Sunday, May 31, 2020

Counting Progress,
Considering Possibilities

Another month, another opportunity to count progress. While the numbers always seem to point onward and upward, family history research is progress without an end goal in mind. If we can never quite say our genealogical task is "done," we can't really equate progress with a set number.

But let's not get caught up in mind games. Here's what happened in my four family trees in the past two weeks.

My mother's tree now stands at 22,216 names—all substantiated with documentation. The number may seem high, but that's because one of my goals is descendancy research. I research for DNA match connections, so I try to add to my tree all the descendants of each of my fifth great-grandparents. Then, too, owing to the recent addition of the ability to identify DNA matches in our trees, I've had to combine my dad's tree with my mom's, which in the previous fortnightly count had inflated her tree by well over five hundred names. The addition of this two-week period's 387 names was owing to pure research, not duplications from my dad's tree, which still remains at 715 individuals.

On my husband's side of the equation, I'll soon need to repeat that combination exercise from his dad's 1,715 name tree to his mother's 18,557 person tree. But for now, everything remains the same as it was two weeks ago—with the exception of an additional two names on his father's tree. Once I launch into the Thru-Lines for my husband's DNA test at Ancestry, as well as his Theory of Relativity tool at MyHeritage, there will be an explosion of activity there, as well.

Somehow, I do prefer the plodding, line-by-line approach I've developed over the years for descendancy research, but have to admit that the scatter-shot technique of following the cues from the happenstance of DNA matches does tend to add a lot of data to my trees with a brief amount of research work. Consider those tools as trailblazers, pointing us in the right direction and confirming the path with a genetic record. As long as we add the due diligence of confirming with records from the available paper trail, it's a valid approach to building a family tree.

While the pace of additional DNA matches may have slowed over this past year, the quality of the tools provided to assist in placing matches in our trees has made all the difference. Coupling a well-supported tree, complete with many lines of descent, and the hundreds of DNA matches received to date has supported even some very distant cousins whose match information I might otherwise have simply bypassed, owing to the small centiMorgan count.

Yet, because I can demonstrate how that individual fits into my overall tree, I know that even that minor amount of genetic material is not the sign of a coincidental fellow human being, but an actual cousin. Better yet is the confirmation it provides to lead me to paint that specific chromosome record as attributed to that specific distant great-grandparent, as well.

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