Episode 430: Classic Rewind - DNA Match Leads To DNA Testing On Nigeria Trip / DNA And Lineage Societies Today

podcast episode Dec 26, 2022

Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. David begins by talking about a remarkable find he recently made in New Hampshire, providing amazing details about his ancestors who were from there. The guys then speak about a frightening story that talks about how enemy states could turn your raw DNA results to custom make poison with which to target your family. Then, National Geographic has a great story about how we went from being hunters and gatherers to monument builders. The New Yorker has a great story about “The Secret Art of Family Photos.” And, some Medal of Honor winners of the past may be losing their high honors. Find out why.

Next, in two parts, Fisher visits with Adrienne Abiodun, a DNA specialist with sponsor Legacy Tree Genealogists. Adrienne recently returned from a family history vacation to Nigeria, as the father of her two children is Nigerian. But before leaving, Adrienne learned of a Nigerian connection in her own line. This led to an incredible experience in Africa with a DNA kit. Then, Adrienne talks about DNA testing and lineage societies… where they stand today.

David then returns for two more questions on Ask Us Anything. That’s all this week on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show!

Transcript for Episode 430: Classic Rewind

Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 430 Classic Rewind

Fisher: And welcome America, to America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth on the program where we shake your family tree, and watch the nuts fall out. Well, we have great guests for you here today. Someone who’s been on the show before, she’s going to be here for two parts today. She has had a recent adventure involving DNA, family history, all in Nigeria, and she also has background in dealing with the DAR and their new efforts involving DNA for people applying for memberships. So we’ve got a lot of ground to cover with Adrienne Abiodun. It’s going to be a great interview coming up here starting in about 10 minutes. Hey, I hope you signed up for our Weekly Genie Newsletter. We’re just getting more and more people on there every week. And I give you a blog each week, and links to past and present shows, and also links to stories you’ll appreciate as the family historian in your family. Right now it’s time to head out to Boston, Massachusetts because standing by is my good friend David Allen Lambert, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. Dave, I know you have been hard at it here this past week on your own family. What’d you find? 

David: Well, you know, it’s funny how you occasionally can mix business with pleasure. And when I was at the New Hampshire Historical Society in Concord last week up in Concord, New Hampshire, I decided that I would take a little bit of my free time that I had to look for something on my own family. What a novel idea, right for a genealogist who does genealogy.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: So, go back in time to when I was about 12 years old and I read a history of Barnstead, New Hampshire. It’s a small town located in Belknap County, New Hampshire. And that is where my great, great grandmother Yunis Pitman was born, or reading the town history I learned that the minister in town, Reverend Enos George baptized my fifth great grandfather who was born the same year as George Washington, not when he was a baby, but when he was 100 years old.

Fisher: Oh wow! [Laughs]

David: And he also was there in that church for 50 plus years.

Fisher: Ha!

David: But here’s the catch, when I was about 13 or 14, I talked to an old timer and they said, “Well, you know that Reverend Enos George’s diaries are up in the attic of the family home. And no one’s ever going to look at them blah, blah, blah” and I just thought oh, I’d so like to go to that house and beg and plead.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: This is before digital cameras or anything like that.

Fisher: Sure.

David: So, when I was preparing to go on the trip, I just happened to look at the catalogue and I saw that they had the George family papers from Barnstead, New Hampshire. And I though oh, well I’ll just go. Well, there were two Hollinger boxes, which are those great archival boxes that some of the listeners have probably seen before. And I looked at it and some of it were little slips of paper. Well, some of them were just, “paid $5 to have my saw resharpened” another one was “I bought a window pane” but the other slips were marriage intentions. See, besides being the town clerk, he was also the minister. So, I found the marriage intention and marriage record on a little slip of paper no bigger than a flap of an envelope that he married my third great grandfather Luigi Pitman in 1826 to his wife Sarah Straw, who incidentally was his first cousin. But that’s a story for another day. Then I found in the same box journals. I found all of his diaries, Fish, from 1805 to 1858. In it I found that event in 1832 when he baptized my 100 year old fifth great grandfather. I found the funeral notice that he couldn’t attend because the snow was too deep. And that my fourth great grandfather died at 2:00a.m in the morning in 1856.

