Episode 135 - DNA Breakthrough Identifies Parents of Woman Born in 1916 / This Season on “Who Do You Think You Are” on TLC

podcast episode Apr 18, 2016

Fisher opens the show explaining his recent family history research discovery of the itemized invoice from the funeral of his great-great grandfather in 1907! David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org, then joins the show from London where his genealogical tour continues. David tells about his remarkable evenings during low tide along the Thames where he searches for centuries old items. He’ll tell you what he has found… including some items that will make your jaw drop! David then tells the shocking DNA story that has rocked England concerning the Archbishop of Canterbury. He’ll have another Tech Tip, and NEHGS guest user free database.

Next up on the show is Paul Woodbury, a DNA genealogist for LegacyTree.com. Paul shares with Fisher the remarkable story of how he helped a client identify the birth father and birth mother of her grandmother, who was born and adopted in Alabama in 1916! How was it done? Paul will explain, but you’d better keep a flow chart. What DNA testing can reveal continues to amaze!

Then, Jenn Utley, head genealogist for TLC’s “Who Do You Think You Are?” visits to give us some behind the scenes info about the 2016 episodes of the program every genealogist loves to watch. You’ll be interested in how the show prepares the celebrity guests for travel to foreign lands. Who knew?!

Then, Preservation Authority Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com revisits the topic of audio as we move into reunion season. The tips he shares could just save your recordings of the seniors in your family before the record button is even pushed.

That’s all this week on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show!

Transcript of Episode 135

Host Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 135

Fisher: I cannot believe in all my searches, through all the years, that I’ve never run across one of these things, and when I finally do, it’s within my own family.

Hi, it’s Fisher here! Your Radio Roots Sleuth on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show. The program where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out.

This past week I found this itemized invoice for the funeral of my great, great grandfather. Yeah, it talked about the cost of the carriages to carry the mourners, the cost to embalm him, by the way it’s like ten bucks to clean him and embalm him! The cost of his grave was five dollars and twenty five cents. I mean it’s insane stuff, and in thirty five years of researching I’ve never run into anything like that. Absolutely incredible.

Hey, I’m excited about our guests today! We’ve got DNA Day going on again today. Paul Woodbury is going to be here from LegacyTree.com. He is a DNA results analyst for them, and he is going to tell you about a recent case where they were able to identify the birth father and birth mother of a woman who was born and adopted in 1916. Unbelievable! That’s coming up in about eight minutes.

And Jenn Utley, the head genealogist for “Who Do You Think You Are?” is going to be here to give us some inside baseball on this season of the show, and that will be coming up a little bit later on.

And, Preservation Authority Tom Perry talks audio and microphones, as you prepare for the reunion season.

But right now let’s head out to jolly old England! And talk to my good friend the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org, David Allen Lambert! How are your journeys going across the pond?

David: They’re doing great! It’s a little different, got that sleep deprivation going, but I’m caught up and I’m on England time now.

Fisher: [Laughs] Now you were telling me off-air a little bit, David, about some adventures you’re doing in the night time there along the Thames River. Fill us in on this, this is incredible.

David: Well, you know, I’ve been a lover of archaeology and I have a couple of friends of mine, they call it ‘mucking’or looking for pottery shards and things. Of course the Thames has had occupation for thousands of years, and as the tide recedes twice a day people will go out, and you can’t dig. You can’t use a metal detector, but you can surface hunt and you can find pottery there that goes back to the Roman era, and I thought to myself “There is no way”.

I’ve been there three times since. I probably have about 500 pipes stems from colonial pipes, some of the bowls still attached to them. Pottery that’s from the Roman Empire to the Tudor era, and a lot of little pieces of Victorian, but the really disturbing thing, and something I won’t be bringing back... are the bones.

Fisher: The bones?

David: The bones! Yeah, there’s probably a good share of animal bones, but I might be seeing some of the ancestors of our listeners!

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: We’re just going up to shore and going back.

Fisher: And this happens every day?

David: Every day.

Fisher: Twice?

David: Twice a day.

Fisher: So this remains have been in there forever?

David: They have! The bones are like chocolate brown and they are obviously not recent. I mean they’re water worn and stuff, but it’s been interesting.

Fisher: Sure.

