Episode 426 - DNA Detective CeCe Moore On The Growing Fertility Fraud Scandal

podcast episode Jun 27, 2022

Host Scott Fisher opens the show with guest host David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. David begins with a little history of Father’s Day, and how it started with the love of one woman for her dad. Dave then mentions meeting a man who actually saw Babe Ruth play when he was a boy. (Not many of those folks are around anymore!)  DNA is helping the military and what they’re learning about some of those WW2 guys whose remains were sent home is disturbing. Next, hear about two women who discovered that they were sisters… and then went into business together! Then, find out how a man lived some 70 years with non-stop hiccups!

Fisher then, in two parts, visits with The DNA Detective, CeCe Moore. Recently, Netflix released a documentary about a fertility doctor in Indianapolis who has now been shown through DNA to have fathered 94 children! And there are likely many, many more. And this doctor is far from the only one. The documentary says 44 other doctors are known to have used their own samples in their practices, all revealed through commercial DNA testing kits.

CeCe has a unique insight into this scandal as she has identified children of unscrupulous fertility doctors long before the problem became well known to the public. Hear why this practice is largely an action for which these men cannot be prosecuted, what DNA has revealed, CeCe’s theory as to why this is happening, and what needs to happen to stop it.

Then, David returns to join Fisher for Ask Us Anything. The guys talk about coffin plates (what?!) and the challenges of talking to an aged relative about a child given up by her mother.

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


Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 426

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. And speaking of which, if you’ve been watching Netflix lately you may have seen a new film up there, a documentary called “Our Father.”And it has to do with fertility fraud. And it’s a very disturbing show. I’ll just say that right up front as a little bit of a warning. It’s about a doctor in Indianapolis who so far is known to have fathered 94 children! Yeah. And we’re going to talk to the DNA Detective CeCe Moore about this because this guy is not the only one. In fact, there are at least 44 others that are publically known, 44 fertility doctors. And she says there are many more than that. You’re going to want to hear what CeCe has to say coming up in about 10 minutes or so. Hey, if you haven’t signed up for out Weekly Genie Newsletter yet, may I invite you to do so once again. You get a blog from me, it’s free, you get links to past and present shows each week, it’s free, and you get links to great stories you’ll appreciate as a family historian. Right now it’s time to head out to Boston David Allen Lambert is standing by, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. How’re you doing Dave?

David: I’m doing okay. It’s a belated wish from me to you, Happy Father’s Day, Fish.

Fisher: Hey, thank you.

David: So you know the first one was started 112 years ago in Washington State?

Fisher: I had no idea.

David: Yeah. It was proposed by Sonora Smart Dodd. Her dad was a Civil War veteran and he raised her as a single father. So, she loved her father so much she started a holiday that well, you and I and millions of others can be grateful for. So, thank you Sonora for all the cards that I’ve received in the past 20-odd years till now.

Fisher: [Laughs] And I hope you had a great day too, Dave.

David: I surely did. You know, I love when I meet people at NEHGS. Well, I had a gentleman come in, he’s 94 years young this year, and he was telling me about his life story that he’s attended Fenway Park for 89 years for the Red Sox.

Fisher: Wow!

David: So, obviously he’s seen a lot more years they lost than won. [Laughs] But he told me when I asked him, I said, “You must have seen Ted Williams play baseball” and he says, “Son, I saw Babe Ruth play baseball!”

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: 1935 the last year that Babe Ruth played professional ball was now with the Yankees. Most of your listeners are probably says, “Huh?” Boston Braves - that was the year and he was seven years old and fondly remember seeing them play.

Fisher: Unbelievable. Wow!

David: So, hey, can’t be many people alive today that saw Babe Ruth play baseball.

Fisher: No.

David: Well, you know I love stories about DNA, but for the descendants of people that were in World War II, our boys, they have not been buried in the right graves. DNA is now saying that some of these individuals may have not been the ones that were brought home with that name attached to them.

