Episode 249 - Genetic Counselor Specializes In Shocking DNA Results / “The Archive Lady” Discovers Touching Story

podcast episode Aug 26, 2018

Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. The guys open the show with “Family Histoire News.” First up: great news that the University of North Carolina has begun a project to digitize thousands of slave deeds and bills of sale. It will be a boon to slave researchers.  Then, an Irishman who fought for the United States in World War I and was killed in France will finally get a tombstone in Chicago. Hear the details behind this man’s amazing journey. A family in Wisconsin was shocked to learn that their kinsman, who was killed in a plane crash in World War II on the grounds of “Downton Abbey,” Highclere Castle, will soon be honored at the site in England. And finally, a remarkable ancient building has been uncovered in Cologne, Germany. Wait til you hear what was once housed there! David then recognizes blogger Lara Diamond. Lara’s site, LarasGenealogy.blogspot.com, which she calls Lara’s Jewnealogy, features Lara’s insight into her Jewish background.

Next, Fisher visits with perhaps the only genetic counselor who specializes in people who get unexpected results in their DNA testing. As the first in her field, Brianne Kirkpatrick shares some of her insight into the challenges many people face when they learn something from DNA they had never imagined.

Then, Melissa Barker, The Archive Lady from Houston County, Tennessee is back to share some of her latest stories of acquisition, and a remarkable event from a century ago that drew her into a fascinating research project. Learn from Melissa what family items your local archives may hold.

Finally, Fisher visits with Tom Perry, the Preservation Authority from TMCPlace.com. Believe it or not, when it comes to the holidays time is almost up! There are deadlines you’re going to need to hit to be certain your family home movies and videos can be digitized on time. Tom will get specific with you.

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

Transcript of Episode 249

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 249

Fisher: And you have found us, America’s Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. My name is Fisher. I am your Radio Roots Sleuth on the program where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out. This segment is brought to you by FamilySearch.org. Welcome to the show! Great to have you! And my guests today, two very interesting ladies, Brianne Kirkpatrick, she is a genetic counselor out of Virginia, and perhaps the only person in the country who actually counsels with people who have gotten unusual results from their DNA matches. They find out their father isn’t their father, their grandmother or grandfather wasn’t, hey, whatever it might be, but a lot of people are dealing with the shock of discovery. You know, they send in their DNA sample to find out if they’re 53% Irish or whatever and then they learn something like that and they’re coping with it. And Brianne is working with these people, setting up Facebook pages and support groups and it will be really fascinating to hear what she has to say, because it is often said in the genealogy world these days that we just don’t have enough people to help with these surprise DNA results. So, that will be coming up in about ten minutes. Later on in the show Melissa Barker is back. She is the Archive Lady in Houston County, Tennessee, and she’s uncovered some amazing stories and found some great new things, kind of typical what you might find in your local county archive, or in the archive that might house some of the artifacts of your ancestors. You’re going to want to hear what Melissa has to say later on in the show. Hey, just a reminder by the way, sign up for our Weekly Genie Newsletter. I know you’ve been thinking about it. You don’t have to think any longer, it doesn’t cost you anything. Just go to ExtremeGenes.com, get signed up right there. Go to our Facebook page, and get that taken care of. We’ve got all kinds of great stories there, and of course links to other stories of interest for anybody who’s doing  their family history research. All right, off to Boston right now for the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. I hear him rattling his papers right now. It’s David Allen Lambert. How are you David?

David: You know me, I’ve got to get my paperwork in order if I’m going to give the Family Histoire News.

Fisher: That is correct sir and we have quite a bit of it today. Let’s get started. What do you have?

David: Well, I do in fact, I hope that after FGS I have some more news to give to our listeners. I’m looking forward to seeing you very shortly this week at the Federation of Genealogical Society Conference out in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Fisher: Yes indeed.

David: Well, my first one is kind of a bitter-sweet thing for genealogy. It’s actually ten thousand slave deeds and bills of sale from over 26 counties in North Carolina that are being digitized. These records tracing the story of slavery in North Carolina are being digitized by the University of North Carolina in Greensboro, and may in fact unlock the stories for some of our listeners’ ancestors.