David: But the NEHGS Tour to London has been great. We’ve gone to the London Municipal Archives, we just finished up two days at the Society of Genealogists, and we’ll be heading to the National Archives in Kew for the last two days of the tour. Then I take off on my own genealogical adventures. But there’s been a lot of adventures going on in the press in England, DNA related. Did you see the story about the Archbishop of Canterbury?

Fisher: Yes! Incredible story, and he’s been very open about it. Fascinating find for him.

David: It really is. I mean, obviously this DNA has opened up that, well his mother would admit, that there’d been a little liason after a little bit too much drinking, with Sir Anthony Montague Brown, who ironically was Churchill’s last private secretary.

Fisher: Right, and he only died what, in 2013?

David: Yeah, he was like about eighty nine years of age. So there was almost a chance he could have met him.

Fisher: [laughs]

David: But yeah, it’s crazy. Another exciting story is a World War II veteran out here from England, at the age of a 100, took a 10,000 foot skydive! He was a veteran of D-Day and he decided for his birthday he wanted to go skydiving. So my hat’s off to Verdun Hayes.

Well, I’ll tell you, there’s a lot of things that are interesting, but when you get to meet our listeners at “Who Do You Think You Are?” thousands of miles away, and that included two listeners from Germany...

Fisher: Wait, you are talking about Extreme Genes listerners from Germany? That’s awesome!

David: Extreme Genes listeners from Germany. I didn’t think the antenna went that far. Those podcast listeners are finding us from everywhere.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: Timo Kracke, he was there with another friend Sebastian, and they’re both listeners of Extreme Genes and I got to interview them. I also interviewed an interesting fellow by the name of Andrew Tatham. Andrew is an author of a book he worked on for twenty years called ‘A Group Photograph’. He found a WWI photograph for his great grandfather. A group picture, and researched everybody in the picture.

Fisher: What a great idea!

David: It’s great! I mean it’s absolutely great, because I tell people all the time “You have to adopt the regiment.”

Fisher: Yes.

David: In this case he’s adopted forty six individuals from this photograph and tracked them all down.

Fisher: Unbelieveable.

David: That’s kind of a Gen Tip, but my Gen Tip for this week is “Go out and have a portrait painted of your family.” Create a family legacy heirloom that you can pass on forever, and it doesn’t matter if it’s an amateur artist or a professional artist, someone who can capture an essence, something that a photograph can’t. Julia Sterland, who is an artist in England, was painting portraits for free with a small donation to the Mary Curie Foundation, which is kind of like hospice here in the States.

Fisher: Right.

David: And I got a portrait painted by her and I’m going to treasure it. It’s a great thing.

Fisher: Post it! We’ve got to see it.

David: I will. I looked at it and I was like “Oh my gosh, you did that in like twenty minutes!”

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: And of course the free database for NEHGS guest users till April 20th, is of a billion records that we have available for you. Search on AmericanAncestors.org just as a guest user.

Fisher: Hey, you extended the deadline on that. I love that. So till next Wednesday, April 20th.

David: Correct, and I just want to say a shoutout to all the listeners out there on this side of the pond, from the opposite side of the pond.

Fisher: [Laughs] They’re everywhere.

David: Exactly. So that’s all I’ve got for this week from London, and look forward to talking to you next week.

Fisher: All right, thanks David!  And coming up next; We’re going to talk to Paul Woodbury from LegacyTree.com. He’s a DNA results analyst, and wait till you hear about the case he has put together concerning a woman adopted in 1916. Love DNA!  It’s coming up next in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 135

Host Scott Fisher with guest Paul Woodbury

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

It is Fisher here, the Radio Roots Sleuth. We’re doing DNA day today with Paul Woodbury, he is a DNA genealogist, and Paul, you have to analyze an awful lot of tests don’t you?

Paul: I do, yeah. I probably do about 4 to 5 projects a week.

Fisher: And DNA results are so fascinating for what they do for families and typically it’s more about current living generations and once in a while you put some together that will go back and you’ll find a deceased birth parent from one side or the other.

But in your case, this was just an amazing case. I was excited to hear about it. You’ve actually identified the birth father and the birth mother of a woman who has since passed, who was adopted in 1916, using DNA.

