Episode 242 - Dr. Scott Woodward Talks Renting & Selling DNA, Getting Your Ancestors’ DNA Profiles From Old Envelopes, And MoreJun 24, 2018
Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. David opens Family Histoire News talking about Massachusetts’ recent efforts to restore colonial era mile markers, some of which date back to the early 18th century. Next, a 280-year-old “mourning ring,” found in a New England garden in 1949 is now in the hands of a descendant. Hear this remarkable story. Then, hear how an adoptee, born in Japan, discovered his birth mother and then jaw dropping surprise that came with their reunion. Then it’s quite a find in London… a stash of cash from World War II found under some floor boards. Find out who put it there and why. David then shines his blogger spotlight on Rahkia Nance and her blog: thelaconfidential.wordpress.com. It’s called “Blogging my way through my family tree.” Rahkia shares some remarkable stories about her slave ancestors.
Next, Fisher begins his two part visit with Dr. Scott Woodward, a DNA pioneer. Dr. Woodward weighs in on the controversy surrounding the use of GEDMatch profiles in cold case crimes. Then he explains what we should be looking at when we consider renting or selling our DNA to research companies. He also talks about how advances in obtaining DNA have come so far, it takes just a small amount compared to when he first started. Wait til you hear how small! In connection with that, Dr. Woodward shares with us his thoughts on “turning back the clock” in DNA by creating profiles of your long deceased ancestors. There is now a way to do that! You’ll want to hear what he has to say.
Then, Preservation Authority Tom Perry talks about the risks to your ancestral treasures posed by summertime heat and weather. Maybe you’re not ready to digitize and preserve everything right now, but there are ways to protect your family treasures until you are ready. And to hear Tom tell, you’d best get to it right now!
That’s all this week on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show!
Transcript of Episode 242
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Segment 1 Episode 242
Fisher: And you have found us, America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. My name is Fisher. I am your congenial host, your Radio Roots Sleuth on the program where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out. Well, it’s great to have you along. We’re going to have some incredible DNA talk coming up later on today. It’s amazing right now how much DNA is really sucking the air out of all conversations because there’s controversy about whether or not we should sell or rent our DNA to scientists who are looking into health matters. What about what’s going on with GEDmatch? And to get into all this I’ve another great expert in DNA, one of the pioneers in the field, Dr. Scott Woodward, a Professor at Utah Valley University in Provo, Utah. He’s going to share some of his insight on that and also share with you a fascinating thing that I think you’re going to find really interesting... it’s how little DNA it now takes compared to, say twenty years ago, to create a DNA profile. It will blow your mind. That’s coming up starting in about ten minutes or so. Hey, don’t forget, by the way, to sign up for our “Weekly Genie Newsletter.” You can do it on our Facebook page. You can do it at ExtremeGenes.com. It is absolutely free, and we give you all kinds of links to great stories and a blog from me each week as well. Well, let’s head out to Boston right now. My good friend David Allen Lambert, he is the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. David, how are you?
David: I’m doing good, enjoying the warmer weather here in Beantown. It’s nice to see summer approaching finally.
Fisher: Yeah, no kidding. I love the warm weather. All right, we’ve got a lot of Family Histoire News today and where do we start?
David: Yeah, right here in the Bay State actually. My first story is about mile markers. Of course, long before GPS and your mobile phone apps, you wanted to get to Boston or to western Massachusetts and you’re a post rider or just taking out your wagon for a ride, you want to know how far you are to your destination. These mile markers dating from the 18th century are being restored. They date from about 1729.
David: Twenty nine out of forty of them have been restored for the price tag of $116 000. Lots and lots of clean-up of granite boulder. I have some rocks in my yard if they’d like to clean them up. I guess I’d be more than happy if they wanted to do that.
Fisher: Wouldn’t the people who put them there originally, first of all, be amazed to think that you know, two hundred, well, I guess it’s coming up to 300 years now... later, these people are fixing them up for that kind of money just to preserve them. Amazing.
