Episode 372 - Pirate Story’s New Final Chapter Goes Global / Ancestry’s New Community Impact Program

podcast episode Apr 19, 2021

Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. David begins with a personal discovery involving a pin on a photograph of a relative and another amazing eBay find! Then, the guys discuss the late Prince Philip and his blood relationship to Queen Elizabeth through Queen Victoria. Then, Queen Victoria makes the news again as a family has discovered a family heirloom with her name on it from the early 20th century.

Fisher then visits with metal detectorist Jim Bailey about his discovery of Arabian coins in New England and his research on them which is rewriting the last chapter of the history of the “King of Pirates.” Jim first broke the story on Extreme Genes three years ago, but now the story is blowing up internationally! And it involves one of Fisher’s direct ancestors.

Crista Cowan from our sponsor at Ancestry.com then comes on to talk about Ancestry’s new Community Impact Program for preserving at-risk history. Hear what they’re doing with some half million students. Crista then talks about new databases and a sharpening of a key DNA tool. Also, good things are coming to the Ancestry messenger feature. Find out what it is.

David Lambert then returns for a pair of questions on Ask Us Anything.

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

Transcript of Episode 372

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 372

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. It is great to have you along genies. Well, it was about three years ago that I first introduced you to Jim Bailey. He is a metal detectorist in Rhode Island and he made an amazing find that connected to a pirate ancestor of mine and now that story has gone international, so we're going to update you on that with a visit with Jim, coming up here in about ten minutes or so. And then after that, we're going to do a monthly update with our friends at Ancestry.com. Crista Cowan is going to be here, they've got some great new partnerships going on. You're going to want to know about some great changers going on in the DNA section of Ancestry.com, plus new databases she's going to talk about, so we've got a lot of things going on over there. Hey, if you haven't signed up for our Weekly Genie Newsletter yet, you know, I hate to bug you, but its time you did it. Just get on our website, ExtremeGenes.com or go to our Facebook page to get signed up for free. You get a blog from me each week, links to past and present shows and links to stories you will appreciate as a genealogist. Right now, it’s time to head out to Boston, Massachusetts where David Allen Lambert is standing by, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. David, how are you?

David: Hey. I'm doing great, was on vacation last week. I got to go into Boston and actually wander around colonial cemeteries and where John Winthrop's house used to stand. So I get to play tourist in my own city.

Fisher: That's a fun thing to do, because there’s a lot of history there, but you also had an interesting discovery involving a photograph.

David: Well, in the beginning of April 1921, my grandmother lost her first husband, Daniel Archibald McDonald who unfortunately died of TB at the age of 23, leaving her with two small children. And I have a postcard size photograph of him with my grandmother. Well, when he died, they made large oval framed photos of him for each one of the girls and for his mother. Well, I know where most of them are, but I now own one of them. One of my cousins decided that I was the best person for this, but the kicker of it is, I used some forensic photo genealogical tools, because I looked at the picture and I'm like, "What is that on his lapel?" And it wasn't a stain. It was a pin and that pin had a Liberty Bell on it. Enough of the writing was legible and I Googled it and then I went onto eBay and for $4, I have in my possession right now an exact original pin that he was wearing for the third Liberty Loan in 1918, which makes sense, because in the picture that this is from, he was holding my aunt, born in 1918, who was a toddler at the time. So he must have bought a World War I Liberty Loan in 1918, put the pin on his lapel. And well, the pin's long since gone, but I now have a duplicate of it that I can frame right next to the picture of him.

Fisher: I love this.

David: I know you appreciate this sort of thing.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: Because you do the same thing.

Fisher: Yes. And we talked to Robert Warren last week who had that same experience. I mean, people are taking eBay challenge to see what they can find, and here’s another example of a great discovery using, I guess you’d call it forensic photography.

David: And thanks to eBay, I can hold the very same type of pin in my hand.

Fisher: Yeah, $4.

David: Yeah, $4, free shipping.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: Well, you know, and Daniel died in 1921 and about two months later Prince Phillip was born. So, as we stay with 1921 as a story and of course Prince Phillip has recently passed at the age of 99, but did you know that the Queen and Prince Phillip were third cousins?

Fisher: I knew that they were related somehow. How does this fit?

