Episode 329 - CeCe Moore Talks About Her Upcoming ABC-TV Series / Dr. Eurie Hong Of Ancestry DNA Chats About New Covid-19 StudyMay 24, 2020
Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. Fisher begins by talking about a new, really old, heirloom he is about to receive. Find out what it is and where it’s coming from. Then, David shares the story about a woman who discovered a hidden panel in a bedroom in her house. What was found behind it turned into quite a family history adventure. Then, it’s been 75 years since V-E Day, celebrating the defeat of Nazi Germany. The guys discuss the impact World War II continues to have on the world. David then talks about a discovery he recently made. When ancestors had headaches they undertook, er, an unusual method to deal with it. Hear what David learned!
Next, genetic genealogist CeCe Moore returns to the show to visit with Fisher for two segments. She will tell you all about her new ABC-TV series, The Genetic Detective. The show debuts on Tuesday, May 26th. (At the time this interview was recorded it was set for May 19th. The date for the debut is now May 26th.) CeCe explains the format and how the show came about and why she chose to do it. In the second segment, CeCe talks about the matches now available to her through GEDMatch and FamilyTreeDNA. And she has a request for you as well! Hear what it is.
Fisher then visits with Dr. Eurie Hong, the head of Ancestry DNA. Dr. Hong’s team is now undergoing a Covid-19 study to help scientists around the world to battle the pandemic. She’ll explain how you can be part of this important work.
Then, David returns for Ask Us Anything. In this episode, a teenager has a question about both Fisher’s and David’s ancestors. Hear what they have to say.
That’s all this week on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show!
Transcript for Episode 329
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Segment 1 Episode 329
Fisher: And you have found us, 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. Great to have you along Genies. I am so excited about today’s show because first of all, coming up here in about ten minutes, we’re going to begin our first of two segments with CeCe Moore, yes, the DNA Detective. Well, she’s now the star of a brand new ABC series called “The Genetic Detective.” It’s actually coming on the air this coming Tuesday night [it has since been moved back to next Tuesday night, May 26], and we’re going to talk to CeCe about the show, how she wound up in this, what they’re going to be covering in it. We are going also talk to her about what’s going on with matches being used of course to solve criminal cases. That’s her specialty these days. She’s the one who’s out there, probably more than anybody else, corralling these murderers from decades back. So, it’s going to be a great interview with CeCe Moore, coming right up. Then later in the show, we’re going to talk to the person who oversees Ancestry DNA, Dr. Eurie Hong. And Dr. Hong is going to be talking about the brand new Ancestry COVID study that’s happening. You can be a part of it. And they’re going to be using this of course to help out scientists all around the world to perhaps find a vaccine or some treatments for COVID-19, so that will be coming up at the back end of the show. Hey, just a reminder, if you haven’t signed up for our “Weekly Genie Newsletter” yet, you should do it. We’ve got all kinds of great stories that you’ll enjoy as a genealogist, past and present shows and a blog from me each week as well. You can sign up at ExtremeGenes.com or on our Facebook page. But right now, it’s time to head off to the socially isolated David Allen Lambert, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncesstors.org. How are things David?
David: Oh, things are doing great. But it sounds like you found a family heirloom that will be great when I’m off from walks around my yard.
Fisher: yes, that is absolutely true. We’re talking about this off air recently and I have a third cousin I tracked down back in 1990, yeah, before the internet was of much use in this kind of thing.
Fisher: And they had basically a family archive. I’ve got all kinds of stuff that they gave to me because it was my name line, a portrait of my second great grandfather at that time. There was a transcript of the family Bible, the original of which I’ve recently obtained myself within the last few years, which is unbelievable. But I got a call from their nephew and he said, “Hey, you’re not going to believe this.” But he had a note from his great grandfather that said, “Here is a shillelagh that your great uncle David Fisher brought back from Ireland in 1884.” A shillelagh is a walking stick. I thought it was a musical instrument. I had no idea.
