Episode 78 - Which "John Smith" Is Yours? DNA To The Rescue! And A New Season of "Who Do You Think You Are?!"

podcast episode Mar 09, 2015

Fisher opens the show with the story of his third great grandfather.  He was a substitute soldier in the War of 1812.  Or was he?  Listen to the unusual find from the National Archives and you decide.  In "Family Histoire News," Fisher talks about the couple that has probably been married longer than anyone ever.  How long was that?  Wait til you hear the couple's ages.  A new free site is now available that searches only family history books, county histories, and genealogical newsletters.  Fisher will tell you his experience with it and tell you where to get it.  A rare photo of Helen Keller is making news, and, in Illinois, if you want to visit a grave on private property, we've got good news for you.  Be sure to catch the first segment of the show to find out what's happening in "Family Histoire News!"
In the next segment Jennifer Utley, Research Manager for "Who Do You Think You Are?" visits with Fisher about the new season that starts this weekend on TLC!  Jennifer shares some inside info on the show you won't want to miss.
Then, blogger Kitty Cooper (blog.KittyCooper.com) talks DNA.  She's crazy for it and has a great example of how you can use it to identify which one of many candidates is, in fact, your ancestor.  Even if the name is "John Smith!"  You might get crazy for DNA too!
And Tom Perry clears the air on editing and making usable your old videos and home movies.
That's this week on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show!

Transcript of Episode 78

Host: Scott Fisher

Segment 1 Episode 78

Fisher: Greetings genies across this great land of ours! And welcome to another edition of Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show, where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out. I am Fisher, the Radio Roots Sleuth, very excited to welcome three great new radio stations to our ever expanding network of Extreme Genes affiliates. They are WSDT AM1240, WEPG AM910, and WSDQ AM1190, all in Chattanooga, Tennessee. We are thrilled to be part of the team with news director Russell Stroud, Sam Capelle, he’s the owner and program director, David Tulis and Greg Luther. And you know there’s going to be some amazing family history coming out of Chattanooga. Well, this weekend on TLC by the way, “Who Do You Think You Are?” is back and this season there are eight celebrities looking into their roots. Who are they? Where will they be going? What kinds of stories can we expect to hear? Our friend Jennifer Utley from Ancestry.com, the director of research for the show will be here in about six minutes to tell us the answers to those questions. You know what I’ve always like about “Who Do You Think You Are?” is that the famous people all have back stories from typically unknown people. And stories many of us might find on our own trees. So I’m looking forward to hearing what Jennifer has to tell us about this new season. Then, there’s more on DNA genealogy, blogger Kitty Cooper joins us and while she loves the research, she’s crazy about DNA. And you’ve got to love hearing all the different stories of breakthrough in so many seemingly impossible situations. She’ll have one to share with you, and she’ll undoubtedly get you fired up about DNA. If you haven’t done it yet, you might after this.

And by the way, I received an interesting email about a family DNA project that revealed a family secret that rocked one person’s world. I’ll be asking Kitty for her thoughts on the situation because it’s something we all have to consider when we wonder into the world of DNA genealogy. And of course Tom Perry our Preservation Authority will be here with more advice on preserving your family information and heirlooms, for generations to come. And just a reminder, if you’ve missed any of our past shows, you’ve got the solution right there in your left hand, or your right hand. It’s your smart phone! Just download the free Extreme Genes app from your phone’s store and take past shows along with you wherever you go. Did I mention it’s free? Good. You know, we all love discovery stories and I just had a new one this week when the papers from the National Archives arrived, concerning my third great grandfather Samuel Downs. He was in Putnam County, New York, and in 1855 he applied as a war of 1812 veteran looking for what’s called a “Bounty land warrant.” He claimed to have served as a substitute soldier for a man named John Ager who is on record as having lived in Putnam County. Well, Samuel not only claimed to have substituted his service for that of Mr. Ager, but also to have answered to Ager’s name for the month he served in the New York militia. Their assignment was the defence of New York City late in the war. The dates of John ager’s service corresponds exactly with the dates recalled by Samuel Downs. A witness who served in the same regiment signed the document along with Samuel, but without Samuel’s name on a muster roll the government turned him down for some free western acreage. Samuel’s brother in law also served in the unit he claimed to have fought in as Private John Ager. You never know what records are going to tell you. It is time once again for your family histoire news from the pages of ExtremeGenes.com. First, happy birthday to the world’s oldest person! Misao Okawa turned 117 on Thursday. She was born on March 5th, 1898. She’s one of just a handful of people still with us who were in the 19th century. She ate cake and celebrated with family including several great grandchildren. She says sushi is a big reason she’s been around for so long. That being the case, I just assume, not eat sushi and die in my nineties. Happy birthday too, to Duranord Veillard, who turned 108 last weekend in Spring Valley, New York. His wife Jeanne will turn 105 in May, and they’ve been married for 82 years. Duranord was born when Teddy Roosevelt was president. He and Jeanne were married in late 1932 in the final months of Herbert Hoover’s Administration. Don’t you hope all these people have recorded their lengthy histories for their descendents?

