Sunday, December 27, 2020

Genealogy Progress in the Pandemic Year of 2020

With only days to go until 2020 is in the history books, I'm looking back at the progress I made with my genealogy projects during this year of the coronavirus pandemic. I'm putting ever more emphasis on sharing what I know with relatives and preparing my trees, photos, and materials so they are in good shape to pass to the next generation years from now. 

In particular, I've been creating a variety of bite-sized projects while continuing to work on longer-term projects. Getting a small project finished in a short time gives me a sense of accomplishment and keeps my genealogy fun and engaging. If you can turn any of your research into a small project to share with family, I encourage you to try this in 2021!

During 2020 my progress included:

Complete though not planned: My original 2020 plan didn't include focusing on hubby's Civil War ancestors. But when younger relatives expressed interest, I dug into the research and wrote about 15 ancestors who fought for the Union and 3 who fought for the Confederacy. Thinking like a reader, I included an illustration with every ancestor bio, and complied an index in case someone wants to look up a specific person (maiden names included). 

Complete though not planned: A fun bite-sized project: I created a family history coloring book for each side of the family. It didn't take much time and it was a delightful, quick way to share ancestor photos and basic genealogical information, in a format that encourages children to color faces and backgrounds. I also sent adult recipients the coloring book electronically so they can reprint whenever they wish.

Nearly complete: My long-awaited "Daisy and Dorothy" booklet about Mom (Daisy Schwartz Burk, 1919-1981) and her twin sister (Dorothy Schwartz, 1919-2001) is almost finished. The goal is to give the next generation "insider" insights and tell family stories that bring the twins alive as people. My research revealed  details that I either didn't know or didn't remember, a real plus to completing this booklet.

Ongoing sharing: I accelerated my plan for posting photos, memories, and life stories of ancestors on multiple genealogy sites as cousin bait and to keep these names and faces alive for future generations by sharing. When I post a photo these days, I include names, dates, and sources directly on the images (as shown above from my small but growing WikiTree tree). I've also been using various tools to tease out faces and details from old images. And I've been lucky enough to have cousins who share family photos and letters that illuminate the surprisingly intertwined lives of our common ancestors! My resolution is to continue in 2021.

Improving research and sources: Some ancestors in my trees had limited sources attached from my original, basic research. Now I'm researching more widely, adding more sources, and including captioned images, where available, boosting my trees' credibility. Rotating newspaper databases instead of sticking with just one has helped me uncover new clues, as well. I'm very grateful to the parking lot angels who have been so helpful in obtaining digitized images visible at FHCs only. My resolution is to keep this going in 2021.

Curating my genealogy collection: Practicing what I preach, I'm continuing to curate my collection by sorting and distributing selected items to extended family or outside the family. A cousin was delighted to have a 1911 postcard written by his grandfather to my grandmother. I also donated 1950s theater programs and 1940s war-related ephemera to a university, among other items. I resolve to do more curation during 2021.

Preparing for the 1950 US Census release: The actual release isn't until April of 2022, but I've been carefully studying the enumeration instruction manual and the blank forms. When the Census is finally released, I want to be ready to find my ancestors in the unindexed, untranscribed records (starting with my parents, who were recorded together in one household for the first time). Plus the Census has some fascinating quirks and insights into mid-century life in postwar America.

New presentations! It's been great fun doing virtual presentations to audiences near and far since the spring. I've been updating and reformatting every program with colorful backgrounds and easy-to-read fonts suitable for digital devices of all sizes. Two brand-new talks scheduled for 2021 are: 

  • "Bring Family History Alive in Bite-Sized Projects" - this program will debut at the New England Regional Genealogy Conference in April. 
  • "Get Ready for the 1950 Census Release!" - this talk has been scheduled for the second half of 2021, before the 1950 Census is released. 
Genealogy community. I enjoyed participating in #GenChat, #AncestryHour, and #OurAncestors Twitter chats during 2020 and I look forward to being a #GenChat guest expert in 2021. Also it was fun to follow threads in the new #ANZAncestryTime chat, which takes place live on Twitter when I'm asleep. I really loved attending the 2020 Virtual Genealogy Association annual conference (2d year in a row) and have it on my 2021 calendar (more news soon). I've learned so much and felt great joy connecting with genie friends on FB, Twitter, blogs, webinars/conferences, and more. I resolve to continue participating during 2021.

This is my #52Ancestors "resolution" post for week 52. TY to Amy Johnson Crow for another year of interesting genealogy blog prompts! Another resolution is to continue with these prompts in 2021.

To my dear readers, may your 2021 be healthy, hopeful, peaceful, and filled with genealogy breakthroughs. The new year should bring safe opportunities to be with family and friends in person!


  1. You've done a great job on all your projects this year, Marian. Hope 2021 brings us a return to a more normal life!

  2. Woot! #genchat shout-out! You've been a faithful participant & we love your expertise!