About. . .

This website is meant for family historians. Readers will find information about how people and communities were impacted by natural phenomena – or Mother Nature. Blog posts will present examples of actual events and how families coped with them. Links will be added to websites and articles that may assist genealogists looking for specific data about certain areas.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Diary of a Pandemic 54

 Are we there yet?

The last time I wrote about the COVID-19 pandemic was at the end of 2021. We seemed to be finally transitioning out of the most dangerous phases. People were beginning to travel again, as we did for Christmas that year. Many had gone back to their jobs although the workplace was unalterably changed.

The infection was not through with us yet but there was confidence that the worst was behind us. It was not true, of course, as the worst wave hit us in January 2022. After another year and successive but less impactful waves, we may be getting back to “normal” as normal might be defined now.

Countries have now relaxed or done away completely with restrictions involving COVID-19. We are all relieved but still unsure whether we have seen the last of any major outbreaks.

Most people are resigned to living with COVID in the same way we do with the flu, hoping that another deadly variant does not come along. If it does, though, our systems should be ready for a wave of new infections.

Unfortunately, one of the lasting effects is not sickness but anger, from many who think their rights have been impinged on. Many still believe it was all a hoax. I am not sure how they explain how over 681 million people contracted COVID or almost seven million people died worldwide, according to the most recent counts which can be read here

Or why tens of thousands of people still contact the virus every day and many still die.

An article published by Katie Dangerfield for Global News Canada summarizes where we are at present. Read it here.

More than 51,000 Canadians lost their lives to the virus. People are still being hospitalized. Deaths are declining in number but that may be because so many of the most vulnerable (read “old”) are now gone. Greater than 70% of Canadians contracted the virus at least once. Officials now tell us that we are transitioning to an endemic state.

There can be no question that vaccines have prevented what could have been a repeat of previous viral infections, such as the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-19 when probably over 50 million people died. The world then did not have the protection and treatment we have today and we can thank scientists for that.

So, are we there yet? Have we reached safety?

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief health officer says, “We are now at a point in Canada where COVID-19 activity has reached a relatively steady state. In recent months there have been no distinct variant-driven waves. Over the past six to eight months COVID-19 hospitalizations have been relatively stable despite the ongoing spread of Omicron subvariants.”

It’s not over. It may never be over. But we are now living with COVID as we do with the flu and other infectious diseases.

My wife and I were lucky that we avoided contracting the virus. We are also part of the large group that got all the inoculations available to us. We are part of that most vulnerable group – Canadians older than 70.

There is no guarantee we won’t contract some infection but we take precautions offered to us in same we way we get flu shots every year.

The question now is:

Have we learned enough to avoid the worst aspects of the next pandemic?

Because Mother Nature is not finished with us!

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Living with a pandemic 53

This Christmas we took a trip to Germany. Our youngest son and his family live there now. It was going to be an opportunity to see them and their family. Our daughter and her family, who live in Vancouver, were also going to make the trip.

It would be the first time in two years that we would be able to see our children and grandchildren in person and, despite the risks associated with COVID-19, we thought it important to do everything we could to get together.

Sometimes, just to preserve your emotional and mental well-being, you have to make plans that may go against the advice or caution of others.

This was one of those times.

Covid-19 Cases & Statistics

As I write this post, case numbers are exploding around the planet, primarily it is believed due to the emergence of the latest variant of the virus, named Omicron. We are not surprised. We expected that could occur as we were making the last-minute travel plans.

Daily new COVID-19 cases: (clockwise from top left) Worldwide, United States, Canada, Germany

Alberta yesterday recorded the highest number of new cases since the pandemic began: 2,775. These came from only 9,400 tests representing a 30% positivity rate. We are full into a fifth wave of infections.

Daily new COVID-19 cases in Alberta

According to the statistical summary on Wikipedia, total COVID-19 related deaths since the beginning of the pandemic have reached 284.5 million worldwide (687 per million population), 53.7 million in the United States (2,465/million), 7.1 million in Germany (1,322/million) and 2.0 million in Canada (794/million).

So far, infections from Omicron appear to be less harmful although they have been found in fully vaccinated people to a much larger extent than previous variants. Hospitalization rates, including those in ICUs are lower than in past waves as well.

