Episode 271 - Family Researcher’s Surprise DNA Results Is Still A Source Of Pain

podcast episode Feb 17, 2019

Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org.  Family “Histoire” News this week is really one huge story in the family history world… the story about FamilyTreeDNA. The company is said to be “working with” law enforcement. The guys share the story along with founder Bennett Greenspan’s rebuttal to the report. The report is resulting in mixed response by those supportive of the use of public DNA bases to solve criminal cases, and those concerned about privacy.

Fisher then visits with Jenny Hawran of Connecticut for two segments. Jenny describes her DNA surprise results which revealed to her that her late father was not her biological father. She explains how she sought possible explanations for her results other than the one she knew was most likely. She talks about her emotional challenges since the revelation, and gives advice to people who may struggle to know what to say to someone like herself who receives a surprise DNA result.

Then, Tom Perry reveals a great new audio software to help you with your old cassette recordings. Tom says the best outcome begins with a proper digitization. He explains what that means and what you should demand from whomever digitizes your old cassette recordings.

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

Transcript of Episode 271

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 271

Fisher: And welcome to America’s Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, on the program where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fallout. And very excited today. A lot of DNA slant to the show today. We’re going to be talking to a woman from Connecticut named Jenny Hawran. And Jenny, like so many people do, went out and did her DNA test and discovered that her father was not her father. And so Jenny gives us some insight into her thought process as she’s gone through this adjustment in her life as to her identity and how to answer some of those questions that people have, and how to support them through what’s often very difficult times. So, we’re going to be talking to Jenny in about ten minutes or so. Hey, just a reminder, sign up for our “Weekly Genie Newsletter.” You can do so at ExtremeGenes.com. You get a blog from me each week, links to current and past programs, links to stories that will be of interest to you, and of course it is absolutely free. Right now, let’s head out to Boston and talk to my good friend David Allen Lambert. He is the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. First of all David, congratulations. I know you had to go through the “challenge” of going through another   victory parade in downtown Boston recently.

David: [Sighs] Yeah. [Laughs]

Fisher: And you know, it’s something the rest of us can’t relate to, but there you go again.

David: Two championships against LA, I don’t know about lecturing in California anytime soon, but I haven’t had any calls either from the West Coast! [Laughs]

Fisher: Absolutely. Well, we were saying just a few moments ago that this show is going to be largely about DNA. And that is absolutely true because the big story this week is the news that started out from BuzzFeed, went to Fox News and went to all other kinds of outlets around the country about Family Tree DNA, and the use of their database by law enforcement.

David: And because of this the DNA community has been “arrested” with attention.

Fisher: Absolutely true, yeah and I’ll read just a titch of this from the Fox report. They say that, “Family Tree DNA confirm that it is working with the FBI in allowing local law enforcement access to its genealogy database. There are a number of active cases that haven’t been solved because there is DNA evidence, but no one to match to it. By opening up the genealogy database to the FBI, Family Tree DNA is potentially going to help solve the number of those crimes, in particular historical murders and rapes.” Now, that’s where it starts. Then of course then we got the response which came from Bennett Greenspan, who’s the founder of Family Tree DNA, and anybody who has an account with Family Tree DNA got this letter. So, I’m going to share some highlights with you if you haven’t taken a look at it. But Bennett says, “I’m writing to address the news that our Gene By Gene laboratory which processes genetic tests for several commercial clients, in addition to all of the Family Tree DNA tests has processed a handful of DNA samples for cold cases from the FBI. In many cases the news reports contain false or misleading information. Let me start with this categorical statement. Law enforcement does not have open access to the Family Tree DNA database. They cannot search or dig through Family Tree DNA profiles any more than any ordinary user can. As with all other genetic genealogy services, law enforcement must provide valid legal process such as a subpoena, or search warrant to receive any information beyond that which any other user can access. Law enforcement has the ability to test DNA samples from crime scenes and upload the results into databases like any other customer can. And it appears they’ve been doing it at other companies for the past year. The distinction is that according to our terms of service and privacy policy, we expect the FBI and law enforcement agencies to let us know when they submit something to our database. We move to something transparent rather than having them work in a stealthy way. Other than that, nothing changed that affects the privacy of our customers. As previously stated law enforcement can only receive information beyond that which is accessible to standard users   by providing Family Tree DNA with valid legal process such as a subpoena, or search warrant. Again, this is specified in terms of service just as with all other companies. We want you to understand as many of you already do, that you have the same protections that you’ve always had and that you have nothing to fear.” So, that was just the gist of it. I didn’t give the entire letter there, but those are the key points from Bennett Greenspan from Family Tree DNA. And David, obviously there are others who have a different point of view on this.

