Episode 334 - Unbelievable MyHeritage Free Photo Enhancement Tools / Grabbing DNA From Hair Without Roots

podcast episode Jul 12, 2020

Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org.  The guys begin with the story of an Ohio genealogy center offering curb side genealogy services during the pandemic! Hear what they’re up to.  Next, a man has tracked down an old Dodge Challenger and bought it. What’s the significance? It was once the pride and joy of his late father! Catch the details. Then, you won’t believe where seven Confederate soldiers are buried. Learn the stories behind this strange situation. At old Stonehenge, researchers have discovered something new about the ancient site. Find out what they found out. David then shines his blogger spotlight on Jane Howe’s site, AllThoseBefore.org.uk. Wait til you here the story of one of her ancestors that she posted on her blog.

Next, Fisher is joined by Paul Woodbury, a DNA specialist at Legacy Tree Genealogists. He’ll talk about something no one ever expected to happen… scientists pulling DNA from rootless hair! (And they said it never could be done.) Paul also explains why some DNA tests don’t work out the first time. Here’s what you need to avoid if you’re about to submit your spit.

Maureen Taylor, the Photo Detective, then visits with Fisher about MyHeritage’s new “enhancement” tool. It’s raising eyebrows around the world. Find out why.

David Allen Lambert then returns to for Ask Us Anything, answering questions concerning researching your Revolutionary ancestors.

That’s all this week on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show!

Transcript of Episode 334

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 334

Fisher: Hello genies and welcome back to another spine-tingling episode of Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. I am Fisher, your Radio Roots Sleuth, on the program where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out. Hope you are having a great 4th of July weekend. Hopefully, you’re finding something you can do. Somebody tried to light up some fireworks not far from where my daughter lives and set a whole mountainside on fire the other night, so maybe that’s not something we want to play with. But it’s great to have you along. We’ve got some great guests today. Paul Woodbury is going to be with us today talking about “rootless hair.” You know, it’s always been said that you can’t get DNA from hair without roots, but it has now been used to solve the case of a missing Jane Doe. And we’re going to talk to Paul about how this is done, and why things have changed with that. Plus, there’s an incredible new tool out on My Heritage that sharpens your old fuzzy pictures in ways you’ve never seen before. We’re going to talk to the Photo Detective Maureen Taylor about this new tool. By the way, if you haven’t signed up for our “Weekly Genie Newsletter” yet, this is a great time to do it because you’ve got a lot of time on your hands. Just go to our website ExtremeGenes.com or on our Facebook page to get yourself signed up. Right now, it’s off to Stoughton, Massachusetts and the home base of my good friend David Allen Lambert, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historical Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. Hi David. How are you?

David: Hey, I’m doing okay. I turned 51and I’ve decided I’m going to reverse the numbers Fish. I’m now 15.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: I’m doing it all over again. [Laughs]

Fisher: Do it all over again. You know how many times I’ve thought about that? Yeah, you’re absolutely right. Well, it’s great to have you here. Are you going to be doing anything on the fourth?

David: Well, let’s see, social distancing, no fireworks, probably just the family around the barbeque, and maybe a bonfire making s’mores. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs] Yeah, there’s not a lot you can do. I mean, how long can this go on? My goodness, it’s just really obnoxious.

David: I don’t want to celebrate a year end anniversary of being home in March, I can tell you that much.

Fisher: No. Absolutely. All right. Well, let’s get on with our Family Histoire News today. What do you have for us?

David: Well, if you live near Eaton, Ohio, Fish, you can actually do genealogy curbside. Yes, the Preble County Genealogy Room is now offering curbside genealogy services, including requests for birth, marriage and death cemeterial obituaries and census records, printed colored copies at only 15 cents a page, and you can access forms and charts and they’ll bring it right out to your car.

Fisher: [Laughs] That’s crazy! That’s great!

David: You know, I think it’s fun and I really wish I lived closer and I might have to give them a call because I want to see how popular it’s become. That’s kind of a cool story. You remember our mom and dad having cars when we grew up? Here’s a story about Bobby Bohnsak’s latest purchase, in fact, in May. He went out and bought an old car, a 1974 Dodge Challenger. Well, it has a little personal history. It belonged to his dad.

