Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. David is fresh back from Scotland where he made an incredible genealogical discovery. Hear what it is. The guys then exchange stories about their Revolutionary ancestors in anticipation of Independence Day. Then, it is a major announcement from FamilySearch.org that has everybody talking. It’s an important one. Next, David reveals the historic, genealogical document that recently sold at auction for what might buy you a lovely home for in some places! Hint: It has to do with witchcraft.
Then, Fisher visits with Mary Ann Kester of Topeka, Kansas about her recently developed skill? grave witching. She used it to accomplish a feat that attracted a lot of attention. Hear what she did, how she did it, and how you may be able to do the same thing.
In segment three, Fisher talks with Donya “Papoose” Williams and Brian Sheffey, two “southern cousins” who are hard at work trying to identify all 45 CHILDREN of one ancestor! It’s an amazing story of a long-lived man whose life spanned from the colonial era to long past the Civil War. Hear how their project is going and, as they say? “the rest of the story!”
Then it’s Tom Perry talking preservation. Tom uses a listener question about a scratched X-Box DVD to illustrate what you need to know about recovering and storing your digitized disks.
That’s all this week on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and Extreme Genes.com.
Transcript Episode 198
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Segment 1 Episode 198
Fisher: And welcome 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. This segment of the show is brought to you by MyHeritage.com. And we want to start out with a big shout out to our friends at KFXR Talk Radio 1190 in Dallas, our latest Extreme Genes affiliate. And we are so proud to be part of the line up with Patrick Davis, Anna De Haro and Diamond Gray at Talk Radio 1190. I know there are some great family history stories to come out of the “Big D” in the months and years ahead. Hey, our guests this week… interesting people. In fact, we talked about one of them a couple of weeks ago, Mary Ann Kester of Topeka, Kansas. Now Mary Ann has gotten into something called “grave witching” and she actually discovered a whole bunch of unmarked graves in a cemetery in Topeka. She’ll tell you about the training, she’ll tell you what she did, how she did it and how you can do it, coming up starting in about nine minutes or so. Then, later in the show Donya Williams and Brian Sheffey, these are what I call “southern cousins,” who found an ancestor who lived pretty much to the max. I mean over 110 years old with an incredible number of descendants and they’re trying to find all the children and all the descendants. You’re going to want to hear about this story coming up a little bit later on. Hey, I just want to remind you by the way to sign up for our Weekly Genie newsletter. It is absolutely free. In fact, if you are a subscriber by the end of July, you are eligible for a drawing we are going to do for a free one hour consultation with David Allen Lambert, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society who is back from Scotland! He is on the line with us right now in Boston. How are you David?
David: Hey, I’m doing great. Back from twelve days over in England, Scotland and Wales with my oldest daughter Brenda… had a wonderful trip.
Fisher: And did you have any big discoveries while you were there?
David: The best story I think to share with our listeners is the discovery of over a 150 pages of documents on her fourth great grandfather. This gentleman Gibson Raney was killed accidentally in 1857 on the railway, slipped and fell but what I didn’t know about, his wife and five children tried to sue the railway for a thousand pounds in 1859. And all of these documents I found were tied up since then. So my daughter got to see them first hand, the first time they saw the light of day in many, many years.
Fisher: Wow! And were there more details on the accident than you had known previously?
David: Yeah, more details than I probably care to share with our listening audience out there.
David: It was gruesome how he died, but the nice thing about this is it intrigued my daughter so much that I think I now have another genealogist in the family.
Fisher: How cool is that. Well, congratulations. Well, welcome back. You know we’ve got the 4th July celebration going on right now. And this is a kind of a fun time, and David I remember one time you were telling me about a unique find you had relating to one of your Patriot soldiers.
David: [Laughs] Yeah that would be Captain Jonathan Poor. Jonathan was up in Essex County and he was the Captain of the 2nd Essex Militia. And I knew all his dates. I had been to his grave. You know, I’m even a member of the SAR through his service. However, about 20 years ago while looking at a collection of papers up in Salem under “Pauper Papers” for Newbury, Massachusetts I found something interesting. They weren’t Pauper Papers at all, because the name “Poor” was on the head of the documents.
David: They were his family papers, including his Revolutionary War diary, Fish!
