Sunday, October 4, 2020

Tending All Branches


When it comes to assembling a family tree, a laser-like focus on one narrow research goal may yield encouraging results, but I'm discovering it is more rewarding to open up to a more evenly distributed approach. In the effort to equally nurture each branch of our family tree, I may not see the exponential growth rate previously experienced on that one line I've focused on for the past year, but the result is a more well-rounded ancestral history.

Of course, taking the long view in my biweekly count for the past year show that quite clearly. For the greater part of the year, the numbers seemed stacked in just one quarter of the tree: my mother's line. That previous approach was mainly due to preparation for some genealogy classes I was taking earlier in the year. With this fortnight's work, for instance, my mother's tree now has 23,503 individuals, an increase of 119 over the prior count two weeks ago. Over the last year, I had managed to add at least one hundred names (or more) to her tree almost every two weeks—but it came at the expense of neglecting the family's other trees.

Earlier this summer, I realized I needed to shift focus on those research priorities. There are some standard to-do triggers in my research routine, and those will add a few names to the other trees—such as finding obituaries, or receiving new DNA matches from the companies where my husband and I have tested. But I also had set myself some research goals for the entire year—posted back at the start of 2020—and I need to get back on track with those plans.

In the past two weeks, I discovered some DNA matches which relate to my mother-in-law's line, so her tree just saw an infusion of ninety one additional documented individuals, in answer to those discoveries. Her tree is almost as large as my mom's, now having 19,254 names. Between an update to MyHeritage's Theory of Family Relativity™ bringing proposals of new connections on that side of the family, and two recent readers' comments regarding her ancestral lines, it is likely I'll be quite busy sprucing up those lines in her tree before I can confirm any more connections.

Even my dad's tree saw some new growth, something that hasn't happened in quite a while. In the past two weeks, I was able to add fifteen additional relatives to his branch, thanks mostly to pursuing a DNA match and then attending to all the connections which came along with that discovery.

While my dad's tree is small—only 731 people at this point—it is poised to see some exponential growth, once I figure out just how to connect what I know about his ancestry with the secret story uncovered through the pursuit of several key DNA matches earlier this year. This was one of those cases when, unsure of where the discovery would lead, I set up a private, unsearchable tree online to serve as my "sandbox" as I tested hypotheses about just how my New York Polish immigrants might fit in with the Milwaukee Polish immigrants of these seven DNA matches. Hopefully, before the end of this year, I'll get brave enough to merge the private tree with the public one, based on what I'm finding through DNA matches.

That brings me to yet another hidden "sandbox" where I'm experimenting: the Falvey line of my father-in-law's branch. There, too, we have a situation of several DNA matches, each with a Falvey surname among their direct ancestral lines—and yet, because I cannot yet document the connection, I hesitate to attach any of these names to my father-in-law's public tree. Meanwhile, his private Falvey tree is growing, yet I don't want to count it until I find enough confirmation. Maybe those many Falvey relatives will eventually find their place in my father-in-law's tree. Or perhaps they won't, and his tree will remain much closer to the 1,813 names where it is stalled today.

All in all, I think it is far better to have that more well-rounded approach, equally distributing the work among the four trees I'm researching. While it is gratifying to see work zoom ahead on one line, knowing that more than one family line is benefiting through an equitable approach provides a more long-term satisfaction.


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