David: Well, there really are, and of course our good friend Judy Russell [The Legal Genealogist] has been long standing that release of DNA information owned by companies should not be given to law enforcement based on Fourth Amendment rights and of course, look at Maryland we talked about last week in regards to their ruling that may go forth that would restrict law enforcement from using DNA. 

Fisher: This is just the beginning. And you know, you think about it, I don’t take the position that if you’re on one side of this you’re a good person and if you’re on the other side of this you’re a bad person. There are complications here, and if your concern is largely privacy, you have every right to that position. And likewise, I understand why people say, “Hey, I’d like to have my DNA in there to help law enforcement to solve horrendous crimes,” which is what they’ve been doing.

David: You know, I actually decided to go on @DLGenealogist, my Twitter feed, and I get about eight thousand people who follow me, so I said let’s see in a day how many people have an opinion on this. So, I asked them, “Are you in favor or against companies like MTDNA to allow your DNA to be used by law enforcement. Three hundred and forty six people on Twitter responded and they can only vote once. We had 34% in favor, 45% against and 21% uncertain.

Fisher: All right, really interesting stuff and the debate is not going to end anytime soon. You know, I think it’s important to point out that there has not, to my knowledge, been a single conviction yet through the use of genetic DNA and finding accused criminals. And the courts have not yet ruled on the legality of this as a search technique, so I’m sure there’s going to be a lot more coming in this particular topic in the years ahead.

David: It really will be. In fact, I’d love to see someone from Maryland to sort of really in the know because this might be the first state that actually passes or does not pass legislation. So, maybe there might be someone we can dig up to talk to.

Fisher: Absolutely. All right David, thank you so much. We’ll talk to you again next week. And coming up next, we’re going to talk to a woman from Connecticut who got an unexpected DNA result and she’s going to tell us her story, and then talk to us about how we can help people who we may be assisting, who find themselves in the same situation. That’s coming up in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 271

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Jenny Hawran

Fisher: You know, the day may come as a genie where you help somebody with their DNA test and then realize that something isn’t quite what was expected. Hi, it’s Fisher, your Radio Roots Sleuth. It’s Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show, and my next guest I actually met at the Federation of Genealogical Society’s conference in 2018 in Indiana, and she told me her story and she’s now ready to share with you her story and it’s a fascinating one and actually has implications for any of us who may, out of the blue, have occasion to help somebody else with their DNA problem and a surprise result, and Jenny Hawran is on the line from Connecticut. How are you Jenny? Nice to have you.

Jenny: Hi Scott. Thanks for having me.

Fisher: So, let’s start with the process here. You got into DNA how long ago?

Jenny: I mean genealogy I’ve been into about 25 years. DNA I actually had very little interest in but it was about three years ago that I took my first DNA test.

Fisher: And you tested with whom?

Jenny: My first test was with Ancestry.

Fisher: Okay.

Jenny: And I was just interested in finding out ethnicity. Everybody was doing it at the time.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Jenny: And I said all right, let’s do this. It will be fun. And I got the results and they were pretty much what I expected and I just kind of left it there for about a year. I didn’t even really look at it again. It wasn’t really my area of interest.

Fisher: And then you went on and did it again?

