Current Affairs

Life Expectancy In U.S. Drops For First Time In Decades

Genealogists are aware that the life expectancy has been increasing for years in most developed countries. Therefore, it is a bit of a shock to learn that the life expectancy of citizens in the United States has actually decreased recently. To be sure, it is a small decrease. However, ANY decrease is a cause for concern.

The news out of the federal government Thursday is disturbing: The overall U.S. death rate has increased for the first time in a decade, according to an analysis of the latest data. And that led to a drop in overall life expectancy for the first time since 1993, particularly among people younger than 65. On average, the overall life expectancy, for someone born in 2015, fell from 78.9 years to 78.8 years. The life expectancy for the average American man fell two-tenths of a year — from 76.5 to 76.3. For women, it dropped one-tenth — from 81.3 to 81.2 years.

Blockchain Based Crypto-will Fulfills Last Wishes

This probably will be a game changer in the legal profession. I suspect it will also be a problem for future genealogists who want a copy of an ancestor’s will.

blockchain_apparatus_logoBlockchain Apparatus is a start-up company in Denver that is working on several legal areas, including property and trusts. Its mission is to provide new developments in the legal services industry. The company has found a new application of blockchain technology (see Note #1 below) that works with data available with the federal government database (especially from the US Social Security Administration). This new product makes self-executing digital wills possible.

In the near future, Blockchain Apparatus expects to have a software/network combination which is the executor of a deceased person’s last will and testament. The process will be automated, will run on thousands of computers simultaneously (thereby guaranteeing reliability), and will be visible to everyone (thereby ensuring there will never be a difference of opinion as to the will’s existence).

For the first time in history, it will be possible to hand out the entire process of will administration to a software program running outside of human control. This process will be executed by the code running this software.

Los Angeles to Bury 1,430 Unclaimed Deceased Bodies

This is sad news although I suspect it is the right thing to do: Los Angeles County plans to bury 1,430 individuals in a mass grave.

The remains of those set to be buried at the Los Angeles County Crematory and Cemetery in Boyle Heights have all gone unclaimed. The county generally holds the cremated remains for about two years before burial.

Most of those being buried were homeless or were poor with no known family to grieve for them.

Facebook Users want to Continue Posting from Beyond the Grave

facebook-after-deathI realize that Facebook is an addiction but this is a bit extreme. Many Facebook users apparently don’t want to stop after death! Who knew they had wi-fi up there?

OK, let’s get serious: What happens to a person’s Facebook page after they die? A recent survey by UK solicitors Jackson Canter found that around half of people would like their Facebook homepage to continue updating posthumously in some way.

In fairness, after questioning 2,000 people on the matter, some of the updating was relatively straightforward, with 55% simply wanting replies to expressions of sympathy after their deaths. However, almost as many wanted a friend of family member to post once or twice a year on their behalf with 10 percent suggesting this be done as often as once a week to “keep their memory alive”.

You can read the full story at https://goo.gl/Z6qd0F.

Woman Gives Birth to her Own Grandson

I want to see the pedigree chart on this family!

A California woman was told that she couldn’t have children. A few years later, her mother delivered the younger woman’s first child, conceived through in vitro fertilization (IVF) with the younger woman’s husband and eggs removed from the younger woman’s body.

According to the grandmother, “The attachment for me was not an issue as people have predicted, because in my mind it was biologically their baby,” she said. “I was just a deluxe Easy-Bake Oven.”

German-American Genealogical Partnership is Renamed to International German Genealogy Partnership

I have written before about the German-American Genealogical Partnership. See https://goo.gl/Apu1yZ for my past articles. Now the organization is changing its name to International German Genealogy Partnership.

The following announcement was written by the newly-renamed International German Genealogy Partnership:

International German Genealogy Partnership is new name of young organization, reflects growing global participation

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn.—International German Genealogy Partnership is the new name adopted by members of a new and rapidly growing global organization known since its founding less than two years ago as the German-American Genealogical Partnership.

“New member societies are coming into the Partnership from around the world. There is a growing international participation in the Partnership, and our members decided on a new name that better describes the organization’s international presence,” said Kent Cutkomp, a Minneapolis resident and co-founder of the partnership.

