Current Affairs

Unclaimed Persons Celebrates Ninth Anniversary and Launches New Website

The following announcement was written by Unclaimed Persons:

Every life is worth remembering, and this month Unclaimed Persons (UP) celebrates its ninth anniversary helping to unite the remains of deceased individuals with their next of kin.

Alone in death and tucked away on dark shelves or cold gurneys in morgues across the country, thousands of deceased individuals whose names are known to coroners, medical examiners, and a handful of friends have no known family members to claim their remains. Homelessness, mental illness, long-term estrangement, deaths of all apparent next of kin, and other circumstances have severed familial connections. Ever-increasing caseloads and shrinking budgets make it nearly impossible for many medical examiners, coroners, and investigators to find these individuals’ relatives without help.

Reclaim The Records Wins Another Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) Request: New York State Department of Health Concedes the New York State Death Index is to become Available to the Public under Open Records Laws

I often write about bad news in which legislators and bureaucrats keep blocking genealogists from accessing records that legally qualify as public domain. Therefore, it is great to report another victory from Reclaim The Records!

An announcement from Reclaim The Records states:

“After seventeen months of work, we have now forced the New York State Department of Health to concede that this data is, and should be, available to the public under open records laws. We secured the first ever public copies of this important state death index, which the Department of Health has digitized for us, scanned from the original vault copies. They are high-resolution greyscale images, with the entire set comprising about 3/4 of a terabyte of data on a portable hard drive. (That’s a lot of dead people.)

How Private is Your Genealogy Information?

A newsletter reader asked a question that I think many people are asking. I replied to him in email but thought I would also share may answer here in the newsletter in case others have the same question.

My correspondent wrote:

I am relatively new to genealogy technology. Are there tips you can provide to ensure the security of personal information? Would building a family tree in software only [in] my computer be more secure than syncing it to a webpage (like MyHeritage)? Is it a good idea to not include details (name, date and place of birth) for all living relatives and maybe back a generation or two? Thanks.

My reply:

No. In fact, quite the opposite.

The End of an Era: Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus Closes

The “Greatest Show on Earth” is no more. For many of our ancestors and even for our children and grandchildren of today, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus provided entertainment not found elsewhere. Perhaps we should all take note of the passing of this once-gigantic entertainment enterprise. The founders were the epitome of American entrepreneurship, an excellent example of why America welcomes immigrants.

The Ringling brothers were the seven American-born sons of harness maker Heinrich Friedrich August Ringling (originally spelled as “Rungeling”), (1826–1898), an immigrant from Hanover, Germany, and Marie Salome Juliar (1833–1907), an immigrant from Ostheim, in Alsace (now a part of Bavaria, Germany). One Ringling sister, Ida Loraina Wilhelmina Ringling also was part of the family although she apparently was not involved in the circus business. [Reference: “Ringling brothers” on Wikipedia.org]

Genealogist Who Helps Heirs Obtain Fortunes in Estate Cases Accused of Using Forged Documents

Every year, millions of people die worldwide without making a will (called dying intestate), often leaving substantial cash and property estates which, if not claimed, goes to the state. Worth billions, this provides vast income opportunities for genealogists who trace missing beneficiaries to these valuable estates.

Heir tracing is the business of seeking living descendant relatives who often have lost touch with their distant kin and, in most cases, have no idea of their family link. Many professional genealogists also are heir hunters, also known as probate researchers. Heir hunters are the ones who start with the information of a wealthy deceased person and then find the previously-unknown relatives who stand to inherit the estate.

In return, the heir hunter charges a percentage of the inherited wealth, typically 30%, 40%, or more. For some, heir hunting has turned out to be a lucrative business, paying much, much more than traditional genealogy research. Vadim Tevelev is one such heir hunter.

Remains of a Little Girl in a Forgotten Casket are Identified

This story combines detective work, genealogy, DNA, and public records.

A little girl about 3 years old died and was buried about 140 years ago in an unmarked metal casket in a wealthy San Francisco neighborhood. When workers recently discovered her elaborate coffin beneath a concrete slab, there were no markings or gravestone to say who she was. A team of scientists, amateur sleuths and history buffs worked tirelessly to solve the central question in this Bay Area mystery: Who was the little girl in the casket?

She has now been identified. The girl’s DNA was matched to that of a relative now living in San Rafael.

The story of the investigation is intriguing. Investigators found a scale plan of the cemetery development in 1865 at the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley. That provided an approximate location of the grave.

