Sunday, August 11, 2019

Family History Housekeeping

Two weeks ago, I promised myself I'd clean out all the duplicate entries on the several family trees I keep. After all, especially on my mother-in-law's line, there are several lines deep in her past where one cousin married another. Working one's way forward in time from a specific founding couple, this sort of duplication would be obvious, but that's not how I've been building my trees. I've been starting from the present, with the people I know, and working my way backwards in time to their past. There is no way to know, approaching the situation from this direction, that an ancestor might have been related to the person chosen to become the spouse—not, at least, until reaching a couple generations back. By then, in many cases, those names were out of mind as I pushed my way back further in time.

So I spent some time checking that universal list of all people included in the tree. Alphabetized and including birth dates and locations, such a list would help me visually scan through the pages and spot double entries.

I started by focusing on the major surnames in her tree—Gordon, for example. I'd first select the letter of the alphabet, and then flip through the master list, seeking my target. In most cases, though, each duplicate entry turned out to be a false alarm. I'd spot the same name repeated, but it would be a case of father naming his son after himself. In one such case, I saw a run of four generations with the same exact name, stretching from great-grandfather to great-grandson.

Given a common surname like Gordon—and especially how that family liked to use the same names over and over again—I thought I'd see quite a few repeat entries, considering how so many people in the late 1700s and early 1800s thought nothing of marrying a cousin, or at least a second cousin. But since this is not the first time I've engaged in this weeding out process, I guess those previous passes through the list have been effective. Once I counted how many people I had in my mother-in-law's tree this week over two weeks ago, I ended up with 16,587—the exact number I had in her tree back then.

I also went through this process for my own mother's tree, at least for one letter of the alphabet. Since I had been working on the Broyles line, I took the section for the letter B. While I did merge two parallel lines, eliminating doppelgangers with abandon, I still ended up with seventy four additional names added in the past two weeks. That means my mother's tree is now up to 19,108 people.

Eliminating duplicates turned out to be more tedious than I had expected, but I've yet to tackle any part of the trees of my father or father-in-law. There, my dad's tree gained one sole entry, thanks to a discovery via a fresh DNA match, and is now standing at 574, while my father-in-law's tree is frozen in position with the same 1,541 names it had since the beginning of the summer.

That's okay, though, as I have my hands full with pursuing those southern roots on my mother's tree. Even though I do want to distribute my effort through all these trees—plus the hidden tree I'm constructing for my paternal side DNA matches—I do have to remember I'll be taking another southern research class at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy next January. I want to do as much work on that line as I can before class time by pushing my way back to my Virginia ancestors.

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