Episode 359 - North Dakota Man Gathers Stories Covering 113,000 Miles In 14 Years

podcast episode Jan 24, 2021

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 eyebrow raising story that the last Civil War widow has died! Catch the details on the show, plus the fact that her husband, who died in 1939, was already a great great grandfather. David suggests it is possible that this widow was a step FIFTH great grandmother at the time of her death! Fisher and David then talk about sharing DNA from their own fifth great grandparents who were born in the 1600s with other DNA testers. Next David notes a story about how women in Texas who couldn’t start their own business without their husband’s permission until 1968. Finally, a researcher has located a 97-year-old former World War II pilot who saved her father’s life through his skills in ditching a plane.

Next, Fisher begins a two part visit with Jim Puppe of Fargo, North Dakota. Jim travelled some 113,000 miles over 14 years collecting stories from seniors in every town, village and city in his state which he has published in a single book.

Dr. Henry Louis Gates returns to the show to talk about his newest episode of Finding Your Roots on PBS, featuring actress Glenn Close and director Jim Waters.

Then David is back for an Ask Us Anything question about chromosome mapping.

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

Transcript of Episode 359

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 359

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. Oh, have we got a show for you today. I’m going to introduce you to a guy from Fargo, North Dakota who travelled 113,000 miles over 14 years to interview somebody from every single town, village, and city in North Dakota. Yeah, and he’s written a book about it. So, we’re going to find out why he would want to do this, what he learnt from it, and hear some of the stories he collected over two parts, starting in about ten minutes. And by the way, if you haven’t signed up for our Weekly Genie Newsletter yet, please do so. It’s absolutely free. You get a blog from me each week, plus links to current and past shows, and links to stories you’ll enjoy as a genealogist. You can sign up at ExtremeGenes.com or through our Facebook page. Right now it’s time to head out to Boston, Massachusetts where David Allen Lambert is standing by with our Family Histoire News. And David, we have a big story this week.

David: Yeah, I’m a little shell shocked as the listeners may know, I used to be a Civil War re-enactor. One of the things I used to do is I would correspond and get autographs of Civil War widows, children of the Civil War. I mean, There’s still some kids left. In fact, we just had the last pensioner Irene Triplett, who died recently, she was the last child of a Civil War veteran who got a pension. But back in 2008 Maudie Hopkins died. She was a young lady when she married a Confederate veteran and well, we thought that was the end of that. That was until we saw the passing of Helen Viola Jackson who died in December at a 101. Now, she’s born in 1919, ideally the child of somebody who would have been in World War I right?  

Fisher: Yeah.

David:  No. In 1936 at 17 she marries James Bolin who was a 93 year old widower, Civil War veteran with the Missouri Cavalry who served in the Civil War from 1864 to ‘65, had a family, got a pension. He became a widower and how he needed some help. Well, Helen took care of him and he promised her that when he died she would get his pension as his widow. And in a very kind of a hush, hush ceremony, she married him. She didn’t live with him, Fish, she lived at home with her parents. But here she is at a 101 in December of 2020 we’ve lost our last Civil War widow.

Fisher: Right. And it was really a technicality right. I mean, because like you say, she lived with her family but she never even told anybody about it, and she never even went after the pension because she just felt ashamed that it was all a sham.

David: Well, and she didn’t want to put shame on him. I mean, a 93 year old man marrying a teenage girl. But you know what’s interesting, I did some work doing some research on him so I pulled up his obituary, yeah, well, you know when he died in 1939, Fish, he had living great, great grandchildren. So, let’s stop and think here, if you’re born before 1939 and you’re his great, great grandchild, chances are you’re probably in your 80s now and you’re probably a great grandparent.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: So, when Helen died, she conceivably was the step fifth great grandparent of living people today!

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: Now that is mindblowing if you take into consideration, now let’s go in a different angle here, with autosomal DNA I get matches from shared descendants of fifth great grandparents.

