Episode 325 - Free Genealogy Lectures From NEHGS & AmericanAncestors / Dr. Henry Louis Gates On New African American History ToolsApr 26, 2020
Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and American Ancestors.org. Fisher and David talk about little projects they are doing during the lockdown. David then shares news about the latest cold case crime solved using DNA. He then shares a story about a document that was said to be found in the 1930s in an old family Bible, allegedly tied to the Salem Witch Trials. Then… was Ponce de Leon truly the European “discoverer” of Florida? A new analysis says “no!” David then talks about a fascinating project he has undertaken at home… the transcription of a non-digitized census record of Native Americans. You can now see the results. Find out where.
Next Fisher visits with Ginevra Morse, the Director of Education and Online Programs for AmericanAncestors. Ginevra talks about all the free online genealogy lectures that you can benefit from … for free!... and how to find them from American Ancestors.
Then Dr. Henry Louis Gates from the PBS series “Finding Your Roots” visits with Fisher again. But this time on two other projects he’s involved in concerning African American history. Both are something that can particularly benefit your children.
On Ask Us Anything, it’s a unique DNA match question that is causing confusion… a common match between a mother and a step father. Hear what the guys have to say about it.
Then David takes on a question about prison records and mental health institution records.
That’s all this week on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show!
Transcript of Episode 325
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Segment 1 Episode 325
Fisher: And welcome to another edition of Extreme Genes, Americas Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, in social isolation direct from Fisher Castle. How are you doing Genies? It is great to have you aboard. And you know this is a great thing to be doing at this time when we have so much time on our hands, because everything we find, we get to keep for the rest of our lives, so it’s great stuff. Speaking of which, we have two incredible guests today. Ginevra Morse, she is the director of education and online programs for the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. And in the weeks ahead, we’re going to talk about many organizations that are giving you great opportunity for some education in family history. So, we’re going to cover NEHGS today and Ginevra has got a lot to tell us about. Later on, Dr. Henry Louis Gates returns and he’s been involved in a project to bring African American history to classrooms, to online classrooms. He’s going to talk about that a little bit and then of course, at the back end of the show, we’re going to do another edition of Ask Us Anything. So, we’ll take your questions that you send in to us at [email protected]. Hey, if you haven’t signed up for our “Weekly Genie Newsletter” yet, please do so. You can do it on our website, ExtremeGenes.com or through our Facebook page, and you can get my weekly blog and links to current and past programs and links to stories you’ll be interested in as a genealogist. Right now, it’s time to head out to Boston or somewhere in that neighborhood to David Allen Lambert, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. How are you doing in social isolation, David?
David: Well, I’m doing fine, discovering all sorts of things that I have squirreled away over the years and brought them to life. Like I found a photograph of my great grandfather’s second wife who was the only living great grandmother I had when I was three years old.
David: So, that was kind of fun.
Fisher: Yeah, it’s always good to find something new. Likewise, I had a second cousin send me a picture of my great-aunt in a play in 1908. And it was quite a mess, so I had the time and I went and cleaned it up using Adobe Elements and then colorizing it through our friends at MyHeritage and it looks amazing. And then I actually went online and found the script for the play that she was in back then. And now we’re able to recognize the characters that were in the photograph, so that was a lot of fun.
David: Oh, that’s great. Well, you know, I’ll tell you sometimes you do want to throw things away correctly. Well, this is probably the thing regretted by a 57-year-old man in Pensacola, Florida. David Wells is now being connected to a murder from 1985. They matched his DNA at the crime scene with a cigarette that he had recently smoked, and well, looks like it fits.
Fisher: [Laughs] Yeah, he threw away the butt and they took the DNA from that and matched it up to the crime scene. You know, we’re not hearing about as many right now and I’m sure that has to do with what went on last year with GEDMatch in shutting it down unless people opted in, but it’s nice to hear that we’re still getting some arrests.
David: You know, it’s great to find ancestors, but it’s also great to bring closure for families, especially families that have been waiting for closure for almost 40 years.
David: It’s amazing. Well, you know sometimes you run into a great bargain on eBay. Well, long before eBay, people would take a chance and buy something at an auction or an old antique store. This story goes back almost 90 years ago when a gentleman was approached by a veteran who found in an old Bible a folded document. Well, this document was supposedly an arrest warrant for Elizabeth Lowe who was executed at Salem in 1692.
