Those whose genealogical research goal is to see how "far back" their tree can reach may not be able to relate to projects like the one I've been working on for the past few years. This summer, though, I'm seeing the long haul of regularly-applied hard work pay off with DNA matches.
It isn't exactly a quick task to add all the descendants of, say, all one's third great-grandparents to the family tree. Add in the tendency of faithful Catholic ancestors to have large families—who in the next generation repeated the process—and there is a lot of record chasing to be done to properly enter each of those descendants.
In my in-laws' case, that means nurturing a tree with enough sturdy branches to support 23,144 individual profiles, complete with documentation. Or my own family's tree, filled with 26,162 names. It's no surprise, then, to realize those tallies came about, not because of how far back in time that pedigree reaches, but solely owing to the rate of increase, week over week and year after year, in the collateral lines—the descendants of our ancestors' siblings.
In the past two weeks since my last check, for instance, my in-laws' tree grew by 266 names—no surprise there, considering my current research goal has me working on my father-in-law's Irish roots. Even in my own family's tree, though, I realized that, come October, I'll move from the research realm of my in-laws to work on my own father's roots, so I did a bit of advanced work to add twenty four names to my father's side of the equation.
The payoff, of course, is that when I get notification of a new DNA match, it becomes easier and easier to identify exactly where that individual might belong in either of these two trees.
For some, that might seem like too much work for not enough value. I don't know...but considering I have 2,100 matches at the level of fourth cousin or closer at Ancestry DNA—not to mention more than five thousand at Family Tree DNA and over eleven thousand at MyHeritage—laying out sufficient groundwork in the form of a thick layer of collateral branches smooths out the procedure of correctly adding matches to the tree.
The hidden bonus is that it seems the more matches I correctly identify, the easier it is for other matches to fall into the right place, too.