David: Well, they are related through Queen Victoria. Queen Victoria’s daughter being the female ancestor of Phillip through his matrimonial line, actually his MTDNA is Queen Victoria. Then Queen Elizabeth, she gets a male line from Edward the seventh down to George the Fifth, down to her father and then to herself. So, they are in direct line and it’s obviously something that’s probably similar to a lot of people’s genealogy, we probably have distant cousins that are even a closer cousin relationship getting married as I have in my own tree in England. Well, you know, you never know what you’re going to find in an attic. I love the stories we’ve done over the years and this one is about 121 year old chocolate bar sent from Queen Victoria. Well, not directly.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: But it was sent to troops in South Africa in 1900, the year before she died. And it’s in a little tin and this English soldier who was in South Africa brought it home and put it in the hat box with his helmet from the war and there it sat. And recently his own daughter died at the age of 100 and they were going through her things and voila! I just want to know who’s going to be the daring person to break off a piece of that chocolate and give it a try.

Fisher: [Laughs] That would be what about 120 years old now, and it’s from Prince Phillip and Queen Elizabeth’s great grandmother. And the chocolate and the tin and all this was put together as I understand it by Quaker chocolate makers who were against war. So, they didn’t want to actually put anything on the tin. They just wanted to ship it there but apparently the Queen’s office said, “No, no, no, we have to let them know it’s from us. It’s from the government. We love them.” So, they came to some kind of compromise. But it’s a neat tin and looks to be in perfect condition. You just got to wonder what’s under the foil inside that tin.   

David: Um hmm. [Laughs] Well, the National Trust basically says these tins are rare, but to find it with the chocolate still inside and to have the provenance of the original verse you got it, makes it even rarer.

Fisher: Yeah. Sure.

David: That’s a very expensive piece of chocolate that no one will probably ever want to eat.

Fisher: Yeah, but what a great heirloom. [Laughs] I love it.

David: I would love to have something like that. You know, I’m just going to go buy a Hershey Bar and I’m going to put it in a can. I’m going to put it up in my attic and see in 100 years if anybody sells it.

Fisher: [Laughs] There you go.

David: Of course, I won’t be on eBay to watch it. Well, remember if you’re not a member of American Ancestors, you can join us and save $20 on your membership with the code EXTREME on AmericanAncestors.org. Talk to you later my friend.

Fisher: Yes. You’re going to be back for Ask Us Anything. We’re looking forward to that. And coming up next, my good friend Jim Bailey the metal detectororist from Rhode Island who is rewriting history of a pirate whose crew included one of my ancestors. His story has gone international. You’re going to want to hear what Jim Bailey has to say coming up in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show. 

Segment 2 Episode 372

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Jim Bailey

Fisher: Well, it was back in 2018 that I met my next guest. He actually reached out to me because he had a fascinating story about pirates and coins and it tied into my ancestor, a pirate by the name of William Downs who was a member of the crew of the King of Pirates as they called him, Henry Every, back in the 1690s. Jim Bailey is a metal detectorist in Rhode Island, and Jim found a coin with Arabian markings on it some time back. And it isn’t the only one that’s been dug up in North America. Jim welcome back to Extreme Genes. Great to have you!

Jim: I’m glad to be here.

Fisher: Well, a lot of things have changed here in the last little bit and of course since you first came on the show those three years ago, you and I have stayed in touch because your research certainly has baring on my ancestor, and as a result of all the things you’ve been able to put together you’ve actually reassembled the final chapter of this voyage of Captain Henry Every.

Jim: Yeah it really changed the story.

Fisher: Yeah quite a bit because what’s happened now if you’ve noticed in the news the last ten days or so, Jim has gone worldwide with the story. The Associated Press picked it up and you’re getting coverage now in China, you’re getting coverage over in Turkey, you’ve been doing interviews with them over there, radio, and newspapers, and television stations all over the place, so the story of Henry Every is being rewritten. And well, most of us, myself and of course people who listen to the show come from all of this from a family history point of view. You come to the history of this whole thing from the discovery of your coin. So, let’s go though that a little Jim. You found that coin how long ago now? 

Jim: I found that coin in 2014.

Fisher: And where did you find it?

Jim: I found it in Middletown, Rhode Island at Sweet Berry Farm, which is a pick-your-own farm where I started detecting way back in 2004, so I’ve been at this for a while.

Fisher: Yeah, a long, long time. So, what’s the experience like? You’re going around this farm. You have permission I would imagine from the owners that you can go do this, what happens now? Where were you when you came upon this?