Fisher: Wow! Did it have good detail in it?
David: Yeah, it talked about different battles. And in one of the ones he goes into detail about “The British are firing at us from the Heights,” which would be Dorchester Heights. Amazing details of other names, of people who served with him, but it gave me a clue into a darker side into the family history. He was a slave owner. He mentioned about hiring off one of his men, an African-American slave to work in the field for a neighbor.
Fisher: Yeah, and you were not aware of that previously?
David: I was not and there was no other mention of him anywhere so it’s this one passing reference to a human life which is really amazing.
Fisher: We have 19 Revolutionaries on our side, and that includes soldiers and those who did patriotic service. And one of mine was Elisha Gallaudet. And he was the engraver of the Continental Dollar. It was a coin that Congress was putting up because they figured out that the United States, if it got its independence, would have to show that it could create its own currency in order to gain the support of the rest of the world. And so he was charged with making this engraving of the Continental Dollar. Remember the phrase “Ain’t worth a Continental?”
David: That’s true.
Fisher: That was his!
David: Now, I’m hoping you have a chest of these left over in your family archive to give to your children and grandchildren.
Fisher: I wish I had one because they’re worth like over twenty thousand dollars each!
David: Well I guess that old phrase doesn’t mean the same in 2017 does it now?
Fisher: Now, it does not. Okay, David, let’s get on to our Family Histoire News. What do we have today?
David: Well, some breaking news from Salt Lake City where Family History Library has made the announcement that as of August 31st they will no longer be renting microfilm to the Centers around the world.
David: Well, its shocking news but they’re actually going to have them digitized by 2020 which is what the announcement says. So that’s a positive thing for genealogists, those stay-at-home men and women and kids who want to do it in their slippers and pajamas, finding their family trees, will be able to do it a lot easier now.
Fisher: [Laughs] That’s right.
David: Well, if you’re interested in a document on your family history and are willing to pay over a hundred and thirty seven thousand dollars, you may have been able to get Mary Daniels 1692 testimony against her neighbor Margaret Scott who was accused and hanged for witchcraft in the Salem Witch Trials of 1692!
Fisher: Wow! Yeah. This was up recently in fact, was one of the greatest documents I think I’ve ever heard historically, certainly relating to witchcraft.
David: It is the highest valued document privately sold at auction on the witchcraft trials. And the thing about it is, where did it come from? Most of these are court documents. Was this squirreled away by a collector hundreds of years ago? As always, at NEHGS we’d like to offer a value to our listeners at Extreme Genes. So if you use the checkout code “Extreme” you’ll save $20 dollars on membership. Well, that’s about all I have for you this week Fish. Happy 4th of July to you and yours, and to all our listeners out there!
Fisher: All right thank you so much David. And once again, don’t forget to sign up for our Weekly Genie newsletter. It is absolutely free. And when you do that by the end of the month, all people who are subscribing to the newsletter will be eligible for a drawing we’re going to do for one hour free consultation with David Allen Lambert in Boston. What an incredible prize so come and join us! Coming up next, we’re going to talk to Mary Ann Kester from Topeka, Kansas. She is the woman that’s been going about grave witching in Topeka. What is it? How does she do it? How could you do it? She’ll tell you about it coming up next in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 2 Episode 198
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Mary Ann Kester
Fisher: And welcome back to America’s Family History Show, its Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth and this segment is brought to you by LegacyTree.com. And it was kind of interesting a couple of weeks ago, I ran across a story and an associated video of a woman in Topeka, Kansas who took up “grave witching.” What is that? What is she doing? He name is Mary Ann Kester. She’s on the line with me right now from Topeka. When did you get started in grave witching as part of your genealogical efforts, Mary Ann?
Mary Ann: I actually only started about a month or so ago. I was heading a class in the Topeka Genealogy Society. They were doing a refresher course on how to do gravestone rubbing and one of the segments was on “witching” for graves, which shows them how to locate a grave if it doesn’t have a marker on it.
Fisher: Wow! What was your first thought when you heard about that?
Mary Ann: My first thought was, “This has got to be similar to what my grandfather taught me when I was young on how to look for water.” He had a farm and he was out actually at that time with a willow branch using it.
