Education in a Pandemic

Today’s blog is not about genealogy so you can stop reading now if that is your interest  Instead, it is my take on the current state of the educational environment.  I am writing this because I am furious. Our today becomes tomorrow’s history; I want the future to learn from the past.

I missed writing last week as I was consumed with my newly designated title of ESSENTIAL WORKER and due to the lack of communication, cooperation and consistency in government policy, was working 16.5 hour days with no compensation for the overtime or weekend work so that children can go back to school and die alongside their teachers.  It makes my heart break.

My long time readers know I try very hard to not to be political in my weekly blog.  I understand bureaucracy moves slowly.  I respect free speech and differences in opinion.  I have been an educator since 1977.  I did not choose that career to get rich or for the summers off (we don’t get paid and we work most of the summer unpaid planning and taking training).

That said, I will not stand by silently when peoples’ lives are needlessly risked.  Don’t believe it (like one of my neighbors who insists there is no reason to wear a mask), here’s the facts – a 6-year old girl died Monday of covid in the same school district that the person WITH NO BACKGROUND IN EDUCATION who is UNELECTED but APPOINTED by the governor and who, like those currently tweeting that the virus will magically go away, refused to allow the school district where this child died to deliver educational services for an additional 3 weeks online because “Step aside, folks, there is nothing to see here!”  These bullies threatened to withhold all state funding if school does not resume with a brick and mortar, aka traditional, model by the end of August.  

Due to the wavering decisions and the utter lack of concern for children, their families and the public school staff, I, along with my colleagues across the country, have worked tirelessly to try to make the smallest classes possible for social distancing and to quickly trace students from period to period WHEN THE VIRUS ATTACKS.  This is not an IF, this is most definitely a WILL. 

For those that don’t believe that, here’s the truth…in my small school that opened to teachers only 3 weeks ago, we have already had 1 teacher with a covid diagnosis in the second week.  At my previous school, in the same time period, with about the same number of staff, they’ve had two.  My husband’s school has had two since April, one in the last two weeks.  If you have this many infections with educated adults all wearing masks and social distancing, using hand sanitizer and washing their hands well, you don’t think you’re going to have a problem when the students return?!  Think of yourself as a kid.  Instead of playing cooties the elementary kids will be playing covid.  Middle schoolers can not stay out of each others faces and forget social distancing with high school and college – they are huggers!  The children are doing developmentally what is normal but these times are not.  If we can’t save them from themselves their is blood on all of our hands.

I am outraged at the system that allowed this to happen  I also question how a teacher became an essential worker in the last week.  If that’s the case, why do we close schools for weather problems?  

Just come out and tell us how many in power view our role – you want cheap childcare and if you lose a few, well, that’s life!  You never cared about educating children before; if you had, you would have funded us adequately so the little darlings didn’t have to go door to door selling overpriced junk.  My husband and I wouldn’t have had to spend our own money for years on items our students needed.  If the value of education was really a priority there would be no threats to withhold funding.  I am so sick of the lies.

If I read one more article or hear one more news story about teachers being happy to return to school this fall I’m going to scream.  NO THEY AREN’T.  Like the rest of humanity, they long for the good ole days, last seen this past February, when they could make a difference face-to-face with their students.  Those days are gone for now and what is needed more than anything else is prioritizing life over what once was.  

If everyone had done what was the right thing to do we wouldn’t be faced with this problem today.  Children wouldn’t be dying.  Those kids that return to school and live through this will not have to have the burden for the remainder of their lives of knowing they brought home an illness that killed their family.  They won’t have to face the grief at the loss of their beloved teacher.  This madness can be halted and I’m praying someone, somewhere has the power and the sense to do the right thing.  

I’m also sick of hearing about students falling educationally behind.  Here’s a quick and simple solution for that – just have everyone attend year round once the virus is behind us.  Cut out the electives for the summer term and just teach the basics.  Duh!  If we can have students skip a grade then the whole issue of learning loss is a moot point anyway.  Studies have shown that students who do not start school until age 8 can compete academically in a short time.  Funny how our leaders, and I use that term loosely, pointed to Nordic countries who kept schools open last spring as what we should do.  Those are the same countries with well funded educational systems that don’t have young children in formal education.  They have physicians and dentists available for the children.  Heck, I can’t even get Walmart to donate free eyeglasses to my needy kids anymore.  So again, I ask, if education is so vital, then why are the basics not provided for our children?  

