Sunday, September 5, 2021

Counting on Progress


Every time I see someone like professional organizer and genealogy aficionado Janine Adams encourage others to do daily research on their family history, I know that advice is spot on. A little bit each day—say, like her "30 x 30" challenges to devote at least thirty minutes a day for an entire month to a family tree research issue—can certainly add up. The challenge isn't to do the thirty minutes—that's the easy part—it's to come back and do that same little bit again, tomorrow. And the next day. For the rest of the month. And repeat.

With the past three months devoted to finding some of my "Twelve Most Wanted" from my father-in-law's tree, it has all added up. Even looking at the last two weeks' tally, I can tell there's been progress made. Right now, that family tree includes documentation on 23,399 individuals, with 255 of them added in just the past fourteen days. While those numbers may seem a lot, each one of those relatives—ancestors and their collateral lines—were added one by one, a little bit each day.

Even though my focus isn't on my own family tree right now, I still try to devote some time to that side of the family, as well. After all, next month, my focus will shift to my father's elusive ancestors, and I don't want to lose any momentum on that side of the family. While the progress isn't quite as noteworthy, I did find fourteen more individuals to add to that tree, which now contains 26,176 individuals. Every little bit of progress counts.

The main point may be that slow and steady, over time, nets the most progress, but there are other reasons for this approach. For one thing, keeping one's mind in the game helps us remember the various lines of relationship, instead of having to start from scratch with a refresher course, every time we pick up the research task again. The daily review keeps our eyes open to those details which are fresh in our memory. That, in itself, streamlines the process when we can keep more details in our working memory, instead of constantly referring back to work done in the distant past.

For me, though, the most helpful part is that, laying out the "map" of family connections allows me to keep pace with the just as steadily added DNA matches we're receiving at the five companies where I and family members have tested. While those match numbers increase slowly, with every match confirmed, that information sparks a domino effect linking even more relatives on the tree with their matching identities in our DNA results.

Add that to the many innovations and new tools being introduced lately in the various DNA companies, and the progress translates into far more encouragement than I can recall from the earliest of our testing experiences. Improved chromosome painting, more intricately delineated ethnicity reports, and highly-honed probability charts can make a difference, but this well-oiled machine runs even more smoothly when coupled with a well-researched family tree, complete with collateral lines. 


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