Current Affairs

Lawrence Students Map Appleton, Wisconsin, Insane Asylum Cemetery

Notice the spelling error in the above sign. Click on the image to view a larger example.

Lawrence University students mapped out a graveyard over the weekend. Students marked out a grid to help locate the 133 burial sites in the former Outagamie County Insane Asylum Cemetery in Grand Chute. The headstones were removed in the 1970s.

What interested me is the method used to identify graves. The students walked down the rows with a device to collect information about the earth’s magnetic field.

Vandals Topple 100-Year-Old Headstones at Tulsa, Oklahoma, Cemetery

Tulsa police are investigating a case where vandals damaged headstones in one of the oldest cemeteries in the city. About a week ago, a City of Tulsa security guard patrolling through the cemetery at 11th and Peoria at about three in the morning, discovered a vandal damaged several headstones. Altogether, five headstones are damaged. The markers date back to a span from 1906 to 1915. City crews have uprighted the headstones, but they still need permanent fixes.

Police officers are searching for relatives of the deceased whose monuments were damaged. Perhaps a genealogist can help. The names of the deceased are:

Using Dogs to Locate Unmarked Graves

Cadaver dogs and their volunteer owners sometimes lead police to the victims of natural disasters and recent homicides. They help archaeologists pinpoint wartime cemeteries and Indian burial mounds that have been hidden for centuries. Now a story by Bruce Siceloff in the Charlotte (North Carolina) Observer has a story that many genealogists can appreciate: using dogs to locate unmarked graves where a tombstone had disappeared or perhaps where no permanent tombstone ever existed.

One example cited is the using of dogs to look for potential grave sites at the Mount Ararat AME Church in Wilmington. Cadaver dogs are being used to find unmarked graves on the church grounds as a U.S. 17 widening project is scheduled to begin soon.

Library that Provides San Antonio’s Mexican American and Working Class Historical Resources to Cut Services

Writing in the mySanAntonio web site, Sarah Gould writs about the planned cutback of services at one of the San Antonio Public Library’s greatest assets”

“The Westside Preservation Alliance, a community-based historic preservation organization dedicated to preserving and promoting the history of San Antonio’s Mexican American and working class communities, supports keeping the Texana Room open to the public for a minimum of 40 hours per week.

Funeral Home Offers Drive-Thru Viewing

Click on the image to view a larger version.

The Paradise Funeral Chapel of Saginaw, Michigan, isn’t the first funeral home to offer a drive-though viewing window. However, the funeral home’s services do sound a bit more high-tech than most of the others.

The funeral home has installed a window that displays a body set up in a special area inside the building with a raised and tilted platform for the casket. Curtains over the window automatically open when a car pulls up, and mourners get three minutes to view a body as music plays overhead.

Garland County (Arkansas) Library Closes Its Genealogy and History Room

The Garland County Library in Hot Springs, Arkansas has closed its Hiram Whittington Arkansas Local History and Genealogy Room, citing competition from the Internet. According to an Associated Press article by David Showers at http://goo.gl/30CVIo, “patrons who had previously relied on its genealogical and historical troves to trace their origins can now do it remotely through online databases.”

The article quotes Library Director John Wells: “We’ve noticed a dramatic decrease in the use of that room. You’d walk by, and no one was in there. A lot of what was used in genealogical research is now available online. They’re not using that stuff here when they can sit at home and do it all day long.”

You can read the full story at http://goo.gl/30CVIo.

Symposium in Glasgow – The Future of Professional Genealogy

As the Who Do You Think You Are? Live! expo in Glasgow was winding down, the professional genealogists and a number of other interested persons and organizations were invited to attend a presentation and discussion concerning the potential need for a framework for genealogical education, licensing, and/or regulation in the British Isles. While I certainly am not a professional genealogist, I was lucky enough to be invited as well. I think that was because I was able to be the “genealogy journalist” who would report on the proceedings.

Many of the issues discussed in the symposium are similar to issues in other countries but a number of the issues, especially in dealing with governmental bodies, appear to be unique to the U.K. Here are my notes from the Symposium:

Arizona Woman Works to Identify Those Buried in a Navajo and Hopi Cemetery

Historical preservationist Gail Sadler was both heartbroken and appalled at the condition of a cemetery when she first laid eyes on it in 2008, soon after she had been appointed to the Winslow, Arizona, Historic Preservation Commission. She soon made it her mission to unearth the identities of the roughly 600 people buried there and help their descendants reconnect with their history.

Her mission quickly became an obsession. On nights after work and on weekends, Sadler would go online and scour death certificates – some 8,800 from 1932 to 1962 – looking for the Indian Cemetery as the final resting place.

Franklin Parish, Louisiana, Library Opens New Center for Genealogy

The Franklin Parish Library welcomed patrons to the library’s new Genealogy/Local History Room on Thursday, Aug. 21, when ribbon cutting ceremonies and an open house event were held. The library recently acquired what is known as the Landis building on Prairie Street. The site for the new center is located adjacent to the library’s main building and was purchased from Betty M. McLemore, whose grandfather H.B. Landis ran a mercantile store from the site and served as mayor of the Town of Winnsboro.

You can read more in an article by Marcy Thompson in The Franklin Sun at http://goo.gl/jW2SHV.

Mass Graves of more than Two Dozen 19th Century Illinois Settlers are being Relocated so a Proper Home Can Be Built Atop Them

A team of about a dozen archaeologists and anthropologists will relocate the remains of 27 people found buried beneath a spacious yard behind a house in the Brook Forest subdivision of Oak Brook, Illinois.