Fisher: Ooh. And this because DNA is showing they’re now actually finding these people in other graves on the other side of the pond, unbelievable.

David: Well, you know, one of the things I think with DNA it also brings together living people. And the story in the Washington Post about Michele Dugan who found her sister and now runs a business with her in Las Vegas is amazing! It just goes to show you, you can find people late in life and still start that family business.

Fisher: Yeah. Actually, she’s a real estate agent, and so she and her sister got in the business together. It’s called Sisters Selling Vegas. And she trained her newly discovered sister in all the aspects of the business and they’re just having a great time working together and getting to know one another.

David: That’s great. I love when a DNA story has a happy ending.

Fisher: Right.

David: Well you know, speaking of siblings, two brothers actually have worked together in recent years and they actually located a shipwreck. Now this shipwreck was from 340 years ago. Off the coast of Northwick, England the Gloucester when it wrecked it was carrying the future king of England James II. And it also had a near relative of George Washington on board. Now, many people died on this vessel and they’re finding besides the cannons, they found clothing that’s actually in the wreck that’s mixed up with everything else that went down that’s still been preserved after over 340 years.

Fisher: That’s unbelievable.

David: And they’re saying this is probably the most valuable shipwreck since the Mary Rose was found back in 1982, which was Henry VIIIth’s warship. Well, my next story will give you the hiccups. Well, it gave one guy the hiccups who died back in 1991. This gentleman by the name of Charley Osborn experienced over 20 to 40 involuntary diaphragm spasms per minute. In total, in the course of his life, it’s estimated he gave 430 million hiccups before his death at the age of 97 in 1991.

Fisher: Wow! That is unbelievable. And you got to wonder how he could live so long with all hat stress on his body.

David: In Smithsonian Magazine this story is actively in the news because this is the anniversary of his accident in June of 1922 when his hiccupping began nonstop. 

Fisher: Really? What kind of accident did he have?

David: It was kind of a freak accident. He was hanging a 350 pound hog for butchering. “I picked it up and then I fell down. I felt nothing, but the doctor later said I busted a blood vessel the size of a pin in my brain.” And that destroyed the small part of his brain, which controls the part that inhibits the hiccup response.

Fisher: So there’s nothing they could do for him.

David: Not in 1922.

Fisher: No, but not even in 1960, or ’70, or ’80. Wow!

David: Yeah. And it’s amazing, going full hog that caused him to be a hiccupper for the rest of his life. That’s quite a shame.

Fisher: [Laughs] Well, as they say, everybody has a story and that’s what we’re out looking for, so this guy certainly had one.  

David: Well, that’s about all I have for us from Beantown this week. And remember, if you’re not a member of AmericanAncestors.org, you can save $20 with a coupon code EXTREME. You may have heard of it, on AmericanAncestors.org. Catch you in a little bit for Ask Us Anything

Fisher:  All right Dave. Thanks so much. And coming up next, have you been watching Netflix lately? There’s an amazing movie out called Our Father. It’s about a fertility doctor in Indianapolis who has been found to have so far 94 biological children through fertility fraud. And coming up next we’re going to talk to CeCe Moore the DNA Detective about this issue that she’s been on top of actually for a long, long time, and she says there are far more doctors than the 45 that were mentioned in the documentary. You’re going to want to hear some of the complications of this whole thing coming up when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 426

Host: Scott Fisher with guest CeCe Moore

Fisher: All right, back at it on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, and just 10-15 years ago we began this whole journey with DNA. And in the 10 years or so we’ve had an incredible tsunami of DNA test results coming online, through which all kinds of family secrets recent and distant past have come forward. And nobody has found more of them than my next guest, my good friend CeCe Moore. She’s with Parabon, which helps solve all kinds of cold cases around the country. You’re up to what, 220 something right now, CeCe?

CeCe: Yeah, those are the ones that are confirmed. Yes.

