Episode 390 - Diahan Southard Talks DNA Challenges / Maureen Taylor On Standardizing Photo MetadataSep 06, 2021
Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. Family Histoire News begins with word of another major acquisition for (sponsor) Ancestry.com. This may be a big one for you if you have French ancestry. Hear all about it. Then, the Salem Witch Trials have been revisited by some middle schoolers who want to make a change in history. Catch what they’re up to! Meanwhile, another “archive in the attic” has been located… and it’s a big one! Hundreds of pages of documents of the enslaved that go back to the 1600s. And they were almost thrown out! Neanderthals are making news again with another discovery. Were they the first to have a local grocery store? David explains. And finally… by next year, we may well have a database of millions of graves in England covering 19,000 Anglican churchyards. Get the particulars.
Next, Diahan Southard, Your DNA Guide, talks about endogamy in DNA. What really defines it and how do you deal with it should you run across it? Diahan has some helpful thoughts. Then, she talks about mitochondrial DNA, that test that follows the female direct line. How is that test best used? Diahan explains.
Then, it’s the Photo Detective Maureen Taylor. Maureen is part of a small organization called the Family History Metadata Working Group. Their interest is to get major databases and companies to standardize how metadata tied to photos is transferred to any and all sites when you upload your photos. (Who wants to add all that info more than once?!) Hear how you can help.
Then David returns as he and Fisher tackle listener questions on the War of 1812 and a haul of old family postcards on Ask Us Anything.
That’s all this week on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show!
Transcript for Episode 390
Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Segment 1 Episode 390
Fisher: And welcome America to America's Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. I am Fisher, your Radio Roots Sleuth on the program where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out. It is so great to have you. We've got great guests again today Diahan Southard is going to be here, your DNA guide, talking about this strange thing called endogamy. What does that mean? Why could that affect your DNA results? She will explain that as well as some tips on dealing with mitochondrial DNA. So, some good stuff coming up here in about ten minutes. And then later in the show, Maureen Taylor, the photo detective is back talking about metadata that you can now put on your digitized photographs. How can we make that go with the photos when some of these sites, in fact, almost all sites don't accept that metadata along with the photo you post? So, we're going to get the full explanation as to where things are going with this effort that's going on nationwide right now to move along metadata with your photos as you post them. Hey, if you haven't checked out our brand new squeaky clean Extreme Genes website, you've got to do that. Find out about the courses I'm offering right for genetic genealogy and DNA and for basic genealogy. And of course the full Extreme Genes archives now entirely searchable, so put in any keyword, it will show you all the episodes that talk about that very thing. (As Ed Sullivan) Right now, off to Boston, Massachusetts where fresh back from his trip to Orlando, Florida and those folks with the big ears, its David Allen Lambert right here.
David: On our stage.
Fisher: On our stage. [Laughs]
David: How are you, kiddo?
Fisher: Hey, bud. You sound refreshed! Did you have a good time?
David: I did. I did when we avoided the hurricane that came up the coast, so I had to fly out a little early.
Fisher: That can put a little damper on your plans.
David: Just a little bit.
Fisher: Hey, we've got a lot of news here today with our Family Histoire news. Let's start with this whole thing about Ancestry. They've picked up another major site, which could be really useful to us.
David: Yeah, they've added to their own family. Geneanet is now part of it, which is a leading French genealogy company. It’s a really big company. I met them at RootsTech a couple of years back, and they have records in 10 languages in over 25 countries. Its great stuff.
Fisher: Yeah. Cela signifie que vous pouvez recherche vos ancêtres Français, which means, “I went to Google Translate!” AND it means you can now research your French ancestors like never before!
Fisher: I will tell you that this is a great site. They have been doing research over there that we don't see much of, unless you go to Geneanet. And it’s going to be kept very much the same as it’s been, except now Ancestry's going to be pouring in of course resources that they didn't have before. So this is a great thing for all of us with French ancestors.
David: Well, in local news here in Massachusetts, North Andover Middle School students were inspired to clear the name of a lady who was accused of witchcraft in 1693.