Fisher: wow!

David: All sorts of amazing stories and they’ve never been published before. Until now, my fast little finger census trip up to New Hampshire has already transcribed probably a third of the book. And I am planning to cooperate with New Hampshire Historical Society to let them publish it, or to give me permission to publish it in a journal. So, I’m really excited about it.

Fisher: Nice! That’s just huge. What fun. This is what I love about genealogy. You just never know where it’s going to take you.

David: Well, you know, I saw an interesting article for Family Histoire News and this one’s kind of scary. It says how Russia can use your aunt’s genealogy hobby to kill you. They’re saying now that there’s a possibility that China or Russia could develop a biological weapon to kill your family. The pure DNA may be able to be used to create a biological weapon. This is an interesting story.

Fisher: Yeah. And that’s in the Washington Examiner.

David: Exactly. Well you know, I love the stories of our ancestors being hunter-gatherers and what not. The National Geographic had a great little story about how we went from hunter-gatherers to monument builders. Now, I talked about a diary that went 54 years. This is a story that goes about 12,000 years. Don’t worry about it, you can read a very brevis version of it on National Geographic and you can sign up to get some of their new stories just by giving them your email address.

Fisher: Nice.

David: This is really interesting about our ancient ancestors. There’s also another great article I read about The Secret Art of the Family Photo. And that just appeared this month in the New Yorker and talks about how photographers have taken great portraits and how to make one that is really worthwhile. Maybe something Mathew Brady like. 

Fisher: Well, and also stuff that you can use in your own history or your family history. How do you choose which ones really tell the story? It’s often said that the best photo is the one where it’s self-explanatory. But that’s not always true. I mean, if you know the story behind certain photographs, those can be absolute treasures. This is a really great article and I’d recommend it to anybody in the New Yorker. 

David: And the other thing I recommend to everybody, please print out the photos from your phone and put names and dates on them. Please.

Fisher: [Laughs] Yeah. Right.

David: Leave something for the next 100 years. My last story I want to share with you is sort of a sad story - the Battle of Wounded Knee – where hundreds of Native Americans were massacred by US army soldiers. Well, those US army soldiers in 1890 received the Congressional Medal of Honor. It is now being looked at that this may be rescinded, and these 20 soldiers who received the highest honor may have it removed, of course posthumously.

Fisher: Interesting.

David: Well, that’s all I have from family histoire news and Beantown. If you’re not a member of American Ancestors, we’d love to have you as one. And of course you can save $20 on AmericanAncestors.org by using the coupon code EXTREME. Talk to you in a few minutes.

Fisher: All right David. Yes indeed, at the back end of the show for Ask Us Anything. And coming up next, a woman who mixed DNA with family with a trip to Nigeria, I mean, it is a real adventure you’re going to want to hear all about coming up next in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show. 

Segment 2 Episode 430 Classic Rewind

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Adrienne Abiodun

Fisher: And welcome back to Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, and it’s always fun to get back together with people we’ve had on the show in the past. And one of those is Adrienne Abiodun. And she’s from Florida. She is a DNA specialist with our sponsors over at Legacy Tree Genealogists. And Adrienne, welcome back to the show, and welcome back to the United States of America.

Adrienne: [Laughs] Thank you so much Scott. It’s good to e back on the show and in the US as well.

Fisher: Well, you just got back from Nigeria, and what’s so amazing about this is not just that you made a trip over there, but it ties into a DNA match that you found in your own line. This is really cool stuff so let’s talk about the match in the beginning, how you found it, how you developed it, and how it turned into this amazing trip.