Fisher: Yes, and his dad died when this guy was eight years old. And he saw pictures of him with it and dad sold it actually when Bobby was a young kid and so off it went.

David: You know, I’ve often thought to myself what happened to my dad’s truck. And I always think it became an aluminum garbage can that’s probably somewhere out in the Midwest now, but it’s great that you can pull that into your garage. And he has photographs of his dad. His dad was a Vietnam vet and he’d just got back from the Air Force. This is a real great connection and hopefully this stays in the family.

Fisher: Yeah, this guy’s from Oklahoma, and he tracked the car back to San Diego, California because he found an old receipt from the original purchase of the car. It had a VIN number in it and coincidence of coincidences, the car was for sale at that time.

David: Wow, it’s unbelievable. You know, I love Civil War stories and I was a Civil War reenactor for a long amount of time. And occasionally, you know, I would go down South and I would see the graves of Confederate soldiers etc, but you wouldn’t think you’d find any in Maine. [Laughs]

Fisher: Right?

David: Seven graves of Confederate soldiers, some of which are even identified. There’s a story, in fact, of one Daniel Packard. He’s from Garland, Maine. He was a native of Maine, and moved to Florida before the Civil War with his brothers and joined the Confederate army, but then he came back home, and was buried there. So, just when you think that everybody is below the Mason-Dixon Line, some of them are up in northern New England in old Yankee country.

Fisher: Just the thought of it, seven Confederate soldiers buried in Maine.

David: Yeah, but there’s always the case where they sent the wrong body up north. And there were unknown burials and you open up the casket for the funeral and oops, no that wasn’t the person from Maine.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: It was probably for somebody that was down in Mississippi, and they had the wrong letter on it but he had on a Confederate uniform. So, there’s some unknown soldiers buried up there as well and this is probably true. We probably get Union soldiers buried in Confederate cemeteries. Digging a little deeper, I always love a good Stonehenge story. Archaeologists found a massive ring of ancient shafts close to Stonehenge. And now they found these shafts, at least 20 of them, 32 feet in diameter, 16 feet deep that form a circle about 1.2 miles in diameter. The ring surrounds the village of Durrington Walls which is right near Stonehenge. So, Stonehenge is a little bigger than they previously thought.

Fisher: Wow. And to find that out after all these years. I mean, they’ve been researching that place forever.

David: History books are always kind of like the ink should still be wet because we’re always making new discoveries. Well, you know, I love a good blogger spotlight and it’s been a while since we shone a light on anyone. And this time I’m going to shine it way over to England to Jean Hough of Kent, England who has a blog called allthosebefore.org.uk. Joseph Entwistle was her third great uncle, and family story has it that he was a joiner that made over 2,000 caskets. In fact, he even had one under his bed, Fish.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: Well, she decided to do some genealogy research and she tracked down his original gravestone in a small church yard in England and you’ll see a picture of it. It wasn’t 2,000 caskets that he made. It was 6,600!

Fisher: Wow. Was he buried in his own is the question?

David: It really is. Well, that’s what I have for this week and remember, if you’re not a member of a 175-year-old organization, the New England Historic Genealogical Society, you can go to AmericanAncestors.org and pay $20 on membership by using the coupon code “Extreme.”

Fisher: All right David, thank you so much. And of course, you’ll be back at the back end of the show as we do more of Ask Us Anything talking about the Revolutions since it’s the 4th of July weekend. And coming up next, we’re going to talk to Paul Woodbury the DNA specialist over at Legacy Tree Genealogists talking about “rootless hair” and how they’re getting DNA out of it now to solve crimes. Tell you more about it, coming up next on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 334

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Paul Woodbury

Fisher: Oh, we just posted a story here this past week on ExtremeGenes.com about a cold case murder where the Jane Doe victim was identified using a “rootless hair.” Rootless hair. We’ve always heard that you can’t get DNA from hair without roots. Hey, it’s Fisher. It’s Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show. And I’ve got Paul Woodbury on the line, the DNA specialist from my friends at Legacy Tree Genealogists. And Paul, I am confused. I’ve always heard you can’t get DNA from rootless hair. What’s going on with this?

