Episode 379 – Genies Wanted: Massachusetts 54th Statue To Be Returned To Glory / WikiTree and the “WikiTree Challenge”Jun 07, 2021
Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. David opens “Family Histoire News” with a birthday salute to a 103-year-old, the oldest living survivor of Pearl Harbor. Then Ancestry.com provided the DNA information for the family of a man killed at Pearl Harbor to bring his remains home. Catch the story. Then, DNA has become a staple in recent years in cold case investigations. Now two states have created new laws concerning the practice. Hear who they are. Then, MyHeritage.com has done it again! Their latest photo app repairs the tears and scratches in your old photos!
Fisher then visits with Liz Vizza, President of the Friends of the Public Garden in Boston. Liz’s organization is part of the effort to restore the decaying statue that celebrates Massachusetts’ famed 54th Infantry of Civil War fame, portrayed in the movie “Glory.” With a rededication on the schedule for this fall, Liz has need of genealogists’ assistance. Find out what is needed and how you can help.
Next, Laura DeSpain of WikiTree joins the conversation. She recently headed up the “WikiTree Challenge” where members researched Fisher’s lines, seeking previously unknown information. And that they did! Hear about the challenge and what may be waiting for you at WikiTree.
David then returns for Ask Us Anything questions on ethnicity numbers within your DNA results and on name changes and adoptions.
That’s all this week on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show!
Transcript for Episode 379
Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Segment 1 Episode 379
Fisher: And welcome my genies 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. Well, coming up here today, we’re going to talk to the president of the Friends of the Public Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. Liz Vizza is going to be on the show talking about the statue to the 54th Massachusetts. It’s being restored, because otherwise it would have been lost, and they need the help of genealogists to find descendants of the 54th. We’ll explain the whole thing, coming up here in about ten minutes or so. Later in the show, Laura DeSpain is on. She was the project manager for the WikiTree challenge where all these volunteers around the world from Wikitree went to research my family tree and see what they could find, and they found some great stuff. It was really interesting. So, we’ll explain the whole thing about what that WikiTree Challenge is and what’s going on at WikiTree these days that you might be interested in knowing about as a genealogist. And if you haven’t signed up by the way for our Weekly Genie Newsletter yet, now is the time to do it. Just go to ExtremeGenes.com or our Facebook page. You get that blog from me each week, couple of links to stories that you’ll find interesting as a genealogist and links to past and present shows. 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, we’ve got a list of great stories going on today.
David: You know what’s a bumper crop of great history, genealogy and some good World War II stories, which is the one I’m going to lead off with for our Family Histoire News. I want to wish a happy belated birthday to a 103 year old Pearl Harbor survivor, who in my research I think is the oldest living Pearl Harbor survivor. That would be Frank Edmond down in Florida. He was on the USS Pennsylvania and he may also be one of the last people who was in the band. He was actually getting ready to play Morning Colors on his French horn when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941.
David: Well, you know, the navy stories are wonderful, especially when you consider that DNA has helped so many of us. Ancestry.com is responsible for the returning of the World War II veteran, Herb Harms was brought back to the United States in 2018. He died in 1944 when his plane was shot down, and Ancestry.com was utilized to help the returning of his remains from Germany to the United States.
Fisher: And isn’t this interesting. This is a military family by the way and his niece wanted to find this information and found out there was actually a guy who had been researching Herb Harms for 30 years. And so, she got this great help and found out that there were great genealogists around the world trying to help solve this family mystery. She’s also got an ancestor who was in the Civil War, so it’s kind of like the family business being in the military. But what a great recovery and they just announced it now, because of course with Memorial Day in this past week.
David: It’s amazing. We have one veteran who died over 70 years ago and we have one that’s still alive almost 80 years after Perl Harbor.
Fisher: That’s right.
David: Amazing. You know, we talked a little bit about DNA laws and how they affect law enforcement. In fact, we were talking about pending legislations from Maryland, a New York Times story that ExtremeGenes.com has on it. We’ll explain that Maryland and Montana have now passed the nation’s first laws that actually limit forensic genealogy for law enforcement. Of course this is the same type of forensic genealogy that was done to identify the Golden State Killer back in 2018 and of course law enforcement is looking at DNA databases consumers have put in to actually find matches. So your distant cousin could be a killer that is wanted by law enforcement and these laws are limiting law enforcement in Maryland and Montana and other states may actually follow suit.
