Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show
Host: Scott Fisher
Segment 1 Episode 82
Fisher: Hello genies! And welcome to Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show. I am your Radio Roots Sleuth, Fisher, on the program where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out. Well, the last few weeks have been like nothing I have ever experienced before. As you may be aware by now, I offered to help a Utah Sherriff locate the surviving family of a murder victim whose remains were recently discovered after 32 years. Theresa Rose Greaves, a New Jersey native had moved to Utah with a friend, and then on August 5th 1983 at the age of 23 she disappeared. Nothing was discovered concerning until February 5th 2015, when a jogger discovered a skull at the base of a hillside in Davis County, Utah. From there, Sheriff Todd Richardson’s team of specialists went to work and ultimately discovered the rest of Theresa’s remains in a shallow grave located well up the hillside. After a few weeks dental records identified the remains to be those of Theresa. When the announcement was made, the sheriff’s department asked for assistance from the public as they had determined that Theresa had no more living immediate family. It was their hope to find the closest next of kin as possible. I contacted Sheriff Richardson and told him that I’ve tracked down many living descendents of my ancestors through the years and had learned a few things in the process. So, he gave me the green light. Well, as is often the case in family history research, you find someone who becomes something of a helper in the locale in which you’re researching. And I was fortunate enough to find such a person pretty much right out of the gate.
That person, a high school classmate of Theresa, Debbie Veerers from Camden County, New Jersey, will join me in about seven minutes and we will map out exactly how the next of kin of murder victim Theresa Rose Greaves were finally located. When the first news article of this came out last week we had just made our first contact, and I didn’t feel really ready to talk about it on last week’s show until all the family had had a chance to be notified and then process the disturbing news. And since then an even closer relative has been found. To my shock the story has gained enormous national interest aside from local Philadelphia reports near Theresa’s New Jersey hometown and local accounts in Utah where she was found. The story has been picked up by Foxnews.com, the Associated Press, CBS.com, and was highlighted on the 48 hours Facebook page and if it’s not up yet it will soon be on People.com. So, it’s been a little crazy. Your comments on our Facebook page and elsewhere have been very kind, and I look forward to telling you how it all developed, how it felt and the most up to date details, in just a few minutes.
By the way, if you’re new to the show you’ve got a lot of catching up to do. There’s so much information on records, techniques and just incredible stories that’s waiting for you on our podcasts. Find them on ExtremeGenes.com, iHeart radio’s talk channel and iTunes. And maybe the simplest way to keep up every week is to download our free app for iPhone and Android. It’s waiting for you in your phone’s store, just punch in “Extreme Genes” and it’s yours. You’ll be able to listen wherever you go. It is time once again for your family histoire news from the pages of ExtremeGenes.com. In Camden, Arkansas, Gertrude Weaver has died. She was all of 116 years old. She was the world’s oldest living person for all of five days. Just last week Masaya Ogawa who was 117 died in Japan. Gertrude was planning for her 117th in July, and she said that she wanted president Obama to attend because she had voted for him twice. Once when she was 110 and again when she was 114. She was born on the 4th of July in 1898 to sharecroppers in Texarkana, Arkansas. Her only surviving son is 94 years old. When she became the world’s oldest living person on April 1st, she got a pink manicure to celebrate. The world’s oldest living person now is thought to be Jeralean Talley who lives in Inkster, Michigan, near Detroit. She is 115. There are not many folks left who were born in the 19th century and those who are left are all women. Does this sound familiar? A skeleton is found across the pond under a parking lot. It belonged to a man who died in a historic battle. He had what is commonly called a hunchback. The man however, was not King Richard the III who was finally, mercifully reburied in Lester, England just a few weeks ago. No, this man is described as Hanoverian soldier fighting for Britain, to liberate his homeland from Napoleon’s occupation. He died of a musket wound in the side, in the battle of Water Loo on June 18th 1815.