Paul: Yeah, we have heard for a long time that rootless hair just doesn’t really work for DNA analysis. And I think if you dig into it a little bit more, you can see that what they’re using in this case, as well as in several other cases, so, you know, this one is the most recent to hit the news but this technique has actually been used as early as before the Golden State Killer. So, it’s been in use for a while, and it’s pretty amazing what they’re doing in being able to extract DNA from rootless hair. You are exactly correct that for a long time the scientific community has said it just can’t be done. There’s just too little DNA, or in some cases they’ve even gone so far as to say that hair that is not in a growth phase doesn’t even carry nuclear DNA. They have pointed out that mitochondrial DNA testing, yes, is an option for rootless hair, but they kind of draw the line at autosomal. And that is not the case anymore, it appears.

Fisher: Wow.

Paul: We have been able to successfully pull autosomal DNA from rootless hair, which is a pretty amazing feat.

Fisher: Do you see an application for genealogy potentially from this? So, if we had for instance some hair from a great, great grandfather or great, great grandmother that we might be able to do something with it?

Paul: I think that it’s certainly a possibility for the future. Right now, I think it’s still in the early phases. Reading some of the other articles about this technique, I’ve discovered that there’s high demand.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Paul: And after Ed Greene, the person who really developed some of the technology and the approaches that enabled us, his lab is pretty slammed for demand on some of the cases they’re pursuing with this technique right now. So, I don’t know how long it will take for this to be publically available to the general user, and currently the cost is quite expensive. It’s around several thousand dollars for each hair strand that they analyze. So, it is quite expensive. But we’ve seen it before, I mean, the whole genome sequencing used to be through the roof, now it is well within reach of the general population to be able to pursue that. So, we just see the continued downward trend of cost for genetic testing and genetic genealogy testing. So, I think eventually, I would not be surprised if this does become an option for genetic genealogy.

Fisher: Wow. That is an incredible thought. I’d never considered the possibility. Of course, we know now we’ve got labs opening up that are going to be able to test people’s old hats, and earrings, and things like this, envelopes obviously. But I don’t think we’ve ever considered hair. And you think about it Paul, how many old family Bibles have little chunks of hair that people just saved in there from babies or from ancestors.

Paul: Yeah, or the Victorian hair wreathes, right? [Laughs]

Fisher: Yeah.

Paul: Often people would come to us and ask, “I have a hair brush from my ancestor. Do you think we could get something from that?” And consistently over the past several years we’ve often said, “Unless there is a root on that hair, it’s very hard to get DNA out of that.” But I think the technology is progressing to a point that eventually that will become possible.

Fisher: Wow. Well, that’s exciting stuff and I’m looking forward to hearing more about how they’re able to make this work. So, let’s talk about some other things today Paul. We’ve seen in the past where a lot of people have gotten their DNA test results back saying, “You’ve got to do it again.” What’s that all about?

Paul: Well, I think this actually ties in nicely to our discussion of rootless hair because your DNA samples, when you take a test, you send it into the lab and you’re expecting your test results to come back and instead you get an email that’s disappointing that says, “We weren’t able to run your sample. It failed. We weren’t able to get high quality DNA out of it. You’ll need to take another sample.” That can be a little discouraging. But the underlying issue is that it’s how much DNA they’re able to get out of your sample. And with rootless hair, with fingernails, with different types of cells in our body, there are some cells, some fluids that contain a lot more DNA than others. And rootless hair is one of the types of DNA that has the least amount of autosomal DNA that we’re actually trying to look at as part of genetic genealogy tests. Fingernails, skin, a lot of the times those cells have died and the process of degradation of the DNA has already commenced. So, that’s one of the reasons that we don’t often go through those as our first choice when we’re pursuing genetic genealogy testing. For genetic genealogy testing, most of the time what we’re using is a spit sample, or a cheek swab. And those samples pull from two sources of cells in our body. Most of the cells in the DNA that we get from those sampling processes come from white blood cells, which are included in our saliva and our spit, as well as epithelial buccal cells, or cheek cells.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Paul: The gum-line of our cheek. So, when you do a spit test, most of the cells in that are going to come from your white blood cells. When you do a cheek swab, you’ll get kind of a mix of both. There’s a few reasons why people may have problems when we do those types of sampling processes.  If they’ve brushed their teeth recently before providing the sample that will wash a lot of the cells that would be going into the sample, out of your mouth and now we have nothing to really collect there. So, brushing your teeth, drinking within a half an hour before you perform the test, eating. Eating also can introduce foreign chemicals, bacteria that can interfere and that can cause your DNA to degrade. Smoking can cause cell deaths and can result in problems there. Chewing gum, mouth wash, anything that introduces different chemicals or foreign particles into your mouth can interfere with the DNA analysis later on. Something else to keep in mind is that any meat, any vegetable, any organic material that you eat also has DNA.

