Episode 386 - Talkin’ DNA: Stories From The Spit, Jonny Perl Talks DNA Painter

podcast episode Aug 02, 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 the conversation talking about his recent membership in a society that honors his War of 1812 ancestor. Then, David tells the tale of the rescue of hundreds of glass negatives that were headed to the dumpster in the Boston area. Some date back to the 1860s!  Next, it’s one thing to have your crime discovered through the DNA of your cousins… it’s entirely another when you post your OWN DNA and are found! David has the story of this knucklehead criminal. It seems that every major initiative results in some new advancement, such as with the space program in the 1960s. David shares the advancements caused by World War II… and they are significant. And finally, hear about the latest Viking treasure hoard, where it was found, and the time it has been dated to.

Next, Fisher chats with Brandt Gibson from sponsor Legacy Tree Genealogists. As a long time DNA researcher, Brandt has some remarkable stories that have emerged from his client research. You’ll want to catch these!

Then, Jonny Perl, creator of DNAPainter.com joins Fisher from London talking about the origins of the unique site and the most popular tools that have been added to it since the beginning that can help you break open your lines.

David then returns for a pair of questions on Ask Us Anything. One has to do with writing a family history, and the other with why someone’s grandmother would be working on a census for the government during the Depression.

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

Transcript for Episode 386

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 386

Fisher: And welcome genies, to another round of Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. My name is Fisher. I am your Radio Roots Sleuth on the program where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out. I can’t believe we’re at the end of July and into the beginning of August. Coming up here in just a few minutes, we’re going to talk to Brandt Gibson. He is with Legacy Tree Genealogists, one of our great sponsors. Talking about and sharing some of the great stories that he has from discoveries he’s made for certain clients. You’re going to love what he’s got to share with you. And then later in the show, one of the guys who has just emerged from out of nowhere is one of the giants in our space, Jonny Perl. The creator of DNA Painter is going to be on. He’s going to talk a little about the history of what got him going in it, some of the latest innovations on the site, how you can use it to help you in your research, and how you can just have some fun seeing how all your DNA kind of matches up with a little chromosome painting on DNA Painter. And if you haven’t signed up for our Weekly Genie Newsletter yet, we invite you to do so at ExtremeGenes.com or on our Facebook page. Right now, it’s time to check in with David Allen Lambert, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. Hello, David.

David: And how are you, sir?

Fisher: I am great. I’m getting ready to go on a little trip out to a national park in California, here in a few days. So, next week we’re going to take a break and share one of our classic rewinds and get back at it right after that. But I’m so looking forward to getting out and having some fun on the road.

David: The road is always fun to be on, especially when you’re driving and not walking or thumbing. [Laughs]

Fisher: Yes, exactly. Good point.

David: Such a pleasure going someplace with a car.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: Well, you know my ancestor back in 1812 didn’t actually have a car to go to Plattsburgh, New York, but I got my membership certificate today in the mail, this huge certificate from the General Society of the War of 1812 because I’m now a life member with Massachusetts. I’m really excited about it. Of course, I had a new word on the document that I had to explain to my children.

Fisher: Which is?

David: Artificer.

Fisher: Really?

David: Do I have to explain it to you also?

Fisher: Yeah, go ahead. You’ve done it before. I’ve not heard that word.

David: [Laughs] It’s okay. It’s essentially somebody who is skilled in carpentry and he was in the Light Artillery. And essentially, if the cannon carriage broke or something needed to be repaired, he was there.

Fisher: Really?

David: So, he served with the U.S. Light Artillery from 1813 to 1815 and now I have a certificate.

Fisher: The only thing I’m concerned with Dave, if it’s a lifetime certificate, then when you die do they come and take the certificate back?

David: No, I’m being buried with it.

Fisher: Oh!

David: Well, that way at least I can be an interesting archeological find.

Fisher: [Laughs] All right, let’s get on with our Family Histoire News, David, where do you want to start?

David: You know in 2021 if you want to get rid of a photograph you basically delete it off your smartphone or your digital camera. Back in 1891, it wasn’t so much the same way. You had a glass negative. And if you had thousands of them, well that might be something that someone had to take care of. In 2020, a local photographer here in Massachusetts, got a phone call that somebody was dumping four thousand antic glass negatives and wanted to know if she wanted them before she threw them in the trash.