Travel Guidelines & Restrictions

Just prior to our leaving the Canadian federal government issued an advisory recommending people should not travel for non-essential reasons. As that statement came out only a day before our departure, it was not possible to cancel any flight or hotel reservations.

Had they gone up one category and advised against any travel, the provisions of our travel health insurance pertaining to COVID-19 would have been voided, something that would have concerned and, yes, angered us.

They had previously put in place other rules:

·         All air travelers within Canada or leaving or arriving in the country had to be fully vaccinated (i.e. two doses). Booster doses were highly recommended (we had ours).

·         A pre-entry test providing proof of a COVID-19 negative molecular test result, taken within 72 hours of departure time, was required to enter Canada.

·         Registration on a new website called ArriveCAN was needed that would contain the vaccination and test records, travel information and quarantine plans (if necessary) provided within 72 hours of arrival in Canada.

Obtaining a “Covid Pass” showing the vaccination history along with the data contained in a QR code was desirable. This was also important and, in some cases, necessary in order to visit restaurants and some retail establishments. The code could be scanned on to a smart phone, which allowed it to be seen and checked by anyone who needed to see it. The QR codes was supposed to work anywhere in the world. They did not!

COVID vaccination sample pass with image uploaded to a phone

We purchased two test kits from SWITCH Health prior to our departure and carried them with us. Two days before departing Germany, we did the tests with a live online link to an agent of SWITCH Health who viewed the test process. It took about 45 minutes and we had the negative test results almost immediately.

Pre-Flight COVID-19 test result from SWITCH Health

The Feds also stipulated that another COVID-19 test would be required upon arrival back in Canada, essentially mandating two tests within three days. We have had to quarantine at home until the results of the test have been received. This seemed like overkill given all the vaccination and testing requirements already in place before we left home.

Both of us are thankfully negative.

Guidelines & Restrictions in Germany

Germany, of course, had its own rules regarding entry and access to various establishments.

In order to visit restaurants, stores and other venues, we had to provide vaccination records showing the last dose was not older than four months. Just before Christmas they changed that to three months. We were OK with that time frame as our booster shots were only three months before our trip.

Failing a recent vaccination, people had to provide a negative test result within one day. There are many sites throughout Stuttgart where one can walk up and get a test with the results emailed within 15 minutes.

As I said, the Canadian QR code did not work in Germany. With the assistance or our hotel, we were directed to a pharmacy where our vaccination information could be converted to and European Union document and the QR code uploaded to our phones. With that we could go anywhere. Nobody in Canada said this was possible!

Back Home

After a long flight, including waits at airports, and processing through customs and security, we made it back home.

Not long after being in our own home we found out that two of our condo neighbours, along with their son who was staying with them, had contracted the virus just before Christmas. They all had bee fully vaccinated which shows how easily the recent variant can attack. They had only mild symptoms “very similar to a bad cold or mild flu” according to our neighbour.

Notwithstanding that, this is nothing we want to fool with and will continue to take pains to avoid unnecessary contacts with others for the foreseeable future.

Having been able to see our children and grandchildren, though, made all trouble and risk worthwhile.

The Shepheard Family at the Waldhotel, Stuttgart, Germany on Christmas Day

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Living with a pandemic 52

Well, we thought we were coming out of the worst of the pandemic at the beginning of summer. Alberta went so far as relaxing testing and quarantining requirements. Everything was to open up by the end of August and we were to have the “best summer ever.”

I had hoped by now, after writing about the pandemic for over 16 months, that this post would be about celebrating the end of it. Funny how Mother Nature always takes a different course. Maybe not so funny now.

Alberta is in the middle of the 4th wave of Covid-19, and this one looks like a beast as it is fueled by the Delta variant, the most contagious and fastest spreading mutation the world has seen. Our provincial government yesterday declared the third public health emergency with sweeping restrictions on gatherings and insistence on having people providing proof of vaccination or recent negative tests if they want to attend events or even go to work.

The full range of restrictions can be found on the government website.

