Sunday, February 18, 2018

My 2018 Ancestor Tally: Researching The Romance Novel

A year ago, I put on my green-billed accountant cap and tallied my ancestor numbers for the past ten generations: myself through my seventh great-grandparents.

299. That was my ancestor tally; the total number of direct ancestors I've identified by name.

It's time to check-in and see what progress - if any - I made in growing that number in the past year.

Numbers in Perspective
But before we crunch numbers, it's helpful to revisit my motivation in tallying the numbers.

It can be easy to view genealogy as a numbers game. We seek to place forgotten family on the pedigree: one you, two parents, four grandparents, etc. For me, however, I'm more invested in family history and telling the stories each of those numbers represent.

As I did last year, it's worth recalling Tim Urban's excellent article, Your Family: Past, Present, and Future, on his Wait, But Why blog? He poignantly observed that the past eight generations, which "only represents the last 200 years of your ancestry, contains 127 romantic relationships, each involving at least one critical sex moment and most of them probably involving deep love. You’re the product of 127 romances, just in the last 200 years alone."

So, now that we're in the proper frame of mind, let's check in on my family's romance novel.

Ancestor Numbers in 2018

In the past year, I've only identified two new ancestors: a seventh great-grandmother and a fifth great-grandfather, William Delzell. These discoveries didn't move the needle much. In fact, the percentage of identified ancestors remained steadfast at 29%.

There's progress to be made with these more distant generations, but my efforts have been focused on the known recent generations and trying to flesh out their stories. 

Reacquainting myself with these numbers is a welcome prompt to prioritize tending to the unkempt branches of the family tree. Let's see if I can't grow this a bit more over the next year.

And your tree? How's it looking? What's your current ancestor count?


  1. I like you're using the romance theme for your tally of known ancestors. Wishing you luck and good research techniques on the 4th greats who are still hiding from you. Happy hunting.

    1. Thanks, Cathy. I'll take all the help and luck I can get! All nine of my unknown 4th great-grandparents are on my paternal side. I have to fight tooth and nail for every generation I uncover on my dad's line. They really aren't cutting me any slack. Sheesh! :)

  2. I perhaps am too cynical, but I do wonder how many of those couples really experienced deep love! So many marriages of convenience or expediency or prompted by unplanned pregnancies. But it's a nice thought! Good luck in 2018!

    1. You're probably right, Amy! For example, I'm guessing there wasn't a lot of deep love between my third great-grandparents, particularly after grandpa shot at grandma's alleged lover. ;)