Adrienne: Sure. Love to. It’s kind of unreal to me how this all unfolded. And it happened pretty fast to be quite honest. It all started last year on Ancestry DNA. I had been looking up my family’s new DNA matches and I noticed that my father had a DNA match with a Yoruba or a Nigerian name. And so I clicked on the profile, found out that yes, this person was 100% Nigerian and identifies as a person of Yoruba heritage, which is a group of people in Nigeria.

Fisher: Okay.

Adrienne: So, I sent a message and they wrote back right away, which was amazing in itself.

Fisher: Cool. Yes. [Laughs]

Adrienne: And we connected on social media and really had a great exchange of information. They thought it was the coolest thing to connect with matches and didn’t anticipate that or were really excited that I reached out. So, the conversation began a little bit about where my family was from, my father’s family, and where his family was from in Nigeria. And we recognized that this was a really distant connect. I think he shares about nine centimorgans of DNA with my father.

Fisher: Okay.

Adrienne: But then we decided to explore this further so the match ended up sending DNA kits to his parents who are in Canada, and they take the test. Once they take the test, we find out that it’s through his father that he’s connected to my father. So, essentially, my father and his father are matches.

Fisher: How cool is that. Now, how many centimorgans did they share with this closer generation?

Adrienne: Eleven. So I didn’t squeeze out much more.

Fisher: Okay. No, not much. Yeah. [Laughs]

Adrienne: I feel like I’m going to end up chasing small centimorgan matches for multiple generations, or this might be one of those situations where we’re identical by region instead of descent. But I think it’s still cool nonetheless. The way I look at it is Ancestry has a huge database of people and matches that are showing up every day and I don’t match all of them.                              

Fisher: Right.

Adrienne: So I’ll take the small segments or the small centimorgan matches, and really all types of them because out of 30 million people is it, in the database?

Fisher: Something like that. Yeah.

Adrienne: Yeah. Again, I don’t match all of them so I think it’s really special that I have connected with this person. We see that it’s him, it’s his father, and it’s like well, okay, great our father’s match. Now my father’s parents, both of them are deceased and neither of them had an opportunity to take a DNA test before they passed. But with my match, his father’s mother is still living.

Fisher: Oh, wow.

Adrienne: And so as luck would turn out, I had mentioned that I would be traveling to Nigeria this year, and that I would be going to the very place where he’s from, which is Abeokuta in Ogun State, Nigeria.

Fisher: Okay.

Adrienne: And the reason that I had planned this trip, my children is actually half Nigerian. Their father is Nigerian and he is from Ogun State, Nigeria. So when I told him about this DNA match and that they were from the same state that he was from, he found that kind of interesting and kind of funny.

Fisher: That also made him kind of a more interesting match to you in the first place, didn’t it?

Adrienne: [Laughs] I know. I know because when I started this whole journey as an African American person, and him being a person who identified as Nigerian and knows that his ancestors came from Nigeria for many generations, whereas I am every day discovering things about my ancestors. He used to laugh and he would say, “You know, good luck finding yourself. Good luck with this.”

Fisher: [Laughs]

Adrienne: But then when I did this DNA test, now that he’s taken a DNA test he’s really seeing the power and how genetic matches can help guide us back to where our ancestors are from, or they can provide like research leads.

Fisher: Yes. Absolutely. And this is the thing too, I mean so many people are brought into DNA by the ads for the ethnicity side of it. And I think that’s really interesting stuff, but boy the power is in the matches overall. And sometimes ethnicity can help us too to figure out where a certain match comes from.

Adrienne: Right.

Fisher: But boy, the match powers and then connecting with other people and the things that you can discover that they know, or they have in terms of heirlooms and that type of thing, or old records. It’s just amazing the power in it. 

Adrienne: Exactly. And I tell people I think the matches sometimes help us to validate the ethnicity results.

Fisher: Absolutely.

Adrienne: If you had any type of question about them. So, if Ancestry says I’m 22% Nigerian, then I would expect at some point in time if that population of people were testing, to match with other Nigerian people.

Fisher: Of course. Yes.

