Pandemic Post

This is March of 2020. History will record that at this time, the entire planet is experiencing the Pandemic of coronavirus known as Covid-19. I’m going to write about preparedness today.

When I’m not doing genealogy research for myself or clients, I am a Safety Instructor. I teach CPR and First Aid. Right now, with Stay-At-Home orders for Southern California and many other places in the nation, indeed around the globe, no one really wants a CPR class right now. Quite understandable. I also teach other safety classes such as Forklift Safety, Bloodborne Pathogens, and Earthquake Preparedness.

Disaster Preparedness

Earthquake Preparedness is really a form of Disaster Preparedness. A disaster can also be a hurricane, tornado, or even a worldwide pandemic.

I will not advocate any particular brand of product for Disaster Preparedness. What brand of toilet paper you buy, or water or water filter, or flashlight, is entirely up to you. I’m not doing a commercial. In fact, most experts will recommend that if a YouTuber or other “social media influencer” recommends a particular product, they are really doing a commercial. In my opinion, all of the “influencers” of the world are really doing commercials. Which means, they are making money when you purchase what they “recommend.” Often, they recommend their own product. Conflict of interest?

I will advocate some training and education provided for free [in most cases] by local Fire Departments, and suggest some books [written by authors I do not know and have no affiliation with]. I have no financial interest in anything I am writing about today. No conflict of interest here.

CERT Training

I strongly suggest CERT Training. CERT is Community Emergency Response Team. I wholeheartedly recommend it. You don’t need to sign up for any team if you don’t want to. Here in SoCal, we learn about earthquakes. In other parts of the country, you learn about tornadoes, hurricanes, or other disasters. CERT is really an excellent form of Disaster Preparedness. Most local Fire Departments, either at the City or County levels, offer CERT training. Most often, it is free. Some local jurisdictions may charge a small fee, such as $50, and may even refund most or all of your money if you simply attend every single class! It really can’t be beat.

Whenever I ask if someone else has taken CERT training and would they recommend it, the answer is always a wholehearted “YES!” You can’t go wrong.

More info about CERT here.

which has a link to “Find Your Local CERT” here.

Here in Southern California, our local CERT website is here.

When this pandemic is over, and social distancing is no longer ordered, I encourage you to take a CERT class.

Disaster Supply Kit

The problem during this particular pandemic is so many people are unprepared and are hoarding supplies. Toilet paper, disinfectant wipes, and other supplies are simply sold out at most stores. If someone legitimately runs out of toilet paper, and can’t buy it because so many other unprepared people filled up their garage with a year’s supply, that creates problems. Friends have jokingly said that having a bidet would mean never needing toilet paper again! Jokes aside, that choice is a personal one for you and your family.

Part of the CERT training includes suggestions on how to purchase supplies such as a Disaster Supply Kit. Many of the “preppers” that talk about preparedness want to sell you something specific, often products they are merchandising at their own website. Avoid the commercials. The CERT training in Los Angeles includes a Disaster Supplies Calendar as a downloadable PDF to buy things for your kit over 24 weeks, with no particular brand suggested. 

Such a schedule includes things such as a hand can opener, in case you have no electricity after an earthquake, tornado or hurricane. The calendar also suggests rotating your stock, so once you have purchased everything on the list, go back to the beginning, buy new stuff as needed, and put the food you bought months ago in your kitchen or pantry and eat it, so that nothing ever expires.

After this pandemic is over, I suggest building up your emergency supplies. If you have an emergency or Disaster Supply Kit, which includes food, toilet paper and other supplies, you feel more confident that you can survive the hoarding of nervous unprepared people. And you yourself will not be nervous and unprepared.

Books and Movies

For books that are informative, I suggest the following. I do not know any of the authors, I just liked their books.

To understand earthquakes and other disasters better, Dr. Lucy Jones wrote a fabulous book titled The Big Ones.

Real stories included, The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes — and Why by Amanda Ripley is very informative. She writes about the terrorist attack of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, among other ideas. And gives some excellent suggestions for Disaster Preparedness.

For streaming video, some people are watching Pandemic and Unseen Enemy, which has Dr. Larry Brilliant, who is known for his work to eradicate smallpox. I have not yet viewed Unseen Enemy, but have heard good things about it.

For fiction movies, people are turning to Contagion and Outbreak. While Contagion is a work of fiction, the filmmakers interviewed staff at the Centers for Disease Control and asked what happens in their nightmares. I haven’t seen Outbreak in years.

There are certainly many other “disaster” movies out there, and one cannot recommend them all. And some simply cannot be recommended.

There are many good movies available on many good streaming services. Pick your way to watch.

I would caution you that some movies, disguising themselves as documentaries, are really propaganda for a particular political viewpoint. I endorse getting real news, real facts.

For the genealogist in me, I can also suggest you make your own home movies, telling what you did during this Stay-At-Home pandemic, so that future generations know what happened with you during this time!

