Episode 413 - Killing The Cold Case: CeCe Moore / How You Can Assist Artificial Intelligence At FamilySearch

podcast episode Mar 14, 2022

Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. Fisher opens Family Histoire News with news of what Americans consider the most annoying accent in America. (David will not like this!) Then, David talks about the solving of some really old cold cases… from 1947 and 1964, one of them by a 20 year old genealogist! He also talks about how science has given us the face of a woman who lived 4,000 years ago! Then, a Grand Army of the Republic Museum in Philadelphia found a creative way to keep the doors open. Hear what they did. Then, if you have Royal lines, you may very well have a Ukrainian ancestor. David explains.

Fisher then visits with a product manager from FamilySearch International, Ian James, who explains their new volunteer program, “Get Involved.” With new artificial intelligence, FamilySearch can create indexes for handwritten records faster than ever before. But those results need to be double checked. Ian will tell you how you can help.

Then, CeCe Moore, the DNA Detective, is back. People are now beginning to recognize that CeCe has solved more cold cases than anyone in history… and the math makes sense. Hear what CeCe has to say about it, and how many cases she and her team have cracked in just four years!

David then returns for Ask Us Anything, answering your questions.

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

Transcript for Episode 413

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 413

Fisher: And welcome America to America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, on the program where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out. Well, we’re all basking in the afterglow of RootsTech and so we’re going to talk to Ian James coming up here in a little bit from our friends over at Family Search International. He is a product manager there. He is going to talk about a new way that you can participate in helping expand the indexing of records. If you’re not familiar with indexing, it means we’re actually able to create a digital index of names and information that’s found in handwritten records. And now, they have artificial intelligence helping us with the process and you can help with that. So, we’ll hear more about that. And then you’re going to hear a lot about cold cases today. Of course, genetic genealogy in solving cold cases is becoming kind of an, oh ho hum routine things these days. Nonetheless, we’re going to talk to the woman that some say has solved more cold cases than anybody in history. We’ll get caught up with CeCe Moore coming up a little later on in the show. Hey, if you haven’t signed up for our Weekly Genie Newsletter yet, it’s time you did so. You can do it on ExtremeGenes.com or on our Facebook page. You get a blog from me each week, couple of links to past and present shows, and links to stories you’ll appreciate as a family historian and genealogist. And speaking of which, in Boston Massachusetts, it’s David Allen Lambert the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. Hello David.

David: Hello Fish. How are you?

Fisher: You know, I am grand and I’m very excited to actually start our Family Histoire News myself today David and you’ll understand why here in just a moment.

David: Ooh.

Fisher: This is a story from WHTH, which is the educational TV station there in Boston where you are. And the story points out that the Boston accent “Park your car and have it yard.” has now been ranked the most annoying accent in America. And they surveyed 2000 Americans to find out which accents are viewed as the best, the worst, the sexiest, and all that. So, your accent is number one for most annoying. Congratulation! [Laughs]

David: I speak like I live in the South Shore and I don’t talk like I come from Beantown all the time.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: Only when I leave Massachusetts. Well, thank you WHTH for giving Fish material about me. I greatly appreciate it! [Laughs]

Fisher: Oh, it was great. And if you’re wondering who has the appealing accent, it’s the British accent. It’s quite nice. People love to hear it. It’s very sexy, followed by Australians and the French.

David: My goodness gracious. Well, I’m sorry my grandfather left England. I would have been more appealing to our listeners. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs] Exactly.

David: Well, as we were saying, there are a lot of cold cases being broken. One that’s really old is one that was from 1947, two young boys found over 70 years ago out in Vancouver, British Columbia. The young boys are Derek and David Deolton. It turns out sadly, their mother was their killer.

Fisher: Yeah. Isn’t that amazing, DNA all these years later. Mom lived to be like 78 years old. Now they know it was she who did the deed.