Fisher: Yeah. And more to go and you’re averaging like one a week. It’s insane. But I wanted to talk to you today about this new Netflix movie that’s out. I watched it the other night and frankly, I found it really disturbing. It’s called “Our Father” it’s about a doctor in Indianapolis named Donald Cline, and it’s about fertility fraud. And through this tsunami of DNA test results, 94 individuals have discovered that they are his child, as a result of him substituting out his genetic material for that which was promised to women who were looking to get help in getting pregnant. And you’ve been in this even long before you were dealing with the criminal cases. Let’s talk about this. How common is this turning out to be, as a result of DNA testing today? 

CeCe: Well, it became clear several years ago that this was actually a common occurrence that many donor conceived individuals are actually the biological children of the fertility doctor. And so it became so common, that years ago when someone who was donor conceived came to me and wanted to learn who their biological father was, the very first thing I did was ask who the doctor was and built his tree and compare it against their matches. And so it has been something we’ve been aware of for many years through our DNA detective work. And I knew that this was at some point going to explode in a big scandal. We’re finally seeing that happen where the public is learning about this. But DNA consumer testing really exposed this a decade ago.

Fisher: Yeah. It exposed so much. It’s just absolutely amazing the different things. We’ve got the crime stuff, we’ve got this now, and of course other things just within individual families. You say there are many, and I know at the end of this Netflix show they said there that 44 other doctors have now been identified as providing genetic material to their patients. So, that’s a total of 45 that’s public. I’m sure there are many others. And when you see that there are 94 identified children to this Dr. Donald Cline, you recognize that’s really got to be just a percentage of the people he fathered because not everybody is going to take a DNA test.

CeCe: Right, exactly. So, there’s many more than 45 doctors around the world that have been revealed as having done this. Those are just the ones that the filmmakers knew about. I know of many, many more. And it’s not just in the United States. So this was a practice that was happening worldwide, which is shocking. And it says to me that this was being taught or discussed. This couldn’t have all happened spontaneously in these doctors’ offices. Somebody was teaching, or I don’t know if it was an association, or if it was a medical school or what, but somehow this was being promoted as a way to do this type of work to perhaps save money, make a profit. 

Fisher: Right. Yeah.

CeCe: And it’s incredibly sad and I think that a lot of these doctors felt that they had good genes, right? They were doing a favor to women and maybe the world by spreading their seed, which is really sickening, but I do think there was a lot of that there, and we’ve even heard that from some of the doctors that we have identified through our work. There’s some crazy stories about them being confronted and the types of reactions they have. And they think well, they’re smart, right, they’re successful, they come from good genes why not spread it around. But there’s always this big concern that half siblings could meet each other, have that genetic sexual attraction that science has proven exist you know, when siblings don’t grow up together, they may recognize some sort of bond with each other and not know it’s because they’re actually closely related.

Fisher: Um hmm.

CeCe: And then as time goes on, this becomes exponentially more dangerous because if there’s all these half siblings and they have children, well, then we have half first cousins right, who don’t know they’re related.

Fisher: Right.

CeCe: And it just goes on and on and on to where we may have people who are conceiving children together that have close relationships and don’t know it.

Fisher: Yeah.

CeCe: So, that’s certainly one of the good things about consumer DNA testing. As I always say, Pandora has come out of the box through this type of testing and genetic genealogy.

Fisher: [Laughs]

CeCe: But it could also save some people from having children with real genetic issues because they’re not aware that they have these close relationships. But it’s obviously something these doctors didn’t consider. But if you’ve got 94 known children out there, well, okay about 20% of the public in the US has tested. Maybe a higher percent of donor conceived individuals. But still, we know that there’s going to be a lot more children out there that are undiscovered.

Fisher: Oh yeah, hundreds. Sure.

CeCe: And we just keep seeing them come in. So, when we do this work we make sure that at least one sibling is in each of the databases.

Fisher: Yep.

