Current Affairs

Plymouth (England) History Centre is Now Under Construction

The Plymouth City Council took a big step towards providing a brand new home for its archive collections when Councillor Sam Davey, the Deputy Lord Mayor, put the first spade in the ground to start construction of the Plymouth History Centre.

The new facility will be an extension to the existing Central Library and house a host of material from the Plymouth & West Devon Record Office, South West Film & Television Archive and South West Image Bank. It is part of a project which will also join together the existing Museum and Library buildings and convert accommodation at St Luke’s church into a high quality exhibition and events space.

High Winds Damage Cemeteries in Colorado Springs

This must have been some storm! City officials closed all cemeteries in Colorado Springs, Colorado, indefinitely because of the damage caused by the wind.

Evergreen cemetery has nearly 50 trees toppled. Many hit and damaged headstones below. “There’s a lot of 100 year old graves, 140 year old graves that there’s nobody to contact,” said Manager Jody Sanchez Skamarak.

Family Tree Website Reveals Personal Address, Family Information reported on a family tree website that is causing a lot of alarm to the general public as it reveals a lot of personal information. claims to be a family history and genealogy web site but seems to be primarily a site that publishes public information about individuals. In fact, there are a number of other web sites that do the same (Spokeo, Intellius, and perhaps a dozen or so others) for a fee but provides basic information free of charge.

The website allows anyone to enter a person’s name and then displays whatever personal information the web site knows about people of that name. In many cases, results show personal information along with the names, ages and addresses of people they are related to.

NEHGS and the Boston Archdiocese to Cooperate in Building the Nation’s First Extensive Database of Church Records

The Boston Archdiocese is partnering with the New England Historic Genealogical Society to create the nation’s first extensive database of church records to help people trace family histories.

The plan is to create a searchable database of millions of baptisms, marriages, ordinations and other pivotal life events recorded from 1789 to 1900 at more than 100 Boston and Eastern Massachusetts parishes — a project that could take up to 10 years and cost an estimated $1 million, which will be paid for with proceeds to a Historic Catholic Records Fund the society is launching.

Details may be found in an article by Marie Szaniszlo in the Boston Herald newspaper at as well as in the project’s companion website at:

Complaints Filed After Logging Operations Damages Historic Illinois Cemetery

Local genealogists and archaeologists are concerned about logging damage in an historic black cemetery between Millstadt and Centreville, Illinois, that has graves from the 1800s and early 1900s, including those of Civil War soldiers. They’ve complained to local authorities about logging trucks driving through the hilly, overgrown property, known as St. George Cemetery, and knocking over, breaking or moving headstones, some a century or more old.

“It’s history, and it’s being destroyed, and nobody seems to care,” said cemetery researcher Judy Jennings, of O’Fallon, a member of the St. Clair County Genealogical Society.

Best Genealogy Organization of 2016: MyHeritage

MyHeritage (the sponsor of this newsletter) has recently been named as the “Best Genealogy Organization of 2016” by Tamura Jones, a widely respected blogger and reviewer. The review states: “MyHeritage did what it should be doing: improve their products and services to deliver increased value to their users.” You can read the full review at

Tamura Jones also named:

  • Best Genealogy Product of 2016
  • Best New Genealogy Product of 2016
  • Best Genealogy Organisation of 2016
  • Best New Genealogy Organisation of 2016
  • Best New GEDCOM Technology

and also:

  • Worst Genealogy Product of 2016
  • Worst New Genealogy Product of 2016
  • Worst Genealogy Organisation of 2016

All of the above may be found at:

Jump-Start Your Personal History Writing with #52Stories Project

This sounds like an interesting project. I just learned about it so I haven’t tried it yet. However, you might have an interest. Quoting from the FamilySearch Blog at:

Because it’s human nature to think of our lives in terms of beginnings and endings, the new year gives us the perfect opportunity to make sure we are making the most of that dash, filling in the details of our lives so our loved ones and our posterity are not left wondering what happened in between.

All of us are “in the dash.” But, you may be thinking, “I’ve got plenty of time to record my life story for my posterity. Why start now? Why this year?”

Here’s why: because, in addition to the value of leaving a legacy, great personal and family benefits also arise from personal reflection and journaling.

A Christmas Request, Answered a Century Later

This is a Christmas story with just a tiny genealogy twist. At least, it involves family.

Mary McGahan was buried in Mount St. Mary Cemetery in Flushing, Queens, New York 37 years ago. Sadly, her name was never added to the tombstone, apparently because her family could not afford the stonecutter’s fee.

