Episode 59 - Changes coming to Ancestry.com and Women Find Family History Treasures in Old House

podcast episode Sep 29, 2014

Fisher opens the show with a great family story about his wife's uncle, a cell phone, and a funeral! In Family Histoire News for this week, Fisher tells you about Laura Berry of BBC 1 and her list of Top 10 Family History Apps. We guarantee you don't know them all! Then, a man in Michigan went to digitize old home movies belonging to his grandparents from 1941. You won't believe what they saw, and who wanted to have it.

Mimi McDonald-Hartnett of New Jersey joins the show to tell her story of a house cleaning. The home, in Jersey City, New Jersey had once belonged to her late grandparents, and most recently belonged to her late aunt. Mimi and her sisters went to work cleaning after the aunt died and started making family history discoveries that have greatly deepened their ties to their past.

Then, Anna Swayne and Matthew Deighton of Ancestry.com talk about the Ancestry features that are just about to disappear forever. What are they? Will you be affected? Better listen... and fast!

Then Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com, the preservation authority answers a fascinating question. Why is it a DVD or CD can be more easily damaged from the TOP side of the disk? You'll want to know.

That's all this week on Extreme Genes!
Transcript of Episode 59
Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show

Host: Scott Fisher

Segment 1 Episode 59

Fisher: Greetings Genies! And welcome back to another edition of Extreme Genes, Family History Radio, America’s Family History Show where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out. I am Fisher your Radio Roots Sleuth. Tons of great info and stories today, I’ll tell you about our guests coming up in a minute here, but first I want to congratulation my wife’s favourite uncle, all right her only uncle Robert Burk of Martinsville, Indiana. We call him D-Cub, which stands for Doctor Colonel Uncle Bob. He got an honorary doctorate in forestry from Purdue University. He was named a Kentucky Colonel in 2011 and he’s an awesome uncle. D-Cub D-C-U-B, Doctor Colonel Uncle Bob, he insists we now call him that, demands respect. Anyway, he’s been a wealth of family history stories and he just turned 80 this past week and had quite a party in Indiana. Here’s a story he recently told us. He was at a funeral for the wife of a close family friend recently. He was a close enough friend to be invited to sit on the front row with the family. As the minister was singing the praises of the deceased, his cell phone began to ring, loud enough that it echoed throughout the church. He reached in his pocket, cut the ringer then handed it to the daughter of the dearly departed and said, “Here it’s your mother. She says she’s all right.” The daughter and those around began laughing so hard that the pew began to shake. That is one we have added to our history. And coming up for you in about 7 minutes, we’ll be talking to Mimi McDonald Hartnett. She lives in New Jersey and was recently cleaning out the home of a late aunt in Jersey City, and as is often the case treasures were to be found. We’ll tell you about the remnants of her grandfather’s World War I service she discovered and what she learned about him. Then later in the show, Anna Swayne and Matthew Deighton join us to talk about the retirement of several Ancestry.com offerings, including Y-chromosome and mitochondrial DNA test, as well as MyCanvas.com which allows you to create charts and books and some other features. These changes take effect on September 30th so you’ll want to pay close attention to what they have to say, that will be in about 25 minutes. Our Extreme Genes poll for this week asked the question, “Are you aware of any infamous people in your family history?” We mentioned people like Benedict Arnold and Butch Cassidy as examples, and fully 63% of people who responded at ExtremeGenes.com, said they indeed did have someone in their lines who qualified as infamous. Thanks for voting!

