Current Affairs

Home of the Marissa (Illinois) Historical and Genealogical Society Destroyed by Fire

A suspicious fire destroyed the Marissa Academy building overnight. It is 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Historical and Genealogical Society, which serves as both a library and a museum – a repository of irreplaceable historical documents, photographs, memorabilia and antiques, many of them donated by residents of the town.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.

You can watch a video report of the fire, including video of the damaged collection being removed after the fire, on YouTube at or in the video player below.

British Library opens National Newspaper Building

The British Library opened a new long-term home for UK national newspaper collection last week. The facility is huge. It appears to be the latest, state-of-the-art facility featuring robotic cranes to retrieve newspapers from shelving that are 20 metres (65 feet) high. Of course, it has temperature and humidity controls, as one might expect in any archival facility.

In reading about the new facility, one thing jumped out at me: the newspapers are stored in a dark, airtight, low-oxygen environment, both for preservation purposes and to eliminate the risk of fire. Apparently, humans are unable to breath within the stacks unless they are equipped with oxygen tanks. Items are normally retrieved by robotic cranes, which transfer stacks of newspapers via an airlock to a retrieval area where staff can remove requested items and send them either to the British Library Newsroom at St Pancras or the on-site Reading Room at Boston Spa.

The following is the press release issued by the British Library:

St Louis No. 1 Cemetery in New Orleans to be Closed to All but Licensed Tour Groups

The Archdiocese of New Orleans announced this morning that as of March 1, 2015, visitors to St. Louis No. 1 Cemetery will be permitted only if accompanied by a licensed guide. The reason cited is increasing vandalism.

The Archdiocese of New Orleans says allowances will be made for families who own tombs within the cemetery, but this edict effectively closes out genealogists from this historically rich source of information. There are plans to do the same in the St. Louis No. 3 and St. Roch cemeteries.

Proposed Elimination of the Genealogy Department at Indiana State Library

This could be a huge loss to genealogists: the new Indiana state budget bill proposes a 24% cut in funding to the Indiana State Library. This proposal would eliminate the Genealogy Department, as well as reduce the staff at ISL by 10%.

The Indiana Genealogical Society has posted information about this on their blog, and includes links to an analysis by the State Librarian, the contact info for the House Ways and Means Committee, and committee chair Rep. Timothy Brown. You can read more about the proposal at:

My thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for telling me about this proposed loss to genealogists.

Photos of UFOs Now Available from the National Archives and Records Administration

NOTE: A major update to this article is now available at UFO Project Blue Book Files Removed for a Web Site at the Request of Fold3.

Click on the above image to view a larger, although still fuzzy, version.For decades, the U.S. Air Force kept a record of all of its investigations into extraterrestrial activity in one extensive report called Project Blue Book. Up until last week, Project Blue Book’s massive catalog of over 10,000 UFO and extraterrestrial reports from the 1940s to the 1970s had only been accessible by visiting the National Archives in Washington. Now the archives are available online.

Dayton, Ohio, Metro Library’s Genealogy Collection to Relocate

The Dayton Metro Library’s construction takes another step at the Main Library when the Genealogy Collection moves to temporary quarters at 359 Maryland Avenue. Library staff will move collections, equipment, and other materials over a three-day period beginning on Saturday, January 24, 2015, requiring temporary suspension of genealogy services.

When it reopens on Tuesday, January 27, the Dayton Metro Library Genealogy Center at Maryland Avenue will offer collections and services during regular Library hours: 9:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday; 9:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. Wednesday, Friday and Saturday (no Sunday hours).

Economic Recessions Throughout History

The world economies change every few years. Right now, the economy is in a boom period; the stock market is at or near its highest numbers in history, inflation rates remain low, and home mortgage prices in the U.S. are at their lowest rates in decades. However, we all know that nothing lasts forever. Sooner or later, there will be a downturn and a recession of some sort is inevitable.

