Episode 89 - DNA "Triangulation," How Does It Work?

podcast episode Jun 01, 2015

Fisher opens the show with a fascinating story about how World War II bombs still have the potential to kill people in both Britain and Germany.  Wait until you hear what happened in both countries recently and the statistics of how often live Allied bombs are found in Germany every day!  He then talks about a New York realtor who recently had the unusual experience of being randomly chosen to sell a property and business that had been started by his great grandmother 110 years ago.
 
Fisher then visits with Shelley Smith, who recently worked with Fisher to use a DNA test along with other information to identify both her birth mother AND birth father!  While both are deceased, she has also learned of living birth siblings from both sides of her birth parents' lines.  In identifying the birth father, Fisher used a technique known as "triangulation" to zero in on the family and the correct individual.  Triangulation can also work in traditional genealogy research to identify ancestors.  Under the right circumstances, it's not that difficult to do.  How did it work in Shelley's case and how can triangulation work for you?  Fisher will explain. 
 
Then Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com, the Preservation Authority, talks about how to undo the effects of humidity on old movies, photos, and negatives.  Yes, the is hope even in the worse cases.  If you have a question for Tom, send an email to [email protected]  You might hear your question answered on the show.
 
It's all this week on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show!

Transcript of Episode 89

Host: Scott Fisher

Segment 1 Episode 89

Fisher: Hello, Genies, and welcome to another rip roaring edition of Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. I am Fisher, the Radio Roots Sleuth, on the program where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out. Huge interest in last week's show with Kenyatta Berry at PBS's Genealogy Road Show, Anna May Wardell of Slidell Texas, emailed to say, she was excited to get digging further back on her lines, now that she knows that there are records of African Americans that predate the 1870 census. She agrees with Kenyatta that, it's an emotional experience to find records of ancestors as property. "The first time I came across a record of my slave ancestor my eyes welled up, just the idea of it was so horrific." If you missed any of last week's show, be sure to check out the podcast. You can also find it on iTunes, iHeart Radio's talk channel, or ExtremeGenes.com. You can also download our free podcast app to your iPhone or android, it makes it real easy to listen to us where ever you go. You may remember a few weeks ago, I gave a brief mention about working with a friend in identifying her birth mother, and the use of a method called “Triangulation” with DNA testing. Well, I'd never tried it before myself, but now I have, and my friend Shelley will join us in about 8 minutes. We were able to identify both her birth mother and birth father, and also located a living half sister, as well as a living half brother. We'll talk about Triangulation and other factors that went into these discoveries and by the way, Triangulation doesn't just apply to finding birth families; it can also help you break through lines from much earlier generations. I think you'll find it interesting, I sure did.

Later, Tom Perry, the Preservation Authority answers a listener's question about dealing with the effects of humidity on old film and negatives, and how you might be able to salvage these badly damaged treasures. It is time, once again, for your family histoire news from the pages of ExtremeGenes.com. You may recall a while ago, our friend Heath Jones, from Alabama talked about discovering a live piece of Civil War ordinates and how scary that was. You know, back in 2008, a civil war enthusiast, named Sam White, was killed when a naval shell he was trying disarm exploded, yeah, from the civil war. Still, it's pretty rare going back that far. Well, last week in London, an old World War II German bomb, from the London Air Raids was found by builders buried near the studio where Britain’s Got Talent is shot, and near Wembley Stadium. Homes and businesses had to be evacuated and the army built a wall surrounding the bomb just in case. It weighed 110 pounds. The bomb has since been removed and safely detonated, just a little reminder of Adolf's intentions some 75 years ago.