No electronics in the home?  Seriously, except for the last two generations NO ONE WAS EDUCATED BY USING THE INTERNET.  Here’s a novel solution – have local districts pay the local newspaper for a subscription for every family.  The lessons can be incorporated in the newspaper.  It’s delivered daily to the family’s door.  You’re developing a generation who will learn more about their community and the world. They are practicing reading and math by analyzing the charts and graphs.  Vocabulary is enriched.  You’re insuring that the press remains a vital and important partner in the community.  Why are we not doing this?  As much money as schools saved on paper and ink they can certainly afford to purchase a year newspaper subscription for their students.  Actually, in my community, the newspaper is already free electronically for our students.  If schools wanted to save even more money, they would just need to purchase a paper edition for those that don’t have electronics.  

I am fortunate to be able to be eLearning but several of my fellow teachers were not granted the same privilege I was, even though several has serious medical conditions and two are still recovering from covid’s long lasting side effects.  

If you have taken the time to read this I want to thank you.  Send good thoughts or pray or whatever you believe in because my colleagues, my students, their families and the greater community needs all the help it can get.  

Learning Continues During the Pandemic

Wednesday I attended the virtual National Genealogical Society Conference and it was as informative as always!  It was a long day, however, beginning at 11 AM Eastern time and ending at 7 PM.  A few 15 minute breaks were included throughout.

The best part is that each speaker’s topic was so different yet all packed full with useful information. Some of the knowledge was new – I loved Elizabeth Shown Mill’s “crowd sourcing” analysis which is slightly different from her FAN Club.  Both Mills and Tom Jones reminded us of the importance of analysis.  I absolutely loved how Jones used online unsourced tree data as a stepping stone to find the facts.  Judy Russell’s talk was poignant and reminded me of how fortunate my immigrant grandmother was in not having to be a child worker.  I had no idea that a child of one month old could become indentured!  Blaine Bettinger was awesome as always with his DNA explanations.  I absolutely loved that he used closed captioning for those who might need it.  Some folks were critical of it because it overlapped the bottom of the shown slides but IMHO, the presentation was readable anyway.  That was such a thoughtful gesture to end the day I was deeply touched by his attempt at inclusion.

There were also wonderful presentations by FamilySearch.org, Ancestry.com and FamilyTreeDNA.  Lots of changes coming – some good, some not so good if you loved a feature that will be disappearing (Ancestry is dumping the shoebox in the trash and the folders you may have set up in messaging while FamilyTreeDNA has eliminated offering one of its test kits).  Change is what it is – we’ll adapt and move on.  Some of the moaning and groaning in the chat box made me laugh – get a grip, folks, it’s not the end of your genealogy practice.

The “lunch” speaker was an actor who took the character of a unknown (to many) suffragette from Utah.  It was a moving presentation and a great remind of the short time period all women have been allowed the right to vote in this country.  

Kudos to the the NGS staff who was able to put on this virtual conference on such short notice.  Most of the remainder of the what was to have been an on site conference in Salt Lake City will be available for view beginning July 1.  I’m not sure if you can still purchase viewing or not as I bought a package in early May when it had just become available.  So glad, I did!  Although it’s definitely not the same feel as person-to-person, it was a wonderful and well done alternative during these difficult times.  I highly recommend checking the availability out at the site – NGS – the syllabus provided is worth the price.

Beneficial Conference Take Aways You Can Use, Too

Every conference is a learning experience and today was no exception.  My local genealogy society sponsored four presentations by Dr. Thomas Jones, PhD, CG, FASG, FUGA and one break out session by a local genealogist.  

I’ve lost count of how many in person and online presentations I’ve attended given by Tom.  In every one, he always makes the most difficult scenarios seem easy to resolve.  I enjoying following his logic in drawing a conclusion based on the records he has or has not found.  