We are not alone in this, of course. Throughout history, our ancestors lived through many recessions and economic downturns. Of course, every crisis has also brought new opportunities. Most of our ancestors survived the various economic problems of their day and went on to raise families and to prosper in various ways.

Major Changes to the Genealogy Department at Columbus (Ohio) Metropolitan Library

The Columbus Metropolitan Library is a major resource for genealogists and attracts many visitors to its Genealogy and Local History department. However, if you are planning to visit the library after February 1, you need to change your plans.

Amy Johnson Crow writes in her blog, “The Genealogy and Local History department is going to be closed starting February 1 until sometime in April when they will reopen in a temporary facility in Whitehall (about 15-20 minutes east of downtown). Materials in the temporary facility will be limited.

A Genealogy Swap Meet in Mount Airy, NC

What do you do at a genealogy swap meet? Exchange ancestors?

Apparently not. The Surry County Genealogy Association is sponsoring a free family history and genealogy swap meet that is scheduled on Jan. 31 at Mount Airy (North Carolina) Museum of Regional History at 301 N. Main St. The public is invited.

If You Americanize Your Name, You’ll Make More Money

Immigrants who Americanized their names earned 10 percent more — irrespective of occupation — than immigrants who kept their original, ethnically marked names, according to a study by the Institute for the Study of Labor.

Costanza Biacaschi, Corrado Giulietti, and Zahra Siddique used data from the first half of the Twentieth Century to determine that male immigrants who changed their first name to one of the three most popular American names — William, John, and Charles — earned 10 percent more than their peers no matter what their occupation was.

You can read more in an article by Scott Kaufman in the RawStory web site at:

Privacy Concerns Raised about Vermont Town Reports of Births, Marriages, and Deaths

The Pittsford, Vermont Select Board’s December 17 board meeting discussed the fact that some residents are concerned that publishing birth, marriage, civil union and death names in the annual town report harms their privacy. The issue has been placed on the agenda for the next town meeting, according to a brief article in the Rutland Herald at

Will Google Sell All Your Email Messages To Your Grandchildren?

Many genealogists have letters sent by their great-grandparents. Maybe it is love letters exchanged between distant lovers or maybe great-grandfather’s letters home from the war. Whatever the content of the letters, these are amongst the most treasured possessions of many families. We learn much about the lives of our ancestors from these letters.

Will we leave similar legacies for our great-grandchildren? It is difficult to imagine that today’s email messages, tweets, and Facebook entries will be preserved and cherished by future generations. Yet that may happen.

According to an article by Matt Novak:

“We now know that governments around the world are vacuuming up virtually everything that passes through the Internet. And we trust companies like Google, Facebook, Apple, VISA, and Amazon with all our personal information. We’re constantly asking what these companies are doing with our information today. But maybe the more important question is, what will these companies do with our data far into the future?

1890 Census Records for Waterville, Maine, gets Reprinted as a New 284-page Book

Most experienced U.S. genealogists know that the 1890 U.S. census was destroyed in a fire, right? Well, not entirely. Probably 99% of the census was destroyed by mold and mildew that occurred after the fire. However, a few fragments still exist and one small set of such records have now been published.

If you had ancestors or other relatives living in Waterville, Maine, in 1890, you will want to read an article by Roxanne Saucier in the Bangor (Maine) Daily News at

Unfortunately, my great-grandparents were living only a few miles northeast of Waterville in 1890. Darn!

Cemeteries of the Future… Built like a Vending Machine?

Well, perhaps it LOOKS like a vending machine…

Cities are running out of space for all sorts of things, including cemeteries. Where can the urban dead rest in peace these days? Constellation Park is one of several concepts by DeathLab, a Columbia University-based research and design space focused on “re-conceiving how we live with death in the metropolis.” And you might not believe some of the other ideas this group of researchers and architects are quietly working on: a looming tower that that holds “pods” (i.e., graves) that light up and above which people can stroll, and a spaceship-like structure on Manhattan’s waterfront that’s like a park where waking can slip in and out.