Jenny: So yeah, about a year later I was at a genealogy conference, and the new thing everybody was talking about was 23andMe and the health reports and I said you know, this sounds kind of fun. This is kind of different. Let’s do that one. And when I was there, they had a great sale and I said, you know, I should pick one up for my brother. My dad had passed away at that point and they say it’s good to get all your siblings done. So I picked one up for him and brought it home and said, “Here. Do this.” [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs]

Jenny: And I’m going to do it too and I’ll share the results with you.

Fisher: Okay. And so what happened from there?

Jenny: We got the results back and they were pretty much what I expected again, British, Irish, Scottish, we’re all kind of lumped together and we have some French and some German, nothing again extraordinary. He had similar numbers but it’s different with siblings. So I said, well that’s good. That’s fun. And then one night, I was kind of just going through the 23andMe site. I was sitting in my bed with my iPad and I clicked on a tab that said “Match your DNA with someone else.” And I was not interested at all in the science of this or centimorgans or anything like that. And I wasn’t interested in finding cousins or having cousins find me because as far as I knew, I knew my lineage.

Fisher: Sure.

Jenny: My dad just had one sister who did not have any biological children, and my mother had one sister who had two biological children. I’m like…

Fisher: That’s your cousins. [Laughs]

Jenny: So, I was like yeah you know, let me just in case somebody finds me or something. You should know what I’m talking about. And so when I compared my brother and I, all this scientific stuff came up and I was like yeah, yeah, yeah, and I kind of went down lower on the page and it said estimated relationship, half sibling.

Fisher: Ooh.

Jenny: And I can’t explain it unless you’ve gone through it. But it’s a feeling that when they say that the floor dropped out from under you, that’s an understatement. Because I just looked at it and I was stunned. I was just like, “what does this mean?” And then my first reaction was that I wasn’t understanding it correctly.

Fisher: Um hmm.

Jenny: My second reaction was my brother somehow messed something up and didn’t do this right.

Fisher: Yeah.

Jenny: It had to be.

Fisher: There had to be an explanation other than what it looks like.

Jenny: Right. And at the same time there was this pit in my stomach and I just knew, and I was just devastated.

Fisher: Sure.

Jenny: I was like all right, I’m going to prove this wrong. And I didn’t tell anybody for over a year. I kept it to myself.

Fisher: Oh wow!

Jenny: Yeah. I just, I couldn’t believe it and I wasn’t going to believe it. And I’m the kind of person that I need all my answers. As many answers as I can before I start telling other people. And so really in that year, I was mostly in denial but I was also like, I’ve got to figure this out because this can’t be right. It can’t be right.

Fisher: Sure. So, I had all my other siblings test. I didn’t tell them the reason why of course. They all tested and they all matched up as full siblings to each other and they all matched up to only half siblings to me, and I’m the youngest.

Fisher: Oh wow.

Jenny: And so, it just got worse and worse as these results came in. I was just hoping, hoping, hoping, and then I didn’t completely accept it until I tested my father’s first cousin who is an elderly woman, God bless her, I didn’t tell her why. She was like in her 90s. And I said, “Would you do this for me? I’ll send you the results.” And she was wonderful. We did genealogy together. She shared a lot of my dad’s stuff with me and she did it. And when I got those results I compared it with my brother’s first and they shared the DNA that they should have, and then I shared her with me, and we shared no DNA.

Fisher: No DNA. It’s time to talk to Mom now.

Jenny: Yeah. And that is when I knew and that is when it really, really hit me. But I didn’t talk to my mom then. I still kept it to myself.

Fisher: Oh my gosh. That’s a lot to keep inside.

Jenny: Yeah it was. My mother, we just had moved her back up here to Connecticut. She had lived in Florida. She had some health problems and I had to have that conversation in my head first before I had it with her. And I hadn’t even told my husband or my adult children at that point.

Fisher: Wow! That’s a lot to keep inside to yourself.

Jenny: I hadn’t told anybody. I finally did tell somebody and it was not my husband at first. The first person I told was actually Bill Griffeth who wrote “A Stranger in My Genes.”

Fisher: Yep. And we’ve had him on the show talking about this because it was the same situation for him. Great guy. Great guy.

