Episode 157 - “Endogamous Population?” Why It Might Affect You! / Missionary’s Incredible Find In Somoa

podcast episode Sep 19, 2016

Fisher and David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org, open the show with a warning about posting your child’s photos on line. Wait ‘til you hear why! David then shares the story of a woman who has worked at the same job since the Roosevelt Administration.  (The FIRST term!) Then, it’s BIG news for Irish researchers. Ireland has released their most important records for free. Find out how to access them. MyHeritage has also announced a large release… over 33,000,000 Finish records going back over 350 years. David will tell you more. Also, there’s a new study that tells us who gives you your intelligence, and the result might surprise you. David then shares his weekly tip, and another NEHGS free guest user database.

 Next Fisher visits with Paul Woodbury, DNA analyist with LegacyTree.com of Salt Lake City, Utah, talking about “endogamy.” (Don’t worry, Fisher has never heard of it either.) What does it mean, and why might it play a role in your DNA results? Paul will (attempt to) explain!

 Then, listener Dayna Jacobs, a former missionary to Samoa, shares her incredible story of finding the grave of a member of her own family on the island nation! (She had no idea he was there.) And with a post from the other side of the world, she discovered a whole lot more. You'll love the whole story.

In Preservation Time, Fisher and Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com fill your head with ideas on preparing to interview your family’s seniors to create the ultimate family history gift for this holiday season.

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

Transcript of Episode 157

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 157

Fisher: And welcome to America’s Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com! It is Fisher here, your Radio Root Sleuth on the program where we shake your family tree, and watch the nuts fall out. Very excited about our guests today as always! We’ve got LegacyTree.com’s own Paul Woodbury. He is a DNA analyst. Paul is going to talk about something that I have never really heard about before. It’s called “endogamy.” It’s a big word, and it may actually have something to do with what’s going to happen when you get your DNA test results at some point. You are not going to believe what he’s going to say about this. Plus later on in the show Dayna Jacobs is going to be on. Dayna is... [applause] ... yes thank you very much. Everybody gets applause today. Dayna is a listener and she was a missionary in Samoa just a couple of years ago, and happened to go into a cemetery there and found one of her own relatives! You’ve got to hear this story that’s coming up a little bit later on in the show. But right now, it’s time to head out to Boston for my good friend David Allen Lambert, the Chief Genealogist for the New England Historic Genealogical Society and American Ancestors.org. How are you David?

David: Hey, things are wonderful in Beantown! How are things with you?

Fisher: Awesome! Exciting stuff happening around here, and of course we’ve got a lot of big news going on! We’ll get to that in just a moment, but let’s start with a warning for listeners who post their kids’ pictures online.

David: That’s true. So, if you use social media to post pictures of your kids, your grandkids, keep in mind, when they’re 18 years of age, they may actually take you to court over them!

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: Yeah, all the way over in Austria, there is actually a case now where an 18-year-old is suing her parents because of the over 500 photos from childhood they’ve posted on Facebook.

Fisher: Changing diapers and laying on the carpet, and the naked baby pictures, and she’s humiliated, and so she’s suing her parents.

David: I know. I mean, to be perfectly honest, pictures are embarrassing but is it really worth suing mom and dad over?

Fisher: Yeah, no kidding.

David: It’s really sad.

Fisher: All right.

David: Well, on a side note, I want to say that I would like to work probably till I’m in my seventies, but Elisabeth Davis from Culver, Indiana takes it a lot further than I plan. At 99 years of age, Fish, she’s still working!

Fisher: Oh yeah, and at the same job for eighty years!

David: She’s been working since 1935 as a secretary. It’s amazing!

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: Yes, and she doesn’t seem to want to retire any time soon, so I hope that she gets another 10 or 20 years at the job.

Fisher: Wouldn’t that be great?

