Episode 35 - Why Does It Matter If You Descend From Royalty?

podcast episode Mar 31, 2014

Fisher’s family history news coverage begins with a story about a new science, targeted for police work, where DNA can be used to create a “predicted” face of the suspect!  Could there be applications for “genies” everywhere?  Also, Yale has discovered that the man they thought was the first African-American to graduate from Yale wasn’t.  How was the real “first” found?  Genies everywhere will appreciate the story.  Cemeteries are going GREEN!  (Aren’t they already?)  We’ll tell you just what that means.  And… Abe Lincoln’s cryptic letter of 1860 has been “decoded.”   Find out how and what it meant.

Guest Gary Boyd Roberts, a colorful and renowned family history researcher and writer makes his first appearance on the show, talking about “Gateway Ancestors,” ancestors most of us have that have proven lines to royalty.  Gary says there’s more than just “snob appeal” to have royal ancestors.  He’ll explain the reason you should want to know.  Gary also talks about the social mobility that makes it possible for descendants of kings to be American farmers in just a few generations.  You won’t want to miss it!

Tom Perry, the Preservation Authority, is back with answers to more of your questions… like how do you rescue or even copy a 19th century photo trapped in a bubble glass frame?

Transcript of Episode 35

Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show

Host: Scott Fisher

Segment 1 Episode 35

Fisher: And welcome back genies! It is Extreme Genes, Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com where we shake your family trees and watch the nuts fall out. I am Fisher your Radio Roots Sleuth, and today we’re going to delve into one of the most educated minds in family history research. He is Gary Boyd Roberts, one of the most prolific family history writers of the last several decades. His specialty is “Gateway Ancestors” those ancestors that most of us have that have proven lines back to royalty. Now why do royal lines matter? Well, it’s not just “snob appeal.” Gary will explain when he joins us in about ten minutes. You’ll be amazed how much knowledge about colonial ancestors’ class mobility and royal lines, your lines, are crammed into this man’s head. If you have Southern roots you’re going to want to hear this saying from Mid-Atlantic and New England. Also later in the show our Preservation Authority Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com returns with answers to two of your questions. One has to do with restoring and making copies of a 19th century photograph from Louisiana that can’t be removed from a bubble glass frame. What to do? Tom has the answer. And what about that massive collection of photos you digitized several years ago? They could be in danger of being lost. Tom will tell you what to do to make sure that doesn’t happen to you. Have you got a story, comment or question? We’d love to hear from you. Our toll free Extreme Genes “Find Line” is 1-234-56- GENES. That’s 1-234-56-GENES, G-E-N-E-S. We want to hear what you’re up to, what’s your discovery and how can help you break down those walls. 

There’s a lot of Family Histoire News out this week. First up, Forbes.com has a fascinating story about how scientists are now working on how to take DNA from a crime scene and create a mug shot of the suspect. Yes! A group of scientists have been able to make 3-D models of people’s faces using their DNA. Now, the models are admittedly crude, but they feel they will get science to the point where the predicted faces could be used to at least eliminate certain suspects. They have done it by studying genes that of course have everything to do with the structure of the face including correlating specific facial structures to people who have those particular genes. From these and many other scientific methods which are way over my head, they’ve been able to create statistical models to come up with an approximate face from DNA. Now, if you were at Roots Tech in February or watched it online you may remember that a member of Ancestry’s team said that the day is coming when your DNA will be able to tell you the eye color of your of your fifth great grandfather and maybe his hair as well as height and other specific traits. It sounds like the directions these scientists are taking can have many applications including one for genies throughout the world. Find the link to the story at ExtremeGenes.com to get the specifics, especially if you’re an interested scientist.

