Sunday, July 23, 2023

Never Done


A genealogist's work is never done. I say that as an antidote to those who smugly claim they are "finished" with their tree.

Perhaps you've seen the meme going around in some family history circles. You know, the chart which uses basic math principles to illustrate how impossible it would be to claim that family tree is finished. Counting back through the generations, it informs us that we start with two parents, then four grandparents. Predictably, the next generation adds eight great-grandparents, then doubles the number for each preceding generation. Pretty soon, we're talking about a lot of people to find.

Add to that task a mission of my own: to research the collateral lines of each of my direct-line ancestors. Top that off with one more mandate: document the descendant lines of each of those collateral line relatives, a task which may seem tedious, but which is so helpful for placing DNA matches in the family tree.

This week, that means my in-laws' tree—the one I'm working on this month—has made it to 33,058 individuals, 114 more than where I was two weeks ago. And my own family tree includes 33,836 people, increasing by 99 in that same time period. All of them, incidentally, are documented as thoroughly as possible.

Chasing all those collateral lines means developing a system to track where the work has been left off. After all, logging on to to check the name of the last person viewed only works when you are tackling one ancestor at a time. While I do focus on one individual per month, after that month is done, I keep up the search for that person's details behind the scenes, so I send myself links via email to keep track of where I left off with each previous month's target ancestors.

That may sound like a sound but simple solution, and for the most part, it is. But this past week, I went wandering through old reminders and what should I find but an old link to an unfinished task. It just serves to remind me that the multiplying work of genealogy is indeed never done. There is always more to find on each relative, and always more relatives to discover.

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