CeCe: And then it’s just a matter of time. With the original fertility fraud case that first came out through consumer DNA testing, which was the one I was involved with, the Thomas Lippert case, that case we just keep seeing more and more and more children of Thomas Lippert.

Fisher: Wow, how many? What’s the number up to now, CeCe?

CeCe: You know, I haven’t counted recently, I think last I looked it was like 35. Not rivaling Cline yet.

Fisher: Right.

CeCe: But I do believe that there are still many, many more out there and still many of them are young and may not have taken the time or have the money to take these tests, so I expect there’s at least 100. But you know, he was sending his biological material to other states even.

Fisher: Oh my gosh!

CeCe: I’ve always believed he has hundreds of biological children out there, and I’m sure that he does.

Fisher: Now in the Cline case, they were talking about the children, these half siblings, they have auto immune issues that apparently came down through his side.

CeCe: Um hmm. Well, the same clinic that Thomas Lippert was working at has had some issues as well where they were using donors that were older. And some of those children also have some genetic issues. And that hasn’t gone public, but I’ve seen that myself. And so when there is a totally unregulated industry, such as the fertility industry, there’s just no way to know what they’re doing behind closed doors. And they never could have imagined that consumer DNA testing was going to bring all of this to light.

Fisher: [Laughs] Right.

CeCe: And so we’re seeing all kinds of terribly unethical, unprofessional activities or behaviors that were happening in these fertility clinics and really in the industry as a whole. I mean, it’s really scary and I feel really badly for anybody that is in a position where they need to consider fertility treatment because I think it’s really hard to trust that they’re behaving ethically.

Fisher: Yes.

CeCe: And there needs to be some type of federal regulation.

Fisher: Absolutely. You know, this is the thing that people who are deeply involved in this case really tried to get him charged with a crime, Dr. Cline, and the legal people were saying well, really there isn’t anything we can charge him with because there’s nothing on the books that deals with this kind of thing. Now since then, Indiana where he’s based, has come up with a law to deal with it. But of course it’s not going to impact this guy. This guy wound up with a $500 fine and a slap on the wrist, basically a suspended minimal sentence for having falsified statements answering questions with the attorney general’s office for the state of Indiana. That was it. They couldn’t go after him for anything else. And so you’re absolutely right, we do have to deal with a national law o cover this whole thing, and hopefully in other countries as well.

CeCe: I think it’s fallen largely to the biological children from these cases to try to get these laws passed. I know Eve Wiley, who is a daughter of a doctor as well, in a very similar type case to Donald Cline’s, has advocated and actually been successful in getting a law passed in Texas. I think that was the first state that passed a law considering this type of behavior as a type of sexual assault. 

Fisher: Yes.

CeCe: And so it shouldn’t fall on them. We should all be up in arms. Not just the biological children of these individuals. We should all be saying look, when you’ve got an industry that is dealing with such sensitive portions of someone’s life, I mean your entire being, right.

Fisher: Right.

CeCe: Your entire identity in life is involved in this. There has to be regulation. We cannot rely on them to self regulate. We see what happens, right. This is what self regulation led to in this type of industry. And I’m not a big pro regulations person, but something has to be done here.

Fisher: Right.

CeCe: I’m hoping just seeing that this is coming out that people are getting caught. Not just like in cold cases and violent criminals, but peoples other types of very unethical behaviors are coming out through DNA testing.

Fisher: Sure.

CeCe: It will help some of this to stop, just because they know they can’t get away with it anymore.

Fisher: And not forever. That’s the other thing you know.

CeCe: Right. There must be so many people across this country and across the world that are just shaking in their boots, right, because they know they did something that is eventually going to be revealed through genetic genealogy.

Fisher: Yeah.

CeCe: Whether it’s a violent crime, abandoned babies that died, or they perpetrated something like this. Someone in power took advantage of someone, like these doctors.

Fisher: And I wanted to ask you CeCe, are you aware of any of these doctors who have been revealed, are any of them still in business?