Fisher: Right.

Paul: That can cause problems for us when we’re sending in our sample and say, you come back 50% beef. You know?

Fisher: [Laughs]

Paul: Not really, but it can mess up some of the analysis that we try to perform there. So, to get the best success for your DNA test, avoid brushing your teeth, drinking water, smoking, eating, chewing gum, using mouth wash, avoid doing anything in your mouth for at least a half an hour before you take your DNA test, and that will increase the chances that you’re able to have a successful run.

Fisher: You wouldn’t get the full profile then potentially, right? What percentages of tests come back like that?

Paul: You know, I’m not sure. And I think it probably depends on the company. From my own experience, I’d say probably one in a hundred. And keep in mind that it’s not that they’re unable to get any DNA out of that, it’s that they’re not able to get high enough quality copies of your DNA out of that sample. You know, they still may be able to get some DNA out of it, but it’s not to their quality assurance standards in what they are going to be able to report back.

Fisher: Sure.

Paul: And so they have to get you to a certain threshold in order to feel confident in what they’re reporting to you. And something else to keep in mind with that is another common reason why people may have a failure with their DNA samples is, if they’ve had a blood transfusion.

Fisher: Right. [Laughs]

Paul: Or they’ve had a bone marrow transplant. Blood transfusions from somebody else because a lot of the cells that we’re testing is part of a spit test or a buccal swab are from your white blood cells, they are going to contain the DNA of your blood transfusion donor. That effect wears off over time so several months after your blood transfusion you should be okay to take a DNA sample and it should show you your DNA. Bone marrow transplants on the other hand are permanent.

Fisher: Wow. So, they become a part of you. Your donor would become a part of you?

Paul: Yeah. Your donor’s DNA becomes a part of your DNA. Because the blood comes from the bone marrow and as a result of that, the DNA in your blood will show your donor’s DNA. And the DNA in your other cells may show your DNA but it will be a mixture and it won’t meet the quality that you seek.

Fisher: Wow. Have you ever heard of somebody being accused of a crime who went through a bone marrow transplant and the crime scene DNA matched? Because that could happen, right?

Paul: I might have.

Fisher: Yeah.

Paul: I know at least that that is a common consideration, and that’s something that forensic researchers and forensic professionals often are trying to consider is, is there a possibility of a bone marrow transplant?

Fisher: You could also wind up matching to other people, I would assume, right? Have we seen that?

Paul: Yes. We have seen that.

Fisher: You’ve seen that where you actually matched to people who are related to the person who donated the bone marrow? 

Paul: Yep.

Fisher: Wow! That would change things, wouldn’t it? [Laughs]

Paul: Yes. The last thing that I would say is, one of the major reasons that people’s samples fail, actually has nothing to do with the test collection process itself, but just with the registration of the kit.

Fisher: Oh, yeah.

Paul: I can’t tell you how many times people have come to me and say, “Well, I took the test and I sent it in and I never heard anything back.” First of all, did you register your kit online? And that is a really important step. Most of the companies, they do this first, log in, create an account with the company, register your kit, and that’s the only way that they can assign your test results to you. That’s how they’re able to securely and privately make sure that you’re the only one who gets access to your test results.

Fisher: That makes sense.