Mary Ann: But he also said that it could be done with coat hangers or other things. So he was showing me how to find water, he needed to dig a new well at the time. And I actually located the water for the new well.
Fisher: Now, I’m thinking if I heard something like that I’m thinking that’s kind of weird because I did not grow up on a farm. I grew up in a suburban area just outside of New York City. And I think for a lot of people maybe an urban or suburban area, this is kind of a foreign thing. But I was just looking up different terms for this because you referred to it as “grave witching” which I think is pretty common. Other terms for it… “dousing,” “divining.” This one I really like from somewhere in the United States, “doodle-bugging!” I guess it has to do with looking for oil. And there’s “water finding,” “water witching,” or “water dousing,” and then they talk about the use of the “dousing rod” or the “divining rod.” What do they call a grave witching rod?
Mary Ann: It can be known as a divining rod or a dousing rod as well.
Mary Ann: I’ve not heard the term “doodle-bugging” before.
Fisher: [Laughs] I hadn’t either.
Mary Ann: That’s totally new to me. It has the same principles I assume.
Mary Ann: But that is not what I do. And the reason I got started in this, I am a member of the Friends of the Historic Topeka Cemetery. It’s a new group that we organized. It was defunct for a while. And we are a non-profit group. We would have projects at the cemetery that we were looking to do to make improvements for things that don’t have funding. One of the things that we wanted to do was to mark the graves of children. We have a couple of segments within that cemetery. There are close to 800 burials of children, many of which do not have markers.
Fisher: Now, this you knew from the records of the cemetery, right?
Mary Ann: The records of the cemetery. We have names, we have plot numbers. We know the section that the babies are in. There are some markers within those two sections but not all of the graves are marked. And we were looking to do a project that would honor the graves of children that were buried seventy five plus years ago.
Fisher: Now, are they all buried together in a section just for children? Are these abandoned children? Are these orphaned kids? What was the story?
Mary Ann: We’re not sure of all of the details on it. Most of the children were probably malnourished, poor medical care. Many could have been during the Depression. Some would have been due to illness like small pox, possibly from families moving from place to place. I had a personal experience that my mom’s brother is one of the people on this list. And it just kind of amazed me when I found that out. So I will be taking care of the marker for him. I always knew about him but didn’t know where or anything. So what we’re trying to do is to get people to donate to purchase a headstone.
Mary Ann: But in order to do that, we needed to find the exact location of the graves.
Mary Ann: We know that they’re in rows and we know that they’re in sections and we know that they’re in this area because we have the names and we have the locations of the lot.
Fisher: Sure. So here comes Mary Ann with her divining rods from the grave witching class at the Topeka Genealogical Society!
Mary Ann: That is correct! [Laughs]
Fisher: [Laughs] So what was the reaction when you showed up at the cemetery and you said, “I got my rods.” What were they made of by the way?
Mary Ann: They’re made of coat hangers of all things.
Mary Ann: You take a couple of coat hangers and you cut that half way down the arch of the coat hanger so that you cut the hook off of it, and then you bend one end out straight and you leave one end curved but you straighten it so that it’s like a handle.
Mary Ann: So that this lies across your hand and it takes two hangers in order to do this.
Fisher: All right. Now, could you use any material? Because as you mentioned you used a willow stick on your grandfather’s farm back in the day, does the material matter?
Mary Ann: I’m not sure. I have not attempted it with a willow stick or an elm or anything like that. I know that they make professional rods that you can buy proper rods to do this with just a coat hanger is the most common thing as long as it’s made out of metal. You know the plastic ones definitely would not work.
Fisher: Okay. So what do you do with it? Now you show up, you’ve got your coat hangers, “Hi, I’m here. Let’s go find the graves.” You step out about a month ago and how does it work? Do you walk in rows or do you determine a starting point and an end point? Do you do it in grids?
Mary Ann: I use rows because there were a few headstones already there in the two sections.
Mary Ann: What I did was I started just below and unfortunately I did have to walk on the graves. I try not to do that because it’s somebody’s family member. It’s an honored and sacred place.
Mary Ann: But in order to do this project it was necessary. But there is a grid system of how the lots ought to be laid out and you can find a headstone in the row that you’re walking. But if you look to your left or right there are also the other rows that may or may not have a headstone that criss-cross a line so that you can try to get a bearing on what you’re doing. And as I did that, I was getting a hit, which is what we call it, with the rods that I was holding. You don’t grasp them tight in your hands, they’re loose.
