Episode 302 - Fisher with Dr. Henry Louis Gates on Finding Your Roots & Kids and Genealogy/ Team Blue from Relative RaceOct 20, 2019
Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. Fisher notes another family history “score” on eBay, and David begins Family Histoire News with the story of autumn… why American’s call it “fall.” Then, it’s the remarkable tale of a hitchhiker who was carrying an ancient book that no one knew existed. Hear how it wound up back where it belonged and why it is so significant. Then, DNA has solved a news making story that happened during World War II. DNA has also raised some eyebrows in the case of a boy who disappeared in a Louisiana bayou in 1912.
Next, Fisher visits with Dr. Henry Louis Gates, host of the hit PBS series, Finding Your Roots. Dr. Gates explains the history of the show and how it has evolved. Then in a second segment, Dr. Gates talks about a program he developed to get Jr. High kids into genealogy.
Then, Anitra and Paul from BYUtv’s Relative Race, join the show. “Team Blue” talks about the experience as well as the emotional moments they’ve already felt through Episode 3.
At the back end of the show, David returns for another Ask Us Anything segment.
That’s all this week on Extreme Genes- America’s Family History Show.
Transcript of Episode 302
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Segment 1 Episode 302
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 on Sunday nights, 8 o’clock Eastern, 5 o’clock Pacific. And what a show we have for you today! We’ve got Dr. Henry Louis Gates, host of PBS’ hit series “Finding Your Roots.” And we’re going to do two segments with Dr. Gates, not only talking about the show, but also about a program he got going to introduce young people to genealogy, and the science of it, charting your ancestors and the research, and I’m really looking forward to that conversation. Later on, in the show, we’re going to talk to Team Blue from Relative Race, as they’ve just completed Episode 3. So, we’ll find out what some of their feelings are through the series thus far. Hey, don’t forget to sign up for our “Weekly Genie Newsletter,” it’s absolutely free. You can sign up at ExtremeGenes.com or on our Facebook page, and join our Patrons Club if you’d like to support the show. We give you bonus podcast. We give you other great benefits. Check it out through ExtremeGenes.com. And right now it is time to head out to Boston for David Allen Lambert, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. Hello David.
David:Hey, how are you kiddo?
Fisher:I am good. I had another score on eBay this past week.
David:Let me guess, a Honus Wagner baseball card.
Fisher:No, no, no this is a family thing.
Fisher:I actually found a postcard from 1908, from Tottenville, Staten Island in New York and it had a photo of the restaurant/hotel of my great-grand uncle Nelson Waldrian, which is a really rare version of the name Waldron, and you can actually see the name on the sign outside of the house. It’s really incredible. Got it for like $16, but it’s in perfect condition. It was really fun to get, even my wife was impressed with this one.
David: Well, that’s really good, and it sounds like you didn’t break the bank. The postcard’s pretty reasonable occasionally. [Laughs]
Fisher:Yeah, pretty much so. Well, let’s get on with our Family Histoire News today. Where do you want to start?
David:I’m going to start with the weather actually. You know, back in the 1500s, English speakers began referring to the seasons as sort of a description like the “fall of the leaf” or the “spring of the leaf.”
David:Well, they kind of shortened it to fall and spring and that’s where we get that from.
Fisher:Yeah, and you know the English only use autumn now and apparently, we Americans are the only ones who use autumn or fall interchangeably. I didn’t know that.
David:And of course, like many of our words from England, you get a French origin that believe that autumn comes from autompne, I think.
Fisher:Oh, you speak such beautiful French there David. Very nice. By the way, you can read this story at ExtremeGenes.com. We’re linked to it right there.
David:That’s always a fun thing to do. That gives me the reading material on my commute. Well, this person was commuting with a 16th century book in their backpack. That’s what an American hitchhiker had when a couple from England picked him up and they noticed this old book in his bag and asked how much he wanted for it. Well, they returned it to the church in Lyndhurst, England and it dates back to 1532 with baptisms ad marriages and the church is puzzled where it came from because it is not in recent history that it’s been lost.
