How Much Privacy Have We Lost?

The Hartford Courant has an article from The Chicago Tribune, How Much Privacy Have We Lost? (which I couldn’t find on the Tribune’s site), by Eric Benderoff and Jon Van, about just how much privacy we have lost in this day and age. It’s a two-page article and worth a read – even as we are happy the internet can help companies provide incredible amounts of genealogy information, they are also providing incredible amounts of personal information about living individuals.

Excerpt from the article:

Indeed, people now should assume that an extraordinary amount of personal information is readily accessible to casual acquaintances or strangers, be it the price paid for a house or the details of a nasty divorce.

A quick Google search can reveal where someone went to high school, an old resume or a casual – even catty – reference on someone’s Web log. Dig deeper, and court records and other official documents can reveal who was arrested for driving under the influence.

As courts and other agencies digitize this information, entrepreneurs have figured out how to tap into this broad database that records the private lives of everyday Americans. And in places where officials have not yet put the information online, companies have sent out workers to manually scan the documents, said Jim Dempsey, policy director at the Center for Democracy and Technology.

Websites such as Abika.com, Records-search.net, Reverse records.org, and even genealogy sites, such as Ancestry.com, make this information accessible for a fee.

Microsoft Office 2007 – Try It Out

If you live and breathe Microsoft Office and/or Outlook and OneNote (and Publisher even) when it comes to correspondence, notes, presentations, biographies, etc., for your genealogy work, and you are a Windows user (or Mac with the appropriate Windows virtualization software) and interested in where Office is going, Microsoft has made the Office 2007 Beta 2 available for public users.

You can get it (and the free license keys) here: www.microsoft.com/office/preview/beta/getthebeta.mspx

It’s got a radical new interface, and quite a few other things have changed. It runs okay if you are using it under a Mac setup with Parallels Desktop for Mac.

It expires on February 1st, 2007. Keep in mind, it’s highly recommended you don’t use this for “production” work, i.e., don’t install over your old Office, and don’t load and save documents you have created with older versions of Office without first backing all of them up. That said, it’s interesting to see where they are going with this – obviously they are going after more online-collaboration and business, but still, it’s interesting to look at it. Personally, it doesn’t offer me anything that I absolutely need – I’ve been using other word processors for my normal word processing, and for publishing newsletters, etc., I’ve been using Apple’s Pages, but I do like to check things out.

If you don’t want to go through with downloading it or ordering it by mail, you can read eWeek’s review of it.

New Jersey Awards Counties/Municipalities Millions for Records Preservation

With all of the talk lately of states trying to close off public access to many records, we have this glimmer of good news – The Associated Press/Newsday are reporting that New Jersey has designated millions of dollars for the preservation of public records and archives. All 21 counties and 40 municipalities are set to receive the money, which can be used for everything from new employees designated for the preservation, new equipment, duplication services, and training.

New Jersey’s Secretary of State Nina Mitchell Wells told the Star-Ledger of Newark that it will allow them to “..adopt 21st-century technologies to drive down the cost of government records’ creation, maintenance and storage, while expanding public access..”

Good news if you are a genealogist in New Jersey or are doing genealogy research concerning New Jersey. It’d be nice to think that other states might see the benefits (among other things, they mentioned the savings it will generate to work on perserving these records now), and might even think about pulling back from trying to close off public access to public records.

Disturbed Cemetery Descendants Traced

No, the descendants aren’t disturbed, it was the people buried in the cemetery that were disturbed. Don’t you love headlines like that? Jim Wallace of WLAB News (Albany, Valdosta, and Thomasville, Georgia) has news of a cemetery that was accidently disturbed a few years ago (it was harrowed over, and some of the tombstones were nearly destroyed and/or lost. They have managed to track down who was buried there, as well as descendants, and will be contacting the descendants. If you think it might concern you – two of the names mentioned are Roby and Turner, you should check the article out and get in touch with the Dougherty County DA.

Excerpt from the article:

New evidence in the investigation of a rural Dougherty County cemetery that was harrowed over by workers at a neighboring plantation. Historians have taken the pieces of tombstones that were recovered, and identified the people who were buried in that long forgotten cemetery during the 1850’s and 1860’s.

A number of South Georgia families today can be traced to one of those people buried there 160 years ago, and now they will be contacted by the District Attorney’s office about the disturbance of this cemetery.

In the 1850-s and 1860-s there was a cemetery on this plot on the Tallahassee Road in Western Dougherty County. Dougherty County Sheriff’s Investigators say Ecila Plantation workers admit two years ago they harrowed over the long forgotten cemetery by mistake.

Affiliates of ancestors Sometimes Offer Clues

In her column, Genealogy Today: Affiliates of ancestors sometimes offer clues, in The Columbian (Washington), Connie Lenzen has a good column about something many overlook – the areas where our ancestors originated from. To be specific, the area after our ancestors left – chances are friends and relatives were left behind, and it maybe a good resource that many people overlook. Particularly important is surnames that may have changed slightly.

Excerpt from the article:

There’s a lot of sadness when people move out of the area. Oh, we will be able to send e-mails and greeting cards, but it’s not the same thing as sitting down to a meal together.

It’s times like this when I think about my ancestors who migrated from their family home to a new place. There’s my grandmother, who left Slovenia to go to Spokane to marry a stranger. There are my Pennsylvania Dutch ancestors who went from Lancaster County to Franklin County, Pa. There’s my father, whose parents put the family on a train and left Charlotte, Mich., to move to Portland.

I’m sure the people they left behind had similar sad thoughts.

When our ancestors moved to a new place, they often sent letters back and told their family about the beauties of the new world. They encouraged their kinfolks to come and join them. Some of their kinfolk visited, and some stayed.

Sometimes, the kinfolk had different surnames, and we don’t recognize them when we see them on censuses and deeds and other records.

We need to closely analyze records created around our ancestors and ask ourselves if any of the associates could be kin.

Full article at Columbian.com