As 2020 heads toward a close, you may feel the way that I do...good riddance. It's been a crazy difficult year. I hope you and those you love have stayed well. This morning a nurse on Long Island was the first to receive the COVID vaccine from Pfizer and I have to look at this as a light at the end of a (long dark) tunnel. When, back in January and February, we started to hear about the virus, I thought (or believed what we were being told) that it was like the flu. That attitude changed pretty quickly as it became apparent that it was much deadlier than the flu.
We went into lockdown in March and I thought if we were good, we still might be able to go on our planned trip to visit the kids for graduations and birthdays in May followed by a cruise. Nope. That wasn't happening.
Back on April 1st, I began to keep a diary. I'm not good about writing about my life and my thought was this would be something I could save for future generations to understand this difficult time. It began...
I probably should have started this a few weeks ago. Perhaps my wishful thinking was that the Coronavirus was really going to be over quickly. I probably heard the first reports of the virus back in January with large numbers of cases and the death toll rising in Wuhan, China. At the time, I was recovering from a complete shoulder replacement (done on January 14th) so I wasn’t going many places.
By April it was clear that this wasn't "just going away." In late February the talk was of the Diamond Princess. The cruise industry has always had a reputation of being a breeding ground for viruses such as the Noro-virus, but this was clearly different. When I started keeping my diary, I included each day's report on cases, both in the US, in Florida and in Ireland. Numbers weren't always available, especially early on with daily new cases and deaths. On April 1st, this is what I wrote.
Place New Cases New Deaths Total Cases Total Deaths
US 186,101 3,603
Florida 6,955 87
Republic 212 14 3,447 85
Northern 103 2 689 30
Below are the stats today, December 14th (These numbers reflect the past 24 hours...tonight's news stated the US had exceeded 300,000 deaths.)
Place New Cases New Deaths Total Cases Total Deaths
US 181,032 1,448 16,113,148 298,266
Florida 8,334 1,134,383 20,271
Republic 264 2 76,449 2,126
Northern 419 5 58,635 1,129
By the end of April it was clear that a Research Trip to Ireland in October would not happen. Most of the registrants moved their deposits to 2021 (and I am hopeful). According to today's Irish Times, Ireland is on the "cusp of using two COVID vaccines." Ireland has been fairly successful putting restrictions on whenever the numbers rise... sometimes just for a county, but on October 19th, all of the Republic went back to Level 5 lockdown for six weeks. During the first week of December some restrictions were lifted and below is their schedule for lifting additional restrictions in December as long as numbers remain stable. Northern Ireland began vaccinating last week, as part of the UK with 25,000 doses.
This year (2020) I planned to cut back my lecture schedule as the travel, especially six hours in the car, was difficult. A ray of sunshine in this time of COVID has been the adaptability of Societies as they have moved to Webinars for their monthly meetings. People are becoming expert at Zoom and GoToWebinar and I've had lots of Webinar speaking engagements. I'm hopeful this will continue as it's less expensive for Societies (as they don't have to pay for travel) and provides me an opportunity to present to Societies all over the US. Besides my regular Florida groups, I've presented in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Texas, California and Canada. The Celtic Connections Conference which was scheduled for Chicago the end of July went Virtual to great success. I've already been invited to speak in 2022 and they have decided to again do a Virtual Conference. (If your Society is looking for a speaker, they can check out the Lectures section of my website.
I have had more time to work on my own genealogy this year and one of the things I looked at was everyone in my database who died in 1918 or 1919. When I went back and looked at the death certificates many (but not all) died of Influenza. Before COVID, I hadn't thought much about the cause of death specifically for those years, although I did know about the Influenza pandemic...my great uncle's wife and child died of influenza. With all of the media outlets available to us, we have been inundated this year with news about COVID-19...some good, some not so good. But think back to what your ancestors or relatives knew about what was going on in 1918. I looked at some newspaper databases thinking this would be headline news. What I found was lots of entries with the word "influenza" but most were in obituaries as cause of death, ads for cures or instructions on care.
As you probably know from my previous blogs, I am a fan of Facebook for genealogy. Like everything, however, there's the good and the not so good. I absolutely understand why some people don't want to use Facebook. If however, you use it to join groups associated with the place your ancestors lived, it can help solve some of those brick walls. I've written multiple times about how to use social media in your research. I am particularly careful, however, in how I use it. I have a personal Facebook account which I use with family and friends. I avoid any controversial posts and I don't share information. As genealogists we are taught to cite sources and to verify information. For some reason that logic sometimes goes out the window on Facebook as people share posts without thought to veracity. I have to admit that I did block some people over the past year. I also have my Donna Moughty Genealogy Facebook Page, which only has posts regarding genealogy and primarily Irish genealogy. I am also just as careful on Twitter.
In addition to being the first day for vaccines, today is an important day for another reason. Today, the Electoral College cast 306 votes for Joe Biden for President. All of the courts up to and including the Supreme Court, as well as the Attorney General and Homeland Security have said there was no evidence of massive fraud or election rigging. No matter what your political affiliation, it shows that our democracy is still working. It's OK to be sad if your candidate didn't win, and we can disagree about politics but my hope is that we can come together as a nation to heal and to show the world that the United States is the strongest democracy in the world.
I am hopeful for 2021. First, there is that light at the end of the tunnel in terms of a vaccine. If, by sacrificing this year's holiday, by staying home, wearing masks and maintaining distance, then at this time next year, we will again be able to join our families to celebrate the holidays. My prayer is that in 2021 we will be able to set aside our differences and come together...we have much more that connects us than divides us, and that as a Nation we can return to civility in all our interactions.
This will likely be the last blog for 2020 so I wish you all Peace and Joy during this holiday season and Health and Happiness in 2021.
Happy Hunting and Stay Safe!
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Special Holiday Pricing on Irish Quick Reference Guide Bundles.