Fisher:They didn’t even know it existed then.
David:Um hmm. They probably thought they just had lost records. So, you just never know picking up a hitchhiker might give you a genealogical treasure.
Fisher:[Laughs] Now this started in the 1500s, and then how far forward did it come?
David:Right into the 1700s.
David:So, 1532 right until the time of the American Revolutionary War.
Fisher:That is going to be very important for somebody coming up in the not too distant future once this gets digitized.
David:Next on Family Histoire News is a story of a baby that was abandoned in an Atlanta hotel right around the time of World War II. And the headlines of the newspaper basically said he was mothered by local nurses. So, he really didn’t know his origins until recently. In fact, it was DNA that revealed to Richard Cole his true parentage which is something that keeps on coming up. It’s an amazing technology that we have such as showing us our ancestors, but in some cases giving parentage back to people who never knew them.
Fisher:Isn’t that amazing? That’s called a foundling of course when somebody’s abandoned where you have no clue of anything. And identity of parents and birth families of foundlings are being found all the time now through DNA.
David:So, our next story, which you can also find on ExtremeGenes.com, deals with another disappearance. Well, this time it was back in 1912. The Dunbar family out in Louisiana went on a family camping vacation. They kind of escaped the heat, went down to the bayou. The problem with that is there are alligators. And that’s the fate they thought their young son met. And back in 1912 there was a search. There was a reward. A man came forward and was with a child that kind of met the description, but when that child’s mother came forward, a Mrs. Anderson, claiming that was her child, she was ridiculed and basically said she was a liar and the child was given to the Dunbars. But was it really the Dunbars’ child?
Fisher:Yeah, and this is where DNA of course has come in because the child’s son is still with us, Bobby junior. And it turns out he doesn’t match his own family. So, what’s interesting about this David is that in the story they talk about, “Aha, he doesn’t match the family, so he must be the other person.” But they make no mention in the story about DNA testing him against the descendants of this woman who claimed he was her child.
David:And that would be the logical thing to do.
Fisher:Yes exactly, but it could also be that the writer of the story wasn’t aware of that detail or he just made the assumption or maybe that’s just what they did. They said well he doesn’t match here. He must be this other guy who went by the name of Bruce Anderson. So, it seems likely that Bobby Dunbar senior actually did meet a fate that night in the bayou with an alligator.
David: That’s a shame. Again, a lot of work needs to be done on this before drawing a conclusion.
David:Well, that’s it for Family Histoire News. If you want to visit AmericanAncestors.organd you are curious about what goes on at NEHGS in Boston, we would be honored to have you join as a guest member. But if you decide you like it, you can use a coupon code “Extreme” and save $20 on your membership with AmericanAncestors.org.
Fisher:All right, thank you David. And of course, you’re going to be back later on at the back end of the show as we do another “Ask Us Anything” segment and we will talk to you then.
Fisher:All right, and coming up next, he is the host of the popular PBS genealogy show, “Finding Your Roots.” Dr. Henry Louis Gates is coming up for two segments, starting in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 2 Episode 302
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Dr. Henry Louis Gates
Fisher: And welcome back to Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth. And I first met my next guest just a year and a half ago at RootsTech when he was one of the keynote speakers there, and I was one of the speakers in that same event, Dr. Henry Louis Gates. And he is an Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Director of The Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University, an Emmy Award winning filmmaker, literally scholar, journalist, cultural critic, institution builder... 55 honorary degrees, Dr. Gates?!
Dr. Gates: [Laughs] It must be a typo. What can I say?
Fisher: Do you sleep? Do you ever sleep?
Dr. Gates: [Laughs] Like a baby.
Dr. Gates: I’m a morning person, so I go to bed early. It must be genetic, right?
Fisher: Wow! You know what? You’re right. I did morning radio for 30 years and then finally said I can’t do this anymore because I am genetically a night person. It was very tough on me.
