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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Following Your Blood Line, or The Whole Family

Believe it or not, "choice" comes up time and time again with regards to my family tree.  I am continually presented with a new branch of my tree.  Do I follow the new branch or continue to head up the main branch to the top of my tree?  That tree, by the way, continues to grow and get "taller", if you will, as I creep back in time.

I have come across people who are growing their tree taller and fuller, wider, or overgrown as maybe my tree appears to be.  Yes, there are massive family trees out there on Ancestry.com and on other sites online that represent hours and hours of research and "trailing off" as I call it.  Trailing off on a branch of your family tree can be quite rewarding, complicated, and distracting at times.

There are those that just grow their tree "taller" and have few branches.  It is a different choice than my own.  Many people out there choose to follow only their direct blood line.  They refrain from "trailing off" on other branches of the tree.  Sticking with this method can keep one's family tree research simple and easy to source.  It can also be a rather limiting.

If you limit yourself to just your direct blood line, you might miss out on learning about communities and finding stories of how your ancestors lived with the others around them.  When the concept of community and collaboration are added to one's family tree research, the discoveries become endless.  The complexity of this approach can turn some people off, however.  The more complex a family tree, the harder it becomes to share it with others and keep their attention.
So will you lose people if you do choose a more complex approach to your tree?  Probably.  But, can you give up all of the possibilities that come with the "complex" tree?  The possibilities include, and are not limited to, finding relatives with shared research interests, finding research has already been completed, and discovering stories about a family line.

I seek stories about people.  Whether the stories are lengthy or anecdotal, I love the stories.  You never know when you might find 193 letters that were written as correspondence between family members from the U.S. to those who remained in the old country.  You never know if you might find photos of your great great grandfather that were saved by the second cousin that you've never met.  You never know what you might find, so why limit yourself.

In the 1990s, I sought my direct blood line.  That was interesting and all that I had time for, or made time for, back then.  Now, I seek the clusters of people.  It's the way that I have found my female family members but also the stories of the people and the communities in which they lived.  From the Irish Settlement in Newport, New York to my Flanagan's of Termonfechin, discoveries abound from my complex family tree.

From my perspective, seeking the whole family is the way to go.  I have found relatives who have what I refer to as living memories of those who came before us, those whom they knew.  Limiting myself is not in the game plan when it comes to my family tree.  I'll continue to allow my family tree to lead me up or down different branches as they present themselves and offer an interesting story.

2 comments:

  1. You are right, a person needs to do the entire tree. Good post, and thanks.

    ReplyDelete