The New York Times is reporting that Yale University has learned that the man they have long honored as their first African American graduate was not in fact the first. Edward Bouchet is the name long recognized at Yale. He graduated with his Bachelor’s Degree in 1874and continued his education to earn a PhD, the first African American to do so there. But, recently an Americana Specialist in New York at Swann Auction Galleries came across a collection of ninety five late 19th century documents. For the most part they were pretty ordinary, but as Rick Stadler began studying them the name of Richard Henry Green popped up. Well, in the course of his normal evaluation of the material, Stadler visited Ancestry.com and learned in an old digitized publication that Green was named as an African American graduate of old Yale, something the people at modern day Yale were unaware of. The American Educational Annual from 1875 specifically name Green as the first African American to graduate from Yale as part of the class of 1857, almost two decades prior to Edward Bouchet. Green was born in 1833 and passed the Yale Entrance Exam in 1853. He was very engaged in campus life and was a member of Sigma Delta Fraternity and the Brothers in Unity Literary Society. A campus newspaper from the time of Bouchet in the 1870s had stated that Bouchet had been the first so that designation had long been accepted. Yale regularly issues the Bouchet Leadership Awards in minority graduate education and even have an oil painting of him hanging prominently in their library. Yale’s spokes people say that Bouchet’s place of honor will remain especially considering his achievement of earning a PhD, but now Richard Henry Green will also take his rightful place in Yale history having graduated four years before the start of the Civil War. We’ve linked to the story at ExtremeGenes.com

The Washington Examiner reports that cemeteries are going green. And we’re not just talking lawn here. The Historic Congressional Cemetery has been given the certification of Hybrid Service Provider from the Green Burial Council, whatever that is. According to the cemetery green burials mean no embalming and no concrete vault. Also, the casket must be eco-friendly. Wicker or plain wood with no hardware are examples. In fact, some people are being buried there in just a shroud. Yes, you can leave flowers. And in the case of the Historic Congressional Cemetery you don’t have to have served in Congress or the judicial branch, you merely have to have given up the ghost. And finally, the Associated Press tells us that a somewhat cryptic letter written by soon to be President Abraham Lincoln has essentially been decoded. The letter was addressed only, “My Dear Sir,” and a piece of it had been removed from it. It was written during the 1860 election and Lincoln asked the receiver to quote, “Keep up a correspondence” with an unnamed person. Well an organization called The Papers of Abraham Lincoln” ran that phrase through a database and came up with some matches to that phrase. As a result of those, they now believe the letter was sent to an Illinois man named Leonard Swett a fellow Republican who was trying to get a newspaper editor in Albany, New York, Thurlow Weed to support Lincoln for the Republican nomination. Well, Weed eventually did come around to “Honest Abe” and that is some detective work especially after 154 years. And that’s your Family Histoire News from the pages of ExtremeGenes.com.  If you find an interesting family history story you’d like to share with us send it on to me at [email protected]. And coming up next, whether your roots are Southern from the Mid Atlantic States or New England you may very well descend from royalty. Why does it matter? Well, our next guest will lay it out for you. He’s an expert on “Gateway Ancestors.” American immigrants with proven descend from royal lines. He’s Gary Boyd Roberts, long associated with the New England Historical and Genealogical Society, one of America’s foremost researchers and writers on the topic. He’s going to cover a lot of ground on the subject, coming up in five minutes on Extreme Genes, Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com.

Segment 2 Episode 35

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Gary Boyd Roberts

Fisher: Welcome back to Extreme Genes, Family History Radio ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth and our guest today is Gary Boyd Roberts, a Texan born researcher in Massachusetts who is very well known for all the books that he’s done, linking us back to the kings. You know, everybody, Gary descends from paupers and from kings and you chose the king’s side for some reason. Why is that?

Gary: Yes, because they’re traceable. 

Fisher: Yes. [Laughs] 

Gary: All of the other sides of a family, all the other groups that you’re likely to descend from will disappear in the sense of not being traceable at a certain point. Kings will take you back to the ancient world. 

Fisher: Wow, that’s a great point, I would have never thought of it that way. I think a lot of people think well, if you’re tracing back to the kings you’re looking to satisfy a certain ego. But, the reality of it is the kings do take you back farther than anybody else. 

Gary: Than anyone else. And the children of kings are nobles. The children of nobles are gentry, the owners of settled estates, those that are inherited by the eldest son. And the children of the gentry are soldiers or bureaucrats or intellectuals of Oxford or Cambridge or Harvard or Yale. And these upper middle class people, who ran America for a long time, mostly have a strand of this gentry, noble and royal ancestry.

Fisher: Now how many people do you think, within the country, have a royal connection through early American ancestors? 

Gary: Oh, probably a hundred million or more.

Fisher: So about a third?

