Episode 315 - Genealogist Sunny Morton on Adding Detail to Family Stories / GEDMatch Founder Curtis Rogers on Recent Sale of Site / Dr. Henry Louis Gates on Latest Episode of PBS’ Finding Your RootsFeb 02, 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 cover a lot of ground beginning with news of the 2020 Census. It is underway! Then, an aircraft carrier is going to be named for a decorated World War II hero… the first African-American to be so honored. Hear who he is. Next, an Indiana state employee is retiring. But you won’t believe how old he is! The guys will then horrify you with news about a woman’s cremains and what her son has done with them. Finally, the Netherlands are beginning to market themselves in a whole new way and don’t want you to call them the old way any longer. Find out the whats and whys.
Next, Fisher visits with genealogist Sunny Morton. Sunny has some great tips on how to add detail to your family stories. She gives an example of one in her own family and what she was able to add to it and how.
Curtis Rogers, founder of GEDMatch.com then joins the show to talk about the recent sale of the helpful third party DNA site. He explains the reasoning and what he expects will be the benefits to all of us.
Dr. Henry Louis Gates from the PBS program Finding Your Roots returns to share with Fisher and you stories from the latest episode of the iconic show.
Then, at the back end of the show David returns for Ask Us Anything answering a question about school records.
That’s all this week on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show!
Transcript of Episode 315
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Segment 1 Episode 315
Fisher: And welcome to America’s Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. I am Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, on the program where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out. And boy, what a line-up of guests we’ve got today. First of all, Sunny Morton’s coming up in about ten minutes, a nationally renowned genealogist. She’s going to talk about adding detail to your family stories and she’s got an example for you from her own family stories. Amazing stuff. Curtis Rogers is going to be here later in the show. He is of course, the founder of GEDmatch.com which was recently sold. He’s going to tell us what led to that and what the company’s about and what the benefits are going to be for all of us. And then Dr. Henry Louis Gates returns to talk about the latest episode of Finding Your Roots on PBS. And of course, at the back end of the show, we’ll do Ask Us Anything answering your questions on Extreme Genes. If you haven’t signed up yet for our “Weekly Genie Newsletter” hey, take care of it. It’s on our Facebook page, you can do it through our website ExtremeGenes.com. You can also sign up to be part of our Patron Club. And with the Patron Club there are all kinds of benefits for you, basically for the cost of maybe a hamburger lunch. Just get signed up and you can get bonus podcast, early access to the podcast as well and other benefits. Right now though, let’s head out to Boston and talk to David Allen Lambert, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. Hello David, how are you?
David: I’m doing great! How about yourself? By the way, I remember dates very well.
Fisher: Yes, you do.
David: Happy 50th anniversary Sir, for being on air.
Fisher: [Laughs] Yeah, actually you’re right. This past week, 50 years since I first cracked the microphone and radio. That’s 1970. I was a teenager in high school and we got a club that got actually some airtime on a local radio station in Connecticut and that’s where all this craziness started. So, whoever imagined it would turn into all this? But I’m thrilled, thank you so much David. I appreciate it.
David: Oh, you’re very welcome. I just want to ask one question. Did you know Marconi?
Fisher: He was a very close personal friend, yeah.
David: Oh, I’ll tell you, Family Histoire News is really exciting, and this one, everyone in the United States is going to take part in, at least we hope so, the 2020 census.
Fisher: Yes, and it’s begun!
David: Um hmm. And to think that probably most of our listeners won’t be around when it’s released in 72 years. [Laughs] So, get the information down correctly. Alaska is going to be started first because it is so remote. And I can tell you I remember doing the census in 2010 Fish, and I had to make annotated notes on the side. My sister being the head of household, the next column related to head of household was brother, my wife. There was no column for sister-in-law. So, I had to annotate on it my wife is the sister-in-law of the head of the household and my daughters are the nieces of the head of household. Hopefully, they get it fixed this time.
Fisher: Wow! Yeah, you’re right. That’s kind of weird that they would leave that out.
