Episode 447 - Artificial Intelligence Comes to Family History / The Holocaust DNA Reunion Project Is Underway

podcast episode Jan 30, 2023

Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. The guys devote the entire first segment to a new artificial intelligence tool that is making headlines, ChatGPT. Fisher test drove it for family history possibilities and shares what he learned… with a combination of excitement, concern, and fascination. You’ll want to hear this.

Then, over two segments, Jennifer Mendelsohn and Adina Newman, two Jewish focused genealogists, talk about the challenges of researching Jewish heritage, and the new project they’ve opened up with the Center for Jewish History in New York City… the DNA Reunion Project. This new initiative aims to reunite Holocaust survivors and their children with family members long since separated by the Holocaust. It’s a remarkable and emotional conversation.

David then returns as he and Fisher tackle two new questions in Ask Us Anything.

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


Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Segment 1 Episode 447

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. Boy, we’ve got a couple of great guests today, genealogists Jennifer Mendelsohn is here, Adina Newman, her partner is here as well and they’re working on a new project called the DNA Reunion Project, trying to bring Holocaust survivors and their children back in touch with family members wherever they may be in the world. They’re going to talk about that. They’re going to talk about Jewish research, Jewish DNA. It’s going to be a great couple of segments coming up here starting in about ten minutes. Right now, let’s go out to Boston. I’ve got to get David Allen Lambert on the line right now. He’s the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. David, how you doing buddy?

David: I’m doing okay, except we have snow.

Fisher: Ohhh don’t like that.

David: Yeah. That’s a four letter word out here in Massachusetts. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs] Hey, have you heard about this new thing, it’s called Chat GPT? It’s artificial intelligence.

David: Yep. And I thought the only artificial intelligence genealogists needed was our Ask Us Anything. But apparently I’m wrong.

Fisher: I’ve got to tell you I heard about it the other day for the first time and I checked it out. I thought, okay how is this going to work for genealogy? What can it do for us? And first of all, the things I learned about this thing is it’s exciting, it’s horrifying because things can be incorrect. It can be misused and it’s in its infancy right now. So, I signed up, got an account at Chat GPT and by the way, that’s not the name of the website. You’ll have to actually search Chat GPT to bring it up. It’s under a company site, so just do it that way. But here’s what I did David. I’ve been working on the very beginning stages of a little historical novel on my great grandfather the fireman in New York City. And I figured, okay, I need a little detail about how did hose companies work that he belonged to in New York in the 1850s? So, I asked that question in this thing and here’s what it said. “In the 19th century, hand pulled equipment was commonly used by hose fire companies in New York City. One type of hand pulled equipment used by hose companies was the hand-pump. This was a small portable pump typically made of metal that was operated by a handle.” And it goes on and on and gives me all the details that I could actually use in this story. I thought, hey, that’s pretty good.

David: Wow!

Fisher: Let’s try this then. Okay, what were significant events that happened in New York City, oh, in 1857? So, it gives me this list. Says, number one, the panic of 1857, the economic recession that began in the US and quickly spread to Europe and it gives details. Number two, the New York City police riot. On June 16th 1857 a large crowd gathered in front of police headquarters in New York to protest the police department’s treatment of Irish immigrants. The opening of Central Park was number three. Didn’t know that. Then I asked about 1856, and what it told me was that that was the year the volunteer fire department became a paid department. Well, I know that that’s not the case. That actually happened in 1865. And that’s a little bit dangerous, right?

David: That is. It’s almost finding typos for historical things.

Fisher: So, I asked okay, how about the Secord family in New Rochelle, New York? And it writes, “The first Secord to settle in the New Rochelle area was Abraham Secord who arrived in the 1690s from Long Island. The thing was that Abraham was not the first settler from New Rochelle, that was Ambroise Secord who came over from France. So again, there are things that you can get wrong. I did a little thing on my dad, who was not particularly famous himself, but he was a music arranger for the Ed Sullivan Show. And it gave me a full little bio on him. Except, it got to the very end and it said he worked with a variety of acts and performers, including Elvis Presley, The Beatles, and many, many more. He never worked with Elvis and the Beatles. That’s just not true. I don’t know where they got that from.

