Current Affairs

Independence Day Then and Now

In celebration of the Fourth of July holiday weekend, here are a few tidbits about Independence Day then and now.

On this day in 1776, the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress, setting the 13 colonies on the road to freedom as a sovereign nation. As always, this most American of holidays will be marked by parades, fireworks and backyard barbecues across the country.

2.5 million:

In July 1776, the estimated number of people living in the newly independent nation.

321.2 million:

The nation’s estimated population on this July Fourth.
Source: Population clock

Ireland Reaching Out Creates “Reverse Genealogy”

Ireland Reaching Out, also called Ireland XO, is a non-profit organisation financed largely by the Irish government. The organization tracks down the descendants of those who left for America, Australia and other countries. Instead of waiting for people of Irish descent to trace their roots, Ireland XO volunteers worldwide are networking with people of Irish descent in their local areas, helping to build bridges between the present and the past by connecting people with the home parishes of their ancestors. Volunteers then invite the descendants to visit the homeland. Ireland Reaching Out hopes to build a database of the Irish diaspora containing 30 or 40 million names.

The Ireland Reaching Out web site states:

“Whether you have emigrated recently or have never been to Ireland, we welcome Irish people from all over the world and those who share an affinity for our rich and varied cultural heritage. We are a community with no geographical boundaries, connected first through bonds of people and place, and then developed through our shared celebration of culture and friendship, both online and offline.

Allen County Public Library’s Genealogy Center to Receive $240,000 Capital Improvement Project

The Allen County Public Library Foundation has approved up to $240,000 for a capital improvement project to the downtown library’s genealogy center. As part of the project, two under-used areas will be converted into active, customer-centric areas. The eastern half of the library’s Microtext Reading room will become a discovery center, and the orientation area near the entrance of the genealogy center will be converted into an oral history area.

U.S. National Archives Finds Same Malware That Stole Government Personnel Data

In the wake of the discovery of malware on the network of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the National Archives and Records Administration discovered three desktop computers that had been infected with the same remote access malware. The malware was detected by the National Archives’ own intrusion detection system after receiving signature data from the Department of Homeland Security, according to a report by NextGov.

Comment: I must say I am not surprised that the malware was found at NARA. In fact, I might have been more surprised if it was NOT found.

I wrote earlier about that malware on the Privacy Blog at and at

A Genealogist Traces Rachel Dolezal’s Ancestry and Finds No Black Relatives

Rachel Dolezal has recently stirred up a controversy concerning he ancestry. She resigned Monday as head of her local NAACP chapter after reports surfaced that she was born white yet has claimed she is black. If you are not familiar with this recent news story that has been on all the news networks, start at to find a few hundred reports about her recent controversy. Now a professional genealogist says that Dolezal’s claim is bogus.

Spend a Night at Ellis Island, the Same as Your Ancestor May Have Done

Well, it won’t be exactly the same. The contest winner will spend a night on a luxurious yacht, have dinner with actress Marcia Gay Harden for a “curated, historically themed dinner with select VIP guests” in Ellis Island Museum’s Grand Hall, a personal consultation with a professional genealogist, a midnight cruise around the islands and Manhattan, and will wake up to brunch next to Lady Liberty in the morning. Your ancestor never had it that good!

The night will be on Monday, June 29th. However, you only have a few days to enter in the contest. All entries must be received by by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on on June 20, 2015.

Here is the announcement from Airbnb, the sponsor of the contest:

Bicyclists Honor Ancestors with 950-mile Ride to Oklahoma

The Trail of Tears was a series of forced relocations of Native American nations in the United States following the Indian Removal Act of 1830. The removal included members of the Cherokee, Muscogee, Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations from their ancestral homelands in the southeastern U.S. to an area west of the Mississippi River that had been designated as Indian Territory. Many Native Americans suffered from exposure, disease, and starvation while going on the route to their destinations. Many died, including around 2,000-6,000 of the 16,543 relocated Cherokee.