David: Elizabeth Johnson Jr. was never executed, Fish, but the students wanted to see her name cleared. And that inspired Massachusetts State Senator, Diana DiZoglio to introduce legislation to actually clear Johnson's name from the records.
Fisher: This is really good. You know, I love first of all the teachers who are getting the kids involved to learn about history and learn about processes or government and for a state senator to jump in and give them that experience, undoubtedly she's going to invite them down to the state house in Boston and show how all this process works. This is a really great thing, so congratulations to everybody involved. And what a great thing for Elizabeth Johnson, too to have her situation revisited after all this time.
David: Well, you know, finding history is an amazing thing. I think, as genealogists, we're always excited when we find something that is a discovery in our own family tree. But how about when you find thousands of pages of documents in a building in the Eastern Shore house in Maryland, which is about to be the demolished and they're all about enslaved individuals from the 1600s, Fish, to the 1800s, found in this attic in this house.
Fisher: And the amazing thing about it is, as the building was about to go down. They were going to throw all these documents out. They were going to be gone, tossed! And now they're going to be preserved. And they cover a ton of names of enslaved individuals.
David: And if you think about how many documents were probably lost during the Civil War, that's a true goldmine.
David: I hope that some people find their ancestors in these records. But they're now being preserved and kept locally. They weren't ever sold piecemeal on the auction block, which I think was the fear.
David: You know, you never think about how old your grocery store trip is until you read news like this. This is a story I saw on Archaeology.org, where 76,000 year old bones were recovered at a large Neanderthal hunting camp in central Spain. Well, what this suggests, Fish is that Neanderthals processed large cattle and deer at a rock shelter, but then they took all of that to another location to eat.
David: It’s kind of like getting take-out too, I suppose.
Fisher: Right, yeah.
David: Maybe it’s the earliest take out restaurant, fresh kill on the rocks. [Laughs]
Fisher: Absolutely. That's crazy. That's great. That's a great story.
David: The next story has me all a twitter, graves in England. Now, I love going to old cemeteries. As you know, I wrote that book on Massachusetts cemeteries, but 19,000 church yards in England are going to be digitally mapped. The Church of England is launching a free website later next year that will list eventually every grave memorial and churchyard in the country. Now, I hope that includes memorials inside the church, too, because those are sometimes very valuable to have.
David: In glass windows. But yeah, these ancient churches probably cover from the time of the Norman Conquest all the way down to probably people that were buried this past year, and that's great. If you think of 19,000 cemeteries in churchyards.
David: How many millions of individuals that's going to include.
Fisher: Well, if you figure there's 1000 in each one, is that a lot? Is that normal? I don't know, but that could be 19 million right there. So I mean, even if it’s a fraction of that, you know, 5-6 million.
David: Yeah, my grandpa's from England. I'm always happy when they find another relative for me.
David: Even if they have to dig it up. [Laughs]
David: Well, that's all I have from Beantown this week, but I do want to let you know that if you're not a member of American Ancestors, you can save $20 with the coupon code "Extreme" on AmericanAncestors.org. Talk to you in a little bit.
Fisher: All right, David, thanks. Yeah, you'll be back for Ask Us Anything. And coming up next in three minutes, your DNA guide, Diahan Southard is going to be joining us, talking about endogamy and mitochondrial DNA, what do these things mean, what can you do with it? She'll explain, coming up next on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.
Segment 2 Episode 390
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Diahan Southard
Fisher: We are back at it on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth along with my guest, my good friend your DNA Guide Diahan Southard. And Diahan, it’s been a while. It’s great to have you back.
Diahan: Thanks so much for having me Scott. It’s always so good to talk to you.
Fisher: You know, I was looking at all the things we could talk about today because you are the DNA Guide, and I was thinking about some areas that not a long of us have delved into because really, there’s a limited group of people I would say that have to deal with things like endogamy and breaking though a brick wall using mitochondrial DNA. So, I thought maybe we could touch on both of those things while you’re on the show today.
Diahan: Absolutely. And in fact, the more I’ve been looking into endogamy, I’m getting ready to launch a cause on it.
Diahan: There’s actually a lot more people fighting endogamy than I thought.
