Current Affairs

Genealogical Detective Work Solves Looted Art Mystery

The founder and CEO of MyHeritage, Gilad Japhet, obviously has a number of interests. Besides being a lifelong genealogist, he also has an interest in returning stolen goods. His company, MyHeritage, has a history of returning looted assets confiscated during WWII to their rightful owners.

Japhet points out that one of his company’s driving forces is to do good, and to place particular emphasis on conducting pro bono projects worldwide.

You can read about one of the recent successful returns of looted artwork stolen by the Nazis to their rightful owners in the MyHeritage Blog at: https://blog.myheritage.com/2019/02/genealogical-detective-work-solves-looted-art-mystery/.

How to Remotely Watch RootsTech 2019 Salt Lake City

The following announcement was written by the RootsTech organizers:

If you are unable to attend RootsTech 2019 in Salt Lake City, you have two remote viewing options. Some of the show’s sessions will be streamed live for free at RootsTech.org (see the broadcast schedule below)! If you want more, you can purchase a Virtual Pass to view additional sessions from the conference. RootsTech 2019 in Salt Lake City runs February 27 to March 3, 2019. Go to RootsTech.org to view the entire schedule of events.

The RootsTech daily general sessions will be broadcast live and for free. They include keynote addresses by Steve Rockwood, CEO of FamilySearch International, Patricia Heaton, popular actress from Everybody Loves Raymond and The Middle, Saroo Brierley, whose incredible family reunification story which inspired the movie, Lion, and Jake Shimabukuro, world renowned ukulele master.

In addition to the select free classes broadcasted, RootsTech is offering a Virtual Pass, which provides access to 18 online recorded sessions from the conference. You can watch playbacks from your laptop, tablet, or smartphone device whenever and however you’d like—for just $129. Go to Virtual Pass for more information.

Indian Man to Sue Parents for Giving Birth to Him

A 27-year-old Indian man plans to sue his parents for giving birth to him without his consent. Mumbai businessman Raphael Samuel told the BBC that it’s wrong to bring children into the world because they then have to put up with lifelong suffering.

Obviously, his parents should have asked his permission first.

If you want to read more about this bit of stupidity, look at the article by Geeta Pandey in the BBC News web site at: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-47154287.

Volunteers Needed to Transcribe an Edwardian Book of Railway Accidents in a Day

The following announcement was written by the folks at the University of Portsmouth (in Hampshire, England), the Modern Records Centre, and the National Railway Museum:

Researchers from the University of Portsmouth, the Modern Records Centre and the National Railway Museum (NRM) are looking for volunteers to help transcribe a book of railway worker accidents spanning 1901–1907 in just 24 hours. The project is one of three that have been chosen as part of Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine’s annual Transcription Tuesday event, which this year takes place on 5 February 2019.

Transcription Tuesday was launched in 2017 by Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine, to encourage family and local historians to get involved in transcription projects. “The internet has transformed family history,” said editor Sarah Williams, “but the documents that are going online need to be transcribed or indexed to make them searchable, and for many projects the only way that is going to happen is with the help of volunteers.”

Heather Yvonne McLean of New Zealand awarded Queen’s Service Medal

Mrs. Heather Yvonne McLean has been awarded the Queen’s Service Medal for services to genealogy and historical research. According to the announcement:

Heather Yvonne McLean has been involved with the New Zealand Society of Genealogists since 1972 and has been an active member of the Society’s local groups in the Bay of Plenty, namely Tauranga, Te Puke and Katikati.

Mrs McLean’s key contribution has been the transcribing of headstones in the cemeteries of the Bay of Plenty over the course of 30 years for the benefit of family historians and researchers. She has volunteered two days a week with the Tauranga Family History Library since its inception in 1993 and volunteers every Wednesday at Tauranga City’s Cemetery Records office collating death and cremation notices.

No More Room at National Archives of Iceland

What do you do when the National Archives runs out of room to store documents? That’s the question being asked now in Iceland.

National Archives of Iceland

The National Archives of Iceland (ÞSK) have temporarily stopped receiving government documents due to a lack of shelf space, RÚV reports. Representatives say the government has known about the situation since at least January, but has yet to solve the problem.

When Mining Destroys Historical Cemeteries

Mountain top removal (MTR) mining has transformed the landscape of Appalachia, making gorges where mountains once were. MTR is a form of surface mining that extracts coal from mountain summits and ridges. The non-coal part of the mountain, referred to as “overburden,” is bulldozed into neighboring valleys. Sociologists James N. Maples and Elizabeth A. East describe MTR as “total ecosystem destruction.” Certainly the practice has tremendous environmental costs, particularly in terms of poisoning local water sources, flooding, and as the coal is burned, global warming. But as Maples and East reveal, MTR also has a cultural cost: this kind of mining erases the history of the region by destroying historic mountain cemeteries.

