Mount Vernon Genealogical Society - Founded 1991
Founded 1991

1500 Shenandoah Road
Alexandria, Virginia 22308
  Charles Belfield First American Ancestor

Pandemic Stories: Then & Now

MVGS has a new special project called “Pandemic Stories: Then & Now.”  The goal is to publish [format undecided at this point] a collection of members’ stories and experiences from the current pandemic, as well as any family history/stories you can find or generate from the 1918 influenza epidemic.  There will be a kickoff information session on 18 February and a featured place in the annual conference next Fall. 


This will be a chance for us, in 2020 and 2021, to create the source materials for genealogists a century from now, trying to reconstruct what their families experienced in the last big epidemic.  Do you have a story about how you’ve been impacted, or how you’ve tried to cope?  Here’s your chance to explain the importance of Amazon delivery and Netflix streaming to the 22nd century, and a chance to explore why social panic always seems to focus on securing an adequate supply of toilet paper.


It’s also a chance to collect any source materials you might have from 1918, relating how your family (or their community) experienced that pandemic.  Few of us are lucky enough to have journals or letters from 1918, but you may be able to find something in local histories or at 


At present we’re looking for all sorts of contributions, anything that you’re comfortable doing – one-paragraph anecdote, one-page story, five-page article, 20-page essay with footnotes and sources (if you must) . . .  photographs, poetry, oral histories, one-act plays, sketches, journal entries, scrapbooking . . .  they can be humorous, serious, tragic, journalistic . . .  basically anything we can put between covers (or maybe on the MVGS website). 


The MVGS Writing Family History SIG has offered to serve as first readers, coaches,  and editors for anyone who wants to participate in this project.


Sessions have been scheduled for the 3rd Thursday of each month from 10am-12 noon.  Sessions in Feb, Mar and April will definitely be held on Zoom.  Beyond that will depend on HHSC and the pandemic.  Sessions in Aug, Sep and Oct may be scheduled if needed.  The Feb session is an overview about the project to get folks started.  The remaining sessions will present ideas and approaches for the various ways of telling your story.  Sessions will be more of a discussion group approach than our standard lecture class. 


If you think you know the way you want to present your story, e.g., through a written story, or maybe through photographs, then you may want to just focus on the session[s] you're interested in; although you're welcome to attend all of them.  Below are the sessions scheduled so far.  More detailed info about the sessions are on their individual entries.


18 March - Writing - Journaling, Diaries and Narrative Essays - Have you ever had writer's block and just couldn't seem to get started?  Join the crowd - literally! Take this opportunity to brush up on a few basics, receive 16 tips, and a list of prompts to get you started.  You will not regret documenting even the smallest details not just for you to look back on, but for generations to come.


15 April - Expressing Yourself through Poetry and Prose - Poetry strengthens writing skills and helps connect with emotions in a tangible way.  In this session, we will explore the common types of poetry, and then get started using writing exercises.


19 May - Life Stories and Oral Histories - Documents and records only tell part of the family story.  Family members can often fill in the details or provide clues.  The session will guide you through the steps to use when interviewing your relatives and friends.  This will include preparing, conducting and preserving the interview.


17 June - Photography, Drawing and Scrapbooking - We've all heard this line:  "If a picture paints a thousand words".......It's true!  A picture can indeed convey meanings more effectively than words!  Join in with sketching pens or camera (especially your mobile phone's camera!) and learn tips on capturing this historic time.  We'll conclude with clever ideas on scrapbooking to display your artful story.


15 July - Editing Collaboration - The MVGS Writing Family History SIG includes both beginners and published authors.  We read and discuss one another’s pieces, noting the things we liked, the things we thought were missing, and what the author should do next to improve or expand his/her story.  This session will give us an opportunity to offer the same services to other MVGS members -- as first readers and reviewers for what you’ve written, but also as a source of the encouragement that every writer needs.


To register for this, or any, session, please send an email with the date and name of the session, along with your name and phone number to Amy Breedlove at