Current Affairs

Ancestral Background can be Determined by Fingerprints

Really? That seems unlikely but a study at North Carolina State University finds that it is possible to identify an individual’s ancestral background based on his or her fingerprint characteristics — a discovery with significant applications for law enforcement and anthropological research.

The First Digital Archive on Moon

I have written before about the need for off-site storage but I never meant this far off-site! Astrobotic Technology Inc. and Lunar Missions Ltd, the company behind the global, inclusive, not-for-profit crowd-funded Lunar Mission One, have signed a deal to send the first digital storage payload to the Moon. The payload will support Lunar Mission One’s ‘Footsteps on the Moon’ campaign, launched yesterday, which invites millions of people to include their footsteps – in addition to images, video and music – in a digital archive of human life that will be placed on the moon during Astrobotic’s first lunar mission.

The announcement at gives very few details but the words “invites millions of people to include their footsteps” sure sounds like they will accept genealogy information.

An Ontario Parish Has Its History Stolen

Three thefts from churches in Hawkesbury, Ontario have occurred this summer. The most recent theft occurred at the St-Joachim Catholic Church. Thieves stole a safe from the church. It contained a small amount of cash but, more important to genealogists, it also contained the church’s parish registers. It’s all the files of the parish, including christening and marriage records. In some cases the missing papers traced the same families for 130 years as generations lived, married and died there.

Rachelle St-Denis-Lachaine, a longtime resident of Chute-à-Blondeau and volunteer at St-Joachim Catholic Church, said, “These are the parish registers. It’s all the files of the parish, and there are also registers with marriages. These are our memories in these books. There are copies in the archdiocese in Ottawa, but it’s all the baptisms since the 1880s. The baptisms, the marriages, the funerals, so it’s basically the entire history of Chute-à-Blondeau that was in there.”

The Massachusetts State Archives is Running out of Room

The Massachusetts State Archives’ modern building, erected in 1986 with the expectation that it would exhaust its space within 25 years, is bursting at the seams. Officials say the two-story facility at Boston’s Columbia Point has simply run out of room to store the state’s most valuable and timeless records. Even worse, Massachusetts has received failing grades from government watchdogs who complain that public records requests are often must met with lengthy waits and exorbitant costs for the material.

My Interview on Radio Sputnik

RadioSputnikLogoI recently had the honor of being interviewed on the Russian radio network called Radio Sputnik. Co-hosts Svetlana Ekimenko and Victor Erofeyev and I discussed how easy it is to research your family tree on the Internet, the accuracy of the information found online, and we also speculated a bit about why people are motivated to find information about their ancestors. You can listen to the 14+ minute interview (in English) at

New Brunswick’s Oland Murder Trial Focuses on the Family’s Genealogy

This sounds like a murder-mystery novel except that it is a true story. A murder trial in Saint John, New Brunswick is describing a twisted tale of relationships and rivalries, with the family’s genealogy possibly playing a significant role in the events leading up to the murder.

Richard OlandAt the time of his death, the jurors have heard, Richard Oland (shown to the right) had $37 million in investments, the lion’s share of which came from the 2006 sale of his shares in Moosehead Breweries Limited to his brother Derek. Dennis Oland is accused of murdering his own father with an axe.

The father and son reportedly shared a love of the Oland family history. In fact, Richard Oland’s body was found next to some documents son Dennis Oland may have delivered on the day of the murder, documents Dennis found during his recent genealogical research or on his recent trip to England.

The Moose Amongst the Headstones

Having lived in Nashua, New Hampshire, I can say that I am not surprised at this story. A moose was spotted in a cemetery only about a half mile from downtown Nashua and apparently didn’t want to leave.

Nashua moose in cemetery

The moose was spotted wandering through Edgewood Cemetery in Nashua on Tuesday morning.

These large animals are dangerous to humans, especially in this time of year, the mating season. They have been known to charge humans for no apparent reason in the fall. This one apparently was not weighed but adult males typically weigh about 1000 pounds (450 kg). Despite that size, they can run as fast as 35 miles per hour. You don’t want an animal of that size charging you!

