Episode 104 - 23andMe DNA Day & Pursuing A Jail Break

podcast episode Sep 13, 2015

Every month, an expert from our sponsor 23andMe.com answers your questions about genealogy DNA.  This week, Dr. Joanna Mountain takes on a challenging listener question.  And Sarah O'Connor of GeneArtistry.com talks about her research into a century old jailbreak involving a great great uncle!

Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and American Ancestors.  David talks about a new milestone recently achieved by Queen Elizabeth, new finds in the area of Stonehenge, and the discovery of 2.5 million year old remains in South Africa.  David also provides a "Low Tech Tip of the Week," a "poor man's GPS" for use in cemeteries!  He also has a review of an app called PhotoMyne, and another free database from NEHGS.

Then, Dr. Joanna Mountain from 23andMe.com answers an amazing listener question about genealogy DNA, and offers other insights for you to understand as you consider your DNA test.  Everybody's talking DNA these days, and you won't want to miss what Dr. Mountain has to say.

In the next segment, Sarah O'Connor of GeneArtistry.com reveals her criminal great great uncle's past and how she tracked his life after a jail break over a century ago!  It's another tale that will leave you saying "What a story!"

Then, Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com flawlessly handles another listener question on preservation.

It's all this week on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show!

Transcript of Episode 104

Host Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 104

Fisher: I love criminal ancestors! Hey, welcome to Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show 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. And maybe I’ve been talking enough about my criminal ancestors because it’s spurring other people to talk about theirs. Little later on in the show today we’re going to be talking to Sarah O’ Connor about her journey of tracing down a great, great uncle who went on quite the crime spree in the northwest. So we’ll catch up with her and how she found this out, and even how she found her ancestor’s mug shot. Good stuff! And, coming up in about eight minutes, very excited to do our monthly DNA segment with Dr. Joanna Mountain from 23AndMe.com, one of our sponsors. This is great stuff and if you have any interest in doing DNA you’re going to want to listen to what she has to say. But first we head to Boston to talk to the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and American Ancestors, David Allen Lambert. Hello David.

David: Greetings from Boston, Fish.

Fisher: How’re you doing buddy?

David: I’m doing great.

Fisher: A lot of news going on this week in family history.

David: Oh there really is. Actually this one’s kind of about one of your cousins. You have a royal line, correct?

Fisher: Yeah I do. Edward the first and I’ve also traced to Robert the Bruce in Scotland.

David: Well we’re definitely cousins from Edward the first.

Fisher: Okay.

David: I haven’t found the Robert the Bruce line yet. But your distant cousin Queen Elizabeth the second is now the longest reigning monarch as of this week.

Fisher: How about that.

David: Yeah. At 89 years of age she has reigned 23,226 days and for those people quick on the math that balances out to 63 years and 7 months according to Buckingham Palace. And she has surpassed her great, great grandmother who had the previous record, of course that is Queen Victoria.

Fisher: Right.

David: Also from England we have some earlier news, it turns out there’s an earlier monument than Stonehenge. In the general area roughly over one hundred stones covering several acres was built about forty five hundred years ago and is older than Stonehenge.

Fisher: Wow!

David: So people are digging into the past in England, I don’t think they’re going to find much of anything with genealogical evidence right away but who knows what they might dig up. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs] And what it means, that’s just the thing. What do these stones mean and where are they facing and what are they trying to do?

David: Well you know it’s funny, I went there in 1986 and they had it all roped off and I showed a guy who’s a security guard a photograph of a guy in British Columbia that made a Stonehenge out of crushed cars. He was so amazed by it he took me under the rope and let me walk up to the monument and he goes, “See this stone right here.” And of course I’m leaning and touching it... like... wow!

Fisher: Yeah, no kidding!

David: The thrill of a teenager. Earlier news, we have some news that have come out recently from South Africa in the Rising Star cave where they have found evidence of a human ancestor dating back 2.5 million years ago.

Fisher: Wow!

David: And it’s amazing the way they’re now building in the earlier family tree of man and apparently this is in such a slender cave only very slim archaeologists could actually get into the area to do the work.

Fisher: Really small people... yea, I was reading about that, unbelievable!

David: Great stuff. And you know digging into the past sometimes our technology can be our best friend as you realize. With cell phones and digital cameras a trip to the cemetery is always wonderful. But how about when the batteries die?