David: Well, it was water-stained, it was folded, it was written with a very old cursive hand, but it’s a forgery. [Laughs]
Fisher: Yeah, and this was in the 1930s. And you can imagine this guy bought it for only like $20. Thought he was going to cash in. He was actually an expert and yet he still got suckered in until his expert buddy said, “No, you’ve been snookered.”
David: Um hmm. Speaking of fakes, can I tell you that Florida is probably not the discovery of Ponce de León in 1513.
David: It had been discovered long before that. Of course, the Native Americans would say that anyways. But it looks like it is John Cabot who has that honor, the Italian explorer who sailed on the coast of North America in 1497 and claimed it for King Henry VII of England.
Fisher: And there were maps out there that showed Florida there before Ponce de León got there looking for that Fountain of Youth.
David: Exactly. And that’s why so many people over 65 moved to Florida. They’re looking for that Fountain of Youth.
Fisher: Yes, that’s true.
David: Well, you know, we’ve been talking a lot about what to do while we’re all at home in quarantine. And of course, I’m working for NEHGS and American Ancestors at home now since March 16th working, and I decided that in the time when I’m not answering questions or doing Extreme Genes or working on lectures, I was going to transcribe a census, a census that’s not online from Family Search or from Ancestry or Fold3. It’s a Native American census, Fish. Have you ever heard of the Early Report of 1861?
Fisher: No. Where was this?
David: Well, in Massachusetts, we had a commissioner of Indian affairs in 1859 by the senate was instructed to report to the governor a list of all Native American inhabitants with their name, their age, their sex and marital condition, their tribe or if they were white or African American, their occupation, where they lived, even if it was in California working the gold rush, and what they owned for animals and how much land they owned. The idea behind it was, they wanted to give Native Americans, which were charges on the state in some cases, some of them were considered paupers, some of them, the state was giving money to a guardian to help out, they wanted to give them citizenship. And that is something that a lot of people don't realize that Native Americans did not have the right to vote. So, what I did is, I sat and I transcribed up nearly 1700 names. In fact, 1692.
David: And it’s not searchable on American Ancestors. If you search our database, and again, it’s free for our guest members as well, 1861 Massachusetts Early Report of Native Americans from the commonwealth of Massachusetts. So that's what I've been doing to keep busy. Now I’ve got to find another project.
David: Because we have to be back to work soon.
Fisher: I'm sure you will.
David: Well Fish, that's all I have from 17 miles from Beantown today, and I wanted to let people know that if you're not a member of American Ancestors, you can join with a savings of $20. Use the code, AprilResearch20.
Fisher: All right, David, excellent work. Well, and speaking of which, we've got our next guest coming up, Ginevra Morse, she is the director of education and online programs at NEHGS. And we're going to find out what's available through you guys during the shutdown, so we can all learn a little bit more. And David, we'll talk to you at the back end of the show for another edition of Ask Us Anything.
Segment 2 Episode 325
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Ginevra Morse
Fisher: And welcome back to America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes, and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth and please welcome my guest Ginevra Morse, she is the Director of Education and Online Programs at The New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestor.org. And these are people who are going to help us get through all this social distancing, all this lockdown stuff, all this working from home thing so we can learn a little bit more about family history. Ginevra welcome to the show. It’s great to have you.
Ginevra: Thank you Scott. It’s great to be here.
Fisher: So, you’ve been doing this now since 2013 so it’s not like you’ve put up all this online stuff just because of coronavirus. Tell us about your background, how you choose your topics, and when people can get on, I mean we’ve got a lot of ground to cover here.
Ginevra: Sure. So yeah, as you noted, we started doing online programs actually with an online learning center and webinars, free and open to the public webinars starting in 2013. So, I actually come from academic publishing where I had started that company’s online education program.
Fisher: Oh wow.
Ginevra: So, when I transitioned to American Ancestors and New England Historic Genealogical Society, I actually started in the publications department. And then a few years into it, the organization was really thinking about different ways that we could engage and interact with our members who are really not only in New England but across the country, really around the world. And online education is just a fantastic way to do that.
Fisher: Sure. And you’re kind of early really with it. There wasn’t a lot of that going on in 2013.
Ginevra: No, there really wasn’t. Not at least in kind of the family history field. It was a great opportunity for us, and it really started with that motivation behind it to really create all these online education opportunities for members and not yet members around the world.