Diahan: I think it might be more common, yeah, than we give it credit for.
Fisher: Well, to start it out, for people who aren’t familiar with it, talk about what endogamy is.
Diahan: Right. So, the first thing you have to do is understand the difference between endogamy and what I’m just calling multiple relationships. So, if you have your grandparents were first cousins, they married each other, that’s just multiple relationships. Like, you’re going to have multiple relationships to people in that family.
Diahan: That’s one thing. That’s totally separate than endogamy, which is the process of people marrying within the same culture or family generation after generation after generation. So, it’s really about how many times it’s happened.
Fisher: Is there a number with that?
Diahan: No. Not officially. But it’s kind of like, if it’s just been kind of one or two times in the last few generations, I would consider that multiple relationships. If this is a pattern that’s been going on in your family for several generations then it’s going to be endogamy.
Fisher: Sure. And it’s really kind of treated a little differently isn’t it, because the closer relationships it’s easier to break down but you start going back like in the hills of Kentucky, or perhaps in Jewish communities around the world a lot of inter-marriage going on for long periods of time.
Diahan: Absolutely. You kind of hit the nail on the head right. If it happened recently, you can kind of deal with it. You can figure it out. You can see how the DNA is reflecting those relationships. But when it’s endogamy, the DNA just gets really complicated.
Diahan: It’s really mixed up. We rely so much on the amount of DNA that’s shared between two people to help us determine a relationship. So, like, if you and I share say, 75 centimorgans then we can estimate that you and I are third cousins.
Diahan: Great. Then we can, you know, start to do genealogy and figure out how we are related to each other. The problem is if you and I share 75 centimorgans and we’re both from an endogamous community, that changes everything. We don’t have to be third cousins right, we could be 7th cousins like 27 times or something. You know?
Diahan: And it would still amount to that shared amount of DNA. So, there’s two problems: One, is just the amount of DNA you share with someone doesn’t necessarily reflect your relationships.
Diahan: So, we have to deal with that. The second problem is most of the time if you want to be successful in genetic genealogy, you need to be able to gather a group of people from your match list that are related to the ancestor you want to research, right?
Fisher: Yeah, of course.
Diahan: You’ve got like a huge list, right? You’ve got to find the people in the list that pertain to your question. That’s it. So, if you don’t have endogamy, that process of finding those little genetic groups is straight forward.
Fisher: Very much so, yes.
Diahan: You follow a methodology right, you find the group, and you’re often running. But with endogamy it’s just a lot harder to find a group of people that are related to a specific line you want to research.
Fisher: Yeah. It can really magnify those centimorgans so you think you are related closer than you really are, or you’re just related i so many different ways. That’s what it amounts to, right?
Diahan: Absolutely. Yeah. So, perfect example my grandmother whose mother was born in Italy, she had a fantastic DNA match on MyHeritage and I was really excited this person was from Italy. And we started corresponding back and forth and I just got so excited and kind of wrapped up in this story that I stopped being a good genetic genealogist.
Diahan: I know, embarrassing right? I do this for a living. But when it’s your own stuff you just kind of get carried away. We started using pictures and I was like, oh this is so fun. And they didn’t really have much family history, right. They knew their parents, you know, like a lot of people who do DNA tests. They just didn’t have a deep pedigree. And I was like, “Oh, well, let’s get back to your great or maybe two times great grandparents and I think we can find our common ancestor. So, I set them up on this search and they were receptive. They were fantastic. And I was like great, okay we’ll do this. And they start doing the research and putting together a tree, and if they began to build it, like there was no connection.
Diahan: And I was like nooo! And then of course it all came like crashing back to me that my grandma, yes she’s from Italy, but she’s from this little tiny town in very northern Italy, and there’s about five families in that town who married each other over, and over, and over again. And sure enough, there was lots of signs of endogamy in this relationship between this DNA match and my grandma. And I hadn’t even considered it honestly because I was just thinking we’re not Jewish, we’re not in the hills of Kentucky like you said, I didn’t even think that there would be endogamy in this town in Italy. But of course there is because it was very small, and remote. And sure enough, once I clued into that I could see evidence of it in their DNA match as well.