Talk to Your Family This Holiday Season

Many of us will be enjoying dinners and other festive occasions this week with our relatives. I would suggest this is a great time to compare notes with the relatives. Indeed, older members of the family may know a few tidbits of genealogy information that you have not yet found. However, there is another, more serious, reason for comparing notes with relatives: family health hazards.

Compiling a family tree can offer more benefits than discovering stories of war heroes or family dramas; science and preventive medicine are getting a look in, too. The skeleton in the cupboard could be a genetic predisposition towards disease that, once uncovered, might provide potentially life-saving indicators.

Ottawa to Fund $35.7-million in Quebec City Historical Projects

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has announced $35.7-million in funding for historical and archaeology projects in Quebec City, while opening the door to further federal funding for a tall-ships regatta that will stop in the city in 2017.

Mr. Harper said the federal government will help to restore the old city’s historic walls and two architectural landmarks. The money will go to refurbish the 400-year-old fortifications ($30-million over six years), the Dauphine Redoubt that is a part of the Artillery Park ($4.5-million over three years) and Maillou House that was built in 1737 ($1.2-million over three years).

Man Finds Wedding Ring Near Site of a 1959 Plane Crash, Tracks Down Daughter

Fifty-five years ago, Joyce Wharton lost her parents in a small plane crash. For more than a decade, the family lived under a shroud of mystery. The family agonized for nearly 15 years without answers until plane wreckage was discovered in a dense wooded area in Washington.

With closure and peace finally in hand, Wharton, who now lives in New Jersey, said she never imagined there could be more to come. Then, on Sunday, she got an unexpected phone call and received a wondrous gift from a stranger that brought back memories more than a half-century in the past. “He said, ‘Joyce, I have your mother’s ring, and I’ve been looking for you all these years and I want you to have this,'” Wharton said.

Magicians Want to Restore and Maintain Harry Houdini’s Vandalized NYC Gravesite

Nestled next to the late Lewins, Blums and Levys in a spooky old cemetery in New York City lies the final resting place of America’s most legendary magician, interred under a granite monument that bears his stage name in bold letters: Houdini.

It is an impressive tribute to the man who grew up as Ehrich Weiss and died on Halloween of 1926 of complications from appendicitis. Over the years, the site has been venerated, vandalized, thieved and forsaken, but a group of magicians now wants to officially end the mystery of who will care for the grave.

You can read more at:

Polish Town Plans to Turn Jewish Cemetery into an Apartment Complex

A town in central Poland has prepared a development plan that will turn a Jewish cemetery into a residential complex with underground parking. The City Council in Grodzisk Mazowiecki held a public discussion on the plan on Monday. Following the meeting, Mayor Grzegorz Benedykcinski suspended action on the plan pending clarification of the cemetery’s boundaries. An historic cemetery gate with Hebrew inscriptions from the 19th century remains on the site.

The Jewish community of Warsaw and local activist Robert Augustyniak, who is not Jewish, have protested the plan.

Details may be found in an article in the Jerusalem Post at

Your Grandfather’s Bar is Available in San Francisco

The Interval in San Francisco is a bar, cafe, and museum. Award-winning bartender Jennifer Colliau brings cocktails back from the dead. Using alcoholic archaeology, she not only uncovers lost cocktails but often recreates ingredients, like pineapple gum syrup, that have themselves been lost to time in their original forms. The drink menu includes some of the earliest cocktails ever made, as well as drinks from around the world. These quite possibly are the drinks your grandparents enjoyed.

The bar, located in Ft. Mason, in San Francisco, is called The Interval, and its theme is time. The daiquiri menu, for example, features the five original daiquiris from Bar La Florida in Havana, Cuba. They represent the birth of daiquiris as we know them. Colliau refers to the selection as “a moment in time.”

Click on the above image to view a larger version


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,749 other followers