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Notes from the Chairperson
Greetings! I am feeling a little out of my depth right now as incoming Chairperson, but thanks to Colleen Maguire I am receiving top notch mentoring to bring me up to speed. For those who have been long time members, you might remember I was Chairperson from 1989-1991. Now 30 years later, I am back. I have been living out of the area for many years and was quietly doing my own genealogy. I had moved to the Kingston area in 2011 and was recruited to be Recording Secretary for that branch for several years. Now that both my husband and I have retired, we are back in Huron County.
The Branch has been working on the publication of David Yates’ book “Out of the Woods.” After a herculean effort from our Past Chairperson, Colleen, the book was launched on November 29th, 2018 at the Huron County Museum. We are pleased to announce that as of 31st of December, 788 copies have been sold – most of them in the three weeks leading up to Christmas. Fincher’s (bookstore in Goderich selling the books) say it was the best selling book of the year for them. There are still some available so if you missed it, there is still time.
The CBC coverage of testing identical twins’ DNA with several of the leading genealogical DNA companies brought an onslaught of reaction from my own family and friends. They know I have had my DNA tested, as well as many of my family, and were dismayed at the report. Was it the same for you? The response on January 19th from our Past Chairperson Colleen on our Facebook page was well said. DNA testing is not an exact science. DNA at its best in genealogy is measured against a group of people from that country. We think of the English as Anglo Saxon. England over the centuries had many immigrants from the Danes, Dutch, Germans, and so on. There is no true “England DNA” that your DNA is tested against. These tools help people interested in genealogy to see if their research is going in the right direction. I have enjoyed seeing my conclusions verified by results I received. More importantly, I have connected with many distant family members that I would never have known of other than by matching their DNA. Another plus has been DNA circles which verify that a group of us all have a common ancestor. I like that even though I am pretty sure who my gr-gr-gr-grandmother was, my DNA confirms that fact. We are all from many immigrants, no matter where our ancestors came from. Enjoy the journey of discovery of who you are!
We are working on scheduling speakers for 2019 and hope to have that list available soon. I am looking forward to getting to know people and hearing your thoughts on what speakers and topics you would like to hear in 2020 and going forward. What projects do you feel we should take on together? Watch for a survey to complete in a few months. I look forward to working with you all as your Chairperson!
“Out of the Woods: Characters and Chronicles of Huron County” by David Yates -- Project Update by Colleen Maguire
After three years of work we were able to hold a proof copy of the book on November 21st, 2018. The book is a compilation of 78 stories that David Yates had previously written for the local newspapers, with some updates and corrections. It covers the period from the Indigenous peoples to World War I.
Our book launch took place on the evening of November 29th at the Huron County Museum with a crowd of about 70 people present. In the week leading up to the book launch 42 books were pre-ordered, and another 54 were sold at the book launch. David has personally sold 70 copies himself. We have had six printing runs but stopped at a total of 952 books on the Friday before Christmas. All in all, by December 31st, 2018 we have sold 210 books person-to-person and retailers have sold 578 books, for a total of 788 books, most of them as Christmas sales. We still have 117 out on consignment around the County, and we have 40 books in inventory. Going forward, we will not be printing any more books until all of these are sold. After that The Goderich Print Shop has agreed to let us print very small quantities on demand. When we do print our 1000th book we will take a photograph and post it in this newsletter and on our Huron Branch OGS Facebook page.
Special thanks go to Julia Armstrong (Editor and Layout), Caren Thomas (Cover Designer), Reg Thompson (creator of the title), The Goderich Print Shop, Tom Fincher of Fincher’s, Christine Ferguson of The Book Peddler, The Huron County Museum, Colleen Maguire (Project Lead), the Huron County Branch OGS (Council and members), and of course David Yates, author.
Another special thank you goes to the late Isabelle (Belle) Campbell whose very generous bequest some years ago provided the initial money to get this project started.
If you have not purchased a book yet and would like to, it is not too late. Please contact Colleen Maguire at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 519-524-1185.