Adrienne: So, this match showing up substantiates what the ethnicity results are telling me.

Fisher: Yep.

Adrienne: So, going back to now, the present day, or just a few weeks ago, we go to Nigeria and my DNA match had said prior to us leaving, “Well, if I give you some DNA tests, can you test my grandparents for me?” And I said, well sure, so long as they don’t mind this American person coming over there asking for their saliva, like I’m all for it.

Fisher: Yeah.

Adrienne: He sent me two kits. One from his father’s mother, and then from his mother’s father, who I don’t anticipate to match. But as a courtesy thank you, and just to help anybody else who may match him, I was more than happy to test both his grandparents. 

Fisher: Yeah. So, you got to meet his grandparents in Nigeria.

Adrienne: I did. I did. And again, I’m just so blown away by their hospitality, their excitement, their understanding of the science, their wanting to know more, their intrigue for this connection.

Fisher: Sure.

Adrienne: I mean, they’re like, “Wait, my grandson in the United States of America did what? And now you’re here and we’re going to do what?”

Fisher: [Laughs] You know, I mean I’ve heard a lot of stories over many, many years of Extreme Genes. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything quite like this one.  

Adrienne: Yeah. I never in a million years would have imagined connecting with a match or their relative in Nigeria, or anywhere outside of the United States of America.

Fisher: Did she speak any English at all?

Adrienne: No. So, actually, his grandmother is not literate. She doesn’t speak English. But she speaks the local language there in Yoruba. And she doesn’t write, and she doesn’t read. But she grasped the concept of DNA testing very quickly, and what we were trying to accomplish. So, right now we know that her son is a match to my father. But we don’t know if it’s because of her, or her late husband.

Fisher: Sure.

Adrienne: And so she said, let me backtrack. This woman sang for 20 minutes when we arrived.

Fisher: [Laughs] She sang?

Adrienne: Yeah. She sang and she was just so excited that her grandson sent guests from America to visit her, and to see him. I called her son grandson the DNA match, the original one on Instagram. And she sang to him how happy she was to see him, how happy she was to see us, and then after all of the singing, she finally takes the DNA test. And as we explain all of this to her, she says, “Well, I hope that the connection is through me.” You know, in her local language. 

Fisher: Yeah.

Adrienne: She said, “I want it to be through me and not my late husband.”

Fisher: [Laughs] so you had a translator right?

Adrienne: I did. We did. My cousin, the DNA match who I originally connected with, he had his maternal family members escort us to both grandparents, so she helped with translating with the grandmother and explaining what we were looking to do. But she got it. She got it very, very quickly. And I asked her a few extra questions about who her parents were, who her grandparents were, and so forth.

Fisher: Yes.

Adrienne: Now the challenging part about Yoruba, genealogy, I won’t say Nigerian because each group has their own naming traditions and practices, right?

Fisher: Sure.

Adrienne: So Yoruba genealogy is challenging because when Yoruba people are born, they have what you call an Isomo Loruko, it’s a naming ceremony. I think its 8 or 9 days after the birth of a child they’ll have the naming ceremony. It’s a big deal. The community is invited. The grandparents, relatives, and everybody offers a name. And as a result, a Yoruba person may have four or five first names.

Fisher: Oh wow. [Laughs]

Adrienne: [Laughs] So, if you ask a person about a person, they might refer to them as one name, and then another name, so when you’re trying to record the genealogy, I have to really sit with people sometimes and ask, okay, well, I’ll take all the three, four, five first names, and then the family name, and also first and last names. There’s a lot of unisex names.

Fisher: Okay.

Adrienne: And there’s a lot of names that the surname can be a first name. So, for instance, my last name Abiodun could also be a first name.

Fisher: Interesting. You know, it’s interesting to me every country is so different in their traditions. I mean, you see naming patterns even in say Ireland or Scotland they’re a little bit different. And then you go over to the continent and you go down to Africa. I mean China. I mean it’s all just so different. What a fascinating experience. This had to be a life changing trip for you.

