My ahnentafel chart (an ancestor table that lists direct-line ancestors) had blanks in it. I don’t have any gaps until I get to my third-great-grandparents. That’s where the blanks in my pedigree start. I don’t have the names of three of my Irish ancestors in that generation.

And it grows from there.

In my 4th great-grandparent generation, there are eight ancestors of probable Irish origin whose names are not currently known. They may never be. Another 4th great-grandmother, probably from Pennsylvania or Maryland, is also a mystery. The number of blanks only increases as my tree goes into the generation of my 5th great-grandparents and beyond. Unknown ancestors from New York State and various areas of the American South are unknown to me at this time. They may remain that way.

I don’t know what percent of my tree in the generation of my 5th or 6th great-grandparents is incomplete. It’s not because I cannot calculate percentages. I don’t care because it frankly does not matter. I’m not in a competition. Some locations and time periods are more difficult to establish parent-child connections in. Some ancestors, for one reason or another, are more difficult to trace to their parentage.

The goal for me is to document as many ancestors as I can as completely as possible. Sometimes that is easier to do than others. There’s no need to set an arbitrary benchmark to meet.

We have the ancestors we have with the research challenges that come with them. It’s the path of discovery that matters…not the largest accumulation of names and relationships.




2 Responses

  1. I like that: “It’s the path of discovery that matters….not the largest accumulation of names and relationships.”

    I feel that genealogy is a journey and not a numbers game. It is even more so an emotional journey. The one document we find is as important as the many documents we find on an ancestor. Through every “thread of evidence” of their existence we find, we begin to weave together their story. It’s the discoveries we make over time and the feeling of the moment when we make those discoveries that really counts. It makes us feel a part of their journey and acknowledges their existence in the world.

    • It is a journey and I appreciate and like your comments. I try to think of “where they were at” at the point in time when a document that I have discovered was created. It’s difficult to know exactly how they felt, but it’s always worth a little contemplation on what they might have been thinking at the moment captured in time by a record. Can be easy to get caught up in the “names on the paper” instead of thinking about the people represented by the names.

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