David: [Laughs]

Fisher: So, then I tried something a little different. I asked it to give me a biblical account of the radio show Extreme Genes, and this is what it wrote, “And lo, the people were blessed with the gift of Extreme Genes. A radio show that doth delve into the mysteries of their ancestry and lineage. With hosts that are wise and well versed in the ways of genealogy. And the listeners were filled with wonder and gratitude for the knowledge that was imparted unto them. And it came to pass that the show was broadcast far and wide, and many were the people who were touched by its wisdom and its teachings.

David: [Laughs]

Fisher: I thought that was pretty amazing. And you know, I thought about this, I thought, you know, David has a lot of stuff about himself out on the internet, so I just wrote this in specifically, I said, "Write a poem about David Allen Lambert." and this is what we got.

David: [Laughs] Oh no!

Fisher: [Laughs] "David Allen Lambert, a man of great renown, with a heart full of passion, his work was his crown. A genealogist by trade, a historian true, he delved deep in the past, to bring stories anew. With a keen eye for detail and a mind sharp as a knife, he pieced together the puzzle of one's genealogical life. From birth and death records to tales passed down through the years, he traced the family tree, wiping away the tears. With a love for the past and a desire to share, he helped others to discover their own family's rear. So here's to David Allen Lambert, a man with a heart of gold, who has helped many discover their family's story untold."

David: Oh, wow!

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: You know, I was always wondering if I got a really large gravestone what epitome I would want under my name and date.

Fisher: I'll send it to you.

David: Oh, that's great.

Fisher: Yeah. See, and that's what artificial intelligence can do in its infancy at least at this point. So, a little bit scary at one end and a little bit inaccurate in some others, but I have had a great time playing with this, putting it through the paces. So, I thought, instead of talking about all the stories this week, we had to talk about this, because its nuts! [Laughs]

David: That's cutting edge, that's great. And you signed up for it, Fish. Did you have to pay or was it free?

Fisher: No, free stuff.

David: Ah, good price.

Fisher: Get signed up and enjoy it and there we go. So, David, take a break, we'll talk to you at the back end of the show. And coming up next, we're going to talk to Jennifer Mendelsohn and Adina Newman about the DNA Reunion Project when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 447

Host: Scott Fisher with guests Jennifer Mendelsohn and Adina Newman

Fisher: Hey, welcome back. It’s America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, and my guests today, so excited to be back with my friend Jennifer Mendelsohn and her friend Adina Newman, who we have not met in the past but, welcome to the show ladies!

Adina: Thanks so much for having us.

Jennifer: Thank you for having us.

Fisher: Both of them are genealogists, both of them deep in the weeds in DNA and Jewish research, and boy, Jewish DNA research always challenging isn’t it Jennifer?

Jennifer: [Laughs] You can say that again. I always like to say it’s like that old quote about Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, that Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did but backwards and in high heels.

Fisher: [Laughs] Yes.

Jennifer: It really sort of turns up the degree of difficulty and Adina and I always joke when we get a case that’s not Jewish, it just seems like this is so easy. [Laughs]

Fisher: Right. I can only imagine. And what we’re talking about by the way, for people who aren’t familiar with it, endogamy. And endogamy is where people live in small groups or areas and they inter marry over and over and over again. And as a result, when you get a DNA match to somebody, it’s often magnified as to how closely you are related to that person. And this is very common in Jewish ancestry and also in many small towns, even in the Midwest so it’s not unique to Jewish research, but Jewish research certainly is dramatically affected by it because so many people marry within the faith, right?

