Current Affairs

America’s “National Library” is Woefully Out of Date According to the Government Accountability Office

The federal government’s watchdog agency released a critical report Tuesday on the Library of Congress’s long-standing failures to manage the complex computer systems that are vital to its mission. The result of a year-long investigation by the Government Accountability Office, the report reveals a work environment lacking central oversight and faults Librarian of Congress James H. Billington.

Man Killed by Falling Headstone

You need to be careful in cemeteries. They are dangerous places.

A man decorating a gravesite for Easter died Monday morning when a headstone fell on him in Pennsylvania. Police say Stephen Woytack, 74, of Scranton was the man killed at St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Throop. Throop police say Woytack was kneeling beside his mother-in-law’s headstone as his wife was on the other side, tying a cross on with string. The stone fell on Woytack, killing him. Contract Worker at National Records Center in St. Louis Fired for Mishandling Draft-Card Information

An employee of who was working at the Federal Records Center in St. Louis was fired for allegedly throwing out draft-card information, a federal administrator said.

Bryan McGraw, director of the National Personnel Records Center, said Friday that his staff recovered all the papers, some of them from a trash can. The incident on March 12 prompted the federal agency to halt contract work by Ancestry Inc., which operates as, at St. Louis and four other sites.

Details may be found in an article by Tim O’Neil in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch at

Participate in the #1000pages Transcription Challenge from the US National Archives

David S. Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States, has challenged all history enthusiasts and citizen archivists to participate in the Transcription Challenge this week. The goal is to transcribe more than 1000 pages of historical documents.

Transcribing is fun, but also an important open government activity.

You can read more in David Ferriero’s blog at, then visit the Transcription Challenge webpage at for more information.

Free Genealogy Advisory Service in the National Library of Ireland 2015

The following announcement was written by the folks at Eneclann and at the Ancestor Network:

Eneclann and Ancestor Network achieve a ‘Texas Hat-trick’

Eneclann and Ancestor Network  are delighted to announce their return to the Genealogy Service in The National Library  from Wednesday, 18th of March 2015 for a fourth year running.

Our panel of genealogists will work alongside the Library’s own dedicated staff members – Fran Carroll and Christina McDonnell – to deliver the service.

Student Seeks to Return Identities to British War Evacuees

Claire Halstead is a PhD student at the Department of History, The University of Western Ontario. She is researching British children who were evacuated to Canada during the Second World War. She has created a database which traces 1,532 children who came through the Children’s Overseas Reception Board (CORB) and an additional 1,600 who came as ‘private evacuees.’

Roughly two million British children were displaced during the Second World War, shipped from London to Commonwealth countries where they would be safe from bombings. As part of Operation Pied Piper, the first wave of evacuations saw 660,000 children, mothers and hospital patients, as well as 100,000 teachers, moved in just three to four days. By the war’s end, the population of Greater London dropped from 8.7 million to 6.7 million.

Library and Archives Canada survey – sondage à Bibliothèque et Archives Canada

The following was written by the folks at Library and Archives Canada:

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is conducting a usability study of our to gather information about how visitors use our website. This study includes a question about digital content available on the LAC website. Please note that the identity of respondents is strictly confidential.

The study can be accessed at: until March 6th.

Florida’s Underwater Cemetery

Someday you could sleep with the fishes. That’s not a line from The Godfather. In this case, it means you could spend eternity in an underwater cemetery.

Located in the Atlantic Ocean, 3.25 miles east of Key Biscayne, Florida, the Neptune Memorial Reef was created in 2007 by cremation-services provider the Neptune Society. The reef is designed to attract fish and to promote the growth of coral and marine organisms. The goal is to “create life… after life.”

South Okanagan Genealogical Society Seeks a New Home

The South Okanagan Genealogical Society in Penticton, British Columbia is looking for a new home after 21 years Penticton Museum and Archives. The museum is expanding its own archives and needs the space.

The ideal new space for the society would have a room large enough to house the library, be able to hold workshops with approximately 50 people, be handicap accessible and have access to wi-fi.

The Search for the Grave of Baseball Hall of Inductee Pete Hill

Pete Hill’s baseball legacy can be summed up among the 75 words inscribed on his Hall of Fame plaque in Cooperstown. Listed among his career accomplishments, Hill is characterized as a left-handed line drive hitter with exceptional bat control who hit to all fields and who roamed centerfield with a combination of speed, range and a rifle arm.

During his career with the Philadelphia Giants, Leland Giants, Chicago American Giants, Detroit Stars, Milwaukee Bears and Baltimore Black Sox in the old Negro Leagues, Hill became known as one of baseball’s most consistent hitters. While playing with Detroit in 1919, Hill clubbed 28 home runs – one shy of the number Babe Ruth had hit while playing in more games.

New Budget Proposal Might Save the Genealogy Department at Indiana State Library

Indiana Governor Mike Pence recently submitted a budget proposal that would have slashed funding for many state agencies, including a 24 percent reduction in funding for the Indiana State Library. (See my earlier article at If enacted, the budget would have forced the downtown Indianapolis library to eliminate many services, including its genealogy department that houses more than 100,000 items documenting Hoosier history. However, the latest version of the budget offered by majority House Republicans this week restores most of the library funding that Pence had aimed to cut.