Fisher: Oh wow!

David: Well, I can tell you that Terri Cappucci originally thought, "Uh, probably not." well, she relented and now she has them all. Some of these images are amazing. And this is a story that was in the Boston Globe and the sharpness of these photographs from the glass negatives will blow your mind.

Fisher: What time period are we talking here?

David: 1860s to the early part of the 1900s.

Fisher: That's fantastic! What a great find and I'm glad she said yes. Those are not things to be lost. And besides, she could donate it to organizations like yours or other places in Boston if she didn't want to deal with them.

David: Right. Most of them are for western Massachusetts and sadly the paper envelopes that a lot of them have don't say the names or the dates, so there's a lot of speculation. So, people out there might be looking at an ancestor when they look at the article and just not now.

Fisher: Wow!

David: You know, occasionally, police will find someone who has committed a crime from a long time ago, because somebody's a cousin, they've got that DNA match. Yeah, well, this person committed an assault a number of years ago and he submitted his DNA for genealogical purposes to a testing company.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: Guess what? He's now arrested for an assault that occurred back in the early 2000s. He must have forgot.

Fisher: Maybe so. Where does he live?

David: He lives in Florida.

Fisher: Oh, well, that explains it all! So there you go.

David: He has a smaller room now though.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: You know, I love the story that you shared with me about the six World War II innovations that changed everyday life, I mean that includes flu vaccines, penicillin.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: I mean, there's so many things. How about jet engines? If we didn't have World War II, I mean, we probably wouldn't be jetting around and who knows how long it would have actually taken to appear. And there's other things like blood plasma transfusions, electronic computers, yeah back in World War II.

Fisher: Yeah, this has really brought all these things along. Although I wouldn't say that I'd rather had the war so we could have these things. I wish they just kind of developed in their own due time.

David: And the last thing that's on the radar, that's radar. That was developed during World War II as well.

Fisher: Wow!

David: You know, the idea that I want to get a metal detector and go out on the beach and hopefully find treasure and not just find crushed aluminum cans has always been a problem. And in the Isle of Man, they found another Viking hoard and this goes back to the 11th century, Fish with coins from Ireland and England and Germany and of course some minted on the Isle of Man and there were over 87 coins, 13 pieces of cut silver, arm rings and other associated objects and they believe that the man that had it just basically decided to bury it in the ground, because that's what they did back then.

Fisher: That's what they did.

David: Perhaps you know where there’s treasure.  Yeah, you didn't go to the bank, you know.

Fisher: Right. [Laughs]

David: Well, apparently he forgot where we buried it.

Fisher: Yeah, or he died before anybody else found out where he buried it.

David: Well, the Vikings found him immediately after he buried it. Well, that's all I have from my side of the world here, signing out from Beantown. But don't forget that if you're not a member of American Ancestors, we'd love to have you. And you can save $20 on membership and use the coupon code "Extreme" on AmericanAncestors.org.

Fisher: All right, David. Thank you so much. We will talk to you again in a little bit at the back end of the show, we get back to Ask Us Anything. And coming up next, we're going to have one of the DNA specialists from our fine sponsors over at Legacy Tree Genealogists, talking about some of the discoveries he's made for some of his clients, some amazing stories. You're going to want to hear those when we return, coming up in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 386

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Brandt Gibson

Fisher: All right, back on the job at Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. I am Fisher, your Radio Roots Sleuth and everywhere I go since we started Extreme Genes back in 2013, I hear from people saying, ”I love the stories. I love the stories.” Well, this week we got Brandt Gibson on the line. He’s a researcher on the DNA team over at our sponsors at Legacy Tree Genealogists, and Brandt has stories and I thought we’d share at least a couple of them with you today. Brandt welcome back. It’s great to have you.

Brandt: Thanks. It’s great to be here.

