Sunday, April 16, 2023

Keeping Track of the Collateral


It wasn't much of a surprise to discover that in the last two weeks, I had added 288 people to my mother-in-law's family tree. After all, hers is the family I've been working on during the month of April. When I discovered that the research goal I had selected for this month—to learn more about her fourth great-grandmother Elizabeth Howard—placed my sites squarely on her matriline, my first step was to work on all Elizabeth's daughters' descendants. That meant learning more about those collateral lines in the family tree—especially the sisters connected to Elizabeth's daughter Sarah Howard Ijams.

The result of that flurry of research activity means that my in-laws' tree now includes data for 31,341 relatives. That, however, wasn't all I had been working on for this month. While I do select one research goal per month, when I discover at the end of each month that there is yet more work to do, I continue the process behind the scenes.

While I haven't written about it much lately, I'm still working on the collateral lines for my Broyles line (January goal), my Taliaferro line (February goal), and my Tilson line (March goal). Just like I mentioned yesterday, the process for this behind the scenes work is to take each collateral line and follow all the descendants down to the present-day generation. Data like this makes for a much easier time of plugging in DNA cousin matches to my family tree.

So, what did all that behind-the-scenes work do for my own tree? Since all three of the family lines I mentioned come from my own mother's tree, it should be no surprise to learn that her tree grew by 241 people, despite it not being my major research goal for the month. That means my own tree is now up to 33,458 names, all thoroughly documented.

Not only is the practice of researching collateral lines helping me to identify the right place for each DNA match, but it helps me spot family trends, seeing geographic and economic changes and getting a feel for each family. Sometimes—and this happens quite often—a collateral line can give me the breakthrough I need when stuck on a "brick wall" ancestor.

Of course, cumulatively continuing those research goals from past months while still pressing forward with each new month's own goal will eventually leave me swamped with work. After all, I'm still working on those Broyles cousins from January.

Later on this year, I'll have to give up some of that collateral search process. But for now, it's a work in progress which I can pick up at odd moments of down time. Here a little, there a little sometimes is all it takes to get a job done—and paint a bigger picture of a family down through history.


  1. I’m not sure where you are finding the time to work on your monthly goal and the descendancy research! I haven’t started tackling North Carolina Briles descendants yet. Thinking that we both need to contribute our descendancy work to a one name study, I discovered there isn’t a Broyles/Briles study.

    1. Now that's a thought, Marcia! And I'm surprised there isn't a one name study already established for Broyles or Briles, considering how many descendants there must be. We need to talk about that further...

      About time: monthly goals can be much more time-consuming than the descendancy work, especially using I take the work in little units, say, over lunch at my desk, or if I have to wait in between appointments. It's amazing how much this can add up, bit by bit. I imagine if I had used the Ancestry app, it would go even quicker, but I prefer seeing a bigger picture.


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