Fisher: Uh oh.

David: So here’s my low tech tip for the week.

Fisher: [Laugh]

David: If you’re at a cemetery and you locate your great, great grandfather’s gravestone write down the following compass directions. Who’s to the left, who’s to the right, write down the names of the people on the stones, who is in front of the stone, who is at the back of the stone, and then do the northwest, southwest, northeast, and southeast coordinates. That way you know in a general area how to find the stone again.

Fisher: Ah! So it’s a poor man’s GPS?

David: Exactly!

Fisher: I like that!

David: And I don’t think I’ll be able to get an app for it because it’s really no use when your phone is on.

Fisher: All right, now speaking of the tech tip of the week, last week you were going to try out this thing called “Photomyne.” Explain what it does and what’s your review on it?

David: I was very impressed by it. Photomyne for $4.99 from the app store will allow you to take a photo album or as I found, a group of photos lay them on the table flat and photograph them. Now, what’s neat about this, Fish is it doesn’t take a picture of everything as a collage, it zooms in on each of the individual photographs.

Fisher: Wow!

David: So what it does then, you can manipulate and move the bar up so if the picture is kind of at an angle you’re not just limited with square brackets to crop, you can actually manipulate it at a different angle.

Fisher: So to square it off or to make it look different or artsy?

David: Exactly! And then the great thing is that it automatically creates a folder for you, and then you can send it to social media like Facebook. So you’re visiting a cousin, they pull out the photo albums you want to copy this $4.99 app will allow you to do that. Or a pile of photographs at a historical society, you don’t have much time... boom, boom, boom... you don’t need a scanner with you. I think Thor might even be interested in checking this out.

Fisher: Yes. Absolutely that would be great stuff! And don’t forget when you’re in your phone store for your iPhone or Android, don’t forget to get the free Extreme Genes podcast app.

David: I use it all the time. This week NEHGS guest users are going to get some updated databases for Connecticut, Maine, and Massachusetts vital records and that includes Connecticut for Norwich, Bolton, and Vernon, and Maine for Jonesboro, Jefferson, and Saco. And Boston, birth, marriages and deaths 1630 to 1699, that should keep people busy for the weekend.

Fisher: Boy, and anybody who’s got early New England ancestry should know that the towns kept records very early.

David: They did. And on AmericanAncestors.org we’ve tried to put all these early vital records online so people can use them. Makes it one stop shopping.

Fisher: That’s great stuff. All right David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist for the New England Historic Genealogical Society and American Ancestors, thanks for joining us. Have a great time in Syracuse, by the way!

David: Yup. I’ll be talking to you live from Syracuse next week. Take care.

Fisher: All right. And coming up next we’re going to talk to Dr. Joanna Mountain from 23AndMe DNA. It’s coming up in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 104

Host Scott Fisher with guest Dr. Joanna Mountain

Fisher: And welcome back to America’s Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, the Radio Roots Sleuth. Very excited to have once again one of our experts from 23andMe joining us on the show, Dr. Joanna Mountain. She is the senior director of research there. Got her degree at Stanford University, she’s been awarded multiple grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health. What I’m saying is here, Dr. Mountain, is you’re really, really smart! So we’re glad to have you on the show because we have some hard questions.

Joanna: Thank you! It’s very exciting to be part of the show.

Fisher: Well, here’s the question we got from one of our listeners. I’m going to change the names a little bit so that we can get through this without identifying some problems here. She says, “My question is about my mother. There’s a secret about her father’s identity. She was adopted and the adoption was closed. My children came up with some health problems that helped prompt her to get a judge to open the sealed case. When she did, she found that her mother, Freda, had Little’s disease, the precursor name to Cerebral Palsy. And that’s one reason why she had mom taken to an adoption agency. The other reason we believe is that she (Freda) who walked with two lost strand canes and had a hard time getting around, much less taking care of herself, went to Washington to visit relatives, presumably an aunt and uncle, and she came back pregnant. Her family hushed this up as quickly as possible with all the relatives, including Freda, who might know the answer, are gone. She died in 1972 in a boiling hot bathtub that a nursing home attendant didn’t check before putting her in. I mean a horrifically sad story. The writer says, “My mother Sally didn’t try to find her birth parents till 1997 after her adopted mother was gone, and my children had physical trouble.”  She said, “My mother is 70 and wouldn’t mind doing a test. She would be fine with the information even if it was the uncle or one of the children up there.” She said, “I was wondering though, if the father was of the same family, would we have a double DNA line? And would you be able to detect it? I don’t have any male participant to help, is there any way this could be solved?”