Jennifer: It’s definitely a big part of it. I think also there’s that founder effect. You know they say Ashkenazi Jews descend from something like 350 people. And just the records themselves, you know, I have my mother in law, her family is all from Quebec and you can see a little bit of endogamy in her matches, but those trees go back hundreds and hundreds of years so you can see all the cousin marriages and how they affect the DNA.

Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs]

Jennifer: It’s not like that so much with Ashkenazi Jews. You’re lucky for some people if they can get back to the 1800s even 1700s.

Fisher: Yes.

Jennifer: It’s a very different ball game.

Fisher: Absolutely. And you guys have been doing this for many years. Jennifer you have been doing it 10, and professionally for the last four or five. Adina, you’ve been a professional for the last five years or so and have been in it for 15. So, you obviously get a lot of stories from this and it’s got to be enormously satisfying when you jump through these hoops. Like you say Jennifer, dancing backwards with high heels [Laughs] to find those results that your people are looking for.

Jennifer: Very, very because we also deal a lot with the sort of specter of the Holocaust.

Fisher: Yes.

Jennifer: It casts an unmistakable shadow over all Jewish family research that you do because it’s virtually impossible to find a Jewish person in America today who doesn’t have some connection to the Holocaust. For some of us it’s very close. You know, in my family my husband’s mother and grandparents are survivors of the war. In my own family I lost countless numbers of my family in the Holocaust. So, a lot of people think that there’s this big black hole that the Holocaust severed us from our history, that there’s a huge myth that the Nazis destroyed all the records during World War II, and that you can’t embark on a search for Jewish family history. But Adina and I love to dispel that myth because it’s not true. It’s certainly, as we just discussed, a lot more difficult than it is for some people, but it can be done. And when you start making those connections and facilitating those reunions, it can be priceless.

Fisher: Sure.

Jennifer: My very first venture in genealogy I discovered that my husband’s 95-year old grandmother who had lost both of her parents, all six of her siblings, her grandfather and about 99% of every aunt, uncle and cousin she ever had. I discovered accidently in her 95th year that she had three living first cousins.

Fisher: Oh!

Jennifer: And it completely changed the family making that discovery. You can imagine that sort of reunion and how meaningful and precious it was. And she later said to me, “Now I know why I lived so long. I lived so long so I could see this day.” And that got me hooked.

Fisher: [Laughs] I can only imagine. That had to be one of the happiest days of your life.

Jennifer: It was incredible. I often joke that I felt like I been through space time continuum.

Fisher: Um hmm.

Jennifer: When you’re dealing with someone who believes that they are alone in the world, and then to discover that they’re not alone in the world. And it had this incredible ripple effect through the family. Meaning, you know, she survived but she lost her parents, she lost all her siblings, and her children grew up never having a cousin or an aunt or uncle, and they don’t even have any photographs of their grandparents. But once I connected with these cousins, they had pictures of other family members. They could see the faces of people and that was so powerful.

Fisher: Wow!

Jennifer: And that’s what we’re trying to do. That’s what Adina and I do. We try to restore the past and connections to as many people as we can.

Fisher: So, talking about these German records, Germany actually did an amazing job of record keeping, which considering all the war crimes they committed is astonishing. Are those now available to researchers?

Jennifer: Yes. I think that’s one of the biggest myths that need to be busted. You know, people say oh the Nazis destroyed everything. Not only is that not true from kind of the systemic perspective, but at least I know in my family and a lot of the people I’ve done work for, that’s the only record that’s readily available is the one the Nazis created.

Fisher: Wow!

Jennifer: Yeah. So there are different databases that you can access. The US Holocaust Memorial Museum has a bunch of records, the Yad Vashem in Israel they have a central names database that’s very helpful, there are those rolls from archives that have just a treasure trove of records, and all these are readily available online. And that’s just the surface. Of course, like anything else, not everything is online and digitized. You have to go to the actual repositories and make requests.