David: It really is and it’s a great piece of Americana, and I’ve seen dozens of them over the years. We have some in neighboring towns that point how many miles to Boston and it’s pretty exact. [Laughs] Well, our other story, you really have to dig this one because John Griffiths who was digging in his cucumber garden in 1949 in Marblehead, Massachusetts, saw something that caught his eye and reached down and found a ring with the initials J.D and the date August 22nd 1737. Well, his daughter had heard about this ring that her dad found and she came upon it the other day and she tracked down a local historian who collects things on Marblehead. Lo and behold! It’s for his own ancestor Fish.
Fisher: Isn’t this incredible? An eleventh generation direct descendant from this guy and the date on there was the date that John Dixie died. And so now they’re researching it and I guess your guy is like “the Marblehead collector” of all time, right?
David: He really is and it’s interesting. These are called mourning rings and it wasn’t that the ring was owned by John. It was presented as a memento for those that attended the funeral, maybe the pallbearer. Hard to know who they were actually given to because their initials aren’t on there. But, it reflects the death of this gentleman 281 years ago, and now it’s in the hands of the descendants.
Fisher: Incredible. What a great find,
David: Well, you just never know what you’re going to find and that’s the case with Colonel Bruce Hollywood, our next story who found out through research that his birth mother in Shizuoka, Japan had named her restaurant after him.
Fisher: Yeah, this is amazing because he had tracked his birth mother back there. It took some real effort. In fact, there was some government intervention there to try to figure out who she was, if she was still living. And he was the son of a military guy who had been stationed in Japan back in the early ‘60s and this Japanese woman, but he went over there to see her. She ran a restaurant and learned that she had received a photograph of Bruce when he was like a year old from the adoptive mother and she had informed her of the name of the child. So, she named her restaurant after him, basically to honor him because she never thought in her wildest dream she would ever see him again. What a story.
David: That really is amazing. Well, I’ll tell you another amazing story that comes across the pond over in the jolly old England in the Jewish tailor’s shop frequented by Winston Churchill of all people. They recently were doing some renovations and under the floorboards a stash of old cash.
Fisher: Yeah, and a lot of it too [Laughs] and very much deteriorated too, David. But, they actually tracked down family members of the people who owned the shop back during World War II. This was stashed during the war.
David: And I can understand why because of the fear of Germany invading England. You would want to put the money away in case you needed to flee. Obviously the rest of Europe had suffered greatly, especially those of the Jewish faith where everything was taken.
David: Besides lives. This was a precautionary matter and apparently they must have forgotten about it. I don’t know about you but left a twenty dollar bill set it down some place, I’d be looking for it all week.
Fisher: Yeah. Well, he could have looked for it for 70 years to this point. [Laughs]
David: Exactly. So I don’t know, I know with American currency if the serial numbers are still good they’ll honor it at the treasury for fresh bills. May the British pounds are a little different but yeah if not it’s a heck of a great story just the same.
Fisher: That’s right.
David: My blogger spotlight this week shines on Raquel Nance and she has a blog called the LAO Confidential: blogging my way through my family tree. And that website is the LAOConfidential.wordpress.com. Now, her blog is great because she’s actually tracing the stories and genealogy of her enslaved ancestors including Henry Nance, her earliest known ancestor who was born in Tennessee back in 1837. Well, that’s about all I have from Beantown this week. So I’m going to throw out the special offer we do to our listeners. If you’re not a member of American Ancestors, for $20 you can save by using the coupon code “Extreme” for well you guessed it, for Extreme Genes.