Fisher: Yep.

David: So, I have two fifth great grandparents that are in my autosomal DNA because I get matches from both sets of their children with my line. So, I get a Henry Dole born in 1695 and 350 years ago my other fifth great grandfather, who I have autosomal from, William Johnson was born in 1671.

Fisher: Wow!

David: So, happy 350th birthday to part of my autosomal DNA.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: Now, it’s interesting. It must be the last generation or maybe one more with the potential to have DNA from the colonial 1600s living individual. Having DNA from individuals that are living in the 1600s possibly.

Fisher: Yeah. That’s true. I’ve got five fifth greats who were born in the late 1600s and I do have matches with some of them. But that’s pretty unusual. And for people who don’t understand the question about DNA, you reach a certain point where you can’t trace DNA from a specific ancestor anymore and usually it’s about at that level. So yeah, we could be the last descendants of fifth great grandparents from the 1600s that can actually show DNA matches from that time period.

David: Think about it. These are children who possibly could have known people on the Mayflower in our DNA. [Laughs]

Fisher: Yeah [Laughs] that’s true. Yeah. Absolutely true! 

David: It really is. Well, I’ll tell you, I’m going to fast forward from the 1860s to the 1960s to the story of a history lesson from Texas that unless you lived in Texas you may not know. Did you know that ladies had no right to start their own business without their husband’s permission back in the day?

Fisher: Oh wow. Wow yeah, when I saw this, this story was up till 1968. But you know Dave that was not unusual for a lot of states as far as women’s rights to their husband’s things. I mean, I remember when my dad passed in Connecticut in 1972, my mother had to apply for all these things as his wife, which we would never even consider possible today, right.

David: It’s funny how certain laws and regulations have changed so much. But obviously in this case for the better.

Fisher: Yes.

David: So, here’s to ladies and all the businesses they start! Well, you know, Loretto Thompson had done some research and found 500 letters that her father wrote while he was with the Army Air Corp. And he makes mention of a guy named Big Sundin, Roger Sundin in fact, and he credits Roger for saving his life when their plane was basically having to be ditched. It’s one of those B17 flying fortresses. 

Fisher: Wow!

David: Well, here’s the fun part, they found Roger still alive at 97 years old.

Fisher: Yeah, and sharp too. And was able to tell the story about the ditching and the fact that they had to hit the water at 112 miles an hour, and everybody survived and as a result of that, this woman’s father had six kids including her. And if it weren’t for Roger, none of them would have been around.

David: That’s true. And that was back in May of 1945.

Fisher: Wow!

David: Well, that’s all I have from Beantown and remember, if you are not a member of American Ancestors, use the coupon code EXTREME to save $20 on your membership. Talk to you on the backend for Ask Us Anything, and then again next week.

Fisher: All right David. Thank you very much. And coming up next, we’ve got Jim Puppe from Fargo, North Dakota. He travelled 113,000 miles over 14 years to gather stories from his state. It’s going to be an interesting two-parter coming up in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 359

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Jim Puppe

Fisher: Welcome back. It’s America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth and as we all know, the most fun part about gathering family history is getting those stories. And I have been a passionate story gatherer throughout my life, but I can’t even hold a candle to my next guest on the show. He’s Jim Puppe from Fargo, North Dakota. A man who spent 14 years and travelled 113,000 miles to collect stories from the seniors in every town and village and city in his state. He’d done a book on it. Jim, welcome to Extreme Genes. You’re amazing!

Jim: Well, thank you Scott. Appreciate being on your program.

Fisher: 113,000 miles, how many pairs of shoes did you go through during that time? Did you keep count?

Jim: Well, not really. It sounds like a lot of miles, it is a lot of miles, but when you separate it into individual years that really take the numbers down.

Fisher: Yeah.

Jim: I didn’t do this in the winter time because you know, we have different weather. But in the summer time I’ll try to be out regularly to obtain these stories, a lot of fun.

