Finishing the Decade Genealogy Style

Introduction: In this article, Gena Philibert-Ortega gives some genealogy tips as we wrap up not just a year – but an entire decade. Gena is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.”

Can you believe that we are finishing up the decade, and in two days we will be entering the ’20s? Social media posts are asking users what they accomplished or how their life changed in the last 10 years. Answering those questions calls for some introspection that’s worthy of a journal entry or two, but I have a question for family historians.

Illustration: Welcome the New Year

What changes in your family have happened in the last 10 years? What needs to be documented in your family history databases or online trees? At first thought it may seem like not a lot has happened – but if you really consider all of the births, marriages, and deaths, as well as the other genealogically relevant events, you may realize quite a lot did happen. Add to that the records and newspapers that became available online in the last 10 years, and there’s quite a bit you can add to your family history from the last decade.


Births, marriages, and deaths are just some of the “facts” that should be added to your family trees. In 10 years, depending on what family lines you were working on, it’s possible you forgot to update more recent vital record events.

When I think about my immediate family, we haven’t had any births or marriages in this decade – but we have unfortunately experienced quite a few deaths. I need to check and make sure I’ve updated my genealogy software with that information and consider what documents I need to gather that I don’t have already.

Some related records for BMD events include vital record certificates, newspaper articles, and photos that document the names, dates, and places. For deaths you can include records that document the burial information, such as an obituary.

Genealogy Tip: It’s obvious you should search GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives for general newspaper articles, but don’t forget about looking for results in the Recent Obituaries collection (1977 to current day). This collection is updated daily and includes newspapers not found in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives.

Photo: obituaries for the surname “Smith” from the Dallas Morning News, Recent Obituaries collection
Photo: obituaries for the surname “Smith” from the Dallas Morning News, Recent Obituaries collection.

Milestone Events

Did someone in your family celebrate a milestone event like a 25th, 50th or 70th wedding anniversary? Was there a party or a family reunion to celebrate the event? Was any of that information printed in a local newspaper? Now’s the time to record that information, including the names of those who celebrated with the couple.

An article about the Cassell's 50th wedding anniversary, Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper article 24 December 2017
Las Vegas Review-Journal (Las Vegas, Nevada), 24 December 2017, page 27

What about other milestone events? Did someone in your family turn 90 or 100 years young? Was that recorded in a newspaper article? Who was at the party? Document those events in your genealogy to help tell the story of that person’s life.

Other milestone events might include a job promotion, an earned college degree, or an award. While these events may not seem genealogically relevant, our work as family historians should be about documenting our family members’ lives, and these events definitely fit the bill. Adding that type of information will be most welcome decades from now when your family or their descendants want to learn more about that person’s life.

What Did I Look Like in 2010?

Some people have posted photos of themselves as they started and ended the decade. Aside from commenting how you have physically changed, I find this exercise a good reminder that now’s the time to take photos from this decade and scan, identify, and share them. That’s how we preserve our shared family history: by making sure we have items backed up and shared so that others have access to them.

I keep thinking that the last decade for me has also included having kids that started out in elementary school and ended with their high school graduations. That’s a lot of photos! One day when I’m no longer here, someone who inherits these photos won’t know the stories behind them, so it’s my job to document them now. A worthy goal for 2020.

Goodbye Teens, Hello to the New Roaring Twenties

What has the last 10 year been like for your family history? Take some time now before it becomes a distant memory and update your genealogy databases and online trees. Seek out documents you might have missed, including relevant newspaper articles that include milestone events, and births, marriages, and deaths. And don’t forget to do something with the photos you and other family members have taken from this past decade, including getting them off your phone, digital camera card, or mobile device. Family history isn’t just about studying generations past – it is also about us being good stewards of the history we experience.

2 thoughts on “Finishing the Decade Genealogy Style

  1. Have we really finished the decade? What was the first decade? Was it year 0 to year 9 or year 1 to year 10? I think that it was the latter so we have one more year to this decade.

  2. Howland, you bring up a good point that I’ve seen argued both ways in the last month. However, one thing to consider is if someone was born in 1930, would you say they were born in the decade of the Twenties?

    Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on the article–Gena

Leave a Reply to Gena Philibert-Ortega Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.