22 March 2012

Gen Podcasts: BackStory Radio (and the 1940 Census!)

An occasional blog series identifying online locations of genealogical knowledge in both audio and video podcasts with an emphasis on (Jewish) genealogy.  

BackStory Radio– The American History Guys (Ed Ayres, Peter Onuf and Brian Balough), hosts

This is not a genealogy show, but the topics covered may provide wonderful context for your research. I have listened to nearly all of their shows available on iTunes regardless of their applicability to my research and found them all entertaining and educational. Of particular interest, considering the imminent release of the 1940 U.S. Census, is their December 2010 show (see below) about the History of the U.S. Census. 

Format:  This (approximately) monthly public radio show/podcast may be heard on selected public radio stations around the country and as a pre-recorded podcast. The show has been on the air since June 2008, but is currently on short hiatus as the team prepares to relaunch during the summer as a weekly radio show. In each episode the three hosts take a current topic of interest and examine it through the lens of history: looking back at issues affecting us today. They have delved into many topics including the national debt, the Civil War, immigration and border issues, the history of courtship, the history of work, July 4th and Thanksgiving. 

All three men are historians of some gravitas: Ayres is President of and History Professor at the University of Richmond and Onuf and Balough are Professors at the University of Virgina. Their conversations are insightful, amusing and always entertaining. 

The show generally runs about an hour and often involves interviews with historians specializing in the episode's topic, re-creations of historic speeches and written insights, and call-ins with listeners. 

Episodes with  Genealogy content: 

“Aliens in America” - 13 October 2008 [54:16]
This show may be accessed via the Archives tab on the show's website or via iTunes U (not in the podcast area of iTunes).

How have we regarded new-comers? Who gets to stay? The Guys interview: 
  • Mae Ngai, Columbia University, about immigration up to the 1920s 
  • Frank Morris, Center for Immigration Studies, about opposition to immigration
  • Stanton Braverman, immigration attorney, about his challenges representing those trying to stay
"Beyond Numbers: A History of the U.S. Census" - 22 December 2010 [52:01]
The Guys take a fascinating look at the origins of the U.S. Census and the way it and its role have changed over the years. They examine when and why certain questions have been added and changed. Of greatest interest to genealogists, they interview Al Marquart, an enumerator for the 1940 U.S. Census in Kingston, New York. Al was just out of high school and enumerated in some of the poorest areas of Kingston. The show's website in the Archives section contains an extended interview with Mr. Marquart.
Special Feature: The Archives tab on the BackStory Radio website provides additional information and opportunities to learn more.  The index provided, however, is rather limited. Once in the Archives areas, either select a general topic or, if one knows the date of the podcast, select the month and year.  One may listen to the full recorded show, find a full transcript of the show, and view further reading about the topic of the show. In addition, one may find extended interviews with selected guests under "Features and Highlights."

  • live via select public radio stations (check the stations in your area)
  • via iTunes: search for Backstory Radio. Different lists of past shows may be found in iTunes podcast section and in iTunes U section. One may download individual episodes or subscribe to the show from either or both iTunes areas.  The most recent show is usually available immediately after the live show airs. If you subscribe, new episodes will automatically be delivered to your iTunes podcast folder. 
  • via BackStoryRadio.org
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