Joanna: That is a fascinating question from my perspective, because as far as I can tell, every family has a story, a mystery that they’re hoping to solve. I have one of my own and I’m hoping DNA will help me solve that one. And I think this is a case where DNA might be a part of the puzzle.

Fisher: Would she require a male participant in this to solve it, Or could she do this with autosomal?

Joanna: Yes. So this could be done with her own DNA if she could provide a saliva sample. She would be able to have her own DNA tested, and there may be evidence in her own DNA that her parents were related to one another.

Fisher: So we could test the mother with autosomal, and that would be obviously the closest person to the situation and that would work. But you’re saying maybe even the writer herself is a grandchild?

Joanna: If the writer had a cousin on the uncle and aunt’s side of the family that would be ideal to have them tested as well.

Fisher: Of course the question I guess really has to do with – Well first of all, would it work with an autosomal? Or would you have to go to a Y?

Joanna: There’s no need to have any Y-chromosome testing. One can do that just with the autosomal or the chromosomes 1 to 22. The DNA from the autosomes, those chromosomes are inherited from all four grandparents, all eight great grandparents and so on. You can pick up the pieces of the puzzle from the grandparents, not just the male line or just the female line.

Fisher: Right. So you could use a cousin of any type, a male or female?

Joanna: Yes. Any descendent any along that line, if the aunt or uncle had children or grandchildren they would be great if they would agree to be tested as well. Then a comparison of the mother or that cousin’s DNA or the writer and that cousin’s, might provide the answer to that story. I’ve seen cases of individuals with that kind of relationship, because a few generations ago, it seems it was quite common to have these loops in the family trees, where you’d have individuals who were related, who had children. And it wasn’t always hidden. Sometimes it was quite accepted.

Fisher: And typically, you see a lot of first cousins, especially when you get back to the 1700s and 1600s.

Joanna: That’s when it was in my family, yeah.

Fisher: Yeah, and I saw them in mine as well. Adoptees, they have a lot to work through. What are some of the typical things that you come across? Typical questions you get from them about this?

Joanna: Actually often I have this exact question you asked. Do I need to have a male biological relative be tested, to learn about myself? For females, their own DNA can be just as informative in terms of finding biological relatives or testing hypotheses about biological relatives. So that’s one of the most common questions.

Fisher: Well, there’s been quite a change, hasn’t there really, because autosomal now is pretty much a catch all.

Joanna: That’s right. Yes, it’s a good starting point, but sometimes though I do look at the either the Y chromosome DNA or the Mitochondrial DNA, which is inherited from each person’s mother. Those can be gravitas evidence that will help firm up a hypothesis. You know, we have many people in this country, adoptees and others who are trying to find out where their ancestors were from. And it turns out, a very common story in many families in this country is that there’s a Native American ancestor. And so, sometimes DNA can provide evidence of Native American ancestry. It kind of goes both ways, you have families who think they have Native American ancestry and the DNA doesn’t back that up. You have families who have no idea that they have Native American ancestry, and the DNA might show that that’s the case.

Fisher: Isn’t it true that you reach a certain point, I think it’s from the third great grandparents back, where you could actually lose any trace of genetics from that far back, yes?

Joanna: Yes. That’s why I said you may not have DNA evidence of Native American ancestry. You may have cultural evidence or even paper records, but it may not be retained in the DNA through all those generations.

Fisher: Interesting. Because it does change, doesn’t it. You pick up more from one person than another, and then eventually somebody is completely and essentially out of your system, right?

Joanna: Exactly. You’re out of the family system of the current generation, and that’s just because of the change, as what is inherited each generation.

Fisher: We’re talking to Dr. Joanna Mountain of 23andMe about what’s going on with DNA these days. It’s our monthly visit, and every excited about how some of these tests are done. I get a lot of questions myself, Dr. Mountain, about how you’re able to predict what the relationships are. You want to go through those percentages and how it works?

Joanna: Sure. So, at a very simple level, people may be aware of this already, you get half your DNA from each of your parents, but your siblings also get half. So it turns out that you share about half of your DNA with each of your siblings as well.

