All posts by Jean Powers

About Jean Powers

Jean provides editing, writing, design, illustration, and creative and strategic concepts for a variety of marketing, development, educational, and outreach projects. She assists on American Ancestors magazine, The Weekly Genealogist newsletter, the Great Migration Study Project, and our Facebook page.

ICYMI: A helping hand

[Editor’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 30 March 2015.]

Chris Child helping Jean get started in the 4th floor library at NEHGS.
Chris Child helping Jean get started in the 4th floor library at NEHGS.

Before I began researching my ancestry, I was overwhelmed by the undertaking. It seemed like an impossible task that would take up all my time — trying to make sense of all those great-great-great-greats with their shifting residences, repeating names, and overlapping dates. I’ve always been bad with numbers and dates, and tend to be distracted by anything new and exciting, so my past attempts at uncovering information about my ancestors have resulted in a confusing game of Internet hopscotch through random records I couldn’t really understand concerning people to whom I may or may not have been related. I had convinced myself that I was uniquely ill equipped for genealogical research. Continue reading ICYMI: A helping hand

Remember me as I was

Jean 1
Joan Whitty, St. Mary of the Annunciation School graduation photo, circa 1951.

When my mother was diagnosed with ALS in 2009, our family had the first of many discussions about her end-of-life plans. Never one to shy away from difficult topics, Mom expressed her wishes with characteristic cheerful directness. She wanted everything done with the least fuss and greatest economy.

The one decision that gave her pause was the photo to accompany her obituary. She didn’t want to be remembered as she looked in the late stages of ALS, but she also felt it would be “phony” to run a photo of herself in young adulthood, before marriage and motherhood. And from this question came a series of conversations between myself and my mother that I carry with me as my own appearance changes along with my sense of who I am. Continue reading Remember me as I was

A helping hand

Chris Child helping Jean get started in the 4th floor library at NEHGS.
Chris Child helping Jean get started in the 4th floor library at NEHGS.

Before I began researching my ancestry, I was overwhelmed by the undertaking. It seemed like an impossible task that would take up all my time — trying to make sense of all those great-great-great-greats with their shifting residences, repeating names, and overlapping dates. I’ve always been bad with numbers and dates, and tend to be distracted by anything new and exciting, so my past attempts at uncovering information about my ancestors have resulted in a confusing game of Internet hopscotch through random records I couldn’t really understand concerning people to whom I may or may not have been related. I had convinced myself that I was uniquely ill equipped for genealogical research.

But kind fate reached out a helping hand in the form of my friend and colleague Chris Child. Not only is Chris a really nice guy, he’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, and a legend in the genealogical community. He offered to help me begin and guide me through my research. I accepted immediately, before he could change his mind. Continue reading A helping hand

The perfect time to begin

Kiss me -- I'm pretty sure I'm Irish
Kiss me — I’m pretty sure I’m Irish

After eleven years on the staff at NEHGS, I finally had to face the fact that I had never investigated my own family history. Colleagues had urged me to undertake my own genealogy, and I always said I would, absolutely . . . some day in the future. And so it went, year after year — my ancestry was always something I’d trace later, when I had more time, when things calmed down a little at work and at home, when I could really dedicate myself to it. As any of us who’ve made that “when things calm down” promise to ourselves know, things never calm down. Continue reading The perfect time to begin