Current Affairs

Jewish Genealogical Society of Toronto Seeks a new Home for its Books

Writing in the Canadian Jewish News, Bill Gladstone describes a set of books looking for a new home. The Toronto-based Jewish library collection is up in the air as the Jewish Genealogical Society of Toronto (JGST) seeks a new home for its specialized collection of roughly 500 books and 45 periodicals.

The non-circulating collection has been housed since 1989 in the sixth-floor Canadiana room of the North York Central Library on Yonge Street, a branch of the Toronto Public Library system, where it has been accessible to patrons on an in-house, reference basis only. Although the Canadiana room has for decades been dedicated to genealogical research, the library recently announced it is “repurposing” the room, with renovation slated to begin in April or May.

You can read the full story in Bill Gladstone’s article at

Onward To Our Past Creates New Partnership for Czech Genealogy

The following announcement was written by the folks at Onward To Our Past® Genealogy & History Services:

Unified effort created to locate, preserve, index, and translate all 79 years of exceedingly rare Czech genealogy and history journals of Amerikán Národní Kalendář

Genealogical historian, Scott Phillips, owner of Onward To Our Past® Genealogy & History Services, ( located in Michigan City, Indiana today announced the first ever partnership created with the never before undertaken goal of locating, preserving, indexing, and translating the incredibly rare and exceedingly valuable 79 annual editions (1878-1957) of the Czech-American journal Amerikán Národní Kalendář.

FamilySearch 2015 in Review

FamilySearch_LogoThe FamilySearch Blog has published an article that describes the major accomplishments of the organization during the past year. One that caught my eye was about RootsTech 2015. The conference attracted a record 300,000 attendees in person, online, and through local post–Family Discovery Day events.

Other items mentioned include two new Family Discovery Centers. Around the world, 319 camera teams — an increase of 11 percent — digitally preserved over 122 million records in 45 countries, and 304,000 online volunteer indexers helped make them searchable.

Upate: Work has Stopped on Identifying as Many as 7,000 Unmarked and Undocumented Graves in Westland, Michigan

This is an update to an earlier story at

A group of volunteers attempting to uncover and identify the graves of as many as 7,000 forgotten people has run into resistance from Wayne County officials.

Citing liability concerns, the county has told members of the Eloise Cemetery Research Project to cease their work at the site near the former Eloise Hospital until they obtain insurance and present a formal project plan in conjunction with the Friends of Eloise, a nonprofit dedicated to researching and preserving the hospital’s history.

You can read more in an article by Kyla Smith in the Detroit News at

Controversy about the Providence, Rhode Island, City Archivist

Paul Campbell, Providence, Rhode Island’s veteran city archivist, has been the center of controversy for a while. In November, he was suspended with pay by the city council. A few days later, he was fired.

The reasons for being fired have not been publicly announced but Campbell does have a checkered past with involvement in city politics. For instance, Campbell served six months in prison after he pleaded guilty to lying to a grand jury about a kickback he paid former Pawtucket Mayor Brian Sarault in 1990.

Last month, Campbell’s office unveiled a portrait of former Providence mayor and two-time felon Buddy Cianci at Providence City Hall. Cianci was Providence’s longest-serving mayor with 21 years in city hall. But he was forced from office twice, first in 1984 with his no contest plea for assaulting a man with a fireplace log, ashtray and a lit cigarette. Cianci’s second administration ended in 2002 with a 4 1/2-year prison term for racketeering conspiracy. Archivist Paul Campbell and the now-discredited Mayor Cianci apparently were good friends.

You can find a few dozen news stories that were published in the weeks before and a few days after Campbell’s dismissal by starting at

Now the Board Members of the Rhode Island Genealogical Society have published a letter “To Whom It May Concern.” The Board of Directors is concerned that the city’s politicians apparently are planning to eliminate the position of the Providence City Archivist and also plan to remove the City Archives from the responsibility of the City to some unknown “non-profit.”