CeCe: Oh, absolutely. Yes.

Fisher: Really?

CeCe: They are. And a number of them don’t think they did anything wrong. That’s the reaction. And so that’s why I’ve been really coming to the conclusion that this was a known practice within their field, at least among the doctors themselves. This was an accepted know, maybe even encouraged, practice. Because many of them still don’t feel that they did anything wrong.                                                         

Fisher: Wow!

CeCe: Now with someone like Dr. Cline, he didn’t get the punishment that he deserved, but his career is ruined. His life is probably pretty much ruined.

Fisher: Sure.

CeCe: He’s been completely shamed and shown to the world what he’s really like. And so we have to take some solace in that.

Fisher: She is CeCe Moore. She’s the DNA Detective. CeCe, let’s take a break and talk more about this when we return here in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show. 

Segment 3 Episode 426

Host: Scott Fisher with guest CeCe Moore

Fisher: All right, I’m back talking to my good friend CeCe Moore, the DNA detective on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. We’re talking about fertility fraud right now because there’s a new Netflix movie out there that you may find very disturbing, as I did when I watched it. It’s called “Our Father.” It’s about an Indianapolis fertility doctor. Doctor Donald Cline who has been shown through genetic genealogy to have fathered 94 known children at this point by using his own biological samples instead of providing those that were actually promised to the women he was supposedly helping. He had promised them that they would get various samples based on what kinds of talents or looks that they wanted their child to have, but as we found out of course, as a result of the tsunami in DNA, this man provided his own samples. So, he has 94 kids that are known right now, but there are probably many, many more because they haven’t all tested. CeCe, you were speculating in our last segment that this may be something that is actually taught within the field because there are right now 45 publicly known doctors who have been accused of this. What could be the motives here do you think?

CeCe: Well, one is obviously profit, right? If they don’t have to pay for a donor, they’re saving money every time they perform this procedure.

Fisher: Yeah.

CeCe: But, I do also think that sometimes it involves some type of narcissism, that these doctors believe that they are superior beings, right? They’re smarter, they’re accomplished, and they’re successful. I think doctors are often treated almost God-like in our society or have been historically. So, maybe they believe that they’re actually doing something good for the world. That spreading their seed is going to improve human kind, which is really scary and disgusting to think about.

Fisher: Yeah.

CeCe: But, I think it is something we have to consider as a possible reason that some of these doctors did this because it’s many more than 45.

Fisher: Sure. Those are 45 we know of at this point and they did it publically.

CeCe: That did it publically, right. But, I know of many, many than that.

Fisher: Sure.

CeCe: So, you would like to think that this is a one-off. Such a horrible story and people will make themselves feel better by thinking, oh, it doesn’t happen a lot, but it’s not. This is actually more the trend. This is not the exception. This seems to be more the rule in the industry that this was being done. I’m not saying all donor-conceived people are the children of their fertility doctors, but there are many, many out there that are.

Fisher: And it’s such a challenging thing for some of the children that find out later, that their dad, who was thought to be the donor, wasn’t their dad.

CeCe: Right.

Fisher: And you’ve dealt with this many times. I’ve dealt with it once with a friend who I had to tell her father wasn’t her father. It’s devastating.

CeCe: It is.

Fisher: And the pain goes on and lingers for perhaps a lifetime, knowing that the man you loved or that loved you so much is not your biological father.

CeCe: And the flip side, this man that you think did this terrible thing is half of your genetic material. You have half your DNA from this doctor.

Fisher: Yeah.

CeCe: And then many of these doctors are very successful, and accomplished, and intelligent. So, what a strange dichotomy that must be for the biological children? You think, okay, this is an outstanding person and I’ve got their DNA, but then, it’s also a very unethical person who made this decision to do this. And I just can’t imagine what that must feel like. I mean, for those of us that are really focused on DNA and genetic inheritance.

Fisher: Yeah.

