Epidemics–now and in the past

My last post (on April 19, 2020) was near the start of the coronavirus pandemic. None of us knew back then how this would play out or how long it would drag on.

While I have clearly been absent from my blog, I have been busy writing about epidemics and giving talks. I will soon start a series here about some of the diseases faced by our ancestor. Would love to hear your stories.

In the meantime you can check out 1918FluStories.com for family stories about the 1918 flu pandemic.

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?