Paul: Exactly. So after the decease of this adopted woman, her daughter Lauren wanted to explore her mother’s biological history. Her mother, Mary Stoddard, was adopted in 1916 in Alabama, and typically with adopted cases you can begin by looking for case files and documents that might reveal the parents.

But in this case the organization that handled Mary’s adoption was no longer existent and the records were destroyed. So really DNA was the only option that we had to really explore the biological parents of Mary Stoddard.

Fisher: And this time you not only did an autosomal, you were able to isolate the X chromosome. Now I don’t have a lot of knowledge of how this works, explain a little to us about X chromosomes and DNA tests, and by the way people, if you haven’t done one before, it’s a simply thing to do, you spit in a cup and you send it in. That’s all there is to it.

Paul: Very simple.

Fisher: You can analyze a lot of this and then if you need people like Paul at LegacyTree.com they can help you out.

Paul:  So, the X chromosome is the female sex chromosome and it’s often confused with another type of DNA called ‘mitochondrial DNA.’

Fisher: Right.

Paul: A lot of people confuse those two types of DNA because they do have a unique inheritance pattern that focuses on the female line. Now, mitochondrial DNA is located in a completely separate part of the cells and with your mitochondrial it’s your kind of powerhouses of the cells, and it’s passed along the direct maternal line. So it comes from your mother’s, mother’s mother....

Fisher: Right.

Paul: The X chromosome meanwhile, is part of the nuclear DNA and it’s a sex chromosome. Males receive one X chromosome from their mother, and females receive one X chromosome from their mother and they also receive one from their father.  So males, instead of receiving an X chromosome from their father, receive a Y-chromosome which is what makes them male.

Fisher: So how are you able to use this knowledge to actually isolate who a person might be if you’re trying to, say, identify a birth parent?

Paul: Okay. So the X chromosome, because it follows this pattern of, you know, males, will receive one X chromosome from their mother and females will receive one from their mother and one from their father. It means that we can limit the number of possible ancestors that shared X DNA may have come from.

So if you have an X DNA match, then that severely limits the possible candidates that could have contributed that common DNA. And that we’re interested in when we’re doing genealogy is we’re looking at that shared inheritance of genetic material.

So if you have shared inheritance of DNA on the X chromosome, then we can identify the possible candidates that may have contributed that DNA.

Fisher: So it acts as another elimination factor.

Paul: It does. And the X chromosome doesn’t require its own test, each of the DNA testing companies offers an autosomal of the DNA test and as part of that test they will test some markers on the X chromosome.

Fisher: I see. Okay, so what was the case here then? You had a woman born in 1916, sent out for adoption, then theoretically the birth parents disappear into time. So what did you have to do?

Paul: Exactly. So what we had to do, first we looked at the client’s genetic matchings. So Lauren, the daughter of Mary the adoptee, decided to take a DNA test and using her DNA test results we identified her closest matches based off the amount of DNA that they shared in common with her.

Using these genetic matches and then also being able to identify which genetic cousins were also related to each other. We were able to identify common ancestors of these genetic matches that had to have been in the ancestry of Lauren’s mother Mary Stoddard.

Fisher: So we call this ‘triangulation’ right? Where you identify the common ancestors of two people who were related to you, the assumption then is that, that ancestor is also your ancestor.

Paul: Exactly, and particularly when you’re able to see how much DNA you share in common with each of those individuals and how they relate to each other. That can be really helpful in recreating the trees of the ancestors beyond the brick wall of adoption.

Fisher: Now the problem is typically though trying to figure out ‘All right, we’ve got these cousins, but which side do they come from, the father’s side or the mother’s side?’ how’d you deal with that?

Paul: So what we did is, with Lauren’s test results we found that she had her closest match shared 240 centimorgans with her and that is the amount of DNA that you’d expect to observe between second cousins.

Fisher: Okay. 

Paul: So we knew that, because we’re looking for Lauren’s great grandparents and for Mary’s grandparents, at the level of second cousins the common ancestors between that match and Lauren, would have been the parents of one of the parents of Mary. So they would have been the grandparents from one of the sides. We don’t know if it was paternal or maternal.

Fisher: Right.

Paul: So Lauren’s closest genetic match was the great grandson of a man named Joseph Jones.

Fisher: Okay.