CeCe: It’s such a strange question and I think it is similar to what we look at whenever we find someone in our family tree that maybe wasn’t such a great person. When people find, say a slave owner in their family tree.

Fisher: Right.

CeCe: It’s not about that one person. You can still build your genetic family tree and appreciate your ancestors. You know, maybe you just sort of skip over that generation with that one person who was found to do something pretty awful.

Fisher: Sure.

CeCe: So, I do hope that the biological children of these doctors are still able to appreciate their genetic heritage on their paternal side. And still get joy from tracing their genealogy, since you know, we love that. We would hate for somebody to not be able to get joy from that, but it must be such a challenge to navigate.

Fisher: You’re right about that and the dichotomy of feelings is what I’ve seen in people and one of them is this idea that, wait a minute, you went in and violated my father. For instance, in a situation of somebody having an affair with the mother and now they hate this person who brought them life, and they feel a distance from the person who raised them because of the fact now they have this genetic material, which really doesn’t define who you are. The other challenge that’s interesting to me in this, for people who get discoveries like this is, this is something that happened before they were even born, right?

CeCe: Right.

Fisher: It was nine months plus before they were born and nothing in their life has changed. The dad who raised them was still dad. All the memories they had were still the same, nothing was different throughout their lives. They met the person they fell in love with, had kids with, maybe grandkids. And yet, everything is different now because of this DNA test result.

CeCe: Right. There are literally millions of people who have made these types of discoveries now, because if you think about it, about four million people have tested, across the different companies.

Fisher: Wow!

CeCe: And about ten percent at least are known to have unexpected surprises that are pretty significant. So, think about that, maybe four million people have found out that their father or grandfather was not their biological ancestor and that’s significant.

Fisher: Yes.

CeCe: A lot of people have said it’s absolutely life changing for them. So, consumer DNA testing has just brought to light so many secrets, been on the cutting edge of that from the very beginning.

Fisher: Yes.

CeCe: It has been a real lesson in human nature and our society, and what has been going on behind closed doors and the types of decisions people made thinking that nobody would ever know.

Fisher: Yeah.

CeCe: It’s really revealing and enlightening and not in a positive way unfortunately.

Fisher: Right. Isn’t that interesting? You think about, they’ll never know and yet, we can reveal something that happened 150 years ago or even longer in some cases as a result of this. I mean, we’re talking about maybe even as far back as the 18th century, pulling out secrets. Isn’t that incredible that we can do this now?

CeCe: It is. It’s really incredible and it’s so much relied on getting that math, getting these huge databases and people who know their family trees of course, to be able to help those who don’t. But, often when I’m working on trees, I make discoveries about people’s families’ way back even that I don’t think anyone even knows yet.

Fisher: Yeah.

CeCe: I think, oh, I wish I could share this with all the descendents seeing that there’s been this long disagreement about who the father was in a case, or who the parents were, 100 -200 years ago. And I can see the answer very clearly through the DNA.

Fisher: Yeah.

CeCe: And it can be resolved. So, I believe there are thousands of brick walls and debated ancestral lines that can be resolved even going back 200 years, going way back in our trees. The answer is there in those databases if someone puts in the work to it.

Fisher: My question to you is, how many more people do you think are going to test over the coming decade?

CeCe: You know, that’s such a good question. I always like, maybe we’ve kind of hit saturation.

Fisher: Right.

CeCe: When we saw that huge upswing in 2015, 2016, 2017, where the databases were just doubling, doubling, and doubling and it was incredible. And then, around the time the Golden State Killer suspect was identified and arrested things started slowing down. And some blamed law enforcement for that. So, I was really thinking we’d hit that saturation, but there’s been a couple of surveys recently done that make it appear that there’s still a lot of people out there that would take a test if they were given one for free.

Fisher: Interesting.

CeCe: So, I think there are still quite a few people that will test. I think we will see millions more and I really wasn’t convinced of that, until pretty recently.