David: Well, the next story is really interesting. Of course, you know, Pearl Harbor is one of those stories that’s near and dear to our heart. Of course, we have our veteran from the Arizona on the show. And Dorie Miller who was a hero from Pearl Harbor has long since passed away. But Dorie Miller was being honored by having an aircraft carrier named after him. In fact, he was the first African American who received the Navy Cross for valor for his heroic actions in World War II at Pearl Harbor.
Fisher: Yeah, and the story is that he was a cook on the ship and it was being attacked by the Japanese, and he went up to man the machine gun, started firing back.
David: He did. I’ll tell you, it’s a shame that he didn’t survive after the war. He unfortunately died on a ship that was torpedoed two years later in 1943.
Fisher: 1943. But I mean, he’s an iconic figure, and the first African American to have a ship named after him. Very cool.
David: Well, our next person I want to mention was also in World War II in the Pacific during the war. His name is Bob Vollmer. The interesting about this 102-year-old is he’s not in a nursing home, he’s retiring his job. He’s worked for the Department of Natural Resources in Indian, and decided it’s about time that to retire.
Fisher: Isn’t that something? 102 years old, he’s still been working. Born in 1917.
David: Well, he said that, “I guess your body tells you, and doctors tell me that the reason I’m still going is I’ve got good lungs.”
David: Hey kids, the secret to living long is having healthy lungs. Take it from Bob who’s 102 out in Indiana.
Fisher: You’ve got to take it from him. That’s great.
David: Well, I’ll tell you, I heard a creepy story, not around Halloween, but the one that’s on Extreme Genes kind of gave me the willies, pal. The idea of a guy in Wisconsin smoking his mother’s ashes just takes it to another level.
Fisher: Yeah. Yeah, this is really strange. This is the cremains of his mom and I guess he wrapped this up with marijuana. Is that right?
David: Yeah, he cut the drug with his mother’s ashes and ingested it. But you know, we had a lady a couple of years back that ate her mother’s ashes, a spoonful a day.
David: She must be related somehow.
Fisher: Somehow there’s a tie there. I don’t know. Something upstairs is a little bit off.
David: I guess the moral of the story is what not to do with your parent’s cremains.
Fisher: Right. [Laughs] It’s just very strange. He has been arrested by the way.
David: So, technically his mother’s been arrested too.
Fisher: Yeah, I suppose so. Yeah.
David: Oh gosh. The next thing I want to talk about is correction in geography. The Netherlands is now asking the world not to call it Holland anymore.
David: It make sense. I mean, if you think of the expanse of what technically Holland is. I mean, places like Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Leiden, The Hague. I mean, these are tourist traps of sort. And you know, I can understand they don’t want to kind of pull into one part. Actually, there’s a north and south part of Holland.
Fisher: Right. And that’s just a region. There’s North Holland, South Holland which is part of the Netherlands and they’re getting overrun with tourists. So, they’re going to try to spread them out, get people to go to other parts. For instance, my wife’s family came from Leeuwarden, which is to the north in Friesland, but they don’t have quite the same problem with tourists in places like that.
David: You have to correct all your genealogical charts now and don’t put Holland.
David: It’s the Netherlands now. Well, that’s all I have this week but again, happy anniversary. And for those of you who want to go one step further in your genealogy can always go to AmericanAncestors.org. If you’re not a member, you can use that coupon code “Extreme” and save $20 on a membership.
Fisher: And coming up next we’re going to talk to Sunny Morton. She’s back on the show talking about how you add detail to your family stories, how you find that detail and then report it. And she’s got an amazing story she found in her own research that you’re not going to want to miss. Plus, Curtis Rogers, later on in the show, talking about the sale of GEDmatch, Dr. Henry Louis Gates, a loaded show, when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 2 Episode 315
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Sunny Morton
Fisher: Welcome back! It’s America’s Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here your Radio Roots Sleuth, and one of the things I enjoy and I know you enjoy, because you’ve told me many times, is you love hearing stories that people have uncovered about their ancestors and how they found the details of those stories. And my good friend Sunny Morton, who’s been on the show before, is one of America’s great genealogists has a great tale right now. How are you Sunny?
Sunny: I’m well. Thanks for having me on the show.
Fisher: It’s great to have you. Tell us about your adventure with your ancestors and how you uncovered it and went along for the ride.
