While the new year is a time when so many people like to devise plans—or at least make heartfelt resolutions—it is often a time more full of hope than reality. Take 2020: how many of us could have foretold, at this point one year ago, that we would be spending at least three quarters of the year essentially under house arrest?
But plans are a tangible sign of good intentions, bred from hope. And with that, I make the preposterous gesture of assuming that, eleven months from now, I will be working on a research plan to delve even further into my mystery grandfather's patriline. For Ancestor #12 of my Twelve Most Wanted for 2021, I want to learn more about my recently-discovered second great-grandfather, Johann Puchała, and his possible wife, Susanna Radomska—if, that is, that was actually who they were.
To even make a statement like that is more than I could even have hoped, one year ago. It took a chain reaction of discoveries, precipitated by some unexpected DNA matches, to start me looking in the right direction for the answer to my childhood question about where my father's family came from.
Sometimes, we keep looking so long and so hard for the answers to our family history questions that we get caught by surprise when the answer finally shows up. It's as if we never really believed there would be an answer.
Yet, do I dare to presume that my research luck will hold out for one more year? Now that I have the possible names of my paternal grandfather's paternal grandparents, can I learn anything further on this family from a country—Prussia—which is no longer in existence? And how can I guarantee that I will actually make these discoveries in December of 2021?
Of course I can't. None of us can guarantee anything. But we can plan to work on the process. And that is the key.
For this (hopefully) bright new year, I've laid out the plans for where I am going to direct my family history research focus for 2021. I've selected one ancestor for each of the twelve months of the new year: my Twelve Most Wanted. All that's left at this point is to work the plan. It doesn't really matter whether I fail or succeed—although succeeding would be a vast, and more fun, improvement over failing.
The point is to steadily focus on specific research goals, and to make progress toward discovering more about each of these twelve ancestors. Who knows what curves will get thrown at us in the course of yet another year in our future. But does it matter? The main point is stating what we hope to accomplish, and working that plan to the best of our ability. No matter what.