Episode 222 - DNA: The Need For Testing Cousins / New Genie TV Show On The Way

podcast episode Jan 28, 2018

Host Scott Fisher opens the show with Jessica Taylor, founder and president of Legacy Tree Genealogists. Jessica is part of a group of genealogical businesses that is sponsoring a contest at RootsTech this year that could score you some amazing family history products. (Yes, including DNA kits!) Then, David Allen Lambert , Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org, shares some “family histoire news.” He tells two tales from the ashes… literally. First is the story of a British woman who has admitted having a certain taste for her mother’s ashes. (You won’t believe it!) Then, another woman has been caring for the ashes of a woman who died in the 1990s. She’s hoping to locate next of kin before she retires soon. Perhaps you can help.

Then, Paul Woodbury, DNA specialist at Legacy Tree Genealogists, joins the show again to talk about the significance of tracking down various cousins. He’ll explain the value as you delve into your dna project.  It’s something of a 202 course, so listen carefully.

Fisher then visits with Thomas Allen Harris, director and host of an upcoming PBS program called Family Pictures USA. He may have a place for your family pix and stories!

Tom Perry, the Preservation Authority, then returns to answer another listener question. He also explains how he has obtained some of the amazing antique recording and playback devices he uses to help people digitize and preserve their audio.

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

Transcript of Episode 222

Host: Scott Fisher with guests Jessica Taylor and David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 222

Fisher:And greetings to you, genies near and far. It is Fisher here your Radio Roots Sleuth on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com, the program where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out. And this segment is brought to you by MyHeritage.com. I’m excited today because we have our first DNA segment of the year. We are going to be focusing in on why you need to find other descendants, maybe distant cousins to help you zero in on your target ancestor. Why would you need to do that? Why would you need to talk to strangers? Paul Woodbury, the DNA Specialist from Legacy Tree Genealogists is going to be here to talk about that. And then later in the show, it’s a new TV series coming out on PBS called “Family Pictures USA.” I am going to be talking to the host and director of the show Thomas Allen Harris, and he’ll give us a little idea about what you might be willing to do to be a part of that show. And as we get ready for RootsTech coming up on February 28th going through March 3rd in Salt Lake City, Utah at the Salt Palace Convention Center, a lot of people are planning to come out. And a lot of people are preparing to give you a real good time when you get there. And one of those people is Jessica Taylor. She is the Founder and President of Legacy Tree Genealogists. And Jessica tell us about this great plan you’ve got going with the genealogy business alliance.

Jessica: Sure. So the Genealogy Business Alliance is basically a platform where all the genealogy businesses in the world can talk to each other, get support, work on cool projects that we come up with together. And one those cool projects is at RootsTech. So, we’ve come up with a really fun scavenger hunt for our visitors. The expo hall is enormous. And anyone who’s been at RootsTech knows it.

Fisher: [Laughs] It’s too big.

Jessica: It’s just overwhelming. [Laughs]

Fisher: It’s a lot of stuff, but there’s some good stuff in there.

Jessica: Yes, there absolutely is. And so we thought, you know, let’s make something really fun for the whole week that people can do and that members of the Genealogy Business Alliance can be a part of and help people remember some of these folks that they visited in this enormous expo hall. So, the scavenger hunt basically is comprised of sixteen genealogy related companies and as you visit their booth there will be a QR code, or a special URL that you can type in to answer some questions about the booth and as you answer those questions you’re going to get discounts, coupons and you’ll also be entered a really big give-away among all of these companies who are all contributing prizes that can be won by participating. So, it will be really fun. It’s at gba.buzz. That’s where the website info is if anyone wants to check that out.

Fisher: Gba.buzz?

Jessica: That’s right.

Fisher: Awesome! So, what are the prizes by the way involved here?

Jessica: So, we’ve got a lot of DNA kits being given away.

Fisher: Ooh.