By a strange twist of fate, a stranger who never knew Mary or her family found a poignant letter to Santa in the fireplace of his Hell’s Kitchen apartment 17 years ago. It had been written by Mary nearly a century earlier, when she lived as a child in the same apartment, and became the impetus for an article in The New York Times a year ago about serendipity and Christmas.

For Millions of Immigrants, a Common Language: WhatsApp

I don’t believe my immigrant ancestors had anything like this! However, immigration is a lot different nowadays.

Jan Koum is an immigrant and the founder of a multi-billion dollar company that has more than a billion users. He was a teenager when he and his mother moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in the early 1990s, in part to escape the anti-Semitic tide then sweeping his native Ukraine. His mother worked as a babysitter and swept floors at a grocery store to survive in the new country; when she was found to have cancer, the family lived off her disability payments.

Sad as that story is, it also is typical of the difficult experiences many immigrants have had for centuries. However, there is success in the story also: Mr. Koum founded a company called WhatsApp that lets users send text messages and make phone calls free over the internet. Because it’s free, has a relatively good record on privacy and security, and is popular in so many parts of the world, WhatsApp has since been used by millions of immigrants who, whether by choice or by force, have left their homes for the unknown.

Pass on your Passwords, or your Family’s Digital Memories will Die With You

With so many of our memories now held in digital form – from music to photographs and even local newspaper stories featuring our children’s achievements – families are in danger of losing their shared history. Now funeral directors are warning that the death of someone in the digital age can lead to the loss of irreplaceable memories.

All funeral directors who are members of the Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF) are being sent copies of a new booklet to give to members of the public that includes advice on safeguarding their ‘digital legacy’. You can read more about preserving your family’s ‘digital legacy’ in an article by Patrick Sawer in The Telegraph at

My thanks to newsletter reader John Rees for telling me about the article.

Incoming North Carolina Governor Vows Repeal of Controversial LGBT Law, Thereby Avoiding Controversy over the National Genealogical Society’s Annual Conference

Good news: the incoming North Carolina Governor has vowed to repeal the state’s controversial LGBT law. Details may be found at:

UPDATE: A later story with developing details may now be found at

One would hope that state politics would not interfere with planned genealogy conferences. Sadly, that is what happened when the State of North Carolina passed the so-called HB2 legislation that blatantly discriminated against the rights of LGBTQ citizens and visitors to the state. (LGBTQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (and/or questioning) individuals/identities.)

Many companies and non-profits immediately canceled planned conferences, sporting events, and even business expansions in North Carolina because of the chilling effect of the state’s HB2 or the “bathroom bill.” Even the U.S. Justice Department officials are on record as stating the law violates the U.S. Civil Rights Act and Title IX – a finding that could jeopardize billions in federal education funding. You can read more about that issue at

Controversy within the genealogy community arose because of the previously-planned annual conference of the National Genealogical Society (NGS) that was already planned for 10-13 May 2017 in Raleigh, North Carolina. The NGS managers found themselves about equi-distant between a rock and a hard spot. For background information, see my earlier article, North Carolina’s Anti-LGBTQ Law Will Cost the State more than $395 Million and Even Affects Genealogy Conferences, at

“All in the Family”: Australian Woman Finds Out her Fiancé is Actually her Half Brother

UPDATE: Claims have been published later claiming the original story is fictional.

You might want to research your fiancé’s ancestry carefully. An Australian woman found out her fiancé, the man she describes as her “soulmate”, is actually her half brother. She said the pair “had an instant connection” upon meeting and soon fell head over heels for each other.

“After a year of dating, we got engaged. We finally moved in with one another a month ago and our wedding is in six weeks. Beyond the normal little domestic naggings, things have been perfect. He’s my soulmate. I don’t know what I’d do without him.”

While working on wedding invitations, the future mother-in-law casually mentioned the future groom’s father is actually his step-father. The soon-to-be bride asked to see a picture of the real father and nearly passed out when she saw it: it was a picture of her father.

You can read the full story in an article in the web site at:

Historic Papers Found in a Trash Bin to be Donated to the Irish State

A chance discovery in a Dublin skip and a curious coincidence 40 years later have resulted in a significant historical find including grants of land bearing the royal seals of Elizabeth I, kings George I, James I and Charles I.

Translation for Americans: The Irish term “skip” means a dumpster, or trash bin.

The collection of maps, grants, seals and royal letters of patent and containing the will of William “Speaker” Conolly is to be donated to the State on Thursday. It was discovered in a skip on Fitzwilliam Square, almost 40 years ago, by three friends out walking.

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

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 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.


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.