Call to Action: Hillside Cemetery in Reno, NV Needs Your Help!

Hillside Cemetery, with many Reno pioneer burials, is under the threat of development and the bodies buried there are about to be moved without permission!

There is a battle brewing in Reno, Nevada between genealogists, historians, preservationists and land developers over the future of the Hillside Cemetery which houses graves of several Reno pioneers. The Find-A-Grave page for Hillside lists over 1,400 interments!

The Hillside Cemetery Preservation Foundation has been working hard to make sure that local residents are aware of plans to exhume the bodies and the owner’s plans to develop the current land. In addition, they are trying to contact descendants of those buried there to get involved and have a voice in the process. The foundation is in favor of keeping the bodies where they are currently and working on a restoration of the cemetery rather than relocation:

“Hillside Cemetery is the oldest established cemetery in Reno, NV and it has suffered severe neglect, vandalism, and threats from developers for decades. This amazing Victorian Garden cemetery has not been properly cared for since Wiltshire Saunders passed away in 1905. A few families maintain their family plots but it is difficult to appreciate their effort when the rest of the grounds are in such disrepair. At this time, Hillside Cemetery Preservation Foundation’s  small group of volunteers currently clean the grave sites.  However it will take more involvement from the community, and a number of years to recover from the vandalism and neglect of Hillside Cemetery. Currently, developers have their sites on this historical treasure because of its location, which is close to the University of Nevada Reno. Hillside Cemetery Preservation Foundation is dedicated to preserving and protecting our oldest cemetery through community involvement and education. We must work together to save Hillside for future generations.”

Recent News Stories

Here are some recent news stories about the progress of the exhumation plans:

Visit the In The News page here on the Hillside Cemetery Preservation Foundation’s website for complete news coverage.

Hillside Cemetery Restoration – An Opposing View?

hillside cemetery restoration

There is also quite a bit of confusion over the exhumation issue if you visit this website named Hillside Cemetery Restoration. While it is not known who is behind this effort, but it seems to advocate moving the bodies and promises a complete restoration as well as relocation:

“The restoration will fulfill a vision that has been shared by the City of Reno, the State of Nevada, institutions and individuals dating back as early as the 1920’s.  The restoration will be a privately funded consolidation of the cemetery to its northern section with appropriate monuments, memorials, fencing and financial provision for the cemetery’s ongoing care.  The restoration is enabled by longstanding Nevada law and will be accomplished by archeologists and other professionals and experts experienced in such relocation and restoration projects.”

Some Recent Videos on the Hillside Cemetery Crisis

Here are some videos to watch so you can get acquainted with the issues involved:

How You Can Help!

The Hillside Cemetery Preservation Foundation has put together a comprehensive “call to action” page at http://hcpfoundation.squarespace.com/call-to-action/ – please review the various ways that you can get involved. Most importantly, please scroll to the bottom of the page and add your name to the Petition!

©2016, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

They Shoot Gays, Don’t They? On Genealogy and Diversity

Genealogy educator, author, and self-identified gay man Thomas MacEntee explains the impact of North Carolina House Bill 2 on the genealogy industry.

[Editor’s Note: Over the past few days, I’ve been a part of online social media discussions involving North Carolina’s Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act (aka House Bill 2 2016 – summarized here) and its impact on genealogy industry events such as the National Genealogical Society’s 2017 national conference scheduled to be held in Raleigh, North Carolina. Here are my thoughts on how House Bill 2 and similar legislation could impact genealogy speakers, genealogy conference attendees, and the genealogy and family history industry.]

I’ve made the decision not to participate in the upcoming National Genealogical Society 2017 conference (NGS 2017) scheduled to be held in Raleigh, North Carolina due to concerns for my own safety as well as other LGBT participants. The deadline for submission of presentations passed on April 1st and I just couldn’t bring myself to be a part of this event either as a speaker or an attendee.

This is a personal decision, and in line with one which I’ve implemented since early last year when Indiana passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). I do deliver webinars for organizations in Indiana, but I won’t physically travel through the state since there is a chance that I could be denied access to public accommodations and subjected to other forms of discrimination based on my sexual identity. For these same reasons, I won’t be attending the APG Professional Management Conference scheduled for Ft. Wayne, Indiana in September 2016 or the FGS 2018 Conference currently scheduled for Ft. Wayne as well.

In addition, I know that there are many LGBT allies in our genealogy community and they are struggling with similar decisions. I don’t hold it against anyone who does decide to participate in the NGS 2017 conference. I do, however, want everyone to be aware of the issues that are involved.

