Episode 276 - Name and Family Changes With DNA Test Results / Natural Disasters & The Loss Of Family Photos

podcast episode Mar 31, 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 begins with the story of the discovery that old clay tobacco pipes are preserving centuries-old saliva. And now those pipes are getting DNA tested. Hear about one fascinating find. Then, the “Who was Jack The Ripper” controversy continues. One investigator says DNA reveals the answer. Then, Lake George, New York is the site of the discovery of a long forgotten Revolutionary soldiers’ cemetery. David explains what has been found. And finally the guys talk about a Minnesota man who took up the bugle in his 60s so he could play taps at military funerals. David’s Blogger Spotlight this week shines on McKall Erin Ruell and her site MakingTheirStoriesKnown.blogspot.com.

Next, Fisher visits with Michelle Riess, a New Jersey woman. Michelle was 40 years old when a DNA test result changed her life. In fact, Michelle wasn’t even her name at the time, but now everything has changed. Catch this remarkable story and how Michelle has adapted.

Then, Mitch Goldstone, CEO and Co-Founder of ScanMyPhotos.com visits with Fisher about the recent “bomb cyclone” and other natural disasters which are causing thousands to lose their most precious photos.

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

Transcript of Episode 276

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 276

Fisher: And welcome to 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. And this episode is brought to you by BYUtv’s Relative Race. It’s Season 5 happening right now, Sunday nights 9 o’clock Eastern, 6 o’clock Pacific and I tell you the episodes just keep getting better and better. Boy, we’ve got some great guests today. First of all, we’re going to be talking to Michelle Riess coming up in about nine or ten minutes. You know, throughout most of her life that was not her name. That was until she got a DNA match that just left her scratching her head, and she discovered some things about herself and her family that are breathtaking. And you are going to want to hear her story coming up in just a little bit. Then later in the show, in light of all that has happened   with, for instance, the recent bomb cyclone that hit the Midwest, and of course the hurricanes the tornadoes, the fires, the floods. I’m going to talk to Mitch Goldstone. He’s the CEO and Co-Founder of a company called ScanMyPhotos. They scan like three hundred thousand (300,000) photos a day and he’s got some insight about why you need to get your photos digitized and the best process to go about that in order to make sure they’re preserved in the event of a disaster. Hey, if you haven’t signed up for our “Weekly Genie Newsletter” yet, it is time you got on it. Get to our website ExtremeGenes.com, you’ll find the box right there. It’s simple. It’s easy. It’s free, and of course we give you a blog each week and a couple of stories that you’re going to be interested in, and past and present podcasts as well, so check it out. Right now it is time to head off to Boston, Massachusetts where David Allen Lambert is standing by. He is the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org and he’s got your Family Histoire News. Hi David, how are you?

David: Hey, I’m doing good Fish. How about yourself?

Fisher: Awesome! Where do we begin today my friend?

David: Well, I’ll tell you smoking is hazardous to your health but pipe smoking from long ago may be “beneficial” to your genealogy. Recent findings with DNA inside pipe stems.

Fisher: Isn’t this incredible? They’re actually finding them because the pipes were porous. People who smoked these pipes years ago left their saliva inside them. We’re talking like from the 17th century, the 18th century, the 19th century and they’re actually getting some DNA samples that are viable out of these clay pipes.

David: On Extreme Genes some of the pipe stems that are discussed in the article online include those that were from slave quarters down in Maryland. And one of them they found the genetic ancestry goes back to Sierra Leone.

Fisher: And they’re even talking about excavating a local cemetery there that may contain the remains of some of these slaves and see if they can match that up with the permission of the descendents. So, it’s a very interesting story that’s still developing.

David: It really is. And speaking of interesting stories, going across the pond we’ve all heard the greatest cold case story is Jack the Ripper. Now, they’re saying that they may have DNA in evidence from a shawl that…halt, before we go with that as a positive green light…there were people like Dr. Adam Rutherford over in the UK who says that the shawl, the provenance is not certain and that it’s been handled by too many descendants so it may have corrupted the DNA. So, there’s a whole controversy on social media on this, so we’re staying tuned on this story.