This week’s poll asks, “Do you own a family heirloom that has the initials of one of your ancestors embossed, carved, or in some other way permanently marked on it?” Cast your yes or no vote now at ExtremeGenes.com. We’ll get the final results next week. By the way, I am amazed at how excited everyone gets who learns about our free Extreme Genes podcast app for their iPhone or Android, just go to your phone’s store and search Extreme Genes and download it. It costs you nothing and you can catch all of our past episodes on your phone through Bluetooth in your car, wherever, so get on it! All right, it is time once again for our family histoire news from the pages of ExtremeGenes.com. Laura Berry of BBC 1 has come up with a guide to help you with your online resources, listing her ten best apps to help you with online searches. She’s part of England’s version of “Who Do You Think You Are?” and published the list in the Guardian. While I will go through the list quickly here, you’ll undoubtedly hear some apps you’ve never heard of before, as I have. She gives a pretty detailed description of each app, which devices they work with, and what they do. So, go to ExtremeGenes.com to carefully review what is out there and what you can do with them. Number one on Laura’s list is Interviewy, which works with iPhone and iPad. It’s a voice recording app. Second is Ancestry for iPhone, iPad and Android. Third is the WDYTYA, you know, “Who Do You Think You Are?” forum. It ties into the “Who Do You Think You Are?” magazine in the UK and can connect you with a growing genealogy community there. There’s TreeView at number four, does a lot more than I can describe in building trees and viewing even offline. At number five, MyHeritage has a special tool for iPhone, iPad and Android. Great for making and editing your tree and can even incorporate photos into it, covers 32 languages. Number six through ten include Find-A-Grave, RootsMagic, One Note, Reunion, and HistoryPin. I told you you wouldn’t know them all. Find the link to this fascinating article at ExtremeGenes.com now. MLive of Ann Arbor, Michigan, has another great story of a piece of family history that turned out to also be a piece of American history. Bill Robertson and his family were anticipating a visit by Bill’s grandparents, so they grabbed a box of old home movies that had been in the closet in Bill’s parents’ home for years, and took them to a local photo preservation shop to digitize them to surprise his guests. The shopkeeper offered to show the Robertsons just how a home movie is digitized, so he randomly grabbed one marked 1941 and they started watching it. The reel had about four minutes of footage, with the first minute twenty five seconds showing Franklin D. Roosevelt’s inaugural parade. With the Ken Burns Roosevelt documentary bringing a ton of interest to the family, Rob Hoffman who did the digitizing asked if he could post the clip on his website. The clip caught the attention of the people of the FDR Presidential Library who then reached out to Hoffman. They asked if the Robertsons would consider gifting the film to the library. With the permission of Robertson’s parents, the answer was yes. Watch the beautifully restored and digitized film on our website, ExtremeGenes.com now. It’s an amazing piece of camera work and restoration, and if you’ve been watching the Roosevelt’s as we have, you’ll find it extra interesting. And coming up next, it’s the story everyone loves to hear: The clean out of an old family home, in this case, in New Jersey, and the discovery of some very cool family history memorabilia. What was found, who did it belong to, what’s going to happen to it all, these are the questions I’ll have for Mimi McDonald Hartnett of Jersey City, New Jersey, coming up next in three minutes on Extreme Genes, Family History Radio, America’s Family History Show!

Segment 2 Episode 59

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Mimi McDonald-Hartnett

Fisher: Welcome back to Extreme Genes, Family History Radio ExtremeGenes.com America’s Family History Show. It is Fisher here, and my guest today is Mimi McDonald Hartnett from New Jersey. Mimi you’ve been snooping a little lately.

Mimi: Yeah I have. We had a very interesting with one of those things where the expression is lemons into lemonade. Well, my aunt passed away in February and she left us with this beautiful, beautiful house with a lot of things in it, with an awful lot of family history. So we then started to clear things out, her clothes, whatever, and remembering stories as we did and we actually lost our parents a year before this so we were pretty much accustomed to how do you clear somebody’s house out with as much love and respect with memories and stories and whatnot. So, I’m one of six girls.

Fisher: This is a hard thing to do, isn’t it? I mean because there are so many choices and there’s emotion involved and I kind of learned when we cleared out my mom’s place in Oregon years ago, that you can’t do it all at once because you can’t let go of everything at the same time.

Mimi: Exactly. And we also learned too with my parent’s house that a lot of things that were maybe even the slightest bit controversial, had nothing to do with the value of whether it was silver or china or whatever, it was the memory that was attached to a particular item.

Fisher: That’s right.

Mimi: So were clearly it could have been somebody else’s junk without a doubt, to us, who cares who got the silver? Who cares who got the waterford what mattered to us was, “Oh look at that picture, or, look at that coffee mug” So we then started to do things little by little, as you said, you have to do it in chunks of maybe two hours at max because getting six people together is always a challenge.

Fisher: Yes.