Fisher: Right. It’s not a 100%, even though you have the same parents.

Joanna: That’s right. Because you get different parts from each parent by chance, so you may get the same segment from your mother, as your sibling did. Because each parent has two copies and it passes on random to each of the children. So if two individuals, we find them to share 50% of their DNA, we conclude that either they’re parent and child or siblings. But there’s other evidence siblings will share some segments at 100%, and some segments 50%, some segments they will not be similar at all.

Fisher: So that’s an average, right? Isn’t 50% an average?

Joanna: Yes, 50% overall. Now, when you get to more distant relationships, you know, grandparents-grandchild, it’s approximately 25%.

Fisher: Right.

Joanna: I’ve compared my children to each of their four grandparents because they have two grandmothers tested, and we can see there that they inherit slightly different amounts of DNA from each of the grandparents. They might get more from a maternal grandfather than a maternal grandmother and so on. Some people are very interested to find that out.

Fisher: Do your relatives like being part of your experiments?

Joanna: My family has no choice!

Fisher: [Laughs] “You will give me some spit!”

Joanna: The only male Mountain with my surname was at the time when we were doing this initial testing was my uncle in New Zealand. I convinced him to send in a saliva sample. So I ended up getting my family the Mountain lines, Y chromosome, in that way. So yeah, sometimes the Y chromosome is part of the story as well.

Fisher: So you can be either the grandchild to someone, or the grandfather. And obviously then you can tell from the ages what it’s most likely to be. So you can predict that.

Joanna: That’s what we do.

Fisher: So what do you do with things like first cousins once removed, or second cousins twice removed? That type of thing. How do you predict that? Or is it kind of an in between thing?

Joanna: Yeah. We don’t say that it’s in between, sometimes it’s tricky. Some things are tricky, like Uncle Nate’s and half siblings.

Fisher: Yeah, half siblings.

Joanna: Those relationships will sometimes get the same amount of shared identical DNA. And then people tend to use other pieces of information to sort of conclude which one it might be.

Fisher: So you use it in combination with the records which is usually the most powerful way to use DNA, right?

Joanna: Absolutely. We have customers who have no other information so DNA is the first step as they try to solve this puzzle. And then others have some information already and then add DNA in with the rest.

Fisher: You know I got to tell you, I get really frustrated when I go through my matches and so many people either post their family tree or they don’t have one. And I’m thinking, “Boy, you’re really missing out on a lot of opportunities for me and yourself, when you don’t include that information.”

Joanna: Yes. Many people are not as caught up in figuring out their family tree as others. They haven’t been bitten by the bug yet. Other people, they get started and then it’s a lifelong activity.

Fisher: Sure.

Joanna: So we try to encourage people to get started on that path. And just start with just the closest relatives. In theory, even from those smaller family trees, we could build up kind of a global family tree if we had enough of those smaller trees. And I find what is so valuable about all this is it’s not necessarily finding new cousins, but learning from your new DNA cousins. You know, we have many stories of our customers who, through a cousin, learn about their biological family or get to find out where their biological family lives or lived, or benefit from seeing photographs of that part of their family. So, often it’s not necessarily the meeting up with these cousins, it’s learning from the cousins. And I had that where one of my DNA cousins helped me understand where my grandmother’s parents lived, and were married and were born. We hadn’t happened to have done the research for that part of my family tree and we didn’t know about each other until we found out we were genetic cousins. And then she said. “Well, I know about your grandmother Emily Moralice. I know about that part of the family, here’s the information I have.

Fisher: [Laughs] And then off she went.

Joanna: Yes. And so I learned a great deal from someone who is a fourth of fifth cousin. We probably will never meet, but I will have learned from her and hopefully I can help her out with something some day.

Fisher: Dr. Joanna Mountain, the senior director of research at 23andMe. Thanks so much for your time!

Joanna: It’s been a pleasure!

Fisher: And of course, if you have a question about DNA that we can ask next month as we get back into this again. You can email me. And coming up next – She found she had a relative who led a life of crime, but what kind of crime? She found out! You’ll hear the story of Sarah O Conner’s journey in tracking down her great, great uncle, coming up in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show!

Segment 3 Episode 104

Host Scott Fisher with guest Sarah O’Connor

Fisher: And we are back, America's Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here with my guest Sarah O’Connor from Lighthouse Point, Florida. I used to live in your neighborhood Sarah. Welcome to the show!