Fisher: Yeah. Wouldn’t that be something though if they could determine for sure the identity of Jack the Ripper through DNA?

David: It would be amazing to finally put closure on that after 130 plus years?

Fisher: Yep.

David: It’s amazing.

Fisher: Incredible.

David: Well, we are digging into the past in Lake George while they’re putting up some new houses. Now, they found a cemetery, not a cemetery from recently, but from the Revolutionary War. At least eighteen skeletons have been found and they found Revolutionary War buttons and they believe it may come from a nearby smallpox hospital.

Fisher: Wow!

David: So, you may have an ancestor that died out in Lake George, New York. They may have found him. You know, veterans are definitely in our news a lot, and one that I think touches home, and it’s a great story on Extreme Genes. Gary Marquardt out in Minnesota, he didn’t serve in Vietnam, but he wants to honor those who that did in other wars. And he is now planning on doing at least a hundred funerals. He’s not an undertaker. He’s a bugler. 

Fisher: And imagine this, he couldn’t play the bugle. Just a few years ago they were actually playing recordings of Taps at these military funerals and he said, “No, somebody needs to be playing live.” So, he started taking lessons so he could be that guy that plays at the military funerals. And he says, “You know, I’m okay.” He said, “I don’t always play perfect, but it always comes from the heart.” Unbelievable.

David: Well, he’s part of Bugles Across America, and there are only 5,000 of these guys and they do over 130,000 Veterans funerals a year.

Fisher: Wow!

David: You know, on Extreme Genes I like to share with you the popular tweets that I put out there, and I just put a strange one out there on baby names. And the fun thing about baby names is that we know we have them, but where do they come from? Have you ever done the genealogy of where you got your name?

Fisher: Yes, absolutely, not only my name but my daughter. I’ve got a daughter Anna, who’s named her daughter Anna, named after my grandmother Anna, and it goes back into the 1700s in Sweden. My own name is kind of weird because I was named after my uncle Winfield Scott Hancock Fisher Junior, who is named for my grandfather who is the same senior, who is named after Winfield Scott Hancock, who lost the presidential race in 1880, the year my grandfather was born, who was then in turn named after Winfield Scott, the general in the War of 1812 and he was born in 1786. Is that what you’re talking about?!

David: I’m kind of going to write this all down as you said it. I need a chart.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: You know, it is the same thing in my family. The name Henry is still around with some of the descendants of my great grandfather’s brother. And I did the backward story on that and it goes back to a fifth great grandfather who was born in 1695 named Henry Dole of Newbury. That’s where the name came from.

Fisher: You never know.

David: Well, I would like to share with you a blogger spotlight that shines on McCall Erin Ruell. She’s out of Utah and she has a blog called Making New Stories Known and she wants to tell the stories of people, places and things as a family historian that touch people through her own research in genealogy in general. Her recent one which was for St. Patty’s Day was My Luck of the Irish, where she goes on and talks about researching the Irish and touching on her own family, as well as her RootsTech summary, so kind of a person who was out there at RootsTech. And this is truly the next generation of genealogists and I’m glad they’re out there blogging.

Fisher: Absolutely. All right David, thanks so much and we will talk to you again soon.

David: Talk to you soon.

Fisher: And coming up next we’re going to talk to a New Jersey woman who got a DNA test result that left her baffled and the story that has resulted is off the charts. Unbelievable. You’re going to want to hear it next. It starts in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 276

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Michelle Riess

Fisher: Welcome back. It is America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtrmeGenes.com. And I’m just really struck as we begin to do this segment here, about six years ago when I started Extreme Genes, how the name was kind of fun and of course DNA was just starting to happen at that time, and now because of DNA I think the name has kind of grown into the show and we’re finding more, and more, and more stories of people who find incredible discoveries through DNA matches. And one of them is on the line with me right now. She used to be known as Christina, now she’s known as Michelle Riess. And Michelle, it’s just a delight to have you on the show. Let’s start at the beginning, your DNA test, and when was the first test you took and where was it?