Jim: So, this was 2014. It was springtime and that’s usually when I’m on the farm, early in the spring or in the fall season. And it was my second stop for the day. I had to get home and I wanted to put in about another half hour because sometimes that’s all you need.

Fisher: Right. Were you looking for something in particular?

Jim: No. The farm is a Colonial period house site, I’d estimate from the mid 17th century. Now it’s long gone but in the work fields you’ll see brick and black Colonial glass and clay pipe stands, and from that you know there was a house there.

Fisher: Sure.

Jim: And that’s what I’m for. I’m looking for remnants of the house and the people who occupied the house.

Fisher: And you go then and research the site before you decide where you’re going to do your metal detecting. So, on this day you’re out there in the field and what is the response? I’ve never gone metal detecting before.

Jim: Well, you just kind of get your machine up and running and you go. And you know, you can’t beat luck and this was between rows. And honest to goodness I said, “Let me count rows” and I said, “I’ll go with lucky row number seven” [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs] Really?

Jim: It was lucky number seven, and I took 20 steps or so, I got a good signal. It was quite deep.

Fisher: How deep is deep?

Jim: This coin was probably 10 inches deep. It was a pretty thick plug of dirt. And I flip it over and at the bottom of the plug I could see this dark edge of this silver coin sticking out of the clog of dirt. And I was wondering if it was almost like a piece of slate and not a coin because it’s not entirely round. It’s not a perfectly round mint coin. And I took a poke at it with my pen point and I was delighted to find out it was metallic, it was a coin! I had to douse it with water and it was covered with Arabic script and I was just blown away.

Fisher: Yeah I bet. And then that’s where your research began into how in the world in New England on a farm you could have an Arabic coin with what date on it?

Jim: The date on the coin is 1693.

Fisher: Wow! So, all the coins though, there have been 16 found. Not by yourself, you’ve only found this one, but other detectorists, most of them throughout New England. I think there was one that was found in North Carolina. Is that correct?

Jim: That’s correct. There’s one coin that was found in North Carolina. 16 coins in total, now with the recent story from the AP coming out now we have a 17th tentative specimen. I have to send it out to Steve Album to get it dated to make sure it dates properly. All the coins were taken from this Mughal treasure ship that was captured in 1695. None of the coins date after 1695.

Fisher: What a great indicator, right?

Jim: What a great indicator. The only thing better than that is we have seven coins with exact dates. Some coins are only dated by the reign of the issuing ruler. Seven coins are dated with exact dates ranging from 1691 to 1694. In the following year you have the capture of the Gunsway in 1695.

Fisher: Right.

Jim: So, the dating correlates perfectly with this incident which was one of the biggest piracies in history.

Fisher: Yeah. And this is actually a guy who was really kind of a low class guy out of England who was a sailor on a ship, and he took over the ship in Spain, to make a really long story short, he named himself captain and he took a whole fleet of pirate ships and attacked this one huge ship that belonged to what they called the Mughal of India, and he was the one ruler in the world who was the king of more people on the planet at that time than anybody else. So, this was a big deal. It affected trade between England and this Mughal, and so they started a worldwide manhunt for Henry Every and his crew who hung out in the Bahamas for a while and then went to make their escape back to England. And some of them wound up getting hanged there by the king of England and his courts because they wanted to make a statement that they weren’t going to tolerate this kind of interference with world trade. But what’s happened now is with the discovery of the coin, you Jim have gone in and found more information relating to where Henry Every left. Because all history books have said this captain went and tried to escape to Ireland and he was never seen again, but he had some of his crew with him and many of them were caught. But instead, your information now from some of the testimonies from those trials reveals that Henry Every actually went to North America first.

Jim: That’s correct. And so for 325 years now it’s been a lost history.

Fisher: Yeah.

Jim: And due to the recovery of this first coin, a mere 12 grains of silver, a dime in your pocket weighs 30 grains, so this is 12 grains of silver.

Fisher: Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute, a dime weighs 30 grains?

Jim: Yeah. A dime roughly weighs 30 grains in comparison these silver comassee coins from Yemen, that’s where most of these coins originated from, they weight about 12 grains, so about a third the weight of a dime in your pocket.

Fisher: Of a dime. [Laughs]

Jim: Yeah.