Jessica:Yeah, we’ve got top level subscriptions to MyHeritage and FindMyPast. Roots Magic is giving away some software. Legacy Tree Genealogists who I am representing, we’re giving away a $350 DNA Discovery Project for someone that involves a detailed research plan involving DNA. We’ve got some free tutorials, additional subscriptions, a free My Heritage book and I wanted to give a shout out to a couple other people who are part of the genealogy business who I’ve asked and have really put in a lot of work to make this scavenger hunt happen. And first would be Janet Hovorka. She is a co-creator of the Alliance and with FamilyChartMasters, so they’re giving away great DNA chart that you can hang on your wall. And then Devon Lee has done a lot of work as well, and she’s with Family History Fanatics. And they’ll be giving away a combo pack and announcing the winners on the Monday after Roots Tech on their YouTube channel. So, that’s Family History Fanatics, that’s where you’ll get to watch and see if you’ve won.

Fisher: Perfect.

Jessica: And then one other shout out that I don’t want to forget, and that is just the amazing RootsTech organizers who have let us do this because you know this was a little bit outside the box.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Jessica: This is just, you know, these companies, we’re really friends. We love each other, we want to support each other and this is the way for us to get together and do something cool at RootsTech. So, I’m really grateful that the organizers have allowed us to do that kind of thing so it should be super fun. 

Fisher: [Applause] All right, golf claps for the folks at RootsTech! Very nice. Thank you very much.                

Jessica: You bet.

Fisher: Gba.buzz the Genealogy Business Alliance and Roots Tech coming up February 28th to March 3rd. This is a great thing to look into because the prizes sound incredible.

Jessica: Yeah, lots of good stuff.

Fisher: All right, thanks so much Jessica. We look forward to seeing you next month.

Jessica: It will be a great time.    

Fisher: And somebody else who’s going to be at RootsTech next month is on the line with me right now, David Allen Lambert, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. A lot to fit on a business card. David, how are you?

David:Hey, I’m doing great, Fish. I want to give you an interesting story into the cry out for help from the Fremont County Colorado Tradition Center where the ashes of Esther O’Connor who died in 1991 have been there for 18 years. They’re looking for the family. 

Fisher: Wow! Yeah, this poor woman’s ashes have been sitting down in the basement at this court building for years and here comes this clerk and finds them and says, “This is a dark, dusty place. They shouldn’t be here.” So she’s been actually keeping them on her shelf in her office for 18 years and they’ve been looking for family but not with a lot of luck.                             

David: Yeah, I hope that one of our listeners might be able to plug some genealogical data in. If you have an Esther O’Connor who was born June 6th 1939 at Mooresville, Indiana, dying in 1991 in Canon City, Colorado, this is someone to try find relatives for. Hopefully, this will be a happy ending and the family will be reunited with the ashes. However, do you recall the story we were chatting about at Christmas time?

Fisher: Oh my gosh, yes. The woman who was taking her mother’s ashes and sprinkling them on her Christmas meal?!

David: Yeah.

Fisher: That’s how she was going to share Christmas with mom?

David: I mean, I guess to each his own but I don’t think of mom as paprika!

Fisher: No, no! [Laughs]

David: I hope that all’s well that ends well there too. Our blogger spotlight this week shines upon climbingmyfamilytree.blogspot.com. This is a great blog by Marian B. Wood where she talks about different adventures in her family tree. And recently she’s talking about the dilemma of what project she should do next. Take a peek at her blog on January 13th 2018, “Chicken Post Or Egg Post.” Read it and find out more.

Fisher: All right David, thank you so much. And coming up next we talk DNA with the DNA specialist from Legacy Tree Genealogists, Paul Woodbury in three minutes on Extreme Genes America’s Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 222

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 your Radio Roots Sleuth and this segment is brought to you by 23andMe.comDNA always happy to talk to DNA by the way, with my good friend Paul Woodbury from LegacyTree.com.  Happy New Year, Paul! How are you?

Paul: I’m doing great. Thanks for having me.

Fisher: You know, it’s always fun to learn a few new things that we can share with people concerning DNA and the best way to utilize it and I thought we’d talk today a little about descendant research and why it’s so important, and certainly well beyond just what’s my ethnicity, right?