Fisher: I’m just not that familiar with the Irish thing, and I couldn’t believe that he’d be over there. What connection does David Fisher have with Ireland? Well, he was married to an Irish lady. So, apparently, he came back and gave this to this young man who was about 24 years old at the time, who passed it on to his daughter, who I met late in her life, and they had this thing up in an attic. Well, he just found it as they’re getting ready to sell this old house, and it’s on its way to me. So, I’ll be walking around the neighborhood with a 136-year-old walking stick from Ireland that my great grand uncle bought back and gave to a family member. So, I’m pretty excited about that.
David: That is really cool and you get the provenance too.
Fisher: That’s right.
David: It’s not just happened to be found in the attic of a relative’s house.
Fisher: That’s right. There’s a note there from his relative, so that tells us the whole story and everything we need to know. Hey David, let’s get on with our Family Histoire News today. What do you have for us buddy?
David: Well, we’re going to go to Bethesda, Maryland where Cindy Souza found an unusual closet in her son’s former bedroom, in this hidden panel behind the wall, found some odd pairs of shoes, about a box full of greeting cards, letters, receipts and school papers dating back to around World War II. And instead of throwing out this junk she did some detective work herself and she went and tracked down Wendi Swidler who actually lived in the house from the late ‘40s to the 1960s and this is all stuff that belonged to her family.
Fisher: How cool is that!
David: You know, it’s like you’d like to find a time capsule of sorts and that’s really what it was inside a wall in her kid’s bedroom. [Laughs]
Fisher: Unbelievable. That’s awesome.
David: Well, you know, around the same time all this stuff was written for the Swidler family, it would have been around the time that V-E Day, Victory over Europe, that we just celebrated the 75th anniversary of the end of Nazi occupation in Europe’s victory over the Nazis and World War II. I had some family over there in World War II, my dad etc. What about you? Anybody in your family?
Fisher: You know, nobody direct. I had one uncle who was in the navy in the Pacific and another in the navy in the Atlantic. My mom had a first cousin, my first cousin once removed, and sadly he was killed exactly one week before V-E Day.
Fisher: He was riding a tank and got hit and that was it. He was an only child. My great aunt never got over it. It was really tough stuff.
David: And God bless all those veterans of World War II we still have today, all in their high nineties and some even in their hundreds.
David: It’s amazing. Well, you know, the other day Fish, a lot of computer time of course being quarantined, I had a bit of a headache, and I thought to myself I need to get something for it. Then I realized and I said how about if I didn’t have anything? How did my ancestors deal with it? Well, I found a great story from BBC back in 2016 which talks about why our ancestors drilled holes in each other’s skulls.
Fisher: [Laughs] Wow.
David: And I tweeted it. Now it got a little bit popular love on an old story, but yeah anthropologists have found that there’s been a variety of reasons why trepanations were done, which is the term for putting a hole in your skull. Yeah, if my family members, if we’re ever out of aspirin when I need it, don’t decide to get the craftsman drill and bore a hole in your dad’s skull.
Fisher: Hmm. Yeah. Break it out there. You need that like a hole in the head, right? Wow!
David: Oh, bad dad joke Fish.
Fisher: Bad dad joke. [Laughs]
Fisher: Had to do it though, sorry. That’s a great story.
David: Even if it’s an old news story. Sometimes digging up the past is entertaining. Well, that’s all I have from 17 miles near Beantown. [Laughs]
Fisher: [Laughs] Yes.
David: From quarantined central here in Stoughton, you have a great week. And remember, if you have never gone to American Ancestors, we’re adding lots of things on between webinars and other great databases so you can do your research at home.
Fisher: All right David, thank you so much and we’re going to have you back at the back end of the show. We’ll do another round of Ask us Anything.
David: See you then,
Fisher: And coming up next, CeCe Moore the DNA Detective, who’s now the star of “The Genetic Detective” a brand new series that starts on ABC this week. CeCe is going to tell us all about it on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show in three minutes.