And when this is all over, we can all be a little better prepared! Read your books, watch your TV, eat your food, and Happy Pandemic everyone! We will get through this.

Find Your Revolutionary Roots

Family Tree Magazine had an excellent article about how to “Find Your Revolutionary Roots” in their July/August 2019 issue. The article was written by Shelley Bishop, a professional genealogist and member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). She gives some excellent resources and ideas in the article, based in part on her experience researching her own American Patriot.

I subscribe to the paper hard copy edition, but the magazine is available as a digital edition online.

Enjoy your search!

Speaking at WAGS on March 21

I am speaking at the Whitter Area Genealogical Society on March 21, 2020 at 1:00 PM. I am presenting a talk about Cite Your Sources: Ways to Deliver Your Research to the Future and Prove You’re Trustworthy.

If you don’t know what a source citation is, are fearful of doing it wrong, or intimidated by what experts say it should be, this class will cover the necessities and more. A citation should not strike fear in the hearts of researchers. Instead, it should be something we all practice in our daily research. Become familiar with simple practices that we can all easily learn, and why we do it.

The location is the Whittier Masonic Lodge at 7604 Greenleaf Ave. Whittier, CA 90602.

More information at the WAGS website. See you there!

Beginning Genealogy Class

I am teaching a Beginning Genealogy Class on Saturday, February 8, 2020 at 9:00 AM. Class will be at the Southern California Genealogical Society SCGS Library.

You will learn about Genealogy Standards, best practices, how to look for records, what to do when you find records, software apps for genealogy, organizing and filing systems, and where to go from here. An excellent foundation for any Beginning or Intermediate Genealogist.

The address is 417 Irving Drive, Burbank, CA 91504-2408.

For more info, call SCGS at (818) 843-7247.

If you are in So Cal, I’ll see you there!

One Piece of Evidence is Incomplete: Methodology and the Genealogical Proof Standard Helps Tell a More Robust Family Narrative

The Genealogical Proof Standard states that we should do reasonably exhaustive research, as well as analyze and correlate our evidence (among other steps).[1] A common beginner’s mistake is to find a single document and believe research is complete for that person. Searching for more documents is the task of a diligent researcher. One document rarely tells the whole story, as it is incomplete.

Two narratives will be told, the first explaining the events described in a telegram, and the second narrative will provide more details regarding the telegram and surrounding events, correlating the facts.


Figure 1 — “Virginia Vessels (Cross) Scrapbook, Telegram” (telegram from Virginia Cross to Allen Cross, June 15, 1945), Mark Cross personal collection.

Narrative A

Virginia Cross kept a scrapbook, which contained a telegram. In reading the telegram, the facts literally on the page include:

  • Telegram was sent from Vine Grove, Kentucky
  • Telegram was sent to Corporal Allen P. Cross
  • Telegram was sent to an APO (Army Post Office) in San Francisco
  • The body of message reads “Dad Vessels passed away June 15 [1945]”
  • Telegram was sent from Virginia

From these facts, one could easily determine that Corporal Allen P. Cross was in the US Army, likely in the Pacific Theatre, in June of 1945. However, we do not know how these three people are related to each other, unless we obtain other documents.

The relatives of these people already know that Virginia Vessels married Allen Cross. “Dad” Vessels was her father. She sent the telegram to her husband in 1945 during WWII, informing him that her father died.[2] This date corroborates the date on the death certificate of William Roy Vessels.[3]

While the two documents of the telegram and the death certificate corroborate the death date of William Roy, this is still an incomplete narrative as it is a singular element. Additional research reveals more.

Narrative B

Now, let us connect the dots and explain more details of the family narrative, using additional sources.

Virginia Marie Vessels was born 9 March 1928 in Hardin County, Kentucky to William Roy Vessels and Sarah Catherine Ray.[4] In 1930, the family resided in Hardin County, Kentucky.[5] By 1935, the family had moved to Los Angeles County, California.[6] The family likely moved due to hard times during the Great Depression. William Roy found work on the oil rigs in Long Beach, California.[7]

William Roy’s mother, Celestia Greenwell Vessels, died on 1 June 1945 in Hardin County, Kentucky.[8] Several of the Vessels family members in California traveled to Kentucky for her funeral. While in Kentucky, William Roy became ill, and died of complications of a heart attack and a burst appendix on 15 June 1945.[9] Virginia buried both her grandmother and her father within two weeks in Kentucky.

