Yes, I must admit, I am a genealogy junkie. It is my drug of choice. It is what I do when I am happy and it is what I do when I am sad and seek solace. I can do it in groups and I can do it alone; online at home or in a distant state library. It uplifts my soul because it not only connects me to my families past but to the past of all that have come before and shaped the world to be what it is today.
In 1976, I watch the TV mini-series Roots. It made me wonder what it must be like to be alone in the world and not know your family. I thought of myself as an only child, but the truth was that I had a sister thirteen years my senior. I thought of her more like another mother but much more restrictive. She managed to combine the skill of being a sister by not hesitating to tell my mother what I should or should not be doing.
Mother was the kind, tolerant and delightfully funny type of mother. She came from family of eleven and every weekend, we all went to Grandma and Grandpa Cotrell’s house, where if it were Saturday, I would beg to go home with one of the cousins and the answer was always yes, requiring another trip on Sunday to pick me up. One of my son’s has inherited this “begging to stay overnight” and passed it on to my granddaughter. It warms my heart.
But 1976, has another event that seeded my genealogical journeys. My Father passed. I realized I did not know his family. His father was 60 when he was born; the youngest child of his last wife. And, he was 37 when I was born, his little tag along. He spent his school years in the Soldiers and Sailors home in Xenia and all but one brother who never married passed when they were young. Mother warned me that he had known so little about his family that she was sure when his mother passed; he had not really known his mother’s maiden name. Pension paper from the Civil War would later prove that she was right.
So the seeds were planted on fertile ground and I was off to the Historical Library. I met the most wonderful people who took this young little girl under their wing. I now realize that finding a young person who loves history as much as you do when you get old is a rare thing. They taught me the rules of the roads and now it is called the FAN method. No it is not new, just a new name.
Basically, write down everything and document the source. Easy to know and hard to implement. My mind flies when I am “finding good stuff” and it is worse online. I get so focused that one article leads to the next and then I have twenty windows open and am so far from my original quest, that I am totally lost. Copy/paste is now my best friend, next to the software.
I have what I call the Trash Tree. Unlike my sister whose motto is “garbage in…garbage out”, I am the consummate pack rat of information. I marvel at how much I can stuff on a computer and I am dismayed by the need for organizational skills. Alas, without a search engine, I am lost so that is a requirement of this blog. Use it freely.
I have no idea what will develop with this Blog. My latest foray into genealogy is Autosomal DNA testing. I have many YDNA projects in my research and they let you know for sure what your ancestors “group” is. Then the paper work to connect them. But Autosomal is different; there is no direct line back. It recombines to explain why I have Aunt Alice’s laugh and Grandma’s hands and just like red hair can skip a generation, so can Autosomal DNA. I matched a man’s mother and his daughter but did not match him.
This is a new scientific exploration. Rules are being set up and rules are being broken. We have been given guidelines of how many generations we should find a match, only to find out in the real world the match is three generations further back. We are told we should not go back more than 5-6 generations as it gets unreliable but then they tell me I am 3% Neanderthal. How reliable is that!
So now we have a little experiment named Project 5. I took one little segment that I was seeing in my matches that my years of research had already told me were correct to see if I could push the window back with some confidence of accuracy. I ran a Segment Match search on Gedmatch and came up with 367 matches. I invited them all to participate in an effort to find common grandparents.
I got 93 replies with only 12 declining, mainly because they believed it was impossible. Oh well…….. We now have a group of 60 that are identified by family surnames or locations and are in the process of forming subgroups for independent research and comparisons. It is easier to have a voice in a small group and if we find only one or two common grandparents share by some of them; we then have new clues to locations or lifestyle that might help the others find their missing loved ones.
And it is a lot about those missing links. Once we get back to the 1700’s, wives names become less clear, but as I was taught…”fathers did not allow their daughters to marry strangers.” This is no magic pill, the paper work is still vital, but we have shared records and resources that we would never have access to because, we did are just a bunch of strangers…but unique strangers in that we all share the same DNA.