As the Pandemic stopped life as we knew it, was there a silver lining?

My daughter burst through the front door, “I have to leave right now and be tested for Covid!” One of her co-workers had just tested positive. I grabbed my water bottle and hopped in the car with her. She was exhausted after just working a grueling 10-hour shift on the beach doing Ocean Rescue Lifeguarding. Since I was temporarily knocking on doors for the Census Bureau I knew I needed to be tested, too. Next thing I knew we were driving 40 minutes to the only available rapid testing site. After a few hours of waiting, a medical staff dressed in scrubs and a mask finally delivered our results. Rachel tested positive; I was negative. Yet, by the next evening we were both sick. The following week my husband had it.

Covid and its lingering affects is not the only thing that has hit our family; tight finances, being in the midst of a complete renovation due to our home being flooded by Hurricane Florence, and the usual ups and downs life brings. Life just felt strange. It reminded me of 9-11; things would be different going forward.

Wait a second! . . . I’m here to talk about the silver lining of the Pandemic, not the clouds.

Innovation ruled! New and creative ways of doing things brought the shining jewel of hope. “Virtual” everything seemed to be popping up all over. Businesses, schools, organizations, and families were all becoming acquainted with Zoom, Google Hangouts, Webex, MS Teams, etc.

With this innovation and people required to stay home, I began to notice another sliver of light behind the dark clouds; a spike in things relating to family history. The Spirit of Elijah seemed to shine a bit more brightly.

For the past five years I have been engaged in managing FamilySearch’s worldwide Facebook Genealogy Research Communities. Serving as a Church-Service Missionary on the Community and Social Media Mission Team, our missionaries have always worked remotely. So, nothing changed on the mission since we do things virtually anyway or did it? We began to notice a flux in our activity. Many more people were joining and engaging in our genealogy groups than ever before. (see a list of FamilySearch Facebook Genealogy Research Communities to join!)

Covid ignited an evolution of change for many missions. Although my mission was always internet based, my niece, Courtney, who was called to serve in Kirtland, Ohio before the Pandemic, had the unique experience of attending online MTC classes from home. Once she arrived in Kirtland, her service of conducting tours of historic Church sites were done virtually. Being the youngest of eight children, Courtney’s older siblings kidded her, saying she wasn’t on a mission, she was at Church Camp.

In an effort to be supportive, I had the privilege of having Courtney and her companion, Sister Hawker, guide me through these sacred places bringing the Spirit into my home. On one such occasion, Courtney mentioned that she and Sister Hawker were planning to do family history in their spare time.

Although I do not consider myself a techie, I have learned how to create, logon, and conduct virtual meetings. Previous to the Pandemic, when people called me for spontaneous family history help, navigating them over the phone was difficult. Suggesting we meet together virtually was usually greeted with, “Zoom? What is Zoom?” or “I’m not techie; so I could never figure out how to get on a virtual meeting” verses now, “Hey, why don’t I just show you how to do that over Zoom? I will send you a link.” I love it! I loved seeing people stretch beyond what they thought they could do and enter a whole new dimension.

On the other hand, I was intrigued how my resourceful, tech savvy family history colleagues didn’t miss a step. Possibilities flooded our Ward and Stake family history committees. Just prior to Covid halting lives, our Ward had launched a family history initiative. How could the initiative be implemented? Immediately, Zoom became our base for connection and exploration. Discussion on how to engage members became realities – a youth challenge, Youth and Primary activities, family history classes, and connecting with members one-on-one by phone or virtually.

At the same time, our Stake leaders implemented a two-week indexing challenge resulting in over 30,000 records being completed. Simultaneously, a “Weekly Family History Checklist” including a family history class were arranged along with a special Zoom activity for young families. Published help aids were created for all these events hoping to keep the spark of the Spirit of Elijah in members hearts & homes.

Next came our Family Reunion dilemma. Our extended family had planned to hold a family reunion. The last official reunion was in 2004. Instead of meeting in Virginia for a 4-day weekend as planned, we held a virtual 3-day reunion. We scheduled a time most could attend, then logged on! The activities scheduled were creative and fun. Several family members lingered longer to play online games together.

Family celebrations continued in dynamic ways. When family and friends could not gather for events, such as wedding and baby showers, the hosts artistically designed virtual parties. This was great, especially for those like me who would not have been able to attend otherwise, more due to distance than Covid. These creative and engaging activities of celebrating a new life, together in marriage or a child in arms, brought the joy of the forth coming event to our home.

Silver linings of being home-bound for much of this year included everything from not needing to be anywhere, working on forgotten projects, learning new ways of doing things, and gratitude for those things we previously took for granted.

For many, life slowed down and even stagnated; for others, days seemed endless. My life seemed to be ever more busy. Unlike the medical profession, teachers, parents balancing homeschool and work, mail & delivery services, etc. who were understandably overwhelmed with work, helping others search for deceased ancestors would not seem to be even on the list for increasingly busy jobs during a pandemic, yet it was.

Silver Lining photo: (image credit: Simone Viani via Unsplash)

  1. Need help with genealogy research? Join FamilySearch’s Facebook and FamilySearch Communities and receive help with translations, research, tips, etc.
  2. If you would like to serve a Church-Service Mission (you must be LDS, endowed and sign in)
  3. To see a list and schedule a Church Historic Site Virtual Tour
  4. Ideas for Virtual Family Reunions – 19 Fun Games to Play During Your Virtual Family Reunion and Pinterest’s 20+ Family Reunion Activities ideas in 2020
  5. Ideas for Virtual Bridal & Baby Showers – 10 Tips for Organizing a Virtual Wedding Shower & Hosting a Virtual Baby or Wedding Shower