David: Well, hats off to somebody I know in the genealogical world from Twitter, Eric Shubert who is a 20 year student at Elizabethtown College, is following in the steps of the great CeCe Moore. He has solved a cold case that is older than he is.

Fisher: [Laughs] Yeah, 58 years old, 1964 this one goes back to.

David: This is the story about a murdered young girl. So, hats off to him and hopefully he is going to help bring more closure to other families. So, Eric, good work. And that was one the basis of a sixth cousin.

Fisher: Isn’t that amazing, a sixth cousin match and he was able to pull things forward and make it work. And he’s done a couple of cold cases already starting when he was 18 years old. So, congrats to you Eric!

David: That’s the next generation working hard at genealogy. Well, this cold case needed an archeologist. This is the remains of a woman around 30 years of age. She died 4000 years ago, and was found with a small boy about the age of 7, found in the northern sections of Sweden over 100 years ago. And now with technology, they have brought her back to life visually. Showing her eyes, her face, her mouth, maybe she’s somebody’s ancient ancestor for those of you who have Swedish roots. Go online and take a peek.

Fisher: That would be me.

David: There you go. I could be looking at your great, great, great, while I take the rest of the season to see how many greats, grandmother.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: In Philly, the Grand Army of the Republic museum almost closed their doors. Now, this is a private museum that's been around for a number of years and they have a lot of artifacts that were donated to them. One of them that they had actually saved them from closing. And this is a flag from the 127th United States Colored Infantry regiment from the Civil War. They raised $50,000 to restore the flag, and ready for this? That was a good investment, because they just sold it for nearly 200,000 to the Atlanta History Center.

Fisher: Wow that is great! And so, the history center gets the flag to display, which is going to be of great interest and then this museum gets to stay open because of the cost, that's fantastic. Good trade.

David: It really is. Fish, I want to ask you, you have royal ancestry, don't you?

Fisher: Yeah, I have some of that, yeah.

David: Okay. Well, you now have a Ukrainian connection.

Fisher: Oh?

David: Yeah, Anne of Kiev who died in 1070 about 40 years of age married in 1051 to King Henry I of France. And they would be the ancestors of King Edward I. Most people who have a royal line usually go back to Edward I.

Fisher: Right.

David: Not everybody.

Fisher: Um hmm.

David: So she would be your quite a bit back great grandmother. Not as old as the Swedish 4000 year old lady who probably can count the amount of greats. Incidentally through one of my royal lines, I am related to her 37 times.

Fisher: Oh!

David: Well, that's about all I have from Beantown for you this week with my annoying accent.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: I'm going to sign off until Ask Us Anything. And remember, if you're not a member of American Ancestors, we'd love to have you as a member, and use the coupon code “EXTREME” and save $20 on membership on AmericanAncestors.org.

Fisher: Very nice, David. And coming up next, we're going to talk to a product manager over at Family Search. He's Ian James and he's going to tell us about this new thing they've launched over a Family Search that can get us all involved. In fact, it’s called, Get involved. And he'll explain the whole thing, including how you're going to get to work with artificial intelligence to index records from around the world. That's when we return, coming up in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 413

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Ian James

Fisher: Well, normally at this time of year we say hey RootsTech is over, and here are the great talks, and here are the great courses, and now a day’s RootsTech continues on! Nonetheless, we’ve had more people getting into it this year than any year pass. We were like 1.1 million people the first day. And I’ve got Ian James on the line from Family Search International. He’s a product manager there. First of all, congratulations on another great conference Ian! It’s just unbelievable to see how this thing continues to grow. How many years are we into this now, 11 -12?

Ian: Many.

Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs]

Ian: Thanks Scott. I really can’t take credit for RootsTech. There’s a whole team that worked on it obviously

Fisher: Of course.

Ian: But I will definitely pass that praise along.

Fisher: Well, it’s very exciting to see what’s going on that, and of course this means now as everybody is kind of internalizing all the new things they’ve learned, we can move into kind of a new phase over at Family Search because there’s another great way to get involved with it and it’s called, oddly enough, Get Involved. [Laughs]

Ian: [Laughs]

Fisher: This involves your brand new artificial intelligence algorithms that have been created by Family Search.

