Current Affairs

Another Library Closes Its Doors

Libraries are having a difficult time these days. The latest closure involves the David Library of the American Revolution. Here is the announcement on the Library’s home page at http://dlar.org:

“The David Library of the American Revolution has signed a partnership agreement with the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia that will create an unparalleled single site for the comprehensive study of early U. S. history. The David Center for the American Revolution will be established at the American Philosophical Society on South Fifth Street in Philadelphia.

“The David Library of the American Revolution closed operations in Washington Crossing at the end of 2019 in preparation for the move to the American Philosophical Society in early 2020.”

Oscar Win Leads Thousands of Icelanders to Genealogical Site

Nearly 3,000 Icelanders have visited Íslendingabók.is – a database containing genealogical information about the inhabitants of Iceland – to examine their kinship with composer Hildur Guðnadóttir, Mbl reports. Hildur became the first Icelander* to win an Oscar on Sunday, February 9, for her original score for the film Joker.

Heavy Traffic

In response to an inquiry from Mbl, deCODE genetics – a research company that manages the website Íslendingabók.is in collaboration with anti-virus software entrepreneur Friðrik Skúlason – replied that search queries relating to Hildur Guðnadóttir had caused a considerable increase in traffic on the site (traffic increased by roughly a quarter).

UK’s 2021 Census Could Be the Last

According to an article by Danny Shaw published in the BBC News web site:

The 2021 census could be the last one ever to be carried out, the UK’s national statistician has revealed.

Prof Sir Ian Diamond said he was examining cheaper alternatives to the 10-yearly compulsory questionnaire delivered to every UK household.

The census, which has been conducted for almost 200 years, provides valuable population information to help councils and the government plan services.

But Sir Ian said he was “hopeful” data from other sources could replace it.

Museum Of Chinese In America Archives “Very Much Salvageable” After Fire

The archives of the Museum of Chinese in America may be in better shape than feared, after a five-alarm fire destroyed part of the Chinatown building where they were kept.

City workers began the process of recovering the museum’s boxes from the building at 70 Mulberry Street, New York City, on Wednesday. The archives, which boast 85,000 items of historical and cultural significance, were stored on the second floor of the five-story building, where a fire on January 24th destroyed the top floors and roof. Nine firefighters and one civilian suffered non-life-threatening injuries. The NYPD said the cause of the fire was not “criminal” and the investigation is ongoing.

Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois Seeks Help with Identifying Tombstone Photos

The Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois website has posted photos of a mysterious collection of gravestone portraits believed to be from a Chicago-area Jewish cemetery. The oval ceramic or porcelain images were discovered late last year in Kentucky as part of the liquidation of the estate of an unidentified Kentucky man. JGSI hopes to reunite the portrait photos with living family members of those depicted in the images.
To see the 39 portraits, go to https://jgsi.org/mysteryphotos.

The Massive Graveyard Found Underneath a London Underground Station When Crossrail was Built

From an article by Charlie Lawrence-Jones in the MyLondon.news web site:

“For almost 500 years the bodies of 20,000 people lay undisturbed underneath the streets in the very heart of London. But this is a city that demands constant change and excavations at Liverpool Street station for the state-of-the-art Crossrail project uncovered the remains.

“The burial ground was mainly used for the city’s poorest inhabitants or those who died in hospitals such as the nearby infamous asylum Bedlam.

British National Archives to trial 12-Document Limit Per Day for Visitors, as Academics Warn Research Could Be Affected

An article in the History News Network warns that a new trial that will restrict readers to 12 documents a day has generated concerns it may add “huge expense” to research of historians, genealogists, and anyone else who makes extensive use of the documents in the British National Archives in Kew, west London.

The National Archives claimed the move was designed to increase efficiency – but faced an immediate backlash from historians who complained their work could become untenable.

You can read more in an article in the History News Network at https://hnn.us/article/173995.

A Secretive Surveillance Company Is Selling Cops Cameras Hidden in Gravestones

A tombstone may be spying on you!

As strange as it may sound, a surveillance vendor that works with U.S. government agencies, such as the FBI, DEA, and ICE, is marketing spying capabilities to local police departments, including cameras that are hidden inside a tombstone, a baby car seat, and a vacuum cleaner.

Western Pennsylvania Public Burial Ground Has Many More Remains Than Originally Believed

From an Associated Press article:

The Washington County Old Men’s Home, 2198 North Main Street, Arden, Washington County, PA.

“Officials say a large western Pennsylvania public burial ground already thought to contain hundreds of remains actually has many more than previously thought — and there’s a new resource available to those who believe a relative may be buried there.

“Potter’s Field — a term for common graves, those for paupers or unclaimed bodies — was believed to contain as many as 502 people, many of whom may have fallen victim to tuberculosis, The (Washington) Observer-Reporter reported.

The Cost of Getting Genealogical Records from the Government Could Go Up Nearly 500%. An Effort is Underway to Stop That.

I have written before about this outrageous proposal to increase fees nearly 500%. However, it is great to see CNN pick up the story and give the effort to stop the increase even more publicity. With millions of readers, a story in CNN can generate a lot of publicity.

The new article by Harmeet Kaur on CNN may be found at: https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/29/us/immigration-records-uscis-fee-hike-trnd/index.html.

My earlier articles may be found here and here.

Montana State Genealogical Library working to Make Collection Available Online

From an article by John Riley published in the KTVH web site:

“Over the years family researchers have used the Montana State Genealogical Library, located in the Lewis and Clark Library, to flush out the branches on their family tree.

“The Library is now working to have the majority of its collection available online for those interested in their ancestry.

