Episode 124 - She Left Her High Powered Job To Find Her Chinese Ancestors and Kin!

podcast episode Jan 31, 2016

Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, and AmericanAncestors.org. They welcome new radio affiliate WFLN in Arcadia, Florida. David talks about his recent time in the spotlight working out the actual relationships of the Kardashians, which Fisher promptly brings to a halt! (Fisher insists EG be a "Kardashian Free Zone!") David then talks about a woman who is well into her second century, and still chain smokes! Just how old is she? Listen to the podcast! The Canadians have just released digitized World War I military diaries, and is working on Army service records. David also shares his Tech Tip of the Week, and another free database from NEHGS.

Then, over two segments, Fisher visits with Paula Williams Madison, a former network executive at NBC, who left her high-powered job to pursue her ancestry! With Jamaican roots, she was raised in Harlem, New York, to a mother who was half Chinese. Paula's quest to find her grandfather's kin took her back to China faster than anyone could have imagined. How did she do it? Paula will tell you in the podcast. And where does her adventure go from here? Find out on this week's show!

Then, Tom Perry, the Preservation Authority from TMCPlace.com, answers more listener questions about digital preservation.

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

(Photo used with permission of Paula Williams Madison.)

Transcript of Episode 124

Host Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 124

Fisher: You have found us! America's Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com

My name is Fisher, I  am the Radio Roots Sleuth on the program where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out, and if you are new to the show, the whole point of this thing is to help you learn how to trace your ancestry, learn about your ancestors, your family history, your ethnic background and also to inspire you with some of the stories of discovery that some people have had and hopefully entertain you a little bit along the way as well, and of course, everybody right now is getting ready for Roots Tech,  which is the largest family history convention / conference in the world.

It's going to be happening this coming week in Salt Lake City, Utah. I'm going to be there, our good friend David Allen Lambert is going to be there, from the New England Historic Genealogical Society and so is our guest from today, Paula Williams Madison.

She is going to be one of the keynote speakers there, fascinating background, an NBC executive who quit her career right at her prime in order to trace her family history. Raised in Harlem, African-American, Jamaican, but also has Chinese background, and wanted to find out about that, and she went to work and she did not fail. Wait till you hear her story coming up in about eight minutes or so.

We also want to welcome our friends at WFLN, NewsRadio 1480 in Arcadia, Florida to our network of stations. We’re so excited to be part of Joe Fiorini’s great weekend line-up in western Florida.

Right now, let's head out to Boston and talk to our good friend, David Allen Lambert, the Chief Genealogist for the New England Historic Genealogical Society, and AmericanAncestors.org, and David, before we even get started, what is this? I find you on Vice.com; you're getting involved with the Kardashians research now. What's that about?

David: Well, I tell you, it's never quiet here in Beantown.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: You know it's interesting; media looks at the entertainment field as sort of our ‘royalty’ if you will, of the American Royal Family. It's really funny, but yeah, I had a reporter from Vice.com get a hold of me yesterday and they wanted to know; now Rob Kardashian and Kylie Jenner are step-brother and step-sister.

Fisher: Uh-huh.

David: Half-brother half-sister. Now, they are now dating the opposite person's former girlfriend - if that doesn't get confusing.

Fisher: I'm very confused.

David: So, I had to create a family tree verbally, then they had someone on their staff sketch it out.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: How Rob Kardashian and his new girlfriend Blac Chyna would be related to the opposite couple. So, you have to pay attention to this.

Fisher: No, no… I'm not.  No, we're not going there!  This is a Kardashian-free show, and it's always going to remain that way, and I apologize for even breaching the subject, because I did not want to go there and get the details, but I've had enough. Let's just move on.

David: Okay, if they want to see more, just have them see the link to Vice.com and they'll see the article.

Fisher: All right. What do you have for us in our family histoire news this week?

David: Well, I have some really old news and this involves a 112 year old Nepalese woman who has been smoking cigarettes for the past ninety-five years.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: She's 112. She's not giving up the chain-smoking habit yet.

Fisher: She's been smoking since 1920?

David: Yeah, and she has a thirty cigarette a day habit, and she says that's her way of doing things and she doesn't care how old she is, and she wants to continue smoking.