Sunny: Absolutely. So, I’m a big great travel buff myself so I love any kind of travel story. So, I’m going to tell you a travel story that’s a couple of hundred years old. And as I do, keep in mind your own road trips. Whatever kind of travel you’ve done before and sort of compare it, because that’s something I really like is to see both how universal our human experience is, but also how, in particular, some of the details are from time periods to time period, right?
Fisher: Yeah. I’m just wondering if the kids in the old days would actually say, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? I have to go to the bathroom.”
Sunny: [Laughs] Well, they’d just pee off the side of the wagon, right?
Sunny: All right. I have a story to tell about Thaddeus Pond from Vermont. Doesn’t it just sound like the name of someone from Vermont?
Fisher: Yes. Thaddeus Pond. Yes.
Sunny: So, he was born in about 1770 just before nationhood, so he was growing up while we were still getting used to the whole idea of being a country. So, later as he was becoming a young man in the 1780s, the U.S. government formed the Northwest Territory, the wild west of its time. So, what they called west, the Northwest Territory was Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin. That was really our first national frontier.
Sunny: Back when western Pennsylvania and New York was still kind of barren.
Fisher: That’s right.
Sunny: So, there weren’t roads. There weren’t canals or, I don’t know, there weren’t railroads of course, to take the folks into the frontier. There were no rest stops, no McDonalds, no Cracker Barrel.
Fisher: Oh, I couldn’t do it. Just shoot me right now. [Laughs]
Sunny: [Laughs] Right. So, if they wanted to get there, they’d just have to have figured it out for themselves and cut down all the trees that were in the way.
Fisher: Well, they wanted that free land. They wanted to be able to expand and breathe.
Sunny: They did. And we don’t really understand that until we stop and think about how crowded things got when there were ten kids for every acre of land. There just wasn’t space for everybody. Every kid in the family just spread out and do their own thing. So, we enter the story in 1801. Our friend Thaddeus, he’s 31 years old now. He’s married. He’s got two kids. One of them is six years old, so at first grade age, and one of them is just a year old. So apparently, he and his wife Louisa were eying the whole Northwest Territory idea. They weren’t content to live out their lives in Vermont and I have no idea why.
Fisher: Well, don’t you think it’s just because, you know, the biggest crop in New England is rocks when it comes to farming, right?
Sunny: [Laughs] Well, you know, I’m not going to say anything bad at all about Vermont.
Fisher: Well, no it has nothing to do with Vermont or Vermont people. It has to do with glaciers, you know, that’s under all of New England and the Northeast.
Sunny: Yeah. Well, there were certainly a lot to attract people to the Northwest Territory.
Fisher: Yes. [Laughs]
Sunny: And that’s definitely part of it. So, the story that I’m telling today comes largely from a travel account that was written by a guy who was a kid. He was ten years old at the time when this travel experience happened. And he was one of the kids in this travel party.
Fisher: Oh wow.
Sunny: So yeah, he was ten years old at the time. It doesn’t get published until the 1880s, many decades later. But he wrote it. It doesn’t say exactly when he remembered and wrote it down, but he was ten years old when it happened, so he was old enough to have a pretty decent memory.
Sunny: And it’s a very detailed account. And this is what happened. So, five families pulled themselves together and decided to travel and this kid, Benjamin Palmer, was part of one of those families. So, the Ponds joined them and a few other families to take this trip from Vermont eventually, to the Ohio River and down to Mariette, which was the first settlement in the Northwest Territory. They started off on September 1st, so after the worst of the heat was gone, but before the worst of the weather came, thirty people, six kids under the age of four. That’s a lot of crying at night, isn’t it?
Fisher: Oh boy.
Sunny: That’s a lot of crying, don’t you think?
Fisher: Yeah. Yes.
Sunny: I’m just saying. I love babies, but that’s a lot of crying.
Sunny: So, Palmer gives this lovely place by place description. We started this place on the first day and this place on the second day. And I could actually follow it with Google maps. As I’ve got this document, reading this newspaper article or a transcription of it because that’s a lot easier to read than the old news clips.