Ian: That’s right.

Fisher: And now the volunteers are going to go in and actually check the work of the computers but boy this rolls out indexes for new records sets faster than ever before.

Ian: That’s right. And it’s easy to have an impression that computer indexing is going to just replace everything. And that’s really not the case. The computer indexing is good at some things and bad at others. And then there are whole content sets that humans are actually best for.

Fisher: Um hmm.

Ian: If any of your listeners have a worry that it’s going to replace everything, I’d try and abate that and say don’t worry. It’s really just another tool in Family Search’s tool belt to try and get as many useful records into the hands of our patrons as possible.

Fisher: The numbers right now of individual records have had to have exploded as a result of what’s going on. Just last year you guys announced that you’d successfully completed digitizing millions of rolls of microfilm.

Ian: Yep.

Fisher: And of course those microfilms have the names of billions of individuals on there. And then you used a lot of this artificial intelligence work on records out of South America, millions of them. How did that go?

Ian: Right. It went really well. The artificial intelligence can read human handwriting, and it can take it even further than that, things that priests did, like we were focused on church records out of the Latin America countries.

Fisher: Right.

Ian: And things that priests did like short-hand things, abbreviations, and things like that, it knows how to expand those into full names and make connections.

Fisher: Wow!

Ian: It really goes the whole way and it’s pretty awesome.

Fisher: I would imagine there’s got to be some limit to what computers can read based on the fact that people’s handwritings – I mean, doctors made records too and we all know how doctors write. [Laughs]

Ian: [Laughs]

Fisher: And it has to be kind of a challenge. Then you’ve got things like in the old German, the double ‘S’ looks like a ‘P’ right?

Ian: Right.

Fisher: Can artificial intelligence sort through all these issues?

Ian: It can. It’s remarkable. I don’t know if intelligence is quite the best word to describe it.

Fisher: Okay.

Ian: It’s like a big statistical prediction machine. And it learns by being exposed to examples of what it’s supposed to learn. And so we go through and generate lots and lots of training data to teach it. When you see these things, this is the conclusion you’re supposed to come to. And the statistical model learns all of that. And then when it sees new information that it’s never seen before but that is similar to things that it has seen in the past, it can make the right prediction. Fundamentally that’s what it’s doing.

Fisher: Fundamentally that’s what we would do as volunteers, right, when we would try to analyze handwriting as well, have I seen this before? Maybe I look at another letter, a similar one of the same page to try to match it up and see if that’s correct. I mean, this is great so this really moves it along. Do you have any idea mathematically how many times the records you’re going to be able to index compared to human only?

Ian: Oh, a lot.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Ian: So, with the Latin America countries, some of the countries leapt ahead more than a decade in how many indexed records they had.

Fisher: Okay.

Ian: Other’s less so. But in any case when you look back on 2021 and what we were able to publish using the computer, it replaced years and years and years of human effort, human effort that the computer could replace. That doesn’t mean they were completely out of the woods. There’s still things we need people to do but we can 1) provide a much better experience because of all the information from those records that we now have.

Fisher: Sure.

Ian: We can help them instead of just saying hey, here’s a random batch from your country, we can say put in family names that you care about, from more specific locations that you care about and we can go search what the computer has already found and bring you opportunities that match that. So, the volunteer experience is way more tailored to things that you have a personal interest in.

Fisher: Oh, that’s nice. So, if I had a town for instance that I had a lot of ancestors from, I could call up those records and then go over what the computer has generated or predicted?

Ian: Yep. So that’s where we’re going with it. Again, the release that we’ve done at RootsTech is really just our first cut to say this is the concept. There’s a lot that we still have on a roadmap that we want to bring to market that we think that people will really like. That just makes it richer and richer in that regard.