Dr. Gates: Yeah.And my wife is a Cuban citizen. She has a green card. She’s a Cuban historian, and she’s just the opposite. She’s nocturnal, and so she kind of puts me to bed and works until about 2 or 3 am in the archives.
Fisher: I read that somebody called you “the tour guide to the family histories of the stars.” And I really loved that description because you are exactly that. And we’ve got season 6 happening right now on PBS. Two new episodes are happening this month, eight new episodes in January, and then six new episodes in October of next year. Let’s talk about this season.
Dr. Gates: Okay. That’s great. First of all, I love that. It’s such a compliment. I hadn’t heard that before, being called the “tour guide.” [Laughs]
Fisher: [Laughs] It’s perfect.
Dr. Gates: It’s perfect. It’s a great honor. I love, as you know, and you could see through my RootsTech presentation, I love doing genealogy and I love the fact that genetics, tracing ancestry through genetics, has grown precisely with the history of Finding Your Roots. I remember when I started in 2005 it was called African American Lives because we just did African Americans. We did Oprah, and Quincy Jones, and Chris Tucker, and then we did a sequel because it was so popular and it was African American Lives 2 with Morgan Freeman, Maya Angelou and Tina Turner. And when I got the idea, I thought the emotional high point of the series would be revealing to African American guests what ethnic group they were from in Africa. I had a very simplistic notion about how ancestral DNA works, but I did mitochondrial DNA, and Y-DNA. So, that was the original pitch. When I was trying to raise the money for the series it was based on, how would you like your company associated with the whole world learning what “tribe” or “ethnic group” Oprah Winfrey is descended from?
Dr. Gates: But two things happened. One, when we were filming Oprah and we were doing her family tree, and by the way, I decided I’d do her family tree back to slavery. And then when the paper trail disappeared, we were taken back to Africa. And in fact, I actually traced Chris Tucker’s Y-DNA to an ethnic group in Angola. He and I flew to Rwanda, the capital, and then had another long domestic flight and went back to the village where this ethnic group was based. It was very moving. But my first guest was Oprah and we were filming it. She broke down and cried when she saw the names of her enslaved ancestors.
Dr. Gates: The actual people on the family tree. And I realized that people would have an intellectual reaction knowing where they were from in Africa. Remember, autosomal DNA wasn’t “invented” at that time. [Laughs]
Fisher: It wasn’t really. [Laughs]
Dr. Gates: There was no commercial company in 2005 giving you a $99 test sharing your autosomal DNA, and your DNA cousins as it works. Well, in 2009 I got a letter from a lady of Jewish descent. She said, “You know, you have to expand this. What are you, a racist? You’re only doing black people. How about me, I’m brought up with Jewish parentage.” So, I cracked up. At first, I thought, well, it’s never going to work. I teach African and African American studies. I’m a black man. This is what I do. And then I thought, why not? And so I talked to our sponsors, Coca-Cola, I talked to PBS, and they all said, “Let’s go for it.” So, in 2009 we decided to do other ethnic groups. I said well, I’ll do it like Noah. You know, two Catholics, two Jews, two Asians, [Laughs] two Jamaicans...
Fisher: [Laughs] Right.
Dr. Gates: And that’s what we did. But when we were at the Broad Institute, and I never heard the word autosomal, we were using them to check all our DNA results but also to teach me. And so I made it a crash course in genetics. These guys were teaching me, giving me things to read. They were really wonderful. It just occurred to me, out of the blue, to ask them, “Is there any way that we could tell if any of the people employed in this building at the Broad Institute is related to each other, even if they don’t know it?