Fisher: Yes, and this is a great thing. Ten thousand of them, that’s a big deal.

David: It really is and the ideal thing is that you never know what clue you may find that may unlock an inner record.

Fisher: And they’re covering 26 counties in this project as well, so this is going to be a very big boon for people looking for slavery research in North Carolina. 

David: Absolutely. Well, my next story goes back to WW I where an Irishman by the name of Corporal Martin J. Cunningham will finally get a place of honor and a gravestone. Martin died in WW I on July 22nd 1918, was originally buried over in France. His body was sent back to Chicago where he was buried again in Mount Olivet Cemetery. Buried by the railway tracks, not a proper burial, not a proper military funeral, not even a gravestone, but this has all changed a century later.

Fisher: Yeah, isn’t that great? Here’s an Irishman fighting for the United States, dies over there in France, brought back to Chicago because he lived there briefly with his sister, and now he’s finally getting his proper recognition exactly 100 years after his death.

David: That’s about time. Well, our story next goes to WW II and this deals with a young 17- year old Canadian whose death was a mystery for over 75 years until a German research team led by Eric Wyman went out and they were tracking down the former wrecks of aircraft in WW II in Germany. They found where this young man had perished. Identification was made and now a proper funeral was held in Germany and he is now buried with his name associated with him.

Fisher: Isn’t that amazing? He goes and he’s fighting against Germany, Germans find him and Germans honor him with this ceremonial marker.

David: Well, you know, 75 years is a long time, and a lot of wounds have been healed. And it’s nice to see that such things are done maybe 100 years ago or 75 years ago.

Fisher: Yeah, that’s right.

David: Well, you know, I really dig old libraries Fish. [Laughs] We’re going to be out at the Allen County Public Library real soon, but this is an even older one, even older than NEHGS in Boston. Out in Cologne, Germany, while they were doing some construction recently, they actually uncovered a Roman building in what they originally thought was a kind of a community hall till they found niches in the walls.  These niches, they believe, held over twenty thousand scrolls. They found a library, one of the oldest known libraries dating probably from the First Century AD. This Roman library doesn’t have the scrolls anymore, but the foundation is there, and it’s over thirty feet high and sixty five feet long.

Fisher: Wow! Isn’t that amazing? Scrolls!

David: And to think of the scrolls that survived what stories and genealogy they would have uncovered for people.

Fisher: Sure, yeah.

David: Family Search has put together a brand new database in conjunction with the Ellis Island Foundation. This covers all the passengers arriving through Ellis Island between 1820 and 1957, and of course the earlier ones are Castle Garden that covers 1820 to 1891.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: So this is great. It catches also at the tail end of it. People are coming in on commercial airlines, so a pretty wide swath of years.

Fisher: That’s right. Very broad and I have a few that came in at that time. I did find that database the other day out of the blue and went, “Oh, this looks good.”

David: My next story is my blogger spotlight and this week it shines upon Lara Diamond. Lara’s Jewnealogy is reachable at LarasGenealogy.blogspot.com. And Lara’s Jewnealogy is about Jewish genealogy. She actually just came back from the International Jewish Genealogical Society Conference in Warsaw, Poland. Her blog deals with Jewish genealogy and her own personal ancestral research and it’s a really interesting view into Jewish genealogy if you have had any enquiry into your own family tree.

Fisher: Very nice. All right, thank you so much David and we’ll see you soon at FGS this week all right?

David: Yep, and knock them dead on that keynote pal. See you soon.