Fisher: All right David, thank you so much and we will talk to you again next week. And coming up next we’re going to talk to pioneers in the DNA space, it’s Dr. Scott Woodward. He’s a professor at Utah Valley University in Provo Utah. There’s a lot of controversy going on right now. A lot of new breakthroughs in DNA and you’re going to want to hear everything he has to say about it because it could affect your genealogical journey, that’s coming up in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 2 Episode 242
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Dr. Scott Woodward
Fisher: Welcome back to America’s Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth. Everybody is talking DNA. I mean even more than usual as a result of all kinds of stories that are out recently. Concerns about the hacking for instance of My Heritage grabbing your DNA results. Not true by the way. Selling and renting DNA, there’s resetting the clock, there’s the ethics with GEDMatch, everybody’s kicking this around right now and I thought maybe it’s a good idea to get my good friend Dr. Scott Woodworth back on the line. He is a guy who over twenty years came to my neighborhood looking for participants like myself to draw blood from, in order to determine if it were possible to find out where people from and match DNA profiles, which of course is just pretty much just standard fair these days. Hey Scott, good to have you back.
Scott: Hey, great to be here Scott.
Fisher: Well, I was just kicking this thing around with you off the air about “resetting the clock” and I just want to start at this end with you because it’s kind of a unique thing. I don’t know if it’s particularly controversial but it’s sure unique and very intriguing. If you were at Roots Tech you would have noticed that there was quite a hit going on with Living DNA. It’s kind of a new company to the DNA space out of London. And they did a presentation and showed how they were actually able to create a DNA profile from a licked postage stamp and as a result of that they were able to match that to the DNA profile of a woman who was trying to identify her birth father. There were apparently a few brothers that were possibly the one but some family member said, “Well I got this one letter and if you think this is your dad, let’s find out.” And they ran it and it worked. So I’ve been thinking about this a little bit lately Scott. I have for instance a letter that my great grandfather sent to one of his daughters in 1912 announcing the death of his mother that year and what was being arranged for the funeral and all this. He not only licked the stamp but he also licked the flap on the back giving it a little extra saliva and I’m thinking, wow! This will be amazing to be able to share this with somebody and have them create a profile from that. What does that do for our research when things like this can happen?
Scott: Yeah this is really cool, Scott. This is a major extension of something that we’ve tried to do for a long time. It comes out of the forensic world and trace evidence, trying to find a DNA signature from a very, very, very, very small piece or sample of DNA. The technology has advanced so much in the last five years that the amount of DNA required to get a very good profile from an individual, has shrunk down to just almost nothing, just a couple of cells worth of DNA will enable you to get a very nice profile. And so now, we can go back to places that we maybe had tried to get DNA from and were not able to get enough DNA to use the techniques at that time to get a good profile.
Scott: Today we can get a good profile from it.
Fisher: Really: So how little are we talking about comparatively? I mean obviously none of us listening are going to understand how much is what, but percentage wise, what you needed say, ten, fifteen years ago percentage wise to that, what would it be today?
Scott: One thousandth.
Fisher: One thousandth! Really?
Scott: Probably on that. If we go all the way back to the beginning of this and really the first big famous case of the O.J Simpson case, you needed a substantial amount of DNA. And they got that from very large blood samples, right?
Fisher: Right. That’s what you did when you started this whole thing.
Scott: Yeah, exactly. As an example, we started out when we drew your DNA we got it from blood. Very quickly we were able to transfer from blood to saliva. And we tried to get a fair amount of saliva just so that we have plenty. But really now with our saliva kits it’s over kill. We get much more than all we really need. But that now allows us to go to very small amounts of saliva and still get the same type of results.
Fisher: That’s incredible. So, just to go through this, blood obviously would have the most DNA of any of these fluids you were just talking about, right? Blood, then saliva, and then maybe a swab?
Scott: Yeah, which would be cells from the inside of the mouth.
Scott: Swabs and saliva are pretty similar in the amount of DNA that you would get. But what’s happened is the way that we analyze the DNA. The tools that we use to look at the actual pieces of DNA have improved greatly. And the sensitivity has gotten so great that it requires less and less and less amounts of DNA to get visible results.
Fisher: Okay. So when you talk about a pretty good profile, I mean isn’t it all or nothing? Wouldn’t you get a profile or wouldn’t get one at all?