Fisher: Yeah, of course. So if you were to look at your raw results from this artificial intelligence, for lack of a better term, what percentage would you say, doesn’t need any correction at all. Has there been an analysis of that?

Ian: Yeah. When you say it doesn’t need any review at all. Let’s say the computer got it dead on the first time.

Fisher: Yeah.

Ian: That’s probably like 15 to 20% I guess.

Fisher: All right.

Ian: And then you kind of get this gradient of errors that it can make. Then it’s like oh, it missed a part of that name, or it got a typo in that particular name, or it missed the detail of this place, or it missed the day on this date. Little things like that, small omissions. That gets you probably down another like 20% into the stack. And then it starts making more egregious errors right, where it’s like hey, turns out this record is actually really hard to read like even for a person. 

Fisher: Sure.

Ian: And it found things that it thinks are people but its confidence is very low. And with those ones, the value that the computer can add is much less, but it can say I found these names. And it allows us to change the experience for patrons wanting to volunteer to say you can search for names you care about, but there’s definitely going to be more work to do to fix this record up, and those experiences kind of fill in the gap that we haven’t built yet.

Fisher: Okay.

Ian: We’ve got indexing, which is from 0 to 100, and then right now of the first experience that we have that uses the computer records is this name review, and that’s really just kind of the smallest simplest one that we could do.

Fisher: Sure.

Ian: There’s this stuff in between that we haven’t filled in yet, and that’s one of the things we’re going to be doing over the rest of this year and next year is filling in that middle stuff.

Fisher: So it’s able to actually recognize to say I have low confidence?

Ian: Yeah, definitely.

Fisher: And is it affected at all by really light writing, or is it actually able to adjust faded handwriting and old ink?

Ian: It does pretty good at adjusting faded handwriting and old ink. I’ve been really amazed to tell you the truth about what it can pick out of a document. 

Fisher: Um hmm.

Ian: The places where it struggles is where the document is very dark. Like there’s a lot of water damage.

Fisher: Ah!

Ian: The edges of the pages are burnt. You can see writing from pages behind that’s coming through.

Fisher: Yeah.

Ian: That’s where it starts to struggle.

Fisher: That would trick it just a little bit. So, tell me about Get Involved now. We’ve talked about what people can do with this, and it’s obviously at this stage in the game it’s still very early, but it’s still important to get people to go through and make these corrections, which I would imagine also improve the algorithm right?

Ian: Correct. So that’s really the big picture here. The algorithm takes a first pass at it. People come in and make corrections to that. The algorithm learns from the corrections that they’re making and gets better and you get a self healing thing. So, our goal at Family Search is that we want to completely remove the bottlenecks between the time when we get a picture from an archive, and when the information on that image is searchable for our patrons. We want that to be same day.

Fisher: Wow!

Ian: In the past that’s been years.

Fisher: Um hmm. Yeah.

Ian: And so we’re trying to eliminate that bottleneck entirely and basically just maximize the amount of value we deliver to our patrons.

Fisher: I would think it would take a while to get to that point where it’s same day but that’s the ultimate goal, right?

Ian: That’s the ultimate goal. We’ve actually seen a little bit of it happen already with the Spanish Latin American content where we went through and processed everything that we had in our holdings and then each day we would basically run a search looking for new stuff that had come from the cameras that are currently capturing in Latin America. And as soon as we find that, we’re like oh, yep that’s stuff that matches the capability we have. We process it and publish it same day.

Fisher: Wow! [Laughs] That is insane. How many cameras are out in the world right now for Family Search?

Ian: There are about 300 cameras worldwide.

Fisher: Okay.

Ian: And they’re all over the place.

Fisher: And I would imagine a lot of North America has been thoroughly picked over at this point. You’re probably looking more overseas, yes?

Ian: Yes and no. The cameras are definitely all over the globe. It just depends. You’d be surprised at how many archives there are that have a true wealth of information that we can add value to, and obviously they can add value to us and our patrons and so it’s an ongoing process.