Fisher: [Laughs] Thank you so much. And coming up next we’re going to talk to Brianne Kirkpatrick. She’s in Virginia. She’s a genetic counselor working with a lot of people who get surprise DNA results. You’re going to want to hear what she has to say about how she helps them get through the shock on occasion, coming up next in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 249

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Brianne Kirkpatrick

Fisher: Hey, welcome back to America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtrmeGenes.com. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth and this segment is brought to you by LegacyTreeGenealogist.com. And I’ll tell you, there’s a lot of conversation in the genealogy space these days about the need for genetic counseling. And that’s because so many people are discovering, well, the unexpected, when they do a DNA test as I’ve mentioned on the show before. I had that happen for somebody I was helping back in July of 2017. And as we went through her DNA matches, I had to break the word to her after about twenty minutes that her father was not her father. And Dad and Mom were both long gone. She was a middle child of six. She was third or fourth, somewhere in there. And it’s been a tough road for her since that day. And it’s been well over a year now and she’s still dealing with it. And wouldn’t you know, there’s an article recently in the Atlantic about Facebook groups and counselors working with people who have this same kind of result. And there are many of them out there. They all feel pretty much alone. And I tracked down one of these genetic counselors whose on the line with me right now. She’s with WatershedDNA.com Brianne Kirkpatrick in Virginia. How are you Brianne? Welcome to Extreme Genes.

Brianne: Thank you so much. I’m glad to be here.

Fisher: When did you start noticing cases coming in because you’ve been a counselor for many years? When did you start noticing cases, your first one that came in and said, “Oh my gosh! I found out Dad wasn’t Dad, or Mom wasn’t Mom, or I was adopted” or something like this? And then when did you start to realize, “Oh wait a minute, this is a much bigger thing than I imagined?”

Brianne: Yeah, that’s a great question. It’s been probably about four years ago. And I’ve been a genetic counselor for over thirteen years, and I actually got into genealogy as a personal hobby for my own family. And that was around 2013/2014 when I did my first DNA test for genealogy purposes and a couple of other people in my family. And as I was getting involved in the genealogy community, people found out “Oh there’s a genetic counselor here now” and I started getting emails and messages and people asking if I could help them. And they would explain their situation and I thought, oh my gosh, this is exactly, you know, you’ve come to the right person. You know genetic counselors, our background is mainly in medical genetics, but we have also training and counseling skills, and helping connect people to support groups and finding other people like themselves. And I realized back then, and that was before we saw this explosion of the popular consumer tests like Ancestry DNA and 23andMe, but I saw that this was coming. And I wanted to be able to be available for people who had questions or who were just in a spot where they needed support and were upset or confused or just needed somebody who knew this stuff that could help answer questions for them and point them in the right direction. So I’d say it’s been probably four years or so. And just in the past six months or so it’s become more obvious just how many people get DNA surprises. We’ve seen articles come out in the popular press, we’ve seen TV shows about it, and so now some of those surprises are getting talked about. I have a blog on my WatershedDNA.com website where I started having people who get blog posts where they talk about their own experience with the DNA surprise, where they are, how that’s affected them emotionally and things like that.

Fisher: It’s amazing to watch, isn’t it? I mean, there are new people every single day now finding that kind of test result. And I think many of these people feel totally lonely that they’re the only one this could happen to, how could this happen to me. I mean the questions that you must hear as you speak to some of your clients must be pretty endless.

Brianne: Exactly. And I try to reassure them that they’re not alone, and that they’re not the only people who have experienced what they’re going through. And I point them to resources like Facebook groups. I have a couple that I started, one of them specifically for people who discovered that a parent is not the parent that they were raised with and they discovered it as a result of a testing as an adult. Another group is just in general for people who have a family surprise. Maybe they discovered it for somebody else in their family and they’re trying to figure out how do I break the news? And then I’m starting a new group because I’m having a couple of spouses reach out to me, the wives whose husbands found out that they had a child that they never knew about. And that’s a different experience. It’s still a struggle and emotionally challenges, even if you’re not directly involved in the surprise. So it’s good to see that groups like these, and there are other ones, there’s a website in NPE Friends Fellowship that recently founded, a non profit group that was founded by Catherine St. Clair who also connects people who have had these similar surprises. So, resources are starting to become available and at this point it’s just helping people who could benefit from them, know that they exist, and get them to those places.

Fisher: What would you say was one of the most difficult cases, one that you could talk about obviously? We don’t need any names or anything like that. But what was the situation that sticks in your mind?