Cemetery Case Puts Property Rights Issue
before the U.S. Supreme Court
Dick Eastman – October 9, 2018: My thanks to newsletter reader Don Brownlee for telling me about this story. By JESSICA GRESKO Oct. 04, 2018 https://apnews.com/86ec9d89d4d34579b528845f5f8c1642
SCOTT TOWNSHIP, Pa. (AP) — Rose Mary Knick makes no bones about it. She doesn’t buy that there are bodies buried on her eastern Pennsylvania farmland, and she doesn’t want people strolling onto her property to visit what her town says is a small cemetery.
Six years ago, however, Knick’s town passed an ordinance that requires anyone with a cemetery on their land to open it to the public during the day. The town ordered Knick to comply, threatening a daily fine of $300 to $600 if she didn’t. Knick’s response has been to fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard arguments in her case Wednesday.
“Would you want somebody roaming around in your backyard?” Knick asked during a recent interview on her Lackawanna County property, which is posted with signs warning against trespassing.
Her neighbors in Scott Township, the Vail family, say they just want to visit their ancestors’ graves.
The Supreme Court isn’t going to weigh in on whether there’s a cemetery on Knick’s land. Instead, it’s considering whether people with property rights cases like Knick’s can bring their cases to federal court or must go to state court, an issue groups nationwide are interested in.
Knick, 69, says her town’s ordinance wouldn’t protect her if people injure themselves on her land and sue. And she says if the town is going to take her private property and open it up to the public, they should pay her. She says she believes that the town was trying to make an example out of her for questioning lawmakers’ decisions.
Knick, who has lived on her 90-acre property since 1970 and who did clerical work for a food chain before retiring, says nothing on her property title indicates there is a cemetery on her land. She says she’s never seen any gravestones or other evidence of a cemetery there. Her land, now partly being used to grow pumpkins and gourds, does have some rock fences and several areas where there are rectangular, flat rocks on the ground. She takes a visitor to one such area and says the others are basically like it.
“Are they a marker? I have no clue,” she said of the flat stones.
But Knick’s neighbor Robert Vail Sr., 85, says Knick knows exactly where there’s a cemetery on her land. Vail’s family has lived in the area since the early 1800s and he says it’s his relatives, at least half a dozen of them, who are buried there. He has a list of them, prepared decades ago by a local historian, and pictures of some gravestones.
Vail asked town officials years ago for help getting on to Knick’s land, and they drew up the ordinance that passed in 2012. There’s now also a narrower state law on families’ access to cemeteries that may apply to her, too.
Vail says he uncovered his relatives’ gravestones on Knick’s property by getting down on his hands and knees and probing the earth with a screwdriver to find the buried markers. He initially found three and a part of another, most for relatives who died as children, he said. But he says on a later visit the stones were gone.
Sitting in his living room, about a five-minute drive from Knick’s home, Vail pointed to books that trace his family tree back hundreds of years. All he wants, he says, is to visit Knick’s land a few times a year to clean up the area where he found the stones, to plant a flag and to pay his respects to relatives that include a Revolutionary War soldier.
“There’s nobody else that would have any interest whatsoever,” Vail said, acknowledging there might be curiosity seekers temporarily.
Whatever the Supreme Court decides, Knick’s case won’t be over. The question for the high court is limited to whether she can continue her fight in federal court or whether she has to go back to Pennsylvania’s court system, where her case began. A Pennsylvania court initially told her that she’d have to wait to have her claims heard until the township tried to impose the ordinance’s fines.
After she turned to the federal court system, an appeals court called the town’s ordinance “extraordinary and constitutionally suspect” but said that Knick couldn’t pursue her case in federal court. A 1985 Supreme Court decision effectively barred people with property rights claims like Knick’s from going to federal court, her lawyers say. Knick wants the Supreme Court to overturn that decision.
Christina Martin, one of Knick’s lawyers with the Pacific Legal Foundation, says people generally have a choice about whether to go to federal or state court when they’re arguing that their constitutional rights are violated, but not in cases like Knick’s, which she says is unfair.
At Wednesday’s Supreme Court arguments, at least four of the eight justices seemed concerned about the inability of people in Knick’s situation to ever get into federal court, but it also didn’t seem there were the votes to overturn the 1985 decision.
After arguments, Knick marveled at how far her case had gone.
“I never dreamed in a million years that I’d be at the Supreme Court defending my property rights,” she said.Follow Jessica Gresko on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jessicagresko