|2016-17 by Philip Barrington, source: Open Clip Art|
It's that time of year. Time to look back and see how many additional ancestors I have been able to identify sufficiently to feel confident in adding them to my family tree. That is something I had done each January for the past three years after reading Randy Seaver's blog post and watching Crista Cowan's YouTube video.
My method has stayed the same and has been the subject of a previous blog post. As always, I continue to be grateful that I can simply generate an Ahnentafel Report of my direct ancestors by using my genealogy software, Family Tree Maker. Here is what my report for 2016 looked like.
|Date||Generation||Relationship||# in generation||# identified||% identified||2016 increase|
|5||2 Great Grandparents||16||16||100%|
|6||3 Great Grandparents||32||31||97%|
|7||4 Great Grandparents||64||58||91%||2|
|8||5 Great Grandparents||128||61||48%||4|
|9||6 Great Grandparents||256||38||15%||?|
|10||7 Great Grandparents||512||39||8%||10|
|11||8 Great Grandparents||1024||36||4%||36|
|12||9 Great Grandparents||2048||25||1%||25|
I realize that some of the totals in my table may seem strange. For starters I have no increase in known ancestors for Generation 9 because I obviously had a typo in my previous year's report. It is possible to remove or change a relationship or two based on new research, but I know that I certainly did not lose almost 30 ancestors in that one generation during the year! I would probably still be shaking my head in bewilderment if that had actually happened.
In the report for 2016, I also stopped trying to determine the percentage of ancestors identified after Generation 12. The percentages were just too small to have any significance. Instead, I will continue to just look at the increase in numbers over the previous year's report.
Similarly, I decided to use those ancestors in Generations 2-10 as my basis for determining the percentage of ancestors I have now identified. Identifying ancestors in Generations 11-17 or beyond is just a unexpected bonus in my research.
But it isn't just a numbers game. The report prompts me to try to analyze where I found information, strategies that worked, and questions that still linger.
By using the Will and Probate Records available through Ancestry.com as well as browsing similar records on FamilySearch.org, I was able to identify with some degree of confidence a number of ancestors in generations 11-17. By studying names of beneficiaries listed in a will and comparing them with known children, siblings, and/or spouses, I succeeded in pushing my family tree back additional generations through information found through these will and probate records.
For me there is real value in doing this report each year. It isn't just about the total number of ancestors I have identified, although it is nice to document. It is more about seeing where and how I was able to learn about these new people in my family tree. And yes, it continues to bother me that I still cannot find the name of the wife of my 3 Great Grandfather William Vaughan. But it also convinces me that there are additional resources I haven't used, strategies I haven't tried, more hints to prove - or disprove. All part of trying to learn more about my ancestors.
Lessons Learned in 2016
- I spent enough time studying wills and probate records that I actually got where I could understand the terminology and learned more about how our the legal system functioned in earlier times. These records also spoke volumes as to the nature of slavery as well the legal status of women in the past. This prompted me to write several posts about the slave records I found in wills, posts that are now linked with the Slave Name Roll Project developed by Schalene Dagutis.
- Ancestry's indexed Will and Probate Records were easy to use, but I frequently found additional information by browsing the unindexed will and probate records on FamilySearch.org. Browsing page by page, section by section continues to provide fruitful information.
- There have to be some new strategies for learning about women in the 1800s. I plan to use some techniques suggested by Jennifer Dondero of The Occasional Genealogist. Finding the elusive Mrs. William Vaughan is a research goal for 2017.