Sarah: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Fisher: Sarah is the genius behind GeneArtistry.com. She's a blogger. And you know I always love the stories that we stumble upon in the course of doing Extreme Genes. And Sarah, you have one that goes back to the complete other side of the country to the great northwest, involving some sibling of your great, great grandmother. Get into this.

Sarah: Yeah, so this is really a story about how newspapers helped me solve a family mystery that's over a hundred years old. My fascination with my great, great grandmother's brother Frank Parmenter began about twenty years ago. And my grandmother passed her family history research onto me. And in the collection are several letters that she received from a descendant of the Parmenters. It had little tidbits of information about the family. Most of the family remain in my hometown, Centralia, but there were a few that strayed in, too, including Frank who disappeared entirely. One letter really caught my attention. It was sent in 1980 from one of Frank Parmenter’s nephews and they gave details of all the Parmenter children, thirteen in total.

Fisher: Wow!

Sarah: And Frank, he said he was one to drink and pick fights at local dances. At night he was drunk and took a bicycle and rode it home to the Parmenter farm.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Sarah: He was sentenced to the penitentiary. And on release, he came back and was told by his father that he can never return home again because he had disgraced the family.

Fisher: Oh boy!

Sarah: [Laughs] And someone in the family saw a death notice that he had died in Canada. They didn't know, but they suspected it was murder because nobody in the family was ever contacted. And that was it. Nobody in the family had discovered what became of Frank. And it seemed like such a tragedy that he was turned away over a bicycle.

Fisher: But digitized newspapers have since come along and you got all into this. So what happened?

Sarah: So I searched for years for information about Frank the old fashion way, censuses and microfilm records. And nothing surfaced. And I had all but given up when about three years ago, I subscribed to a few newspaper databases, Newspapers.com and NewspaperArchives.com. And on a whim, I searched for Frank Parmenter in the Washington papers between 1902 and about 1910 when he was missing from the guest list of wedding for one of his siblings. Lo and behold, I found my first article! 1907… “Bicycle Thief Caught.” So the story was right.

Fisher: Wow!

Sarah: Frank had stolen a bicycle and he had pawned it, but he made off with a second one, but he tried to sell it to some man that suspected that he had stolen it. And he was reported to the police, carted off to prison and then released a few months later.

Fisher: They were very tough of bicycle thieves back then, don't you think?

Sarah: I think it was probably like stealing a car back then.

Fisher: Sure.

Sarah: And then another search. I located another article from April 1905. Frank stole another bicycle. And when he was interviewed, he claimed that he gets an uncontrollable urge to steal things when he's drunk.

Fisher: [Laughs] That was the quote, huh?

Sarah: Yes, so we know the cause. Well, he served a few more months. He was released again. And I guess that sometime between say, April 1909 and his release, he had decided that he was going to make way for Canada as he's been disowned. But I decided to keep digging. And I was on the Library of Congress Chronicling America site.

Fisher: That's a great one. And it's free by the way.

Sarah: It's wonderful. And I started to comb the newspaper from July of 1909, apparently Frank Parmenter was not only in trouble again, but this time he was in really hot water. He had gone to a small town, Roy, Washington, which is just north of Centralia, and had robbed the Grand Hotel.

Fisher: Uh oh.

Sarah: He was snagged by the hotel proprietor stealing a suitcase and going through a man's belongings. And he grabbed a rock and he beat the poor woman senseless before he escaped into a wooded area outside the town. And a local sheriff gathered a posse of approximately 400 men and children according to the article which, in my estimation, is the entire town of Roy!

Fisher: [Laughs]

Sarah: And they pursued him.

Fisher: "Get him!"

Sarah: Yeah. And they spotted Frank crossing an open area. Someone fired and they shot him in the foot. Six hours later, they finally apprehended him bleeding and exhausted. So he spent a few weeks in the county hospital. And then he was sentenced in Superior Court to a state penitentiary in Walla Walla. And as luck would have it, the prisoner file from Walla Walla still exists. They’re at the Washington City archives. And they probably did a mug shot of Frank. And that is the only known photograph of him.

Fisher: Wow! Is it a good one?