Yesterday there were over 1,600 new cases in the province. We had 877 people in hospital with the disease, 218 of them in intensive care. Total deaths to date have been 2,495 with 24 happening during the last day. The majority of deaths were in age groups from the 40s to the 60s, not the oldest in the population as it was in the beginning. Of course, it is the younger people who refuse to get vaccinated, so we should not be surprised.

Over 90% of those who are sick have not been vaccinated. Even though that is only about 20% of the population, the aggressive variant has made the latest wave almost as large as the first one, when vaccines wee just beginning.

With regard to our family, we had hoped (still do) that we could have our daughter and her sons visit us at Thanksgiving. We had gone so far as to book flights. Now those plans are in disarray. It may still happen, but the timing does not look good, and we may have to wait until Christmas. That would make it two years since we had been able to hug our children and grandchildren.

One hates to lay blame on the latest wave, but most cases are being seen in unvaccinated people and a great number of them have chosen not to get vaccinated. A few even stupidly think there is some kind of conspiracy to deprive them of their constitutional rights. Most of us know this is a health problem, not a rights problem.

All we can do now is weather this latest storm and hope that the last 20% of the population will come to their senses and get vaccinated. Restrictions on gatherings will only work so far. The end can only come when we reach a level where we are all immune through having had a shot or two of vaccine.

Wish us luck! And be sure to thank all those medical practitioners on the front lines.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Living with a pandemic 51

 During the past 15 months I have been writing a series of posts on my Mother Nature’s Tests blog about the Covid-19 pandemic and how we have adapted to and lived with it. They began on 13 March 2020 and continued through 8 April 2021. This is the 51st and hopefully the last. 

Where we live – in Calgary – was the hotspot of North America with more than 800 new cases per 100,000 population per day just a few weeks ago (2,390 on April 30th). So, our government locked down on businesses and other public gatherings once more.

The new restrictions had their effect, though, and as of the latest counts we were at 100 new daily cases (as of June 19). Total current cases number under 2,200, 214 of them in hospital with 53 in intensive care. We have had over 230,000 people infected and almost 2,300 deaths in the province. Thankfully, 227,000 have recovered. Across Canada over 1.4 million people caught the virus and over 26,000 died.

In Alberta, over 70% of our eligible population (12 years old and up) has had at least one vaccination. Over 28% had received two doses. That means that we can now enter Stage 3 of Alberta’s Open for Summer Plan. As of July 1st (Canada Day):

·         All restrictions will be lifted, including ban on indoor social gatherings.

·         Isolation requirements for confirmed cases of COVID-19 and some protective measures in continuing care settings will remain.

·         The general indoor provincial mask mandate will be lifted, but masking may still be required in limited and specific settings.

Finally, it appears the light at the end of the tunnel is not only bright, but the end of the tunnel is clearly visible.

Not that the danger is over. New cases, especially of the Delta variant, are still appearing and, while in very low numbers here, there is still a risk of infection. Masks and social distancing are still a good idea in many places.

It has been a long siege, with much forward progress, along with intervals of setbacks, and many people doing their best to disrupt the situation by not adhering to rules. But we can look forward to a future now with vaccines that will help to control this virus.

The rest of the world, with a few exceptions, is slowly reaching a point where normal activities might return. We are hopeful that we will get to see our children and grandchildren before the end of the year.

Monday, May 31, 2021

There'll be Some Changes Made


A bit like the lyrics of that old jazz standard song, written by Benton Overstreet and Billy Higgins in 1921, and first recorded by Ethel Waters (listen to her here), there’ll be some changes made to my blogs here.

That song was produced in different version over 400 times. (While you are reading this post, listen to a few interpretations on YouTube by Chet Atkins here, Matty Matlock here or Benny Goodman here). Family historians might even find some of the lyrics (reproduced below) have some application to their ancestors.


There will be a few adjustments to the blogsite. I thought about switching to a different format and host, but I am happy with Blogger so will be staying with it. You may see a few new links to different websites, blogs, publications, photos, etc. I will still use the site to tell stories about my family, and interesting experiences of families of others.

I don’t anticipate we’ll make that many alterations, but readers should be aware of a few.