Fisher: Now think about this. I mean, if she quit, she could live to be 140!

David: I know, exactly! Well, that being said, she isn't quite the oldest person in the world, in fact, the oldest person in the world, goes to Susannah Mushatt Jones who's an African-American lady who was born 1899 in Alabama and currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. Now she claims that she has never smoked, consumed alcohol, partied, worn make-up or dyed her hair. She's now legally blind, but is living pretty comfortably at the ripe old age of 116 years old.

Fisher: Crazy. Born in 1899, right?

David: Yeah. It makes her one of two people, the last to be born in the 1800's. Yeah, the other lady is in Italy, but our last American born in the 1800s is really closing a chapter of our grandparents' generation that we know.

Fisher: Sure. Yeah.

David: So, that being said, my family, as you know, I'm dual-citizen with Canada. I'm always trying to toss in some Canadian news for our listeners with Canadian interest. The library and archives of Canada and Montreal have now put on the War Diaries for the First World War.

Fisher: Oh wow!

David: What it basically means is that the details that you want to find out about the day-to-day activities of your World War I Canadian soldiers, you can find out for free, and right on the archives website, I will send a link so the listeners can check that out. I've also learned the great news that in the next two years, they will have digitized all the service records for World War I soldiers. I think that's a wonderful tribute to their service.

Fisher: Absolutely true.

David: War...talking about photographs and things of that nature that we collect in genealogy; I want to give a competition for Roots Tech.

Fisher: What?

David: Next week, I want our listeners to track you or I down, get a selfie, either with us and post it and then we'll see at the end of the week who gets more selfies.

Fisher: Oh for Pete's...okay, game on!

David: All right, and I don't care what gimmick you have to use to get the picture, but I'm looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

Fisher: [Laughs] He's got something in mind. You can tell right now. Okay.

David: Hmmm, okay. I want to toss out an interesting Tech Tip. Everybody is doing home movies, restoration and sharing it. Well, for my high school reunion a few years ago, I took our graduation from the 1980s and I posted the whole thing on YouTube for free.

Fisher: Cool!

David: So, I gave the link to all my classmates. I didn't have to make thumb drives and mail them to everybody around the country. So, why not do that for your local historical society.  Maybe you're going to walk the cemetery, give a tour of a local building in your town or just have a family reunion. Share it with the world, and if you're those veterans, there's a great free service. YouTube will give you the space and just upload your videos.

Fisher: So you make your own YouTube channel.

David: You'll have your own little extra.com. NEHGS every week has a guest user database. All you have to do is go to AmericanAncestors.org and sign up for a guest user account. This week we have more sketches in our early Vermont settlers to 1784 that were done by Scott Andrew Bartley's research. This is a great way of finding your early Vermont, Northern New England ancestors, and if you have one that's not listed, contact NEHGS, we'd like to know what you have and include it in an upcoming sketch.

Fisher: All right David, see you in Salt Lake City this coming week, looking forward to it.

David: Same here.

Fisher: All right, and coming up next, one of the keynote speakers from Roots Tech, she actually found her Chinese relatives and what a story it is. Paula Williams Madison is coming up in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 124

Host Scott Fisher with guest Paula Williams Madison

Fisher: And welcome back to Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com

It is Fisher here your Radio Roots Sleuth, and the countdown is getting so close now to Roots Tech in Salt Lake City in Utah, the largest family history conference in the world! And I am so excited to have one of the keynote speakers who’s going to be speaking at Roots Tech online the line with me right now from Los Angeles, California, Paula Williams Madison.   Hi Paula, welcome to the show!

Paula: Hi Scott, thank you so much for having me.

Fisher: It is so fun to talk to you. You have an amazing background, and I think if people have ever questioned what it is about family that drives people to dive into this and find out about their own identities, and backgrounds, and heritages, your story is incredible.  You were an executive vice president with NBC just five years ago, still at your prime, still at the top of your earning powers, and you just said “Nope.  I’m done. I’m going to follow this family thing I’ve been doing.”   What was going through your mind at that time? Tell us about that Paula.

