Episode 314 - The DNA Doe Project On IDing A Murder Victim From 1916 / England’s Invaluable Quarter Sessions RecordsJan 26, 2020
Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. The guys begin with a birthday shout out to the oldest person in the world. And you won’t believe how old she is! Then, the people who run Stonehenge are looking for a certain type of photo that you may have taken there. David had an experience there that he’ll tell you about. Next it is good news out of Charleston where the African American Museum is finally underway. DNA has done it again… brought closure to a family who lost a son in Korea in 1951. But it took a genealogist to put the pieces together. Hear the story. David’s Blogger Spotlight this week shines on Christine Lee Howard at ChristineLeeHoward.com. David reports she does an outstanding blog.
Fisher’s first guest this week is Anthony Redgrave of the DNA Doe Project. As a team leader, he and his group recently were able to identify a murder victim. What shocked them was that the murder took place in 1916! Hear how they did it, and the story of the man whose remains were found in Idaho years ago.
Then, Christy Fillerup of Legacy Tree Genealogists fills us in on England’s invaluable Quarter Sessions Records. These go back some 750 years! Christy will explain what you may find on your ancestors in them and she will also tell you about the breakthrough she achieved with one from the 19th century.
Dr. Henry Louis Gates returns to the show this week talking about this week’s episode of Finding Your Roots on PBS! Queen Latifah is just one of the star’s who learns about her past. And, as Dr. Gates explains, what a past!
Melanie McComb from NEHGS then helps Fisher wrap up the show with another question for Ask Us Anything!
That’s all this week on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show!
Transcript of Episode 314
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Segment 1 Episode 314
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 fall out. And if you’re new to the show, welcome! We’re so glad to have you along. We bring in lots of expert guests. We tell stories about amazing discoveries people make in their genealogical research. We talk about techniques for finding folks, where you get the records. It’s just a great thing to do, and a lot of fun and it really impacts lives. You can count on that. Hey, and just a reminder if you haven’t signed up for our “Weekly Genie Newsletter” yet. Hey, it’s a new year. Why not get on it? It’s absolutely free. I give you a blog each week, links to past and present shows, and links to stories that you’ll find fascinating as a genealogist. Sign up at ExtremeGenes.com or through our Facebook page. And we’ve got some great guests today. We’re going to talk to Anthony Redgrave. He’s a team leader with the DNA Doe Project. And recently, his team announced the discovery of the identity of a man whose torso was found in a cave in Idaho in the late ‘70s. And other parts of him were found later than that and was so well preserved, it was thought that this person had been perhaps murdered in the 1970s. Well, it turns out that person was murdered, but it was in 1916. And he and his team had figured out the identity of this person. We’re going to talk to him about all the details of it and how they did it because it’s a pretty amazing story. And then later in the show, we’re going to be talking to Christy Fillerup with Legacy Tree Genealogists, one of our great sponsors. She’s going to talk about a record set called “Quarter Session Records.” It’s very prominent in England and you’re going to want to know how they can help you out with your British research. And later in the show, Dr. Henry Louis Gates is back talking about the most recent episode of Finding Your Roots on PBS. It’s Season 6 going on right now. And of course, we’ve got Ask Us Anything at the back end with our good friend Melanie McComb from the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. And from that same organization, it is our good friend David Allen Lambert, the Chief Genealogist on the line with us right now with your Family Histoire News for this week. How are you David?
David: Hey, I’m doing really well. And the first week of the New Year passed and I’m still doing genealogy.
Fisher: Yes, you are.
David: I guess you’re having a boring guest. [Laughs]
Fisher: Another decade. That’s it. So, where do you want to start this week?
David: Well, I think a belated birthday wish to a young lady out in Japan, who is the world’s oldest person. Kane Tanaka is 117. Think, Fish, that this lady was born before the Wright brothers took flight!
Fisher: Wow! And you think of how many people in the world can say that? Just one.
David: Yes, pretty much it. In fact, there are only 30 verified people living today that were born before 1910.