Fisher: [Laughs] And you found this on a farm ten inches below the ground, and then turned this into this amazing history. Now, among the crew members of the ship, which was called the Fancy was one William Downs. He was my seventh great grandfather and he wound up actually in jail in Newport, Rhode Island because of course he was a wanted man as being part of the pirate crew. But they were a very pirate friendly place there in Newport. Not too far from where you are Jim. And he wound up asking the jailer to allow him to step outside to “ease himself” and he was never seen again.

Jim: That’s correct. The sheriff, Thomas Townsend, found himself out of a job for complicity in the escape of your ancestor. And that’s likely because as we know through the primary source documents that Thomas Townsend, the sheriff, his daughter was married to one of the pirates in Every’s crew. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs] Exactly.

Jim: Only in Rhode Island.

Fisher: Only in Rhode Island. So, my ancestor wound up about twelve miles north of  Newport in Bristol, which is now part of Rhode Island but it was part of Massachusetts Bay Colony at the time. And he married Elizabeth Gorham who was a great granddaughter of John Howland of the Mayflower. The interesting thing about this as we put the history of William Downs together is, there’s no trace of William Downs of Bristol who married Elizabeth Gorham before the escape of the pirate. And there’s no sign of the pirate after he escapes from jail. And there are also other things, William Downs of Bristol was also a mariner, there were no Downs family members around him, and all of the William Downes or William Downses of New England, they’re all accounted for. They married someone else, they live somewhere else. They died at a different time, that type of thing. So, you put all the evidence together and you realize it’s got to be the same guy.  So, it’s a fascinating story and now thanks to your research, this thing has blown up because the Associated Press picked up on it.

Jim: It’s wonderful because I find more and more people getting involved in this. And we’re basically all now like detectives trying to solve this ultimate cold case dating back over three centuries. Now, we have this 17th coin now being reported. I received an email from Dr. Kevin McBride at UConn who’s interviewed for this story. He received an email from someone who reported finding this other Arabian silver coin on the shores of the Niantic River off the coast of Connecticut.

Fisher: Right.

Jim: Now, according to historical records, Henry Every also took his men ashore on Fishers Island, which is off the eastern end of Long Island. Fishers Island is only five miles -

Fisher: From the Niantic, yes.

Jim: - From the Niantic River.

Fisher: I know. That’s right.

Jim: It’s just fantastic because it feels like we’re chasing these guys down.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Jim: They’re like bank robbers with $50 bills flying out the window of the getaway car, so you know?[Laughs]

Fisher: It is really fun. Well, Jim, congratulations. I hope it turns into a movie, into a book, into a TV show, something because you deserve it. You’ve really been working on this for a long, long time. And we’re very proud that we were the first to give national attention to your find.

Jim: That’s right. Because what can I say, this story is running in China, Jerusalem, Thailand, Japan, Ireland, England. It’s all over the place. But folks, you heard it first on Extreme Genes about three years ago!

Fisher: [Laughs] Three years ago! That’s right! Well, thanks buddy. It’s great to talk to you. Get some sleep. I know you’re doing interviews almost around the clock here lately.

Jim: Yeah. It’s been a whirlwind.

Fisher: All right Jim. Take care. We’ll talk to you again.

Jim: I’m so happy to be here, and you take care.

Fisher: And coming up next, Crista Cowan from Ancestry.com is back for her monthly visit to talk about some of the latest releases on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 3 Episode 372

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Crista Cowan

Fisher: Hey, you found us, Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here your Radio Roots Sleuth, and it’s time once again for our monthly visit with our good friends over at our sponsors at Ancestry.com, to talk to Crista Cowan once again. And Crista there’s a lot of things to talk about today that we’ve got to cover, starting with this great new partnership you’ve got going with Facing History and Ourselves.

Crista: Yeah, absolutely. So, Facing History and Ourselves, is this amazing organization that does really crucial work to help millions of students use history to understand the world around them, to gain better reliance and a better stand-up to bigotry and hate. And we’ve partnered with them with our K through 12 Program to provide them with access to additional resources so that they can continue to connect to that history.

Fisher: Boy, when you consider that you’ve reached out now to somewhat half million K through 12 kids to provide them free access to Ancestry records. That’s a phenomenal thing to do. And when you consider how many people are still Holocaust deniers out there, this should help stem the tide with that in future generations.

Crista: Absolutely. Ancestry has other partnerships with organizations like the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Arolsen Archives out of Germany where we have access to those records, specifically pertaining to victims of Nazi persecution. All of those are going to be made available though this new partnership and into the hands of teachers across the country.