Fisher: Now, what made you decide you wanted to do this, and did t start with this big a field in your mind, or was it a smaller project that just took off?

Jim: Oh, gosh, it just kind of took off, and my passion became more intense as each person that I interviewed. I knew the stories that I was obtaining were priceless, but you know, I was born and raised on a farm. I went to country school, and then after my college I drafted and spent a year in Vietnam. I came back and I worked for the Veterans Administration.

Fisher: Okay.

Jim: And one of the special duties I had was working with the former prisoners of war. I was an advocate but I learned so much from them. To me, they were the teachers and I was the student. And they really didn’t want recognition. They felt that they should be called survivors, survivors, not heroes because the heroes were the ones that didn’t come back. 

Fisher: Um hmm.

Jim: And so, I knew there were a lot of unsung heroes in the state of North Dakota, from small towns to the larger cities. So, I wanted to chapter minds to find out what they went through in life, how did they adjust to it, and what is going on in their lives today. Anything we can learn from them. 

Fisher: So, the goal was then to go to every town in the state right from the beginning, or did you just start with a few of them?

Jim: No, I was [Laughs] shooting for the sky because I was retired now.

Fisher: Ah! [Laughs]

Jim: And I had extra time on my hands and so I headed out with my tape recorder and my thermos full of coffee, and loaf of whole wheat bread, and homemade jam, peanut butter and off I went. And I slept in my van because a lot of these places were remote and there were no motels or hotels in the area and I’ve had to drive 40-50 miles. That takes a lot of time plus I enjoy the people of small towns. I continue to visit with them.  

Fisher: I’m sure you did.

Jim: They’re like an old relative or a neighbor, you know. I’m from North Dakota too we can talk the same language.

Fisher: [Laughs] Well, how did your family take to this project?

Jim: Well, we have three children and they were out on their own and my wife did come along with me at times but not on a regular basis. But they didn’t mind it like “oh, you’re back already” type of thing, no. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs]

Jim: But my wife was just very supportive of what I was doing and then I’d come back and they’d be all excited about these stories I told. I just couldn’t believe it what they were telling me.

Fisher: Isn’t that interesting.

Jim: Yeah.

Fisher: Yeah. Everybody has a story.

Jim: Everybody has a story. And you know, we can learn from those people. But the thing of it is, a lot of them never told their story.

Fisher: Um hmm.

Jim: There was a silence out there. A lot of their children never even heard the story. So, I was just so pleased.

Fisher: Did children often sit in on your recording of them, and were they surprised about what they heard?

Jim: Well, I’ll tell you what happened is, if a person was real elderly and maybe a little fragile, I didn’t want to take advantage of anybody at all and I wanted all on a level and if there was a family member or a neighbor close by, they would sit in, and then also for the accuracy of it.

Fisher: Um hmm.

Jim: See, the people that I interviewed Scott, I didn’t choose them. I went to these towns and I would kind of scout around and just kind of make myself known to whoever was available, and then ask them who in that community you respect, somebody with good human character. And you know just like that quick answer they would have somebody in mind. And I would be referred to that person and we would interview. And over 95% of the people who were referred to me, they were willing to undergo an interview.    

Fisher: Through the grilling. [Laughs]

Jim: Yeah. I sat down at the kitchen table, and maybe at first they’d open up the screen door a little bit and I’d say hi, how are you? I’m a North Dakota native. You were referred to me as somebody of good character and wow, they were good to their word. They were all wonderful people, and unfortunately, there were so many people out there I could have interviewed but I had decided on somebody from each town. 

Fisher: Sure.

Jim: The larger cities maybe have three or four just to balance it out a little bit, but yeah.

Fisher: So, you said you had a big picture idea when you started this thing. So, did you have it mapped out in your mind that you’re going to take 14 years to do it? How long did you think at the start it would take?