Fisher: Yeah, and we’re seeing this from both Democrat and Republican politicians running some of these restrictions and they don’t outlaw it entirely. They’re just making sure that people are opted in with full cooperation of those people involved. So, it will be interesting to see how this all affects genetic genealogy and law enforcement heading down the road.
David: Right. Because in another year, we could be naming more states, so stay tuned. I’ll tell you, My Heritage has been really on the forefront of photography and how you can change the colors and even animate your photographs. But you know, you always have the scratch in the photo that even with Photoshop you can’t repair. Well, they now take care of that too.
David: Thank you, My Heritage.
Fisher: [Laughs] Yeah, Daniel Horowitz. He was on the show not that long ago, just a few months ago when they released the animation feature for your photographs and I said, well, that’s got to be it, right? And he’s like, “Oh, you want me to get fired from My Heritage for talking about what may yet come?” and I’m looking, well, what else is left? Well, apparently this is it, because if you have a photo that’s torn or scratched, this tool will automatically fix it. Now I’ve gone through and done it and I’m one of those people who spend a lot of time using Photoshop and the like to fix photographs. This does a pretty good job with one shot. It’s not perfect, but none of the other tools are either. I mean, none of them are going to be absolutely flawless. But nonetheless, it’s an amazing new tool, a great addition to the tool kit for your photographs. And I think My Heritage now owns that position, don’t you?
David: I really think so and I think that a lot of people who were professionally doing photo restoring for 100s of dollars are probably shaking in their boots a little bit.
David: I mean, not to say they not great quality work, but if you can do it at home and print off a picture that looks close, I’ll take 70% close to 100%, you know, even if it would take hours upon hours to do.
David: Seconds? I mean, it’s amazing.
Fisher: Back in the 1980s, we had a photograph, a group photograph of my wife’s great grandparents and all the kids back in the 19 teens and it had scratches and scuffs and all this. We actually had to hire an artist to fix this photo. And the way she did it was, she took a picture of the picture and then painted up the copy that she made, a nice 8 x 10 and then took a photo of that photo and that’s how we got the restored picture.
David: Um hmm.
Fisher: Know how much it cost? $100. [Laughs]
David: Wow! Don’t forget, American Ancestors is open. We will be open to the public in the month of June, so go to our website, AmericanAncestors.org to find out more about our openings. I will be returning to the reference desk very soon. And you can also join American Ancestors for a reduced price of $20 by using the coupon code “EXTREME” so come on in and visit me.
Fisher: All right, great stuff, Dave. That is so good to hear. Catch you at the back end of the show of course for Ask Us Anything. And coming up next, we’re going to talk to the president of the Friends of the Public Garden in Boston, Liz Vizza who’s in charge of the restoration of the statue to the 54th Massachusetts and she needs the help of genealogists. You’ll hear more, coming up next on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 2 Episode 379
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Liz Vizza
Fisher: Well, you know, I think most people when they think of Boston they think about the revolution. But there are some Civil War connections going on there now that you’re going to want to hear about. Hey, it’s Fisher. It’s Extreme Genes America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com and I’m delighted to have on the line from the Friends of the Public Garden Liz Vizza who’s got a huge project going on and she needs the help of genies everywhere. Great to have you on the show Liz!
Liz: Well, thanks so much Scott. It’s great to be here.
Fisher: So, tell me about the Shaw 54th Regiment Memorial project.
Liz: Yeah, terrific. Well, I am the president of the Friends of the Public Garden, and the Friends of the Public Garden has been working for the last 50 years with the city to care for the Boston Common, the Public Garden, and Commonwealth Avenue Mall. On the Boston Common there is an incredibly significant memorial the Shaw 54th Memorial and it has been there since 1897 when it was created by Augustus Saint-Gaudens who memorialized a really important regiment, the 54th regiment, which was the first regiment that was organized in the north of African American soldiers to go down south and fight for their freedom. So, it was a ground breaking moment during the Civil War. The monument was ground breaking but for Augustus Saint-Gaudens it was considered a success when it was unveiled and it’s now considered, if not one of, maybe the most significant pieces of Public Garden in the country and one of the 10 monuments that changed America.
Liz: It’s really a fabulous piece of art and it’s the first time that African Americans were shown as individuals and not as caricature. Saint-Gaudens brought African American men into his studio and molded and modeled specific faces – a young drummer boy, a grizzled older soldier, and marching along with their commander Robert Gould Shaw, he’s on a horse and they are walking beside him. Another thing that is significant about this monument is that we either have equestrian monuments or we have the single soldier. You’ll see them in the south and the north the individual common man memorials as you would. There are Civil War solider, a southern soldier in the south, a northern soldier in the north, so this is a monument that broke new grounds by combining the men and the leader in one monument.