Forty thousand genealogy books are now available free and searchable and downloadable at a site called “Genealogy Gophers.” While Google books and other sources are great for a lot of research, this new site only searchers family history books, local histories, and genealogy newsletters. I’ve tried it, it works well. You can try it yourself at Gengophers.com. A 19th century photo of Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan has been donated to the Brewster Massachusetts Historical Society Museum. The image was captured in 1888 by Cornelius Chenery and it shows teacher and student on vacation in Brewster. Keller, then just 8 years old is shown holding a doll. Now back in 2008 a similar photo was given to the New England Historic Genealogical Society. What makes this photo extra special is that Helen personally signed it with “Much love, Helen A. Keller.” It was Chenery’s niece Alice Walker of New Hampshire that noted all the attention to the first print of the photo and recognized that her copy might best be kept in the same town the photo was taken over 125 years ago. She also had a note that Helen Keller, who was an Alabama native, wrote to her uncle which she has also contributed to the Brewster museum. We all have to figure out where our family treasures have the best chance for long term survival, and Alice appears to have made a great choice for something of interest to even more people than just her family. In Illinois, a state representative David Lynch has introduced a bill that requires owners of private property with a grave to allow certain people access to the grave site. These people must be family members or descendents of the deceased. Any owner of a cemetery plot within the property, or anyone involved in genealogical research, researchers would first have to give reasonable notice to the owner of the property or the occupant or both to receive access to the grave. Find out about these stories and a lot more at ExtremeGenes.com. And by the way, be sure to give us a “Like” on our Facebook page and join our growing genie nation. And coming up next, a new season of “Who Do You Think You Are?” hits TLC this weekend. We’ll talk to the show’s director of research Jennifer Utley of Ancestry.com, next and find out with celebrities will be digging up their dead this season, and some of the inside stories surrounding the show. That’s in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 2 Episode 78

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Jennifer Utley

Fisher: And welcome back to Extreme Genes, Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, the Radio Roots Sleuth. On the line with me right now from Ancestry.com my friend Jennifer Utley. She is the research Manager for “Who Do You Think You Are?” And Jen, a new season is coming up and it’s good to have you back.

Jennifer: Yeah, I’m excited for the new season and I’m always excited to talk to someone about it.

Fisher: Well I’ll bet you are. Especially since you are now close personal friends with Jim Parsons from Big Bang Theory, and hanging out with the stars.

Jennifer: [Laughs]

Fisher: Are you in any of the episodes this season?

Jennifer: Yes. I actually got to meet Tony Goldwyn whose episode is up fifth and I was the person who got to introduce him to the characters that he was going to learn about on his journey.

Fisher: How fun is that. And of course for people not familiar with Tony, he is the president of the United States in the TV show Scandal, right?

Jennifer: That’s right. But a lot of people also know him as the bad guy from the movie “Ghost.”

Fisher: Boy that goes back. Of course the Goldwyn name in Hollywood is huge. Does he tie in to that family?

Jennifer: Yes. He is the “G” in the Goldwyn and MGM.

Fisher: That’s right, that family. Okay.

Jennifer: Yeah. So his grandfather was one of the founders of the studio, and then his father also worked there.

Fisher: So it’s just a long family tradition. But let’s go through the line up now. Who’s on this weekend?

Jennifer: So this weekend we have Julie Chen, which is really exciting. It’s the first time that the US “Who Do You Think You Are?” has gone to China.

