Current Affairs

Never Throw Away Records of People!

The Home Office destroyed thousands of landing card slips recording Windrush immigrants’ arrival dates in the UK, despite staff warnings that the move would make it harder to check the records of older Caribbean-born residents experiencing residency difficulties.

Prime Minister Theresa May has apologised to Caribbean leaders over deportation threats made to the children of Commonwealth citizens, who despite living and working in the UK for decades, have been told they are living in the UK illegally because of a lack of official paperwork. The reason there is “a lack of official paperwork” is because the paperwork was destroyed by the government, not the fault of the immigrants or their children.

Libraries and Archives Canada Introduces Co-Lab, a Tool to Collaborate on Historical Records

Wikipedia defines crowdsourcing as “… a sourcing model in which individuals or organizations obtain goods and services, including ideas and finances, from a large, relatively open and often rapidly-evolving group of internet users; it divides work between participants to achieve a cumulative result.”

Crowdsourcing seems to be a great tool for genealogists to work together for the benefit of all. I have written often about the use of crowdsourcing in genealogy. See for a list of my earlier articles about crowdsourcing.

Now Libraries and Archives Canada is inviting everyone to “transcribe, add keywords and image tags, translate content from an image or document and add descriptions to digitized images using Co-Lab and the new Collection SearchBETA.”

The new project is described this way:

DNA Quest by MyHeritage Goes Global

The following announcement was written by the folks at MyHeritage:

Last month we launched DNA Quest, a new pro bono initiative to help adoptees and their birth families reunite through genetic testing.

The initiative, initially launched in the USA only, received an amazing response. More than 10,000 applications were submitted so far to receive free DNA kits, from the quota of 15,000 free DNA kits pledged by MyHeritage, worth more than one million dollars.

Being that the deadline for submissions is the end of April 2018 and there are still about 3 more weeks to go, and in light of the many requests we received from the community to expand DNA Quest worldwide, we decided to increase the scope of the project, as of today, from USA-only to global. This means that people are now eligible to participate in DNA Quest regardless of their place of residence and regardless of where the adoption took place.

Chicago Schoolhouse is being Built on Site of Estimated 38,000 Unmarked Graves

“Show me the manner in which a nation cares for its dead, and I will measure with mathematical exactness the tender mercies of its people, their respect for the laws of the land and their loyalty to high ideals.” – William Gladstone

A $70 million school is to be built on the grounds of a former Cook County Poor House where an estimated 38,000 people were buried in unmarked graves. Among the dead are residents who were too poor to afford funeral costs, unclaimed bodies and patients from the county’s insane asylum. Children, patients from an infirmary and a tuberculosis hospital, victims of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and Civil War veterans were laid to rest in what is known as the Dunning grounds, a 320-acre stretch on the city’s Northwest Side.

“I’m sure they’re gonna be on top of some graves, but this is progress,” Chicago Alderman Nicholas Sposato said. “It’s an economic boom for the community.”

Update: California sues the Trump Administration over the Addition of Citizenship Question to the 2020 Census

I recently wrote a brief article describing California’s lawsuit against the Trump Administration over the Addition of Citizenship Question to the 2020 Census. That article generated quite a bit of discussion. You can read the article at:

Newsletter reader Ted Russell has written a response to the various discussions that strikes me as common sense. Here is his response, published here with Ted’s permission:

Yes, data on citizenship status will be of great use to future genealogists. And yes, the question is legal and constitutional. But it will likely have the effect of either driving undocumented immigrants further into the shadows, or exposing and deporting them, and this administration knows this very well. The Census Bureau is not supposed to share individual information with other agencies, but based on this administration’s disregard for the law, it would be hard for a Census enumerator to convince a respondent that the information will not be shared with ICE.

Caretakers are Restoring Life to Minnesota’s 5,876 Graveyards

A database has identified 5,876 cemeteries across Minnesota, but the number is likely much larger — in areas adjacent to rural churches taken by development, or in overgrown woods, or long-forgotten in farm fields.

A bill in the Legislature would require local governments to take responsibility for abandoned cemeteries if a veteran is buried there. It also would establish an adopt-a-cemetery program similar to the one used for highways and require the state Historical Society to update its inventory of state cemeteries, abandoned cemeteries and burial grounds.

You can read the details in an article by Mark Brunswick in the Star Tribune web site at:

My thanks to newsletter reader Polly Walker for telling me about this story.