Fisher: And this is all part of your Ancestry Community Impact Program too, right?

Crista: It is. This is actually kind of the launch of that program and our aim is just to mobilize Ancestry resources and products to build more connective and resilient communities, through preserving at risk history and empowering the next generation of history makers.

Fisher: And then we’ve got a lot of new databases out there. One in particular that deals with enslavement in, is it the Danish West Indies?

Crista: It is, yeah. So, as part of the key initiative of this new Ancestry Community Impact Program, we are digitizing and preserving at risk history. So, a unique record collection that came to our attention from the Danish West Indies Archives is about a very specific time in history that is at risk of being overlooked or forgotten and that has to do with specifically those who were enslaved in the Danish West Indies. So, let’s see, I think we’ve got four new databases including, census records, records of enslavement, and records of what they were doing as occupations as they came out of enslavement. So, just a really incredible set of rich historical records. They date from 1724 to 1916.

Fisher: 1916. So, there’s still slavery going on at that time then?

Crista: Well, it wasn’t that slavery was going on at the time. It’s just that those that had been enslaved were still alive at the time and providing information about their experiences in enslavement.

Fisher: So, to get to all of this, you can just go to Ancestry.com/blackhistory.

Crista: Correct.

Fisher: You know, when you think about all this, the education you’re providing to the kids and all that. I mean, it really takes you back to that Emory University study. That’s now what, 16, 17 years ago right now?

Crista: Yeah. I love that study so much. One of the key findings from that study was that children who know more about their family history are more resilient and they have greater self esteem. So, even if it’s something as simple as telling a story around the dinner table at night about how their grandparents met or what it was like for them to lose a job and have to move their family somewhere else to gain employment. Simple stories like that, greater resilience, more self esteem in children.

Fisher: Boy, I’m seeing that in my own grandkids. I have one granddaughter in particular who is already deep into the weeds in family history and she’s eight years old. And she loves hearing the stories and she really likes understanding the things that her people on all sides had to overcome and it’s made her a really very special young lady because she’s really strong in the things she has to overcome because she knows that she can do it, because the people before her did it. Crista Cowan is back with me as we talk about the recent releases over at Ancestry.com. We do this every month. We kind of go through them because it is really fun to hear what’s now available that may affect your research. Where do we begin this month, Crista?

Crista: [Laughs] There are so many things to cover and usually we talk about a lot of the new record collections, but this month we’ve made a lot of changes to the site based on user feedback. So, I’d love to run through those.

Fisher: Sure.

Crista: Let’s start with the Ancestry messaging center. So, for those of you who use Ancestry, you know that you can send messages and receive messages from other Ancestry users. You can reply to a message and you can message any of your DNA matches for free. You don’t have to have an Ancestry subscription. Well, two things that we’re doing now, first thing is, we’ve started notifying users as part of our monthly email update, if they have unread messages waiting for them, so if they haven’t been back to the site in a while, we want to make sure they know you’re trying to reach out to them.

Fisher: Messaging with people that you find, it can be really frustrating when you don’t get any response and really a lot of the time it’s very simply the fact that they forgot about the message or they haven’t looked in a long time. So, that notification can make a big difference in maybe connecting with somebody who can have that key little bit of information to help you make your breakthroughs.

Crista: Absolutely. Yeah, there’s lots of data that we’re getting in that’s saying people are coming back just because we’re providing them with that little alert. Because like you said, sometimes they just forget. I do. [Laughs]

Fisher: Yeah.

Crista: I have some un-responded messages that I still need to respond to.

Fisher: But I love this idea of attaching photographs to the messages. I mean that’s a new thing and that means we can stay right within the messaging system and the safety that brings. That feeling of security as we work within the system instead of having to go to email addresses.

Crista: Yeah. So, one of the things that we found is that when people can connect with an image of a grandparent or a great grandparent that they never knew, a great uncle in a military uniform, whatever that may be. That emotional connection strengthens between them and the person that’s messaging them and between them and their ancestors. So, now we have the ability or it’s rolling out so everybody should have it by the end of this month, the ability to attach an image from your family tree. If it’s a deceased person, your tree needs to be public obviously and you can share a photo directly through Ancestry messaging. And I just want to point out that this is just phase one of where we’re going with the kinds of things that you can send to one another in messaging to help facilitate that communication and those discoveries.

