Goodbye 2020 – Why It Was My Loopy Family tree 12 months

Wanting again on 2020, I’m put in thoughts of Charles Dickens’ opening of A Story of Two Cities.

“It was the very best of instances, it was the worst of instances, it was the age of knowledge, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of perception, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Mild, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…”

(A Story of Two Cities, para. 1, line 1)

By no means earlier than in my lifetime has a single 12 months resonated so strongly to those phrases. What a wierd, loopy 12 months it has been. The pandemic, after all, has been the central thread woven into each story this 12 months, nevertheless massive, nevertheless small, nevertheless private.

With one hand 2020 has taken away so many issues from us: many private freedoms to journey, meet family and friends, go to a store, eat out; for a lot too many it has taken away well being, wealth and even life itself. With the opposite hand 2020 has given us issues that we have been lacking or had forgotten: renewed senses of group, serving to and caring for others, modern methods to speak and keep up a correspondence by means of enforced separation, and new methods of giving and receiving the private help that we’ve all wanted this 12 months.

This has been very true of my family tree 12 months. I had particular plans for 2020 (didn’t all of us!), a lot of which led to tatters. However for nearly each plan that was cancelled or modified, a brand new alternative arose.


I had booked to attend three family tree conferences in England in 2020, all of which have been cancelled within the early days of the pandemic. I really like family tree conferences – they’re such a beautiful alternative to study from the easiest in our group, prime up my bulging family tree library and meet up with a lot of my genie buddies from throughout the nation and the world – so I used to be very unhappy to see them fall sufferer to the rising disaster.

However our family tree group is filled with innovators who rose to the problem of 2020. The staff at Household Tree Journal shortly put collectively a web based convention, which was a fantastic success. Later within the 12 months the Household Historical past Federation ran their FHF Actually Helpful Present, a a lot bigger and extra formidable affair – it had a couple of teething issues, however was profitable sufficient that they’ve already organized a second present in early 2021 ( RootsTech have been to not be overwhelmed – unable to run both RootsTech London in late 2020 or the primary RootsTech 2021 in Salt Lake Metropolis, they’ve launched RootsTech Join, an unlimited three day extravaganza of a web based convention which will probably be fully FREE! (

Household Historical past Societies

I’m a member of Oxfordshire Household Historical past Society ( as, though I’ve no Oxfordshire ancestors, they’re my native society and I get pleasure from attending the month-to-month conferences. The staff at OFHS have a vigorous, informative talks programme and I’ve additionally loved being a Household Historical past Advisor for the society, providing free family tree recommendation clinics in libraries across the county. The pandemic has meant the closure of our assembly corridor and ceasing all face-to-face recommendation clinics.

However the society was to not be daunted. The committee shortly tailored the speak programme to be deployed on-line through Zoom. The result has been an amazing success for the society: numbers attending every speak have gone up(!), attracting new members, attendees from exterior the county and even different nations.

There was an surprising private upside for me from this variation. I’m a member of OFHS’s On-line Assembly Group committee, and had provided to provide a chat to the society based mostly on my weblog article Fixing Powerful Family tree Issues. I gave the speak again in June, whereas the UK was in its first lockdown. It was warmly obtained. Emboldened by this, I provided to ship one other speak for the society, this time on Organising Your Analysis With Evernote. I delivered this in October, and it was once more warmly obtained. A lot to my shock, I used to be shortly approached by a number of different societies asking if I’d ship the identical speak for them. Fairly by chance, I appear to have grow to be a speaker on the British family tree circuit.

Oxfordshire isn’t my solely on-line society although. I’m additionally a co-founder of a gaggle known as Professional-Am Genies, a mutual help group for aspiring skilled genealogists, all of whom have accomplished the Skilled Family tree on-line course provided by Pharos Tutors ( This 12 months we’ve constructed to a important mass of members and have vigorous month-to-month Zoom conferences. We talk about the challenges of building oneself within the skilled family tree world and supply help to 1 one other with particular expertise and information domains. Greater than that although, we’ve grow to be good buddies.

Running a blog

I began this weblog in 2019, relating the story of my elusive ancestor Mary Jane Hyland and utilizing this as a springboard to make the case for utilizing structured strategies and greatest practices in family tree analysis. My remaining article of 2019, Fixing Powerful Family tree Issues (, was an enormous success and remains to be my most generally learn article. My plan for 2020 was a month-to-month sequence of methodology articles masking all the important thing components of a structured method to family tree analysis.

