Current Affairs

Hong Kong’s Packed “Vertical Graveyards” on Hillsides

With space at a premium in the densely packed city, Hong Kong cemeteries are built into the surrounding mountains in an almost vertical fashion. Many of these terraced burial sites were built in the 1980s as a last-ditch effort to create more space in a city that is running out of places to bury the dead.

In fact, the government highly encourages cremation for these reasons, with 90% of the deceased in Hong Kong taking that path in 2013. Still, as Chinese customs call for loved ones to be buried close to their native land, people are desperate to ensure their family members have a proper resting place.

Brazil Records First-Ever Blockchain Birth Certificate

Brazil Records First-Ever Blockchain Birth Certificate

Blockchains are normally associated with cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoins, Ethereum, Ripple, Litecoin, and many others. However, blockchains and cryptocurrencies are really two separate topics. The first cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, adopted blockchain technology for recording transactions simply because of the reliability of blockchains. A blockchain is a distributed ledger that appears to be hacker-proof.

Once a record is recorded in a blockchain, it can never be altered or deleted. Most blockchains have multiple copies available online and each copy serves as a backup copy to all the other copies, making it (probably) impossible for hackers to delete all of them simultaneously. Most blockchains are also visible to everyone over the internet although there are a few exceptions.

Blockchains are now being used to record all sorts of important transactions and events, including financial transactions, real estate sales, and legal transactions. They have also moved into other important functions, such as tracking the purity of drugs during manufacture, tracking the origins of all sorts of food items, and creating digital identities of human beings. Even Walmart has been working with IBM on a food safety blockchain solution and requires all suppliers of leafy green vegetables destined for Sam’s and Walmart to immediately upload their data to the blockchain during each step of the delivery process. Some people believe that blockchains will soon be used to identify which voters are eligible to vote in public elections, thereby reducing or possibly eliminating election fraud.

A Digital Family Tree grows in Boston

From an article by Alison Kuznitz in the Boston Globe web site:

A massive genealogical project to digitize records from parishes in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston will expand its scope to the early 20th century, chronicling the lives of 10 million additional immigrants who maintained close ties to their ethnic communities amid the thrusts of assimilation.

Since its inception in 2017, the Historic Catholic Records Online Project has scanned and indexed documents dating from 1789 to 1900 for 154 parishes. The project is a collaboration between the New England Historic Genealogical Society and the Boston Archdiocese.

Cataloging the influx of immigrants who arrived from 1901 through 1920 will double the number of parishioners included in the online database, said project coordinator Molly Rogers.

You can read the full article at: https://tinyurl.com/eogn190906a

RPAC at FGS 2019 in DC — Is This A Breakthrough?

The Federation of Genealogical Societies’ annual conference was held recently at the Omni Shoreham hotel in Washington, DC. One of the many sessions at the conference may produce results that will impact today’s and future genealogists researching records in the United States.

The Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC) included the Executive Director of NAPHSIS, the organization of Vital Records Officers; and Jeremy Grant from the local Venable Law Firm presenting a new Blueprint for a Better Identity, a solution to the identity theft crisis. The genealogy community was represented by Jan Meisels Allen and Fred Moss, both representing the RPAC committee.

MyHeritage Live Update

We are just a couple of days away from the MyHeritage users conference in Amsterdam. Today, MyHeritage announced that the company will live stream the genealogy and DNA lecture tracks online throughout the conference. Yes, you can attend “in absentia” without leaving home.

The following message was written by MyHeritage:

The live stream will be available on the MyHeritage LIVE website and on the MyHeritage Facebook page, so please tune in from 9:00 a.m. Amsterdam time on September 7th. If you need help calculating the time difference to your local time zone, you can use https://www.thetimezoneconverter.com/.
Make sure to visit the conference website to see the full schedule.

Best regards,
The MyHeritage LIVE team

Africa’s Largest Ancestry DNA Unveiling Takes Place in Ghana as 250 Americans Retrace 400-Year Slave Route

From the GhanaWeb site:

“Some 250 African-Americans gathered at the Cape Coast Castle, Ghana, to mark the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first ship of enslaved Africans to English North America in 1619.

“While this was ongoing, tens and thousands of African-Americans had assembled at the Chesapeake Bay in Hampton, Virginia, to also commemorate the same activity.

“At an emotional ceremony at the Cape Coast Castle, one of about forty slave castles built in the Gold Coast (Ghana), over 70 families discovered their ancestry during the African Ancestry DNA reveal which is arguably the largest ever in the continent.