Fisher: That’s really one of the challenges, isn’t it for all of you at Ancestry is to try to figure out better ways to get people engaged and respond to one another because when those connections are made, I mean there are lifetime friendships that are made and partnerships in research. I mean, it’s a big deal and it sure is a lot of fun.

Crista: Yeah. So, that’s one new feature this month. The next one has to do with our Ancestry DNA match list. So, for the 18 million plus people who has taken the Ancestry DNA test, one of the challenges has always been how to group that information affectively to be able to make discoveries and that network effect. And the shared matches in your DNA is really one of the powers that drives Ancestry DNA discoveries. So, we rolled out just a few weeks ago, the ability to add your matches to groups in bulk. So, you just have to do it one at a time and when you’re dealing with 20 or 30, or I think my mom has 70 thousand DNA matches. It gets a little tedious. [Laughs]

Fisher: Oh, wow.

Crista: So this bulk add should help speed up some of those discovery processes.

Fisher: Yeah. And then you’ve got the tree tags and additional ones that are coming on.

Crista: For sure, yeah. So, in conjunction with the Danish West Indies records that we just released, we recognized that we needed some My Tree Tags to facilitate some of the discoveries that were being made. So, we’ve added a set of Diversity Tags. They are under the Life Experience Section of my tree tags. And they are, slave owner, enslaved person, free person of color, and indentured servant. So, if you’re working in your family tree with a person and that person meets one of those criteria, you add the tree tag. That allows you then to search your entire tree for people who have that particular tag on it. It helps you just coordinate your information a little better and possibly make some new discoveries.

Fisher: Great new stuff. Talk to you again next month Crista. Thanks so much!

Crista: Thanks. Talk to you later.

Fisher: And coming up next, David Allen Lambert returns for another round of Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 4 Episode 372

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, it’s time once again for Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. David Allen Lambert is back from the New England Historic Genealogical Society for our first question. And David, it comes from Cindy Sue in Ocala, Florida and she says, "Guys, I'm told that I descend from Pocahontas. Is there any way to prove this long standing family tradition?" Good question, Cindy Sue. Dave, this is something we hear a lot of, don't we?

David: We do.

Fisher: Pocahontas comes up a lot in people's family histories for some reason.

David: She does. In fact, of course she married an Englishman John Rolfe, she then had family that have been in Virginia Society for a long time. In fact, you find people that have come forward and published on it and whatnot, but actually, just recently I stumbled across on Twitter there is now a Pocahontas DNA project.

Fisher: Ah!

David: And they are looking for descendants of Matoaka, which was her other name and also she was known as Rebecca Rolfe and many people don't know that. That's her English name. And with some event, a lot of people have probably a family tradition that we descend from Pocahontas. Well, there are genealogical records that actually will tie the descendants of her Rolfe children right down to many of the Virginia families, and of course where our listener is in Florida or out in California, this could be spread anywhere around the globe. So now there is a DNA project called The Pocahontas DNA Project, at PocahontasDNAProject.com and also on Twitter @PocahontasDNAPr, for project, and you can find out about it. One of the things I always find it’s a little difficult, like my wife and one of my daughters have 2% Native American in their autosomal DNA. And you're going to figure how far back Pocahontas lived. I mean, here's somebody who was born in the late 1500s.

Fisher: Right

David: So, finding a direct female, female, female line, a mitochondrial might be tough. Obviously there's not going to be a Y DNA that you're going to be able to other than maybe a direct Rolfe line that comes into that, but you may not even find the markers. I mean, I think that I would need to turn to someone like Blain or CeCe to kind of get their thoughts on that, because you could essentially not show any Native American DNA that far back. What's your thoughts on that, Fish?

Fisher: Well, because female lines first of all are usually quicker generationally. For instance, my wife has a fourth great grandfather that was born like two years after my second great grandfather, because women generally have children younger than the men do. And so it just kind of works out that way. So when you're talking about late 16th century, you know, the 1500s like that, you're going back probably what, 15, 16 generations? And autosomal is usually good to about ten, but not particularly reliably that far back. But you do get matches that come from that distance. So when you're talking that far back with Pocahontas, I don’t see that you could get any DNA matches that would be of any consequence at all when it comes to autosomal.

David: Right. And maybe what they’re doing is, they're gathering up known descendants and they're matching up DNA. I don't know, maybe it’s a good guess for the show. I'll dig in a little bit further into this for you.