27 Public Libraries and the Internet Archive Launch “Community Webs” for Local History Web Archiving

I have to believe this could become a huge resource for genealogists. According to an announcement in the Blog:

“With generous support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, as well as the Kahle/Austin Foundation and the Archive-It service, the Internet Archive and 27 public library partners representing 17 different states have launched a new program: Community Webs: Empowering Public Libraries to Create Community History Web Archives. The program will provide education, applied training, cohort network development, and web archiving services for a group of public librarians to develop expertise in web archiving for the purpose of local memory collecting. Additional partners in the program include OCLC’s WebJunction training and education service and the public libraries of Queens, Cleveland and San Francisco will serve as “lead libraries” in the cohort. The program will result in dozens of terabytes of public library administered local history web archives, a range of open educational resources in the form of online courses, videos, and guides, and a nationwide network of public librarians with expertise in local history web archiving and the advocacy tools to build and expand the network. A full listing of the participating public libraries is below and on the program website.”

This could result in huge online collections local history and information created by libraries nationwide. The list of participating libraries is impressive, ranging from big city libraries to one small town library near me. You can learn more at:

He Bought a Cemetery

Richard Hopkins is a Welshman interested in genealogy. He was appalled by the condition of the former Babell Chapel cemetery in Cwmbwrla where five generations of his family were buried. Even worse, he learned that the cemetery was up for auction. He realized that real estate developers might purchase the cemetery and “repurpose” it for other uses, such as a housing development or a shopping mall. The “problem” of the cemetery being up for auction turned out to be the solution: Richard Hopkins purchased the cemetery.

Mr Hopkins said it would be a “long-term project” to clean up the cemetery and to restore it to the condition it once was. He continued:

One More Update about the Turkish Online Genealogy Database

I have written twice about the new online genealogy database created by the government of Turkey. (See to find my earlier articles about this story.) When the Turkish genealogy web site first appeared, it was so popular that it soon became overloaded, then was shut down so that the system administrators could add more hardware to the cluster of servers in order to handle the load. The Turkish genealogy web site is now back online and apparently is running well, handling a huge number of visitors.

Fehim Tastekin has written an article explaining why the web site become so popular. It seems that many Turkish citizens have deep, dark secrets in their family trees: some of their ancestors were Armenians, Syriacs, Greeks or Jews. In Turkey, this apparently is the equivalent to Germans in the 1930s and early 1940s hiding the fact they had Jewish ancestors or Americans in the Deep South hiding the fact they had Black Americans in the family tree. While the facts in Turkey have been hushed up for years, the new web site reportedly shows the truth. The story involves the Ottoman government’s systematic extermination of 1.5 million Armenians. (What was once called the Ottoman Empire was the forerunner of present-day Turkey.)

These facts have apparently been hidden from many of today’s younger Turks while they were growing up. Yes, apparently there are many skeletons in the Turkish family closets. The new web site reveals many family secrets and curious Turks want to know those secrets.

Tastekin’s article states, “Some people who had always boasted of their ‘pure’ Turkish ancestry were shocked to learn they actually had other ethnic and religious roots.”

Turkey Shuts Down Genealogy Service after Overload of Inquiries

Genealogy interest turned out to be popular for Turkey’s new online genealogy service. The country’s population registry has shut down its online genealogy service after one day, due to an overload of inquiries, according to reports from the Turkish state-run news agency Anadolu.

The service allowed Turkish citizens who registered themselves to the digital citizenship services to find their ancestors.

Your Family History Magazine is Going Out of Business

Your Family History Magazine has been a printed magazine produced in the U.K. for the past 15 years. Sadly, it is no more. According to the magazine’s web site at

“After 15 years at the forefront of genealogy advice, Your Family History is saying farewell. Issue 192 (out in mid-February) will be the last issue you will receive – and, once again, it will be packed with useful information on how to get the most out of your research. As a loyal subscriber, we thank you for your support and wish you all the very best in your family history adventure.”

A Digital Project is Underway to Recreate Ireland’s Public Record Office Destroyed by Fire in 1922

A project is under way to digitally recreate the building and contents of the Public Record Office of Ireland, which were destroyed by an explosion and fire at Dublin’s Four Courts in 1922. The six-story Victorian building went up in flames on 30 June 1922 during the Civil War. Seven centuries of Ireland’s historical and genealogical records were lost, seemingly forever.

However, thanks to new technology, historical research and careful archival practise, Trinity College Dublin says these losses “are not irrecoverable”. The “Beyond 2022: Ireland’s Virtual Record Treasury” project will see the creation of a virtual reality reconstruction of the Public Record Office.

An African-American Cemetery in Baltimore was Bulldozed

“Show me the manner in which a nation cares for its dead, and I will measure with mathematical exactness the tender mercies of its people, their respect for the laws of the land and their loyalty to high ideals.” – William Gladstone

Since it was opened in 1852, Laurel Cemetery was supposed to become a place where the luminaries of Baltimore’s black community could be remembered forever. “All who procure burials here are sure of an undisturbed resting place for all time to come,” an 1858 ad promised. However, “forever” ended in the 1960s.