Adrienne: Again, it’s almost like a dream. I never would have thought any of this would have been possible really. It’s only possible with collaboration.

Fisher: Yeah. That’s right.

Adrienne: It’s only possible because I have this match who was just excited as I was about the connection and wanting to see how far we can explore it. And that’s really what it was because we get thousands and thousands or hundreds of DNA matches all the time, and some of them are unresponsive so I just feel like it’s a blessing the entire thing.

Fisher: Totally. It’s just astounding. Hey, I want to keep you on for another segment because you’ve got such a resume here the things that you’re involved in including DNA with the Lineage Societies. We want to talk about the direction where that’s going. Can you stick around for one more?

Adrienne: Sure.

Fisher: Awesome. All right, we’re talking to Adrienne Abiodun. We’ll be back with more on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show in five minutes.

Segment 3 Episode 430 Classic Rewind

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Adrienne Abiodun

Fisher: Back at it on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. I’m talking today to Adrienne Abiodun. She is from Riverview, Florida. She is a professional genealogist and researcher, a DNA specialist with our sponsors at Legacy Tree Genealogists. And we’re just talking about her amazing trip to Nigeria and tying in DNA with people she met over there. And Adrienne, you have just a long diverse line of ancestors, which has put you in all kinds of different lineage societies, including the DAR. And in the past, the DNA Network Committee, tell us what that’s about.

Adrienne: Sure. So, with the DAR, the DNA Network Committee was a special committee during my time as a national vice chair on the committee. They since made it not a special committee, it’s something I think that’s going to stay around. I guess, that’s what the changes are. The purpose and intention behind the committee was to assist with the development and inclusion of genetic genealogy, to assist with proving patriot ancestors and not new patriots, they have to be existing patriots. So, you would be using DNA to prove lineage to existing patriots within the database by matching with other DNA tested members of the society. 

Fisher: Okay.

Adrienne: So, that’s kind it in a nutshell and then as the committee we were there to assist with questions and getting people into the databases and that type of stuff. So that’s it in a nutshell.

Fisher: Well, the question I would have is why don’t they want to allow people to use that to prove their lines to other patriots who are not in the database so they can develop their applications and find their membership in DAR?

Adrienne: I think it’s because it’s colonial. It’s very historic DNA research. It’s just a little harder to prove new patriots using genetic data. Like, it’s just difficult. So, to use an existing patriot, what we’re saying is we have members of the society who have identified themselves through record documentary research as a descendent of a particular patriot from the Revolutionary War.

Fisher: Right, sure.

Adrienne: And now, there’s someone for whatever reason, their paper trail, maybe there’s a generation where there’s a gap and they can’t connect that dot. They are using those descendents who already established a credible line of ancestry using documents and may have also taken a DNA test. They’re using them kind of as their compass. Their ability to connect to an existing patriot with records and descendents, a lot of them, there should be a lot of them, but it doesn’t always work that way.

Fisher: Well, let me ask you this then, if I came along and I found out my grandfather was adopted, so we’re not dealing with a connection that goes back 250 years.

Adrienne: Right.

Fisher: My grandfather was adopted and using DNA I connected to his parents and now I have the paper trail back to the patriot. Is that still not allowed?

Adrienne: So, actually that’s a really great example, DAR first started looking at DNA it was all Y-DNA, right?

Fisher: Yeah.

Adrienne: And what you’re describing could be Y-DNA as a male descendent and your grandfather being adopted and if it’s through his father that could also be Y-DNA but that’s the complexity of all of this, right.

Fisher: Sure.

Adrienne: Which line exactly are we looking at and which DNA can lead us to the answer connecting to the patriot. And how easy will that be for the staff genealogists at the DAR headquarters to all work with this? So, over the last few years DAR has started including autosomal DNA evidence.

Fisher: Yeah.

Adrienne: And everybody is really excited about that. I’m excited about that potential and opportunity that presents to get more members into the society, like with that example that you have just shared. In my case, that’s kind of what happened with my own family. 