David: What the pension and social security will be at that point, unbelievable! Our next story takes us over to Ireland, and I’m always delighted when countries go out and digitize their records and put them online. In Scotland, you have the ScotlandsPeople. It’s a pay per view site, but for Ireland, IrishGenealogy.ie, has now, online for free, the searchable database, and images of the birth, marriages and deaths for Ireland. They have currently the births from 1864 to 1915, [applause] marriages 1882 to1940 and deaths 1891 to 1965 [applause] and this isn’t just an index, again it’s the images. Click on it. Amazing!

Fisher: Wow! This is one of the biggest things ever for Irish American researchers. There are more Irish people here in the United States than there are in Ireland, so for you to have access to this is an enormous opportunity, and it’s all free! And that address again is IrishGenealogy.ie. What else do you have David?

David: Well, going to the other part of Europe, MyHeritage is excited with the 33 million Finland church records they’ve released. That’s amazing too!

Fisher: Wow!

David: These are over 300 years of church records starting back in 1657 including clerical surveys in pre-confirmation books, and I’m sure with more things to come. You know, I like to think that mom and dad had given me a mixture of my autosomal DNA, but who gave me what? Well, I’ll find out with my test at some point, but now I know that mom gave me my smarts.

Fisher: Yes! This is crazy! I had no idea! This is a new study that’s just come out and it’s determined that all of your intelligence, all of it, comes through your mother.

David: Well, you know what they say, “Mother knows best.” [Laughs] or is it, “Father knows best.” But in this case mother gave you the smarts.

Fisher: Yes, and they say if you actually received the intelligence gene from your father, it would be deactivated in favor of the mother’s.

David: [Laughs]

Fisher: So, this is a new study. I’ve got to tell you right now, I wonder if that’s really true? Could that really be true or are we going to see another study down the line going, “Oh wait a minute, we messed the whole thing up.” Because for any trait, even for hair, it’s a mix of the two, so I’ve got a question in my own mind, I’ve got a little bit of doubt here whether or not this is accurate, but we’ll see.

David: Well, if you are a geneticist out there listening to Extreme Genes, don’t forget to call in and let us know. [Laughs]

Fisher: Yeah, no kidding!

David: My tip for the week. Most of you have kids that have gone back to school, or grandkids or nieces and nephews. Remember your old school days, getting on the bus or walking to school five miles in the snow and all that? We heard our parents talk about it. Well, you remember your school stories, where you went to school, your favorite teachers or not. Why not write it down? Another reason to preserving your own past is my tip. So why not tell your descendants about it someday? So, remember the teacher you didn’t like, or the girl you had the crush on? Well write it down.

Fisher: You know it’s funny you mention that because I just tracked down my third grade teacher who was my favourite back at North Mianus Elementary School in Greenwich, Connecticut and she’s still living at 86 on Cape Cod. I’m tempted to call her! I’ve got her phone number. I know where she is. I’ve seen pictures of her. I had no idea she was still around.

David: I don’t know, Fisher, I’m tempted to do that interview. I want to find out what type of kid you were, growing up in the third grade. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: It’s great. The last thing I want to mention on AmericanAncestors.org, we have our free guest user database, and this includes the other coast. We’re out to California now with the birth index from 1905 to 1995 and the database of birth and christenings from the 19th century to 1988. That’s all I have this week. I’ve got to get back and start finding some relatives over on that Ireland database before it crashes from all the activities that all our Extreme Genes Irish descendants will be doing.

Fisher: Yes, no doubt.

David: Well till next time my friend. Talk to you soon.

Fisher: All right, thanks so much David. This segment has been brought to you by MyHeritage.com. And coming up next, we are going to talk to Paul Woodbury the DNA specialist from our friends at LegacyTree.com in Salt Lake City in Utah. He’s going to talk about a thing called endogamy and it might actually have an effect on what you learn about yourself through your DNA test results. It’s crazy stuff! It’s coming up next in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 157

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Paul Woodbury

Fisher: Welcome back to America’s Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, the Radio Roots Sleuth talking to Paul Woodbury. He is our DNA Analyst from our friends at LegacyTree.com in Salt Lake City, Utah. Paul, nice to have you back on the show.

Paul: Thanks for having me.

Fisher: I’m having a very difficult time even learning how to say this word. “Endogamy.”

