Sunday, June 20, 2021

Weaving Those Family Tapestry Strands


Sometimes, we can get tangled up in those multiple, intermarried family lines. This weekend's family tree project reminded me why the symbol of weaving a family tapestry has always resonated with me: working on some parts of my family's tree really does remind me of a process of weaving. Those strands don't just connect for one single moment in time, but I find some family lines weaving in and out of the family picture, generation after generation. 

In preparation to delve into the collateral lines to wrap up this month's research quest—discovering more about Elizabeth and Susannah Ambrose's ancestors—I thought I'd go back and tidy up the lines already in place in my mother-in-law's family tree. Talk about an all-day project!

While the will of Matthias Ambrose—the Ambrose sisters' likely father—named several children, the only ones I've already researched have been those two sisters. Next week, we'll see what can be discovered about the others, now that I know their identity, but the weekend seemed a quiet time to look at Susannah's own line of descent. 

It didn't take me long to see that several Perry County, Ohio, family lines have intermarried. Again and again. Many of those lines are also associated with my mother-in-law's direct line, so that means I've unwittingly placed the same names in more lines than one. In other words, here we go with more weeding out of duplicate entries. That growing family tree only looked like it was getting bigger, when in actuality what it really needed was some pruning.

While using the function of the alphabetical listing of all individuals in the "Tree Overview" summary section can help with this process, it can become rather cumbersome when the tree grows to thousands of entries. I find it a better approach to use the "find duplicates" process through my desktop-resident program (I use Family Tree Maker).

Even so, it is not an automated process. I've noticed that, with some duplicate entries, the one entry had the individual as child of specific parents, but listed no spouse or descendants, while the other entry for the same name might have included only the reverse. Then comes the double-check to make sure those parents would be the right ones to claim what essentially becomes their grandchildren, if the individual in question was truly a duplicate and not a name twin.

The whole process reminds me that considering all the collateral lines in a family tree can seem like a weaving process, especially for families in small, isolated towns. It's fascinating to watch the surnames reappear in the strands of subsequent generations, realizing I've already seen their connections from prior segments of the family's history. In a way, the story keeps repeating itself through theme and variation, as the threads recede to the other side of the fabric, but then re-appear somewhere down the timeline in what, if I pursue the line long enough, may seem like a never-ending tale.

And really, don't we all need to remember that the diagram of our family tree is only a representation of a part of that human tapestry? Seeing our many unknown distant cousins through DNA matches reminds us of how interconnected we all really are, even if we aren't yet conscious of it. The truth of the matter is that the collateral lines of our pedigree weave themselves into the pedigrees of others we don't even know—distant cousins for whom our lines' surnames only become a blip of thread coloring their tapestry for only the briefest intersection in time. We are all part of that ever-enlarging tapestry, trying to determine our part in the picture.

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