Jenny: Great guy and we’ve become very good friends. I’m very grateful for him because finding his book and then contacting him. Just finding somebody who shared what I was going through, it gave me the courage really, the validation to just say, “Okay, I’m going to be okay.” Like, Bill is on the other side of this now. I can’t imagine getting to that point but I know I can. 

Fisher: Had you read the book before you had this happen, or did you become aware of it in the middle of it all?

Jenny: I became aware of it in the middle of it because just when the book came out, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and it came through my Facebook feed and I just stopped dead in my tracks and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I have to read…who is…I’ve got to read this.”

Fisher: Yes.

Jenny: I read it that night. I downloaded it on my Kindle that night and I read it and I contacted him the next day via Twitter and he had a lot of people contacting him at this point coming out of the woodwork.

Fisher: Yeah right. [Laughs]

Jenny: And he was very…we joke about it but he was very kind because I think he just knew I was just didn’t know what to do at that point.

Fisher: Sure.

Jenny: Talking with Bill and seeing what he had gone through, I told my husband shortly after that and my adult children. So they were the first ones to know. That was hard telling my children because it was their…

Fisher: Yeah, their grandpa.

Jenny: Their lineage. Yeah and they remembered my dad.

Fisher: Of course.

Jenny: And they all reacted a little bit differently but they were more concerned about me, which I appreciated a lot and they had a lot of questions but they were okay. They were okay with it.

Fisher: Yeah, but you still got your siblings and your mother to deal with in this.

Jenny: Right.

Fisher: To find peace, right, and to find the story.

Jenny: Right. So, I knew once I got those results from my dad’s first cousin that I was not related to her. I knew who my biological dad was. I remembered this person from when I was a child through the time that I was maybe 15 or 16 and I just said, “It has to be him. It has to be.”

Fisher: Was he a relation with the family that continued on that you knew him from that?

Jenny: Not with the family, but with him. My parents did divorce, and I remember my biological father coming over and visiting my mother and I just remember him in and out of our lives.

Fisher: Sure.

Jenny: So then it was time to confront my mother. That was probably the hardest thing because she was ill at the time. But I talked about it with my husband and I talked about it inside my own head and I said, if I let her die without asking her something about this, I’m always going to regret it. I have to.

Fisher: Yes. Right.

Jenny: And I was afraid that it would make her sicker and all that but I just thought I have to do it. So, I went over there.

Fisher: Well, you were owed that. You’re owed that. It’s your identity.

Jenny: Right. Just a quick back story on that, I made my mother take a DNA test during this whole process because your mind goes in all kinds of weird places, and I’m thinking maybe I was adopted. Maybe she’s not my mother, you know?

Fisher: Oh wow. Yeah.

Jenny: So she was.

Fisher: Of course. Well, she had to be for the siblings to be half siblings.

Jenny: Yes. But they took all that at the same time and I was relieved because I’m like okay, like my world isn’t crazy enough, I don’t need to deal with that too.

Fisher: [Laughs] Sure.

Jenny: So, I went over to her place and said to her, “I want to tell you something that I found out.” And I said, “Remember I took that DNA test?” And she was shocked. I swear she knew what I was going to say.

Fisher: Sure. Of course she did.

Jenny: Because she started shaking. And I said you know, “I found out that Dad isn’t my biological dad.” And she didn’t say anything for a good minute, and then she said, “I wasn’t ever going to tell you.” And I said, “Well, okay, I got that.” And her feeling was that why did I need to know? I had a dad. I had a dad who I loved and who loved me, and she just didn’t think it would help anybody if I knew.

Fisher: Yeah. Sure.

Jenny: And then when I told her who I thought my biological father was, she was stunned. She was stunned that I had figured that out. And then I tried to ask her. She really didn’t want to talk about it. I could tell she was embarrassed and she didn’t want to talk about it but I think we talked about it maybe two or three more times and I was able to get some information out of her but she did not want to talk about it.

Fisher: A lot for her to process too I’m sure, rocked her world as much as yours.