Michelle: I think it was approximately 2008 and that was through FamilyTreeDNA, and I did it because I was having a lot of problems finding the information that I was looking for, for the family tree that I believed I was a part of. And I guess after a while of getting people who had information about their family trees that didn’t make sense in the context of my tree. I started to get frustrated. So, I decided to do a second test at Ancestry.

Fisher: Okay.

Michelle: And I think that was probably 2013, I believe.

Fisher: Right. Things were really picking up at that point in 2013.

Michelle: Yeah. [Laughs] So, I did a second test because I knew they had a really large member database, and I figured maybe I’ll get some more helpful matches over there. So, I did the test and the same thing happened at Ancestry. I was matching to people who weren’t very closely related and the places they were telling me their families came from didn’t make sense with my family tree. I grew up believing that I was Greek, Italian, and probably Ukrainian and all of the people I was matching with were coming up from very heavy roots in United Kingdom and Northern Europe and Scandinavia. And I’m like, well, that doesn’t make sense. You know, I wrote it off basically as our common ancestor must have been so far back that we just couldn’t possibly be helpful to each other in our research.

Fisher: Well, that would be a reasonable thing to conclude. And was this the same kind of test you did by the way at FamilyTreeDNA because in a way I don’t know if they had autosomal at that time.

Michelle: No. And that’s something that actually will come up later in my discovery. But the FamilyTreeDNA test that I did was only the mitochondrial DNA.

Fisher: Okay.

Michelle: And that was all I was really interested in at that point, because I knew everything about my father’s family so I wasn’t really concerned with that anyway. I was really interested in finding my mom’s, mom’s family. That’s the only people I was really interested in learning about.

Fisher: Okay. And where did you grown up? Tell us your background.

Michelle: Yeah sure. Well, I grew up in southern New Jersey right outside of Philadelphia. And I grew up as an only child in a really small family. My dad has one brother and he never married and never had children. And my mom, she died 2010 but she was an only child and so I didn’t have cousins or no big family gatherings all the time. It was the people that we socialized with. It was a really small group.

Fisher: So, it was something you kind of missed a little bit and here was a chance to really find out more about who you were.

Michelle: Absolutely. I always wanted a brother or sister and I guess it’s kind of lonely and a little bit isolated just in the environment that I grew up in.

Fisher: Sure.

Michelle: It was much more adult oriented than surrounded by children and cousins in that kind of situation. But I always was looking. I always felt like I needed to learn more about where my family came from.

Fisher: So, did your dad ever talk to you about maybe why these DNA results weren’t matching up to what he knew about his background?

Michelle: No. Honestly, it was something that my parents knew that I was extremely interested in but nobody ever really said anything about why maybe some of these inconsistencies existed in my results.

Fisher: Sure.

Michelle: It was always kind of like, “Oh, well that’s interesting” or you know, “oh okay.” But they knew that I was very interested in it. I was always digging for information, so still nobody really said anything about it.

Fisher: So, you got these results then in 2013 and no close relatives there. Did you move on from it or did you check in on your results periodically and see if there were updates in ethnicity? What were you looking for as the years went by after that?

Michelle: Yeah, honestly, like I was on Ancestry and other sites virtually every day looking for new documents and possible matches. I was really trying to find some connection to my mom’s, mom’s family tree. Because these were the people that I was always told throughout the course of my life, “Oh, well, you don’t look like us. But that’s because you look like your grandmother. You look like her family.” And of course, these were the ones we conveniently didn’t know very well. We didn’t know much about them. So, there was something in me that just had to find them. I needed to find these people that I looked like and I could relate in some way.

Fisher: Yeah. 