Dr. Gates: And their eyes lit up and they said, “Yes, it’s called autosomal DNA” And I said, “Well, tell me how it works.” And they said, “Well, if you share long identical segments of DNA with another human being, it’s not random. It will be because you share a recent common ancestor. So, if you had an ideal family tree, you and that other person would share a common ancestor.” And I said, “Okay.” So, we shared the DNA with Stephen Colbert and Mike Nicholls and Eva Longoria, Yo-Yo Ma, Michael Gladwell, Elizabeth Alexander, and all the other people who were in the series. And we shot this segment when we put their pictures up on a white board at the Broad and then David Altshuler and Mark rearranged them as DNA cousins. And the effect was electric. Mind blowing! The people were so excited that this almost secret ancestor relationship was hidden in plain sight as it were.
Fisher: Oh wow.
Dr. Gates: In your Genome.
Dr. Gates: And autosomal DNA revolutionized our TV series. And as you know, it’s pivotal to adoptees finding their birth parents.
Fisher: And foundlings.
Dr. Gates: And foundlings, and many, many other implications, including recent development in cold case resolutions. So, it is so exciting. And whenever I’m interviewed, people always ask, “Okay, who are the DNA cousins?” And they find that magic. For example, Anjelica Huston will learn that she is 2.7% Jewish. So, the flip side of the coin is your admixture, right? So, that has enormous political implications. The fact that say for African Americans, the average African American is 24% European.
Fisher: Um hmm.
Dr. Gates: That’s amazing!
Dr. Gates: That’s 25% of your recent ancestry. And for me, I’m 50/50.
Dr. Gates: It was a total shock. The chairman of The Department of African &African American studies at Harvard University is half a white man. [Laughs]
Fisher: [Laughs] Well, and you know, these discoveries, I mean, as people become more and more aware of that admixture, I mean it’s got to change the discussion, don’t you think?
Dr. Gates: Absolutely. I was about to tell you about Anjelica Huston. She’s 2.7% Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry. And she is DNA cousins with Bernie Sanders and Larry Dickman. [Laughs]
Fisher: Oh wow! [Laughs]
Dr. Gates: And that’s marvelous. But the subliminal political messages of Finding Your Roots, I think these are two of the three reasons that it’s so popular. One, that we’re all immigrants. Even my African American enslaved ancestors came here in chains, but they came here from Africa. So, they were unwilling immigrants but even they are immigrants.
Dr. Gates: All immigrants, even Native Americans migrated down through the Bering Straits 16,000 or so years ago. So, we’re a nation of immigrants. And secondly, we’re 99.9% identical genetically, so that we’re brothers and sisters. The third reason I think our series is so popular, is because we live in such an unsettled and unsettling time. And people are looking for stability. Because of the wonders of DNA analysis and the revolution in genealogy created by digitization, I think people are turning for stability into themselves. Meaning, who did I come from? Who am I? Who is back there? And as you well know, you are a walking family tree because you literally carry DNA from ancestors going back almost 200 years.
Fisher: We actually are the record now, you know? It used to be you look up in books, you look for documents, but now we are the record, which is just amazing to me.
Dr. Gates: It is amazing. It’s a kind of ancestral immortality that is passed along through your descendants. And you know, the metaphor I use is that our ancestors are in a kind of suspended animation.
Dr. Gates: And they have a story to tell. And they can only tell the story if you find them. And when you find them, you release them from the state of suspended animation.
Fisher: I love that! [Laughs]
Dr. Gates: But it’s true.
Fisher: No, you’re absolutely right. And season 6 of Finding Your Roots is now on PBS and what is it, a total 16 episodes? That’s incredible!
Dr. Gates: Yeah, up from 10. We’re the second most popular series on PBS after Antique Roadshow. [Laughs]
Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs] And you got Gayle King on this year, Eric Stonestreet, Jeff Goldblum, Sigourney Weaver, Melissa McCarthy, Queen Latifah, love her, and what a great list.
Dr. Gates: And Nancy Pelosi.
Fisher: [Laughs] Madam Speaker.
Dr. Gates: Yeah. And I called her that throughout the whole interview. Last week literally, there’s a shuttle every hour from Boston to Washington. So, I was going down to do a fire-side chat with Robert Smith. Robert Smith is the great philanthropist who forgave the loans of the graduating seniors at Morehouse College earlier in the summer.
