some states require that before you can even open an estate you have to find all the heirs and notify the heirs even if there’s a will in place. So that they can contest the will if they want to before money starts flowing out of the estate.
Fisher: Wow! So there’s a lot of things that can go on whether there’s a will or there’s not.
Jacqueline: That’s right.
Fisher: With most of your cases is there a will in place or is there not?
Jacqueline: It’s about half and half. For example, we do quite a bit of work in New York. And New York is one of the states that require that the heirs be notified. There’s a difference here because the term heir at law means different things in different states, but it basically means that if there was no will in place that person would inherit. But people who actually wind up receiving money those are beneficiaries. So, you can be an heir at law and not actually get money. It’s all kind of tangled up in the legal ease of the situation.
Fisher: Wow. But that doesn’t affect your work because that’s not really the issue at hand, is it?
Jacqueline: Right, because only a judge can decide who is going to get the money. What I’m looking at is kinship. There’s different levels of kinship, it’s called a succession line. So, I’ll say, okay, is there a surviving spouse? Yes, no. If there’s no then I go to the next level. Okay, well, are there children? Yes, no. if it’s no, I’ll go to the next level. Okay, are there parents that are living? Yes, no. if it’s no, okay, then the next level of succession is your brothers and sisters or their descendants. And then after brothers and sisters it goes up to your grandparents.
Fisher: Um hmm.
Jacqueline: Then after your grandparents it will go down to your aunts and uncles and their descendants. So, there’s different levels of succession and once we get to a level that has living heirs at law, then that’s where we stop and that’s the generational level that ultimately become beneficiaries. But at Legacy Treewe’re not looking at the assets of the case, we’re looking at kinship. We’re looking only at the family structure.
Jacqueline: It’s the attorneys and the judges that deal with who get what.
Fisher: Yeah, who get what and how much.
Fisher: So, have you ever kind of figured out how much money was involved in some of these estates?
Jacqueline: Estates come in all different shapes and sizes. An estate can be as little as a house and a little bank account. If an estate is going to wind up as unclaimed property it will be those because each person is not going to receive very much money as a total.
Jacqueline: We have to look at the value of the estate first as how much this is going to cost to actually pay the probate cost. But then there’s also estates that go up to millions and millions of dollars, they all come in all shapes and sizes.
Fisher: And that must be where the fireworks begin.
Jacqueline: Well, actually, What I do is, I provide my testimony it’s actually a sworn testimony but I provide it in written form and it’s called an affidavit of kinship. Where I’ll look at each line and each level of succession and exhibit what the family structure is and who all the heirs of law are based on documents that I can find. And each thing I say in the affidavit has a document to back it up. For example, I might say, Don Jones he had five children listed in his obituary and his wife had the same five children listed in her obituary and here’s the exhibits where you can read the obituaries yourself.
Fisher: Um hmm.
Jacqueline: It’s much easier to give testimony in written form in an affidavit because you can actually supply the exhibits.
Fisher: That’s really fascinating. You know, the case I was talking about at the beginning of the segment was all of $11,000 and the company actually split their fee with me because I actually went through and did all the research to connect it all together and make it happen. But it was then divided by several cousins, like six cousins. So they all got somewhere around I think at the end about 1500 bucks a piece. We were hoping it was going to be millions.
Jacqueline: [Laughs] Well, I’m afraid in those cases most of the millions go to the unclaimed property companies.
Fisher: [Laughs] I think so and I think to the attorneys, and the people they hire. I mean, a lot of it goes pretty quickly, doesn’t it?
Jacqueline: One thing that Legacy Tree does and I do myself as a certified genealogist is I don’t ever work on commission because a commission is inherently biased. I have to be able to swear that my work was unbiased.
Fisher: Sure. Jacqueline it’s been great talking to you. It sounds like a fascinating thing you’re doing and best of luck!
Jacqueline: Thank you very much! I appreciate you having me on your show.
Fisher: And on the way, another round of Ask Us Anything, David Allen Lambert will be back in the house as we talk about a mysterious location that isn’t there anymore. And the FBI, what records do they have on your people?
Segment 4 Episode 381
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Fisher: All right, time once again for Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, back with David Allen Lambert, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. And David, we have an email from Pam in Kentucky and she writes, “Guys, I have read my great grandfather’s journal and he talks about coming from Farmer Town in Ontario, Canada, but I can’t find a Farmer Town on a map anywhere, even the post office there doesn’t know of any such place. Your thoughts, please?” [Laughs] My first thought, David is that this place has gone through a name change.
David: Yeah, either that or its one of those villages that’s been filled in to make a reservoir.
Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs]
David: That’s possible, too. You know, my home community up until recently was known as the Dry Pond District. I mean, it wasn’t a ward or a precinct. That’s the neighborhood name. And that’s a lot of cases what you get here in the US as well as in Canada. And the other thing that I’ve used, my family hails from, my mother’s from Ontario, but I’ve family from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland. And then I’ve used postal directors. Now, they’re not as plentiful as American ones. There may be like a gazette here if you will and that would tell you where the local Canadian post office in this case in early ones, even the British provincial post office might be for that part of Ontario. The other place is the archives. Ottawa is where the archives is located and you know, I would say that they may have some old maps. I mean, if you can kind of look at the listing from the gazettes here, it may give you a clue or you could just scour a map with a good magnifying glass, you might find it.