Fisher: It’s just astonishing to think that those records are all there. That they were never destroyed because they were so efficient, right, like you were talking about, that this was done systemically. And so, those records have survived in such a way now that with our modern technology people can access that material. And that’s got to be exciting for a lot of people listening right now who may have never thought of things like this.

Jennifer: Yeah. It’s a very sobering thing, right?

Fisher: Yes, of course.

Jennifer: Like we’re excited about seeing somebody who was put in a concentration camp because it tells us the names of their parents, and their journey, and where they ultimately ended up. 

Fisher: Sure.

Jennifer: And I think the way we kind of describe it, you know, it’s hard to say a happy ending. We use terms like there’s healing there, there’s closure.

Fisher: Right, right.

Jennifer: And I think closure is the best way to describe it because personally, I found branches in my family that we didn’t even know about because people didn’t talk about it. And that’s a big ask back there. I think for a lot of Jewish families, Jewish genealogy that because of the tragedy of these horrible crimes that people just tried to forget and didn’t tell their children, their grandchildren, so they’re big surprises. And just learning their names and honoring their identities, and giving their names back, its important work.

Fisher: Yes.

Jennifer: And you know, for Jews we say it’s a mitzvah, kind of holy work in some way just to give these people their names back so nobody forgets them.  

Fisher: It is a holy work. And you know when you consider the ripple effect through time. You know the ripple affect’s not going to end any time. Talk about how the ordinary person could go about looking at some of these records, and what the impact is the first time you looked at that.

Jennifer: Well, As Adina said, sometimes it may be hard to convey to people who didn’t grow up as we did in the shadow of the Holocaust. You have to understand that we have entire branches of our trees just dead.

Fisher: Gone. Yeah.

Jennifer: And again, it’s so hard to fathom for some people if you’re not familiar with it. Remember, these are not people who died who have graves and mentions on Find A Grave, and death records, these are people who were just wiped off the face of the planet. And anything that we can do, you know, I’ve written about something as simple as finding the marriage record of a young woman, a cousin of my grandfather who was murdered. It just feels so important to say these were not nameless faceless people. These were human beings with hopes and desires and dreams and love, and anything that we can do to sort of restore their dignity, just feels really important.

Fisher: Sure.

Jennifer: Again, when you ask how the ordinary person can do it, we’re professional researchers and it’s a little bit easier for us to sort of dig out this information than it might be for the average person. But you really can start very simply. One very simple first place to go would be Yad Vashem, which is the website of the Holocaust museum in Israel. And they have something called the Shoah names database. And what that is, is an attempt to document every single person who was lost. And a very simple mechanism that exists for that is after the war, people were encouraged to write what were called Pages of Testimony. And they are exactly what they sound like. It is a page dedicated to a person who perished, with as much information as possible, their names, where they lived, their age, the names of their parents, how they died, if the person had any information about that. And that can be a very simple place to start, you can put in a name, you can put in a town. And other interesting thing that people can do that might be a start, let’s say you know that your grandparents were survivors but you don’t know the names of the rest of their family. You can actually search that database by submitter’s names. So, it’s possible that while your grandfather may not have told you the names of his siblings and parents who perished, he may have submitted pages of testimony for them. So if you search for him as a submitter, he might come up. Those are some very simple places to start. And of course, if your grandparents are survivors and they came say to the US, there will be information about them in US records, their immigration files you can look into depending on where they came and if they naturalized. There are different repositories for those. There might also be vital records. If they came before 1950 you might find them in the 1950 census. If they died here, there will be death records for them, etc, etc. So you can start to sort of piece it together.

Fisher: All right. I’m talking to Jennifer Mendelsohn and Adina Newman. They are genealogists specializing in Jewish research and the Holocaust. And ladies, you are deep in the weeds now in a brand new project with the center for Jewish history in New York City called The DNA Reunion Project, having everything to do with what happened in the Holocaust. We’re going to come back and talk about that in five minutes when we return on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.            

