My Blog this week is about research frustration. I think I am at an all time high this week. Having decided to come out of hiding, I revived the Blog, revived my Blevins-Va forum, dedicated myself to completing my work on the Native Americans and Quakers through to publication and to paint my garden swing. I know the swing is not about research but I am now in the second week of trying to paint this swing and it keeps raining. And it is raining on my research.
First, a lot of resources are being taken away by corporate Ancestry.com that were “free” sites. I guess they finally figured out that a lot of paying subscribers are sharing the information that they find on Ancestry.com with the rest of the family. I am guilty. And I know they have big resources and additional employees eating into their profits to provide these free services and they are now traded on NASDAQ. Goodbye free...
Since I worked with Microsoft in database admin, it was a given that to unwind these portions of their company, others would crash in the process, hence Rootsweb has been down. I know they have another spin to it, but as a result researchers all over have come to realize just how dependent they are on the mailing lists, forums and free trees as research tools. The cynic in me says it is just a matter of time till these are gone also. So I decided to be proactive and revive my website. It is in the works. But things are piling up as I attempt to find a simple solution to not becoming a spread to thin corporation myself.
Now the bright side is that since all the free stuff is down, I found that some of my research groups have become more active in communicating with each other and I am meeting a lot of new people who do not understand how to do autosomal research, so I think it is time to start from the beginning again.
This group started with an experiment to find out if a group of complete strangers could effectively break down some brick walls through atdna research and we did. The success came only to those who took the time to share their trees and talk to each other. They were not overwhelmed by the fact that they did not know the answer before they got there but were willing to trust the process. I am sure most of you have heard the phrase about a lost object, “Why is it always in the last place I looked?!” Because once you find it you quit looking.
This is the new genealogical place to look. But looking here is not traditional and requires a whole new mindset. But we already know that we do not know and we know that traditional methods have not found it for us, so you have to want it bad enough to look someplace new.
That is my second frustration this week with research. Having to explain this over and over again. This is not traditional research. This requires you to be a brave new explorer and combine all your skills to find your lost ancestors. The old hope is that someone has them hiding from you in their tree and they probably are but you don't know who they are so you don't recognize them anyway.
So here is the new process.
- Look at the big picture, the whole chart, not just one surname.
- Keep going as long as you are learning about people that you do not know about.
- Go with the flowHere is an example. I was researching one of the family groups in my Blevins line that I do not know how we connect except through some distant grandfather. I know it is worth my time because I already have a Blevins Spreadsheet and I match every Blevins that I can find that has ever has atdna testing done. So first step is to take a family line and using any and all services or friends, put everyone that you match in that spreadsheet. Do not get sidetracked by how you might match, just enter the DNA sequences into your spreadsheet, their email address and why and where you found them.
Once you have 6-10 people go though and mark the matching segments. You are now ready to do an analysis of your matches.
- Are there segments shared by everybody?
- Are there people who do not match anyone ?
- Can you see subgroups that share 3 or more segments?
Copy your finding into new subgroup spreadsheets (copy/paste, very easy step)
Now email them and see if they have a tree or if they know if they are descended from the name you are researching.
I have had matches to people who have Blevins in their trees but it is an aunt or uncle. This can be good because you are looking at a subgroup or a family group that has shared a common locality. Don't discard these people as not useful. You will need them later. I have about 45 spreadsheets and when I do a search of their email on my computer in my “Raw Data Folder”, they now show up in multiple families so I know that the odds are building that there is a central location where our ancestors lived together.
Another frustration this week is in that I am becoming more aware that people are finding it hard to give up linear research methods. For the first time, I can do a search and find out if a theoretical grandmother could be correct. If a find 6-10 good matches, I go with the flow and find out all about these people. They match me and match each other, I go with the flow as they will eventually end up in one of my holes. But if there are no matches that do not match each other, that theory is probably all wet and I need to find a better use of my time.
- Check out all theories for your “possible” lost generation
- Make a spreadsheet on Grandma's parents
- Do not forget to make spreadsheets on the surnames of the female siblings
This last one is very important. All of your grandparents, children and generations of grandchildren carry your DNA. I realized this quite significantly when my Johnson line research revealed that I was matching a lot of Newlins and Mendenhalls. I was able to find the line back but now I know why I match so many Quaker families. Thomas Mendenhall and Joan Strode had 11 children and my line is a grandmother Mary who married Nathaniel Newlin, all in the late 1600. The daughters alone added Martin, Spiers, Thomas, Maddox, Maris, Wright, Benson, Stubbs, Mooney, Pennell, Roberts, Taylor, Pearson, Beeson, Ruddick, Hill, Gillispie, Woodward, Holiday (so that now explains why there was a Holiday living in grandma's household when she was little), Metcalf, Bacon and Moon. I have seen these names in my Family Finder matches for the past year and a lot mean nothing to me and they may not know their Mendenhall connection if it is a female, so now we have something new to talk about.
My frustration with people not knowing how to do atdna caused me to be unkind yesterday and that is not the normal me. I know people do not know how to do this. It is almost the first thing in most responses that I get, “I don't know much about the autosomal thing.” I know that this person belongs to one of my lines. They have a double test of siblings so good material to work with and a Revolutionary War pension that puts their brickwall grandfather in the exact location of all my lines of that surname and their descendents. And they match every single person in the spreadsheet. Will they ever find a paper trail? I don't know but I know it is much more hopeful to know that I match everyone else from that location than to know that I only match one person. I know that there was only one son in this line so they could have daughtered out but that does not matter with atdna. If they would explore there matches with the daughter and the husbands are know and documented by legal records (what a gift) and they have 10 to 25 more matches and those matches match all of the original matches, they have an ancestral pool to draw from. Thorough elimination of the known descendents of the originals, which we have birth and marriage records for, we could very likely narrow it down to just a few men and possibly prove that this is the only option. When I started it was called “the only stud in the barn” proof. But I snapped. I don' t like to sound pompous and keep trying to prove that I know what I am doing, so I just snapped. But it is a new day and a new way. I need to keep in mind that most people have not even boarded the atdna train.
I liken it to the old lady that never learned to drive but wanted someone to drive them everywhere. I can't be the only driver and I am feeling like I am the only person doing spreadsheets, even after they have met me and see that they work. Is anyone even trying this? Am I wasting my time on this when I could just be working on my personal family?