Episode 336 - Fisher Submits Old Envelopes for DNA Testing, Possible Kit

podcast episode Aug 02, 2020

Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. The guys begin Family Histoire News with the story of GEDMatch being hacked. At the time of recording, it was only believed that the entire database had been opted in for police work. Now it appears the site was fully exposed for three hours on Sunday, July 19th. David then shares the heartwarming story of a British World War II vet, a centenarian, who raised some $40 million dollars to battle Covid-19. And his Queen has recognized him. Then, Mental Floss has come up with 14 slang terms from the colonial era. They sure sound strange today! David then passes along important advice from libraries around the country… don’t microwave your books! Hear what this is all about. The guys wrap up the segment with a fascinating story from Smithsonian concerning Apollo 13, the near disastrous mission, as well as the movie.

Fisher then begins his two part visit with Karra Porter, one of the founders of a new DNA lab, Keepsake DNA, devoted to genetic genealogy. Keepsake DNA can analyze DNA from old hats, earrings, dentures, hearing aids… among many other heirlooms…. and envelopes. In fact, Fisher is playing guinea pig, providing four envelopes for analysis. Hear what Karra has to say about what her new endeavor.

David then returns for your questions on Ask On Anything.

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

Transcript of Episode 336

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 336

Fisher: And welcome to America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, on the program where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out. Great to have you aboard genies, and we’ve got a great guest today. Karra Porter is here. And you may recall we were talking to her right after RootsTech back in March because hers was the booth that we spent the most time at because she was getting ready to open a lab by which you can do DNA testing on hats and pins and old envelopes and that lab has opened and we’re going to be talking about that. I’ve provided actually some material for her. We’re going to run it through a little test, and of course, report the results to you as we go along. So, it’s going to be a great conversation coming up in just a little bit. By the way, if you haven’t signed up for our “Weekly Genie Newsletter” yet, we’d love to have you aboard for that. It’s absolutely free. Just sign up at ExtremeGenes.com or on our Facebook page. You’ll get a blog from me each week, a couple of links to current and past shows and links to stories you’d be interested in as a genealogist. Right now, it’s time to head out to Stoughton, Massachusetts to the isolated David Allen Lambert, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. Hi David! How are you doing?

David: Hey, I’m doing okay. Yeah, I put on my mask and I headed to Virginia in a little much needed family road trip. And I must say that Colonial Williamsburg was all masks and socially distanced and hardly anyone there. It was like dress rehearsal if you will. [Laughs]

Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs] Well, you know, that’s true. I mean, it’s a lot of distancing when nobody’s there. That makes it a lot easier to travel, doesn’t it?

David: It really does. Well, our Family Histoire News has got an interesting piece. I know many of our listeners use GEDmatch and I’ve opted in for the law enforcement option, but some people haven’t opted it. What did you do on yours? Are you opted in?

Fisher: Yes, I’m opted in.

David: If you’ve gone on GEDmatch recently, you may notice it is down. It’s currently down for maintenance because apparently some glitch happened in the programming and all the DNA in GEDmatch became available to law enforcement to search. [Since recording, it has since been revealed that it was much more than that. All accounts were fully exposed for three hours on July 19th.]

Fisher: Yeah, this is an interesting thing. It doesn’t mean that there was a breach in terms of there’s somebody out there snarfing your identity and your profiles. [Now we’re waiting to hear if that is in fact what happened.]

David: No.

Fisher: It means that for some reason, whether there was an accidental opt-in for everybody or for some other reason it happened somebody did it intentionally. Law Enforcement had access to all of the profiles, at least for a time. So, Verogen got involved in it. They’ve shut the site down, at least as of the time that we’re recording this. And they’re going to have to do some investigation to figure out exactly what took place there, so it will be interesting to see.

David: Well, I’ll tell you, it’s one of these things that if you have a relative that killed somebody, I’m more than happy to be the one that provide that information and get them caught.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: And then maybe they’ll be on CeCe Moore’s show and be on as the person who supplied DNA.

Fisher: [Laughs] Stop it!

David: [Laughs] Well, exciting news for 100-year-old Tom Moore, Captain Tom Moore, the World War II Veteran we’ve talked about before. You remember him. He walked in his backyard doing laps with his walker and raised a whopping £33 million, well above $40 million in America for the National Health Service in the UK. Well, he got a nice little thank you. He has been knighted by Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle.