Then, there was the flip side of this story. In Germany, in the city of Cologne, twenty thousand people were forced out of their homes so that authorities could disarm a World War II era Allied bomb that weighed somewhere around two thousand pounds. It was found close to the Mulheim Bridge that crosses the Rhine River. Schools were shut down, as was the zoo, in what was described as Cologne's largest evacuation of the post-war era. Air space was closed and the river was unavailable for shipping. The bomb was found, last Friday, as workers were preparing for construction of a pipe line. Cologne was a favorite target of Allied Bombers during World War II. The bomb was deactivated on Wednesday. On average, 1 to 2 bombs detonate all by themselves each year in Germany, with no human assistance. It's rare for people to be killed by these old remnants of the war. In 2006, though, three people were killed when a bulldozer struck a bomb. In 2010, three more people died when a bomb went off during a diffusing operation. It's estimated that it will take until at least 2040s, 100 years after the war, for all the old bombs in Germany to be cleaned up or not pose a risk to people. Germany finds about 15 bombs a day around the country, but very few are in highly populated areas such as the one in Cologne. It seems crazy to think, bombs meant for an enemy in the 1940’s, might still be killing people 75 years and many other wars later.

Imagine being a Real Estate Broker in New York, and getting a call asking you to sell a building, that housed a business in Harlem, started by your great grandmother 110 years ago. That's what happened to David Daniels of New York's Corcoran Group. Their Brooklyn Heights branch was working on buttoning down a listing for a Harlem town house for an estate sale, but distance wise, it was far from their offices, so they called the west side office and approached Daniels about handling the sale. When they gave the address and identified it as Marion Daniels and Sons Funeral Home, he paused and told them, "You know, Marion Daniels was my great grandmother." The property had remained in the family since the turn of the last century, and most recently had been in the hands of a second cousin, and then that cousin's step son. It has remained a Funeral Home the entire time, since 1905. David described it as a very strange feeling to tour prospective buyers through the house, that he had known, as an ancestral landmark, since he was a boy on Long Island. But he noted everything comes to an end, and he found it uniquely pleasing to end what his great grandmother Marion began all those years ago. Read about this, and other stories of interest on our website ExtremeGenes.com and just a reminder, coming up Saturday June 6th, its AJ Jacob's Global Family Reunion at the old World's Fairground in New York City. Find the link to learn more about it at ExtremeGenes.com. I'll be one of the MCs, and I hope you'll take a moment to say hello if you're there, it's going to be a lot of fun. And coming up in three minutes, I'll be talking to a Utah woman, Shelley Smith, about the discovery of her late birth mother, her late birth father and their families, how it all came together, and how the concept of Triangulation helped cracked the case on the father's side. What is Triangulation? We'll tell you about it coming up on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com.

Segment 2 Episode 89

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Shelley Smith

Fisher: Welcome back to America’s Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. I am Fisher, your Radio Roots Sleuth, with my special guest, my friend Shelley Smith from Farmington, Utah. How are you Shelley?

Shelley: I am good. How are you?

Fisher: You know, anybody who listens to this show knows there’s [Laughs] always some genealogical adventure that’s going on around here. Of course, we had the murder case a couple of months ago, and then, we tracked down the 90 year old woman who stowed away on a ship to Hawaii, with my mother, in 1947. We tracked her down and got her on the show and then Shelley popped in and said, “Hey, I read about this whole thing with the murder case. I didn’t know you were so into this stuff. Would you help me with my birth mother?” Shelley, you were born – well, let’s just say, a long time ago.

Shelley: True.

Fisher: You were adopted out in the West, back in the late 50’s and for all these years you’ve been wondering about your birth mother, and you really came armed with a lot of information. I was really impressed.

Shelley: Well, I’ve always wondered about finding my parents and I grew up knowing I was adopted. I can’t remember, my adoptive family telling me I was anything but, so that part was easy. In 1997, I had a bout with cancer and the doctor asked me if there was any family history of cancer in my family. We searched some records we could find, and asked for some medical history from the adoption agency, where I was placed and they sent me a sheet with no names, because this was definitely a closed adoption, but they gave me the history of the birth grandmother, grandfather, and then all of the birth mother’s siblings with their occupations, their weights, their heights. I’ve had this sheet for 18 years, but this sheet was actually one of the key factors in finding my birth mother.

Fisher: Well, as we know, and we’re going to get into the DNA aspect of this, in just a little bit. DNA works best when it’s in combination with other information, other tools, and that was certainly the case with you, especially in the case of the birth mother. We are going to talk about the birth mother part right here, and later in the show we’re going to talk about the birth father, because we found him too. Both are deceased, but nonetheless, they’ve been identified, and families have been identified, and it was kind of a different technique for that one, so we’ll get into it in just a little bit. I was interested, in the sheets that the adoption agency provided you, because they did not get into really a lot of the health aspects of the birth mother’s family. Wouldn’t you agree? Didn’t you expect more?

