Episode 388: Classic Rewind - CeCe Moore Reveals Her Family’s Own DNA Surprise / CeCe On Jane and John Doe Research

podcast episode Dec 27, 2021

Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. The guys talk about the odd places being designated as dog parks… historic cemeteries. David then has an update on the state of the Titanic. Next, who knew that fruit could survive 2,400 years… in a basket! 

Fisher then begins his two part visit with Parabon’s CeCe Moore. He begins by asking about surprises leading CeCe to reveal a DNA surprise that only recently emerged in her own family! It even involves a crime.

CeCe then talks about her weekend work, tracing “Jane and John Does” using DNA, work she finds much easier than her criminal work.

David then returns for another couple of questions on Ask Us Anything.

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

(This episode previously aired on the weekend of August 21-22, 2021.)

Transcript for Episode 388 Classic Rewind


Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 388 Classic Rewind

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. Well, you know, I was looking at the schedule as we’ve been loading old episodes onto our shiny new website the ExtremeGenes.com site, and I noticed that we haven’t had CeCe Moore since like November. So, CeCe Moore is back on the show today for two segments. We’re going to talk about surprises today from DNA, and I’m going to put it to her about surprises she may have found in her own family and see if we can get her to cough something good up. So, we’ll see how it goes coming up here in just a little bit. Hey, if you haven’t seen our new website yet, you’ve got to check it out. By the way, we’re offering brand new courses in basic genealogy and genetic genealogy, so if you want to know how to do the DNA thing to use those matches to get your breakthroughs, identify birth parents, confirm your paper trail, all those kinds of things check it out at ExtremeGenes.com. Right now it’s time to head out to Boston, Massachusetts where the Chief is standing by, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.com. Hello David.

David: How are you sir?

Fisher: I am well. Thank you. Although, my eyes are a little blurry from putting all these old episodes into our site. It takes about three minutes apiece. And there were only almost 400 episodes. So, it’s done but I’m resting this week, the rest of the weekend.

David: Wow!

Fisher: Yeah, it’s kind of crazy.

David: That’s going to give a lot of content for people to spend the colder months going through when they say, “Well, there’s nothing on TV, but wait, there’s Extreme Genes.” [Laughs]

Fisher: Well, and you know, the thing is of course the episodes are all up in the usual places, iHeart Radio, and what they call iTunes, Apple Media, and TuneIn Radio, all these great places. But what those don’t have are the transcripts.

David: Right.

Fisher: And we have a great transcriber over in South Africa who’s been doing this for us for many years now.

David: Yeah.

Fisher: And we wanted to make sure all of her great work is searchable online. So, the shows are all searchable because of the transcripts. And then you can follow along with it too as you listen to the show once in a while. So, check it out at ExtremeGenes.com under Podcasts Archive. So, David, what kind of family histoire news do you have for us today?

David: Oh I got one. Cemeteries have gone to the dogs in Massachusetts [Laughs] and I mean that literally. The first church in Jamaica Plain are the owners of an old colonial cemetery. It used to be part of Roxbury, a town in the suburbs of Boston. And now, well, apparently for a while, they have used it as a dog park.

Fisher: What?

David: A dog park. Yeah, so all of those old grave stones could be targeted, if you will, for ordering. We’re hoping that this might change, but it’s kind of sad to think that an old cemetery – I mean, I am a trustee of my local cemetery and we don’t allow people to walk their dogs there for that very reason. But for them to allow it to be used for a dog park, no, I’m not feeling too comfortable about that, especially since it’s a historic cemetery.

Fisher: So, as you’re talking David, I’m going online and I see that this is not the only place. There’s another cemetery in Savannah, Georgia that is used as a dog park. They say yes, dog friendly.

David: I hope this doesn’t become a new trend. I mean, there has to be some extra green space or parks that can be utilized that just don’t happen to have dead people in it as well. Maybe I’ll put a sign next to my gravestone “Please don’t curb your dog.”