Fisher: Isn’t that the coolest thing? A 100-year-old guy. He didn’t expect to raise that kind of money, $40 million, to deal with the COVID crisis.

David: [Laughs] No.

Fisher: And now he gets knighted by Queen Elizabeth. That’s crazy. Congratulations to him.

David: He really is a superstar. You know, I’ll tell you, we’ve been having some fun going through that recent article you posted on Extreme Genes for the colonial era Slang. Like, you could have said, “You’re pretty kedge. Basically, you’re doing good in health.” And so, I like to say to people, “I’m pretty kedge”. And people are like, “What are you talking about?”

Fisher: [Laughs] K-E-D-G-E, yeah.

David: Yeah, and if you’re a cat’s paw or been made a cat’s paw, that means that somebody used you for their own gain, essentially used. The next word that I want to mention is chuffy.

Fisher: Chuffy?

David: So, if someone tells you, “Don’t be so chuffy,” it’s a strange old word in obscure origins that means a little bit more gentle than a jerk. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: Fishy…bleary eyes and turned down mouth corners make a drunk resembles fish. It was kind of a way to say, “You were drunk.”

Fisher: What was the other thing I used to hear about fifty years ago that say somebody was “loaded?” But back in the 19th century you’d hear them say oh, they’re full, which I always thought a succinct term.

David: Well, you know, and there’s one that refers to their age. I vaguely remember people using this one. When a boy is referred to as a young shaver, it’s referring that they are old enough to probably start shaving. So, if they called you a shaver that meant you’re probably an adolescent or teen of sorts.

Fisher: Exactly.

David: Another great story on ExtremeGenes.com is the one where you don’t want to treat your book like a hot pocket.

Fisher: Yeah. Have you seen this? This is unbelievable. People are out there because they are worried about COVID-19. When they go to the library, they’re taking the books home, and microwaving them to kill any virus, which is causing a little problem.

David: Yeah, especially when their microwave catches fire and so does the book.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: It’s like Fahrenheit 451. Know if you’re going to do something like that, put the book on a shelf for a couple of weeks and quarantine it, and whatever’s on it is going to be gone. That’s what a lot of libraries are doing. Please do not burn your books. Oh boy. Well, I’ve got a great story from the Smithsonian. Twenty-five years ago, many of you may have watched the movie on Apollo 13, and there’s been some talk over the years. Was it as scary watching the movie as it was when they re-entered the atmosphere? Hollywood’s great, but it looks like, by reading this article, it’s pretty close to the mark.

Fisher: Yeah. I remember watching that. I was just a little shaver. [Laughs]

David: [Laughs]

Fisher: And it was an intense several days there as they were trying to get the Astronauts down. When they were like a minute and a half late, hearing from them on the radio, as they re-entered the atmosphere, everybody’s thinking, oh no, they didn’t make it, and suddenly, they magically appeared. Yeah, you can read this article. It’s a great one from the Smithsonian and it’s linked at ExtremeGenes.com.

David: All right, listen, if you’re not a member of American Ancestors, you can join and save $20 on your membership by using the coupon code “Extreme” on AmericanAncestors.org.

Fisher: All right David, thanks so much. And coming up next, we’re going to talk to Karra Porter with Keepsake DNA. The Lab is open. What does that mean to you and me? We’ll find out next in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 336

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Karra Porter

Fisher: Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, well, when last we spoke with Karra Porter back in, I guess it was March, Karra, right after RootsTech? I mean, you were all set to open Keepsake DNA the new lab. It was going to be a crime lab, but also a genealogical lab that’s going to change the way we do DNA. How are you? It’s great to have you back.

Karra: Well, thanks. I’m glad to be back. And of course, everyone’s plans changed starting in March.

Fisher: Yeah.

Karra: And ours did too.

Fisher: Yeah. You were going to open April 25th as I recall. And we were all excited to be there and see the lab. Obviously not do anything to contaminate it at the time, and we were talking about the possibility of people taking hats and earrings and other things that may be exposed to the DNA of your ancestors and test them and actually create a profile of your deceased ancestors, which is a phenomenal thought. And tell us how it’s going right now. What’s happened?

Karra: Well, we have had pandemic delays so we were not able to have our big bash on national DNA Day. But the lab opened officially in May, but we started with Law Enforcement clients. And then Keepsake opened officially at the end of June.

Fisher: Wow.