David: Makes you wonder who the oldest American is. Now, I guess I’ll have to do a little digging for next week. Well, not as young as Kane, another story actually goes to England, to a little place called Stonehenge. Now, maybe you visited there with your family and you have done a family photo. They’re looking for them. In fact, I was out there in 1986, and had a chance to actually see it first-hand. I handed the guard, because it was roped off back then, a picture of somebody who made a Stonehenge in Western Canada out of a crushed automobile.
David: Yeah, that was something. What it did Fish, was allow me to actually go under the rope. He took me up to a stone on one of the blue stones that had a face carved in it in the 1820s like some kind of graffiti.
Fisher: Oh wow!
David: Yeah. Of course, I’m excited. I’m looking around, where’s my sister and her friend on the other side of the Stonehenge, not in shouting distance. So, there was no photo evidence that I was direct under the golden rope to get to Stonehenge.
Fisher: That’s amazing. [Laughs] Well, it’s a Visitors Center that’s putting these pictures together. And I guess the earliest family pictures at Stonehenge dates back to the 1870s. It’s a pretty amazing collection, and they want to share them.
David: That’s great. I’ll have to dig up the one I took back in the ‘80s now. Well, there’s an interesting thing going on in Charleston, South Carolina. Of course, last year marked the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans. And now, there is a museum that is called the International African American Museum that is actually being built. And if you remember RootsTech back a couple of years ago, Family Search actually gave a large donation to the undertaking of this project.
Fisher: Yeah, that’s right and now it’s finally coming to pass and it’s going to be terrific. Really look forward to see the progress on that.
David: You know, as we’re in the 21st century, we still look back and remember those who did not make it from certain wars and the killed in action or the missing in action in Korea is still over 7,600 people. And the Defense Department has a POW/MIA Accounting Agency which works to try to find the remains of lost POWs. So, when remains are found, they try to match it up now with DNA which of course you couldn’t have done 40/50 years ago.
David: One of our genealogists we’ve had on the show, our friend Megan Smolenyak, is actually responsible for some genealogy work that led to the identification of Private First Class William J. Winchester, who was only 20 when he died as a captive during the Korean War back in February of 1951. Now, the story is that his remains were found, the DNA, but with the research connecting and finding a family member that could match up. And thank you Megan for all the hard work you and others do to bring closure for families that have waited for so long. My blogger spotlight this week shines upon Christine Lee Howard and her blog is the same, ChristineLeeHoward.com. And she has a blog on her own family genealogy where she kind of brings it down to a human-scale and has some really nice stories on there. And again, another one of these blogs if you’re itching to create one, following what she does and others might give you an idea of how you want to create your own blog. So, hats off to Christine, and that’s about all I have for this week from NEHGS. But again, if you want to become a member and you’re not, after 175 years, which is our anniversary year and of course, the 400th of the Mayflower, you can become a member of NEHGS and save $20 by using the coupon code “Extreme.”
Fisher: All right David, thank you so much and we will talk to you again next week. And coming up next we’re going to talk to a guy who’s a team leader with the DNA Doe Project. What do they do? They take on cases that law enforcement authorities can’t necessarily solve, and in this case Anthony Redgrave’s team solved a murder from 1916. You’re going to want to hear how he did it, what the story is behind it. It’s an amazing thing, coming up next in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 2 Episode 314
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Anthony Redgrave
Fisher: Hey, we are back at it on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. And one of the amazing stories to start out the New Year came about with the discovery of a corpse in a cave in Idaho. And my next guest was able to actually figure out who he was and when he got there, and it’s an amazing story. Anthony Redgrave is on the line with me right now from Redgraveresearch.com. Anthony, how are you? Welcome to Extreme Genes.
Fisher: This is quite a story.
Anthony: Oh yeah.
Fisher: I mean, we’re talking going back 104 years at this point, and using genetic genealogy you were able to put this whole thing together. First of all, give us a little background. How did you get involved? And then tell us a little about how the body was found.