Fisher: You know, as a DNA specialist, you get to put together all kinds of different cases, these little jigsaw puzzles. I always tell people, with a regular jigsaw puzzle, when you’re done you break it up, you throw it back in the box, you put it on a shelf in the closet and that’s it. But when you put together a DNA jigsaw puzzle, it’s framed, it’s put on the wall, and everybody talks about it forevermore. And you’ve got a couple of great stories I think people are going to be talking about in their families for a long time to come. Let’s start with the story about Ernest Martson Floyd Hull.

Brandt: Yeah. Sure. That was a really interesting case where the client was two children of Ernest Marts who passed away some years before. And he’d been a little secretive about his past. Wouldn’t say a whole lot about where his family was from. Just that he was born in the Seattle area, supposedly at a logging camp.

Fisher: Oh.

Brandt: And he said his mom had broken up with her husband. There wasn’t a whole lot of detail there. And his kids just wanted to know more about their father and where his family was from. So, when we first got the case, we started digging into and we found in the records that he’d given two different sets of names for his parents.

Fisher: Wow. [Laughs]

Brandt: And that came directly from him.

Fisher: Yeah.

Brandt: Why would it not match? That didn’t make any sense.

Fisher: No, it doesn’t.

Brandt: We tried all kinds of permutations, combinations of the names, nothing came up. We couldn’t find these people anywhere. So, we focused in on DNA tests. Fortunately, both of them had done DNA tests at Ancestry, 23andMe, and we started finding some close matches with family with the last name of Hull. Like, okay, it’s not anywhere on their tree, let’s go beyond here.

Fisher: Really? So, this is a third name now that’s come up?  

Brandt: Yeah, one that didn’t come from Ernest or from either of his kids. Nobody had seen this name before.

Fisher: Okay.

Brandt: So, we started digging into this tree and we zeroed in on the family of Floyd Hull, and we found that the clients had matches on Floyd’s mom’s side, and Floyd’s dad’s side. We were like, okay. When you see something like that coming together, usually it means you’re a descendant of both families unless there’s some kind of weird case where relatives of both sides married somewhere else. 

Fisher: Sure.  

Brandt: We looked at the DNA that they shared with these people, and everything fit for them to be a descendant of Floyd’s mom and dad. So, we checked into Floyd. Turns out he had the exact same birth date as Ernest Marts.

Fisher: [Laughs] Hmm, what a coincidence!

Brandt: I know, right. And Floyd disappeared from the records about a year or two before Ernest showed up in Illinois. There’s no connection to Seattle or Washington State or anything.

Fisher: Wow! So, was in known in the Floyd Hull family that this guy had just disappeared, nobody knew what happened to him. Were there rumors of murder and intrigue and things like this?  

Brandt: There actually was. There was a family tree by a descendant of Floyd’s brother. He didn’t have any documentation for this or anything, but he said that Floyd had died in South America in the early 1920s or something. There’s no newspaper or anything. I have no idea where he got the information from. But the family knew that Floyd had disappeared, they just had no idea what happened to him.

Fisher: Um hmm. So, at some point, this legend came about that he was in South America and died down there.

Brandt: Yeah. I guess they had to have some reason to explain his disappearance, but it turns out he just completely fabricated a new identity and sold that to his wife and to their kids. And his kids have the last name Marts. To this day that is just a completely made up name. 

Fisher: Wow! [Laughs] Are they thinking about changing it back to Hull?  

Brandt: I was wondering about that. I hadn’t heard that they were. As far as I know they were going to stick with the name that they were given.

Fisher: Wow! So, what was the wrap-up of this and how was the response of the family when you gave them the big reveal that Ernest Marts was actually Floyd Hull and he was supposed to be dead in South America?  

Brandt: Yeah. They were pretty surprised. I think for me, the icing on the cake was that we were able to find a picture of Floyd in his younger years. He looks like maybe in his early 20s or something and he was like tall and confident looking guy. So, it’s just a total mystery why he left his family, why he changed his name. There’s no court record or anything that indicates he had gotten into any trouble or anything. It’s just sort of like, “You know what, I want to start over. Bye everyone. Have a nice life” kind of thing I guess.

Fisher: Wow! That’s a good one. All right, what else you got?