Karra: We’re pretty excited. I mean, as far as the crime lab part of it, it’s working on cases, unsolved murders, etc. from all over the United States.

Fisher: Right. And it’s important for people to understand that if you are providing DNA for the genealogical side of Keepsake DNA, this is not being merged in with the police cases.

Karra: Actually, I’m glad you mentioned that. It’s not. You know, this lab could sustain itself just doing crime lab things. Frankly, one of the driving factors of even opening a lab was that we really wanted to be able to provide a serve to genealogists and do DNA testing on these artifacts.  But the only, I guess, overlap is that the crime lab uses the ancestral DNA to just sort of fill out wealth. Meaning, if there is like a 96 sample well, and let’s say they have 80 samples from law enforcement, instead of waiting until they get another 16 from law enforcement, they would instead plug in 16 samples from the genealogy side.

Fisher: Right.

Karra: And it does mean that people have to wait a little bit on the genealogy, but it does help keep the cost down.

Fisher: Sure. And of course, it moves things along, I guess for the police side, which is great. But your DNA that you put in for genealogy is not going to be used to solve crimes in any way.

Karra: That is correct. They’re completely separate. It’s just the same lab doing the work. And in fact, by law and regulation the results are completely separate.

Fisher: Okay.

Karra: It’s a totally different system, a totally different logging system. The employee of Keepsake DNA does not work for the crime lab. It is completely separate.

Fisher: Well, and the other aspect too, I suppose, also is the fact that you’re just not going to have enough DNA samples that would come in for the genealogical side to be of really any use to the police, even if they wanted to use it. You really need a huge number of DNA samples to accomplish that.

Karra: Right. I mean, we’re just going to have people like us who are either desperate to break through a brick wall or just love the idea of getting a DNA profile on their great grandma. You know, it’s not going to be the kind of numbers that, for example, GEDmatch would have.

Fisher: Sure.

Karra: Although our genealogical profiles will be uploadable to GEDmatch if people ask, which I think most people will.

Fisher: Yeah, absolutely. So, let’s talk about that a little bit. I mean, you talk about people desperate to get an ancestor’s DNA, a deceased ancestor. You family did this.

Karra: Oh yeah. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs]

Karra: That’s what put everything into action. I had my mother’s father exhumed. He died in Wyoming in 1963.

Fisher: Wow.

Karra: I had him exhumed and relocated and actually got a DNA sample as part of that process. I mean, that was the main motive for having him moved. And then we couldn’t find a lab that would test it genealogically.

Fisher: And what were you testing by the way Karra?

Karra: Well, we had a molar, but more important, we had a piece of femur.

Fisher: Okay. Wow! Were you able to put together a profile with that?

Karra: You know, we haven’t tried those yet because we had some pretty good success in an easier way with envelopes.

Fisher: Ah ha. Okay.

Karra: [Laughs] But I had been holding envelopes from my grandmother and my uncle, and my great grandmother and we had really good luck when we ran those.

Fisher: Well, and let’s go through the list of items. I know you have it on your home page there, and I don’t have it in front of me, but you could use pieces of bone that perhaps come from cremated remains, yes?

Karra: Yes. And before you move on from that one, we are actually going to do a study on that exact issue. So, we will probably be asking people to consider providing that to us for testing and we would probably be doing that testing for free because we really, really want to test the post pyre or post cremation testing of bone.

Fisher: Now, back in March, we asked Extreme Genes listeners if they wanted to look into something when you opened up to reach out to you, at which point they did. What did people come to you with?

Karra: Oh, a very wide range.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Karra: Your listeners were very interested in the subject matter.

Fisher: Yeah?

Karra: Yes. And we have people who specifically said they would in fact share pieces of bone from post cremation.

Fisher: Okay.

Karra: So, that was very helpful. But it also ranged widely. We had things like wallets, a bonnet. I’m just trying to think. It was such a wide range, jewelry. We had a pipe, which is a pretty good one.

Fisher: Yeah.

Karra: A really good one, of course, is dentures and a hearing aid. That will be quite easy to get DNA from.

Fisher: Sure. Does it matter if somebody has touched them since grandpa died in the ‘70s or something like that, a hearing aid?

Karra: You know, it does matter if it’s been handled a lot. But hearing aids and dentures, things like that, typically have only been handled in a certain way.

Fisher: Okay.