Mary Ann: You keep your thumbs up and your hands loose and it just kind of lays across the four fingers that you have of your hand.
Mary Ann: And you can use your small finger or your little finger to try to balance or keep it from falling out of your hands but you don’t hold on to the rod at all. It’s a balancing. And you keep your arms bent to your side and it’s just your forearms that you use to do this with.
Fisher: Does it matter your frame of mind when you go to do this or does the rod just kind of take on a life of its own?
Mary Ann: You know, I concentrate pretty hard when I do this, but the rod itself kind of takes over. I’m not sure if it’s magnetism or exactly why it works. I can’t explain it. I do know that as you’re walking the rods will cross.
Mary Ann: And you walk slowly to do this. You get to where you think the grave may be and you kind of stop and you wait a little bit and see just watch the rods. You don’t pay attention to anything else as far as surroundings. You’re just watching the rods. And if you’re in the right place the rods will start to move and you just kind of pay attention to it and if they don’t move very far and then they go back, you take another half step or step forward and they may or may not go ahead and cross over each other.
Fisher: So, you would know then at that point you’re in the right place and then what, do you put a marker there and say okay, here’s one?
Mary Ann: Yes. In fact, there was a gentleman that rode up to me while I was doing this in the cemetery and he asked me a couple of questions. And I said, “Well, if you’re not doing anything. You certainly can help me.” And he says, “Well, I don’t have any plans.”
Mary Ann: And so he followed me with the markers and he stuck the markers in whenever I would find a grave so that made it a little easier for me.
Mary Ann: I could just concentrate on what I was doing. And he seemed to enjoy himself as he was doing that.
Fisher: Absolutely. Well, would you find that the divining rods would accurately mark a regular row? I mean they were exactly so many feet apart in the right line, that type of thing?
Mary Ann: Yes. In fact when I was with the genealogy class we went out to the cemetery and we witched, or whatever term you want to use, for already marked graves so that we had some practice time in. So I practiced probably a half hour or so before I actually went on and later on that next week went out to witch for the babies.
Fisher: Did you find that the markers that you put in there actually corresponded with the plot map of the cemetery?
Mary Ann: Yes they did.
Fisher: That’s incredible. [Laughs] So you could actually do this in some place where cemeteries have been completely lost potentially, right?
Mary Ann: It’s a possibility yes. It’s very possible. Especially in forgotten places or rural areas where farm land has taken over and they’ve kept the cemetery and they may or may not be markers for everyone that’s there. One of the other things I found is one of the sections I was really kind of concerned about because I was getting more hits than what I thought was possible for that area. So we were just marking away putting the flags down and I went back, I didn’t have the list of who was buried where at that time. I didn’t want to see that… I wanted to do it cold.
Mary Ann: So that I knew I was doing the best I could. Went back and looked at the list later on because I needed to check off the headstones that where already there and then coordinate the others with what I had found. And what I found was that in this one section there were up to four graves in one space.
Fisher: That must have blown your mind a little bit.
Mary Ann: It did. Because I would have a hit for a boy or a hit for a girl and I’m like –
Fisher: Wait a minute, you could tell the difference?
Mary Ann: Yes you can.
Fisher: Really, from what, just the feel of it?
Mary Ann: By the way the rods crossed.
Fisher: Ha! [Laughs] That’s just the most amazing thing I have ever heard. Well, she’s Mary Ann Kester. She is the “Grave Witch!” Can I call you that Mary Ann? Fair enough?
Mary Ann: Well, I guess so. [Laughs]
Fisher: [Laughs] From Topeka Kansas and she’s done some amazing things. You can see the video of the news report that was done in her hometown television station and read the article it’s on ExtremeGenes.com. Thanks for teaching us a little about this amazing method Mary Ann. I’m absolutely intrigued and would like to try it sometime.
Mary Ann: I appreciate the phone call. I’m glad I could do this for you and sure, I’ll be glad to teach you anytime.
Fisher: [Laughs] Sounds great. Mary Ann Kester from Topeka Kansas thanks for coming on.
Mary Ann: Thank you.