Fisher: Yeah! Let's figure that one out. The other thing is though, there is a lot of research out there. There are proven lines out there, but there are a lot of them that are very questionable and there's more than one person named John Rolfe back there as well that are sometimes confused as I recall, because my wife descends from John Rolfe.

David: I descend from a Rolfe family from Newbury, Massachusetts from the 17th century and I got very excited when I heard that there was a connection, I said, "Oh, maybe I’m distant cousins!" but of course it’s not as common as a name as I had hoped when I was 12, but not the case. I don't know who my wife's Native American ancestor is. I sure wish it was Pocahontas. Great genealogy for my kids to tell about at school, but as DNA's dug deeper and we can look further back, who knows, maybe they can identify some of the DNA markers that Pocahontas may have had.

Fisher: Thanks for the question. Got another one coming up when we return with Part 2 of Ask Us Anything in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 372

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, back at it for our final segment this week on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It’s Ask Us Anything. David Allen Lambert is back with me. And David, we've got an email from Amy in Las Vegas, Nevada and she says, "Fisher and David, love your tips. Here's a question for you. I have several stories that have been passed down through oral tradition. How would you suggest I go about proving they are real?" Great question.

David: Ooh.

Fisher: I like that, Amy, thank you. David, I've got some thoughts on this, so you start and I'll pick up.

David: Yeah! Well, you know, it’s a really good question. My own grandmother would tell family stories and some of them I can't find a primary source, even a secondary source to back them up, but that story is still important and you should not forget them. So one of them things I do, Fish is that I will take from the best of my memory and write down how my grandmother told it to me and then I footnote in my sources, the source, being my grandmother, when I heard the story approximately the year and where I heard it, maybe it was at my house or at a family gathering. And then what I do is, I contact other cousins and say, "Hey listen, do you know this story?" and maybe they have a different spin on it and then I footnote that one and that one and that one, so you usually find an ounce of truth even on some of the best oral traditions even if they are fictional. [Laughs]

Fisher: Yeah, I totally agree with that, I totally agree with that. I have a bunch of them in my lines and there were several that were left by a great aunt. My grandmother Fisher's sister. I never met grandmother Fisher, so the sister I did meet when I when I was a child and she wrote down a few things, and as I grew up and got into this, I started looking at these stories and they were all kind of strange. One of them had to do with the family being heirs to a great fortune left over in Great Britain.

David: [Laughs]

Fisher: And when the internet came out, I was able to research it and found out that this was a very common 19th century scam that was going on. It was the Townley Family estate. And so, as I looked at this, I realized, oh, this great aunt of mine was remembering something she had heard early in her life and I guess our family was caught up into looking into the possibility that they might inherit this incredible fortune waiting for them in Lancashire. But it turned out to be nothing. And then there was another story out there about where this particular ancestor was from. And as I've ultimately narrowed it down, I came to realize that she actually gave the name from a popular song. And so, once I realized that this popular song told the story of where this ancestor was from, that actually helped me to narrow down where he was located, but it wasn't quite the same, but close enough where I was able to zero in on it. So, like you, I found that with all of these oral traditions, there seems to be some kernel of truth or at least a story behind the story, like this 19th century scam. And we ran into a similar situation by the way on my wife's side, where somebody actually stole a family bible in the late 19th century, apparently because they thought by using that bible to prove a family line, they were going to inherit a ton of money as well overseas. Crazy huh!

David: It happened to my family too in Canada, this Sanze fortune from the family of Connecticut, Sanzes that immigrated to Nova Scotia and in the newspaper, my great, great grandfather is apparently going to Halifax to investigate the story of this fortune that he is related to. It was all a scam.

Fisher: It’s all a scam. Good stuff. Well, thanks so much for the question, Amy. And if you have a question for Ask Us Anything, you can always email us at [email protected]. David thanks so much. Great to talk to you, catch you again next week.

David: All right, my friend, stay well.

Fisher: And thanks to you for joining us this week for Extreme Genes. Thanks to our guests for coming on this week, Jim Bailey, the metal detectorist who has discovered a whole new chapter in the history of the pirate captain, Henry Every and now the story has gone international, absolutely amazing stuff! Also to Crista Cowan for coming on from our sponsors at Ancestry.com and filling us in on all the things that are happening over there, lots of great changes coming up. If you missed any of the show or any past shows, of course catch the podcast, it’s on iTunes, iHeart Radio, TuneIn Radio, Spotify and ExtremeGenes.com. Talk to you again next week. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!

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