Fisher: Here’s another one, the Congressional Cemetery in Washington DC.

David: Oh no.

Fisher: Yeah. Bring Fido. That’s the name of the website that’s actually listing cemeteries you can take your dog to.

David: Great. There’s a new guest.

Fisher: And they say here, “Dog walking at the cemetery is permitted by membership only. It’s annual and runs from March 1st to the last day of February the following year”.

David: Well, you learn something new every day.

Fisher: [Laughs] You know, if I were a politician I don’t think I’d want to be buried in a place where people could bring their dogs.

David: Crazy. And some cemeteries are in tough shape as it is with vandalism and Mother Nature. Speaking of Mother Nature, my next story for Family Histoire news goes a little deeper. 12,000 plus feet in the middle of the Atlantic there’s the Titanic graveyard of so many people who went down in 1912. The Titanic herself is actually deteriorating faster than they thought due to salt water and bacteria. They’re now sending expeditions out every year to look at the Titanic just to keep track of the deterioration.

Fisher: Isn’t it crazy that Robert Ballard finds this in the mid 80s in pretty darn good shape, and now here it is it’s been 40 years since then and it’s just absolutely deteriorating at this quick rate. It makes you wonder what has changed.

David: I know. I mean, it’s almost like she’s been found and now she’s ready to disappear to the ages, you know.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: Well, archeologists never seize to amaze me. There’s always some weird finds here, there, and everywhere, but we did talk about a city that had an underwater port near Alexandria, Egypt.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: And now this archeological site is bearing fruit, literally. 2400 year old fruit found in wicker baskets.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: I’m not sure I’d want to eat it, because that’s really over fermented. [Laughs]

Fisher: Even if it’s discounted?

David: Well, maybe if it’s discounted. It comes with a free 2400 year old basket. How about that? That would be great.

Fisher: Something like that, yeah. That’s an amazing story.

David: Well, you just never know what you’re going to find floating around in the ocean. I just want to tell you that Findmypast.co.uk has exciting news, Scottish news that is. You can find parish births and baptisms from 1564 to 1929, marriages and marriage bands from 1561 to 1893, and parish deaths and burials 1564 to 2917. This was recently released this summer as news from Findmypast exciting news for those with Scottish ancestry. Well, that’s about all I have from Beantown this week, and don’t forget, if you’re not a member of AmericanAncestors.org you can use the coupon code EXTREME and save $20 on AmericanAncestors.org.

Fisher: All right David. David Allen Lambert of course from Boston and we’ll have him back at the end of the show for more of Ask Us Anything. And coming up next, the amazing CeCe Moore, the DNA detective, and you know, we have not had her on since November. And since she’s always up so many incredible new things, I thought we’d get her on for a couple of segments. I’m going to talk to her today about surprises by the way, because if anybody has found surprises in DNA, it would be CeCe Moore. Maybe she’s even found something in her own family so let’s see what she’s got to say about that. It’s all coming up when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com.

Segment 2 Episode 388 Classic Rewind

Host: Scott Fisher with guest CeCe Moore

Fisher: All right genies, we are back at it on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. And it has been a while, a little bit too long since we last talked to my good friend from Parabon CeCe Moore the genetic genealogist. CeCe welcome back to the show. It’s great to have you! 

CeCe: Thank you for having me! I can’t believe it’s been so long. It feels like it was just a few weeks ago.

Fisher: Well, you know, I’ve been loading these old episodes back onto our brand new Extreme Genes website. I’m working backwards, and I found the last time you were on was like November. And it’s like, that’s not possible.  

CeCe: I can’t believe it.

Fisher: I know!

CeCe: I guess ‘21 is more than half over, which seems just impossible.