Fisher: So, where do people sign up to be volunteers to work with your artificial intelligence?

Ian: You just go to FamilySearch.org/GetInvolved. Just one long word.

Fisher: That’s it?

Ian: That’s it. So Get Involved, you asked about that earlier, for many years indexing has been kind of the brand of our volunteer experience.

Fisher: Right.

Ian: Because that’s basically the only volunteer experience that we really have was please come and help index records so that people can find their ancestors. And as the computer started generating these new kinds of records and we recognized the need to have these other volunteer experiences to correct mistakes that the computer made, we were like well, we can’t pack that all into indexing so what do we do? And that’s when we decided that we would basically rebrand it to be Get Involved and make that an umbrella for all volunteer experiences, including indexing but also these new ones that are coming, and so that’s where Get Involved comes from. 

Fisher: Awesome! He’s Ian James. He’s a product manager for Family Search International. Thanks so much Ian. This is exciting stuff. It’s just I’m amazed in the last decade where everything in our world is gone and it just gets crazier, doesn’t it?

Ian: It does. It’s all just picking up speed and that’s wonderful.

Fisher: Thanks for coming on.

Ian: You bet. Thank you Scott!

Fisher: And coming up next: the woman that some people are saying has solved more cold cases than anybody in history. CeCe Moore talks genetic genealogy when we return in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 3 Episode 413

Host: Scott Fisher with guest CeCe Moore

Fisher: Well, when last we left our hero CeCe Moore she was solving cold cases left and right. I’m so excited to get caught up with her for 2022 right now. CeCe, how you’re doing?

CeCe: I’m doing great. How are you?

Fisher: Awesome and so excited to see that you’ve come up with ID number 200 in cold cases earlier this year. Where are you at now?

CeCe: We are around 205 but there are many, many more in the works. There’s always dozens in the pipeline just waiting to have confirmation on the theory that we have developed through investigative genetic genealogy. So, we’re still averaging about one confirmation per week and one solved a week.

Fisher: Wow! One solved a week.

CeCe: It’s pretty exciting.

Fisher: Yeah, that’s really exciting. Has the pandemic impacted your research in any way?

CeCe: It really hasn’t. I have been working just as hard if not harder for the entire pandemic, while some people had time to exercise and watch streaming television.

Fisher: [Laughs]

CeCe: I have not had any time to do that. I’ve had less sleep than ever and probably less exercise than ever, unfortunately. But, it’s been very exciting because I haven’t been travelling, I’ve been able to just really dig in and work dozens, and dozens, and dozens of cases over the last couple of years now and add to those solved numbers.

Fisher: Yeah. Well, that’s worth celebrating and you know there are people now starting to talk about the fact that you have solved now more cold cases than any single person in history. That is an insane title to own.

CeCe: I don’t know if it’s true but I’m starting to feel the same thing now.

Fisher: How could that not be true though? If you break it down and even say that there was an FBI agent who was at it for 30 years, he’d have to solve one cold case every two months to get close to 200. And that would have had to have been done without DNA. So, maybe just being part of a team or a group, but even then. I mean, I know you have a team as well but you have your fingers in pretty much all of them.

CeCe: I do. I’m the only one working full-time on the Parabon Genetic Genealogy team and I’m the only one who has been there since May 1st, 2018. So, yeah, the bulk of them are cases that I have worked exclusively and then I of course manage all of the other cases that my team is working as well. So, I have involvement in all of them, but it’s not necessarily the case that I’m doing the tree building on every single case. The way we do it at Parabon is I do define cases individually. Meaning, we don’t do many group cases. It’s very rare for us that we would all be working on a case at the same time. I find it much more efficient if we each do our own cases because you really need to spot those patterns and overlaps.

Fisher: Right.

CeCe: And so, if someone else working a case the same time I am, we might miss the hints or those really key clues that are in those trees. So, I really think it’s most efficient to do it the way that we do and I think that’s partly why we have the track record that we do. There are people who talk about how this is so expensive.