Fisher: And coming up next, we’re going to talk to a couple of southern cousins who discovered an ancestor who lived a real long time and had a whole lot of kids. They’re trying to track down all the cousins, all the descendants, coming up next on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show in five minutes.
Segment 3 Episode 198
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Donya Papoose Williams and Brian Sheffey
Fisher: You have found us! It’s America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, and this segment is brought to you by 23andMe.comDNA. And I’m excited to talk to my next two guests who are on the phone with me right now. You know we all run into that story back there, the one that just kind of grips us and says, “You know, I’ve got to find out more about this. I’ve got to dig deep and you just get a little bit of fur on the cat’s tail and you start hauling in the entire cat. And Donya Papoose Williams is on the line. Your name tells me that there’s a story behind that Donya. And where are you located?
Donya: I’m located in Washington, DC.
Fisher: Washington. And I know up in Boston we’ve got our other guest Brian Sheffey. How are you two related, by the way?
Brian: We are related through Donya’s mother.
Fisher: Well you’re both descended from a guy named Moses Williams, and what an interesting character. Let’s start with a little bit of information, because as we get into this story I think everybody is going to be more and more amazed. Who found Moses, first of all Donya?
Donya: Me! [Laughs]
Fisher: You did?
Donya: I found Moses by accident actually on Newspapers.com. It was talking about a man who had 45 children from two wives!
Donya: And that he was still living, as well as his children.
Fisher: And when was he still living?
Donya: That paper was written in 18… I believe it was ’36 (1836) actually no, it had to have been a little earlier than that because looked around ‘50, but he was in his 60s or 70s.
Fisher: And he lived to be how old?
Donya: He lived to be 115, so he died in 1884 at the age of 115.
Fisher: So, born around 1769. So he’s born a few years before the American Revolution, he lived to see the Emancipation and he had 45 kids! Now what’s the breakdown? How many children per wife here, he had two wives.
Donya: Brian. [Laughs]
Brian: You have a better handle on that one than me.
Donya: Okay. He had 40 girls and 5 boys.
Fisher: [Laughs] 40 girls and 5 boys.
Donya: Between two wives. The first wife had 22 children, whereas, with the second wife he had 23. So one wife had 20 girls and 2 boys, the other wife had 20 girls and 3 boys.
Donya: Brian and I connect through connect through one of his sons, Moses junior who was born in 1796.
Fisher: That’s incredible.
Brian: He’s our four times great grandfather.
Fisher: Four times, okay. So you found this connection, Donya, and you started talking with Brian obviously and now you guys are having a big project here to identify all of these children. Now how’s the work distribution going on this?
Brian: It’s going pretty well. We’ve added another four cousins from Edgefield, black and white, who are working with us to do the research.
Brian: But it was the funniest conversation I had with Donya. She basically said, “Are you sitting down?” And then she sent me the newspaper article about Moses. I went kind of quiet for about a minute and Donya knows me really, really well by now. So it was just the enormity of it that just absolutely floored me. But I was up for it. I wanted to find these 45 children.
Fisher: 45 Children.
Donya: Yeah, we kind of passed it on, because when I saw it, I immediately said, “I’m not doing this Brian.”
Donya: I just told him, I’m not doing this. [Laughs] He was just quiet, and I knew that was his brain like, “Okay, let me organize this because we’re getting ready to do this. I hear her telling me no, but I’ll get in the car tomorrow and we’ll get this situated.”
Fisher: This is like three generations worth of work in one generation!
Brian: Absolutely! Because again, part of it was all of the children were born during the slavery period, so they would have been enslaved themselves.
Brian: So we were looking for 40 women… in the black families everyone tended to get married. So that was going to be trying to figure out 40 maiden names, plus the elder Moses was having children, we reckon between 1785….
Brian: …and 1834. So he’s having children at the same time that his eldest children were having children.
Fisher: So he had kids over a 49 year period?
Donya: His grandchildren may have had children along with him.
Fisher: At the same time. This is like Mick Jagger, you guys!
Fisher: [Laughs] I mean he had a kid after he had a great grandkid! So out of these 45 children, the 40 girls, the 5 boys, how many have you been able to identify so far?
Donya: And a host of grandchildren.
