Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Are We There Yet?

Kids often throw out the question "Are we there yet?" from the back seat of the family car soon after they bore of staring out the window at the blur of passing landscape. I must confess that I probably tormented my parents with this question many times.

Crista Cowan on the Ancestry.com blog lamented about those who proclaim that their genealogy is "all done" either completed by themselves or some distant relative who worked it all out and offered one possible way to measure 'completeness.' Randy Seaver of the ever popular Genea-Musings blog picked up on this challenge for his most recent Saturday Night Genealogy Fun post.

Crista suggested the metric for how complete a family history is by reviewing the numbers associated with ten generations of direct relationships. The number of direct ancestors doubles each generation so tracing my direct ancestry ten generations to my 7th great grandparents, a period of about 300 years based on Crista's reasonable assumptions, will involve identifying 1023 individuals, starting with me.

I currently have 12,671 individuals in my genealogy database. This comprises both my family (Hadden) and my wife's family (Wagner). By completing the simple chart below, I can see how many of our direct ancestors I have been able to identify. I found the numbers to be startling!

In the Hadden family, while I start out strong, by the time I reach the seventh generation, the number of direct ancestors I have been able to identify really begins to dwindle. In total, I have identified 129 direct ancestors out of a possible 1023, or only 12.6% of my great grandparents at the tenth generation mark. It gets much worse when I look at generations eleven through fifteen, and remember at the fifteenth generation I have 16,384 12X great grandparents. How tough can it be to find at least one or two people out of more than 16,000. Tough enough that I haven't yet succeeded.

Things are marginally better in my wife's family where I have identified a total of 161 of her direct ancestors or 15.7% of the 1023 individuals. My wife has much deeper North American roots than I which might account for better numbers in generations ten through fifteen. In her case, I have identified sixteen of her 16,384 12X great grandparents. The remaining 16,368 should be easy.

Oh, how I wish someone had completed my genealogy too.

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