Anthony: Sure. I’m a team leader and case manager for the DNA Doe Project, which is a non-profit organization that has been around since February of 2017. So, I’ve been working on cases through them for quite some time. My wife and I, who also is the co-team leader of the case and also works with me on DNA Doe projects, we made friends with a biological anthropologist who lectures at the University of New Hampshire. She had previously been employed by Idaho State University and that’s how she had learned about this case. The remains had been housed there since 1991, and the students had been using it to learn on. And law enforcement had kept the case open and they consulted with her about getting a new analysis done of the remains. They really were continuing to try to identify this man.
Anthony: And she found out about what we were doing and was very interested because nobody had ever tried that before with them, and she wanted to give him the best chance of being identified. They tried everything else. They tried the FBI, the Smithsonian Institute. Everybody had had a crack at it. So, she got in touch with the Clark County Sheriff’s office and got their permission to submit the case to the DNA Doe Project to be worked. And then the DNA Doe Project helped them through the lab process because with unidentified remains you can’t just ask them to spit in a tube and mail it to Ancestry.
Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs]
Anthony: There’s actually a very complicated lab process that goes into that.
Fisher: Right. Sure. Did they have any idea how old this thing was?
Anthony: Here’s the kicker. The anthropologist at the Smithsonian Institute Dr. Douglas Ubelaker, he was very hesitant to give any sort of post-mortem interval because he’d seen cases in which remains that were in those conditions before were 100 years old. A post-mortem interval is the time in between when remains are found and when the person actually died. So, how long had it been sitting there? This man in this case, he was dismembered, but his remains were in a condition called adipocere or grave wax and that means that he was basically mummified.
Fisher: Wow! Mummified in a cave in Idaho.
Anthony: Yeah, the conditions are perfect. I went there when we went for the press conference, and it stayed a cool 55 degrees and it’s really dry all year round.
Anthony: It was like 17 degrees outside of the cave, and it was really comfy in there.
Anthony: So, I understand how it happened.
Anthony: So, Douglas Ubelaker, he was asked to give this post-mortem interval and he was very uncomfortable doing it. And he very reluctantly said five months to five years. And based on the fact that it was giving off a smell there was still a lot of soft tissue. But he had seen cases where remains had looked like that and were Civil War soldiers.
Fisher: Oh wow! That’s unbelievable. You mentioned it was at the university in 1991, but at what point did they actually find these remains?
Anthony: The first time the remains were found was in 1979. A family that was doing some artefact hunting in one of the smaller lava tubes off the main one, they found the torso first buried in a shallow ditch. The soil there is really still deep, volcanic ash basically.
Anthony: And it’s entirely possible that he was buried deeper and just came up from erosion. But they found his torso in 1979 wrapped in a burlap sack and then again in 1991 another family doing the same thing found his limbs. They still haven’t found his head. There was a very extensive archaeological excavation done to try to locate any trace of the skull or anything. They brought cadaver dogs in and nothing.
Fisher: That’s crazy. So, you got started on this. You got his DNA, and then you went to work. How long did it take you? Now, you said you had a team. How many people are on your team?
Anthony: We’re a team of about fourteen people, and it took us about three and a half months.
Fisher: All volunteers?
Fisher: Wow! That is amazing. And so, you all worked on this thing together. As you got the kit up to compare to other people’s DNA test results, people like you and I, who sent in our spit, what did you find that helped you to identify this individual?
Anthony: What we found was that there were great many DNA matches who were fairly close cousins. The top matches were somewhere between the first and the third cousin range, so we thought oh, this is a goldmine, and we’ll have it solved by the end of the night. I think I stayed up for about two days straight wondering why I haven’t solved it yet. [Laughs]
Fisher: [Laughs] Well, of course, there was a generational difference at this point that you weren’t aware of, right?
Anthony: At this point I wasn’t aware of that and it was also unlike anything we’d ever seen before. We noticed that a lot of these genetic cousins were linking into the Loveless family. Now, what was starting me off here was that there was someone with a really substantial match on the X chromosome. So, I was thinking the Loveless family was on the maternal side. But, given that all these relations were three times removed, given the age, and I didn’t know that at the time, I had one of our other volunteer genealogists who’s far more experienced with Y-DNA come in and tell me no, his Y-haplogroup is pointing to Loveless, so that’s actually the paternal side.