Karra: And so, there’s a pretty good chance that there. I mean, if you’re grabbing dentures, you may be reaching, let’s say, on the outside of them, or the hearing aid you may reach one part of the hearing aid but maybe not the part that was inside the ear. One thing about this new technology though is it can handle multiple profiles. So, as long as that hearing aid wasn’t, you know, handled by fourteen grandkids.

Fisher: Hmm. [Laughs]

Karra: You know, if it was handled by one person, maybe putting it away or tossing it in a box that’s probably still doable.

Fisher: So, it basically separates out what the primary DNA is associated with that item?

Karra: Yes, it can do multiple profiles, meaning that if I handled my grandmother’s eyeglasses, and of course, she wore them all the time, both of our profiles may show up in that. But, in many instances the sequencing is going to separate out our two profiles.

Fisher: Okay. So, would you be able to compare yours to then that result and say okay, that one’s mine, the other must be grandma’s?

Karra: Yes. I mean, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s grandma’s, but something like that is likely to be. You know, prescription eyeglasses, for example, don’t necessarily get worn by a lot of other people because it is specific to the individual’s vision, you know, things like that.

Fisher: Right, right. Yeah, you’re right, of course.

Karra: So, you know, we really like those kinds of things. And then there were some people we had to say, look this really is not a likely source. I mean, for example, people have contacted us about bibles. That’s going to ruin that portion of the bible, and it’s just not doable yet.

Fisher: No. Yet? [Laughs] Do you think it could be at some point?

Karra: I think that’s going to be some years out, but one of the things I like about what we’re doing is that we are running all sorts of experiments. It’s pretty exciting. And so, if it can be done, then I think we’ll probably be the first ones to do it. But, right now, people should just hold off on those kinds of things.

Fisher: Um hmm. So, we were talking back in March about anticipated price, what may come from that. Right now, are you accepting things for a cost, or are you still running the experimental end of this?

Karra: No, we got what we needed for the experimental, except maybe the post cremation bone.

Fisher: Hmm.

Karra: So, right now that we have our pricing up on the website, and our pricing of course, is to a large extend, dependent on pricing from vendors to the Lab.

Fisher: Okay.

Karra: So, for example, if the price of reagents goes up or goes down, the Lab adjusts its price every quarter. And if there’s a significant difference, then our pricing would also be affected, up or down. But, you know, who knows? The pandemic has thrown things off so much. Manufacturers of reagents, they’ve had to shift production to things related to COVID-19. And so, it’s hard to know what’s going to happen a year from now. Everything will be stable, I hope.

Fisher: Yeah, that would be good news. Well, the Lab, of course, is Keepsake DNA. It’s based In Salt Lake City, Utah. My guest is Karra Porter. She and her mother Betty are behind this thing and of course, working with the, crime lab in association with it, but not connected to it. So, this is a new opportunity, and I’m hoping, right in the middle of this pandemic, perhaps this is the beginning of a whole new world of DNA. And Karra, can you stay on for a while? We’ll continue talking about it because we’ve got some experiments to talk about here in just a few moments.

Karra: We do. I’d love to, thanks.

Fisher: All right, we’ll get to it, more coming up in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 3 Episode 336

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Karra Porter

Fisher: And we are back on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, the Radio Roots Sleuth, talking to Karra Porter, one of the founders of this new Genetic Genealogy Lab. It’s called Keepsake DNA and we were hoping it was going to open in April, but COVID-19 did it in at that time and now at the end of June it has opened. Have you had customers yet, Karra?

Karra: We have. We actually got our first customer the day after we opened.

Fisher: Oh, sweet.

Karra:  Yeah. I had people call me and tell me they’ve been waiting for years for this, and I kind of enjoy those. Like a lot of phone calls from people explaining their brick walls to us and they’re so interesting.

Fisher: Well, you’re a genealogist to start with, right? So, I mean, obviously that’s your passion and this is your passion project.

Karra: Forty five years. I’ve been doing genealogy for 45 years and that was something I started working on when I was a little kid, with my mom. So, that is our passion. I love hearing about people’s brick walls and trying to figure out how we can solve that. We’ve received enough envelopes and things like that so far that we were actually able to schedule our first extractions sooner than we expected.

Fisher: Oh, wow. You haven’t run it yet, is that what you’re saying?

Karra: Yeah. I think they’re actually running it in the next 1-2 days.