Dr. Gates: And I was standing in line about to board the flight, and I looked up and there was Mitt Romney. And I said, “Senator, how are you doing?” He said, “Fine.” And we were talking about genealogy in Utah and how much I love going through the Family History Library. And then I said, “Look, we did Senator John McCain. We did Marco Rubio. We did Congressman John Lewis, Senator Cory Booker, Tulsi Gabbard.” I said, “How about you?” And he said, “Deal.” [Laughs]
Fisher: Wow! Well, that will be fun for a lot of people to see that. Good get!
Dr. Gates: Yeah. People ask me, “How do you get guests?” Well, that’s one way, when I’m running into them, I just ask them.
Fisher: [Laughs] All right, we need to take a break because I want to come back Dr. Gates and talk about your program called “The Seedlings” dealing with training young people into genealogy, and we’ll get to that coming up in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 3 Episode 302
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Dr. Henry Louis Gates
Fisher: All right, we are back on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, with my special guest Dr. Henry Louis Gates. The tour guide to family histories of the stars, with season 6 right now, “Finding Your Roots” on PBS. And Dr. Gates, I had to talk to you about this show called, “The Seedlings” because I know there are so many people who have not heard about it, and frankly, more important to me than the show itself is the concept of what you have started in training young people in genealogy, in genetics. I mean, I’m looking at all the basics of this course you’ve setup at Penn State.
Dr. Gates: Yeah. I’ll tell you where it started. I read a survey in the Washington Post, they had interviewed black inner city middle school children and it said, list things “white” and on that list was speaking standard English, getting straight A’s in school, and visiting the Smithsonian. Now, if anyone had said anything that ridiculous when I was growing up, your mother would have smacked you.
Dr. Gates: And they would have called a doctor because there’s something wrong with you, because in the traditional black values one of the most important one was an education. That’s the way to fight back against racism, white supremacy, hatred, was through being educated. So, that was a black value and somehow it was lost for some members of our community. So, I was thinking, how can we reignite interests of inner city brown and black kids? Is how I started the idea and I thought, well, we’ll go to the social studies teacher, eighth grade social studies teacher, and the lesson today... it would be a six week unit... will be tracing your family tree. That will show them how to go home and interview their mother, their father, their grandparents, come back with that research and then we’ll take them online and take them back to the 1940 census which of course is the most recent census online.
Dr. Gates: Then, we’ll let them trace their ancestry back and in the case of black kids to 1870, and you understand that was the first census.
Dr. Gates: Following the Civil War when all black people were listed in the census because in 1860 ninety percent of the black community was enslaved. And if you were a slave they did not list you by name in the census, but ten percent of our ancestors were free and they would be listed in the census. So, anyway, we take them back to the 1870 census and then if your ancestor’s name was.... well, in the case of Oprah, we found her great, great grandfather was called Constantine Winfrey and he was living next door in a town in Mississippi, to a white man named Absalom Winfrey. And let’s say he was 33 years old. So, we go back to the 1860 census and find Absalom Winfrey a white man, and we look at the slave schedule and he owned a black man who was 23 in 1860. Well, you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out that most probably that was Constantine Winfrey. [Laughs]
Fisher: [Laughs] Of course.
Dr. Gates: So, they build their family tree in the social studies class. They had to learn about history. They learn about archival research, technology, digitization, using computers, all in one highly motivated lesson plan depended upon them finding out more about themselves, because, what’s your favorite subject? Everyone’s favorite subject is yourself.
Fisher: Is me! That’s right. [Laughs]
Dr. Gates: It’s a full-proof method!
Dr. Gates: Nobody is going to say, no I don’t want to know more about myself.
Fisher: Did you have concerns from the parents that something secret might be revealed through all this? Some of them opting out.
Dr. Gates: Well, you have to get permission from the parents because Part 2 of the lesson plan is that then we go down the hall from the social studies teacher to the science teacher.