Jim: [Laughs] Like somebody said to me recently, when are you going to interview people in Minnesota, all the towns, and I said I don’t have a weekend.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Jim: But you know, there are family situations that happen. You know, like I lost my mother during this period of time, and then my father in law, and you know everything popped up and we had to take vacations too to see the grandkids and so on, and so it wasn’t a full time thing. But I just had a passion to do this. 

Fisher: Um hmm.

Jim: I just had to get it completed. Because there was just so much valuable information out there, so many stories we could learn from. Those people, when they were younger that I interviewed, many of them went to country school. Most of them went to country school. And there was that resilience that they had. And they didn’t have much on the farm. They had a few basics, but they didn’t have the comforts that we have today. And now the thing has turned around and we have all these comforts but we don’t have the contentment that earlier people had, the generation ahead of me. 

Fisher: Seems that way.

Jim: They had wonderful contentment.

Fisher: What was the average age of the people you were interviewing and what year did you start this? 

Jim: Started 2004, completed in 2018.

Fisher: Okay. And were you writing your book of these stories along the way, or did you do it all at once at the end? 

Jim: Well, they were all recorded and I tried to transcribe them myself and I needed some help so I [Laughs] had to resort to that. And then there were, like I said, 45 minutes, some were an hour, and so I had to extract what particular story from that interview that I’d have to share with the others and I wanted to have it in one book. So, it’s a 600 and something page book and so there’s representations throughout the entire state.

Fisher: Sure. Do you find that there’s a great deal of difference culturally from one end of your small state to the other?

Jim: I would say not really. It’s just people generally they have the idea of what’s important in life, and that is family, faith, and America, the love, the country. It’s just quite a list. But you know what I gained from it Scott, is that I thought when I asked people, it’s probably my excellent question, if your grandkids were sitting with you at this time, what advice if any would you give them?

Fisher: Yes.

Jim: But one fellow early in my interview said, “I have no advice.” I said, “Really? No advice for the grandkids?” He said, “Let my life be the advice. They know what I’m about by just observing me and being around me.” And that’s my take away.

Fisher: Um hmm.

Jim: I think that’s so important. That’s the bottom line.

Fisher: Yeah. Words are one thing, actions are another.

Jim: Right. Like, I’d rather see a sermon than hear one.

Fisher: Yes. Yeah, I’ve heard that expression a lot. Well, tell us about the first one you did and how did that kind of validate what your concept was?

Jim: Well, I was pretty nervous. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs]

Jim: I just didn’t have any experience with this and I had a script, I mean, I was going down this script of what question I was going to ask. Well, it didn’t take long and I just threw that away.

Fisher: Sure. [Laughs]

Jim: And I had to be a good listener. One fellow at the early part of my interviews said, “Jim, please don’t interrupt me.” And I’m glad he told me.

Fisher: Um hmm.

Jim: Because I was waiting for the next question I had. I wasn’t listening to him. And that changed me. I just then all of a sudden just engrossed in what they had to tell me. I was putting everything into the listening. And that’s hard work.

Fisher: Yeah. It is hard work. Isn’t it interesting that sometimes we do want to jump in with our next question? And I’ve long learned that it’s not a bad thing to just sit and wait when you’re interviewing, especially a senior who’s really pondering back, going through the old computer and bringing back old memories. Sometimes that takes a while, and if you jump in on that they’re going to lose that moment and it’s gone forever.

Jim: See, I had to learn that. I had to learn that. Yeah. Sometimes I’d wait 30 seconds or so. That’s a long time.

Fisher: Yeah. It is. And you’re anxious. You’re chomping at the bit to get back in there, but you know when you do that I think at the end it’s more satisfying for them as well and it will spur other memories.

Jim: Oh! It’s just so important. Yeah. And I covered all the Indian reservations in North Dakota too. There are five reservations in all the towns that are listed on the map there. And I learned from the Native Americans and it was wonderful and it just helped me understand a little bit more about their culture.