Fisher: Oh, wow. Now, this is maybe the time for the reveal here, that just for the sake of our listeners on Extreme Genes, I’ve sent you four envelopes, are they going to be included in that batch?

Karra: They are.

Fisher: Wow. By next week then we’ll have some results to share on that.

Karra: Yes. The first phase of testing is what we refer to as going through quant.

Fisher: Quant? Okay. [Laughs]

Karra: Well, quant is short for the quantification process. So, there are two main phases to this DNA testing. The first is looking them over and extracting the DNA.

Fisher: Okay.

Karra: And that was one of the first things that we did. We had an experiment done with 100 different envelopes of different ages, so that they could figure out the most effective way of extracting the DNA.

Fisher: Okay.

Karra: So, they would do steaming, or they would do freezing, they would do heat, anyway, they would do just whatever and then they settled on a formula that is temporarily proprietary since they want to write a paper on it.

Fisher: Sure.

Karra: So they will look at it. In your case, we’re going to test all four of those envelopes because they’re all different people.

Fisher: They’re all different people, yeah. We’ve got my maternal grandmother who died in 1961, an envelope that we believe she licked in the 1950s. We have my half great aunt that my grandfather never knew. His half sister who wrote a letter in the 1950s and her grandson provided that for me, and then one from my dad. It was a letter he wrote to my mom when they were dating in 1952. And then there’s one from my maternal great grandfather from 1912 when he wrote a letter to the family to tell everybody that his mother had passed away. We know exactly when this was and his writing is on the address side of it. So, we’re assuming he licked the stamp and he licked the back and so I’m really hopeful that we can come up with a profile. Do you know yet what it looks like, for something say this would be an envelope that’s over 100 years old. It would be 108 years old. Is that likely to yield a profile?

Karra: You know, it depends more on how it was stored. Like for example, I know that we had in our very first batch before we had even perfected the best way. I know that we had one from I think it was 1910 or 1911, I can’t remember and got more than a nanogram of usable data.

Fisher: Which means what?

Karra: You can get a usable DNA profile from less than half a nanogram, while with this new equipment theoretically down to a .2 but that’s not anybody’s goal to have the minimum, it’s to have a really rich sample.

Fisher: Sure.

Karra: So, when we get more than a nanogram from one that’s 110 years old I’m pretty enthused, but if your letter for example was stored in the attic for 40 years at 100 degrees.

Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs]

Karra: That’s going to be a problem.

Fisher: Right.

Karra: And also, I do have to put in a disclaimer real quick, which is that there are never really any guarantees that the person left DNA. I don’t know about you, but I’ve known a couple of people who had to take the Ancestry test more than once.

Fisher: No, I’ve not run into it. I’ve certainly heard of it and certainly understand that people have been asked to take the test again for one reason or another. I guess, the suggestion is that some people just don’t yield the DNA through their saliva?

Karra: Yeah, or frankly it can be affected by illness. Some secrete more or less DNA than others if they smoked shortly before they licked the envelope that could affect it. So, I had my mother’s half brother do it twice and then unfortunately he died without ever getting a successful result from them, and then her cousin the same thing. So, some people just secrete more DNA than others. We’ve had very good luck.

Fisher: Um hmm. What percentage of people are like that do you think?

Karra: That I don’t know, but it’s interesting, I just read an article last week that I’m following up on because there’s a theory also that I had never read before, that whether someone is a secreter generally could affect the secretion of DNA. That was not something I read before. I’m just going to look it up, but I think for the most part it’s pretty rare. And I know that from the envelopes that we did, we had pretty good results. I mean, we struck out on the 1859 envelope but we got usable from envelopes from the late 1800s. So it just depends.

Fisher: So, basically you’re going to be able to determine whether there’s enough DNA there from which to create a profile, right?  And that’s a different process?

Karra: Right. And we’ll also know not just the amount of usable DNA but the quality of it and also the gender.

Fisher: Oh!

Karra: So, for example, that will help people make a decision whether they want to move on to the next phase, because if it turns out that it’s female DNA that we get off of your grandfather when we extract from that envelope, then you know maybe a neighbor or someone else may have licked that.

Fisher: somebody else may have licked it, yeah. That makes sense. Well, those are the challenges you’re going to come up with and I guess people have to kind of decide if they want to financially roll the dice to test some of this, but there are people like you and your mom who wanted to test grandpa and would go ahead and do it anyway. So, hopefully, over time you’ll be able to develop an idea of what the percentages of hits are for certain types of things, but you’re never going to be able to guarantee, are you?