Brandt: All right. We had another one where a client named John, he had an unknown birth father, his mom had already passed away, and he wanted to figure out who his biological father was, where his ancestors were from, that kind of thing. So, we started looking into it and he had matches from the Southern U.S. and he had good matches. They all came together like you kinda hope they do in these kinda cases.

Fisher: Right, of course.

Brandt: Where you want to be able to find some kind of answer. And so, we were able to pinpoint his biological father’s likely family. So, we researched that family and they had two sons that were the right age to be his father. Unfortunately, both sons had already passed away several years before. But we were able to track down one child from each of those two boys.

Fisher: Okay.

Brandt: We put together contact information for those children, sent that out to the client. At that point we were basically out of time so we said, “Here’s what we have. If you feel like reaching out to these two, they might be able to give you some information to help you figure out which of the two brothers are your biological father.” When you come to that kind of situation, unless you have a direct descendant of that person already tested, usually you have to go out and find somebody else to either do a DNA test or provide you the information to help you figure it out. 

Fisher: Sure, of course.  

Brandt: So, some time passed. The client reached out to these children of the two boys eventually. And the son of one of them came back and said, “Hey, my dad told me some years before he died that he had a relationship with a young lady and she got pregnant, and they decided to end the relationship at that point.” And the timing was right, the place was right for him to be the client’s biological father. He was like, “Wow, this sounds like they knew about me. This is really cool.” And so then, this son started going though his dad’s old photo album. He kept everything, thankfully. I love it when they do that.

Fisher: [Laughs] It’s the best.  

Brandt: And he started going through his dad’s old photo album he said, “Hey, would you be interested in seeing some old pictures from my dad’s old album?” And he said, “I would love that! It sounds like we’re siblings here, so the more information I can get about our dad would be better.” And so he started taking pictures with his phone and sending them to the client, and then he looked at these pictures and was like, “Oh wow, this is cool. This is cool.” And then the second picture comes in and he stops and was like, “Wait a minute, that’s my mom.”

Fisher: [Laughs]

Brandt: You got a picture of my mother in your photo album.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Brandt: This son had never known who this woman was. He just thought it’s one of dad’s old friends or girlfriends or something. It turns out, that was the client’s biological mother sitting in his photo album for almost 60 years.

Fisher: Wow! And that kind of put a little bow on it, didn’t it?

Brandt: Oh that did. He said, “Okay, now I know for sure that this is where I’m from.”

Fisher: Yeah.  

Brandt: Because the odds of that picture just randomly showing up there’s no astronomical way.

Fisher: No. There’s no way. And the other aspect is obviously you could have tested this guy to see what the relationship was.

Brandt: Right.

Fisher: But that’s pretty amazing though to find a photo of your mother in somebody’s photo album. That’s great! What a great story. All right, we’ve got time for one more. Let’s talk about the Buler case.

Brandt: Right. This one was another client who had an unknown biological father, and his mom had already passed away. He didn’t really have a whole lot of information about who his biological father was. So, he came to us and said, “I’ve done DNA testing everywhere. Can you help me find my father’s family?” So we said, sure. We went through all of his match lists and everything else, and it looks like his biological father was Jewish. So, we reached out to all these people and look, we put together a pretty big family tree of who the client’s matches were but there wasn’t really one branch that shared a lot more DNA than another. So, it was kind of like well, you fit in somewhere in here. We’re just not entirely sure which one because there’s a couple of different places where you could fit. So, we kept working on it, time went on, and towards the end of it we were kinda like well, okay, let’s just throw one more Hail Mary out there and reach out to all of your close matches one more time and say, “Is there any information you know about your family that could help us try and figure out how our client is related to you.” And so, a couple of them wrote back you know, “Here’s this. Here’s that.” It was like, okay. One lady wrote back and said, “You know, I had this cousin who lived down on the East Coast somewhere and he had a girlfriend named Bambi. I remember that because the name was so unusual. They broke up and they never found out what happened to her after the fact. So, he saw the message on 23andMe system and was like, “Wait a minute, my mom went by Bambi in the 1960s.” 

Fisher: [Laughs] Wow!

Brandt: Hold the phone here. And so he started researching this guy and he was in the right place at the right time. We double checked the DNA and everything fit for this guy to be the client’s biological father.