Paul: And he was the son of Levi Jones and Julia Rockwood, and Levi Jones and Julia Rockwood were the common ancestors between two of the client’s genetic matches. One was an estimated second cousin; one was an estimated third cousin. So based on that, we know that two of the grandparents of Mary were Joseph Jones and Laura Adams.

Fisher: Right.

Paul: We next looked at some of her other matches and we determined that they were not related to the Jones or the Adams family, and so it was from a separate part of the client’s biological family tree and using those matches we were also able to follow a similar process to determine that one of Mary’s parents was a daughter or a son of Marian Smith and Alice Rogers.

Fisher: Got it.

Paul: Now Joseph Jones and Laura Adams and their family lived in Northern Alabama, in a town where Mary was supposedly born, and Marian Smith and Alice Rogers and their family also lived in the same town.

So our next step was to identify which couple were the paternal grandparents of Mary and which were the maternal grandparents of Mary.

Fisher: Right and this is a huge step because even if you couldn’t identify which of the children of these grandparents were the parents of your people, at least you had a line to work with right?

Paul: Yeah. So even within the first few hours of research we were able to identify each of the grandparents of this adoptee.

Fisher: Okay. Now you have to narrow it down among the children of these and figure out was it the father’s side or the mother’s side with these couples right?

Paul: Yeah, exactly. So in this case Joe Jones and Laura Adams had five children, two boys, Charles and Joseph were the two boys and then there were three daughters.

Fisher: Okay.

Paul: And we knew that Martha could not have been the mother of Mary because she was the ancestor of the client’s closest match. So if she was the mother then Lauren and her closest match would have shared a lot more DNA in common.

Fisher: Got it.

Paul: So we could eliminate Martha as a candidate to be Mary’s mother. We also suspected that it wasn’t going to be Lula because she would have been only about 13 years old at the time of Mary’s conception.

Fisher: She’s out. [Laughs]

Paul: She’s out. [Laughs] So that left us with three candidates, namely Charles, Joseph and Jenny. So either Charles or Joseph was the father of Mary, or Jenny was the mother of Mary.

Fisher: Got it.

Paul: So the other couple had ten children.

Fisher: Oh boy. Well, let’s not go through every one of them and how it worked out. But how do you figure than, the father’s side, the mother’s side, and who they were?

Paul: So we figured it out by transferring the client’s DNA test results to GEDmatch.com

Fisher: Yes.

Paul: It’s a third party site which allows analysis of the shared segment data, and through analysis of one of the client’s matches who shared a segment of DNA on the X chromosome, we were able to determine the identity of Mary’s parents.


So if Mary was the daughter of  Lou Smith and Jenny Jones, then she could have inherited her X DNA from just three people, either she received it from Alice Rogers, Julia Rockwood, or Laura Adams. She couldn’t have inherited any of the DNA from Celesta Wood.

However, on the other side, if Mary was the daughter of Charles Jones and Betty Smith, then she could have inherited X DNA from Laura Adams, Celesta Wood or Alice Rogers.

Fisher: Right.

Paul: Since we know that she inherited X DNA from Celeste Wood based off of her X-DNA match, we know that she had to have been the daughter of Charles Jones and Betty Smith.

Fisher: Wow! [Laughs] Does this stuff keep you awake at night?

Paul: [Laughs] Sometimes!

Fisher: [Laughs]We should mention by the way that we’ve been using pseudo names to protect the identity of the people involved. But what an incredible journey, not only for the clients, but for you to go through this. It’s mind wracking isn’t it?

Paul: Yeah, so it was a really exciting project to work on.

Fisher: All right, great stuff! Paul Woodbury with LegacyTree.com. He’s a DNA analyst. Paul, I appreciate it and I hope you’ll come on again sometime.

Paul: All right, thank you.

Fisher: And coming up next... we’re in the middle of another season of “Who Do You Think You Are?”

Whose on the show, what are some of the behind the scenes stories. We’re going to try and pry some of those out of Jenn Utley, head genealogist for the show. Coming up in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 3 Episode 135

Host Scott Fisher with guest Jenn Utley

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

It is Fisher here, the Radio Roots Sleuth, and another season of “Who Do You Think You Are?” is going on right now on TLC.

And I have my good friend Jenn Utley from Ancestry.com on the line with me right now. She is one of the genealogists, well, you're the head genealogist, not one of them, Jenn. You're overseeing this entire operation. How's the season going so far?