Scott: That’s probably the rule. Sometimes we still get partial profiles and when we do get partial profiles we usually just reject those and go back and try again. But yeah, if it’s going to be there, it’s going to be there. If there’s a couple of cells worth of DNA there that have survived, then that’s going to work and we’re going to get a profile.
Fisher: So, what causes those cells not to survive? I mean you’re talking about getting stuff from hundreds of years ago, maybe thousands of years ago, what causes them to survive or not survive?
Scott: Yeah. This is a normal biological process. Everything that dies, everything that gets out of our body eventually goes away. It goes into dust. The DNA is gone.
Scott: Unless it’s under very peculiar circumstances, very unique circumstances, very low humidity, very low temperatures, no ultraviolet light. So in the dark, in the cold, dry is probably the best place to preserve DNA. If you remove moisture from the cells very rapidly, the DNA doesn’t degrade as fast.
Scott: If it’s in a moist environment, the DNA degrades very rapidly. So it’s just like if you go back to the things we did in Egypt. We went to Egypt for a couple of questions regarding those people in Egypt. But we found that the things that we could find out about DNA in mummies could be used in lots of other places in the world. But not every place in the world has mummies.
Fisher: Right. [Laughs] Just because of the time though I want to cut you off there and say I think I get how that works. The question is, is okay I have an envelope from my great grandfather, right, with saliva in the back, and if they could capture some of that and create a profile of him, what would that do for our research moving forward?
Scott: Right now we can take a number of related individuals, your brothers and sisters, or you and your cousins, and we can look at your DNA. You are all living and we can get a DNA samples from you very easily. And we can look at that and see what DNA you share and we can assign that DNA to one of your grandparents.
Scott: That’s a pretty easy task. And we can extend that to your great grandparents and we can still do a pretty good job. Now let’s say that we have an envelope that had some saliva from one of your great grandparents. Right now we can only give a probability statement as to whether or not this is the sequence that your great grandparent has. Okay. But if we get a DNA sample from that envelope that was licked by your great grandparent, we take the probability out of it. Now we have the real DNA sequence.
Scott: If we can get enough of those people in that generation that have that same certainty of their DNA sequence, we can now extrapolate that DNA up two and three generations prior to that.
Fisher: Wow! [Laughs] That would be mind-blowing wouldn’t it?
Scott: Yeah, and that’s the resetting of the clock.
Fisher: Um hmm. Because you’re pushing it back in terms of okay, I have, as if it were a living person, a great grandfather who died in 1927 and was born in the 1840s, and now if we were able to get enough siblings there you could actually get a certain percentage of their grandparents for instance, or parents.
Scott: Exactly. So that resets the clock. So right now we have you know, four, five, six generations that we can go back from living people today. Let’s say if we go back three or four generations and get a DNA is samples from a person that was living in that point. We can now push that back another three or four generations.
Fisher: There had to be though enough samples, right? I mean it can’t be done by everybody.
Scott: Well, how many old envelopes are there in the world?
Fisher: Yeah. Yeah I mean there’s got to be a lot.
Scott: Yeah, there’s a lot. The same way that we are using modern DNA to reconstruct former populations, let’s use DNA from envelopes of fifty and a hundred years ago to set those populations not estimate them but dissect what they are and then estimate deeper.
Fisher: Right. [Laughs] Wow!
Scott: It’s fun. It’s really exciting, Scott.
Fisher: Yeah, it gets more reliable.
Scott: Yes. And so we take the probability out of them and we have the real stuff. Now right if we try to guess what the DNA sequence was of a group of people in a population three or four generations ago, there’s a probability statement associated with it. But if we have to deal with the actual DNA from that population, that probability goes away. The probability became a certainty and then we can use that information to move back two or three more generation.
Fisher: All right. So here’s a question for you. You talked about all the envelopes in the world, they were mailed by that person who licked it who handed it to a postal person, who handed it to another postal person, who handed it to somebody who opened the envelope. What kind of contamination would you be concerned about by all those other hands?
Scott: That’s correct. You have to be aware of that. But there’s probably only one person who licked that.
