Join the Nationwide Service Project “Finding the Fallen”

Boy Scouts, members of the United States Armed Forces, all genealogists, and the American public are invited to help preserve the memories of our fallen veterans by photographing and logging veteran memorials and headstones throughout the United States. Since I am a veteran of the US military, this project also means a lot to me. I plan to participate. If you have any Boy Scouts in the family, you might want to forward this announcement to them and to their leaders.

The following announcement was written by Melany Gardner:


Boy Scouts and members of the United States Armed Forces are invited to participate in a nationwide service project, “Finding the Fallen,” Saturday, July 30. This service project will help preserve the memories of our fallen veterans by photographing and logging veteran memorials and headstones throughout the United States.

Your CD Collection is Dying

If you’ve tried listening to any of your old music CDs lately—if you even own them anymore—you may have noticed they often won’t play. The same is probably true of data stored on CD-ROM disks; the older ones are deteriorating and are becoming more and more difficult to use. The data CD-ROM disks are producing more read errors than they used to.

Luckily, there are easy solutions available if you take steps NOW.

A Cartoon about Long-term Storage of Digital Data

Genealogists, archivists, and historians are always concerned about preserving information, pictures, videos, and more. Unlike paper or microfilm, storing data digitally can preserve information for centuries if the data is properly preserved and is copied to new, more modern media and file formats every few years.

The geek cartoon, xkcd, has an interesting viewpoint on long-term digital storage at

My thanks to newsletter reader Russell Houlton for telling me about the cartoon.

Long-Lost Slave Cemetery Discovered and Preserved in Rural Virginia

At least 24 men and women and one child who died before the end of the Civil War were buried in “Sam Moore’s slave cemetery.” Samuel Moore, a slave owner, bought the property in 1846. The cemetery was abandoned years later and eventually disappeared beneath brush, vines and spreading woods. A century or more may have passed since anyone last visited it.

The cemetery was recently discovered and restored. A brass plaque identifies the graveyard and reads: “The names of the unknown souls buried here were not recorded. Yet we know the names of some of the enslaved persons who once labored long on this plantation. Some may lie here. We recognize their dignity. We honor their memory.”

Pennsylvania to Move the State’s Archives in Harrisburg

Planning is underway to move the Pennsylvania State Archives – just days after the state announced its building a new facility in Harrisburg. The state says the $24 million facility will help meet the needs of a digital world.

State Archivist David Carmichael says the process to preserve paper archives is pretty straightforward: control the environment where it’s stored.

Preserve Family Recipes Via Video

Here’s an idea. Preserve family recipes by taking videos of the family member who makes it the best. Perhaps that person is you.

Ann-Terese Barket, aka The Food Archivist, thinks the perfect gift just might be a two-inch flash drive containing the video. Make lots of copies and distribute them as gifts. The videos do not need to be professional Hollywood productions. Your family members will probably appreciate watching the family expert “as is.”

Barket documents family recipes via videos and transcripts so they may be easily shared with relatives and friends. She officially started her business after realizing how important recipes were in maintaining the cherished culinary memories of her own family.

A Beginners Guide to Record Retention

Writing in the Library of Congress’ Digital Preservation Blog, Carmel Curtis offers thoughts about creating a record retention policy. The intended audience of the article includes anyone responsible for maintaining institutional or organizational archives. The information won’t benefit individual genealogists very much. However, if you have an interest in preserving your employer’s, school’s, church’s, or other organization’s records, you might want to read the short article at

MyHeritage Digitizes Papua New Guinea’s Traditions

An Israeli-based online genealogy company is going where no genealogists have gone before. The Times of Israel has published an interesting story about one company’s efforts to digitize and preserve the customs of one of the world’s more primitive cultures. MyHeritage (the sponsors of this newsletter) sent a team to Papua New Guinea last month, determined to document the family history, lifestyle and rituals that have been passed along only by word of mouth within tribes.


The project, said Golan Levi, who headed the Israeli delegation, was undertaken to prevent further erosion of the collective memory of the mountain people of Papua New Guinea, who are losing some of their long-held traditions as modernity begins to creep into their traditional way of life.