Brianne: Yeah. There are a couple of them that stick in my mind. I’ll talk about the one that’s happened most recently just because it’s the freshest in my mind and I just put a post up on my website about it today. There was a gentleman who reached out to me whose seventy-eight years old and he and his children tested at 23andMe for fun and there was no match. No parent-child matches between him and his children. This was really shocking and upsetting and he confronted his ex-wife about it and she admitted that there had been some infidelity during the marriage that he was not aware of, at least at that point in time. His level of anger was very understandable, and he reached out because he was wondering you know, can I believe these results and what should I do now? And there was a lot he was struggling with. The anger was leading him to think of things like filing a lawsuit against his ex-wife, and there were things that I couldn’t address with my professional background but I could point him in the right direction. And I told him about the support groups and he shared that information with his children who are now adults. And their whole family is just trying to adjust to this unexpected news that was not anything that they expected going in to do a test which they said they had done just for fun.

Fisher: Yeah. They were just looking for ethnicity probably, right?

Brianne: Right, yeah. And really didn’t expect anything that would turn their lives upside down and found themselves in this spot where their lives were turned upside down and they were each dealing with it differently. Each person is going to react to the same information differently. It also takes a different amount of time for people to get to a different place.

Fisher: Yeah.

Brianne: And it’s really a form of grief that people go through when they get a DNA surprise. No matter who they are, how they are affected by that DNA surprise.

Fisher: Boy, I can only imagine. How many genetic counselors that work with DNA results like this, do you think are out there at this point?

Brianne: So, there are over four thousand genetic counselors in the United States. But I am the only one that specializes in ancestry testing in this specific type of situation. I’m hoping that over time there will be more genetic counselors that develop an interest and are available for these similar kinds of referrals. Right now it’s me and about half of what I do is still medical related. It involves in medical genetic testing world. I help people take a test and identify, based on what they’re looking for, which is the right test for you, and after the fact help them understand their results. And then half of what I do is supporting emotional needs no matter the type of DNA test they had. So, right now it’s just me and I don’t know how the future will look, but I do know that there is growing interest within my profession to see genetic not just only affecting medical issues but every aspect of people’s lives.

Fisher: Do you think there’s any way to prepare people better? I mean, I understand there are warnings. We get that on all the tests, and a lot of people say well, they’re not large enough. They don’t promote them enough, that type of thing. Do you think there’s anything the companies could do to better prepare people for the possibility?

Brianne: So, I do think there are things that could be available, and whether people decide to take them up or not, are going to be individual. Because no one really thinks that this is going to happen to them until it does. And so, no matter how many warnings boxes you put up and how many check boxes people have to click through, they’re really not going to pay much attention to it if they don’t think it applies to them at all. But part of what genetic counselors do is called pre-test genetic counseling, where we talk about all the scenarios, all of the what ifs. Here’s all of the potentials that could come from this testing, what if this happens to you, do you know where you’ll turn for support, are you aware that these resources are available, let’s think about how before you do this testing and your test comes back let’s make sure that you’re ready no matter what comes. So that is a service that I offer that not too many people take up. Because I don’t think a lot of think they need help until after the fact.

Fisher: Yeah, right.

Brianne: So in terms of what the companies can do, talk more about genetic counseling, what genetic counselors do, and the benefits of doing a more official form consent process before the test is ever ordered.

Fisher: Um hmm. That makes sense. How long would you say on average, and I understand every individual is totally different, but based on the average case where basically somebody finds out oh, Dad wasn’t Dad, does it take them to adjust to that new normal and get on with their lives?

Brianne: That’s an excellent question. You see, I have one of the Facebook groups up and running for over a year now. People pop in and give updates on how things are going and I would say you know, most people find it takes anywhere between a couple of months, a year or longer to really feel like they’ve got their feet on solid ground again. And there’s not really a whole lot that can be done except for the passage of time and figuring out that you’re not alone and that it’s okay to not be okay, and it’s okay to be angry and to experience all those emotions that come with finding out a surprise, and if it takes longer than that, or less time than that, then that’s okay as well. Nobody is the same, and there’s no right timeframe on how long someone should struggle or not with this information.