Fisher: Sure. Well, and you guys, I mean, the name is New England and all that but you cover the whole country as you mentioned, and other places around the world. And because it’s the oldest society, I’m sure people have a certain impression of it as far as that goes. But AmericanAncestors.org is your online branch of NEHGS. This is really kind of part of the whole rebranding, wasn’t it?
Ginevra: Yes. That was a big part of it too. Our experts have expertise not just in New England but really in areas that expand the globe.
Ginevra: And also our resources. We have some amazing databases and collections that speak to different regions, different time periods, different backgrounds, so we wanted to use online education as a way to highlight some of the expertise, and again, kind of engage people and reach new audiences too. And I think online education is a great way to do that.
Fisher: You know, you think about all the kids right now who are getting their education at home, right. [Laughs] Zoom meetings from the teachers and getting –
Ginevra: Yes. My husband is upstairs doing that right now with the teacher. [Laughs]
Fisher: Is that right? No kidding. So, you know, you think about that, you know many people might be uncomfortable with the idea that they’re going to do something electronically, but look how kids are doing it right now. So, there’s a great opportunity here for so many people to maybe step out of their comfort zone a little bit. Because you’ve got the time, and we’ve got areas that we need to strengthen in, right? I mean nobody is an expert in any one part of genealogy. I always get a kick out of that, “You know everything.” No, no I don’t [Laughs] far from it.
Fisher: So, you know, if you want Southern information, right, researching the South, NEHGS has that. If you need information on researching Ireland because a lot of Irish ancestors, you’ve got that as well. So, talk about how do you pick your subjects and how often do you do this?
Ginevra: So, I think what’s so great about working at American Ancestors and New England Historic Genealogical Society is that it’s just such a hub of activity in kind of the family history world. But there are always new publications coming out, new databases being released, new study projects kind of kicking off, new research cases, so just hearing about all this activity immediately sparks new ideas and inspires new concepts and subjects that we really want to engage the public through. So, just kind of hearing what all my colleagues are working on, there’s just an endless stream of possibilities as far as subject matter goes. And that’s just internally. But we also think about what’s going on externally. So, is there maybe new technology out there, or new databases, or all the finds going on with DNA, even though we don’t do DNA testing, we have a lot of experts who can assist with interpreting DNA results. So, I think our ideas come from a lot of different places, but just being in that environment where there’s so much going on and I’m just surrounded by some amazing experts in the field. I am always inspired to kind of bring that to the next level and bring their expertise to audiences across the world.
Fisher: And just to be clear, you’re not physically surrounded by them right now, right?
Ginevra: Not currently, no.
Fisher: Okay. Good. Good. [Laughs]
Ginevra: Currently, I am definitely social distancing.
Fisher: We all are. I’m doing this show from my home right now. Absolutely. You told me a story by the way off air about one of these DNA sessions that you did. Share that with us will you.
Ginevra: Oh, sure. So, in a recent online course that we did in interpreting your DNA results, one of the participants had written to me kind of separately and said, “Oh, well, thanks for the great course. And as I was reviewing my own matches, I saw that there was a match to someone and it was administered by a ‘Ginevra.Morse.’ Is that you?” And I said, “Yes. That’s me. Those aren’t my results. Those are actually my husband’s results.” I was helping him through that process. And it was actually a match to a side of her family that she knew very little about. And through that it was just kind of a really personal connection and a great way to move forward with both her research as well as my husband’s research.
Fisher: Isn’t that fun?
Ginevra: Yeah. It’s amazing.
Fisher: You know that’s the thing, when you do these classes, I mean, I see this happen all the time. You use an example of some early ancestor or somebody, and then people are popping in and go, “Oh, I descend from that person.” We’ve talked about specific folks on Extreme Genes over the years and people have reached out and said, “Oh, I’m related to you.” Or “I’m related to David.” Or I’m related to somebody else, because I also descend from that same person. And that’s really what’s so fun about this is you would think with the huge masses of people who are engaged it would all be this distant thing, but we find we’re really all pretty closely related one way or another, aren’t we?
Ginevra: Yeah. Yeah. And I think it’s also special too because you might think that well, if I do an online class or an online program, I’m missing being surrounded by my colleagues or fellow family historians, but there’s still that personal connection that you can access just from your home.