Fisher: Boy, and that changes the game, doesn’t it.
Fisher: I’m sure a lot of people run into that. They’re not expecting it and suddenly now what do we do?
Fisher: And trying to break that down because really, what is your relationship to that person? You do share this many centomorgans of DNA but your relationship isn’t third cousin or second cousin, it’s many different things all added up.
Diahan: Absolutely. Yes. Like I said, it’s really complicated. But I think one take away tip for your listeners is if you do have endogamy or you suspect you have it, the way you can tell is really honestly by doing genealogy. Just like I said, I thought this person was my grandma’s second cousin, we got back to those great grandparents, there weren’t any that were the same.
Diahan: So, if you get back to that generation where you think you connect and you don't, there's nothing wrong, right? So either you've miscalculated, you've done family history incorrectly, so, what you need to do is go into your DNA match and look and see. So, you can only see in My Heritage or 23AndMe or FamilyTree DNA. You need a chromosome browser to be able to see it. And anybody who follows me knows that I do not advocate chromosome browsers. I'm never like, you have to have this. But in this situation for endogamy, it’s essential, because you need to be able to go in and look at pieces of DNA that you share with your match and then you only count those pieces that are higher than 20 centimorgans.
Diahan: Or if you're feeling very generous, higher than 15. But that's it you don't count any of the others, because the other segments are most likely there because of that shared population and not because of a recent common ancestor.
Diahan: So, with this match from my grandma, she was sharing like 170 or something like that centimorgans with this match, right?
Fisher: [Laughs] Yeah.
Diahan: I went in and counted. Guess how many were over 15? 35.
Diahan: 35 Centimorgans, um hmm.
Diahan: So, they're probably forth cousins of some kind, and so we have to just do more genealogy to find that connection.
Diahan: But yeah, out of 170, 35 centimorgans were over my amount that I drew my little line in.
Fisher: All right.
Diahan: So yeah, so that's number one. You’ll just have a much better estimate of your relationship then.
Fisher: All right, let's switch over to mitochondrial now. And for people who aren’t familiar with that, explain how that works.
Diahan: Right. So, mitochondrial DNA traces only a direct maternal line. So, the great thing about mitochondrial DNA is everybody has it, okay. So, you can test your own mitochondrial DNA to trace your mother's, mother's, mother's, mother's, mother's line. So, you'll have the same mitochondrial DNA as all of your siblings, but only the females pass it on to the next generation.
Diahan: So it’s often just associated with women, but it’s important to remember that men have mitochondrial DNA, they just don't pass it on.
Fisher: Okay. But the problem with mitochondrial as opposed to its male opposite, generally speaking, the Y DNA is that it doesn't really follow a name line, does it, because the women's names change every generation.
Diahan: Yeah, that definitely makes the genealogy more complicated.
Fisher: And so, in a short explaination then, Diahan, how do people use mitochondrial DNA to break through a brickwall down a female line?
Diahan: The best way to do it in all honesty is to use it in combination with your autosomal DNA test. So, for example, when we tested my mom at 23AndMe, so 23AndMe, they also test a portion of your mitochondrial DNA so you can see what they call your haplogroup, which is just a deep ancestral group.
Diahan: So, at 23AndMe, you can see your mitochondrial DNA haplogroup, and you can see the haplogroup of your matches. So, my mom takes the test, she's adopted, and so we see this match who is sharing enough DNA with her to be a second cousin and very importantly, those matches also sharing her mitochondrial DNA.
Diahan: So now, instead of just like wondering, how is my mom related to this person, it could be on any of her lines. Now we can hypothasize at least that this matches related on her direct maternal line and on the matches direct maternal line.
Diahan: So, it really helped us focus our research on just this one line in his family tree, which then connected to my mom's direct maternal line. So, sometimes that combination of autosomal DNA and mitochondrial DNA can really give you that extra little hints that you need to help you decide how you're related to someone else.
Fisher: Great tip. What other ways can you use that?
