Sunday, February 23, 2020

It's Christmas . . . Again

Last week, I walked into an office at the college where I teach a beginning genealogy class. I had to pick up a new key for my classroom. It had been an entire semester since I needed to head to that particular office, so I was somewhat taken aback to see in February, just inside the door, what appeared to be a Christmas tree.

Now, I know all that Middle Ages stuff about taking down your Christmas decorations on Three Kings Night—or else having to wait until Valentine's Day (or something like that)—but I was rather surprised to see this holdout. It was, after all, almost a week after the day for hearts and flowers. The staff people giggled at my surprise, and explained their scheme to keep their artificial tree up all year: they change decorations each month to fit the holiday theme for that month. What may have seemed, at first glance, to be Christmas, on second take turned out to have a reasonable explanation. One good look at the tree confirmed the explanation: the branches were all decked out with hearts large and small, pink and red.

Likewise, I have a good alibi for claiming it is Christmas again for this post. It's time for my biweekly count, to check my research progress on the four family trees I keep. The count includes keeping track of how many DNA matches both I and my husband receive, fortnight over fortnight. Surprise, surprise, those numbers are up—thankfully! Not quite to the rapid pace of previous years, but I'm glad they are increasing again.

That, however, can only mean one thing: holiday sales must finally be hitting the match lists, since we are a bit over six weeks beyond the gifting season. And while the results for this two week period for both Ancestry DNA and Family Tree DNA were puny numbers for both of us, at 23andMe and MyHeritage, the results were almost back to our normal rate. That translates to an increase of sixty five at 23andMe for my husband and sixty six for me. Better yet, at MyHeritage, my husband gained 123 matches, even topping my 114. (I usually receive more matches each time than he does.)

Don't ask me what caused the about-face in results. While I'm sure the holiday sales bulge—thankfully still there, at least a little bit—had something to do with this uptick, I'm glad to have received matches that kept me busy in these last fourteen days.

Let's see how that improved the count for the trees I've been working on. First of all, you probably recall that the trees for the two dads in the family usually are stuck at the same count they've had for months. Not so this time, at least for my father-in-law's tree, where a new DNA match led me to add forty descendants to his Irish roots, bringing the total in his tree to 1,624.

While my own dad's tree is unfortunately still stuck at 658, if we keep getting more DNA matches, I'm confident that low number will warm up to something more promising. And that, in addition to some old-fashioned paper chases on the two moms' lines, has brought the totals up for my mother's tree and my mother-in-law's tree. In the past two weeks, that means seventy one new, documented names in my mother-in-law's tree, which now stands at 17,775 people, and my mom's tree gained an encouraging 167 names to now total 20,478. We're back to making progress, especially with plugging in these new DNA matches from the past two weeks.

Granted, that holiday bubble in DNA test results won't last forever, but it is always nice to receive these new clues to help guide a researcher through some difficult spots in the various lines. While there are many who are attributing all sorts of dark scenarios to the new uses of DNA tests, we have to keep in mind that some of these uses are also for good. Though it might not seem like an earth-shattering revelation—in comparison to the desperate need for some forensic uses, for example—for those of us who always yearned to learn more about our roots, these tools do bring us answers, as well.

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