Fisher: That’s right.
Scott: And so, if you peel that back in the place where it was licked and that’s where you get your DNA samples, you minimize the possibility of contamination from other people. If you take it from the outside where they address it or something like that where lots of people have handled it, then yeah, you’re going to find some trace DNA of other people who have handled that sample. But there are places on that envelope they probably didn’t handle and that’s what you go for.
Fisher: Unbelievable, great stuff. All right, resetting the clock. We’re talking to Dr. Scott Woodworth a pioneer in DNA research. And Scott, the headline recently that came out is that scientists like yourself, well maybe not like you, are looking to actually buy or rent peoples’ DNA. And we’re going to talk about that when we return in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 3 Episode 242
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Scott Woodward
Fisher: Back at it, Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. I am Fisher and this segment is brought to you by LegacyTree.com/Genealogist. I’m talking to Dr. Scott Woodward. He is a pioneer in the DNA field. And Scott, recently we came across a story that’s making its way across the country about some start up companies who are wanting to rent or buy our DNA. It’s Luna DNA of Solana Beach, California. Nebula Genomics of San Francisco, and they’re talking about wanting to develop new and better therapeutics and I love this quote, they were talking about Ancestry selling about 1.5 million saliva test kits last year between Black Friday and Cyber Monday and one of these people said, “Well, that’s like two thousand gallons of saliva enough to fill a modest above ground swimming pool with the genetic history of every person in the city of Philadelphia.” [Laughs] That’s just insane to me.
Scott: [Laughs] I’m not so sure I’d want to swim in that pool.
Fisher: No! I don’t think I would either. [Sighs] but nonetheless, I mean the idea of making money selling our spit, that sounds pretty cool. They’re talking about Bitcoin by the way, but what is the difference between this and what 23andMe is already doing?
Scott: That’s an interesting question, Scott, because this is something that a lot of people have thought about for a long time. I mean, what you need in order to design better therapeutics, better tests, better treatments is lots, and lots, and lots of data that cross large population groups and that’s hard to obtain and it’s very expensive to obtain by the pharmaceutical companies and others that are building these therapeutics. Now, some of that is already in place now because 23andMe for example has been doing this for a long time. They’ve been collecting DNA samples from lots and lots of people and along with that, collecting their FetA types or their pre-dispositions to diseases, or whether or not they have a diseases or not. Now, 23andMe has an interesting model, because the people are actually paying for that.
Scott: And they’re paying to get the genotype, and then they’re giving them all of this information. So this other approach is, “Hey, we will pay you for your information. If you send us your genotype type and send us your FetA type, we’ll pay you for it.” Which is different to the 23andMe model.
Fisher: Right. And 23andMe was basically created mostly for this first, and I think the genealogy side of it was kind of a secondary approach, don’t you think?
Scott: Yes, very much so. 23andMe slowed down a little bit on this therapeutic approach by the FDA. They’ve been able to work through a number of those situations and they’re starting to ramp back up, in that area, and in the meantime I think they saw the success that Ancestry was having that wasn’t in the disease field. They were just in the ancestry field, but they were having great success in selling enough kits to fill up that pool.
Scott: So you know, 23andMe went and started selling ancestry stuff too, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t see in the very near future that Ancestry will also dabble into the health field. And so, these models, they’ve been thought of, and there are a couple of them that are moving that way. A couple of them that have started out that way and didn’t make it, and sort of fell by the way side. It’s expensive. It’s very expensive. But it’s getting less and less expensive.
Fisher: Yeah, maybe those other companies came along just a little too soon.
Scott: Yeah, and that happens.
Scott: It happens with all kinds of technology, and so, I’m not surprised at all that we now see some companies out there saying, “Hey, tell you what, if you have this particular disease that we’re interested in building a therapeutic for. We will buy your sequence. You already had it done, just send it to us and we’ll buy it. Or, we’ll rent it for this particular disease that we’re looking at, and when we’re through looking at it, then that information that we have goes away. We don’t resell it, we don’t do things like that.” That’d be part of a rental agreement or something like that. Or, they buy it, and then you say, “Okay, well you can use it for that particular disease.” Or you can say, “You can use it for any disease you want to look at.”
