Life in a Covid world

Over the past few weeks, life has changed in startling and unexpected ways. We now have new terminology: flatten the curve, social distancing (or my preference: physical distancing). Some of us are getting zoom fatigue. It took me a while to realize it wasn’t the meetings, but the way they were held. Being in multiple in person meetings is much less tiring than the same number of zoom meetings because I don’t get away from my computer.


How is this affecting you and your family? Are you writing it down? If we go back to March 6, which is when I first got an inkling of what might be coming when my work prohibited domestic work travel for the next several months, could you imagine what the world would be like now?

My life has changed in many ways, but not in other ways. I was already working from home 2 days/week, so working from home full-time was not a huge change. I live alone so I don’t have to deal with kids or spouse at home and all those adjustments.  I am an introvert so don’t mind time alone, although I am also a social person so do miss getting together with friends. I do miss going to stores and browsing. My 600 square foot condo can be a little confining sometimes, but my beautiful view makes up for it.


I am now walking for enjoyment more than I ever have before and recording via Facebook what I see on those walks.


I now wear masks when I am in public places and around other people (except for walks outside when no one else is around). My mom sent me these masks.


I am starting to catch up on blog posts and working on projects that have been on my to-do list for quite some time. I am spending a lot of time talking to my family on the phone or via FaceTime. I am trying to reach out to others too.

How are you handling this (or not)?

Looking forward to 2020

Perhaps you have guessed what some of my 2020 business and genealogy goals are based on my previous post looking back at 2019. Here are my main areas of focus for 2020.

1) Write more articles and submit them to journals and magazines. I have several ideas in mind that I can write about. Publishing seems more permanent and accessible than giving talks at libraries and genealogy societies. My goal is to submit at least 2 genealogy-related articles this year, including the one I was invited to write. The second one will likely use more family stories to tell the impact of the 1918 flu.


2) Write a life history of my great grandfather Robert Lee Ison for my teenage nieces and nephews. I’d like it to be well cited, but endnotes will be just fine. I’d really love to bring him to life because he lived an interesting life, even though he died relatively young. I may not finish it, but will happy with a good start. After that I’ll write about my great grandfather Alfred Heber Powell.

robert lee ison family

3) Make progress in proving or disproving my Mayflower connection with James Chilton. The first step will be a review of Luana Darby’s Legacy Family Tree webinar on researching early LDS ancestors, as at least 3 of the generations fall into that category.


4) While my focus is transitioning to writing, I will continue to do speaking. I have 2 new talks that I will be giving this year. One is about researching your suffrage ancestors and the other is about using town records. As neither talk is started yet, developing these two talks are also applicable goals for 2020.


5) Start formal education. I had planned on going to GRIP but it doesn’t look like that will happen. Instead, I am exploring doing the American Records certificate through the National Institute of Genealogical Studies. I am taking the first 2 courses and will go from there. I’ve been self-taught this far and am lacking in several areas, so this will help make sure I have expertise/knowledge in all applicable areas. The envelope below contains the material for the first class.



Looking back at 2019

2019 was a fabulous year for my business. I gave almost 20 talks, including 3 for Legacy Family Tree Webinars and a talk and a workshop at NERGC. Talks about the 1918 flu were the most common, but I gave almost every talk I have developed during my 10 year speaking career in 2019. I led a discussion group at the Massachusetts Historical Society about using recipes to explore medicinal theories and treatments in colonial New England. I made my TV debut on Ghost Nation where I was the 1918 flu expert.  I went to the Professional Management Conference in Salt Lake City and met many of my colleagues.


I collected dozens of family stories about the impact of the 1918 flu pandemic and am in the process of sharing them on the website I developed.

I was active in the genealogy community, particularly the New England Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG), where I served as chapter representative to the APG. I joined the APG Writers Special Interest Group (SIG) and am the vice-president of the SIG. I coordinated the popular NEAPG Table Topics luncheon at NERGC.