Paula: Well sure, that kind of started when I was probably around five or six years old and I somehow decided that if anybody was going to find my Chinese grandfather and/or his family in China, it was probably going to be me. I should start out by saying I am racially black. I am African-American, Jamaican-American, but I grew up with a mother who was bi-racially Chinese and African-Jamaican and we were born and raised in Harlem.


At six years old I knew I was going to have to find my grandfather. I just made up my mind that I would. When I started my work career and when I realized that in this work life that people retire at the age of sixty five, I said to myself “Okay, seven is my lucky number, if I subtract seven from sixty five, I’ll be fifty eight, I’m going to retire when I’m fifty eight and when I’m fifty eight I’m going to go find him.”

Fisher: Okay.

Paula: Once I learned the parameters of work life, sixty five, that’ll be too old! I’ve got to start sooner than that.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Paula: So I figured that I would somehow work my lucky number in there and Scott, I am born in the year of the dragon, so you know in Chinese astrology, so I was born in the year of the dragon and 2012 was the year that I found my family in China.

For the Chinese people, they smile, they pat me on the back, they hug me, but then they say “Oh, you a dragon!”

Fisher: [Laughs] Is that a good “Oh!” or is that a bad “Oh!”

Paula: That’s a good oh! Because there is I guess, a characteristic attributed to dragons that they don’t fail. What they set their minds to, dragons will accomplish. So when I decided to do this, when 2012 happened, I had retired from NBC Universal in 2011. I took a few months to just do what people do which is decompress, walk around all day in a t-shirt and sweatpants because it just felt good.

Fisher: And figure out “Who I am” of course at that point too, right? 

Paula: You just want to read everything.

Fisher: Sure.

Paula: So by around the winter time I had decided alright I’ve got to get busy. What I did was, I sent an email sort of an ‘All-call’ out to the African-Jamaican people in my family, my father’s relatives, and asked “Can anybody help me? Think about giving me tips at how I might find my Chinese-Jamaican relatives” and one of my cousins, who was probably in his mid seventies, he lives in Toronto Canada, and he said “There are a lot of Chinese-Jamaicans who live here in Toronto, let me ask around and see what I can find out.”  So that was probably April of 2012.

I got back from him in a short amount of time a reference to a conference that he said happens every four years in Toronto and it’s an international conference of Hakka people, so the Hakka H-A-K-K-A the Hakka Chinese people. It’s a cultural minority group in China. Racially Chinese, but it’s a culturally minority group amounting to seventy to eighty million people now in China. That’s a minority group.

Fisher: Wow! Right, of course!

Paula: So he spoke to some of them and they said “Oh tell your cousin to come to this conference we have, we’ll be able to help her find her grandfather’s people.”  So I thought wow.

Fisher: Wow!

Paula: I signed my brothers and me up by June 28th of 2012 we were in Toronto, and there were probably about four to five hundred people at this conference, and we stood up and said who we were and our grandfather’s name.  His western name was Samuel Lowe, and he had been a shopkeeper in Kingston, Jamaica and Saint Ann's Bay, Jamaica.

We were looking for information about him, looking for relatives, and people said “Oh, we’re going to help you.”  Now the thing for me that was surprising was that, that was the very first time in my life that I had ever stood up in front of an audience of anyone and said that I am also Chinese because I present as African-American.

Fisher: Of course.

Paula: And this is the first time that people didn’t laugh. This room comprised of almost all racially Chinese. Nobody said “Oh my God really?” I didn’t have people go fall and laugh like that’s a big joke, no not at all. So ultimately what happened was they said “We’re going to help you find him.” The convener of the conference, the chair of the conference and one of the founders, his name is ‘Dr. Keith Lowe.’  He is the first Chinese-Jamaican I’d ever met who had the same name as my grandfather and my mother.


So I asked him had he ever heard of them, he said “No, I’m from Jamaica but I’ve never heard of them.” Well after about two or three weeks of gentle but persistent harassment, that a woman who ultimately became my producer and director, Jeanette Kong, she helped me pursue Keith because they only lived a ten minute walk apart in Toronto. She’s racially Chinese and he’s Chinese-Jamaican.


