Monday, March 16, 2020

Relative Isolation

So much has happened since last Friday, when I simply thought I'd be continuing the search for my mother-in-law's roots on Monday. While we certainly will pick up on the search for clues on the Sniders and the Stines—with the addition of one Moses Petty of unknown connection to that family—in Perry County, Ohio, I feel the need to put that on pause for right now.

By the end of last week—as I'm sure also happened near you—the number of cases of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 jumped in our relatively-untouched county. By Friday evening, every school district in our county had declared their campuses closed for at least the upcoming two weeks. Conferences and seminars in the genealogical world, as elsewhere, were postponed or outright cancelled.

That left our local genealogical society with a decision to make about this Thursday's meeting. While our board took the prudent approach—err on the side of caution in respect for the heightened risk to the majority of those in our membership—it has left many of us, genealogists or not, awakening to the realization that we have two weeks ahead of us bereft of our normal plans. Now what?!

While I think most of us have had the routine drilled into us by now—wash hands, cover mouth and nose for coughs and sneezes, wash hands, stay away from those who cough or sneeze, wash hands—we have not given as much attention to what we can do now as to what we can't do. We may be isolated, in our home-based outposts, but thanks to technology, we aren't entirely disconnected from each other.

My sister, who lives in a state in which the COVID-19 cases are relatively low so far, happens to work across the state line near a city now dubbed the epicenter of that state's "Wuhan Flu" outbreak. In synch with that city's "containment zone" policy, her office ordered all employees to telecommute. Working from her kitchen in the midst of all this uncertainty, she woke up to one realization: it's so peaceful to work from home. It's so much easier to get a lot of work done—and yet not feel stressed.

With my genealogy classes cancelled at local libraries and on the campus of the local community college, I'm beginning to realize that, as well. Suddenly, my calendar has been wiped clean—ostensibly, in the face of a gripping pandemic—and yet I bizarrely realize all the possibilities of what can be achieved in that scheduling vacuum. It dawns on me all the family history pursuits I can load into a now-empty schedule. That thought has not been mine alone; witness these suggestions from another genealogy blogger with a DNA-testing slant.

Of course, with this shift in priorities, it is best to remember that it can get lonely for some of our more vulnerable society members who may live alone and need to remain isolated because of their higher health risks. For those, we need to find ways to still connect, to interject some human company into an otherwise scary scenario, something we can do with the abundance of social media options or even the plain ol' fashioned telephone.

Reach out and touch somebody—virtually. Make sure he is okay. See if she needs anything. Just be a friendly voice to counterbalance the swirling stress around us all. And in the lull from that hectic schedule, chase after those elusive relatives from bygone centuries. It may not be safe to wander through those crowded venues in town, but even if isolated at home, we can still seek out those missing ancestors sequestered in the midst of those online resources.  


  1. Hope you stay well! Yes it means more time on our hands! Perhaps I can get some indexing in! :)

    1. Now, that would be a great idea--help someone else while helping the time to pass, too. I'm sure someone would appreciate it, Far Side!


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