Ginevra: And I think making that connection from home is really important. Especially now when people are maybe isolated, or distracted by other things, or worried about other things, the online education and being able to connect with individuals and hear from some of your favorite genealogists and family historians, it’s really special. So, we’re coming to you in your home.
Fisher: Well, that’s true. And I just think it’s great for mental health, right, to stay engaged through all this because we just don’t know how long this is going to go on.
Ginevra: Yeah. Absolutely.
Fisher: So, tell us how do people find these particular courses, and how can they sign up, and what’s your schedule?
Ginevra: Sure. So, on AmericanAncestors.org/education/online-classes that’s where we post all of our upcoming programs. So, we offer webinars, which are an hour long typically. We usually do at least one per month. Starting this month and probably for the next couple of months we’re going to be doing more than that. So, in April we’re doing three, in May we’re doing at least two, but we’re always adding, so that’s a great place to just kind of go see what’s coming up. And you can easily sign up for those. The webinars are free. Open to the public. The other thing is that all of our live broadcasts are also recorded so if maybe you can’t make it, or something comes up, if you experience any technical issues, you can always go back and watch a recording later according to your own schedule. And also, we have all of the records starting in 2013. It’s kind of a great library of archived material or archived webinars for you to go back and kind of look through, binge, you can binge watch all of our archived webinars and really get something valuable from that content.
Ginevra: And we also do online conferences. They are paid programs, still open to the public. You don’t have to be a member of American Ancestors. And those are an opportunity to really delve into a topic with several hours of material, and hand outs, and access to the slides and templates, and the ability to have some extended time asking questions of the instructors. More recently we’ve had those on kind of Irish origins, or interpreting DNA results. Coming up in the coming months we have one on Eastern Canadian research. We have later in the summer one on New England research of course, that will be six sessions. So, we cover a wide variety of topics and it’s just a great opportunity to really take your research to the next level.
Fisher: How many courses do you have in your library now?
Ginevra: Probably over a hundred, so, webinars, online conferences, online courses. Just this month alone we’re doing like I said, three webinars, two online conferences, and we’re starting a five-week online course. So, we have expanded our online programming for the foreseeable future because of what’s going on.
Ginevra: But normally we’re doing at least two to three programs. It could be an hour long webinar, then a six hour conference, and then a multi week online course.
Ginevra: And we could be doing all of that in the same month.
Fisher: Wow. Incredible stuff. Ginevra thanks so much for sharing all that with us because I think it’s a lot for people to think about. And for people listening on radio and you heard the address she gave earlier, go to our website ExtremeGenes.com and you will find the transcript for the show and the link will be right there and so you don’t have to memorize it. Let’s mention it one more time though just for old times’ sake Ginevra. Where do they go?
Ginevra: Sure. So, it’s AmericanAncestors.org/education/online-classes. And that’s a list of all of our upcoming online education programs.
Fisher: Awesome stuff. Thanks so much for coming on and we look forward to talking with you again down the line.
Ginevra: Thank you.
Fisher: And coming up next, Dr. Henry Louis Gates. He’s involved in some education as well. You’re going to hear what he’s up to coming up next in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 3 Episode 325
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Dr. Henry Louis Gates
Fisher: Welcome back. It’s America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It Is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth. It’s great to be back on the phone with my good friend Dr. Henry Louis Gates. How are you Dr. Gates?
Dr. Gates: I’m fine. How you’re doing, my brother? You’re staying safe and healthy?
Fisher: Doing my best. I’ll tell you, it’s been a challenge the last month but that’s another story.
Dr. Gates: Well, I’m glad that you and your wife are doing well.
Fisher: Thank you, sir. And it’s great to see that you’ve been keeping busy.
Dr. Gates: [Laughs]
Fisher: You’ve got some other projects here going on other than your PBS show.
Dr. Gates: Well, it’s highly by accident through serendipity. In March, we released two African American history websites, which can be used by teachers who are now forced of course, to use distance learning to teach middle school students and high school students.
Dr. Gates: And I want to tell you about them.
Dr. Gates: The first one is called “Selma Online.” And it was released 55 years exactly after Bloody Sunday on March 7th. You remember that was an historic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. And that was the day that Congressman John Louis, a young John Louis was beaten on Pettus Bridge, as they tried to protest the absence of voting rights for black people. So, the Hutchins Center for African and African American research at Harvard has launched Selma Online. Which is, www.Selmaonline.org. And Scott, it’s a free online teaching platform. It’s brilliant, to educate students about the history of the Civil Rights Movement and the importance of the right to vote.