Dr. Gates: Then we have everyone test their DNA and they spit in the test tube and while they wait on the results we teach them about Watson and Crick and the double helix, Y-DNA, and mitochondrial DNA, how it all works. Then, when they get the results back they get their own website as you know, from one of the major DNA companies, then they can find out their admixture, their percentages of sub-Saharan, European, Asian, America, and fifty other sub categories.
Dr. Gates: And they can be connected to their DNA cousins. People with whom they share long identical segments of DNA, then some of which will probably at this point be their mother and their father, and their brothers and sisters, and cousins.
Dr. Gates: But, also people that they don’t know. But, you’re absolutely right, you have to get the permission of the parents because I did this for Chris Rock’s wife. She had an after school program and she asked me to test everyone’s DNA, sent them to CeCe [Moore]. CeCe interpreted the results then I gave them all certificates about their African origin. But, there was one woman among the parents who refused.
Dr. Gates: We were very careful not to make that child feel bad or different and there was no question that came up about paternity or anything like this.
Dr. Gates: And we didn’t even ask her why. It was just her right to do it. Now, of course I realize that maybe it was for religious reasons, but maybe it was because of paternity.
Dr. Gates: And I’ve had incredibly famous people who have told me, they want to be in the series, but their parents said, you cannot be in this series. [Laughs]
Fisher: Hmm, and you kind of get the hint of why that might be. [Laughs]
Dr. Gates: Yeah! And often they don’t know. They go, maybe we’ll talk about parents and they think there’s something embarrassing. Then I go, yeah, there’s something really embarrassing, probably. [Laughs]
Fisher: Yes. Well, you know, that’s the thing there are no more secrets really anymore.
Dr. Gates: No, there’s no more secrets.
Fisher: And as CeCe Moore is proving over and over again with her cold case work. I mean, you don’t even need to know the identity of the person in the kit. You can figure out who they are, and so, kids like this who come along they’re going to find out eventually, in all likelihood.
Dr. Henry: They will find out eventually. So, you know, I was going around the country giving lectures about the origins of Finding Your Roots, and at the end I would talk about my genealogy and genetics curriculum that I was hoping to get money from. And the former president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation happened to be in an audience and she said, “That idea is brilliant. Write me a proposal.” And I think she gave us seven hundred, thousand dollars.
Dr. Henry:Then, I made a phone call to the president of the Rockefeller Foundation and we raised about a million dollars. By this time, I had given a lecture in front of a brilliant, genetic anthropologist, an expert on the origins of skin color, among other things. Her name is Nina Jablonski. She’s a professor of anthropology at Penn State University and she’s a genius. She said, let’s partner. So, you know, you needed a whole team to run summer camps as an experiment and she agreed to do that. She and her colleagues brought a brilliant Ethiopian professor from Brown University to come down and work for the summer. Then, they recruited students from different parts of the country. I came down to lecture and met them and we did it for two summers, but again, Nina did all of the implementation, and the PBS station at Penn State filmed this. It’s a web series. You can go online, it’s called “Finding Your Roots: The Seedlings.” And, just on Saturday, September 28th we won our third Mid Atlantic Emmy for episodes of Finding Your Roots: The Seedlings.
Fisher: And my hope is that this program, this concept becomes common place in junior high schools and high schools throughout the country.
Dr. Henry: Everywhere. I want it to be part of the curriculum everywhere.
Dr. Henry: Because it will revolutionize a student’s attitude towards science and towards history.
Fisher: And towards race, culture, and each other, and themselves.
Dr. Henry:Everything, and the unity of the human community.
Fisher: Yes. I love it.
Dr. Henry: It’s my goal. And the lesson plans are there all online right now, for free, Finding Your Roots: The Seedlings. You can go to the Finding Your Roots website and there’s a link or you can find it independently, but it’s all there for free.
