November/December 2020   

     We are living in history.
    I have to say that after living through this Year of Our Lord 2020, I have a great deal more sympathy and respect for my ancestors who lived through turbulent times in history - without knowing what was going to happen. I'm thinking of my two sets of grandparents who lived through both World Wars, and of ancestors farther back who were living at the time of the Revolutionary War. I'm sure (since my ancestry is mostly England & Western Europe) that I had ancestors who survived the Black Plague and the Great Fire of London.
    Even thinking of more personal events - while we're living them, we don't know how it'll all turn out. My father's youngest sister was critically ill with pneumonia, in the hospital in an oxygen tent, struggling to breathe, when she was given penicillin - which had just been released the week before.
    How do we make sense of all this? One resource I've come to depend on is Professor Heather Cox Richardson, a professor of history at Boston College. Every night for over a year she has been writing Letters From an American, where she writes about today's current events and puts them in the context of historical events. She also does live lectures on her Facebook page, on history and politics, on Tuesday and Thursday. I have learned a LOT of history in the past year, which really helps me understand what's going on today.

What I've Been Doing
* Answering interview questions from about 20 students in a Family History course at BYU (Brigham Young University). I wrote a long response to several questions, and compiled them; if you'd like to read it you can find it here.
* Helping a client write a letter to his (possible) half-sisters back East. After almost a year of working on his unknown birth father, I've narrowed it down to one of three brothers. This case was complicated by the fact that the client's great-grandparents were married more than once, and he had matches descending from each marriage.
*  Working on updating my presentation "Beyond the Internet", to be given virtually next week.
*  Getting excited about attending my first Virtual Institute in January.
*  Browsing the Holiday Gift Guide for Genealogists
*  Exploring Collectionaire - a new website for collecting family photos and documents to share with family

What I'm Reading
    These days, the I-Did-the-DNA-Test-and-Got-a-Surprise books are almost a dime a dozen.  So I'm always on the lookout for something different. The author of A Broken Tree, is one of nine children of Linda and Mark Anderson After he heard some suspicious family stories he decided to do a DNA test, and persuaded some of his siblings to do likewise. Over the next few years they realized with growing dismay that none of them were the children of Mark Anderson and that the nine children had six fathers between them. At the end of the book is a great chapter of questions and answers, and the author comments, "This is family history in the most fascinating sense of the word."  This book will stay with me for a long time.
In the News
"Tens of thousands" of primitive cave paintings have been discovered in the Amazon rainforest

My colleague Steven W. Morrison is teaching a two-day virtual institute in March 2021 on Quaker Records of America, Ireland and the British Isles

Ancestry is sued in California over their publication of yearbooks

Washington's Attorney General is blocking the sale of the Seattle National Archives

A German man's Nazi grandfather took over a Jewish store in 1938, and their descendants meet

10,000 rare vintage cookbooks now available online

A new interview with Paul Fronczak, who was kidnapped as a baby

Toolkit for Tough Times: a book list from the Seattle Public Library

Upcoming (Online) Presentations

Wednesday, Dec. 9, 6pm
Beyond the Internet: Finding Family History Resources That are Not Online
Registration required
(Sponsored by the King County Library System)

Summer & Granny
love reading together!
Off Topic
An official decree from the Bishop of West Texas, welcoming St. Nicholas

Listen to Advent Carols in Trinity College Chapel from December 2019
Beulah in 1966 - as it looked when I visited with my family as a child
Read my past newsletters (July 2016 - October 2020) here
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