Sarah: It's a good one. And in the mug shot, he's wearing the same suit of clothes that he stole from the hotel and in the other, he's had a shave and he's in his striped prison uniform. And it was so fascinating to finally get to see an image of the man that I've been hunting for so long

Fisher: It sounds like you got exactly what you would want, what he looked like in normal life and what he looked like in prison. I mean what a gem!

Sarah: Absolutely, and really rich detail, a great description of all of his various scars, and the length from his elbow to his middle finger!

Fisher: [Laughs]

Sarah: And a description of the bullet wound in his left foot. It's really very fascinating. But Frank got released from prison and I could not find anything else. I looked and looked and looked. And then one day, I happened to search a Bellingham paper and I discovered that after release from Walla Walla, he made his way to Bellingham, Washington, which is very near the Canadian border. He forged a telegram requesting fifty dollars in the name of one of his old neighbors. And the telegram office suspected he was a fraud and they alerted the police. The Louis County sheriff travelled all the way to Bellingham and brought him back to St. Louis to stand trial again. So I looked for the trial in the newspaper, in the local newspaper thinking I would find it, but Frank never stood trial.

Fisher: Huh.

Sarah: The next newspaper I found from April 1911 had giant letters on top that were three times larger than the heading of the newspaper itself. It said, "Six break jail. County captives break bars and gain freedom. Frank Parmenter outside steel cage liberated fellow prisoners."

Fisher: Ho ho ho, he was like at the head of this thing, huh?

Sarah: Yes, the article goes on to say, “Frank Parmenter charged with forgery was not in a steel cage when they were locked that evening. The steel cages are located on the second story of the courthouse. Parmenter had pulled a piece of metal from the wall used to fasten the heating pipes. And with this, he had smashed the locks on the other steel cages and used the same instrument as a tool to get through the wall. From all indications, the work of tearing out a hole in the wall had been underway for a day or two and the boards had been sawed and the hole covered with paper. From metal secured in the steel cage, the prisoners had fashioned a rude saw. They used this to get through the woodwork on the inside, and with the tools secured by Parmenter had gouged the bricks out so that they could get through. By tying the blankets together, they were enabled to reach the ground.”

Fisher: Wow! [Laughs] What a great story! But it doesn't end there.

Sarah: No, it doesn't. The other men that escaped were all wanted for serious crimes, from white slavery to grand larceny. One prisoner, Jack Vandelski, only made it as far as the local saloon a few blocks away where he proceeded to get drunk and was recaptured immediately. The prisoners were never recovered. The manhunt was called off. Nobody knows what became of them. And even though the old family letters never mentioned that he had robbed the hotel in Roy or broken out of prison, I still thought there might be some truth to the rumor that Frank had gone to Canada. So I began searching through Canadian newspapers, thinking that likely that maybe he's string of crime had continued up there. My perseverance eventually paid off, because one of the Newspaper Archives uploaded from Vancouver and Courtenay British Columbia paper is on their site. And my Frank Parmenter appeared in a search at the center with a death notice. So just to sum it up, Frank went straight and made his way to Shoal Bay, Canada where he worked in a shingle mill. And on his last day of employment before returning to Washington, he stopped to pay his respects to a friend and he had a very mysterious end. His clothes got caught in a flywheel somehow and he was rolled around and died.

Fisher: Ooh!

Sarah: The inquest was held, but nobody ever contacted the family. I sent for his death certificate which provided very little additional information. I'm not completely convinced that this was an accident, even though that's what the official report says, but I may never be able to prove that.

Fisher: She's Sarah O’Connor from Lighthouse Point, Florida. She is the genius behind GeneArtistry.com. A great site by the way, Sarah. People need to see it, describes great ways to artistically render your family history. She's a blogger. Sarah thanks for coming on the show.

Sarah: Thank you, Fisher. Appreciate it.

Fisher: And coming up next, we talk preservation with Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 4 Episode 104

Host Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: And we are back once again on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show. I am Fisher, the Radio Roots Sleuth with Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com. He’s our Preservation Authority. He answers your questions about what you do to make sure you don’t lose your precious audio, your video, your photographs, your home movies. There’s so much going on and so much to talk about, and Tom, this is a really interesting question that we got from Jack Smith. He’s in Indianapolis, Indiana, and he’s saying, “I’m going to be going to a local outlet soon to get my materials transferred, my old home videos.” He said, “What questions should I ask to know that these people are going to do this right?”