Fisher: And of course, many of us are familiar with the story because of the movie Glory, which starred Matthew Broderick and Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, and it’s really a significant thing especially this time as we think back 150 years now. Actually, it’s coming up on 156, right, since the end of the Civil War.
Liz: Um hmm.
Fisher: As long as you have been caring for this monument back into the 1980s, there are still some issues going on with it that have caused some problems.
Liz: Yeah. Exactly. So, we did significant restoration in the early 1980s that we have been caring for it ever since. And despite that care, water has worked its way into the monument and down into the foundation. And when our stone conservator was doing some work about five or six years ago now, he noticed some displacement of stones and some stress fracturing on the bronze, and when he pulled out the stones on the bottom and looked down into the foundation, he realized it was a brick foundation and it was beginning to deteriorate and we needed to do a fundamental reconstruction of that foundation. So, because of that, we joined forces. The monument is owned by the city of Boston so we created a partnership between the city of Boston and the National Park Service. this is also a very significant monument along the Black Heritage Trail in Boston. We have a national park system in Boston that includes this monument and the story of African Americans that lived in Beacon Hill in Boston in the 16th and 17th century and 18th century, as well as the Museum of African American history. So, it’s a three million project.
Liz: We’ve removed everything from the plaza level up bringing the bronze to a bronze conservation studio, the stones to a stone conservation studio, and rebuilding that foundation. What’s also exciting about this project is that we have worked on this as a platform for dialogue about racial social justice and as you say this is a relevant time. This is an important time, and this monument stands for something. So, did these men fight and march and risk their lives or not? You know, how are we doing in the realm of racial justice today? And it’s particularly important time this year to be having those important conversations. So, it’s been a significant restoration, it’s been a wonderful opportunity for dialogue, and these men in the 54th have descendants and we know some of them here. We have a wonderful reenactment company in Boston, the 54th reenactors and they come and work with us when we’re having outdoor events, and some of them are direct descendants and we would love to find more.
Fisher: Well, that’s where genies everywhere can come in and help with this project because you’ve got the big rededication coming up, what, in the fall in Boston? And it would be awesome to have as many descendants there as possible from the 54th.
Liz: Absolutely. We have an unveiling around Memorial Day weekend when the work will be finished, and we’re having a major rededication October 20th. We hope to have some national figures come and help us rededicate this incredible memorial and we’re really looking for as many descendants as possible to come. We will invite them to come to the rededication, or attend via live stream virtually because it will be a hybrid event. We are not exactly sure where we will be with Covid restrictions by the time we get into October 20th, but we hope we can have as many people on site. There will be many more people that won’t be able to come or won’t be able to be there physically because of restrictions on numbers. But we will love to have as many descendants as possible find their way to us and find their way to this great ceremony.
Fisher: So, how many members of the 54th do we know there were? What was the number?
Liz: That’s a good question and I don’t know the answer. But I do know that many of them died at Fort Wagner on July 18th 1853. And on the back of the memorial is inscribed the names of members of the 54thwho died in battle either in Fort Wagner, or died in other subsequent battles or who were wounded in battle and died later on. That battle killed many, many of them.
Fisher: So, what if many of these people didn’t have any descendants, would you be interested in nieces and nephews, people connected to this, or should we stick just to the direct?
Liz: Well, when you say descendant, is a niece a descendant?
Fisher: That’s a relative. That’s a relative.
Liz: Yeah. I think we’re hoping to find descendants that would be our prime priority there just to try and find descendants of the 54th for sure.
Fisher: How many do you have so far, do you know?
Liz: We have a handful. You know. We’re probably have under 10.
Liz: But the National Park Services is doing a project – the Faces of the 54th and they will be very soon having a searchable database, and I would love to say at some point in the near future we will have on our website some connection that people can go if they think they might be a descendant or know a descendant, so do a little bit of searching and find out.
Fisher: Yeah that’s what we got to have is a place for people to go. Obviously we could do a lot of research on this and hopefully find some living descendants and perhaps make some contact with them and make them aware of the project that is coming up. And I would imagine there are a lot of descendants who don’t know they’re descendants.
Fisher: And that’s going to be part of the process as well.