Fisher: I love it. He’s Dr. Henry Louis Gates. He is “the tour guide to family histories of the stars,” of course with Finding Your Roots now in season 6. Dr. Gates, an honor to have you on and we look forward to having you back on Extreme Genes in the not too distant future!
Dr. Gates: Listen, you can call, wake me up and I’d do an interview any time.[Laughs]
Fisher: [Laughs] I appreciate Dr. Take care.
Dr. Gates: Thank you brother. Take care.
Fisher: And coming up next, we’re going to catch up with Team Blue, Anitra and Paul from BYUtv’sRelative Race, on Extreme Genes.
Segment 4 Episode 302
Host: Scott Fisher with guests Anitra and Paul Louis (Team Blue: Relative Race)
Fisher: And welcome back, it is America's Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. Well, as we all know by now, BYUtv's Relative Race is back, Sunday nights at 8 Eastern, 5 o'clock Pacific. And I'm very excited to talk to Team Blue, Anitra and Paul. They're on the line right now. Where are you guys located, Anitra?
Anitra: We're in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Fisher: All right. And I was just seeing in the last episode, you were sent to Salem, Virginia, and I'm just thinking, what an adventure that you guys were sent on. And for people not familiar with the show, basically people apply to be on it, they do DNA tests, a research team goes out and finds relatives and they basically take cars to different places all over the country. They have to hit a certain time, they're competing for $50,000, but the most important thing at the end of the day is, you're getting answers to questions you've wondered about all your life. And in this particular season, somebody on every team on the show, on all four teams is looking for birth parents. And Anitra, you are no exception to that. And this was quite a visit you had with your cousin, Lashonda. How did you feel as she revealed to you that your grandmother wanted to keep you before you were ultimately given up for adoption?
Anitra: Well, it was actually something that was nice to know, because for so long, I wondered why I was given up and my sister was kept in the family. And I didn't know anything about whether people tried to look for me or if my family knew anything about me. So, it was nice to hear from her that her grandmother and my great aunt actually did try to find me and did want to raise me in the house with my cousin, Lashonda.
Fisher: And so, did that bring you some peace?
Anitra: It really did. In my early 20s, I carried around a lot of, well, "Am I good enough? Can I do this?", because I had the weight of now knowing whether I was really wanted by my birth family. So to find out that I was, it brings a lot of peace and a lot of closure to that part.
Fisher: And you were a community college teacher and you found out your grandmother was a teacher as well.
Anitra: Yes. And that was the coolest, well, one of the coolest discoveries out there.
Anitra: In that episode, because teaching apparently runs in my blood. [Laughs]
Fisher:Wow! And Paul, you know, as the partner in this whole thing and of course you're having your experiences as well, how did you feel about this, watching your beautiful wife go through this experience of learning about this incredible past.
Paul: Oh, it was kind of one of those things where like, I know her and I know sort of the struggle that she's had. And getting that information, I know what that's going to do for her and I was just elated to see that she was indeed wanted and they did make an effort to try to keep her into the family. That was huge.
Fisher: So, since the show, I've got to ask you, what's the relationship been like now that you're back in touch with your birth family?
Anitra: This has been really a time of building with everyone, of getting to know everyone, of allowing everyone to get know me and my family, so it’s been wonderful really.
Fisher: So, are you getting recognized in the malls now when you go around town, Anitra and Paul?
Paul: She's got everybody already knows her anyway from teaching down at the community college. Everywhere we go, she always has this little joke, she's like, "Oh, those are my people. I'm a celebrity."
Paul: And it’s really funny.
Fisher: Well, I bet it’s a lot of fun. And you know, for those kids though, they get to know you as a person and not just as a professor, Anitra. And I wanted to give you a hug myself just like your cousin was doing for you, going, "Oh, hug her! Oh my gosh, that's incredible!"
Anitra: [Laughs] Oh, and actually, Scott, if we can, we'd actually like everyone to tune into our Relative Race podcast, it’s called, "After the Race podcast" and its available on many, many platforms, we're on Instagram and on Facebook, so follow us, tune into the episodes with the continuation with the conversation of engagement with our fans.