Karra: No. There won’t be a guarantee because, for example, I believe we had an envelope from the 1940s in the same bag as the one from the early 19 teens, got a great yield from the 1910 envelope and a lousy one from the 1940 envelope.

Fisher: Hmm.

Karra: You know, it’s a storage issue or the person just didn’t secrete as much. But we are going to post a little summary of the results of those 100 envelopes so that people can see that and decide for themselves or people can see what results we come up with, with yours.

Fisher: Sure. Well, it will be interesting. Now these envelopes are all kind of different and I noticed some of them are really thin paper and others are a little heavier paper and some are really small, so you figure okay there’s not necessarily as much saliva to work with. I suppose somebody could seal an envelope by putting a little sponge in water and just dabbing it, right?

Karra: Right, they’re all risks. And I didn’t realize frankly, how tiny the envelopes were in the mid 1800s. I keep thinking, maybe that’s why we didn’t get anything off that 1859 envelope, but I’ve now purchased a few more 1850s envelopes and we’re going to try again.

Fisher: Wow. Well, this is exciting stuff and for people who want to find out more about it, you can read about it online at KeepsakeDNA.com. And Karra, I’m excited to hear the results of my envelopes getting run here and will reveal that next week on Extreme Genes, will you come back?

Karra: I will. I can’t wait to tell you what we find.

Fisher: We’ll do the big reveal.

Karra: That’ll be fun.

Fisher: All right, thanks so much. And David Allen Lambert is coming up next. We’re going to do another round of Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 4 Episode 336

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, we're back with David Allen Lambert, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. We're doing Ask Us Anything. And David, we have a question from Lana in Texarkana, and she's asking, "How do I go about prioritizing my genie projects? I feel the clock is ticking and I want to get a lot done. How do you guys do it?" Great question. David, I'll let you start.

David: Well, with COVID, you can't really go anyplace. And this summer, not a lot of vacation’s happening, so I find that it’s a great time to do genealogy, as I'm sure 10s of 1000s of other genealogists around this country have probably realized and they've got a lot of research done and found a lot of discoveries. How about you in your spare time now? Have you found anything interesting during this shutdown?

Fisher: Well, I'm always finding something interesting, but the question that she's asking is, how do you prioritize, and it’s a great question. I think the bottom line is, you have to go through and decide what it is you need to pass down first, is it your lineage, is it the histories, is it the stories? And for instance, recently, I reached the point where I realized, I have about gone the distance with the DNA matches I have right now, because I've spend so much time on it, so I'm moving on to writing some histories, because I have a lot of information there that's just been sitting for quite a while and I think really that's how you have to decide. And the other thing, I think David, is that an awful lot of people are wanting to know the stories more than anything else. And if you can pass down stories, that is the gift that keeps on giving and the information that's most likely to be passed down, because not only is it interesting, it’s also informative and entertaining in many cases.

David: It really is. And I think in a lot of cases, we knew a lot of older relatives that are not with us anymore, parents, grandparents, and if we're the only one interested in genealogy, there's a good chance that the only person who knows that story is you. And if you don't get the story written down or even record yourself if you will in some video or audio format, you're going to lose that real important part of history, because we've said this so many times before, one more than just that dash and gravestone. You've got to go beyond it. Names and dates are fine for charts, but we want the story. You know, I have an ancestor 500 years ago, but to actually know at least a page of information about them. Start with yourself, tell your own story. Our friend out there in Texarkana, I mean, have you written down every place you worked, everywhere you went to school, what your hobbies are? There's just so many different things you can just write that you might think you're being vain, but really, its genealogical treasure. And then do the same for your parents and older relatives, but start with yourself, you know, think about it as a genealogist, what would you want to know about you?

Fisher: Yeah. If I were dead now, what would I want my people to know?

David: [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs] I think that's.

David: A one sided conversation.

Fisher: Yeah, it might be a one sided conversation. But that's a good way to look at it. And you know, here's the thing, Judy Russell talked about this on Extreme Genes in an episode way back when. She said, "Those stories are lost within three generations if they aren't written down or recorded.”

David: That's right, yeah.