Mimi: So we were in my aunt’s bedroom which had been my grandparent’s bedroom, and that’s when my sister Katie uncovered what turned out to be my grandfather’s Purple Heart. Now, we knew that my grandfather was in World War I but we had no idea of anything that he did there. We had never even seen this Purple Heart before.

Fisher: Now, do you remember your grandfather? Had you spoken to him?

Mimi: Yes. Well, I was ten years old when he died. He was this very, very gentle, very soft spoken man. I never heard him raise his voice. He walked to work. He was a Deputy Surrogate in Hudson County and he would come home, we would sometimes walk up to meet him to walk home with him, and just this very, very gentle person who never ever spoke about the war. And my mother and my aunt, they were twins. I don’t think they ever spoke about the war because I don’t think they actually knew what he did in the war,

Fisher: Um hmm.

Mimi: So, I then sometimes, because I live right next door where my aunt had been living, I would then sometimes go into the cellar or to a different room and just try and tackle one corner or one dresser or whatever, when I found a pile of papers that I realized where his discharge papers.

Fisher: Oh that’s good stuff.

Mimi: That was very good stuff.

Fisher: Yes.

Mimi: Then because I was reading in the New York Times too this happened to be then the 100th year anniversary of the start of World War I. I actually was realizing I’m not too sure my history is as good as it should be either. So I then read Guns of August, Barbara Tuchman’s quest. It’s about World War I.

Fisher: Yes.

Mimi: Just to kind of give myself more of a background on what are all these things that I’m finding. Because now I’m reading that he was in New York in the Argonne forest. I’m reading that he was in the Signal Corps, but I still didn’t really know exactly what he did. Then one day I was in the cellar, this seemed to be just scrap kinds of things, and I picked up what was an old rusted metal bowl, but when I turned it over it had leather straps. It was his helmet. It was his Dough Boy helmet from World War I.

Fisher: Oh wow! [Laughs]

Mimi: So I picked that up, I then went online to just try and figure out what is this? And I took pictures of it and then I was looking around like World War I helmets and I realized this is exactly the type of helmet that was worn in the Argonne forest in the big charge that ended the war.

Fisher: Boy, are you guys having a good time at grandma’s house there. Wow!

Mimi: Oh my goodness it was unbelievable. Unbelievable! My aunt and my mother never actually left the block. They were born in 81 Magnolia. They then lived forty years at 87 A Magnolia, and then my aunt then was in 83 while we were back in 81 where I grew up in 81 Magnolia. So they never left the block, and all the other relatives who had been on the same block in Jersey City, we had other things of theirs that we found in the cellar. So at my aunt Kate, my uncle Jimmy, all these people who we didn’t really know that well, we are now finding an awful lot that belonged to family history. It was unbelievable what we were finding.

Fisher: Now how are you dividing this up Mimi, amongst all of you because there must be huge interest with all six?

Mimi: Believe it or not, the decision pretty much has been, I now have everything in a couple of bins in my cellar. So, that in case if anybody needs any of this, they all know where it is. We decided that we will at least keep it all together. There is one picture of my grandfather, apparently there was some training that took place down in Sigurd, New Jersey, where there’s the National Guard training site is there now, and my sister Mary Pat she was directly of course in that. Well, there’s this really big photo of all of the men lined up. So Mary Pat has that now hanging in her house.

Fisher: Oh that’s great. Are you all getting copies of it though?

Mimi: Yeah, as much as we can and I then had a whole bunch of the other pictures, so what I did was I took a whole bunch of pictures of them and now everybody now has a digital copy. I had been thinking that, you know, put everything on disc, but then realizing that well the next generation might not be able to play a CD.

Fisher: The problem you’re going to have with that Mimi is these discs. We don’t know how long they last, more than anything.

Mimi: Exactly.

Fisher: And that’s an issue. So you really want to make prints of those things for everybody, and get them to as many different places as possible.