Shelley: Oh, I was hoping for more, and mostly, all it said was fair, or they were in good health. That’s about all the information they gave me on the medical side.

Fisher: So this dated back to the late 50’s and what was interesting is they gave the number of children that were in the family, as of that time. We’re talking about the birth mother’s family, with her as a child, so it showed the birth orders of the siblings; three sons and then a daughter and then the birth mother, and then, there was another brother of hers after that, as well, which was very helpful. No ages, so you really couldn’t make a pattern out of this and figure anything out. But, then DNA came along and got a little gift here at Christmas.

Shelley: [Laughs] Yes, I had two curious daughters. Actually, they were more curious about the heritage, and they read about doing this DNA test and you can find the heritage that you belong to. Not knowing any of mine, my oldest daughter decided that she would buy the test and she was going to do it, and speaking with the younger daughter she said, “Why don’t we have mom do it?” because that would even be one generation closer.

Fisher: Exactly.

Shelley: So, Christmas Eve, they gave me this test and they kind of laughed and said, “Well we kind of want to see, so will you do this, and I said, “Sure, whatever.” I put it with my Christmas gifts and it wasn’t till the middle of January when I was going through things that I found it and I thought, “I’m going to do this and see what happens.”

Fisher: So you did, and it was a while later, a few weeks later, as is typical. You got the results that told you exactly what your break out was --you know, what percent Irish and which part English and French and Eastern European, whatever it might be, right?

Shelley: Right. It took about four weeks and that came in the mail. My two daughters were in Japan at the time, and so I took a picture of it and sent it to them and closed the e-mail and never thought two things about it and put it on my computer.

Fisher: So that was it for you!

Shelley: Yes that was it!

Fisher: You’re just thinking you were done, right?

Shelley: Sure, I had no idea even how to read it, other than that part and it was great that we found out that much. It was interesting.

Fisher: Sure, you felt good about that and your kids did, because they bought you the test, and then, you found out something new that you hadn’t even looked at before.

Shelley: Yes, we heard a genealogy talk on family history, and they said that there had been this breakthrough through this new DNA testing which made my husband and I sit up in our chairs, and started listening even more careful. It said if you did this DNA test where you spit in a cup and you send it in, then you get your sheet back and it says that you have some third and fourth cousins, this is great. If you have some second or third cousins, this is wonderful. But they said, if you get a first cousin, you have absolutely hit a jackpot, you will find your family. He went on to talk about a man, who had found his lost family this way. We were just gasped by the whole story. We went back out to the car after this meeting and we pulled up the DNA on my phone, and sure enough, it said that I had had a first cousin and 2 second cousins and many, many third to fourth cousins and it changes every day. The more that I open it -- the more cousins and the more people they test. There are more there are all the time.

Fisher: Right and this is where all the confirmation started coming in. So, you had a first cousin, and you don’t know which side of the family this relates to, whether it’s the father’s side or the mother’s side. In this case you had to go to work to figure out where that fit in. So what did you do?

Shelley: Well, there was a message from one of the cousins that said clearly, “Hi cousin, I’d like to see how we’re related. Send me a message some time.” So we had a couple of things we had to do that afternoon, then we went, that evening, and I sent him a message and I said,  “I’d like to know how we’re related, because I would have no clue.” I kind of gave him a brief history that I was adopted in 1959, when I was 5 days old. I have no recollection of anything, I have no history, I have no information, so if you could help me in any way, that would be awesome.” So he sent me a message back that very night and said, “I was so excited when I got your message. I called my dad right away and we’re going to get on this and see what we can learn, and we’ll help you in any way.” So, that really was the first part of the puzzle.

Fisher: And of course that turned out to be on the father’s side, but we figured that out later. So let’s talk about... now. You called me, to bring me in and you came with all these records from your adoption.  You didn’t know, at that point, that you had all this other information, including the family trees of the people you matched with to start comparing to.