Fisher: [Laughs]

CeCe: But 90% of the cases we’ve helped solve we did under 15 hours of genetic genealogy or less. That means that these agencies only paid for one block of genetic genealogy because that’s how we bill it, we do 15 hour blocks.

Fisher: Yeah. But think about how much it costs to do a cold case investigation over several decades. I mean that’s absurd.

CeCe: Oh, I know! When I hear someone say it’s expensive, I think, wow, if you can solve a 30 year old cold case for only about $5000.

Fisher: That’s insane.

CeCe: Just detectives alone, if you think, okay, they’re working on this for months or years, you add up their salary and that’s just if you had one guy or one woman working on it for years and that’s not usually the case. So, I obviously don’t think it’s expensive, but some genetic genealogy services for law enforcement charge a flat fee and Parabon does hourly, because you never know how complicated the case is going to be.

Fisher: Right.

CeCe: But, really we are so efficient that it’s pretty rare that a case takes more than one block of genetic genealogy hours of investment.

Fisher: That’s amazing. Well, I do know that the conviction rate has slowed down as a result of the pandemic and you recently had what, like three convictions in 48 hours? That’s insane.

CeCe: Right. So, we were working all these cases. We were having all these arrests and these positive identifications but very little was going on in the courts because of COVID. So, I had some cases, I still do have cases where I helped identify the suspect three and a half, almost four years ago that haven’t made through the court system. And now, all of a sudden we’re seeing conviction after conviction, after conviction just in the last month. There have been quite a number of them and as you mentioned, in 48 hours I had convictions on three of my cases where I had helped identify a violent criminal. So, that’s been really exciting and it’s also a big relief because some of these are going to go into the court system. How are they going to work their way through the court system and how will this be regarded? And so far we’re just seeing outstanding precedence being set.

Fisher: Yeah, just like we kind of thought for the start, that it would just be viewed as a tp and there’s really nothing to challenge as far as the science goes.

CeCe: Exactly. And we’ve had defense attorneys that have tried to have the DNA evidence thrown out because of the use of genetic genealogy; fortunately none of them have been successful. And that’s really the only time I’ve had to testify is in free-trial hearings where they have been trying to get those types of rulings from the judges and none of them have been successful thus far. Now, that’s not to say things could never change, but so far what we’ve seen in the courts is extremely encouraging, and even though I’ve been on hold for dozens of jury trials papers I have yet to be called to actually testify in one.

Fisher: Yeah, but you’re going to get a chance to straighten out some judges here coming up in May in Atlanta. What is this, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals? It’s a conference going on there and you’re going to be speaking along with Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Clarence Thomas.

CeCe: That’s right. It was supposed to be in 2020 but it was delayed or rescheduled because of COVID. So, it’s finally coming up in May 2022. I’m so excited because I think educating the judges that make the appeals is really the most important think I could be doing. As you know, I spend a lot of time trying to educate the public and the media on investigative genetic genealogy. But these judges really need to understand what we’re doing. What we’re not doing and how investigative genetic genealogy really is just a tip, just a lead, like if someone called a tip in.

Fisher: Yeah.

CeCe: So, I’m very much looking to having that opportunity to help educate them on this.

Fisher: Yeah, what a kick. That’s going to be a great conference and I look forward to hearing how that goes. And you have your own conference coming up here in April.

CeCe: Oh, I do, yes. The I4GG or Institute for Genetic Genealogy Conference. We’re finally going to be able to it in-person April 9th and 10th in San Diego. That’s I4GG.org, our website. We’re doing both in-person and virtual. So, for people who aren’t yet ready to venture back out they will still be able to watch. But for those who are tired of being cooped up and lonely.