Sunny: And I opened Google maps and I put in all these place names and I can map out this trip that they took. And along the way of course, there’s these place names that have changed, but there’s no Dykes settlement anymore. There’s no Kings settlement anymore, but I can Google those and find out where they were. So, they go across the Finger Lakes in New York in upstate western New York and then I get to a part that I don’t believe. This kid who was ten years old at the time says there was a mile-long bridge across Cayuga Lake in 1801.
Fisher: No! Come on. A mile-long bridge.
Sunny: Exactly. That’s what I said, in a single lake, I’m like, “Noo!” So he’s really exaggerating here.
Fisher: I don’t think there was a mile-long bridge when I went to college there in the ‘70s you know. [Laughs]
Sunny: Guess what? There’s not one there now, but there was.
Sunny: I Googled it. Yeah, I Googled it. And there was a mile-long bridge there. It got washed out. It must have been a year later, so it wasn’t there for very long.
Fisher: Wow! That’s a great story. [Laughs]
Sunny: Yeah, there was a mile-long bridge there. There’s even a nice old picture of it. If you Google it, you’ll find this nice old illustration and this description of where it was, so I could see where they crossed. So, they had these great adventures. They met some awesome backwoods trackers. It’s kind of like my ancestors very own version of the odyssey. [Laughs]
Sunny: They met some really interesting people along the way who helped them carve out their own canoes, and chop through the forest. They spent the night at a Quaker missionary station and the women and the children had to sleep in the school house. While they were there, one of the Pond kids got really sick and he was treated by a native healer and his wife, who gave him like a tea made of roots that made him expel a bunch of worms and made him healthy again.
Fisher: Oh wow.
Sunny: And he wanted to charge him $5 for it but he got him down to $.50 cents.
Sunny: I mean, it’s just such a great story. And then we’ll get to my favorite part. And honestly, since the first time I read this, this is the image that stays in my head. So, they’re on the Ohio River, and they’re going down this river and they’re all in canoes. And they latch their canoes together, like two by two, by two, and I’m quoting from Benjamin Palmer. He says, “My father remarked that we’re too close together and if we should get in a ripple we would have trouble.” No sooner said than done, our canoes grounded and the end of uncle Peter’s ran between ours and separated them and left most of our goods, women and children in the river.
Fisher: Oh boy.
Sunny: The water was from two to three feet deep. Every old lady caught a child as they were floating by. [Laughs]
Sunny: [Laughs] Can you picture this?
Fisher: No. Well, this is, well the detail is just…
Sunny: Like oh, let’s just grab one of those babies.
Fisher: This sounds like a much wilder road trip than any I’ve ever taken. I guess the question for you is, where did you find this?
Sunny: My dad found it. My dad is an excellent Google genealogist, so he found this a few years back when he was looking for Thaddeus Pond, which was a pretty unusual name.
Sunny: So we were able to identify him from this, because we knew he left from Vermont to Ohio. So, he found this and sent it to me, and I just had it sitting on my stack of rabbit holes to go down. So, it says, “A little old lady caught a child as they were floating. My sister Jerusha was the only one that came near being drowned and it was some time before she recovered.”
Fisher: Huh. You know, the idea that somebody can just go on Google, I think, escapes a lot of folks, you know. Folks are just getting started in genealogy. They think oh, I’ve got to have this subscription site, and I have to find all these free places and all this. There is nothing more free and easy than Google.
Sunny: No, there’s not.
Fisher: All of us who have done this you know, know that Google is an amazing place to find things like this because of all the books that have been digitized.
Sunny: It is. And the story itself originally ran in the Marietta Register, which was a newspaper in the 1880s. And I couldn’t read it, and I’m like, “well, I need a subscription to Newspapers.com, whatever to find it. Well, somebody had transcribed it and put it online.
Sunny: And so, my dad was able to find it without a newspaper subscription although I did go back and find the original. Because when you find the transcription you always want to make sure that it’s accurate.
Sunny: So, I went back and found it and got a copy of the original and compared it. So, most of this really does come from this newspaper account. It’s just stunning. And as it turns out they realized once they caught everybody and they counted everybody up and they got their stuff retrieved, Mr. Pond, it said, in the account had $20 tied up in a white cloth which was lost in the river.
Sunny: And that’s a lot. It was probably his entire fortune.
Fisher: Yeah, that’s a lot of money.
