Sunday, December 15, 2019
Counting the Connections
It took a recent obituary to get me back to work on my mother-in-law's family tree. She—child of an isolated, coal-mining county where everyone, seemingly, is related to everyone else—never fails to amaze me with the number of connections her distant cousins all have to each other. While hers is not a case of true endogamy, I like to call it "endogamy lite." There are nearly that many connections.
And so, when one unfortunate distant cousin closes his eyes for the last time, his obituary reads like a Who's Who of family relations. That means, for today's biweekly count of my research progress, her tree did not stand stock still as at other times. The departed relative and his many cousins led me to one hint after another. Seventy-three new names' worth of hints, actually. And my mother-in-law's tree count has risen to 17,267 documented names.
That, unfortunately, triggered another research task: the culling of duplicate entries. You see, when I add a new name, I don't just transcribe the data from documents onto my tree. Each name presents further connections—names of now-deceased parents, living (and now married) siblings, and descendants leading me to another generation. But each time I add another name in this intermarried county, I stumble upon relatives of other kin already in the tree. Which leads me to yet another batch of hints and documents.
While I'm working my way up from the present generation, there is another dynamic at work. One of my research goals, in the face of DNA matches I can't figure out, is to create a "descendants of" chart of the earliest ancestors of my mother-in-law. As you can imagine, at some point, the work backwards in time from the current generation crosses over an already-completed line from the "descendants of" project. And I end up with duplicate entries in my tree.
That is what happened this past week with that discovery of the distant cousin's obituary. Knowing it was time to do another count, I couldn't just let those duplicates sit there, inflating the count and masking my true level of progress. So what did I have to take time to do? Eliminate all those duplicate entries.
Meanwhile, the date of my colonial Virginia class at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy is rapidly closing in on me. I have much to do to spruce up my own mother's tree—the one that leads me to those colonial candidates for research this coming January. I've been working on my Boothe line in Nansemond County, Virginia, but the progress has been slow. Right now, I have 20,244 in my mother's tree, an increase of 184 over the past two weeks. Nice, but not quite as fast as I had hoped. These family lines with messy secrets impede research progress, though I have to admit, they lead to fascinating reading...if I can find the right tell-all documents.
As has happened for far too many weeks than I care to think about, both my father's and my father-in-law's trees have suffered no research progress in the past two weeks. My dad's tree has been stuck at 654 names for the past two months, and my father-in-law's tree has been at 1,563 for the same amount of time. Maybe next February, when I return from SLIG and another research trip, they can both have their time in the sun. Hopefully by then, I'll have received some helpful clues from holiday gifts of DNA tests, and can add a few names via collaboration with cousins I never before knew.