Current Affairs

The Secret of Erikoussa: The Reunion

Three months ago I wrote at about how MyHeritage (the sponsor of this newsletter) has been working closely with Emmy Award winning writer, producer and author, Yvette Manessis Corporon. About a year ago Yvette published a book called When The Cypress Whispers. The book is fictional but some of it is based on true stories she grew up hearing from her grandmother, including the secret of the Greek Island of Erikoussa.

When the Nazis invaded Corfu, most of the Jewish citizens were killed, but a tailor by the name of Savas (shown here) was able to escape with his three daughters, and a girl called Rosa, to the nearby Island of Erikoussa. Savas had customers and acquaintances on the island, but what was incredible was that the entire island joined forces – at risk of death – and gave refuge to Savas and his girls, and kept their identity secret from the Nazis, for the duration of the war.

Gilad Japhet, MyHeritage Founder and CEO, found the descendants in a true example of genealogy detective work at it’s finest.

A Proposal to Solve the Relocation and Downsizing of the Arizona State Library Genealogy Collection

Warning: This article contains personal opinions!

Two days ago, I republished an article from Judy Russell’s blog, The Legal Genealogist, entitled “Arizona State Library Genealogy Collection is Threatened.” The article explained that a “major genealogical collection is under major and imminent threat of being lost.”

The article also stated, “Unless something changes — and fast — the Arizona State Library Genealogy Collection — a vast collection of more than 200,000 volumes, many of them irreplaceable — is about to be lost to public access.” (Note: The number of books affected was later adjusted to 20,000.)

According to an article by Mary Jo Pitzl in today’s AZCentral at, a news site owned and operated by the Gannett Company, closure is no longer a threat. It is to be a fact. She writes:

Are There 9,000 Unmarked Graves in Huntsville’s Slave Cemetery?

Click on the above image to view a larger version.

Near Huntsville, Alabama’s downtown business district, Glenwood Cemetery is an oasis of green, with neatly manicured grass and groupings of shade trees. It’s a large cemetery: 1,148 tombstones mark burial sites of slaves, as well as the city’s most prominent black citizens. But Huntsville Cemetery Director Joy McKee believes the number is only the tip of the iceberg and there could be as many as 10,000 people buried in Glenwood. With the help of the community, she plans to find out who they are.

Cemetery Worker Stole Veterans’ Gravestones to Pave Garage and Shed Floors

A worker at the Rhode Island Veteran’s Memorial Cemetery was accused of stealing more than 150 granite gravestones to pave the floor of his garage and shed, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Rhode Island and federal court documents. The worker, Kevin Maynard, 59, was charged with felony theft of government property after the Rhode Island State Police got a tip.

Maynard was arraigned in U.S. District Court on Monday, where he pleaded “not guilty.”

Wanted: A New Home for News, Data and Information from San Diego’s Past

The San Diego Daily Transcript, which has covered local business, law and real estate for 130 years, announced Wednesday that it will cease operations next month. The final edition will be published Sept. 1, and the newspaper will close Sept. 21, publisher Robert Loomis said.

Loomis also said, “We hope a local university or library will accept the donation of our past editions and possibly even the web database so the news, data and information from the past can be a resource for future San Diego researchers and business people,” Loomis said. “It has been a great ride, one more time, our sincere thanks to our employees, and the many advertisers and subscribers who have supported us during the last 130 years.”

Winnetka, Illinois, Library To Close Genealogy Room

The Winnetka-Northfield Public Library Board of Trustees on July 20 voted unanimously to close the library’s genealogy room, despite protests from residents and people from neighboring communities. While the genealogy collection has been a fixture at the library since 1963, the library will close the room for good on July 30 with plans to relocate the collection outside of the library.

Details may be found in an article by by Emily Spectre in the Daily North Shore web site at

A Scavenger Hunt in the Cemeteries

Here is an idea for your local genealogy society or local historical society: a scavenger hunt.

John McVicar of Cambridge, Ontario, created an elaborate scavenger hunt of gravesites and monuments of famous people buried across Cambridge. He knew it would grab the interest of a few fellow genealogy and local history enthusiasts, but he didn’t think over 200 people would get involved.

