Current Affairs

U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Proposes to Expand Requests for Tombstone Markers on Behalf of Deceased Veterans

On October 1, 2014, the National Cemetery Administration (NCA) of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) published, in the Federal Register, a proposed rule to amend the existing definition of eligible applicants by expanding the types of individuals who may request headstones or markers on behalf of decedents. The amendment addresses concerns that the existing applicant definition is too restrictive and results in identified Veteran gravesites going unmarked.

Mesoloft will Scatter Your Ashes from the Edge of Space

Some people choose to honor the memory of a lost loved one by doing something creative with their ashes. What’s more creative than taking their remains to the very top of the Earth’s atmosphere and releasing them? That’s what Mesoloft is offering to those who want to say goodbye in a way that no one will ever forget.

Mesoloft makes it possible to honor the dream and memory of your departed loved one by lifting the cremated remains of a beloved family member into the magnificent beauty of near space, almost twenty miles above our planet. Once released, the ashes will soar and drift in the upper reaches of the earth’s atmosphere for weeks and months circulating the globe. Over time the ashes will return as dust to earth, settling on mountain tops, desert dunes, oceans, lakes, and rivers. Some will pass through clouds, returning to the surface of the planet in the form of raindrops or snowflakes as water vapor condenses on the particles of ash.

Research at DAR Library Now Free to the Public

The following announcement was written by the folks at the DAR Library:

The DAR Library, one of the country’s premier genealogical research facilities, is now FREE to all researchers. In October, the entrance fee for use of the Washington, D.C. family history library was eliminated as part of ongoing efforts to make the extensive DAR genealogical resources more accessible to the public.

“We are so pleased to be able to now offer the DAR Library resources free of charge,” says Eric Grundset, Director of the DAR Library. “We invite and encourage anyone who may have been deterred in the past by the usage fee to come visit and explore our vast holdings. You never know what you may be able to discover about your family at the DAR Library.”

Wells Fargo Unit Banks on Family History

Want to have professional genealogists prepare a complete family history profile for you, showing your ancestry back at least four generations? The report will include a dossier of pictures and historical documents, from naturalization papers to passenger lists. The reports are available at no extra charge.

Well, there is one hitch: the private bankers at Abbot Downing, Wells Fargo’s advisory for clients, will do this only for customers who have $50 million in assets or more.

University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth receives $500,000 to support Portuguese-American Archives

A $500,000 bequest from Otilia Ferreira will be used to create a fund for scholarships and Luso-American research at UMass Dartmouth. Ferreira announced the gift at the five-year anniversary of the Ferreira Mendes Portuguese-American Archives on October 9, according to a university news release.

In 2005, Ferreira made the lead gift to help create the archives which is now the largest collection of historical material documenting the experience of Portuguese immigrants in the United States. The holdings include genealogical records, newspapers, books, recordings, family photographs, scrapbooks and correspondence that document social history.

Indiana to Digitize 13 Million Birth, Death, and Marriage Certificates

The Indiana Commission on Public Records has approved a contract with Ancestry.com to digitize more than 13 million birth certificates, death certificates, and marriage records, Gov. Mike Pence announced Thursday. The birth and death certificates date back to the early 1900s, according to a news release, and the state’s marriage records are from 1958 through 2005.

The digitized versions of those records older than 75 years will start becoming available to Hoosiers in 2015, the release said, with completion expected by 2016.

Buy Your Very Own Connecticut Village

Do you have ancestors who lived in Johnsonville, Connecticut? If so, you might want to commemorate their lives by purchasing the entire village. Of course, you don’t have to have ancestral connections. Anyone may now purchase the abandoned village for “only” $800,000. If you know anything about Connecticut real estate prices, you might agree that is a bargain. Of course, it is a “fixer upper.” The property has been deserted for years.

Part of East Haddam, Conn., Johnsonville—120 miles southwest of Boston, 30 minutes from Hartford—was once home to the bustling Neptune mill (destroyed in 1972 by a lightning strike), which harnessed power from the Moodus River for twine production. In the 1960s, the village inhabitants left the area. Today, it is an abandoned 19th century village with eight structures of historic significance, including including a general store, carriage house, and the mansion of village namesake Emory Johnsonn.

BCG Welcomes New Officers and Reconfigures a Requirement

The following was written by the Trustees of the Board for Certification of Genealogists:

BOARD FOR CERTIFICATION OF GENEALOGISTS DISCUSSES CERTIFICATION, WELCOMES JEANNE LARZALERE BLOOM, CG, AS NEW PRESIDENT

Genealogists seeking board certification will have a clearer idea of portfolio requirements following the October 12 meeting of the trustees of the Board for Certification of Genealogists in Salt Lake City. The Board also welcomed a new executive committee and two new members. Several trustees volunteered for a newly enlarged marketing committee. Trustee Judy G. Russell, J.D., CG, CGL, made a generous donation to fund a full year of BCG’s new free public instructional webinars.

To emphasize the fact that not all who apply for certification take clients, the fifth required item in an application portfolio will now be called “Research Report Prepared for Another” rather than “Research Report Prepared for a Client.” The item’s requirements remain the same: research and report on a genealogical problem authorized by someone else that does not involve the applicant’s family, showing “analysis of the problem, in-depth and skillful use of a range of sources, and recommendations for further work based on your findings.”

Hawaii State Archives Go Digital

Hawaii’s state archives are going digital. Soon, from the comfort of your home you can check records that include your genealogy and marriage licenses.

Paper state government records have been preserved at the archives for decades. However, for years now the government has gone paperless for many documents and that became a problem. A team is now working on how to store the digital data properly to make it available for everyone online.

Travelling the World by Digitizing Cemeteries

This sounds like a great project that will benefit many other genealogists. Michael Kerr and his wife, Sabrina Rowe, decided to leave the comfort of their home, and bicycle across Europe, stopping to photograph entire cemeteries on the way. All the photos are being shared with the community for free on MyHeritage and on BillionGraves.com.

Michael and Sabrina have always wanted to travel, but they craved a deeper experience than just a short vacation that they were normally able to take once a year. In May 2011, they packed up and stored the contents of their Montreal apartment, and embarked on their journey. They planned to travel by bike to improve their fitness, and to enable them to see beautiful surroundings more easily.

Combating IRS Refund Fraud: The Next Profile in Courage?

The following was written by Fred Moss of the Records Preservation and Access Committee, a joint committee of the Federation of Genealogical Societies, the National Genealogical Society, and the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies:

The continuing vulnerability for the IRS online filing system to refund fraud by identity theft has been much in the news in recent days.

It was the focus of the CBS 60 Minutes broadcast Sunday evening, the 21st of September which featured interviews ranging from the fourth IRS commissioner in the last two years, film clips from the Congressional testimonies of his predecessors, and “expert” testimony from a former identity thief.

http://www.cbs.com/shows/60_minutes/video/RzmZGQTr7RPHG2pfxMj4ufrsdTRnQXPd/biggest-irs-scam-around-identity-tax-refund-fraud/

The broadcast also anticipated the public release on Monday, the 22nd of September of a Governmental Accountability Office (GAO) Report responding to a request from key members of Congress entitled: “Identity Theft – Additional Actions Could Help IRS Combat the Large, Evolving Threat of Refund Fraud.”

http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-633

What GAO Found

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.

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