A Fifth-Grade Family Tree Project

This helps to prove that everyone is related to everyone else. When‘s Curator Randy Schoenberg’s son, Joey, came home with such family genealogy project homework assignment, Randy saw it as a great opportunity to make some new family connections. In an article for Jewish Journal, Randy shares how he endeavored to connect the families of his son’s entire fifth grade class into a single family tree on Geni.

In the article, Randy tells how he managed to find family connections. These are “connections” but not necessarily bloodline relationships. That is, not all of the students share a single ancestor as far back as Randy could trace. However, he found family connections amongst all the students through marriages, in-laws, and other family relationships.

All 53 students in Joey’s class are connected to each other in one tree.

Grundy County, Illinois, Coroner’s Office to Digitize Old Records

The Grundy County Coroner’s Office is doing its part to try and preserve local history. The coroner’s office’s death investigation documents, some dating back to the 1800s, are being digitized by SBS Group of Indiana. The public will not have access to investigation or forensic details, but can obtain cause and manners of death. The project is not costing taxpayers any money.

“Quite often every year, people come in doing family trees and genealogy, asking about death records and in the past we have looked them up and try to accommodate,” Coroner John Callahan said. “But we have records back from the 1800s and some have become very brittle over the years.”

FamilySearch Opens First Family Discovery Center in Salt Lake City

I recently had a chance to visit at a new offering from the FamilySearch department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The first FamilySearch Discovery Center is being demonstrated in Salt Lake City this week and will become available for general use next week. The plan is to refine the new product for a few months, prove the concept, get the bugs out, and then to replicate the concept in other locations around the United States. After translation of the software and all the historical information, Family Discovery Centers will also be introduced at a number of locations around the world.

Using Drones to Map Cemeteries

Click on the above image to view a larger version.

PlotBox is a company based in Northern Ireland that provides cloud-based software for cemeteries and crematoria to better manage their operations. The software solution is designed for use by all segments of the industry, from small rural graveyards to large scale operational sites. In particular, it uses drones to map the grounds and help cemeteries make sure they’re not burying anyone in the wrong plot, something that apparently happens and causes expensive lawsuits. You can learn more at

Marissa (Illinois) Historical and Genealogical Society to Rebuild Burned Museum

On January 31, I published an article at about a fire that destroyed the home of the Marissa Historical and Genealogical Society, which serves as both a library and a museum – a repository of irreplaceable historical documents, photographs, memorabilia and antiques, many of them donated by residents of the town. The building was constructed in 1891 and had been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1994. Now town leaders have pledged to rebuild the museum.

You can read more in an article by Scott Wuerz at

Tombstone Scam Artist Sentenced to Jail

Edward Prince, operating under a business name of Headstones Unlimited, collected thousands of dollars from grieving families and never delivered the headstones he promised. He was charged with felony fraud in Portsmouth, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Fire at Brooklyn Warehouse Could Take a Week or More to Fully Put Out

We often read stories about public records being destroyed by fire, flood, hurricane, or other disasters. However, in the past week we seem to have set a new record: three repositories destroyed by fire, one small one and two huge ones. Here is the latest such report:

More than 50 units and almost 300 firefighters called to extinguish the seven-alarm fire in a massive blaze at a Brooklyn warehouse on Saturday. Help was needed from a marine unit as well. The facility stored millions of boxes of public paper records, which acted as kindling, allowing the fire to spread quickly and to resist attempts to put out the flames.

Searching for Kitchener, Ontario’s Lost Graveyards

Many paupers’ cemeteries have been abandoned over the years and more than a few were eventually plowed under for agricultural purposes or paved over for new construction. Such disregard for the lives of the deceased is always sad, but one story from Canada seems especially heart-wrenching.

The cemeteries contain the bodies of some of the residents of the County of Waterloo’s House of Industry and Refuge, the “poor house” built in 1869 that was the last resort for the destitute, elderly, disabled, mentally challenged and orphaned of the era. Those who died at the Frederick Street house and weren’t claimed by family would end up in one of two potter’s fields, or informal graveyards, located nearby. They received no grave markers, and only a short entry in the House of Refuge’s burial registry.

An article in The Hamilton Spectator says, “For over a century, they’ve been buried underneath city streets, sidewalks and backyards — out of sight and long forgotten.” Perhaps the strongest statement is, “There are folks who probably have bodies buried in their backyard and have no idea.”

Fire in Major Russian Library Destroys One Million Historic Documents

A fire that ripped through one of Russia’s largest university libraries is believed to have damaged more than one million historic documents, with some describing the fire as a cultural “Chernobyl”.

The blaze, which began on Friday and was still not completely out on Saturday evening, ravaged 2,000 square metres (21,500 sq ft) of the Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences (Inion) in Moscow, which was created in 1918 and holds 10 million documents, some of which date back to the 16th century.


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