Paul: Absolutely. And I think this ties really well into the idea of DNA testing plans of planning your research, and planning to have success with genetic genealogy, and that fits great with the new year, with any goals that you may be setting, and how to use genetic genealogy to explore your family history.

Fisher: Well, let’s get started here with this. I mean the idea of tracking down other descendants, in my mind as we talk about this, I’m thinking about people that we don’t necessarily know, to help us with our studies, right?

Paul: Yes. So, when you’re doing research on a specific subject in your family history, you want to consider this person within the context of what we can…  the genealogical proof standard.

Fisher: Okay.

Paul: You can learn more about the genealogical proof standard through the board of certification for genealogists. There’s five main points, and one of those points is reasonably exhaustive research. Essentially you can’t get to genealogical proof until you’ve covered all of your bases. That you’ve considered all records that could provide information regarding your research questions, and that you’re using the best records and the best evidence to inform regarding your research questions. When we apply that to DNA, it gets a little tricky because usually with traditional genealogical research, we’re looking at archives, repositories, different record collections that could help us in the exploration of our research.

Fisher: Right.

Paul: In DNA, the record that we’re using is actually the descendants of the people that we’re researching, right?

Fisher: [Laughs] That’s right, yeah.

Paul: So if you’re going to consider all of those records that could be informative for your research case, you have to know who are those records, who are the descendants of that person who is still living, who could carry DNA that would inform regarding your research questions.    

Fisher: Okay. So let’s slow down a minute here [Laughs] because that’s very heavy stuff. I’m trying to get my brain around it. But in my mind, and having done some of this stuff before, and tracking down strangers and saying, “Hey, can I pay for a test for you to do this?” “Who are you?” “What do you want?” You know?

Paul: Yeah.

Fisher: I mean you really have to kind of figure out what are the chances that it’s going to work for you? And that gets back down now to the numbers in terms of okay, how distant a cousin that I can test, and reasonably expect that that’s going to help me solve my DNA and research question?

Paul: Absolutely. And another thing that you want to ask in connection with that is, am I one of the best candidates to actually do DNA testing to explore this research question?

Fisher: Right. For example, I had one last year Paul, to your point, where I’m a descendant of a man who is my fourth great grandfather and we were trying to prove that he was within the name line. That he was not adopted into it because that is what some of the speculation was. So I tracked down a guy who was a direct male-line descendant because as somebody who doesn’t descend through the name-line I couldn’t do that Y-DNA test. So I found a guy who was a fifth cousin, called him up, introduced myself, explained to him what we were trying to do, and he agreed to take the test. And we did the test and it actually proved that my fourth great grandfather was in fact a great grandson of the immigrant as we had hoped, and certainly were now able to prove.

Paul: Absolutely. And you certainly will do these types of targeted testing for those direct-line paternal ancestors or maternal ancestors using Y-DNA or mitochondrial DNA. But the same principle applies to autosomal DNA as well. Because with autosomal DNA I get 50% from each of my parents, 25% from my grandparents, about half of that for every previous generation, and if I do DNA tests with the intent of researching my fourth great grandmother, I’m going to have inherited a very little amount of DNA from that individual.

Fisher: Right. And that you’re going to share with somebody else.

Paul: And that I’m going to share with somebody else, absolutely. So, if I actually look at that individual and trace her descendants, I have a living great aunt that I could test. Two generations closer to the ancestor of interest. That greatly increases our odds of being able to connect with other individuals from that ancestral line. And if I search amongst her other descendants I may find other individuals who are even closer, possibly some of her living grandchildren or great grandchildren.

Fisher: That makes sense. Okay.

Paul: So their DNA tests are going to be much more helpful than my measly 1% of DNA that I got from that ancestor.

Fisher: Yeah that makes a lot of sense. The question I guess comes down to, what are the numbers? I mean I think it’s very easy to say all right, yes, first cousin, second cousin, and those various steps removed, you can reasonably expect that you’re going to find a certain number of matches or you’re going somebody that you can reach out to, but then you start getting back the third cousins, fourth cousins, fifth cousins, what are the numbers on those, Paul, where you okay, I need to find someone who might be of the same generation as I am to prove a third great. So you need a fourth cousin. Those numbers are pretty good too, right? But then you get to fourth. What does the percentage start to look like in terms of shared DNA potentially? How many people are you likely to share DNA with?