Jenny: Yeah.

Fisher: We’ve got to take a break Jenny, but I want to continue this conversation into another segment here, and talk about how people have tried to help you through this and maybe some advice you can give to others as they experience friends or relatives who make similar discoveries. Can we do that?

Jenny: Sure.

Fisher: All right, coming up next in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.      

Segment 3 Episode 271

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Jenny Hawran

Fisher: We are back! It is America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth and I’ve been talking to Jenny Hawran out of Connecticut, about her shocking DNA revelation just a couple of years ago where she discovered that her dad was not her dad. And she kept it as a secret for many years and then finally confronted her mother who admitted it. She reached out to Bill Griffeth the news anchor who had written a great book about the same thing that happened to him called “The Stranger in My Genes.” Jenny, you’ve been through it and I actually revealed this same kind of information to somebody else in 2017 who learned her father wasn’t her father. And she’s still dealing with the aftermath of that. And I know that you have a lot of friends and family that undoubtedly did everything that they could to support you through this adjustment because let’s face it there’s a real problem here. There’s kind of a dichotomy because what in your life has changed, right? You’ve had the same childhood, nothing changed from that. You had the same relationship with your late father, it was a good one. This was all something that happened before you were born and yet everything has changed. So, nothing has changed and everything has changed because it’s two different things, right? Memories versus identity.

Jenny: And that’s the thing people don’t realize when they’re trying to be very kind and saying that nothing has changed. It is the furthest from the truth because you cannot go through this process and not be profoundly changed because the very essence of who you are, the foundation of who you are. You get your identity from your parents and when one half of you is gone. The people that you thought you came from, you don’t anymore. It doesn’t mean you don’t love them and they didn’t love you but you know, you identify a certain way.

Fisher: Right.

Jenny: And now’s that’s gone. And even if you know who your birth father is it’s not like they take the place of that loss.

Fisher: Nope, couldn’t possibly.

Jenny: They’re strangers to me.

Fisher: Yeah.

Jenny: I don’t know them. I haven’t shared my life or life stories with those people. So, you’re left with this empty hole that is just gone. So, people have been great that I’ve shared this with and I tell them thank you for saying that but things have changed and there’s this grieving process you have to go through to kind of accept this is your reality. This is what happened to you.

Fisher: And to some extent it’s a longer grieving process than if somebody had just passed away because not only is your dad gone in a certain way, he’s physically gone, now his legacy is gone to some degree, right?

Jenny: Right.

Fisher: And you’re trying to figure out well, who am I now, right? And you don’t belong to this birth family.

Jenny: Right. And in my case my ethnicity changed. All of a sudden I’m Irish and I was never Irish before. There was not one Irish person in my genealogy. And all of a sudden I am 77% Irish and it’s like, what do I do with that?

Fisher: [Laughs]

Jenny: So, people reach out to me and try to say the right things and they do. Nobody ever says anything wrong but it’s almost like you have to be around people that have experienced it just like any support group.

Fisher: Yes.

Jenny: Because they’re the ones that understand that loss.

Fisher: Have you gone onto the social media support groups?

Jenny: I have. I recently just joined the one started by Catherine St. Clair on Facebook.

Fisher: Yep.

Jenny: And that is a secret group. And the reason I actually just went on it a few months ago because that’s when I revealed to my siblings and I think once I told them, I think it just really brought all of this up. Because I’m about three years into this process and I’m still reeling from it and telling my siblings kind of just brought it all up. And I’m like you know, I need something more. I need to go talk to somebody that understands. So, I joined this group and there’s almost five thousand people there.

Fisher: Yes. They’re amazing people and it’s growing all the time.

Jenny: It is growing and some stories are much, much worse than mine. I feel lucky compared to some of them. There was an aspect of love between my mother and my biological father even though they were both married. I’m not romanticizing it at all. It’s just I feel and I grew up in a wonderful home and Dad that I adored. So, I try to look at it that way that it could have been worse.

Fisher: That’s right.