Fisher: Oh wow!
Anthony: And that’s when we started figuring out that there were so many removals. It was very interesting to see how that played out. Usually, when we make an ID, we get people who are not that far removed. Because when you’re working on your own DNA, you usually find somebody who’s only one time removed, or two times removed, this was three.
Fisher: Sure. At the most. This was three.
Anthony: The closest we had was three times removed, yeah.
Anthony: And also, here’s another fun fact. He’s descended from pioneers and he comes from a family that is full of half relationships because his grandfather had four wives and somewhere around fourteen children and those children had at least ten children each. There were a lot of people to look through. We ended up with three or four different possible candidates for his identification. And it was just a matter of figuring out which one ended up in the cave. But it taught us that working with the DNA of descendants of pioneers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that there’s not only endogamy because of the small population, religious communities and isolated communities, but there’s also a lot of half relationships because of the polygamy.
Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs]
Anthony: So, on one hand we have something that’s making people look like they’re sharing higher, but on the other hand we have something that’s making people look like they’re sharing lower.
Fisher: Yes, complicated, isn’t it?
Anthony: So, it wasn’t as predictable as usual.
Fisher: Well, tell us about the guy. What was his name? What was he doing in the cave? When did he get there?
Anthony: His name was Joseph Henry Loveless. He was born in 1870 in Payson, Utah. He was born in the Church [Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints]. He was baptized. We have his baptismal record. Then things went kind of south. I don’t know exactly when this happened, but he has a very long criminal record of bootlegging and counterfeiting and robbery and escaping jail. He escapes jail by sawing through the bars using a saw he hid in his shoes more than once, like he was planning for it.
Fisher: [Laughs] Wow.
Anthony: He would also hop trains and somehow stop them to escape them.
Fisher: Oh wow, this is a crazy man.
Anthony: It is absolutely something like a movie cowboy, except he’s real.
Anthony: And finally, what happened, probably before he died, given the clues that we have, he murdered his wife with an axe.
Anthony: Now, here’s the interesting part, nobody previously had fully connected him to this murder because he was using an alias.
Fisher: Ah, okay.
Anthony: He had multiple aliases, at least four, and the murder was attributed to one of his aliases. The thing that made us know that these are the same person was some very, very extensive research, mostly through newspapers because he didn’t have a legal paper trail, to moving in a tent on the outskirts of town. So, we didn’t have any sort of alibi for where he was at the time of the crime. Under his alias was claiming that his wife’s former husband did it, he actually meant himself. The former husband of his wife was actually living in another state with another family.
Anthony: So, this is very historical CSI stuff.
Fisher: Sure. [Laughs]
Anthony: But the real kicker was that when he was arrested for this and escaped, a wanted poster was published under the name Walt Cairns, which was the alias he was using at the time and the alias he was arrested under. And it had a physical description of him that disclosed the clothing he was wearing. The clothing he was wearing when he escaped jail are the same clothes that the body in the cave was found wearing whose DNA is unmistakably tied to Joseph Henry Loveless.
Fisher: Oh wow.
Anthony: That’s why Walt Cairns and Joseph Henry Loveless are the same person.
Fisher: Same person. Wow! And who do you think did this? Who killed him? You don’t cut your own head off.
Anthony: We have no idea. No, you don’t cut your own head off. [Laughs]
Anthony: We don’t know yet. It’s still an open investigation. There’s no statute of limitations on murder. The sheriff’s office is actually still actively investigating it. There’s a possibility that it was a family member of the wife who was seeking revenge. It’s possible that it could be another criminal that he was involved in who wanted his money or some other reason. So, there’s a couple of possibilities there, but the investigation is actually still open and I for one will be excited to find out what exactly went down after that because we’re still learning a lot from this case.