Fisher: I bet you have. So you’re basically trying to bring the entire family forward, that’s the ultimate goal is to identify all of them, a very difficult goal for anybody yet alone in a slave family situation, and then back in that time, really challenging. What have you learned about those seven?
Brian: We noticed they liked using the name Moses.
Brian: All of them.
Fisher: Right, in their children.
Brian: Exactly. So it’s a name that’s even being used to this day. It’s being carried down that long. Part of the story that’s really amazing is some of the family that owned them were also their blood relations. So they tended to keep the enslaved people who were their blood relations within the family as opposed to anything else. And even though over the generations they kind of got split, we get the sense that they were still in contact with each other because the family was very social within itself. So you can imagine you’re a personal slave to one of the white slave owners, they were going to go visit their cousins or their siblings, and they maybe would bring their servants with them. So we think maybe that’s how the family kept in touch with one another. And at the end of slavery we see them, a lot of them living very close to one another.
Donya: It’s on the exact same land.
Brian: Exactly. So those bonds were still really, really strong.
Fisher: So there’s a lot of hope really that you’re going to be able to extend this as you start to figure out who were the people associated with the folks you’ve already identified.
Donya: Yeah. One of the things which makes this really great is the fact that the white Williams family were meticulous with their records. And this is what made it somewhat easy for Brian to actually do a hand written tree to actually chart the slaves, those that were enslaved and who they were passed on to. And he’s done this wonderful job on Ancestry where it’s not possible to do, where you actually see who owns who, and how they’re owned and what generation they were owned by and so on and so forth.
Donya: It’s an awesome thing.
Fisher: This is like a lifetime project, isn’t it guys?
Brian: Oh it is. Especially because like I said the story starts in Virginia. He was in Virginia for thirty years before he moved with his master and mistress to North Carolina and then South Carolina. So he had children in Virginia, he had children in North Carolina, and then he had children in South Carolina.
Fisher: And then many of them moved around I would assume over time.
Brian: They spread through the whole of the South by the time the Civil War happened.
Fisher: So how does DNA play into this? Have you used that as one of your tools?
Brian: Um yes, it’s been an absolutely invaluable tool in terms of who we’re matching in terms of DNA, looking for the family names on their lists and there’s a wonderful service called GedMatch.com, getting people to upload their results to that and we just literally look at the segments that we share and slowly working out what are the Williams segments and the other families that they’re related to because a colonial family has a lot of cousins married to a lot of cousins and in our family that happens in about a 400 hundred year period.
Fisher: Sure. So we’re talking endogamy here, kind of messing up the DNA challenge a little bit.
Brian: Oh yes. Because it happens on the white side of the family and they pass those genes on to their mistress’ children who themselves started marrying cousins. That’s how we’re related to pretty much everyone in Edgefield, or like what we call an “Old 96” region of South Carolina.
Donya: Right, and that’s what I was going to say to you. The greatest thing about finding Moses is the fact that he will probably end up connecting us to two thirds of that entire county!
Fisher: Wow! [Laughs]
Donya: Because he had so many children.
Donya: And because we come from a line of family members who at one point, especially during the mid to late 1800s they were having double digit children anyway, and then the fact that that were marrying and remarrying into each other. He actually is probably the common ancestor to at least two thirds of Edgefield, South Carolina.
Fisher: Well what an incredible story, you guys. Donya Papoose Williams, Brian Sheffey thanks for coming on the show. I am looking forward to hearing about when you have your first really big reunion of the Williams family after all the incredible work you’ve done. Keep me up to speed with what’s happening with this. It’s an incredible story!
Donya: Oh thank you.
Brian: Thank you.
Fisher: We talk preservation with Tom Perry, coming up next on Extreme Genes.
Segment 4 Episode 198
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry
Fisher: And welcome back to America’s Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth. And it is time to talk preservation with our Preservation Authority, Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com. Hi Tom, how are you? Welcome back!
Tom: Great to be back.
Fisher: And this segment is brought to you by FamilySearch.org. And we have an email here from Dominique, and he said, “I wanted to ask about your videogame disk repair service that you offer.” I had no idea you did that, Tom.
Tom: Oh yeah.