The program today started with the beginner level, progressed quickly and then ended with an upbeat – you can (and should) do this approach.  Here’s my four biggest take aways that can help your research:

  • Tom lamented that he wasted nearly 20 years at the beginning of his family history career by not reading genealogical journals.  I made the exact same mistake.  If you’re a newbie, you will benefit from reading articles published by the National Genealogical Society, The American Genealogist, New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, New England Historic and Genealogical Society, your state societies and more.  No, the articles probably aren’t going to help you name your brick wall ancestor but they will provide the tools that others used to discover what you’re having difficulty locating.  No excuse if being a member of all of these societies aren’t in your budget; your local public library probably has a subscription. If not, ask for a year’s membership as a birthday gift.  Find a friend interested in genealogy and each of you become a member of one and share the journals.  Post on Craig’s List or go on eBay and search if someone is selling their collection.  I’m trying to be a good environmental steward so I’ve stopped getting hard copies in the mail and read the articles online. When I did get the paper version, I always donated to my local library when I was done. Pass yours on, too!
  • Tom reminded us to “consider everything and trust nothing.”  Personally, I think that’s good advice not just for genealogy.  He was referring to online family trees and in print family genealogies.  It’s not too difficult to tell which are well researched.  It is a must to check out the citations to confirm the accuracy.  
  • “Inconvenience is not a reason for drawing a conclusion; get as close as you can to original records.”  I’m blending Tom’s quote with the breakout session I attended on England and Wales records.  I do some, but not a whole lot, of English and Welsh research. I wasn’t aware that the British equivalent to the U.S. National Archives has only 5% of their records online. I don’t know what the latest percentage estimates are for U.S. records but whatever the amount, not everything is available from the comfort of your home computer. True, it’s not always convenient to have to do boots on the ground but it is necessary.  
  • “Gather the stories you’ve been told, write them down and share them.” Definite words of wisdom!  For my long time readers, you know that was one of the reasons why I started blogging. I wanted a place to connect with my far flung relatives by sharing the stories passed down to me by my maternal grandmother.  Every family has heartwarming tales and whispered lore.  Write it down, check it out and pass it on before it’s been forgotten.  Your descendants will be so thankful you did!

Last, as promised, here’s a shout out to one of my New Port Richey followers that happened to be in line in front of me today.  It was awesome meeting you in person.  Happy Hunting!

2019 Top 10 Genealogy At Heart Posts

As another year comes to an end, here’s a review of your favorite GenealogyAtHeart blogs in descending order:

Making Ancestry Ghost Hints Disappear

Genealogy Cleaning Hints Tie

The Virtue of Genealogy Patience Tie

A Winning Genealogy Formula 

Genealogy Gift Ideas – A Few of My Favorite Things 

Genealogy Scams:  What You Need to Know 

A Volunteer Opportunity from Your Arm Chair 

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow – The Ever Changing Access to Online Records 

Three Resources You Might Not Have Tried Yet 

This is NOT Genealogy’s Dark Side

Wishing you and your loved ones

Health and Happiness in 2020!

I look forward to helping you keep your

in Genealogy

DNA Dumbness – What Not To Do When You Take a Test!

You may be contemplating taking advantage of the DNA specials that are currently offered – Ancestry.com and MyHeritageDNA.com are both being sold for $59.00 plus shipping.  Maybe you’re like me and have tested with a number of different companies over the past several years and believe you know the directions well enough to not read them.  I am going to share an embarrasingly dumb mistake I made last month when taking a DNA test to spare you having to learn this lesson on your own.

At my annual wellness physical my physician and I discussed genealogy.  Side note:  Physicians and genealogists share a lot in common, especially at parties where acquaintances want to poke your brain and get free advice on their chronic complaint – a health issue for the docs and a brick wall for the genealogist.  

My medical provider was sharing the results of her recent DNA test and I told her how I had compiled an ancestor health history going back several generations as I believe that some genetic conditions reoccur farther than the two generations back that typically the medical community zeroes in on when you complete the initial paperwork of who had what conditions.  

Granted, I have no proof of my theory other than what I’ve discovered in my own family tree and usually, when I mention this to a doctor, I get the same look that is given when you tell them you tried to self diagnose using WebMD.  I understand I’m enchroaching on their professional judgement but I mean no disrespect.  My current physician is very understanding of this tendency I have and although neither my parents or grandparents had medical concerns that DNA testing could show might affect me, I had two aunts that clearly carried a trait.  We both agreed it would be beneficial for me to be tested for medical information.