Fisher: Still living?

Brandt: No. No, he had unfortunately passed away a few years ago as well.

Fisher: Okay. Wow! So, you’re into the family. At least now you’ve got the lines. You’ve got the whole thing the way it fit.  

Brandt: Um hmm.

Fisher: Isn’t it amazing what DNA can do. And I don’t get tired of it. I mean, supposedly it’s this kinda old had at this point, but are you kidding me, every time there’s a breakthrough there’s a life changed and history created that’s going to go on and on and on for generations. So, thanks so much for the stories Brant. Those were terrific and inspiring and fun and exciting, and look forward to catching up with Legacy Tree again next month!

Brandt: All right, sounds good. Thanks!

Fisher: And coming up next, direct from jolly old London Jonny Perl who’s rapidly becoming something of a legend in our space. He is the creator of DNA Painter. It’s your chance to do a little chromosome mapping with a lot of color, and maybe even break open some brick walls. He’ll explain how this whole thing got started, some of the new tools that have come along that have enhanced the site, so hang on for that it’s coming up for you next in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.  

Segment 3 Episode 386

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Jonny Perl

Fisher: All right, continuing to talk DNA on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. And my next guest is based in London as you’ll certainly hear from his voice. He is a guy that all of us in this space have gotten to know over the last several years. He is the creator of an amazing website called DNA Painter. And Jonny Perl is our man. Jonny, it’s great to have you back on the show. It’s been like over three years.

Jonny: Amazing how long it’s been, isn’t it Scott? Thank you so much for having me.

Fisher: Yeah. And we keep running into you of course at conferences and you’ve really established yourself as a player in our field and it’s so great to have you back on the show. And for people who aren’t familiar with DNA Painter, explain what it is, what it does, and how you got started doing it.

Jonny: Sure. So, DNA Painter is a website which you can find at DNAPainter.com. And it’s really a website for anyone who has taken an autosomal DNA test and is curious about some aspects of the results. I guess, I’ll embellish that statement a little more in a moment. It’s a website I launched back in the autumn of 2017. I had done a test right at the end of 2016 and I was slightly baffled at how to understand the results. And I was interested in this thing called Chromosome Mapping, which is where you can assign segments of DNA that you share with a match to the ancestor that you inherited them from. That’s a bit of a mouthful.

Fisher: Oh, no that’s well said. That’s the short version of it and very precise.

Jonny: [Laughs] So, what you end up with is this rather beautiful tapestry of color which is kind of a companion piece to your ancestral charts, your pedigree chart, you kind of have your genetic version of that showing who you inherited DNA from which can be a very enjoyable thing to do. But I also got other tools which are maybe a more practical use to people with immediate burning questions. So, I did a bit of collaboration with a lady called Leah Larkin on a very popular tool called, “What are the odds” and that allows you to use the amounts of DNA that you share with different people where you know which tree they’re in. You know how they’re related to each other. You can then try to fit yourself into that tree based on those amounts of those DNA that uses probabilities and math to help you out with that. That’s a very popular feature.

Fisher: Yes.

Jonny: And, what else have I got? I’ve got lots of other features for genealogists basically. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs] Well, you started this thing because of your own curiosity. You weren’t much of a genealogist yourself up to that point. And I can’t believe it’s only been four years coming up this fall because it’s such a standard item in any genealogist’s toolkit these days. But What are the Odds, plus you’ve joined forces with Blaine Bettinger, rolling out his Shared Centimorgan project, at least the latest version of it and tied that into what’s going on there. So, you’ve got math, you’ve got science, it’s really a piece of art when you consider that you’ve got the 21 chromosomes all painted with different colors, each one representing a different ancestor or ancestral couple. What have you found has been most satisfying in this whole project for you, Jonny?

Jonny: I want to say it’s probably connecting the people around the world. I think, I was a genealogist going back maybe 10, 15 years, but I wasn’t very connected to other people. And I didn’t really know anything about DNA. So, I’ve learned an enormous amount myself and because I’ve kind of been asked to teach things to other people, that’s helped me learn even better.

Fisher: Sure.

