Wednesday, January 23, 2008

So many ancestors, so little time!

Prompted by Lisa at 100 Years in America and Donna Pointkouski at What's Past is Prologue I've been exploring my genealogy database.

First, Lisa asked us Where was your family in 1908? and provided a catalog of posts by genea-bloggers who responded in Snapshots of the World Back in 1908. Then Donna asked us 1808: Where was your family 200 years ago?

I had so much fun responding to Lisa and Donna with Where Was My Family in 1908? and Where were they in 1808? that I decided to go a bit further back in time, 300 years, to 1708. How many ancestors could there be living in 1708? In non-scientific terms, a bunch! LOL. We all know that with each generation, the number of ancestors is doubled - 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, etc. So many ancestors, so little time. We've all heard that before. Probably said it ourselves. But it is so true.

Well, I didn't really think I had information on too many ancestors back that far. Disclaimer: I haven't actually done research in original records on these ancestors myself. However, I have been fortunate and have found books and magazine articles that have been published on several of my lines going back to the immigrant ancestor. Some of those books and articles included very little documentation or sources, while others were quite extensive with their sourcing. I'm always amazed at the work that was done on some of these families back in the first half of the 1900's. Without computers, without copy machines; using index cards, typewriters, printing presses and hand-set type. Chances are, I probably won't pursue many of these lines, since they have already been "done" by other researchers. I would like to have the documents that prove the links between the generations but, honestly, it would be impossible to research them all. It really comes down to time and money. Choices have to be made. I rather enjoy the challenge of searching for families that haven't already been "done" but, I must admit, it is sometimes nice to find someone else has done the hard work.

But, I digress. Taking the time to explore my database is something that I haven't done for a while. And oftentimes after entering the data on a family I don't get back to them until I am contacted by someone else researching that family. As a result, I sometimes have a tendency to forget what or how much information I have on some families. It's been nice to have an excuse to explore the database.

So, I ran some reports, did some extrapolating, and found that, in my database, there are 68 of my ancestors who were living in 1708. Obviously, there are many, many more living then, I just don't know who they are! And it is highly likely that I never will, after all, there is only so much time.

A summary of who was living in 1708:
3 of 256 ancestors in the 8th Generation (5th Great Grandparents)
18 of 512 in the 9th Generation (6th Great Grandparents)
13 of 1024 in the 10th Generation (7th Great Grandparents)
15 of 2048 in the 11th Generation (8th Great Grandparents)
17 of 4096 in the 12th Generation (9th Great Grandparents)
2 of 8192 in the 13th Generation (10th Great-Grandparents)
Forty-four of those ancestors were born in the colonies: 10 in New York, 11 in Connecticut and 23 in Massachusetts. The others were all born in the "old" country, and some were still living there. The 3 ancestors in the 8th generation and one in the 9th generation were born between 1700-1707. Several in the 12th and 13th generations were born in the 1636-1638 time period. I don't have dates of death for all of them, but of those that I do have, 21 of them lived to be 70 years old or older (8 of those were over 80 and one was 91 years old at time of death). That amazes me, as I didn't think life-spans were much over 60 years in the 1600s and 1700s.

Enough, already. It's been fun, but I really do need to get started on that long list of "goals" for this year that still awaits me.


Thomas MacEntee said...

Becky - I agree. Both of the "08" challenges had me spending much time with my database and realising how much in disrepair it is.

So I've been on a tear to cleanup lots of stuff:

- review my master sources in FTM 16 and make sure they are consistent with sound citation practices

- check county names - many were not correct in the NY listings


Jasia said...

You beat me to the punch Becky. I'm just finishing up my 1908 post and should have part one posted tomorrow, part 2 on Friday. Sometime next week I'll get around to the 1808 post (only one part to that one). And then I planned to challenge everyone to write a 1708 post. That will be a short one for me as I only have records for one of my ancestors from that far back. You've got me beat by a long shot with 66 ancestors from 1708!

Becky Wiseman said...

Thomas, correcting sources is on my list of goals for this year. However, I decided to wait for the new version of Legacy (which was supposed to have been released last October) because it is supposed to have a handy-dandy sourcing template based on Mills' book. I don't want to try to fix things now then find out I didn't do it right and have to do it again. Regardless of when I finally do it, it is something that will just take time. But it is something that needs to be done.

Becky Wiseman said...

Jasia - sorry 'bout that. Now I'm wondering if I have any ancestors as far back as 1608 in my database... I really do need to get to work on that list of goals though. ROTFLOL.

Terry Thornton said...

BRAVO! Now someone will challenge for 1508 --- and on and on. And then we'll all decide we are, after all, kin to each other.

And isn't that what genealogy is all about? Or is it, in the words of one of William Faulkner's characters, an "attempt to prove that one is not poor trash?!!!!!!!" LOL!


Becky Wiseman said...

Terry, the fun comes in making the connection and really understanding where the ancestors came from and how they lived. History gets personal when you read about the Indian wars in Colonial New England and know that someone who was related to you was there. Or when you read an account of someone who came to this country on a ship during the same time period as your ancestor. Etc., Etc. It makes it real and brings history to life.

For me, the search doesn't have anything to do with "proving" that I'm not "poor trash", I already know that I'm on the lower end of the economic scale and whether my distant ancestors were or not has no bearing on my quest to find them. I'm just curious about those who came before me. Without them, I wouldn't be here and wouldn't be who I am.

I'd venture to say that 98% of the ancestors I've found were farmers. No rich or famous people, no presidents. Just ordinary folk. And, yes, if you go back far enough, we probably are all related!!

Terry Thornton said...

Becky, The search is fun, isn't it? Family genea-history adds such a dimension to geo-political history that I wish I had all of this genealogy down when I was in undergraduate school. My approach to my studies would have been so different especially in history courses.

And if one of Faulkner's characters said those words or some similar, they make you think, don't they? LOL!

Lori Thornton said...

Thomas commented on the database cleanup and stuff. It really scared me when I realized how many of those lines I'd never gone back and added better notes and sources -- or reviewed. You see, my first genealogical database, had exactly 10 lines for anything you wanted to put that didn't fit birth, marriage, death, or baptism. That meant that any notes I wanted to make or sources I wanted to include had to fit in those 10 lines. I've done that on the lines that are closer to me, but on the ones that I haven't worked on in a long time, those are lacking. You all are scaring me with 1708! However, I do know that on the lines for which I do know that information, most will be in colonial New England. There'll be at least one in Virginia, and my Amish folks will be on the other side of the pond with some rather intriguing locations but not well-documented except based on established reference works. The 1708 post will be interesting when we get to it.

Becky Wiseman said...

Lori, I've used several genealogy software programs and never cleaned up the data between the switchovers. The first two programs I used didn't have sourcing capability so I used notes, and as you say, that space was limited. So you can see there will be a lot of database clean-up that needs to be done. Someday.