Jenn: Oh, it's going really great so far. We're pretty excited about it.

Fisher: Well, you've got a good list of people this season. Katey Sagal coming up this coming weekend, and of course, she's in ‘Married with Children’ and has made her name doing that. And I bet you've got some incredible stuff to share with us about that episode.

Jenn: Right. So, Katey has always been known for her larger than life characters, like Peg Bundy and what she does on the Sons of Anarchy show, but it's really interesting to see the contrast of what she's like in real life, because she's really a grounded down to earth kind of person.  So, that makes a really interesting thing to see her and how she responds on “Who Do You Think You Are?” So, her episode that is coming up, it's the very first episode that ever got me a little bit teary eyed before the first commercial break.

Fisher: Are you saying you're a hard and crusty person? Come on now!

Jenn: No, I tend to get teary eyed on these things.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Jenn: But it's never been that early in the program. It's really interesting, because her mother died when Katey was really young, and so, there's not a lot she knows about her mother and her mother's family, so she really wanted to look into that.  So, the very beginning of the episode was really just an investigation just one generation back, talking about her mother and that's where I got a little teary eyed.

Fisher: And how far back did you manage to take it and where to?

Jenn: So, she's going to start out in New York, talking about her mother, but eventually, she's going to find herself in the middle of a tragic story in Pennsylvania, long before the Revolutionary War.

Fisher: Nice! Okay, Molly Ringwald is on the week after that, and everybody knows her, of course, started with ‘Facts of Life’ and went on to become a big star in movies, and probably the biggest name you have this season I would say.

Jenn: Ah, I think so, and I think that because it's Molly Ringwald and she's such an iconic figure, I think everyone wanted to fight to get to work on her geneaology.

Fisher: [Laughs] And did you win?

Jenn: Oh, I get to work on all the trees, so I don't have to fight for anything.

Fisher: Oh, nice!

Jenn: [Laughs]

Fisher: Okay, well, what do we know about Molly Ringwald? She'll be week after next, about the 24th.

Jenn: Yes. When we talk to Molly, there's a family legend in her tree that her father is descended from Swedish nobility.

Fisher: Hmm.

Jenn: So, when we saw the Sweden line, we wanted to jump right into that one. And the other thing that's so great about Sweden is, the Swedes are such good record keepers.

Fisher: Yes.

Jenn: So, we use those parish records in Sweden to put together the tree and learn about the comings and goings, and once again, the stories of tragedy and resilience and these dangerous mining occupations these people had.

So, it's really fun, because taking someone on a journey to a place is just as important as the research, because it's all about having the celebrities take a walk where their ancestors walked, and usually, the celebrities don't know where they're going in advance.

All they know is, whether or not they need to bring their passport with them. So, sometimes, they end up in a place where they haven't properly packed and they have to run out and buy a coat or boots or something.

Fisher: Wait a minute! You don't even fill them in on what kind of clothes they should wear!? Or is that too much of a hint?

Jenn: It's just all, it's more fun when it's a surprise, and they're more engaged in the journey when they don't know where they're going.

Fisher: You know, I am 3/8 Swedish myself and I think about what you said about the records, and I think you know, it's a darn good thing the Swedes are good with their records, because of the fact, you know… Sven Svensson, Yon Yonson…

Jenn: True!

Fisher: All those names that are all the same. If they didn't have good records, it would be a real mess, wouldn't it?

Jenn: Oh, it sure would.

Fisher: All right, now Lea Michele from ‘Glee’ is on this season. That's going to be a great name, especially for younger viewers. Tell us a little about that episode

Jenn: Well, yeah, especially because she's so used to playing a character, right?

Fisher: Yes.

Jenn: From her Broadway background and then on Glee, I'm really interested. This is the only episode I haven't seen yet. So, I'm really interested to see how she responds when the story isn't about her as a character, but she is one of the characters in the story.

Fisher: Hmm.

Jenn: Her research is really amazing. We had to really call in some expert researchers on some highly specialized language to uncover the immigration story of her ancestors, which is fabulous. This is the one of all the six seasons that I have been the most excited to see, and so, it's just killing me that I haven't seen it yet.

Fisher: Now wait a minute! You're talking about a very specialized language. Can you reveal what that is?

Jenn: I can't. I can't. You're going to have to watch the show to see.

