Current Affairs

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

Canadian Federal Archives Sitting on a Mountain of Unsorted Documents

The Federal Archives is sitting on a backlog of 98,000 boxes of undocumented government records, some dating to 1890, says Canada’s auditor general. Library and Archives Canada (LAC), which serves as the permanent repository for historically valuable government records, has vowed to come up with a plan to tackle the mountain of textual records, maps, microfiches, digital records and sound recordings by the end of 2015.

The uncatalogued material includes 24,000 boxes of military records, 9,800 boxes from Transport Canada, 7,200 boxes from Industry Canada, 6,400 from Public Works and Government Services Canada, and 5,200 from Justice Canada. Liberal MP Stéphane Dion on Tuesday said government funding cuts have led to the “neglect” of countless historical federal documents and form part of a pattern that includes elimination of the long-form census and the cumulative impact of six years of budget cuts at Statistics Canada.

Ohio’s History Museum Considering a Move to Downtown Columbus

The Ohio History Connection is considering moving its museum Downtown, perhaps to a riverfront location. Burt Logan, executive director and chief executive officer of the organization, stressed that a decision to move the museum, now at E. 17th Avenue and I-71, has not been finalized. However, talks about a move are underway, he said. The appeal of moving Downtown would be “a more visible and more accessible location.”

Details may be found in an article by Alan Johnson in the Columbus Dispatch at

London Probate Search Rooms Closing December 2014 to be Replaced by New On-Line Index to Wills from 1858

The following announcement has been made by HM Courts & Tribunals Service. A response from the Society of Genealogists is also attached at the end:

London Probate Search Facility

“As of Friday the 12th December, the Probate Service will make available our records from 1858 to the present and the records of some soldiers who died on active military service between 1860 and 1982 (predominantly those who died in the First World War) for searching online.

You can search, order and receive copies direct from your own computer without waiting for the Probate Registry to send them to you.

You can search and if there is a match you will be informed straightaway. You then decide if you wish to pay £10 and order the documents.

Canada’s Chief Librarian and Archivist Reflects on his First Six Months

When Montreal historian Guy Berthiaume started a five-year term as Canada’s chief librarian and archivist in June, he inherited a demoralized institution reeling from budget and job cuts. Previous Library and Archives Canada (LAC) chief Daniel Caron was criticized by library and archives professionals across Canada for being aloof, remote and unqualified.

Berthiaume was recently interviewed by Chris Cobb of the Ottawa Citizen newspaper and web site. Berthiaume discussed some of the problems he faces. You can not only read about the interview but also watch a video at

How Genealogy Became Almost as Popular as Porn

Time Magazine says, “…genealogy is the second most popular hobby in the U.S. after gardening, according to ABC News, and the second most visited category of websites, after pornography.”


FamilySearch Photo Duplication Services to be Discontinued

According to a recently-updated wiki page at

“Photo duplication Services will be discontinued as of December 5, 2014. As of this date, existing orders will be completed, but new orders will not be accepted.

A Popular Song for Funerals: Monty Python’s Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life

A study by The Co-operative Funeralcare of songs played at 30,000 funerals in the U.K. showed that traditional hymns, football anthems and classic pop songs top the list of the “funeral music chart.” The most popular song amongst the pop songs? Monty Python’s Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life, a song from The Monty Python movie, The Life of Brian.

Details may be found at

Orange County, Florida, Public Library’s Genealogy Collection is Moving to the West Oaks Branch

Planning to do some genealogy research on your “snowbird” trip to Florida this winter? You might want to know that research in the Orlando area will be a bit limited for a couple of months.

The Orange County (Florida) Library System provides library services to about 1.25 million people, including everyone in the city of Orlando. The library’s large genealogy collection will soon be moved to its new home at the West Oaks Branch Library and Genealogy Center, 1821 E. Silver Star Road, Ocoee, FL 34761.

How to Find a Lot of Personal Information about Anyone

Subtitle: How Anyone can Find a Lot of Personal Information about You

NOTE: This article is being cross-posted both here and in my new Privacy Blog as this subject seems applicable to both.

Numerous online sites have been available for years that sell personal information about you or about anyone else in the United States. However, one site seems to take this “service” to new heights: The service isn’t free, but it is low-cost. The service is available to anyone with a credit card and an Internet connection.

Instant Checkmate collects and sells an amazing amount of information about U.S. residents, including criminal records, court appearances (even where the person was judged innocent or if the case was dropped), charitable contributions, sex offender databases, information you provided on social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and many more), professional and business licenses, real estate transactions, and even appraisals of real estate owned, voter registration records, employment records, marriage records, birth records (including birth records of the children of the person in question), residential addresses, and more.

When I did a search on my own name, Instant Checkmate found all sorts of information about me, including my FAA-issued pilot’s license.

Question: Do you want others to know all about you?

Généalogie et archives Saint-Laurent has Moved to the Cornwall (Ontario) Public Library

Généalogie et archives Saint-Laurent was established in 1986 and operated from the Nativity Church basement. It is the only genealogy centre in this region. It was funded by donations and memberships. Earlier this year, officials with the Généalogie et archives Saint-Laurent signed a lease agreement with the Cornwall Public Library, with the approval of city hall, that will allow for more than 15,000 documents and associated paraphernalia to move to its new home in the massive basement on Second Street West.

Irish Minister Admonishes the Data Protection Commissioner over the Handling of Her Department’s Genealogy Site

Irish Genealogy, a website at created by the 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. After the country’s data protection commissioner warned that potentially sensitive personal details were available to all, the Irish government closed part of the site. You can read about that incident in my earlier article published July 21, 2014, at Now Irish Minister Heather Humphreys has expressed concern at how the Data Protection Commissioner handled the issue relating to her department’s genealogy site.

While civil records on births, marriages and deaths are public records, they had never before been searchable in such an extensive way online for free. Billy Hawkes, who was data protection commissioner at the time, said his office had been consulted about the genealogy site in the context of putting up registers over 100 years old. But the presence of “live” records up to and including 2013 had come as a “total shock” to his office.


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