Michelle: Because I always kind of felt somewhat different from my family. Almost like misplaced but I was looking for something but I didn’t really know what it was.

Fisher: Ha, just kind of an instinctive thing.

Michelle: Yeah. It’s really strange looking back now. It absolutely existed throughout my life.

Fisher: So, over time something changed because obviously you got a new result.

Michelle: Yeah. So, in September 2017 I had some free time and I checked in with my DNA matches on Ancestry, and right at the top of the page, I’ll never forget it, it was in old oranges letters it said “immediate family” and right below it was a name that I never heard before, didn’t know who this person was and immediately I was like ha! Well that’s strange. Like it didn’t set off any alarms in my head at that point, but of course I had to figure out who this was. So, her name just happened to be kind of unusual and her husband is Greek so I was able to find her on Facebook like right away. And I’ll never forget, clicking on her profile on Facebook and seeing her pictures here and just being very confused seeing this picture of this person and thinking wait, why does she have a picture of me on her Facebook profile? And then realizing oh my goodness, that’s her!

Fisher: Wow!

Michelle: And when I looked closer, well obviously it’s not me but it could be me a little bit younger, and it was just very shocking.

Fisher: Did you consider for a moment that perhaps she was a sibling that your parents had given up or something?

Michelle: Not initially, no. At first, I honestly just thought that she was a cousin. I didn’t think anything along the lines of like she’s a sibling or adoption or anything like that. All I thought was, wow! this must be one of my grandmother’s siblings’ grandchildren or something. Because Ancestry labelled the match as immediate family but at that time I didn’t really know anything about centimorgans, and I didn’t know how Ancestry categorized immediate family. I didn’t know could you be parent and child, or could you be all the way to like third cousins in that category. I had no idea at that point. So, I sent her a message and I just kind of told her briefly you know, we have a match on Ancestry that says we’re very closely related and I’m just trying to figure out who you are, basically. And I mentioned some of the names that I believed was my family and some of the places they came from and told her by the way, I saw some of your pictures and we look a lot alike. It’s really kind of crazy. So, I sent the message and she wrote back pretty quickly and she had no idea who any of the names I had mentioned were. She had never heard of them. And stranger, she said, “Well, none of the places that you’re mentioning make any sense in my family tree. I mean, I’m German. We come from Ireland, England. So, it didn’t make any sense.”

Fisher: Which matched your ethnicity though, didn’t it, your results.

Michelle: Well, it did. But I didn’t believe it.

Fisher: Oh okay. You dismissed it, all right. [Laughs]

Michelle: I did. I absolutely did. I figured well that’s just like my very, very distant ancestral origins. I didn’t really take all of that too seriously because I felt confident that my family was giving me accurate information. We’re Greek. We’re Italian, and probably Ukrainian.

Fisher: Right.

Michelle: So, that’s what I believed. So when she said that I thought honestly, this kind of makes me laugh and all, but I thought to myself, “How sad, she doesn’t really know anything about her family history.”

Fisher: [Laughs]

Michelle: And she’s obviously missing big parts of her family tree here, you know?

Fisher: Yeah.

Michelle: And now I laugh about it because obviously I’m the one who didn’t have a clue.

Fisher: Not a clue. Yeah.

Michelle: So, when I first got my DNA match through my sister, until I confirmed my adoption, the entire process was only five days. It was all very fast.

Fisher: And you had no idea you had been adopted?

Michelle: No, never told that I was adopted, never had any suspicion that I was adopted. In fact, there were facts that were kind of planted into my life story throughout my life to kind of confuse me into believing that I couldn’t be anything other than their biological child. So, there was a little bit of manipulation going on.

Fisher: And deception there.

Michelle: Deception, absolutely.  

Fisher: And not only that, this is not any ordinary adoption as you later learned.

Michelle: No.

Fisher: Let’s talk about that just for a few moments here then we’ve got to take a break. This sister of yours what’s her name?

Michelle: Jamie.

