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The Legal Genealogist’s top posts for 2020

If anyone had posed the question even an hour ago — what were the top 10 posts at The Legal Genealogist in 2020? — the answer would have been very different.

The answer would’ve been: “I have absolutely no idea.”

This year — 2020 — has just been too weird. Too many times, it’s just been too hard to focus, too hard to think, too hard to look at genealogy and the joys of family history when separated from family itself.

So, seriously, if anyone had posed the question even an hour ago about the top 10 posts for this blog in this crazy year of 2020, there’s just no way I could have even come up with a list of 10 posts — much less a list of the top 10.

Thank heavens for metrics and analytics — there really have been more than 10 posts in 2020 and, looking back on those posts from this vantage point here at the end of this crazy year, there are at least 10 whose authorship I would be happy to claim.

Top 10 posts for 2020

Not surprisingly, some deal with the very weird parts of this very weird year. Others are more — can we even use the word normal anymore?

In any case, here they are, in a reverse countdown, the top 10 posts of The Legal Genealogist in this very weird year of 2020:

10. All the facts…,” posted 1 March: “For nearly two years, the genealogical community has been rocked by news that the DNA testing databases we use to find cousins and (sigh…) consider if we want to trade our lederhosen for kilts have sometimes been used by law enforcement in criminal investigations — initially without our knowledge, even today in some cases without our informed consent. And most of the time when someone like The Legal Genealogist has written about it, it’s been in response to a specific issue — and usually a specific problem — that’s cropped up along the way. And, because the discussion has been in response to a problem, it’s usually anything but dispassionate. Those who believe crime-solving should be a priority can’t listen to those who think each individual has to have the right to choose personally whether to allow that use his or her data, and vice versa. We haven’t had a chance to sit back, take a deep breath, and look at the facts of law enforcement use of genealogical databases — and just the facts. Until now.”

9. Business as usual,” posted 7 August: “So… what do I think of the buy-out of some investment company interests by other investment company interests? Not a single darned thing… until and unless we see if the outcome is a shift in focus by the new controlling interests.”

8. Now more than ever,” posted 15 December: “It absolutely breaks The Legal Genealogist’s heart. Of all the aspects of this bitter pandemic, the one that hurts the most is the inability to properly grieve those we are losing. We cannot be with them at the end to hold their hands as they slip away. We cannot fill a church or a chapel or a synagogue or any gathering place with all those who knew them and loved them and want to pay their respects. We cannot hug those who mourn. And so, now more than ever, it’s time and past time for Ancestry to exercise its authority over its Find a Grave wing and impose a waiting period between a death and the time a stranger wholly unconnected to the family posts the loss in a public place the family has not chosen.”

7. TNSTAAFL,” posted 11 December: “It’s a subject that keeps coming up, over and over, throughout the genealogical community. It’s one that The Legal Genealogist has addressed, more than once, in the past. It starts with someone posting an inquiry somewhere online. It seems perfectly innocent. It’s just a request for help, and helping is something we do here in the genealogical community, right? ‘There’s an Important Document about my family on Subscription Website that I’d like to have but I’m not a subscriber,’ the inquiry begins. ‘Would someone who is a subscriber please get it for me?’”

6. Maybe in our genes???,” posted 5 July: “Oy. Just what we needed. If the facts about COVID-19 weren’t bad enough, we now discover some of the risk factors may be in our genes. Yes, indeedy, if you’ve taken a DNA test for genealogy, you too may be able to find out if you need to do more hiding-under-the-bed. Which is where The Legal Genealogist is… and may remain… Because — sigh — an extra dose of susceptibility to COVID-19 may well be in my genes.”

5. Ordering the SS-5: 2020 style,” posted 16 November: “There’s good news and bad news on the ‘please may I have a copy of that application for a Social Security number’ front.The bad news is, all of us — The Legal Genealogist included — are going to have to get used to a whole new ordering system for the form known as the SS-5. The good news is, it’s a really easy system, and the fee of $21 whether you do or don’t have a Social Security number is less than what it’s been historically, and is reasonable considering what we might get from this document type.”

4. Chilling with AncestryDNA,” posted 19 July: “Yes, The Legal Genealogist is aware of the upcoming change at AncestryDNA to eliminate the smallest of our small-segment matches. Yes, I’m aware this will mean potentially thousands of matches not showing up any more. And I have some advice about this: Chill. Let me repeat that. Chill.”

3. Opportunity knocking,” posted 15 March: “All of a sudden there’s time on my hands. It’d be easy to sit back and focus on the very very large dollop of bad news we’re all been hit with over the past week. Easy to keep checking the news sites over and over as if that will make things change. But I’m going to challenge myself to do something different with the time on my hands. I’m going to try to see it as opportunity knocking.”

2. What DNA can’t tell us,” posted 16 February: “In genealogical research, DNA has one purpose and one purpose only: it helps give us evidence we can use to establish biological relationships. It doesn’t — can’t — won’t ever — tell us one single thing about something that’s a whole lot more important. It doesn’t tell us about families. Or about how families are and have been made for generations.”

And the top post for 2020, combining the law and genealogy in a very different way:

1. Ancestry sued for yearbooks, posted 2 December: “Where’s the line between making material available for genealogical research, and using private data for commercial gain? A lawsuit filed in federal court in San Francisco on Monday may help define the answer to that question.”

On to 2021… with one more — dare I say it — normal sidetrack into the top post list for all time…

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “2020 top posts,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 29 Dec 2020).

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