Paul: You said it right.

Fisher: It’s a term I am not too familiar with, but it has to do with isolated populations and DNA and everybody’s related, and it’s just a big mess. Do you have to deal with this often?

Paul: I do.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Paul: And part of the problem is that, you know any of the really easy genetic genealogy problems that are easily solvable, usually people can do it on their own, but then we get all the difficult ones that are really hard and a lot of the times we do have to deal with endogamous populations.

Fisher: All right. So let’s talk about some examples of this. I would assume a place like Iceland would be one of those, yes?

Paul: Yes. And what endogamy refers to is when a population has been isolated either culturally or geographically for hundreds of years. So because of that the founder population is the ancestors of everybody in the population. Everybody is related to each other through multiple family lines and they may be descended from the same ancestral couple multiple times. This differs a little bit from what we call “pedigree collapse” when, let’s say, over the course of maybe two or three generations you have a few family members that marry within the same family groups, maybe cousins marrying other cousins.

Fisher: Right.

Paul: And you kind of get a little bit of the same effects, but endogamy is that pedigree collapse over the course of several hundred years which eventually results in many small segments of DNA being shared between many members of the population. So like you said, Iceland would be an example of this. Some of the other populations that we deal with, Puerto Rico, French Canada, and French Louisiana, Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, also, we see this type of phenomenon.

Fisher: So we see it with countries and then we see it with different groups. You mentioned the Ashkenazi Jews because they marry within their own population. And what are some of the other groups that come to mind?

Paul: Some other groups that come to mind, Polynesian Islands, the Mennonites, so there’s many groups and they will exhibit different levels of endogamy and kinds of relatedness between many different members of the populations. But you view kind of a connection between many members of the population, at least genetically, with many of these populations.   

Fisher: All right. So I go through and I do a DNA test and I get my analysis back and I’m having trouble figuring out how I’m related to somebody. I bring this to you, you find I’m part of an endogamous population from some place or some group, how does this work for you and how does it work for me to try to solve the problem? Describe the situation.

Paul: Okay. So one recent situation we had was a woman who was an adoptee. She knew who her biological mother was and we were in collaboration with her and her bio mom. And she was trying to figure out who her bio father was. Well, both her mother and her father were from an endogamous population in French Louisiana. And we were able to determine that her parents were not closely related to each other within the last few generations of ancestry. You can do that by transferring your test results regardless of which company you’ve tested at. You can transfer those to Gedmatch.com

Fisher: Right.

Paul: And run an analysis on a tool there that is the “Are your parents related” tool. And what this tool does is that it shows you segments of DNA that are the same on both copies. So each person gets half their autosomal DNA from their mom, and they get half from their dad. If their parents are related to each within a level of second, third, fourth cousins and sometimes even more distant, it’s possible that they will have inherited this exact same segment of DNA from their mother as they did from their father. And what that does is, it creates a segment of DNA where you match yourself.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Paul: What we call a run of homozygosity.

Fisher: Oh boy.

Paul: So that’s indicative that your parents are related to each other.

Fisher: Yeah.

Paul: Well, we did an analysis for our client to determine that her parents were not related to each other. However, all of her matches were also matches at some level to her mother. So, what we did is, we analyzed the segments and DNA that were known to have come from her mother, but then we also found a huge range of segments of DNA that she did not share in common with her mother but that she shared in common with her mother’s matches, indicating that those matches were related through both the maternal and paternal ancestry.

Fisher: Oh wow. Excuse me but my head is just spinning right now. [Laughs] That’s insane.

Paul: [Laughs]

Fisher: So how do you sort this stuff out, Paul? And how do you sleep?

Paul: It’s hard.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Paul: One of the approaches that we take is really fine tuning exactly how much DNA we share in common with each of your close matches. And when we’re dealing with situations like this, we often tend to focus on the really close matches. We don’t pay as much attention to those fourth to sixth cousins that maybe share between fifteen centimorgans and 20 centimorgans of DNA because the common ancestor that contributes that could be one of several candidates or it could have been several hundred years ago. So it’s quite difficult to work with those more distant matches which is why we really focus in on those matches that share higher levels DNA with a client. Then, what we’ll also do is we’ll compare directly to identify exactly how much DNA they share in common, because as we mentioned there’s possibility that there’s runs of homozygosity but the different testing companies only count that segment of DNA as a single segment.