Fisher: He’s Anthony Redgrave from RedgraveResearch.com and the DNA Doe Project. He and his team have identified a victim of a murder from 1916. And Anthony, this is really strong work. Congratulations.
Anthony: Thank you.
Fisher: You’ve made a lot of news over the last couple of weeks.
Anthony: I sure have.
Fisher: And it’s great to get the full story here.
Anthony: Um hmm. Glad to share it.
Fisher: Do you have a bunch more cases you’re working on now?
Anthony: Oh yeah, there’s several more coming down the road for me.
Fisher: All right Anthony. Well, great talking to you. Thanks so much for coming on the show and we look forward to hearing some more headlines out of your group.
Anthony: Oh, I hope so. [Laughs]
Fisher: [Laughs] Take care.
Anthony: Thanks, you too.
Fisher: All right, and just a reminder, Dr. Henry Louis Gates joins me in about fifteen minutes talking about the latest on Finding Your Roots on PBS. And coming up next, we’re going to talk to Christy Fillerup from our friends at Legacy Tree Genealogists about a unique set of British records that can help you find out about your ancestors in five minutes on Extreme Genes.
Segment 3 Episode 314
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Christy Fillerup
Fisher: And we are back at it on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. And yes, so many Americans have to get back across the pond to England, to the mother country. And to try to find their ancestors over there can be challenging, but there are a lot of records of all different types, not only from the government but from the churches as well. Let’s talk about some record sets over in England. I’ve got the research team manager from Legacy Tree Genealogists, Christy Fillerup on the line with us today. We’re going to talk about a thing called Quarter Session Records. How are you Christy? Happy New Year.
Christy: Thanks Fisher, you too! I’m doing good. Excited to be here, and working on Quarter Session Records.
Fisher: Yeah, let’s talk about that. I’ve used them before, briefly and not a lot of the times, but I think it’s important for people to understand what they are, and who generates them, and what time periods they’re in. So, let’s go through exactly what these things are and how they can be helpful to people researching their British ancestors.
Christy: Yeah, absolutely. So, Quarter Session Records are one of the earliest record types that you can access for kind of the common person in England, and they, especially in the early times cover everything from petty theft to tax evasion, vagrancy. They talk about fixing roads. They give Alehouse licenses and some of the most important things they cover are settlement orders, and bastardy examinations.
Fisher: Yeah, and this is kind of interesting too because back in the days when they were actually persecuting Catholics, they were often mentioned in these Quarter Session Records. I ran into some of that.
Christy: Absolutely. Any kind of, what they call non-conformist religions, with the exception of the Quakers, who had an understanding.
Fisher: There was a certain understanding with them. What are the earliest Quarter Records that you’ve run into?
Christy: The Quarter Session Records started in 1277.
Fisher: Oh, wow!
Christy: But, they’re not really useful until about 1532.
Fisher: Yeah, I was going to say early 1500s. I had never run into them as early as the 1200s but were they really consistently done? Quarter Session generally means every three months, right?
Christy: Right, exactly. They were required by 1363 and consistently done, but those records for the most part don’t survive. The earliest that survived are Norfolk in 1532, and really mid 1500s for most of the country.
Fisher: So, it really depends on the Shire, right?
Christy: Absolutely. And even the hundred within the county.
Fisher: Well, let’s explain to people what a hundred is. [Laughs]
Christy: Yeah, thank you. So, in the US we have state counties, jurisdictions like districts. Over there, they have hundreds, counties, during this time period, and then smaller things, parishes. So, several parishes would be grouped together as what they would call a hundred.
Christy: And then a county would be made up of several hundreds. The tricky thing is that occasionally, a hundred might have parishes from more than one county.
Fisher: Oh, wow. So, you’ve got overlapping jurisdictions. That gets complicated.
Fisher: We’ve had that here though where you have border changes and things like that. My mother’s home town of Albany, Oregon is divided basically by the Willamette River. And North Albany, which is a part of Albany is in another county from Albany proper, so I mean, it’s not uncommon.