Mimi: Yes that’s a great idea. So I kept on finding and other pictures and I found then another hat and then I saw what was a crumbled up newspaper, but it was very, very yellow. I took it out of the bag realizing there were two copies. This is a Jersey Journal newspaper from January of 1919, and the headline talks about Wilson and Germany but this was 1919 so after the war. And I thought okay, somewhat interesting but not big headlines that said, “Kennedy is shot” because we found plenty of other newspapers with big headlines like that. But I was trying to figure out why did they have this? And that’s when I looked underneath at the sub headlines and it said, “The role of this Jersey City sail port in World War I” Well then it was this really long article but I couldn’t really read it from the original paper because it’s just so brittle. So I went to the Jersey City public library and I was able to get it on microfilm and it was fascinating.

Fisher: Yes.

Mimi: And that’s when I decided that I really need to write something about this and that this is a bigger story than anything else that we could be doing here. Because our grandfather I realized was, as a member of the Signal Corps, his job was to go ahead of the Frontline laying signal lines. And then when they would then get shelled or broken in some way, he had to then go in front of the frontline and repair them.

Fisher: Wow!

Mimi: And there’s a line in here about him being gassed. He was their first casualty.

Fisher: Oh really?

Mimi: Yes. He then was gassed. He then spent a few days in hospital, but then rejoined the signal corps.

Fisher: So you got the full history in this newspaper article and that’s what he was saying two copies of that because a lot was in there about him.

Mimi: Exactly. So they mentioned him specifically, and I don’t think my mother and my aunt ever saw that article or ever knew that. And I don’t even know if they knew that the helmet was there, if they knew that any of these pictures or that hat that he’s wearing in one of his pictures. I don’t even know if they knew that it was even there. That’s when I decided too that this is really a phenomenal story and this history is truly worth saving.

Fisher: Absolutely.

Mimi: And the other piece of this which was so interesting for me to is that, and I learned this not only about World War I but I mean, when we think about the way the world is broken up right now, so much of this connects right back to World War I.

Fisher: That’s right. And then of course World War II was the result of a lot of unresolved issues from World War I.

Mimi: Definitely. You know, you can kind of think well our grandfather was a very, very gentle man. He certainly, he’s gone, and we’re very proud of him. But just knowing a little else about him just... I don’t know, anytime you see more history it just kind of makes all of us know that we’re connected to something greater than just ourselves.

Fisher: Absolutely. So now you got the issue of once again trying to preserve and divide up and these are issues that many families go through when someone passes away. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run into somebody who said, “Oh Yeah I got this bible because somebody had died and we fished it out of the dumpster.” And it sounds like none of it ever got to the dumpster in your case because you’re all kind of on the ball about this and had a sense of reverence for the family.

Mimi: It could have gone to the dumpster but we all decided no, we need to do this with respect.

Fisher: Yes, that’s right. And that makes such a huge difference and you’re all on the same page. Nobody’s fighting over anything, and you know that’s a great blessing. That’s awesome stuff.

Mimi: It really is. But the other very, very interesting thing which was not in the article at all was that the house I’m living in dates back to 1860 and my father was a funeral director. And it was Ashley McDonald Funeral Homes since the 1860s and it was just down the block. When I then renovated the house after my parents died, and I was then going to be living in it, I found funeral records that dated back to the 1870s.

Fisher: Oh, wow! Are you talking about the forms that were filled out when somebody died and to provide all the information or obituaries? What was in that?

Mimi: Well, it was all in a big ledger. So there was one in there that covered the 1870s and it was handwritten in a ledger, and in a really big book and some of the things in it had the person’s name, where they lived, but a lot of times too it was the nickname was named, and then who the family members were, all first names, but it also then talked about how much ice was used to ice the body, or how many coaches, how many horses, which was all really fascinating.

Fisher: Yes, and what have you done with that?

Mimi: Well, with that I decided to do was to go to the New Jersey Room of the Jersey City Public Library. What they were going to do was then to scan in the pages so that they would then have a digital record of everything.

Fisher: Perfect.

Mimi: So in addition to the actual book.

Fisher: That’s how you want it done. That’s perfect. Well, it has been a delight chatting with you, Mimi McDonald Hartnett from New Jersey. You’re inspiring a lot of people. You did it the right way and look at the treasures you’ve come up with. Congratulations!

