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  • 22 May 2024 4:09 PM | Anonymous

    The 1960 U.S. Census is the next census scheduled to be released to the public in the year 2032. That’s only 8 years from now. I certainly am anxious to see those records. A recent discussion has erupted over the preservation of the original data. It reminds me of the controversy about the 1960 U.S. Census.

    For years I have heard stories about the 1960 U.S. Census. The stories vary a bit on each telling but usually say something like, “the 1960 U.S. Census was stored on a computer media for which there no longer was any equipment to read it. The census data has been lost because of the change in technology.”

    I always doubted that story. I was just starting my career in computers in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and I remember well the tape drives of that era. I spent many hours repairing those half-inch and three-quarter inch tape drives that weighed 800 pounds each! I think I still could disassemble and reassemble a Honeywell 204B-9 half-inch tape drive while blindfolded. That device was a maze of electronics (without integrated circuits), disk brakes, a big vacuum pump, and numerous solenoids. 

    Since I am familiar with both the old and the new technologies involved, I decided to investigate the 1960 census story. In fact, David G. Hendricks, a historian at the U.S. Census Department, long ago wrote the true story of what happened. Here is what I learned:

    The 1960 census returns were recorded on paper, then microfilmed in 1961 for long-term storage. In addition to the microfilm, the Census Bureau also creates many reports from the information obtained in each census. These reports are mostly demographic in nature. They describe the ethnic make-up of the U.S. population. They also document American migration patterns and even tell how many bathrooms are in the average American home. 

    In 1961 the staff at the Bureau of the Census had access to a brand-new electronic behemoth known as a “computer.” In order to simplify some of the data analysis that the Census Bureau must conduct, the staff used the new computer to create the “microaggregation files” that contain statistical information. This information had been entered on punch cards in earlier censuses, but magnetic tape was the storage medium of choice in the sixties. The Bureau of the Census had the required data keypunched and then stored on 9,121 reels of magnetic tape: 7,297 reels created with UNIVAC II-A tape drives; 1,678 tapes created with UNIVAC III-A tape drives, and another 146 magnetic tapes created on still other brands of tape drives. The reports needed were generated and printed on paper. Once the reports were completed, the tapes were placed in storage.

    Following consultation with staff of the National Archives in 1975, the Census Bureau created a plan to provide for the "adequate retention of the 1960 data." The plan specified that the Census Bureau would copy only 642 reels of tape onto more modern storage media – at least, modern by 1975 standards. The other reels of tape were deemed to be unimportant and of no long-term value. 

    All of the stories about loss of 1960 Census data revolves around the 642 reels of tape readable only by UNIVAC II-A tape drives. By 1975, the UNIVAC II-A tape drives were obsolete. Despite the challenge, the Census staff managed to find some old tape drives still in use that could read the tapes. These old drives were installed on a computer system which also had newer drives installed, so a tape conversion seemed simple. By 1979, the Census Bureau successfully copied 640 of the 642 II-A tapes onto newer-format tapes. The two tapes that were not copied were, in fact, missing. The missing tapes had 7,488 records, or about 0.5 percent of the total of approximately 1.5 million records that had been identified as having long-term value. Of the 640 tapes that were located, only 1,575 records (or less than .2 percent of the total number of valuable records on II-A tapes) could not be copied because of deterioration.

    The bottom line is that 99.3% of the 1960 microaggregation data was saved on modern tape formats and can be read today. Every decade or so, the data will again be copied onto modern media of the time. Remember, too, that the findings of the original study had already been published on paper in the 1960s, and that the paper findings are also preserved. 

    As mentioned earlier, censuses prior to 1960 had the microaggregation data entered on punch cards. However, those cards were always thrown away after the studies were completed and published (on paper). The loss of 0.7% of the 1960 microaggregation data files on magnetic tape doesn’t seem like such a big loss. That is still 99.3% more data preserved than any earlier census. As historian David G. Hendricks of the U.S. Census Department wrote to me, “these files performed their function, and all of the data are available on paper, if not electronic, form; so none of the information from the 1960 census has been lost.”