The cemetery was paved over by developers with political connections. Today the former cemetery is the site of a Food Depot, a discount department store, and a Dollar General, among other commercial buildings.

Journalist/Genealogist Takes on Trump’s Hard-line Immigration Advisers with Their Own Genealogy

The present administration in Washington is working hard to tighten the requirements for immigration to the United States. It is interesting to learn that many of the people who are advocating such restrictions would not be American citizens themselves if similar regulations had been in effect years ago when their own ancestors immigrated. In fact, under Trump’s proposed immigration rules, his own grandfather likely wouldn’t have been allowed into the country.

Jennifer Mendelsohn traced the family histories of Trump and many of his team’s members. This is a trending news story this week and you can find dozens of online stories about it by beginning at:

In addition, a video from MSNBC is also available at:

Crowdsourcing the Transcription of Anti-Slavery Manuscripts at the Boston Public Library

“Through the participation of citizen historians, we now stand on the threshold of having available — free to all — the entire contents of the Boston Public Library’s extraordinary Anti-Slavery Manuscripts collection: the personal papers of women and men who joined together, across barriers of race and class, in the Abolitionist crusade,” according to Peter Drummey, Stephen T. Riley Librarian of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

The Boston Public Library is looking for help from hundreds, maybe thousands, of volunteers. Quoting from the project’s web site:

“The Boston Public Library’s Anti-Slavery collection—one of the largest and most important collections of abolitionist material in the United States—contains roughly 40,000 pieces of correspondence, broadsides, newspapers, pamphlets, books, and memorabilia from the 1830s through the 1870s. The extensive body of correspondence records interactions among leading abolitionists in the United States and Great Britain over a fifty year period, thus creating an archive that comprehensively documents the history of the 19th century anti-slavery movement in Boston as well as abroad through the end of the American Civil War and the abolition of slavery.

The Phillips Library is being Moved from Salem, Massachusetts to Another Town, Taking Away some of Salem’s Most Valuable History and Genealogy Resources

From an article by Malcolm Gay in the Boston Globe web site:

“Salem is best known for the witch trials, but it was also a vitally important seaport in the Colonial economy and the hometown of Nathaniel Hawthorne, who took early inspiration for “The Scarlet Letter” and “The House of the Seven Gables” there.

“Now, angry residents say, a plan by the Peabody Essex Museum threatens to cut the city’s link to its proud history.

“The museum is preparing to move permanently a vast collection of the city’s historical records to a facility in another town and turn portions of the buildings that housed the museum’s Phillips Library into office space for the fast- growing museum.”

You can read the entire story at:

Developer Mistakenly Grades, or Levels, a Century-Old Wake Forest, North Carolina, Cemetery

A Facebook video claiming a family cemetery that dates back more than a century in Wake Forest had been bulldozed triggered hundreds of angry comments, but officials are saying it is all a misunderstanding. Mungo Homes is building a new neighborhood in the area, but the developer says no graves were bulldozed. However, the site had been graded, or leveled, by mistake.

The North Carolina Office of State Archeology came out and determined that 2 to 4 inches of dirt had been scraped off, but the graves themselves were not disturbed. However, scraping the dirt off was itself a violation of state cemetery preservation laws.

Mungo Homes now faces a $24,000 fine from the town.

You can read more in an article, with a video, in the web site at:

Weatherford, Texas is Downsizing the City Library’s Genealogy Section

The Weatherford Public Library’s decision to downsize its genealogy section to deal with increasing need for space and a lack of funding for expansion has caused concern and outrage among some. In preparation for an anticipated renovation, the city is donating some of its non-Parker County-related materials from the genealogy area.

“Materials that are still accurate and in good shape that will not be kept in our collection are being offered, in accordance with law and policy, to other libraries and non-profit organizations,” according to Library Director Chris Accardo. The city is expected to hold a public meeting Jan. 13 at 10:30 a.m. at the library to discuss the issue.

You can read the details in an article by Christin Coyne in the Weatherford Democrat at:

State of New Hampshire May Create a Database of Cemeteries

There are thousands of historic cemeteries and burial grounds all over the state of New Hampshire, and a state lawmaker wants to make it easier to keep track of them.

Senator David Watters of Dover says a central, online database would not only preserve this history, but could help developers or other community members who are planning construction projects.

Details may be found in an article by Lauren Chooljian in the New Hampshire Public Radio web site at:

State of Tennessee Breaks Ground on a new Library and Archives Building

Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett, along with Gov. Bill Haslam, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, Speaker Beth Harwell, and Tennessee State Librarian and Archivist Chuck Sherrill, officially broke ground on the new home of the Tennessee State Library and Archives on Monday.

Drawing of the new Tennessee Library and Archives Building