Pascagoula, Mississippi, Public Library is Digitizing Valuable Items of Local History

Hurricane Katrina taught us many lessons. One is how quickly material things can be destroyed. Members of the Jackson County Historical and Genealogical Society became keenly aware of the vulnerability of one-of-a-kind records, books, maps and photographs housed at the Pascagoula Public Library’s Local Genealogy and History Department. The society has raised funds for computer and scanning equipment to begin the task to digitize and organize these assets and back them up in safe locations.

The first project tackled hundreds of file folders containing local family histories collected over a period of years. These are heavily used by local and family history researchers. Future plans include digitizing approximately 7,687 books, 5,725 periodicals, 3,833 microfilm rolls, 2,600 microfiche, 750 maps, 2,860 scanned family vertical files, 2,030 local history vertical files, 60 oral histories, 1,365 photos, 130 slides from local newspapers, 59 VHS tapes, 34,408 scanned obituaries, and 194 boxes of archives from Jackson County.

Norfolk County, Massachusetts, Registry of Deeds Project is Transcribing Handwritten Land Records from 1793 to 1900

A nearly completed initiative by the Norfolk County registry is promising to make it much easier for modern readers to decipher the contents of old land records. In what officials say is the first project of its kind in New England, the registry in Dedham is transcribing into type all the county’s handwritten deeds from the time of its founding in 1793 to 1900, when the office switched to typing its documents. The transcriptions can be a valuable time-saver for historians and genealogists.

Lewes, Delaware, Historical Society is Building a Database of Tombstones and Supporting Documents

Lots of societies are creating databases of local tombstones and, of course, we have the huge international tombstone databases at and However, one local society is documenting tombstones and a lot more.

The Lewes Historical Society spend several years creating a a database of about 8,500 graves in Lewes & Rehoboth Hundred, Sussex County, Delaware, each with a GPS location to pinpoint not only where a grave can be found, but also where within a cemetery a grave is located. The project is now moving into a new phase, as the historical society is building a new website that will connect the graves to photographs, letters and other artifacts about the individuals in the society’s collection.

Vanderburgh County, Indiana, Records from the Early 1800s Found

A recent discovery by an archivist at the Vanderburgh County Clerk’s office has found a way to tie the past 198 years together. While hunting down records to fulfill a citizen’s request, the archivist found two tin boxes stuffed with a series of records dating back to the months that followed the county’s formation in January 1818. Amber Gowen, an archivist at the county clerk’s office, found them completely by accident.

The Vanderburgh County Historical Society has donated money to help with preserving the newly-discovered records. The money will go toward the purchase of specialized archival materials, including acid-free folders and containers. Gowen hopes future grants will help with digitizing the records.

You can read more and watch a video of the records at the TriState Homepage web site at

Personal Digital Archiving – a Report from the Digital Preservation Coalition

DPC-logoA new report from the Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC) should be interesting reading for any genealogist who is interested in making sure his or her digital records are preserved and made available to future generations. In fact, if properly cared for, digital information should last for centuries. The DPC has released a free peer-reviewed report aimed at individuals who are concerned about how best to manage and preserve their own personal digital archives, as well as professionals who advise people on how to select and best preserve such digital content.

The contents of a personal digital archive might include:

  • email and letters
  • websites and blogs
  • diaries, recipes, and other writings
  • drawings and other art
  • photographs (from digital cameras, smart phones) and photo albums
  • music, video, and voice recordings
  • social media output
  • Internet search histories
  • text messages, instant messages
  • contact lists and calendars
  • spreadsheets, presentations, and databases
  • personal records created online or received digitally (bank statements, bills, taxes, home inspection reports, deeds)
  • medical records
  • mementos (digitized versions of physical items)
  • unexpected items – anything is possible!

Northeast Historic Film Offers 10,000 Hours of Film and Video‎

Northeast Historic Film in Bucksport, Maine, can be an excellent online resource for anyone with New England ancestry. The nonprofit archives is dedicated to collecting, preserving and sharing northern New England’s moving image heritage. The organization owns a three-story vault with 10 million+ feet of film, a public study center, a 140-seat theater, and it enjoys the support of 400+ members. While you may not find a film of your ancestors, you undoubtedly will have an opportunity to view the lifestyles and perhaps the area in which they lived.