Segment 2 Episode 329
Host: Scott Fisher with guest CeCe Moore
Fisher: All right. My next guest is someone I first ran into in 2015 at the world’s largest family reunion. This was in New York City. It was put on by AJ Jacobs. I was one of the presenters there. And I remember being fairly new to the space. Something interesting happened. Somebody walked into the room and there was this buzz, and I said to David Allen Lambert, “Who’s that?” And he goes, “Well that’s, that’s CeCe Moore. You know. Of course, she’s on with Dr. Henry Lewis Gates. She’s like kind of a rock star.” I said, “What do we need to do to get her on the show?” So, I went over and said, “Hi, I’m Fisher. I’m with Extreme Gene.” She goes, “Oh, I know who you are” And ever since we’ve been really good friends. And I’ve been so excited to watch CeCe’s progress not only as being the premier genetic person in our space, but now she’s got her own ABC series it is called The Genetic Detective. And CeCe, welcome back to Extreme Genes. How are you doing my friend?
CeCe: I’m doing great. Thanks for having me. I’ve missed you.
Fisher: I have missed you too. And you’ve got like three different lives you’re living at this time. You’re a mom, you are the genetic detective on television, and of course you continue to just be a major figure in our field. How are you holding up through all this?
CeCe: Well, I like being busy. So, that’s a good thing.
CeCe: I would certainly love to be able to stream some TV shows, but I can’t complain that I still have both of my jobs with Finding Your Roots and also with Parabon doing the criminal work.
CeCe: So, it’s definitely a good problem to have. But I would love a little bit more time to relax. [Laughs] Maybe that will happen eventually.
Fisher: CeCe, I like being busy too. I am very busy. But I also like sleep. And so I understand you just don’t need it, obviously.
CeCe: No I do.
CeCe: I need 8 to 9 hours of sleep and I just haven’t been getting it the last couple of years.
CeCe: But I definitely need it.
Fisher: Well, whoever would have imagined that you would wind up with your own new prime time series on ABC, The Genetic Detective. And this is starting up on [now next] Tuesday [May 26]. It’s going to be, let’s see, Eastern time 10:00 to 11:00 on ABC, which means it’s going to be 9:00 to 10:00 in the Central and Mountain time zones, and 10:00 o’clock on the West Coast. And this is absolutely amazing because we’ve been following your stories now for the last couple of years since this whole thing started, and you’ve been cracking crimes left and right and bringing killers to justice from decades back. How do you feel about this?
CeCe: We, it’s an incredibly fulfilling job that’s for sure.
CeCe: And I never could have imagined that my genealogy hobby would lead me here. And certainly not back on television. As you know, early on I had a career in entertainment, theater, TV.
CeCe: But I never had my own show. [Laughs]
CeCe: And I certainly didn’t expect for that to happen when I was 50. You never know what’s going to happen, right?
CeCe: I thought I had a full new career in a completely different field, and somehow it led me right back in front of the camera again.
Fisher: Well, I certainly relate to that. It is amazing when you get into something that becomes your passion, just what it can lead you to and that’s really kind of the joy of life, isn’t it? Just the mystery of it all how it turns, you just never could have made this stuff up.
CeCe: And you know, I always had a lot of regrets about you know, career choices and things that I had done in my earlier life. And people always said, “Oh, one day it will all make sense. You shouldn’t have any regrets.”
CeCe: And I just thought that was ridiculous. But I have to give kudos to those people because they were absolutely right.
CeCe: The fact that I had on-camera experience and media experience has been such a huge benefit for me in this career in that I have been able to use it to educate the public and to get the word out about what we’re doing and most importantly I think to dispel a lot of the misconceptions that are out there.
Fisher: So, I mean, I have so many places I want to go with you, and fortunately we’re going to do two full segments here. You’re working on a new case right now. Anything you can talk about?