Fisher: She’s CeCe Moore. She’s the DNA detective. CeCe, always a joy to have you on the show and we’ll talk to you again soon.

CeCe: Thank you so much, great talking to you as always.

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

Segment 4 Episode 426

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, welcome back to America's Family History Show. It’s Extreme Genes. It’s time to Ask Us Anything where we answer listener questions. David is back on from the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. Dave, first question from Ann Marie Farmington, Connecticut, she says, "Guys, I found that my recently passed uncle had a collection of coffin plates." Coffin plates!

David: Hmmm.

Fisher: "What do I do with these? I don't know if these belonged to family or if he bought them. Where do I go with this? Ann Marie."

David: Well, in reality, you're going to become a genealogist real quick, because they could be near relatives, unless some of the surnames make no sense. It is entirely possible he had a macabre collecting interest. I have two coffin plates in my collection.

Fisher: Really?

David: Yeah.

Fisher: Wait a minute! Wait a minute! Now, weren’t these coffin plates, didn't they put them on the coffin and they stay on the coffin and then they're buried with it? Isn't that how it works?

David: Some cases, that was the case, but some of them were on there temporarily and then removed before the burial and given as a sort of memento to the family. I have my great grandmother's from 1922.

Fisher: Wow!

David: I also have my dad's kid sister who was only 10 years old who died in 1930, and I don't have a photograph of her, so this is the only memento I have of my dad's little sister who died as a kid.

Fisher: So, are you telling me then basically that maybe they used these things to mark the coffin so they wouldn't get mixed up with somebody else?

David: Well, that could be partly it. Some of them were buried with the casket plate on there, because I was seeing like when they've done excavations on tombs and churches and whatnot, they find a casket plate or coffin plate still on the cover or maybe they find it in the grave when the casket's rotted away and they found the coffin plate. Now, it’s a little macabre, but it is a genealogical memento, if you will.

Fisher: Sure.

David: But at least for my family, that's all I have that belonged to her great grandmother, well, at least post her life. So, the funny thing about it is, there was a whole market for these. In fact, on eBay right now, there are over 1300 coffin plates.

Fisher: No!

David: Yes there are.

Fisher: Really? I've never heard of this.

David: I'm looking at one right now for $130, a coffin plate for someone who died in 1876, another one from 1874, father and son pre 1900, one for $249. So you know, there's a market for everything.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: And at least one thing in genealogy, when we try to return it to its rightful place, please do not go and drop these into the ground by where the person's buried. They weren't stolen. They would have been removed legally by the undertaker of the family at that time. But the family might be interested in it.

Fisher: Sure.

David: If in fact you have some that are not in your family tree. I had about three of them that I bought when I was a kid, because I was that strange little kid at the yard sales and I bought three of them. And my daughter was cleaning out a closet and they fell out and she was, "Dad! What are these?!" And I'm like, "These are coffin plates." and she's like, "Why do you have them? I don't want them in the house." I said, "Well, I do have two that are your relatives." she goes, "That's fine. But get rid of these. They really freak me out." and I'm like, "Okay."

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: So what did I do? I gave them to the New England Historic Genealogical Society and now they're in their collection. [Laughs]

Fisher: That's a great thing to do. But she's right it is rather macabre, isn't it?

David: It really is. You know, I probably saw them as a curiosity as I was a kid and I probably paid a few dollars apiece. They're often silver plated, so there is some value to them. But as far as like our friend, Ann Marie who asked that question, do some genealogy and start a tree on Ancestry.com or something like that, plug in these names, and if they geographically don't make any sense, it is possible that your relative bought them as interesting souvenir.

Fisher: Sure.

David: And maybe you can find the family member who has a tree online and say, "By the way, I happen to have your great, great grandmother's coffin plate. You interested?" I know that if someone contacted me, I would put my hand ups and say, "Why not."