The soldier’s remains are the only complete skeleton found on the site in two centuries. And the reason for this will make your jaw drop. Garrett Glover a military historian says that back in the 1830s and 1840s bone was seen by fertilizer companies as a great fertilizer. So these companies would collect the bodies of the soldiers and horses from crowded battle fields, grind down the bone and sell the product to farmers. Only in the 1860s did the practise end, when a newspaper in Yorkshire criticized farmers noting that they were using the bodies of their own relatives and native sons, to fertilize their fields. The skeleton was found with a musket ball in his ribs and a box nearby with the initials “F C B” on it. German coins were also present in the man’s pocket, with this and records of who the fallen were in the battle. Garrett Glover has determined that the solider was almost certainly a man named Friedrich Brandt. The link to the full story in the UK’s Independent can be found now at ExtremeGenes.com. And that’s your family histoire news for this week. Okay, coming up next I will tell you how it all happened, finding the next of kin of murder victim Theresa Rose Greaves of Collingswood, New Jersey. Whose remains were found on February 5th in Utah, after she went missing 32 years ago, talk to you in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Episode 82 Segment 2
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Debbie Veerers
Fisher: And welcome back to Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show. I am Fisher, your Radio Roots Sleuth. Back in February an interesting happened. A person who had been missing for 32 years was found, an apparent victim of murder. The remains on a hillside in Utah were discovered by a jogger. And the sheriff’s department in that area went to work to see if there was more than just the skull that he had stumbled upon. So they went up a treed hillside until they actually located the rest of the remains, some of which had actually begun to come down the hillside over these many years. And over time they were able to identify the body of the individual through dental records as a woman named Theresa Rose Greaves, who was 23 years old when she disappeared on August fifth 1983. She had been looking for a job earlier that day. She had a noon appointment in Salt Lake City. She lived just north of it with a roommate. She was from New Jersey originally, as was her roommate, and they had come out because she had a particular interest in Donny Osmond and then that day she disappeared. Never heard from again, never seen again. And so it’s been an open case for many, many years. The sheriff of Davis County Utah where the body was found, made the announcement of the identification and then made the statement that they were having difficulty finding next of kin. So much time had elapsed and people had moved a lot of people had died. They said they couldn’t find any living family members. And so I reached out to Sheriff Richardson to see if I could be of help. Having had a lot of experience trying to find living decedents of ancestors so that they might be able to help me get my lines back. And he welcomed the opportunity to his great credit because I think a lot of people would be a little territorial about things like this. And he said, “Hey, we’ll take the help wherever we can get it.” And so I went about the task of trying to find where these family members might be, that might be able to claim the remains and get the closure that they certainly would need after this period of time.
So I went to a website that had to do with missing persons. I think every state must have one. Utah had one so I went to their site, and it referenced Theresa, gave us her birth date and mentioned that she had been wearing a ring from Collingswood, New Jersey. Now, not knowing where that was, I found that of interest and of course knowing her birth date you add eighteen years to it and you can get an idea of when she may have graduated from high school. So I went online and searched for Collingswood High School class of 1977, and found a Facebook page that they maintain, all the classmates’ one with another. It’s closed so it’s not a place that you can easily leave a message to. But the administrator was listed there. I clicked on him and found out that he was a real estate agent. And fortunately he had a cell phone number listed. I gave him a call and he answered, and I filled him in on the fact that his classmate’s remains after all these years had been found in Utah. And that I was going to try to help find family and if he could help me to do that, I would appreciate that. He reached out to the class of 1977 to see if there might be some people there knew Theresa better than he had known her, and up popped Debbie Veerers. Debbie got on the phone with me and we started to talk and Debbie is on the phone with me right now. Hi Deb, how are you?
Debbie: I am great. How are you?
Fisher: Well you know I am still processing this whole thing. This is not one of those experiences that you get many opportunities to have in the course of a lifetime.
Debbie: Well this is a first for me.
Fisher: How well did you know Theresa?
Debbie: Well, I went to high school with Theresa. We had some classes together. We were not best of friends. We did not travel in the same circles. But we knew who each other were. You know, you have a large class so you tend to get to know everybody to an extent.
Fisher: Now Collingswood, New Jersey is located where?
Debbie: We are actually right outside of Philadelphia, between Philadelphia and Atlantic City.
Fisher: So I was talking to you Deb, a few weeks ago and you immediately came up with something that nobody else had and that was your high school year book, which is not online to this point, and found that her home address was listed there as were all the seniors from your class.
