In the last several days I have been intrigued by several blog posts by professional genealogists that discuss just how little of their ancestry they've discovered! The Legal Genealogist (Judy G. Russell) posted "More Lost Than Found" this morning, and her percentage was 12.3%: only 126 ancestors out of 1022, covering just 10 generations, a little over 300 years. Yesterday Crista Cowan posted "Family History All Done? What's Your Number?" She fared better, being able to account for 365 out of 1022 ancestors. And Lorine McGinnis Schultze on her Olive Tree Genealogy wrote, "What's Your Number? Don't be too shocked if it's under 30%!"
So, I decided to run my own numbers, for comparison. I brought up my Legacy Family Tree database, created a fan chart, and started counting. Out of 1022 ancestors, reaching back to the early 1700's, I've traced 113. That's 11 percent!
Here's the chart:
There are some reasons for the low numbers:
One quarter of my ancestry is German. My grandfather Arnold Aaron Anthony Stoelt was born of German immigrants. While I do have a photocopy of the family Bible naming his parents and grandparents, I have done very little German research.
While I have found 15 out of my 16 great-great grandparents, that missing person is my Civil War ancestor, my great-grandmother Rhoda Ruth Prosser's father, who reportedly died in the Civil War. Almost 40 years of research has failed to come up with a first name or family of origin for him.
In totaling up my numbers, I'm not counting women for whom I only have a first name. I'm also not counting names for which I don't have any evidence. My great great great grandmother Abigail Stanley was reportedly born in August 1790 to Joseph and Phylen Stanley - I haven't found any proof, and I'm beginning to think this handwritten family tree, handed down from my grandmother, was incorrect.
And, to be honest, I know that some of my lines have good documentation going back to the 10th generation, and I just haven't taken the time and careful effort to enter them into my database. My 3rd great grandfather Benjamin Curtis, who died in Michigan in 1888, has a well documented ancestry going back to 1700's New England. Another 3rd great-grandmother, Betsy Webb (granddaughter of my Revolutionary War patriot Jonathan Webb) goes back to William Bradford. Levi Lane (1784-1856) fought in the War of 1812 (mental note - I need to get his pension file), and I'd like to trace his Vermont ancestors.
And, since this is my own ancestry we're talking about here, I'm also not counting the ancestors of my dearly beloved grandmother Ervilla Varran Stoelt, who was my mother's stepmother. She had a stepfather, Elmer Van Wagoner (and yes, I traced his ancestry), and he had a stepmother, Frances Nora Tanner (you have to ask?). Her life story is important to me, because I own the beautiful crazy quilt she sewed in 1890.
So, next time you're thinking that your ancestry is finished and there's nothing left to search, think again!
When I decided in January that I was ready to take the plunge and send in my preliminary application for certification as a genealogist, I had no idea of the benefits I would receive from making a concentrated effort to improve my skills in research and reporting. One of the very real benefits I've gained is just the necessity (and luxury) of getting back to researching my own family again. When I became a professional genealogist and started doing research for others, it was absolutely necessary for me to learn how to cite my sources correctly and write a proof summary. When I was laid off from my part-time job (almost 2 years ago!) paid research was vital to this household, and I did very little research on my own family.
In deciding on my research subjects for my case study and kinship determination project, it made sense for me to choose my own family, since I've been doing research on them for over 30 years. And over the years, I've collected some unique original records - such as the original patient files for my great-grandfather Henry Hickox Chase, who died in the Traverse City State Hospital in 1940. (I asked for and received those records in 1985, before today's privacy laws kicked in!)
In looking at my own Legacy database, I'm more than a little horrified at the insufficient (or non-existent) source citations. Source citations like "1880 census of Manistee, Michigan", instead of "1900 U.S. census, Manistee County, Michigan, population schedule, Manistee, enumeration district (ED) 38, sheet 1A, p.218 (stamped), dwelling 2, Stacy Thompson; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 12 Aug 2012); citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 728." I'm way behind in correcting these, since I have over 2300 source citations for more than 3500 individuals! But the best benefit in turning my attention back to my own family has been the additional investigation I've needed to do to fill in the holes in my research. Two recent examples come to mind:
Elkhart Daily Review, 7 August 1883, p.3, col. 3-4; digital image, GenealogyBank (http://www.genealogybank.com: accessed 12 Aug 2012)
In looking for something to prove my theory about my great-great-great grandmother Margaret Goodenow's maiden name, I found this newspaper article in GenealogyBank. My case study is going to be about the value of using newspapers to connect and prove relationships.
And in asking a Salt Lake City researcher to look for my great-great-great grandfather John Hickox's will, I was amply rewarded!
Medina, Ohio, "Old wills (includes administrators settlements, guardians bonds and inventories) 1820-1836," p.45, John Hickox will, 26 July 1832; FHL microfilm 423,849.
Here is the first page of the will John Hickox wrote in 1832, just after he married Abigail Stanley Scott in Medina County, Ohio. In it he mentions her daughter Louisa Scott, and his daughter Eliza Hickox - thus validating family trees first set down by my grandmother Ruby Reed in the 1940's.
This is only one of the original sources I will cite in my 3-generation Kinship Determination Project.
These are only two of the great finds I've made during the past year. With 5 months to go until my deadline, who knows what I will find next!!