Fisher: What fun! And you know, she is a beautiful intelligent woman, and of course everybody sees her doing the news shows. And anything you can reveal about this show?

Jennifer: You know, her episode is the one that made me cry the most this season. I thought it was the most touching. She goes to China pretty quickly and she’s learning about her grandfather’s life. And it’s pretty touching. There’s a part where she goes to a school where her grandfather founded the school, and she sees the children there and they know her grandfather’s name and it’s pretty touching.

Fisher: Wow. Well it touches me just to hear it. And of course the show is on TLC this weekend. And then next week, who do we have?

Jennifer: Next week is Josh Groban.

Fisher: Yeah of course, you started out with Ally Mcbeal as a teenager. I remember that.

Jennifer: Oh yeah, that was pretty memorable. I think this one is my favorite of the upcoming season. It is the one that is a little quirky, a little different from what we’ve done before and Josh is pretty hilarious in it.

Fisher: He seems to have the personality for this. But I bet you were still able to reveal some things to him that he didn’t know?

Jennifer: You know, that’s what we’re always trying to do. We’re always trying to tell them something that surprises them. We interview all these people at the beginning to find out what they know and what they’re interested in finding out, and also like what are those legends in the family tree so we can see if there’s any foundation and truth.

Fisher: You ever notice by the way, a lot of those stories get passed down, they’re often wholly wrong. [Laughs] But, they seem to have a kernel of truth to them somewhere, almost universally.

Jennifer: I think you’re right. And I think that’s why we always go and find out, because sometimes those lead us right to the best stories. And of course sometimes they’re completely wrong.

Fisher: All right, keep going through the line up. Who else do we have this season?

Jennifer: Okay, next we have Angie Harmon, and that’s the weekend of the 22nd of March.

Fisher: Okay.

Jennifer: Just wait till you see how endearing she is with her family and her girls, and how excited they are that she’s going on this family history journey.

Fisher: And where do you take her?

Jennifer: She has deep American roots, so we’re going to tell a Revolutionary War story with her. And this is probably the episode that I learned the most from this season. We just can’t tell a revolutionary war story anymore. We just can’t find a soldier and say, “Oh, he fought in the Revolution.” Because we’re now in our fifth season so this is actually considered the second half of season five and you’ve got to find a different angle each time. So it makes it a little harder for us, but it also makes us dig in to something that maybe everyone hasn’t heard about before.

Fisher: Well, don’t you think though in the years since “Who Do You Think You Are?” came to America, we now have such greater access to so many records, such as the pension files of 1812 and the revolution?

Jennifer: That certainly helps. The more records that get digitized and found and finding aids created about them, just the accessibility to records makes our job a whole lot easier. Next is Sean Hayes.

Fisher: Okay.

Jennifer: Sean Hayes was in “Will and Grace” he was Jack. I want to do the Just Jack Hands, but you can’t see me because we’re on the radio.

Fisher: Right. [Laughs] And what did you find in his past that you want to reveal or can reveal right now?

Jennifer: You know, this is one of the things I really like about this season, in this season we’re really telling stories about really deep characters. They’re very layered, they’re not all black and white, they did things that were inspiring, they did things that were disappointing,  and his episode in particular I think is really going to resonate with the audience. It’s kind of like a couple of seasons ago in season four, you know I always loved the episodes where we do really amazing research and we find these amazing characters. But the episode that everyone always comes back to me and talks to me about is the Christina Applegate episode.

Fisher: Ah!

Jennifer: Because it was so personal and because it addressed issues that so many families deal with. And I kind of feel like the Sean Hayes episode is more like that then any of the other episodes this season.  

Fisher: Excellent. And then we go to Tony Goldwyn, who you mentioned earlier.

Jennifer: Tony Goldwyn, he’s got a great story about pioneers of all kinds. Not just the migration west. So he’s is kind of like going back east to the west. But it’s also about being pioneering in your political views, and being forward thinking. It’s a really great episode.

Fisher: Well it sounds like you’ve got a nice mix of things. Now how many more after Tony?

Jennifer: We’ve got three more after Tony. We’ve got eight episodes this season.

Fisher: So after Tony who do you have?