Debbie: Correct. That was the first thing I did as soon as I got this email from Ron. I was evidently the only one that really responded. I grabbed the year book, I saw her picture, where she lived, and actually prior to that, I Googled her name and that’s where I saw the articles that were in the Utah media, had her picture all over the place. When I saw that, I knew that was her high school yearbook photo. And that’s when I got the yearbook out and matched it. And of course the address was listed, so I went over to where she had resided then and took a picture of the house, went to the local bureau hall of the community, to find what information I could about the deed.
Fisher: And you found some great stuff that you provided to me, that her great grandmother and a son of that great grandmother sold the house for a dollar in 1973 to Theresa’s grandmother and two brothers. And of course you knew the relationships because you had actually knocked on doors around that neighborhood and found a neighbor who had known them forty years ago.
Debbie: Exactly. I found an old school mate that lived a couple of houses down from there, her mother was the teacher locally so between her and her mom they gave me the story of remembering her coming at a younger age, as early as ten years old, she would come and stay with her uncle just for the summer and hung out and played. So she had really created some friendships. She had come every summer. And then at least she had lived with her grandmother in North Jersey and they would just come down to visit the uncle for the summer. Then by high school, she decided to move in and go to high school with the friends that she had made.
Fisher: In all the descriptions of her, she was a very funny, friendly girl.
Debbie: Yes. I want to say you know we had our quiet sides to us. I mean I was always quiet and shy in school and she kind of was too. You know, in class and in front of the class you not very talkative. But behind the scenes in the lunchroom, always laughing and joking around. I mean, I think her and I were kindred spirits because we were the two that you know, sat in the back of the class because we didn’t want to raise our hands, and always the quiet ones.
Fisher: So you were in classes with her but didn’t run in the same circles.
Fisher: Well with the information you gave me, that really created an opening to start to try to find the family. And I was able to go on MyHeritage and look at the census records from 1920 and ‘30 and find the names there and try to piece together how the family fit. And so that’s where I was able to get the birth year of the grandmother and try to piece together exactly how she fit in to the picture. And then later when I found her obituary in Virginia, which was online, with a FindAGrave page, it gave her birth date which matched what I found in the census. So those names were essential. And then that obituary gave the name of her next of kin which was a man by the name of Joseph Greaves, an uncle to Theresa. I thought at that point Debbie, that we were pretty much there, didn’t you?
Debbie: I really did. I thought we found who we needed.
Fisher: And then it kind of went on from there because I contacted the sheriff’s department and said, “Hey, we have an address, is there information of where he lived at the time of the obituary which was about 1997.” I went to the white pages and that gave his address in Virginia but as it turned out when the Virginia authorities went to check it out, the building had been torn down. It had been an old building that was used to deal with senior citizens. And so Mr. Greaves had apparently moved on somewhere else. But there was no indication that he had passed. So when the deputy came back and said, “No, this doesn’t work.” We went back to work and I found him again down in Florida. Once again the address turned out to be something of a dead end. Now this is getting kind of frustrating. Debbie and I, we were talking pretty much every day. She was trying to see if there was any more she could find in New Jersey that might tie in, but nothing further did. But at least we were down in to Florida. And this is where I was able to find the white pages and finding people associated with this particular individual. You start finding names but none of them have existing phone numbers. Cell phones generally aren’t listed. A lot of landlines especially amongst seniors in Florida are not listed because they don’t want people from out of State like me, calling them, soliciting them. So it was really very difficult to get anything going.
So then I tried searching just the names Greaves in that particular area, and some other names started popping up. Some had been maiden names, married names, but it’s not a common name the way it was spelled G R E A V E S. So I started finding people with similar names associated with them as had been associated with this Joseph. So that is how it started to unravel. The problem though Debbie was that ultimately people didn’t want to take the phone calls. I’d start calling and calling and there’d be no answer. Maybe I’d find two or three numbers that were actually still viable with the folks we were looking for. And in the end we found the uncle because I was able to find his daughter in law through her ex mother in law. I’d left a phone message. Imagine getting a phone message like that, that we’re trying to find this woman because there is a person who had died years ago that has been found. And she was of course confused and wondering you know, is this some kind of scam? Is this somebody who’s a little unusual? Fortunately she made the effort to call this Gigi, who had married a cousin of Theresa’s, and she called me and I got that call on April 1st. Gigi hadn’t been in the family for very long and certainly didn’t have the emotional connections that others did, so she was able to easily kind of fill me in on the family dynamics on where they had been, where they had gone. She was certainly aware of her husband’s cousin and her disappearance back in 1983. When we were done, at least with that initial phone call, I was home alone at the time and just hung up the phone and it was just a wave of emotion that we were able to make that happen and Debbie couldn’t have done it without you.