Fisher: I bet that’s true. What are the various cultures within North Dakota that are represented in your interviews?

Jim: Oh, gosh, I think about a third of them are Cherman, [Laughs] German in case you didn’t catch that.... 

Fisher: Okay.

Jim: And oh, the Norwegians, and the Swedes, Icelandic, a lot of the Scandinavians, I’m going to miss one and somebody is going to be upset.  

Fisher: [Laughs] Plus the Native Americans.

Jim: Yes. It’s a very important part of our state. I really enjoyed visiting with them.

Fisher: Wow. What an adventure. And I can’t even imagine the kind of time and effort this took. So, we’re going to take a break right now and when we come back Jim, we want to hear some of these stories you’ve gathered.

Jim: Okay.

Fisher: I’m sure they’re absolutely incredible and off the chart. We’ll be back in three minutes with more on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 3 Episode 359

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Jim Puppe

Fisher: All right, back with Jim Puppe, the man from North Dakota. The man who travelled 113,000 miles over 14 years to collect stories representing each of the towns and cities in his state, and Jim, we wanted to hear some of those stories today. We talked a little about your interview and they told you, “Don’t interrupt me.” What story was that person sharing with you, the first one?

Jim: The story that she told me that’s in the book was, she said, she and her husband who has since passed, they were married for like 57 years and had a good marriage. And I said, well, what made it a good marriage? She said, “Well, when we were first married, my husband and I made a pact between ourselves that the first one to bed at night was to say goodnight.” She says, “There’s times I’d rather hit him over the head then say goodnight, but nevertheless I did it and I’m sure he felt the same way.”

Fisher: [Laughs] That’s a great lesson in life.

Jim: It’s a great lesson and somebody who went through the experiences of life that’s really a neat thing to share.

Fisher: Absolutely. All right, so let’s start going around the state here. What did you learn from somebody right in your own town Fargo?

Jim: Um, somebody from Fargo, one of the fellows was a veteran in World War II in Italy and he served in the same unit as my two cousins were brothers, Lester and Elmer Puppe. But, this fellow served with Audie Murphy and he received a Purple Heart and so on but my book was dedicated to Elmer and Lester Puppe my cousins who were killed 69 days apart...

Fisher: Ugh.

Jim: ... in Italy and were buried over in Italy and the book is dedicated to them. Also, somebody close to Fargo who had a son killed in Vietnam at the same time I was there, and he was telling me that the military officials came to the door in uniform at 2 o‘clock in the morning to advise them that their son was killed and they buried him on the 31st of December 1968. And said it was 30 below at the time that they buried him, and I checked it out later and the national weather bureau recorded the temperature in Fargo was 28 below.

Fisher: Ooh.

Jim: So, you know it was 30 below, just two degrees out.

Fisher: Sure, wow.

Jim: Also, a former prisoner of war about 60 miles out of Fargo, he talked about being a prisoner and the first night was the worst night that he ever experienced in his life. That he lost his freedom. Somebody else near Fargo, a two star general who was over in Europe flying jets and they flew over an American cemetery and when he saw all those boys, the graves of the young men of America, how it adversely affected him. It was like getting hit in the gut.

Fisher: Um hmm.

Fisher: Never having the chance to come back and getting married and seeing that child or grandchild riding that bike for the first time or being present at those life events. All those great things that you and I have experienced in life it was lost, lost in blood.

Fisher: All right, tell us something you learned in Bismarck.

Jim: In Bismarck, I interviewed the former governor’s wife Grace Link and she was I think 98 at the time. By the way, she’s still living. She’s 102.

Fisher: Wow! [Laughs]

Jim: She talked about her father in law coming to the governor’s mansion in Bismarck, from a small community out in Western North Dakota, Alexander. He was accustomed to a rural ranching area and he comes to the mansion for the first time and he says, “Oh, not a bad pad you have here.”

Fisher: [Laughs] That’s awesome.

Jim: Yeah, so all kinds of interesting little titbits.