It was so successful that McVicar has now pieced together two scavenger hunts: one in Cambridge and another one using cemeteries in Kitchener and Waterloo. Participants are asked to find the monuments or gravesites listed in the scavenger hunt guide and answer the accompanying questions.

U.S. National Archives opens an Innovation Hub

David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, has announced in his personal blog the opening of an Innovation Hub on the first floor of the National Archives building in Washington, D.C. The new Innovation Hub has two sections: a meeting area, and a citizen scanning room where researchers can scan the National Archives’ records with state-of-the-art equipment at no cost as long as they also contribute a copy of their digital scans for inclusion in the National Archives’ online catalog.

The result is a win-win: the visitor to the National Archives receives free use of state-of-the-art digitizing equipment to keep for his or her own use while the National Archives gets pieces of its holdings digitized at no additional expense beyond creating and stocking the Innovation Hub. (Paying someone to digitize documents normally is quite expensive.)

Another Method of Finding Your Ancestors: Use Time Travel

NOTE: I have no way of verifying the accuracy of these claims. In fact, I have serious doubts about them. However, this story does present some intriguing facts and makes for interesting speculation.

Did a few time travelers from the year 8100 go back in time to see the past for themselves? Have time travelers from Suffolk in the year 8100 been attempting to make contact with the past through the use of UFOs and “complex pictures (crop circles) in English fields?”

Several books and web sites make that claim. They also speculate that the time travelers were here only to observe their history. Maybe they are future genealogists.

A former US Air Force commander claims to have gathered new evidence which proves that a UFO landed in 1980 in Rendlesham Forest, near a US airbase in Suffolk, England. Officially, there was nothing seen on radar that night. However, the “landing” or whatever it may have been was witnessed by 30 US servicemen, as well as by several British policemen.

One Week. 100,000 Online Volunteers. Time to “Fuel the Find!” with the Worldwide Indexing Event

The following announcement was written by the folks at FamilySearch:

Millions of Family History Discoveries Likely from Worldwide Indexing Event

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH, July 22, 2015—A record-setting 100,000 online volunteers are expected to participate in the second annual Worldwide Indexing Event, facilitating millions of discoveries for eager family history researchers. Scheduled for August 7–14, the event will show how anyone with a computer and Internet connection can help “Fuel the Find” by making information from historical documents easily searchable online.

What Does It Mean to “Fuel the Find”?

New Genealogy Resource Should Boost Irish Tourism

Taoiseach (the head of government or prime minister of Ireland) Enda Kenny recently stated that an online resource for researching family history from the 18th and 19th centuries will prompt a wave of genealogical tourists to visit Ireland in the coming years. Mr. Kenny was speaking at the announcement of the National Library of Ireland’s parish records website, which contains digitized details of births, deaths and marriages in almost every Catholic parish during the 1700s and 1800s.

(See my earlier article about the new National Library of Ireland’s parish records website at

“What you’re doing here in the National Library, I absolutely applaud it because you are giving a facility to the Irish diaspora all over the world to connect, and in a world that is changing so rapidly isn’t it important to have a sense of place, a sense of who we are,” Mr Kenny said.

Early Vermont Settlers to 1784 is a Research Study Project

A new genealogical study promises fascinating insights into the early settlement and development of Vermont. Early Vermont Settlers to 1784 is a research study project that will help family historians trace ancestors who traveled north on their migration from southern New England.

The study by the New England Historic Genealogical Society, based in Boston, will build dossiers of records — occupational, religious, political, military, educational, probate, birth and death, historical, genealogical, and state — to paint a picture of early life in Vermont. The project study director is Scott Andrew Bartley, a genealogist, former NEHGS librarian, and a Vermont native.

Independence Day Then and Now

In celebration of the Fourth of July holiday weekend, here are a few tidbits about Independence Day then and now.

On this day in 1776, the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress, setting the 13 colonies on the road to freedom as a sovereign nation. As always, this most American of holidays will be marked by parades, fireworks and backyard barbecues across the country.

2.5 million:

In July 1776, the estimated number of people living in the newly independent nation.