Mimi: Well, thank you so much. I’ve enjoyed the process and I enjoyed talking to you

Fisher: Great, thank you Mimi! And coming up next, there are going to be some big changes happening at Ancestry.com in the next few days. You’re going to want to find out more. We’ll be talking to Matthew Deighton and Anna Swayne from Ancestry in 5 minutes on Extreme Genes Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com

Segment 3 Episode 59

Host: Scott Fisher with guests Matt Deighton and Anna Swayne

Fisher: And welcome back to Extreme Genes, Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, talking to my friends over at Ancestry.com, Matt Deighton and Anna Swayne, and good to have you both. How are you?

Anna: Good, good, thank you. Good to be here.

Matt: It’s great to be here.

Fisher: We've got a lot going on right now over at Ancestry, because you guys are actually retiring some stuff, and of course, a lot of this has to do with just, you know, changes about the way things are done in the 21st century. And of course, this probably won't be the last change we see. Let's start with the charts now, guys. My Canvas, I think is the section on the website that's being retired.

Matt: Actually, what happened was, we had a large increase of people saying that they really wanted My Canvas. It was a program that they really enjoyed, that they liked all the charts and books that they could print out about their family history. So actually, it was sold to a company who is actually here, local to Utah. It is the same company that already prints a lot of the books, and so we have a deal with them where we would have the program online and you would build out your poster or book and then we would send that information to this printer and they would print the books and ship them for us. And they enjoyed that so much that they said, "We'd actually like to take on that business." And so, Ancestry was able to sell that to them, and so, they can continue to offer that service.

Fisher: Okay. So how do people transfer information they may already have? For instance, I did some beautiful charts through that section and store a lot of photographs there and filled out the family tree. How do people maintain that with the new company?

Matt: That's the beauty, it’s already on Ancestry. It’s that "publish" button at the very top and its going to remain there. And so, most people won't even know that there's a change.

Fisher: Oh, okay.

Matt: You have all the information on there in a book ready to go, ready for printing and it will remain there. And you can, it will be seen there. Most people won't even know there's a difference.

Fisher: And does that apply to charts as well?

Matt: Yes, charts, posters, books, everything.

Fisher: You just changed that way you're going to handle that.

Matt: Yeah.

Fisher: Okay, great! Now, let's talk about Y DNA. And this is a big one for a lot of people, because, of course, they were looking for matches over a period of time. Is there some way for people to salvage that information and continue to make matches into the future?

Anna: Yes. And you know, Y chromosome DNA testing is something we've been doing the last six, seven years. When we test Y chromosome, we test about forty six markers. And you can save your data, capture it by going into your account on Ancestry.com, clicking on the DNA tab, your test results will be right there. And you can simply download a printable report of your live chromosome data and your mitochondria DNA data, and that essentially is going to help you preserve those markers that we tested, and then you can take that file or that report and plug it into another database that's online or you can continue to make matches.

Fisher: Now, have any other companies been working with you to come up with some kind of transfer system.

Anna: Nope. We're just encouraging people to preserve their data by downloading it and having a file, so that you can keep it on hand and preserve that record.

Fisher: Okay. All these are going at the end of the month, right you two?

Matt: September 30th.

Fisher: September 30th at the end of the day, right, at midnight?

Matt: Yeah, midnight of September 30th, we'll see if things will go away or no longer be available to the public, and so we really encourage you people to go on and download your information now, so that your DNA or gather information from some of the other sites that are going to close at that time.

Fisher: Tell us, first of all, why are some of these things going away? I'm sure a lot of people are wondering, why the changes?

Anna: Well, I can speak to the DNA, it’s fascinating! You know, I've been in industry since the beginning of this kind of testing of Y and MT DNA, and it’s been a fascinating journey just to see the changes, but more than understanding the science, its progressed a little bit more, the technology is what's advancing some of these changes. And if you think about it in this way, we've been doing Y and MT testing for, like I say, about seven years, and what we did in that timeframe as far as growing a database, we accomplished with the autosomal DNA tests in one year. So the demand is so high with the autosomal DNA test, because anybody can take it, and it has the power and the potential to trace any one of your family lines, which fits perfectly with the Ancestry mission of discover, preserving and sharing your family history, and it’s not limited to just one line. And so, the demand is so high that we want to take all our resources, okay all our resources into this product and provide the best user experience, so that people who are on Ancestry can have this rich experience using DNA to discover more about their families.