Paul: And that is a pre-requisite for some companies. They won’t run the kits that have not yet been registered.

Fisher: Sure.

Paul: So, make sure that you fill out that form and register your kit so that you can make sure that you are all set to receive the information that you’re seeking.

Fisher: Paul, great to talk to you again. Thanks so much. Appreciate you coming on, and we’ll chat again soon.

Paul: Thank you.

Fisher: And coming up next, we’re going to talk to Maureen Taylor. She is the Photo Detective. There’s a new tool out on My Heritage and it’s pretty amazing. We’ll talk about that it coming up in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.        

Segment 3 Episode 334

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Maureen Taylor

Fisher: Well, it seems like just a few months ago, because it was, that My Heritage came out with an amazing new tool to colorize your old black and white pictures and so many of them come out really, really well. Well, wouldn’t you know, they came out with another tool and who would have imagined how cool this one is. Hey, it’s Fisher. It’s Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. I’ve got my good friend the Photo Detective Maureen Taylor on the line with me right now. Maureen, are you digging this new tool from My Heritage?

Maureen: Oh my goodness, Scott, it is amazing!

Fisher: Yeah.

Maureen: Amazing.

Fisher: I’m finding that for group shots, you know with group shots and you try to enlarge an individual’s face they get a little fuzzy, right? And the older ones perhaps are a little spotty, maybe some lines. Well, they’ve got this new tool on My Heritage and it sharpens these pictures and it is astounding what you can do when you enhance it that way and then colorize it. I took one of my grandmother. I know, I shared it with you Maureen because it phenomenal how clear it makes her look. I can see her at 19 years old, in color, in perfect clarity, from 1900.

Maureen: So, I like the colorizing tool. I do, because it gives you another way of looking at your pictures.

Fisher: Yep.

Maureen: But when I got the press release for the enhancement tool and then I put it to work, I couldn’t believe what it was able to do.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Maureen: And then if you add the colorizing to it.

Fisher: Yep, on top of it, it’s incredible.

Maureen: On top of it, it seems to sharpen it even more.

Fisher: And you see things in the picture you don’t otherwise see. I don’t know why that is. It’s just I guess the eye catches things not only based on contrast but based on color as well and it doesn’t work for everything. It’s funny I had one group picture where I actually ran it through the enhancer twice because I didn’t think it was quite as clear as it could be.

Maureen: Hmm.

Fisher: And [Laughs] it really changed what they looked like quite a bit. It made the jowls suddenly stick out and the eyes were closer together and somebody is suddenly wearing glasses where it’s just a shadow in the other picture. So, it’s not perfect. You only want to use it one time on a photo and see what it does. But nonetheless, I can tell you, if you go through and try this thing you’re going to find some that’s just going to make your jaw drop.

Maureen: Yeah. I mean, here’s the thing. It’s machine learning. It’s an algorithm. So, it’s going to get smarter the more pictures it looks at and fixes. And I am not going to learn how to use Photoshop.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Maureen: I’m just not. I mean, yes it’s a photo tool but I can’t imagine spending all these hours and days, and weeks, and months learning Photoshop. But this tool, it does it for you.

Fisher: Yeah. You just push one button and there it is. So I’ve been sharing it with a lot of people in my membership and the groups and they’re all just playing with their own pictures right now and it’s all coming back as great feedback and hats off to My Heritage for making this happen.

Maureen: Well, here’s my funny and hands down story. I’m the Photo Detective, right?

Fisher: Yeah.

Maureen: I have this little snapshot and it’s a man up on a really long extension ladder painting a house. And I had always been told it was my dad. Now, it’s a tiny little snapshot and his head, it looks like a pinprick. I had looked at it under a magnifier and I had blown it up and it’s fuzzy and the whole thing. So, I’m like, huh, I wonder what it can do. Ran it through the enhancement tool and discovered, it’s not my dad on the ladder after all. It was his cousin!

Fisher: [Laughs] You could recognize him? You mean to say it focused it so well that you could differentiate who was in it?

Maureen: Pretty much.

Fisher: Wow! That’s incredible.

Maureen: Pretty much.

