Sunday, June 27, 2021

Inch by Inch . . .


One of the reasons why I keep checking my research progress is specifically because of that saying: inch by inch, anything's a cinch. I like to see those inches add up. It makes me feel like I'm really accomplishing something—when in reality, all I'm doing is the slow and steady tortoise crawl toward my goal. You know, inch by inch...

Meanwhile, those family trees keep extending upward and outward—outward, because the dynamics of DNA testing require me to be facile with the other guy's family tree. It's those collateral lines which really add to that biweekly count, but they're so necessary to help determine just how I match those distant cousins.

For the past two weeks, I've added 390 individuals to my husband's family tree, mainly because of my research goal this month of finding my mother-in-law's Ambrose roots in late 1700s Pennsylvania. Right now, that tree stands at 21,704 names, most of them belonging to my mother-in-law's side of the family. Even when we begin the next quarter, switching to three months of research goals on my father-in-law's side of the family, this tree should continue to grow, though I suspect not quite so fast, owing to his more recent immigrant roots.

For my own tree, the progress has been less stellar in these past two weeks, mainly because that side of the family was not my current research goal. Still, stuff pops up, and I can't help but try to be even-handed in doing background work on both sides of the family. So adding 130 names to that tree was a pleasant surprise from the past two weeks—an "inch by inch" triumph, in my opinion. That tree is now hovering at 26,112 names.

There is something almost magical about committing to take time at regular intervals to do what amounts to small tasks, when each effort is considered individually. In the aggregate, though, those inch-by-inch tiny tasks can make a big difference. It's just that, due to the slow nature of the pace, we don't think we've made any progress—until we add in the step of tracking our work. It's encouraging to see that progress taking shape.

The tracking part really isn't difficult. Most of the programs I use already have that component built in. I set up a spreadsheet, delineated to indicate the date every two weeks, with cells for each of the main family trees I'm building on Ancestry provides the count for each tree in the "tree overview" summary section of their program. In addition, I track the total count of DNA matches each fortnight at each of the companies where my husband and I have tested, to calculate the increase in how many matches each of us have received over the past two weeks.

While I realize that engaging in genealogical research isn't really about the numbers, making the commitment to keep working at it over the long haul can sometimes bog down into a task with no end in sight. And really, does anyone really ever "finish" their family tree? Yet, by human nature, we find it more encouraging to continue work at a task when we can see that we are making progress. It certainly helps, when we can only squeeze in work "a little here, a little there," to see how much we've accomplished in the long run.

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