The decision to change has been prompted by a notice from Feedburner through which blog subscriptions have been managed and emails sent out: “Recently, the Feedburner team released a system update announcement, that the email subscription service will be discontinued in July 2021. After July 2021, your feed will still continue to work, but the automated emails to your subscribers will no longer be supported. If you’d like to continue sending emails, you can download your subscriber contacts.

New Post Announcements

In a couple of weeks, I will switch over to sending email announcements through MailChimp. The email will look different, with only teasers included rather than the entire new post. You will have to click on the link to the blogsite to read entire posts. Subscribers may also click on links to change their preferences or unsubscribe (I hope you won’t do that).

Mother Nature’s Tests

One major change is that I will not be posting blogs on this separate blogsite anymore. All posts related to Mother Nature or natural phenomena will go back to being posted on Discover Genealogy. It was hard enough getting around to finding new ideas for my main blog without having a second one, too. Some of the posts published on Mother Nature’s Tests will be reprised on Discover Genealogy for those who had not seen them. The separate email lists for the two blogs will be merged and all future posts will go subscribers of both blogs.

Stay Tuned

I hope you will continue to find an interest in what you read here. For my part, I will continue to look for material that is of value to genealogists in their quest to find more about their ancestors.


There’ll Be Some Changes Made

Ethel Waters & Her Jazz Masters

They say don't change the old for the new;

But I've found out that this will never do;

When you grow old, you don't last long,

You're just here, my honey, then you're gone;

I loved a man for many years gone by,

I thought his love for me would never die;

He made a change and said I would not do,

So now I'm going to make some changes, too.


Why, there's a change in the weather, there's a change in the sea,

So from now on there'll be a change in me,

My walk will be different, my talk, and my name,

Nothing about me's going to be the same;

I'm gonna change my long tall one for a little short 'n fat,

I'm gonna change my number that I'm living at;

Because nobody wants you when you're old and gray.

There's gonna be some changes made today,

There'll be some changes made.


Why, there's a change in the weather, there's a change in the sea,

So from now on there'll be a change in me,

Why, my walk will be different, and my talk, and my name,

Nothing about me gonna be the same;

I'm gonna change my way of living, and that ain't no shock,

Why, I'm thinking of changin' the way I gotta set my clock,

Because nobody wants you when you're old and gray.

There's gonna be some changes made today,

There'll be some changes made.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Living with a pandemic 50

 I had my second dose of Pfizer vaccine this week. It really is a relief to know that I am now at least partially protected from any deleterious effects of the Covid-19 virus.

That is not to say that I, or anyone else who has received two, or even just one dose cannot acquire the infection and, if so, pass it along. But it does apparently protect me from serious illness or hospitalization if I were to get it. That’s enough for me for now.

In Alberta, where I live, there have now (as of April 6th) been 755,831 doses administered, which represents 16,906.5 doses per 100,000 population. Albertans fully immunized, that is having had two doses, number 133,401. Only 205 adverse effects following immunization have been reported, none of them serious.

Where we live, seniors like us have mostly been vaccinated. But with the new variants and the lack of vaccines, we are not seeing younger people get sick and have to be hospitalized.

We are also now in the midst (or the beginning) of a serious third wave, with the variant strains leading the way. These are much more easily transmitted and much more serious with respect to health concerns – hospitalization and death. The local region, and the world are not out of this pandemic yet.

COVID-19 cases in Alberta by day and case status. Probable cases include cases where the lab confirmation is pending. Data included up to end of day April 06, 2021

The case numbers of the graph here look every bit as daunting as they did in November. Because vaccines have been slow in arriving in Canada, the powers that be have decided that the time periods between first and second doses should be extended to four months, even though the developers of the vaccines recommended was just 21 days!

There is no science behind this decision. It is merely being done to enable more people to get at least one shot when supply is very limited. Only time (and death rates) will tell if the decision was a safe one. Cross your fingers for us.

Around the world, things are not much better of course. We are very fortunate that a vaccine – or vaccines – have been made available in such a short time. There has not been a pandemic like this for over a century and hopefully the vaccines that have become available will provide the effectiveness we need to stop it.

While my wife (who will receive her second dose in a couple of weeks) and I can feel comforted that we are safe, we still worry about our adult children who may be months away from getting their protective vaccines. And no one yet has decided whether young people like our grandchildren will be able to get theirs. Kids can still get sick and we do not know what long term effects they might suffer if they do contract the virus.