So she said “Keith we have to help her.” So Keith said “Okay, okay, let me find out from my nephew in Hong Kong. I’ll send him an email and ask him to ask the family in mainland China if anyone knows of a Samuel Lowe.” Dr. Lowe wrote this email.  He included me on the email and he sent it. The next day a response came saying “My uncle says Samuel Lowe was his father.”  

Fisher: Oh, wow! That fast!

Paula: That was it.

Fisher: In China, now you’re in China with a relative. How unbelievable was that. Now growing up in Harlem, Paula, you must have appeared different to your peers though, right?

Paula: [Laughs] Well, I probably blended in with just about everybody until my mother stepped outside.

Fisher: Oh! [laughs]

Paula: So when my mother would come outside to call us in for dinner, or my mother would show up at school for the parents meetings, then mouths would be agape. People would look I mean just heads spinning back and forth like what’s happening here?

Fisher: Sure.

Paula: And my mother would just stand waiting, almost daring “Just say something crazy.”  And it would be “That’s your mom?”  Yes! “Well, how is that your mom?”

Fisher: [Laughs]

Paula: Trust me, that’s my mother.

Fisher: “It’s my mom,” yeah.

Paula: And then when my mother would open her mouth she had a heavy Jamaican accent, which was not again what people would have expected.

Fisher: Right.

Paula: So now I actually had people with my mother standing right there, as my mother would speak they’d say “Does your mother speak English?”

Fisher: [Laughs]

Paula: That would send my mother off in barrage of patois laden Jamaican parlay that they really can’t understand.

Fisher: I bet that’s true.

Paula: Then I’d say “Mom slow down, slow down so they can understand you” she would sort of kiss her teeth, flip her head and walk away.

Fisher: Oh that’s funny.

Paula: But we were different. We did blend in for the most part, but we were different when she would show up and that difference today I think is shared by so many millennials. When I show my documentary and read from the book and talk about this –

Fisher: Right.

Paula: If there were young people present, it’s almost amazing to me how often they carefully will either raise their hand during the Q&A session or wait around afterwards to ask me “How do I stop people asking me ‘What are you?’ 

Fisher: Yeah,that’s a great question isn’t it? I mean, amongst any people whether you’re African-American, Chinese, European whatever, we’re all such a blend.

Paula: We are a blend and the question is phrased that way. You know I had one young lady who was just sobbing in my arms and I asked “It’s painful to you?” and she said “Yes because I’m me,” and I said “Then let me help you give some voice to that.”  I said “Are your parents of different races?” She said, “Yes, and they don’t understand.” So the first thing I think I was to emphasize is when a couple has a child or children and the children are mixed race, the parent doesn’t share the experience.

Fisher: Right.

Paula: You are not racially the same as your children. And the question “What are you?” is in some ways kind of insulting and it sort of reduces you to a thing.

Fisher: Yeah.

Paula: That is not what you want to be or who you want to be. So I suggest to people that when someone asks you “What are you?” that you reply “What my racial background is, or what my racial heritage is.” And leave it at that. Ignore the ‘what are you?’ question because you will never answer that to anyone’s satisfaction and most especially not to yours.


I recall a few years ago Tiger Woods was asked what his racial background was and he said “Well I don’t describe myself as just African-American because to do so would be to deny my mother’s heritage and its Thai.”   Now black people in this country, my experience is that so often we learn that nobody wants to claim us.

We’re the descendents of slaves. We ended growing up believing that we were the least appreciated people in the United States. And so when he said that, a lot of my friends who are black said “Oh he just doesn’t want to be black” and what I was insistent upon was “Why do you say that? When did he say that he doesn’t want to be black? He merely said that he is as much Thai as he is black.”

Fisher: Um-hmm.

Paula: So it’s not a simple answer to a question that the questioner might think is a simple question. It just isn’t. And importantly for the millennials, the fastest growing demographic group in the United States today racially, is mixed race.

Fisher: I’m talking to Paula Williams Madison, she’s a former executive vice president with NBC, the author of ‘Finding Samuel Lowe, from Harlem to China’ it’s in book form, you got it out in the film festivals, it’s going to be on TV I assume soon, Paula?