Jennifer: The next one up is America Ferrera, and she used to star in the show “Ugly Betty.” She is one of the younger people who are being featured this year, and her roots are Honduran, so we get to take her back to Honduras.

Fisher: Oh very nice! Wow. And do you get to go on these trips by the way?

Jennifer: Oh I wish! [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs]

Jennifer: That would be really fun.

Fisher: You’re stuck with the research side, right?

Jennifer: That’s right. After America, we have Bill Paxton.

Fisher: Wow! All right movie star Apollo 13.

Jennifer: Yes. He is really interesting because every time he is going to play a new character, he likes to do a lot of research about those characters. You know, the times they lived in, the context of what was happening, he even goes and finds out the local dialect that they were speaking at the time so that he can incorporate that in his performance. And because he is so research minded, he actually knew quite a bit about his family as we went in to this process. So he was really interested in any of the historical richness that you could get from that. And so he’s got another really great American story that we’re going to be telling.

Fisher: That’s exciting. And the next one is the last one, right?

Jennifer: Yes. And the last one is Melissa Etheridge. And that will be the weekend of the 26th of April.

Fisher: And where do you go with Melissa?

Jennifer: Melissa starts off pretty quickly. She goes back to Quebec. Now I haven’t seen it yet. I can’t wait to see it. I think I’ll get to see it this week sometime. Her episode takes place during the time of the Louisiana Purchase in the mid west too. So it’s a really interesting time period in history that we don’t hear a lot about.

Fisher: So you’ve been doing all these seasons now and how do you think this one holds up with all the rest of them Jennifer?

Jennifer: You know as I said, it’s harder to research because we have to keep finding new stories that we haven’t told before, but I really think this is a groundbreaking season. We’re going to two places we’ve never been before. We’re going to China, we’ve gone to Honduras, and then we’re just telling different stories, different angles on maybe the stories you’ve heard before. And I really think the strength of this season is what I was talking about the layering of these characters. How they’re not all black and white, that we don’t always have to have a triumphant hero, that there’s ways of looking at this that can give you a richer understanding of the time these people lived in. And I think they’re more complicated episodes this year. Like I think the audience is going to learn more about the times we’re talking about.

Fisher: Well, let me ask you this, have you ever had a celebrity come on and you just felt their story was too bland and you couldn’t use them?

Jennifer: Um, so we research, let’s say if we’re doing eight episodes we’re probably researching twelve to fifteen trees. And we move trees all the time for different reasons and mostly we lose trees because of celebrity schedules. Because this is a pretty big commitment you know, ten days of travelling and learning about your family and that’s sometimes hard to fit in to your movie schedule and your TV schedule. I have never seen, I’ve been doing this for three years, I’ve never seen a tree go away because it was boring. Sometimes we find really great stories and we don’t find enough records to tell them. We’ve got to have enough to fill forty two minutes.

Fisher: Right.

Jennifer: So it’s more often that the records of theirs could be built court houses or it could be before they were keeping vital records, there are lots of different reasons, but usually if we lose a tree it’s more likely that it’s because the records are not there. But you know this season is really great. I mean it’s also sad; we’ve had so many things that have hit the cutting room floor because we had so much story to tell.

Fisher: Wow!

Jennifer: So that was kind of really sad to see some of my favorite parts go away.

Fisher: Is it difficult to line up all the experts that you have at the various archives for when they go make those visits?

Jennifer: You know, that’s largely done by the production company, but I think people like the opportunity to be featured on television. We also talk to a whole lot of people. You know, when we’re talking to someone about the Civil War, we’ll get a Civil War generalist, and then we’ll have someone who’s an expert in Civil War regiments of Ohio, and then we’ve have someone who’s an expert on what the women were doing at the time. So you talk to five different experts and then you find the one that is going to be the best one on television. So it’s usually not hard to find the experts that come and present and help guide the celebrities on the journey.

Fisher: She’s Jennifer Utley, the head researcher, the research manager for “Who Do You Think You Are?” from Ancestry.com. Jennifer always a pleasure talking with you. 

Jennifer: Thank you. Thanks for letting me talk about “Who Do You Think You Are?”