Fisher: Right.

Paul: They won’t double count those regions where you match them on both copies of your DNA. So we’ll go and see if there are any runs of homozygosity where the clients or for their match to determine if we’re expecting a double amount of DNA on that segment. The other thing we look for are fully identical regions where they share both copies of their DNA in common with each other. Another element that we really focus on is with FamilyTreeDNA and with some of the other companies they will include very small segments and the totals of how much DNA you share in common with people. And with endogamous populations that’s problematic because some of those very extremely small segments are held by almost everybody in the population. So it can push you beyond the threshold of what you would expect to share with a relative at that level.

Fisher: So the end game then when you’re working with this stuff, is it the same as it is for anybody else where their parents are not closely related?

Paul: No. [Laughs] You do have to approach it quite a bit differently because with endogamous populations you can’t really ignore any match and you can’t really rule out any match because there’s a possibility that they could be related through the ancestral line that you’re investigating.

Fisher: So it’s much more difficult then for you to flesh out exactly what their lines might be by trying to match up trees of matches, is that right?

Paul: That is correct. For example, you might have a candidate couple, when you’re trying to identify how they might be related, one of the approaches that we take is we identify candidate couples and we just plug them into the tree and see how many of their genetic relationships between this subject and all their genetic cousins can be explained by this scenario. And then we plug in different scenarios and we find the best fit scenario and sometimes that’s the approach we’ll take with that. Another key to really helping with endogamous populations and interpretations of those results is testing as many close relatives as you can find. We were able to solve the case for our client because we had access to her mother’s DNA test results. We were able to use that to filter out all of the maternal segments, while still keeping those matches who were known to be related to both her mother and her father.

Fisher: And so what was your client trying to achieve here?

Paul: She was trying to identify her birth father. And we were able to do that by focusing on some of the close matches. One of the challenges with endogamy is that if you look at the genetic networks of who’s related to who and all of the genetic cousins that you share in common it gets really messy really quickly.

Fisher: [Laughs] Yeah.

Paul: Because almost all of your genetic cousins are all going to be related to each other or to a larger genetic network groups. So that was a challenge, but knowing how much DNA her mother shared with those matches we were able to tease out exactly how much DNA she got from her father that was in common with those matches.

Fisher: That is incredible. You go to school for this Paul? I mean unbelievable!

Paul: I do, yeah. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs]

Paul: So yeah, I think that the main takeaway for researching endogamous populations are identifying exactly how much DNA you share in common and kind of filter that based off of the larger segments and focus on those individuals that share larger segments of DNA. Second, invite as many individuals as you can to test from the family that you’re interested in researching. Even if you know that they have multiple relationships with you, even if you know they’re double first cousins, even if you know that they are also part of the population, knowing the segments of DNA that you share in common with them and also in common with other relatives will really help you guide that research. And the last element is depending upon direct line testing through assist in anchoring your interpretation of your autosomal DNA test results. And what I mean by that is try and find representatives from your extended family that can do Y DNA testing and mitochondrial DNA testing, so that you can compare that with other autosomal matches. You can kind of do that if an anchor in your interpretation as you explores the direct line test you share with your autosomal match.

Fisher: He’s DNA Analyst Paul Woodbury from LegacyTree.com. Paul, I’m not going to sleep tonight now after all this. That’s incredible stuff.

Paul: [Laughs]

Fisher: Thank you for sharing that with us. You know it’s just constantly changing and new ways to analyze and there’s a lot come in the next five years I’m thinking.

Paul: Yes.

Fisher: Hey, thanks for coming on!

Paul: Thank you.

Fisher: And this segment of our show has been brought to you by RootsMagic.com. And coming up next, we’re going to talk to a listener who was a missionary in Samoa who went to a cemetery and ran into quite the surprise. You’ll hear about it coming up in five minutes on Extreme Genes.