Diahan: Well, so a lot of times there's some sort of history that you have, say, Native American or African ancestor and you take an autosomal DNA test and you don't get that percentage that you’re looking for, it doesn't say you're, you know, 10% Native American or something. But often times its because this ancestor's a little bit too far back. If this is your three times great grandmother, you just may not have received enough of her Native American DNA to have it show up on these autosomal DNA tests. So, what you can do is kind of double check it by tracking her direct maternal line down. So, if this is your three times great, you need to find one of her daughter's, daughter's, daughter's, daughter's and so on to take a DNA test. But mitochondrial DNA haplogroup, those deep ancestral groups are very specific for Native American.
Fisher: And would it show up for any other group, African Americans, Jewish?
Diahan: Jewish, um hmm. They all have very distinct haplogroups. Now if you want to know if she's Welsh or Italian, that's probably not going to work for you, because they don't have specific enough groups usually.
Fisher: Okay. I think we've been well taught today. That's your DNA Guide, Diahan Southard. Diahan, thanks so much for coming up. Those are great tips. We look forward to hearing about some more of your workshops coming up.
Diahan: Great. Thanks so much for having me, Scott. It’s always a pleasure.
Fisher: Check her out at YourDNAGuide.com. And coming up next, Maureen Taylor talking about metadata and photographs, what is happening to get this standardized. You'll hear more about it coming up next in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.
Segment 3 Episode 390
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Maureen Taylor
Fisher: You know, it has been way too long since we last talked photos on Extreme Genes, America’s Family Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, and my pleasure and joy always to talk to my friend the photo detective Maureen Taylor out of Rhode Island. Maureen, welcome back to the show!
Maureen: Thanks Scott. Thanks for having me.
Fisher: So, you’re part of this new group, this metadata working group, Family History Metadata Working Group, working with Chris and Nancy Desmond and many others. Fill us in first of all, on what’s going on with that because when last we left our heroes we were seeing standardization as the target for metadata and photographs, meaning, that you can actually take the information about the photo and have it travel with the picture.
Maureen: Right. So, all the major image formats jpeg, TIFF, that Apple format, AGIF, PNG, RAW, etc, allow you to add metadata, to embed it in the image. The problem is many sites ignore that metadata. Some take it out and some override it. So, while you’re thinking, I’ve done all this work on my family history photos and I’m going to embed all this metadata and then I’m going to upload it to this site and I’m going to upload it to that. I’m going to share it this way and all that information that I spent all that time doing is still going to be there. The problem is it isn’t.
Maureen: It mostly isn’t.
Fisher: And that’s kind of been the way it’s been since the start of the digital era really, right?
Maureen: Pretty much.
Fisher: So, is there progress being made in this area to try to get the standardization going between all these companies, how does this work?
Maureen: So, the Family History Metadata Working Group, which I’m now a part of the group, we meet every other week and we have a list of companies that, I don’t want to say targeting in a negative way.
Maureen: But sort of educating about what we’re trying to do and why it’s important, and how we can come up with a set of standards. So that when you put your images up various places you’ll still be able to access that information.
Maureen: You’ll be able to read it, write it, edit it, and export it which doesn’t always happen. So, let’s take for an example Google Photos, a lot of people use Google Photos.
Maureen: You’ve added information to the digital file on your computer, such as the metadata is things like, the caption, location, the dates, and the names of the people. You upload that picture to Google Photos and guess what? You can’t read what you’ve embedded, which means you can’t share it either.
Fisher: Wow. [Laughs]
Maureen: Same is true for the major parties of Ancestry.com, FamilySearch, and MyHeritage.
Maureen: You can add images but support for embedded metadata is very limited. So, we’re in conversations with all these major companies to talk about, well, can’t we come to some consensus. And the progress that you mentioned, there has been some progress which is, last year we met and came up with a list of standards, sort of fields that we’d like to see transportable from one site to another.
Maureen: And now we’re trying to get sites to add that code to what they do.
Fisher: So, is there resistance to the idea of moving metadata with the photos?
Maureen: It’s just I think, not a major priority. The bigger sites have other things on their agenda.
Fisher: So, if you do something else, you can’t do this as well?
