Saturday, April 18, 2015

Sadly Neglected Statistics

I’ve discovered one thing about keeping count of research progress: if you split your attention between two projects, suddenly everything seems to go more slowly.

Adding a goal of discovering my paternal roots may be an invigorating proposition—not to mention, a challenging one—but it doesn’t help my progress on my maternal line. And that is the one which will not only yield greater payoffs, overall, but also bring me closer to finding the missing link in my mtDNA connection with my mystery cousin, the adoptee.

Part of this is due to one glaring fact: of my now 812 autosomal DNA matches, only twenty two of them can be positively identified as coming from my paternal side. Talk about lopsided. Then again, this is the result of attempting to be a trailblazer on a line that hasn’t, apparently, been researched by much of anyone.

Can you blame them? With non-existent immigration information, impossible Polish surname spellings and arbitrary name changes, those ancestors and their kin did not make it easy for anyone to find them.

With the addition, in the past two weeks, of this paternal quest, I’ll start tracking the counts on this new line. Here are the benchmarks for getting started on this new paternal focus.

So far, I have one hundred forty three people in my paternal tree. I don’t see that number growing by leaps and bounds in the next few weeks, mostly because this line doesn’t come near the amount of data available on my overly-researched maternal lines. Perhaps that comes of having a mom whose roots were deeply planted in this country, in some cases, back in the 1600s.

Then, as I mentioned, my current paternal DNA match count is at twenty two. Since the newest addition to that count is nearly two weeks old—contrast that with my latest batch on my maternal line arriving on April 15—I don’t expect to see that count overflowing any time soon, either.

However, progress has been slowing on the maternal side as well. There are only twenty four hours in any given day, and when they are distributed among two goals versus one, well, the results are predictable.

So, how did it go, these past two weeks? When we last left off counting those maternal relatives, I had 2,834 in my maternal tree. I’m now up to 3,059. Yes, that’s only a paltry increase of 225 names, about half my usual progress. Now you can see those telltale signs of the dual-goal focus.

As for my current DNA matches, I’m up to 812—an increase of seventeen more names since April 4.

Every weekend, I like to set aside time to contact potential matches. If I don’t schedule time specifically for that purpose, I start to get that feeling of being awash in a flood of data. Somehow, if I set a goal of contacting five a week, even though in the face of such a huge number overall, I still get the sense of making progress.

I’ve decided that is another category I should start keeping tabs on: how many contacts per week I initiate, how many have responded, and how many yielded positive connections—in other words, I and my match have mutually agreed upon a correct connection and have noted it in our respective Family Tree DNA files. This week’s count for contacts is up to six, but none have helped me make any headway yet. I and my “matches” are still as baffled as ever as to how we connect.

Oh, for a breakthrough on some of these matches! I don’t mind the overall number—hey, at least I have some matches—but the contacts I’ve made have returned with more questions than answers. Frankly, not that many people seem willing to put the kind of energy into the task that it would take to dig up convoluted answers.

Proportionally, of course, it will be more likely to find answers on the maternal line—after all, that’s where the preponderance of matches lay. Correspondingly, even a small number of matches on the paternal side would be cause to celebrate. Hey, I’d take even one!

Meanwhile, keeping track of the numbers helps me keep at it when I’m lagging. And that, of course, is what accountability is all about.


  1. I suspect that you have some cousins from your father's side lurking nearby (in the family tree) and like you said, it's a matter of figure out what their names are today. I know tenacity will get you there - sometime you just have to give it a rest ...before the Aha! moment arrives.

    1. It would be fantastic to bump into a relative like that! But as you pointed out, Iggy, maybe giving it a rest is what is needed. Of course, a trip back to New York would be just the ticket!

      ...but unlikely to happen any time soon...


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