Sunny: And so, when they realized this, everybody was going yeah, we’ve got to go back for that and so they did. They got a canoe and they went back and rode out into the river. It said just below we got shipwrecked. And the first thing they found was the lost money. So, they actually did find it which really surprises me.
Fisher: That’s incredible. She’s Sunny Morton. She’s a nationally renowned genealogist. You can follow her at SunnyMorton.com. And Sunny, thanks for sharing that and the tip too, on what you found and the idea of actually mapping it out on Google maps is absolutely genius, and then researching the mile-long bridge and all these places. I mean, you must feel like you went right along with the five families.
Sunny: I really do and I have to say that Googling it and reading other historical travel adventures…you know, David McCullough just published this wonderful book called The Pioneers, and it’s about the Northwest Territory and so I read that too. And so, now I feel like I have my own Northwest Territory books to insert in his larger story of things.
Sunny: And yes, I will feel a little less frustrated next time I’m on my own road trip and I don’t see a Cracker Barrel in sight anywhere.
Sunny: Or I can’t find an audio book to listen to or something, I’ll remember those six children under the age of four and the worms and the shipwreck, all those kinds of things.
Fisher: Thanks for coming on the show Sunny. Happy New Year. See you at RootsTech.
Sunny: See you then.
Fisher: And coming up next I’m going to talk to Curtis Rogers, the founder of GEDmatch.com. It’s been sold! What’s he got to say about it? What’s the future of it? We’ll find out in five minutes on Extreme Genes.
Segment 3 Episode 315
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Curtis Rogers
Fisher: All right, back at it on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. I am Fisher, your Radio Roots Sleuth. And, as you know last month, big announcement, GEDmatch.com was sold to a company in California by its founder Curtis Rogers. And Curtis is on the line with me right now. Let’s talk about it. Hi Curtis, how are you? Welcome back.
Curtis: How are you Scott? Pleased to be here again.
Fisher: Well, you have just been quite the pioneer of course in this entire industry, creating a third-part site where people can compare their DNA matches from different sites against one another with tools you just can’t find anywhere else. And of course you had a lot of controversy over the last couple of years too with the law enforcement side of things. Tell us about the sale of the website. Who is this new company that’s picked it up?
Curtis: The Company is Verogen. They are, as far as I’m concerned the ideal people to purchase GEDmatch. And we did not go out seeking to sell GEDmatch, we’ve always been approached by many companies. But, one of my real criteria’s if we were to sell, was that it had to be someone that would advance GEDmatch for the basis of genealogy. And it had to be someone that was not competitive to the testing companies and Verogen is the ideal company. They are a company that has been dealing with law enforcement. They sell law enforcement supplies for doing DNA testing. They’re very familiar with DNA. They’ve got some real experts. They sell equipment to law enforcement. They have not been involved in the consumer end of it. Now, we’ve added the consumer end of the business to their operation. So, I’m thrilled about this. I really am.
Fisher: Now, do you see this ever where they’re going to charge for people to be on GEDmatch?
Curtis: Well, first of all, we charge. We charge for tier one.
Curtis: But that is one of the great things about this. They have said to me, that they are not going to increase prices radically for tier one. They are not going to start charging for the free tools that are there now. Their philosophy is that they want to increase the consumer database as much as possible. And they fully understand that if they start doing things that are different from what we’re doing, if it’s no longer a free site they’re not going to be able to increase that database.
Fisher: Right. Sure.
Curtis: They are out there to do everything they can to follow the same philosophy we were doing in increasing the consumer database.
Fisher: So, you talk about their capabilities of taking GEDmatch to the next level. What do you see them doing down the line, that you can talk about?
Curtis: Well, for one thing, we have never advertised or promoted, not one penny. I always thought we probably should do that to increase the database. I believe they probably will be doing some advertising on social media, that alone. I mean you think of us having 1.3 million users and there’s probably been 30 million or 40 million, who knows, people who have actually been tested. So, there’s a lot of low hanging food out there to be used to increase our database.
Fisher: Right. And I would imagine that would also help with the police database.
Curtis: Exactly. They just assume that if the consumer database increases there’s going to be a certain percentage that are going to say, yes we’d like to also be available for police to match their DNA kits against my kit. It’s going to happen, a certain percentage, and that’s what they’re really relying on.
