Thursday, February 11, 2016

A Matrilineal Malaise

Could it be that genealogists get Spring Fever, too?

A serious dose of sunshine and temperatures nudging the mercury above seventy may just have been what's gotten to me. Who can sit indoors at a computer when the hummingbirds are back at the feeder, and through the open window, you can even hear frogs croaking from across the field?

That may be painting the scene too generously. I'm afraid what's really going on is that I've burned out after returning from that trek down the rabbit hole of John Syme Hogue's life story. I did, after all, stumble upon that one, thanks to work on my matrilineal line.

Ah, yes: the matrilineal pursuit for the nexus with my mystery cousin. Let me check where I last left off: it was owing to the line of my seventh great grandmother, Margaret Watts, who, sometime in 1720 became the wife of William Strother of King George County in colonial Virginia.

What I should have been doing was diligently pursuing the lines of the ladies in each ancestral mother's family. But how could I omit the gents? Curiosity over the family stories I'd be missing with that tactic got the best of me. And now look at me: exhausted from falling prey in yet another rabbit trail chase.

But then I remind myself of the math behind such a pursuit. If the numbers double with each succeeding generation we research—from two parents to four grandparents to eight greats, and so forth—we are talking about a geometric progression of explosive proportions by the time we get back to the ninth generation before me. Those sorts of numbers leave me fervently hoping the son to daughter ratio does not fall within the statistically-likely fifty-fifty split.

On the other hand, the results—if accomplished—would be of monumental proportions. Think of it: the task would yield a list of all the female descendants of one woman—Margaret Watts Strother—who otherwise likely died in obscurity. Talk about being the biographer of insignificant lives.

Talk, also, about a useful resource—amply cross-checked, as wasn't as feasible during the era of those hundred-year-old published family genealogies of yore, with a wide variety of records.

You may have noticed that I am giving myself a pep talk here. You may also have thought what has just occurred may be along the lines of falling off the genealogy band wagon. Or more dangerous, falling off the horse. In which case, the only answer is to pick one's self up, dust off, and get back on that hobby horse—which, come this weekend's bi-monthly statistical report, will hopefully see me galloping off at full speed once again.

Above: Detail of Morris Dancers  from painting, circa 1620, "The Thames at Richmond, With the Old Royal Palace" by unknown artist in the Flemish style; courtesy The Fitzwilliam Museum via Wikipedia; in the public domain. 


  1. You shouldn't feel guilty. I suspect if you wanted to, you could "sell" John Hogue's story and make a bundle. :)

    1. Thanks, Iggy...a person in such doldrums as I surely needs that kind of encouragement. No matter what becomes of that story, it certainly needed to be told. Oh, for a brilliant biographer to stumble across this trail...

  2. Sounds like we need coffee. I am free this week - email me.


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