    All this discussion of magnetic tape really isn’t important to genealogists anyway. All of the microaggregation files on magnetic tape mentioned here did not have any genealogy value since there were no names or street addresses listed. Genealogists should have no fears about “missing data.” The magnetic tapes only stored a subset of the census data, a subset of no interest to genealogists.

    The original 1960 U.S. Census documents were recorded on microfilm in 1961, and all that microfilm is still in good condition, locked up at the National Archives. In other words, images of the original documents have been preserved. Admittedly, very few people have seen these microfilms so the genealogy public dors not know if they are still readable or not.

    In compliance with U.S. laws, the complete 1960 U.S. Census documents on microfilm will be released to the public in the year 2032, 72 years after the original enumeration. I hope to be around to read those films!

  • 22 May 2024 3:26 PM | Anonymous

    May is Jewish American Heritage Month and an online exhibit is sharing the voices from Jewish neighborhoods in and around Boston.

    “We want people to understand the contributions that Jewish Americans have made to our immediate neighborhoods and to our larger community and country,” said Rachel King, executive director of the Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center at American Ancestors.

    The Jewish Heritage Center has an extensive archive of historical photos and documents, but volunteers have now interviewed people who grew up in Jewish neighborhoods in Chelsea, Lynn, Dorchester and Roxbury.

    Sara Lee Callahan, who grew up in Chelsea in the 1940s, said the Jewish Neighborhood Voices exhibithelps people understand the history of the neighborhoods that may not be apparent today.

    “Except for Native Americans, none of us came from here. We all came from different parts of the world,” Callahan said.

    Herb Selesnick helped conduct interviews and said he found commonalities in the stories that he hopes can help unite people.

    You can read more in an article by John Atwater published in the web site at:

  • 22 May 2024 8:30 AM | Anonymous

    The following is a press release from the (U.S.) National Archives and Records Administration:

    Did you know that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) isn’t just a building in Washington, DC? It’s actually a collection of more than 40 facilities nationwide, including field archives, federal records centers, and presidential libraries.

    refer to caption


    A selection of images from archival holdings at National Archives facilities around the country. These images and many others will be featured on the new Highlights from Our Holdings at the National Archives web page.

    To better highlight the archival holdings nationwide, the National Archives established a new web page: Highlights From Our Holdings at the National Archives. Seven locations are currently linked from the page: AtlantaBostonFort WorthPhiladelphiaRiversideSan Francisco, and Seattle. Each of those pages features 10–14 records from their holdings, and there are 75 featured records thus far.

    “In addition to what is already highlighted on the page, we plan to create pages for the National Archives at Chicago, the National Archives at Denver, the National Archives at Kansas City, the National Archives at New York City, and the National Archives at St. Louis, as well as pages highlighting our holdings in College Park, MD, and Washington, DC,” said Erin Townsend, Communications Coordinator, Research Services.

    The new web pages contain an array of documents that will be interesting to a wide audience.

    "In some cases, we have featured documents relating to well-known individuals, such as the naturalization records of Maria Von Trapp and Marlene Dietrich, the bankruptcy petition for Edgar Allen Poe, and the World War I draft registration card of Herman ‘Babe’ Ruth,” said Lori Cox-Paul, Director, Field Records Division. “In other cases, we have chosen documents relating to individuals whose stories have been told in movies, such as the memo disbanding the racially segregated work unit Dorothy Vaughan worked in. Her story was told in the film Hidden Figures. We have also included the Slave Manifest listing Solomon Northup, whose story was told in Twelve Years a Slave.”

    The web pages will also serve to highlight well-known events, such as the Mount Saint Helens eruption in 1980, as well as lesser-known, but equally important, stories from American history. Site users can view a photograph of womenwho served as Yeomanettes in 1918, the first women to enlist in the U.S. Navy, and a photograph of sailors who served on the USS Mason (DE-529), the first U.S. Navy ship with a predominantly Black crew.

    “We’ve also highlighted the different formats of records we hold, including an architectural drawing for the initial design of Seattle’s iconic Space Needle and the elevation plan of Boston’s Custom House Tower,” Cox-Paul said. “And for fun, we included an engineering drawing created by the Forest Service Region 8 office showing detailed designs for cocktails.”