321.2 million:

The nation’s estimated population on this July Fourth.
Source: Population clock

Ireland Reaching Out Creates “Reverse Genealogy”

Ireland Reaching Out, also called Ireland XO, is a non-profit organisation financed largely by the Irish government. The organization tracks down the descendants of those who left for America, Australia and other countries. Instead of waiting for people of Irish descent to trace their roots, Ireland XO volunteers worldwide are networking with people of Irish descent in their local areas, helping to build bridges between the present and the past by connecting people with the home parishes of their ancestors. Volunteers then invite the descendants to visit the homeland. Ireland Reaching Out hopes to build a database of the Irish diaspora containing 30 or 40 million names.

The Ireland Reaching Out web site states:

“Whether you have emigrated recently or have never been to Ireland, we welcome Irish people from all over the world and those who share an affinity for our rich and varied cultural heritage. We are a community with no geographical boundaries, connected first through bonds of people and place, and then developed through our shared celebration of culture and friendship, both online and offline.

Allen County Public Library’s Genealogy Center to Receive $240,000 Capital Improvement Project

The Allen County Public Library Foundation has approved up to $240,000 for a capital improvement project to the downtown library’s genealogy center. As part of the project, two under-used areas will be converted into active, customer-centric areas. The eastern half of the library’s Microtext Reading room will become a discovery center, and the orientation area near the entrance of the genealogy center will be converted into an oral history area.

U.S. National Archives Finds Same Malware That Stole Government Personnel Data

In the wake of the discovery of malware on the network of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the National Archives and Records Administration discovered three desktop computers that had been infected with the same remote access malware. The malware was detected by the National Archives’ own intrusion detection system after receiving signature data from the Department of Homeland Security, according to a report by NextGov.

Comment: I must say I am not surprised that the malware was found at NARA. In fact, I might have been more surprised if it was NOT found.

I wrote earlier about that malware on the Privacy Blog at and at

A Genealogist Traces Rachel Dolezal’s Ancestry and Finds No Black Relatives

Rachel Dolezal has recently stirred up a controversy concerning he ancestry. She resigned Monday as head of her local NAACP chapter after reports surfaced that she was born white yet has claimed she is black. If you are not familiar with this recent news story that has been on all the news networks, start at to find a few hundred reports about her recent controversy. Now a professional genealogist says that Dolezal’s claim is bogus.

Spend a Night at Ellis Island, the Same as Your Ancestor May Have Done

Well, it won’t be exactly the same. The contest winner will spend a night on a luxurious yacht, have dinner with actress Marcia Gay Harden for a “curated, historically themed dinner with select VIP guests” in Ellis Island Museum’s Grand Hall, a personal consultation with a professional genealogist, a midnight cruise around the islands and Manhattan, and will wake up to brunch next to Lady Liberty in the morning. Your ancestor never had it that good!

The night will be on Monday, June 29th. However, you only have a few days to enter in the contest. All entries must be received by by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on on June 20, 2015.

Here is the announcement from Airbnb, the sponsor of the contest:

Bicyclists Honor Ancestors with 950-mile Ride to Oklahoma

The Trail of Tears was a series of forced relocations of Native American nations in the United States following the Indian Removal Act of 1830. The removal included members of the Cherokee, Muscogee, Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations from their ancestral homelands in the southeastern U.S. to an area west of the Mississippi River that had been designated as Indian Territory. Many Native Americans suffered from exposure, disease, and starvation while going on the route to their destinations. Many died, including around 2,000-6,000 of the 16,543 relocated Cherokee.

Cyclists from the 2015 Remember the Removal Bike Ride are now retracing the steps of their ancestors along the northern route of the Trail of Tears. The team of 20 riders and crew, representing the Cherokee Nation and the Eastern Band of Cherokee, will complete a 950-mile ride and pass through seven states to honor and remember their ancestors who walked the Trail of Tears in 1838.

Black Loyalist Heritage Centre Now Open in Birchtown, Nova Scotia

The new Black Loyalist Heritage Centre opened in Birchtown, near Shelburne, this past weekend. It opens a world of genealogy that some Nova Scotians say has been left out of the history books for too long. One of Canada’s best kept secrets, the largest free Black settlement in the 1780s where people voted with their feet for freedom. In the 1780s, Birchtown was the largest free Black community in British North America, with over 3,000 settlers.

The new 10,000 square foot centre replaces its predecessor, which burned down in 2006. Though many visual records were destroyed, this new centre promises to bring access to family trees for people who want to trace their history through the centuries.


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