Don't look now, but in only two weeks, Christmas will be upon us. And the day after Christmas begins my annual planning session for the upcoming year's research projects. I call that annual research lineup my Twelve Most Wanted, and I refashion the "Twelve Days of Christmas" to suit my family history researching purposes.
In years past, it was easy to devise a plan for each month of the coming year. All I had to do was look at the pedigree charts of my daughter's four grandparents to see where the gaps glared the worst. Those became the upcoming year's choices. I took a month each for three of my mother's ancestors, then move on in subsequent quarters to my mother-in-law's relatives, then my father-in-law's tree, and finally, when I was most research-weary, tackle three individuals from my father's own impossible lineage.
That selection process may not work as well for me now. For one thing, the farther back in time one presses, the more likely it seems to be that the process requires hands-on research at local repositories, rather than at the click of a mouse in the comfort of my own home. Then, too, my research goals reach far beyond just filling in details on a pedigree chart; I'm looking for the stories, too. And all the collateral lines in the family, generation by generation. Where once I might have been on a quest to identify a fourth great-grandfather, now I'm more interested in including all the children—and maybe even multiple spouses, too.
Blending DNA testing into the mix—a necessary step for my paternal line, for sure—means constructing entire family constellations, examining how members of a generation fit together, maybe even learning more about the community, not just the family. To find a right fit means testing hypotheses from several angles; what may look correct at first glance could be proven incorrect on closer inspection.
With all that in mind, it looks like I'll be starting my selection process for next year's Twelve Most Wanted much earlier than usual. While I'll still name my final choices on those same twelve days spanning the time between Christmas and Epiphany, I'll take some time next weekend to mull over the selection process, as well. There may be some hidden pockets lacking as full a picture of the family as I'd like to see in this ever-growing tree.