Sunday, October 8, 2017

Day Eight: It's a Grind

After finishing up my first week of the big Fall Cleanup project, I've amassed quite a pile of papers to be shredded. No surprise here: it's been quite a while since I've been down this route before, and a lot has accumulated. Spending an afternoon grinding away at the shredding machine can be quite dull, no matter what joy I might have felt at unearthing some space in my file cabinet for future genealogical organizing. It's definitely not worthy of an entire post of its own.

Not to worry, though, for today is time for my regular biweekly tally of research progress. Even though there's been a flurry of activity in the cleanup department for half of that time period, I did manage to keep researching behind the scenes.

I've increased the tally on my mother's side by 124, giving me a new total of 11,529 individuals in her tree. For my mother-in-law's tree, I added 109 to total 12,737. My father-in-law's tree jumped fourteen to total 1,335. My father's tree, unfortunately, stood stock still at 450—but at least I had the good fortune to make two solid DNA contacts on my paternal side, one of which has already been confirmed by the administrator for that match. I'm ecstatic! Finally I have a DNA match on my paternal side!

In general, those DNA matches keep piling on, yet I'm seldom able to fathom just how they relate to me or the family members for whom I'm serving as administrator. When I finally light on one match whose tree makes sense—or at least whose surname rings a bell—it is very encouraging. Despite the number of matches I've received for some trees, there are very few which I've managed to confirm.

For instance, I now have 2,433 matches at Family Tree DNA, a jump of forty nine in the past two weeks alone. For my fourth cousin and closer matches at AncestryDNA, the count now stands at 741, an increase of thirteen. Even at the ever-decreasing 23andMe, my 1,155 count actually increased this past week by two. But of all those declared matches, I've yet to demonstrate the connection on any of them, other than the two I found in my father's line.

It's much the same for my husband's DNA matches. He received twenty seven new matches from Family Tree DNA in the past two weeks, for a total of 1,561. At AncestryDNA, he has 358 matches, up twelve. And he lost four matches from his total at 23andMe, which is now at 1,203.

Granted, many of those matches are for distant cousins, which I am disinclined to pursue. I've set a personal cut-off range of second to fourth cousin, and seldom, if ever, check out a connection beyond that level. The only exceptions might be for an unusual surname which figures prominently in our trees—like Taliaferro or Broyles in my case, where those colonial-era intermarriages tamper with the usual indicators of degree of relationship.

Yet, on the other side of the equation, I rarely see anything closer than a second cousin relationship. Most of the ones I've confirmed have been third cousin, or third cousin once removed, or even fourth cousin. Scouring those matches' family trees for similar surnames can turn out to be a grind, too, for it is seldom that I run into a fellow test-taker who has a tree neatly lined out to the level allowing us to determine most recent common ancestor for a fourth cousin (in other words, to the third great grandparents).

Sometimes, to make progress—whether in the chores of a fall cleaning project or in the throes of finding the right DNA match among hundreds—it just takes that constant grinding away at the process. It may be long, it may be tedious, but to get results, it's going to require a serious dose of patience.

Above: "Forest Stream in Autumn," undated oil on canvas by German landscape artist Walter Moras (1856 - 1925); courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.


  1. I can tell the shredder was humming at your house!
    You are making progress.
    Yesterday I heard that term once removed...I have always been confused. Perhaps others are too...or perhaps I am dense:)

    1. It's not really that confusing, once you see it in a diagram, Far Side. That's how I explain it to my classes. Sketch out a multi-generation family tree, with the great-great grandparents at the top of the page, and their children below them. Then, add the children's children below that (or at least your direct line and one of a sibling's line). Add another line below that.

      Then, draw a dotted line across to connect the people in each succeeding generation. For the first generation (after those second great grandparents), the dotted line relationship will show the siblings. For the siblings' children, that straight-across dotted line will be first cousins. The next generation's dotted line represents second cousins, and so forth.

      Whatever level of cousin--first cousin, second cousin, etc.--you are talking about, it involves people of the same generation.

      Think of the "once removed" detail as showing the cousin level straight across, then taking a turn down one more generation to signify the connection with someone from the subsequent generation. That would be "x" cousin once removed. If the connection was off by two generations, it would be "x" cousin twice removed. And so forth.

      Clear as mud? It becomes so much clearer when you sketch it out on paper. Maybe I'll need to do that for a post sometime.

    2. Yes a sketch would be great! I think I have it but I am not sure :)

    3. Will try to do that soon. I think, for a visual person, that is the best approach.


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