Segment 3 Episode 157

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Dayna Jacobs

Fisher: And we are back, Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, the Radio Roots Sleuth, always interested in hearing your stories of discovery and some of the more unusual things that happen to you. And certainly that is the case with my next guest she's from King City, California. Dayna Jacobs is on the line with me now. Hi Dayna, how are you?

Dayna: Hi, I'm great.

Fisher: Great. Fill us in now. You were serving as a voluntary missionary a year or so ago in Samoa, a long way from home, and obviously you had a little free time on your hands. Fill us in on what your experience was.

Dayna: It was kind of crazy. I'm not Samoan and I don't have Samoan ancestry, but I was really surprised one day when I was photographing headstones in a cemetery on the island of Upolu in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, planning on uploading them to Billion Graves and I actually discovered the grave of one of my very own family members who I didn't even know about who had died over 100 years ago in Samoa!

Fisher: Now, let's go back here now. As a missionary this was just something you were doing in your free time? Or was this one of your assignments?

Dayna: No, I was just doing this in my free time. To begin with, I guess I should mention that one of the interesting aspects of Samoan culture is that they bury their dead in their front yard typically.

Fisher: Wow!

Dayna: And so it's something that you notice right away when you arrive, because they build these really nice tombs and memorials. But as a result, they don't have a lot of cemeteries in Samoa. So when you see a cemetery it's kind of the exception and there's only a few of them there. So, I had heard about this one cemetery called the European Cemetery, because there are a lot of early settlers had buried there, and that happened because Samoa was controlled by Germany until World War I, and then controlled by New Zealand, but in those cultures you don't bury your dead in your front yard.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Dayna: So they had a cemetery in Tuamasaga where the foreigners are buried, and I figured... I looked on Billion Graves and I saw that there were no Samoan records entered there, and so I knew that a lot of these folks that were foreigners there had probably had family overseas that would never have a chance to look at their graves. And so I thought it would be a nice service while we were already there in my spare time just to go photograph these headstones so that people would have access to them from far away.

Fisher: Boy, that is a great idea, and of course, from all over the world. And before we get to your particular story, did you actually hear from individuals around the world who connected to some of those folks you found?

Dayna: I have, actually. I've gotten a couple of emails from people that were really grateful and thanked me, and it was really neat to hear from people.

Fisher: So let's go forward now with your story. You found an individual there in the cemetery tied to you somehow, what was the situation as you came upon this stone? What did you see on it?

Dayna: Well, I was going through and of course there were a lot of German names in the cemetery and lots of Samoan names, and then there were folks from New Zealand and Australia, and then I came across this headstone for George E. Morris of Mesa, Arizona, 1887 to 1908. Well, this really caught my eye because my mother was from Mesa, Arizona. And so it’s the first thing that caught my eye, but then I remembered that her grandmother was named Sofia Isadora Morris, who also lived in Mesa, Arizona, in the early 1900s. So it occurred to me "Hey, could this guy actually be part of my family?" So I looked him up on my handy online family tree and sure enough, he was the nephew of Sofia Isadora Morris. He was her brother's son. So I'd found a cousin that I didn't even know about who had died in Samoa over 100 years ago!

Fisher: That's unbelievable. So we're talking a first cousin twice removed. And so you figured that out right there standing in the cemetery in Samoa?

Dayna: Umm hmm.

Fisher: And so were you able to actually contact some of his relatives? Some who were a little bit closer who tied into this?

Dayna: No. What I did was I posted the picture of the headstone on FamilySearch on his page there, and somebody contacted me. It was a woman who was the granddaughter of a fellow missionary who had served with George Morris and had actually taken care of him in his final weeks before he died.

Fisher: Wow!

Dayna: Yeah. He had kept a journal, and this woman had just found my email address through FamilySearch, and she decided to reach out to me and contact me, and she sent me the pages from his journal that talked about these final weeks and all that had gone on. And then she also sent me a photograph of George that her grandfather had kept in his journal. So that was amazing, too!