Fisher: Now let me ask you this Anna, is it possible for autosomal to be used in the same way that Y has in the past, to follow a name line?

Anna: Yes. I actually have a personal story. Me, as a female, I don't have a Y chromosome, so if I hadn't had any family, any male relatives to test, I would rely solely on my DNA. And with autosomal, I was able to match with another female, who we both descend from a forth great grandfather. She came through another male line that was female, female and then her, where I was coming from the same great grandfather, male, male, male, male to my father's line. And so, I was able to trace back my paternal line to the autosomal DNA test by matching with another female. You couldn't do that years ago. I mean, even three or four years ago, you couldn't do that. So that's the power and potential behind this to us.

Matt: You know, the other great thing about this new DNA test, I was kind of talking about the difference between the two. We talked about Y and mitochondrial, Y is for the male, male, male line, and mitochondrion is for your mother's, mother's, mother's line. Ancestry DNA, the autosomal test is so much broader it covers really all of your ancestors potentially, but the big difference when you really look at it, how much information we're actually collecting from a person. So the Y and mitochondria test, the most markers from your DNA that you're actually collecting is around forty six, with the autosomal, its 700,000! So we're talking about the advancement in DNA technology here is incredible! So really, what we're talking about is, you know, a black and white TV versus the new HD 72 inch TV here. How much information is actually coming through that you’re actually able to see your DNA much clearer, bigger picture and really able to help you with your family history. And that's why we're in DNA, because it’s able to help you with your family's history. And like Anna was saying, it’s going to be able to see a large spectrum of your ancestors and the DNA that they handed down to you, hence your ethnicity. Your cousin matching is just so much more information now that it’s really going to take you to that next level in researching your family history.

Fisher: You know, it’s interesting you talk about that, because I had a line where I wasn't 100% sure on a branch that I was working on, but I found five people who descended from a couple that were back a couple of generations from that point that was just a little bit "iffy" confirming to me that I had the right links.

Anna: I mean you have the power to do that on any one of your lines. It’s not limited to just one line or the other, which is very exciting to participate, and as the database grows, you'll probably find new matches that will help you bridge down to another path. And we have about half a million people on our database in two years, so its phenomenal growth. We're very excited to be in this business.

Fisher: All right, Matt, Genealogy.com, that's been around since the dawn of time it feels like. [Laughs] And you're not making it disappear, but you are retiring it in a certain way.

Matt: Yeah. You know, and honestly, there's three other ones that really, you're going to see big changes to you and that's MyFamily.com, Genealogy.com and Mundia.com. And I'll talk about each of those.

Fisher: Okay.

Matt: Over the years, we've built up a variety of products that enable our users to discover preserving and show their family history, just like Anna was saying. And we recognize that there are a lot of way that we, as the company can make family history easier, more accessible and more fun for people all the people all over the world. But in order to do this, we really need to focus on our core offering, to ensure that delivering the best service and best product services to our customers. And so, to that end, we've decided to invest more aggressively in our core Ancestry.com business, and that's why we plan to retire MyFamily.com, Mundia.com, and make Genealogy.com more of a read only format.

Fisher: So that other two are disappearing, but Genealogy.com, you'll still have all the information over there. They were kind of bulletin board posts, yes?

Matt: Yeah. And so, that's still going to be a great resource for people. They're going to be able to search it, but it will become more of a read only format.

Fisher: All right, Anna Swayne and Matthew Deighton, from Ancestry.com, talking about the retirement of several different features that we've come to know for so many years and some of the changes that are going there. Thanks for taking the time to help us out with what’s going on and what we can do to make sure that we maintain the information we have contributed there over the years, and can still make the most of it. Take care, you guys, Thanks for joining us!

Anna: Thank you.

Matt: Thank you.

Fisher: And coming up next, Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com, our Preservation Authority, answering your question about why is it you can damage your disks from the top side more easily. We'll tell you more next in three minutes on Extreme Genes.

Segment 4 Episode 59

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: Hey, you found us! America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes, Family History Radio. Fisher here your Radio Roots Sleuth with Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com. He’s our Preservation Authority. Hi Tom, how are you doing?

Tom: I’m doing awesome!