Fisher: Really?

Adrienne: Yeah. So, my grandfather who was born in segregated Mississippi, in 1924, his father was a white man, but he didn’t have that on any record or any document, but it was known throughout the community.

Fisher: Okay.

Adrienne: So, once I could prove that connection using autosomal DNA, using Y-DNA, using whatever genetic evidence I could.

Fisher: Sure.

Adrienne: The paper trail existed to get me back to the patriot just fine.

Fisher: Yeah.

Adrienne: That’s what DAR is kind of promoting right now. It’s those first, second, third generations back with autosomal DNA evidence because that’s a little bit easier to prove than the historic.

Fisher: Of course. That’s great because I know that in the beginning when DNA was really starting to come along there was quite a resistance within the lineage societies too. And I think maybe there was just the question in their minds of how legitimate is this as we work on it?

Adrienne: Yes.

Fisher: And of course the DAR works closely with the Sons of the American Revolution as well, because they want to have a similar application process.

Adrienne: I think so. I believe so, yeah. I don’t know how much the SAR is doing with DNA, but I know that they tap into the SAR database or the DAR GRS system if they need record information. Their genealogists could potentially look at either or database to try to find a descendent who has already joined either organizations to a particular patriot.

Fisher: So, tell me, out of your own lineage Adrienne, what was the most amazing DNA breakthrough for you?

Adrienne: Oh my gosh, there’s so many. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs]

Adrienne: You know, I just like connecting with the matches and sometimes it’s the matches that I already kind of know the connection. It’s not necessarily the breakthrough who now extended our lineage, but I’m just amazed at how many people keep taking these tests. I took my test with Ancestry in November 2011 and didn’t get the results until May 2012, which was when they opened up the database to begin with.

Fisher: Right, yeah.

Adrienne: And at that time there were a couple hundred thousand maybe.

Fisher: Something like that.

Adrienne: And now there’s millions and people just keep showing up.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Adrienne: Just the other day I got a match and I’m like, I can see how we’re connected because we match all these in-common people and I just think it’s cool that you yearn to see all the descendents of a particular ancestral line showing up. I think that’s cool.

Fisher: I do too. And I think it’s really fun when you have something like third great grandparents, somewhere back in that line and you continue to find matching descendents of those people showing up in ThruLines for instance on Ancestry.

Adrienne: Exactly.

Fisher: And what you’re really doing is, you are proving the paper trail is correct. That there hasn’t been any misattributed parentage or anything like that. And then you’re meeting other people potentially depending on what they’re in there for. If they’re just there for the parlor game of looking at their ethnicity and they really want to know more about what’s going on. I had one lady who showed up who was from London. And she descended from these third great grandparents according to the DNA matches, but we couldn’t find anything in her tree that gave us any idea where that came from.

Adrienne: Wow.

Fisher: Well, I eventually found another marriage of one of the daughters and it gave the married name of Louis and when I got back to her family tree I spotted the name Louis and I was able then to go back and find the connection between her earliest Louis and this couple and say, hey, we know now how we’re connected. It’s through this. And DNA pointed the way.

Adrienne: Exactly.

Fisher: You know, that’s the magic of this stuff. It never gets old to me. I think, a lot of people are thinking, oh, well, it’s old hat, we’re moving on. It’s like, no we’re not. There are still millions of people testing every year. We’ve got CeCe Moore solving a cold case every week using genetic genealogy.

Adrienne: Yes.

Fisher: There are breakthroughs coming on and of course the surprises continue to mount as well.

Adrienne: [Laughs] When I think, going back to your earlier question, I think it’s those surprises that with lineage societies you know, they’ve been very cautious about shaking up existing members who, and we tell people this all the time, at the time you use the best available resources that you had. You used records, you had oral family history, but now we have DNA as that third piece of evidence.

Fisher: Yeah.

Adrienne: So, some people wary of it but I love it.