Fisher: I know. I know. Well, I was thinking about you the other day because you know we read about surprises and we know that the overwhelming majority of DNA test results do not result in a surprise. But that’s why when a surprise does happen it’s kind of a shocker in many cases. And I thought, well, there’s nobody who’s had more surprises than CeCe Moore and all your research in crime, and adoptions, and everything else that you do. So, my question for you to start out with, at least, is, have you ever had a surprise in your own family?

CeCe: Well, you know, for the longest time I would always say no. It’s odd. Everybody around me has had all of these surprises. I’m constantly dealing with other people’s unexpected surprises. But I’d never had any in my own family. I thought it was a little boring.

Fisher: [Laughs]

CeCe: But I had my own surprise. I was thinking it was boring, maybe I should just have thought it was a good thing because once you do have, you know, you realize how emotionally disconcerting it can be for yourself and your family members.

Fisher: Sure.

CeCe: And so, although I’m happy to have a longtime mystery in my family result, it’s a very difficult thing for the family to deal with.

Fisher: I’ll bet. Is this something you can give us some details on?  

CeCe: Well, I’ve never shared it with anyone outside my immediate family before, but I guess it’s about time. It’s certainly an interesting story. I grew up sharing that my maternal aunt had a baby possibly kidnapped at birth.

Fisher: Oh wow!

CeCe: Anybody of us involved in adoption had probably heard this story where a mother to be is put under during labor and she wakes up and is told her child died. Yet, they are unwilling to supply that child’s remains for burial and a funeral.

Fisher: Um hmm.

CeCe: And I had heard this for as long as I can remember. I think it’s something I’ve carried with me all these years and it’s probably impacted my work to a certain degree. But we never knew for sure did it really happen? She believed strongly that it had. My grandparents felt that it had happened. But we just didn’t have any evidence or any way to unravel it. My aunt had tried to do it herself, her oldest daughter had researched it, and I’ve been researching it for a couple of decades with no success.

Fisher: Wow!

CeCe: Yeah. So, it’s been this thing in my family that maybe I have a first cousin out there, an unknown first cousin. We all got tested. My aunt and all her children, and all my family, and kind of hoped maybe somehow that would lead to resolving this mystery. But we didn’t even know if it really happened [Laughs] you know? So, it’s a very difficult situation.

Fisher: Yeah. But what’s so amazing about this is the career path you took was perfect for this kind of research. It involved family, it involved DNA, and it involved potentially a crime. Amazing! I mean, who better to look for this than you!

CeCe: Yeah, but I don’t even look at my own results hardly ever. I’m so busy working on everybody else’s results that I rarely even peek at my own. But I was putting together a PowerPoint for something and needed an example, and so of course, I went into my own account to do that. And I noticed a match I hadn’t seen before that shared quite a bit of DNA with me. Not so much that I thought oh, there’s an adoption in my immediate family, but enough that it caught my eye. So, how could this person be related? I found that this person also matched my mother’s side. And then when I ran shared matches and looked at genetic networks, I saw that this person actually matched both of my mother’s parents’ side, which was very odd. 

Fisher: Wow!

CeCe: So, my grandmother is 100% Finnish, and my grandfather had deep roots in the United States going all the way back to Jamestown. So, these are really diverse families, and yet this new match was sharing DNA with both my Finnish relatives and my proctor relatives. So, hmm, mom only has one sister. She had three siblings that died right at birth, or shortly thereafter. So, first I’m thinking wait, did one of those siblings actually survive?   

Fisher: Okay.

CeCe: No. So, it has to be through my aunt. That’s her only surviving sibling that lived to be old enough to have children. So, then I thought well, maybe one of first cousins placed a child for adoption. That didn’t seem to be the case. 

Fisher: It sounds to me like you were kind of avoiding the obvious question in your own mind as you were going through this.   

CeCe: Yeah, I didn’t want to jump to conclusions. It was obviously the first thing I thought when I realized this person shared DNA with both my grandmother and grandfather. But I wanted to rule out all the other possibilities.