Fisher: Now had you had any pictures of George? Or had any been posted online ever before?

Dayna: No, I couldn't find anything. The only thing I was able to find about him was an entry on a 1900 census, him as a 13 year old. And that is the only record I had found of him. I decided that was going to have to wait until I got home. Well, I actually, when I was in Samoa, I came across a record for him when I happened to be in a Family History Center one day in Apia, a very small Family History Center, that just has a few computers and a few textual records. But I was by myself and I noticed there was a door into another room and I poked my head in there and I saw this ancient microfiche, you know the old kind that had the two little spindles on them for the microfilm. And then I saw a film cabinet there, and I opened it up and it was full of microfilms that was covered with dust and cockroach droppings, and, you know, obviously hadn't been looked at for years and years. But the boxes were labelled, and so through the dust I was able to see there was a box that said "Missionaries from the outside, 1888 through 1947." So I pulled that off and I put it on the little ancient reader and I scrolled through there and I saw an old register of early missionaries who had arrived on the island. It was a chronological record, and so I was able to find George Morris' record for when he arrived and it gave his birth year and where he is from and when he departed, which it was said "Died" on there and the date and it gave his Samoan name that he was known by. So that was the first real record that ended up panning out for him. So that's all I had for him when this woman contacted me.

Fisher: That's incredible. So you found out his full missionary service record from over there, when he passed away, because apparently that wasn't fully on the stone, it was just the year, right?

Dayna: Umm hmm.

Fisher: And then you wind up with a lady getting in touch with you with a photograph of him and journal records of the person who took care of him. I mean, that's incredible!

Dayna: Yeah. And additionally I had noticed on the missionary register, because it was chronological, there was another young man who had arrived the same day as him who and who was also from Mesa, Arizona, because it gave both their home towns. So in my mind I thought oh, this guy, you know, they must've been friends back in Arizona, I mean, he travelled... they made the whole journey together.

Fisher: Sure.

Dayna: Well, when I got the journal pages from this woman and I was reading through them, I noticed that this Charles Draper, who was her grandfather, mention in his journal that James Lazenby was also there helping to care for him. Well, James Lazenby was the guy who arrived with him from Arizona. So I thought oh, his friend from Arizona was helping to care for him when died as well. So I emailed back this woman and I said "Oh, there was this guy named James Lazenby who was mentioned in the journal. I think they were friends from Arizona." And she says "Oh, I ran into James Lazenby's grandson. I ran into a guy named Lazenby and I asked him if his grandfather had served a mission to Samoa and he had, and he has a journal as well." So she put me in touch with him and he sent me the pages from his journal, describing his point of view of the final days. And from that we learn that George was actually known as Eddie that was the “E” in his name, George E. Back home in Arizona they called him Eddy. And so he talked about Eddie's death and how devastating it was for everybody. So that was another amazing coincidence. And then he gave me the email address for a great nephew of George Morris who he said had possession of the journal that George Morris had kept.

Fisher: Just from a day of wandering in the cemetery to try to get some records of some Europeans who had passed away and share them with the world. Dayna Jacobs, thank you so much for coming on and telling us about this. Incredible!

Dayna: Thanks, great sharing it!

Fisher: These are the things that happen when you do family history. Great stuff!

Dayna: Thanks a lot. Appreciate it.

Fisher: And this segment has been brought to you by LagacyTree.com. And coming up next we'll talk to Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com, our Preservation Authority, about how to prepare the ultimate family history holiday gift. That's coming up in three minutes on Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com.

Segment 4 Episode 157

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: Welcome back to Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, the Radio Roots Sleuth. It is preservation time with my good friend Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com, the Preservation Authority. Hello Tom, how are you?

Tom: Hello!

Fisher: And this segment is brought to you by Forever.com. And Tom, we've been talking recently about the holidays coming up pretty quickly here and about getting things digitized and organized so you can edit things, but what about the concept of actually creating something new out of family history?

Tom: Exactly! So we need to kind of go back to the past or back to the future, whatever you want to call it.

Fisher: Something like that. Yeah.