Fisher: That’s great insight. She’s Brianne Kirkpatrick. She’s a genetic counselor in Virginia. You can check out her website at WatershedDNA.com by the way, a very calming website with that cover with the water flowing across. I just keep it on to keep calm throughout the day. And you can read about it in The Atlantic by the way. The article is on ExtremeGenes.com. Brianne thanks for your time. It was really interesting and I’m glad to know that people like you are out there, and I hope we get more like you.

Brianne: Thank you. I appreciate having the opportunity to talk with your audience about this and thanks again for having me on today.

Fisher: And coming up next, we’re going to talk to Melissa Barker. She is the Archive Lady in Houston County, Tennessee, and she’s got some more finds for us, things that you might be able to discover in your local archive. That’s on the way in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.                        

Segment 3 Episode 249

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Melissa Barker

Fisher: Welcome back, it is America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher at this end, talking to Melissa Barker, she is our friend the Archive Lady in Houston County, Tennessee. It’s been a while Melissa, how are you doing?

Melissa: I’m doing great Scott. How are you doing?

Fisher: Awesome. You know, it’s a great summer and so much going on and I always enjoy talking to you, because this is a lady who was basically brought kicking and screaming into the world of archives. She’s a genealogist and they needed one in their county and she said, “Okay, I’ll start this thing.” And now she loves it and she’s basically collecting all the things relating to the history of the county. And we love hearing some of the materials that are kind of representative of what you can find in archives in ay county in the United States. And you do some great stuff. I understand recently you kind of picked up on something that I talk about quite a bit on the show, and that is finding items relating to your research on eBay.

Melissa: Yes. I heard your interview on Faces of NextGen, and it reminded me that as an archivist I am trolling eBay myself.

Fisher: [Laughs] Okay.  And you’re looking for things for your particular county or families that are prominent there I would assume, or those that you are at least aware of, perhaps even some neighboring counties?

Melissa: Yes I do. I set my alerts on eBay as you’ve talked about.

Fisher: Right.

Melissa: And when I get those emails saying there’s something new, I go check it out. I kind of put a twist on it though. I am one of the small county archives that does not have a budget to purchase things on eBay. So, what I do is I contact the seller and I explain to them, I understand that you’re trying to sell this for a profit but if it does not sell and you’re willing to do this, would you please donate it to the archives so that it could be brought back to where it started?

Fisher: Really? Okay. And you get good response from that?

Melissa: I actually do get good responses for that. We have been able to recover several documents, photographs, and artefacts from the sellers on eBay. They’ve been extremely generous to be able to do that for us.

Fisher: Wow. What kinds of pictures have you got and how old?

Melissa: We’ve got pictures from the 1800s for buildings that they knew was from Houston County but they didn’t know what the buildings were and they didn’t sell, they were gracious enough to donate them to us.

Fisher: And have you gotten letters, postcards, or anything similar to that?

Melissa: We have gotten some envelopes, that was my first foray into eBay trying to do this. There was a gentleman who was a postage stamp collector and he was starting to put these envelopes up. They’re empty envelopes but they had someone’s name on them and of course the post mark I could see was from our area. And I asked him, I said, “Hey, if it doesn’t sell please donate them. Consider that.” And he did. And every time he would put one up from my area I would ask him the same thing. After two or three times of doing this he told me, he said, “Okay, okay Melissa, don’t keep asking me. If I find another one I’ll just send it to you.” [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs]

Melissa: And so I’ve gotten 16 envelopes from Miss Mary Carpenter from our area and they’re empty but they are in her vertical file under the Carpenters. They’re a name for any genealogist to find.

Fisher: Isn’t that fun. And have you had people from that family connect with some of these things yet?

Melissa: On that particular one, not yet but I’m hoping that someone who is researching the Carpenter family in the middle Tennessee area will seek us out and we will be glad to share these documents with them.

Fisher: Boy, what a great strategy. And I bet you’re one of the very few, if not the only one in the country who is doing something like this for the archive. Are you sharing this strategy with some of your fellow archivists?