  • 22 May 2024 7:43 AM | Anonymous

    The following is a press release from the (U.S.) National Archives and Records Administration:

    Archivist of the United States Dr. Colleen Shogan announced today that Dr. Kenvi Phillips will serve as the inaugural Director of the Barack Obama Presidential Library, effective June 16, 2024. Dr. Phillips will lead the planning and administration of all Library programs and activities.

    refer to caption


    Image courtesy of Dr. Kenvi Phillips

    I am excited Dr. Phillips is joining the National Archives as the Director of the Barack Obama Presidential Library. With her extensive experience in libraries and archives and her passion for public history, she will be an excellent steward for our archival and artifact collections and public engagement work,” said Shogan. “As the Director of the first digital presidential library in our system, Kenvi will help shape a new course for how we think about access to, and engagement with, the stories and decisions that helped shape our nation.”

    Dr. Phillips has over 20 years of experience in libraries, historic sites, and academic institutions and brings strong collections, research, archival, and programming experience—along with many other firsts—to the role. She most recently served as the first Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Brown University Library, where she played an integral role in strategic planning and relationship building across the campus, in the community and region, and with other academic institutions. Dr. Phillips was the first Johanna-Marie Frankel Curator for Race and Ethnicity at Harvard University’s Schlesinger Library, focused on the History of Women in America. She also served as Assistant Curator of Manuscripts at the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center at Howard University and earlier as a historian at the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

    Dr. Phillips earned a doctorate in United States history and a master’s degree in public history from Howard University, and a bachelor of arts in history from the University of Tulsa. 

    “The Obama Foundation is excited to work with Dr. Kenvi Phillips as Director of the Barack Obama Presidential Library at the National Archives,” said Valerie Jarrett, Obama Foundation CEO. “Her strong experience in archives and collections will help make the digitized records a great asset that will be available to everyone, everywhere, including historians, researchers, educators and students. We look forward to continuing to work with the National Archives as they provide access to these historic records, and we look forward to displaying artifacts from the Obama Presidential Library in the Foundation’s Obama Presidential Museum, which we will open on the South Side of Chicago in Spring 2026."

    The Barack Obama Presidential Library is one of 15 libraries in the Presidential Library system operated by the National Archives and Records Administration, representing Herbert Hoover through Donald J. Trump. Presidential Libraries and Museums are repositories for each administration’s papers, records and artifacts, and preserve and provide access to historical materials, support research, and curate interactive programs and exhibits that educate and inspire.

  • 21 May 2024 10:44 PM | Anonymous

    The 25th Scottish Indexes Conference will be held on 7 September 2024. As always, this is a free online event. 

    Here are the first five speakers to be announced:

    ‘Searching for ancestors in The Royal Mail Archive’ by Susannah Coster, archivist at The Postal Museum in London

    ‘Parochial Matters: parishes, districts and counties’ by Robert Urquhart of 

    ‘An introduction to the Forfeited Estates papers in the National Records of Scotland’ by Tessa Spencer, Head of Outreach and Learning at the National Records of Scotland 

    ‘Scottish Burghs and Trade Incorporations’ by Chris Paton, genealogist and author of The GENES Blog

    ‘Criminal Ancestors: piecing together their story from a variety of sources’ by Emma Maxwell, genealogist at Scottish Indexes

    Find out more and register at

  • 21 May 2024 3:19 PM | Anonymous

    I love cloud computing and use it several times daily. I use a cloud-based email service. I make backups of all my files to a cloud-based service, and I’m even writing this article with a cloud-based word processor. I have written a number of times about cloud-based services.

    There is one big question, however: what happens to your files when a cloud computing service disappears abruptly?

    This is not an idle question. Cloud-based file storage services have suddenly disappeared a number of times, for a number of reasons. However, one other problem is perhaps more common: you pay for a cloud-based server’s services and then, when it comes time to renew that payment, you don’t have enough money available.

    In fact, any cloud-based site could disappear at any time for any number of reasons. Not only can legal authorities shut it down (that happened to (now renamed and back online as, but so can bankruptcy, or a fire or a tornado if the backup service itself isn't backing things up properly off-site, which strikes me as rather stupid, but it does happen. If anyone chooses to use off-site backups, it should be an online backup service that preaches to its customers about the need for off-site backups! However, low-budget backup services might not practice what they preach.

