Sunday, August 8, 2021

Double Duty


For a second month now, I've been working on piecing together the story of my father-in-law's Irish immigrant ancestors, but that is not the only project which has occupied my time. I've also spent a fair amount of time assembling the details on an extended family tree for my mother-in-law's roots. It is no surprise, then, as I arrive at another of my biweekly progress checks, to realize that the count on my in-laws' tree is zooming ahead.

That is a good sign, for two reasons. Not only do I hope to move beyond the stalemate where some brick wall ancestors currently have me stymied, but in piecing together a tree for my mother-in-law complete with collateral lines, the result allows the record to serve double duty with another project I'm tackling.

That project is to create a tree representing the descendants of early settlers in the county my mother-in-law once called home: Perry County, Ohio. All her direct ancestors called that place home sometime between the date of Ohio statehood—1803—and the years leading up to World War II. Because so many residents of that small county's communities have historically been related to each other in several ways, I chose that same time range to form the parameters for a volunteer DNA project I administer specifically for descendants of those families to compare their test results.

Creating that tree has become a task to untangle a spaghetti bowl of familial connections. The same surnames keep popping up in different branches of the family, coming close enough to demonstrate what is meant by "pedigree collapse." Beyond that research clue, getting to know the extended lines in one county over many generations has helped me get familiarized with the families living in that region, and how they weave in and out of multiple collateral lines over the decades.

Having worked on that project bit by bit over many years now, it's not surprising to see that my in-laws' tree now numbers 22,878 documented individuals, with 259 new names added in just the past two weeks. The tree has become a tool to help guide me through DNA matches who lead back to Perry County—not to mention, one way to allow me to feel like I'm at home in a county which I've only been able to visit two or three times in the past. And hopefully, with a little more work on one aggravating ancestral branch of that family, I should—someday—be able to negotiate my mother-in-law's matriline and make sense of those mitochondrial DNA exact matches which still have me stumped. 

That, however, will be a goal for another year.

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