Fisher: Sounds like a great one! I'm looking forward to listening to it. Thanks so much, Anitra and Paul.
Paul: No problem. Thanks.
Anitra: Thank you.
Fisher: And coming up next, David is back for Ask Us Anything.
Segment 5 Episode 302
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Fisher: All right, back at it. And it is time for Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show. Fisher here back with David Allen Lambert, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. And this is a section each week where we answer your questions. And we've got one here, David from Mary C. in Phoenix. And she said, "Hi. I happened to hear your radio show here in Phoenixone Saturday, because I was beginning to do some research and fill out my familytree. I started listening to the podcast.Now I am hooked and I listen every week. So, here's my question, where can I find sites or opportunities to index historical records on a volunteer basis? I think it’s fulfilling to help transcribe personal information that may help someone in their research while learning about and relating to history myself. Thanks, Mary C." That's awesome!
David: Yeah, that's a pretty wonderful request to put out there, but I could say, FamilySearch.
Fisher: Yes, FamilySearch.org is run and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And people are constantly indexing records from all over the place. But you don't have to be a member of the church in order to participate. In fact, if you go to FamilySearch.org/Indexing, you'll find over a hundred projects right now from all over the world that you can help index.
David: And you know, it’s not just FamilySearch. Here at American Ancestors, we have the Roman Catholic Archdiocese Project for the greater Boston area, and volunteers have helped us do that and other societies out there also are volunteering from the local level to the large .coms.
Fisher: Yeah, that’s right. There are actually organizations everywhere. And I'm sure, Mary, if you were to do just a Google search for "Indexing" you will find all kinds of places that would be more than happy to have you volunteer your time. And isn't it great, David, that now we can do this from pretty much anywhere on our phones, sitting in a parking lot while somebody's in the grocery store, you know. [Laughs] I mean, there's just so many things. And I'll tell you, I think we've all been the beneficiaries of people's indexing and we don't even know it. We just take it for granted now, because these records show up and we go, "Oh, look at this! I found this person." Well, you would not have found that person if some other person hadn't kindly donated their time to indexing certain records sets and it’s still going on everyday and I don't know that it’s ever going to stop.
David: It’s amazing, isn't it,and like you say, technology has made it so. I remember years when you did indexing, they sent you a pile of papers.
David: And you indexed it on a CD and sent it back. But now, just do it from home in your pajamas.
Fisher: You know, I actually did it before DVDs at that time. We would get a pile of papers and little cards. And one person would do it on cards and send it in to somebody who would oversee the project and then another person would do the same thing and then the overseer would go through and match up the cards to make sure that they were identical, because if somebody read one as somewhat different from the other person, then the overseer of the project would go back to the original record and try to determine who got it right if either of them did, because sometime's the handwriting was really kind of complicated. And I had that role for many years working on projects.
David: And that's why we both wear glasses today.
Fisher:Yeah! [Laughs] You are absolutely right. So that's a great question. And thanks so much, Mary, for offering your volunteer time for this, because we do all benefit from and it’s a great was to give back to all the people who have given us all that we have now so that we can so much more easily find our ancestors. Hey, if you have a question for Ask Us Anything, it’s really easy to ask that question, just email us at [email protected]. David, have a great week. Talk to you again soon.
David: Talk to you soon, my friend.
Fisher: Well, that is a wrap on this week's show and I hope you enjoy it. Dr. Henry Louis Gatesfor two segments, we talked to Team Blue from Relative Race on BYUtv and we had a lot of good stuff here. If you missed any of it or you want to catch it again, you can always listen to the podcast, it’s available through iTunes, iHeart Radio, ExtremeGenes.comand wherever great podcasts are heard. And if you want to keep in touch with us throughout the week, you can join our Facebookgroup, signup for our Weekly Genie Newsletter, become a patron of the show with our Patron Club through Patreon.com. Talk to you again next week. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!