Sunday, July 29, 2018

Sticking to my Plan

Two weeks ago, I decided that, since I've signed up for the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy's southern roots research class, I may as well focus on researching my own family's southern roots. That meant, however, forsaking any progress on three other family trees I've been working on: my father's Polish immigrant roots, my mother-in-law's colonial Catholic heritage, and my father-in-law's Irish-American story. I'll keep a tally of any future progress on these lines, of course, but any increases in the counts there will likely be owing to special events like cousins having babies. My main focus, from this point until January, will be on those Southern roots.

So, today's the day to see how well I stuck to my resolution in these first two weeks. It's not that I'm only focusing on this area for two weeksI have until January to see what can be done before the SLIG adventure. And it's not that I won't work on the other family lines at all. After making this decision, for instance, a relative on my father-in-law's line made a new ethnicity discovery via DNA testing that led to a flurry of research. I'll still be tree-building on these other lines, as welljust not as much as usual.

When we look at the numbers, in the past two weeks I did, indeed, make progress in my intended direction. My mother's treethe one with the many southern lines which I have forsaken horribly over the yearsstarted out, two weeks ago, with a count of 13,920. Now, I have 14,279, an increase of 359 individuals in the past two weeks.

That's wonderful progress, and I'm glad to see these lines unfolding with so many new branches. Happy, that is, until I take a look at the progress report for the other three trees I'm working on. My mother-in-law's tree: stuck in the same place as two weeks ago, at 15,667. Increase: zero. My father-in-law's line remains at 1,490, same as the last count; in order to accommodate that fascinating new DNA discovery, it was best to create a new, private tree, so that won't be included in my count. And nothing different for my father's line either, which checks in at 512.

There is a plus to having added so many names to my mother's southern-roots tree: it is helping me figure out some of those numerous DNA matches with surnames I've never heard of. Well, now I know a few more of them. Adding 359 names to the tally does count for something.

On top of that, the ever-increasing tide of DNA matches keeps relentlessly flowing in. At AncestryDNA, I still don't know how many actual matches I have, since they switched to labeling the fourth cousin and closer set by the vanilla-flavored "1000+" tag. But I do notice that my count in the category of "Shared Ancestor Hints" has been edging upwards. As I continue to add new branches to my tree, I suspect some of those shaky-leaf matches will show up with more frequency.

To get a better sense of how my matches are faring, I look at the numbers at the other sites where I've tested. Granted, the 4,899 matches I have at MyHeritage almost seem absurdand that count has stopped growing, over the past two weeks. But at 23andMe, I have a modest increase of nine, to 1,004unusual there, where I often experience a decrease of matches. And at FamilyTreeDNA, my current count is 3,222, an increase of forty since last time.

It's amazing to see how focusing on this branch of my ancestry has opened up possibilities. While I do know the family surnames back to about third great grandparents, for every man in my ancestry I need to add a wife's maiden name and trace that line backwards in time. Those, primarily, are the connections I'm missing. In many cases, I didn't even know those surnamesuntil now. Adding those names to my pedigree has opened up new possibilities and territories to research. Talk about multiplying research vistas.

While 359 might not seem like a large number in the bigger picture of research, each one of those names leads to more connections. If I can keep up that pace over the next few months, I'll have a clearer picture of just what research areas I really am stumped with, once I get the chance to meet, face to face, with some instructors who are well-known for their research prowess in this area. I certainly wouldn't want to waste that learning opportunity on questions I could answer for myself with some due diligence at home.

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