Paul: So with your third cousins, the estimates vary between about 90 to 98%. You’re going to share DNA with about 90 to 98% with your third cousins. Third cousins once removed, that gets to about 75%. By the time you are at fourth cousins you share some DNA with about 50% of your fourth cousins.

Fisher: Okay.

Paul: So as you get beyond that it just gets lower and lower. There’s some great tables on that in the Ancestry DNA help menus.

Fisher: Okay. But the good news though would be that as you go further back, even though the numbers might get down to “all right maybe I will share DNA with sixth cousins, maybe only one in ten of them, right?” But there are so many more sixth cousins because you’re back there so far. They should be out there to be found, yes?

Paul: Yes. And I think as you get back that far, you have increased chances of being able to connect with individuals in the databases who have already performed testing.

Fisher: Right.

Paul: So in this case you may not need to recruit everybody that you need for your research case. That being said though, as you test individuals from different lines, you increase the amounts of DNA that is represented in the database for your target ancestor, something that I like to call coverage.

Fisher: That makes sense.

Paul: The amount of DNA that you’re covering for that ancestor because we all inherit different parts of that DNA. So by testing different descendants from different ancestral lines, they may not all relate to each other and they may not all be genetic cousins to each other, but they should tie into a larger group of relatives that you can then use to explore the target ancestry of your target ancestor.

Fisher: And I think to explain what you’re saying in a more simpler way, for instance, if you had both parents deceased, if you tested how many children, you could actually reproduce up to 90 some-odd percent the DNA of the parents, right?

Paul: Yes. So if you have two parents who are deceased, you could reconstruct or recover, about 75% of the parents’ DNA by testing two siblings.

Fisher: Okay, and if you did three?

Paul: Three, it’s about 87%. And if you do four, you get up to 94%.

Fisher: Wow! That’s pretty significant.  And the benefit of that is what then? To have all those siblings, even though you know how you’re related and everything, what would the benefit of that be?

Paul: By testing siblings you can get higher coverage of each of the parents’ DNA and using that you can then look at cousins because genetic cousins are based on the segments of DNA that you share with genetic relatives.

Fisher: Right.

Paul: So by testing multiple siblings that covers more of the DNA of your parents and increases the odds of connecting with additional relatives who could be informative for your research questions.

Fisher: There you go. All right, and that’s the bottom line. Boy this is really good stuff here Paul. You ought to do more of this.

Paul: [Laughs] I try.

Fisher: [Laughs] So how do we take this information then and put a plan into action?

Paul: So I think the first step is really tracing out all of the descendants of your research subjects. And tracing out who are the living candidates that I could reach out to, to invite to test. The individuals that you want to focus on first are going to be the closest generational descendants. Not necessarily the oldest living relative. In this case, what you want to focus on is searching for the youngest children of the youngest children of the youngest children of your target ancestor, because those individuals have the longest generation times. Then, once you have prioritized those individuals, you proceed through all of the other living descendants that you’ve identified and you prioritize those candidates based on who is going to maximize the coverage of your ancestors. And there are some equations for coverage. At Legacy Tree we have a calculator that we use to analyze and to help prioritize the DNA testing plans so we’ll be happy to help you do that. But essentially, what you want to get the closest generational descendants from as many unique descent lines as possible. If you have the choice, you should test two first cousins rather than two siblings.

Fisher: Interesting.

Paul: If you have a choice, you would want to test two second cousins versus two first cousins.

Fisher: Okay, because they go further back, right?

Paul: Because they go further back and because that’s going to maximize the coverage of your ancestor’s DNA that you’re trying to research.

Fisher: He’s really smart. He’s Paul Woodbury. He’s the DNA Specialist at LegacyTree.com. I’m going to have to listen back to this segment I think two or three times here Paul, but this is really good stuff, very helpful, and I look forward to exploring more of it in 2018. Happy New Year my friend!