Paula: Yes, it will be on TV on the Africa channel in January 31st and it’s available as a digital download purchase or DVD on Voodoo, Amazon and iTunes.

Fisher: Boy, and it’s a great story, in fact we’re going to continue with your story about what happened once you got everybody found in China, how that adventure continued. That’s coming up next in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.        

Segment 3 Episode 124

Host Scott Fisher with guest Paula Williams Madison

Fisher: And we are back! America’s Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com

It is Fisher, the Radio Roots Sleuth, talking Paula Williams Madison, she’s a former Executive Vice President with NBC Universal, and a keynote speaker at the upcoming Roots Tech Convention in Salt Lake City, and this is going to be so much fun to hear you in person Paula, as I’m going to be there. I know many of our listeners are going to be as well.

Paula: Thank you.

Fisher: And in our last segment we were talking about the route you took and how quickly you were able to find your Chinese ancestor who was in Jamaica via going to a conference to Toronto, while you had grown up in Harlem, what an astonishing thing to accomplish so quickly.

Paula: Well, yes it was reasonably quick, but I do want to explain that my oldest brother had back in the 70’sh… he was the overseas controller for the now defunct airline, TWA… and learned as we were shooting this documentary that when my brother went to Hong Kong in 1973, I thought he was going to hang out and have a good time. He told us during the taping of this documentary that he went to Hong Kong to try and find records on our grandfather.  I had no idea.

Fisher: Ha!

Paula: And I say that because the swiftness with which I was able to connect with my family in China, started with a face to face meeting in Toronto and ended with an email confirming that this man whose name was Law Chow Woo, was my uncle, and he said yes Samuel Lowe, was my father.

Now we get to this point and I’m searching for more information about my grandfather, I’m trying to find as much as I can and I was able to do something that my brother wasn’t able to do which is go online and I researched a number of databases including ‘FamilySearch.org’ that’s how I came to the attention of Roots Tech, because as you know that is a website that the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-Day Saints provides for free as you’re researching your history.

Fisher: Yup.

Paula: I plugged in Samuel Lowe, Kingston, Jamaica, Guangzhou, China, 1934 and within a few seconds up came a passenger list for a ship, the SS addresses in 1933 had Samuel Lowe, with him, his Chinese wife and his youngest two daughters, my Aunt Barbra and my Aunt Anita Maria who were racially Chinese, born in Jamaica and they were going to China.

Fisher: That had to be something that made your jaw drop.

Paula: I was breathless. I just could not believe it, tears welled up... The point I’m making here is that information that wasn’t available decades ago, information that wasn’t available weeks ago might be available today. Because these databases are being uploaded everyday onto the internet. So people shouldn’t give up and if you don’t find it that first time, just keep going back.

Fisher: I think the number on FamilySearch now is a million new pages a day being indexed and put up there.

Paula: Absolutely, and what you can find is fascinating. I found my mother’s naturalization papers when she became a citizen. I found the Pan Am flight list when she flew from Kingston to Miami in 1945 when she first came to the United States under the Chinese immigration quota. I mean there’s so much information on there that I just want to encourage people to, whatever you do, don’t be discouraged because you don’t find it now.

Fisher: Isn’t it crazy to actually find an airline manifest passenger list from those days? [Laughs] I found my mother flying back from Hawaii after she stowed away on a ship to there back in 1948.

Paula: Your mother sounds like my kind of girl!

Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs]

Paula: Wow.

Fisher: So those records are out there. So what happened now? You made contact with this uncle in China and you now have a little piece of the puzzle as you start to figure out where Samuel came and went to and from. You have names now.

Paula: Right.

Fisher: Where’s it go from there? You made contact. Did they want to see you?

Paula: Well, again I was mentioning earlier about being African-American and what the legacy of racism has been, and so my husband whose African-American asked me, “Paula, what are you hoping for when you find these Chinese people in your family?”