Fisher: Jamie goes to her parents and talks about you. And what did she discover?

Michelle: Well, they confirmed that I am definitely their sister. I have three full sisters. And I meanwhile also went to my father and I had confronted him to find out a little bit more about what was going on in this situation. Because my sister, we had been speaking back and forth for a few days and we were coming up with all these scenarios and well, how could this be? She thought for a little while that maybe she was adopted. But I really didn’t think it was me. I truly did not believe that I was adopted. It has to be from her side. So, at one point I think it was probably about the third of fourth day, I went to Ancestry and as you probably know, they have that special team that’s specially trained to deal with sensitive DNA issues, and I did speak with them and basically they told me like look, “There’s basically three scenarios here. You’re either parent and child, which I knew was impossible, grandparent and grandchild, which again, totally impossible, or, you’re full siblings. Those are your three choices.”

Fisher: I hate to cut you off right here Michelle, but we have to take a break and when we return we’re going to discover exactly how it is that you were adopted, which was an amazing tale, and how you got back with your birth family, coming up in five minutes, on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.                   

Segment 3 Episode 276

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Michelle Riess

Fisher: We are back at it, talking DNA on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show. I’m talking to Michelle Riess formally known as Christina until she got her very unexpected DNA result just a few years ago. I expect, Michelle, you’re still kind of dealing with the fallout out of all this as you tried to figure out how you were related to this person through an Ancestry DNA test that you had taken. It revealed that you were a close relative, very close family, and finally, the expert said to you, “Look, you’re basically full siblings.” How can this be?

Michelle: Right.

Fisher: What a discovery this is. At this point, your mother has passed away. Your father is still living. You have no other siblings or family. You have to confront dad, don’t you?

Michelle: Yes. So, over the course of those few days I had been emailing him back and forth and sending him photos of this person that I was matching with and just sending him basic information. Like, look at this. This is very strange. I have no idea how this is. Do you know anything about this? One of my first clues that I was definitely onto something was that he didn’t respond to any of my messages about that and that was unusual for him. And just by chance, a few days prior to my initial match to my sister, we had made plans to get together for lunch on that coming Sunday. And he lived three hours away at the time. So, I knew that if I didn’t have an answer from him by Sunday that I was going to have to just come out and say something that day at lunch because I needed to know. I needed to have that information.

Fisher: Sure.

Michelle: I have children and there’s a lot of issues like if you’re not related to someone and you don’t actually know where you come from. There could be health concerns that you’re not aware of, there are a lot of things.

Fisher: Right. All the things connected to adoption but just the shock of it too.

Michelle: Absolutely.

Fisher: To know that these are not your blood parents, for the first time. How old were you at this point?

Michelle: I was 40 years old.

Fisher: Oh my gosh.

Michelle: So, Sunday came and I kind of showed him some more pictures and a little bit more information and he kind of nodded and said, “Yeah, you do look a lot alike.” But still didn’t seem to be forthcoming with information. So, basically I just said to him, am I adopted? Like it just came out, I’ll never forget saying those words.

Fisher: Right.

Michelle: Those are words I don’t think anyone ever anticipates having to say to their parents but I said it.

Fisher: Not at that stage of life.

Michelle: No, not at 40, absolutely not. And I said it, and he looked at me and he said, “Well, I didn’t want you to find out this way but yes, you are adopted.” And that moment this fog kind of just descended. I kind of just lived in that fog for probably six months. It was so shocking.

Fisher: Wow! Sure, it would be.

Michelle: Yeah.

Fisher: Meanwhile, your sister is over on the other side talking to her parents. And what did you find out there?

