I’ve been slogging through my genealogical source material – 400+ documents, transcripts, etc. – and reconstituting my database (using Reunion 9, on the MacBook). After several months of intermittent effort, I still have 240+ to go.
I’m hoping to finish sometime in 2013, and then get to work on extending my research.
When people think of their ancestry, they think of a single line: usually the male line, son to father to grandfather. But that’s too limiting (not to mention a bit dismissive of one’s female ancestors): everybody has an ever-widening fan of ancestors, spreading out into the past.
(That’s not entirely true. The graph of one’s ancestors is actually diamond-shaped. The number of slots in the family tree increases geometrically with each generation, but the overall population goes down. The number of duplicates – i.e., a single individual occupying multiple slots – goes up. I’m told the maximum number of simultaneous ancestors occurs around the 14th century, at least for Europeans.)
They’re all family, no single line more so than the others.
On the other hand, there is the notion of close vs. distant relatives: the ones we see all the time – grandparents, parents, children, aunts & uncles, cousins – as opposed to the ones we just hear about, second- or third-hand. Everybody draws a circle around their part of the family tree, and thinks: this is my family. But there’s always more beyond the edges.
It’s a bit mind-stretching to encounter a third or fourth cousin and realize that to them, you are the distant relative.