Christy: Right. Absolutely. So, what you really need to know looking for these records is just what parish did they live in and what hundred did that parish belong to.
Fisher: Did that change over the years?
Christy: Yes, to some extent, but what changed more than what hundred a parish belonged to was parishes were divided up into other parishes. So, you would have an ancient parish that would get too many parishioners, so they divided. That’s more common than having a parish move from one hundred to another. The hundred borders stayed pretty solid.
Fisher: So, Christy, tell us a story that you developed through the use of these Quarter Session Records.
Christy: Sure. So, in my own family history we have a mystery. We have an illegitimate birth. You know, we’ve all got the horse thief, the illegitimate so, whatever.
Fisher: Oh yeah, they’re all out there. [Laughs]
Christy: Which is why I love these records. They’re like the black sheep finder. [Laughs]
Fisher: Right, in England.
Christy: Yeah, in England, thank you. So, my third great grandfather, we knew his mother’s name, though we did not know his father’s name, and what they call bastardy bonds, which are where they bring the father into the court and they write out an order that says, “I will pay for the care and keeping of this child, signed, the father.” That book no longer existed with the parish where the family was from. And so, the next step was what creates those bastardy bonds is they have to go to court. And they hold the woman up in the court and they said. “Tell us who the father is” because the parish didn’t want to pay for the care of this child. The parish was responsible for all poor relief and they didn’t want to be.
Christy: With a woman who was pregnant and not married, they did one of two things. They called her into court to find out who the father was or they sent her home if she was not in the parish where she was born. So, it could have been either one of those in this case. In the Quarter Session Records for Scarsdale Hundred, which is where Pleasley was located in 1822. That’s when John was born, John Oldham. In 1822, the parish was in Scarsdale Hundred, and the records exist. In fact, they exist at the Family History Library.
Christy: Let me back up just for one minute.
Christy: Quarter Session Records encompass actually a whole bunch of different types of records. What has been mainly filmed and is most easily accessible are Order Books. And the Order Book is what the court clerk filled out at the end of the day or the end of the session. It said this was the business of the court. These were the decisions that were made. This is what we’ll talk about next session. That was mainly then filmed.
Fisher: And that’s very useful. And this is really kind of combining church records with government records, right? It’s a theocracy.
Christy: Exactly, yes. These records until into the 1800s were church courts, ecclesiastical courts. So, anything that wasn’t considered a crown offense, which is what here in the US we would consider a felony, murders, theft, anything like that. So, there’s the Order Books that’s what’s being filmed and that’s what I looked at for this family. The county record offices hold a huge amount of background information. So, once you find an order, go into the county records office and ordering a session file for the minutes for that court session can give you much, much more information. But, for this case I’ve utilized the order records because there was these filmed and they act like an index to the session files. I looked for a John, looked for the year that he would have been conceived, looked for his birth year, not knowing if they pulled her in while she was pregnant or after, and nothing in the index. The important thing to know about the indexes are that they’re often indexed by the male, by the father, which if you don’t know the father, it’s next to useless or even sometimes by the parish.
Christy: So, a case might be indexed as Pleasley parish versus the father’s name with no mention in the index.
Fisher: Okay. So, now you start going through to try to pick out all those from the parish, right and the time period?
Christy: That’s exactly how this was done. Yeah, you go through and look at everything that was from that parish.
Fisher: And lo and behold, there is the daddy you’ve been looking for.
Christy: Yep, she was pulled in and she gave him up and he admitted to being the father and they charged him. They told him how much he had to pay for the birth and how much he had to pay going forward and it even listed the father’s, father’s name, because he had to be a surety. So, we’ve got two generations out of that record.
Fisher: Wow, that’s awesome!
Fisher: And you can find this online because the Family History Library is FamilySearch.org and a lot of the stuff that have digitized at the library is available online.
Christy: That’s right. And these were not indexed online. It’s important to know that Family Search has a ton of digitized records that you have to access through their catalogue. You can’t just type in a name.
Fisher: That’s right. So, it’s like actually just going through a book and try to find it.