Tom: That’s a wonderful question! Because there are so many people out there, whether you’re buying a diamond ring or having your video tapes transferred, “How do I know that this guy’s legit? Because I know nothing about the industry, so I don’t know what to look for.” One of the things you want to talk to the people about is, what kind of equipment that they use. You don’t need brand names. It’s just, “How do you transfer my video tape to a DVD or BluRay or to a hard drive? Do I need to bring in my camcorder? Do I just bring in my tapes? If I have the old VHS-Cs, do I need an adaptor? What do I need to do?” If you’re going to a reputable place, you won’t need your camera, you won’t need your adaptor. They will have all that kind of equipment and one thing you want to remember…

Fisher: Even the old ones?

Tom: Oh, absolutely! Oh, absolutely! Anybody that’s worth their weight in salt has to be able to already have VHS-C transfer machines. If they don’t have them, it’s like, what are they doing? Do they not do enough? Do they know what they’re doing? I’d be very, very skeptical about anybody that says, “Oh, no, you need to bring in your camera.” The only situation where that differs is, sometimes the camera gets shaken and it records a little bit off track, and it will play in your camera fine, however, it won’t play even on our equipment, which we have the best equipment you can buy, because our stuff is set to a certain standard, so you might get wavy lines and things like this. But in the situation where it was recorded on a bad camera, then you would want to bring in your camera and tie it into our system.

Fisher: And how would you know that your camera’s bad or the video’s bad?

Tom: Well, generally you probably would not know if you don’t have a way to play it. So, what I would do is, when you take your tape in, if it comes back looking funky or something, then you’re going to call them and say, “Hey, why does my tape look like this? It plays in my camcorder.” And they say, “Well, I don’t know.” Well, you probably shouldn’t have gone to that place, because what we generally like to do is, if we see that situation, we can generally tell and we will call you and say, “Do you still have your camcorder? Have you had it repaired since? Because if you’ve had your camcorder repaired since you recorded your tape offline so to speak, it’s not going to do any good, because now your camera is back to what it should have been. So that’s the best thing. Find out what you need to bring in and what they have. And another thing which, I take a lot of heat on this, but this is my opinion, the best way to transfer analog to digital is through a machine that’s made specifically to transfer VHS-C, VHS, and High 88, all these different kinds of tapes to a DVD or BluRay or hard drive. You can buy these absolute kick butt Apples and even some PCs that are amazing on what they do. And so, people get these little squawk boxes, they pay less than a hundred dollars for.

Fisher: Oh.

Tom: And they plug their camcorder into it, and then plug that into a computer. A computer is not a device to turn analog into digital. So, you have this thousand dollar Apple computer that’s just absolutely incredible, and then you have this stupid little piece of hundred dollar equipment.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Tom: That’s in the middle of it, and you’re not going to get good transfers. You need to find a person that has equipment that’s specialized to transfer different media to hard drive in real time, BluRay, and hard drive, whatever you’re going to do, because if you don’t, you’re going to get all kinds of problems. In audio it’s not so much, because the bandwidth of audio is so much smaller, a lot less you’re working with. When you get into video, you’re doing tons of stuff, terabytes, and gigabytes of stuff. And so, when you’re transferring, if there’s the littlest glitch, if the computer just pauses for a fraction of a second, you might not notice until you looking at your DVD, you see these little artifacts that flash and stop and freeze, and it will drive you nuts, because it’s visual and most people are visual people. So, that’s why you want to stay away from the computer way if you can. So, I would really stay away from people that are transferring through their computer vs. having the hardware. Right after the break, I’ll give you some more questions that you can ask your dealer where you want to get your memories preserved.

Fisher: All right, coming up in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 104

Host Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: We are back, final segment of Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show. I am Fisher, the Radio Roots Sleuth, with Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com and we’re talking about this great question, about how do you know that someone is going to do a great job transferring your old family videos because there are so many different types of old videos, as we’ve talked about Tom. So what questions to ask and you’ve given some great answers on that already.  What else should they be concerned with?

Tom: You know, I would ask the people, how long they’ve been in business, how long they’ve been in this industry? Maybe they’ve only been transferring tapes for five years but yet maybe they’ve been a videographer for twenty years.

Fisher: Sure.