Jenny: And I wouldn’t be here otherwise, so.

Fisher: Right. That’s right and that’s the other aspect of this is when you find out you have a different birth father and you’re angry with this person for intruding in your life because it’s hard to imagine well without that person you wouldn’t be there. That’s another dichotomy, right?

Jenny: Right. Well, I’m the family genealogist. I have all the old albums, everything, and you feel immediately disconnected in my case to the genealogy that you’ve worked 25 years on. And that’s sad. I still want to be the keeper of these things because I loved my Dad and I know that he loved them.

Fisher: Sure.

Jenny: But, when I look at my biological father’s side, and I’m doing it but it’s almost like there’s no connection to these people. So, I’m more just doing it to document it.

Fisher: Yeah. It’s a disconnect. I get that. What advice would you give to people specifically? What things caused you to just clench your teeth the most with what people would say when you discussed this with them?

Jenny: Um, I would say, when people are a little dismissive about it and they think nothing’s changed you know? Your dad was still your dad and they kind of minimalize it because I think it’s more comfortable for them and they kind of don’t understand what a life changing thing it is. So, that’s probably the biggest thing.

Fisher: Um hmm.

Jenny: I think, if people want to reach out to someone who is going through this. I think that they really need to listen and just let the person tell you the loss that they’re feeling because it’s just something that we want to talk about so that you understand that it’s not easy it’s probably going to be many years to deal with it.

Fisher: Yeah. Have you been through counselling?

Jenny: Um, not officially. No, but I definitely recommend it. I think for a lot of people in this Facebook group, I know a lot of them have. You know, I’ve had a very supportive family and friends that have really, really helped me. And some people don’t have that so I definitely would recommend that.

Fisher: Sure. What about your relationship with Mom now?

Jenny: Well, Mom has passed away and after I confronted her, I wouldn’t say strange but I would say she was always a little fearful I might bring it up. So, I only talked about it when my other siblings weren’t around but I kind of got to the point where I knew I wasn’t going to get anymore out of her. So, yeah, I was never angry with her for some reason. I just wished she had just told me more. I wished that she once ‘fessed up. I wished that she had just told me everything. But, I forgive her. I didn’t live her life. I can’t judge another person when I wasn’t there at the time and again, I wouldn’t be here otherwise.

Fisher: That’s right.

Jenny: I try to look at it that way.

Fisher: And what about any connections with the birth family?

Jenny: Well, the bizarre thing is that I do know who my half siblings are on my biological side. We live in a small enough community that I actually worked on an event with them and in the middle of this event is when this whole thing kind of exploded and I realized who my birth father was. So, like that wasn’t bizarre enough and then I felt a lot of guilt because I knew who they were at that point and they didn’t know who I was. They didn’t know I was their half sibling. They remembered me as a child and they remembered my mother.

Fisher: As a family friend, yeah. [Laughs]

Jenny: So, it was just all very bizarre for me and unsettling and I just decided at that point that I don’t have any plans at this point to reach out to them. I’m kind of hiding in plain sight.

Fisher: Right because they could test anytime and discover you.

Jenny: And then I will welcome that conversation. But I feel like I just don’t want to go there. I don’t want to disrupt their life, especially because I know how they felt about their father who they revered and adored and I’m not sure that I’m ready for that conversation. [Laughs]

Fisher: Sure. I bet. It’s unbelievable. She’s Jenny Hawran. She’s out of Connecticut. And Jenny, what an ordeal but thank you for the advice, I think it’s useful. A lot of people are going to need it, who are listening right now, who have no idea they’re going to need this in the next few years as more and more people test. Thanks for coming on and sharing your story.

Jenny: Thanks for having me Scott.

Segment 4 Episode 271

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: All right, I know so many genies have those little cassette tapes from back in the '60s and '70s and little bags in closets and you want to get them digitized. And sometimes you get them back digitized and they don't sound so good. What do you do? Hey, it’s Fisher, it’s time to talk preservation with Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com. He is our Preservation Authority. And Tom, you were telling me off air that there's some kind of software now for audio that takes it to a whole new level and it’s cheap.