Fisher: And he said, “I recently bought a pre owned XBOX 1 game and I saw how dirty the disk is and there may be some scratches not visible to the naked eye. I wanted to know if in particular you offer the option to clean/repair XBOX 1 disks?” Well, that’s kind of a different thing than we usually talk about. Obviously this would apply also to disks that contain family history material.
Tom: Oh, absolutely. The thing with disks, whether it’s a DVD or a CD or a BluRay, whether it’s a ROM, a data disk, a playable video, music, any of those kinds of things, they all have the same architecture. And within those kinds of disks, there’s two kinds of disks, you have the one that we call “one offs” like you buy it and you record it on your own machine or you send us one of your VHS tapes and we put it on a disk and send it back to you, those are all considered one off disks, which means they’re made out of dye. And so, the zeros and the ones, what it does is, it’s kind of like an LCD watch that you can see the little numbers. You know everything’s made up of an “8”, but only certain parts are triggered. So the dye is exactly the same way, it turns the dye on or off. That’s why if you take a one off disk and put it on your dashboard or even your kitchen, any place where the sun’s going to sit on it all day, even if it doesn’t get that hot, just that light, the intensity of light is like a laser and it could erase your disk.
Tom: So you always want to be careful. You never leave any kind of a one off disk with the dye side up where there’s going to be light on it, whether it’s in your car, even if your car’s air conditioned, that can cause all kinds of problems.
Fisher: But this guy’s got a scratch.
Tom: Right, that guy’s got a scratch. Since it’s an XBOX game, that’s what’s called a replicated disk. They make, you know, hundreds of thousands at a time. They actually have a piece of carbonate that the zeros and the ones they’re actually part of the disk itself, so those aren’t ever going to go away. You can leave it in the sun. Nothing’s ever going to happen to them, because they’re permanently in there. It’s not the dye turning on and off. So when you get a scratch, the things are based on where the scratch is, what direction the scratch is going, how deep the scratch it and which kind of a disk you have. For instance, if you have what they call a radial scratch which goes around the disk.
Tom: So its curved, it’s not just straight. Those are the worst kind, because when your disk is being read by the laser, it’s reading it in that direction. If it’s got like ten pieces of data missing, especially on a game disk, it’s not going to know what to do. On a CD player, a lot of times it can go “brrrrrrr” and make those kinds of noises.
Fisher: Yes. That’s right, yeah.
Tom: So it’s locked and saying, “What am I supposed to do now?” It has no idea. And then to even complicate that more, if you have a one off disk and you put one hour on it, your zeros and you ones are going to be pretty big. If you go to two hours, they’re half the size, four hours, half the size, eight.
Fisher: Right, because of the compression.
Tom: Exactly. The zeros and ones get smaller and smaller and smaller. So, a little teeny hairline scratch on a one hour disks is going to be like nothing. It’s like not even really there, but if you have an eight hour disk, you’re going to have major troubles. The biggest thing you want to do is, not read what the internet tells you to do. I’ve seen things from cleaning with toothpaste, cleaning with different kinds of detergents.
Tom: Never do that! Never use anything abrasive unless you really know what you’re doing and you have a backup copy of it. What we do when we resurface the disk, we actually take off a little bit of the polycarbonate just like you would on a fine piece of furniture that’s got varnish on it. We take that off. And so, every time you do that, it’s going to get thinner and thinner and thinner. And game disks are the worst, because they don’t start in the middle and go out like an audio or video disk would, it jumps around because it need to see what level you’re on, so the scratches can be on a place you never play or right where it starts up the disk and nothing’s going to work for you.
Fisher: All right, Dominique, hopefully that answers your question. And when you think about these things, Tom, I mean, we digitize so much material. That is not the end of the process, is it? For preservation, not just the digitization.
Tom: Oh absolutely. In fact, you know what, that’s a good idea. Let’s talk about that in the next segment, about how we can save your photos and your digitized photos.
Fisher: All right, coming up in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 5 Episode 198
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry
Fisher: You know, there is that mindset that once we have digitized our photographs, our videos, our old home movies, that that’s kind of the end of the drill. Hi it’s Fisher, its Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. I’ve got Tom Perry here from TMCPlace.com, our Preservation Authority. And Tom, really it’s just the beginning of the process once you’ve digitized, because there’s so much you can do with that material. But you also have to make sure that the work you’ve done gets preserved.