Follow-up: Century-Old Photos Found In Stolen Car now Returned to Owner

This is a follow-up to my earlier article at about a stolen car recovered by Colorado Springs police. The police found a black memory box inside the car containing photos, postcards and letters. Some of the photos date back to 1918. The police have now located the owner of the memory box.

Crime analysts did a genealogy search using names on the photographs. They traced the family to Elbert and Englewood with names including Moberly, Peterson, and Smith. The Colorado Springs Police Department is now returning the box to the owner.

Arizona State Library and FamilySearch Agree to Partner to Make Genealogy Information Accessible

FamilySearch_LogoThis is the apparent happy ending to a recent fiasco involving the genealogy collection at the Arizona State Library. See my earlier articles at and at for the history of this problem.

Arizona-State-ArchivesFamilySearch has now agreed to provide scanning and digital hosting services for 5,000 books at no cost to the State of Arizona. In return, FamilySearch will make the digital images of the books freely available online for research globally. Once scanning is complete, the original copies of the books will return to Arizona. Scanning is expected to take about six months to complete.

Discovering Your Family History: 7 Unique Technologies

As mentioned in the MyHeritage Blog, “MyHeritage Founder and CEO Gilad Japhet recently presented a keynote address to hundreds of attendees of the IAJGS 2015 conference in Israel. He discussed Seven Unique Technologies for Discovering Your Family History.

“His talk is a great introduction to understanding MyHeritage technologies, Smart Matches, Record Matches, Newspaper Matches and Instant Discoveries. Gilad described new technologies that MyHeritage has recently released, such as Global Name Translation, as well as new technologies that we are about to release.”

Privacy Issues for Family Historians

The MyHeritage Blog has published an article I wrote: Privacy Issues for Family Historians. It discusses some of the things genealogists need to be aware of before publishing their family trees online. As I wrote at the beginning of the article:

“Genealogists often face conflicting requirements. We want to publish our own family information online in hopes that others will see it and recognize connections to their own family. Those other genealogists then can contact us, and we can collaborate to expand the known family trees of each of us. The problem is that today’s news is full of alarming articles about identity theft, fraud, and similar illegal acts. While some of the news articles describe real threats, others are published as “scare tactics” that magnify smaller issues to sound as if there are imminent dangers for all of us. Alarmist articles often strike unnecessary fear into the hearts of those who do not understand the difference between major and minor threats.”

The Meramec Valley (Missouri) Genealogical and Historical Society (MVGHS) and the Meramec Valley History Museum Have Merged

Both the Meramec Valley Genealogical and Historical Society (MVGHS) and the Meramec Valley History Museum were official committees of the city of Pacific, Missouri. Following approval by the city, the funds and history collections of the two organizations will be combined. Going forward, the history museum will be operated as a subcommittee of the genealogy society.

Details may be found in an article by Pauline Masson in the eMissourian at

Century-Old Photos Found In Stolen Car

The recovery of a stolen car has led to another mystery. Century-old items were found inside, but cannot be linked to any current theft case. Colorado Springs police say they found a black memory box inside the car containing photos, postcards and letters. Some of the photos date back to 1918.

The Colorado Springs Police Department crime analysts were able to trace the family to Elbert and Englewood, both in Colorado. They’ve come up three family names connected to the items: Moberly, Peterson and Smith. But now they’ve hit a dead end: detectives haven’t been able to link the box or family names to any current stolen property.

Can a genealogist help?

Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center’s Renovation to Begin in Early November

fortwaynelibraryThe Allen County Public Library’s board of trustees has approved a $138,541 contract to reconfigure about 2,000 square feet of the downtown library’s second-floor Genealogy Center.

Staff members say that the space, as originally designed, no longer meets the needs of the way family history researchers do their work today. New technology means that more family history research is being done online with digitized records resulting in less need to access the same records on microfilm.

14 Volumes of Genealogical Lists of Irish-Jewish Families Presented to Dublin City

Fourteen rare volumes of genealogical lists of Irish-Jewish families in Ireland were presented to Dublin City Council’s Library and Archive today. The volumes were gifted by Stuart Rosenblatt, President of the Genealogical Society of Ireland. The set of 14 volumes presented by Stuart to the people of Dublin at Dublin City Library & Archive, is one of only five sets, and therefore is of immense rarity.