Segment 3 Episode 447

Host: Scott Fisher with guests Jennifer Mendelsohn and Adina Newman

Fisher: All right, we’re back on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. My guests today, Jennifer Mendelsohn and Adina Newman, they’re both genealogists specializing in Jewish research and Jewish DNA. And we’ve got a lot of information in our first segment talking about how you research that difficult past. One question I wanted to ask you, about the Holocaust Adina, the thing I noticed in our conversation in the first segment was we talk a lot about cousins, and I’m not so sure that everybody who is non-Jewish goes into those cousin branches nearly as much and I think that’s because the cousin branches because of the Holocaust are much more highly valued, yes?

Adina: Yeah. I think that really for me any good genealogy you’re not just building up and down, you’re building side to side.

Fisher: Right.

Adina: And especially when you’re working with genetic genealogy people commonly whether it’s among the Jewish community or not, people get panicky with they see relatively close matches and they don’t recognize last names. And a great way to resolve that is to focus on those cousin branches. Look for your grandparents’ siblings, your great grandparents’ siblings and build down. We do a lot of that simply because many of us don’t have that information. I mean, personally for me, there’s a DNA match at My Heritage that I have and no idea where to place it. I had my mom tested and I had her second cousin that we found through databases that was stuck in the Soviet Union. And a lot of Jews are actually finding cousins that weren’t living in Russia, the former Soviet Union these days which adds to your family tree.

Fisher: Sure.

Adina: But, he is living in Latvia and he has no idea how he’s related to us.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Adina: And the best we can tell is that my great grandfather has a sibling that may be unaccounted for.

Fisher: Yeah.

Adina: And that’s just a common thing that you have in these Jewish trees. I certainly have that close great grandparents, their sibling. I know a few of them but I’m sure I’m missing some, and you see it in the DNA so I’m sure that he’s a second cousin to my mother but I’m not quite sure how and that’s just the reality. So, we work really hard to kind of try to build those trees which are harder for many of us who are more recent immigrants or just the records were not taken in the same way that they might have been in the United States or England, for example. So, it’s just different challenges. We have different obstacles.

Fisher: Sure, of course. Jennifer, tell me about the DNA reunion project you two are working on for the Centre for Jewish History in New York City. I’m really excited about what you’re doing with it and you’re just getting started.

Jennifer: We are, and we are so excited about it. Basically, Adina and I sort of came to this idea after doing a lot of work. We saw the power of genetic genealogy to work in cases where the paper trail has been severed. Both of us have done a lot of unknown parent work for either adoptees or donor conceived people. And we realized of course that the Holocaust was sort of the great severer of paper trails where so many people either went underground, children were hidden. People took on new identities. People were scattered after the war and had no means to reconnect with family. We started working on cases where we could use DNA to help people in that situation and there was only so much we could do, just sort of the two of us on an ad hoc basis, which is the way we had been working. And we thought, wouldn’t it be great if we could partner with a Jewish organization that could give us a platform to do this sort of on a broader scale. And we connected with the Center for Jewish History in New York City, and at the end of November we launched this project. Right now, we’re in sort of a pilot. We’re just getting started and seeing what we can do, but our goal is to give free DNA tests to Holocaust survivors and their children if they’re interested in testing. And Adina and I are onboard to do any sort of high order genetic genealogy consulting that’s necessary, whether that means working on cases of children who were hidden, people who are just discovering that they are Jewish and didn’t know it, cases like that.

Fisher: Um hmm.

Jennifer: And we are really, really excited because we know that genetic genealogy can be incredible tools for this community and we want to sort of evangelize about it and spread the word. We’re seeing so many people who did not know that taking a DNA test connects you to relatives, which obviously as genealogists, for us it’s the most important piece of it. And just that alone has been very satisfying. People just think that taking that test will give them a pie chart of their ethnicity. And most Jewish people are like I’m going to come back hundred percent Ashkenazi, why would I even bother? So, that’s been really gratifying to us.

