Sometimes, it's a matter of getting down to the work before we can begin to see things take shape. Call it a matter of faith, but sometimes we don't see until we do.
I've been plugging away at October's research project, mostly keeping the drudgery of repeated processes behind the scenes—you know, politics, sausage-making, genealogy and all—but I'm noticing something evolving as I add potential relatives to my family tree.
The process goes something like this: starting with my great-grandfather Antoni Laskowski's maternal grandparents, I pull out my screaming-yellow danger icon and place it next to the name of his tentative aunt, Catharina Gramlewicz. Then, using the transcripts I've found at the Polish website BaSIA, I search to find any records having to do with Catharina or any of her descendants, based on the information provided by my DNA match at MyHeritage. Insert danger icon for each of these newly-discovered relatives, as well. Rinse. Repeat.
Catharina—or Katarzyna, as I prefer to call her, using the traditional Polish name rather than the one listed in Latin-based church records—was supposedly the sister (or possibly half-sister) of Antoni's mother, Elżbieta Gramlewicz. Only problem: I wouldn't have known that, if it weren't for discovering this DNA match. Hopefully, this match's tree is correct, but I don't know that yet. I need to find supporting documentation to set my mind at ease over that question.
As if having found the only descendant alive for that Gramlewicz family today—face it, this person is my only known DNA match linked to that line—I find myself surprised at what happens next in this process.
I begin to find other researchers also belonging to that family. And they are not in Poland.
The key is that I would never have discovered those researchers, had I not taken that tentative step of adding those names to my tree. Once added into my database, though, up pop those ubiquitous Ancestry hints, eager to nudge me into copying someone else's tree. Of course, I resist that temptation, but you know I'm shouting and doing the genealogy happy dance at the same time.
I want to know who these people are, so I start messaging. Not wanting to appear too abrupt or demanding—after all, "Who are you, anyway?" isn't exactly the best way to induce strangers to share family information—I carefully inspect the proposed tree for inside intel before sending out a more modulated message.
I think the Ancestry subscriber answered within four hours. And that was after I sent out my note around midnight. Not bad for a sedate exchange between strangers.
As I progressed along the generations of the original DNA match's proposed tree, that same process repeated itself. I'd enter the name of Katarzyna's daughter, search BaSIA for her married surname, glean all the sibling information I could find, then enter that all in my own tree. Up would pop another Ancestry hint: yet another researcher working on this line. I am drawing up a list of potential contacts, maybe even gleaning future collaborators to help research this line further. (A few more who are fluent in Polish might help here, as well.)
There are so many times when we hesitate to begin a work until we can see clearly that Step One is a sure-bet, solid move—when all along, having taken that first step sooner could have initiated a steady stream of additional information.
I'm glad finding the DNA match at MyHeritage prompted me to give this line a try, despite my doubts. After all, there were no DNA matches from this line listed among my set at Ancestry.com, nor any whose trees contained Antoni's related surnames. This one from MyHeritage was my only option for moving forward—with doubts. Now that I've dug in and gotten my hands into the muddy mess of it all, those possible research clues are beginning to point me in new directions.