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The deadline to express disapproval on the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services’ proposed 492 percent increase in fees to access historical records held by its Genealogy Program, which should already be publicly accessible under the law, was Dec. 30, 2019.

Several websites echo this concern. The Salt Lake Tribune quotes Utah Sen. Mitt Romney’s objections. History News Network’s article was originally in The Washington Post. CBS News reported on this “highway robbery” proposal. The Council of State Archivists expresses opposition and proposes that the USCIS records be transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration.

Hopefully, public opposition will prevail and genealogical researchers will have a lasting influence on the decision makers. In any case, we all need to keep informed on similar pending legislation and make our wishes known.

Immigration issues explained

Judy G. Russell’s (“The Legal Genealogist”) article, “Through The Golden Door: Immigration after the Civil War (1864-1924)” was a handout at a recent meeting of the German Genealogy Group ( and available to members of that society. It includes a timeline of laws affecting immigration as well as resources for further study.

New Year’s resolutions?

Whether or not you are inclined to make resolutions, an interesting blog suggests that a new year offers an excellent opportunity to set some genealogy goals.

Perhaps a membership in the German Genealogy Group would be appropriate. Visit for an application and more information. The cost is only $15 per year. The society’s many databases focus on German genealogy but include all nationalities and are free to all.

Also, joining or renewing a membership in the Illinois State Genealogical Society would be a good choice for giving your Illinois research a boost in the new year. Visit for membership categories, prices and benefits.

FamilySearch allowing same-sex family trees

According to this post, FamilySearch will allow users “to build same-sex family trees on its free website — (allowing) users to add a spouse or parent of the same sex.”

An article from Judy Russell, “The Legal Genealogist,” offers more details on this important action.

New issue of ‘Irish Lives Remembered’ available

The most recent issue of “Irish Lives Remembered” (Issue 47, Winter 2019), the free online magazine devoted to Irish genealogy, is now available at

This issue includes Paul MacCotter’s article, “The Broderick Surname in Ireland” and a wealth of interesting and helpful material for family researchers.

Library handout on U.S. Land Records online

Jill Shoemaker of the Riverton FamilySearch Library has posted a most useful 14-page handout on U.S. land records. Topics include “Value of Land Deeds,” “Searching Deed Indexes,” “Where to find Land Deeds,” “Military Bounty Land Grants,” “County Boundary Changes,” “Colonial Land Grants or Patents,” “Rectangular Survey System,” “Metes and Bounds,” “State Land Grants,” “Public Land Acts,” “General Land Office and National Archives,” “Locating State Land Patents,” a bibliography and more.

The importance of land records for genealogical research cannot be over-emphasized!

New database to connect American slavery records

Smithsonian magazine has posted information about the upcoming online database, “Enslaved: Peoples of the Historic Slave Trade,” to be launched this year, at

“It aims to serve as a clearinghouse for information about enslaved people and their captors.”

The project will be funded by a $1.5 million grant from the Mellon Foundation.

Queries, genealogical questions from researchers and genealogical materials readers would like to share will be printed in this column free. Joan Griffis may be reached via email at or by sending a letter to Illinois Ancestors, c/o The News-Gazette, P.O. Box 677, Champaign, IL 61824-0677.