There’s been a discussion lately on one of the American genealogy blogs about how feasible it is to trace back through 10 generations of family history.
Leaving aside any arguments about “name hunting” as opposed to documenting a family’s history I thought it would be an interesting exercise to check the number of generations I’d traced for my own family.
My father’s ancestry is all Scottish, from the central belt of the country and on his side I can trace:
- Generations 1-4: 15 out of 15 possible names (all of his great grandparents)
- Generation 5: 16 out of 16 possible names (all of his great-great grandparents)
- Generation 6: 15 out of 32 possible names (46% of his great-great-great grandparents)
- Generation 7: 4 out of 64 possible names (6% of his 4x great grandparents)
and that’s it.
My mother’s family is all Scottish again but spreads across the borders, the Lothians and Caithness. On her side I can trace:
- Generations 1-4: 15 out of 15 possible names (all of her great grandparents)
- Generation 5: 16 out of 16 possible names (all of her great-great grandparents)
- Generation 6: 12 out of 32 possible names (37% of her great-great-great grandparents)
- Generation 7: 8 out of 64 possible names (12% of her 4x great grandparents)
and that’s it.
Well, it’s one way of stepping back and viewing the wood rather than the individual trees and leaves we normally concentrate on.
All but three of my Caithness ancestors are from the parishes of Halkirk and Bower where the Old Parish Registers don’t exist before 1780 – it’ll take a lot of luck and hunting in tenancy agreements held in Edinburgh to take them back any further.
I can see some ancestors who died post-1855 (the introduction of civil registration in Scotland) where the name of one parent is missing. I need to check that I’ve got the relevant certificates. If they died in an institution, I need to find out if those records survive and check to see if they contain further details.
and so on.
It’s been a useful exercise. I can see which families will need more research at archives in Scotland the next time I can grab a chance. I can also see families where more work with online sources, or in The National Archives at Kew, could bring results.
Have you ever stepped back to get an overview of your research?
How did you do it?