Current Affairs

An Obituary for a House?

If deceased people can have obituaries published, why can’t a house have the same thing when it “dies?” In fact, that has been done.

A house at 1720 Julian Street, Denver, Colorado was demolished quietly on the afternoon of June 8, 2020. She is believed to have been aged somewhere between 121 and 135 years—her origin story is certainly complicated.

The “obituary” for 1720 Julian, written by Katie Rudolph, may be found in the Denver Public Library’s web site at:

My thanks to newsletter reader Harry Ross for telling me about this obituary.

Congress Members Express Concerns About Politicizing the U.S. 2020 Census

The following is a message sent by Jan Meisels Allen, Chairperson of the IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee:

The 2020 US Census has already experienced a number of problems, including going to the US Supreme Court over a citizenship question, inadequate funding, and a delay in the contractor contracts. Now there is concern expressed in an article in the New York Times that two new top level positions were filled with outside the agency political appointments which is unprecedented –and that is what is raising concerns about making the census partisan.

Until now only the Director of the Census Bureau, its Congressional liaison and its spokesperson have been political appointees. “For decades, the agency’s directors and top managers have been career statisticians, economists and survey methodologists — sometimes eminent ones.”  The new appointees are:

This Summer, Take Part in the Fine Old Pandemic Tradition of Graveyard Outings

From an article by Matthew Moyer in the Orlando (Florida) Weekly:


“Put on your copy of Disintegration or The Flood to pregame, get that cat’s eye eyeliner just right, hair carefully sculpted and black umbrella in hand, you’re on your way not to the goth club, but a leisurely afternoon at the cemetery!

How Immune From COVID-19 Are You? New DNA Test Hopes To Offer Insight

I have no knowledge of this company and its products, other than what it says in a promotional article at It does look interesting, however:

With all the talk about boosting immunity during the pandemic, people are looking for ways to stay informed, take precautions, and boost their body’s ability to fight infection. Endocanna Health, a cannabis DNA company, believes they have a unique tool to help you understand your body’s genetic predispositions and potential health risks—a free DNA test that takes a molecular dive into your endocannabinoid system.

Juneteenth: FamilySearch seeks Volunteers to Transcribe Records for a New Database of People of African Descent

From the FamilySearch Blog:

An image of a “Colored Census” from the archives of the Freedmen’s Bureau that was organized near the end of the American Civil War to assist newly freed slaves in 15 states and the District of Columbia.

Those looking for a Juneteenth weekend activity can go online and transcribe a small batch of digital images of records about people of African descent.

“We need indexers,” said Thom Reed, FamilySearch’s deputy chief genealogical officer for African heritage. “Come help us with this Caribbean Civil Registration Project.

You can read more about this worthwhile project at

State Of Maine Archives Offers Grants for Preservation of Archival Collections

Would you like financial assistance in creating and displaying an archive of of information from Maine newspapers, digitized photographs, audio recordings, or transferring microfilm to digital (and hopefully online) formats? If so, the Maine State Archives wants to hear from you.

The following press release was written by the office of Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap:

Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap and the Maine State Archives today launched the New Century Community Grant Program for the preservation of archival collections.

This grant program will provide resources for collecting institutions throughout Maine to care for and improve access to their archival collections. Funding for the grant program comes from the Maine State Cultural Affairs Council and the Maine State Archives.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations are finding their resources strained, and we are pleased to be able to offer this assistance to help preserve Maine history far beyond our own collections,” said Secretary Dunlap.

The Archives will award grants of up to $1,500 to Maine government entities, non-profit collection or preservation organizations, and Maine State agencies charged with caring for historic collections.

$500K in Renovations to Altenburg (Missouri) Museum to Be Unveiled This Week

From an article by Jacob Wiegand in the Southeast Missourian web site:

Altenburg, Missouri, is a small town rich in regional history. A dedicated group now aims to showcase that history in a newly updated museum, reopening to the public in limited numbers Thursday.

The Starzinger Family Research Library is the home of the Zion Roots Research Project. It is an outstanding collection of resources which assist in researching your family history if it has any connection to Perry County, Missouri.

What Will Genealogy Research Look Like Post COVID-19?

