Fighting Plagues Old and New

We’re in a situation right now affecting the health as well as the economic and social well-being of all San Diego County residents as well as our fellow human beings across our region and across the world. So I felt the need to look for historical lessons about another plague.

Right now it’s worth remembering that humanity defeated smallpox in 1979. An Associated Press dispatch printed in The San Diego Union of October 19 1979 noted that “On October 26, officials of the Geneva-based World Health Organization which led the final assault on the virus, will travel to Nairobi to declare that smallpox has been eradicated.”

“Over the centuries,” the article noted, “smallpox killed, blinded or permanently scarred hundreds of millions.” But a worldwide campaign to educate and vaccinate people had reached the point where there had been no new cases reported since 1977. A Union article in December of 1979 stated: “Smallpox experts, saying no one has collected the $1,000 reward offered by the World Health Organization since 1979 for anyone reporting a verified case of the disease, recommended that the U. N. General Assembly drop the offer.”

The triumph of humanity over smallpox is one of the examples cited in a recent Time Magazine article by Yuval Noah Harari, a historian and philosopher. At the beginning of the article he makes an important point: “…while short-term quarantine is essential to stop epidemics, long-term isolationism will lead to economic collapse without offering any real protection against infectious diseases. Just the opposite The real antidote to epidemic is not segregation, but rather cooperation.”

Below is a link to the full article. I recommend it as important food for thought in this time of a new plague. Stay well everyone!

Link to Time article: .


A New Source for History Seekers

I spent last week at RootsTech2020 in Salt Lake City. RootsTech is an annual conference for genealogical researchers. Readers may recall that my historical research and writing work includes partnering with my wife in a family history research business, StorySeekers. Family history is history in microcosm; genealogy and the broader history of local communities, regions and nations are inevitably inter-related.

While attending a conference seminar, “Mexican Families of Early California,” I learned of a great new source for historical records, the Early California Population Project (ECPP). The “ECPP is a database compiled by the Huntington Library in San Marino, California. It consists of transcriptions from California mission registers from 1769 through 1850. These hand-written registers, as the library’s website explains, “are the books or folios in which mission priests recorded every baptism, marriage and burial conducted by that particular mission.”

These records offer vital info on Hispanic, Indigenous and Anglo-American people who interacted with the missions during that era, which is to say a big chunk of humanity. And I’m happy to say that the list of missions whose records can be found at ECPP includes the two historic San Diego County missions, San Diego de Alcala and San Luis Rey.

I’ve just begun to dig into this database. If you’d like to check it out, visit ,then click on “Access the Database.” When you get that far, I strongly advise you to then click on the “Help and More” tab to access their User Guide.

You can get regular updates of San Diego History Seeker automatically in your email by clicking on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner of the blog page. You’ll then get an email asking you to confirm. Once you confirm you’ll be an active follower.