Debbie: Well, I was so full of compassion to be able to find the family. There had to be somebody. Once we started finding that everybody had left New Jersey, it was just really difficult to know where to go from there.
Fisher: All right, we’re going to take a break. There’s a lot more to this story, we’ll tell you about it coming up in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 3 Episode 82
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Debbie Veerers
Fisher: We are back, Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show. It is Fisher here, the Radio Roots Sleuth with one of the classmates of Theresa Rose Greaves, Debbie Veerers. And Deb, I think one of the things we haven’t even touched on yet is what your class of ‘77 has been doing to remember her. You started a “Go Fund It” campaign to assist the family when found, or just to take care of matters if they were not, to handle burial, memorial, and a scholarship fund in her name. And how’s that gone?
Debbie: You know this fund has really taken off. When I first started it, the class members were the ones stepping up. I first announced it on Facebook, which I’m friends with a lot of my classmates on Facebook, and, you know, they were all donating $100 each. It was just an outpour of lovely emotions, and just, it rekindled a lot of friendships. There was so much love for Theresa and I know have over $3000 raised, and which is going to help the family have her relocated and to be resting with her grandmother.
Fisher: That’s right they’re going to bury her in Virginia and we should add here that once we made contact with the family, one of the other cousins was able to tell us that there was a half brother out there somewhere, they hadn’t been in touch with. In fact, that thought he was deceased. But when we looked online for various records, there we found no, he wasn’t deceased, and he was still living in Northern New Jersey. And through her efforts we’ve been able now to find the half brother. And he is still dealing with the shock of this entire matter of finally coming to some kind of resolution after more than three decades. But he’s doing well and the family is coming together to deal with this. And in time the remains will be turned back over to the family.
Debbie: I could not imagine having to go through this now. And I know all these family members haven’t seen each other actually for years either, and that’s why I wanted to be able to help financially. And I know how it can be a struggle. At that point there’s so much to do and think about, and I just wanted to help make it as easy as possible.
Fisher: Well, you did some great work, Deb. And it couldn’t have happened without you. And I’m sure there’s a lot of appreciation there.
Debbie: Thank you so much. You know what, Scott? It’s been really fun working with you.
Fisher: Well, yeah, you know, it’s interesting because it was certainly purposeful work, wasn’t it? You know, typically when you do family history research you’re a living person looking for your dead. And in this case we were trying to find living people who were tied in to someone who was deceased, completely the opposite but exactly the same techniques going forward. The story has taken off all over the country, it hit the AP, it hit Fox News, and I think, Debbie, both you and I have been a little taken back by the attention that it’s gotten and really feel more like the attention should be with the family and with what’s gone on.
Debbie: It’s been such a good feeling to be able to help, it really has. It’s been very emotional. Even though she wasn’t a close friend of mine, but the last day I saw her was probably graduation day in June of 1977.
Fisher: Yep, and now this. When did you first hear she was missing?
Debbie: I never knew she was missing. And I’d spent a part of our reunion committee over the years, and to help find people. And she’s been one of the names that we were never able to connect with to tell about the reunions. We never knew that she was missing. They never got back to us of the class.
Fisher: I did not realize that. You know, when I talked to Ron, your administrator with your Facebook page, you know, he said “Oh yeah, she’s been missing for a long time.” I took it to mean that he understood that she was a missing person. But from what you’re saying its sounds like more that they were looking at her as somebody that they just couldn’t find for reunions.
Debbie: Exactly. Yeah. And that’s the thing with people, they go away and they don’t want to have anything to do with us, I guess. [Laughs] But I wish we had known that, not that we would have been able to do anything about it. And I would still like to do some type of a memorial service locally for her friends that are still in the South Jersey area. I know her brother now, you know, he’s in the North Jersey. I wish I was close enough to him I could run over and give him a hug.