Cyclists from the 2015 Remember the Removal Bike Ride are now retracing the steps of their ancestors along the northern route of the Trail of Tears. The team of 20 riders and crew, representing the Cherokee Nation and the Eastern Band of Cherokee, will complete a 950-mile ride and pass through seven states to honor and remember their ancestors who walked the Trail of Tears in 1838.

Black Loyalist Heritage Centre Now Open in Birchtown, Nova Scotia

The new Black Loyalist Heritage Centre opened in Birchtown, near Shelburne, this past weekend. It opens a world of genealogy that some Nova Scotians say has been left out of the history books for too long. One of Canada’s best kept secrets, the largest free Black settlement in the 1780s where people voted with their feet for freedom. In the 1780s, Birchtown was the largest free Black community in British North America, with over 3,000 settlers.

The new 10,000 square foot centre replaces its predecessor, which burned down in 2006. Though many visual records were destroyed, this new centre promises to bring access to family trees for people who want to trace their history through the centuries.

Women’s Surnames at Marriage and Beyond

The Journal of Economic Perspectives has published an article that will be of interest to many genealogists. The article by Claudia Goldin and Maria Shim states:

Throughout U.S. history, few women have deviated from the custom of taking their husband’s name (Stannard, 1977). The earliest known instance of a U.S. woman who retained her surname upon marriage is Lucy Stone, the tireless antislavery and female suffrage crusader, who married in 1855. In the 1920s, a generation after her death in 1893, prominent feminists formed the Lucy Stone League to help married women preserve the identity of their own surnames. But until the late 1970s, almost all women, even the highly educated and eminent, assumed their husband’s surname upon marriage. When prominent women who married before the 1970s wished to keep their maiden names as part of their professional image, they sometimes used their maiden names as their middle names, like the U.S. Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day O’Connor.

C.E. Brehm Memorial Public Library in Mt Vernon, Illinois to Expand Genealogy Department

The C.E. Brehm Memorial Public Library collects materials reflecting the general migration patterns of people in Southern Illinois. The primary focus is on Virginia, North and South Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky, as well as Southern Illinois. Of secondary importance are materials covering other migration routes through Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana. Now the Genealogy Department will be moved into a new, larger facility.

A Change in Access to the State of Maine’s Vital Records

The following announcement was written by the Maine State Archives and is available to all at

Per state law, all vital records – such as notices of birth, death and marriage – dating from 1892 to the present day, are no longer available at the Maine State Archives.*  The records dating from 1892 – 1922 were previously held at the Archives, but have now been digitally scanned, allowing the Vital Records office to issue these documents. As of May 1, 2015, Data, Research and Vital Statistics at the Vital Records office will issue ALL vital records from 1892 to present.

The Maine Department of the Secretary of State, Maine State Archives will continue to issue non-certified copies of documents prior to 1892.

Apple is Reportedly Teaming Up with Scientists to Study Your DNA

This is somewhat of a follow-up to yesterday’s article questioning what you want to happen to your stored DNA sample. Apple is reportedly planning to work with scientists to collect DNA for genetic research, as a part of its ResearchKit platform.

ResearchKit collects data from patients via the iPhone, and is said to be a secure portal. People with certain conditions can opt in to participate in various clinical studies and surveys (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.) that can be evaluated and analyzed by medical researchers. The goal is to ultimately improve patients’ health and the ability to care for them. Indeed, those are lofty goals.

Woman Sentenced for Digging Up Father’s Grave for ‘Real Will’

Apparently the probate court did not satisfy this woman’s belief that she was shorted in her share of the inheritance after her father died in 2004. She dug up her father’s grave in a scene a prosecutor compared to an Edgar Allan Poe story. She wanted to find her father’s “real will” but found only vodka and cigarettes. The woman has been sentenced to 1 ½ to three years in prison.

Details may be found in the Washington Post at

It is a macabre story at best. However, I have to ask one question: why were there vodka and cigarettes in the casket?

Announcing the Formation of the Barbara Adams Genealogy Research Center in Sidney, Ohio

Dr. Richard Adams, along with his father, Dick Adams, announced Thursday afternoon that the family is donating $100,000 for the new Barbara Adams Genealogy Research Center, which will be located in the Ross Historical Center in Sidney, Ohio. During the same press conference, it was announced that the Shelby County Genealogical Society (SCGS) will have a permanent home at the historical center.