Fisher: One of the things about this though is that the finished result is much smaller than the original in terms of, you know, pixels and that type of thing. So, I’m finding some of the ways that you can maybe save a larger version of it is to just basically take a screenshot as you enlarge it on your computer and then you can do it that way. Obviously they only have so much storage there that they can do this with but it’s amazing. And the beauty of it is, did I mention it’s free? Just like the color enhancer.

Maureen: You get so many trials.

Fisher: Yep.

Maureen: Before you have to buy a paid subscription to My Heritage. And there are other tools out there that you can use in conjunction with this like Vivid-Pix.

Fisher: Yep.

Maureen: It’s not an either-or situation. You can use one and then enhance it even further with the other.

Fisher: You’re absolutely right. I was just showing my wife this morning these combinations of pictures with my grandmother and the original picture and then the enhancement and then the colorizer and she was just in shock. I thought, back in the day when we started on all this, back in the 1980s you couldn’t even imagine things like this. We paid, I want to say, $150 to somebody to take an original picture that was pretty beaten up and take a photo of it, make a negative, make a print and then paint it and correct what was supposed to be in there.

Maureen: Yeah.

Fisher: I mean, it was a ton of money $150!

Maureen: This was inconceivable.

Fisher: Inconceivable. Yeah, absolutely, and so here we are. It makes you wonder because after the colorizer came out I thought, well, what else could there possibly be to work on photographs, you know?

Maureen: Oh, they have some other things up their sleeve that I can’t talk about.

Fisher: Oh, wait, wait, wait. Don’t do that to me.

Maureen: [Laughs]

Fisher: Don’t do that to my people here. There’s more?

Maureen: I think they’re working on some more things. But here’s the thing, I’m going to talk about the ins and outs of this program and the colorizer of course because I use them in conjunction. On the My Heritage Facebook page, we’re doing a Facebook live at 2 o’clock Eastern, on July 8th.

Fisher: Okay.

Maureen: And it’s free because it’s on their Facebook page. So, anyone can go on and watch. I’m actually working on the presentation right now There’s this whole list of photos from my research collection and my family collection that I’m actually running through the enhancer right now to sort of put it to the test.

Fisher: And are you basically figuring out what works and what doesn’t? Because there are some it doesn’t seem to make much difference with. 

Maureen: Yeah, I just had one of those. It’s too blurry.

Fisher: Or you get some that are just crisp enough already you don’t see much of a difference.

Maureen: No, you don’t. But kudos to My Heritage for thinking outside the box because who would have thought we could actually automate colorizing a photograph and then automate enhancing one.

Fisher: The question for you, is this another company that they’ve partnered with like they did with the colorizer?

Maureen: Ooh, you know I forgot to ask that question. Probably, but I don’t know the answer. I will find out.

Fisher: Okay. [Laughs] Better know that, right?

Maureen: I better know that.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Maureen: I better know that.

Fisher: Well, it’s great. Partnerships are what’s making everything happen in the field right now. I mean, Family Search started partnering with Ancestry and then My Heritage, and now they’re all exchanging stuff and it’s been to the good for every single company and organization and for the best for all of us right, who have been doing this forever and benefit from it.

Maureen: Yes.

Fisher: Whether they developed it themselves or put together a partnership to make it happen doesn’t make any difference. In fact, I think it’s even better with a partnership.

Maureen: I think the spirit of collaboration is strong and we all benefit from it, them and us.

Fisher: Yeah, absolutely true. And some of the pictures, you can run this through and see what your people would have looked like. It colors their eyes and colors their hair. And when it’s in perfect clarity to look in the eyes of somebody that you knew was your ancestor in the 1870s, it’s a phenomenal thing. You just stare and it and go, my gosh! They look like real people not just mannequins standing there posing. How long did they have to keep the shutter open back then Maureen?

Maureen: Hmm, it depends. It depends on the time period. I will say that these tools give us a new way of seeing our family photographs.

Fisher: Yeah.

Maureen: so, I’m going to talk about a funny thing which is the Library of Congress blog. If you are not familiar with it Scott, go on the Library of Congress website, into the blog and then they have a mystery photo contest. So, they’ve been featuring a lot of photographs. They’ve been working on actresses and actors that they have pictures of and they want to identify them.