Fisher: Argh, you're killing me!

Jenn: [Laughs]

Fisher: I'm thinking she had to have been from some northern Russian frontier or something.

Jenn: Yes. I learned so much just working on her tree.

Fisher: How far back did you manage to get it? You can tell us that much.

Jenn: Hers doesn't go back super far. It's more of an immigration story, somewhere only back, 100, 150 years, if you look at the tree as a whole.

Fisher: All right, and then the last one that I'm aware of is Chris Noth, right? From’Law & Order.’

Jenn: From ‘The Good Wife’.

Fisher: Yes, and that too, right?

Jenn: Yeah, and then he was ‘Mr. Big’ too, so I think he's got a lot of fans out there. It was fun to see where his story was going to take him, because on The Good Wife, he's a politician in Chicago. So, it’s really kind of fun when we get to start out his whole episode, we're taking him to Chicago.

Fisher: Was he aware that he had a link there?

Jenn: You know, off the top of my head, I don't recall. I think he knew that, but I don't remember.

Fisher: Most of these people, they come in, really they don't have much of a hint, do they? About their backgrounds or some of these stories.

Jenn: It's really varied. Some people don't know anything, for lots of reasons. A lot of them had parents who died when they were young and so there was no one to pass on the stories.

You'll also be surprised how many come in and, like Bill Parkerson came in and he knew so much. Like he came in and he was like, "Here're my Civil War ancestors, but see if you can help me out, because I've always wanted to know a Revolutionary War story." So, it's really a big spectrum about who knows what about their tree.

Fisher: Yeah, absolutely. All right, a little more about Chris Noth.

Jenn: Well, we're in Chicago and his ancestors are going to find themselves in a devastating disaster, and then we're going to take him to both Spain and Ireland, where we're going to have an ancestor who fought in one of the fiercest battles of all time.

Fisher: Oh, boy! Well, that sounds intense. For most of these folks, it's quite an impactful thing. I think people who are performers and actors are very in tune with their emotions, and when they learn these things, it's pretty personal, isn't it?

Jenn: It is, and I think they're also quick to see how the lives of their ancestors parallel the experiences they're having today.

Fisher: Yeah, I think you're absolutely on board with that. It's on TLC, Sunday nights. What are the times? Because I've got to keep them straight from coast to coast.

Jenn: So, I'm not sure exactly when it will be on based on your cable provider, but it's usually 10,  9 central time.

Fisher: Okay.

Jenn: It's usually on right after the show 'Long Lost Family'.

Fisher: So, typically, you'll see it say, in the Mountain Time zones, which would also be 9 o’clock and then 7 o’clock though on the West Coast. It’s kind of weird how that works out, isn't it?

Jenn: Yeah. Like for my own personal provider, it's been on at 8 o’clock and 10 o’clock on Sunday nights.

Fisher: And you had Aisha Tyler this year, Scott Foley. If you've missed it, you can go back and catch those right, on TLC, TLC.com?

Jenn: I think they put the full episodes on for a limited time after the run.

Fisher: All right, that is great stuff. Jennifer. You just keep going with this thing. How much longer do you think you can do this?

Jenn: I don't know. I feel pretty fortunate. I think I've got one of the greatest jobs in the universe.

Fisher: [Laughs] I think you do, too. I'm very jealous. Get me a signed picture of Lea Michele, will you?

Jenn: Oh, that'll be fun! I'll see what I can do.

Fisher: [Laughs] Okay. Jennifer Utley from Ancestry.com and another great season of “Who Do You Think You Are?” Thanks Jennifer!

Jenn: You're welcome.

Fisher: Hey, it's exciting to see how interest in family history keeps growing and because of that, I've got a couple of shoutouts to do today. One is to Mark Jones and Tom Parker, they're the guys that run NewsTalk 1490 and FM 107-7, in Vicksburg, Mississippi. They've just added Extreme Genes to their Sunday night lineup at 6 o’clock. We are thrilled and honored to be on your station, guys, so thank you so much.

We also want to give a shoutout to Victoria Holschevnikov in Dobrush, Belarus. I got an email from her the other day. She's been listening to Extreme Genes via podcast for the last two years and just wanted to say, ‘hello.’ And Victoria, back at you! Thanks for listening to Extreme Genes, and we hope it's helping you in Belarus.