Shelley:  It kind of was a miracle, every single step of the way. I decided to tell one of my friends the incidences that had happened and the cousin that I had talked to said, “Send me a picture and I’ll see if anybody in my family looks like you.” They sent me a picture of his great grandmother and we put it side by side with me and there was such a resemblance it was incredible.

Fisher: [Laughs] Resemblance is kind of like a piece of sky, in a jigsaw puzzle, if you don’t have any context to it.

Shelley: Oh absolutely. So many people have always said, “Oh you look so familiar, who do you belong to?” and I thought, I really don’t know, I just have a generic face that way.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Shelley: Anyway, the picture wasn’t so big of a deal, at that point. So the first person that I told, she said, “Do you know any names on this side of the family?” and I said, “Some.” I told her, and she just sat there with wide eyes and said, “My husband is from this family.” So she pulled out all of her genealogy sheets that she had and she started to explain all about this genealogy. That really, really was the factor that made me so interested. All of a sudden, I just felt like it is time and I would love to find my birth family.

Fisher: Wow! All these years later, and that’s when you called me?

Shelley: Yes, then I kind of ran into a dead end. I felt like though, for weeks I had played with this and I wasn’t finding anything. I shared the adoption papers with them and they were trying to find a particular family, that had had a birth order and they had gone through many, many cousins and that wasn’t working out. So my husband had seen this article of what you had found, you know the family of the body they had found by where we live. So he said, “I think you should call him.” And my oldest daughter said, “Yes! Fisher knows everything, the genealogy genius.”

Fisher: [Laughs]

Shelley:  And so I decided to call you and see what we could put together.

Fisher: It was very fun when you came by that night and we started going through everything. You really hadn’t had any contact with the first cousin that you had on your list.

Shelley: No I hadn’t.

Fisher: --and you hadn’t seen her tree yet either. We actually had to activate some things so you could see that.

Shelley: Boy! Once we got the trees going, then we knew names, things started to fall into place. All these years that it’s taken me, it only took us a few hours to find this.

Fisher: That’s true, and we had to start sorting it out and seeing what errors might be in the record and what matched up. As we went through it we started to see this first cousin’s line which was all there. It showed her mother, in this one particular family, and it showed her parents, and her siblings. The pattern looked very similar to what you had from the adoption agency. The brothers in order, the two girls, and the parents and then, of course, we started going back, to the census of 1940,  because those give educational levels at that point and that actually matched up with what the adoption agency sent. I thought it was really weird that the adoption agency would give education level for each member of this birth family, and they matched!

Shelley: Absolutely, and we had to look at the picture of the late 50’s, because if had looked at the family all over, they had had two previous children that had passed away. So that would not have matched.

Fisher: Right.

Shelley: Remember how we had to pull that in?

Fisher: Exactly. So now you kind of had an idea where your mother fit in and then we started narrowing it down and figured out exactly who she was. Then we went online and found her obituary, and you found you have a half sister. How did that feel?

Shelley: Well, I kind of knew about her, because on the adoption paper that they had sent, the history did say that she had a 6 year old with her at the time. However, she looked absolutely opposite of me, with blonde hair, blue eyes, fair skin.

Fisher: Oh, they described her, that’s right.

Shelley: Yes, they described her, so I had known about her and that has been really interesting.  I have had those papers for 18 years. So, for 18 years, I had known that I have a half sister, possibly 6 years older than myself.

Fisher: Now you’ve reached out to her and just Saturday you heard back.

Shelley: Yes, that was truly amazing. You know, it was so like putting the pieces together; it’s still unfamiliar territory for both of us. We’d like to put the pieces of our mother’s life together. She had no idea that I even existed. So this was quite the shock for her, I believe.

Fisher: Yeah, I’ll bet.

Shelley: The shock, that I still live, and the part of her mother’s life that she had not shared with her. So that was kind of interesting.

Fisher: I think you thought it was pretty much done at that point, didn’t you?

Shelley: Yes! Yeah, I honestly did.

Fisher: But then there was that other side that we had to look into. And that was the birth father, and that took an entirely different strategy, and we will talk about that coming up next. Triangulation, can you do it if you’re looking for a birth family? We’ll explain how it works next on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.

