Sunday, September 25, 2022

Step by Step


An enormous goal can sometimes seem too formidable to accomplish. When faced with something huge like that, I like to borrow from commercial mottoes like "Just Do It." That "doing" of a big project means taking the first step. And then another one. And another.

After being flummoxed by the thousands of names in my DNA match list—who were all these people?!—I decided, years ago, to embark on a project to build a tree of all my ancestors' descendants. My goal was never to give an impressive answer for that inevitable genealogy question, "How far back have you gone?" In my case, the goal was simply to figure out where all those DNA cousins fit into my family tree.

It occurred to me, today, to see just how far that step by step process has brought me over the years. After all, I have kept a biweekly count of my progress for years. What if I zoomed back to Step One to see where I started?

Easy enough to do. The first DNA test I requested was for my husband's Y-DNA in March of 2014, followed by my brother's tests later that spring, and eventually my own. To say those lists of matches were overwhelming is quite the way it felt when I began the process.

Right now, my tree stands at 29,772 individual, thoroughly-documented names. Although I began my biweekly count prior to the point of saving those records on my computer—the value of switching from handwritten notes is evident here—the earliest record I can access dates back to December of 2017. Then, that same tree contained documentation for 12,419 relatives. Growth of 17,353 names is not bad for a time span of four years and nine months. Over the long haul, that's working at an average clip of 304 names per month.

It has not been much different for my husband's family tree. Back at the end of 2017, my in-laws' combined tree represented work on 15,322 individuals. Now, that tree has grown to 30,145. That growth of 14,823 people represents an average rate of 260 names added per month.

True, that step by step process may have meant a daily average of eight names added per day (in my husband's case) or ten per day (for my own tree). Some people may not find it advantageous to keep up such a pace. The point, though, is that with steady work, guided by a specific research goal, a family tree eventually takes shape.

What system you choose for attaining promising results may vary from mine. After all, when I was teaching school full time, my research time was limited to semester breaks and summer vacation trips due to calendar restraints. Despite those considerations, the online access to records we now enjoy can overcome even the most restrictive schedules, including those with latitude only for progress in baby steps. It's not the size of the steps, after all, but the fact that the first step gets followed by the second one. And then another. And another. 


  1. Replies
    1. I hope so, Lisa. It is so encouraging to see how the progress adds up even though only a little bit of work gets done each day.


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