Michelle: Well, I found out that when my biological parents were teenagers, my mom was pregnant, they were 15 and 16 years old and this is 1976. So, my grandparents, well, the people I now know were my grandparents, took her to the doctor and you’re know they’re old school when a doctor tells you something they’re an authority figure and they had never been in a situation like this so they really trusted the physician’s advice. And they decided that I would be placed for adoption. And this was my grandparents. The issue with it was that the physician who was caring for my mom during her pregnancy had an informal agreement with a local attorney who was arranging adoptions on the side. It was not his area of practice it was just something that he chose to do on the side. Unfortunately, he was not legally authorized to assist with adoptions in the State of New Jersey and why he did that as an attorney knowing that it was illegal I still have no idea why he would do that. [Laughs] But, eventually he was indicted by the state for my adoption and two others that he illegally arranged, and he was convicted. So, it was really not a great situation. My mom felt as though she was coerced into the adoption and that a lot of very unethical things took place in order for that adoption to occur.

Fisher: Now, they were expecting actually to have communication or at least knowledge of who the adoptive family was, correct?

Michelle: Well, it was a closed adoption and it was privately arranged but there was an understanding that I would be told. I have been able to get my adoption file unsealed recently and even in the reports from the state agency it very clearly says that the adoptive parents are going to be telling me about my adoption and when I’m old enough to understand the meaning of the word adoption. But, obviously that never happened and what really breaks my heart is my family was under the impression that of course I would be told that I’m adopted and so over the years they looked for me. By the way, we grew up like ten minutes apart our whole lives.

Fisher: Oh, wow!

Michelle: I know. I know. Crazy. But especially once the internet came around my mom would go onto adoption reunion sites and post inquiries to see if I would respond. And of course I didn’t know I was adopted so I wasn’t looking for those messages. And she interpreted me not responding as me not wanting to know them and that just breaks my heart, carrying that for 40 years. Yeah, I mean I was placed for adoption but still, me not wanting to know, I can’t imagine what that must have felt like for her all these years.

Fisher: Of course. And so much was stolen from you in the process, an illegal adoption and then the family just basically disappearing, and then never telling you. It’s unbelievable. It’s hard to get your brain around all the implications of this. So, what’s your relationship like with your adoptive father?

Michelle: Well, I no longer have a relationship with my adoptive father that was something that I had to do once I found out that I was adopted and some things took place during that whole discovery period that I just really couldn’t participate in anymore. I just couldn’t. Knowing what I know now and doing my own investigation into the circumstances of my adoption I just couldn’t continue that relationship. My trust was obviously pretty shattered at that point. You know, it wasn’t even a matter of forgiveness. You know, people always say, oh well, forgiveness isn’t for the other person, it’s for you. But it’s a matter of self respect. I cannot be in a relationship with someone that I don’t trust and that I feel has done something quite major to me and to my family. I mean, that’s a really major deception and I just couldn’t continue that relationship.

Fisher: So, what’s your relationship now with your birth family? You’ve obviously changed your name to their name which is Riess.

Michelle: Yeah.

Fisher: And now you go by Michelle which was the name they gave you at your birth.

Michelle: It is. That’s the name they put on my birth certificate application which was later fraudulently changed by the attorney which is a whole other story. But it is the name my parents gave me when I was born. Honestly, from the moment I met my parents and my sisters I felt completely at ease. I never felt uncomfortable or unwelcome, or even like I was different from them in any way. I honestly felt so comfortable just from the first moment we met. I was of course nervous going there to meet them but all of that lifted as soon as I walked in the room. It’s really strange how you can really see yourself in people that you’ve never met before and feel these similarities and interests that you share despite growing up completely separate. I feel like we should be studied by scientists or something you know. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs] Well, there’s a lot to the biology right, nurture and nature.

Michelle: Yeah, absolutely.

Fisher: But there’s a lot more to nature that we often give it credit for. Michelle, it’s an amazing story and I’d like to invite you to come on and do a bonus podcast with us for our Patrons Club and talk about that integration into your birth family. Would you be up for that?

Michelle: Oh, absolutely.