Dr. Gates: It’s more than a history lesson. It’s a call to action to learn about democracy, the history of civil rights, and the need to safeguard the right to vote across generations.
Fisher: And so, Bloody Sunday, this was something that really woke up the entire country, people of all races because it was televised, it was on the news, and people were seeing the attacks on African Americans who weren’t doing anything other than peaceably protesting.
Dr. Gates: Yes, it was the first time that we “interrupt this program to bring you a special news bulletin.” It was the first time that ever happened. So, millions of Americans saw this savage beating of innocent black people and white people protesting the restrictions on the right to vote for African Americans, which has a long history as you know going back to the collapse of reconstruction.
Dr. Gates: And I want to tell you how the platform was developed. When this film Selma, by the great Ava DuVernay, came out in 2014, a group of African American businessmen led by three friends of mine, William Lewis, Ken Chenault, and Charles Phillips helped to raise three million dollars. So that 300,000 students in 33 cities were able to see Ava DuVernay’s film Selma, for free. Then, Richard Parsons who was the CEO of Time Warner, approached me with the brilliant idea that this could be a vehicle for getting the history of civil rights and the importance of the voting rights struggle, into schools if we created a website using scenes from Ava DuVernay’s film as the storyboard. He called and asked if I was willing to do it and I said yes. It took us five years and we timed it to release on the 55th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. The reaction has been amazing. Scott, sadly insufficient education on the civil rights movement and the right to vote, are the norm throughout America. Too many students don’t learn about pivotal moments in our history or how the lessons of the civil rights movement help us to understand present day inequities. And Selman Online is designed to change all of that.
Fisher: And how can schools access it?
Dr. Gates: www.Selmaonline.org. It has 12 clips from Ava’s film that we use as a storyboard and it’s magnificently done. It’s a work of art in itself and it has a teacher’s guide. So, any teacher can use it to start teaching tomorrow, middle school classes or high school classes on the history of the civil rights movement.
Dr. Gates: The most important thing is that it’s totally free.
Fisher: Oh, wow! That’s great. Now, tell me about black history in two minutes. That’s another one.
Dr. Gates: Well, the entrepreneur and philanthropist Robert Smith approached me and my partner Dylan McGee about two years ago and he said, as you know, we’ve accumulated all this content from our PBS black history films. And he said the attention span of so many of our young people is so short, why didn’t we think about creating 60 videos spanning the whole sweep of African American history, from slavery to freedom. From Fredrick Douglas to Barack Obama, and why don’t we make two-minute self contained video clips.
Dr. Gates: And so, almost at the same time we launched Selma Online, we launched, www.Blackhistoryintwominutes.com. And if you click on that right now, you will see me telling 60 different stories about pivotal moments in the history of the African American people. Again, going back to slavery, then the Civil War, reconstruction, the roll-back to reconstruction, the Tuskegee airmen, Booker T. Washington, the history of the civil rights movement, black servicemen in World War II, the Harlem Renaissance, the birth of jazz.
Dr. Gates: All the way up to the 20th century, through the 20th century to the 21st century.
Fisher: Oh, you’ve got to throw Jackie Robinson in there somewhere.
Dr. Gates: Oh, we will, I promise. We just worked out an agreement to do 60 more videos. And again, these are free and we’re working on a teacher’s guide right now. The students who are at home can watch it on their cellphones, on their computers, and any of the various devices we use to access social media. And that is a way to combat racism. That is the way to combat ignorance. That is the way to combat prejudice because so much prejudice of the other comes from ignorance of the other.
Fisher: You know, I don’t know where you get all your energy.
Dr. Gates: [Laughs]
Fisher: It’s like you’re living three lifetimes in one. It’s just amazing.
Dr. Gates: Well, I feel blessed and I feel like we’re all put on this earth for some reason and one of the reasons I was put here is to spread the good news.
Dr. Gates: As the bible says, about the achievements of black people and the struggles that they face. And when you look at the tremendous odds black people overcame to achieve the civil rights act of 1964 and the voting rights act of ’65 in the long war against Jim Crow’s segregation.