Tom: Yeah. Like you say, it’s so important to preserve the stuff. Well, let's MAKE some stuff. And this is the best time to do it, because Christmas is coming up. And you never know when Grandma's going to have her foot on that banana peel!

Fisher: [Laughs]

Tom: So we need to get these interviews done!

Fisher: That's absolutely true. You know, when I started in family history in my twenties, I'd go to all the seniors in the family, cousins, great aunts, all these people who had answers we figured, you know. And we would interview them. And then within a year usually, they were gone. So it reached the point where nobody wanted to be interviewed by Scott anymore![Laughs]

Tom: [Laughs] You killer!

Fisher: Yeah! But it is true. I mean people are not there forever. And I think when you're, especially when you're young and you've never lost anybody, you always figure they're going to be there. And then when they're gone and you get older and you have families of your own, then you think, "Wait a minute! I have a lot of questions. I need some answers."

Tom: You know that's really important too. Because like I was watching some of our old videos and I happened to be with my sister, and I'm the youngest of five. So she was sitting there talking about the different things going on. I'm sitting there going, "I didn't know that. I didn't know that." So any time you have those options, you need to record this stuff. And today with technology, it’s not like, "Oh, I've got to go get my recorder out. I've got to go get my camcorder." No, pull your iPhone out of your pocket, push the little app that says "audio recorder" and record it. It comes with it. They're free, if you don't have one that you like. You need to do that kind of stuff, because once you get it on your phone, then it’s easy to go add it to the movies or whatever. Because if you didn't know it, I guarantee your kids didn't know it either, and you need to pass these things on.

Fisher: Right. And these things are all lost so easily. As I've said many times on the show, when somebody dies, a library is burned. And so, here's a great opportunity to get interviews right as they happen. Like you said, if you'd recorded it right when she said it, you would have that captured, right?

Tom: Exactly! And that's what you need to do. And there's a lot of ways to do it. Some people say, "Well, you know, what do I ask?" If you have problems, the best thing to do is pull out some old videos, pull out some old films, slides, anything to get the conversation started. And once it starts, it will go! It will go and go and go and go.

Fisher: Yeah.

Tom: If it’s a spur of the moment type thing, you know, grab your iPhone. If you've got time to set it up, get a decent microphone. If you have a big family reunion coming up, go to your local audio distributor and rent a good quality microphone. When you're recording, have your headphones on, because then you will pick up sounds from the refrigerator, from the air conditioner, from even a florescent light buzzing. You going to say, "Oh wait! Hey, I need to get this room to sound a little better." When you do it on the fly, of course you can't do those kinds of things. You need to keep it moving. But when you're actually going to set something up to interview grandma or brothers and sisters or any of these people, take the time to put the headphones on and find out, "Okay, we're going to have to turn off the air conditioner. We're going to have to unplug the refrigerator or we need to move someplace or like we've talked, you know, before, you can get sleeping bags, you can get blankets you know, throw them over furniture, throw them over anything that will kind of reduce the echoes and such.

Fisher: And kick the kids out too, by the way.

Tom: Exactly!

Fisher: Send them far away.

Tom: Exactly! Set up a play date, you know, blocks away, so they won't be coming in and slamming the door and going, "MAAAAAA!!!!"

Fisher: [Laughs]

Tom: Right in the middle of it, because it will happens. I've got a fourteen year old, I know.

Fisher: Oh yeah! I had a video of my great uncles and I was talking to them and doing some interviews with them. And my mom's in the background, the phone's ringing, because the reunion is on and everybody's checking where the next event is. And "Oh!" and she's loud! And so it was just, it was… Boy! I wish we'd had it in a better place, because it was difficult to hear the stories. All right, we're going to continue this talk more about what to do to get ready for the holidays while creating some new family history resources.

Tom: Exactly!

Fisher: When we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 157

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: And we are back for our final segment of Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and EtxremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth with Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com. And we are talking about how we are in the thick of the season for you getting everything ready for the holidays. If you're going to have a special family history oriented gift prepared for the family. And we were just talking about doing interviews, Tom, of course your ongoing advice about how to set up a room, making sure that the refrigerator’s unplugged. And we were talking about unplugging phones. In fact, get the cell phones out of there altogether. But let's talk about setting up the actual interviews with your seniors.

