Current Affairs

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:

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

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.


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:

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.


“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

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.”

A Burial Ground for Black Mississippians is at Risk of Becoming a Tire Factory

An article by Alan Huffman describes the talks between Mississippi officials and a German tire manufacturer over the sale of public land for a $1.45 billion industrial site. The land contains a mostly unmarked cemetery containing the remains of Black Mississippians. The story may be found at

My thanks to newsletter reader Kayne Rogers for telling me about this story.

Remains of Civil War Veteran Returned Home

A Civil War soldier from Maine whose cremains were stored haphazardly at the Oregon State Hospital for nearly 100 years has finally come home. Private Jewett Williams was part of the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment. He saw a number of battles of combat and was present at Appomattox when his commanding officer, Joshua Chamberlain, accepted the formal surrender of the Confederate army.

Jewett Williams

(Photo of  Jewett Williams from the Oregon State Hospital records)

In 1922, Jewett Williams passed away at the age of 78. His remains had been stored at the Oregon State Hospital ever since. His family never claimed his body and he had no known relatives. Thanks to the Patriot Guard Riders, Jewett Williams’ final journey began August 1 and ended on Sunday after crossing 19 states to get to Maine.

Scorned Bride Sells Wedding Dress on eBay to Fund Divorce

What uses can you find for a used wedding dress? One woman in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, United Kingdom is selling hers in order to pay for the divorce. The eBay ad states, “Great condition but needs dry cleaning before wearing to get rid of the stench of betrayal.”

EndedThe ad also states, “If you want a dress that is full of bad memories and shattered hopes and dreams then this is the one for you! Hope this dress brings you a lot more happiness than it brought me in the end and if not…well you can always sell it on here!”

The auction has now ended. The dress obviously turned out to be a better investment than most everything else in the marriage. The dress originally cost around £2,000 brand new in 2014. The winning bid was for £65,900.00 ($86,555 US dollars). You can read the full text of the now-completed auction at (scroll down a bit for the description).

Gorham (Maine) Historical Society May Need to Disband

An article by Robert Lowell in the web site describes a potential loss for historians, genealogists, and the general public. The Gorham (Maine) Historical Society is on the verge of going out of business. The society doesn’t have a president, vice president or recording secretary. Brenda Caldwell, executive secretary and archivist, and a few core members are trying to breathe new life into it.

The society’s building houses genealogical records, documents, volumes of books, scrapbooks, town reports, school yearbooks and files with histories of Gorham people and landmarks.

Update: Internal ‘Set Of Blunders’ Crashed Australia’s Census Site

Last week I published an article entitled “Australian Bureau of Statistics says Census Website Attacked by Overseas Hackers” at In the article, I questioned why the bureaucrats thought the attack was initiated by overseas hackers. Now security experts have looked at the information available and found that it wasn’t an overseas hack at all. Instead, the Australian Bureau of Statistics personnel looked at the servers’ log files and “interpreted the alarms as a successful hack…these were little more than benign system logs and the technical staff monitoring the situation poorly understood it.”

Australian Bureau of Statistics says Census Website Attacked by Overseas Hackers

Australia_Census_logoAustralia’s 2016 census has created a lot of controversy concerning privacy issues. (See my recent article at for details. In turn, that article refers to a longer article in the ABC.NET.AU News site at Now the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) says it believes a series of hacking attacks which led to the census website being shut down were part of a deliberate attempt to sabotage the national survey.

Thousands of Australians were prevented from taking part in the census on Tuesday night as the ABS website crashed.

Extensive Genealogy Chart available at the Southport (Maine) Museum

Do you have any ancestors that lived in Southport, Maine? Is your last name Marr, Pierce, Pinkham, Collins, Brewer, Cook, McClellan, Hodgdon, Cameron, Blake, Sherman, Pratt, Barter, Blackman or Alley? If so, you might be able to trace your roots back to Thomas Marr and Eunice Spinney, who were born in the late 1780s.

You can find a brief article ‘s extensive efforts Ron Orchard in an article by Jim Singer in the Boothbay Register at

Charles City County, Virginia, Records Stolen by Union Soldier During Civil War have Now been Returned

Charles City is among about 20 Virginia counties whose records were destroyed or pillaged during the war. Charles City County records that were taken by a Union soldier during the Civil War have been returned, closing part of a gap in wills, marriages, indentures and other court filings from the 1600s.

The records disappeared in August 1862, during the Peninsula Campaign. On Aug. 15 at 10 a.m., local and state officials will celebrate their return on the 154th anniversary of their disappearance. is Used to Catch a Florida Man Living Under an Assumed Name for More Than 20 Years

Terry Jude Symansky was a Florida man who drowned in 1991 at age 33. However, his nephew recently was working on a family genealogy project and found his uncle’s information on Knowing the uncle died in 1991, the nephew was shocked to find a later marriage license associated with his name. After some investigation, police found that the new Terry Jude Symansky is actually Richard Hoagland, a man who disappeared from Indiana about 25 years ago and was declared dead in 2003.

A Call to Action! Finding the Fallen on July 30

This is a follow-up to the Join the Nationwide Service Project “Finding the Fallen” article I published at on June 6. That article described a joint effort between BillionGraves and the Boy Scouts of America to honor of the veterans of the Armed Forces. Everyone is welcome to participate. This follow-up reminder was written by the folks at BillionGraves:

On July 30, 2016, in honor of the veterans of the Armed Forces, BillionGraves and the Boy Scouts of America will host the nationwide service project, Finding the Fallen. We are asking for everyone’s help to make this project a success! By joining the project, you will serve these heroes by photographing and logging the GPS locations of the headstones and markers in our national cemeteries and uploading them to the website.

To organize this commemorative event in your area, visit Easy step by step instructions will guide you in selection of a National cemetery in your area and allow you to invite others to take part in this amazing project with you.

You will need to download the free Billiongraves app on your smart phone.

Founding Mother Anne Hutchinson’s 425Th Birthday Celebration Begins in Boston on July 20

The following announcement was written by the Hutchinson Foundation:

Five Day, Three State Event-Series (July 20-24, 2016): The 2016 Founding Mothers Celebration

ANNE MARBURY HUTCHINSONJuly 13, 2016—Boston, Massachusetts—Puritan castaway and Founding Mother Anne Marbury Hutchinson turns 425 this summer. A five-day learning-event series, in three states along the “Hutchinson Trail,” will commemorate the occasion (July 20-25, 2016). Featuring nearly 20 events, the series is called the 2016 Founding Mothers Celebration™.

Why? Anne Hutchinson (b.1591-d.1643) is widely regarded as America’s prototypical feminist— an intelligent, forceful, and charismatic woman who challenged the male-dominated hierarchy of the early American culture and society, and its treatment of women. “In doing so, founding mother Anne Hutchinson had a formative hand in shaping the America we know today,” says Eve LaPlante, Hutchinson biographer and author of American Jezebel: The Uncommon Life of Anne Hutchinson, the Woman Who Defied the Puritans.