In Virginia, we've been in a state of emergency since March 12th and under a stay at home order since March 24th due to COVID-19. With limited access to nearly everything - including people - how was a connector like myself to stay connected? Genealogy and technology!
Here are some of the things I've been up to during this time that have helped keep me connected.
At the end of April, I started a seven-day challenge to index records on FamilySearch. It was a great experience! I had never indexed records before - though as a daily online researcher, I'm always reaping the fruits of indexers' labors! So I decided to jump in and have a go at indexing.
I worked on records of the U.S. Colored Troops from during the Civil War. Each day, I would index at least one batch of records. A batch is a certain amount of records that can be indexed in 20 to 30 minutes. In my case, it took less time than that. The military records that I worked on will be searchable soon for those seeking their ancestors. It was super simple, and the learning curve was fast to get over. I recommend everyone try to index a batch!
In just one week, our group indexed over 11,000 records! To get your feet wet with indexing, head over to FamilySearch's indexing page by clicking here.
Starting May 1, I participated in a daily experiment to make more connections to family past and present. It's called the Family Connections Experiment. I wrote about the plan I chose and my first day's reflections on my post A Journal, A Timeline, and Family Connections. I thought it would be a helpful exercise to reflect some on who I am, and what makes me, me. And I was right; it as a great experience!
Each day, usually in the evening, I would sit down at my dining room table, and scroll down to the next prompt on the website. I loved the surprise of what that day's prompt would be, and how I might write about it. I chose to journal my reflections, and then share something of what I wrote on my Orthodox Genealogist Facebook Page, and on my Twitter account @SosonKyrie.
Here are some of my reflections on what I've learned or have greater clarity on:
- My identity is wrapped up not only in my experiences and interests, but in the people who came before me. My family isn't perfect, but I am theirs and they are mine.
- My parents did a great job at cultivating my sister's and my interests and skills. And they did this because we were and are their prized possession.
- I have been blessed with great experiences - school, work, and travel - and with great people in my life - mentors, friends, and family.
Some highlights from quarantine
While isolation is...well...isolating...it doesn't have to be completely without connection. Besides the daily genealogy research I've been doing, and the daily reflections with the Connections Experiment, I've made sure to stay connected to family and friends through technology.
I FaceTimed my mom on Mother's Day, I've had virtual happy hour, virtual hangouts, and virtual game nights all during this time of quarantine.
My favorite board game is Settlers of Catan. During my time at the Greek Orthodox seminary in Boston, we played a lot of Catan. During our senior trip to Greece, we played a lot of Catan! So it seemed only meet and right to revamp our tradition by playing virtually - thanks Zoom! - during our time in quarantine. So far, we've played twice. The second time we played, I even won y'all! I was in shock.
On the last day of the Connections Experiment, I was interviewed by Sydney Orton on Facebook Live. Our discussion "Grappling with Difficult Discoveries" is available on the Connections Experiment Facebook page. You can watch the video by clicking here.
We talked about how common it is for people to make difficult discoveries in their family history. Everyone is going to react to the same sort of information a bit differently, so we talked about some of the most common challenges a person might face:
- Parentage - unknown parentage, adoption, circumstances surrounding their conception
- Infidelity - DNA matches can reveal moments of infidelity or children born out of wedlock
- Mental health & addiction - records can reveal our ancestors were in jail, hospitals, or died by suicide or liver failure. You can read more about Mental Health, Addiction, and Genealogy.
- Race & ethnicity - DNA results can reveal unexpected or missing ethnic groups
Healing is possible through family history research, but trauma can also be relived or caused through unexpected discoveries. The best balm that I can recommend is connection - to the genealogy community, to mental health professionals, and - if relevant - to your spiritual leaders.
I value all of my relationships, so staying connected to my family and friends is super important. And I love making new connections to newly discovered family through genealogy. One of the coolest parts about genealogy conferences is that we can make new friends who are just as passionate about family and genealogy as we are.
It's awesome to see that even during quarantine and the challenges of COVID-19, we can stay connected to others and find glimmers of hope each day.
How are you staying connected these days? Have you faced a difficult discovery recently, and if so how are you getting support?
My ancestors - and your ancestors - deserve the best researcher, the most passionate story-teller, and the dignity of being remembered. So let's keep encountering our ancestors through family history and remembering the past made present today!