Current Affairs

Nurse Who Volunteered to Work in NYC Gets Married in Times Square, Surrounded by Fellow Health Care Heroes

I suspect this will be a great story throughout the family for generations. Here is one of the wedding photos:

After having to cancel her wedding due to the coronavirus pandemic, a nurse from Texas decided to drop everything and fly to New York City to help on the front lines of the battle. There, she formed a bond with other out-of-town nurses, who would soon help her throw a wedding to remember.

Vivid-Pix Brings Back Family Memories –Relive Past Reunions & Create This Year’s — Virtually

The following announcement was written by Vivid-Pix:

Vivid-Pix AI Photo Restoration Software Instantly Restores Old Photos

June 4, 2020, Savannah, GA — Vivid-Pix brings back family reunion memories while making new ones. Family reunions may be different this year, but Vivid-Pix RESTORE patented AI image restoration software will help you relive past reunions and virtually create this year’s reunion. Vivid-Pix instantly brings your treasured, old photos back to life and with these tips to plan a virtual reunion, you can connect with family members and friends when you aren’t able to meet in person. With Vivid-Pix technology, make this a year to remember and share with future generations.

Relive Yesterday’s Memories and Plan a Virtual Reunion

Vivid-Pix and Maureen Taylor, The Photo Detective®, have collaborated to put together everything you need to hold a virtual reunion. Learn more at

Last US Citizen Receiving a Civil War Pension Dies in North Carolina

An article in the Daily Mail web site surprised me:

Last US citizen receiving a Civil War pension dies in North Carolina – nearly 170 years after her father defected from the Confederate Army on the way to Gettysburg to fight for the Union to abolish slavery.

    • Mose Triplett fought for both the Confederate and Union Armies during the Civil War of 1861- 1865
    • In 1930, at the age of 83, his much-younger wife gave birth to daughter Irene
    • Irene qualified for a Civil War pension as the daughter of a veteran; and began receiving the government money in the mid-1950s

You can read the full story at:

Author Honor Moore To Be Presented in Virtual Literary Series with “Our Revolution”

The following announcement was written by American Ancestors / NEHGS:

In an Unprecedented Partnership, the Boston Public Library, the State Library of Massachusetts, and American Ancestors│NEHGS Collaborate to Present Author Honor Moore with Her Latest Memoir-biography, Our Revolution

Novelist Claire Messud Joins Moore in Conversation About the Book and the Experience of Women in This Century and the Last,Including Moore’s Relatives on the North Shore

On Monday, June 8, at 6 PM EDST, American Stories, Inspiration Today,
a Popular Virtual Event Series Will Continue—Providing History, Inspiration, Intelligence on the American Experience for This At-home Time

Talks Are Free – Online Registration Now Open

And You Thought You Had Problems Researching the Ancestry of Your Last Name?

In the United States, the most popular family surname is Smith. As per the 2010 census, about 0.8 percent of Americans have it. In Vietnam, the most popular surname name is Nguyen. The estimate for how many people answer to it? Somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of the country’s population.

You think tracing the Smith family is difficult? Try tracing the Nguyen family!

An article by Dan Nosowitz in the Atlas Obscura web site states:

“Nguyen doesn’t indicate much more than that you are Vietnamese. Someone with the [surname of] Nguyen is going to have basically no luck tracing their heritage back beyond a generation or two, will not be able to use search engines to find out much of anything about themselves.”

Portrait of Bao Dai (born Nguyễn Phúc Vĩnh Thụy), the last emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty.

A Digital Map Will Provide Online Access to East End Cemetery, a Historic African-American Burial Ground in Richmond, Virginia

Built by the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab, Department of Geography and the Environment, and Spatial Analysis Lab, the map features drone-captured imagery and GPS data points collected by hundreds of students and volunteers organized by the Friends of East End.

The searchable digital map can be accessed on both phones and tablets.

The East End Cemetery Collaboratory is a learning community composed of faculty and staff from the University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University and members of the Friends of East End Cemetery. The Collaboratory is also developing a comprehensive digital archive of the cemetery, which contains: Announces COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Testing

If you’ve recently taken an AncestryDNA test, is inviting you to supply some information that could assist in the fight against COVID-19.

