Sunday, October 18, 2015

Wishing For Some "Beginner's Luck"

It must be the nature of things to get bogged down in the details, the more you know about a subject. When you're fresh to a topic, there's so much to learn. Facts fly at you with delightful abandon, and you are ready to absorb a whole universe of new information. Once you learn the details, understand the protocol, and are thoroughly equipped to explore the topic properly, progress seems to grind to a halt.

At least, that's the way it seems, now that I'm trying to make progress in the four family lines I'm tracking on a bi-monthly basis. Here it is, the second half of the month, and all I can say for myself is that the greatest ground covered lies at the point of the most recent discoveries. Even that seems glacially slow.

Those two recent finds had to do, first, with the DNA test that confirmed my husband's third cousin once removed on his paternal Tully line. Then, on my mother's maternal side, I stumbled upon an old genealogy book which provided me another angle in looking at her Taliaferro ancestors from South Carolina and Virginia. At least that gives me a double-check on reports from other hundred-year-old genealogies—but you know I'll also be cross-checking those authors' works with the documentation that is so much more easily found in today's online world.

That said, the progress still seems abysmally slow. For instance, in reviewing that Tully line, thanks to the DNA confirmation, I only picked up seven more entries, bringing the total count in the Stevens tree up to 917. At the same time, progress over at Family Tree DNA—the company I use for our DNA testing—seemed to slow to a snail's pace as well: a total of 529 matches with the last few added (only seven this time) as of October 12. Really, it's the luck of the draw with DNA tests: if your as-yet-unknown distant cousins don't happen to test, no matches for you!

On my maternal side, the book that I credit with super-charging my progress is actually a volume of reprints from the William and Mary College Quarterly Historical Magazine, accessed online through Right now, I'm in the midst of reviewing the series of "Carter Genealogy" articles published there in a series by Dr. Joseph L. Miller. It's been handy—albeit tedious—to come alongside his reports and cross check them with documentation available online. As I confirm records, they get added to my maternal tree—a process which admittedly speeds up the work, but only when I can find the corroborating evidence. From that point, the next task is to work my way back down to the present—a sort of reverse genealogy—to capture a genealogical picture of the possible descendants that may people my readout of personal autosomal DNA matches.

It is no surprise, then, to realize that this was where I witnessed the bulk of my progress in the last two weeks. My maternal tree jumped 269 entries, to land me at a grand total of 5,668. However, just like my husband's DNA progress, I only gained six fresh matches there, for a total of 934 as of the last arrival on October 12.

As has been the case for the last few months, there was absolutely no progress on my paternal line—the mystery line with unsubstantiated name changes and other inexplicable records and notes. Oh, how I'd love to uncover what was going on in that family—both before and after their emigration from Prussia. Not surprisingly, there were also no additional DNA matches on that line—and there haven't been any since mid-July.

Thankfully, on my husband's maternal side—the early settlers in the brand-new state of Ohio—I was able to add a modest increase. I confirmed thirty one additional individuals in the extended Flowers family, bringing the total in that tree to 2,268. Because this family has been in the country for so long, I suspect several of my husband's DNA matches may reach back into this line, and I have several contacts pending confirmation of exactly how the match lines up.

Still, a few here and a few there seems discouragingly slow. I keep waiting for some breakthrough, not realizing that I've already had some gratifying discoveries, already. I guess I'm just longing for those easy-rolling days that some people attribute to "beginner's luck." It would be nice to break through a few brick walls here or there, since I seem to be stockpiling them!

Above: "An October Morning," by Irish impressionist landscape and portrait painter, Walter Frederick Osborne, in 1885; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.


  1. Stockpiling brick walls:) I read something this morning about adoptees doing the DNA testing and forgetting about looking for records which may or not exist:)

    1. Now that I've worked alongside a few adoptees on DNA-assisted searches for their birth parents, I can see this is like any other process: it takes work and lots of patience. Some people are willing to exert that effort. Some get discouraged way too soon. It definitely does present a huge learning curve, but it is not insurmountable!

  2. Ah... no matches for you! reminds me of Seinfeld and the Soup Nazi... No soup for you!

    I would really love to see a breakthrough with the maternal line - the name change and all the mystery seem to be covering what might be a most fascinating story.

    1. Yes! That Seinfeld line is quoted often around our home. It seems to apply so handily to so many of our personal struggles. Even genetic genealogy matches.


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