Maureen: That part I don’t know.
Maureen: I’m not going to guess dispersion on all these big sites because they’re all great and we use them, but from a photo perspective and as the photo detective, I would really, really love to see these standards across all the platforms.
Fisher: I think all of us would.
Fisher: I mean, let’s face it, if we’re going through the trouble for instance of going through and colorizing say on MyHeritage, or cleaning up a picture and then you’re adding all this detail and then you throw it up there, and now you’ve lost all the context. That’s a major loss.
Maureen: Exactly. It’s huge and I’ve experienced it firsthand. I’ve embedded all this data in a collection and then find out that I couldn’t look at all the data. So, I had to do it again and again, and again, depending on what platform I was using. So, right now, if you embed metadata in an image in Adobe Lightroom, you can view it and read it, and do all the stuff with it. You can do the same thing with MemoryWeb. You can do the same thing with Vivid Pix, and I believe Forever.
Maureen: I know that Permanent is working on the standards as well.
Fisher: And these are all really great companies, really forward thinking people.
Fisher: Having interacted with all of them over the years, but we really need one big win, don’t we?
Maureen: We need one big win.
Fisher: One big one.
Maureen: We need this information to be portable, to be transferrable.
Maureen: So, that when we upload it, imagine what the future could be. You put your images on one site and you want to put them on another site, and you want to put them on another site and you want to share all these things in these different platforms with various family members. Imagine that it’s seamless, that everything can be read and shared and you don’t have to do it over and over again.
Fisher: Right. And the search ability of it too by year, by subject, I mean all of these things it kind of blows my mind because it makes me think to some extent it’s going to be to some big company’s advantage. To say, hey, we want to be the ones that are on this because everybody is going to use that place, this big site as their photo landing place because of this feature.
Maureen: Right, exactly. So, the metadata that we’re focused on are things like events, location, album, caption, people, objects, dates. It’s the basic things that I work on with people to identify their family photographs. Now, I will say that what have we learned recently? We have learned that genealogists can be very vocal about the issues relating to their family history legacy.
Maureen: So, what can you do to help us with this mission that we’re on? There are a few things. One, you can write to your favorite, app, or site, or program, look on their website and ask them about their metadata standards. Ask them about the portability of what you added to your images. If you have an image and you added all that information into it, when you upload it to their site, are you actually going to be able to see that metadata that’s already embedded into the image?
Fisher: Um hmm.
Maureen: Are you going to be able to share that? Are you going to be able to edit it? Simple questions. Hard answers.
Fisher: Right. And I would imagine because they’ve got to involve all their tech people into putting something together to make this work. That might be the paying point for the companies to actually go forward with this, but you would think, like we talked about, you get one big one and the others all have to kind of follow, don’t you think? You need a champion.
Maureen: Yeah, we need a champion. Then there’s some competition who’s going to go first
Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs] That’s exactly right. So, is this an organization that others can join to support you in this work?
Maureen: Well, right now it’s the Family History Metadata Working Group, the small group of us that meet.
Fisher: Um hmm.
Maureen: But certainly, we’re asking people to participate. They can certainly watch a video that Luther Tychonievich and Chris Desmond did at RootsTech last year on the Family History Metadata Working Group and it will explain how they can help and how they can get involved. And they can join us on Facebook or LinkedIn.
Fisher: Oh, that’s great. You know, if you’re looking for a cause in family history this would be a good one because like you say, the repetition of having to add this every place you post a picture is a nightmare.
Maureen: It’s a nightmare, absolute nightmare. How powerful are genealogists? I want to tell you something that someone told me a long time ago. So, early on when I started working with family photographs, it was really hard to get good quality archival acid and lignin free materials for a reasonable price to work on your family photographs.
Maureen: But as the genealogical community became more interested in preserving the objects and photographs and documents that are in their family collections. They put pressure on the companies by asking for all of this stuff. And now today, you can buy those materials and this was an industry leader who told me that without the genealogists it never would have happened.
Fisher: Really? Interesting.
Maureen: Um hmm.