Virtual Grieving With a Smartphone

A church in Kent, England, will allow friends and family all over the world to mourn the passing of their loved ones by live-streaming their funerals. The Kent and Sussex Crematorium and Cemetery, in Tunbridge Wells, is installing a camera so that mourners who are unable to physically attend a funeral will be able to pay their respects by watching it from their laptops, tablets or smartphones.

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Getty Images/iStockphoto

Registrar Ken Dry said: “The webcasting facility is a service that we hope will be of help to families and friends who are unable to attend a funeral, perhaps because they live too far away.

An After-Dark Cemetery Party

I admit to spending a lot of time in cemeteries but never at an event like this one. On the night of October 15, 2016, Atlas Obscura and Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery invited fifteen hundred New Yorkers to explore the 19th-century garden cemetery’s expansive grounds. The guests made their own pathways by the light of the moon through the evening in order to discover hidden surprises, unusual entertainment and incredible access to rare historic spaces.

National Endowment for the Humanities Announces Guidelines for 2017 National Digital Newspaper Program Grants

neh_logoIf your genealogy society, library, or archive would like to digitize some of its newspaper holdings and make them available online, financial help may be available. The National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP) is accepting applications for financial grants to digitize historically-significant public domain newspapers published in U.S. states and territories.

This program is jointly sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Library of Congress (LC). Each award supports a 2-year project to digitally convert 100,000 newspaper pages from that state’s collections for contribution to the Chronicling America website, maintained by the LC. For a list of current participants, see http://www.loc.gov/ndnp/awards/.

Digital Maine Brings State Library Content to the Cloud

The Maine State Library is working hard to preserve historical state documents. The library is relying on volunteers, scanning technology and a cloud-based repository platform.

One current important initiative is an effort to digitize the microfilm of historical state newspapers. This initiative is supported by a $275,000 grant from the National Endowment for Humanities (NEH). The grant covers “the digitization of 100,000 pages of historic Maine newspapers published between 1836 and 1922 as part of the state’s participation in the National Digital Newspaper Program.”

Library of Virginia Reading Room Closures

The following message was posted to the Virginia Roots mailing list:

Basic CMYKThe reading rooms of the Library of Virginia will be closed on Saturdays and Mondays starting November 14, 2016. The move is a result of the drop in recent revenue projections, which led to Governor McAuliffe reducing the operating budgets for executive agencies by 5 percent for the current fiscal year. The Library had no option but to turn to staff cuts to absorb the 5 percent operating budget reduction. With the loss of 18 employees, the Library is unable to keep the reading rooms open six days a week. Effective November 14, 2016, the reading rooms will be open Tuesday through Friday from 9:00 AM until 5:00 PM.

“The decision to close the reading rooms was made reluctantly but providing effective service on Saturdays and Mondays for patrons without adequate human resources was no longer possible. Since the Governor’s announcement of the staff reductions at the Library of Virginia I and other members of the Library Board have been contacted by members of the general public who are very upset about these staff reductions,” said R. Chambliss Light, Jr., chairman of the Library Board.

How FindAGrave Could – and Should – Be Made Better

Amy Johnson Crow has posted an article in her blog that illustrates one of the problems with FindAGrave and offers suggestions for how it could be better. If you have an interest in FindAGrave, you might want to read Amy’s article, How FindAGrave Could – and Should – Be Made Better, at: http://www.amyjohnsoncrow.com/2016/10/21/findagrave-made-better/.

Comment: FindAGrave’s biggest competitor, BillionGraves.com, certainly is not perfect. It has some problems of its own but does not share the problems that Amy wrote about. For one thing, BillionGraves.com starts with a picture of the tombstone. No picture? No entry on BillionGraves.com.

Perhaps FindAGrave should adopt a similar policy.

Family History Library Begins Construction of New Discovery Center

The following announcement was written by the folks at FamilySearch:

Salt Lake City, Utah (October 10, 2016)–The popular Family History Library in downtown Salt Lake City has begun construction on its new Family History Discovery Center. When complete, the main floor attraction will create family history experiences for patrons of all ages. The project is on a fast track to be completed in February 2017. Admission will be free to the public.

familysearch-family-history-library-discovery-center-artist-rendering-4-copy

Click on the above image to view a larger version.