Gary: I should think. It’s a matter of how much colonial ancestry you have, how many ancestors who came here by 1775. And for those people who have quite a bit of such ancestry, having an immigrant of royal descent, there are about four or five hundred, actually a little over five hundred numbers of colonial immigrants who have that kind of ancestry. It’s hard not to have one of those four or five hundred as an ancestor.

Fisher: Yeah I would think so. I’m aware of two in my line and I don’t know how many the average is for somebody like that, but we’re talking mostly when you talk about the colonial ancestors, you’re talking about people from Virginia, and the Mid Atlantic States, New York, Pennsylvania, and then Massachusetts of course.   

Gary: Yes. And they’re largely puritans who were basically preachers and governors in Massachusetts. You’re talking about large land owners in the Mid Atlantic and Quakers. An enormous amount of both English and Welsh Quakers have these kinds of lines, and then Virginia planners with some Maryland planners and Carolina planners as well. 

Fisher: So which has the most? You’re saying Massachusetts probably with the most Gateway Ancestors?

Gary: I would say probably Virginia actually. 

Fisher: Really?

Gary: But it’s much easier to trace people after they arrived in New England. It’s a smaller population where much were better documented, but there are actually more such immigrants in Virginia. Virginia was peopled by a thousand probably for every one New Englander. A hundred to one is probably more like it.

Fisher: How many have you identified personally?

Gary: Well I’ve identified, I have a volume that’s about to come out or will be out in two years on the royal descents of 800 immigrants. Now that’s about 500 again in the Colonial period, and then I deal with such modern people as Wernher von Braun, Don Homiscole and Audrey Hepburn and Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine and Anna Wintour of Vogue, the wife of Ezra Pound and so on. These are modern immigrants that people don’t generally descend from but immigrants with such ancestry have been coming over for the full 300 years and almost all of them will have amongst their descendants for five generations somebody who’s noble. 

Fisher: So what is the most common royal link? I mean is it all to England or is some of it into Germany?

Gary: Yes it’s to England. It’s usually to Edward I or Edward III, grandfather and grandson. The third died in 1377 and the first in 1307. We also almost all descend from Capetian kings of France. You may remember that when Louis XVI was executed they called him Louis Capet. 

Fisher: [Laughs]

Gary: And we descend from Hohenstaufen German emperors, the family of Friedrich Barbarossa. Then Friedrich Barbarossa had a daughter-in-law who was herself the daughter of an emperor of the east. 

Fisher: [Laughs] Hold on, hold on Gary. I’m working on my flowchart here trying to keep track of all these places. 

Gary: Yes.

Fisher: That is absolutely astonishing. 

Gary: It has to do with genealogical patterns and largely Western Europe. And Western Europe is quite mobile, people coming up and down the social scale, largely in Britain, somewhat less in extended France. The closer you get to Russia the more separate the classes are and the less intermarriage or mobility. America is probably the most mobile country that is derived from Europe. 

Fisher: That is a great answer because I wondered how it was that so many people would come from royal descent and then somehow wind up, you know, farming in Connecticut. And that answers that question. That is amazing. 

Gary: Well, you have all of these often minor leaders, colonial governors, preachers, landowners and of course when they get here, any successful culture over populates. And so the great, great grandchildren of governors and major ministers who organized New England, those people can become ordinary farmers. And then the successful ones, especially on the East Coast eventually became the social register after having been tycoons or intellectual figures or people involved in the age of sale. And those who did not prosper so to say became ordinary farmers and eventually moved west.

Fisher: We’re talking to Gary Boyd Roberts. He’s the well known researcher in the
Gateway Ancestors. So if you have a certain family name you may find out that you are descended from the kings of England, of Western Europe, Eastern Europe, over the long period of time. He’s got another book coming out in another couple of years. So Gary, give us some names if somebody is listening right now, give us the most common names that may come up, that may tell somebody, “I’ve got a documented line back to royalty.”

Gary: Well, the biggest in terms of numbers of notable descendants is Governor Thomas Dudley of Mass. The second one is Anne Marbury-Hutchinson, the great aunt Hutchinson, the religious heretic who has a statue here in Boston. The third is a Samuel Appleton Ipswich, Massachusetts, and the fourth and fifth are the Livingstons of New York and the Randolphs of Virginia. Then there’s a much more obscure immigrant, Dorothy Thomson Park who is an ancestor, really her mother Alice Freeman Thomson Park, a rather ordinary immigrant with a very minor strand of royal descent that came in Stonington, Connecticut. And she’s a good example of those people who are here and will surprise you with ancient ancestry which you usually will be surprised by. But then there’s the others, the Dudleys and Hutchinsons and Livingstons, and Randolphs whom everybody knows from history books.   