Segment 3 Episode 89

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Shelley Smith

Fisher: Welcome back to Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, the Radio Roots Sleuth, talking to Shelley Smith, who just a few weeks ago discovered her birth mother, with a little assist from yours truly. We then, went forward and actually were able to identify your birth father, Shelley. I think that was a bonus even you didn't expect.

Shelley: Oh, for sure! It was about ten days later. I had spoken with my first cousin on the mother's side, and I was curious and I said, “Do you know anything about the father? I have two other first cousins and she was more curious after that. She said, "You have two cousins from the father's side?" And it just hit me! I have two cousins from the father's side! So we kind of searched through the cousin lines to see if we could tie the common ancestor together with the two cousins that they had provided with the DNA results.

Fisher: All right, and this is called, Triangulation.  Triangulation works like this, if two people are cousins to each other and you're a cousin to both of them, there is a likelihood that you descend from the same people. So, we actually took that tract with these two cousins. Now, the cousins showed up, as between first and second cousins, which generally means first cousin once removed or second cousin, because if they were first, they'd show up as a first cousin, as was the case with your birth mother's relative that showed up as a first cousin. So, in this case we went through and found the trees and these two people did not know each other. One is older and lives in Indiana. He’s a first cousin twice removed to this younger man, and they both came from the same folks, obviously going back to 1862. The couple was born in 1862. So here's how triangulation works. We were able to determine then, that this couple born in 1862 had ten children, and we knew that your father had to come from the next generation.

Shelley: Yes, that's right.

Fisher: -- and so, from those ten children, that's where we start going through and saying, “all right, on the lines that are posted on various websites, who are the children of those ten children?" In this case, we identified one person who was born in the early 1920’s, who fits the bill perfectly, because, again there was a description in your adoptive family's profile that you'd received.

Shelley: That's right. It said the father's age approximately and then it said that he was divorced, and then in print it says "Two previous marriages.” So we searched for a child that could have been in that particular family, in that particular timeframe.

Fisher: Right.

Shelley: We found one family. They only had one son that was living during that time, and that would have to definitely be the father.

Fisher: The birth father, that's right. He was one of the children of the ten children, and out of them all, he was the only one who fit. So that looked like a pretty good case there. It also had mentioned in your profile that he had had two previous children and he fit that profile there as well, so the case kept getting better and better. I remember talking with you, late that night, and our heads were swimming in this thing. That's the thing about it that gets so exciting -- is you start to make this headway of breaking a lifelong case, Shelley, and you can't stop, even when you try to hit the pillow.

Shelley: Oh no! Sleepless nights for sure! Many sleepless nights! You wake up and you think things through again and you have to go search more, and at that point, you come up with a hypothesis and you prove it to be a theory and sure enough, here's the theory!

Fisher: Exactly! You had sent over to me, going back to what you'd mentioned previously, a photograph of a woman who would have been in the generation of a grandmother who looked a lot like you. Now, previously we said, "Well, that's kind of like a piece of sky on jigsaw puzzle." But when suddenly that person happens to fit into this particular family, she would have been the mother of your birth father, now it takes on a whole different perspective.

Shelley: Yes, that was the first picture that they ever sent me, and they said, "My father thinks that you look like my great grandmother." And it absolutely turned out to be my grandmother in the picture.

Fisher: Yes. This is what got my head spinning. Here it is, like one o clock in the morning and my eyes suddenly popped wide open.  Its like, "Well you've got to have DNA matches to this grandmother's parent's lines!" So I went back on the computer and logged into your account and started going through those lines and picking out the names of the ancestors of         whom we thought would be your birth grandmother. So now we're going up the paternal grandmother's side. We're picking out her parents. We're going through her grandparents and great grandparents and getting those names. And so, that's where you throw the filter onto all of your matches and see if those names come up. And boy! It was pretty cool when we did that, because out of your second, third and forth cousins, there had to have been at least a dozen matches to both the mother and the father's families of your paternal grandmother.

Shelley: Yep. And that just seals the deal.

Fisher: Yeah, pretty much sealed the deal right there. And one of those first cousins once removed, he's the younger one, he has a mom still living who would be your first cousin, so she's in the process of doing a DNA test right now.