Be Careful What You Donate to Charity, Such as a Valuable 1776 Newspaper

A quick eye by Goodwill workers in South Jersey turned up framed pages from an original 1774 Philadelphia newspaper with an iconic “Unite or Die” snake design on the masthead. It is believed to be one of the four known copies that exist.

The frayed Dec. 28, 1774, edition of the Pennsylvania Journal and the Weekly Advertiser boasts three items signed by John Hancock, then president of the Provincial Congress, who pleads for the Colonies to fight back “enemies” trying to divide them.

Relatives Sought for Remains found at Detroit’s Cantrell Funeral Home

269 containers of cremated remains were found at the Cantrell Funeral Home in April by the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs after launching an investigation into the east-side funeral home.

There, investigators found two embalmed bodies left in caskets in the garage since the end of 2017. A third body also was found, held by Cantrell from January to April while families paid for the services, and “more than 20 bodies awaiting final disposition,” were covered in mold, LARA said. Officials found a box of fetal remains on Aug. 29. An anonymous letter led them to the remains of 11 infants on Oct. 12. It’s unclear why the remains were left at the funeral home, some for as long as two decades.

Detroit police are investigating the alleged wrongdoing. In the meantime, police and other authorities are attempting to locate relatives of the deceased in order to dispose of the bodies in accordance with the wishes of families.

13 Pages from the Missouri 1880 US Census Population Schedule Long Thought Lost have been Discovered

The following announcement was written by the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office:

Jefferson City, Mo. — Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, in collaboration with the Missouri Historical Society, today announced the discovery of 13 pages from the 1880 U.S. Census Population Schedule. Identified by the staff of the Missouri State Archives, a division of Ashcroft’s office, the pages record the households of the 99th Enumeration District in Perry County, including the name, age, marital status, occupation, level of education and more for 633 individuals then residing in the county’s Union Township.

“Discoveries like this are extremely rare,” Ashcroft said, “and we are thrilled to now provide access to these records previously unavailable to genealogists, historians and archivists alike.”

No, Find-A-Grave Wasn’t Exactly “Hacked”

There are dozens of messages floating around the Internet claiming that the FindAGrave.com web site (a product owned by Ancestry.com) has been hacked and that all the information from the FindAGrave.com site appears on another web site, https://peoplelegacy.com.

It appears that the site at https://peoplelegacy.com republished all the information in violation of copyright laws. In fact, the second web site claims THEY own all the copyrights on all the images contributed by genealogists to Find-A-Grave, including some pictures that I uploaded to Find-A-Grave some time ago. Even worse, my pictures now have a “PeopleLegacy.com” watermark on every one of the images! That strikes me as a rather brazen claim. Those are pictures I took and I don’t recall signing a copyright release to PeopleLegacy.com.

Another claim on PeopleLegacy states “All data offered through PeopleLegacy.com is derived from public sources” which seems questionable.

Let’s set the record straight:

Another Claim to the Largest Family in the World

On July 30 of this year, I mentioned an article MSN web site at http://bit.ly/2vlhblh that described the family of Pavel Semenyuk, 87 years old, of the Ukraine. With 346 living descendants, Pavel Semenyuk and his family applied for the Guinness World Record for having the largest family on earth. But the claim didn’t last long.

Beth Packard Walker celebrated her 100th birthday yesterday, and most of of her 485 children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren gathered at a Springville, Utah, church to celebrate with her.

A Call to Action for Scholars of American History: Contribute to Wikipedia

I suspect many American genealogists will be interested in an article in the blog of David S. Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States. He writes:

“We are fast approaching the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, a hallmark of the expansion of democracy here in the United States. On March 8, we will open our exhibit, Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote, which celebrates its modern relevance through inclusive retelling of the women’s suffrage movement.”

He then goes on to give an overview of the efforts of the National Archives and Records Administration’s preparations for easier access to the 19th Amendment’s records concerning women’s suffrage. You can read David Ferriero’s short overview at https://tinyurl.com/y7lphemy and then he references a more in-depth article at: https://wikiedu.org/national-archives-professional-development.

Is This the Best Family Tree “Chart” Ever?

A family tree chart is a fascinating way to trace your ancestry. Commonly shown as a chart with the oldest generations at the top and the youngest generations at the bottom, these simple layouts allow you to discover the line of past and present family members that led to your very existence. However, the relatives of Reddit user OrbDeluxxxe took the family tree concept to the next level with a very special family portrait taken during their recent reunion. All 45 members stood on the balconies of the clan’s large lake house, arranged to visualize each generation.

The image shows the oldest couple standing at the top of the “tree house” with their six children and spouses standing on the level below them. The third generation are at the bottom, five of which have the fourth generation babies in their arms. Each family is represented by color-coordinated t-shirts, and arranged in order of oldest to youngest (from left to right).