CeCe: I’m never able to talk about the current cases that I am working on, but there have been two arrests in the last week that I’m waiting to have go public. So, quarantine is not slowing us down. We’re still averaging about one “solve” per week. So, that’s nice.
CeCe: Yeah. We can still do this. You know, the detectives are still working. They’re very dedicated of course. Many of them are working from home, but it doesn’t stop this type of work.
CeCe: As you know, I can do this from my couch and so can my team. [Laughs]
Fisher: [Laughs] Little bowl of popcorn next to you, the dog on the other side solving past murders. Yeah, that’s the life. That’s something nobody could have ever imagined.
CeCe: For sure. [Laughs]
Fisher: You know, it’s funny because you’ve got a publicist now with ABC and I’m looking at this whole list of the crimes you’ve solved. And we’ve spoke about many of them just after the news was announced. And I’m looking through the list, it just get’s longer and longer and it’s only been what, two years?
CeCe: Yeah. Exactly two years. I joined forces with Parabon officially on May 1st 2018 to do criminal cases. I had worked one just a couple of days prior. That was the very first one.
CeCe: The Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg case.
CeCe: So yeah, we just passed the two year anniversary of my involvement in criminal cases.
Fisher: That is amazing. So, tell us about the show what the presentation is going to look like.
CeCe: Well, each episode covers one case. And the premier is the very first case I worked, the one I just mentioned The Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg double homicide, and so we’re starting with that. And then the last episode, it’s actually kind of a book end with that case because in the last episode we cover briefly the trial and the fact that there was a jury conviction. That was the first one ever with someone that was identified through genetic genealogy.
CeCe: And so each week we’ll be looking through a different case. Some are homicides, some are sexual assaults, and then some of course are both.
Fisher: Um hmm.
CeCe: And so it’s a wide range of cases. We filmed all over the country. Certainly one of the best parts of doing this series was being able to go out and meet people face-to-face. I got to meet these amazing detectives.
CeCe: I met the victims and their families. And so that was really a great thing for me because as we keep saying, I work from home and I don’t often get to interact with the people that are most affected by this work.
Fisher: Sure. As I think about that, did you find yourself from the beginning getting a little less emotionally involved with each case as they come along, or did you find that they still affect you exactly the same way as the first one did?
CeCe: That’s really a great question. And I think it depends partly on the case. They’re all still very emotional. You know. They all are very tragic. I don’t think I’ve been desensitized. However, there are so many now. We have 109 successful identifications now with my team and I. And it’s just harder to keep track. Meaning, when I’m in that case I’m very focused on it. I’m very emotionally invested in it. But then when I move on to the next case and the next case, and the next case, sometimes it’s just a little harder to keep it all straight in my mind.
Fisher: [Laughs] Yes.
CeCe: They’re each equally as important but it’s a lot of cases now. And so one of the things I think about is when my life does slow down a bit, I’d like to go back and revisit each of those cases in more depth because right now in the midst of it, they’re just flying by.
CeCe: And they’re all so important. But I need to move on to that next case and help that next family and that next detective. And so I don’t have a lot of time to sit and think about them and reflect on them as much as I would like.
Fisher: So, how many mini CeCe’s have you trained now that are doing this, hopefully as well as you do, as part of your team?
CeCe: The team at Parabon is the four of us. And it’s three others who want to stay anonymous but they are people that I worked with for a very long time through DNA Detectives and unknown parentage research. And as I said in the past, that’s absolutely the best and really the only training ground for this type of work.
CeCe: But then there are other friends of mine and people that I have helped mentor over the years that are starting their own companies out there. So, there’s lots of people that have learned the techniques that I developed and pioneered, have worked with me, in one capacity or another that are now going out and offering their services to law enforcement as well.
Fisher: Wow. So, how many cases are you working on now, and then how do you divide them up with your team?
CeCe: Well, we’ve worked on over 300 cases in the last two years and of course, they’re all in different stages. So, some of them we think are going to be successful identifications, but we don’t call them that until we get that DNA confirmation from the agency.