Fisher: Yeah it’s exciting. A great new season, it’s starting this weekend on TLC. Check your local listings for the time near you. And coming up next, when there are ten people named John Smith who might be yours, how does DNA help you figure that out? You’ll find out from blogger Kitty Cooper on the way in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 3 Episode 78

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Kitty Cooper

Fisher: And we are back, Extreme Genes, Family History Radio and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here with Kitty Cooper, she is a DNA Researcher. She's a blogger in Family History, and Kitty, nice to have you along.

Kitty: Well, thanks, Scott! It's fun to do this stuff.

Fisher: When did you start blogging? I like your site there, blog.KittyCooper.com.

Kitty: I started blogging in 2012, a few months after my first set of DNA tests, because it was hard to keep track of everything. And I was blasting my family with emails about my great discoveries, and I finally decided, it's better to keep it in one place and that’s it. Let them look when they were interested. So it was more just to keep track of what I was doing. And they also wanted to know how to do things on 23andMe or on whatever site they test it on. And so I wrote a couple of tutorials for them with step by step of how to do this, how to do that, how to do the other thing, and before I knew it, other people were reading those tutorials, and, what can I say?

Fisher: [Laughs] And now it's kind of taken off.

Kitty: It became very popular.

Fisher: So let's talk about DNA a little bit, because I know that's your passion. And you know, really, I don't think we can hardly do enough segments on it, because it is such an amazing new tool. It's also a doubled edged tool, which we'll get into a little bit later on, once again. But you had a great thing happen to you sometime back as you were trying to track down and identify who your ancestor was over in Norway. Now, let's talk about that. What was his name? How far back are we talking? And how did you solve this mystery using DNA?

Kitty: Well, we have an ancestor named Lars Munson. In the Bergen area, it's an extremely common name. It's like maybe John Smith, okay? And so, he was a sailor who married and moved to Kristiansand in the south of Norway. He's my third great grandfather, born about 1790. And he was our brick wall. I have a second cousin who's a brilliant genealogist, and he and I looked through all these census around Bergen and came up with, are you ready for this? 10 candidates of Lars Munsons who was born in the Bergen area and moved to Kristiansand, so, we were sort of at a standstill when all this wonderful DNA stuff came around. So we said "Oh yes!" because of course he's on our paternal line. Now as wonderful as autosomal DNA testing is, Y DNA is only clearer and way easier if you’re doing a straight paternal line.

Fisher: Absolutely!

Kitty: You kind of find out a surname test is in other counties, in Norway, we don’t have surnames, you know. Lars Munson’s son was Andreas Larsen, and Andreas Larsen’s son was Lars Andresen and so on.

Fisher: Right.

Kitty: [Laughs] It’s not so much the surname, but if you’re on the paternal line, the Y doesn’t change much. So we did a Y test, and the first test was for 12 markers. Now there were only like 5000 matches for my father.

Fisher: [Laughs] Yeah. And that’s why we really don’t let people do just 12 marker tests anymore. They’ve got to go a lot higher to find anything, don’t they?

Kitty: They do, but back when I did this test, we didn’t know as much. So in my clever way, I went and registered his stuff at a YSearch.org. And I was able to search for people who matched him from the Bergen area. I found two of them. I emailed both of them, and one of them emailed me back. And then he and I both upgraded to 37, and sadly he wasn’t a match anymore at 37, but in the meantime, he’d posted in all these Norwegian forums in Norwegian and consulted with all these experts, and they narrowed it down to two possibilities, one that probably seemed really likely.

Fisher: You didn’t even mention, who did your Y test for you?

Kitty: Oh, my dad.

Fisher: Your dad did, okay.

Kitty: Yeah, my dad did the test. My dad is ninety five and he’s still here. [Laughs]

Fisher: That’s good.

Kitty: Something very useful to test.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Kitty: We discovered the reason we were having problems is, there were actually two Lars Munsons in Kristiansand, and we had them confused. These experts found the marriage record to my third grandmother, which listed exactly where Lars was from. And that’s how we narrowed down who he must be, but we still had no matches

Fisher: Right, right.

Kitty: So you know, you can't just do a Y test and hope. You can wait years for a match. So this nice fellow in Norway, my very distant cousin figured out a male line descendant of Lars Munson’s paternal grandfather.

Fisher: Oh! The one you were thinking was the guy, right?

Kitty: Right. The one we thought was the guy that we couldn't, you know, we weren't sure.