Jonny: So, I’ve kind of come on quite a bit myself and I got to meet lots of great people around the world and interact with them. I’ve done conferences in Sweden for example. And I cherish the connections I’ve made with people really. That’s been really, really great and to know I’m helping people that makes me feel good.

Fisher: Well, have you had some stories come back to you that people have discovered as a result of DNA Painter that you can share?

Jonny: Sure. I’m not going to any enormously specific ones but I can tell you that the What are the Odds tool has clearly had a big impact. I’ve personally used it myself to find three different people’s parents now. If I was doing it fulltime I’m sure I could have done more but these are the three people who came my way.

Fisher: Sure.

Jonny: I have a good friend here in London whose mother didn’t know who her father was. She knew he was an American GI, but that’s all she knew. So, I just tentatively said, no pressure at all, but if she would like to test, I think we could figure this out. And eventually over a period of a couple of years, she did come around to the idea of testing and yeah, it came pretty quickly. So, I do find that tool very helpful and I think probably that’s the one that makes the biggest impact on people. One of the things you asked me, Scott, when we spoke more than three years ago was, “Can you just explain why people would do it and how it helps?”

Fisher: [Laughs] Yeah.

Jonny: And I remember pausing because I didn’t really know what to say because for me it was just so much doing chromosome mapping that it didn’t matter what it was for or how it would help. It was just because you can.

Fisher: It looked good.

Jonny: Exactly. And of course it is more useful than that. If you’re super interested in inheritance and the proportions you inherited from each ancestor it’s fabulous. If you want a to quickly identify a match whose on a different site from another match, then it’s enormously helpful. But in terms of immediate impact, breaking through those brick walls, actually, the probability based approach of What are the Odds is probably of more immediate practical use. So, I’m really glad to have this on this on the site because it’s less artistic perhaps but still a mouthful.

Fisher: So, for people who are not familiar with this site, first of all, it’s essentially free but you have some paid features there which people can delve into as they get deeper into it. But explain, What are the Odds, how does that tool work?

Jonny: Okay. So, if we imagine a situation, Scott, where I look on my match list and I see two or three, or four people who are clearly related to each other and they’re also related to me. That means, I’m in a tree which features all those people and me, but maybe if I don’t know how I fit into that tree I can do the genealogy work to connect those people and I can build a tree down from a common ancestor. Then, What are the Odds allows me to hypothesize about how I might fit into that tree based on those amounts of DNA that I share. So, in any one position in that tree that might make me a second cousin to one of these people, a third cousin once removed to another. So, What are the Odds will do is suggest places in the tree where you might fit and then it’s going to score them according to which is most likely mathematically speaking based on those amounts of DNA. I’m probably making it sound more complicated than it is because it’s famously more hard to describe than it really is.

Fisher: [Laughs] Yeah.

Jonny: It’s a powerful tool that lets you see where you’re most likely to fit based on those amounts of DNA that you share. Now, of course you might not fit in the most likely place.

Fisher: Right.

Jonny: I tried it on myself and it suggested I might be somewhere else because of course inheritance is a bit random and sometimes you might share 200 centimorgans with a second cousin, sometimes you might only share 60. So, it isn’t completely full proof but it helps give you this framework that lets you review what seems most likely.

Fisher: Right. I mean, at the end of the day, it is a tool and it points you in a direction and it would just essentially rank where you want to investigate first, right?

Jonny: Yeah.

Fisher: This is the one the odds say are most likely, so you research that. And if it doesn’t pan out then you go over to another one that’s on the next level down and try it from there. I think that would be great. What relationship ranges would you say it’s most affective for, Jonny?

Jonny: A very good question. A lot of people will have identified a family, but actually that family is one of your very distant matches. I saw someone similar on Facebook the other day who done a lot of researching and he only had 20- 30 centimorgan matches and I had to gently say to this person, well, actually the DNA signal is not strong enough. You know that you’re related to these people but from that DNA, from those amounts alone we can’t say if you’re connected to fourth great grandparent level, fifth, sixth.

Fisher: Yeah.