“Librarian Karen Huck said there has always been an interest from the public in genealogy, but it has seen a recent rise in popularity thanks in large part to DNA testing services.”

You can read the full article at: https://www.ktvh.com/community/montana-state-genealogical-library-working-on-digitizing-collection.

Appeal to Return Second World War Love Letters to Couple’s Descendants

A Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine reader is seeking the family of Robert and Margaret Raven to return their love letters. Can you help?

NOTE: Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine is published in England.

The following is a quote from the article in Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine:

The love letters of a Second World War airman and his future wife have been rediscovered over 70 years later.

Now at Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine, we’re hoping to give the couple’s descendants an extra Christmas present by reuniting them with the precious documents.

New Owner of GEDmatch Vows to Protect Users From Search Warrants

A few days ago, I wrote about the purchase of GEDmatch by Verogen. (See http://bit.ly/2EdtQvC for my earlier article.) The purchase has created quite a bit of controversy.

GEDmatch has been a free web service, owned and operated by two genealogy enthusiasts. However, the new owners are a business that undoubtedly hopes to make a profit. Verogen probably will introduce fees to access GEDmatch. Privacy experts also worry about how people’s genetic data might ensnare them in future legal problems involving genetic phishing attacks and other uses by hackers who access the GEDmatch database for purposes other than genealogy or for crime solving.

Senator Mitt Romney Questions Fee Hikes that Will Hit Family History Researchers Hard

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced a plan to increase genealogy-related record request fees by 269 percent to 492 percent, depending upon the type of record(s) requested. The search fee will be non-refundable if nothing is found in their search.

Mitt Romney

I wrote about this outrageous fee increase earlier at: http://bit.ly/2qwE5rE and at http://bit.ly/34eVO4D. It is nice to see that genealogists and historians are now receiving help from a “high powered” politician. Senator Mitt Romney has joined the public campaign to persuade the immigration agency that imposes the fees to drop the proposed increase.

The Utah Republican has written a letter to acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and the head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services asking them to account for the fee revenue that funds the little-known genealogy program.

New York City’s “Island of the Dead” to Become More Accessible

I have written about Hart Island several timers. See http://bit.ly/36eLN8L for my past articles.

Hart Island has long served as New York City’s “Potter’s Field,” the place of burials of mass graves containing the remains of paupers, unidentified individuals, still-born babies, and AIDS victims. More than one million people are buried there.

Approximately 1,200 burials, some of them unidentified people, still take place every year. Adults are buried in pine coffins stacked three deep; children five deep in plots of 1,000. The boxes are marked with numbers not names, and there are no gravestones. Small white markers indicating the trenches dot the island’s burial grounds.

Greek-Americans look to Preserve Historic Archive

From an article by Mary Markos in the Boston Herald (newspaper’s) web site:

The remaining copies of newspapers documenting 50 years of the Greek American community are falling apart at the seams, threatening the loss of the history ingrained in the contents of its pages.

“They are literally crumbling like filo dough left on the kitchen counter,” former editor-in-chief Nancy Agris Savage said of the The Hellenic Chronicle archive. “The Greek-American community has just exploded in the United States and the history of it is about to disappear if we don’t do something about it.”

Following Backlash, Twitter Offers to ‘Memorialize’ Accounts of the Deceased

Will future genealogists perform most of their research of deceased ancestors by starting on Twitter?

Twitter will allow people to permanently archive and memorialize the accounts of deceased loved ones. The company received backlash this week after news broke that it would delete accounts that had not been logged in to in over six months.

A company spokesperson originally said inactive accounts would be removed from the platform starting in December as part of its “commitment to serve the public conversation.” The announcement sparked a mass panic. However, to many, the initial plan to delete inactive accounts wasn’t about losing a handle. It meant they might lose a digital remnant of their loved ones.

You can read more in an article by Paolo Zialcita in the NPR News web site at: https://n.pr/2R03aGd.

Radar finds 145 Graves Buried beneath King High School in Tampa

Here is another story showing how useful Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) can be used:

“Ground penetrating radar has located 145 caskets at the southeast corner of the King High School campus.

“The caskets, buried 3 to 5 feet deep, are part of a mid-20th century paupers burial ground known as Ridgewood Cemetery. Today, the one-acre site is open land with one small building, used for the school’s agricultural program.

Latter-day Saints Church Turns Over 4 Centuries of Digitized Catholic Records to the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines

From an article in the Lifestyle.inq web site:

“In a low-key but historic event, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints through its FamilySearch arm, recently turned over digitized Philippine Catholic Church records spanning four centuries to the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

“The digitized documents from 1614 to 2014 were personally received by Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles and Caloocan Bishop Virgilio David, president and vice president of the episcopal conference, respectively, at the CBCP office in Intramuros, Manila.

“Handing the documents which included birth, marriage and death certificates, as well as canonical decrees, and inventory of church objects were FamilySearch (formerly called the Genealogical Society of Utah) officials led by the area manager for the Philippines, Felvir Ordinario.

Talk to Friends and Relatives After They Die

OK, this sounds creepy. However, anyone who owns an Amazon Echo device (often referred to as “Alexa”) will understand how it works.

The Here After company in California has announced it is working on an Alexa-style “bot” that uses artificial intelligence (AI) software to let people “talk” with deceased friends and relatives. The device uses voice recordings made before a person dies to create the bot. Loved ones later can talk, joke, and reminisce with the bot, as if the friend or relative is still alive.

The company begins by conducting interviews with clients, in which they are encouraged to talk about their lives. Simply by speaking, Here After users can hear the recorded replies of loved ones—their real stories, songs, and sayings; their actual voices. (Check out the video above.)