    I will suggest the answer for all of these problems is simple: keep your own backup copies.

    No hard drive is perfect. Likewise, no cloud-based service is perfect. You should always keep a backup copy of every important file stored on your hard drive, and you should also keep a backup copy of every important file stored in the cloud. 

    The backup copy, in fact, might be a simple copy of the original file that is presently stored on your hard drive. If the backup copy suddenly becomes unavailable, who cares? The original should still be available. If you are constrained by disk space, you might want to copy important files to a plug-in USB external hard drive or to a CD or DVD disk or even to a flash drive for short-term local storage as well as to a cloud-based backup service for off-site storage before deleting the file(s) from your hard drive. For those who are truly paranoid, like myself, always backup your files to at least TWO different cloud-based backup services in different locations as well as to a local USB external drive, and also keep the original on the computer's hard drive. With four copies stored in three different locations, the odds of any one disaster destroying everything are slim indeed.

    I suppose the argument is that one electro-magnetic pulse from a nuclear attack still could destroy everything. While possible, I doubt if any of us will be worried about genealogy file backups following such a disaster. I suspect we will all be spending our waking hours focusing on more important issues, such as staying alive, finding food, water, and a roof over our heads. In short, I don't plan backups to use in case of nuclear disaster.

    I also don't back up everything. For instance, I don't back up my computer's operating system because I know I can always obtain a new copy from the manufacturer or at my local computer store. Likewise, I don't back up word processors or spreadsheet programs or other applications because new copies are readily available online or in stores. However, I do make at least four copies of every bit of data I create or anything created by others that I decide is worth saving.

    At home, I keep the original files on each computer's hard drive, plus I have a 14 terabyte external hard drive that plugs into the computer's USB connector. I run software that backups up every new file to the USB external drive within minutes, sometimes within seconds,  after it is created. 

    NOTE to Macintosh users: You already have TimeMachine installed on your system. It is the best free backup program I have ever seen, and Apple gives it away free of charge. If you are not already using it, run out now, purchase a USB external hard drive, return home, plug it into your computer's USB connector, and configure TimeMachine. You'll be glad you did.

    In addition, all my important data files are backed to Dropbox's cloud-based service within a few minutes of their creation. If that wasn't enough, my computer also makes daily backups to Amazon's S3 (Simple Storage Service) cloud-based file storage area. If Dropbox suddenly goes offline, I still have my original file plus my local backup copies plus the copy on Amazon S3. Likewise, if Amazon suddenly disappears, I still have the original plus local backups plus the copy on Dropbox.

    I have a similar setup on my laptop computer. I have a portable plug-in USB hard drive that I don't always take with me on short trips. However, any files I do create will be backed up the next time I plug in the portable hard drive. Likewise, if I have a high-speed Internet connection, I can manually backup files to Dropbox and Amazon S3. However, I do not have the laptop set for automatic backups because sometimes my Internet connection is very slow or perhaps I am paying for the number of bytes being sent. In those situations, I will wait until I am back within range of a high-speed, low-cost connection before making backups. If it is a very important file, I might make an immediate backup copy to a flash drive that I usually carry in my pocket.

    NOTE #2: The likelihood of Amazon disappearing seems remote. The company is well-funded, scrupulously honest, and keeps multiple copies of all files stored in multiple data centers around the world. One local fire or tornado won't impact Amazon S3 very much. In fact, the  earthquake in Japan a few years ago shut down Amazon's Tokyo data center in Japan for some time, but no data was lost as backup copies were also stored in other Amazon data centers around the world. All Amazon S3 users with data stored in the Tokyo data center were able to retrieve their files within a few hours.

    Details about Amazon S3 cloud-based backup services may be found at

    NOTE #3: I may write about Amazon's S3 cloud-based storage service someday. I have it installed both at home and on my traveling laptop, and I use it daily. It is a heavy-duty backup service and is one of all the cloud-based backup services. I think it is cheaper than purchasing your own hard drive, and it makes off-site backups as well as any other service I’ve used. However, I also found Amazon S3 to be a bit complex to configure, so I don't recommend it for computer novices. If you have some systems administration experience, you might want to use Amazon S3's amazingly low-priced backup service. You can read more at

    I also keep a lot of my backups on pCloud at: You can never have too many backups!