Shelley: Yeah. And not that we absolutely need it, because we have her son that has already matched a first cousin once removed.

Fisher: Right.

Shelley: But for curiosity and the more people that you get tested, the more sure that you are. And so we will have her do it just to see if she comes up as our first cousin.

Fisher: Absolutely! And what's interesting too is this particular person we picked out of all the grandchildren came from the one little town that the cousin of your birth mother suggested he should have been from.

Shelley: Yeah, another miracle. It’s like a piece of the puzzle.

Fisher: All puzzle pieces.

Shelley: All pieced together.

Fisher: So, on this side you found out you actually have a living half brother, who is still out there, but he hasn't yet been informed, as I understand it.

Shelley: We're in the process.

Fisher: Right. And you know this is something we ought to talk about a little bit, because with social media, there is so much fast communication that things can get ahead of themselves a little bit and that can get a little bit scary.

Shelley: Oh, it can. The minute that we shared it with my own children who are at Face book prodigy age, they set out to find anything that they possibly could. And you have to realize that these are people's lives. Do you know what I mean? You can't just come into a life and expect nothing to change, because it changes everything.

Fisher: Yes.

Shelley: When you know you have a half brother or half sister out there, and where did they come from and why wasn't this shared? And things like that. Even though you see a lot of television shows that it becomes picture perfect, it’s not always picture perfect that way.

Fisher: Well that's right. And with all the interaction with Face book and Twitter and the like, and of course you're in touch with these cousins that you matched up with on your DNA test.

Shelley: They don't live nearby. They're out of State, so it's kind of tricky getting things together. And we are so excited to meet each other. That part I think will be good.

Fisher: And so, how did you decide you're going to handle it with half brother?

Shelley: We're going to let the first cousin talk to him first and see what she can learn, and then she was going to report back and see if he would talk to me that way and see if we can fit some other pieces together. I'm not sure that he knows that I even existed.

Fisher: Um hmm, well, probably so the father's side is often less likely than even the mother's side to know of another child out there.

Shelley: Well, all I know is for many years it was like finding a needle in a haystack. And with this DNA results, it suddenly makes everything real.

Fisher: Yeah, I'll bet. And so how are you feeling about this? I mean, you started with the test. I mean, I love that! The gift that keeps on giving, the gift of spit, back over the holidays.

Shelley: [Laughs]

Fisher: And you did it finally in January, you got your results in March, and now here it is several months later and you're still going with it, you're still developing relationships, and you’re still learning things, finding things out about yourself. How does that change how you perceive yourself and how does that change what you thought you would think about your birth parents?

Shelley: Well, adoption is kind of tricky that way. Anyone that has been adopted will know, once you find out that you're adopted, you're always curious about it. And you almost put your birth family up on a pedestal. And honestly, I really only wanted to meet my birth mother for one thing was to thank her so much for placing me and giving me something in life that she thought would have been the best for me, and that's all. And all of a sudden, I realize I have a huge family out there. And my kids are interested in the family. And you know it's not just me. It’s never about you and it is an emotional rollercoaster. You have peers and you worry and then it's joy and fascination and all these things that are happening, and it's just really unsettled.

Fisher: Yeah, I'll bet. And you know it doesn't look like it’s going to slow down anytime soon. You've got reunion season coming up. Have you heard anything about that?

Shelley: Yep, a couple of them, both sides of the family.

Fisher: Well, Shelley, it's been an honor to work with you on this thing and a thrill to be a part of it with you. I've never done triangulation before personally. I've heard about it. I've read how it works with close cousins where they're cousins to each other and you're a cousin to them then you come through the same people, but never actually saw it work before until this opportunity came along. Hopefully, it’s something that's going to help somebody else who is out there also trying to put things together and not necessarily in an adoptive sense, but maybe with a generation or two further back where they're trying to start to figure out exactly where they fit in, in their family tree.

Shelley: Oh absolutely! Help those trees grow.

Fisher: Thank you so much, Shelley. It's good to have you on!

Shelley: Hey, thank you, thank you so much. I can't even thank you enough!