Santa Rosa County, Florida, Will Open a New Genealogy Library

The Santa Rosa County (Florida) Library System is officially opening its genealogy library on Monday. The building, located at 6275 Dogwood Drive (north on State Route 87) in Milton, Florida, is located down the hall from the county library system administration offices. It holds a variety of resources — printed material and digital — to help people investigate their family history.

The collection includes books, journals, microfilm, microfiche, obituaries, magazine and files of clippings from Santa Rosa County and beyond. The most extensive part of the information covers Florida, Georgia and Alabama.

Louisiana’s Archives are in a ‘State Of Emergency,’ According to Local Historians

Louisiana’s archival and historical records are in a state of emergency. Their destruction “would represent nothing less than a devastating and irreparable loss” of the state’s historical and cultural heritage, according to historians who recently gathered for the Louisiana Historical Association’s annual conference.

A summary by the Louisiana Historical Association called Louisiana’s historical archives “endangered treasures.”

Looking for Bodden or Bawden Ancestors With Relatives in the Cayman Islands

If your surname is Bodden or Bawden then it might be time to dig out the family tree – as you could be in line for a free holiday.

The Cayman Islands have launched an appeal to try and trace the descendants of their Cornish founding fathers, with the aim of flying them to the beach paradise to meet their distant relatives.

London FamilySearch Centre Microfilm Collection is Transferring to the Society of Genealogists

The following announcement was written by the Society of Genealogists:

The London FamilySearch Centre microfilm collection, which is currently temporarily located at The National Archives, is transferring to the Society of Genealogists in Clerkenwell. The move reflects a partnership between the Society of Genealogists and FamilySearch to ensure that the microfilm collection continues to be available to family historians. The London FamilySearch Centre will continue to provide its research support services at the National Archives.

The collection of about 57,000 microfilms complement the SoG’s remarkable library of genealogical sources and both bring together, in one place, an unparalleled resource for family history researchers in the UK. Having been carefully curated over many years, the FamilySearch Films include many thousands of copies of original church and local records from the United Kingdom and Ireland; probate records for England and Wales before and after 1858 and selected items for Caribbean research.

Naturalization Index CrowdSourcing Project on the SeekingMichigan.org Web Site

This sounds like a great new project: “The Archives of Michigan is pleased to announce the launch of a digitization and indexing project to make naturalization records from nearly 70 Michigan counties freely available online. In a partnership with FamilySearch, and with the support of the Michigan Genealogical Council, the Archives of Michigan is asking you to help transcribe key genealogical information from the records. Once completed, the collection – including both the images and index – will be freely available only at Seeking Michigan.”

The project uses FamilySearch’s indexing software which is probably the best available software for the job.

You can learn more about this new project from the SeekingMichigan.org web site at: http://seekingmichigan.org/naturalization.

My thanks to newsletter reader Kim Wickman for telling me about this project.

Spring Forward into Daylight Saving Time

Most of the United States will “spring forward” this weekend, as we enter Daylight Saving Time at 2:00 a.m. – which will immediately become 3:00 a.m. – Sunday morning. There is a lot of history connected with Daylight Saving Time.

Benjamin Franklin proposed a form of daylight time in 1784. He wrote an essay “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light” to the editor of The Journal of Paris, suggesting, somewhat jokingly, that Parisians could economize candle usage by getting people out of bed earlier in the morning, making use of the natural morning light instead. This 1784 satire proposed taxing window shutters, rationing candles, and waking the public by ringing church bells and firing cannons at sunrise. Despite common misconception, Franklin did not actually propose Daylight Saving Time. In fact, clocks were not synchronized in Europe at that time; each owner of a clock would set it to whatever time he or she thought was correct. Standardized time did not occur until railroads became popular. Train schedules had to be planned for designated times.

The National Archives (of England and Wales) Fees are Changing

On 1 April 2017, the fees charged by The National Archives at Kew, Richmond, Surrey, for research, paper and digital copies of records, and some other services, will change.

The National Archives is allowed to charge for the statutory services provided under the Public Records Act (1958). However, the agency is not permitted to make a profit on these services but is expected to recover actual costs.

A summary of the new pricing structure, in effect from 1 April 2017, is available at: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documents/summary-of-costs-april-2017.pdf.

For reference purposes, the older summary of prices that has been in effect for a year is also available at: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documents/summary-of-costs-feb-2016.pdf.

