Posts tagged: Photographs

Dr. Colleen Fitzpatrick spoke about DNA, photography, and Databases

By , October 26, 2010

at October’s monthly D-OGS meeting.

The following was provided by our Secretary, Tonya Krout.

After welcoming the members and guests in attendance, Richard Ellington introduced our speaker, Colleen Fitzpatrick, PhD. She is the author of two of the best-selling books in genealogy. In addition she has been featured on NPR’s Talk of the Nation radio program, has written cover articles for Internet Genealogy, Family Tree Magazine and Family Chronicles. She is a regular contributor to Ancestry magazine. Fitzpatrick received her BA in physics (1976) from Rice University, and her MA (1983) and PhD in nuclear physics (1983) from Duke University, and has 25 years experience working in the field of high resolution optical measurement techniques. She is a Fellow of the Society of Photo Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE) optical society. She is the group administrator for the Fitzpatrick DNA study, which she founded in 2000.

Ms. Fitzpatrick went from being a rocket scientist to forensic genealogist and has worked on identifying remains as well as debunking the myths of Misha Defonseca and Herman Rosenblatt and was the only person to identify a descendent of Fred Noonan (who flew with Amelia Earhart) so that DNA could be compared to any remains that might be found from the doomed flight.

Colleen Speaking to D-OGS

Colleen Speaking to D-OGS

Colleen said that Forensic Genealogy can be compared to when “CSI Meets Roots”. When you have a photo you have everything you need but you have to figure out what you are looking at. She showed us a photo from her personal collection and asked if we could tell who the person was who was very ill.  Members offered many guesses but no one got it quite right. She said the mother was sitting slightly higher than the other members of the family on the first row because she was in a wheelchair and shows signs of having had a stroke.

Colleen Demonstrates A Photo

Colleen Demonstrates A Photo

She showed us another photo and asked if we could tell when it was made. Most people were looking at the woman’s hat and clothing but she said that clothing was only one part of the equation. Close inspection would show that this was taken in a photo booth. We needed to find out the history of photo booths. Colleen said the first one was in New York in 1926 and in 1927 they went into broader distribution so the earliest this photo could have been taken was 1926.

She went on to show us a variety of photos and to explain what went into dating them. There was one that turned out to be a photo of the survivors of the Battle of Shiloh that would have been taken 1908-1912 per the various clues. Another was an outdoor daguerreotype that had long thought to be a photo which included Mozart’s widow. Since this type of outdoor photography wasn’t developed until 1842, it made it quite unlikely that was Madame Mozart.

Colleen also showed us a photo that had another face shown on the back which provided a great deal of information. She stressed that we should look at the back of the photos for information. She also said when scanning in photos to create the largest file possible as this was sometimes a way to get more detail and visual clues.

The second part of her presentation was “The Database Detective”. She said so much more information was available now on the Internet and more was being made available every day.

We need to mine:

  • Birth, marriage and death records
  • Census records
  • City Directories
  • Newspaper obits
  • Coroner’s reports
  • Orphan records
  • Destitute records
  • Medical records
  • Ebay and other collectible websites

New Orleans was a major port of entry for Irish immigrants in the early 1850s. She had done a search for medical records, entered all the records and found that admission records varied greatly at the Charity Hospital. What was driving it? By comparing rainfall records in 1851 she learned that a few weeks afterwards there was an increase in admissions. This was the time of virulent Yellow Fever outbreaks. Also there was an upward tick in admissions shortly after passenger ships put ashore because of all the disease that bred in the close quarters of the immigrant ships.

Her third presentation was “The DNA Detective”. She said that DNA picks up where your paper trail leaves off. She spoke about her own Fitzpatrick study and how Terry Fitzpatrick, #1 in the study in 2000, has never matched anyone. She said there were many online sites for DNA testing and she had used DNA Heritage. She mentioned www.ysearch.org, www.ybase.org and www.smgf.org.

Lastly, she displayed a photograph of Benjamin Kyle, a man who was found beaten who does not know who he is to see if we recognized him.

Colleen Discusses Unidentified Man

Colleen Discusses Unidentified Man

The program ran long but there were many questions. Finally Richard reminded us that Colleen had brought some of her books if anyone wanted to purchase any and get them autographed.

Photographs courtesy of Carol Boggs.

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