    Let's return to the original question: What happens to your files when a cloud service shuts down?

    The answer is: Not much.

    That assumes that you performed your backups in a professional manner like what I’ve described here: you kept multiple backups regularly and stored them in multiple locations.

  • 21 May 2024 2:35 PM | Anonymous

    Here is an article that is not about any of the "normal" topics of this newsletter: genealogy, history, current affairs, DNA, and related topics. However, I suspect this article will be of interest to anyone who is an educator.

    Microsoft is partnering with tutoring organization Khan Academy to provide a generative AI assistant to all teachers in the U.S. for free. From a report: Khanmigo for Teachers, which helps teachers prepare lessons for class, is free to all educators in the U.S. as of Tuesday. The program can help create lessons, analyze student performance, plan assignments, and provide teachers with opportunities to enhance their own learning.

    "Unlike most things in technology and education in the past where this is a 'nice-to-have,' this is a 'must-have' for a lot of teachers," Sal Khan, founder and CEO of Khan Academy, said in a CNBC "Squawk Box" interview last Friday ahead of the deal. Khan Academy has roughly 170 million registered users in over 50 languages around the world, and while its videos are best known, its interactive exercise platform was one which Microsoft-funded artificial intelligence company OpenAI's top executives, Sam Altman and Greg Brockman, zeroed in on early when they were looking for a partner to pilot GPT with that offered socially positive use cases.

  • 21 May 2024 7:43 AM | Anonymous

    The following is a press release issued by the (U.S.) NationalArchives and Records Administration:

    The original Emancipation Proclamation will be on display, along with General Order No. 3, at the National Archives in Washington, DC, from June 18 to 20, 2024. Special extended exhibit hours are from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Timed ticket entry is available but not required. Reserve a ticket at

    “The Emancipation Proclamation and General Order No. 3 are fundamental to understanding our nation’s history,” said Archivist of the United States Dr. Colleen Shogan. “Together, these records represent a pivotal moment in America’s pursuit of a more perfect union. I’m proud to have them on display at the National Archives as we celebrate Juneteenth, and I look forward to adding the Emancipation Proclamation permanently to the Charters of Freedom in the National Archives Rotunda soon.”

    In celebration of Juneteenth and the viewing of the Emancipation Proclamation and General Order No. 3, join us on Tuesday, June 18, at 3 p.m. ET in the McGowan Theater for interactive performances. Verbal Gymnastics Playback Theater  will engage the audience with innovative storytelling. Come share stories of what Juneteenth means to you and see how the theater group’s actors, musicians, and storytellers creatively use improvisation to play back what is shared. This event is free and open to the public.

    Please check our website for additional information.

    The National Archives Building in Washington, DC, is located on Constitution Avenue at 9th Street, NW. Free admission and fully accessible. Metro: Yellow or Green lines, Archives/Navy Memorial station. Reserve timed entry tickets on

    The Emancipation Proclamation and General Order No. 3 Featured Document Presentation is made possible in part by the National Archives Foundation through the generous support of The Boeing Company.

    Featured Document Display: The original Emancipation Proclamation
    East Rotunda Gallery
    President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, as the nation approached the third year of the Civil War. Lincoln’s proclamation, which declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free,” was “a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing rebellion.” The Proclamation also declared the acceptance of Black men into military service. By the war’s end, almost 200,000 Black soldiers and sailors had fought for the Union and freedom. 

    As a first step, the Emancipation Proclamation promised freedom and a new beginning for several million Americans and fundamentally transformed the character of the war. It recognized the moral force behind the Union cause and strengthened the Union both militarily and politically. As a milestone along the road to slavery’s final destruction, the Emancipation Proclamation has assumed a place among the great documents of the nation.

