Sunday, January 8, 2023

Before We Begin


Whenever I'm at the brink of a new research adventure, I like to first check to get my bearings. Before I can begin a project, I need to know where the starting point is. How else can I gain a sense of accomplishment, if I don't know where I started?

Before we begin pursuing the first of my selections for this year's Twelve Most Wanted—my fifth great-grandfather Adam Broyles and his related family lines—we'll take a moment today to look over the biweekly count. This is a tradition I've kept up for several years now. It helps encourage me that, despite feeling like I haven't made much progress, over time much has been accomplished. It's when we're stuck banging our head on those intractable brick walls that we could use encouragement like those numbers.

Before I pull out that DNA match list of seventy-six to one hundred of my fifth great-grandparents' tested descendants, let's see how we stand at the start of a new year.

At last count, I finished off the previous year with 31,305 documented individuals in my family tree. This is the combined tree of all the ancestors from my father's difficult-to-find line and my mother's much more research-friendly line, plus all their collateral lines—the lines of descent leading to those cousin DNA matches. In the past two weeks, I've added ninety four new names to that tree while I've prepared the way on this Broyles project. For this new year, we'll start with a count of 31,399 for that combined tree.

While we won't be working on any research goals for my in-laws' tree for the next three months, let's leave a starting marker for that tree, as well. A few family conversations over the holidays prompted me to brush up on records for my husband's related families, so we'll start off 2023 with a tree count of 30,658. How easily those additional 299 individuals matched up in this tree, thanks to the help of DNA testing in those large Catholic families over the generations—all noted in the past two weeks alone.

As we turn our attention to the Broyles line in the remainder of this month, that DNA testing tool will play a major part, especially knowing there were certain favored names which saw much repetition over the generations in that family. It can be easy to confuse same-named individuals, and I've seen some of that in DNA tools which are partially based on subscriber-submitted family trees, such as those at and MyHeritage. While the DNA tests are helpful, this month will find us exploring sources of centuries-old records, as well, to help avoid confusion over multiple cousins named after the same relative. We amplify the benefits of one tool by carefully blending its strengths with those of other research techniques.

Tomorrow, we'll begin with a look at what is already known about Adam Broyles and his family, and explore what steps we'll need to take next for this month's research goal. 


  1. While I probably am not on your DNA match list we are likely cousins. My Briles line goes back to Conrad Broils (Broyles, Briles). Conrad is the son of John Broyles and Ursula Ruop. The family was part of the second Germanna settlement in Virginia. Most people with the Briles surname trace back to Conrad but there are a few of his descendants that moved to Tennessee and used the Broyles surname. Descendants of Conrad’s brothers tended to use the Broyles spelling vs the Briles spelling.

  2. Have you seen the set of books referred to as the Keith Typescript? I believe your Adam Broyles is on page 29 of volume 1. The book references land transactions and a will.

  3. I've recently starting reading your blog.
    Since you mention numbers for both your tree and your husband's, I assume you have them saved as separate files in whatever program you use? (And could you mention it? If you have I may have missed it...)
    Are there any pluses / minuses to doing separate trees v. single tree for both you and your husband, other than being able to track # of ancestors separately?


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