Fisher: All right, Thanks so much Michelle. And, coming up next, an interesting thing has taken place here recently, a thing called a “bomb cyclone.” A bomb cyclone and it’s caused all this flooding in the Midwest. In fact, in Nebraska it’s the overwhelming majority of counties that have declared emergencies and this means photographs, and home movies, and videos, a lot of things being lost. I’m going to talk to the CEO and Co-Founder of ScanMyPhotos, coming up next about what you need to do to make sure you’re protected against events like this, in three minutes on Extreme Genes.

Segment 4 Episode 276

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Mitch Goldstone

Fisher: And welcome back to America’s Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is time to talk preservation. And there’s a lot to talk about right now. In fact, this past week I was chatting with my daughter who used to live in Nebraska, and mentioned to her, “Did you see what’s happening back there?” They had a thing called a bomb cyclone that went through and the overwhelming majority of counties in Nebraska have declared emergency areas. And so, photos are being lost and the films are being lost. And so, I thought I’d get on the line with my friend, Mitch Goldstone. He is the CEO and Co-Founder of ScanMyPhotos. They’ve been mentioned on Oprah and in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. Al Roker has mentioned them as well. And Mitch, it’s great to have you on the show. This is an interesting time, isn’t it, because we not only have this flooding going on, but we’ve seen the hurricanes that have hit Houston and Puerto Rico, we’ve seen fires in California. There’s so much going on right now. And people really need to take some action to get their material digitized.

Mitch: They do. And Scott, congratulations also on all your success with Extreme Genes here. You’ve helped so many. And this is an important topic. When you think of the three Ps, people, pets and property, with the natural disaster, whether it’s the wildfires, hurricanes, the last thing anyone should be concerned about from the three Ps are photos. No one should run back into a home that’s threatened to grab those pictures, those generations of nostalgic memories, and that’s why they need to be digitized.

Fisher: Boy, and if you think about it too, I have gone through the digitizing process and there’s a lot to it obviously to get that done. There’s some expense involved as well, but you also have to make sure you have these things saved in other places. For instance, if you have physical copies that are in the hands of a relative in another state or in other cities somewhere far away, so that these things can be preserved, and hopefully have these things up on a cloud as well. That part of it I haven't fully achieved yet. It takes a lot to get some of these things up there. But to at least get it started, get it digitized and shared. That seems to be the ticket to me.

Mitch: It is. And it’s interesting, a lot of people, whether it’s for memorial service or just to preserve those nostalgic pictures, they want it fast. So we kind of reinvented ScanMyPhotos, where we now do same day scanning as well. So the same day it comes in, digitized. And what you just mentioned is so important, because you need to back up all these images, make extra copies, DVDs, thumb drives, share them with friends, relatives, safety deposit box. One of my favorite services and by 80% of all the ScanMyPhotos orders’ final home is with Google Photos. It’s super easy, of course Dropbox, Carbonite.

Fisher: Right.

Mitch: There are lots of different solutions. Scott, I hear so many stories. I just heard one. Someone had asked if we retained the pictures they digitized in 2014, because their home just burned down, and their copy was with their pictures. And due to privacy, we only archive all the images for 30 days, so they were out of luck. Heartbreaking.

Fisher: Yeah. It’s the worst.

Mitch: Got to upload and preserve.

Fisher: And you know, the thing is, I don't think most of us anticipate a natural disaster. Certainly the people at California in the fires didn't. Those things are always there. But then there are things that aren't even natural disasters that are always eating away at our photographs, things like bugs and mildew and mice and temperature variations, back and forth and back and forth. And you had one also that I hadn't really considered before.

Mitch: Yes. It was actually good news, bad news. Someone had let me know that we had digitized all their pictures, so that was the good news. The bad news is their young child with a handful of crayons and a scissor turned their entire family history into art.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Mitch: But it was okay, because all of their pictures were digitized prior. So, absolutely it’s not just mildew and dust, it’s any condition.