And coming up next, Tom Perry, our Preservation Authority, talks about microphones and audio and how best to use it, especially with the reunion season coming up. In three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show!

Segment 4 Episode 135

Host Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

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

Tom: Helloo!

Fisher: And, last week were talking about transcribing old audio. Sometimes it's very difficult to understand on its own, but if your spend some time playing it over and over again and trying to pick out the words and transcribing it, you can make it so it's much easier for people to understand the tape when they hear it, because they can follow along with the words that you've copied.

Now, as a result of that conversation about audio, we've got a great email from Schenectady, New York, from Melanie Smith and she's asking about microphones, Tom, and it's been a while since we talked about them.

Tom: Back in the old days when I was back in college, I would hear all the times when I was working on different TV productions, "Oh, don't worry about the audio. We'll fix it in post." And it's like, don't worry about it. We'll fix it in post? Well, that's what the TV engineers say.

Fisher: Yeah.

Tom: So, I actually when to Full Sail University in Florida to learn more about audio, and found out it's best to do it right in the first place than fixing the mix.

Fisher: Well, imagine a movie without the music behind it and how it would affect the mood and feel of the whole thing.

Tom: Oh, some of these B grade movies just drive me nuts when their audio's bad. In fact, we actually did an experiment. We had a movie where we went in and tinkered with the sound track a little bit and had a focus group that we showed one movie to, had them review it.  Showed the other movie too.  The movies were exactly the same. The only thing that was different was the sound track. And the difference is rating it, one star, two stars, up to five stars. It was tremendous difference, and all we did was change a little bit of the background music and things like this, where the content never changed.

Fisher: Hah!

Tom: Almost everybody nowadays has an iPhone or some kind of a smartphone, and you can download some really good apps for a good recording, but one thing you've got to realize is, the microphone on your smartphones are made for you just talking right to them. It's not really an Omni directional microphone. It's not really that good.

So, it's basically about your budget. We have people that call in and say, "Hey, you know, I want to do such and such, but I've got a limited budget.” Just remember, it's better to do something now, then wait and maybe you'll be gone tomorrow.

If you're in a position where you're doing a lot of this, you're going to family reunions, you want to get some really good killer audio, there's one microphone out there that's really good, and I've mentioned these people before.

Go to VideoMaker.com, they have all kinds of good stuff. They have webinars that you can attend, but they have this one microphone that they review that's really, really nice. If you want to go in and do an Amazon search, you just type in B, as in boy, 00TV90DX0, and it's a great microphone.

It's kind of pricey. It retails for about $600, but you can pick it up for under $400 on Amazon. And you think, 'Wow! $400 is a lot of money'. Well, if you're doing family reunions, you have a budget, and this isn't something that's a one time thing. You can set it up, different family members can check it out for when they're doing their own family reunions on the other side.

It's a good investment. It's really, really nice. It'll plug into an iPhone, it'll plug into just about any kind of a recorder. If you have the old digital ones, even the ones that take the small cassettes, you can actually record all these things too. So, it's a lot of money, but it's a good investment if you're really serious about doing family history and such. Like I say, do what you can do.

If all you have is your iPhone, go ahead and start doing your narration, because once you have it in your iPhone or in the cloud or you've burned it as an MP3, you can now go and take this and add it as an attachment in a PDF, or as we mentioned last week in Heritage Collectors, you can actually go and add these little audio parts to it, and then you've got this incredible, searchable document where you can find all these things.

So, it's really important that, (if) you can’t understand grandpa; you want to make sure they can understand you when you're doing your part.

Fisher: Boy! There's so many assets now for putting together a multimedia display, essentially.

Tom: Oh, it is. That's exactly what you're doing. What we can do today, you couldn't even conceive about it ten years ago. It's just crazy!

Fisher: Right, and all the components are very important… the microphone, the video and the enhancement of the audio that you get.

Tom: Exactly. A lot of times, if you're in a large city, you can go to a professional place and rent these microphones, you don't even have to buy them.

Fisher: Boy! That's great advice. All right, what are we talking about in the next segment?

Tom: I'm going to talk a little bit more about microphones, make sure you get the right kind of microphone for what your event is going to be.