Paul: Happy New Year!

Fisher: More good stuff straight ahead on Extreme Genes.

Segment 3 Episode 222

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Thomas Allen Harris

Fisher:And welcome back, it is Extreme Genes America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here your Radio Roots Sleuth and this segment is brought to you by LegacyTree.com. And you know we’ve seen a plethora of new television shows that have come on and are relating to family history over the last several years, and there’s a new one that’s coming soon that’s really rather intriguing that you’re going to want to check out on a PBS station near you. It’s called “Family Pictures USA” and I have the host, the producer, the director, the grand imperial poobah of that show on the line with me right now. Thomas Allen Harris, how are you? Welcome to Extreme Genes!

Thomas: Thank you Scott, great to be here with you!

Fisher: Tell us about this show and how it got started and what people can do to be a part of it.

Thomas: Well, the show is still in pilot development phase and we’re probably going to be hitting the air sometime later in 2018 and it’s called “Family Pictures USA” as you mentioned. The show evolved out of a project we were doing called “Digital Diaspora Family Reunion” and we would go around the country inviting people to share their family photographs. This is at the beginning of the digital age.

Fisher: Okay.

Thomas: And people were trying to figure out well, how do I create and digitize all this material I have?

Fisher: [Laughs]

Thomas: And my route to helping them was telling them to think of a narrative and start digitizing images that were connected to a story. So, we would do this with people and a roadshow evolved. And the first time we did this roadshow was in 2009 in Atlanta. We had hundreds of people come with their family photographic albums and we realized, “Wow! This is like amazing.”

Fisher: It’s powerful.

Thomas: Yes. Some people came with trunk loads of images and that’s actually when we started saying, “Okay well, think of a story and we’re just going to tackle twenty images out of your collection and sixty here.” [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs]

Thomas: But you know some way it just evolved out of my personal documentary film making of the last twenty five years. I’ve been making these kinds of personal films that somehow mine my family archives and tell larger stories.

Fisher: Um hmm.

Thomas: My stepdad was from South Africa. He was a freedom fighter who was fighting against the apartheid movement.

Fisher: Wow.

Thomas: And so he left with twelve other guys and out of all of them he’s the only one that decided to use media as his weapon of choice. And at that time there were so few stories that were coming out of South Africa, and equally there were few stories about the growing anti-apartheid movement that was getting back to people in South Africa. So, he came to this country, studied journalism and went to Temple University and Lincoln University but he couldn’t get a job in television and instead he used his camera to document the anti-apartheid movement in exile, and ultimately he ended up working at the United Nations in the anti-apartheid radio division.

Fisher: Wow!

Thomas: Yeah, but he took these photographs and so when he passed away I took his archive back to South Africa. And then realized that no one knew about what had happened, that was before anyone had heard about Nelson Mandela, you know. And so I introduced his photographs to these young South Africans, young actors and I asked them to help me create a film that talked about why these people left and kind of followed the story of the twelve that left from Bloemfontein, South Africa, and so I used my family archive to like activate a group and tell a story.

Fisher: Interesting.

Thomas: So as they travelled around the world with that film they would say to me, “You know, I have this family archive. You know, I have a story about a family that’s moved from one place to another and I would love to be able to use my family archive and story to create something like you’ve done.”

Fisher: Um hmm.

Thomas: And so, I thought to start this transmedia project which I was describing earlier where I would go to people and help them to look at their family photographic archives in a kind of different or transformative way.

Fisher: So, Family Pictures USA then has sprung from all of this and now you’re getting basically into people’s attics and basements, and those dusty old albums, and maybe an old disk or two.

Thomas: Exactly! So, we decided actually to do this project Family Pictures USA and we’re looking at specific locations. We shot the pilot in Detroit. But we’re looking at Detroit not through the lens of the mass media or through the story that we all know but we’re looking at through these family photographic albums.

Fisher: Right.

Thomas: So, what we usually do is we go and we partner with major organizations and small organizations. We do this in huge outreach across the city and we have hundreds of people come and share their family photographic albums.