The Hunt for Heirs of a Photographer’s Collection Potentially Worth Millions

Vivian_MaierHere is a genealogy story in the making. Vivian Maier was an amateur street photographer whose brilliant work catapulted her to worldwide fame only after her death. The negatives of her photographs are now probably worth millions. Vivian had no children so the fortune should go to her closest relative: her long-lost brother Charles. However, he died nearly 40 years ago in a small town in central New Jersey. It is unknown if he had any children.

Genealogist Ann Marks, a former executive at Dow Jones & Co., said she hoped that going public with the information would prompt those who may have known Charles to come forward and shed more light on the Maier family history, perhaps staving off what could be a protracted legal fight in the slow-moving probate court. “To me the search to find heirs is as interesting as Vivian herself,” Marks, 57, said from her Long Island home.

FamilySearch opens a new Seattle Family Discovery Center

The following announcement was written by the folks at FamilySearch:

High-tech “Museum of You” concept for center guides visitors to discover, share, and preserve their histories and memories.

BELLEVUE, WA—FamilySearch International announces the grand opening of its Seattle Family Discovery Center, the first to open outside its headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah. Based in Bellevue, the center offers interactive experiences for visitors of all ages to discover, share, and preserve family histories and memories. It is free to the public. Find out more online at

At the Seattle Discovery Center in Bellevue, Washington, Trace Farmer of Seattle, Washington, discovers 4,586 people share his first name while using the “Discover My Story” experience.

At the Seattle Discovery Center in Bellevue, Washington, Trace Farmer of Seattle, Washington, discovers 4,586 people share his first name while using the “Discover My Story” experience.

Visitors to the center are provided with a tablet computer as a personal guide to interface with large touch screens, where they learn more about themselves, view family origins, and discover how ancestors may have lived and even dressed. Data used for the interactive experiences is drawn from online data at and select partners.

Certificate of Irish Heritage Abandoned

CertificateofIrishHeritageThe Certificate of Irish Heritage was perhaps a good idea even though it always was a bit controversial. It was basically a scheme for the Irish government to raise a bit of money from Irish descendants around the world. The certificates were issued to descendants of Irish citizens who don’t qualify for Irish citizenship themselves, but are willing to pay up €40 (about $44.50 US) for a piece of paper to prove their Irish roots, or €120 (about $133 US) with a frame.

More than 82,000 FamilySearch Volunteers “Fuel the Find” for People Worldwide

The following announcement was written by the folks at FamilySearch:

Family Search LogoSALT LAKE CITY UTAH–A total of 82,039 volunteers helped to “Fuel the Find” during FamilySearch’s Worldwide Indexing Event, held August 7-14, 2015. Though short of the goal of 100,000 participants, the effort produced a number of remarkable achievements, among them an 89% increase in non-English language indexing activity. Volunteers produced more than 12.2 million indexed (transcribed) and 2.3 million arbitrated (reviewed) records during the weekly event (See infographic). As with all records indexed by FamilySearch indexing volunteers, those indexed during the global event will be made freely searchable at

For the Worldwide Indexing Event, FamilySearch sought volunteers who could decipher records recorded in a variety of languages, with a focus on French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish. Volunteers from all over the world exceeded expectations by processing over 2,183,212 non-English records including 1,380,684 in Spanish, 147,568 in Portuguese, 226,734 in French, and 116,835 in Italian.

Millionaire Property Developer Used Children’s Gravestones to Build a Patio

Here is another “misuse of tombstones” story. You would think people would have more common sense than to desecrate graves.

Kim Davies took tombstones from a derelict chapel and cemented them to the walls of Llanwenarth House in Abergavenny, South Wales, where Cecil Frances Alexander penned the famous hymn. Planners were horrified when they saw the ‘decorative stone plaques’ had been used as part of a gaudy £1m makeover to the Grade II-listed home, turning it into a ‘palace for an Iron Curtain dictator’.

One of the 150-year-old gravestones was even engraved with the names of three brothers and a sister who all died while under the age of four.


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