Dr. Gates: We can all take inspiration. If black people can survive slavery, think about it, you talk about sheltering, they were forced to take shelter in cabins and be beaten and raped, and tortured, but they believed in the future. They believed that one day freedom would come and they overcame it. They somehow believed that freedom would come and the church helped. You know, the fact that they believed in God. They believed that a better world was coming in this world and in the next world. They built social institutions behind the cloistered world of slavery, so that people like me would one day be born and go to a university like Yale, and the university of Cambridge and come and tell their story. So, that’s my mission, to tell their story on TV and on great programs like Extreme Genes. [Laughs]
Fisher: [Laughs] You are amazing. Dr. Henry Louis Gates once again on Extreme Genes. Thanks so much for coming on and we’ll talk to you again soon. We look forward to hopefully a fall season.
Dr. Gates: Well, I have good news about that. We have already finished filming Season 6 which will air in the fall on PBS, Scott, willing. We were able to finish that before the crisis and in fact, we have filmed 13 guests already for Season 7.
Fisher: Oh, wow!
Dr. Gates: And a whole new black history series we finished in December. Scott, the history of the African American church, it’s called, “This Is Our Story. This Is Our Song: The History of the Black Church.” Four hour series that will air probably in black history month next year and it’s done.
Fisher: Always a pleasure to talk to you Dr. Gates. Thanks for coming on!
Dr. Gates: Thanks for having me on the program, my brother, and you stay safe and keep up your good work.
Fisher: Oh, there’s always so much ground to cover and coming up next David Allen Lambert returns from the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org, to help me answer your questions with another round of Ask Us Anything, in three minutes.
Segment 4 Episode 325
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Fisher: All right, we're back and it’s time once again for Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth with David Allen Lambert from AmericanAncestors.org. And David, we have a question here from Jenae in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. And she says, "Guys, recently we had my husband's DNA tested as well as his mother's and step father's and we had an interesting result! Step father and mother both had a similar match, a match to the same person and fairly closely, and yet, we're not seeing that they share any matches in common. How can you explain this?"
David: Well, what's your take on it, Fish?
Fisher: Well, my thought is, is that the step father is related from one branch of this match's family and the mother is related through another branch of this person’s family. So they may have the same person as a match and even reasonably close, you know, first cousin once removed, second cousin, second cousin once removed. They won't share the same matches, because they're from different sides of the match's family. Does that make sense?
David: No, it doesn't. Absolutely makes sense. You know, DNA, it’s one of those things that maybe people should think about looking at their matches more than they have. I mean, for me alone, in the past months, I've receive six emails from people I wrote to over six months ago! And all of a sudden, wow, they have free time now to reach out. For further analysis of it, what would you think that we should probably tell her?
Fisher: Well, I would just suggest once again she goes through the shared matches of the step father with this particular match and then go through the shared matches of the mother with this particular match and make sure there aren't any matches there. If that's the case, I'm thinking it’s got to be separate lines.
David: It has to be. I mean, that is probably the most concise way of doing it and I think Blaine would probably agree with you, as well as CeCe and others. [Laughs] It’s nice to know we can pick up a little DNA knowledge on our own. [Laughs]
Fisher: Yeah, that's right. And just a reminder by the way, we talked to Blaine Bettinger a couple of weeks ago. If you missed that show, of course catch the podcast on iTunes and Spotify and iHeart Radio and ExtremeGenes.com. And he was saying, this is a great time to send in your DNA that they've always treated people's spit as if it’s something to be handled very cautiously. So it’s really no different right now. As you know though, David, it takes awhile sometimes to fill up a batch. And obviously the faster the results come in to fill up a batch, the faster somebody gets their results. So, while they often promise on Ancestry to get you something within eight weeks, sometimes in busier times, we've seen it come in six weeks. But right now, I think most of us are seeing it is a little bit slow. But nonetheless, who's to say in eight weeks we're not still going to be in this same lockdown situation. And we'll have something to work with if we haven't tested our DNA yet.
David: That's very true. In fact, for me, I had an Ancestry test I did for my wife's uncle to try to substantiate some Native American matches, and sure enough, it’s not on her mother's side. It’s her dad's side. But the results only took six weeks. I sent it in early February and by the middle of March, I had the results back from Ancestry.com.