The siblings of Virginia are identified in the census records.[10]

Virginia’s brother John Paul served in WWII. In 1945, Virginia could not know the fate of her brother. Today we know John Paul served in WWII,[11] Korea, and Viet Nam, and died in 1977.[12] During his military career, he was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and the Purple Heart, among other citations.[13]

Virginia’s brother William Henry also served in WWII, but met with a different fate. He was killed overseas on January 16, 1945 at the age of nineteen.[14] This was only five months prior to the death of Virginia’s grandmother and father. He served in the 272nd Infantry, [15] which fought in the Battle of the Bulge, where family lore says he was killed in action.[16]

Virginia Marie Vessels and Allen Paul Cross had a son during the war.[17] When Virginia’s father died in June 1945, her son was an infant. As was common at the time, she likely wondered if her son would ever know his soldier father. As it turns out, Allen did return from the war, and he and Virginia had a total of seven children.[18]

Comparison of the Two Narratives

Narrative A tells us that Virginia’s father died, and she sent a telegram to her husband informing him of that fact. Her husband was overseas in the Army during WWII. This information is gleaned from primarily two sources, the telegram and the death certificate of Virginia’s father. Note that Virginia’s father and husband are not identified with only these documents. The dots are not yet connected.

Narrative B provides more detail, with many more sources. Virginia is identified as daughter of William Roy, sister to her brothers, and wife to Allen Cross by these additional documents.[19] Virginia was born in Kentucky but raised in California. Some family members traveled to Kentucky for her grandmother’s funeral, and her father became ill on the trip and died about two weeks later. Virginia had two brothers serving in WWII, one had been killed in action just five months prior to the Kentucky funerals. Virginia and her husband Allen had a young son born during the war. Virginia’s husband was also serving in WWII and both were well aware of the hazards of war. With several family members now deceased, Virginia sent a telegram to her husband, telling him her father died, whom her husband in all likelihood had met. Virginia’s husband was unable to comfort or console her as he was overseas fighting the war.

Narrative B also illustrates the FAN Club [Friends, Associates & Neighbors] research methodology advocated by Elizabeth Shown Mills.[20] Many of these additional facts are not directly about Virginia, but about her family members. These family events undoubtedly had an impact on Virginia.


Narrative A provides some important, but scant, details regarding the event of the death of Virginia’s father. Narrative B provides many more important and relevant details, including FAN Club research.

We do not know exactly what Virginia was thinking or feeling, as there are no surviving letters or journals that describe this time of her life in her own words. However, for any human with emotions and empathy, the facts speak for themselves. Virginia had a challenging time near the end of the war, with several family deaths occurring quite near each other, both overseas and away from her California home in Kentucky.

While the telegram provides important information, by itself it is only a singular element in a larger story. The Genealogical Proof Standard suggests additional steps in research. With reasonably exhaustive research, and analyzing and correlating the information, more details are uncovered, and a more compelling story can be told. At the heart of genealogy, we gather many solid facts, with source citations, so we can tell a compelling story.


[1] Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards: 50th Anniversary Edition (, 2014).
[2] “Virginia Vessels (Cross) Scrapbook, Telegram” (telegram from Virginia Cross to Allen Cross, June 15, 1945), Mark Cross personal collection.
[3] Registrar of Vital Statistics Kentucky, “Death Certificate No 12428, William Roy Vessels” (June 15, 1945).
[4] Cabinet for Health and Family Services Kentucky, “Virginia Marie Vessels Birth Certificate, Cert #4102231” (1928).
[5] “1930 US Federal Census, Population Schedule, Hardin County, Kentucky, Page 1A (Penned). Dwelling 6, Family 6,” FamilySearch, accessed August 19, 2019,
[6] “1940 US Federal Census, Population Schedule, Los Angeles County, California, Downey Township, Sheet 23A (Penned), Household 560,” FamilySearch, accessed August 19, 2019, The 1940 Census records that the Vessels family lived in the “same house” in 1935.
 [7] “World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942, (4th Registration) for the State of California, William Roy Vessels” (April 25, 1942), Record Group Number: 147, The National Archives at St. Louis,
[8] Registrar of Vital Statistics Kentucky, “Death Certificate, File No. 12292, Selestie Vessels” (June 1, 1945).
[9] Death Certificate, William Roy Vessels.
[10] “1930 US Federal Census, Hardin County, Kentucky.” Also see “1940 US Federal Census, Los Angeles County, California.”
[11] “U.S., World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946 – John Paul Vessels Ancestry.Com,” accessed August 19, 2019,
[12] “John Paul Vessels (1916-1977) – Find A Grave” accessed August 19, 2019,
[13] “Virginia Vessels (Cross) Scrapbook, John Paul Vessels Disposition Form” (US Army Disposition Form, after 1953), Mark Cross personal collection.
[14] “William Henry Vessels (1926-1945) – Find A Grave,” accessed August 19, 2019,
[15], “U.S., Headstone Applications for Military Veterans, 1925-1963, William H. Vessels, Serial No. 39580850” (n.d.).
[16] Rod Vessels, “Rod Vessels Family Tree Maker Genealogy Database: Unsourced Genealogy” (July 12, 2011), Mark Cross personal collection.
[17] Name withheld for privacy, living person.
[18] Names withheld for privacy, living persons.
[19] Some documents not cited here for privacy of living persons.
[20] “Elizabeth Shown Mills Genealogy – FamilySearch Wiki,” accessed August 19, 2019,