Fisher: Yeah, I would say. So how many descendants do these people have right now do you think, living?     

Gary: Well, there are about a hundred million people in the country with Mid Atlantic or Southern ancestry about a hundred million was New England ancestry and a hundred million who were descended from 19th and 20th century immigrants. But we’re all intermarrying very fast and so this ancient swathes of ancestry going from the ancient to the feudal  and Medieval Worlds and then down to American colonists and down to oh, say the suburban  middleclass of today, most educated urban dwellers, most people who’ve had the chance and the background for education. Almost all of these people have this kind of ancestry that have lots of other kinds of ancestry, which again are untraceable after a certain point. But, they have a strand or two going back to these kings and from these kings they can go back before they were kings, they were tribes and tribal chieftains and the tribes that invaded Rome in about 400 A.D. And you can get maps of kings of Armenia to those of Cyprus and ultimately to the totemic Pharaohs of Egypt and there were possible lines from Greece. 

Fisher: Wow!

Gary: There were no biblical lines and there were no Muslim lines for Westerners, but there were lines from a large number of other ancient cultures.

Fisher: So whether you’re Southern or Mid Western, Western or Eastern, we could all share in this kind of ancestry. 

Gary: Yes, and you also have people such as Tip O’Neill’s wife and others who think of themselves as Irish or Italian or whatever, but who will have a Yankee grandmother or great grandmother. Mark Wahlberg, he is such a person and who thinks of himself no doubt as Swedish and has a French/Canadian royal descent but also has a Yankee and is descended from the Hofelins of Salem. That’s just Mark Wahlberg after all. And so, a large number of ethnic people, people who again think of themselves as Irish or Italian, will have a chunk of this ancient ancestry that comes down to a Yankee or forbearer that they may or not be aware of. 

Fisher: All right. We’re going to take a break and when we come back Gary, I want to talk about some of the inaccurate lines. There have been a lot of them that have been published over the years, how those have been disproved, how many are being disproved and many are being added to the list of Gateway Ancestors when we come back on Extreme Genes, Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com.

Segment 3 Episode 35

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Gary Boyd Roberts

Fisher: We are back at Extreme Genes Family History Radio, ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, with our guest Gary Boyd Roberts, the nationally renowned researcher who has discovered so many Gateway Ancestors. But Gary, you’ve also disproven quite a few over the years.

Gary: A lot of people have disproven them. I tend to like to add them up. 

Fisher: [Laughs]

Gary: Other people like to tear them apart. And it was said at one point there were a group of people in Salt Lake who would like to destroy one line per week. They never did that.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Gary: But I had a book published in ’93, another one published in 2004. That was 500 and 600 immigrants respectively.  I eliminated 20-30. I’m eliminating 11 in this edition, and adding about 90. Many of those you add are more contemporary, whereas the ones you delete are usually colonial. But with finding more colonials, I would say four or five per year. That adds up over ten or fifteen years. So again, it was RD 593, RD 600 in 2004 and when I come out with a new one in about 2015 it will be RD 800. 

Fisher: Wow! World Descend, RD. So, here’s a question for you. As you go back into the royal records, how accurate are those records do you feel?

Gary: Well, the records having to do with the gentry are fairly good. The records are fairly good. But the conclusions change all the time and new things are found all the time.

Fisher: Right.

Gary: The ancient world changes the genealogical facts change all the time. English origins of the Great Migration, people arriving in New England 1620 to ’40 those change all the time. What doesn’t change is a line from the medieval king or duke, down to Lafayette or Tolstoy, or the wife of Hernan Cortes the conqueror of Mexico. Those lines that had been noble for four or five hundred years, those are usually quite accurate. It’s when you’re shifting classes and becoming more or less mobile that breaks kind of occur and assumptions can be made. It was often thought that someone named Lawrence would have to be the son of the knight of that name, who lived nearby, when he’s probably the son or often enough the son of a fourth cousin.

Fisher: Now, you came out with a conclusion not too long ago about George Bush the elder and his descent. 