Tom: Exactly. And that’s where you run into a big problem. People come to us with two questions, they say, “Okay, now that all my stuff’s digitized, what do I do with it now?” Well, first off, you get a good program like Heritage Collectors, and that will allow you to do all kinds of cool stuff, make calendars, make books. Do all kinds of neat stuff. But your disk itself, how are you going to protect that? And people like you said in the first segment, they just assume that everything’s fine. That is not true. Let me give you a really sad story. We had a friend of ours, an actor, and he finally got tapes from all the different things he was in so he could make a collection of everything to send out to prospective clients. And he did all this, and then right when he was ready to go to one on his sessions, he popped out the disk and popped it into his DVD player, nothing! And he’s going, “Oh, my goodness! What happened?” So he brings it to us, we tried it in every machine we had. We tried doing disk recovery, everything, and it was gone. And what happens, a lot of disks that you buy in the grocery stores and you say, well, why are these only 10, 15, 20c a piece, maybe 30c? Because of the dye, the quality of the dye. The better disk, like Taiyo Yudens, they have a better dye in them, so they last longer. So you can have all your stuff digitized. And say maybe you did it six years ago, I’d be checking those disks and make sure they’re still working. And if they are still working, I would go and make a new copy of them, because then you’ve got a newer one with the dye. We have people come in that can’t play a disk, we try duplicating it and sometimes it will play after that. But you’ve got to be careful, it doesn’t last forever. In fact, it’s funny that an old VHS tape or an old audio or a wire recording or a reel to reel tape is going to outlast a standard disk.
Fisher: Boy that makes sense! In fact, the better that we’ve gotten at preserving, it seems the lifespan of what we’ve created gets shorter and shorter.
Tom: Exactly, just like our attention span.
Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs]
Tom: As the older we get, the shorter it becomes. So what you need to do, we talk about this all the time and I can’t emphasis this enough, whether you have an iPhone, whether you have photos, CDs, DVDs, anything, you want to have a hardcopy of it like a disk, you know. You want to have possibly a thumb drive, like a USB drive. You also want to have them on your hard drive and you want to have them in at least one cloud, possibly two clouds. Like if you’re a Mac guy, use the iCloud and Dropbox. So you’ve got them backed up, so nothing’s going to happen to them, or if one of them breaks down, you’re going to have other copies. And we tell people also, “Make copies. Send then to your family out of the area.” However, if you’re using a cheap disk and you send them all over the world, it doesn’t matter if the dye dies, the dye is dead.
Tom: So you want to make sure you keep that hard drive, you keep the computer, you keep your cloud so you can go back and do all these kinds of things. And it’s worth spending a little bit more money and getting a Taiyo Yuden disk. If you go to a local big box store and they do all your conversions for you or whatever, that’s fine. However, some of them say, “Oh yeah, these are gold disks.” Well, if they truly are gold, they have some problems in some of the newer machines, because the gold isn’t as reflective as some of the other materials.
Tom: You never know for sure what they’re using. Get a good Taiyo Yuden disk, buy them from us, buy them online, make sure they’re legit and backup all the disks you’ve ever made on Taiyo Yudens, so then you know you’ve got at least a hundred year disk, or go to an M Disk, which are kind of a cross between a duplicated disk and a replicated disk, which are called thousand year disk. And they’re an awesome way to go. And that’s the best way to go, and then put those away as preservation.
Fisher: All right. Wow, great stuff to consider. And of course, if you want to review anything that Tom just said, go on our website, ExtremeGenes.com and check out the transcript, because I’m going to be reviewing that, I know it. Thanks so much Tom. See you next week.
Tom: My pleasure.
Fisher: Hey, that’s it for this week. Thanks for joining us. I never imagined I’d get an on air lesson about grave witching. Hey, if you missed any of the show today, make sure you catch the podcast, it’s on iTunes, iHeart Radio, TuneIn Radio and ExtremeGenes.com. Hey, and don’t forget also to sign up for our Weekly Genie newsletter, it’s absolutely free. Those who are subscribers in the month of July are eligible for a drawing we’re going to do for a free consultation from David Allen Lambert. Talk to your friends, tell them about the show. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we’re a nice, normal family!