Genealogy Guys and Vivid-Pix Announce Unsung Heroes Awards at 2019 Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference

The following announcement was written by the Genealogy Guys, George G. Morgan and Drew Smith, and Rick Voight of Vivid-Pix RESTORE photo restoration software:

The Genealogy Guys Podcast, co-hosted by George G. Morgan and Drew Smith who are producers of the oldest continually produced genealogy podcast, and Vivid-Pix, makers of RESTORE photo restoration software, are announcing the winners in the Unsung Heroes Awards at the Vivid-Pix booth at the 2019 Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference in Washington, DC, on August 21, 2019.

The Unsung Heroes Awards acknowledge and celebrate those members of the genealogy community who digitize, index, or transcribe documents of value to genealogical researchers and make them available online.  The Unsung Heroes Awards is a quarterly awards program designed to recognize its recipients in up to five categories: individuals, genealogical/historical societies, libraries/archives, young people, and a posthumous award. The winners for 3Q2019 are:

Washington State Archives and Library Awarded for Saving Artifacts from Aberdeen Armory Fire

When the Aberdeen (Washington) Museum of History burned down in June 2018, a team from the Washington State Archives and the Washington State Library played a crucial role in rushing to rescue and restore thousands of historic artifacts, historical documents and photographs from the basement archives before water and soot damage destroyed them. For several weeks, staff from the Archives and State Library, as well as volunteers, cleaned and dried each and every photo and artifact from the basement, and State Archivist Steve Excell estimated 98 or 99 percent of all the items they recovered were saved.

Now Even Funerals are Livestreamed

From an article by Paris Martineau in the Wired web site:

“In a culture obsessed with tweeting and Instagramming every moment of life, it’s little surprise that streaming extends to death. Funeral livestreaming services have been around for more than a decade, but the practice [of live streaming videos of funerals] has recently exploded in popularity, says Bryant Hightower, president-elect of the National Funeral Directors Association. He estimates that nearly 20 percent of US funeral homes now offer the service—a big number in an industry resistant to change—in response to demand from clients. Tech-savvy entrepreneurs offer livestreaming as a service to hesitant funeral directors.”

New Resource for Genealogists at the Tennessee State Library & Archives

A new tool for researchers is now available on the Tennessee State Library & Archives website. The all-in-one Genealogy Index Search brings together over 1 million names appearing in Tennessee’s most important historical records. Inspired by the way Ancestry.com and other online services search multiple record groups from a single screen, staff at the Library & Archives worked with the Secretary of State’s Information Technology Division over a two-year period to create this new resource for genealogists and historians.

The Genealogy Index Search includes sections on Death Records, Military Records and general Tennessee research. A listing of the individual databases and the number of entries in each is found below. The individual indexes were compiled by staff at the Library and Archives over many years. According to Ron Lee, the Assistant Director of Public Services, the work began in the late 1990s. “We had one of the first web sites in Tennessee government, and for several years the Library and Archives web site was among the top three most visited of all state government websites.”

You can read a lot more in an article by Chuck Sherrill, State Librarian and Archivist, in the Tennessee State Library & Archives Blog at: https://tslablog.blogspot.com/2019/06/new-resource-for-genealogists-at.html.

Find a 2020 US Census Complete Count Committee in Your Community

Would you like to improve the accuracy of the 2020 US census? If you do, I am sure future genealogists will appreciate your efforts.

Irish island of Arranmore is Looking for New Residents from the United States and Australia

Here is an opportunity to study your Irish ancestry: move to Ireland.

Actually, you would have to move to Arranmore, a tiny island 5 kilometers off the coast of County Donegal, Ireland. The island is twinned with Beaver Island in Lake Michigan. In the 1800s, families evicted from Arranmore relocated to Beaver Island and most of the residents who live on Beaver Island today can trace their roots back to Arranmore.

While Arranmore is a tiny place, it boasts very high-speed Internet access, enough musicians and good Irish whiskey to keep a party going well into the night, the best diving in Ireland on your doorstep, seafood to rival the tastiest New England chowder, and a daily commute that will never exceed five minutes. It sounds dreamy.

Update: Libraries without Librarians

NOTE: This article contains personal opinions and beliefs.

I have been reading the comments in my earlier “Libraries without Librarians” article at https://blog.eogn.com/2019/06/10/libraries-without-librarians/ and I believe that many of those newsletter readers have ignored a couple of basic facts when posting comments. I am moved to remind everyone of the facts that I believe are relevant.