According to an article by Daniel Klein, published in the web site:

“What will genealogy research’s ‘new normal’ look like post-COVID?

“As businesses and government agencies prepare to reopen in the wake of the COVID-19, it’s likely that genealogical research will look different for at least a little while.

Nurse Who Volunteered to Work in NYC Gets Married in Times Square, Surrounded by Fellow Health Care Heroes

I suspect this will be a great story throughout the family for generations. Here is one of the wedding photos:

After having to cancel her wedding due to the coronavirus pandemic, a nurse from Texas decided to drop everything and fly to New York City to help on the front lines of the battle. There, she formed a bond with other out-of-town nurses, who would soon help her throw a wedding to remember.

Vivid-Pix Brings Back Family Memories –Relive Past Reunions & Create This Year’s — Virtually

The following announcement was written by Vivid-Pix:

Vivid-Pix AI Photo Restoration Software Instantly Restores Old Photos

June 4, 2020, Savannah, GA — Vivid-Pix brings back family reunion memories while making new ones. Family reunions may be different this year, but Vivid-Pix RESTORE patented AI image restoration software will help you relive past reunions and virtually create this year’s reunion. Vivid-Pix instantly brings your treasured, old photos back to life and with these tips to plan a virtual reunion, you can connect with family members and friends when you aren’t able to meet in person. With Vivid-Pix technology, make this a year to remember and share with future generations.

Relive Yesterday’s Memories and Plan a Virtual Reunion

Vivid-Pix and Maureen Taylor, The Photo Detective®, have collaborated to put together everything you need to hold a virtual reunion. Learn more at

Last US Citizen Receiving a Civil War Pension Dies in North Carolina

An article in the Daily Mail web site surprised me:

Last US citizen receiving a Civil War pension dies in North Carolina – nearly 170 years after her father defected from the Confederate Army on the way to Gettysburg to fight for the Union to abolish slavery.

    • Mose Triplett fought for both the Confederate and Union Armies during the Civil War of 1861- 1865
    • In 1930, at the age of 83, his much-younger wife gave birth to daughter Irene
    • Irene qualified for a Civil War pension as the daughter of a veteran; and began receiving the government money in the mid-1950s

You can read the full story at:

Author Honor Moore To Be Presented in Virtual Literary Series with “Our Revolution”

The following announcement was written by American Ancestors / NEHGS:

In an Unprecedented Partnership, the Boston Public Library, the State Library of Massachusetts, and American Ancestors│NEHGS Collaborate to Present Author Honor Moore with Her Latest Memoir-biography, Our Revolution

Novelist Claire Messud Joins Moore in Conversation About the Book and the Experience of Women in This Century and the Last,Including Moore’s Relatives on the North Shore

On Monday, June 8, at 6 PM EDST, American Stories, Inspiration Today,
a Popular Virtual Event Series Will Continue—Providing History, Inspiration, Intelligence on the American Experience for This At-home Time

Talks Are Free – Online Registration Now Open

And You Thought You Had Problems Researching the Ancestry of Your Last Name?

In the United States, the most popular family surname is Smith. As per the 2010 census, about 0.8 percent of Americans have it. In Vietnam, the most popular surname name is Nguyen. The estimate for how many people answer to it? Somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of the country’s population.

You think tracing the Smith family is difficult? Try tracing the Nguyen family!

An article by Dan Nosowitz in the Atlas Obscura web site states:

“Nguyen doesn’t indicate much more than that you are Vietnamese. Someone with the [surname of] Nguyen is going to have basically no luck tracing their heritage back beyond a generation or two, will not be able to use search engines to find out much of anything about themselves.”

Portrait of Bao Dai (born Nguyễn Phúc Vĩnh Thụy), the last emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty.

A Digital Map Will Provide Online Access to East End Cemetery, a Historic African-American Burial Ground in Richmond, Virginia

Built by the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab, Department of Geography and the Environment, and Spatial Analysis Lab, the map features drone-captured imagery and GPS data points collected by hundreds of students and volunteers organized by the Friends of East End.

The searchable digital map can be accessed on both phones and tablets.

The East End Cemetery Collaboratory is a learning community composed of faculty and staff from the University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University and members of the Friends of East End Cemetery. The Collaboratory is also developing a comprehensive digital archive of the cemetery, which contains: Announces COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Testing

If you’ve recently taken an AncestryDNA test, is inviting you to supply some information that could assist in the fight against COVID-19.