Fisher: We’ve been getting a lot of comments about a comment you made a couple of weeks ago about damaging discs from the top instead of the bottom, the side where you play. Why is that?

Tom: Well, basically when a disc is made, if it’s a replicated disc like you buy at Disney DVD that’s actually mass manufactured in your store, they actually have a polycarbonate layer that has what we call mountains and valleys, so to speak. There are zeros and ones, binary code which the DVD player will read and there’s a thin piece like aluminium foil, so to speak, that reflects off it. That’s how it reads it.

Fisher: Right.

Tom: Well, when they use dye instead of having the pre-pressed mountains and valleys it turns the dye on and off. So it’s either the dye is zero or the dye is translucent.

Fisher: So it’s almost like a printer with a little ink on it.

Tom: Dot Matrix.

Fisher: Yes, a Dot Matrix. I remember those.

Tom: Exactly. In fact, if you have an LCD watch where you can see when all the LCDs are on it makes an 8.

Fisher: Right.

Tom: When the middle ones are off it makes a zero, etc. So that’s basically how...

Fisher: It’s kind of similar to that, huh?

Tom: Exactly. It’s exactly like that. And the way that they’re made, this is all on the top part of the disc close to the label and then when it’s all made, there’s a thicker piece of polycarbonate which is on the bottom. So your data is closer to your label, not the other side.

Fisher: Ha!

Tom: I can take a DVD...

Fisher: But not with the commercial one. The commercial ones are different.

Tom: Well, the commercial ones are harder to damage. But the thing on commercial discs or one off discs you make at home, one thing that matters either way is aluminium foil, so to speak, layer. Once you damage that on either one, it’s pretty much toast. So even on a commercial disc like a Dumbo video from DVD from Disney or something, if you scratch through that metallic label, when the lazer tries to read that information and reflect off of that aluminium foil layer, that’s how it knows if it’s a zero or a one for the binary code. But, if that aluminium’s missing, the light just penetrates right through the disc and doesn’t return to the DVD or CD player and say this is a zero or this is a one, so that’s how they damage. And on all discs the aluminium is right underneath the label. So even though the disc reads from the bottom side, that’s what I call the more safe side. I can take a commercial or a homemade DVD and actually take a knife and scratch the bottom side, and I can run it through one of our machines and make it playable again. If you take a paperclip, which isn’t anything like a paring knife, and scratch the top of it, if you scratch through what’s called the white flood, which is kind of a protection layer on the top of it, and you actually get into the aluminium, you’ve ruined the disc; it cannot be fixed.

Fisher: Wow, so this is why you don’t want to use like a ballpoint pen?

Tom: Exactly.

Fisher: Not even on a label that you might stick on top of it because of the risk of the damage to that foil.

Tom: All right, the very top of the polycarbonate is very, very thin and the best way to tell is to look on the bottom side of your disc and hold it up against the light, so the light is shining through the top. And if you can see light coming through then you have damaged the label. And a lot of discs, especially the silver discs have what we call a white flood on them and that’s just to make them more preserveable. Now always remember to protect the top side. Protect the label side. We sell them in our store. We sell them online. You can find them any place. They make these little covers that go on the top side of the disc. It’s a permanent just like you’d put on your iPhone or your Android to protect it, or your iPad. You can buy them; they’re pretty cheap. If you buy them in like 10 or 20 I think they’re a buck, buck fifty ($1- $1.50) a piece. But that will preserve your disc. It’s the best insurance you can buy on your disc.

Fisher: All right, great advice from Tom Perry, our Preservation Authority. When we return, what are we going to talk about, Tom?

Tom: We are going to talk about different ways to take care of your DVDs and CDs to make them last longer and make your DVD and CD players last longer.

Fisher: Good stuff when we return in 3 minutes on Extreme Genes Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com.

Segment 5 Episode 59

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: And welcome back, final segment Extreme Genes, Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here with Tom Perry. He is our Preservation Authority from TMCPlace.com. Tom, that was great information last segment and I hope everybody caught it. And if you missed it or you want to review it or hear it again, make sure you catch our podcast at ExtremeGenes.com or of course from iTunes or through iHeart Radio’s Talk Channel and you can download our free podcast app by the way for your iPhone or Android Store. So you mentioned you had some tips on preserving CDs and DVDs. And this is so important because as you mentioned the last couple of weeks, these things can vanish very quickly.

