Saturday, December 3, 2022

Keeping Track


Several years ago, the topic came up about ideas for keeping track of the various members of our family trees. One idea even went viral in 2016 when J. Paul Hawthorne shared his five generation Excel spreadsheet for color-coding ancestors' birth places, first on Facebook and then on his blog, GeneaSpy. Even four years later, people were still sharing their charts.

There have been other inspirations for chart-sharing, of course. One in particular that I recall was first shared in a blog post by Blaine Bettinger, who asked, "How Much of Your Family Tree Do You Know? And Why Does That Matter?" While his article went into far more detail than I want to focus on here, he introduced his observations by sharing a chart where he had calculated the percentages, by generation, of how many ancestors he had researched. Like many of us, he had one hundred percent coverage for his parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, but after that point, the percentages began slipping.

That discussion, too, began generating buzz online, as others examined their own family tree's percentages. While Blaine Bettinger's post went on to explain the importance of knowing more of our family trees for autosomal DNA purposes, there is one obvious take-away from this. If we are trying to figure out just how a fourth cousin DNA match might fit into our family, if the majority of the slots on our pedigree chart for third great-grandparents is blank, we will be hard pressed to come up with any ideas of the connection.

After just having spent two months trying my best to discover further information on my third great-grandparents—particularly on my father's Polish side of the family tree—I realize this is what is snagging my DNA matching progress. For the possible sixteen third great-grandparents on my paternal side, I only have a total of seven named. That makes for 43.75%. I still have a long way to go to be able to identify the most recent common ancestor shared with some of my paternal DNA cousins.

Fortunately, on my maternal side, I have fourteen out of sixteen third great-grandparents already identified, or 87.5%. That all comes down to one couple in Virginia—parents of my Boothe ancestor—who have eluded me for years. As for the rest of my maternal ancestors, I have one line traceable to Revolutionary War years, three more to the early 1700s, an additional one to the 1600s, and one even back to the Mayflower. Determining the most recent common ancestor tied to any maternal DNA matches is a far more straightforward process, and those linked to my missing Boothe ancestors I might be able to infer if I run into a really good DNA match on that line.

All this I keep under consideration for later this month when I select which ancestors to pursue as my Twelve Most Wanted for the upcoming year. Examining the percentages of research coverage by generations helps finger the ancestral lines in most need of further work.

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