Experts to Use Ground-Penetrating Radar to Search Forgotten Cemetery

On May 30, an anthropology professor and students from Lawrence University in Appleton, will search an abandoned and mostly invisible cemetery in Fulton, Wisconsin, looking for graves using ground-penetrating radar technology. There are no records of anyone being buried on the property, which a previous landowner gave to the town as a cemetery in the 1840s.

Sometime in the early 1930s, after the land was designated a cemetery, whoever owned the nearby farmland started tilling the graveyard and planting crops. The remaining tombstones, if any, apparently were removed and destroyed.

You can read more in an article by Jake Magee in the GazetteXtra at

Follow-up: Mother Gave Birth to her Own Brother and Sister

I published an article in the April 9, 2015 newsletter about a woman who is a surrogate mother for her own mother, giving birth to her own half-brother and half-sister.

The picture (shown above) is a bit confusing when it describes the relationships. Newsletter reader Tim Lyons posted a comment at the end of the article:

“Genograms seem to be the best way to show the family tree. There are ‘standard’ symbols for surrogacy in Genograms suggested by the Multicultural Institute (available here: However, these do not seem particularly convenient in this case, as well as the problem that it is not actually clear what the solid and dotted lines represent (perhaps you have to pay for their new pdf).

Updated: Security Guard is Shot at U.S. Census Bureau Headquarters

Final Update: The two-hour ordeal seems to be over with one security guard dead, the perpetrator and one policeman wounded. The incident apparently happened following a domestic argument between a man and a woman and apparently had nothing to do with the Census Bureau.

Details may be found in a Washington Post article at


Update #2: Washington, D.C. police say the suspect who shot the Census Bureau headquarters guard also led police on a chase through the District of Columbia, firing at police on the wild trip. The suspect was eventually shot by police and reportedly was seriously wounded.

The incident reportedly started as an armed kidnapping. Police are now piecing together the details.


Update #1: FBI spokeswoman Amy Thoreson said the incident at the Census Bureau headquarters has “ended” and a loudspeaker announcement declared the all-clear at the facility.

Other authorities say a suspect was shot on H Street NE in the District after a dramatic chase and shootout there.

Still developing…

Mother Gave Birth to her Own Brother and Sister

OK, this gets confusing. Pay attention.

Ellen Bown, a woman from England, gave birth to all three of the children in the picture below. But only one, Maddy, is her ‘official’ child.

This graphic explains the complicated biological and adoptive relationships that are present in Ellen Brown’s (far right) family.

When it comes to Alex and Ruth, Ellen acted as a surrogate for her own mother, Jenny. Ellen used her own eggs, fertilised with her stepfather Tony’s sperm. So, biologically, twins Alex and Ruth are teenager Maddy’s half-brother and half-sister. But legally — having been adopted by Ellen’s mother Jenny and stepfather Tony a week after their birth — they are now her aunt and uncle.

Which brings with it another mind-boggling twist. Restores Access to Records

Irish Genealogy, a website at created by the Irish Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, offered people born or married in Ireland the ability to search for civil records such as birth certificates as part of their research into their heritage. The site was abruptly shut down last July after privacy advocates objected that the site displayed too much personal information including dates of birth and mothers’ maiden names, information which is frequently used as security questions for accounts such as online banking. See my earlier article at for the details.

The Irish Government has always insisted no laws were broken as all of the index books on the website can be legally viewed “offline” at the General Register Office’s research room on Werburgh Street in Dublin.

“I Un-Friend You and I Un-Marry You”

A New York County Supreme Court judge ruled that 26-year-old nurse Ellanora Baidoo can serve divorce papers to her soon-to-be ex-husband, Victor Sena Blood-Dzraku, via Facebook. The ruling is one of the first of its kind, and it comes at a time when even standard e-mail is still not “statutorily authorized” as a primary means of service, the judge wrote.


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