Current Affairs

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.

Randy Majors Releases a Coronavirus Stay-at-Home and Shelter-in-Place Map

Randy Majors is a well-known programmer who creates applications from Google Maps that perform function the programmer at Google never dreamed of. To see some of his past accomplishments, read some of my past articles about his creations by starting at:

Unlike most of his early projects, Randy’s latest product is not genealogy-related. He writes:

“To try to help get the information out there, I’ve compiled and have been maintaining a live up-to-date map of all of the U.S. states, counties and cities that have implemented Stay-at-Home/Shelter-in-Place Orders (as well as states with order to close all non-essential businesses. It’s a very actively changing map as you can imagine.

MyHeritage Donates 66,000 Swabs to Israel to Combat the Coronavirus

According to an article in the Jerusalem Post:

The online genealogy platform MyHeritage has donated 66,000 medical swabs to Israel in a bid to combat the coronavirus. The swabs were initially shipped from the company’s supplier in North Carolina and amount to an estimated $10 million in lost revenues, according to a report released by Calcalist on Monday.

The shipment of swabs was expected to arrive in Israel on Monday, said Gilad Japhet, CEO and founder of MyHeritage. Japhet added that he first contacted a salesperson associated with MyHeritage’s partner lab Family Tree DNA swabs in order to organize the shipment to Israel.

A Cold Case: Thanks to Genealogy and a Persistent Forensic Pathologist, a Previously Unknown Woman’s Body has now been Identified and Buried after 99 Years

From a story by Catherine Lee in the BBC News web site:
“Mamie Stuart’s dismembered body was discovered in 1961 in an abandoned lead mine in Wales, 42 years after her family last heard from her.
“Last year, her great-niece found out Ms Stuart’s remains had been stored in a cupboard in a Cardiff forensic laboratory for almost 60 years.
“She has now been laid to rest alongside her parents in Sunderland.

An Earthquake of 5.7-Magnitude Rocks Salt Lake City, Leaves Tens of Thousands Without Power

Luckily, Salt Lake City’s downtown area, including the Family History Library, was already shut down today because of the CoronaVirus concerns. An earthquake rocked the Salt Lake City metro area early this morning, causing some damage and closing the city’s airport.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the 5.7-magnitude earthquake was reported just after 7 a.m., with an epicenter located three miles north-northeast of Magna, and it occurred at a depth of six miles. The temblor and its aftershocks rattled a region of approximately 2.8 million people who are already hunkered down amid the coronavirus epidemic.

People gather on the sidewalk after a partial building collapse following an earthquake Wednesday, March 18, 2020, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

“This is extremely bad timing, because we already have the coronavirus issue going on right now causing a lot of anxiety,” Gov. Gary Herbert said at a news conference.

Temporary Family History Library Closure Due to CoronaVirus Concerns

The following announcement was written by David E. Rencher, Director of the Family History Library:

Out of concern for the health and safety of our guests, volunteers, and staff, the Family History Library in Salt Lake City will temporarily close starting at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, March 13, 2020 until further notice. This closure is to support preventive efforts to control the spread of COVID-19.

Regional FamilySearch centers and libraries have been asked to consider the direction of their local and government leaders, and then make informed decisions about temporary closures. If you plan to visit a FamilySearch center soon, please call ahead to ensure it is open at the regular times. (Included at the bottom of this post is a list of centers that are currently closed.)

Coronavirus Will Make the 2020 Census Even Trickier

From an article by Alex Davies in the Wired web site:

“Funding is tight, and a proposed citizenship question has made some people wary. Minorities and low-income Americans are most at risk of being missed.

“The decennial census is supremely important, to put it mildly. It’s not just the count that determines how the American people are represented in Congress (the bit that justifies its place in Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution). It informs how businesses make myriad decisions and how civil rights laws are enforced. “It’s really the gold standard as a population frame upon which all surveys are taken,” says William Frey, a demographer and sociologist at the Brookings Institution. And it provides data that, in 2017 alone, was used to distribute some $1.5 trillion via 316 federal spending programs, according to research from the George Washington Institute of Public Policy at George Washington University.

Hey! I Received My 2020 U.S. Census Form Today!

Of course, I am sure that several hundred million other households are also receiving their census forms this week. If you haven’t received yours just yet, I’d suggest you be patient and wait for a bit. The U.S. Postal Service probably cannot deliver several hundred million pieces of mail on the same exact day.
And, yes, I have already gone online at and provided my information for posterity. I was amazed and slightly disappointed at how quickly I finished the census questionnaire. “Disappointed” because, as a genealogist, I think the census records should record more information that might be of interest to my descendants many years from now.

Descendants of Founder of Detroit Didn’t Tell Anyone They Were Going to Visit City

If you are going to visit the place(s) where your ancestors lived, you might want to let someone know in advance that you are planning to visit.  Well, that’s true if the ancestor was someone famous.
You might like to read the story and view the pictures in an article by Meredith Spelbring in the Detroit Free Press at

Will the Coronavirus Create Travel Bans and Cancellations of Genealogy Conferences?

As the COVID-19 outbreak spreads, many conferences are being canceled, postponed, or turned into virtual events. Many companies are also restricting employee travel. Will that happen to genealogy conferences?

I hope not. But hope isn’t enough. Being prepared seems to be a better plan. I want to be prepared and hope I can keep you informed at the same time.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has yet to declare the current coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic. But as the infectious disease continues to spread and public health concerns rise, the WHO categorizes the risk from the virus as “very high”. On Tuesday, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the novel coronavirus disease is more deadly than the seasonal flu, but appears to spread less easily.

One sector of the economy that’s already feeling an immediate impact is meetings and other public events. Whether as a result of travel bans, laws banning large gatherings, or an abundance of caution, officials are being canceling, postponing, or converting events to virtual conferences…leaving show organizers, attendees, exhibitors, and sponsors scrambling to make alternative plans. Companies are also instituting travel restrictions for employees.

It Would Take Hundreds of Years to Digitize Records at Seattle National Archives

See my earlier articles at and at for background information about this ongoing story.

When officials from the Washington, D.C. office of the National Archives and Records Administration met with a handful of tribal representatives at the National Archives in Seattle earlier this month, one solution that was offered was digitization. That is, since access to the materials now stored in Seattle will be more difficult once those materials are moved to a NARA facility in California roughly four years from now, D.C. officials suggested that scanning the priceless photos, maps, and documents before they’re moved could help minimize any difficulties created by the surprise closure.

Very little of what’s stored in Seattle has been digitized — perhaps far, far less than even one percent, according to some estimates.

Church of England to Launch a ‘Google Maps for Graves’ Within Five Years Enabling Family Historians to Search for Burial Records and Locations in an Online Database

Thousands of cemeteries across the UK will be imaged and mapped over the next five years to create a comprehensive database of British burial sites.

The Church of England project hopes to immortalize the tombs of millions of people buried in Anglican graveyards as well as those interred on unconsecrated land. Maps and photographs will be uploaded alongside burial records in a searchable database at some point before 2026.

You can read more in an article by Joe Pinkstone in The Daily Mail web site at:

Watchdog Warns About 2020 Census IT and Cybersecurity Challenges

It’s less than a month until the federal government will start asking households across the country to complete the 2020 census questionnaire. But the Census Bureau is behind addressing IT and cybersecurity issues that could put the decennial survey at risk, according to a government watchdog report.

For the first time, the 2020 census will primarily rely on online responses rather than paper surveys. But the new technology supporting the effort brings new potential security risks.