The NGS 2017 Issue

In no way do I expect NGS to move its 2017 conference to a different venue. I think at this stage in planning, such expectation is unreasonable. Please keep in mind that good, thoughtful people – our colleagues and friends in genealogy – are sitting on the NGS board and I’m sure they don’t take the House Bill 2 issues lightly. NGS is in a difficult situation despite several genealogists voicing their opinion that discussion of House Bill 2 and LGBT has nothing to do with genealogy and is a “political issue.”

I strongly disagree with the view that this is a “political issue.” This is a human rights issue. This is about how I want to be treated and how I want to treat other people. Turn the clock back a little over 50 years and imagine that NGS had a conference in North Carolina or any other US state in the South. I’m sure the conference venue would have had separate restrooms for “colored people” as well as separate water fountains. There would be no lectures on African-American genealogy, and likely no African-American attendees allowed either. Back then, some believed civil rights was a “political issue” and many organizations simply buried their heads in the sand; they opted not to be a part of any solution hoping the problem would sort itself out on its own.

But here is what you and I and other genealogy organizations, as well as NGS, can do:

  • Individuals can contact NGS at ngs@ngsgenealogy.org and express your opinion on the NGS 2017 conference and its venue of Raleigh, North Carolina as it relates to House Bill 2 and LGBT rights. Other genealogy vendors and organizations can do the same.
  • NGS might consider offering a “virtual presentation” option to those speakers who still want to support NGS and its conference, but have concerns about traveling in North Carolina.
  • The NGS board should consider passing a resolution that no future NGS national conference will be held in a venue that doesn’t offer basic non-discrimination provisions based on ethnic origin, sexual identity, gender identity, marriage status, etc.
  • NGS may also investigate whether, as a private event, it can institute its own policies regarding anti-discrimination as well as the use of gender-neutral restrooms for transpeople.

So Why Does This Matter?

The title for this post is derived from the movie They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, the title related to horses being “put down” when they break a leg.

As a society we still “put down” those who some deem to be “less than” or “defective.” We just don’t always use guns. We use laws and legalities which makes it seem more legitimate. Remember, this is what Hitler did when he embarked on his insidious plan to eliminate Jews and other “undesirables.” Everything was legal. And good people let it happen because they stood by and said nothing. Until it was too late.

You may not agree with me that there should be sexual identity or gender identity-based protections when it comes to anti-discrimination laws. Read The cunning trick in North Carolina’s radical new anti-LGBT law by Jeff Guo of The Washington Post for a good review of how LGBT people are and aren’t covered by such laws. I just hope that you’ll become more aware of the North Carolina House Bill 2 issues and understand why you won’t see several noted genealogists at the NGS 2017 conference.

©2016, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Has Ancestry.com Just Been Sold?

Ancestry.com quietly announced, via press release, a major investment of $2.6 billion dollars by Silver Lake and GIC - has Ancestry just been sold?

If I read this correctly, and I don’t believe it is an April Fool’s joke since a SEC 8-K filing was involved, a major stake in Ancestry.com has just been sold for $2.6 billion USD to Silver Lake and GIC who were already equity investors. See Ancestry.com’s press release Silver Lake and GIC Announce Strategic Investments in Ancestry by clicking here.

” Ancestry.com LLC, the leading provider of online family history data and personal DNA testing, today announced that Silver Lake and GIC, a current investor in Ancestry, have signed a definitive agreement to acquire substantial equity stakes in the company from existing equity holders at an enterprise value of approximately $2.6 billion. Following the transaction, Silver Lake and GIC will hold equal minority ownership positions in Ancestry, while other current investors – the Permira funds, Spectrum Equity and Ancestry management, including President and Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan and Chief Financial and Chief Operating Officer Howard Hochhauser – will remain as meaningful equity investors in the company and, along with GIC, will continue to own a majority of the company.”

Click here for access to the SEC 8-K filing.

So what does this all mean? I’m still trying to get confirmation from my contacts at Ancestry.com.  But it appears there is a deal that will close by the end of Q2 2016 with the election of board of director leadership:

“The transaction is subject to customary regulatory approvals and is expected to close in the second calendar quarter of 2016. Subsequent to closing, pre-transaction investors in Ancestry will own a majority of the voting capital stock of the company and will designate the majority of the company’s board of directors.”

©2016, copyright Thomas MacEntee.  All rights reserved.