Fisher: Yeah, absolutely. And there are a lot of people in every community within the country and within the world who have no idea about matching and what it can do, and how much fun it is to put together, and how satisfying. I always tell people, I build puzzles, but when I’m done I get to keep the puzzle. We don’t throw it back in the box and throw it on a shelf.

Jennifer: Right.

Fisher: So Adina, as you look at this situation drawing on your past experience talk about some of the people that you’ve helped to connect with the Holocaust. You already had one in your family, how about some others outside of it?

Adina: Sure. So, the first one that Jennifer and I worked on together is the story of Jackie Young. And Jackie Young is this lovely man living in the UK. He was a child survivor of the concentration camp Theresienstadt. Which is in the Czech Republic, and he’s story was just absolutely fascinating. The way we learned about his case was, he was on a BBC show “DNA Secrets” and it was all a buzz within the Jewish genealogy community because he found out late in life that he was actually a survivor of the Holocaust. His adopted parents never told him that and he found his original birth certificate but it didn’t have his father’s name on it. So, he had questions his whole life, “who is my father?” So, he went on the show and they brought him some more distant cousins on his father’s side. Jennifer and I both saw this and said, you know what, what if we reach out to Jackie and try to take it further and actually find the identity of his biological father. 

Fisher: Wow!

Adina: Right. So, Jennifer and I are actually administrators of a popular DNA Jewish genetic genealogy group on Facebook and one of our members her mother was a neighbor of Jackie or something like that, that’s how it happened. So they put us in contact and we told him, Jackie if you give us your DNA and what you have, we’ll try to figure this out for you and he readily passed it along. And I think it’s safe to say within a few days Jennifer and I had a candidate for who his biological father was and it just took me calling the only individual in the United States who could make this happen for us and having a very uncomfortable phone call because I was petrified that they’d say no to testing. So, I called and he said yes and this was a first cousin once removed to Jackie. The only one in the United States who could have done this for us and Jackie has this whole new family. He has the tree plastered on his wall.

Fisher: Ohh.

Adina: He framed it. There are just no words to describe how meaningful it was to us. I mean for Jackie the signs of closure and healing, decades trying to fill this hole for him, for his children for the people we’ve met along the way. And I think of a really important point, it’s not just the survivor whoever we’re helping in that moment. It’s all the people we meet along the way, the children. There’s a domino effect here. It really brings a community together to solve one of these.

Fisher: Yes. Boy, absolutely. So Jennifer, if somebody is a survivor of the Holocaust or they are a child of a survivor of the Holocaust, what do they do to get in touch with you and be a part of the DNA reunion project?

Jennifer: We have a website it’s, DNA.cjh.org. And there’s a lot more information about the program and how it works and there’s a very simple application people can fill out if they have questions. They could email us, [email protected]. We are happily receiving submissions at the moment and trying to get kits out to people. And we actually just got word that the first person who tested with one of our kits has results.

Fisher: Ooh.

Adina: [Laughs]

Jennifer: So, we are about to see what happens.

Fisher: She’s Jennifer Mendelsohn. She’s Adina Newman. They’re genealogists. They’re partners working on this DNA Reunion Project for the Center for Jewish History in New York City. Ladies, thank you so much for coming on and talking about this it’s so important. I’m excited and thrilled for you because I know what kind of fulfillment this is to make some of these breakthroughs on behalf of so many people.

Adina: Thank you for having us.

Fisher: And coming next, David Allen Lambert rejoins the show as we go through Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show. 

Segment 4 Episode 447

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: And welcome back to Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show. It is Fisher here along with that man of great renown with a full heart of passion. His work is a crown, David Allen Lambert. That was a little bit of the poem if you didn't catch the earlier segment today. The thing that AI wrote about him, unbelievable!