You can read more and see the photo at https://mymodernmet.com/family-tree-house-orbdeluxxxe.

You can also see a (slightly) larger image of the photograph at https://i.redd.it/32390sq6trf11.jpg.

Is this the Largest Family in the World?

An 87-year-old in the Ukraine has 346 living descendants. Can anyone top that?

Pavel Semenyuk, 87, always dreamed of a large family and was thrilled when his late wife gave birth to 13 children. Many births and marriages later, the Semenyuk clan stands at a whopping 346 living descendants, with the youngest member just two-weeks-old.

Mr. Semenyuk now has 13 living children, 127 grandchildren (each child had approximately 10 children?), 203 great-grandchildren and even three great-great-grandchildren. ‘I know the names of those who are older. But I often cannot remember the names of the young ones,’ Pavel said.

National Records Center USCIS Genealogy Program Update

The USCIS Genealogy Program was often criticized for being vey slow to respond to requests for photocopies of records of immigration and naturalization records of deceased immigrants. The records were typically not delivered for six months or more after being ordered. Sometimes it was much longer than six months. I have heard stories of delays of 18 months or longer and occasionally records never being delivered at all. Reportedly, that has recently changed.

The following announcement was sent by the National Records Center :

In January of 2018 the National Records Center in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, assumed responsibility for the USCIS Genealogy Program. Thanks to several workplace efficiencies, requestors now receive higher quality record scans, along with improved service. Index searches are now completed in an average of 20 days. Record requests are completed in 30 days, on average, and inquiries sent through the Genealogy Program mailbox (Genealogy.USCIS@uscis.dhs.gov) receive a response within five business days.

More information is available at www.uscis.gov/genealogy.

 

Research Your Armenian Roots—What You Need to Know (Part I)

The majority of Armenians are under the mistaken belief that all pre-genocide Armenian records have been destroyed and that little can be learned about their personal ancestry beyond what has been handed down through oral tradition. It is undoubtedly true that most pre-1915 Armenian church records were destroyed either during the genocide or in the years since. In addition, few genocide survivors were able or willing to recount their experiences or their family lineage. But that is not the complete story.

An article by George Aghjayan in the Armenian Weekly states:

“My objective here is to detail some of the available source records. In a number of articles in the Armenian Weekly and on Houshamadyan.org, I have only touched on some of these sources. I would like to expand on those initial articles. The obvious question remains, what records exist but are undocumented, where can the be accessed, and how can they be similarly preserved?

US Census Bureau Director Nominated

The following announcement was written by Jan Meisels Allen, Chairperson of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies, Inc. (IAJGS) Public Records Access Monitoring Committee:

This is a critical time for the US Census Bureau. They have been without a permanent director for a year and there is much consternation about issues revolving around the 2020 census regarding adequate funding, potential undercounting of certain groups, and especially the added question regarding citizenship which was added at the request of the Department of Justice. Several lawsuits are pending regarding the citizenship question.

On July 18 Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced the Permanent Census Bureau Leadership team. The White House announced their intent to nominate Dr. Steven Dillingham to be the Director of the US Census Bureau. Dr. Dillingham currently serves the Director of the Office of Strategic Information, Research, and Planning for the Peace Corps.

Beware of Paraskevidekatriaphobia

friday-the-13thToday is Friday the 13th this week. For many people, this means an attack of paraskevidekatriaphobia or a fear of Friday the thirteenth. Paraskevidekatriaphobia is derived from the Greek words Paraskeví (Παρασκευή, meaning “Friday”), and dekatreís (δεκατρείς, meaning “thirteen”).

The origins of this fear are are not well known, but several theories exist. One claim is that it originates from the story of Jesus’ last supper and crucifixion in which there were 13 individuals present in the Upper Room on the 13th day of the Jewish month of Nissan, known to Christians as Maundy Thursday, the night before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion on Good Friday. While there is evidence of both Friday and the number 13 being considered unlucky, there is no record of the two items being referred to as especially unlucky in conjunction before the 19th century.

Other theories abound as well.

Grieving Families Protest ‘Duplicitous’ Website that Reposts Death Notices in order to Sell Flower Deliveries

When does crass advertising go too far? Here is one strong candidate for that label: Everhere.com.

An Alberta man who, on the advice of doctors, is trying to keep news of his father’s death from his dementia-stricken mother, is the latest grieving family member to complain about a new website that reposts online obituaries alongside ads for flower deliveries.

His fear is that a bouquet and card will show up on his mother’s doorstep, and thus interrupt the delicate balance of what she knows about her husband, what she is capable of understanding through her dementia, and how it will affect her.

“I can handle it if she hears it from me,” Rick Laursen said. But finding out from a delivery would be needlessly traumatic. He has now put a sign on her front door directing any flower deliveries to a neighbour’s house.