Fisher: Now you’re not only going to the urban areas, you’re going to the country areas, the rural areas?

Thomas: Yes! And that’s where were going in 2018. We’re working with local public television stations around the country. So, we’re talking South Carolina, Alabama public TV, all these different local public television stations that are rooted in rural spaces that are rooted in both urban and rural, but maybe also people in Alaska, Hawaii. Our goal is to show America, America through the lens of these stories. In Detroit for instance, we didn’t know that this city is a city of entrepreneurs. We had a Polish American woman who came, 97, with her two daughters and she put a picture of her grandmother. Her grandmother was known in the community as “The Bank” because she would loan people money. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs]

Thomas: And one of the people she turned down actually was Henry Ford. [Laughs]

Fisher: Wow! “No it will never happen!” [Laughs]

Thomas: So, it’s like all these amazing stories through the eyes of these photographs and these common, ordinary people, and that’s what’s the amazing thing about this country and our diversity, you know, that we have these phenomenal stories. We all came from other places, even if it’s other places in the United States. And in some ways we transformed with the journey. Now, we might have lost a language, we adopted English, we changed our names or we developed these other communities, but we were documenting these images to send back home, and we were telling these stories. Right now, we’re at a place where people are still taking images, maybe more images that they’ve ever taken, but so few people are printing these images out.  And fewer still are putting them into the books that our grandparents created and passed down to us.

Fisher: Right. So, when do you think the show is going to launch later this year? Have any idea yet?

Thomas: Well, it’s probably going to be a broadcast sometime late 2018, probably November.

Fisher: Okay.

Thomas: But we’re a transmedia project as well, so we have a very robust transmedia kind of outlet, so we’ve been releasing things through our website familypicturesusa.com and so we’re going to continue doing that. We have this amazing slickered album. We have these amazing blogs. You’ll be able to encourage people to submit the stories of particular images.

Fisher: So, anybody anywhere can really be a part of it potentially if they really have powerful pictures.

Thomas: Exactly. And if they could sign up and reach out to us to familypicturesusa.com and tell us about a story and the more we stories from a particular location, let’s say Columbia, South Carolina, the more likely we are going to go to that place.

Fisher: Sure.

Thomas: So, it’s really kind of a crowd source project. It’s kind of like Antiques Roadshow in that way.

Fisher: [Laughs] Yeah.

Thomas: And that you know people bring these gems, but anything you bring is going to have some amazing value, even if it’s a value that you didn’t know existed. We can’t tell you how often people come and they think they’re going to tell just a straight story and then all of a sudden they’re moved to tears by the profundity of the experience, and why psychically they chose an image, even though they thought they were choosing it for one reason. And when they tell the story to a team, they all of a sudden have this other multidimensional kind of experience. And so that is what Family Pictures USA is.

Fisher: And this can go back as far as anybody wants? It’s not just necessarily that individual’s lifetime. It can be ancestors from generations ago?

Thomas: Exactly.

Fisher: Now, you’re doing a fundraising thing too. I want to get that in before we get out of here. How can people support that show?

Thomas: Yeah, well we’re doing a crowd funding Indiegogo campaign until the end of January. And so, you could see our Indiegogo link on our website familypicturesusa.com and you could click on it and you could contribute as little as $10, as much as $25 000 and each level has its own level of perks.

Fisher: He’s Thomas Allen Harris. He is the host and the director of the PBS upcoming series Family Pictures USA. You go to the site familypicturesusa.com. Thomas best of luck to you, and I hope some of our genies can contribute some pictures and be part of it. It sounds like a great deal of fun and really important too in bringing people together in a very divided country.

Thomas: Thank you so much Scott and thank you for the work that you’re doing and allowing a platform for all this different intersectionality to come together. [Laughs]

Fisher: We do our best. Take care.

Thomas: Okay, you too.

Fisher: Tom Perry talks preservation coming up next on Extreme Genes, American Family History show.