Fisher: Adrienne thanks so much for coming on. It’s been a delight talking to you. Congratulations on your Nigerian adventure and all the things you’re doing with DNA. We just keep on rolling.

Adrienne: Yeah. Thank you so much for having me.

Fisher: And coming up next, David Allen Lambert as we get another round of Ask Us Anything going answering your questions on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show in three minutes.

Segment 4 Episode 430 Classic Rewind

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All right, we're back on the job at Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here with David Allen Lambert back from Boston as we go into Ask Us Anything today. And our first question, David comes from Georgia in Florida. Isn't that an interesting one! She says, "Hi Uber genies. My grandmother is heading off to the nursing home. Our dilemma is, she wants to take some of her family stuff with her, which we are concerned she may lose. What should we do?" That's a great question and it's a common one.

David: It is. In fact, it's better to have a proactive approach versus have it go there and have it accidently thrown out because she has limited space or if her health gets bad and she decides to selectively tear up all the photos, because she doesn't want them anymore.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: And that does happen. The first thing I would do is to find out how much space she has in the living quarters that she's now living at. Obviously wall space if she has her own private apartment is going to be different than a shared space. And make copies. Take those old photos that you treasure so much. You're not going to want to hang them on the wall anyways, because it will tend to fade in daylight.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: As well as under artificial light. So it's just common sense approach, but make copies for her. Keep the originals in acid free envelopes or folders. That way, they are all organized. So of course if you don't know the name on the back of it, here's that great chance to ask grandma, “Who is this?” Then put a name on it. So, she takes the copy, you hold onto the original, just tell her for safekeeping, and that way your heritage gets passed on to the next generation.

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: This is the same with letters and diaries. Well, maybe she might not want to give up all out of her diaries. But you understand the idea I'm going for.

Fisher: Oh yeah.

David: So I mean, I'm sure you’ve had older relatives that have had this dilemma with the family. And of course, the worst thing is, not to be genealogically conscious and toss it all out, because it ain't going to fit into the apartment the person's living in.

Fisher: Yeah, there's always that issue. I had a dear friend who was in his 80s and I went over to his house to visit with him and his wife one day and they had all these boxes with the old photos out. And he pulled them out and said, "Oh yeah, that's my brother there and there's my dad." and I'm looking at the picture and I turn it over, it's from back in the '40s, and I said, "These aren't marked." I said, "You need to mark these." Then I looked at another one and said, "You need to mark this." and he looked at me and he rolled his eyes. [Laughs] And I said, "Don't go rolling your eyes at me. These need to be marked or nobody's going to know who any of these people are." he rolled his eyes at me again. So, unfortunately I know those pictures never got marked and he passed away in late 2017.

David: Ohh.

Fisher: And this is the thing, we always have to kind of think of ourselves as living in an age previous to when we're actually living, right? As if we are now making decisions for people who are going to be living 40, 50, 70, 80, 100 years from now, would they want any of this stuff?  Does this tell a story that they might be interested in? And you know, when you go to digitize all the materials like you're talking about, David, you don't need to digitize every letter. Some of them are just notes, "pick up the milk" you know.

David: Right.

Fisher: I mean, there are things in there that just aren't that important. You can prioritize and say, all right, since she's going to want to keep everything here, we're just going to take care of the most important things and the most important pictures. And as you say, this is really a great opportunity to sit down with her and go over the unmarked pictures and figure out what's what. And you know, one of the things you can do is roll the video on that with your phone while you're doing it instead of having to write it down as she does it where you're handing things around and maybe there's a wet table surface or something. You do it all when you get home. And then you've got this record of her giving you the names and maybe even sharing with you a story or two about the picture.

David: We're so lucky in the 21st century with the technology we have with just as simple as our phone to video, photograph and audio at the same time.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: And even talk to your phone and let it dictate the conversation in the palm of your hand.