Fisher: [Laughs]

CeCe: We’re doing a relocated in-person conference and we’re super excited to finally be able to this. It’s been two years. Our last I4GG conference was in February 2020 in Las Vegas right before lockdown, but then we weren’t able to do one in 2021, obviously. So, we’re back and we’re excited to be adding to the genetic genealogy education. We were one of the very first ones to offer genetic genealogy education and now there’s so many different resources, but we’re very happy to be contributing to that.

Fisher: Well, you’re always going to be contributing to it and leading the way, in fact, for so many people to know how to find their own roots. Thanks CeCe for the time. Good luck with the conference. Good luck with your talk with the Chief Justice and Clarence Thomas.

CeCe: Thank you so much.

Fisher: You hang out with the big boys.

CeCe: [Laughs] Well, mostly I haven’t been hanging out with anyone for a while.

Fisher: [Laughs] Nobody has. Well, it’s great to have you on. Thanks for your time Ce. And we’ll to talk to you again sometime down the road. And good luck on the convictions. David Allen Lambert is coming up next as we return on Extreme Genes with another round of Ask Us Anything in three minutes.

Segment 4 Episode 413

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, we are back on the job. It is time once again for Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, David Allen Lambert over there. And David, question number one today comes from Randy Que in Little Rock, Arkansas. And she says, "Guys, I have inherited the contents of my neighbor’s house. She recently died of COVID and had no family. A lot of it relates to her ancestors who came from Central Indiana. What should I do with this stuff? I don't want to throw it away." Great question. And I think there's a lot we can offer on this, David.

David: Well, obviously the correct thing is, don't throw it away.

Fisher: Right.

David: Don't have a yard sale. Don't donate it to some place that may not need it, like a local library that might find this has no relevance to our local collection. Fish, I would say the first thing to do is have him put on his genealogy hat and figure out who these people are and where they come from and how to get it back to the location perhaps.

Fisher: Well, sounds already like he knows already that it's Central Indiana. I mean, Indianapolis is Central Indiana and I would think that they have the media there that could actually publicize this as a human interest story if he were to get in contact with the local television station or newspaper.

David: That's very true and I know that the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana is another place that you can reach out to, because maybe they can put an all points bulletin out on that. So, that's a good idea as well. You know, I think one of the things that's important is that you now know that these were some of her ancestors. Keeping it in the context of the collection, keep those photo albums together, those letters together, kind of the assemblage of how you found it and hopefully it’s in some order. Keep it together and box it up accordingly, because as an archivist will tell you, original order is so important, because it tells part of the story.

Fisher: Yeah, the order that it comes in. When you come across things like this, hopefully using social media, you might be able to get some things out that people will share and it will get around. It is amazing how social media has shown how closely we are connected. And it often doesn't take much to get that story to where it needs to be found. And maybe you'll find that this person had a cousin or two or a second cousin or two that's going to be very interested in what you found relating to their family.

David: And also, if you're on social media like Facebook, you can create a free Facebook page and sort of make lost and found, "Found these materials. It relates to this family." There's got to be a name or two on some of those photographs or postcards or letters or documents. Maybe create a tree on Ancestry.com and try to build the tree and put some of those images out there and see if people respond and add them to their tree. And if they do, maybe it’s a near relative and you can share it. What a genealogical goldmine for someone.

Fisher: Oh yeah!

David: To think that somebody has saved it. So, Randy, thank you for being a good neighbor.

Fisher: [Laughs] Well, they call that cousin bait, right? Putting it out there to try to capture somebody to take this off your hands and that would be the great thing to do. It’s great that you're thinking about other people at this time. I had somebody do this for me about eight years ago. They held onto stuff for a year and I wound up reaching out to this person, because they had overseen a memorial service for my third cousin. And I knew he had this stuff. He had died without any family, similar to your situation and she said, "Yes, I've held this box for a year and I'm tripping over it!" She was so thrilled. She packaged every little thing individually, paid for the shipping to my house, and was delighted to get rid of it and to give it a home. But, like you, she couldn't find her way to throw any of that stuff out and it was great. By the way, another place, Dead Fred.