Fisher: Sure. It’s a natural thing to do but you would also probably look at this and think, almost too good to be true for kind of a family myth that may or may not be the truth.   

CeCe: Yeah. And this person was very young, only about 20. And so this would be a number of generations removed. So, it wasn’t really obvious and I couldn’t quite figure it out, so I reached out to this person and got his family tree information. I built it out. None of it matched my family. And I asked him if he would allow me to view his Ancestry DNA results, and he did.

Fisher: Okay.  

CeCe: And so I started grouping everything and I found that I could connect to his mom’s side but not his father’s side. Ha! So, what’s going on there?

Fisher: Okay.

CeCe: So, I built a genetic network that connected to my family, one that connected to a French- Canadian family, and then one that connected to Moore family, not related to my Moores. And I built those out and found that one of them connected to my aunt’s former husband.

Fisher: That was your “Ah ha” moment then.

CeCe: Well, it was, except that she had two other children that husband, so I thought well, maybe one of them placed a child for adoption still, right?

Fisher: Yeah.

CeCe: But then I traced that last genetic network down to a woman in Washington State who married a man born on the exact date my aunt had always said her child was born. And when I pulled up his picture, he had bright red hair, just like her daughter from that same marriage. It would be this child’s full sibling. And unfortunately, we missed him by two years.

Fisher: Ohh.

CeCe: What I had pulled was his obituary, and it gave his date of birth, it had his picture, it was very clear to me he was my aunt’s missing child.

Fisher: Oh! Wow!  

CeCe: So, this was actually two mysteries in one because the person who originally matched me turned out his father was not his biological father.

Fisher: Okay.

CeCe: So, I not only solved our family mystery, I opened up a new unexpected surprise for him and had to break it to him that his biological father was actually my first cousin once removed who I’d never met because it was the son of this missing child.

Fisher: Oh wow, that’s the worst though isn’t it? To have to tell somebody their dad wasn’t their dad.

CeCe: Yeah. Unfortunately, I’ve done it many times before. But this was different, it’s my own family.

Fisher: Yeah. Um hmm.   

CeCe: And it is my aunt’s great grandson who had just had his own child so it meant she had a great, great grandchild, though she had three grandchildren she never knew, she had great grandchildren, and even great, great grandchildren.

Fisher: Wow!  

CeCe: When I told my aunt this news, unfortunately the timing wasn’t great because her oldest daughter was dying from lugaritz disease, and I had to tell her I found her son but he was also deceased.

Fisher: Oh!

CeCe: And then my aunt caught covid and ended up passing away without being able to meet any of these new family members, her grandchildren and great grandchildren, and great, great grandchild. It’s pretty devastating actually.

Fisher: Wow! I mean, the timing on all of this was just horrible.

CeCe: Yeah. I mean, I personally have been searching for this person for 20 plus years. It’s one of the first things I tried to do when I got involved in genealogy. But I didn’t know if the date of birth was going to be right, if they had changed it because the child had been stolen from her. I didn’t know if it was a boy or a girl. They had said it was a boy that died but we didn’t know if they changed the gender. I’ve seen that in so many cases I’m worked where mothers and been told their child died, and the wrong gender. They changed the date of birth slightly. And little did I know, he was out there with that exact date of birth, with that bright red hair that would have given him away if I could have found him sooner. I mean, it’s good in a way, the results, but it’s also pretty devastating. That’s why I haven’t posted about it. I haven’t talked about it. I haven’t introduced my new family members on social media yet or anything because it’s all happened at once and it’s been a lot to deal with. 

Fisher: Well, with all the surprises you’ve dealt with, with others, how has this impacted you?

CeCe: You know, tough. And it’s really not about me.

Fisher: I know. But you’re the one who found this and solved this within your own family, and suddenly it’s much more personal than anything else you would have done professionally.  

CeCe: Yeah. And I’m used to having some emotional distance. As much as I care about the people I help, I have to keep some emotional distance to be able to do what I do.

