Last year, Amy Johnson Crow started the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge. I was very pleased to hear that she is continuing the challenge, with an optional weekly theme (for inspiration, if you need it,) in 2015.
I decided to give it a try for 2014, and I’m surely glad that I did. I know, I know…like I really needed something else to do…with a weekly (self-imposed) deadline no less.
And I’m actually astounded to say that I actually haven’t missed any. And for the record, getting stories 37 and 38 reversed does not count as missing a week:)
I actually enjoyed this exercise a lot.
One of the things I’ve been desperately needing to do is to gather together and organize what I have on each ancestor. I’m a 35 years (plus) genealogist. That means I have every kind of record possible…from old letters and scrapbooks from the early 1900s to hand written family groups sheets that I painstakingly completed when I began in the 1970s to digital records received yesterday…and everything in between. I have file drawers and boxes and files on two computers and a laptop. I’ve moved several times and never fully unpacked. You get the drift.
For every ancestor I’ve written about, I pulled out the files, got out the folders filed away, reviewed the records for the county involved, went through files on the computer and old e–mails that are filed by genealogy surname. I’m amazed what I found. Not only did I have things I didn’t realize I had, or had forgotten that I had (how is that possible?) but almost none of my holdings were organized by ancestor or family in timeline order. Add to that the history of what was happening historically or just in that ancestor’s county during their lifetime, and you go from having the chalky outline of an ancestor with their name and a date or two to a real profile – a story about their life with meat on the bones.
Of course, because this is a DNA blog, I’ve tried to write every article with at least some useful reference to DNA and how DNA relates to that individual, without repeating myself. That was the real challenge, but it forced me to really evaluate different aspects of DNA. This made me focus on the DNA of that individual, whatever piece of it I had found, and what story it really had to tell. In several cases, I’ve made some amazing discoveries based on DNA evidence, some of which was probably there all along but I didn’t notice. Some, of course, needed work, but that’s fine. Work, I can do.
Plus, let me tell you a secret.
Those articles…..they are bait. Yep, bait. Ancestor bait. Cousin bait. And they work.
Lastly, I truly, firmly believe in sharing our knowledge. I think it’s the best way to avoid those horribly wrong copy/paste trees that breed like rabbits overnight when you’re not looking. If you write about it, and blog, it’s searchable via internet search…and findable without any subscription….and it’s a story all in one place…not pieces and parts attached to a tree without context or connecting threads.
Elizabeth Shown Mills, if you’re reading this…stop here!
While I know I’ve been naughty and not used exactly correct citations in proper format, you will notice that every one of my articles does provide the source, even if it’s simply my notes from 20 or 25 years ago that said the document was found in XYZ County Deed book H, page 432 or perhaps a conversation with Uncle George, or whatever. I wish I had started out doing everything perfectly, but I didn’t. If I was lucky, I wrote something down – because, generally, I just knew I’d remember. I was a lot younger then and a bit naïve. In fact, back then, I don’t think “perfect” and genealogical standards had even been defined. If they had, it was news to me. Besides that, I didn’t start out to do “genealogy,” I just wanted to find out something about my father’s side of the family. I remember when someone said, “oh, you’re a genealogist” and I thought to myself, “I am?”
While a very big part of me wanted to wait until I had gone back and perfected my records, truthfully, I know that is never going to happen. Nada. Wish it were, but it isn’t. In part, because I simply can’t go back and recreate what has happened over 35 years. If I have to choose between researching new ground or retreading old ground…I’m going to choose the new…every time. I have no idea how long I’m going to live, but assuredly not long enough to ever “finish” my genealogy – and I want to get as much done as possible.
So, I made the decision to do the best I can with what I have, make it accurate, and interesting, and sometimes, just state what needs yet to be done. I can’t do it all…and it’s more important to share what I have than to share nothing because I was waiting for that elusive day, someday, to make it perfect. Someday is not a day on the calendar….and many times, someday never arrives.
Future researchers can, and I hope, will, improve on what I have. As new records become available, maybe they’ll add comments or I’ll update the articles.
I also discovered that I have a lot more than I realized…and I’m not nearly done with my ancestors at 52. I have all of my ancestors identified to the 5th generation with the exception of one…and I’m closing in fast on her. That’s 62 right there, without counting any of the lines I have much further back in time.
So, count me in for Amy’s 2015 Challenge – except I’ll have to label mine 52 Ancestors #53 or some such confusing thing.
If you started last year, I hope you’ll continue as well.
If not, it’s a brand new year. Here’s the link to Amy’s 2015 article with the optional themes by week – to inspire you if you want to use them…but you don’t have to.
Here’s how it works….you write a story and post it on your blog, including the words “52 Ancestors” in the title. Subscribe to Amy’s blog. Every Thursday, more or less, Amy posts a “summary article” and you simply, in the comments, post the surname, article title and link to your blog article. Here’s this week’s week 50 recap.
I encourage you to go back and scan the comments section of all of Amy’s 52 Ancestor’s blogs, because you may find articles about your ancestors. I did – two of them – and I was very surprised. More than I ever expected and wonderful articles too. Maybe one week when I’m really running out of time, I’ll just link to those articles for my entry. Yes, I know that’s cheating.
In case you didn’t know, you can get a free blog at WordPress. I love my WordPress blogs. Support, when I’ve needed them (seldom), has been wonderful and painless.
In fact, just in case you didn’t know it, I have more interests other than DNA and genealogy. I know, heresy, pure heresy…
Here are my other public blogs:
Things That Are Pink and Shouldn’t Be (this was my try-my-wings blog)
Native Heritage Project
Victory Garden Day by Day (inspirational)
It’s easy to blog. Just try it. And write about your ancestors!!!
Just do it!