Liz: Right. No, absolutely. So, again, the National Park Service is finding soldiers and officers and from February 1863 to August 1865 is when they served. And this data will include the mens’ age, the enlistment, the mustering out dates, some information about them. And looking now at the database information, it looks like there are 1500 men listed in the database so far.
Fisher: Oh wow!
Liz: So, I think that we have a lot of opportunities for people to connect.
Fisher: Yeah. I would think so, and I would imagine a good way to start with that would be to work with Family Search or Ancestry.com and see if some descendants have already shown some of these names on their family trees, whether or not they knew that they were part of the 54th or not, and then you have an automatic link to reach out to that person and say, “Hey, guess what? Your ancestor was part of this, and you may want to be aware of what’s going on this fall.” So, that may be a way to accomplish that.
Fisher: And with 1500 names there’s a lot of people for genealogists everywhere to kind of dig into. Now, you mentioned the officers as well, so these are the people who led the group with Colonel Robert Gould Shaw?
Liz: Yeah. Yeah, they were white officers. They certainly did not have African American men as officers but they did have white officers and we would love to know that. And I’m also looking here that the 54th inspired the enlistment of more than 180,000 African Americans in the U.S. army. That’s pretty remarkable.
Fisher: Yeah. So, just one more time so we can understand here, if people want to get involved in this project, they still need a contact point for you or a website that they can go to, where should they go?
Liz: So, they would go to the website Shaw54thMemorialRestoration.org. Again, it is Shaw54 with a “th” memorialrestoration.org.
Fisher: Okay. And right now there’s no link for communication on finding descendants but that’s still to come, is that right?
Liz: It’s to come and I would welcome people to go and just learn a little bit more about the history of the memorial and the history of this project and get excited about it.
Fisher: Oh, yeah.
Liz: And when this is available, that will be where they will find it.
Fisher: And I would think we have a lot of African American genealogists out there too who might want to spread the word about this because it’s going to be a really exciting event coming up in October in Boston.
Liz: Yeah. You know and your listeners know about the pride of knowing where you come from. And for descendants of brave veterans like the men of the 54th to know that their ancestors fought for their freedom that would be pretty incredible for them to have that connection.
Fisher: Yeah, absolutely. It makes me want to go right now and queue up Glory and watch that whole movie all over again because it’s just so fascinating and certainly relevant to our time, so hopefully we can get a lot of help for that. And Liz, I hope you’ll keep us up to speed on how things are going and how you are doing and finding some of these descendants so we can give another push throughout the course of the summer.
Liz: Absolutely. I really appreciate you having me and this project on the show Scott. This is great.
Fisher: Absolutely. Well, congratulations on all you’re doing to restore it and the fact that you even discovered that it needed that restoration is a miracle in itself. Thanks so much. Liz Vizza, she’s the president of the Friends of the Public Garden in Boston. She needs your help. Talk to you again Liz, thanks so much.
Liz: Thanks Scott. Thanks so much. It’s been a pleasure.
Fisher: And coming up next, I was recently the beneficiary of a little thing they call The WikiTree Challenge, and I’ll be talking to Laura DeSpain whose the project manager on this and we’ll tell you a little more about WikiTree when we return in five minutes on Extreme Genes.
Segment 3 Episode 379
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Laura DeSpain
Fisher: Well, it’s just a few weeks ago when I heard from the people at WikiTree.com, about doing something called, “The WikiTree Challenge.” Hey, it’s Fisher. It’s Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and of course WikiTree has been around for a long, long time now, 13 years, and I have Laura DeSpain on the line with me right now from WikiTree. Laura it’s great to have you on, great to talk to you again because this WikiTree challenge discovered a lot of new ancestry for my family lines.
Laura: It’s good to be here, it was fun.
Fisher: We have so many people who are on your volunteer team at WikiTree doing this. Now, first of all, just for everybody’s benefit, what is the WikiTree Challenge? How long have you been doing it? How long are you going to do it and who do you do it for?
Laura: The WikiTree challenge is a part of our 2021 year of accuracy and it’s a talk challenge for this year and we are bringing on genealogy guest stars.
Laura: And we try to break brick walls, discover new discoveries, and find new things that they didn’t know.