Genealogy and History Reportedly Will Suffer if the New Jersey State Archives Moves

In an article in the NJ.com web site, Daniel Klein of the Jersey Journal warns that a relocation of the New Jersey State Archives could be detrimental for everyone. He writes:

“Some disturbing news for researchers working on the New Jersey genealogy came to light this week. The State of New Jersey has proposed a plan which will affect the New Jersey State Archives office in Trenton and move some operations to an alternate location due to a five-year renovation to the New Jersey State House. The current Archives building, which also houses the New Jersey Historical Commission and the State Council on the Arts, will be used to house the Governor’s office as renovations take place.

Clallam County Genealogical Society Research Center in Port Angeles, Washington, Closed Temporarily because of Weather Damage

Melting snow and rain led to a leak at the Clallam County Genealogical Society Research Center at 402 E. Lauridsen Blvd. in Port Angeles that damaged the facility’s ceiling, carpet and a conference table. The center is temporarily closed for repairs.

Fortunately, the damage did not spread to any local historical documents or artifacts. The leak happened in the center of the conference room. All of the books in the shelving and archives in file cabinets were up off the floor and did not get wet.

Funding for new Indiana State Archives in Jeopardy

According to an article in the Indiana Genealogical Society Blog:

“Planning for the new Indiana State Archives building in Indianapolis (which the Indiana General Assembly approved $25 million for in spring 2015) has been at a standstill for the last few months. Recently a deal fell through to pay for it by selling the state’s cell-phone towers. Your help is now needed to ensure that it gets fully funded.

Genealogy and Seniors

Kimberley Fowler has written an introductory article that describes some of the reasons why senior citizens are often attracted to genealogy. She writes:

“Retirees across America are leaving their families an unconventional legacy — knowledge of their family’s ancestral roots. In the age of the internet, ancestry and genealogy research has increased with additional access to online historical records.Genealogy and Seniors

“Older adults who are retired and have time on their hands are taking advantage, making “genealogy the second most popular hobby in the U.S., after gardening,” according to Time.”

You can read the full article in a Place for Mom blog at: http://www.aplaceformom.com/blog/1-30-17-genealogy-and-seniors.

Ancestry’s CEO, Tim Sullivan’s Message Concerning the Recent Restrictions on Immigration

With the recent political climate, Ancestry’s CEO sent an email to the entire company. Tim also wanted to share it with others. Feel free to share this as well:

The last 48 hours in the U.S. have been both heart-breaking and outrageous. Of immediate importance is the status of our Ancestry employees and/or their families. We do not believe that any of our employees are currently affected, but if we are wrong, please let us know immediately, and we will do everything we can to help.

Our company values decency, works hard to embrace diversity, and is very familiar with the difficulties that families all over the world have endured for centuries in their attempts to stay together and to improve the lives of the next generation. We are a company that lives history, so we’re familiar with the ugliness that we’re witnessing right now. We’ve seen how families were impacted by the quotas on Chinese immigration less than a hundred years ago, by the refusal to accept Jewish refugees fleeing the horror of Nazi Germany, and by the absurd detainment of Japanese Americans during that war. Today, it is broadly understood that these policies each left a black mark on our history and ran counter to the fundamental values of openness and inclusion that are our country’s strength.

School Time Capsule Buried 25 Years Ago is Missing

This a bit of a follow-up to my Plus Edition article, (+) Save Something for Future Generations: Create a Time Capsule, published a bit more than a week ago at http://eogn.com/wp/?p=42480:

Students and faculty at the Lieser School in Vancouver, Washington, buried a time capsule in 1992. It reportedly contained bits of memorabilia from that year. Instructions were left to open the time capsule in 25 years: 2017.

lieser-school-time-capsule

The time capsule was opened last week on January 27. Inside, Leiser School students and alumni found … nothing.

New U.S. Budget Blueprint May Affect Genealogists

Madge Maril, Associate Editor of Family Tree Magazine, has written a brief article in the magazine’s blog that warns of the proposed loss of one of genealogy’s major tools: the free Chronicling America newspaper search website, used by many genealogists to find information about ancestors and other relatives in local newspapers.

The Chronicling America web site is a service of the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH), an independent federal agency funding humanities programs in the United States. Madge Maril points out the new administration’s federal budget blueprint proposes elimination of the National Endowment for the Humanities. If that passes, the Chronicling America newspaper search website probably will go offline.

You can read Madge Maril’s article in the Family Tree Magazine Blog at: https://goo.gl/0b0Zlz.