Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Getting Quicker About "Quick and Dirty"

There's a problem with doing those "quick and dirty" trees we build when we run into an unexplained DNA match. Genealogy has instilled in the serious adherent the respect for properly citing—after doing due diligence to find—supporting documentation for each step of the way. Each branch of the tree, each leaf on that branch, all need to be properly sourced.

Until, that is, we move from ascertaining the proof of the argument to exploring the much more shaky hypothesis.

I get that, in doing genetic genealogy, a researcher sometimes launches into what seems like a feverish pursuit of possible connections, sketching out branches for each generation in the pedigree until striking upon a reasonable explanation for how two test takers could be connected. I understand the utility of that thumbnail sketch.

But after years of being reminded to take each step of the research way carefully, examining all documentation and addressing each alternate explanation for what seems to be the answer, I'm having a real problem with just chasing ancestors with wild abandon. The two habits seem so terribly opposite.

In other words, I'm finding myself, in this chase to connect with my Michalski DNA matches, bogged down by the details of vetting each addition to my shadow tree. In my real tree—the public face I put forward on my online account—I have a certain routine I engage. I examine each decade's census record to find micro-clues about changes in the family. I read each digitized document to see what else might have been included but not indexed.

As you may guess, that bogs down the process in the DNA-matchmaking world. And I know I'm doing it, but I just can't stop myself. Habit? Perhaps. I really don't want to attach an individual to a tree I'm unfamiliar with just because, at first glance, it seems a reasonable guess. After all, there are a lot of cousins out there with similar dates of birth—all in the same town. But I'd like to connect all the branches of my six—or more—DNA matches with this same surname, and put them in one tree.

Besides, the more I organize this tree, the more surnames I can add—which might explain some of the other unconnected matches in my various accounts, and could help connect those matches who match my brother but not me on that same paternal side.

Slow and steady may finish the course for some races, but in the case of figuring out dozens of mystery DNA matches, the essence of the task comes down to the skill of quickly assembling viable family tree proposals. Grin and bear it, I suppose; I'll have to learn to get quicker about doing those "Quick and Dirty" trees.

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