David: Well, it could be worse. [Laughs]

Fisher: Yeah, it could be. All right, we've but questions today for Ask Us Anything and we're going to start with one from Lisa in your neck of the woods, Dave, Belmont, Massachusetts.

David: Ohhh.

Fisher: And she writes, "Fish and Dave, newbie here. Can you explain to me the basics of the US census records, when they started and what they contained?" I think we could do a few minutes on this.

David: Oh, a few, probably a lot!

Fisher: [Laughs]

David: Well, the first census of course is 1790 whether you know it or not and it's a really interesting one, because it really is only keeping track of two age groups and it's for males. You're getting males that are of military age, then you're getting males under military age and then you also get females. It's fascinating that that census would be done for military, because seven years earlier, we just got out of the Revolutionary War.

Fisher: Yep.

David: But we would need to know our military strength because of the new federal government only founded just a year before. Then, by 1800, 1810, 1820, 1830, 1840 you're still getting the statistical hash marks essentially, how many children between 10 and 15? How many men that are 40 to 45 or 60 years and upwards or then sometimes 100 years and upwards?

Fisher: Yeah, it just depends. It changes from census to census in those early years. And then it gets good in 1850.

David: Ooh, it does! Because it names everybody in the household. You're also getting that census for those who were enslavers. It would give you the accounting of how many male and female enslaved that they have, so under a slave schedule. Then of course the 1860 is quite similar to the 1850.

Fisher: Right.

David: And the one thing, you get these names. But what's really frustrating? I'll give you an example. You have a household of John Lambert and Mary Lambert. You know that's your ancestor, but all of a sudden there's now a David Lambert in there. You don't know how he fits. Is he their son? It's the same name, right? You would think. But he could be a nephew.

Fisher: Yeah.

David: They don’t give relationships until 1870.

Fisher: Okay.

David: So it makes it very, very complicated. For those genealogists like myself that have been doing this for a long time, like you too, Fish.

Fisher: Yep.

David: You may remember, the only way we could search the 1880 census was for something that was called soundex.

Fisher: Yes. [Laughs]

David: Still have it now. It's a tic mark when you do Ancestry searching and other websites, because it's a great way of finding names that are spelt similar. However, the soundex of 1880 the rule was, for anybody who had children under the age of 10.They would have been about the age to retire in the 1930s, so they indexed it for that purpose only.

Fisher: Sure.

David: So if you had an older couple, they won't have children who were 10. There was no way to find them, unless you browsed town by town. So, fast forward, Family Search made the CDs, indexed the 1880 census and the rest is history.

Fisher: Yep, that's right. And it was a big boon to researchers at that point to have all the names. We don't even think about that anymore. Nobody even talks about the fact that the 1880 index was made for the social security administration.

David: And you know, the 1890 would have been a great one, but we only have it for a very, very small fraction of the United States, because it burned.

Fisher: Yeah. But we should mention however, if you had ancestors in New York, which is a very big city by that time, they didn't like the results they got from the 1890 census, so they went back out and they did a police census, and that still exists, so we have an 1890 census for New York.

David: And if your ancestor was in the Union Army or forces in the Civil War, one of the schedules called, the veterans schedule, widows and veterans of the Civil War are listed if you're in states Kentucky through Wyoming. Unfortunately, the government threw out everything that covered states A to I back in the ‘40s, because they figured they didn't need it.

Fisher: [Laughs] Oh boy!

David: So, that's gist of the 19th century censuses and I hope that gives you a little history lesson.

Fisher: All right, Lisa, thanks for her question. We've got another one coming up next when we return in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 447

Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert

Fisher: Okay, final segment of Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here with David Allen Lambert. David, this question comes from Levar in Salt Lake City, Utah and he says, "Hey fellers. Last week I got a batch of several original photos that I received from a second cousin once removed that I met as a DNA match." How cool is that!

David: Wow!