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

Segment 5 Episode 135

Host Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: We are back for our final segment of Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show. It is preservation time. We're talking with Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com. I am Fisher, your Radio Roots Sleuth, and, I am speaking to you through a microphone.

Tom: [Laughs]

Fisher: And we're talking microphones right now, because so many people who're into family history, of course, like to do interviews with their loved ones, and sometimes it's not appropriate… sometimes they get nervous, by the way, about being on a camera, and not only that, when you record them with video, sometimes the audio isn't as good. So, a microphone right up in their face is often much better for your purposes.

Tom: Oh, absolutely! But what is your final objective? What are you going to do? Is this going to be one on one interviews? Is this going to be grandma and grandpa talking, being interviewed by you? Are you going to sit around the Thanksgiving table? All those require different kinds of microphones. What're going to do?

Fisher: And I think if you're sitting in a room that has a lot of bounce and echo to it, a video isn't going to come out as well as far as the audio side of that is concerned.

Tom: Exactly! And we have said this so many times, and please engrain this into your head, whenever you're using a camcorder, somebody needs to have headphones on that are hooked to that camcorder, because you will not notice the refrigerator, you will not notice the air conditioner coming on and off, you will not notice the cat meowing outside, because your ears are trained to tune into and to focus on what you want, and it will drive you nuts.

And you can do simple things like we've talked about before, get cushions off your couch and put it around on the walls, hang up blankets; throw them over the top of the blinds. You can do all kinds of things of what we call, 'soften up the room', so you're not getting those echoes.

You won't even know they're happening unless you have your headphones on and you're listening what's coming from the camcorder.

Fisher: You know, oddly, a closet is not a bad place to do an interview.

Tom: Oh, yeah. Anything like that where you can shut off. Just make sure your closet isn't right next to your heater or your air conditioner.

Fisher: Right. [Laughs]

Tom: Because that will cause problems. Another good reason to use the headphones is, if you're using an external mic and you don't have it clicked in just right, you might have just defeated your audio, because how it works is, when you plug the little apparatus in there, it turn off the mic that's built onto your camera.  And so, if you push it in far enough to disable that audio, but it's not far enough to get the new audio, then you have nothing.

Fisher: That's right. Even if you have video, if the audio is bad, then it doesn't matter. It's going to be very frustrating to watch it.

Tom: Absolutely true! I would rather have really good audio all by itself and no video, than video with really bad audio. So, make sure you get the right kind of microphones.

If you are sitting at a dinner table, the best kind of microphone is what they call a PZM, ‘pressure zone microphone’, because it basically turns your table into a giant microphone. So, no matter where somebody is sitting around the table, it's going to pick them up.

And remember, you don't have to buy all these microphones. If you're in a major town, there's got to be pro audio places that you can rent these microphones from. Even if you live out in the boonies, contact the big city, and microphones are really inexpensive to ship. Overnight shipping on a microphone that weighs under a pound isn't going to be that expensive.

Go to VideoMaker.com, you can get some good tips there. Go to MixMagazine.com, you can get some good tips there, but make sure if you're just doing an interview, you have a good lavalier mic.

If you're doing a big group of people around a nice, hardwood table, use a PZM. There's another microphone really quickly you can look into, that's also talked about on VideoMaker.com. It's called a Sennheiser which makes killer microphones. I love Sennheisers.

Fisher: Yes, yes, great brand.

Tom: It's called a VR mic and it's so small, you can actually put it on a drone. If you want to film some stuff on your family reunion, it's a great way to get audio of everybody talking about what's going on.

Fisher: All right, interesting stuff, Tom. I don't think I've ever thought about it attached to a drone. [Laughs]

Tom: Oh, absolutely! It's the best way to get good audio and video of your huge family reunion in the park.

Fisher: Thanks for coming on, Tom. Talk to you next week.

Tom: We'll be there.

Fisher: Hey, that's it for this week! Thanks for joining us. Hopefully you learned something that will help you with your family history research.

Thanks to Paul Woodbury from LegacyTree.com for coming on and talking about his recent DNA discovery on behalf of a client.

Also to Jenn Utley, head genealogist for “Who Do You Think You Are?” talking about what's happening this season on the show. If you missed any of it, catch the podcast.

Talk to you again next week. Thanks for joining us! And remember, as far as everyone is knows, we're a nice, normal family!

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