Fisher: Wow! Well, hopefully, you know, hopefully that means that more people are sending stuff in now. And we will get those results a little bit faster when we do it. And it’s always important to remember, you want to do just what David did, test the oldest members of your family first. It makes no sense to test your children, for instance or your grandchildren because they are steps away from you and those people you're trying to match up to. It’s the oldest ones first. In fact, Paul Woodbury's told me, from Legacy Tree, that he's never even tested himself, David, because his parents and he had grandparents living, too, so he tested all of them. And of course, parents have twice the DNA from each of their sides as he would have. And grandparents have four times as much DNA. So, there really wasn't any point in him testing. And if Paul wasn't testing, why would you want to test of have one of your kids test if you've got those older people to get taken care of, right?
Fisher: All right, great question from you, Jerne. Thanks so much. And when we return, we will answer another listener question on Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.
Segment 5 Episode 325
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Fisher: All right, back at it for our final segment of Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth. And David Allen Lambert again has joined me to help you with Ask Us Anything. And we have a question here, David, from Jack in New Hampshire. And he says, "This is a question for David." I guess I'm just left out of the loop, David.
David: [Laughs] Okay.
Fisher: He says he's got an ancestor who was in and out of prisons in Massachusetts in the 19th century and mental health institutions as well. And he says, "Are there any records out there that can help me find out more about my ancestor?"
David: Ooh, that's a good one. Well, here's the thing, prison records before 1930 are open to the public.
Fisher: Oh, wow!
David: The problem is, there's no consolidated index of every incarcerated person. It may have been a town jail, a county jail or a state prison. So the problem is you need to know first, Fish, where they were. So, my advice to our friend in New Hampshire is, look at the federal censuses. So, I would say, 1860, '70, '80, of course you can look at the '90 and maybe 1900 and see if he is a guest of the state or the county.
David: Knowing the name of the actual institution will help you and then you could reach out to me at American Ancestors or ask another question, let us hear once you have the name of it, and guess what? I can tell you where the records are. Mental health is a little bit of a sticky wicket, because of the privacy of the patient, regardless if the person was born 50 years ago or 150 years ago.
David: Metal health records in the commonwealth for Massachusetts are pretty closed. Now you can go to the Mass.gov/DMH-Medical-Record-Request and make a request for the form that you need to fill out. It’s a little bit more complicated than that. Let me explain. So, say for instance you are looking for your great grandfather, Fish, in Massachusetts in a state institution in, say, 1890. What you would need to do is, you first need to go to the court in the county he died in.
David: And be assigned temporarily the executrix of his estate, even if he died in 1910.
Fisher: Oh, wow!
David: This costs about $100-$200, I forget what it is on the county level. It used to be about $100. It’s probably a little bit more. And then you make a request to the department of public health as the executrix of that estate, and don't mention genealogy.
David: Mention health, family health history, and that way, you get an easier access. And for that, they have to completely open the causeway. Its case by case basis. You might get a push and shove on it. Our friend up in New Hampshire, I wish you luck. And again, if you want to reach out to me here or through American Ancestors, I'm more than happy to help you, guide you through this treacherous waters of genealogy.
Fisher: Wow that is treacherous! And you know, there are occasions where you want to avoid talking about this as just a family history project. I know over at Harvard for instance, they have certain records there that are closed and certainly closed to this kind of research. They want it for other things, so, you really need to have a different reason to get access to some of those. And it’s unfortunate it’s that way, but sometimes it is in the world of family history, is it not?
David: It is. In fact, I worked at the state archives, Fish, 30 years ago. And my grandfather was in a tuberculosis hospital. Not mental institution, but a tuberculosis hospital for a year. I couldn't even get access to his case even though I was there.
David: It’s pretty tight.
Fisher: It is, but I love this idea that you could become an executor or executrix of somebody's estate 110 years after they die, that's nuts!
David: Just cut the cheque they'll make you whatever you want to be.
Fisher: [Laughs] All right, thanks so much, Jack for the question. And of course, if you even have a question for Ask Us Anything, you can email us at [email protected]. David, thanks so much. We'll talk to you again next week.
David: All right my friend, take care.
Fisher: All right, and thanks to Dr. Henry Louis Gates for coming on, Ginevra Morse, the director of education for online programs at NEHGS, and of course, if you missed any of the show, be sure to catch the podcast at iTunes, iHeart Radio, ExtremeGenes.com or Spotify. Talk to you again next week. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!