Gary: Yes, I think it was the first president who is related to about half of the American people. His ancestry is fairly evenly divided, one third southern, and there is a kinship to Pocahontas’s descendents. Not a descent of Pocahontas but kinship to all of her descendents. And then you have a batch of Mid-Atlantic ancestors, especially Quaker again. And a large number of New England ancestors, his children have twelve immigrants of royal descent. 

Fisher: Wow!

Gary: And Laura has one Swiss Canadian, its back to De Grayson Reed, a Swiss Count who comes in and has a land grave in North Carolina. Most of the rest of George Bush’s royally descended ancestors are about half divided between New England and Virginia, I should think. 

Fisher: And so as a result, he is related to like you say about half the population of the United States. 

Gary: I should think so. Again, it’s about a hundred million people. Almost the same amount as the period of the 1620s to ‘40s, we’ll have several million descendents. You can almost say that you have to have that many in order for someone to write a book, some descended to be interested enough to write a book chronically and all. So, if you add millions of descendents to each immigrant and obviously you got 75 or more percent for overlap, but if you add all those together you get a huge percentage of the American people with these lines. It’s been estimated Diana Princess of Whales had about twenty five American forbearers of the Great Migration. She’s one eight American and one sixty fourth New England Yankee. In any way, she’s probably related to thirty million Americans. A number of Americans with Mayflower descent it is probably between thirty and sixty million. Some people think that’s an exaggeration but once they get here families often over populate. You hear of these huge families of between five and twelve children of whom about half survived and went out west or whatever, and so the descendents become enormous in number. 

Fisher: So the challenge now for everybody as they go on is find who these people are because this is the line that is likely to take you the furthest back and tie you to historical records, fascinating.

Gary: Yes. And it’s almost never your father’s, father’s, father’s, father’s father. 

 Fisher: No. [Laughs]

Gary: It’s always someone you never heard of as a boy. Your mother’s father’s mother’s, mother’s, father’s, mother’s, father’s mother’s, mother’s father, who indeed you have never heard of, and the patrilineal line that you thought was so great, usually, it’s not. There were a great many tycoons especially who tried to make, like Du Pont, for example. And a few of them maybe do have such lines,  but most again is through maternal families they’ve never heard of. And most of the lines proposed for tycoons and for other early hereditary society members in the 1880s and 90s, most of those had been massively improvised, and other royal descents had been found. So there’s a constant adjustment. The people who thought they were of royal descent 100 years ago usually are, but not the way they thought.

Fisher: [Laughs] So let me ask you this, you’ve got hundreds of gateway ancestors, those who came over 300, 400 years ago who go back to the kings, which one is the closest descent from royalty?

Gary: There’s a Nelson pair in Riley, Mass. They’re descended from a sibling of George, Duke of Clarence, which is the third of Shakespeare’s place and Edward IV who was the grandfather of Henry VIII. There are possible descendants of Henry VIII that is often thought that he had a mistress, Mary Boleyn, sister on Ann. She had two children named Henry and Catherine before the king and queen, the then queen, Catherine of Aragon. They have about six great or great, great grandchildren who came to the colonies. They have millions of descendants and these are all possible descendants of Henry VIII.

Fisher: Wow! So that’s really pretty close. You’re only talking three, four generations.

Gary: Yes, that’s true. And then we have some modern people, like Hugh Grant to Rupert Edward or people of that sort who may even descend from Charles II. Jessica Mitford of the American Way of Death is a descendant of Charles II, who died in 1685, and again, had a large number of mistresses.

Fisher: Wow! I mean, you have packed a lot of information into this, Gary. And you’ve been doing this since how old?

Gary: I saw the movie, Royal Wedding when I was about eight. I was born in ’43, and I can remember my mother telling me at the time of the movie, that the princess, Queen Elizabeth had just had a little girl and who was born in 1950. So I probably became interested about age seven or eight. This aunt told me we were descended from the Duchess of Devonshire shortly thereafter. So my fascination with kings and royalty and my fascination with genealogy went together. And I have somewhat governed or composed the intellectual content of my life that I devised this theory that there was a sociological component to the modern world. We used to be ruled by folks and kings, that we were ruled by nobility, and the last 500 years have been the European gentry, European derived, and that they have basically governed the modern world. And I spent my life exploring the pedigrees that will prove that.