David: Oh yeah. Dead Fred is a great place to put photographs online that are not identified.

Fisher: Right.

David: That other people might look on the locale, if you know they're in Indiana, Central Indiana. Someone might look on it and who knows, they may have a copy of the same photo with a name on it or may recognize it.

Fisher: There you go. All right, Randy thanks for the question. We've got another one coming up, more questions about the census on the way, Dave. Getting a lot of them these days, on the way in three minutes on Extreme Genes.

Segment 5 Episode 413

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, back at it on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here with David Allen Lambert. We're doing Ask Us Anything as we do every week, answering your questions about family history research and genealogy. And David, this question comes from Tottenville, New York that's on Staten Island and it’s from Cindy and she says, "Guys, with all the talk about the 1950 census coming out, I decided to look for my family in the 1940 census and I was shocked to find they were not there, but I know they were there. What might have happened?" Good question.

David: The whole family went missing.

Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs]

David: Well, they could have been on vacation. I mean, obviously some neighbor would have said something I would think. There's any number of reason when you're searching for something online, traditional online searching, spelling is one thing. Remember to use Soundex searching. That is the key to try to find somebody. Don't put in middle names, because the enumerators generally didn't record them, so if you put in a full name in a census search and your ancestor's Zachariah Alawishes Williams, he might be under Zack.

Fisher: Right. Yeah, Zack Williams is a little easier to find regardless of spelling, right?

David: Um hmm. The other thing is, you may be putting in age ranges that are a little off. I'm not saying that your grandmother or grandfather had the idea to change their age, but if you put a locked in age with a range, put five years either way, you can do that on Ancestry, that may help you. Search for the surname without a given name.

Fisher: Yep.

David: And that's good, too. I mean, unless you're dealing with some place like a large city, a municipality, you should only have a handful of people I would think to scroll through and you might find them.

Fisher: Well, and it might be listed under initials for the first and middle name, something like that might make it difficult. The other thing that I found helpful in those circumstances, use other services indexes, because sometimes these censuses have been indexed by more than one organization and maybe somebody indexed it in a better way, and I've had success that way where, gee, it’s not on this index, but I look for instance, there's a public library system index for most censuses and I found it there and I wouldn't have found it otherwise. I should mention here too by the way, Cindy, I had the same situation in 1940 with my dad and his first wife and my half sister and my grandfather who lived with them. No sign of him in New Jersey in 1940. It may be as Dave said that they were out of town or something. But typically, the census takers would come back around when they were missing somebody, so I don't quite get that. The other thing you might want to consider is going back into the census and look for the street and see if perhaps the indexer skipped it somehow. That could have happened as well.

David: That's true, and I've actually seen that in that in the 1910 census. Somebody missed the odd side of the street and it doesn't exist at all. I think they just decided to do one side of the street, took a left and kept of walking and forgot to go back!

Fisher: Really? So you're talking about the census takers.

David: Um hmm.

Fisher: But you could also have an indexer who goes through and misses the name listed on the census, right?

David: Oh sure.

Fisher: So you might be able to find it if you find the road.

David: Well, you know, it’s funny, in the 1850 census, my great, great grandfather is listed with his wife and two children in lower Massachusetts and he's also listed with his mum and dad at home as a single person.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: So I don't know if he was running back home to be there in time for a second census. I think that the family said, “List your children.” and they listed him too.

Fisher: Thank you so much, Dave. That's Ask Us Anything for this week. And we'll talk to you next week.

David: Sounds great.

Fisher: All right. And thank you, Cindy for the question. If you have a question for Ask Us Anything, email us at [email protected]. Well, if you missed any of the show this week, of course you can catch the podcast on Apple Media, ExtremeGenes.com, Spotify, TuneIn Radio, we're all over the place and we'd love to have you catch this week's show and any from the past. They're easy to find also on ExtremeGenes.com. Talk to you next week. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're nice, normal family!

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