You can read more in the Chicago Tribune web site at http://goo.gl/5xwVBM.

An Unusual Family Reunion: the Descendants of William Douse of Prince Edward Island

It was not the sort of event you’d expect to find on the agenda of a family reunion, even a reunion of the Douse family.

William Douse was from Wiltshire, England. He emigrated to Prince Edward Island, Canada, in 1822 and became a successful businessman until his death in 1864. He was buried in a large crypt in the Old Protestant Burying Ground on University Avenue in Charlottetown. One hundred fifty years later, his descendants decided to open the crypt and to make repairs, making sure that William Douse and other family members entombed with him would rest in peace in restored surroundings. The opening and repairs were made during a multi-day family reunion.

Tintamarre Parade Draws Thousands of Acadian Descendants to Madawaska, Maine

Tintamarre, the traditional Acadian parade that for the 2014 World Acadian Congress was planned to be one of the biggest ever, and which wound its way down Main Street in Madawaska making the biggest racket possible. It made an amazing amount of noise — and it certainly was one of the biggest ever, with preliminary estimates from World Acadian Congress organizers putting the total number of people in the parade between 10,000 and 12,000.

Great-Grandchildren of ‘Aunt Jemima’ File $2 Billion Suit Against Quaker Oats

This isn’t quite as good as being named in a rich relative’s will but it might work out anyway. Anna Short Harrington was hired to portray Aunt Jemima after the brand’s acquisition by Quaker Oats in 1926. Her heirs never received any royalties from the earnings generated by her likeness and original recipes following her death in 1955. Harrington’s great-grandson, D.W. Hunter, filed a $2 billion class action suit — on behalf of all of Harrington’s heirs — against PepsiCo and its Quaker Oats subsidiary in an Illinois district court last week.

You can read more in an article by Geoff Weiss in the Entrepreneur web site at http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/236462.

Burglars Steal 100 Years of Chaska, MN Historical Records

The birth, wedding and death records of Chaska Moravian Church parishioners are handwritten in ledgers and kept in a church safe. During the night of July 14 and early July 15, burglars broke into the church and lugged out a 3-foot by 3-foot metal safe. The safe held about four ledgers recording births, weddings and deaths, as well as an index. The records reportedly have never been digitized or recorded in any way. The safe also contained $50.

Hancock County, Georgia, Courthouse Burned

All that remains of the Hancock County Courthouse

Another huge loss for genealogists and historians: Property deeds, birth and marriage certificates and many other vital records dating back to 1795 were destroyed when most of the Hancock County Courthouse in Sparta burned down early Monday.

The fire broke out around 3 a.m. on Monday, August 11. When fire crews arrived, the building was engulfed in flames. The cause of the blaze is unknown. The building and its contents appear to be a total loss.

An Obituary Begins With “Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead”

That is not the line that most people would select for their own obituaries, but 70-year old Joanna Scarpitti did just that. At Scarpitti’s request, the family wrote her obituary with the first line being a quote from the Wizard of Oz.

Prior to her death, Scarpetti made her youngest daughter promise that when she passed away she would have that particular phrase printed with her obituary, as the two shared a a love of The Wizard Of Oz and a great sense of humor.

You can read more in an article by Kristyn Clarke in the PCM World news at http://goo.gl/rU1ZEL.

Woman Learns She Married Her Brother

Take a note: The next time you get married, first check your pedigree chart and that of your future spouse.

A Brazilian woman got quite the surprise when she went on a radio show this week to reconnect with her long-lost mother. Adriana, 39, who gave no last name, went on Brazilian Radio Globo’s The Time Is Now (which helps people find lost family members) and talked to her mother for the first time. The big news: Adriana had a brother who’d been given up as a child and raised by a relative, just like Adriana was. Bigger news: His name was Leandro, just like Adriana’s husband. The two men, in fact, had the same last name. “I don’t believe that you’re telling me this,” said a sobbing Adriana, the Daily Mail reports. “Leandro is my husband.”

Update: How NOT to Clean a Tombstone for Find-A-Grave

I recently wrote (at http://wp.me/p5Z3-As) an article about a person who damaged tombstones in a Tennessee cemetery by using a wirebrush to scrape the stones, making the letters more visible. Of course, it also created irreversible damage in the process.

Newsletter reader “ljellis2000″ now has posted an update: the culprit has been found, arrested, and charged with a felony offense. The man reportedly said, “… that he did not realize his actions were causing any harm.”

Former Soldier to be Buried in a Jack Daniels Bottle

Former soldier Anto Wickham started planning his own funeral after seeing eight Army pals killed during the Iraq war. The 48-year-old, from Belfast, paid a Nottingham-based firm £3,000 (roughly $5,000 US) for a coffin that is a ten-foot high replica of a bottle of his favourite whiskey. Anto Wickham said, “I didn’t want a normal funeral and it had to be a celebration of life because I have been to too many funerals of colleagues where they were very sad occasions. I wanted something completely different and I decided my favourite drink is Jack Daniels.”

The coffin appears to br a faithful reproduction of a Jack Daniels bottle except for one line added to the label. It provides Anton Wickham’s name, his date of birth, and the words “100% proof.”

Interns Spend Their Summer at Prospect Cemetery in Queens

This sounds like a great summertime project. Student volunteers from France and New York have raised more than two dozen toppled 18th century headstones in the formerly forgotten Prospect Cemetery in Jamaica, part of Queens, New York. Erosion from time and the ravages of weather caused the 60-pound headstones to fall, program officials said. You can read more and view a number of pictures of the effort in an article by Eli Rosenberg in the New York Daily News at http://goo.gl/VFS3w6.

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