Segment 4 Episode 222

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: Time to talk preservation on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here the Radio Roots Sleuth with Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com, he is our Preservation Authority. This segment is brought to you by FamilySearch.org. Tom's on the road today. And Tom, I've got to tell you, first of all, thank you for the tour of your place the other day. Absolutely amazing! And what I can't get over are some of the things you have in there, for recording devices. And you know, having spent my entire career in the audio world, seeing wax cylinder players in somebody's 21th century shop absolutely blows my mind. Where did you get those?

Tom: You know, we've actually collected them over the years from different people. Sometimes we'd have somebody come in the store that says, "Hey, I've got this old machine, I don't even know what it is. We were cleaning out grandpa's attic. Do you know what it is?" We tell them what it is, and they say, "Do you want it? We don't want it," and we take it. And if they have wax cylinders, then we'll go and say, "Okay, give it to us and we'll go and you copies of what you have on your wax cylinders onto CDs or MP3s and so then you get something out of it, too." And it’s just amazing how much of this old stuff is getting found especially now that a lot of our parents are passing away, our grandparents are passing away, this stuff's literally coming out of the woodwork. We had somebody remodeling their house and they took down a plaster wall, which I guess was new, and they found some old wire recording and some wax recording right in the wall!

Fisher: Now when you get wax recordings in, are these the old commercial ones that Edison created with singers back in the 19 teens or do they actually contain voices of ancestors?

Tom: Oh, a lot of them are ancestors. There are for sure some commercial stuff, but a lot of times, the people that do get this equipment, it was very, very expensive back in the day. But you've got to realize, fire departments had to have access to these kinds of things to record arson investigations. Of course the news agencies had all the latest, high tech wax recordings or wire recordings. A lot of people that worked for the government, and they would just check them out for the weekend and bring them home and buy some wax cylinders or whatever, but they didn't have the big investment of equipment, they borrowed it from their job. And so they were able to do this really cool stuff with their family. And it’s still around and its preserved. And it’s just incredible the sound, especially the wire recordings, it’s unbelievable!

Fisher: Well, now how far back do the wire ones go? We've talked about this before, but I don't recall.

Tom: Most of those are like the late 1800s, early 1900s when they did things like that. But the thing that makes them so unique is, basically it looks like a piece of fish line.

Fisher: Yeah.

Tom: Except it’s made out of metal. And so once its engraved, it has the little spots in it that it records onto, metal isn't going to go away, unless you leave it in a real bad place that it gets rusty or whatever. But you look at audio cassettes, you look at videocassettes, you look at all these things that came years and years afterwards, just the heat can ruin these things. But these metal things, they last forever, because they don't degenerate.

Fisher: Yeah, that makes sense. So you've actually heard voices then of ancestors of some of these people. What do they say typically and were they shouting into it, because obviously there was no volume control back in those times.

Tom: Sometimes it was absolutely hilarious! They'd go like, "Ethyl is this machine really working here? What’s going on? I have no idea. Are we recording?"

Fisher: [Laughs]

Tom: And some people are just singing and some people are just telling stories about, "Yeah, way back, you know, in World War I, when, you know, I was young and got into war." and all this kind of stuff. But these are people actually telling these stories, and it’s just absolutely incredible.

Fisher: What was the earliest wax ancestral recording you ever got?

Tom: The earliest thing I ever got was really unique. It was some people that were in some high, public offices and they were sitting there, talking about what their work day was. Different things that were going on with them, what they liked about the job, what they didn't like about the job. It was so interesting, because I could relate to it, because its jobs that don't even exist anymore today, like carriage drivers and different thing like that.

Fisher: Wow!

Tom: And like, it’s just absolutely incredible!

Fisher: Well, I'm hoping that one of these days we can find some audio from one of the wax cylinders or one of the wire recordings that's unique that you can share with us, because I think everybody would love to hear it. All right, coming up here in just a couple of moments, we're going to take another listener question that's been emailed to Tom. And by the way, you can do that at any time, just email [email protected]or go to his Twitter page and ask publicly @AskTomP. We'll get to that, coming up in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 222

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: Back with more on preservation on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It’s Fisher here with Tom Perry our Preservation Authority from TMCPlace.com. Tom, we have an email from Trudy Peterson. And she says that she had a DVD of her daughter's drill teams that's now been lost and she wants to know if shops such as yours still have the backups of the masters.