Quoting an article in the Blog:

“…Ancestry is launching a survey through our Personal Discoveries Project® to enable a genome-wide association study to explore how different people respond to this novel coronavirus. Our hope is that, through this knowledge, the pace of research into new preventive and therapeutic treatments for COVID-19 can be accelerated.

Is This the End of Genealogy Conferences as We Have Known Them?

Warning: This article contains personal opinions.
A newsletter reader wrote to me a few days ago and asked some questions that I suspect other genealogists are wondering about. Here is an excerpt from her message:

“Every time I look at a genealogy website these days I see lists of events which are cancelled or postponed. Some societies have adjusted to this by offering webinars or remote sessions via Zoom. We are left wondering if we will ever meet in groups, or go to our local Family History Center again. Or is this the end of genealogy as we have known it?”

I wrote an answer to her but decided to also publish my answer in this newsletter in case others have similar questions:

Spending a Lot of Time at Home? Take the Archive Challenge and Help Preserve History!

Here is an excellent challenge from the American Folklife Center, as described in the Library of Congress web site:

At the American Folklife Center, we know it’s been hard for those of you who are cooped up at home in order to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Most of the staff live in areas under stay-at-home orders, and have been working from home for weeks. And although some cities and states are starting to open up a little, we have a feeling it will be a while before we’re going out to concerts, theaters, jams, or open mics to perform or enjoy live music and performing arts.

Billy Bragg took the Archive Challenge in 2017!

But guess what? At the Library of Congress, we have an amazing online archive of folk music and folklife which you can explore right from home, and we’d like to offer a suggestion: why not learn a song, tune, poem, or story from the archive, make a recording or video of yourself performing it, and post it online? Or make a work of art based on one of our photos, or write a story or poem based on our materials. We’d love to see what you come up with! Folks from all genres and creators of all art forms are invited to interpret a field recording, video, photo, or manuscript from the AFC Archive. You don’t need to be a professional in order to participate!

The Jersey City (New Jersey) Free Public Library is sponsoring “Visions of 2020 – Jersey City and Hudson County in the COVID-19 Era”

Here is an interesting project described in an article by Daniel Klein in The Jersey Journal:

“We are living in historic times. The COVID-19 virus has brought the entire planet to a standstill, something that hasn’t been seen since the 1918 Spanish flu. Most businesses are closed with some people working from home. People are sheltering at home, schooling from home. Many are only venturing out for supplies.

“Despite living through this pandemic, how many of us are taking steps to preserve their memories of these times? In the past, people wrote letters or kept journals that became part of the historic record, saved in archival collections. Some of those old memories may be stored away in cardboard boxes in attics, basements, or garages. Those are old memories. What of today’s memories?”

From later in the same article:

FuneralZoom® – Bringing Families Together

Here is a business that should succeed as long as the present restrictions dictated by the CoronVirus pandemic prohibit travel and also prohibit group gatherings. Quoting from the FuneralZoom web site:

“In these difficult and trying times, FuneralZoom is here for you and your family. Because we know how important it is to stay safe, yet we recognize the importance of being able to say farewell to a loved one.

“Through the use of technology, we will take care of everything you need to have a thoughtful, personalized celebration of your loved one’s life.

“Geography and distance are no longer an issue. From most computers, laptops, tablets and phones — you can bring those who cherrished your loved one together — virtually.”

Burials on Hart Island, Where New York’s Unclaimed Lie in Mass Graves, Have Risen Fivefold

Many genealogists are familiar with the so-called paupers’ graveyard on Hart Island in New York City’s harbor. Many of our “missing ancestors” were buried there. See my earlier articles about Hart Island at and at

Now Hart Island has become busier than ever before, apparently because of the high death rate caused by the Coronavirus. According to an article in the Washington Post:

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the mass-grave burials of indigent New Yorkers whose families could not be found or who could not afford a private funeral have quintupled, officials said, growing from an average of 25 per week to 120. They’re happening five days a week now instead of one. And Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office confirmed “it is likely” that people who have died of covid-19, the savage respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, are among those being interred.