Debbie: I know right now he probably needs it.
Fisher: Yeah, he probably does, absolutely. Well, Debbie, thank you so much for all you’ve done. It’s just absolutely amazing. You know, I have found many times over the years, you know, researching ancestors, I’ll make a connection with somebody who takes an interest in it, and they do exactly what you did. You just say “Okay, what do we have to do?” And you jump in and you provide just enough information where you can take that and really run with it, and that was certainly the case in this situation.
Debbie: It made me feel so good to be able to help. And I felt like a little sleuth going around taking pictures.
Debbie: To look for information. [Laughs]
Fisher: You are. You’re detective Veerers now.
Debbie: I am! I am! I’m going to have to put a tile on my front door. [Laughs]
Fisher: There you go. Well, it’s been great chatting with you, Deb, and having this experience with you. I think it’s something we’ll always remember, probably for the rest of our lives.
Debbie: It really will be, absolutely. And I think of Theresa every day, and I probably always will. She’ll be a part of me. Thank you for everything.
Fisher: And thank you to the class of ‘77. It sounds like they’ve really been behind this to support the family.
Debbie: Well, that’s what we are. It takes a village, and we have that village here.
Fisher: Sounds like it. Thank you, Deb.
Fisher: Well, the last couple of weeks have been crazy. And I want to thank Davis County, Utah Sherriff Todd Richardson for allowing me to assist in this case. As he tells it, it’s allowed his people to focus on the investigation of who killed Theresa Greaves, and that’s a great plus. Thanks also to Sergeant Robert Thomson, lead detective in the case, for sharing information that helped clarify some of the family dynamics. And now that all of the family members has been identified, located and notified, I’m told it will probably be a few more months before Theresa’s remains are returned to them, due to certain protocol, and the fact that the remains are part of an active murder investigation. Sherriff Richardson’s team has done an amazing job in handling all of this, and I congratulate all of them on all the progress they’ve made so far. And I’m sure I speak for everybody and all our Extreme Genes listeners when I say to the Greaves family “You are all in our thoughts and prayers.” We’ll be back.
Segment 4 Episode 82
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry
Fisher: We are back, America’s Family History Show, Extreme Genes. It is Fisher here with my good friend, Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com, he is our Preservation Authority. Tom, good to have you back.
Tom: It’s good to be back. You know, what you did by giving these people closure, that’s amazing and that’s why you never give up on stories like this. You want to do what you can to find out what you can do to get through those brick walls, so to speak.
Fisher: Well you know, so many times in the course of this thing, we did hit brick walls, and it was just really frustrating. And you would just say to yourself, “Keep going! Keep going! Keep going!” Until finally that phone call came. And that was quite a moment.
Tom: Oh, it’s amazing!
Fisher: What I’m astonished about is how the country has picked up on this story. It all over the place! People like to know that there’s closure in situations like this. And I think that’s why they’re embracing it. What are we talking about today in preservation?
Tom: Okay. One thing that we’ve talked about off and on through the years that we’ve been doing this show is, “What do you do? What do you do?” but there’s a lot of times where there’s things you shouldn’t do. And sometimes these things change. Like I remember, first when we were started the show a few years ago, we talked about always wearing white gloves. And then through research they find out, “Hey, some situation where you shouldn’t wear white gloves.” So things evolve, and you really need to stay on the top of things. It’s not like you have an old encyclopedia Britannica from thirty years ago, that’s where you always go to.
Fisher: Right. Exactly, so what do you have in mind here?
Tom: Well you know, there’s a real good website that our people can go and listen to, it’s called Archives.gov. And there are all kinds of good stories on there. We’re going to kind of breeze through some of them, the Reader’s Digest version, to help out listeners see different things that they can do to preserve their memories, things to do and things NOT to do. For instance, a lot of problems that people have, they get something from aunt Ethyl. She’s been gone. They go through her house, you find all these old dusty boxes, and they open the top of the box, start pulling out stuff, and this dust that was on top of the box is now all over. So it’s getting on the documents, it’s getting on the photos and negatives. That’s a big DO NOT DO! What I recommend people do and what we do at our reunion centre, we have a little cafe, and we have three sinks. We have a sink that’s for wash, a sink that’s for rinse and a sink that’s for sanitize. And you need to do kind of the same thing when you’re dealing with old documents. You want to have a place where you first get out these boxes. Get them out of the closet or wherever they are and then clean them off. And you want to be real careful how you clean them off.