Fisher: "So, what are your best tools for digitally making these look their best? Thanks, Levar." Good question. You start, Dave. You do a lot of this, too.

David: Well, one of the things I would definitely advise is, scanning it at a high resolution.

Fisher: Yep.

David: Even going as far as not just making them a jpeg, but making them a TIFF. One thing with jpegs, the image resolution every time you open them degenerates a little bit. I mean, not so noticeable with the eye.

Fisher: A little bit. But you know, they say that it takes maybe even 100 open and closes before you even start to have anything of any significance at all, so I wouldn't worry too much about that. But I agree with you, we've got to keep very high dpi on this, so scan it at a high resolution.

David: Um hmm, 600 dpi is what I use.

Fisher: I go 1200.

David: Goodness! You're trying to see the fly on that person's nose, aren't you?

Fisher: [Laughs] Yep!

David: But there's so many tech tools out there, especially with what My Heritage has done.

Fisher: Sure.

David: I mean, for sharpening images and hey, if you want to see your great, great grandmother smile and sing. [Laughs]

Fisher: Yes, that's really true.

David: You can do that, too.

Fisher: That really is an…yes, it’s strange when they added the voices to it this past year as well. There are combinations of things that I like to use for different circumstances. I like to initially go in and clean up a photograph using Adobe Photoshop Elements. It’s the least expensive. It just has the couple of tools that I need. And find like you say, the little tiny things, get them out of there.

David: [Laughs]

Fisher: And then once I've cleaned it up that way, then you can go in and do the sharpening tool, you can use the colorization tool over on My Heritage. They have colorization now on Ancestry, so they have those things as well. You know, I don't think we can really get into a full lesson on how you do all these things and what all those tools specifically are. We can tell you that a combination of these things can really work well. Sometimes for instance, I find that colorization does not do the picture any favors. [Laughs]

David: Oh, that's true.

Fisher: Sometimes it just comes out a complete dumpster fire, forget it.

David: The contrast and brightness are the two tools that I use all the time.

Fisher: Yes, yes, that's right.

David: Those are real simple and they're just sliding a bar across or spinning a dial. And you know, you don't have to hit save right away. And then you could always use that wonderful button called "undo".

Fisher: All the time.

David: You know, there was a picture that I think about that belonged to my wife's side of the family. It was from the 1880s, late 1880s and it had faded dramatically and it had a tear down the middle of it and it was very yellow and it was one of those cabinet cards. And so, I was able to take that and continue to do the contrast like you're talking about, the light and dark and the shading, but I wasn't able to get the contrast back with one pass at it, so I kept doing it, saving it, doing it and getting it better and better contrast, but then the color became too intense, so I'd have to go in and pull the color way back down before I could do it again. And in the end, this digitized version is so much better than the original. I don't even know why I bother to keep the original.

David: [Laughs]

Fisher: But we completely restored it and it looks absolutely fabulous. So there are all kinds of tools and it’s so much fun. I mean, if you're like one of those people who sits around and wants to do jigsaw puzzles all day, sit around and work on some of these and practice your skills restoring photos. You're going to love it.

David: It really is amazing and now the tools are out there that even an amateur can become an expert in a short amount of time.

Fisher: Well, it’s funny you say that, because everybody thinks that I'm this genius with these photos. It’s like, no, I push a button, I slide a slide, it’s not that hard. Just use your eyes. But it’s a lot of fun. David, it’s been great today to know somebody the subject of an artificial intelligence poem. You've been magnificent as always. Thank you, sir.

David: [Laughs] Thank you, friend. It was awesome.

Fisher: [Laughs] Talk to you next week. Thanks also to Jennifer Mendelsohn and Adina Newman for coming on and talking about their Holocaust DNA reunion project. If you missed any of it, of course catch the podcast on AppleMedia, iHeart Radio, iTunes, ExtremeGenes.com and Spotify. Talk to you next week. Thanks for joining us. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice normal family!

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