Fisher: Sure. Okay, Grand Forks.

Jim: Grand Forks, I interviewed a lady who was born totally blind. Blind since she was about 16 years of age. She went to college in Sioux Falls... Augustana. She couldn’t read and they didn’t have Braille books there for her. So, she would have a classmate read the text to her through the books and sometimes she’d wait for that person to show up but sometimes she’d have to wait until they returned from their date. So, she had to learn on somebody else’s terms you might say. Her husband was also blind but they had a child they never saw. Neither of the parents ever saw their child.

Fisher: Oh, wow.

Jim: But they raised a child.

Fisher: They raised a child.

Jim: And then she received a donor heart from the North Dakota attorney general’s wife. So she since died of cancer. By the way, about 35 to 40% of the people whom I’ve interviewed have since passed.

Fisher: Wow. All right, let’s go to some smaller places. Devil’s Lake, North Dakota, what did you learn there?

Jim: Well, there’s a fellow I interviewed in Devil’s Lake who originally lived on a farm just west of there called Pan and they had high water problems, water goes in cycles as far as elevation. And anyway, they had to move off the farm because of the high water there. Their farmstead flooded. So, they moved over to Webster, North Dakota and the same thing happened there so they had to move again. They moved to the town of Devil’s Lake.

Fisher: Unbelievable, wow.

Jim: What I remember about that is his wife, she was a nurse and she worked as a nurse until her 85th birthday I think it is. And she also made homemade grape wine and that’s what they used for commune in her church for the last 30 years.

Fisher: Ha. Look at the stories you get and as soon as I name a town you immediately flash to who these people are and what they’ve told you. Unbelievable.

Jim: [Laughs] Don’t scratch it out otherwise I’m going to miss one.

Fisher: [Laughs] Okay, Mayville. What do you know about Mayville?

Jim: Mayville looks good. I interviewed a Mr. Moen. Actually, a Dr. Moen, he’s mayor of the town.

Fisher: Okay.

Jim: And he teaches aeronautical engineering at the University of North Dakota. A farm boy, very nice man, low key, gets along with anybody, people in town love him. I was referred to him by many, many people as someone who had integrity, honesty, and good for the community, good character, a good human being.

Fisher: Yeah. I just keep trying to get more and more obscure on these towns to see if you can get there and you always get there.

Jim: I figured one of the funniest ones was this lady, she’s in her 90s.

Fisher: Okay.

Jim: I interviewed her. You could see through the window where the school was. There’s like an old three story building and the windows are out and that kind of thing. So anyway, I said, did you go to school there? So she said, “Yes, I did.” I said, how many in your graduating high school class? She says, “There were two of us?”

Fisher: [Laughs]

Jim: I said, two of you? Yeah. I said, did you ever have a class reunion?

Fisher: [Laughs]

Jim: Oh yeah she said, “We used to have them all the time but not anymore.” And again, she’s in her 90s. 

Fisher: Yeah.

Jim: And I said, how come? She says, “I divorced him.”

Fisher: [Laughs] Not a lot of choice there.

Jim: [Laughs] Yeah.

Fisher: Oh my gosh. Well, look at you.

Jim: I cried in many of them and I laughed in many, and I got hugs from the people and they said, next time you come, bring your wife.

Fisher: You know, I have never been to North Dakota except maybe to land there on the way through at some point somewhere else. But Jim, I’m sure there are a lot of people who are listening who would love to read your book. What is the name of it and how can they get it?

Jim: The name of the book is called, “Dakota Attitude” and you go to the website Dakotaattitude.com (all in one word no space, Dakota Attitude dot com) and you can order it through local bookstores in North Dakota and Minnesota, but also online, go to the North Dakota State University to the bookstore.

Fisher: Well, I’m sure this book is going to be treasured by libraries throughout your state and referred to by historians for generations to come. I mean, it’s just an absolute treasure. Great thing you’ve done. He’s Jim Puppe from Fargo, North Dakota. Jim, thank you so much for sharing your stories and taking the time to be with us today. And good luck in the future.