In Calgary, there is a depressing trend in new cases toward younger age groups. Many of these are from the new variants as well. It is telling us that we cannot rest on our laurels but must look out for everyone. 

Restrictions on daily life continue. In fact, they have recently been increased in Alberta, much to the chagrin and anger of many people. There are still many that refuse to follow health guidelines which, of course, result in more spread. It seems that too many people think they have a right to endanger their friends and neighbours with their reckless behaviour.

The politicians keep saying, “Hang in there. The end is in sight.”

But is it really?

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

FHF REALLY USEFUL Family History Show - Final Program Listing


FHF REALLY USEFUL Family History Show

Saturday 10 April 2021.

The final program is now set for the REALLY USEFUL Family History Show sponsored by the Family History Federation. Here is the list of great talks.

My own presentation is set for 3:30 pm UK time which is 8:30 am where I live. No worries, though. Once premiered the talk recordings will be viewable on the website for up to 7 days (availability may vary after 48 hours) finally ending at Midnight on 17 April 2021

Talks will premiere throughout the day and will not be available for viewing before the published times.

Where possible speakers will be available at the end of their talks for live questions & answers but participants will be able to leave a message on the chat on the day for a response by e-mail if the speaker is not available at the designated time.

It’s not too late to register. Go to the show website at https://www.fhf-reallyuseful.com/events/fhf-really-useful-family-history-show/



·         Beginning your family history research – Steve Manning

·         Missing from home – David Eniffer

·         Mind mapping and its place in organising and guiding your genealogical research – Linda Hammond

·         Researching British India family history for free using online sources – Valmay Young and Beverley Hallam


·         Muck and muscle: canal & railway navvies – Ian Waller

·         The real Mr Selfridge: History of shopping – Ian Porter

·         From Victorians to Elizabethans: Some sources for tracing our English ancestors from 1901-1952 – Janet Few


·         Wartime volunteer medics – Ian Waller

·         Searching for ancestors when you are adopted – Penny Walters

·         The MyHeritage photo world – Daniel Horowitz


·         Using Irish wills and testamentary records – Natalie Bodle

·         DNA for dummies – Linda Hammond

·         Pauper prisons, pauper palaces: Life in the workhouse – Gillian Draper


·         Wills pre-1858 – Les Mitchinson

·         Coram’s children: The history of the Foundling Hospital – Jane King

·         The family detective. A forensic look at the history of family photography – Stephen Gill


·         Searching for Irish Ancestors – Penny Walters

·         The art of criminal conversation: Divorce – Claire Moores

·         Deaths at sea – Ian Waller


·         The Commonwealth War Graves Commission – Ian Everest

·         Researching women of the Caribbean – Sharon Tomlin

·         Give you research the WDYTYA? treatment – Sarah Williams


·         Jewish Immigration to the UK from re-admission to WW2 – Jeanette Rosenburg

·         Using parish & other records to determine how natural phenomena affected people and communities – Wayne Shepheard

·         Engaging young people in family history – Merrill White

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Living with a pandemic 49

 A Third Wave

While the timing of development of vaccines against Covid-19 have surpassed expectations, the distribution and deployment in many parts of the world has not kept up with the spread of infections. Much of the gap can be attributed to individuals and groups not adhering to social distancing recommendations. Many of us would call it disregard!

The result is that a third wave is upon us. We are well above the numbers that induced the changes to socialization, shopping and travel a year ago. With the latest rise, plans to open the economy have been delayed.

Adding to the problem is the increase in rapidly spreading variants of the original virus. They were rare several months ago. Now, they represent a growing proportion of cases. In Alberta, where I live, 979 of the 6,176 active cases (15.9%) have been identified as “variants of concern.”

In total there have been 1,711 people with variant cases identified of which 715 of them have recovered and 17 died.

When combining all the elements, we are seeing increasing numbers of hospitalized people, lately more every day for the past week. Of the current 280 people in hospital, 48 are in intensive care. Now almost half of them are under the age of 60.