Jonny: It’s really hard to be precise. So really, ideally, you want to have at least one match that’s three figures, that’s 100 centimorgans or more. And even with that, that might be quite hard because you probably have to go back to third great grandparent level, fourth great grandparent, perhaps to find the common ancestors. So, it’s most useful if you’ve got a few people above 100 centimorgans. But even if you’ve only got people on the low level maybe 40, 50, 60 it can still be really, really useful for mapping it out because it’s a simplified tool. If you imagine an ancestral couple, within What are the Odds it just has one person’s name and then you can say their spouse. So it’s a kind of simplified way of seeing a tree and you can import a GEDcom file into it as well. So, potentially, it’s just a really nice way to visualize things. I know a lot of people do like it and I find it a really nice simple way to visualize it.

Fisher: He’s Jonny Perl. He is the creator and owner of DNAPainter.com. If you’re getting into DNA you’ve got to take a look at this site, take advantage of the tools there, a lot of fun and a lot of practicality also in trying to achieve some of your goals. Jonny, great to catch up with you, talk to you again in three and half years…. Wait a minute, we’ve got to do it sooner than that.

Jonny: [Laughs] Let’s do that.

Fisher: [Laughs] Thanks for coming on.

Jonny: Great.

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

Segment 4 Episode 386

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, we're back for on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is time once again for Ask Us Anything. David Allen Lambert has returned from Boston. And Dave, out first question today is from Athens, Georgia. Ted Smith asks, "Guys, I've decided to take my first crack at writing a family history." Good for you, Ted. "What advice might you have?" [Laughs] Boy we could go for an entire show on this, couldn't we?

David:  Well, you know, because it really depends what you want to include in your family genealogy. I mean, you and I have both been working on ours for years and limitations are the only thing that you really have in front of you.

Fisher: It’s really true. I have written 15 or so of these books, and the thing that you have to understand is, you first of all have to identify which branch of the family, how inclusive you want it to be, do you want it to include all the descendants, do you want to take the ancestry all the way back? Remember, genealogy is kind of a specific sub category under family history. So, family history includes a lot of stories, as well as the charts and that type of thing. But you want to make sure also that you don't make it so detailed that younger people who might otherwise be interested in it will be turned off by too much information.

David: And that's true, because I think that a lot of times, people think about how many generations they can go back and fill it with names and dates. But what you're really going to catch the next generation with are the stories, and it’s really a matter of getting the stories that are going to entertain, preserve your family history and not bore them to tears.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: Every time your ancestor showed up in the tax rolls, it’s probably not going to cut it. But when they marched off to Lexington and conquered, or the hero in Gettysburg or saw Charles Lindbergh land a plane, that's what's going to catch them.

Fisher: Exactly. And photographs, too, you know. There are a lot of things that you can do to reach out to siblings and cousins and aunts and uncles to see what they might have in that department, because photographs are fabulous, and you can take those photos, load them up to MyHeritage.com, you can clarify them, you can clean up cracks, you can colorize them, even give them motion. Of course you can't put that in a book. But nonetheless, there's so many tools there to help you make your photos much better. In fact, I just redid an entire history that I originally wrote in 1995, made some corrections in there, added some stories, and re-indexed the whole thing. But all the photos, including those from the late 19th century are in color now. And it is a whole different look than I was able to do back in the '90s.

David: Oh, sure. And the thing about photography is, maybe you don't have a picture of an ancestor, but you know where they're buried, you can take a picture of their gravestone.

Fisher: Yep.

David: Or the house they lived in or the church that they attended, something that adds a physical location. Even if it’s an empty lot that's now a Walmart parking lot and you can have your child stand there and say, "And this is where great, great grandpa lived once upon a time."

Fisher: [Laughs] Well, you laugh about that. I actually had an ancestor who lived where there's now an old Sears parking lot and the store itself is closed, so it’s been abandoned by individuals and by corporations, so I don't know what they are ever going to do with that property that's going to last, you know.