“We have been excited for quite some time to start construction on the new discovery ce” said Tamra Stansfield, manager of the Family History Library. “Our guests, particularly those who are completely new to family history, will be able to enjoy fun, personal discoveries through interactive technological experiences with their family’s history.”

Stansfield said the new center will make the library another unique and exciting destination for locals, families, and youth groups, as well as for tourists of all ages visiting Utah or Temple Square from around the world.

North Carolina’s Anti-LGBTQ Law Will Cost the State more than $395 Million and Even Affects Genealogy Conferences

Normally, this would not be a genealogy-related story and I would ignore it. However, it became a genealogy story because the National Genealogical Society is planning to hold its annual conference in Raleigh, North Carolina, on May 10 to 13, 2017. Information about that conference is available on the NGS web site at: http://conference.ngsgenealogy.org.

Many companies and non-profits are canceling planned conferences, sporting events, and even business expansions in North Carolina because of the chilling effect of the state’s recently-passed HB2 or the “bathroom bill.” The bill discriminates against LGBTQ citizens and visitors to the state. (LGBTQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (and/or questioning) individuals/identities.)

50% of the Cemeteries in Israel Have Now Been Digitized by MyHeritage

I’d love to see this happen in other countries, especially in the U.S. The MyHeritage Blog reports:

“We’re happy to announce that we’ve completed 50% of our goal to digitize every cemetery in Israel — aiming to make it the first country in the world to have all of its gravestones preserved online and searchable, and we’re making all of this data available on MyHeritage for free.

graves-from-gilad1-1

“In 2014, we launched a global initiative with BillionGraves to digitally preserve the world’s cemeteries. The MyHeritage team even went out and digitized an entire cemetery, taking more than 50,000 photos in a single day.”

Obviously, the MyHeritage employees did not stop after a single day. The Blog continues:

Facebook Post Leads Residents to Rally to Clean Up a Titusville, Florida Cemetery

The LaGrange Cemetery in Titusvillle, Florida was best described as being “in shambles.” John Petrik took to Facebook on Friday morning, where he explained in a community group what he discovered at the cemetery. By Monday morning, the LaGrange Cemetery was filled with more than 30 volunteers inspired by the post and ready to work. On a whim’s notice, inspired residents posted in the group, organizing a spur-of-the-moment clean up on Labor Day.

1,600 Stories Previously Buried in a Forgotten Tacoma Pauper Cemetery are now Recorded and Available Online

What was the Pierce County, Washington, pauper cemetery is now a forgotten memory. More than 1,600 people are buried there, all laid to rest between the 1880s and 1920s. Researchers say either the county never kept a record of the burials or lost it, possibly in a fire.

If not for a curious funeral director who started six years ago to collect the names of the dead, they would remain hidden in handwritten ledgers kept by individual funeral homes across Tacoma. Bill Habermann enters the names on tracked down military records and newspaper stories about the deaths.

Statistics Canada Celebrates ‘Best Census Since 1666’

Some countries have had recent problems in obtaining filled out census forms from all the citizens. However, Canada obviously had no such problems. Response rate for newly restored long-form census was 97.8%, the best ever recorded.

This was the first year for the reinstated mandatory long-form census since the Conservative government cancelled it for the 2011 census, replacing it with a voluntary national household survey.

Polk County (Missouri) Genealogical Society Library Suffers Vandalism

According to a press release from the Bolivar (Missouri) Police Department, windows were broken on the east side of Polk County Genealogical Society Library at 120 E. Jackson St. The press release said nothing was reported stolen. It noted there was no evidence of entry into the genealogical society building.

Details and a picture may be found at http://goo.gl/PqMzvt.

Kalamazoo’s Riverside Cemetery Suffers Vandalism

Approximately 80 stones were tipped, cracked, chipped or broken in a vandalism spree discovered Monday, Aug. 22. The city is offering a $500 reward for information about the vandalism; some of the toppled stones weighing as much as 1,000 pounds.

The city does not yet have a list of surnames on all of the tombstones damaged in Riverside Cemetery on Gull Road recently, the trail of toppled stones goes from about the south edge of Section Q up through Section J, L and into K.

“At this point, we have not been able to identify and list all the individual stones that have been toppled by name,” said Suzanne Rowland of the city’s cemetery office. “Unfortunately many stones are face down and will require more than a ‘walk by’ to find the name.”