Through the years, a number of expletive-laden comments have been made about statistics. After all, not many people have fond memories of their college statistics classes. I can hardly blame them.
Today, though, I am not ashamed to stand and confess, “Statistics is my friend.” Why? In times when a researcher gets so mired in the details as to lose sight of the goal, impartial numbers can serve as encouragement. After all, a number doesn’t bend to make me happy, or tell me lies (contrary to a certain popular quote). A number is a number is a number. And right now, I need some numbers to help me see that I am, indeed, making progress.
It’s the task I’m bogging down in that’s gotten to me: trying to sort through the generations of all the descendants of my Taliaferro line. I’ve gone back to the beginning of the 1700s to start with Richard Taliaferro. From there, I’m wending my way through the descendant lines of each of Richard and Rose Berryman Taliaferro’s thirteen—at least—children.
Last time I talked about this, I had been working on the lines of their son, Dr. John Taliaferro. That was nine days ago.
I’m still working on that same line. Did I make any progress at all?
It doesn’t feel like it.
That, you see, is why I need to employ some numbers. Think of this as my Cheering-Up Party. Statistics are for celebrating.
Turns out, all that hard work did get me somewhere. Last time I looked, I had less than fourteen hundred people in my family tree database. I am now up to almost nineteen hundred. Over five hundred entries in nine days isn’t bad. No wonder it felt so tedious!
Meanwhile, over at Family Tree DNA, where my autosomal DNA “Family Finder” test results await my return, the match tally is racing me. Last time I looked, I had seven hundred fifty matches. Now, there are seven hundred sixty seven.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to add any more of those matches to my confirmed relationships count. There is so much yet to learn about those ancestors seven generations back—and beyond.
When you find yourself doing a lot of work, yet having precious little to show for the effort, it is statistics that can shine the light on your progress. Yes, I’ve been swamped under the data dump from endless pages of old genealogies. But sometimes, it helps to stop what you are doing and come up for air. Keeping a count of the mile markers passed, the surnames aggregated, the records collected helps.