I was confused by the question, like I don’t know what you’re asking me. And he said “Well what do you want?” And I said ‘I don’t know what you mean.’ He said ‘you know you’re black.’ [Laughs] And I started laughing hysterically. I said, ‘I know I’m black.’ I said, ‘why you’re saying that to me? I mean I don’t understand your point.’ And then it hit me, the point he was making was, you’re looking for Chinese people and you’re black. What if they don’t want you?’

Fisher: Hmm.

Paula: Now at that point when that question came you know, I was retired. I was doing whatever I was doing and I thought to myself ‘how could I have been so dense, why did I never think of this?’ So I called my two brothers. So the three of us are on this call and I tell them what my husband Roosevelt has said to me and they said ‘Well we never thought of that either.’ And I thought ‘how could we not have thought of that?’ And then I said, ‘Wait a minute. Ma looked Chinese.  So the face of the woman who raised us and nurtured us and cared for us was a Chinese face.’

So when my uncle Chow Woo learned of me and I told the story that my mother explained, that when she was almost 16 years old, she went on a quest to find her father in Jamaica and learned from his two brothers who had migrated in order to run the businesses with him, that he had returned to China permanently just months before and wasn’t returning. So now it’s like, ‘All right that’s the end. That’s truly now the end of any hope my mother had of ever finding her father.’

What has subsequently happened was, not only when they learned of our existence my uncle Chow Woo said, ‘That’s odd because I know all of my father’s children and I’ve never heard of a Nell Vera Lowe.  And I recounted that story and I said how old my mother was, the date of her birth and my uncle who I didn’t know was a retired accountant, in seconds did the math between my mother’s age, the year and when his father returned to China and said ‘That’s my niece, I need to meet her.’

Fisher: Oh. Haha wow!

Paula: So five weeks later I flew to China with one of my dear friends. I met my uncle Chow Woo, who was 87 at the time, my aunt Adassa, she was biracial, black and Chinese, grabbed my hand… strong for an old lady, and said ‘Bring everyone home to China.’

Fisher: Wow.

Paula: And I thought everyone? Do you know this is not down the street?

Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs]

Paula: So my two brothers gathered our families and twenty of us along with two cousins who were racially the same composition as we are. The oldest son that… my grandfather had remained in Jamaica and he had 10 children, and while searching for them I found evidence of that son… contacted his children, the oldest and the youngest accompanied us and so twenty of us Black-Chinese we went and met them, and there were 300 of my grandfather’s direct descendents that assembled!

Fisher: Oh my goodness!

Paula:  A family that, by the way, had a documented history dating back three thousand years to 1006 BC!

Fisher: You have your line directly back that far?

Paula: Directly back that far, and the next direct one which is way too much for me to fathom but the linage is in a book. The Chinese keep it in legacy books called a ‘Jokbo’ and our Jokbo goes to 1006 BC.  We have since connected with another Lowe clan and they are based out of Hong Kong and their Jokbo connects to ours and it back another 2500 years.

Fisher: We are out of time Paula; it has been a joy talking to you about this! Obviously once you got there you found out there really weren’t any concerns about how you would be viewed and welcomed.

Paula: Oh no. we all have a good time, we dance, we love, we party, we drink, we hang out…

Fisher: [Laughs] Well I cannot wait to hear your keynote address at Roots Tech in the coming week at the Salt Palace Convention Center, in Salt Lake City, Utah. It’s going to be a great time. Good luck with your journey because I’m certain, already just having spoken to you, I know it’s not over yet, is it?

Paula: No, it’s not. I’ll be in China two days after you see me at Roots Tech, and we’ll be celebrating yet another lunar New Year with the Lowes, there’ll be about 200 of us gathered in Guangzhou.

Fisher: Unbelievable. Paula Williams Madison, a keynote speaker at Roots Tech, coming up this weekend.  And on the way next… He’s our Preservation Authority from TMCPlace.com, Tom Perry, talking about how preserve your precious family heirlooms, next in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show. 

Segment 4 Episode 124

Host Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: It is preservation time at Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, the Radio Roots Sleuth with Tom Perry the Preservation Authority from TMCPlace.com

Hello, Thomas.

Tom: Hello.