CeCe: So, there’s many more that will be successful. There’s some that just don’t have good enough matches yet of course, that are just waiting, being monitored, hoping we’re going to get better matches and then the ones that are viable for genetic genealogy analysis. We actually have due dates, believe it or not. [Laughs]
Fisher: Oh wow!
CeCe: Not on everyone’s case, the river cases. But we do. And so, for the most part we’re going in order of when they came in unless it’s an active case.
CeCe: Which means it will get pushed up to the top because that one obviously has a greater likelihood of somebody being victimized while we’re trying to get it solved.
CeCe: And then I look at my team’s strengths. There’s one person who’s really great at reading Spanish language records, so that person gets a lot of the Latin American cases, which are tough. [Laughs]
Fisher: Okay. Yeah.
CeCe: One person is really good at endogamy. I of course have certain cases that jump out at me that I grab that I want to work personally. A lot of families reach out to me and detectives. So typically, those are cases that I really want to try to work myself. I’m involved in all the cases and managing them all, but I’m obviously not building every tree for every case.
Fisher: Sure, impossible.
CeCe: So, I spend a lot of my time managing, and organizing, and looking at that spreadsheet you know, figuring out what’s coming next.
Fisher: I’m talking to CeCe Moore. She Is the Genetic Detective and she is the actually star of a new show coming up on ABC starting on Tuesday, The Genetic Detective. And we can’t wait to see it doing a different case every week. And CeCe, hang on, we’ve got a lot more to cover when we return here in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 3 Episode 329
Host: Scott Fisher with guest CeCe Moore
Fisher: We are back at it on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, with CeCe Moore. She is the star of a new ABC series that’s kicking off on Tuesday [May 26]. It’s called, The Genetic Detective. Of course it’s about CeCe and her efforts and knowledge in bringing about the solving of crimes that go back decades. CeCe, it’s a kick to have you on and thrilling to see what you accomplished with this. What made you want to do a TV show anyway?
CeCe: Well, the idea had come up quite a few times previously during my work with 20/20 and ABC news. But then it was about unknown parentage, or adoption, or reunion type show. And I was a little concerned about trying to do a show on that because as you know it’s such sensitive situations.
CeCe: I didn’t want to risk the chance of negatively impacting anyone’s chance for a family reunion by bringing media into it. And as you know, I would occasionally do a story, but having to do a whole series with lots of stories just seemed like a big risk. But when I decided to do criminal cases to the produces that I work with frequently at ABC news, asked me if now I would consider this? And in these cases unfortunately the damage is already done.
CeCe: So, I’m not going to do additional damage by putting these stories on the media. And what I really wanted to do was to help educate the public about how we’re actually doing this work because there’s a lot of misconceptions out there and those misconceptions cause a lot of fear and privacy concerns. So, I think if the public can get an inside view of how we do investigative genetic genealogy. And exactly what type of information we’re using and what we’re not using it can potentially help dispel some of those concerns. As you know, I absolutely support everyone’s right to decide how their DNA is used but I just want them to be well informed and educated about the process when they make those decisions. I hope in the end that it was worth it and it will have a positive impact. And hopefully help to grow GEDmatch in the meantime.
Fisher: Yeah, absolutely. And let’s talk about that because last year of course, we had the problem with GEDmatch kind of interruption came because basically everybody was being exposed for use without having to opt-in. So, they opted everybody out and said, well if you want to be included for police work then you’ve got to opt back in. And for people not familiar with GEDmatch it’s a third party site that you can use to compare your Ancestry DNA results with results from 23andMe or someplace else. So, that information is a favorite spot for law enforcement. So, the issue was of course for you CeCe, this really kind of shut you down because we went from like one and a quarter million people in the database down to nothing really quick. And then of course it has picked up considerably since then. What is your sense on where you’re at now in terms of how many matches you have to work with?