Fisher: So he tracked somebody down and got him to do the test.

Kitty: First we did M12, and he was a perfect match. And then we upped him to thirty seven, and now he was a three step match, which is considered a match over that amount of genealogical time. So that was really exciting.

Fisher: Unbelievable! So, to sum it up, you found a male line descendant of the grandfather of the ancestor you were looking for, and he was a Y match for your dad.

Kitty: And so that's how we confirmed that we had found the right Lars Munson.

Fisher: Well, that's an unbelievably awesome story. And we're talking about going back to the 18th century. The answer's within our own bodies. Isn't that amazing!

Kitty: Totally! And it was just so much fun. And I stayed in touch with this cousin who's not really a cousin who did all this work for me. He's such a sweetheart! In fact, he came to the US for some conference, and I don't know if you knew this, but I've written a bunch of tools to help people grasp their autosomal results. And he was in Electro and someone was talking about my tools, and he said, "Ha, Ha, I know her!" [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs]

Kitty: He sent me an exited email saying, "I know I did. You were so prominent in the autosomal DNA community."

Fisher: Well there you go. And people can find out about that at blog.KittyCooper.com, I assume?

Kitty: Absolutely! I have a page on tools. It’s not just my tools, but all the other tools I find useful. But I warn you, doing this DNA stuff is addictive. You thought genealogy was addictive.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Kitty: Well DNA is a genealogical tool that's utterly fascinating. I just loved it!

Fisher: I'm totally with you on that. And there's so many unique stories. By the way, I wanted to get your opinion on this, we heard from a listener just the other day that emailed about testing all of his family and found out that one of his uncles had a different father than his other uncles. And the uncle is having a hard time dealing with this. His mother passed away fifteen years ago, so there's no explanation that's going to be coming in any easy way any time soon. He's just obviously having an emotional challenge with it. What are your thoughts on some of these things with the living people and some of the secrets that are uncovered through this process?

Kitty: Well, nobody's perfect. People make mistakes or not mistakes. And the thing is DNA doesn't lie. So it’s very hard when you DO discover these things. The general rule among genetic genealogists is to do no harm to the living, but a case like this, the person who presumably strayed is dead, but her child is having difficulty dealing with the fact that his mother wasn't perfect. You know, you don't know the back story. He doesn't know the back story. And that must be difficult.

Fisher: Yeah.

Kitty: You know, I wouldn't know how to deal with it much better. You've got to tell them the truth. I mean, he has the right to know this.

Fisher: That's the question, I guess. If it’s going to disrupt his life, should he be told or might it be something that can wait till another generation?

Kitty: Well, what if his biological father had some serious health risks? Shouldn't he know that he was in danger for this or that or the other thing? I mean the real reason that, one of the many reasons any that adoptees want to know their biological family is to know that there are health risks.

Fisher: Right.

Kitty: And that, you know, you have a right to know what your health risks are.

Fisher: Yeah. Yeah, you may be right.

Kitty: Should he tell his uncle? I think so. Because again, there might be health issues, his uncle may find out some day anyway. But I don't know any nice way to tell somebody, "Hey, you're not who you think you are."

Fisher: Yeah, that's exactly right. It’s really tough stuff. She's Kitty Cooper. She does a great blog, it’s called, blog.KittyCooper.com. If you want to find out a lot about DNA, she's a great person to go to, so check out her blog.

Kitty: DNA is just a tool. It’s just a tool that can help you with your genealogy. Don't get as addicted as I am.

Fisher: [Laughs] Thanks for coming on, Kitty. Great talking to you!

Kitty: You're welcome, Scott.

Fisher: Oh, DNA, that double edged sword! [Laughs] You know, if you prepare yourself for the possibilities, it can be the greatest tool ever invented for cracking open your family tree and getting those stories that are back there. All right, coming up next, Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com, our Preservation Authority is in the house. He'll give you some great ideas about editing your videos. Yeah, old videos, old home movies, whatever it is you may have, and making sure that they're around in the best form possible for generations to come. That's next on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 4 Episode 78

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: It is preservation time at Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show. I am Fisher with Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com, he is our Preservation Authority. Hi Tom!

Tom: It’s awesome to be here.