Melissa: I am. And I also post on my Facebook page and the Archive Lady Facebook page. I do it today and the archive posts almost every day. I always share the finds and the wonderful things that are donated from eBay.

Fisher: Yeah, that’s absolutely astounding. The things you can get in family history obviously it would translate over to what you’re doing for your particular county. What’s the biggest thing so far, the one thing that really gets you excited when you show it to people?

Melissa: Well, I would have to say that the one thing are a couple of original newspapers for our county from 1896. The wonderful thing about this is that these two newspapers had not been microfilmed which tells me that they had not survived when microfilm process came in. And they microfilmed all the newspapers, these evidently were missing and they were found on eBay. I asked for them to be donated and they were.

Fisher: Wow! From a couple of particular days or throughout that year?

Melissa: They were actually two consecutive days in 1896. And it’s wonderful because I checked the microfilm to see if they had been microfilmed or saved and they had not. So that’s even better.

Fisher: Yeah, right, absolutely. Have you ever thought about maybe finding somebody who has quite a passion for the county to maybe buy some things that you can’t otherwise get, on behalf of the county?

Melissa: I actually have a patron who is actually a fellow archivist and her family is from the county. And every once in a while she will purchase something on eBay and send it to me. She won’t even tell me. She just throws it in the mail and I’ll get it.

Fisher: [Laughs] That is so much fun. All right, otherwise now Melissa as we always talk about, what are some of the latest stories that you’ve uncovered for your county through items that are right there in your archive?

Melissa: I actually ran across a fantastic document that actually sent me on a research trip. [Laughs] We received some records from the city of Erin, which is our capital city here in Houston County and there were boxes marked miscellaneous and of course they were filled with miscellaneous documents and records but one of the documents was a very interesting partition from citizens of the city of Erin, dated October 4th, 1919. And what the citizens were doing, they were sending this partition to the State Board of Pardon in National, Tennessee asking for a parole of a Mr. Mort Dillard and on the partition it reads, “They’re asking to release him on parole, will meet the approval of our community as we think he has been punished enough for the crime he committed.” And after reading that there’s 64 individuals who signed this partition.

Fisher: Oh, that’s fun.

Melissa: And it made me wonder what in the world did this man do and why did they want him paroled? So, I went back into the court records and I found where on November the 9th, 1916, he was convicted of breaking and entering the business of Mr. J. B. Parnell, and this is what he stole. He stole $9 in silver 5 cent pieces, one pair of trousers, one sweater, one hat, one neck tie, one pair of socks, one pair of shoes, and one overcoat. [Laughs]

Fisher: He wanted to look good.

Melissa: He did, and the value of all that at the time was $36.75 cents.

Fisher: And he was sentenced for how long?

Melissa: The sentence was for no less than three years and no more than ten years in the state penitentiary in Nashville.

Fisher: Wow! That’s a long sentence for that.

Melissa: Yes it was and he served three years of that. And once the State Board of Pardons received this partition they released him two weeks later. But the story doesn’t end there. The first person who signed this partition was Mr. J. B Parnell, the person he stole from.

Fisher: The victim, number one on the list.

Melissa: Yes. And the others on this list were very prominent businessmen who share fund the partition. One of the juries who convicted him signed the partition.

Fisher: Really?

Melissa: Yes. So, I got to looking even further into this and I found that Mr. Dillard actually moved to Florida in the 1940s but he would continue to visit Houston County because he had family here. He died November 27th, 1954. He had become a commercial fisherman in Fort Myers Beach, Florida. He was found floating in the water.

Fisher: Oh, how sad, a sad ending.

Melissa: Yeah, so sad ending. They feel like he had probably fallen off the pier. He was brought back to Houston County to be buried and it’s so interesting to look at the pallbearers listed. Two of the pallbearers were ones that signed the partition to get him out of jail.

Fisher: Boy, that’s great stuff and that’s a perfect example of what your county archive might have for you about a member of your family. See all the signatures on that, maybe one of somebody’s ancestors is going to be found on that list. Great stuff as always, my friend!  Thanks so much for coming on and we look forward to talking to you again sometime soon.

Melissa: Thank you Scott, it was great talking to you!