CeCe: Well, fortunately, it didn’t shut us down because we had already started working so many cases. So it was a problem for any new cases coming in but at that point we had dozens and dozens of cases in the process that we had already started to work the genetic genealogy on. So fortunately, I never stopped.
CeCe: I was able to keep going but the new cases of course were problematic because they were uploaded but had zero matches basically because so few people opted in initially. Over time that’s grown. I don’t know the exact numbers now but last I heard, I think there’s 260,000 opted in. The good news is that for many cases that didn’t have good matches we’re starting to get a really significant new match and able to jump in on some cases that previously we had to set aside. So, I’d say in the last several weeks there’s been quite a number of cases that have completely changed their status. For instance, there was one that I’d been working on for months that was fairly local to me and a more recent case, potentially active.
CeCe: And I really, really needed to get this case solved for this department and just was struggling with it and a new match was uploaded and that did it. I think it was two weekends ago, I was able to identify a potential suspect over the weekend after that match was uploaded on a Friday and then deliver that to them on Monday.
CeCe: So, it would be better obviously, if we still had access to the full database, that million plus profiles, but it hasn’t stopped us. Also, we are using Family Tree DNA more and more all the time. Parabon is not able to upload directly but the agencies we work with can get the raw data from us and upload it to Family Tree DNA and then come back with that login information for us. So, we’re also helping to solve some cases with Family Tree DNA matches now. And as you know, theirs is the opt-out situation where you’re automatically opted in if you’re a US customer, unless you choose to opt out.
CeCe: So, they have more like a million people that we can compare against. So, as you said, it was a struggle with that first opt-out and I certainly hope that people who want to be opted in have done that. And I’m not totally confident because I’ve talked to a lot of people who don’t realize that they were opted out in the first place.
CeCe: So, I just think that there’s a lot of people out there that would be willing to help us if they were aware that right now their profile is opted out. So if we can continue to get the word out about that, I think that’s great.
Fisher: Yeah that’s it. If you haven’t opted in on GEDmatch then your DNA cannot be used to help profile somebody that CeCe might be looking for in her police detective work. But it’s good to hear you’ve got a million over there in Family Tree DNA and you’ve got another quarter million with GEDmatch, so you’re back up basically to one and a quarter. Of course, you’ve got to allow I suppose for a certain amount of overlap. Nonetheless, that’s a lot to draw from.
CeCe: Yeah. And that is why we’re having significant progress. We’re averaging about one successful identification per week and that’s been our average pretty much over the last two years. So it hasn’t changed significantly. I will say, some cases are much more work.
CeCe: There’s a lot more that has to happen before we get there which is in a way kind of opposite of what people wanted who had privacy concerns. Meaning, if I have enough data to narrow it down to one man or brothers, then very few people are having to be pulled into that investigation, if any.
CeCe: But when you don’t have the data to narrow it down it does take a lot more target testing and a lot more contact with people in order to finally take it across the finish line. So, in some cases agencies are having to reach out more to families and ask the DNA test. So some people might think that’s more invasive but that’s just the result of the opt-out.
Fisher: Yeah, absolutely. So, you’ve got 109 busts at this point. Have you found any legal challenges to the technique have come along or is just recognized that this is just like another tip because they still have to prove it directly through the DNA itself?
CeCe: Yeah, exactly what you said. Fortunately, so far when it has been objected to or challenged, the courts have ruled in favour of genetic genealogy used and the fact that it’s just a tip. So, as I think I’ve told you before, I’ve been scheduled to testify as an expert witness at a lot of trials and so far I always end up getting cancelled because the court have been handling this other tip just like if someone called into crime stoppers.
CeCe: It’s just a highly scientific, specific tip. [Laughs]
CeCe: But it hasn’t had to be entered as evidence per say because what matters in the end is did they get that confirmatory DNA match or not?
CeCe: And if they didn’t, they’re not going to have an arrest and if they did, my work becomes irrelevant to how they got there basically.
CeCe: So, well, we’ll see.