Fisher: We have questions from [email protected]

This one, I have no idea who it's from, because it says something like, R-C-F-M, whatever! Anyway, it says, "On a past episode of Extreme Genes, Tom talked about 'Cinematize' and how it is needed to transfer and create DVDs. Is there a better, more updated program available or is this still best, Tom?"

Tom: Well, listener, whoever you are, I have not as of date found a product as well designed as Cinematize. Cinematize is pretty awesome. I'm just sad somebody bought the technology and wants to use it for something different. I've been trying to get licensing rights, which is going nowhere unfortunately, but what I suggest is, go to eBay, Amazon, any place you can and if you can find a used version of it or a new version that's just still in the box, go with it. Cinematize is just so much farther ahead than anything. If you can't find that, the next thing that I have used is Handbrake, which is a good program.

The only problem is, its shareware, so it's free, which is good. However, usually you get what you pay for, and that's about the only other option. The problem with Handbrake is, it's really, really slow and can take a long time to take your DVD’s and convert them to AVI’s or MOV’s. So, if you can find an old version of Cinematize, rock and roll! And if any of you listeners have run into something else, let me know, and I'm going to be looking at Roots Tech, see if something is available there, but as of right now, Cinematize is definitely the way to go.

Fisher: All right, thank you so much, Tom, and thank you so much for the question. Here's the next one, this is from Theresa Elliot, she said, "Tom, I'm trying to make the light box for my iPhone you described on the Extreme Genes show. Can you tell me the dimensions you used and where you got the filters for the lights?" This was a fun episode! I remember talking about this. It's quite homemade, I love it!

Tom: Oh yeah, it's a great way to do your own scanning where you have three dimensional objects. You can use your iPhone or any kind of a Smartphone. You can use a regular camera too, like a good Nikon, but this is more made for the people that don't have a camera stand, and they come out with their Nikon on, basically, what we talked about, let me just real quickly go over it again. Go back and listen to the episode if you can.

We're building a box that's five-sided, it doesn't have a bottom obviously, because that's where you're going to put your watches or your rings or whatever you want to photograph, you know, old photos that are damaged, daguerreotypes and anything that you want that you want to actually scan that you can't put it in a normal scanner or you have so few, you don't want to go buy a scanner.

Fisher: Right.

Tom: You get your iPhone, you cut a hole in the top, you set your lens over there and then inside, if you're going to put in lights, and I recommend LED lights. The email that we received, I'm a little bit confused some of the things, because she's talking about filters, so, I'll go over a couple of different options, and the best thing to build the box out of, is corrugated plastic.

You can get it at any art store, any sign store, it's pretty reasonable pricewise, and I recommend you get white, because then it intensifies your light inside of it. The one that I built was a 24x24, because it's a good easy size to use, you can get most things in it. You don't want stuff too close to the sides or you're going to get reflections.

So, I recommend 24x24 and anything up to 8x8 in a 24x24 is fine; you can even go a little bit bigger. If you have great, big, huge things that you need to scan, then I'd go bigger, 36x36, but whatever you scan, and you want to have at least two to four inches space all the way around it. It's just better for your camera to focus and everything. Specifically on her question, she talked about filters, I believe what she meant is not, filters for the light, but filters for the iPhone.

Fisher: Right.

Tom: The kind of filter that I believe you're talking about is, the filter for the iPhone. You want to get a polarizing filter, you want to make sure it's the kind that spins, because what you do is, you turn the filter until all the glare is gone away from whatever you're shooting and take the picture, ready to rock and roll! If you're looking at actually physical filters because your camera isn't white balancing properly, just always remember that daylight is blue, florescent lights are green and incandescent are yellow, but as long as you can white balance, you shouldn't have to mess with any kind of filters on your lights. Use LED daylights, they are the best.

Fisher: All right. Thanks Theresa for the question! Hope that helps you out and we'll get more questions from [email protected] coming up next when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 124

Host Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: And we are back! Final segment of Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show with Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com our guest, the Preservation Authority.

 It is Fisher here, and Tom, we have another email here from Danielle Haiba Loveland, and she said, "I was listening to an Extreme Genes show last week. Tom indicated you should save videos and MP4s before backing them up. Going through some family videos that were already downloaded on my computer, they are AVI files. I don't see anywhere even when I open it, like save as, to save the property type to MP4. Anyone know how to change them?"