Another excellent service of Northeast Historic Film (NHF) is the preservation of home movies. Without cold storage at low humidity, the film in your basement or attic cracks, rots, and fades, and part of New England’s history is lost. NHF staff members have the skills and tools to preserve your valued moving images.

Don’t Use QR Codes on Tombstones!

static_qr_code_without_logoI had an experience a while ago that got me thinking about today’s tombstone technology and what it might be like in the future. A company that shall remain nameless asked that I write about the company’s product: long-lasting display plates containing QR codes. The company’s products can be attached by adhesive, either to a tombstone (which I am strongly against) or to an urn, marker, or other nearby object that can be inserted into the ground near the tombstone. (I can live with that second idea.)

NOTE: For an explanation of QR codes, see

The second part of the company’s product occurs when a future visitor to a cemetery uses a QR code reader in an Apple iPhone, Android phone, or similar mobile device to read the QR code. That person would use the device’s wireless wi-fi or cellular data Internet connection to display an associated web page that is stored on a web server someplace. This product requires the QR code to point to the dedicated web page on the company’s web server. Each QR code points to a different page on the server, and each page contains information supplied by the family that purchased the QR code display plate. That tribute page could either display information directly or redirect the visitor to another web site, such as a charity of the family’s choice or a family tree posted on some other web site.

Sequoia Genealogical Society to Digitize News Microfilm

An article in the Visalia Times-Delta describes a project that is becoming popular amongst genealogy societies. The Sequoia (California) Genealogical Society is digitizing scores Tulare newspapers dating back more than a hundred years. The collection is on 55 reels of microfilm, containing images of newspapers extending from 1882 to 1922. It’s the oldest microfilm and most fragile.

It’s a good resource for the community. We want to keep it usable,” said Lorene Clark, president of the society. “As the microfilm gets old, they start breaking down.”

Family Robbed of Centuries of Personal History Saved in a Special Book

A Fresno, California, family lost one of their most prized possessions after someone burglarized their home. Amongst other items, the thieves stole a handmade leather bound genealogy book that contains the family’s genealogy dating back to the 13th century.

You can read the sad story and watch a video in the YourCentralValley web site at

Question: If you have a one-of-a-kind genealogy book or any other valuable family possessions, have you made multiple photocopies or scanned and made multiple digital copies and then stored the copies in different locations?

In this New Years’ week, it is appropriate to make new resolutions. Perhaps this year’s resolution is to make copies of your most valuable books, papers, and anything else that can be scanned or photocopied. Then store the copies someplace other than in your home.

Texas Genealogy Organizations Seek Help Digitizing Old Records

The Cross Timbers Genealogical Society of Gainesville, Texas, and the Lake Kiowa Genealogical Group are exploring a proposal with to preserve Cooke County family history records of genealogical value. Under the proposal, will provide training and equipment to digitize local records while Cross Timbers and Lake Kiowa will provide volunteers along with any local citizens who would like to participate.

The groups are seeking “privately held genealogically valuable records unique to Cooke County such as the genealogical pages of a family Bible which lists the marriages, deaths, and births of the family.” The group is also interested in letters between family members during historically significant time periods such as the Great Depression of the 1930s and World Wars I and II.

Details may be found at

The SS United States has been saved from the Scrapyard

This story isn’t genealogy-related but it does describe history. Besides, I think I think it is a wonderful turn of events.


The SS United States Conservancy announced Tuesday that it has received more than $600,000 in donations to keep the SS United States from being sold for scrap metal, after the nonprofit revealed in early October that it was running out of funding to maintain it and was exploring its sale.

Sony To End Sales of Betamax Tapes Next Year

betamax-1974Sony will finally end sales of its Betamax video tapes in March 2016. The firm revealed on its website that it will also stop shipping the Micro MV cassette used in video cameras. I don’t think this announcement will cause much panic amongst genealogists. I didn’t even know that Sony was still producing blank Betamax tapes. But it should cause all of us to stop and think for a minute or two.

The announcement only affects blank tapes that are to be recorded in the future. If you already have videos recorded on Betamax tapes, they probably can be played back for several more years, assuming you still have equipment that can play Betamax tapes. But let’s think for a moment about all information, whether it is recorded on Betamax, digital media, microfilm, paper, or clay tablets. The bottom line is that nothing lasts forever.