If you’re a genealogist, it’s time for you to write down your personal pandemic experiences for those relatives who will follow you.
After all, wouldn’t we as genealogists gain valuable insights about our ancestors if we could read – in their words – what it was like to live through historical eras of plague, yellow fever, influenza and other diseases that have struck our world down through the ages?
Wouldn’t you like to know how they responded to knowledge that disease was among them, that it was spreading, that cures (if any) were off in the future?
There’s lots we wish they could have told us. What changes did they make in life? What fears did they harbor? What losses did they suffer? When did they start to experience a sense of relief?
It’s not too late to get started on your personal and family coronavirus memoir, and you certainly don’t have to be a professional writer. Write it the way you’d write a letter to a relative, which is exactly what you’re doing. Whether you prefer a pen and legal pad or a computer, here are some suggestions for getting the job done. Just sit down and do a few sentences on each of these points.
Alarm: When did you hear or read about the oncoming pandemic? Describe your initial thoughts. How worried were you? Did you begin following pandemic news closely? Did you discuss it with family and friends?
Responses: What were your thoughts when the first national responses such as quarantines and contact tracing were undertaken? When did you begin to experience practices like wearing masks, keeping distant from others and disinfecting hands?
Routines: What changes occurred at your workplace or at stores and other venues you frequented? Were there adjustments in days and hours? Were you angry or disoriented when events and travel you’d looked forward to were no longer allowed?
News: As time went on, did you follow pandemic news avidly, or did you settle into just looking for highlights? Did the onrush of information about progress with vaccines become highly important to you, or did you grow frustrated over the daily reports?
Vaccines: If you sought inoculation, how did you find out about it and where did you go to get your shots? What precautions did you continue to take even after receiving the shots? How nervous were you, and did you suffer any side effects?
Fatigue: As time went on, did you fear that the spread of the coronavirus was unending? Did you follow the daily charts on TV and in the newspapers? Did continued use of masks and distancing and the continued reductions by businesses and social organizations annoy you?
Changes: How did you adjust to working from home (if you were required to do so)? If you had children, was distance learning by the schools a problem in your household?
Illnesses: Did you or any of your family or friends contract the coronavirus? What was their experience? How about yourself?
Well, there is certainly more you could put into your document. Make several copies. Keep it with your genealogical materials, and future family generations will thank you for it.
News Notes: If you’re reading this before March 31, here’s something great. At 6:30 p.m. that day the Luzerne County Historical Society will offer, via Zoom, a genealogy workshop featuring the resources of its own Bishop Library. Amanda Fontenova, director of library and archives, will conduct the session. Questions will be accepted. Go to the society’s Facebook page for registration information.
Tom Mooney is a Times Leader genealogy columnist. Reach him at [email protected]