Current Affairs

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 http://goo.gl/k4crQN.) 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 Geni.com‘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 http://www.plotboxit.com.

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

On January 31, I published an article at http://goo.gl/QZ3FvA 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 http://goo.gl/uXk9fv.

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.

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 http://youtu.be/X4kruRrzXGg 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: http://indgensoc.blogspot.com/2015/01/proposed-elimination-of-genealogy-at.html.

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.

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