Fisher: Yeah. And I must admit, I was surprised at how much you were able to find on my mother’s side. The Scandinavian side in particular and even a key document on one of my dad’s ancestors, but I’m looking at the list of guests you’ve had on, they’re pretty impressive. Henry Louis Gates has been on from the PBS show Finding Your Roots, Johnny Perl of course the creator of DNA Painter, AJ Jacobs the author, a couple of other great podcasters also in the community. And what I’m astounded by is that in just one week your whole community which is a worldwide group of people with various areas of expertise, right? Different countries, different record sets, they just all go to town to try to document this family tree and hopefully break through some brick walls and find new things. It’s incredible.
Laura: And they work very well together.
Fisher: Yeah. They seem like a really nice group of people and I was very appreciative of some of the things they found. So, the year of accuracy, obviously, every genealogical website wants to be accurate and it’s important that we document what we’ve put up there for the benefits of others. So we don’t see the kinds of things that has happened in the past, right, where all of a sudden people are copying each other over and over again and it’s all wrong because it’s so difficult to take it back once the toothpaste is out of the tube, right?
Laura: It is.
Fisher: How many names are on the WikiTree tree at this point do you know?
Laura: I do not know. A lot!
Fisher: [Laughs] It is a lot.
Laura: We have some that go pretty far back.
Fisher: Okay. How far back are we talking?
Laura: I have seen ones in 800s.
Fisher: Okay. Royal lines I assume?
Laura: It’s more well known people that we’re able to find information on. Of course, that early there’s not going to be a lot of records so you do the best you can for them.
Fisher: Sure. Royalty, nobility sometimes can get back that far, it’s pretty impressive and exciting. So, how do all these volunteers get together and collaborate? Now you’ve been working on mine and you did it for one week. We started on a Wednesday night and then it concluded the following Wednesday night and there were people working on records in Norway, Sweden, Great Britain, Ireland, Scotland, the United States, all over the place. Different language sets and there were a lot of records on there that I wasn’t even aware that the records sets were available for that. So, it’s fascinating to go and review the work and found that yeah, the information that they were finding on some of these lines that I haven’t looked at in many, many years was very well done.
Laura: They do a god job. We work together. We have different things for these events. We have what’s called a space stage where things are laid out that we keep up with. We have spreadsheets. We have a G2G post that we can post back and forth on. Our biggest thing is the discord server, the chat server that we use so that we can chat real time and that helps us work together in real time, and with this being all over the world it’s going 24 hours a day.
Fisher: [Laughs] That’s the thing I was so impressed by. I know the first time that we did the Zoom meeting on the first Wednesday there were people who couldn’t watch it at that time because it was like three in the morning wherever it was.
Fisher: And then they would watch the video the next day and catch up with it and figure out, okay, where do I fit in with this and where do I go? So, I would imagine you’ve got various people like yourself who are saying, okay, you take this branch and you take that branch, and look in this country and go from there. It’s really quite remarkable.
Laura: It is. And they did a wonderful job.
Fisher: Yeah, they really did some great stuff. So, tell me what are some of the most interesting things that you have found so far doing this WikiTree challenge?
Laura: Being able to find ancestors that weren’t able to find before. We found a lot of stories in people’s families through their ancestors that they didn’t know about. In particular, I can’t say exactly what would have been the most interesting thing.
Fisher: So, tell me about WikiTree then. There’s obviously an executive group that works within the tree to engage this worldwide community. Tell me how long you’ve worked together and who these people are and how you all came together?
Laura: We have what we call out WikiTree Team, they oversee all of WikiTree and it’s working. Mindy is the project coordinator that’s leading the challenge for this year. She does a lot. We have different people are being captained and the rest of them are members.
Fisher: And then are they also on their own time working on their own branches of the WikiTree? It’s one tree kind of like it is over at Family Search where you make sure that everything is documented. And I love the fact that you have great places easily seen there that have notes. So, as you’re trying to work some things out at least the notes are there for others who may come along later.
Laura: Yes we do that for that reason, so when somebody else comes along they know where you’ve not been able to find something or if there is some confusion, they’re already aware of it. So they know to look for that.
Fisher: And the fact that there’s a link there for you to communicate with somebody who’s been working on it so you can maybe talk about these things.
Laura: Yeah, the system we have works really well and they’re really great about collaborating together. And we have a lot of projects within different countries and different areas, military, time period sometimes.
Fisher: Do you have various specialists within WikiTree, people who are just members who like to help out with certain countries?
Laura: Yes. They join the projects that they’re knowledgeable on or that they want to learn about because they have ancestors from there then they get very involved and become very experienced in that area.