Fisher: And I was just thinking, what would we call this segment? Because this is kind of a philosophical thing we're going to get into here. And I guess we would call it the KISS segment, right?

Tom: Exactly!

Fisher: KISS is a philosophy, it stands for.

Tom: “Keep it simple stupid.” So we want to send KISSs out to all of our listeners.

Fisher: [Laughs] I think it was James Carville back in the Bill Clinton campaign in '92 that started that whole thing with, "It’s the economist, stupid!" Remember that?

Tom: Exactly!

Fisher: Yeah, and I think this kind of spins off of that. And the reason we want to get into this right now is so many people think they have to do so much more than is really necessary to preserve their things.

Tom: Oh absolutely! It’s just like you see a car advertised for $15,000, you go in and pick out every option. And now you're $60,000 for the same car. Do you really need all that stuff? We had a few weeks ago Roots Tech people would come up and they'd say, "Hey, I've got these old Umatic or VHS tapes or film or whatever."

Fisher: Wait! Wait! Wait! What's a Umatic tape?

Tom: A Umatic tape was primarily professional tape. They were used back in the '70s, mostly broadcast cameras.

Fisher: Oh, the thick stuff.

Tom: Yeah, 3/4 inch tape was Umatic. And a lot of people have them, because if they did a radio segment, they were a guest on a radio show or they played football or anything like that, a lot of times they were on 3/4 inch. When I used to shoot for the NFL, we shot on 3/4 inch tape. And sometimes people would want game films we'd give them a 3/4 inch tape. They'd put it in their closet and never really watch it. And now thirty years later, they want to go and live back their glory days, so they're bringing these 3/4 inch tapes in.

Fisher: Are they still there? I mean, they haven't deteriorated?

Tom: Oh yeah, they're awesome! If they were stored in a cool, clear place, they'll last a long, long time. And they're professional tape. They're better quality tape, so they hold the magnetic compounds in a lot better. And they bring them in and say, "Hey, I want this converted." And they go, "Oh hey, let's see. Let me get a BluRay. I want a DVD. Can I get MP4s? Can I get it on a thumb drive? Can I get it on a hard drive?" And it’s like, "Yeah, but instead of you know, paying fifty bucks to get this professional tape transferred, you're talking about a couple of hundred dollars for stuff you don't really need." If you're just going to watch it with your friends, just go with DVD. There's no reason to go with BluRay, because the tapes are so short, you don't need the extra length that a BluRay allows you. And lot of people have the misunderstanding that if you put something on a BluRay, it’s going to look better. It’s not the disk that makes it look better, it’s the player. You can take a standard DVD that you've made yourself or that you bought and you take that DVD and actually play it in a BluRay player, most BluRay players will automatically up convert the disk anyway and make it look better. So there's no reason to put VHS, Umatic, any of the old magnetic tapes on BluRay, unless you're trying to combine them all where you can get like three and a half hours of high definition versus two hour on a standard DVD.

Fisher: Got it. So it gets a little complicated there. And I would imagine every time somebody comes in with this, you have to go through all that, but there must be advantages to something over DVD.

Tom: Exactly! The only advantage of hard drives is that makes it makes it easier to edit. We have people coming in with a lot of tapes. We had somebody from Roots Tech, came in our store last week and brought in over forty tapes, a whole bunch of VHS. Everything they have of their kids was all on VHS. And forty tapes is a good investment to put on DVD. And they go, "Oh, well I want to edit it. I want to do this. I want to do this." You know, I'm happy to do whatever a customer wants. If time is more important to them than money, fine, let us do everything for you. If money is kind of a constraint, but you have a lot of time to do stuff, I tell people, “Just take all your tapes, and put them on DVD. Then once they're on DVD, they're in a digital form. They're not going to get any worse as long as they're on Taiyo Yuden disk, which is what we use exclusively.” And then down the road when you get around to editing, go ahead and do it. You can buy a program called Cinematize from like NewEgg.com. It’s only about fifty dollars. And with Cinematize, you can take any DVD; I've never run into one that you can't, turn into AVIs or MOV files, which I'll go into a little bit more in the next segment.

Fisher: All right, we'll get to that in about three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.