You never want to use those air in the can, because it gets really, really cold if you shake it up, and you can actually damage things. The best thing to do is get a good lint type cloth and wipe them off very, very carefully, or if you do need to blow them off, the best thing to do is use a compressor on a really, really low setting, because then there’s no water involved, there’s no coldness to it. And brush it off. Okay, now once you got that done, don’t open the box yet! Now that the box is clean, take the box to what we would call, “The rinse area.” So it’s in a different area so you don’t have all the dust flying around that you’re not even going to see, that’s going to get on your documents, then open it and take out the different things and start going though them. And some of them will be in good condition, that they’re fine. Some of them are going to be poor condition. And kind of categorize them by whether they’re old letters that are kind of torn up, whether the ones in real good condition, whether they’re in those old kind of albums that have the wax stuff on them which really ruined pictures.
Tom: And set them in different areas. And then of course, put all your photos in one area and then all your negatives in one area, because we talked a few weeks ago, with your documents, you really don’t want to put the white gloves on, because you can damage the documents by just squeezing them, getting the filters in them. So you want to make sure you go scrub up really good like you’re going to start doing surgery. And then, go through them really, really easy, page by page. Your negatives and your photographs, the glossy ones, you’re going to want to use gloves on those, because they’ll pick up fingerprints. Even if your hands are totally clean, you’re still going to have some oils in there. So anything that’s glossy, like the old glossy photographs and the negatives, if they’re bare and not in a container, you want to put on the white gloves for those. And as soon as there’s any sign of any kind of marks getting on your gloves, throw them away! They’re cheap.
Tom: And put on a new pair so you don’t damage them. And the once you get everything set apart, you’re going to want to do different things. Like your negatives, if they’re loose, you’re going to want to get archival sleeves to put them in. Then you move all those to the second area, which I call your, “Rinse area” and then you’re going to want to put those in the new sleeves. If you have some documents that are starting to fade or they’re really not looking good, you’re going to want to get some special archival paper and put between the sheets, so that they don’t imprint on each other. And one thing that was out about, probably about ten years ago, they had these color printers that were called Tektronix. They were all the rage. And the problem with those, they actually are wax based. And they look great for a few years, or if you even put them in a hot car or something like that, the wax actually becomes soft again and they’ll start bleeding into the sheet.
Fisher: Oh no!
Tom: Oh, yeah, it’s bad! I’ve got a lot of those. And it starts bleeding into the sheet. And so then it’s not a nice crisp picture anymore, it’s kind of blurry. So old things like that, you’re going to want to set in a third area, because you’re going to want to scan those ASAP. Because in one day you could have those ruined, so you want to put those in another area, and then your last area which I call, is a “Sanitize area” that’s where you’re going to put them in the new sleeves. You’re going to get new archival boxes. And don’t just get, you know, a box from U haul and think that’s an okay box.
Tom: Make sure you get archival boxes and that they seal. So you want to put all your documents in there, seal them out. And then if you’re going to put them back in the same closet you originally started with, make sure you go back to that closet and wipe it down, the ceilings, the walls, everything. Make sure it’s nice and clean, everything’s dry, you’ve given it plenty of time for the dust to settle. If you need a vacuum or whatever, before you put the things back in or you’re introducing them right back into the area that you just took them out of.
Fisher: Wow! You know, that’s a great process and I’ve never considered it as being like rinsing and drying.
Tom: Oh absolutely!
Fisher: But that’s very similar, isn’t it?
Tom: Oh yeah! You need to do all those things. Because we have people all the time, they just pop open a box, it’s just COVERED with dust, and now that dust has gotten into the books, into the photos, into everything, and now they’ve got to go clean it. So maybe in the next segment, we can talk a little bit about if some of those documents have dirt on them, what we can do to get rid of the dirt.
