The Ocean of Descendants

Families were large and take a lot of researching.
Families were large and take a lot of researching. On the far left is Robert Brown, the husband of Mary Morgan my first brick wall and subject of an earlier post.  On the far right is his eldest son Robert.  The seated lady is Robert Jr’s wife Emily, and the children are theirs.

When I began researching my family tree, the plan was to learn about those relations which my family knew but I didn’t.  The net was wide.  I spoke to everyone, listened and took notes.  I learned about Sister Muriel who found the smallest things fascinating, about my grandfather’s grandmother who sat on the firestep smoking a black smoke and was consulted about every small decision each family member had to make, and about my grandfather’s mother who everyone said had a wicked sense of humour but her daughter in law (my grandmother) said was ‘a little bit strange’.  Personal relationships spoken and unspoken came through.  I could see who had got along with whom, and where the conflicts were.

Stage One of my family research was sorting all these people into their proper places.  Eventually, I achieved this.

Stage Two was researching the families back to their point of immigration to Australia.  As I looked further back, the families were all large with many siblings in every family.  I found several who had between 15-20 children, obviously men who were married more than once.  I located all the siblings since they were part of the direct ancestor’s main story but continued back looking for the emigration.

In order to answer the question ‘why’ they emigrated, I needed to ‘cross the pond’ and learn about their family situation in wherever they came from.  This proved fascinating and never straightforward.  Many of them were already displaced, having left their home county to chase the work.  In order to work out their true origin I had to research their parents too.

If everyone had a thoroughly researched tree, direct ancestors are all that would be required for DNA matching.  You’d just search for the ancestor name and bingo you’d have your match.

Stage 3 of my family research is getting each line back to 1700 to do my bit towards the simple DNA Match effort.  I’m a long way from it – so far that I don’t even know how far.  I’ll tally it all up sometime soon. I think I have about eight couples at that time period across mine and my spouse’s trees.

The elderly surviving members of one Dillon family of ten children.  These are the children of John Dillon and Bridget Bain (second brick wall and subject of an earlier post)
The elderly surviving members of one Dillon family of twelve children. These are the children of John Dillon and Bridget Bain (second brick wall and subject of an earlier post)

All of this has involved pushing on back and finding parents. Once I have a baptism register, of course, I’ll record all the relevant births I can find – other children and nieces and nephews.  If I don’t have that much information I’ll just take what I get and push on back.

Subscription sites are really bad for this kind of research.  Obviously they are in a competitive business so they give as little as they can – single record by single record.  Those who pay per view will be more profitable to them this way.  But those of us who just want the fun of a page of records to pore through and sort into the various family groups don’t have the opportunity.

What I have now recognised is that not everyone can get back to where I am so I need to meet them halfway.  I have also recognised that most of my confirmed matches – the Burleton match, the Lockley match and the Brown match for instance – have been through a daughter of the family on their side, a daughter whose surname changed.  Sometimes it is easier to come down from above than to go up from below.  I need to trace all those descendants and meet my matches maybe much more than halfway.

So – I need to take my ancestors all the way back to 1700 and then come back down filling in all descendants.  This is where the sea of descendants turns into an ocean.  I gather that many have begun this task but given up.

Consider an ancestor couple who married in 1700.  Assume they had ten children who all lived to grow up and marry.  Assume they all had ten children between 1725-1745.  The original couple now have one hundred grandchildren. If all those grandchildren marry and have ten children, we are looking at a thousand great grandchildren by 1800.  We then want to follow those thousand descendants for another 200 years.  No wonder people give up.

In reality we shouldn’t have to do the final 100 years.  Most DNA testers barring adoptees, orphans and refugees will have their tree back to their grandparents and great grandparents.   But if each prolific person can have 1000 descendants after 100 years, by 1900 we have 1000 times 1000 – that’s 1,000,000 .  Yes, giving up was the sensible move.  I also feel a little better about not identifying 388 matches on FtDNA (and the number keeps growing).  It’s a miracle I have confirmed as many as I have.

Of course, it won’t be like that.  It could, theoretically, but it won’t.  Not so many families of ten had them all growing up, not all adult children married, not all of those who married then had children.  Of course, this might be countered by the Casanovas of the family who fathered children they never even knew about, but we’ll see.

Also, population numbers dropped off in later years and in times of trouble.  The worse case scenario won’t really hold.  But – I’d better get on with it.

Children from an orphanage school from Sunday At Home 1876
Children from an orphanage school from Sunday At Home 1866
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