Tom: Oh this is so crucial! You need to make sure well before you get everybody together that you already know what you're going to ask. So what I do is, I get out like a ledger pad or you can use a little ledger app that's on your iPhone. And every time you think of a question, "Oh, you know, I'd like to ask grandma some more things about this." and write all these things down. If you're totally stumped, you can always go back and look through old photographs, look at old movies, VHS tapes, and a lot of those will bring up questions you want to ask everybody. And as many questions as you can get written down, then take the time to email them to other members of the family, because this way, they can go through the questions that you're going to be asking them. And if they have a couple of weeks before the interview, they're going to go to bed thinking about things. They're going to wake up. In the middle of the night you might wake up with a question, and jot it down, because you never know when they're going to come to you, and when you wake up, you're going to forget it. You might find out that's a stupid question, but at least you got it down.

Fisher: [Laughs] Well, sharing the questions beforehand with the people you're going to talk to is a huge thing, because as we all know, memories take time, you know. You want to ponder some things, sleep on it. And things come to mind that might not normally happen. And maybe some of the people you're going to interview are going to write down a few things themselves.

Tom: Exactly! People can look over your questions and they'll think, "Oh, okay, I know the answer." Then they're going to think more deep into it, "Oh, you know what? That wasn't really then." And it’s going to be a lot clearer when they actually come in for the interview. You want to get these memories put down, and you want to get them distributed. And the more planning you put into this, the better your final product's going to be.

Fisher: Right. Maybe think about the background where you're going to be shooting. You want to make sure there's not bright light behind them. And ultimately, you've got to think about things too, like how do they dress for this? You're going to want to ask them that and help them to prepare for it so they look their best. Everybody wants to look good.

Tom: Oh absolutely! It’s so important. If everybody's wearing blue and your background's blue, they're going to get lost. One thing I really highly recommend you do is, go to VideoMaker.com. They're a great resource for all kinds of, you know, equipment if you want to rent or purchase some better equipment to record the sessions. They have different things at how to light things. Like you just mentioned, to make sure people look their very best. You don't have somebody so flooded out that you can't even see their face. That's so important.

Fisher: We should mention also, for those who struggle for questions, things to ask… there are a lot of places online where you can get questions. Just pop in there, a Google search, you know, "questions for ancestors' interviews" and you'll see things in there that maybe you hadn't even thought of. Things about where did grandma and grandpa go on their first date or what was the first thing that struck you or talk about the first kiss. Things you don't think that grandma and grandpa ever did!

Tom: And there's some great books out there. Go to a library, go to Amazon.com. And there are some great books that all they are, are a list of questions to ask, and that will at least get your mind going. And then you can adapt them to your family.

Fisher: And once again, this is the time of year to be doing it, because it’s going to be too late otherwise. It takes time.

Tom: Yeah, absolutely! Get on it right now so you have these great gifts. If nobody's going to be around until the holidays, you still want to get this preplanning done now, so then you can record them at the holiday dinner or whatever you're doing and then you'll have it for next year to give as a gift.

Fisher: There you go, great ideas. Thanks for coming on, Tom. Talk to you next week!

Tom: We'll be here.

Fisher: And this segment of the show has been brought to you by FamilySearch.org and 23AndMe.com DNA. Well, that wraps it up for this week. Hope you enjoyed it. Boy! Some incredible stories there! That one from Dayna Jacobs about finding her own relative in a cemetery in Samoa, unbelievable! If you missed any of it, catch the podcast. You can find it on iTunes, iHeart Radio's talk channel or of course at ExtremeGenes.com. Hey, don't forget to sign up for the Weekly Genie newsletter. It comes out every Monday. We'd love to have you as part of our Extreme Genes community, signup on Facebook or ExtremeGenes.com. Talk to you again next week. Thanks for joining us. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal, family!

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