Several people have expressed reservations about homeless people, vagrants, and other unwanted individuals having access to the unmanned library and by possible criminal activities by these individuals. Indeed, on first reading, that also was my concern. However, let’s look at the facts.

As stated in the earlier article:

“Self-service libraries are common in Europe”

“In North America, it’s still a novelty. Just five library systems — eight libraries total — have implemented it since 2016.”

“Officials at Bibliotheca, the leading company in North America that sells the required software, counts more than 750 libraries globally as users.”

The fact is that more than 750 self-service libraries are already using this business model today and are doing so successfully.

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration Considers Blockchain to Verify Records Amid Rise in Deepfake Videos

From an article by Jory Heckman published in the Federal News Network:

“The National Archives and Records Administration is exploring whether blockchain technology can help records management officials keep track of their vast stores of information, following the successful rollout of the emerging technology elsewhere in government.

“Eric “Kyle” Douglas, a records management policy and program support specialist for NARA’s chief records officer, said the future for blockchain looks promising, and could play a role in authenticating digital copies of its images and videos.

Libraries without Librarians

Several Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota) library systems are considering an “open libraries” model that would give patrons access to books, computers and other resources by themselves at times when the library isn’t open and staffed. Two west metro libraries already use the idea on a small scale.

The setup relies on technology — via a central management system — to let people enter the library, check out items and log onto computers — all while video monitors record their actions. There’s a phone connected to a central library or an on-call librarian so patrons can ask questions. Automated systems announce when the library is closing, flick the lights off and on and can even operate amenities like a gas fireplace on a schedule.

Man who said he Hears Voices has been Charged in Fire Outside the U.S. National Archives

A previously unidentified person started a fire outside the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C., on April 25. Some damage to the exterior wall was reported. (See my earlier article at http://bit.ly/2Vtcaan for the details.) Now a man who said voices told him to “burn buildings down” has been arrested in connection with the arson fire.

He was identified as Jacob Leroy Wallace, 32, who had no fixed address, D.C. police said.

Arsonist Starts Fire at the U.S. National Archives

The following is an announcement from the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA):

An unidentified person started a fire outside the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, at about 8 p.m. yesterday, April 25. No one was injured, and the building sustained some damage to the exterior wall.

The arsonist placed a gas container on the left side of the building on Pennsylvania Avenue and lit it on fire. Security officers discovered the blaze and unsuccessfully attempted to put it out, but a fire department responded and was able to extinguish the flames. Facilities staff are cleaning the area today.

State Library of Pennsylvania Relocating for Two Plus Years While Undergoing Renovations

The following announcement was written by Jan Meisels Allen, Chairperson of the IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee and posted to the IAJGS mailing list:

The State Library of Pennsylvania has announced their historic Forum Building and the Office of Commonwealth Libraries will close for renovations and be temporarily relocated to buildings within Harrisburg’s Capitol Complex. Relocations –see below—will begin in May 2019. The renovations will begin in September 2019 and the expectation is that the renovation will be complete by the fall of 2021.

The Office of Commonwealth Libraries, which includes the Deputy Secretary/Commissioner of Libraries and staff, will relocate to the Pennsylvania Department of Education (333 Market Street, Harrisburg, PA 17126). The Bureau of Library Development will also relocate to the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

American Ancestors and New England Historic Genealogical Society Open Boston’s Mayflower 400th Anniversary Commemorations with Tributes to Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Nation

The following announcement was written by the New England Historic Genealogical Society:

April 17, 2019—Boston, Massachusetts—American Ancestors and New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS)—the oldest and largest genealogical society in America—today held the first of a series of events in the U.S. commemorating the 400th anniversary of the landing of the Mayflower with a festive ceremony at their headquarters on Newbury Street in Boston, Massachusetts.

An imposing replica of the Mayflower, the ship that carried the Pilgrims to the new world in 1620, was christened the Boston Mayflower and placed in the organization’s front courtyard to commemorate the significance of the event in the nation’s history. Unveiled adjacent to it was an artistic tribute to the people and culture of the Wampanoag Nation, the Native Americans who met the Pilgrims after their arrival in Plymouth harbor.

Saskatchewan Provincial Archives to Move into CBC Building

Saskatchewan archivists are preparing to move millions of documents into a new home, after the province took ownership of CBC’s Regina broadcasting centre to allow the Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan to consolidate its massive holdings.