Current Affairs

Symposium in Glasgow – The Future of Professional Genealogy

As the Who Do You Think You Are? Live! expo in Glasgow was winding down, the professional genealogists and a number of other interested persons and organizations were invited to attend a presentation and discussion concerning the potential need for a framework for genealogical education, licensing, and/or regulation in the British Isles. While I certainly am not a professional genealogist, I was lucky enough to be invited as well. I think that was because I was able to be the “genealogy journalist” who would report on the proceedings.

Many of the issues discussed in the symposium are similar to issues in other countries but a number of the issues, especially in dealing with governmental bodies, appear to be unique to the U.K. Here are my notes from the Symposium:

Arizona Woman Works to Identify Those Buried in a Navajo and Hopi Cemetery

Historical preservationist Gail Sadler was both heartbroken and appalled at the condition of a cemetery when she first laid eyes on it in 2008, soon after she had been appointed to the Winslow, Arizona, Historic Preservation Commission. She soon made it her mission to unearth the identities of the roughly 600 people buried there and help their descendants reconnect with their history.

Her mission quickly became an obsession. On nights after work and on weekends, Sadler would go online and scour death certificates – some 8,800 from 1932 to 1962 – looking for the Indian Cemetery as the final resting place.

Franklin Parish, Louisiana, Library Opens New Center for Genealogy

The Franklin Parish Library welcomed patrons to the library’s new Genealogy/Local History Room on Thursday, Aug. 21, when ribbon cutting ceremonies and an open house event were held. The library recently acquired what is known as the Landis building on Prairie Street. The site for the new center is located adjacent to the library’s main building and was purchased from Betty M. McLemore, whose grandfather H.B. Landis ran a mercantile store from the site and served as mayor of the Town of Winnsboro.

You can read more in an article by Marcy Thompson in The Franklin Sun at http://goo.gl/jW2SHV.

Mass Graves of more than Two Dozen 19th Century Illinois Settlers are being Relocated so a Proper Home Can Be Built Atop Them

A team of about a dozen archaeologists and anthropologists will relocate the remains of 27 people found buried beneath a spacious yard behind a house in the Brook Forest subdivision of Oak Brook, Illinois.

You can read more in the Chicago Tribune web site at http://goo.gl/5xwVBM.

An Unusual Family Reunion: the Descendants of William Douse of Prince Edward Island

It was not the sort of event you’d expect to find on the agenda of a family reunion, even a reunion of the Douse family.

William Douse was from Wiltshire, England. He emigrated to Prince Edward Island, Canada, in 1822 and became a successful businessman until his death in 1864. He was buried in a large crypt in the Old Protestant Burying Ground on University Avenue in Charlottetown. One hundred fifty years later, his descendants decided to open the crypt and to make repairs, making sure that William Douse and other family members entombed with him would rest in peace in restored surroundings. The opening and repairs were made during a multi-day family reunion.

Tintamarre Parade Draws Thousands of Acadian Descendants to Madawaska, Maine

Tintamarre, the traditional Acadian parade that for the 2014 World Acadian Congress was planned to be one of the biggest ever, and which wound its way down Main Street in Madawaska making the biggest racket possible. It made an amazing amount of noise — and it certainly was one of the biggest ever, with preliminary estimates from World Acadian Congress organizers putting the total number of people in the parade between 10,000 and 12,000.

Great-Grandchildren of ‘Aunt Jemima’ File $2 Billion Suit Against Quaker Oats

This isn’t quite as good as being named in a rich relative’s will but it might work out anyway. Anna Short Harrington was hired to portray Aunt Jemima after the brand’s acquisition by Quaker Oats in 1926. Her heirs never received any royalties from the earnings generated by her likeness and original recipes following her death in 1955. Harrington’s great-grandson, D.W. Hunter, filed a $2 billion class action suit — on behalf of all of Harrington’s heirs — against PepsiCo and its Quaker Oats subsidiary in an Illinois district court last week.

You can read more in an article by Geoff Weiss in the Entrepreneur web site at http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/236462.

Burglars Steal 100 Years of Chaska, MN Historical Records

The birth, wedding and death records of Chaska Moravian Church parishioners are handwritten in ledgers and kept in a church safe. During the night of July 14 and early July 15, burglars broke into the church and lugged out a 3-foot by 3-foot metal safe. The safe held about four ledgers recording births, weddings and deaths, as well as an index. The records reportedly have never been digitized or recorded in any way. The safe also contained $50.

Hancock County, Georgia, Courthouse Burned

All that remains of the Hancock County Courthouse

Another huge loss for genealogists and historians: Property deeds, birth and marriage certificates and many other vital records dating back to 1795 were destroyed when most of the Hancock County Courthouse in Sparta burned down early Monday.

The fire broke out around 3 a.m. on Monday, August 11. When fire crews arrived, the building was engulfed in flames. The cause of the blaze is unknown. The building and its contents appear to be a total loss.

An Obituary Begins With “Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead”

That is not the line that most people would select for their own obituaries, but 70-year old Joanna Scarpitti did just that. At Scarpitti’s request, the family wrote her obituary with the first line being a quote from the Wizard of Oz.

Prior to her death, Scarpetti made her youngest daughter promise that when she passed away she would have that particular phrase printed with her obituary, as the two shared a a love of The Wizard Of Oz and a great sense of humor.

You can read more in an article by Kristyn Clarke in the PCM World news at http://goo.gl/rU1ZEL.