Fisher: Sure, of course.

CeCe: And on situation because I had to tell somebody their father wasn’t their biological father. And then I had to explain to this family that their father was kidnapped from my aunt at birth. And then they asked me how I figured that out. So, I had to explain that one of them had a child they didn’t know about, which normally I’m not in that position. I usually have the person who’s DNA it is do the reaching out and I had to explain. And they said, “Well, none of us have DNA test, and none of our children have DNA tested, so how did you find us? Well…

Fisher: Oh, boy.   

CeCe: It hit me harder than I thought. I wanted results for my whole life. I’ve lived with it my whole life as long as I can remember. I would think, I would be more happy about it, but it’s pretty devastating. It’s devastating to the missing, it’s devastating to his full siblings that never got to meet him, and then their mother died. So, it’s pretty upsetting but I know I’m probably not the one affected the most by it. 

Fisher: No. No. Wow CeCee. Well, thanks for sharing that with us here on Extreme Genes, and with everybody listening. That’s pretty powerful stuff and it’s amazing how complex it can get, isn’t it?

CeCe: Yeah. And I tried to make this as distinct as possible. It was actually beautiful, complicated, and the entire story that I can tell you.

Fisher: I would imagine. Well, let’s take a break here and we’ll talk about some of your professional work here when we return coming up in three minutes with CeCe Moore on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.  

Segment 3 Episode 388 Classic Rewind

Host: Scott Fisher with guest CeCe Moore

Fisher: All right, back with CeCe Moore on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. And CeCe, I’m still reeling from the story you just told about the surprise in your family. And we need to talk though about some of your professional work because you’ve kind of dove tailed in a new direction because of a change of direction with GEDmatch recently. Let’s talk about your work with the Jane and John Doe’s, and explain first of all, what they are to people who might not know.

CeCe: Sure. So, there is somewhere between forty thousand and fifty thousand unidentified deceased individuals in the United States, no one knows the exact number. But there are many, many people that have died without their identities.

Fisher: Are most of these people murder victims or they’re just folks who maybe died of an accident and were found somewhere, what percentage are what?

CeCe: You know, it’s often difficult to tell and many of these cases are very old. Some of them definitely look like homicides and can easily be confirmed to be homicides. But many more of them it’s unclear. Obviously, if there’s a bullet hole or something like that, they know, some of them they can see from blank force trauma, but beyond that it seems to be very difficult to make that determination. Some of these are unidentified victims of serial killers. I’ve worked on a couple of those and then it goes all the way to the other end of the spectrum where it looks like somebody was hiking and fell, or was maybe camping and died for some reason, maybe was homeless and passed.

Fisher: Sure.

CeCe: But in all of these cases what they have in common is we don’t know who they are and they have been nameless for years or decades in some of these cases.

Fisher: So, you’ve been researching criminal work over the last several years and now you’re doing this on your “spare time” on the weekends. What’s opened it up though? I mean, were you able to do more in this type of work, because as I understand it without GEDmatch’s database available that’s kind of been a struggle, hasn’t it?

CeCe: Right. So, I’ve always worked Jane and John Doe cases while I was working suspect cases, it’s part of what we do at Parabon. In fact, we have a contract with the Oregon State medical examiner and because of that contract we have dozens and dozens of unidentified decedents or Jane or John Doe’s that we’re trying to help Oregon State identify. There’s a wonderful medical examiner up there Dr. Nici Vance who cares very much about these cases. She’s wanted them solved her entire career and she sees the power of genetic genealogy to do that. So we’re working really closely together. So, I’ve been working a lot of those cases, still working suspect cases but because of that contract I have a constant supply of those. And then, the other reason I’ve been working them so much is because GEDmatch changed their policy on Jane and John Doe’s back in January where they opened up the whole database to them.

Fisher: Ahh.