Fisher: I just really noticed that everybody is just delighted to jump in and help other people, which really is the way it is throughout the entire field. Which is fantastic, but it was a special thing to enjoy this challenge a couple of weeks ago. So, if people want to get involved in WikiTree, obviously it’s free. Can they work on the challenge or work on the entire tree, or just on their own areas, or do they just show up for assignments?
Laura: They can work on their own tree. We have three different levels. The guest level can work on their profiles. Family, you can build your family lines to work on them. And then, Wiki Genealogists is our top membership. Those people can work on any profile. They can work on their own. They can help others. They can join these challenges. There’s a G2G post in our forum every month for the following month.
Fisher: What is that?
Laura: It’s a genealogist to genealogist.
Fisher: Oh, okay.
Laura: It’s like a chat type room where we post comments and answers back and forth, not exactly always in real time but they do get posted. That’s the forum where people can ask questions if they need help, or they don’t understand something, or they need a source, or they just congratulating somebody for something, they have a post to join for the following month. You just sign up and they give you a badge for the following month and you’re included in the challenge for the following month.
Fisher: Oh, that’s great. Well, it is great to see what you’re doing at WikiTree and how it continues to grow and serve the community as well as it does which is fantastic and I will just mention too by the way, I heard from one of the researches who reached out to me even though the challenge was over and this person reached out to me, we had phone conversations for 45 minutes from Ireland because he wanted to work on one branch that I had been stuck on for some 40 years. What a delight to talk to somebody on the other side of the world who has got the same interest as we do and to try to put these things together. Laura thanks so much for inviting me for the challenge and for finding all that new information. I’ve been going over it and it looks awfully good and it’s been a lot of fun. So, thanks much and good luck to everybody over at WikiTree.
Laura: Thank you and thank you for having me.
Fisher: And coming up next another round of Ask Us Anything as we answer your questions on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show coming up in three minutes.
Segment 4 Episode 379
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Fisher: All right, let’s get on with it, Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. David Allen Lambert has returned from AmericanAncestors.org. And David, our first question today comes from Michelle in St Paul, Minnesota and she says, “Guys, I had an interesting DNA situation come up. I’m working with two sisters, but one of them has 37% French and the other shows none. What does this mean? Thanks for your help. Michelle.” That’s a great question, but I think she’s confusing some things here, don’t you, Dave?
David: I do. In fact, my own daughters through my wife have a little bit of the same DNA, but one shows the Native American that’s on my wife and also on her dad’s side, but my other daughter didn’t get it. So it’s possible that the trickle down of that percentage is that they’re looking at just didn’t happen. You know, you don’t get the same from each parent. It’s a mixed bag.
Fisher: Yeah, absolutely. Michelle has actually confirmed that the centimorgans prove these are full sisters, but the point is, is that ethnicity is usually just a marketing thing for most of the companies more than anything and it is interesting obviously to see where your folks come from. But every testing company has a completely different set of algorithms. And when you say France for instance, a lot of places will just say Western Europe, a more broad area than just one particular country. So it might be that the same ethnicity is showing up in the other sister in some other country in the region and that might be why it’s throwing you off.
David: Right. I mean in some of the testing companies, like I will sell a certain percentage of English or Irish and that will differ. I mean, the analogy I use is that companies like Family Tree DNA, Ancestry, My Heritage, all of these large jars of marbles. These marbles represent each one of the people who tested who know where their ancestors come from pretty much and they have different values. So, you might show that on one, you’re 25% Irish and the next one you might show up 40% English. So it really depends on the company. You want to look at all of them, but take them with a grain of salt on accuracy.
Fisher: Yeah, absolutely. And a lot of the leading genetic genealogists in the country will actually tell you to take the ethnicity results from all the companies and average them together. Now I don’t know if mathematically that means a whole lot, but it does smooth out a lot of those differences.
David: It does. And my own daughters for instance receive of course half their DNA from my wife. My wife does have 2% Native American. My oldest daughter got that, my youngest daughter did not. So, you can have the smallest amount or even larger amount of a particular ethnicity that may show up on one of your children and not on the others. The other thing is, you might find that one of your siblings share something with their first cousin that you don’t have.
Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs]
David: They have because of that trickled down from a grandparent.