Fisher: Fascinating stuff! Gary Boyd Roberts, thank you so much for your time. Thanks for joining us today.

Gary: You’re quite welcome, thank you.

Fisher: And coming up next, it’s our Preservation Authority, Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com, to tell you how to preserve those old films, those old movies, those old pictures that are so important to all of us. He’ll be here in three minutes on Extreme Genes, Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com.

Segment 4 Episode 35

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: And welcome back to Extreme Genes, Family History Radio. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth with Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com, he is our Preservation Authority. Good to have you again, Tom.

Tom: Awesome to be here.

Fisher: And we got some questions in as usual from [email protected]TMCPlace.com. This one from Elena Hatch in Peoria, Arizona, "I've attached a photo of an 1894 photo of my great grandmother I came across in Louisiana. The original was under a bubble glass frame and could not be removed, which is why there's a bright reflection in the centre of the photo. Any chance you all may be able to work your magic and remove the glare?"

Tom: Oh, absolutely. There's all kinds of magic we can work with that. Our first thing we usually want to do is, you want to scan it at a high resolution. Now once it’s scanned, we can do what they call "dodging", which is, you know, fixing bright spots, fixing dark spots. And the picture that was sent up, which I will hold up to the mic so our listeners can see it.

Fisher: Oh, perfect, look at that, yes. [Laughs]

Tom: Look through your speakers. You're driving, don't. Wait till you get home and watch the podcast. Then after we do that, we can repair, like there's some, on this picture that she sent it that you can see some little tears in it, some spots and things, we can take those out. And once all that's done, then we can print it at a high resolution also, so it actually looks better than the original photograph.

Fisher: Isn't that fun!

Tom: Oh, it is.

Fisher: And I do a lot of this Photoshopping at home, myself. And you can do amazing things now.

Tom: Oh, absolutely. Now one thing I would recommend if you have situations like this, too, if you have something in a glass that is actually glued to the glass, whether it’s, you know, moisture or heat whatever caused it to do that. The best thing to do is, when you're going to take a photo of it, use something with a polarizing lens, because that will get rid of the glare or put it in a good lighted area where it has diffused light, like fluorescent lighting and turn off the flash on your camera, because the camera's going to, you know, flash off the glass, you're going to see those spots like her photo has. And so, if you turn all that stuff off, you'll be able to get a lot better shot of it. Now a lot of times, too, if you adhere to glass where it’s not rounded or concave like this glass is, you can take it to some professional scanners that have high end equipment and you can take it out of the frame, but you but you don't have to take it off the glass. You can take the glass and put it down on their machines, because they have special software that's built into their equipment to get rid of glares and things like that. So once they do it, they'll be able to take away some of the problems that are going to be associated with it.

Fisher: So you're saying that if you actually do a scan of something that's under glass, you will not get a reflection?

Tom: If you use a polarizing filter, correct, or you take it to a professional, such as us, and then we can scan it with our special software and it will automatically remove that glare and look to what's behind it.

Fisher: So what's something like that cost, Tom?

Tom: It’s not really too bad. This picture has a lot of work that needs to be done in it, but with all the scanning, the dodging the repairing and actually making like an 11x17 print, you're still usually looking at $100.

Fisher: Oh wow, that's a great deal!

Tom: Oh yeah.

Fisher: And you can get a treasure that's actually better than the original.

Tom: Oh exactly! And in this picture, you can see parts of the picture actually missing that we can go and recreate those. We have had situations where we've done photos for people, we had to take somebody out or they were the last person in the line and their shoulder's cut off. So we actually go in and build them a new shoulder.

Fisher: Give them a new shoulder.

Tom: Exactly.

Fisher: Very little charge. No Obama Care necessary.

Tom: Yep, no long term care, no pain and it’s really, really easy to do.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Tom: And it’s pretty inexpensive. Most people that, you know, contact us think this is going to be hundreds and hundreds of dollars to do, but generally, it’s pretty inexpensive. It’s not that much work. It’s mostly just the time you're paying for. If you're taking a shot of something that's concave like this lady sent in to us, you want to make sure again that you have very diffused lighting so nothing's reflecting off of that. Turn off the flash on your camera and try and get it right over the top of it. And sometimes on like iPhones and things like that, you can put a polarizing lens on it. So just kind of move your camera around to where you can see the best shot of it and shoot it. You don't have to have it perfectly centered. As long as we can see the whole photo, we can go in and clean it up.