Fisher: She’s CeCe Moore. She is the Genetic Detective, that’s the name of her new TV show, the new series that debuts on ABC this coming Tuesday, May 19th. It’s going to be on from 10:00 -11:00 Eastern time and Pacific time. 9:00 – 10:00 Central time and Mountain time. CeCe this is exciting stuff and I for one am really looking forward to seeing your show.
CeCe: Well, thank you so much for having me on and maybe we can talk again as we start to get through this.
Fisher: I look so forward to it my friend. Thanks so much for coming on.
CeCe: Thank you. Hope everyone is staying safe.
Fisher: And coming up next, speaking of DNA, Ancestry.com has a new research project that you may want to be a part of. We’ll talk to the head of Ancestry’s DNA department, Dr. Eurie Hong, coming up next in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 4 Episode 329
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Dr. Eurie Hong
Fisher: All right, we're back at it on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth. Delighted to have on the line with me today Dr. Eurie Hong. And she's in charge of all the stuff that goes on with Ancestry DNA, that includes your ethnicity, that includes your health reports and there's something new going right now. Dr. Hong, welcome to the show! We're excited to hear what you've got to say.
Dr. Hong: Hi Scott. Thank you so much for having me on the show. I'm excited to be here.
Fisher: So tell us about this. You're doing a COVID-19 research study now, using people's DNA that they have to opt in to be a part of. Tell us a little about it.
Dr. Hong: Yeah. So, at Ancestry, we take a look at your DNA to find patterns in your DNA that tell you information about your family history, the places where your ancestors may have been, people you're related to. We can also take a look at the patterns in your DNA for traits and health risk as well. And so, we've started this COVID-19 research project to invite our customers and the members of our network to really help us combat COVID-19.
Dr. Hong: And so, what the research project is, we ask you to tell us about whether you've been exposed to people who may have had COVID, whether you have had COVID-19 yourself, the range of your symptoms, the severity of your symptoms and then we use that information to take a look at your DNA and see if there are any patterns that can help us understand why some people get sicker than other people.
Dr. Hong: Are some people protected from COVID. And we're doing this and we're inviting our Ancestry community to help us really accelerate the pace of research on this.
Dr. Hong: How can we help speed up finding a vaccine? Can we help speed up finding a treatment for COVID, because this is really impacting us all?
Fisher: Well, I would think with all the DNA participants on hand, you've really got a deep well to draw from that could help science at this time, right? I mean, people wouldn't have to take another DNA test to part of this study.
Dr. Hong: Correct. If you are a current Ancestry customer and if you have opted into research consent, you're a US customer and over 18, you can join and participate in this research.
Fisher: Sounds like a great study to be part of. And once again, people have to opt into it, so nobody's taking your information and using this without your permission. And then the question would be, at the end of all this, would people be able to get their individual information relating to COVID-19?
Dr. Hong: So, what we will do as part of this research study is look at the data. We will identify groups of people who haven't had any symptoms. We also read people who haven't been exposed as well to answer the survey. We'll find the people who have been sick, people who aren't sick, we'll look for genetic signatures in the DNA.
Dr. Hong: And we can use this information to help research as well. And so, we've been talking about how can we make this information available back to our customers when we do find the information in that. And those are ongoing conversations, but we will make the results that we have available back to our customers.
Fisher: Sounds like a great thing to do and you've got such a deep database there to do it with and to help out the worldwide effort. So once again, if you have DNA in with Ancestry DNA, you can opt into this, and it doesn't cost you anything and you can get that result information back eventually as well, but you're going to participate in helping people maybe find some answers with this whole COVID-19 study. So, thank you so much, Dr. Hong. It’s great talking to you. Thanks so much for what you've done with Ancestry DNA and helping us find our ethnicity and find the matches that are helping us to validate our lines and also to make breakthroughs as a result of that. But this is a step beyond and an important one at a time like this, and we appreciate you taking the time to explain it to us.