Fisher: That’s awesome. So, what is the number right now? Of course, back last year I guess it was, it just seems like it was so long ago, and yet, it wasn’t that long ago that you had to opt out everybody of the one and a quarter million users for police work. And then allow them the opportunity to opt back in to make sure that there weren’t any conflicts with terms of service moving forward after the case in Utah. So, that having happened, how many are you up to now that police are able to take advantage of when it comes to solving cold cases and violent crimes?
Curtis: We are in excess of two hundred thousand. Two hundred thousand is always a level that I felt that if we reach that we’d really be back in business. And we are. We are increasing by hundreds every day and it’s working out very well.
Fisher: Okay. So, two hundred thou… out of one and a quarter million. Is that really going to be as effective?
Curtis: Um, I believe it is. There’s a misconception here. People really can’t compare the opt-in figure with our total database because the total base is not what I would call a pure database. We have a lot of duplicate kits in that. We have people who cannot be identified by law enforcement, could never have been used by law enforcement. We have a category called research where people can put in their kit and they can see other people who match them but other people can’t see theirs. We have a pretty good percentage of people who use that. There’s probably close to fifty percent of people who use an alias. So, law enforcement would never be able to figure out who they are.
Curtis: The law enforcement group is what I would call a pure group. There may be some duplication in there but for the most part these are all people that can be identified by law enforcement and whose kits can be matched by law enforcement kits.
Fisher: So, in all those categories of duplication, hidden identities, and all that, of the one and a quarter million, what percent do you think fall into those categories?
Curtis: I think it’s over half of them.
Curtis: Let’s say it’s close to half. I’m not sure, but it’s probably close to half.
Curtis: I do know that nearly fifty percent use an alias. Some of them can be found I suppose because they’re not also using an email address specifically for GEDmatch or an email address that can’t be traced. So, you know, it’s difficult to tell.
Fisher: I see.
Curtis: But I really feel about half of them.
Fisher: So, that’s why the two hundred thousand is probably more valuable than it would seem on the surface.
Curtis: Much more. Much more, yes.
Fisher: So, what is your role with the website now moving forward? It’s been sold. It’s done but do you still have an involvement in it?
Curtis: Yeah. It’s just been a little bit over a month. Yes, I do have a contract to consult with them. And in fact, I’m still doing a lot to run the company because we’re trying to turn it over to Verogen in a reasonable way. So, I’m still doing a lot to run the company. You know, I’ve got to say, I’ve been very impressed with them keeping their word. I think they’ve surpassed my hopes for them taking care of the philosophy that we have always followed in GEDmatch. So, I’m really pleased.
Fisher: So, you’re going to have to shut down your operation in Lake Worth, Florida here eventually and send it out to them. And I would imagine too they probably have more security capabilities than your little group of volunteers has.
Curtis: Excellent point. Yes, they do. I’ll give you an example on what you just said. We had said that we would not fight if the law enforcement were to serve us with a warrant. Now, we did not have the resources to do it. We didn’t have the ability to do it. We didn’t have the time, the money, whatever. Verogen immediately announced, hey, if we’re served with a warrant, we would plate it. There’s a good example of how they’re surpassing what we were able to do. So, people who are concerned because they do sell to law enforcement agencies shouldn’t be. Verogen, they’ve been very honest in what they’ve said and supported it.
Fisher: Well, it will be interesting to see where it goes from here. Where do you go from here when you’re done with this? I mean, you’re going to be finished up here pretty soon I would think, Curtis, in the next year or so. What’s next on your plate, especially in the genealogy space?
Curtis: Well, I am now 81 years old and I’ve never retired. I’ve always worked on seven day jobs, twenty four hour jobs. I am kind of looking forward to retiring.
Curtis: At this point what I’d really like to do is climb on a cruise ship that goes to the ocean and doesn’t make a stop every day and just of get away from all of the publicity and requirements. I’d have to take my computer with me because if I didn’t have my computer, if I couldn’t do some work, I don’t know how I’d handle it.
Fisher: Yeah, I don’t know how you would. I mean, all these years of 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. That would be kind of like running into a brick wall at 103 miles an hour, right?