Fisher: it’s not indexed like everything you might find on Ancestry.
Fisher: Christy, that’s fascinating stuff and congratulations on your find. That’s an experience, isn’t it?
Christy: Oh, it was so exciting.
Fisher: Great breakthrough. She’s Christy Fillerup, a research team manager with Legacy Tree Genealogists talking about Quarter Session Records. Thanks, so much Christy. Appreciate it.
Christy: Thank you.
Fisher: And coming up next, Dr. Henry Louis Gates joins me to talk about the latest episode of Finding Your Roots on PBS, when we return on Extreme Genes.
Segment 4 Episode 314
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Dr. Henry Louis Gates
Fisher: We are back at it and thrilled once again to have Dr. Henry Louis Gates on the show to talk about this coming episode this week on Finding Your Roots on PBS, Tuesday nights 8 O’clock Eastern. Of course you want to check your local times if you're not in the eastern zone. Dr. Gates, how are you? Great to have you back!
Dr. Gates: I'm fine. How have you been, Scott?
Fisher: You know, traveling and having a grand old time at it. [Laughs]
Dr. Gates: [Laughs] Oh good.
Fisher: Who have you got on the show this week?
Dr. Gates: Well, this week's episode is called "This Land Is My Land" and it features Queen Latifah who is the name of course before she was Queen Latifah was Dana Owens, and the great actor, Jeffrey Wright. So, you want me to start with Queen Latifah?
Fisher: Yeah, let's start with her. I think she's awesome. She is so much fun to watch.
Dr. Gates: She's so poise and dignified.
Dr. Gates: Well, Queen Latifah has an extraordinarily rare family tree for an African American. Most of us think of African American history as characterized before the end of the Civil War by slavery. But there was always a small percentage of African Americans who were free. In 1860 for example, the year before the Civil War starts, about ten percent of the African American community was free. Well, Queen Latifah not only descends on her Owens side from free people of color, but we were able to trace her lineage back to one of the longest lines of free black people we've ever traced.
Fisher: Oh wow!
Dr. Gates: Her fifth great grandmother was a black woman named Juggy Owens. And Juggy Owens was freed in Princess Anne County, Virginia, you ready for this? In the year 1792.
Fisher: Oh, wow! Very early.
Dr. Gates: And we found the manumission document signed by the white lady who freed Juggy Owens and her name was Mary Old. And Mary Old, Queen Latifah says, this woman changed the whole fate of her family. That means that nobody in Latifah's family after 1792 on her Owens' line suffered the indignity and the trials and tribulations of slavery. That is a long, extraordinarily long line of free ancestors who were African American. And another document we found even identified Juggy Owens' mother's name, and she lived and died as a slave. Her name was Grace Owens and she was born in the United States in the year 1740. That is a very, very unusual family tree story for an African American.
Fisher: I would think so. What was her reaction to it?
Dr. Gates: Oh, she was just, I mean, she didn't have no idea. You could have knocked her over with a touch.
Dr. Gates: Also, when I told her that her DNA cousin was Wanda Sykes. [Laughs] She couldn't believe it.
Fisher: All right, tell us about Jeffrey Wright. We have very little time.
Dr. Gates: Okay, two interesting stories. His maternal grandfather was an oyster man in York County, Virginia, and he also established a moonshiner.
Dr. Gates: And he was arrested several times for keeping the still and [laughs] selling his own homemade liquor, which was against the law. Now you don't think of black people being oyster men, and certainly when you think of moonshine, the image of a black man does not come to mind. But on his maternal line, they also were free, like Queen Latifah's ancestor before the Civil War in York County, Virginia. And we found on his father's side the name of a man who owned Jeffrey's third great grandfather and his name was Robert McDow and he lived in Iredell County in North Carolina. Extraordinary stories, extraordinary family tree.
Fisher: All right, there you go, another amazing episode on Finding Your Roots on PBS with Dr Henry Louis Gates, Queen Latifah and Jeffrey Wright. Great show and of course catch it Tuesday nights. Dr. Gates, great to talk to you again. And we'll catch up with you again next week.