CeCe: Yeah. And I don’t know if everyone is aware but it’s made a huge difference for my work, for DNA Doe projects work, for anyone that’s working on these Jane and John Doe cases instead of only being able to compare it against the opted in database which is probably less than half a million. We can now compare it against the whole GEDmatch database which is closer to 1.5 million.

Fisher:  Wow!

CeCe: So, when I need a break from the extremely difficult suspect cases, I can jump into one of these cases and I have a much better chance of quicker success. So, I’ve been spending my weekends identifying one and sometimes two of these individuals almost every weekend.

Fisher: That’s incredible. And these are provided to you, the information and the DNA from police force out there somewhere?

CeCe: It’s usually a medical examiner and that’s one of the reasons I think that Verogen that owns GEDmatch has made this change. I am told that they consulted with some experts in bioethics and came to the conclusion that these cases were not unlike adoption cases so they’re allowed to be compared against the whole database.

Fisher: Um hmm.

CeCe: So, hopefully, your listeners are supportive of that and were aware of it, but what is meant is many of these people have been getting their names back finally and their families have been getting notifications about what happened to them.

Fisher: So, who notifies the families, CeCe, after you identify these people, is it usually the medical examiner’s office?

CeCe: Sometimes. So, each of these people are obviously found in a jurisdiction where an agency might be involved. So, although the medical examiner is in charge of them there may be a law enforcement agency that is involved in the notifications. Some of the cases I’m working there just isn’t anyone else available and because of my experience dealing with the difficult cases I’ve dealt with all these years, in another setting, I’ve been entrusted to reach out to some of these families. Particularly, if there’s an adoption situation or something that makes the genealogy or the genetic genealogy a little bit more complex and sensitive.

Fisher: Um hmm.

CeCe: So, I actually had a recent case that took me more than a weekend. It was very difficult because it involved panacea pedigree collapse.

Fisher: Oh, dear.

CeCe: And I didn’t know if I was ever going to find this poor guy, a young man, teenager most likely, very old case. And when I finally back to the family I thought he was from, the immediate family I found that there was a woman searching for her biological father who was I believed this missing person. So this was a very sensitive situation.

Fisher: So, what has been the reaction with most of those folks who knew that their loved one was missing?

CeCe: You know, I think so many of them were in denial of it, hoping that their loved one was just out there living their life, had changed their name for example, and just hadn’t been in touch. So even if decades had passed, when I’ve had these conversations with them they’ve been devastated. It’s always like ripping off a band-aid. So, it does take a lot of sensitivity and compassion. I often land up on the phone for two hours or so talking to these individuals and then continue to be in touch with them.

Fisher: And this is your weekend hobby? I mean, that’s absolutely amazing.

CeCe: Yeah, it’s for my work. I do really enjoy being able to dig into these cases and the ones where I have more to compare against are obviously more straightforward.

Fisher: Sure.

CeCe: Now, that doesn’t mean they’re always straightforward but they do come together very nicely. Often times I’ll have three or four genetic networks that represent each of the grandparents’ lines. So these are really high confidence identifications. When I write up that report and do the briefing for the agency or the medical examiner I’m often very confident that this is that person.

Fisher: Um hmm.

CeCe: Some of these cases I’ve been fortunate, when I finally get to that family somebody has marked that person deceased on their family tree and missing. So, I just recently, last weekend and the weekend before, I had two different cases but once I got to that immediate family, which took a lot of time, but once I got there, there was an entry on a public family tree that said “missing, presumed dead, or vanished, disappeared.”

Fisher: Wow.

CeCe: And that was very helpful.

Fisher: So satisfying, isn’t it CeCe when you make breakthroughs like this? It never gets old.