Curtis: Exactly. I’m afraid I’d wake up some morning and not have something to do, and I’ll be like, uh oh, that’s it. What am I doing here?
Fisher: [Laughs] You’re done. What about your wife? I mean, how is she going to put up with you having all that free time?
Curtis: Actually, she’s famous at the moment, right. She is an artist. We just got back last week from a new museum show. They’re showing her work and she’s had several of these in the last few years. So, she keeps busy in her own way.
Fisher: That’s awesome. He’s Curtis Rogers, the founder of GEDmatch.com. Thanks for your time Curtis. Thanks for your contribution to this space, and we look forward to keeping up with you.
Curtis: You always do a great job. I appreciate it. I’ll talk to you anytime. Thanks a lot Scott.
Fisher: And coming up next, it’s another episode of Finding Your Roots on PBS with Dr. Henry Louis Gates. And we’re going to talk to Dr. Gates about the latest show that you can catch up on, when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 4 Episode 315
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Dr. Henry Louis Gates
Fisher: All right, we're back and my good friend, Dr. Henry Louis Gates is on the line from the PBS show, Finding Your Roots. And Dr. Gates, Season 6 is going on right now. Fill us in on the latest episode.
Dr. Gates: The latest episode is called “Beyond the Pale.” Many people know that phrase, but they don't know its origins. In 1791, Catherine the Great, the empress of the Russian Empire relegated a 400,000 square mile area in her empire and confined almost 95 percent of the Jewish people in the empire to that 400,000 square mile space.
Dr. Gates: So 94 percent of all the Jewish people in Russia lived in what was called the Pale of Settlement and hence the expression, "you can't go beyond the pale" or "beyond the pale." A pale was a boundary. It wasn't a lateral stake in the ground.
Dr. Gates: So, obviously, because of that title, the three guests all descend from eastern European Jewish ancestors. The actor, Jeff Goldblum, who we all know from Jurassic Park.
Dr. Gates: Independence Day and The Fly. The classic radio host, Terry Gross from Fresh Air, and the comedian and podcaster, Marc Maron.
Dr. Gates: I'll tell you about Jeff Goldblum.
Dr. Gates: On Jeff's father's side, Jeff's paternal great grandfather's name is Zelik Povartzik immigrated to America in 1911 from a city called, Starobin, which is a largely Jewish town that was part of the Pale of Settlement within the Russian empire. Zelik soon found work in a garment factory and brought his wife and three children over. And because he left in 1911, Scott, I mean, miraculously they got out just in time, because a series of pogroms erupted in Russia a year later in 1912, leaving Starobin burned to the ground. And we're still, virtually all of Zelik’s extended family who survived the pogroms were murdered in the holocaust, except for one distant cousin who died serving in the Soviet Army. And marveling at the luck that allowed his ancestor to survive, to leave one year before that pogrom in 1912, Jeff Goldblum burst into tears. It was deeply, deeply moving.
Dr. Gates: Then we told the story of his maternal grandfather, Abraham Temeles who was born around 1890 in the town on Zloczow, which was then part of the Austrio-Hungarian empire, it’s now part of Ukraine. He opened a clothing store in Weirton, West Virginia, but he was hit hard by the depression. In 1939, he was arrested for setting fire to one of his rental properties to collect the insurance money.
Dr. Gates: He had a heart attack during the trial in the courtroom, later dying at home. And Jeff's mother was just 13 years old at the time.
Fisher: Ugh! Wow!
Dr. Gates: He'd only heard rumors about that story. Says his grandmother would become apoplectic whenever the subject came up. With Marc Maron, on Marc's father's line, we discovered that his paternal great, great grandfather was born in Poland, immigrated in the 1870s, settled briefly in New York, which is a pattern, but then surprisingly, in 1880, moves south to Charleston, South Carolina where he worked as a baker. Morris was part of a wave of northern Jews who headed south, because the Civil War had created the need for tradesman and merchants. Here's the twist, he was working with his son, Barney, but the relationship deteriorated, and in 1896, Morris was the defendant in a lawsuit over the unpaid loan.
Fisher: Oh man!
Dr. Gates: And the plaintiff was his own son!