Tom: No, unfortunately Trudy, that just doesn't happen, whether it’s us or the Big Box Stores or, you know, somebody down the street from you. It’s physically impossible to backup all that kind of stuff. Even if we put everything in a cloud, that cloud would be so huge. And that's why we tell you and insist whenever you have something done, always make copies. Duplicates are so inexpensive to do anyway. You know, you want to spread them out. Like we've talked on shows before about hurricane areas, tornado areas, earthquake areas, mudslide areas, fire areas, wherever you are. If you have family living in other parts of the country or good friends, just send them a copy. Even if it’s something they're not interested in, say, "Hey, would you mind keeping this on your bookshelf just as a backup? And hey, if you've got some stuff, send it to us and we'll keep it." You want to put it in the cloud, you want to have it on a hard drive, you want to have it spread out so far, if something happens, you'll be okay. And a good example of that is, in California, they had all this fire, so many people lost their videos, even DVDs and CDs, things that they had already transferred were lost. And those that didn't lose it, lost it two week ago when they had all these mudslides.

Fisher: Right.

Tom: You need to make sure you spread this stuff around, get it in the cloud. I don't care if you have a copy and somebody across the street has a copy, it’s not going to work. And a good example is, we talked about years ago, when hurricane Katrina went through the south east area, there was a family that had backups of all their stuff at their mother's house and then the photographer that did their wedding, they had backups and they all live, you know, two or three, four miles apart. Yet when Katrina went through, every single one of them got flooded, so they lost everything, even though they thought that they had backups in two other places.

Fisher: Boy that's absolutely true. And you know, the good thing is, we have places like Family Search, where you can store photographs. And they're getting more and more into audio as well. Obviously My Heritage, Ancestry, these are great places to store your stuff and of course the clouds as you mentioned, Tom.

Tom: Right, yeah, there are so many places to do it. Just get it done. You need to get it stored some place. A lot of these have really good records as far as security and things like that. Most stuff that you're going to be storing isn't something that you need to worry about security anyway. But I love Google Cloud, I love Dropbox, I love iCloud, there's so many good clouds out there. There's so many good family history sites that will store your stuff. Just be careful on the photo storage. You want to make sure you read the fine print, because some of them say right in the fine print that they can sell your photos as clipart to other people.

Fisher: Oh boy!

Tom: So be careful with that.

Fisher: Let me ask you this too, Tom, real quick, because we are starting to run out of time here. With a CD or DVD, these things eventually erode, right? I mean, they have a shelf life of how many years typically?

Tom: You know, and that's a good question, because there's so many different degrees of them, just like there's so many different kinds of cars. You can go and buy some off brand CDs or DVDs in a store and they can last three years and they're gone. And you think, "Well, this polycarbonate is indestructible. It will last forever." Well, it’s not the polycarbonate, it’s the dye, the quality of the dye. That's why some disks cost 30c, some disks cost 50c, some disks cost a dollar. It’s because the dye that's used in them. So you want to get archival dye, like the Taiyo Yudens, which we talk about all the time that are good quality disks.

Fisher: All right, Tom thanks so much. Great stuff today! Look forward to talking to you next week.

Tom: My pleasure.

Fisher: Hey, that's our show for this week. Thanks once again for joining us. And just a reminder, stay in touch throughout the week on our Facebook page. You can also subscribe to our Weekly Genie newsletter, which thousands subscribe to for free every week. You just go onto our website, ExtremeGenes.com, click on the Weekly Genie there and get yourself signed up. It’s that easy, and also of course signup for our Patron Club. This is where you can support the show, get bonus podcasts, and also monthly visits with me and David Allen Lambert as we share with you our Ask Us Anything segment. It’s a great chance for you to ask some experts exactly what you need to know to help make some breakthroughs in your family lines. Hey, 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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