Fisher: As always, Melissa Barker, the Archive Lady on Extreme Genes. Coming up next, it’s Tom Perry talking about preserving your precious heirlooms on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 4 Episode 249

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: And welcome back! It is America's Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth. This segment is brought to you by LegacyTree.com. Tom Perry is here, he's our Preservation Authority from TMCPlace.com. Hello Tommy!

Tom: Hello!

Fisher: You know, we got a great question here from listeners, asking a question I think we hear quite a bit and I know you've run into over many, many years and it has to do with photographs that have sticky notes on them. Now I'm not clear from the way she wrote this email whether or not this was an actual sticky note or was this a piece of paper that was glued to it or maybe a piece of paper that got stuck to the finish of the photograph. But she says she's really having a hard time getting it off the top, and there's several of these pictures she's got and she's afraid of doing damage to them. And I just emailed her back and said, "You know what, the best thing you could possibly do is Photoshop that thing out.” What do you think, Tom?

Tom: Oh, I totally agree with that. What she's probably referring to is, back in the day, they used to have this stuff that was called correction paper that if you made a mistake in a big, long letter you were typing, you'd put that down and type over it. And the problem is, the kind of adhesive they used doesn't stay tacky like today's postage notes. And so, once it got old, it actually turned into almost like a varnish and firmly adhered to itself to the photo.

Fisher: Ugh!

Tom: So there’s a lot of things you can do which we've talked about before, you can get the piano wire and try to get it off, moisten it, different things like this. But the thing is, nine out of ten times, by the time you go through all these things, even when it works, you could have done a better job of like you just mentioned, scan it at a super high dpi, go into Photoshop and use the clean up tool, do the merge tool, do the clone tool and just recreate that part of the photo. And while you're doing that, you can go and do color correction, do all kinds of things at the same time. So like you say, I would just go in and scan it. And even if you say, "Oh no, I want to go in and fix the original." That's good, but don't forget, always scan it first, just in case there's a whoops!

Fisher: [Laughs]

Tom: You have it scanned.

Fisher: Right. The other thing is to keep that original as damaged as it may be after the fact. But I know a lot of people, they treasure the physical photos over the idea of digitized scans, because I think, to some extent, people are fearful of the technology, people are afraid that it’s just too hard, they don't know how to do it. And I will tell you first hand that like anything else you sit down one step at a time. Scanning is pretty easy and you learn how to do it in different sizes, so that you can be sure to get a lot of the detail that you wouldn't get otherwise if you don't do it at a high resolution. And then you go in and just start playing with these tools. And as you mentioned Tom, you do a save as, so you keep the original scan, and then you have the one you play with. You want to be able to control+z and undo things you think aren't just quite up to speed, and keep trying to improve it. But it is so much fun to fix a photograph. And I dare say, the only reason you're still in business Tom in this day and age is because of people who are afraid of the technology that is so simple!

Tom: Oh absolutely! And I really encourage people out there. In fact, I'm a very poor business man, because I tell people all the time when they call and say, "Hey, I need to ship you this, because of da da da da da." nine out of ten times I go, "Whoa! No, step back. This is probably something you can do yourself. Go and do yada, yada, yada." because the thing is, most of its just ignorance. We just don't know that there's a better way to do it. I mean, we still get calls every single day that say, "Hey, I have an old VHS tape. Is there any way it can be put onto a DVD?" and it’s like, "Really!? Are you serious?" because you think everybody knows that by now, but they don't. A lot of this kind of stuff, I love to teach people how to do it, because then they can go and teach their friends, teach their neighbors, teach their church groups or whatever on how to do this themselves, because I'm not going to always be here. So somebody's got to learn how to do the stuff and do it yourself. And it’s so fun to do it yourself! That's why I love doing it.