Fisher: It’s very interesting. My mom was entirely Scandinavian. She was from Norway and from Sweden and we recently found out there’s a little Danish in there and a little Finnish in there as well. My dad’s side, none of that. There’s nothing that shows up that way. And yet, when you look at my overall ethnicity report, it comes out to like 77% Scandinavian. Now, how does that work? Well, I’m thinking because a lot of the Norwegian Vikings took over England, so if you’re looking at these ethnicity results, that probably brought in some Scandinavian there as well. And as often as explained, if you lived near a border of another country, you might find some DNA from those areas as well. So it can really vary from sibling to sibling. Don’t use ethnicity to question the relationship of people in your family. Just use the centimorgans and what we know about that. That’s the best. But in terms of who inherits what and how they do it, boy that’s nature and recombination hard at work.
David: It is a definite great way of exploring your DNA with other family members and saying, “You know, I’m more Irish than you are.”
Fisher: Something like that.
David: And get a family argument going.
Fisher: Absolutely. All right, we do have another question coming up when we return with Ask Us Anything coming up here in three minutes. It’s Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 5 Episode 379
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Fisher: All right, back for our final segment of Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth with David Allen Lambert from NEHGS and AmericanAncestors.org. And David, this question comes from John in Thomasville, Georgia and he says, “Guys, I’ve got a first great grandmother who went through a name change and a possible adoption in 1874. I’m new to genealogy. How can I find the records on this?” Boy, there’s a lot of records you would question, right Dave? I mean the records of the name change or the records of an adoption.
David: That’s true, because not all name changes really have to do with adoptions. Now it’s quite possible that your great grandmother was adopted, but it could have been simply that she was, say, for instance Mary Edna and they really decided, no, it was Mary Ada. And it was just a clerical change that may have been incorrectly recorded when she was born. Every state is going to be different as far adoption rules go. And rule of thumb basically is, this person is no doubt, deceased. I don’t know of any 147 year olds roaming around the planet. So you would have to become the legal heir and probably temporarily be assigned the executor to her estate and that may involve getting a lot of other signatures of her descendants. That way, if there is an adoption record, you could go before a judge in the county that it was filed in. And again, these are all index, so the adoptions are not hidden, but the records are generally not open. Now that being said, a guardianship may give you the clue first off to see if it actually is an adoption or simply a name change. Now, if it’s a name change, the record is just going to be in the courts and it will say, “Name was originally this. Now the name is decreed as this.” The way you can kind of look at it is, if there no specifics that say, you know, “Mary Jones, originally Samantha Longley.” and so now all of a sudden, you’ve got two different names, obviously there’s an adoption, and sometimes those court records the name change defines what happened. Was it an actual adoption, it will name the mother or the parents of the child’s biological family. And that’s great, because then if you can’t get to the adoption record, that name change in fact may be the only record. There may not be a legal adoption. I mean, I’m sure you found in your research, Fish that sometimes in the 19th century, children were just given to other family members and there was no legal document.
Fisher: Yeah, happened all the time. And sometimes for instance, maybe parents died and they had an adult child who’s married and then they had a younger child that’s now being raised by the older sister, so those kinds of things happen.
David: Um hmm, and you can also find name changes that may not have occurred at the time of, say, if maybe your grandmother was 25, it could be that her name was legally changed because, well, she didn’t like her middle name or her first name and she changed it slightly or again, maybe there was an incorrect record on the time that she was born.
Fisher: Name changes for men are hard enough, but when you add that to the last name changes, the women typically go through in the course of their lives. It can get really, really tricky. It’s fascinating, John, that you were actually able to recognize that there was a name change here, because that meant you’ve identified that this is the same person under both identities, pretty good stuff.
David: It really is. In fact, with ladies, on occasion, but not so common, that sometimes you see a legal name change when the husband has abandoned the lady and she wants to revert back to her maiden name and there’s no actual divorce, so there’s that also.
Fisher: Yep, lots and lots of things to go into that. John thanks for the question. And of course, if you ever have a question for Ask Us Anything, just email us at [email protected]. Dave thanks so much. Talk to you next week.
David: All right, sounds good.
Fisher: And thanks so much to our guests this week, Liz Vizza, the president of the Friends of the Public Garden in Boston, talking about the statue renovation with a 54th Massachusetts. She needs your help, genealogists! Plus, Laura DeSpain from WikiTree talking about the WikiTree challenge. If you missed any of the show or want to catch it again. It’s easy to do, just check it out on iTunes, iHeart Radio, ExtremeGenes.com, TuneIn Radio and Spotify. Talk to you again next week. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we’re a nice, normal family!