Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Genealogy in the teeth of a pandemic


There are many analogies that could be made between our collective nine months in the teeth of a pandemic but I think getting stuck in the mud is a good one. You can approach the enforced social distancing as an external force over which you have no control or you can take it personally and rail against the establishment. In either case, you are at constant risk of actually becoming sick with a smaller possibility of ending up with your ancestors. 

One question that keeps coming up is why some of the FamilySearch record collections are restricted to view in a FamilySearch Center or Library. This in view of the fact that almost all the libraries and centers are closed. The answer is simple but not satisfying. The reason for the existence of restrictions on viewing some of the records lies in the way the records were obtained in the first place. The entities supplying the original records to FamilySearch could restrict the usage of the records in any way they deemed suitable. For example, many of the English parishes derive some part of their income from renting or selling copies of their records to genealogists. They are not happy to have FamilySearch provide free online access to those same records so they either refuse to allow FamilySearch to digitize the records or they restrict the viewing of the records in some way. In one case in the Salt Lake City, Family History Library, I had to give my driver's license to the person guarding the records in exchange for looking at one sheet of a microform image of a multi-sheet record. 

So, the pandemic is limiting us in various ways from completing certain genealogical tasks. I adapt by simply changing what I am trying to do to those things I actually can do. Meanwhile, I am surrounded by people who still think that a pandemic that has, as of the date of this post, killed over 1.7 million people worldwide is a hoax. Depending on who you know or where you live, you may or may not know someone who has died as a result of the pandemic COVID-19 virus. I happen to live in a neighborhood where over 16 families have had the disease and 2 people (I knew) have died from the virus. 

The one factor that keeps me going and actively researching is the huge increase in digitized images online just this past year. The trick here is to spend some time learning about the new records and then adapting your research goals to align with those records that are available. If you really think that you can't do any research because the Family History Centers are closed then you need to reevaluate your objectives. 

Without the need to travel to various locations to present classes, I have had time to do a lot of other projects. I lament the loss of meeting in person with my friends but the time saved has been well used. If you view the confinement of the pandemic as a vacation, you are sadly wasting some really valuable time that could be spent in doing those tasks such as organizing family histories and researching multiple lines of your ancestry that you may never have again. Of course, my wife and I live alone. We do not have any little children to watch during the day and so we can spend all the time we want on genealogy or whatever else needs to be done. We still have to sleep, eat, and etc. but there is more time to focus on genealogy. 

All this shall pass or get worse but whichever of these happens, I will still spend as much time as I can squeeze out of each day in furthering the work I do to support others in doing genealogical research or in doing it myself. 

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