Fisher: Yeah. All right. Wow, interesting question! Thanks so much for it, Ann Marie. Hey, we've got another listener question coming up next when we return on Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 426

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: And thus we return on America's Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. I am Fish, that's Dave. This is Ask Us Anything where we answer your listener questions. And Dave, this one comes from Lance in Mesa, Arizona. He says, "Fisher and Dave, if you found out that your late great grandmother had had a child that she gave up, how would you approach her 94 year old daughter for more information? Lance." That's an interesting one. But you know, it makes you think of a couple of things. First of all, does the 94 year old really know about it? What is the disposition of this 94 year old, you know, if she a really open person? Is she sharp? How's her memory? I guess the thing I would think, Dave is, you really have to do a lot more research before you really even ask her anything, don't you think?

David: That's very true, because you don't know at that age if there are already memory issues that she has or she has health issues. I mean, you don't want to give the poor person a stroke or a heart attack.

Fisher: [Laughs] Right.

David: And even that is the case if you find out that your ancestor is the sibling of an older person and they may have been put up for adoption, the same thing is true.

Fisher: You know, it’s funny you say that, because I do have a friend and we recently figured out through DNA that her mother who's dealing with memory issues right now had a half sister that she knew nothing of. And the mom is having so many problems with her health right now and her memory that when she was presented with this, she didn't even want to meet her. She said, "You know, I've got so much on my plate." She had also lost her son and she says, "I just can't deal with that anymore." So you have to kind of consider the emotional state of the person you're approaching and what their circumstances are, because you don't want to, like you say, jeopardize their health as a result of the shock, right?

David: Exactly. Well, you know, it’s interesting. I had a similar thing happen about 20 years ago. My wife's grandmother was adopted and I through research, not DNA, tracked down her natural mother and I found that she actually had a family and got married after she put up my wife's grandmother for adoption. The woman lived until her 90s in 1988. In fact, we could have had her at our wedding, she had lived that long.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: But her grandmother never knew who her mother was. Her grandmother had had a stroke, and one of the people I contacted, "Oh, I must meet her!" blah, blah, blah, and you know, "I want to get photos with her." and we’re like "No” and she was in a nursing house, so she couldn't have been found. And we just kind of left it at that. Well, it was nice enough to know that the other family existed, but we weren't going to disrupt Ann's grandmother who was in poor health.

Fisher: Yeah. But there are other roots to this. You can go in your research, including digitized newspapers and trying to follow the life of the person that you're connected with. But to get the story straight from a daughter might be really challenging.

David: Very true. You know, I think that is really one of the things you have to approach with DNA. I mean, it’s like even if you're not dealing with an elderly person, you're dealing with any living person, there are going to be emotions associated with it, especially if you find a birth parent or a half sibling that you didn't know about, as was the case with me. It was a rush of emotions to find out that I had a half sibling that I didn't about my whole life.

Fisher: I'll bet. And I'm sure it was for her as well to find you.

David: Um hmm.

Fisher: I had a good friend and I was able to introduce her to a half sister as well through some DNA research. And it took that half sister awhile to warm up to the whole idea, because her mother had been her best friend and when she died, she had never revealed that she had given up a child. And so, DNA revealed the whole thing. And now they're very close, but she needed time to process. And process time is something everybody needs, and often when we're the ones who discover something, we get the time to process. And sometimes people expect others that we throw this at are going to process it right away. That's just usually not the case. So you want to make sure that you do everything you can to respect the person's time to process the whole information. So, thank you very much for that question. Good luck with that, Lance. David, thank you so much. We'll talk to you again next week.

David: Absolutely.

Fisher: All right, that's our show for this week. Thanks so much for joining us. Hey, thanks to CeCe Moore of course the DNA detective for coming on and talking about fertility fraud. It is rampant in the United States. If you missed any of the show or you want to catch it again, of course catch the podcast on ExtremeGenes.com, AppleMedia, TuneIn Radio, iHeart Radio, we're all over the place. Talk to you again next week. Thanks for joining us. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!

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