Here is the letter:

Things You Don’t See Anymore

Here’s a game for you. Try to remember things that once were commonplace but have since disappeared. I’ll offer these suggestions:

photo kiosks or mail-order photo developing
35 mm film
35mm slides
AOL trial CDs
beehive hairdos
cassette tapes
computer punch cards
dial-up modems
floppy disks
gas station roadmaps
leisure suits
milkmen delivering milk to homes
mimeograph sheets of paper
printed encyclopedias
prizes in boxes of cereal
rotary telephones
telephone party lines
S&H Green Stamps
Sears catalogues
TVs with dials to change the channel
two-dollar bills

Now let’s expand the game a bit more.

Online Petition: Stop Ancestry from Retiring Family Tree Maker Software

David Smith started a petition to be sent to Kendall Hulet, Senior Vice President, Product at, to ask to keep Family Tree Maker as a viable product. The petition started with a single signature and, as of the time I am writing these words, now has 113 supporters. David is hoping that is there is enough outcry, Ancestry will reconsider. If you would like Ancestry to continue supporting and updating Family Tree Maker, you might want to add your name to the petition.

The online petition may be found at:

Dropbox to Retire Mailbox – Is There a Lesson Here for Genealogists?

Hmmm, it seems to be a sign of the times. Dropbox is shutting down one of its less successful services although the primary business of Dropbox remains strong and apparently is quite successful. Details may be found on the Mailbox Blog at

Mailbox is a service that Dropbox purchased in 2013 for $100 million. Dropbox pledged not to kill the beloved app…but rather, to make it better. The product was originally called Orchestra; but, upon purchasing the service, Dropbox renamed it to Mailbox. Mailbox claimed to “make email light, fast, and mobile-friendly.”

Mailbox apparently attracted a small, but fiercely loyal, group of users. Messages are being posted today all over the Internet that are moaning the demise of Mailbox.

Sound familiar? It should sound familiar to genealogists who have read the news in the past day or so concerning Family Tree Maker. There are lessons to be learned in both of these recent announcements.

Give The Gift of Discovery with FamilySearch Indexing

FamilySearch is well-known for organizing thousands of volunteers who index records for the benefit of thousands of other volunteers. This crowd-sourcing project benefits all of us and certainly qualifies as a free “gift” to the genealogy community. Now FamilySearch is suggesting that a perfect Christmas “gift” is to help others find their ancestors.


The suggestion is to take a few minutes this holiday season to index so families worldwide can experience the thrill of discovery all year long. Volunteer indexing has already made more than a billion records easily and freely searchable on—and your help is needed! Your gift of indexing will help bring year-long cheer to researchers in need around the world.

Possibly as Many as 7,000 Unmarked and Undocumented Graves Discovered in Westland, Michigan

Eloise_HospitalEloise in Wayne County, Michigan, was a hospital for the mentally ill. It later cared for tuberculosis patients and others needing residential care. The hospital operated from 1839 to 1984. The Eloise complex was a small city with 10,000 patients and a staff of 2,000 at its peak in the 1920s. John Byrnes grew up near the hospital and heard many stories about unmarked graves in a nearby field. He decided to find out. Byrnes and 12 volunteers have now uncovered more than 400 graves and have been told there could be more than 7,000.

Thomasville (Georgia) Genealogical Library to Relocate to Thomas University

Thomas University’s Main Campus will soon be the home of the Thomasville Genealogical, History and Fine Arts Library. Formerly located on Broad Street in downtown Thomasville, the library will be relocated to the Eugenia P. Smitha Building on TU’s Main Campus at the intersection of Pinetree Boulevard and Millpond Road.

Two Women, Same Name, Same Date of Birth, Same Social Security Number

If you find that someone else is using your Social Security Number, the first thing you think of is identity theft. However, that’s not always true. Ask two different women in Florida. Joanna Rivera and Joannie Rivera only recently discovered the problem, according to a report this week, but in the meantime it’s caused no end of trouble for them. Credit applications have been denied; tax returns have been rejected.

1990, two Florida hospitals created the same record for two babies with similar first names, the same last name and the same date of birth, and the administration gave them both the same Social Security number.

Stolen Ontario Parish Safe is Returned

Good news! While thieves broken into St-Joachim Catholic Church in Chute-à-Blondeau, Ontario, in late September and carried away the safe, that safe has now been recovered. Bad news: the church’s parish registers kept in the safe have been damaged.