Quoting an article in the Blog:

“…Ancestry is launching a survey through our Personal Discoveries Project® to enable a genome-wide association study to explore how different people respond to this novel coronavirus. Our hope is that, through this knowledge, the pace of research into new preventive and therapeutic treatments for COVID-19 can be accelerated.

Is This the End of Genealogy Conferences as We Have Known Them?

Warning: This article contains personal opinions.
A newsletter reader wrote to me a few days ago and asked some questions that I suspect other genealogists are wondering about. Here is an excerpt from her message:

“Every time I look at a genealogy website these days I see lists of events which are cancelled or postponed. Some societies have adjusted to this by offering webinars or remote sessions via Zoom. We are left wondering if we will ever meet in groups, or go to our local Family History Center again. Or is this the end of genealogy as we have known it?”

I wrote an answer to her but decided to also publish my answer in this newsletter in case others have similar questions:

Spending a Lot of Time at Home? Take the Archive Challenge and Help Preserve History!

Here is an excellent challenge from the American Folklife Center, as described in the Library of Congress web site:

At the American Folklife Center, we know it’s been hard for those of you who are cooped up at home in order to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Most of the staff live in areas under stay-at-home orders, and have been working from home for weeks. And although some cities and states are starting to open up a little, we have a feeling it will be a while before we’re going out to concerts, theaters, jams, or open mics to perform or enjoy live music and performing arts.

Billy Bragg took the Archive Challenge in 2017!

But guess what? At the Library of Congress, we have an amazing online archive of folk music and folklife which you can explore right from home, and we’d like to offer a suggestion: why not learn a song, tune, poem, or story from the archive, make a recording or video of yourself performing it, and post it online? Or make a work of art based on one of our photos, or write a story or poem based on our materials. We’d love to see what you come up with! Folks from all genres and creators of all art forms are invited to interpret a field recording, video, photo, or manuscript from the AFC Archive. You don’t need to be a professional in order to participate!

The Jersey City (New Jersey) Free Public Library is sponsoring “Visions of 2020 – Jersey City and Hudson County in the COVID-19 Era”

Here is an interesting project described in an article by Daniel Klein in The Jersey Journal:

“We are living in historic times. The COVID-19 virus has brought the entire planet to a standstill, something that hasn’t been seen since the 1918 Spanish flu. Most businesses are closed with some people working from home. People are sheltering at home, schooling from home. Many are only venturing out for supplies.

“Despite living through this pandemic, how many of us are taking steps to preserve their memories of these times? In the past, people wrote letters or kept journals that became part of the historic record, saved in archival collections. Some of those old memories may be stored away in cardboard boxes in attics, basements, or garages. Those are old memories. What of today’s memories?”

From later in the same article:

FuneralZoom® – Bringing Families Together

Here is a business that should succeed as long as the present restrictions dictated by the CoronVirus pandemic prohibit travel and also prohibit group gatherings. Quoting from the FuneralZoom web site:

“In these difficult and trying times, FuneralZoom is here for you and your family. Because we know how important it is to stay safe, yet we recognize the importance of being able to say farewell to a loved one.

“Through the use of technology, we will take care of everything you need to have a thoughtful, personalized celebration of your loved one’s life.

“Geography and distance are no longer an issue. From most computers, laptops, tablets and phones — you can bring those who cherrished your loved one together — virtually.”

Burials on Hart Island, Where New York’s Unclaimed Lie in Mass Graves, Have Risen Fivefold

Many genealogists are familiar with the so-called paupers’ graveyard on Hart Island in New York City’s harbor. Many of our “missing ancestors” were buried there. See my earlier articles about Hart Island at and at

Now Hart Island has become busier than ever before, apparently because of the high death rate caused by the Coronavirus. According to an article in the Washington Post:

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the mass-grave burials of indigent New Yorkers whose families could not be found or who could not afford a private funeral have quintupled, officials said, growing from an average of 25 per week to 120. They’re happening five days a week now instead of one. And Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office confirmed “it is likely” that people who have died of covid-19, the savage respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, are among those being interred.

Genealogy Provides the Strength to Persevere

According to an article by Libby Copeland in the Psychology Today web site, knowing your family’s past can help you get through a crisis. She quotes Jason Harrison, a manager at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City:

“Your ancestors’ story is part of your story. Understanding what they experienced, and what they did, better helps you understand yourself.”

