Thursday, January 1, 2015

2015: Year of the Inch

The sheer numbers of genealogy are catching up with me. Everyone knows how those geometric progressions go. It’s that old give-a-child-a-penny-allowance gimmick: the only catch is, each day that allowance gets doubled.

So it is with the budding genealogist: first it’s researching the parents. Then grandparents. Then all the great-grandparents. We progress from two to four to eight to…ten kazillion. Keeping track doesn’t get any easier—even with database management tools.

That same arithmetic apparently applies to DNA testing. That result I just got back? Oh, it’s only in the range of second to fourth cousin. Maybe fifth cousin. But after it’s all over, I suddenly have enough matches to fill up sixty nine pages of results. At ten matches per page, that adds up to a lot of relatives.

Taking the test was the easy part. It’s following up on all the results that presents the challenge. But the value of the test is in the results, so if I don’t follow up, no value to me.

And so begins the tough slog towards finding out the real information I seek. Email after email, attempting to connect, discuss family trees, evaluate hypotheses. Cajoling reticent participants. Following through with requested replies. It all takes time.

The enormity of it all—and this is only one of many tasks in genealogical research—serves to remind me that any task can be conquered, if it is approached in a systematic and regular manner. As has so often been said,
            Inch by inch, anything’s a cinch.

I have a strong feeling that saying is going to become my mantra this year. If I’m to accomplish anything in this research—at least in the spot where I currently am—it will have to be through a strategy of small doses on a regular basis.

How about you? What do you see the year of 2015 bringing you? I hope you have some prospective tasks that get you fired up over possibilities. Whether they present infinitesimal or gargantuan challenges, I wish you the best, in this bright new year, in determining the right approach to conquering your mountain.

 Above: Franz Roubaud, Count Argutinsky Crossing the Caucasian Range, 1892 oil on canvas; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.


  1. Wow that is a lot of people to locate and contact!! What fun!
    I hope to dive into my husbands Grandfathers daily journals again this winter...they are from 1914 to 1929. It is a project they are scribed in pencil:)

    1. Oh, Far Side, my eyes just hurt, thinking about reading those penciled in notes. Maybe you can photocopy the whole thing, and make the copies darker? There's got to be a way to make that journal more legible. What a treasure it will be to have it all transcribed--and to research all the details mentioned.

  2. Something tells me - that if it were only possible - that the ultimate family tree - one starting from Adam and Eve and including everyone would be soooooo cool - we could then focus on the "story" or "dash" instead of the "who". :) If its going to happen - it will because of you and others like you - that "never give up"! :)

    1. Funny you should mention that, Iggy. Actually, there is someone working on that ultimate family tree: A. J. Jacobs, who bills himself as "author, journalist, human guinea pig and cousin." In addition to trying to build the biggest family tree ever, he is organizing what he bills as the "World's Largest Family Reunion," scheduled for June 6th of this year at the old New York World's Fair grounds. Besides that, genealogy enthusiasts attending the RootsTech conference in Salt Lake City this February will be treated to (among other luminaries) a keynote presentation by Mr. Jacobs on this very subject.


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