Fisher: There you go. I think it was a great question. I think it's a problem a lot of people have and will have certainly going forward. So thanks, Georgia for the question, we appreciate it. We've got another good one coming up for you here when we return with Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show in three minutes.

Segment 5 Episode 430 Classic Rewind

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: All righty! Back on Ask Us Anything as we answer your genealogical family history questions on Extreme Genes. It is Fisher with David Allen Lambert. And Dave, our next question comes from Jack in Cleveland. And he says, "Fisher" just for me, Dave. I guess you're kind of on the outs, but I'm going to leave you in anyway.

David: Ah, it's okay. [Laughs]

Fisher: He says, "I know you have ancestry from New York City. Why do the old directories there always start on May 1st?" Actually, that's a pretty easy one and kind of an interesting one. If you actually go back to the early history of New York City, they set up a singular day every year where people would move and it was called moving day. Have you run into this Dave in your research for people from New York?

David: No, but I have run into it for college kids in Boston in trying to drive around the city in a bear.

Fisher: Yeah, that's just it. So here's the thing, May 1st was always designated as moving day. And to go back a little further, they said, okay, all landlords in New York would have to set the new rents for the coming year in February and that gave people the opportunity to say, “Yeah, I'm going to stay in this place.” or “No, going to move a block away where I can get a better rent.” that type of thing.

David: Um hmm.

Fisher: So they had a little time then to sign a new contract and on May 1st, that was the day everybody moved. The whole city came to a standstill. Moving day was in effect until the 1940s and it went back to the 1600s.

David: Wow!

Fisher: It was nuts. And people made a fortune, people who were carters, right? They would cart people's things around. They'd have a horse or a mule or something attached to a cart and they would stack that thing super high and they'd all have to drive around the city with these vehicles trying to get around one another. I mean, the stench must have been horrible from the animals and everything and the madness of trying to move things into apartments and getting out. I mean, it was nuts! So what happened was then, these directories are all based on the agreements that people made where they were going to live as of May 1st. So, when you see these directories listed in catalogues as given over two years, remember, the first year is the year you want to look at. But as you're writing histories, keep in mind they're also there at that address until May 1st of the next year. So there's a lot of history that goes into this, but it's also a little bit of something you can use to strategize your time lines as you're writing your history, figuring out, okay, they're there at that address from May 1st to May 1st this year to that year, and it makes a big difference.

David: Um hmm.

Fisher: Directories, David, I love them. I mean, they're right there with censuses in my mind, because as you analyze them, you can get a lot of stories from them, including relatives of the same name who you might not know who live at the very same address or right next door.

David: Occasionally, you can also get the date of death of the person, because if they had died the previous year and they're not listed in the directory, well because they're not listed in anybody's directory, because they died.

Fisher: Yeah, yeah exactly. And they give their occupation typically. Some places and times, they will give the name of the spouse or if you happen to know the name of the widow, but you didn't know her husband, sometimes that's revealed. It will say, "Widow of Albert" or something like that. So yeah, directories in New York are very unique, also because you have all kinds of ads for all the mercantile firms and all the businesses that are going on in the city. And what a fun thing to get an image of that you could include in a family history.

David: Oh, I know that you've done that, for sure.

Fisher: Yeah, I've done a lot of those. It's a lot of fun and it's really interesting to know that about May 1st. Read about moving day. There's all kinds of stuff online about it. It's insane! In fact, I think there's a Wikipedia page about it as well. So, great question Jack. Thank you so much. And David, thank you!

David: And thank you for the history lesson for New York City that I wasn't aware of. So, it's always a learning experience on Extreme Genes.

Fisher: Absolutely. We'll talk to you next week, buddy and thanks for joining us.

David: As always, thank you.

Fisher: And that's our show for this week. Thanks so much to Adrienne Abiodun who joined us from Legacy Tree Genealogists, our great sponsors. If you missed that interview, you've got to catch it. Hear the podcast on AppleMedia, iHeart Radio, ExtremeGenes.com, TuneIn Radio and Spotify. We'll talk to you again next week. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!


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