Vaccines will help, of course. Again, here in Alberta 487,493 doses have been administered to date, with 93,414 Albertans fully immunized with two doses. The proportion of our population that has received at least one dose is still small – only 11% of the total – although most of the elderly have now had their first shot, as well as those who care for them in long term facilities. That is good news. My wife and I have had our first shot and are booked for our second in April.

It is difficult to see that the world is close to an end of this pandemic. New cases are still much higher than they were at the start a year ago. In several regions that third wave is rising and much of it has to do with the variants. Unfortunately, in countries where the population should know better, compliance to health guidelines is still an issue.

At least among the older people, vaccines have made a significant difference. Perhaps the younger ones will eventually take note.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Living with a pandemic 48

 Are we on the cusp of a new treatment for Covid-19? Trials of a new drug in Israel are showing much promise.


See also reports here:



Thursday, February 25, 2021

Living with a pandemic 47

 Getting Vaccinated

I had my first jab today. Booking for those over 75 started yesterday. Of course, with over 230,000 seniors wanting to book an appointment, the website had a problem. It took me just under two hours to get through to the final process and I got my first session right on the second day.

Many people have complained about the wait or gave up too soon. The media got right on this with headlines about the slow rollout and mismanagement. But I did not experience that. Everything went smooth after a few setbacks due to the volume of activity. All the folks in the line with me to get a shot had not had a problem.

This whole situation is remarkable when you consider that we are less than a year into the pandemic. In years past research and development has taken years. Now we have several vaccines approved for use within a few months. We are getting spoiled to the extent that we now expect rollouts to happen within days with no hassles. Older people are probably the worst group as far as patience go.

We are now reaching the beginning of the end of this scourge, although there is still a long road ahead before the herd is immunized.

I hope everyone stays safe and well and has a jab of their own soon.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Living with a pandemic 46

 South Korea: A Covid-19 success story

From the time of the initial outbreak of Covid-19 a year ago, South Korea has been a leader in the control of the spread of infection and the resultant death rate.

At present (18 January 2021) the country has had 72,729 cases reported and 1,264 deaths. With a population of 51.71 million people, that represents 24.4 deaths per million. One of the lowest on the planet.

How did they achieve this?

Much of the low rate of spread was voluntary. People stayed home or away from others once they had seen the results of the experience in Wuhan, China.

The government put in place rigorous and extensive programs for testing and contact tracing using rules allowing the use of phones and credit cards to determine prior movements of people. This is unlike many western nations where people are more concerned with “privacy” issues than with national health emergencies. But the South Korean programs have probably been the most responsible for the containment of the virus along with the support of the population.

From top to bottom then from left to right: a queue in front of a pharmacy in Wonju for the distribution of masks, a drone of disinfection in Seongnam, a closed elementary school in Daegu, protest inscriptions against Shincheonji on a car, video call between members of the South Korean government, manufacturing of masks in Busan, 2020 South Korean legislative election, admission of a symptomatic patient to a hospital in Busan, portable medical negative pressure isolation stretcher in a fire station in Hoengseong, firefighters' training in Daegu, thermal camera at the entrance to Wonju hospital, temperature check at Incheon International Airport, drive-through testing in Gyeongju.

Testing numbers have been estimated a 26 to 120 times higher than in other countries in the first few months of the pandemic. Innovative drive-through centres were opened to facilitate people getting tested quickly and efficiently.

Anyone thought to have been near to infected individuals were alerted, prompting immediate testing. Travel into and out of the country was discouraged. Once identified with the virus those infected were required to go into isolation in government shelters.

There was no general lockdown of businesses but there was early closure of schools and other facilities where people would normally gather in large numbers, such as gyms and movie theatres. Major sporting activities wee allowed to go ahead in April with no fans in the stands. Easing of restrictions was only done when information about the rate of infections was better known and could be controlled.

Through April 2020, daily increases in the number of new cases were kept to single digits.

Even with the higher numbers in south Korea’s third wave of infection, the number of new cases is still well under any other country of similar size. Canada, for example, has had 18,014 deaths to date, or 479 per million people. We average over 6,000 cases per day, over 10 times the number in South Korea.

Ongoing testing, distribution of information and cooperation of South Korea’s people have combined to allow the country to manage the pandemic very well.