Fisher: Wait a minute, what chance to we have then, right? [Laughs]

Maureen: That’s the fascinating thing about who finds the answers and who knows the answers about our collective brains.

Fisher: Right.

Maureen: But there’s this lovely young woman and it looks like a 1975 picture and everybody said, wow, she looks so familiar, but nobody knows who she is. It’s all about the conversation. Six months later, a woman writes in and says, that’s a very nice photo of me. Thanks, I hadn’t seen it before.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Maureen: It was a picture of her. It is a riot.

Fisher: Wow! She’s Maureen Taylor. She’s the photo Detective. You can follow her at MaureenTaylor.com. And look for her on the 8th on that Facebook page with My Heritage, talking about the new enhancement tool. Thanks for your time Maureen, always great to talk to you.

Maureen: Thank you Scott.

Fisher: David Lambert is back for Ask Us Anything in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 4 Episode 334

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: And it is time once again for Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth. I've got David Allen Lambert on the line from the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. He is the Chief Genealogist. And David, we have a question from Lena in Port Arthur, Texas and with this being the 4th of July weekend, it’s very appropriate. She says, "Lesser known sources for pensions for Revolutionary soldiers, what would some of them be?" That's a great question, because we always want to develop something new, right?

David: Well, that's true. And I think there are a lot of times people think that, you know, their ancestor had a pension automatically for serving in the war. Well, if they died soon after, unless you were an officer, you didn't get one Fish. I mean, there were strict pension rules that were in the 18th century around the time of the war for officers, they got half pay if they were injured, and then for the widows and children, they got part of the pay for a certain amount of time. But in regards to regular soldiers, like if you served in the Massachusetts militia and you served two months, you didn't even qualify for a pension based on your service, until 1818 when the congress passed an Act. So, you may have got something different, bounty land. Bounty land was handed out early on. A lot of the states and of course the federal government was giving out land, because, well, they had the land, but they didn't have the money. And people would get their bounty land. Now the bounty land records for the military side don't really exist. In fact, if you look at a lot of the indexes, like virtual lights, abstracts of the Revolutionary War pensions, they will say DLW and a number, they'll say no papers. And the reason it says that is because in 1800, there was a fire in the war department in Washington and as luck would have it, the British came back and burned Washington in 1814 and any papers that were put together in those years were also lost.

Fisher: Oh wow!

David: So, a lot of times when you're looking for proof that your ancestor got a bounty land, I mean, there are later claims. So you can get those from the National Archives. But if you're looking in the deeds and you can't find your ancestor buying the land, look at the bounds of the land. It might say in it historically that is a bounty land warrant that I received from my father's service in the Revolutionary War, and it may say the number. So, that's how we're rediscovering a lot of these early, not really pensions, but bounty lands, which were a pension alternative when there aren't any papers in Washington to look for. The other thing, if you've got a bounty land Fish, say, for instance, you were now 85 years old, you've got land in Ohio. You're living in Connecticut. Do you want to go to Ohio? Probably not.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: Your ads throughout the newspapers, you know, with a buy gold. You know, I'll buy your junk gold, blah, blah, blah. That's in the newspapers now, yeah, they had ads in the papers back then, "Cash for your bounty land." And they would just give the soldier the money they got for the value of it, probably not as much as its truly worth and they in turn would sell it and they would still have reference that this was the bounty land connected to a particular soldier and the number associated with it. So, you can still find it reversing that way with deeds.

Fisher: Wow! That sounds like actually a really fun process, especially to know what the land was that your Revolutionary War ancestor owned. And you're right, that is a part of a pension, isn't it? Really, it’s a reward.

David: Right, exactly. And then, a lot of times states didn't have the financial means, let alone the federal government. There's a book by Lloyd Bockstruck, and Lloyd is unfortunately passed on, but his book, "State Awarded Bounty Lands" is a book, I think it was published by the Genealogical Publishing Company, GPC, out of Maryland, and that has alphabetically each one of the soldiers, the state and the number associated with it and that could be anchorage as well, so that's a good place to start.

