Five Ways Genealogists Survive a Pandemic Thanksgiving

Photograph of a “rafter” or flock of New Hampshire turkeys, copyright Tina Penrod- Bates. Used with permission.

Genealogists (family history researchers) are a different breed. They live and breathe for the next tidbit of information that others find trivial. They sigh and gush over dusty documents and faded photographs. They love a good story, especially if the family has been trying to hide something.

Holidays are seen in an entirely different context by these data and scrapbook collecting folks. And so it is not a surprise that they might celebrate Thanksgiving slightly differently. We should all take lessons.

The current COVID19 pandemic adds a great challenge to a genealogist’s festivities, but they are tough birds, and not ones to give up too easily on attaining a goal. And so keeping this in mind (and with personal experience), I’ve compiled a list for your perusal.


1. A genealogist is often internet savvy and uses this opportunity to pre-arrange interviews with the oldest members of their family both close and distant. Video-conferencing software such as FaceTime, Skype, Zoom and other communication apps can make this happen. Most are easy to set up. Some will work with a Smartphone, and others with a desktop/laptop computer or a tablet.

2. It is arduous work to sort old photographs. Keeping that in mind, genealogists shy away from the usual board or computer games on Thanksgiving. Instead they create a new family game of “Identify.” They set their growing pile of old photographs and offer a prize to the person who can sort the most correctly either by individual, surname or family group. When completed, they have archival quality albums ready to store them in.

3. Family tree enthusiasts often study history, to incorporate “how our ancestors lived” with the context of genealogy research. The US National Archives helped with that task this year. [Found on Twitter] @USNatArchives
Need some last minute #Thanksgiving inspiration? How about some historic recipes from White House–we’ve got celery stuffing from the Fords, Corn Soufflé from the Nixons. and a deep dish apple pie from the Eisenhowers! #food #foodhistory

4. Many family researchers become DNA-savvy. An autosomal DNA test seems to be the best cousin-bait (since the generation difference is limited and connections include relatives of both paternal and maternal branches). Thanksgiving, when everyone is feeling warm and fuzzy, is the perfect time to convince all the older relatives to take that test, along with Y-DNA and mtDNA.  And of course, hoping that the results will be shared with all.

5. Since the holidays are usually associated with gift-giving, genealogist shoppers lean toward DNA-kits, portable scanners, research-related memberships, cameras, genealogy-related books and organizing supplies.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers.  I am grateful for YOU.  If you are a genealogist, I’m sure you have your own unique way of spending this Thanksgiving holiday. I’d love to hear about yours! (Please comment).


New Hampshire’s Thanksgiving Recipes from 1889 (Cow Hampshire)

One Hundred Years Ago: The First Thanksgiving of WWI [1917] (Cow Hampshire)

One Hundred Years Ago: New Hampshire’s Thanksgiving of 1919 (Cow Hampshire)

New Hampshire: Old Times Thanksgiving News and Menus (Cow Hampshire)

Poem: The Thanksgiving Dinner, by Laura Garland Carr (Cow Hampshire)

Thanksgiving in New Hampshire, 2015 (Cow Hampshire)

Family Tree Magazine: Interviewing Questions and Prompts for Family History Interviews

My Heritage Blog: How to Interview Relatives


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6 Responses to Five Ways Genealogists Survive a Pandemic Thanksgiving

  1. Janice I loved your post… quite ingenious! We spend our Thanksgiving with just the Two of us and I decided to blog on it and post my menu. So hard to cook small… but as I was putting it all away, I’m mumbling, I really need to cook in smaller dishes next time. Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Janice Brown says:

      Jeanne, I just finished reading your post. Your blog is not only well written but I LOVE your photographs. I made the traditional dinner in small portions of course. One surprise I had was opening up a small portion of pumpkin pie. It had a pie crust! Did they have a new cook and make this horrifying pumpkin pie faux pas?

  2. Amy says:

    I think you could just have easily titled this How A Genealogist Survives A Pandemic! I’ve been escaping into family history research and blogging as my escape since this all began. Great post, Janice!

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