Deciding I could handle the test’s results, I made a followup appointment to spit into the test tube the next week.  The receptionist reiterated what the doctor said, don’t eat or drink anything within an hour of the test.  Yeah, yeah, I know already, I’m an expert DNA test taker!

Since my appointment was scheduled as the first visit of the morning, I decided I wouldn’t eat or drink anything after dinner the previous evening.  I even brushed my teeth right after dinner so there’d be no chance of a toothpaste interference. 

The next morning I got ready quickly and drove straight to the doctor’s office.  After signing in and being taken back to an exam room, the MA asked if I had eaten or drank anything in the last hour.  “No,” I replied, “Nothing since last night about 6:00.”  She then handed me the test tube and told me foam didn’t count so make sure to spit to the line.  

No worries, I got this.  My only thought was why didn’t they just take a cheek swab as in the days of old – that’s how I took my first Ancestry.com DNA test.  

MA left the room and I began to fill the test tube.  I was really going to town so I didn’t stop to look at the tube for a bit.  When I finally did, I had quite a shock.  My spit was not clear; it was tinged with pink.  

My first thought was I was bleeding but I felt fine.  Then it hit me; I had put lipstick on that morning.  

Lipstick does not process in my brain as food or drink.  It reminds me of my history as my maternal relatives never left the house without applying it.  I asked my grandmother why when I was about 8 and she said you should always put your best face forward.  That is, except when you’re taking a DNA test in the doctor’s office.

I didn’t know what to do; should I go look for the MA and ask if I should continue or should I just finish filling the tube?  I opened the door and saw no one in the hall so I decided to finish and maybe the test would be valid.

A few minutes later the MA returned and I sheepishly showed her the pink vial.  “I’ll check to see if that’s okay,” she said, “Never had that happen before.”  That made two of us.  Returning, she told me that the test wasn’t going to be acceptable and I needed to “Wash off your makeup, wait an hour and we’ll retest.”  

The last time someone told me to “Wash off that makeup” was in 8th grade and my lipstick of choice was Wow Wow White that looked awesome with my then braces.  Sister Rosarita felt differently and I was sent to the girl’s gang bathroom to remove it.  Then, I was angry at the school rule that was enchroaching on my lifestyle.  At the doctor’s office, I was angry at myself for being so stupid.

I was planning on meeting my husband after the appointment so I texted him I’d be late because, well, my lipstick got between my DNA and the tube.  He thought that was hysterical.  Me, not at all.  

A little over an hour later the MA called me from the waiting room and asked if I was sure I had gotten all the lipstick off.  I showed her my pale pink lips and said, “This is what they really look like.”  She laughed and said, “Nice color.”  

The second test went smoothly.  My results have been returned and they’re good, too.  

The doctor’s office staff were so kind about my mistake and said they’d make sure that they mention “NO LIP PRODUCTS” to future women who will DNA test.  I’m letting my dear readers know that, too.  

GenealogyAtHeart’s Top Ten Publication Posts of 2017


Last week I posted my 2017 Top Ten most read blog articles from my own site – GenealogyAtHeart. Today, I’m posting my Top Ten blog articles I wrote for publication by AncestorCloud/Trace now known as Genealogists.com and Family History Daily last year. Enjoy!

10. Using S.M.A.R.T.’s to Crystalize Your Genealogy Goals
9. Dealing with Genealogical Disappointment
8. Developing a Positive Seeker Helper Relationship
7. Motivating Others for Genealogical Results
6. Communicating for Results
5. Scaffolding Your Research
4. Using Backward Design in Genealogical Research
3. Dealing with Genealogical Disappointment
2. How Our Ancestors’ Love Affair With Liquor Can Provide Fascinating Clues to the Past
1. 4 Big Genealogy Mistakes That May Be Hurting Your Research (and How to Avoid Them)

Top 10 Genealogy At Heart Posts from 2017


Happy New Year! Out with the old and in with the new but before we do that, let’s take a look back at the most read Genealogy At Heart posts from last year in descending order and a tie in 4th place:

10 VivaVolunteers! A Unique Opportunity for You

9 More on Accessing Records

8 Saturday Serendipity

7 Access to Preserved Records is Being Threatened!

6 My Grandfather’s C-File Has Finally Arrived!

5 Improving Your Genealogy Skills Semester II

4 Perseverance Amidst Adversity – The Ancestry of Three George Harbaughs

4 Genealogy Resolutions

2 Privacy and the Genealogist Part 2

1 Privacy and the Genealogist Part 1

If you’re on the east coast of the U.S., get a cup of cocoa, stay warm and enjoy re-reading these blogs.