Tom: You know, that's an awesome question, because sometimes we're misunderstood. So, you're not actually taking your AVI files, you don't have to take them and convert them to MP4’s. What I'm suggesting is, if you have a whole bunch of video files and you have limited space, MP4’s are great, because they're really small.

Fisher: Right.

Tom: So you can have a whole bunch of them, they're universal; you can send them to anybody that can play an MP4. As long as you have a computer, you can play an MP4. In fact, some of the new smart phones will even play MP4’s now.

So, they're great because they're small, the quality is really, really good, you can also edit them. If you have plenty of storage space, there's no reason to do a conversion, and one thing you want to remember when you're doing conversions, the file that you have that's now an AVI which is a good quality file, it's very, very large, is when you convert it, you're not losing the AVI, it's not like pouring food coloring into water and now the water's red.

Fisher: Right. [Laughs]

Tom: You're actually taking that and doing, as you mentioned, a 'save as', so, you'll still have your AVI file, and it’s just that the MP4s are so nice, because they're small. You can email them to people; they're awesome to work with.

Fisher: So, this is like converting a photograph of higher quality to a smaller one.

Tom: Exactly! That's exactly what it is. Now, be careful on the quality, MP4s quality is really,  really good, that's how they've come along so much, in fact, we had an episode we talked about how everybody's got Mp4’s because they're so wonderful. So, back to your question; if you want to convert an MOV or an AVI to an MP4, there's a good program that we've talked about before called, 'Power Director' and it's really a great program. It's only fifty dollars.

Fisher: Yes, I see it everywhere.

Tom: Oh, it’s awesome. You can download it from newegg.com, whoever you want to work with, and it's a great program. You can take your AVI’s and MOV’s and convert them to MP4’s for the reasons we discussed earlier. One thing about that program, it's only a PC program.

Fisher: Okay.

Tom: If you have a Mac, then you're going to need Final Cuts Pro and I believe the new version of iMovie will also do MP4s’. So, when you just click on, it's not opening it as a program that you can convert, unless you actually go into Power Director or iMovie or one of these programs and then do the 'save as' or 'convert'.

So, you know, just read your software, check up a little bit on it and find out what's the best way to do that, but like I say, Power Director is the best way to go if you're a PC user, and most AVI people are PC or Windows-based, if you're Mac, you're probably going to have them saved as MOV. So, there's no reason to convert it, unless you want to save a whole bunch of them and you've got a ton of them, but like we've always taught, whenever you're backing up, you want it on your hard drive, you want a disk of it and you want it in at least one cloud, if possible two clouds, and make sure the two clouds are unrelated. A lot of different people out there, such as ourselves, use Google because they have a great platform and then, we add software on the top of it to make it more user-friendly.

However, you want to make sure you use two different people. So, if you use us, don't use Google. If you use Google, don't use us. Get Dropbox or one of the other programs out there, like Apple, and make sure they're saved on two different ones.

Fisher: So, the idea is, if somebody goes bad, you don't lose both at the same time.

Tom: Exactly! Exactly! And people always say, "Well, what's the chance of a cloud going down? It’s probably pretty slim." You want to make sure that with cyber attacks and things like that, there's so many crazy things going on, you want to make sure, if you can afford it, get two different clouds you can use, and a lot of them are free if you don't have a lot of stuff, and if you have MP4’s, they'll fit.

Fisher: All right, Tom. Great stuff, and if you have a question for Tom, you can always email him at [email protected]Thanks for coming on, bud!

Tom: Good to be here!

Fisher:  And that, as we say in the biz, is a wrap for this week.  Thanks once again to Paula Williams Madison for coming on and sharing a real extreme journey, talking about tracking down her Chinese ancestor who came to Jamaica back in the day and how she located all her family in mainland China, the reunions, if you missed it you’re going to want to catch her keynote this coming week in Salt Lake City.  Take care, and remember, as far as everyone knows, we’re a nice, normal, family!

Subscribe now to find out why hundreds of thousands of family researchers listen to Extreme Genes every week!

Email me new episodes