Tom: Oh absolutely. It’s really wonderful. There's always been things like GarageBand and different freebies out there. We use ProTools. But sometimes people need something a little bit more simple, something they can work with, and just like what you were saying in the opening part, you need to be really, really careful when you have your tapes digitized, whether you do it yourself or you take it to somebody like us or somebody in your neighborhood. You know, I always recommend you do what's called a raw transfer, that means they don't use any equalizers. They don't use any fancy stuff while they're transferring it, because it’s almost impossible to track. That's why I want to start with a clean signal, just like when we're talking about doing photographs, you want to scan them in full color even if they're black and white, you want the highest dpi you're ever going to need, because you've got this raw product to work with. And once it’s in front of you in the software, you can sit and look at it, pick at it thinking, "You know, I really don't like that. Let me back and redo it." But if you have people that are transferring your audio cassettes or your reel to reel or even the old wire recordings, if they're playing with it while its being recorded, there's going to be some really good stuff, but then there's going to be some bad mistakes that can't be undone. So you want to start with a real raw file. And one of the programs I highly recommend whether you have a Mac or you're on Windows is a program called, Magix, which is spelt M A G I X, Sound Forge Audio Studio 13, which is really a great program. It only costs like about $59 or if you want to do it monthly, you can subscribe $3 a month if you're going to be doing it a lot, but this will give you the power to take something that we've digitized for you, you’ve digitized yourself, you've had your neighbor facility do it for you and take this raw file and go in and edit it. You'll be able to make things sound better, like grandpa is sounding like a chipmunk, because the batteries were wearing down and it was recording it slow, so when you play it back at normal speed, it sounds fast. You can take these, you can do what's called a time shift and adjust them, and you know what Grandpa sounds like, so you can adjust it and say, "Okay, that sounds like Grandpa." Somebody in the studio that doesn’t know who Grandpa is doesn't know exactly how much to slow it down to get the right sound, where you can do it and you know what it’s supposed to sound like. So it gives you all these kinds of tools where you can go in and add inflection to it, you can go in and, you know, speed it up, slow it down, you can change things if refrigerators kick on in the background for a second. You can go and grab those little pieces and pull them down and take the audio you want to keep. And it won't hurt anything, because you take your file, you do a duplicate of it and then you go in and play around with it. And it can be really, really fun. And you can even take different parts of different talks and fix them. Like Grandpa might be talking about something and goes off into Neverland and it really didn't make any sense, you can cut that part out. You can make tapes that, "Okay, these are Grandma and Grandpa talking about the first house we grew up in," and put those in a section. Then go and talk about the next house you grew up in. And put things in order, so chronologically, it makes a lot more sense, because a lot of times, when you're just recording somebody raw or somebody's just talking into the microphone, they kind of go all over the place. And this will let you put something together, just like a video that follows a timeline and makes a lot of sense. And then if you're going to add video or add photographs, you've got everything in a chronological order.

Fisher: Wow!

Tom: You can go back to go and add photos, add video, add subtitles, all kinds of cool things.

Fisher: Well, I like the sound of that. And putting things into topics, what a great idea. And also, could this take out background noise?

Tom: Oh, a lot of times it can, because the neat thing about this, which they didn't have back when we were cutting our teeth in the radio is, you actually see what's called a waveform. You see these, you know, jaggy things, like when you're getting AKG or something like that. But you can physically see, "Oh, I see where that's doing that," and you can go and grab those and actually cut them off and edit them, just like, you know, you're cutting off a piece of paper.

Fisher: That's incredible. That's great stuff. All right, Tom, thanks so much. And what do you want to talk about in our next segment?

Tom: Let's talk a little bit more about paper. I've had a lot of people say, "What's the best way to handle them. Nobody's touched them in eons.”