Fisher: Well, you know, having done a lot of research in New York over the years, I’ve come across books where it actually talks about what old street names in New York City used to be called. And so, changes of names, of locations, this is not unusual, it happens quite often, but for some localities, you can actually find entire books or listings or some kind of file online that could expose to you what this place is called today and what you might be able to find there.
David: And so, there probably is some reference if you can get any database of Canadian newspapers.
Fisher: Ah! Good point.
David: That would probably be a good clue, too, because it may be someone’s like talking about the grange in Farmer’s Town or you know, Methodists church in Farmer’s Town or something like that that might catch it. Old newspapers were great for having neighborhood sections if you will, so that might help.
Fisher: Boy, now I think that is a really great thought, because one thing you could find, not only the name of it in a story, but might say, you know, “Just went 2 miles down the road to this town and suddenly you’ve got an idea of exactly what this town is called today and what it called back then and how your family may relate to that and you might get some stories out of it for your family history anyway. I really love the idea that, you know, you’re right, David, there are some places that might be known by multiple things, like my hometown is Greenwich, Connecticut, but it’s divided up into all these little areas that have their own zip codes, that have their post offices. So, the place I actually grew up was Cos Cob, Connecticut, but I wasn’t born in Greenwich, I mean, because that’s the larger political sub division. So, you know, you really have all these little tricky things to do, but I would say to Pam that your research is not quite over yet, because there are just so many other possibilities here that it’s still there, but part of something larger or that its gone through the name change and then you’ve got all these sources, especially the one about the newspapers, David. I love that, because that could be a real quick fix.
David: Another thing that’s really useful is on FamilySearch.org. You can go into the place name catalogue, and I’ve often used that sometimes for catching odd places that you may have not thought of them, better yet, find out the county where some place is located quickly.
Fisher: I do that a lot for county searches. If I get the name of a town, I’ll put the name of the town and then I’ll put the word county after it and just do a Google search and it will usually bring up maybe a Wiki story on that town and it will immediately say, “This is a small town in the county of Bloop.” Great question, Pam and it’s not uncommon. We’ve got another one coming up for you next when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’ Family History Show.
Segment 5 Episode 381
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Fisher: All right, part 2 of Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. And David, our next question comes from Jack in Boise, Idaho and he says, “Fisher and David, I am looking for two records. First, my great grandmother was never a citizen and secondly, her husband was said to be a career criminal!”
David: [Laughs] Wow!
Fisher: Yeah. “So as a resident alien and career criminal, what might I be able to find through the FBI?”
David: Okay, well, there’s a couple of different sources here you want to try. Let’s start with the non career criminal avenue. My grandparents, three out of four of them have alien case files in Kansas City, Missouri. Now we’re not from Kansas City, but that’s where the records were put on deposit. Anybody as of 1940 had to register to be an alien in the United States. And this case file that I found on my grandfather for instance was over 110 pages long and had the only known photograph of him in there. It was amazing!
David: So it’s a goldmine of information. You know, and her husband obviously is probably going to be mentioned in the collection, even though he wasn’t an alien. These type of case files exist even for younger people. I have the file for my mother who when she was 12 and 13 years of age.
Fisher: Really? How many pages was that one?
David: About 50 including the one where they interrogated her around World War II, thinking that the family might have been spies, which makes like no sense.
David: But, story for another day. Yeah, my mother, the spy that never was.
Fisher: [Laughs] But she was 12 years old and there were that many pages.
David: From Canada.
David: Yeah. No, no, it was ridiculously long, but I’m glad I have it. The thing about the FBI records, now, through Freedom of Information Act, you can get those FBI files. You might have to jump through some loops in the system to get them, but if you’re a direct descendant, I have heard success stories from genealogists. Can’t recall exactly who and when, but they were able to get like the FBI case file on their grandfather who was a bootlegger. My grandfather who was a bootlegger incidentally did not have one. Why? Because I checked. And I just sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the FBI to see if there was actually a case, a case of my grandfather. There wasn’t. But others have found them. And these can include everything from the misdemeanor crimes all the way up to whatever federal visit he had to a penitentiary and for how long, all sorts of background information, it’s also going to probably even talk about your relative who was the alien, his wife, there may be family correspondence in there that had to be sorted and vaulted. You can find a goldmine of things in the FBI case files. I’d love to have one as an example to refer to you online to look at, because I’m sure there’s probably a lot of them that are former gangsters that would be just entertaining to read, Al Capone and John Dillinger.
Fisher: [Laughs] Sure.
David: You know. So, I hope that you find it. And if you do, gosh I want you as a guest on the show.
David: I think that you’ll agree.
Fisher: That’s really fun. Are there any files out there that we can refer to, David as an index?
David: For the alien case files, yes. Ancestry.com does have under their immigration and naturalization collection a database for the alien registrations, so you can find that on Ancestry. The other thing that you can do for your criminal, look at the newspapers.
David: If he was federally arrested criminal, those newspapers are going to love that front page story and might even get that mug shot that you’ve always wanted for your great grandfather, right there on the front page of the local Sunday paper.
Fisher: All right, David. Thank you so much. And thank you, Jack for the question. And that’s it for Ask Us Anything this week. If you have a question for Ask Us Anything, you can email us at [email protected]. Well, that’s our show for this week. Thanks so much for joining us. Boy I hope you caught our guest today! And if you missed any of it or want to hear it again or share it with a friend, catch the podcast on iTunes, iHeart Radio, ExtremeGenes.com, TuneIn Radio or Spotify. Talk to you again next week. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we’re a nice, normal family!