The safe contained a small amount of money and all the church’s hand-written parish registers, including christening and marriage records. In some cases the missing papers traced the same families for 130 years as generations lived, married and died there. See my earlier article about the theft at

On Friday, police in Grenville, Quebec, found the safe lying in a ditch. It wasn’t in good shape after being forced open, and was also lying in water. The hand-written record books were soaked.

Could new European Digital Privacy Laws Hurt Holocaust Genealogy Research?

European draft legislation aimed at protecting citizens’ private data in the digital age may pose a threat to Holocaust research, according to an international body tasked with promoting remembrance of the Holocaust. The EU’s preliminary General Data Protection Regulation, which is expected to pass into law this year, is part of a comprehensive European push for privacy protection that has included initiatives such an online “right to be forgotten” and efforts to keep the digital lives of Europeans on local servers.

Stafford, England’s William Salt Library to become a £4m Archive

The William Salt Library in Stafford town centre, a charitable library run on behalf of the William Salt Library Trust, is to become part of a new £4 million records and history centre under proposals to be discussed next week. The contents of the library will be moved to the neighbouring Staffordshire Record Office which is being extended under the scheme. Both buildings are due to be refurbished and a link created between them where community activities, family history workshops and exhibitions would be held.

Win a Kindle from MyHeritage

From the MyHeritage Blog:

Do you have a family history discovery story that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear it!

Looking deeper into your roots and learning more about your family’s past can help strengthen family connections and uncover previously unknown relatives. Many of our users have shared what they’ve uncovered and learned about their families, using MyHeritage.

Take a look at our featured stories to see some incredible discoveries. Barbara followed a MyHeritage SmartMatch to uncover her mother’s side of the family and, as a result, received priceless family correspondence. Brian was able to use MyHeritage to trace his family tree back to 690 AD and he discovered that his ninth great-grandfather was, in fact, The Duke of Argyll!

Missing: a 40-year-old Time Capsule Missing In Brevard County, Florida

Attention all residents and former residents of Indialantic, Florida. If you remember where the time capsule was buried in 1976, the Hoover Middle School alumni would like to talk with you.

A tiny time capsule, filled with a 8 mm camera, newspaper clippings and more school mementos from the mid-1970s was buried on the former junior high school property to commemorate the nation’s bicentennial year. They planned on opening the time capsule in 1996 — 20 years after it was put in the ground. There’s but one problem: the time capsule isn’t buried where they thought it was.

Ancestral Background can be Determined by Fingerprints

Really? That seems unlikely but a study at North Carolina State University finds that it is possible to identify an individual’s ancestral background based on his or her fingerprint characteristics — a discovery with significant applications for law enforcement and anthropological research.

The First Digital Archive on Moon

I have written before about the need for off-site storage but I never meant this far off-site! Astrobotic Technology Inc. and Lunar Missions Ltd, the company behind the global, inclusive, not-for-profit crowd-funded Lunar Mission One, have signed a deal to send the first digital storage payload to the Moon. The payload will support Lunar Mission One’s ‘Footsteps on the Moon’ campaign, launched yesterday, which invites millions of people to include their footsteps – in addition to images, video and music – in a digital archive of human life that will be placed on the moon during Astrobotic’s first lunar mission.

The announcement at gives very few details but the words “invites millions of people to include their footsteps” sure sounds like they will accept genealogy information.

An Ontario Parish Has Its History Stolen

Three thefts from churches in Hawkesbury, Ontario have occurred this summer. The most recent theft occurred at the St-Joachim Catholic Church. Thieves stole a safe from the church. It contained a small amount of cash but, more important to genealogists, it also contained the church’s parish registers. It’s all the files of the parish, including christening and marriage records. In some cases the missing papers traced the same families for 130 years as generations lived, married and died there.

Rachelle St-Denis-Lachaine, a longtime resident of Chute-à-Blondeau and volunteer at St-Joachim Catholic Church, said, “These are the parish registers. It’s all the files of the parish, and there are also registers with marriages. These are our memories in these books. There are copies in the archdiocese in Ottawa, but it’s all the baptisms since the 1880s. The baptisms, the marriages, the funerals, so it’s basically the entire history of Chute-à-Blondeau that was in there.”


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