Sunday, March 13, 2016

Ancestor Fatigue

One of the things I enjoy about springtime in California is that it gets here so much earlier than it used to do when I lived on that other coast. Ushering in an earlier spring means I get to do some of the things I like to do, sooner. Like taking outdoor walks. Or soaking up the sunshine. Or eating artichokes.

Yes, artichokes. In fact, as if flaunting that token of early-spring-ness, I was eating that very thing just the other day, when I caught myself thinking something that tells me I might have over-extended myself in the past two weeks.

I had just gotten to that part where you scoop out the "choke" to access the prize of the endeavor: the artichoke heart. The choke is something you never want to eat, so I had set it aside on my plate. Looking at the strands of the choke, I thought it resembled the strands of the spent dandelion bloom, once those puffy seed heads are ready to fly—and found myself thinking, "Hmmm...wonder if those two are cousins?"

This may be a symptom of genealogical burnout. Or at least genealogist-gone-overboard.

If nothing else, it got me wondering what this month's statistical report will tell me about my research numbers. After all, it's been a long haul the last two weeks, and I've put in a lot of time thumbing through hints on Ancestry.

Not that this has been a fun thing. Actually, you will cringe to hear where most of that genealogical grunt work was performed: during an overnighter, staying at the bedside of my friend with cancer, so his wife could get some sleep. It wasn't exactly the kind of setting where we could talk, so those of us taking turns at this endeavor usually spent the time in solitary silence with our faces in our phones or laptops.

You can inspect a lot of hints that way, before the sun comes up. I wouldn't recommend it; it comes with a high risk of genealogical burnout. But the deed is done. Now let's see what the results are.

On my maternal tree, I now have 7,365 individuals, an increase of 80 names in the database. Sure felt like a lot more work than those numbers show. I did have a total of twenty more matches at Family Tree DNA, leaving me with 1,065 puzzles yet to conquer on that account. I did, however, contact two of those cousins, though nothing has been resolved yet. (It seldom is.) Added to that are the twelve additional matches on my new account at AncestryDNA, where I now have 254 matches at the level of fourth cousin or closer—but no time (or wherewithal to concentrate) to contact any of them. A mystery left for another season, perhaps.

It is probably no surprise to see that the real progress was made on my husband's account. My mother-in-law's tree is a snap to add to, given those faithful Catholics who all had umpteen children. It's just a matter of inspecting census records, following the details through the decades, and adding each new addition to the family with regularity. It was just the routine antidote I needed for a diversion on the long wait. That's where I clocked most of the activity for these past two weeks: on our Flowers tree, where the addition of 331 individuals brought the count to 3,514.

Add to that twenty one more matches for him at Family Tree DNA (to total 637), and five more at Ancestry DNA (for a total of 102). Besides, it turns out he sports twice as many DNA Circles at Ancestry DNA as I do—his ten to my five—making me wonder if large families have a greater propensity to generate descendants keen on discovering their roots.

So there it is: essentially, an addition of 411 names to our collective databases. Not that I haven't done more in the past—I have, but it didn't feel so tedious. Not to mention, both our paternal lines budged not one bit these past two weeks, and still remain at 180 for mine and 937 for my husband's.

A marathon like mine, this month, is hardly something I'd recommend. I may have overdone it. A bit. At least enough to have me staring at artichoke innards and wondering if they are cousins to the lowly dandelion. It may be time for a genealogy break. If not, it's definitely time for a good story to materialize.

Above: "Moonlight and Frost," oil on canvas by American landscape painter Alexander Helwig Wyant, circa 1890; courtesy the online collection of the Brooklyn Museum, via Wikipedia; in the public domain.


  1. It sounds like the comment on yesterday's post is your next springboard. Don't you just LOVE it??

    1. Yes, absolutely, Wendy! I can't even begin to say how excited I am about some stuff happening behind the scenes. It's just that it can't produce any posts...yet...

  2. You need a vacation or at the least a day out:)

  3. The shaking leaf inspection thing is drudgery defined. The only reason is I do is the faint hope of finding something "good". It like prospecting and panning for gold nuggets.

    1. When those shaky leaf numbers soar, I've found it prudent to devise--and stick to--a "grading rubric" of sorts for handling hints. Some things just get dismissed out of hand, without a peek. When hints escalate to the hundreds, you have to employ some sort of decision tree.


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