Tom: So they’ve got the experience. There are people out there, and I’m not exaggerating, we hear horror stories about this all the time. They go to a place like Goodwill, buy some old VCRs, buy some old camcorders, hook them up and say “Hey!..” You know, they hang the shingle that says “Hey, I can transfer your audio, video and film.”  They know nothing about cleaning the machines; they know nothing about getting mould spores from one person’s tape, transferring to everybody else’s tape. You’ve got to be careful. You want to ask a them questions. Ask them, “How do you upkeep your equipment? What’s your experience on that? What do you use?”

Fisher: I want to go back to the mould spores there, because you’ve mentioned this before.

Tom: Oh yeah.

Fisher: Is this still pretty common and where?

Tom: Oh, it is! Especially places that are high humidity, like Florida.

Fisher: Alabama.

Tom: Exactly!

Fisher: Yeah, okay.

Tom: Not so much in Arizona, because it’s so dry. And people that have moved around, these tapes may have been in boxes for ten, fifteen, twenty years, and there could be rodent damage, there could be all kinds of stuff. And, I don’t mean to be gross, but you don’t want to be running a tape with rodent pee through your VCR and then put somebody else’s nice, clean tape in there and do the same thing. It’s nasty. I mean, we know this stuff. If we see something, we know about it. And I’ve had situations where something snuck in that we didn’t catch, we didn’t see the mould spores or whatever. There’s no white dots, but when we started running it we knew exactly what was going on. And so, we threw the VCR away. We just didn’t use it anymore.

Fisher: Really?

Tom: Oh yeah! Because when they get really, really bad, there’s no way you’re going to be able to clean them. We clean all of ours by hand. They make good quality tape cleaners, but they’re kind of hard to find nowadays, but you can get them to run through your machine. We don’t do that. We take our machines apart. We clean all the rubber parts, all the metal parts with 90% isopropyl alcohol. We use the right kind of tip cleaners and things like that. We’re always cleaning our machines, because we don’t want somebody else’s tapes, even though they think. “Oh, it’s on DVD now. I don’t care.” Well, you don’t know. Something down the road could happen to your DVD and you go, “Boy! I’m glad I still have that tape. I can retransfer it again.” We’ve had people that have taken tapes into the big box stores that they get the DVD back and they look at it and say, “This isn’t good.” And they ask the big box store, we won’t mention names, “Oh, no, we did the best we can. We’re professional at this.” They bring the same tape in to us, we run it and they go, “Oh, now this is how it plays on our VCR!” You know, we guarantee our work. If something’s wrong with the tape, we’ll do the very best we can. A lot of the big box stores won’t be able to do that, and that’s a good thing too. If you ever take your tape into a place to get it transferred, and they say there’s always things wrong with your tape, da, da, da, da, da, da. You can play it or you’re pretty sure there’s not a problem, send it to us. Let us try it. We get tapes all the time that are rejected from the big box stores, but these guys are an assembly line. All they’re doing is going, “Oh, this tape is not working. Let’s pull it out, let’s pull it out!”

Fisher: Sure.

Tom: And we can transfer it.

Fisher: And you’ve got a lot of young kids often working in these stores. They’re not specialists in this material.

Tom: Exactly! It’s a 9 to 5 job for them, if even that, or it’s a summer job. But we take the time to go through the whole tape, find out if we can transfer it and we do, and it makes me wonder, how many other tapes out there, that these big box stores reject that people throw away that we could have transferred for them?

Fisher: So, bottom line is, Tom, you’ve got to make sure you’re working with reputable, experienced people, right?

Tom: Exactly! If they don’t answer your questions, then go to someplace else. Check with your local guys, if you don’t feel comfortable with them, write us a letter at [email protected] and I’ll try to help you. If you can’t get anybody in your area, send them to one of our stores. We’re more than happy to help you.

Fisher: All right. We’ll see you again next week.

Tom: Sounds good. See you then, bud.

Fisher: That is a wrap for this week. Thanks once again Sarah O’Connor for sharing with us the story of her great, great uncle and his life of crime, escaping from prison, starting a new life and his ultimate “murder,” perhaps. If you didn’t hear it, catch the podcast, it’ll be on iTunes later this week. Thanks also to Dr. Joanna Mountain from 23andMe.com for answering the DNA questions. If you have a question, just drop me an email. Thanks for joining us. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we’re a nice, normal, family!




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