In fact, the pandemic interfered! By some means, throughout the lengthy, darkish days of lockdown, I discovered the duty of writing troublesome. An excessive amount of publicity to rolling information, household worries and internalised nervousness stifled the writing spark. I feel I’m not alone in having skilled one thing like that on this wretched 12 months. I solely managed seven weblog articles by means of the 12 months (eight together with this one), which was effectively wanting my goal:

  1. What’s Proof?
  2. Linking Genealogical Proof: A Methodology – Half 1
  3. Linking Genealogical Proof: A Methodology – Half 2
  4. What’s Proof?
  5. How one can Construct a Analysis Plan
  6. Understanding Genealogical Sources
  7. 4 Family tree Books Which Will Enhance Your Analysis

Fortunately, they’ve been more and more effectively obtained because the 12 months has gone alongside. A lot to my shock I’ve discovered my weblog listed in Feedspot’s High 100 Family tree Blogs and Web sites in 2020 for Genealogists and Household Historical past Researchers. I used to be as happy as punch to seek out my little weblog listed right here, however fairly astonished to seek out it given 18th place!

Analysis Journeys

I had pre-planned two analysis journeys for 2020, taking in three archives and referring to 4 completely different analysis questions I hoped to resolve.

My deliberate journey to the Nationwide Archives at Kew was particularly to analysis the actions of 58 Squadron of the Royal Air Power, a bomber squadron based mostly at Linton-on-Ouse in North Yorkshire, throughout the first 12 months of the second world battle. I’ve a relative, Leonard Isherwood, who served on this squadron and was sadly killed in July 1940. The analysis was particular to a set of data known as the ORBs, or Operations File Books, saved by every squadron in two elements and filed month-to-month, now to be discovered in school AIR 27 on the Nationwide Archives. For the interval I used to be taken with there have been eighteen ORBs to be learn and data to be extracted. They have been obtainable for obtain from TNA’s web site for £3.50 per file, however it will’ve come to £63 for the data I wanted. It was going to be cheaper to go to Kew in individual!

The Studying Rooms at Kew have been closed early within the pandemic, so my plan was halted – one other analysis venture to be delay to a different 12 months, I feared. However then, in an surprising transfer, the Nationwide Archives determined to take away the paywall on their on-line holdings throughout the pandemic. I used to be capable of obtain and analyse all of the ORBs that had references to poor Leonard. The information maintain an in depth and engaging story of braveness in opposition to the percentages and supreme sacrifice at a time of existential nationwide wrestle. It is going to be one among my 2021 goals to put in writing up and current this story for you all to learn.

My different deliberate analysis journey, again to the native research libraries and archive of my native Cheshire, have been after all cancelled. I had some newspaper analysis on WWI family members to conduct in addition to on the lookout for a 1726 authorized case within the Cheshire Quarter Classes – these I put apart for one more time.

I changed this venture with a seek for a collateral Isherwood line that disappears from British data a while within the mid-1830s. I suspected that my lacking Isherwoods had most likely emigrated – however the place to? I took a while to analysis the likeliest locations for my errant bunch and ultimately discovered probably candidates arriving in New York in December 1838 and settling in New Jersey. I’d by no means accomplished analysis in American data earlier than, so I set about discovering out what to search for and the place to attempt to discover it (I attended a fantastic on-line speak by American genealogist Dave Macdonald organised by the Society of Genealogists in London (, and bought a really helpful ebook The Researcher’s Information to American Family tree by Val D. Greenwood). Utilizing the course offered by these sources I’ve uncovered a hitherto unknown department of New Jersey Isherwoods, a few of whom dwell there nonetheless. Curiously, the youngest son of the emigrant household, John Isherwood, born in Stockton Heath, Cheshire in 1827, was drafted into the Union military in 1864 and served within the remaining 12 months of the American Civil Battle. I can already see the title of a future article, A Cheshire Lad within the US Cavalry, that can inform his extraordinary story.

Carry On 2021

So, because the lights go down on 2020 (actually, it’s sundown on New 12 months’s Eve as I write), what have I discovered this 12 months? That the family tree group is a thriving, constructive drive within the lives of many. That my associates and colleagues in societies and teams are nice innovators and associates. That adversity and alternative go hand in hand.

Seeing The Wooden For The Timber will go on in 2021. I feel future articles will probably be extra particular to my analysis initiatives and rather less over-arching, however they are going to at all times attempt to spotlight the position of strategies and instruments that you can also use.

Completely happy new 12 months to all my readers!