Woman Learns She Married Her Brother

Take a note: The next time you get married, first check your pedigree chart and that of your future spouse.

A Brazilian woman got quite the surprise when she went on a radio show this week to reconnect with her long-lost mother. Adriana, 39, who gave no last name, went on Brazilian Radio Globo’s The Time Is Now (which helps people find lost family members) and talked to her mother for the first time. The big news: Adriana had a brother who’d been given up as a child and raised by a relative, just like Adriana was. Bigger news: His name was Leandro, just like Adriana’s husband. The two men, in fact, had the same last name. “I don’t believe that you’re telling me this,” said a sobbing Adriana, the Daily Mail reports. “Leandro is my husband.”

Update: How NOT to Clean a Tombstone for Find-A-Grave

I recently wrote (at http://wp.me/p5Z3-As) an article about a person who damaged tombstones in a Tennessee cemetery by using a wirebrush to scrape the stones, making the letters more visible. Of course, it also created irreversible damage in the process.

Newsletter reader “ljellis2000″ now has posted an update: the culprit has been found, arrested, and charged with a felony offense. The man reportedly said, “… that he did not realize his actions were causing any harm.”

Former Soldier to be Buried in a Jack Daniels Bottle

Former soldier Anto Wickham started planning his own funeral after seeing eight Army pals killed during the Iraq war. The 48-year-old, from Belfast, paid a Nottingham-based firm £3,000 (roughly $5,000 US) for a coffin that is a ten-foot high replica of a bottle of his favourite whiskey. Anto Wickham said, “I didn’t want a normal funeral and it had to be a celebration of life because I have been to too many funerals of colleagues where they were very sad occasions. I wanted something completely different and I decided my favourite drink is Jack Daniels.”

The coffin appears to br a faithful reproduction of a Jack Daniels bottle except for one line added to the label. It provides Anton Wickham’s name, his date of birth, and the words “100% proof.”

Interns Spend Their Summer at Prospect Cemetery in Queens

This sounds like a great summertime project. Student volunteers from France and New York have raised more than two dozen toppled 18th century headstones in the formerly forgotten Prospect Cemetery in Jamaica, part of Queens, New York. Erosion from time and the ravages of weather caused the 60-pound headstones to fall, program officials said. You can read more and view a number of pictures of the effort in an article by Eli Rosenberg in the New York Daily News at http://goo.gl/VFS3w6.

Connecticut State Library History and Genealogy Reading Room to be Closed for Renovations

Planning a research trip to Connecticut? You might want to avoid August 15th through September 5th as one of the best resources in the state will be closed for renovations. The History and Genealogy Reading Room at the Connecticut State Library will undergo extensive renovations to include new carpeting, painting, electrical work for enhanced computer usage and installing walls around the archival reading area for greater security.

Details may be found at http://goo.gl/D86wG3.

How NOT to Clean a Tombstone for Find-A-Grave

Here is a sad bit of news: A man is suspected of damaging several historic graves with a wire brush recently at the New Providence Presbyterian Church on Stoney Point Road in Surgoinsville, Tennessee. He apparently used a wire brush to make the engravings on the tombstones easier to read. Now here is the worst part: he was “cleaning” the tombstones so that he could take pictures to be posted on Find-A-Grave.com!

Aaaarrrggghhh!

On July 15, church committee member Bill Davidson reported to the Surgoinsville Police Department that several tombstones had been “scrubbed” — possibly with a wire brush — causing damage to the old stones. The dark stain that builds up on tombstones over time was scrubbed clean in streaks over the engravings, and in some cases the engravings were rubbed almost smooth — to the point that the words are no longer legible. Davidson stated that some of the damaged tombstones date back to the 1700s, and some belong to Civil War veterans.

Genealogical Society Asks for Springfield, Ohio, Historic Cemetery to be Upgraded

The Clark County Genealogical Society wants to upgrade the Old Columbia Street Cemetery in Springfield, believed to be the oldest cemetery in Clark County, but city leaders say money is currently not available for the project. Genealogical Society Vice President Bob Hulsizer asked city commissioners at last week’s meeting to consider spending approximately $150,000 on the 211-year-old cemetery, which is owned and maintained by the city. It’s located on West Columbia Street, between Center Avenue and Wittenberg Avenue.

City officials are willing to work on the project. However, they say funding is limited due to budget restraints.

Territorial Court Records to Remain in Alaska

In March, the National Archives and Records Administration announced the closure of its Anchorage facility. The research room was planned to close in June and the rest of facility will close permanently in September. The original plan said that all records held in the Anchorage facility were set to be transferred to Seattle — which had many Alaskans upset. A compromise has now been reached between the National Archives and Alaska State Archive: 92 percent of the Territorial Court Record Holdings will instead be moved to the Alaska State Archives.

South Dakota Receives More Than $294K to Digitize Historic Newspapers

South Dakota has been granted more than $294,000 in federal funds to digitize 100,000 pages of historic state newspapers published between 1836 and 1922. The funds will help preserve and promote South Dakota’s rich history.

Brief details may be found in the Washington Times at http://goo.gl/UDyiCj.

Personal Data Removed from Irish Genealogy Site over Security Fears

The Irish government closed part of its genealogy website on Friday, after the country’s data protection commissioner warned that potentially sensitive personal details were available to all.

Irish Genealogy, a website at http://www.irishgenealogy.ie/en 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.

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