CeCe: Yeah. I mean it’s really helpful because I just worked a case last weekend where I absolutely was sure about who the parents were. I knew they had a daughter that was my missing person, but I couldn’t find her name anywhere because she wasn’t born in a state that has open birth records. I could see her on someone’s tree as private, I was like, why couldn’t you just mark it? [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs]

CeCe: It’s so helpful. So, if you are building your family tree and you do have a family member out there and they have been missing for years or decades. It would be great if you would mark that on the tree, and remember we can’t see them if they’re living. So if you mark them as deceased but unknown. And put a note that really can help us in our work.

Fisher: She’s CeCe Moore. She’s the genetic detective in more ways than one. And CeCe, it’s been way too long. I’m so thrilled that you came back on today and let’s get together a little sooner this time round, okay, next time?

CeCe: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.

Fisher: All right. Well, you have a great fall and we’ll talk to you again soon.

CeCe: All right, you too.

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

Segment 4 Episode 388 Classic Rewind

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, we're back for Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. And David Allen Lambert has returned! And David, we have a question here from Cathleen Vincent in Murray, Utah. She says, "Fisher and Dave, I recently found an ad in a Maryland newspaper where my ancestor said he would no longer pay his wife's bills. There were other similar ads in that paper. Please explain these things. Cathleen."

David: Ohh yeah, my fifth great grandfather, David Whitney, Rev War soldier. He had been married three or four times and his fourth wife, he took out an ad in 1789 that says, "I forbid all those from trusting my wife, Lydia, for she has eloped from my bed and board."

Fisher: Yeah, and this is a common term we hear, elopement, but it doesn't necessarily mean eloping like to go get married, it means just basically running away from her husband and maybe to somebody else.

David: Right, exactly. And then you don't know of, I mean the circumstances or was he abusive, did she find somebody else? I mean, the story is never clear on a lot of these, Fish. We don't really have divorce records.

Fisher: Right.

David: At least in Massachusetts, we find divorces well back into the 1600s, but they don't seem to be commonplace until well after the Revolutionary War. And then by the 19th century, everybody's divorcing left and right.

Fisher: [Laughs] its always interesting when you run into something like that, because you wonder, "Well, why wouldn't they pay the bills? Where'd she go? What happened there?" but you know, this is often the thing that we don't think much about today, because you're right, we don't know the circumstances here and it could be somebody escaping a real brutal relationship.

David: Oh yeah! I mean, and she could be like staying at a tavern nearby and occurring a bill under his name. I mean, and rightfully so, I mean, maybe the person was an abusive husband. We just don't know the details. But I've also seen ads from ladies writing that their husbands have gone out to sea, permanently.

Fisher: Hmmm.

David: Not on a boat [Laughs] like they just disappeared. It’s like, "I know that he's with so and so." and like they spelt this out in the papers. And this is in the 18th century, early 19th century, they're quite colorful. I always used to chuckle at them until I found that my ancestor, David Whitney in 1790 was living alone and I thought to myself, "Why is he living alone? He got married in 1787. Did his wife die?" And then when I found that ad, I'm like "Oh, that's why his alone. She left him."

Fisher: Yeah. We tend to think these days that we have no privacy like in the old days. I don't know that there was that much privacy back then.

David: No. You had your fence viewers if you did anything on the Sabbath, like went and picked something out of your garden. You'd be called into the church court.

Fisher: Yep. And that would be published.

David: Um hmm and then you'd probably sit in the stocks and that rotten fruit that you never picked would probably be thrown at you.

Fisher: Ooh! Yeah. So there are a lot of things like that, but that is a really fun ad to find and it really gets you wondering what's going on there and why. And really, all you can ever do is speculate, because it’s really pretty rare to find something on that, unless you do find something in a church situation, maybe a police situation, somebody was charged with something. But that's pretty rare on the whole. We also see ads for runaway enslaved individuals and other things.

David: Right. I mean, you can have an apprentice that ran away, and a lot of times people will ask about apprenticeship records, I'm like, "Really, you don't find them unless you break the legal contracts, because handshakes and documents never had to be filed in court. But if they ran away from it after they had their suit of clothes and paycheck, the newspaper will have an ad.

