Sunday, May 2, 2021

Want to Make Progress?
Try Slow and Steady


It's been almost eight years now since I asked my sole surviving eligible candidate to test his DNA in an attempt to help our family overcome our patriline puzzle. That candidate was my brother, and the opportunity came with the Southern California Genealogical Society's Jamboree, where Family Tree DNA hosted a booth at their annual conference.

In the years following our receipt of those Y-DNA test results, we've gained not one exact match to my brother's 67 marker test. In the meantime, we've added the other tests from the DNA offerings, both mitochondrial and autosomal. Even though the pizzazz of winter holiday sales, DNA Day boosts like the one celebrated last Sunday, and upcoming Mother's Day sales have come and gone, the fizzle has gone out on DNA tests as tools for finding missing cousins. But I'm still glad we tested—both my brother before his passing, and for my own test results, as well.

Sometimes, the pursuit of our family history seems like a sprint, like those early days of testing opportunities. Other days, it seems as if a turtle can crawl faster. Just as people come and go, so do opportunities. Whereas each of the family accounts I administer once saw multiple dozens of new matches in every biweekly change I tracked, the rate of increases has slowed considerably—sometimes, to single digits over a two week period.

Though the test count has slowed to a dribble, it is we who need to keep a constant pace. Checking for close matches, bucketing each new match if possible, and adding new names to the extended family tree are certainly tasks that are more easily accomplished with the slower rate. Perhaps manageable is best.

One tool I've kept up with—although at varying rates, depending on any given week's other duties—is the expansion of the extended family trees. At the beginning, back in 2013, I decided to pursue an extended tree model, including collateral lines with all their descendants, as a way to place DNA matches within the family tree. That decision has proven beneficial over the years, as I've moved from over a thousand unknown matches to a more manageable count.

Still, it makes for unwieldy numbers. Combining my parents' separate trees this year, the total count is now up to 25,645--a upwards move of sixty four names in the past two weeks. And my in-laws' count is now up to 20,730 since adding 168 to their combined tree. Yet the matches amplify what I can accomplish on the trees as they verify the connection with most recent common ancestors. The two processes work in tandem.

Whether the general public loses its willingness to spring for DNA tests in the future will not impact my research questions for now as, thankfully, new tools have enabled me to figure out the missing family history answers that have stumped my family for decades. Perhaps, someday, we'll find an exact match to my brother's eight year old Y-DNA test and I'll finally learn more about my mysterious paternal grandfather's real surname. In the meantime, I'm happy to plod away with those routine biweekly tallies tracking my progress in that more-regular-than-stellar manner. There may not be any races won for this slow-and-steady mode of research, but eventually, slow and steady will count for something.  

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