Saturday, September 27, 2014

How far out do you work on your family trees? The sky is the limit of course but where do you stop researching? How far off your direct lineage do you go?

My two cents is I think it begins with your purpose and what interests you?  If you are still active age focused on life things like raising a family, is genealogy something you want to do as a second vocation or will it remain a hobby passion?  I think you need to do the same good effort for both but if you are thinking certification then you might want to take a peek at what is required and that might guide you in terms of things to accomplish over the long term when ready to embark on the second vocation.

As to interest what hooks you?  The thrill of the hunt, the sharing of news, documenting the line, searching long forgotten documents and images in County Offices and libraries, visiting where your ancestors walked, creating a trail of family history useful to your descendants?  Any of these things and more are great interests; if you live a long life you could be doing this stuff long after you “retire” so make sure you are enjoying what you do.  It is fair to tell others what your search mission is so they can understand your methodology and don’t be reluctant to carve it up to play towards your interests.

I like to go back as far as 8-10 generation if this is possible for each of your lines; at this writing 8 generation for me would be in the early 1700’s.  I say this is my preference because 8-10 generation matches with an above 90% probability of finding a most recent common paternal progenitor based on 111 marker DNA testing. 

If you wish to acquire membership into certain organization such as DAR or SAR then their documentation requirements will help define the extent of your searches.

In regards to how far I go off of my direct lineage I generally use a couple rules of thumb; I try to go one extra step if available to add what I might know or have found to leave a good hint for others who may wish to go further.  I often get off into a treasure trove of information purely because I started on a path and the findings are so easy for me to document and share with the assumption that someone, somewhere is searching for this exact information.  And lastly, I will find myself off on a tangent purely because it is somehow interesting or providing something new unexpected.  At some point I always come back to my main mission and now and then take stock on how well I am progressing.

In my case, I hope to find and document my Yates paternal line back to at least my migrating ancestor or beyond.  I would like to visit England (based on DNA testing) and walk in those space once filled with my ancestors.  It shapes how I go about my searching and learning.

For myself, I find I need some variety in how I do what I do.  I find myself searching and documenting, sharing through various routes, working with images when available, learning about and participating in DNA testing, visiting locations where my search indicates interim presence of my line and then I do a significant amount of learning to understand the context of the times.  As a result of not being a stellar student in my formative years this has been an important and enjoyable treat.  And lastly, I spend energy when I am connected with an unknown cousin doing searching or someone who has found some of my work helpful and we find ourselves momentarily working hard together sharing every little hint we can.  These focused moments normally have a short life but it is a connection that can be called upon over time.  I find these moments truly an unexpected and enriching benefit to all the hours spent.

I hope you can have even half the enjoyment I have already received from doing this work.