Scott: And, I’m sure that there’s lots of different variations on that.
Fisher: That’s pretty interesting stuff. I guess my question would be, to you, Scott, as an expert in your field, what would be your concerns? I’m sure people are going, “Yeah, but what about privacy? I mean, now my information is out there and what about insurance companies and all those things.” What would you be concerned about?
Scott: Those same things. The hardest thing to deal with, whenever you send information to any company, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a DNA company, or whether it’s a retail seller of something that you’re buying something from, you’re sending your information to them. There is a risk that that information can be obtained by someone who shouldn’t have it.
Fisher: Are you concerned about the information, the raw information, or only when it’s attached to a name and a person? You know, all the identifying info.
Scott: That’s when it’s the most dangerous, of course, is when it’s attached to you.
Scott: If it’s completely de-identified, then you know, that really doesn’t matter. My DNA sequence could be out anywhere if it’s essentially naked, not associated with any name or identifier that comes back to me. I don’t see that there’s any damage that could come to me if it couldn’t be associated with me.
Fisher: Right. Now, aren’t most companies set up that way?
Scott: They try to be, but, some place you have to associate the disease that you’re looking for, with that DNA sequence. Now, if that disease is a relatively rare disease, then that limits the number of people in the world that that DNA sequence could come from, right?
Fisher: Yeah, absolutely.
Scott: Now, the other thing that can happen is, something that is happening right now. You can take one unidentified, completely unidentified DNA sequence and query that DNA sequence against other databases that are out there, and they may be able to find me. They may be able to find my brother, or a cousin, or some other close relative in that database.
Fisher: So now, are you getting into the criminal side of things, are they looking for you, or do they stumble upon you?
Scott: Mostly stumbling upon.
Scott: Okay. But, if they wanted to look for me, there’re probably ways that they could identify people close to me, even if my, let’s say my DNA sequence is not in any database. I’ve never obtained my DNA sequence. But, two of my brothers did, or a couple of my cousins are in those databases. Right?
Scott: Now, if for some reason someone gets my DNA, then, they can take that data, query those databases, and find people that are closely related to me.
Fisher: Well that’s just what CeCe Moore just did recently, and that is what was done on the Golden State Killer case, right? Exactly that.
Scott: Right. And when you’re looking for, especially information from adopted individuals, trying to find relatives, that’s exactly what we do, and so that is possible, and so, once your DNA information is out there, it’s very, very difficult to maintain anonymity.
Fisher: Yeah, total exclusive anonymity. That makes perfect sense.
Fisher: But, is the benefit worth it, do you still think? I mean, that’s the question people still have, is like, okay, I’m doing this, I’m learning a lot about my ethnicity, I’m learning maybe about my diseases, I’m connecting with other relatives, distant cousins, I’m breaking through brick walls. Is the downside that much of a concern, or does it really just depend on the individual’s tolerance for risk?
Scott: That’s it exactly, Scott, and I mean, I’m not worried about that, okay?
Fisher: I’m not either.
Scott: I’m looking for connections. I’m looking for people that are connected to me. I’m looking to help find genes that cause disease, with the hope that it will help me, hope that it will help other members of my family and other people that have the same genotype that I have. I think those benefits far, far outdistance the personal risks to me.
Fisher: There you go. He’s Dr. Scott Woodward, he’s a professor at Utah Valley University in Provo, Utah, and Scott, thanks so much for coming on and sharing your insight here. I mean, there’s just so much going on right now, we could do like five shows, I think.
Scott: It’s always fun to talk to you, Scott. Gets my blood really rolling.