David: I don't know. Maybe build your family's farmhouse back there again and then they can actually just start it all over again. [Laughs]

Fisher: I suppose. You know, this is the thing, you've got to limit to some extent how much you do. I would also advise that you make sure that you create an index for this book. It’s very important that people are able to open the back and find a name they're looking for. So it’s got to be accessible, interesting, entertaining, informative. Also, you might throw in a few documents that are really interesting. For instance, I added in this recent book, the Declaration of Intention to Become an American Citizen with their signatures at the bottom. But you don't want to flood the book with those types of things.

David: And the thing about it is, if you can do something like this and include where you got the information from, sources are so important.

Fisher: Yep.

David: Footnotes that we all learned when we were in high school writing those book reports are going to be useful. And the other thing is, if you have oral traditions, write down the source who you heard it from.

Fisher: Great question, Ted. And good luck with the effort and we look forward to hearing to how it’s coming along somewhere down the line. Hey, we're got another question coming up next when we return with Ask Us Anything in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 386

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All righty, back for Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. My name is Fisher, that guy over there is David Allen Lambert, he's from the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. And David, this next question comes from Elena Jackson in Washington DC and she says, "Dave and Fish, my grandmother once told me that she worked on indexing a census during The Depression. It couldn't have been for genealogy. Any idea of why she might have done that?" Good question.

David: Ooh, yeah, actually that is a government job that came up during the WPA days. In fact, the censuses that were indexed, actually as genealogists we take for granted completely indexed censuses now, but it all harkens back to when they started  to index the 1900 census, then they did the 1920 census, and then the one you think they would have done first.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: The 1880 census was done only partially. Now, the story about the 1880 census is interesting, because that project began in 1940 and took until 1941 and it used 2 million hours of work and cost a $1,100,000, so you can imagine 80 years later what it would cost to index all of that.

Fisher: Wow!

David: Of course now they're doing it all manually and it’s only partial. Now, do you remember the 1880 soundex of the census?

Fisher: Yes, yeah.

David: Okay. It only indexed children under the age of 10 in a household. So if you had your great, great grandparents alive, you had to trudge on through the films to find them, unless you lived in a small town. That was a hard thing to do until people like Ancestry and Family Search indexed these censuses for us.

Fisher: So, why in 1880 did they only do children from 1870 to 1880, the kids who were born in those years?

David: Well, the story that was told to me is that because the social security administration was coming out, any children that would be 10 years old or younger by 1880 would soon be retiring.

Fisher: Yep.

David: And that way they would be putting in for social security. Now, there's a great article on Archives.gov from 2002 called, The WPA Census Soundexing Projects and it talks all about this whole setup of the WPA and the works progress administration that started back in 1935 and how they tried to get America back to work. Well, some of them were clerical jobs for both men and women and they helped genealogists down the road. So yes, your relative actually worked for genealogists today.

Fisher: Yeah, wow! So that's a good story. I've never heard a lot of that information there Dave. You know, usually when we think of the WPA and all the good things that came out of that for people who needed something to do, some way to make a living, they were building dams and roads and things like that. We don't usually think of them as being clerical workers, putting together information on censuses from 50 to 60 years before that, that's amazing!

David: It is. In fact, what was the key thing that brought us out of the Great Depression? World War II.

Fisher: Yeah, absolutely. All right. Well, thank you very much, Elena, great question. We appreciate it. And thanks to everyone who sends us questions. We try to answer as many as we can. All you have to do is email us at [email protected]. David thanks so much. We'll talk to you again in a couple of weeks!

David: Have a good vacation.

Fisher: Thank you, sir. And that is our show for this week. Thanks so much to Brandt Gibson from Legacy Tree Genealogists for coming on and sharing some of his stories of discoveries he's made as a DNA researcher working for his clients. And some of these things are just absolutely amazing. This is the thing about DNA stories, they never get old and they're always just a little bit different. So, you want to go back and listen to that if you missed it earlier on the podcast. Thanks also to our friend, Jonny Perl from London, the creator on DNA Painter for coming on and talking about how that all came about and some of the tools that you can use that are kind of recent to help you break through your brick walls. If you missed any of the show or you want to catch it again, of course listen to the podcast on iTunes, iHeart Radio, ExtremeGenes.com, TuneIn Radio or Spotify, we are all over the place. Thanks for joining us. We will talk to you again in a couple of weeks when I'm back from vacation. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!



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