Last week, my genealogy efforts felt aimless.
It’s understandable. My Grandma just died. She was a big part of my genealogy life. She got me started. She loved my updates. She called me with questions. I called her with discoveries and the resulting questions. She was never far from my thoughts.
Last week I spent some time writing about her final two days of life. I included every detail I could recall. It is something that I hope will be important to my family now and in the future.
Pondering on those two days, on Grandma’s last 85 years, and on the questions I have asked her over the years, I was struck by one thought.
A good genealogist always runs out of time before they run out of questions.
Lest you worry, let me clarify. I don’t have any genealogy regrets in regards to my Grandma. I tested her DNA, she tested her DNA. I interviewed her and recorded it. I made lots of notes. I asked her many, many questions over 20 years. We hit the high points over and over again. I even started keeping track of her verbiage on certain answers so that I could make a judgment call on how clear her memory of certain events was. She was getting older after all.
Despite all of that time and all of that information, I still have questions. Of course, I do. Everything a genealogist does starts with a question. If we run out of questions, we are doing it wrong.
So now that I can no longer ask my Grandma questions, a portion of my genealogy process is broken.
And that’s okay.
But I find myself feeling a bit aimless.
I need to get my feet solidly back under myself.
So in an effort to bring some more focus to my genealogy, I decided to create an ancestor count. Except, I decided to leave my dad’s side of the tree out of it. It’s not because I care about them less. It’s simply because his side is a tangled mess of many LDS pioneers being worked on by many hundreds, dare I say thousands?, of descendants. But on my mom’s side, that is all my Grandma, my sister, and me. We did every bit of that work, the three of us, and only us. There is still lots to do, and I will keep on doing it. But looking at the numbers did something for my mental focus.
I think I am feeling my internal sense of direction coming back.
Here is my maternal ancestor count as of the 27th of September 2017:
If you’ve been reading my blog for long, you know that my great-grandfather John Costello is my biggest brick wall. The missing 25% for my 2nd, 3rd, and 4th great grandparents is all because of that brick wall. From there, I start to have missing pieces scattered throughout my tree. To really help me track my progress, I added that last column so that I know which branches of my tree those ancestors come from.
Looking at the numbers this way has put an energy into my thoughts. I know that goals will follow, but they aren’t solid yet. For now, I’m just comforted by having a new yardstick to measure my progress. My old yardstick was printing a new fanchart for Grandma every so often and seeing the differences. And now? Now, I will update my ancestor count every so often to measure my progress. Maybe I can get my Mom excited about it.
Have you ever created an ancestor count?
I wish I could take credit for the idea of an ancestor count, but I can’t. I have no idea who thought it up first. But I first heard the idea from my friend Cathy at Opening Doors in Brick Walls, so I’ll send you her way.