Fisher: Well, there you go. That's a lesser known source and I've never heard that myself, so thank you very much for that. And thanks for the question, Lena. And coming up next, we've got another question, talking about patriotic service for membership in the DAR and the SAR. We'll get to that when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 334

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: And we're back on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, with David Allen Lambert, the Chief Genealogist for the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. And David, our second question today for Ask Us Anything comes from Jonathan in Boise, Idaho. He says, "Guys, I'm thinking of joining the SAR, the Sons of the American Revolution and I'm seeing that there's a way to qualify ancestors for membership by something called patriotic service. What are some of those services that ancestors would have provided and how do I find out if they did it?" Great question, Jonathan.

David: Yeah, a really good question. One of the things that you could have done simply was to sign an association test or a royalty oath in your state. Some of these survived, saying that you're loyal to the cause. You didn't pick up a musket, but you were not going to become a loyalist, you weren't going to support the British in any way, shape or form.

Fisher: And in New York by the way, that would be the Revolutionary pledge, they called it. That was signed in 1775 and I had one of my ancestors who signed that.

David: Um hmm, and this is a perfect way of getting in. It’s cut and dried. Then you just have to prove, you know, generation like you would for a soldier all the way down to you with all the documents. The other thing is supplying something to the state or continental troops. So if you supplied horses or you got some record that you were compensated for, maybe the troops stayed in your barn or you fed them, you gave them a wagon or muskets or whatever the case might be, that's considered patriotic service too.

Fisher: Yep. One of my wife's ancestors was actually providing bacon to the Continental Army and that got him in. [Laughs]

David: That’s great!

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: Because bacon is important. 

Fisher: It is important!

David: Even in 1775.

Fisher: Yep, exactly.

David: [Laughs] Another thing could just be doing civic duty. Now, if you served on a jury, if you were part of town government or if the colonial government was operating in any way, shape or form that counts too. So, if you find your ancestor even doing something as simple as paying local taxes that is supporting the cause.

Fisher: Isn't that interesting. And for many of these people, these are older folks who weren't really physically capable of being in the Revolutionary army, so this is the way they contributed and this is the way they are recognized by not only the Sons of the American Revolution, but the Daughters as well. You mentioned the housing thing. I had an ancestor in New York City who housed a bunch of New Jersey soldiers who had been assigned to go out there and protect Manhattan Island against the British attack that was impending. And so, that would qualify him just right there. There were other things he did, for instance, he engraved the Continental dollar. He was the engraver for that, so that qualified him. But putting up soldiers in your house, that's a pretty good sign they did patriotic service and they were supporting the cause.

David: I think that Continental dollar is a great thing. Do you own one of those by any chance?

Fisher: No, I couldn't possibly afford to own one of those. [Laughs] They're very valuable.

David: You have a spare kidney to sell?

Fisher: Oh yeah, he's got his initials on there, Elisha Gallaudet. He's a 5th great grandfather. Great story behind that and how he escaped to New Jersey, and there's not much out there about him, although I published a story about him in the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society record about 15 years ago.

David: Oh, I didn’t know.

Fisher: But it’s an amazing story.

David: Oh, that's excellent. So, if you're looking for additional people to join the DAR or the SAR, look at those people who were alive in 1775 to 1783. You may have an additional propositae to join.

Fisher: A what? Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, a propositae?! What is that?!

David: Oh, that's just a fancy term we use.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: It’s basically somebody to be proposed, so propositise to join.

Fisher: [Laughs] A propositae!

David: A propositae.

Fisher: All right, David. Get out of here, we're out of time.

David: [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs] Jonathan, thank you for the question. And of course if you have a question for Ask Us Anything, you just email us at [email protected]. Hey, that's our show for this week. Thanks so much for joining us. Thanks once again to Paul Woodbury and Maureen Taylor, our guests this week. If you missed any of the show, oh there's so many ways to catch it on the podcast side at ExtremeGenes.com, iTunes, iHeart Radio, TuneIn Radio, Spotify, we're all over the place. Talk to you again next week. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!

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