Jim: Well, thank you Scott.

Fisher: Have a good one.

Jim: [Laughs] I will. Thank you, Scott.

Fisher: And coming up next, Dr. Henry Louis Gates talks about his latest episode on Finding Your Roots on PBS, on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 4 Episode 359

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Dr. Henry Louis Gates

Fisher: All right, back on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show with Dr. Henry Louis Gates, the host of the PBS series, Finding Your Roots, and ratings are going through the roof again this season, Dr. Gates. What have you got for us this coming week?

Dr. Gates: Well, next week's episode is called, To The Manor Born and it features actress, Glenn Close and film director, John Waters. Glenn and John both come from well to do families and both turned their family traditions, Scott, upside down. Let's start with Glenn Close.

Fisher: Okay.

Dr. Gates: We're going back to her Quaker ancestor. Glenn's maternal great, great grandfather was called Peter B. Worrall. He was a self made man who rose from nothing to run a dry goods store in Pennsylvania. We discovered that his father, Glenn's third great grandfather's name was John Worrall. Came from a long line of Quakers, but he was disowned by the Quakers. You ready for this? For fornication after he married a woman outside the faith. Glenn admires her ancestor's spirit and says, "I get some of that from him."

Fisher: [Laughs]

Dr. Gates: Now going back further into her maternal roots, we come to another independent spirit, her ninth great grandfather's name was John Strong, who in 1630 sailed from England to the Massachusetts Bay colony when the colony was in its infancy, still struggling to survive in the wilderness, and his descendants include, you ready for this, Glenn's cousins, Calvin Coolidge, Franklin Roosevelt, Clint Eastwood and Diana Princess of Wales. They're all Glenn's cousins.

Fisher: Wow!

Dr. Gates: She's the 8th cousin of Lady Di.

Fisher: Huh!

Dr. Gates: And on her father's side, Thomas Booth Taliaferros was born in 1816 in Gloucester, Virginia and the 1860 census reveals that he owned nine slaves. And an 1840 newspaper article indicates that he was a member of a "vigilance committee" and that was a group formed to suppress Abolitionists. And his father, Glenn's third great grandfather, James Taliaferros was also a slave owner. He owned 31 human beings in 1830.

Fisher: Ugh.

Dr. Gates: Glenn knew nothing about this part of her family, marvels at the difference between her northern and southern ancestors and was deeply remorseful. Her DNA cousin was Dr. Phil McGraw. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs] Oh, wow!

Dr. Gates: John Waters, his maternal great grandfather was Clifford Whitaker, born in 1863, raised in Maryland, heir to the family fortune. But when he was 34 years old, Clifford turned his back on that fortune and joined the Klondike Gold Rush, working as a minor prospector in northwestern Canada, one of the most remote spots on earth. His efforts came to naught. He never found any gold and he died, Scott, tragically by an accidental pistol shot.

Fisher: Oh wow!

Dr. Gates: John said, "I know someone had to be crazy in our family. Sounds like one of my movies." [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs]

Dr. Gates: Finally, John's maternal great grandfather was named Somerset Waters, same surname. He was a farmer and also a slave owner in Carroll County, Maryland. And in 1858, he published an advertisement offering a reward for the return of Carolyn, an enslaved woman. Weeks later, three freed men and one enslaved man were charged with helping Carolyn escape, and the three freed men were ultimately convicted and ordered to be sold as slaves. And after sentencing, Somerset purchased two of the former freed men himself. And John said, "I would go spit on my ancestor's grave." And his DNA cousin was former Republican, member of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan. And John who's very liberal almost had a heart attack all over again. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs] Well, it all goes to show, we all descend from saints and sinners and kings and paupers.

Dr. Gates: You've got it.

