Thursday, June 25, 2020

Starting a Tree From the First Branch

If you have no clues about your family's whereabouts amidst all history's piles of paper, where do you start? Well, if you have DNA matches, you can begin with what others know about the family.

That is exactly what I've begun doing this week. And thankfully, I'm not going it alone; I have a fellow Falvey researcher who is just as interested in solving this County Kerry puzzle as I am. Only drawback: she is halfway around the world from me. As she has put it in emails to me before: "I am in your future."

Step one for this project was to set up a sandbox of sorts, where we can experiment without tipping the universe onto a wrong trajectory. I use this technique for many family history projects I am researching, much like an adoptee might do to search for birth parents.

My preferred spot for this tree-building work is on, where I set up a private, unsearchable tree. That way, no one viewing any outlandish guesses I include in my tree will be tempted to copy the gibberish, wholesale. More importantly, because the tree won't show up in other people's searches, I won't even receive any earnest pleas to share from someone who thought my wrong pedigree entry was a long-lost cousin.

Step two was to invite my research partner to join the project. Ancestry makes the process easy by hosting the email invitations, but just in case, I also send out a personal email to let the invitee know what's about to happen.

Normally, when I invite others to view my trees, I set their participation level at "guest." The reason for that designation is that I don't want others to come in and change any details in my work. If there is an error, I prefer to be notified by email or message. I can always check it out myself and correct any mistaken entries. I also default to keeping entries of living people private, mainly because family trees often contain more than one branch, and relatives from one side of a very extensive family tree may not care to have their personal data reviewed by cousins of in-laws they don't even know.

For this project, it will be different. We will work on this project as a collaborative effort—and one which reaches backwards in time, not into our future. Thus, other than information provided for living DNA cousins, privacy will be impacted only to the extent of how much can be given to those who are already among the "dearly departed." To achieve this working status, the invitation to participate will necessarily be as an "editor," according to Ancestry's system.

While we are only two people working on this Falvey project at the start, we are already involving six DNA tests, as each of us administers three tests which connect to this family line. Furthermore, we've already spotted fairly close cousin matches and can see from their pedigree charts how these specific cousins fit into the larger Falvey picture. Our only drawback is that we can't quite make the jump from our respective "new worlds" to the homeland in County Kerry.

We already know, however, that these Falvey roots grow back to County Kerry. Our family's Johanna Falvey Kelly's obituary mentioned as much. Surname distribution maps, albeit from later decades than when the Kelly family emigrated, visually demonstrate the prevalence of the Falvey surname in that the western Irish peninsula, and County Kerry in general.

The question, however, is whether those in our families who sport those Falvey genes can work together to figure out just who the most recent common Falvey ancestral couple was.


  1. Replies
    1. I'm quite thrilled, Far Side. It's been a long time since I've had a research partner for a specific family line. Collaborative work can be so rewarding.


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