Sunday, April 19, 2020

Toys and Totals

One side effect of the addition of new tools at genetic genealogy services is that I get captivated by the possibilities and can't put them down. Needless to say, with the arrival of Ancestry's new tool to connect matches to our pedigree chart, I'm finding even more work cut out for me. Thankfully, the end result is adding new details to each of the four trees I keep on Ancestry.

Some weeks, the work moves ahead on one side of the family, then comes to a standstill as another week moves the tasks to another branch of the tree. Genealogy can be like that, but now, as I comb through all the DNA matches which had stumped me before, I'm fairly zooming along.

Let's look at the numbers. For my mom's tree, which had stood still with zero progress in the previous two-week period, I now have managed to make up for lost time by adding 340 new names, giving a total of 21,001 individuals in her tree. The exact opposite occurred for my mother-in-law's tree, where last time I had devoted all my attention; this time, zero additions leaves her tree still at 18,368. I hate to say the same thing happened for both my dad's tree and my father-in-law's tree, but yes, they are left at 713 and 1713, respectively—strangely an exact thousand names difference between them.

Apparently, the coronavirus threat has left people thinking of far scarier thoughts than whether some nefarious law enforcement agency will use their DNA test results to nab a criminal fifth cousin out there somewhere. At all of the DNA testing services we have used, new match counts have slowed to single digits for these biweekly counts, with the exception of MyHeritage for both my kit and my husband's (up forty and forty seven, respectively), and Family Tree DNA for my own kit, which gained a meager eighteen matches in the past fortnight.

Still, that hasn't kept me from experimenting with Ancestry's new linking option—partly the reason why I've completed so much work on my mother's tree this past week. While Ancestry will provide a suggested pathway from a possible most recent common ancestor to matches, I can't just bring myself to take their word for it. Perhaps old habits die hard, but I need to document each step of the pathway—and then, after adding those records to my tree, also add all the collateral lines for each generation I pass through in the process. That adds up to a significant number of people, I discovered as I put together my report for this time period.

The most helpful matches I've unearthed with this new process seem to be stretching out to the fifth cousin level—farther than most people's trees seem to reach. However, that long-time habit of adding collateral lines for all the generations is paying off for me, as I often don't need to add much information at all. I have always made it a point to work my way to the fifth cousin level—meaning verification for all collateral lines descending from each of my fourth great-grandparents—so in many cases, it's just a matter of plugging in the details on my DNA match in my own records. Believe me, winding my way down to the present date with the collateral lines of sixty four fourth great-grandparents can be a lot of work.

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