Tom: Oh absolutely. The old formats actually last longer than the new formats.

Fisher: That’s right.

Tom: They’re better and clearer nowadays but they don’t last as long. So in the old days you could put your old wedding video on the shelf after the first time you watched it, and it can sit there for 20, 30 years and pull it back out and nine out of ten times you’re still going to be able to play it, transfer it to DVD, CD or whatever. With CDs and DVDs it’s not like that. You can put them on a shelf for 10 years, never ever touch them, pop them in and they won’t play anymore because their dye is broken down now. You know, again like you mentioned in an earlier segment, commercial DVDs like a Dumbo Disney movie or something, they’ll pretty much last forever because it is actually etched into the material, so they’ll be there. Same thing with Millennial Disc, it’s etched in the material. It will be there forever.

Fisher: And those are the ones with the graves, right?

Tom: Exactly. Those are the ones that are really important because it actually engraves right in the material, plus when the Quartz Discs were finally released, which have about 365 terabytes on them. They are Quartz locks, so they will pretty much last forever. We talked about, “Do not write on the top of a disc with a ballpoint pen or any kind of a stylus that has a point on. I usually use sharpies. They make specific sharpie type instruments that are made for writing on discs that are great too. If you do use a sharpie, don’t use a super, super fine point that have a plastic tip because they can damage the foil layer which will basically render your DVD or CD unreadable.

Fisher: Is there any kind of ink that can actually damage the foil, never mind the tip?

Tom: Oh absolutely. You can buy certain types of ink that have a kind of a chemical in them. They will actually cause your disc or the label of your disc to actually crack when it gets hot inside your DVD and CD player.

Fisher: Ooh.

Tom: So I tell people there’s a lot of cool stuff at the dollar store. I shop at the dollar store, but don’t buy their markers to write on a disc. Either get a sharpie; I’ve never had a problem with the fat tip sharpie. But most sharpies are fine as long as you don’t use a super, super fine tip. Just be careful. And one thing I really, really discourage is, don’t ever put a paper label on a disc of any kind. The chances of you getting it perfectly centered are slim. If it is not perfectly centered, spin it in your DVD player. If you don’t have a real high quality DVD player it is not going to be able to read it because it’s like a record that’s kind of shifting back and forth. We do a lot of videos for people that want to get a college scholarship to play on a tennis team, a football team or whatever, and a lot of the schools when they take the discs out of the envelope to look at it. If it has a paper label on it they throw it in the garbage.

Fisher: No kidding. Wow.

Tom: Oh absolutely. So yours don’t even get looked at.

Fisher: So what do you use then instead of paper?

Tom: Well you either want to use inkjet which is not as bad as paper, which I don’t like, because then once it gets wet, it runs. If you use thermal printing, they’re probably the best because they permanently print on it, or you can use what we call a mag set type of label which we can put a full color print right on the disc and I put it on my saltwater tank and they still look fine.

Fisher: So it goes right onto the top of the CD itself? There’s no paper involved?

Tom: No, no there’s no paper. We call it a White Flood. It’s a special material that’s put on the top of the disc that not only makes it easier for us to print on it permanently that won’t run or anything. It actually protects the disc itself as well. So you want to do that. Don’t print on a paper label and put it on a disc. One thing that happens a lot too is even if you get a center on there just right, through heat in your car, through going through the mail, the label can come a bit loose and it can come off in a person’s DVD player and ruin that. That’s why most scholars at universities won’t put a DVD or a CD in their machine that has a paper label.

Fisher: I’ve concluded that preservation can be scary Tom for all the things you’re saying. [Laughs]

Tom: Absolutely.

Fisher: All right, thanks for joining us. We’ll talk to you again next week.

Tom: That was good.

Fisher: I cannot believe all the ground we covered today! That wraps up the show for this week. Thanks also to Mimi McDonald Hartnett from New Jersey and Anna Swayne and Matthew Deighton from Ancestry.com for filling us in on all the changes that are coming right up. Take care and remember, as far as everyone knows, we’re a nice normal family!

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