Segment 5 Episode 78

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: And we are back for our final segment of Extreme Genes, Family History Radio for this week. Tom Perry, our Preservation Authority is in house. I am Fisher, you Radio Roots Sleuth. And we've been talking about the KISS philosophy, keep it simple stupid.

Tom: Exactly.

Fisher: Because we tend to overcomplicate so many thing when it comes to preservation. I think we do that also when it comes to research. Where should people start, Tom?

Tom: Okay, that's really, really good, because life is so complicated. Don't make keeping your memories any more complicated, because that's why a lot of people throw up their hands and walk away from it. Like you said, the KISS philosophy, keep it simple stupid. Just start with the very basic things. If you have a lot more money than you do have time, that's fine. Give it to somebody else and let them do your projects for you, then you get a complete finished package. If you like getting your hands dirty, so to speak, you like being involved in it, you have some extra time to invest into it and you don't have a lot of financial resources. Then what I suggest you do is, take all you video tapes, whether they're video 8s, VHS, whatever kind of tape they are, even CDs and convert them to either DVDs or CDs, because now they're preserved. They're in a digital format. You now can edit them. Now this is the most inexpensive way to go, because once you have a DVD, like we mentioned in the first segment, buy a program called Cinematize. There's like three different versions. There's the beginner version and intermediate and a pro. Go in, go to NewEgg.com and read the differences between them and say, "Oh yeah, version one's fine. Oh, I need the middle one. I need the higher one." and buy what you really need. The neat thing about Cinematize, it will allow you to take these DVDs we've created for you and turn them into AVI or MOV files. Now, AVI and MOV files are what you use to edit. If you have a PC, I recommend Power Director. It’s one of the best programs out there. It’s only about fifty dollars. And it will take the AVIs and the MOVs that you've created from the disks we created for you and you can now edit them.

Fisher: And you're talking about home movies and you're talking videos?

Tom: Any kind of videos that have been put on a DVD, or even if you were one of the unfortunate people that bought one of the cameras that actually shoot on DVDs that have been nightmares, you can take those and edit them. So take the VHS tape, bring it to us or somebody else that can convert it to a DVD. Put it on a DVD. You get the program called Cinematize. Put the Cinematize program on your computer, put the DVD in your computer, and you, what we call "rip" the DVD into an AVI or MOV. Now, one neat thing about Cinematize, if you have a two hour video 8 tape, and say there's only five minutes you want, you don't need to rip the entire DVD. That could take hours. Just find the segment or segments you want, rip those into an AVI if you're a PC, MOV if you're a Mac. And then once you have those AVIs or MOVs, then you can go and put them together in Power Director or iMovie or Final Cuts Pro or Premiere, whatever kind of program you want to use, Vegas, and then you edit them. And when they're all done editing, then you burn a new DVD in like DVD Studio Pro or any other programs you have, and now you've got a finished product. Now I say that's the most inexpensive way to go. If quality is SO big to you and you have a lot of money to spend, you can skip the DVD version and go from your tapes and go straight to a hard drive. Now that's costs more money to go to hard drive. Per tape is more expensive, plus you have the expense of the hard drive. However, the advantage of the hard drive is, everything is none compressed. It’s on the hard drive already in AVIs or MOVs, whatever you want. You just plug it into your computer and you're ready to start editing.

Fisher: All right, so what happens with people who are very uncomfortable with a computer? What's the best way to get their tapes edited?

Tom: What I would suggest you do is, once we make a DVD for you, you put the DVD in your player, you click on the remote control that says "display" and it'll show a time code on the top of the screen that starts at zero and goes up to two hours or however long your DVD is, and then write down the parts you want to keep. Say, "I want this segment from one minute to two minutes, from eight minutes to six minutes." you know, whatever you want. You can use the same segment more than once. Write down those times, bring it to anybody that's willing to edit your DVDs for you, and this is by far the best way to do.

Fisher: All right, Tom. Great advice! And thanks so much for talking about the KISS philosophy of preserving your family history. That wraps up our show for this week. Thanks so much to Jennifer Utley from Ancestry.com for filling us in on the season of Who Do You Think You Are?” It is starting this very weekend. And to blogger Kitty Cooper for her story about DNA genealogy and how we might be able to do the same. Take care. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!

Subscribe now to find out why hundreds of thousands of family researchers listen to Extreme Genes every week!

Email me new episodes