I also started thinking more about writing. I joined the APG Writers SIG as mentioned above, as well as formed a buddy check-in system with 2 different sets of people to keep me (and them) on track. I submitted 2 articles to genealogy journals. One was published in Crossroads and the other will be published later this year in another journal. I was invited to write another article about epidemics that will come out later this year.

Yet, for all this success, I did not progress much in researching my own family.  Trying to prove (or disprove) my connection to James Chilton of the Mayflower has been on my to-do list for a long time. I know which generations I need to prove, and I pull out the list every once in a while, but it never goes anywhere. My Loyalist ancestor intrigues me to no end, and I have dozens of land records to go through for him and his son to try to figure out when they were in Canada and when they were in Vermont–they seem to have criss-crossed several times. In addition, I would love to write an accessible life story of my great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents for my nieces and nephews.

Nor did I do a good job of keeping my blogs up to date. This blog especially has been sorely neglected.

So, what does 2020 hold for me? Wait for the next blog post…


Sharing Family Stories

My aunt and her family were in town for a long weekend. Her sons are 13 and 16 and she wanted them to know some of their family stories. I told them a few, but she was more interested than they were (but they were listening!). I was able to share an article I wrote about our ancestor that will be published in Crossroads (magazine of the Utah Genealogical Society) and a book my mom found in my grandpa’s house about my 2x great grandma. While the boys didn’t get too engaged, she and I had a great conversation and renewed my interest in doing more research and digitizing the books I have to share them with her and other family members.

How do you get family members engaged in learning about their ancestors? What family books/treasures do you have that you can share with others?

History Camp: Networking galore


Last Saturday I went to History Camp in Boston. This is one of my favorite places to present and network. History Camp pulls in a huge variety of people: historians, genealogists, dramatic presenters, book authors, podcasters, and people interested in history. 2019 sessions included talks on women’s history, Boston history, archaeological digs, Vikings, Loyalism, jail records and the Bread and Roses strike, public history, and on and on. Recordings of many of the talks will be available within a few weeks.


Due to a prior commitment, I missed the morning sessions. I arrived while everyone was in a session so had ample time to explore the vendor booths and talk with the vendors. After some fun purchases from the History List booth, I spoke with Martha Bewick about her book Tranquility Grove: The Great Abolitionist Picnic of 1844. Perfect timing as my next talk will be about activism and agitation. She gave me some great ideas for places to look. And somehow we started talking about genealogy and colonists and Indian captivity (another future talk) and she pointed me towards a book about one of the captives. Score 1.

The next booth was for History at Play. Judith Kalaora, owner, was in a session (I caught the tail end of it–she was playing Dolly Madison) and I talked with the person manning her booth. Turns out this person is interested in her g-grandmother who suffered from the flu in 1918 and she wants to write a 1-woman play about that. She also gave me another road to go down re: 1918 flu research–one that I did not know about prior to our discussion. We will definitely be touching base in April. Score 2.

At her encouragement, I followed up with Judith later and she taught me that Dolly Madison was the first to bring ice cream to the U.S. (I think I have that right). In an effort to help her husband, she invited the wives of politicians to send her their favorite recipes and she would often serve those dishes when the politician and wife were invited to dinners hosted by James and Dolly Madison. She promised to follow up with information about a book describing this and some of the recipes that were shared. This may play a role in my research into recipes. Score 3.

I attended 2 afternoon sessions before teaching my own session. The first was about the Sowams Heritage Area. Although I had not heard about this before the session, it’s on my bucket list, perhaps for this summer. This is a list and map of heritage sites associated with the Sowams area, home of the Massasoit, and the English intrusion into that land. Some of my ancestors may have been in the area. They have a fabulous website. Score 4. No networking involved here, but I found a new resource of interest.


The last session was the one I was most excited about. Bernard Trubowitz used records from the Essex County Jail (closed in the late 1980s) to talk about participants in the Bread and Roses strike. What a wonderful resource for my next talk. Score 5. I spoke with him before the presentation and he is very willing to share his knowledge. The records are now at the Lawrence History Center. You can read more about him and his work that led to his talk here. historycamp3

As always, I walked away with new friends, a to-do list of contacts, and new resources to work with.