Spanish Flu – 1918-1919

As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps over this nation, Copeland believes genealogy provides context to our suffering, and the strength to persevere. She also states:

Utah Governor Orders All Adults Entering the State to Disclose Their Travel Plans

This may put a damper on some genealogists’ plans to visit Salt Lake City, including for next month’s (still scheduled) NGS conference. It isn’t a complete travel ban, but the new ruling certainly will have a chilling effect on travel to Utah:

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (shown above) issued an executive order yesterday requiring adults entering the state to disclose their travel plans in the latest state-led crackdown on domestic travel amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The order, which went into effect this morning, applies to all adults regardless of how they enter the state. The governor’s office said Thursday visitors will get instructions on how to register their travel plans via an automatic text message when they arrive in the state.

You Can Help the National Archives UK Uncover WW1 Ships Crew Logs

According to the IanVisits blog:

“If you’re stuck at home and want to do something good, then the National Archives [of Great Britain] is seeking volunteers to help transcribe First World War Royal Navy service records for a free online database it is building.

“Service records for the First World War can provide information about individuals and their lives. However, as crew lists for ships and submarines during this period rarely survive, it is difficult for researchers to determine who was on a ship or in a certain battle together.

Kansas City’s WWI Museum is Avoiding Layoffs by Giving Employees Thousands of Pages From Its Archives to Digitize

I wonder if other museums, companies, or even the larger genealogy societies could do something like this. Of course, there are major issues to be solved, but an article by Alisha Ebrahimji published in the CNN web site shows that one museum is using its employees to transcribe records:

“A museum in Kansas City, Missouri is avoiding laying off its employees during the coronavirus pandemic by giving some of them a big project to take on.

“The National WWI Museum and Memorial said it is moving 10 of its employees to a team dedicated to digitizing thousands of letters, diaries and journals.

Help Needed To Rescue UK’s Old Rainfall Records

Are you sitting around the house, completely isolated from the outside world because of the CoronaVirus’ social isolation requirements? Are you bored? Would you like to help meteorologists, historians, and others with a crowdsourcing effort? There’s a great crowdsourcing project that needs your help.

The UK has rainfall records dating back 200 years or so, but the vast majority of these are in handwritten form and can’t easily be used to analyze past periods of flooding and drought. The Rainfall Rescue Project is seeking volunteers to transfer all the data into online spreadsheets.

10 Free Video Chat Apps to Use if You’re Social Distancing

This article is off topic. That is, it is not about genealogy, family history, DNA, or the other topics usually found in this newsletter. However, are you stuck at home due to the coronavirus pandemic? Use these videoconferencing options to keep in touch with family, friends and your workplace.

You may be interested in an article by Alison DeNisco Rayome in the CNet web site at:

The free video chat apps described include:

Amazon Chime, Facebook Messenger, FaceTime, Google Hangouts Meet, Houseparty, Marco Polo, Microsoft Teams, Skype, WhatsApp, and Zoom.

While not mentioned in the article by Alison DeNisco Rayome, I would also suggest Signal and Duo, two video chat apps that I use frequently. Both are available free of charge.

Funerals are the Latest Part of American Life to Move Online

The CoronaVirus has affected millions of people worldwide. However, one thing that I never stopped to think about is funerals. Yes, families are now encouraged to hold funerals online with all guests attending by livestreaming online conferencing, not in-person.

From an article in the CNN Business News web site:

“The spread of the coronavirus has already canceled some of life’s biggest moments, from delaying funerals to postponing weddings, graduations and baby showers. It’s also forcing Americans to turn to livestreaming or video chat options for events central to our daily lives that would ordinarily revolve around in-person gatherings: school, office meetings, religious services and college tours. Funerals are just the latest, and potentially the most heartbreaking, example of this trend. With more than 7,000 deaths in the US each day, many don’t want to delay celebrating the lives of loved ones.

Site of RootsTech/London to Become a CoronaVirus Hospital

The ExCeL Centre in East London was the site of RootsTech/London in 2019 and was scheduled to also be the site of the 2020 version of of the same event. However, the RootsTech organizers decided to cancel the 2020 conference because of all the concerns with the CoronaVirus. That undoubtedly was a wise decision, as the planned site at the ExCeL Centre won’t be available.

The ExCeL Centre will be converted into a (temporary) hospital, to be called the Nightingale Hospital. The temporary base will be staffed by NHS medics with the help of the military. It will initially provide about 500 beds equipped with ventilators and oxygen.