Sunday, October 7, 2018
While you are reading this—at least, if it is on this Sunday—I am likely counting the minutes until I land at my home airport after spending half the week in Kansas City at the Association of Professional Genealogists' conference. Thus, if you are an astute observer of the human condition, you will realize that my biweekly count of genealogical research progress had to, by necessity, be cut short for this time period.
Still, I am pursuing that goal of filling in as many blanks in my mother's family tree as possible, before that January SLIG class on researching southern roots. And, these past two weeks, albeit compressed, weren't too shabby. I was able to add 263 documented names to that family tree, leaving the total now at 15,149.
Of course, stuff happens, and it's the kind of stuff which requires record keeping updates in some of the other trees, too. News of a likely DNA match made me realize I had gotten some new hints on my Ancestry tree for my father's line, thus inching up his tree total by two to 516. And a death in my mother-in-law's extended family brought me an obituary with some details (eleven name additions, in fact) which needed to be added to her tree; it's now at 15,714. Somehow, only my father-in-law's family saw no action; his tree remains stuck at 1,514—though even there, I might see progress, if recent email exchanges with another DNA match of Irish descent can lead us to a jointly-held ancestor.
Sometimes, I wish I could be the researcher I wish to be for each of these family lines. The reality of the matter is that sometimes, we are able to zoom ahead in one line—stumbling across a long-sought but elusive document revealing all, perhaps—while stagnating in another research realm. When a specific research plan zeroes in on one branch of the family—inadvertently requiring all others to languish for the moment—we have to realize that is the price we pay, in progress, on those other trees. Genealogy research sometimes feels like a zero sum game, but it is only because we have a finite amount of time available to us. Thus, the choices and the measurement of progress.
That, however, is a half-empty philosophy, when a half-full philosophy would much better suit me. I prefer to think of the researcher's time dilemma as one tool to help us hone our goal-setting radar, and counting as one means to allow us to visualize just how much progress we are making. If we are really awash in possible ancestors—theoretically (though not necessarily true, back through all the ages), with the number doubling every generation, as we go backwards in time—measuring our progress at least gives us a sense of how much territory we cover with each incremental time span. For a finite mind like mine, I need to see that measurement of progress.