I'm a big fan of keeping an eye on progress. Tracking the changes as I work on a goal provides a positive feedback loop that keeps me going. That's why I keep tabs on how I'm doing in my family history endeavors on a biweekly basis. I appreciate a well-meaning pat on the back every once in a while—doesn't everybody?
After mentioning yesterday how my family tree may look more like a bush than a redwood, I attributed that odd shape to my pursuit of collateral lines, especially to work hand in hand with researching my DNA matches. Those collateral lines represent the siblings of grandparents, great-grandparents and beyond—and all their descendants, too. Since one of my research goals is to put every DNA match in his or her proper place in my family tree, I simply could not do that without knowing who my collateral lines descend from.
Last month, for instance, I worked on the collateral lines of my fourth and fifth great-grandparents in the Taliaferro family. Because I don't like to add names without supporting documentation, I could tell my "progress" was evolving quite slowly. But when I tallied up my work over the last two weeks, I was encouraged to see I had been able to add 295 individuals to my tree. Sure, my bush, er, tree has gotten fat enough to contain 32,742 names, but each of those names has a reason for being included in that tree.
Keeping a biweekly tally like that also helps me keep tabs on when unexpected events cause additions to my work. For instance, both last month and this current month my research plans call for me to focus on my mother's ancestors. I haven't worked on my in-laws' tree since last fall. And yet, somehow, some event in the past two weeks prompted me to pull up their tree and add another individual's information, for my count has increased by one person's entry. That tree now has records for 30,793 people. And beginning in April, I'll get back to researching my mother-in-law's line, which will add even more to that tree.
I'm a big fan of "inch by inch." Being consistent in small amounts of work over time can add up to something significant. I keep my records on a spreadsheet, and when I've looked back over the years, I'm amazed to see what I started with. Only a few years ago, those numbers were less than half the size they are now. By now, a little work, day by day, has become a habit I look forward to. The bonus is learning all the fascinating stories I stumble upon in the process as I get to know my extended family better.