Fisher: Well, hopefully that answers your questions Elena. And we have another one coming up when we return in just a couple of moments about digital photo preservation, a question from Edgewood, Washington, on the way next on Extreme Genes, Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com.

Segment 5 Episode 35

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: Hey, welcome back to Extreme Genes, Family History Radio. Fisher here with Tom Perry, our Preservation Authority from TMCPlace.com, and of course, Tom has the answers to all the questions, and you can ask him questions anytime you like at [email protected]. And this one is from Edgewood, Washington, Tom, from Brandt Gibson. He says, "I have a question about digital photo preservation. I have a couple of thousand digital photos and I've heard you need to open your photo files every few years to make sure they work with new software. Is this true, and if so, with so many pictures, what's a good and reasonably fast way to do this?" Good question, Brandt.

Tom: That is. That's an awesome question. And that just proves that everything you hear on the internet or read on the internet is not true.

Fisher: Love that! And that's why you're here.

Tom: Exactly. And a lot of times, people don't go into enough detail when they're saying, "Hey, watch out for this. Don't do this." I believe what Brandt's looking for, what he's hearing, this is mostly for like software like old. When computers were first out, they had different companies making things like Microsoft Word, but it wasn't Microsoft Word, and they've gone out of business. And we have people bringing in floppies to us constantly with old programs and they want them put on a CD, which we can take the documents and put it on a CD for them, but it’s still in the exact same format that they brought it in to us. And if they can't access some software or newer software that will read that, they basically have document files that are totally unreadable. And I'm pretty sure this is what Brandt's looking at, his old software that's no longer available. On photos, you shouldn't have that problem. If you've saved them in like jpegs, TIFFs, PDFs, RARs, formats like that, because they've been around for a long time and I would be surprised if they ever go away, because they are basically the industry standard.

Fisher: Right.

Tom: Whether you're using Microsoft, whether you're using Adobe products or anything else, these are very, very standard. So what you want to do is, if you do have these that are in something strange, open them and make sure they do open. And then a good program to use is Photoshop. Go in and do batch files, do batch conversions. And so, if you have thousands of files, you can setup it up and say, "Okay, this folder I want you to do this." Go and set it up, walk away from it and it will rock and roll. And when you go in the documentation, a lot of times, you might not find something exactly like that. Go onto Google and type in a Google search and you might find somebody that's found a way to write a real easy script that you can put into Photoshop that will do this for you.

Fisher: Really?

Tom: Oh yeah! And they're pretty easy. I've had photos that I wanted it to look a certain way, like an old fashion picture, but it was not in a normal sepia tone, but I had seen it before and I would go on and Google it and find out somebody had already written a script for it. And you can download the script, they're usually free and they could do all kinds of things to your photos, make them look like old fashion photos, clean up your photos, turn them into, you know, jpegs or TIFFs or PDFs or whatever it is you want them to be. And then once you do that, then you want to always be sure you go in and check your files. When you have this many photos, it’s kind of hard to go through them, but I really recommend you do at least look at the thumbnails. Because a lot of times when you're doing major digital transfers like this, there can always be some kind of an artifact that gets into the photo, and you might go through one of them and only have the pictures there, because it happened where some digital artifacts got in and, you know, corrupted that one file. So that's why you want to go through them and look at them, because you don't want to go to them ten years from now and find out, "Oh my goodness! I did this conversion and these three photos aren't there or they're only half there. They're really damaged."

Fisher: Would it make sense to go through and look at, say, every tenth one just to kind of get a feel for it or do you need to see them all?

Tom: I would say, see them all, because chances are, you know, the needle in the haystack can be the stinker one, and you know, in my luck, it would be the one that I wanted really, really bad, the one that got corrupted. And like I always told people, to err is human, to really screw up takes a computer.

Fisher: [Laughs] There's Tom Perry, our Preservation Authority. If you have a question for him, you can email him at [email protected]. Thanks for joining us, Tom.

Tom: Good to be here.

Fisher: And thanks once again to Gary Boyd Roberts from the New England Historical and Genealogical Society, talking about gateway ancestors today. It was a great show. If you didn't catch that discussion, listen to the podcast, you can subscribe to us on iTunes. We'll catch 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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