Saturday, February 22, 2020

My 2020 Ancestor Tally

Each year, I pause my genealogy to crunch numbers. I take a big picture view of my research and tally the new direct ancestors that I've added to my family tree in the past 12 months.

It's an opportunity to take stock of my progress from a purely quantitative perspective. I recognize this is of limited meaningful value. After all, readers of this blog know that I'm knee eyeballs deep in qualitative research of my Kirk family line. And I wouldn't change that emphasis just to collect names.

Genealogy's numbers game doesn't hold great appeal for me. Nonetheless, numeric benchmarks are easy indicators of progress, so let's take a look at how my family tree has flourished during the past year.

Ancestor Tally-ho

This exercise highlights only the ten preceding generations (myself through my seventh great-grandparents), which is 1,023 people. Although my research is wide ranging and adds ancestors at more distant generations, capping it at this level keeps this project manageable (just barely).

Me - 1
Parents - 2
Grandparents - 4
Great-grandparents - 8
2nd Great-grandparents - 16
3rd Great-grandparents - 32
4th Great-grandparents - 64
5th Great-grandparents - 128
6th Great-grandparents - 256
7th Great-grandparents - 512

TOTAL: 1,023

During the past year, I added seven individuals to my tree.

This includes one new sixth great-grandparent - Elizabeth Cotton (Roe) Judd. She was a gift from Janice Webster, administrator of Facebook's Genealogy Bloggers group, who helped me crack open my Judd family line and add 13 direct new ancestors - most of whom are in generations beyond this exercise's purview (see Adding Generations of Judds to the Family Tree).

At the next generation, I now know the names of 48 of my seventh great-grandparents - six new people over last year (yes, including more Judds).

Although they aren't newly discovered, it's important to note that two sets of these 48 grandparents (four people) are the parents to four(!) of my 6th great-grandparents (can anyone say pedigree collapse?).

William and Judith (Downing) Rogers were parents to two of my sixth great-grandparents:

  1. Susan Rogers who married Joseph Gould
  2. Samuel Rogers who married Mary Davis
Elihu and Sarah Polly (Brown) Andrus were also parents to two of my sixth great-grandparents:

  1. Elihu Andrus Jr. who married Elizabeth Shepard
  2. Abijah Andrus who married Betsy Calkins

Two of my seventh great-grandparents - who I am counting - aren't even full names, but there's sufficient data to provide some specificity about their identity. They're no longer a complete unknown and although they remain partially shadowed, I'm counting them.

My tally. My rules.

Obstinate Low Hanging Fruit

In the generations closer to me, there remain several stubborn brick walls that refuse to yield answers.

For example, I know the names of all but two of my fourth great-grandparents. Who were the parents of my third great-grandmother Margaret (Fahey) Flynn? Beats me!

Per the 1880 US Federal Census, I know that she was born in Ireland in about 1842 and resided in Des Moines, Iowa. But then she died sometime after that enumeration and before the April 12, 1881 death of her husband John Flynn (his death record indicated that he was widowed). If I could finally crack this mystery, I will have identified ALL of my fourth great-grandparents.

At the next generation, I still only know 86 of my 128 fifth great-grandparents.

Curiously, Ancestry now offers Potential parent recommendations for 16 ancestors at this level. At a glance, I'm sure some of them are incorrect (based on inaccurate family trees that have made mistaken assumptions and proliferate online). Yet, while I remain skeptical about all hints, there are clearly some leads that I need to investigate. These Potential ancestor clues are probably a good place to start.

So I have my marching orders for the year ahead.

How did your ancestor tally fare in the past year?

      Ancestor Count 2019
      Ancestor Count 2018
      Ancestor Count 2017


      1. I like your rules. I also counted the "partially shadowed" ancestors as they were no longer completely nameless.

      2. I don't play this game at all because I haven't found a new directo ancestor in years at this point and I'm not likely to find any more ever, given the dearth of records and the fact that Jews didn't have surnames until about 1800 (depending on the country).

        Congratulations on your score increasing!

        1. The game was more fun in the early days when I was plucking the low-hanging fruit hand over fist. Now that the easy work is done, I'm forced to climb higher and dig deeper for more distant ancestors. But my focus and passion remains mostly tied up in my Kirks - quality over quantity.

      3. Any increase in ancestors discovered is a step in the right direction, so congratulations on the newest 7 members to fill the branches on your family tree.

      4. Google a Rootsweb PDF "Descendants of Abraham Andrews". Lots of interesting info. Ancestor of Sarah Polly Brown, daughter of Daniel Brown and Sarah Merrill. She married Elihu Andrus.
        Someone needs to set up Find A Grave memorials, so descendants can follow the lines all the way back.