Next week, I’ll rank articles that I did for other publications in 2017.

Neat Ideas from the National Genealogical Society Conference


Here are a ten of my most favorite experiences, most of which were FREE, at the National Genealogical Society Conference in Raleigh:

FamilySearch for more writing ideas.
Palatines to America had a useful handout containing a What is the Relationship? Form. If you get confused between Great Nephews and 3rd Cousin Once Removed this handy dandy template would be helpful.
National Archives’ (NARA) updated handout listed the links to their most used records. I sometimes get lost on their site so this “Just the Facts, Ma’am” was nice.
History Hub, an online site with blogs, discussion boards and community pages for anyone interested in history. That was news to me and a place I plan on checking out.
Federation of Genealogical Societies publishes a quarterly electronic magazine for only $15.00/year? That’s just $3.00 per issue!
ew York Genealogical and Biographical Society as I want to get back into researching some of my hubby’s Long Island folks. As a member, besides the wonderful journal, you get access to Findmypast AND the New York Public Library online.
USGenWeb Project had a laminated postcard with the 88 Ohio counties – very useful for me to track my people from Trumbull to Stark to Darke to Mercer and finally, to Van Wert. I learned from an attendee I’ve been mispronouncing my dad’s birth city my whole life – Celina is pronounced Seh lie nah and not Seh lee na. Who Knew?!
Fun Stuff for Genealogists had cute t-shirts, inexpensive jewelry, archive materials and historic map reproductions. See their full catalog online. I bought a tree bead and a brass tree charm.
Ohio Genealogical Society gave me a few ideas about my darling Duers who left so few records in their travels across that state. The volunteer even consulted his own resources to see if my folks were named (they weren’t but it was a valiant attempt on his part).
Mastering Genealogical Documentation by Thomas Jones with the plan on working through it this summer. You can purchase a copy through the National Genealogical Society.

I’m hoping to be able to attend next year, too. Paths to Your Past will be held in Grand Rapids, Michigan May 2-5, 2018.

DNA Plan


Had a wonderful time in Raleigh last week at the National Genealogical Society Conference! I focused on DNA workshops as that is an area where I would like to gain more knowledge and practical experience.

My 3 favorite sessions on this topic were by Debbie Parker Wayne, Blaine Bettinger and Judy Russell. Now that I have a rudimentary understanding, I plan on working through the book, Genetic Genealogy in Practice by Bettinger and Wayne this summer.

I also learned that the Journal of Genetic Genealogy (JoGG) had been reactivated as a free peer reviewed online resource. Check it out!

Two of the major DNA players, MyHeritage and Ancestry.com, offered conference specials but I decided to wait until Black Friday to make purchases. My plan is to purchase kits from either or several organizations but more likely from Ancestry first since it has the larger database. Then, I’ll download the results and upload to Family Tree DNA and Gedmatch.

Hubby and I tested years ago through Ancestry – he did X and Y and I did X but that version is no longer supported. I’d like to do add Autosomal this time around and include other family members. Besides the benefit of identifying new family members and confirming ones we are aware of, I think it would be fascinating to see if any mutations occurred between our kids and us and between my husband and his sister.

For Mother’s Day, my family got me an e-Book, Mansions of the Dead, by Sarah Stewart Taylor. It’s a genealogical murder mystery that I find interesting as it takes place in Boston, a city I’ve happily researched in, and revolves around mourning jewelry, which I’ve been fascinated with since working with a Client several years ago that inherited a mystery piece from a paternal grandmother. The book was written when DNA analysis was relatively new and I question some of the info but it is a fun read and I can’t wait to confirm my hypothesis of who done it. Happy Hunting!

Raleigh Bound – Genealogy At Heart Hiatus


I’m off to North Carolina to attend the National Genealogical Society Conference. I’m looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones. If you’re planning on attending friend me on the conference ap. Traveling with a co-worker is making the trip even more fun. I’m planning on purchasing Tom Jones’ new book that will be released there – buying that as my own Mother’s Day present. No blog until I return. In the meantime, Happy Hunting!