Link Love, March 1

Among this week’s links: a worrisome report about NARA – sorry! – a pair of apologies and an inspiring genealogy search story. (I had to end on an up note.)

Records access: Concerns are growing about changes at the New York facility of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). In 18 months, NARA/NYC will move from Varick Street to a 5,000-square-foot space in the Customs House. It is possible that only about 20 percent of NARA/NYC’s current holdings will move there too, according to one report. Much of the remainder may end up in a storage facility in northeast Philadelphia, to be pulled by request to be transported to New York for researchers. Read this report by Jan Meissels Allen of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies. The IAJGS’ Public Records Access Monitoring Committee has a lot of interesting material about records-access issues at the federal and state levels; click here and go to “Alerts Page.”

Mistakes were made: A pair of governmental apologies last week shed renewed light on two traumatic historical episodes, and might interest some family history researchers.

• First, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologized for a British program that sent children from London overseas to labor in British colonies. About 100,000 “home children” journeyed abroad from the 1860s to 1939 to Australia and Canada to serve as cheap farm and domestic labor; working conditions were often harsh. “It’s a beginning,” said one Canadian “home child”  descendant.

• Another apology concerns the community of Africville in Halifax, Nova Scotia, a mostly black neighborhood which was dismantled in the 1960s in the name of urban renewal. (Students of Robert Moses’ highway projects in New York neighborhoods might find this story sadly familiar.) Unfortunately the apology by the city of Halifax doesn’t seem to have ended disagreement among heirs over how best to move forward. However, the Africville Genealogy Society backs the current plans for financial and civic restitution, saying it’s what the former landowners would have wanted.

The uplifting part: I promised we’d go out on a high note, didn’t I? Well, it doesn’t get more inspiring than the story of Susan Hadley, a Washington D.C. psychologist and genealogy buff who became determined to unravel the mystery of what happened to her mother’s sister Elinor, the relative nobody talked about.  Elinor was institutionalized in 1936 with a diagnosis of “postpartum psychosis,” and remained so for four decades before being released to live in a group home. Amazingly, Elinor was still alive when Hadley finally tracked her down in Ohio in 2008, and what happened next is just fantastic.

Makes you feel good to have this as a hobby.


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