Fisher: [Laughs] Appreciate it. And coming up next, we’re going to talk to Tom Perry about preservation, on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 4 Episode 242
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry
Fisher: It is time to talk preservation on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth with Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com. He is our Preservation Authority. Tom, it is summer time and I was just thinking about this the other day, because we're looking to get a new air conditioner and a new humidifier. And I've been thinking about all the things we've talked about over the years, about the difference in temperatures, because it gets really hot outside, the air conditioning comes on, you've got the humidity situation. This is a dangerous time for people's stuff!
Tom: Oh yeah, you are not kidding! Extreme heat and extreme cold can kill your stuff. And you're thinking, "Well, who has extreme cold at this time of year?" Well, if you're in a home in Arizona, you're going to have extreme cold in your home.
Fisher: Yeah, that's right. And if you're in Atlanta for instance, then you're dealing with the issues of humidity. And humidity can add to that as well, so that's year round there though, right?
Tom: Oh it is, it is, absolutely! And in other places like the mid west where it’s not like that hot, then they have the swamp coolers, which are basically turn you whole home into a humidifier no matter where you live.
Tom: Which is really, really bad, because you don't want all that ugly humidity turning everything moldy and getting things damp and ruining your slides and your film, your photos. There's so many problems it causes.
Fisher: You know, I actually had a swamp cooler on a house I lived in once years ago and I had a poster, a beautiful poster signed by Jimmy Stewart to the family. And being somewhere near the location of the input from that swamp cooler, it got all wrinkly over time. And eventually we were able to correct that by putting it through a process where they actually relaxed the material and attached it to foam core with an acid free glue and it looks just fantastic now. There are ways to restore things that are damaged by that kind of humidity and that kind of moisture, but I just remember the affect it had on things that were anywhere near it in the house. It was awful.
Tom: And the thing is, you were lucky, because you had yours in a situation where you were able to recover it. We had someone that stopped by our booth at RootsTech and brought in some photos that I mean they had really glued themselves together so bad that it was almost beyond repair. There's some things I told them they can try, but you know, I wouldn't hold my breath. There was like a 10, 15% recovery rate. But if you just take care of your stuff upfront, that's not going to make things go bad. Take care of your things now, because if you don't have time to do it right now, when are you going to have time to do it over?
Fisher: Well, absolutely. I was just thinking about that situation you were just describing. I mean, you're really talking about people who kept pictures in a pile, right? And then basically the photo sides started to really stick to one another, is that what the deal was?
Tom: Oh absolutely! They stick to each other because of the humidity and also, they were really popular back on the '70 are those kind they called the magnetic pages.
Fisher: Oh! [Laughs]
Tom: There was a few closer to the posters and you put those down on it and it gets transferred. The plastic was bad. The plastic itself would go yellow. It would actually transfer some of the gasses from the plastic and hot air into the photos, it would discolor the photos.
Tom: All kinds of problems.
Fisher: Yeah, those were the worst photo albums ever created. Thank you 1970s!
Fisher: Well, that's the thing, you know, this is the time where you really have to think about what have you got, where is it located within the house and what are you going to do about it to protect it? Because this, just like the dead of winter, this is the most extreme time of the year when it comes to temperature.
Tom: Oh yeah, oh absolutely! Because it’s all over the board. And you forget about stuff like that, because you're out playing with your family, you're going on vacation, you're doing different things like this. And it’s just like, “If it ain't broke, don't fix it.” Well, you know, if you don't fix it, you're going to have it in a lot worse shape and then you're going to spend more time, more money if you can recover it in the first place, which you might not be able to and then these things are lost forever.
Fisher: Well, there's no question that we have to think about what we're going to do to preserve it, but I think first most important thing is, what are you going to do to protect it? Because maybe it’s not possible for you to go out and preserve it right now, get all the scanning done and put them in the right sleeves and all that, but there are some things you can do to at least minimize any damage that could be done at this time of the year. And we'll talk about that, coming up next in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.