Fisher: Well, you know we are a large group. I think there’s an awful lot of potential here and it’s worth coming around to periodically to check back in and see how things are going because when that day comes when you get that one champion, I think that’s a game changer because everybody else ultimately has to fall into place.
Fisher: So, once again, if people want to get in touch with the Family History Metadata Working Group, where do they go?
Maureen: They can join us on Facebook or LinkedIn. We have a website called FHMWG.org.
Fisher: Awesome. She’s Maureen Taylor. She’s the photo detective. Maureen thanks so much and keep us up to speed on what’s happening.
Maureen: We really need this change to happen Scott. Thank you so much for having me on Extreme Genes.
Fisher: You betcha. And coming up next, David Allen Lambert returns for another round of Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 4 Episode 390
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 is back from the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. And David, our Chief Genealogist, here is our first question, it’s from Lance in Wellesley, Massachusetts, actually your neck of the woods.
David: Oh, yeah.
Fisher: And he writes, "Fish and Dave, I have a War of 1812 ancestor and I'd like to know where he may have served and what battles he may have been in. Any tips?" Boy there's a lot of stuff we can talk about here!
David: Ooohhh! Well, I mean the first thing obviously is you've determined that the person was a veteran, so that's great. So you're going to have the whole hierarchy or who is the captain, who is the colonel, and from there you should be able to find out the regiment. Always, my biggest tip in military is, adopt the regiment, because there may be papers and letters from the captain to the colonel that may speak to more detail about where they are and maybe a diary. The other thing about adopting a regiment, Fish, is that you want to see if anybody else's descendants from that same company may have had papers or letters or something that may describe it, because we don't have the narratives from the War of 1812 like we do in the Civil War.
Fisher: That's true.
David: Civil War, we have regimented histories.
David: War of 1812, not so much.
Fisher: I'll tell you, War of 1812 is really tough. My wife has a forth great grandfather who came over from England and wound up in the War of 1812 in the 17th infantry unit, which was originally set up in Kentucky, he was in Ohio. They wound up on the invasions of Canada and the Battle of Lundy's Lane and then they withdrew from that battle and a few days later, they were down at Fort Erie, right across from Buffalo and the ancestor got his arm blown off. And so he had to have his arm amputated. I mean, it was quite a story. And the reason we know about it is because if you go to Fold3, they have his pension application there.
Fisher: And this account of how he lost his arm was written out by his company commander, his company captain. And so, that guy happens to have a lot of information out there about him, so we found out when he joined that particular unit and we also were able to find out through Ancestry when the ancestor enlisted. So we have the date of when he enlisted, the date when he lost his arm and effectively was out of commission forevermore as far as military service went, and then when this particular commander came into play. Well, by following his record, because he was an officer, there's a lot more stuff about him, we can follow where his company went. And that's how I learned that he was in the Battle of Lundy's Lane, which was the bloodiest battle of the War of 1812.
David: Well, you know, it’s just a year ago that I found out that my third great grandfather who somebody put on Ancestry, "He wasn't a very tall man." And I'm like, he wasn't a tall man? How would they know how tall he was? Well, he was 5'4. He was an artificer for the US lay artillery and was at the Battle of Plattsburgh, which was the last battle of invasion in New York until September 11, 2001 when we were attacked. So, one thing I want to tell Lance and anybody else out there, if you're a guy and you want to join the General Society of the War of 1812, join Massachusetts even if your ancestor didn't serve there or even if you don't live here, we have an offer, life membership for $125.
Fisher: Oh, nice!
Fisher: One last thought on this whole thing, create a timeline.
David: Oh yeah.
Fisher: Not only for your person, but also for the officers he served under and then research that officer as David mentioned, because you can often find out more about what they did, because there's usually a lot written about the officers, but not necessarily the enlisted men.
David: And yeah, the thing is, look up the soldiers that your ancestor served with, look and see if they had a pension. Maybe your ancestor didn't get a pension, didn't live long enough. And the other thing, go to Family Search on their Wiki for the United States and the War of 1812 and you'll find all sorts of amazing links.