Fisher: And they proved that through studies over and over again, and it’s really important that that gets passed down, because really, the stories tell the next generations exactly how they got to be where they were and things they've experienced because of what they've inherited or where their family moved to or what their occupations or interests were or what the genetic tendencies are. I would prioritize that for sure.

David: And the other thing is keeping a journal, leaving some paper trail of what your day to day life was. We were in a pandemic that's of historical proportion. In 100 years, people will want to know what your take on it is, because you're not going to be there to tell people about it. So, it’s so important to write our own stories as well as our own ancestors and just kind of maybe do a Zoom chat with a bunch of your cousins and talk about your grandparents and then see if they have a story or factoid that you've never known before. It’s a great time for a virtual family reunion.

Fisher: All right David, good stuff. And thank you very much, Lana for the question. We've got another one coming up next as we continue with Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 336

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, and we're back for our final go around on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth. That is David Allen Lambert over there from Stoughton, Massachusetts, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. We're doing Ask Us Anything. And David, we have a question from Daniel in Atlanta, Georgia and he said, "Fish, recently you posted on your Facebook group that there is a change in the threshold for matches on Ancestry that is coming. What is that all about?" You want to start that David or you want me to?

David: Well, I think it’s an interesting thing, because a lot of people that are new in genealogy may be overwhelmed with the amount of matches. I can understand what they're going through, is that they’re trying to make it so you're getting matches that have more DNA.

Fisher: Yeah, better quality matches, yes.

David: Yeah, yeah. And with you and I because we've been doing genealogy for so long, I don't care if I share one centimorgan. [Laughs] You know.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: So you don't have to worry about this right away. It’s going to happen in August. However, if you have any interaction with a person already, you're not going to lose that. I mean, isn't there some other elements to that, Fish?

Fisher: Yeah, yeah absolutely. So what's happening is Ancestry is raising the threshold for somebody to be considered a match to you from 6 centimorgans up to 8. So those that are in the 6 and 7 centimorgan range will not be appearing anymore, but if you already have those matches, as you mentioned, David, if you reached out to communicate with them or if you saved them in a group on your DNA match page or if you put notes next to their name, then in that case, those people that you already have will be saved. And obviously if you're doing spreadsheets or something like that, you won't lose those. It’s just, we're not going to get new ones, because they're just trying to raise the quality of the matches that we have.

David: I wonder how that's going to work with ThruLines, so in a tree where someone matches you and then you have less than 8 centimorgans, if they're going to pull that person from ThruLines as well, or maybe that's already a proven match, so they will stay?

Fisher: Well actually, if those other qualifications aren't in there about notes, contact or grouping, then yes, it will disappear from your ThruLines.

David: Wow! Okay. I can understand where they don't want to have false matches, but as far as like with ThruLines, I'd like to keep everybody there, so I think I'm going to go on tonight and start tagging people.

Fisher: [Laughs] There you go. And this is the thing, they say that when you eliminate 6 and 7 centimorgan matches, that eliminates 2/3 of false matches, so that's the whole point of this and they're trying to do some things that are going to improve the quality of the matches so that you know that the people you have are real matches. You don't have to worry about identical by state as opposed to identical by descent. And basically, if you're not familiar with those terms, it means whether you share DNA because you got it from a common ancestor or just so happens to be that you happen to have by coincidence essentially the same DNA as somebody else, the same code. So that does happen periodically, fascinating stuff. By the way, they are going to also be adding a note onto your matches that will tell you the largest segment of DNA you share with somebody which will help you to understand maybe better how likely it is that you are a genuine match with somebody. So they're working on it, making it better and better and hopefully in the future we'll see even more improvements. By the way David, they just passed 18 million on Ancestry they just announced with all this.

David: I'm usually on the call, but I was on vacation and I probably would have gotten 18 million whacks above the head by my wife if I had been on the call while on vacation. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs] Yeah, right. There you go. David thanks so much for your time. And thanks to you, Daniel in Atlanta for the question. And of course, if you have a question for Ask Us Anything, you can email us at [email protected]. Talk to you next week, Dave.

David: All right, talk to you soon.

Fisher: And thanks once again to Karra Porter Keepsake DNA for coming on the show and talking about the opening of the lab and what that might mean to all of us who are trying to research our ancestors. If you missed any of it, of course catch the podcast on ExtremeGenes.com, iTunes, iHeart Radio, Spotify and TuneIn Radio. Talk to you again next week. Thanks for joining us. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!



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