Segment 5 Episode 242
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry
Fisher: All right, it is that hot time of year and it’s having its effect on your family history materials, your old photographs and scrapbooks. It is Fisher here, its Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. I've got Tom Perry with me, talking about how to preserve and protect your stuff. Maybe you don't have time during the summer with all your travel and all your plans to go out and really properly take care of scanning and sorting things into sleeves and acid free backings and all that, but there are certain things that you can do to protect them from damage when things are getting to extreme heat and extreme cold that counter it.
Tom: Absolutely. You have to be really careful with that. Like we were talking off the air, the most important thing you want to remember whether it’s hot or cold especially right now is, you don't want anything stored against an outside wall, because that's where you're going to get your biggest extremes. You have the air conditioner on, it cools it quite a bit, then the heat from the wall, your brick walls, whatever kind of stucco or whatever your walls are, they're going to absorb the heat and then they're going to transfer it during the night, which is going to really mess up your stuff. You want to keep it away from any kind of vents! I don't care whether they're air conditioning vents, whether they're heating ducts, any kind of things like that you want to keep them away from, not just because of the hot and the cold, but from the extreme changes. You want to keep things in a place that you feel comfortable living. You don't want them in a barn, you don't want them in the attic, you don't want them in the basement if its, you know, cold and musty. There are just so many things that send up red flags in your preservation.
Fisher: Yeah, and you've got to remember that the reason is, this causes expansion and contraction of your materials and that is what makes them fragile over time and breaks them apart. That's very bad! We want to avoid that.
Tom: That is so true. You have to be so very careful you keep things away from any kind of walls, even your interior walls. And one thing I highly recommend is, run down to your Home Depot, your Lowe’s, your neighborhood store that carries any kind of lumber and you're going to want to get yourself some planks of cedar. They don't have to be finished, they can just be raw cedar, because this will accomplish several things for you. First off, cedar is an insect repellant, so insects and spiders and things like that stay away from it. So if you cut this into strips and you put it underneath and on the side of your boxes, whether they're plastic, whether they're cardboard boxes, whatever, it will help and increase airflow around your items, so you won't get the extreme hot and cold, you're not going to get the wood or the stucco or the concrete that going to absorb heat and cold and then release it back into your boxes. So all the cedar around it is going to kind of give you a buffer, which is going to really help your protection. And another thing you need to do too, if you've got all this stuff that you got from grandma and its all messed up, take a few minutes and separate it into the clean stuff, the kind of dirty stuff and the really dirty stuff and put those separately, put them in Ziploc bags and go ahead and do the thing which we taught you on previous show. You want to get some uncooked rice, of course!
Tom: And you want to get long grain rice. You don't want to get the kind of rice that you use in minute rice. Get yourself some cheesecloth and put the rice inside of those and then tie them close with string, not rubber bands and put those in with your items, and they will absorb any moisture that you have. And then every once in a while, you know, like when you change the batteries in your smoke detectors, pull those out, throw them away and put new ones in, because that will help you a lot in both humid and dry areas.
Fisher: Well, especially areas like Atlanta or the East Coast or the Deep South, right?
Tom: Oh absolutely! We have been spending a lot of time in Atlanta on our tour and that's one thing we run into more than anything else. People have all these things that have been stored forever that nobody's looked at for generations and then all of a sudden, it’s all stuck together, its moldy, you don't even want to touch the stuff it looks so nasty!
Fisher: Ohh! [Laughs] All right, great advice as always, Tom. And by the way, the idea of course with this wood would also be to keep it off the floor in case you've ever had any flooding situation, which would be disastrous. And I've been through one of those, too. Not fun! All right, thank so much, my friend, we'll talk to you again next week.
Tom: My pleasure.
Fisher: Well, we have covered a lot of ground this week. Thanks once again to Dr. Scott Woodward for coming on and talking about all the things that everybody's talking about in DNA these days, especially this idea of renting and selling our DNA. If you missed any of it, make sure you catch the podcast, it’s on iTunes, iHeart Radio and ExtremeGenes.com. And don't forget also to sign up for our free Weekly Genie newsletter. We give you all kinds of great information there that may be helpful to you in your family history journey. Talk to you again next week. Thanks for joining us. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!