Fisher: Wow! All right, thank so much, Mitch. And when we return, we're going to talk a little to Mitch about how he got this thing going, because it’s like a worldwide operation, and his one favorite photo in his collection, when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 276

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Mitch Goldstone

Fisher: Hey, we’re back. It is our final segment of Extreme Genes for this week, America’s Family History Show. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth. And I’m talking to Mitch Goldstone. He’s the Co-Founder and CEO of ScanMyPhotos. And Mitch, you’ve got to be like the biggest at what you do in the world. How many pictures a day do you guys do?

Mitch: ScanMyPhotos digitizes about three hundred thousand (300,000) pictures a day. It may sound like lot. We’ve scanned six hundred million (600,000,000) but there are trillions of still pre-digital analogue snapshots.

Fisher: Oh yeah.

Mitch: So it’s a fast market.

Fisher: Yeah, you’re going to be around forevermore. You must be doing them in countries everywhere.

Mitch: Everywhere. And Canada, the UK are two of our largest ones, but predominantly throughout the US, from Puerto Rico including Hawaii and Alaska, too.

Fisher: How did you start this?

Mitch: It’s interesting. When I was five years old, I was with my family at Disneyland in California, and it was just a random snapshot of myself and my dad hugging me. And sadly, two years later he had passed away. And it’s my only memory of him. And it was that single picture, that only memory that got me engaged and involved with photography. It stuck with me. And I know everyone has that single, most important picture.

Fisher: Yeah. We all do. [Laughs] I’ve got one with me and my dad and my brother and my grandfather when I was 1 year old. My grandfather died about eight months later and then my brother died when I was eight. He was 21, and then my dad died when I was 17. It was the only shot with all four of us together, even though I’m just a baby still. It’s just a treasure. And it came from digitizing home movies, because you could actually take out obviously individual frames and turn it into something more than that. And I have that just framed in my office. Love it!

Mitch: That’s what it’s all about. You know, all of your listeners are also probably thinking right now, “What is that special picture, and is it already digitized and backed up as well?”

Fisher: And you know, our field of course, we think about ancestral photographs. And digitized photos is really the way that they get shared and posted on Ancestry and My Heritage and FindMyPast and FamilySearch.org, all these different places. It’s really kind of the key to the vault. And I’m finding new pictures of ancestors all the time, because people digitize. It’s really important.

Mitch: It is. It’s funny you mentioned those companies, because each one of them I’m smiling, because ScanMyPhotos loves them. They’re the reason we’re in business.

Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs] I would think so, right!

Mitch: Yeah. Huge fans of all of them for what they do. It’s so important. And you think back just a couple of years ago, they weren’t around. So as this technology advances, there’s so many new ways to enjoy your past and ancestry history.

Fisher: Well, and what’s fun too is you can do the digitizing and then people can get some kind of Adobe Elements or something and just really improve them, because those old photos can clean up pretty nicely, fairly easily. And it’s just not a difficult skill to develop.

Mitch: They do. And remember, there are lots of different services, too. There’s the old Polaroids. And the one that sadly no one can digitize is the old APS film. That's the film in the cartridges. So we do that for slides and negatives. The slides side where people have the 35mm slides and the carousels, they've so many and there's really no way to view it, see it, so they come back to life and they're just extraordinary memories.

Fisher: Yeah, just an improved way of using them, absolutely. Well, thanks so much Mitch for your time. And it’s really interesting to hear what’s happening right now when you consider the bomb cyclone and all these other natural disasters and how many photos are being lost as a result. And we’re glad your company’s there and doing the thing they do.

Mitch: My pleasure. And thank you for everything you do with Extreme Genes. You help so many.

Fisher: Thank you so much. Hey, we’re out of time. What a show! And if you missed any of it, make sure you catch the podcast, we’re on iTunes, iHeart Radio, ExtremeGenes.com. And of course, if you’d like to follow us throughout the week, it’s easy to do. We’re on Facebook, we’re on Twitter and of course ExtremeGenes.com. And you can subscribe to our “Weekly Genie Newsletter” as well. Thank for joining us. Talk to you next week. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we’re a nice, normal family!

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