Fisher: All right, we'll get to that in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 271

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: All right, back at it for our final segment this week of Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth. And this segment is brought to you by Legacy Tree Genealogists, go to LegacyTree.com. Tom Perry is with us, our Preservation Authority from TMCPlace.com. Tom, you're talking about papers. A lot of people ask about that all the time and there's good reason, because not all paper is the same for starters.

Tom: Exactly. Like we said in the intro, you might have some papers that you've just inherited, maybe your parents have passed away or an aunt or an uncle and you're the family archivist, so you get everything given to you. Well, some things, you know, you take for granted like at the National Archives, they have a list of things you're supposed to do, and some of these things are almost like, "Well, duh!" but sometimes we just need to be reminded of them. When you've got old documents or you're going through an old box, "Wow, here's some old newspapers!" Okay, take a time out, step away from the box, and remember to go through these steps before you do anything. You want to have a nice, clean, clear place to set all your stuff down. If you find these in the attic or in the basement or something like that, don't just pull them out and start looking at them there, because you can introduce bugs and all kind of other things to them. You want to get to a nice, clean area. And one thing that's really important, make sure you're not eating. Don't eat around these things, because that can introduce bugs, it can introduce oils, all kinds of things, so don't eat or drink while you're handling them. And definitely don't smoke or be in any kind of an environment where there's smoke around, because if you can smell it, there’s still stuff in the air that can damage the product that you want to be looking at.

Fisher: Oh, yeah, yeah, absolutely. And you know, that's the thing, they're not as much fun to be around when they stink. And you're right, I mean, things on your hands, that's why so many people wear some types of gloves. Although, a lot of archivists now are moving away from gloves when handling paper, because it’s harder to get a grip when you're turning pages and you might actually do damage to the paper more than you would from the oil in your fingers, so they're getting away from that.

Tom: Exactly. You want to wash your hands well. You want to make sure you don't put any oils or lotions on your hands. If your hands are cracking and you normally need it, just wait until you're done looking at your papers. And you can handle papers without gloves. It’s just not going to be a problem as long as your hands are clean. And a lot of times, you might have old newspapers that are very, very delicate. And as you mentioned, if you're trying to handle these with gloves, you're going to do more damage to the paper that you're turning then you would if you had anything on your fingers.

Fisher: Well, that's because they're so delicate for one thing. I have preserved some old newspapers. I used to collect them when I was really young. I would get autographs on them. I got Harry Truman to sign a newspaper from the end of World War II. I mailed it to him, he signed it and sent it back and I have that nicely framed in a very dark room and have had it for many, many years. But newspapers are extremely fragile. And I learned that one thing you can do with these is to mount them on Styrofoam using a special acid free glue that framing shops have. And it’s fantastic, because it flattens them all out, it takes all the wrinkles out. And they're really easy to frame that way and look really, really good.

Tom: They use organic type adhesives. So they’re not the old oil based adhesives, but also, even though they're organic, they're not the kind that are going to have bugs who want to come and eat them, so it’s the best kind of stuff to use. So if you don't understand this, check with the National Archives, talk to your local archivist, they'll be able to help you with this. And always remember, when you're handling photographs. That's when you want to use your gloves, because even if you've just washed your hands well, you're still going to have oils and things that are going to transfer to the negatives and that are going to transfer to the photos, so be careful with those. And those usually aren't as delicate. So you just have to kind of be careful when you're dealing with those kinds of things. Contact us on Twitter at anytime and we're happy to help you or send you to people that have even additional information.

Fisher: All right, great stuff as always, Tom. Thanks for the help, and we'll talk to you again next week.

Tom: My pleasure.

Fisher: Well, put a bow on it, that is a wrap! Thanks so much for joining us this week. Thanks to our special guest, Jenny Hawran who shared her special story about her DNA discovery that her late father was not her father. He was indeed her dad, but now she knew that she had a different birth father. And she shared some great thoughts about how we can help people who run into this story, because it’s happening all the time. And as you assist somebody with a DNA discovery that they weren't expecting, what do you do and what do you say. If you missed the segments, you've got to catch it on iTunes, iHeart Radio, ExtremeGenes.com. The podcast is the way to go. 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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