Sunday, 19 August 2012

What will you do when you finish?

If you read a few genealogy blogs, then you must have noticed that there is a current meme around determining what proportion of your ancestors you have identified.

In her blog, Crista Cowan called it What's your number?. She based her calculations on the 1022 ancestors that are out there waiting to be found in just ten generations (if you count the target person as Generation 1).

On the Olive Tree Genealogy Blog, Lorine McGinnis Schulze reported the number of experienced family historians who were shocked at how low their calculated result was — including her own 29%.

I need very little encouragement to dive into data manipulation, so here is my table.

2 Parents 2 2 100%
3 Grandparents 4 4 100%
4 Great Grandparents 8 8 100%
5 2xGreat Grandparents 16 15 97%
6 3xGreat Grandparents 32 24 85%
7 4xGreat Grandparents 64 29 65%
8 5xGreat Grandparents 128 4 34%
9 6xGreat Grandparents 256 4 18%
10 7xGreat Grandparents 512 2 9%
1022 92

The calculation tells me that I have quite a way to go before I can be "shocked" at having confirmed only 29% of ten generations. On the other hand, I believe that I have made respectable progress at the level of 7 generations.

Of course, the effect of each missing ancestor is magnified the further back you look. If I could confirm that 2xgreat grandmother Eliza Jane is who I think she is, then that would boost my overall numbers significantly.

Perhaps I could get some dispensation for our two ex nuptial births in generation 6. If our 7xgreat grandmothers were not prepared to identify the father, it seems a bit tough to expect me to be able to do so.

Perhaps the greatest value in this exercise has been to highlight the 21 individuals (spread over generations 5 to 7) for whom I have data that falls short of convincing me that they are truly our ancestors. These are obvious targets for renewed effort.

It also demonstrates that I have some time before I need to worry about finding an answer to THAT question "What will you do after you have found them all?"

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