Fisher: And sometimes you will even see a church now taking care of a family, because a man abandoned the family, like happened with my guy over in England in 1818. They gave a full description of him, what he was we wearing at the time, how tall he is, what he looks like, his complexion, color of his eyes. It’s like, well, this is really useful for me. It’s just kind of a shame for the family he left behind. Cathleen, thanks for the question. We'll get another one coming up here when we return with Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show in three minutes.

Segment 5 Episode 388 Classic Rewind

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, final question this week for Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, David Allen Lambert over there. And David, this question comes from Raynee Smith in Kansas City, Mo. She writes, "Hello. I am new to genealogy. I found a 19th century autograph album that was kept by my great, great grandmother. Do you have any suggestions about how these names can tell me something about my family?" Good question, Raynee. Boy let’s get started on this David.

David: Ooh! This is a wonderful piece of family history, because associate research is where you can really get the most. First off, when was the autograph album done in the 19th century? When your ancestor is in school? Did they look like there's signatures of children or versus, say an adult? Maybe they were a member of like a club.

Fisher: Well, maybe there's a date on some of them that will give you an idea.

David: Right, exactly. And then you start looking at, well, the basic part again. You're new to genealogy, so the US census. So, there is no 1890 census to speak of, but say 1880, the 1900, you might start looking at some of these names and seeing geographically where they are in the same vicinity where your family was living or especially the one who kept your autograph album.

Fisher: Well, and you might discover this, especially if you get into town histories that your great, great grandmother was part of a group or society, or association with some of these other people in and maybe even a church group.

David: That's true. I actually came across one I bought years ago at a yard sale and it was early 1900s, but she was a school teacher. I originally thought these were people that she went to school with. No, they were other teachers at the same high school and other teachers that she had dealt with them through her life over 20 years.

Fisher: Isn't that interesting. You mentioned teachers. I remember going on eBay once and poking around for stuff from my hometown and found a signature in an autograph book from the 1920s of the neighbor that I knew in the 1960s when I was a kid. She was a little old lady. I thought, "Well, there's Mrs. Parker! How about that!" [Laughs] You never know what you're going to run into. Autograph albums tell so much also. It certainly suggests that your ancestor was socially engaged and obviously wanted to remember these people and she really enjoyed people and that's helpful there. And you would imagine, if they're just ordinary people that these are associates, it could also be that they were significant people in the town that she was from.

David: That's true. And you know, they could be people they went to church with, they may have been in a fraternal organization or maybe, you know, Daughters of Union Veterans or something like that, it’s entirely possible. Sometimes you get clues when they sign their names. Sometimes they put where they were living or they might have some catchy little piece of poetry. And who knows, you may have a famous signature in there. I love telling the story about the one that I bought for $3, because I bought it, it was a camp up in Maine, a girl that lived in my hometown and they must have cleaned out the house or something after she died and it ended up with an antique dealer, apparently didn't look very well, because as I told you before, Tipton 4 Photo Corners is a signed card authenticated of Amelia Earhart.

Fisher: Wow!

David: How's that for $3.

Fisher: $3! [Laughs]

David: $3.

Fisher: Well, you know, and here's the thing, as a beginning genealogist, this is just one little tool in helping learn the stories of your ancestors, but it’s a good one. So, congratulations on that. But also look at the other records as well that might be out there that can paint an even broader picture. So, we appreciate the question. And of course if you have a question for us, you can always email us at [email protected]. David thanks once again. We'll talk to you next week.

David: I look forward to it.

Fisher: And thank you for joining us this week. And if you missed any of the show, of course the amazing surprise revealed by CeCe Moore, if you want to hear it again or you want to share it with a friend, of course catch the podcast on Apple Media, iHeart Radio, Tune In Radio, Spotify, ExtremeGenes.com, we're all over the place! So, thanks for joining us. We'll talk to you again next week. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!

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