Dr. Hong: Thanks for having me on. The study opened a few weeks ago, and I've just been humbled and grateful at the response.
Fisher: All right, thank you so much Dr. Eurie Hong from Ancestry.com. And coming up next, it’s another round of Ask Us Anything in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.
Segment 5 Episode 329
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Fisher: Oh, we are covering a lot of ground today on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is time once again for Ask Us Anything. David Allen Lambert is back from the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. And David, we've got a question from a kid today, yes!
Fisher: Yeah, Jeannie Richfield, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, she's 13 years old and she says she's just getting into family history, listens to the show all the time, so we've got to give Jeannie a shoutout. And her question is, "Guys, who is the oldest relative you remember and what do you remember about him or her?" Wow! Well, David, we'll start with you, you being the young’un and all.
David: Oh boy! Let's see, for me?
David: It would have to be my grandmother's older sister. Now my grandmother was born in 1896 and I knew her sister who was a decade older. She was born in December of 1886.
David: And I have vague memories of sitting in her living room. She was blind and actually knew Helen Keller. She was around Helen Keller's age and she got blinded very early. She was in a locomotive train and the cinders from the locomotive got in her eye, she rubbed it and she got an infection and was blind her whole life.
Fisher: Oh, how awful!
David: But she married and had two kids. But she lived to be about 90. So, I did meet her. How about you? You've got to beat me a little bit.
Fisher: A little bit, well, because I'm just a little older than you are, but the oldest one I remember was my aunt Mamie. This was my Grandmother Fisher's sister. And I first met her at a Thanksgiving gathering at my uncle's place in New Jersey around 1967. She died in '68 at age 90. She was born in 1878.
Fisher: And she was very kind about leaving us some notes about the family history that have been enormously valuable to me. They were kind of cryptic, you know, little things like, "Nellie Faloon met a lawyer and walked on the farm", what the heck does that mean?!
Fisher: But eventually as I got into things, I found out what some of these things meant. And they actually made some sense and actually were some real clues. I guess the other question you might get from this is, who was the earliest born person you've ever met, just even outside the family? And I only figured this one out kind of recently, because I used to go out to Albany, Oregon from the East Coast to visit my mom's parents. And my grandfather lived there and he had a neighbor that my mother had grown up near. This old guy, who even back in the '30s would ride his horse and buggy into town. Well, as a kid in the '60s, he was still doing that! So mom got us a ride on this horse and wagon and we got a picture with him and all this, and I remembered his name. And eventually I looked him up in the census records to see just when this guy was born, 1867, just after the Civil War.
Fisher: And I'm thinking, that's pretty incredible. You’ve got to wonder who was, you know, who's the oldest person living maybe even when you were born, right Dave?
David: Well, that's true. In fact, I've often wondered that myself. It makes me now think about it. Who was the oldest person? So I mean, I'm born 50 years ago, just almost 51 years ago and to figure someone who was 100, 110, conceivably, there could have been someone alive that was born before the Civil War.
David: Because I was born 104 years after the Civil War. For me, the oldest person I ever met was a guy in 1987 when I worked at the State Archives. We had a thing for centenarians in Massachusetts. He was born in 1880. He was kidnapped by the Russians from his Lithuanian village and was a veteran of the Russo-Japanese War in 1900.
Fisher: Wow! There's a story.
Fisher: And that's something to remember, isn't it. Good stuff and what a great question. I'm sorry we're out of time. I'd love to talk more about it. Thanks so much, Jeannie. And of course, if you have a question for Ask Us Anything, you can always email us at [email protected]. Thanks so much, David.
David: Always a pleasure, my friend.
Fisher: And of course that's a wrap for this week! Thanks so much to CeCe Moore, she's got a new series on ABC that starts on Tuesday, The Genetic Detective. You can hear CeCe's visit with me if you missed it today or want to hear it again on our podcast at iTunes, iHeart Radio, ExtremeGenes.com, TuneIn Radio and Spotify. Talk to you next week. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!