Fisher: Well, and to a great extent, it’s a generational thing. I mean, the reality is, our kids and our grandkids are coming up in an age where they're totally comfortable with the technology and they're learning how to do it, they're having fun with it. I've often scolded some people, especially some seniors who just say, "Ohh, I can't do this!" I say, "You've got the time, you've got the brains, make it happen." More coming up in three minutes when we return on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 249

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: Hey, we're back at it, its Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. My name is Fisher. I am your Radio Roots Sleuth. And Tom Perry is our Preservation Authority. We're talking about this listener email that we had a little bit ago about removing a sticky piece of paper at the top of some photos. And Tom, you're mentioning, these things are what?

Tom: Yeah. What this paper usually was, back in the day, they had what was called correction tape, because when you were typing a big, long whole letter, you couldn't erase it like you do on a computer and then reprint it.

Fisher: Yeah.

Tom: So you get tape and put it over the bad words. But when it gets old, it turns into kind of almost a laminate that becomes hard, it’s not tacky anymore.

Fisher: Sure.

Tom: Like a poster would be.

Fisher: So that being the case now, this person has gone and Photoshopped it as we talked about and hopefully did some great correction of color and fix some of the damage, and maybe even replace part of the image that was covered by the photograph. Not hard, especially if it’s a background thing, because maybe the paper's just at the top and maybe there's just a tree line of something there. And with Photoshop, you can fix those things so easily. Photoshop Elements is great and there are many other programs that are very similar to it. But the question would be now, "Okay, I've got this damaged photograph. Do I have any use for it anymore? Because I've got this great image I've created on Photoshop." Of course the answer is "yes" but where would suggest they put it then, Tom? How do they store damaged photographs like that?

Tom: We've talked about this since episode 1. Never ever throw away an original, especially something as small as photos that are easy to store. You can get special envelopes, you can get special sheets of paper. You can get all kinds of things that are acid free that are good storage devices. So put them between your photographs so there won't be any more damage to them, because as technology changes, there's going to be technology out in ten, twenty years from now that we can't even imagine, and they might want to go back one day to those photographs and do something more magic with it, make it more 3D or something. So you never want to ever get rid of anything. I had somebody call me the other day, he said, "Hey, we had our wedding video done years ago. We went and had it put on a DVD. We thought we were happy. We never watched the DVD. We threw the VHS away. We were having a nostalgic moment, we pulled out the DVD, popped it in, and it did not look like the tape. It was really, really bad. And now the tape's gone." Don't throw stuff away! So now they're going to have to find somebody in their family that has an original wedding video that they can get it transferred, because they threw the original away. Never ever throw the original away. And if you're in a situation where storage is a problem and you can't store the stuff, make sure you look at the reproduction and make sure that's good before you ever throw a tape away or a photograph or anything.

Fisher: And also make sure obviously that you take the reproduction that you've got or the image that you've created through Photoshop and you've got it stored in many different places, so if you lose it in one place, you don't lose it in all the places. I mean, that's really the key to this whole thing of preservation, isn't it, Tom?

Tom: Spread it out, absolutely. That's why we tell people, use two clouds, have it on two different clouds, have it on DVDs, have it on USBs, have it on data disks, have it on your hard drive. And spread it around like we talked about on one of our first episodes. We had a couple that had their wedding done. They were living in New Orleans and their parents had a copy, they had a copy, the photographer had a copy. They thought they were all great. They lived miles from each other. When Katrina came in, unfortunately all three of them got wiped out and they lost everything. If they would have had friends in Dothan, Alabama that they could have send a data disk to, then they could get a hold of them and make a copy. But they lost everything, because it wasn't backed up properly.

Fisher: Boy great advice! All right, thanks so much. And of course you can always ask Tom questions at [email protected] or tweet to him @AskTomP. All right Tom, great talking to you, and we'll catch up with you again next week.

Tom: My pleasure.

Fisher: Hey, that is once again a wrap for this week. And thanks to our guest Brianne Kirkpatrick who came on today. She's a Genetic Counselor and she's filling a very important role right now, because she may be the only one in the country right now who's helping counsel people who get unexpected results from their DNA testing. And if you know somebody who's struggling with something related to that, you might want to check out Brianne’s website which is, WaterShedDNA.com. Thanks also to the Archive Lady, Melissa Barker for talking about some of her strategy for stocking up her archive from eBay. We'll 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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