Segment 4 Episode 89

Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry

Fisher: We are back with Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and its Fisher here, the Radio Roots Sleuth with Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com, the Preservation Authority.

 Hi Tom! Good to see you.

Tom: Hello. Good to be seen.

Fisher: Got an email from Cal Jackson, listening on WTKI in Huntsville Alabama, asking, not only about the heat, that we were talking about last week, but he says, “I’ve got a deal with humidity, as well. Does this add any further complications to preservation of old film?”

Tom: Oh yeah, that makes the worst --- even worster--- if you can say that. [Laughs]

Fisher: [Laughs]

Tom: Heat is bad, but there’s nothing worse than humidity.

Fisher: Really? Even with movie film?

Tom: Oh absolutely.

Fisher: Ha!

Tom: The biggest problem with it is that you have two things you’re fighting. First, the film gets damp because of humidity.

Fisher: Right.

Tom: And so, it kind of sticks to each other, and then when it dries, it pulls that humidity out and now they pretty much are permanently stuck to each other. So, if you start pulling them apart, the emulsions from one side, is going to transfer to the other side and it’s going to be a mess.

Fisher: Oh, boy.

Tom: You won’t be able to see a picture on part of your film. You’ll see double exposure on the other one that’s like a backwards echo, and it will drive you nuts.

Fisher: Oh my goodness. So, is this something that’s ever salvageable? Or just once in a while salvageable?

Tom: Every experience is different. Sometimes you get them, if they not too bad, and you can actually soak them, and kind of like we talked about last week with 35mm frame by frame film, you can get them wet and then hang them up. Put them through a dryer system that will allow them not to be stuck to each other.

Fisher: Wow!

Tom: But, that’s about the only way you can do that and we have pictures where people have been in, place like Huntsville Alabama, and they have photos, the same thing. It gets humid in there and the glossy side of the picture sticks to each other and then it dries, and so now they’re hardened against each other.

Fisher: Ugh!

Tom: It’s like back to the future type of thing. You’ve got to go and take these pictures, soak them in the right kind of bath and then gently, when they’re soft enough, pull them apart. And then, if you want them to be glossy again, you’ve got to go to a photo retailer or somebody like us, and then we can put them on what’s called a Chrome Dryer, and that will make them glossy again.

Fisher: Oh my goodness. I mean, that sounds first of all very labor intensive.

Tom: Oh it is.

Fisher: And number two, very expensive.

Tom: Yes, it can be very expensive and it’s one of those things you don’t want to try at home.

Fisher: Right.

Tom: Because if you don’t know what you’re doing, I guarantee you’re going to damage your pictures and then they’ll be lost.

Fisher: Right. So you need an expert to take a crack at it -- if you’re willing to pay the price.

Tom: Right, and if you go and talk to somebody and it’s way out of the price range that you were looking for, go ahead and try and do it yourself because that’s the only alternative you have. And if you really get into that kind of spot, send us a letter at [email protected] and I’ll try and walk you through it and find out what your exact predicament is and see how I can help you with it.

Fisher: Boy! That just sounds like a horrible thing for Cal and I feel for him because this is family history gold, those old home movies.

Tom: Oh yeah, the old home movies, the photos and all of those kind of things. Then, in our next segment, I’m going to talk to you a little bit about if you’re in the areas that have high humidity heat, some things you can do to stop these problems from happening. So get in grandma’s attic, pull these things out and if they’re in still good condition and you’re not ready to digitize them, I’ll give you some tips on how you can keep them so they will still be good when you do decide to digitize them.

Fisher: All right, before we get to that, because we do have a little time left, how long before these films and videos and all this, hit the tipping point in that kind of situation?

Tom: You know that’s really a hard thing to say. The worst thing, heats, colds, and the worst thing is the extremes of heat and cold.

Fisher: All right. We’ll be back with more coming up next on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.  

Segment 5 Episode 89

Host: Scott Fisher with gust Tom Perry

Fisher: Welcome back to the finale segment of Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Its Fisher here, with Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com, the Preservation Authority, and if you’re here every week you know why we call him that. Because... well, he knows everything. We’ve been talking about this whole problem of heat and humidity in combination, Tom. And if people have damaged stuff, and apparently a lot of them do when they finally come across old film or old movies, or whatever it might be. Is there some way to at least stop the damage until they’re ready to go try to get that salvaged and digitized?