Fisher: Well, of course it’s Finding Your Roots on PBS this coming week. Check your local listings for times. Dr. Gates, good to talk to you. We'll catch up with you again next week.

Dr. Gates: God bless you, my brother. I love doing our weekly segment. I have Alexis set the alarm, I said, “Scott Fisher's calling!” [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs] Good to talk with you, Skip. Stay safe!

Dr. Gates: Okay, thank you, brother.

Fisher: All right and David Allen Lambert is coming up next with another round of Ask Us Anything in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 359

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: We are back for Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, David Allen Lambert is over there. And David, our question today comes from Rob in Fort Myers, Florida. And he says, "Guys, what are your thoughts on chromosome mapping? How helpful is it in breaking down brick walls?" You know, this is a really interesting question and I've got my thoughts on it. What do you say, Dave?

David: Well, I mean, obviously DNA painted by Johnny Perl made that completely easier than trying to take paper and write down segments and using Excel spreadsheets to try to figure that whole thing out. So I tip my hat to John. However, I use it sparingly. I mean, it’s really one of those tough nuts to crack. I mean, have you had any success with like identifying shared matches based upon using the painter or mapping itself?

Fisher: Well, in combination with, say, 23andMe or My Heritage. Here's the thing, people who don't know about chromosome mapping, this is where if you get your DNA test results and you're able to put it on a place that has a chromosome map that shows where you share DNA with certain other people. Well, with chromosome mapping, you can take that information and put it into, say, DNA Painter and see where these chunks of DNA on these chromosomes that you share with other people come from, what ancestors they come from directly. So there are many cases where for instance, I keep running into what looks like a generic network, people related to each other, but not related to anybody else I know, but they're all related to me somehow and I don't know what branch they come from. So, if we do the DNA painting with the known DNA matches and you see which chunks of DNA you share on which chromosomes and then you take this unknown match and compare it and see where they share that piece of DNA, you might be able to determine, okay, this person must be a descendant of this person or this couple. And now, if you follow their tree back there, you might start getting little hints of how you might be able to extend your lines and break through a brick wall. But, I'll tell you Dave, I tell people all the time, I think that 90-95% of your DNA goals can be met simply by using the matches that you already have. And of course you get more matches at Ancestry than any place.

David: That's very true.

Fisher: But you might get a key match anywhere else. You never know which pond you're going to get the right bite on, right?

David: That's true and I'm always looking at like matches that I cannot find that common ancestor just like you said. And it really does kind of let you know, well, it’s going to fall on this side of your family or on that side of your family or at least on what ancestor that you can at least geographically see if we're dealing with the same part of the world.

Fisher: Right.

David: I have a coworker that we have a very, very small chromosome match, and it’s like, okay, where? But she has no New England ancestry, she has no English ancestry, she has no Canadian ancestry.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: But she does have ancestry from Dominica Island, which would be my great, great grandmother Lambert who was from Dominica. Now we don't know what ancestor it is, but it has to have been at least a 5th great grandparent. [Laughs]

Fisher: Sure. Well, and you know, it’s really fun and interesting. DNA Painter is fun, just never mind the breakthrough potential. Just to see how this thing comes down with where you inherited your DNA from your ancestors in combination with your shared matches. It’s really colorful, it’s interesting, it’s enormously time consuming. [Laughs] I'll tell you that.

David: It is.

Fisher: But you really have to make a choice as to whether or not you want to delve into it. It’s very advanced. So, great question. Thank you so much, Rob, appreciate it. And of course, if you have a question for Ask Us Anything, you can email us at [email protected]. David, we're done! Talk to you next week.

David: All right, talk to you then.

Fisher: All right, thank you so much. And thank you for joining us this week. If you missed any of the show, of course catch the podcast, we're on iHeart Radio, iTunes, Spotify, I mean, you name it, we are there. Talk to you next week. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!


Subscribe now to find out why hundreds of thousands of family researchers listen to Extreme Genes every week!

Email me new episodes