Sunday, November 28, 2021

Of Gifts, Gratefulness, and Goals


This month, I've spent a lot of time working on the lines related to Marilyn Sowle Bean, the woman whose photograph collection I rescued from a local antique shop. I'm far from done, of course, but that doesn't mean I haven't worked on my own trees during this time. As we'll see in a bit, those trees did advance steadily over the past two weeks, even though I did get distracted by one thought: just like I have DNA tests and matches to guide me on my own family's trees, that is one thing I lack in working on Marilyn's trees. And there is little I can do about it; all her immediate family is gone, as well as a significant number of extended relatives on both sides of that family's tree.

I don't intend to count entries or measure my research progress on Marilyn's trees—both her own and her husband's ill-fated family plagued by Marfan Syndrome—but I'll keep working on that research goal after the month is over. Unlike other goals which I can easily return to work on in later years, I doubt this project will become cyclical in the same way.

Still, it's been a rewarding month for this review of a family long gone. Topping the list of what I've become grateful for in this project is the chance to meet a local high school student who has delved into genealogy with as much energy as I had, myself, when I was a student—and one with a practical mindset to apply that knowledge to help others, as he did in returning the first of Marilyn's photographs to me last spring.

Another gift coming from this detour from my usual research goals has been getting to meet, online, another descendant of Marilyn's ancestors. Just before Thanksgiving, someone from Marilyn's maternal roots was searching online for her family's surnames and ran across this blog. She didn't stop there, but looked for me on so she could send a message. We've compared notes and, sure enough, she and Marilyn are related. Now, isn't that just the sort of serendipity that would make one wish to be able to call upon a DNA match to find even more connections?

Though I eye those reports of extracting DNA from backs of envelopes or strands of hair, I know it will be far from likely that anyone from Marilyn's immediate family would ever be represented in the current commercially-available genetic genealogy databases. And just like this month's research goal, those hopes will fade away as we move on from November's task to December's goal.

In the meantime, those progress report numbers keep churning away in the background. For my in-laws' tree, this past two weeks saw 191 new names added to bring the total number of individuals represented there to 24,384. In my own tree, I fared exactly the same—and no, I didn't plan that. This past biweekly effort also brought in 191 new names to grow that tree to 26,975 individuals.

As we move into the last month of the year, my thoughts turn to plans for next year's goals. In addition to tackling my December goal—and wrapping up a few details on my quest on behalf of Marilyn's long-gone family—since people have asked, I'll be discussing my thoughts on how I set up an annual research plan. After all, before we know it, we'll be in that post-holiday lull spanning the end of this year and the start of a new one, and it will be time to spring into new projects once again. 

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