Dr. Gates: And the judge ruled that Morris had to pay Barney $1700, which would roughly equate to over $50,000 today.
Dr. Gates: But you know, I know you like Extreme Genes… Marc, 100% Ashkenazi, Terry Gross, 99.8% Ashkenazi and Jeff Goldblum 100% Ashkenazi.
Fisher: Oh my gosh! And they're all from Beyond the Pale!
Dr. Gates: They all are from Beyond the Pale. Thank you, brother.
Fisher: Great work. We'll talk to you again next week. And of course, PBS is Finding Your Roots is on every Tuesday night. Check your local listings for times and of course you can stream it as well online. And coming up next, another episode of Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show in three minutes.
Segment 5 Episode 315
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Fisher: All right, we are back on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com doing Ask Us Anything this week. David Allen Lambert is back from the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. And David, we have a question from Nancy in Lincoln, Nebraska and she says, "Hey guys. Love your show. I found a report card of my great grandfather from 1912." How cool is that! "I'd like to find out more. Is there some place that stores old school records? Thanks." Wow, good question.
David: Hmmm, well, I mean, school records are always fun, especially when you find out that your grandfather was just as bad in math as you were.
Fisher: [Laughs] Right!
David: But in this case, her great grandfather, the first thing you want to do is obviously contact the local public schools or something that your great grandfather was part of. I find contacting the guidance department usually helps and usually they're very puzzled that you'd be even interested in records 100 plus years old. Some people would do the basic math and realize that somebody who was in school in 1912 is probably dead, because they probably were born in the 19th century, but you probably have to prove he's dead and better yet, say how you're related, because there's usually a form you fill out. In the city of Boston, there's an entire online form from the city archives, which has custody of the old school records and I've done that to find out how dad and mom did in school and some of my deceased aunts and uncles. So, it is rather interesting, but you may just find some of the things to what you have, the report card. Now, if your great grandfather went onto high school, then maybe in the local historical society, a school picture. You know, a graduating class photo.
David: Some schools maybe not as early as 1912, but a little later of course are on websites like Ancestry, which have plenty of yearbooks for the US, so you might stumble across that at some point in time. But the best part would be to just look at a town history, see if you can find a picture of the school, they add some color to it if in fact the school department doesn't have the records. I'll tell you why, in my own hometown, Fish, I only graduated from high school in the late '80s. And back about ten years ago, as they were getting ready to get rid of the old building, they found all the old records. And you would think, oh, great, I'm with the historical society. I can get these all sent over to us. Because there's personal information in there, they had to destroy them. So anybody who was alive that wanted their records had 90 days to go and make a request. Of course I did, because I didn't want anybody fishing out my bad grades out of a dumpster.
David: So, there may be some records that do exist for some counties and some school districts, but others, they may have been destroyed. I can tell you, 30 years ago when I enquired about my own grandmother's graduating records from Milton High School in Massachusetts, I asked about anything they had. They mailed me, Fish, her original report cards from 1909 to 1914 signed by my great grandparents and I treasure them. But I later found out a few years later, they dumped all of the records, so I'm glad I made the enquiry. So, Nancy, make that enquiry now.
Fisher: Boy that's true. And you're right, there are so many places that have gotten rid of the records. Why store something from 70, 80, 90 years ago? But you never know, that's the thing about this whole hobby is that you never know what might be out there unless you ask, and that's the important thing. So take care of that. Thank you so much for the question, Nancy. And of course if you have a question for Ask Us Anything, you can email us at [email protected]. David, thank you so much!
David: Talk to you later.
Fisher: Well, what a show! And thanks to all the guests who made it so great, Sunny Morton of course, the professional genealogist who talked about adding detail to your family stories as she did with hers, the ones she shared with us. If you missed it by the way, you've got to catch it again. Listen to the podcast version of the show on Extreme Genes, iTunes or iHeart Radio. Also to Curtis Rodgers coming on and talking about GEDmatch and his recent sale of the website to a great company in the west who sounds like they're ready to do a lot of good things on our behalf. Also to Dr. Henry Louis Gates from PSB's show, Finding Your Roots, talking about the latest episode in Season 6, and to David who lends his expertise every week. We will talk to you again next week. Thanks for joining us. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!