Dr. Gates: Okay my brother, take care. Have a good week.
Fisher: And coming up next, Melanie McComb from the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org answers one of our listener questions on Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes.
Segment 5 Episode 314
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Melanie McComb
Fisher: And we're back at it with Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Melanie McComb, a researcher with the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org is on the line with us right now to answer your question. How are you, Melanie?
Melanie: I'm good Fisher. How are you?
Fisher: Great. And we have a question here from Terry Reese in Syracuse, New York and she says, "I have an ancestor whose mother died when he was a child. He then vanished for a time. Any ideas on where he may have gone?" An interesting question. Yeah, and that happens sometimes.
Melanie: Very interesting question.
Fisher: Yeah, so what do you think?
Melanie: So, one thing I would think of is if his mother died and he was a young child, that means that his father was likely left with having to take care of him.
Melanie: And if he didn't immediately have a wife within a few months of death, it’s possible that the child needs to go into the custody of an institution. So, for example, the child could have gone to an orphanage or a pauper asylum to reside while the father started getting their life together.
Fisher: Huh! All right, that's an interesting thought. Are there records like this that people could find?
Melanie: Yes. So, depending on the area where they lived, a lot of these records are going to be kept in city archives, some even at the county level, a lot of these even are actually online. I recently had a case where my second great aunt was going in for an operation and she actually put some of her children into an orphan asylum in New York City to watch over them while she was going in for surgery and recovery, because she wasn't able to take care of them.
Fisher: That's interesting. And you found the records?
Melanie: I did. Yes, the admissions records were online. And another reason why the kids went in is because the father had actually died, so she was basically a single mother at that point.
Fisher: Right, right, right, interesting. So, it was like, she used it as a daycare.
Melanie: Yes, yes to some degree. I mean, a lot of times there's a misnomer that an orphanage is only when, you know, the parents have died, but in this case, it could just be they're just temporarily taking custody and you're just turning over to them to watch over them versus the kids going into more of a foster care system like we would have today.
Fisher: You think a county library might have records like this or at least indicate where they may be or a local genealogical society?
Melanie: Yes, absolutely. I would recommend looking at places like ArchiveGrid to see what types of registers for these types of records are available. And because then if you can narrow it down to the city where they lived, there likely could be something nearby where the children would have gone into the custody. And the registers are pretty nice and light, you can browse them by date, so you can get an idea of when you started to see that gap and start to browse the names and see if you can find the family mentioned.
Fisher: Interesting. What about the pauper records? You mentioned those earlier. How does that differ from the orphan records?
Melanie: Right, so essentially, the orphan records is that the orphan and asylum records are largely going to be mostly children, but for the pauper records, they could be anybody that just needs any kind of assistance. And it could go down to you're a recent immigrant coming off the boat and you have nobody to take care of you. You could go into a pauper asylum, it could even be people that were found by police on the street, you know, somebody that could be homeless or that was just, you know, looking very destitute and having some circumstances, they would usually get admitted to one of those asylums. And what's really great about these registers is, they get very detailed on where the people came from, they might know, you know, the country they're from and even where they were maybe found in the city if they were being picked up by police,
Fisher: Love it. She's Melanie McComb from the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. Good stuff, Melanie, thanks for the question, Terry.
Melanie: Thank you.
Fisher: And if you have a question for us, of course you can email us at [email protected]. Well, I dare say we have covered a lot of ground this week. Thanks once again to Anthony Redgrave for coming on sharing with us his amazing story of figuring out through DNA who a man was who was found in a cave in 1979. Turns out he was murdered in 1916! And if you didn't hear this story, you’ve got to catch it. You can do it through our podcast on iTunes, iHeart Radio or ExtremeGenes.com. Thanks also to Dr. Henry Louis Gates for coming on and talking about his new season of Finding Your Roots on PBS, and to Melanie McComb of course for helping us out with Ask Us Anything. Talk to you again next week. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!