Tom: Absolutely. That’s a good question. There’s ways to kind of prolong the damage and there’s also ways to stop. There are two sides to this story, and it’s actually a good story. If you’re not ready to transfer it, it’s important to preserve it. If you already had it transferred you still want to preserve it. So you’ve got an analogue copy of everything that you’ve done. Okay, so one of the best ways to do it in high humidity areas, anytime you have humidity which is really, really hard to control, the heat is much easier to control than the humidity is and so what you want to do is you want to get something that’s going to take the humidity away from the product that you’re trying to save. It is always like the weakest link and is the one that breaks.

Fisher: Sure.

Tom: So you want to make the weakest link not your photos, not your film, not your video tapes.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Tom: So what I recommend is that you get uncooked rice (and not the instant minute rice). Then what you do is get some broad cloth or some cheese cloth and wrap half a cup in it, or however big your box is going to be, and then you want to make sure you tie it off with string. Don’t use rubber bands or paper clips or anything like that.

Fisher: Right.

Tom: It could add more problems. Rubber bands could break, or the paper clips could discolor or even rust your items.

Fisher: Right.

Tom:  So you want to tie it off and put that in the box, or if possible in a Ziploc bag. A Ziploc bag will help keep stuff out of there, and then, by putting the rice in there if somehow humidity still gets introduced into your box or your bags, the rice will absorb it. Now the thing that’s important to do is you want to check it seasonal. Just like you check your smoke detectors, like when daylight saving time starts and stops.

Fisher: Right, every six months or something.

Tom: Exactly, do the same thing with the rice, go in and check it. The best thing to do since rice is cheap is to just throw it away and put some new rice in there. Always use new cheese cloth or new broad cloth and just throw the whole packet away and start new, and don’t try to eat it.

Fisher: Who’d try to eat it? Who would eat it?!

Tom: [Laughs] You know...

Fisher: No!

Tom: I have a 13 year old and it’s kind of interesting what he’ll eat.

Fisher: [Laughs]

Tom: I mean -- it’s really funny and it sounds so stupid, but I’ve learned, you never assume. Throw it away. There could be bugs and all kinds of stuff that has gotten absorbed into the rice, so you want to make sure you throw it away. That’s another thing that’s important too, where you have high humidity and where you have a hot place, it doesn’t get really cold; you’re going to have bugs. You want to make sure that your boxes, your bags, everything are sealed tightly because you don’t want rodents getting in there.

Fisher: Oh my gosh! Have you actually seen that? I certainly have with photographs. You know where the edges have been nibbled on or something.

Tom: Yeah, we’ve had people bring in old needle point that were their great, great grandmothers they wanted it scanned to have it preserved. You could see where there had been some mice that choose to use it as a bathroom, and to make a nest out of it. You want to make sure they’re in something that’s very practical. I’ve seen people with fire proof safes so if they ever have a fire, it’s in that safe. But then they go that extra mile and put it in a giant cooler.

Fisher: Right.

Tom: Because that will keep the heat away too, you don’t have to an expensive cooler, you can go to Home Depot or Lowes and get sheets of Styrofoam and build a box to go around your other box which is great for shipping stuff. In fact, whenever people ship us records across the country we always tell them, “Put them in a box and put Styrofoam all around the record. So that when it’s going through the UPS trucks across the country, the heat of the truck is not going to make your record go wobbly.

Fisher: All right. Great advice Tom, thanks so much! Good to have you.

Tom: Good to be here again.

Fisher: Hey, that’s it for this week. Thanks for joining us. Don’t forget, if you’re in the New York City area on Saturday June 6th be sure to join us in Queens for AJ Jacob’s Global Family Reunion. I’ll be introducing many of the speakers, so please be sure to stop by and say hello. Thanks also to Shelley Smith for coming on and talking about her successful journey to find the families of both her birth mother and birth father. If you missed the segment be sure to catch the podcast and learn about the concept of DNA triangulation. Talk to you next week and remember, as far as everyone knows, we’re a nice, normal family!

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