Fisher: Isn’t' that great! So there's a ton of stuff out there, Lance, so go get it and good luck! The War of 1812 is kind of an odd one, because most of us don't know a heck of a lot about it. So, thanks for the question, Lance. And we've got another one coming up when we return for Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.
Segment 5 Episode 390
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Fisher: All right, let's do it again, another question on Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here with David Allen Lambert. And Dave, this question comes from Valarie in Cincinnati, Ohio and she says, "Guys, my great aunt passed away in Minnesota, and when we cleaned out her place, we learned that she had saved probably every postcard and greeting card she had ever received, including the envelopes."
Fisher: "I don't want to throw them all away. What should I do with them?" Ohh, that's a great question.
David: Well, I'm glad they didn't throw them away, because that's a timeline.
David: A timeline of both your ancestor where they're living, because they're addressed to your ancestor, because you have that address, and it’s also a travel journal. Maybe it’s a niece or an aunt or a grandparent that's writing from a trip. You've got the postmarks on them. And if those greeting cards have most of the envelopes, you get addresses again, more postmarks, I mean, it’s a treasure trove!
Fisher: That's a really big deal, yeah.
David: A lot of people don't think of the value. Like I have a lot of postcards from the '50s and the '60s that my grandmother had that they were going to just toss out and I said, "No, no, no, we need to save these." She said "Why?" I said, "Because show me where there's a travel diary." And every time that my grandmother and grandfather went on a trip, they wrote on the back of it where they were. And they just bought the postcard. They didn't even mail them, Fish.
Fisher: Yes! [Laughs]
David: So they just have them as sort of like a souvenir, "Ah, here we go! Here's a penny postcard. This is where we were." But I can retrace and remap their travels. So, I mean, you can think of a million ways probably to do this. But do an Excel spreadsheet. You have one column that could be the date, a row that might be the name, you could start tracking who has a postcard from a certain year, where they're living, open up different tabs, there's so many different ways to do this. This is an amazing collection and a great winter project if you're not in a sunny state.
Fisher: Yeah, absolutely. And you know, the thing that's really fun about this too, there could be some family news that's somebody's responding to or sharing in these cards as well. Hopefully you've got some letters in there as well that might be able to give you some further information on that. My mother was a, I won't say she was a hoarder, because she wasn't anything close to that, but she saved all the things related to family. And we have letters home from World War II and postcards from my grandmother, famously within our family. My grandmother used to send to my mother obituaries of people she'd grown up with, because my mother was now in Connecticut and she'd grown up in Oregon and my grandmother would write, "Isn't it nice to keep track of your old friends?" [Laughs] With the obituaries.
David: You know, postcards are a thing on the past really now.
David: I mean, I went to Disney World this past week and when I was at the Disney store at the airport, I saw three, that's it, Disney World postcards, different styles. I mean, they used to have them of every character and all the rides. The only way you're going to find those now is on eBay.
Fisher: That's true, yeah.
David: Because everything is done digitally.
David: But think about it, how many times when somebody sends you a picture where they are do actually go to the bother of printing them out. And we're losing so much current history, because people don't do it the way our parents and grandparents did or even when we did them years ago.
Fisher: Well, and I would suggest too, that if you really don't have space for something like that, scan them, digitize them. Save them that way and then you might be able to actually, you know, create a little book or something that they're in that will be part of the story of your great aunt or closer relatives to you as well. So, that is a great question. Thank you so much, Valarie and good luck with that project. [Laughs] It’s going to be interesting what you find in there. And of course if you have a question for Ask Us Anything, you can always email us at the strangest location, [email protected]. David thanks so much. Great to talk to you again, bud.
David: Talk to you soon, my friend.
Fisher: Yep, next week. And thanks so much to Diahan Southard for coming on the show talking about endogamy and mitochondrial DNA and Maureen Taylor, the photo detective, talking about metadata in photos and how they're working to get companies to actually take that metadata with the pictures when you upload them. Hey, if you missed any of it, want to catch it again, it’s easy to do, just catch the podcast on AppleMedia, iHeart Radio, Spotify and TuneIn Radio and of course ExtremeGenes.com. We'll talk to you again next week. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!