    Related Featured Document Display: ‘Juneteenth’ General Order No. 3
    West Rotunda Gallery
    The freedom promised in the Emancipation Proclamation was finally delivered to 250,000 people who remained enslaved in Texas two and a half years after President Lincoln’s historic proclamation and two months after Union victory in the Civil War. On June 19, 1865, U.S. Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger issued General Order No. 3, which informed the people of Texas that all enslaved persons in the state were now free. This day has come to be known as Juneteenth, a combination of June and 19th. It is also called Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, and it is the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.

    Emancipation, however, was not a singular event in United States history. There were many emancipation days as enslaved people obtained their freedom in the decades spanning American independence through the Civil War. They were an important element of the abolition movement, which fought to end slavery and liberate the millions held in bondage across the country. That goal was not fully realized until December 6, 1865, when the requisite number of states ratified the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, legally ending slavery in the United States. 

    While Juneteenth was initially celebrated primarily by people in African American communities in Texas, nearly all states and the District of Columbia recognize Juneteenth as an official state holiday or observance. On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed a bill into law establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday. 

    Related Online Resources

  • 20 May 2024 7:50 PM | Anonymous

    Horse & Hound has partnered with digital archive specialists Archive Digital to make decades of the magazine’s back catalogue available to subscribe to online.

    Issues from the magazine’s launch in 1884, until September 2012, are available to read at The Magazine Archive with a subscription to this archive. Current Horse & Hound magazine subscribers can subscribe at a reduced rate – as well as accessing all digital editions of the magazine from September 2012 onwards in the H&H app as part of their subscription.

    Archive Digital has previously produced digital archives of some of Horse & Hound’s sister titles including Rugby World and Golf Monthly, but none with such a vast number of volumes as Horse & Hound’s 140-year-old title.

    H&H editor-in-chief Sarah Jenkins said: “As journalists at H&H we have long enjoyed visiting the physical magazine archive in its various office positions over the years – looking through bound issues you find such gems as early interviews with some of our most revered riders. You see how times have changed, and how much has stayed the same – we’re still having debates about overweight horses, for example.

    “Being able to access the archive digitally now is a huge treat, and much easier than wading through mountains of physical copies for the article you want. The search function on the digital archive allows you to find every reference to ‘Lucinda Green’, or ‘Michael Whitaker’, or your own horse’s elementary open results from 2020. You can peruse hunt reports from great moments in the sports history, the first Badminton report – which is not a patch on what is produced today, unsurprisingly – Grand Nationals, and more. You can see the evolution of the publication, and its survival through wartime, the hunting ban and more. I hope all with equestrian and media interests will find the new archive a fascinating resource.”

    You can read more in an article by Sarah Jenkins published in the web site at:

  • 20 May 2024 7:51 AM | Anonymous

    "Blue Origin's tourism rocket has launched passengers to the edge of space for the first time in nearly two years," reports CNN, "ending a hiatus prompted by a failed uncrewed test flight."

    The New Shepard rocket and capsule lifted off at 9:36 a.m. CT (10:36 a.m. ET) from Blue Origin's facilities on a private ranch in West Texas.

    NS-25, Blue Origin's seventh crewed flight to date, carried six customers aboard the capsule: venture capitalist Mason Angel; Sylvain Chiron, founder of the French craft brewery Brasserie Mont-Blanc; (software engineer and entrepreneur Kenneth L. Hess, a retired software engineer and entrepreneur who developed Family Tree Maker, which was bought by in 2003); retired accountant Carol Schaller; aviator Gopi Thotakura; and Ed Dwight, a retired US Air Force captain selected by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 to be the nation's first Black astronaut candidate... Dwight completed that challenge and reached the edge of space at the age of 90, making him the oldest person to venture to such heights, according to a spokesperson from Blue Origin...

    "It's a life-changing experience," he said. "Everybody needs to do this."

    The rocket booster landed safely a couple minutes prior to the capsule. During the mission, the crew soared to more than three times the speed of sound, or more than 2,000 miles per hour. The rocket vaulted the capsule past the Kármán line, an area 62 miles (100 kilometers) above Earth's surface that is widely recognized as the altitude at which outer space begins...

    "And at the peak of the flight, passengers experienced a few minutes of weightlessness and striking views of Earth through the cabin windows."

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