Fisher: All right, when we return in three minutes, on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 5 Episode 82
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry
Fisher: Welcome back, final segment of Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show. I am Fisher, your Radio Roots Sleuth with TMCPlace’s own Tom Perry. He’s our Preservation Authority. Hi Tommy, how are you?
Tom: Awesome! Thank you.
Fisher: All right. Great stuff so far. And you got this from the National Archive site. And who is this who’s talking to us about finding old boxes of documents, how to make sure they stay clean as you start to go through them, how you sort them and then how you preserve them, who is the author here?
Tom: It’s Mary Lynn Ritzenthaler. But if you just go to Archives.gov, you’ll be able to look her up and find her. She’s got pages and pages about all kinds of tips to help you. In fact, one of the things that she talks about is, you need to select a supply list of things you need to have in your quiver when you’re doing these kinds of things. And one of the things that most people never even think about is you need to protect yourself from the old documents.
Fisher: Really, from what!?
Tom: For instance, if you’re in an old closet, you don’t know what’s in that dust, you have no idea. If it’s an old house, there could be asbestos, there could be all kinds of things. So one thing that is recommended is to have something as simple as a dust mask which you can pick up at Home Depot, a pack of twelve of them for probably about five dollars and that sounds silly. However, you don’t want to be inhaling asbestos or any other kind of weird stuff that could have accumulated in that. It could be mold it could be, you know, mold spores, all kinds of stuff. You want to use gloves at the very beginning when you’re moving the stuff around and cleaning your boxes. And then when you go from like we say, the clean to the rinse, then throw those gloves away. And if you’re dealing with negatives and glossy photos, you want to have white gloves in. If you’re dealing with documents, don’t have any gloves! Just make sure you wash your hands and very, very thoroughly. Now, some of the things you’re going to want in your quiver is you’re going to want to make sure you have archival bond paper. And if you have some old pages that are starting to get sticky or starting to stick to each other or you’re removing photographs from those old wax albums that were awful, you want to make sure you have archival bond paper so you can stick these pictures on that, so then the wax will adhere to that and not make things any worse.
Fisher: And it’s important to remember too, that a lot of this stuff was filled with all kinds of acid back in the day and archival paper will neutralize that.
Tom: Exactly! That’s the reason why you want to have archival bond paper. That’s the best reason for it. One thing you want to make sure is, when you get these pictures out and put them on the archival bond paper, and then put another piece of archival bond on top of those, so just in case some of the wax has gone through the paper or there’s some on the top, you’re not going to ruin the next set of photographs you put on top of it. And then you want to definitely want to put those in the file that you need to scan ASAP. Just like the old Tektronix color printers that use a wax based ink. You want to make sure you scan these as soon as possible, because you might have lucked out and over the thirty years, there’s no problem with any of those things. And driving home, if you get in a hot car, stop to get some milk at 7 Eleven, you could actually damage these things. So you want to get them scanned ASAP, so you have digital copy of all of them just in case something happens. Then another thing that’s really important, you want to get some good quality brush, not the all a dollar type brushes. I use a squirrel tail brush, because they’re really, really soft. They’re great at cleaning stuff off. So if you have like photographs, you want to use a really fine artist brush to brush the dirt off. If you have old documents like paper, don’t use a brush! Because you could actually take the dust that’s in there and impregnate it right into the material.
Fisher: That’s right. That’s right.
Tom: So you want to be very, very careful. And I have a little compressor. I just bought it at Sears. It’s not a very powerful one. In fact, I set it on the lowest setting, which is a good way to clean up documents as long as they’re not torn or wrinkly or starting to fall apart, because the air will damage them.
Fisher: All right Tom. Great stuff! And once again, it’s from Archives.gov, great resource for anybody looking to preserve pretty much any kind of old document or photograph from era. Thank you Tom!
Tom: Thank you.
Fisher: And thanks once again to Debbie Veerers of Camden County, New Jersey, who was such a great help to me in bringing closure to the family of the late Theresa Greaves, a murder victim in Utah, as we found that family back in Florida. It’s an experience I will never forget. If you missed any of the show, you want to hear part of it again, catch the podcast at ExtremeGenes.com, iTunes or iHeart Radio’s talk channel. Talk to you again next week. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we’re a nice, normal family!