Genealogists what are your goals?

Being new to genealogy I’ve seen a few different ways that people collect their family members. The most common, that I’ve seen, is to gather information on every person they can find in their family all the aunts and uncles and cousins no matter how far removed. Actually out of all the people I have talked to, which is limited, this is what they are doing.

I on the other hand am looking just at the people directly related to me and their brothers and sisters. I don’t have much interest in their children or their children’s children. I have information on my cousins and their children but that’s it. This means that so far I only have around 200 names. I have only been at this a few months though, but I have proof that I am related to everyone in my tree.

I have meet one researcher who has 19,000 names from the original man that came to the US from Germany. I have been helping him out a bit, but he’s done more for me really. Then again he’s been doing this for 50 years or so.

My goal, at least for now, is to try and go back as far as I can along my father’s side of the family until I come to the first people to come to the US. I would do my mother’s side, and I’m sure I will at some point, but her family comes from California and I’m in Maryland which will make it more difficult.

I have already run into two walls, the first is one of my great grandmothers. She left her three children in the late 1920s and just moved. No one knows much about her because my great grandfather refused the kids any access to her. The only reason I know anything is because in my grandmother’s bible she has her date of death. It took me two months to track her down and get even her date of birth. She had no birth certificate even though Maryland required them starting in the late 1800s. Since then though I have been able to track down someone who has my g-grandmother in her tree and was able to send me photos of my g-g-grandparents.

My other wall so far has been the real name of my g-grandfather. I first had him listed as Charles Luther, but his tombstone lists him as Luther C. His death certificate has his listed as Charles. Again he has no birth certificate so I’m having a hard time finding out the truth.

I know after these two it’s going to be even harder to get the correct information. At least it’s given me some good research problems and has been quite interesting and eye opening.

Genealogy is tough, but fun, IMO. I go through spurts of furious activity, and then drop it for a few years. I’m focusing on heading back through my direct descendants on my father’s side, as a lot of research has already been done on my mother’s side.

However, when I get stuck, sometimes going sideways for a bit has helped me get back to the straight line I’m looking for. Right now I’m completely stymied at my great-great grandfather Thomas Webster Waller. He was a minister in Iowa, came over from Lincolnshire, England. And I can’t find his parents, sister, anything.

There are some fantastic resources online, and you may end up running into someone who has just what you’re looking for. About 8 years ago I met, via email, a cousin (don’t recall the specific relationship) who had a lot of information that proved very helpful.

If you are researching UK ancestors it worth-while subscribing to Genes Reunited, which costs £8 a year. You build your tree on-line, you can search for specific names in other trees, and, about once a week, the site looks for “hot matches” on other subscriber’s trees. You then have the ability to exchange information with these other subscribers. Using this service I have been put in touch with several long-lost cousins and I have also discovered I am the first cousin, 11 times removed, of George Fox , the founder of the Quaker Movement.

Regarding Thomas Waller of Lincolnshire, there are about a dozen listings of that name from Lincolnshire (and from the the mid 19th century) listed on Genes Reunited.

I have sort of become obsessed with my genealogy in the past year :wink: It fascinates me on so many levels. Unlike the OP, I am interested in my cousins and distant cousins - because essentially, we share a common ancestor and some common genes. The thought that there are thousands of my cousins out there, thousands of people who share the same common ancestor with me - I think that’s pretty cool, and I want to find out who those people are.

In my genealogy, I have some really prolific ancestors. In the 1800s, it was common for families to have on average 8-12 or more children. So that adds up to a lot of cousins. For example, one particular ancestor of mine, my great (x6) grandfather, born in 1741 in Prince Edward Island, Canada, he has over 1,900 known descendants that are listed in my family tree.

I put my GEDCOM up on my web site and the coolest thing has happened - some of my distant cousins have Googled their names and found themselves on my web site, and gotten in touch. I have become close to some of them, and it’s been very rewarding!!

Other reasons I love researching my genealogy:

– It’s interesting to imagine how my relatives lived, especially in the 1700s and 1800s, and especially the women. As I mentioned, families had a lot of kids. One family, who lived in the late 1800s, had 17 children - and those are the ones who lived to adulthood! How did they do it? How did the women survive all those pregnancies and childbirths before the era of modern medicine? What the heck did they use for diapers before disposables and washing machines??

– It helps me understand who I am and where I came from. Each of my direct ancestors comprise who I am genetically. Where did they come from, and where did they live? Why do I look the way I do? What is my heritage? It’s very fulfilling.

I could go on and on!! But I have to get back to a genealogy project I am working on today - I have found the census documents containing my relatives from 1870 - 1930, and I am putting it all up on my web site. I will post a link later when I am done.

One interesting thing that I learned while looking at the census records is how this particular family stayed for at least 3 generations in the same town, never living far from each other, and often times living together in the same house or next door. It’s neat to think of how close that family was, and sad to think that that type of closeness isn’t very common anymore because people spread out so much.

I just have to add: another thing that is so satisfying and fun is the detective work and being successful at “filling in the blanks.” When I first started my research, I only knew a few names and had many dead ends. But in my research I have been able to track many branches back 8, 9, 10 + generations. For example, I have found my great (x15) grandfather in one branch - he was born in 1459 in England. How cool is that?!

It boggles my mind, actually! :wink:

ETA: Here’s a chart with that ancestor. (pdf) This is just one of many such charts I have for different branches.

My goal is to locate places of origin for my ancestors. Obviously, people move around, but I figure if I find a town or village in the 18th / 19th century, that plus surname is a reliable clue to ethnicity, language, culture, and all sorts of interesting things that could have come down to me but by and large didn’t.

Distant cousins are a perk, too. 10th-cousin-once-removed Cousin Barack was exciting, though I haven’t yet contacted him to invite him to Thanksgiving this year.

As a bonus, it gives me a reason to focus on times / places in history that I might otherwise ignore, and I’ve learned some pretty cool things.

I’m not into genealogy in the slightest, but if I ever DID get into it, I would want to find out one thing, and one thing only: Going strictly patrilineally (as in from my father to his father to his father, etc.), what is the name of the man who came over here from [wherever], when did he do it, why, and where did he settle?

Interesting that this would be your goal. I have been on that quest for some time now. I know the person. I now know when he came over. I can not seem to find out where he left from in the previous country (England) or where he arrived (either in the US or Canada). I know who he married & where they got married. Its that missing connection of where & why that remain.

Congrats to you on finding as much as you did! Does he have the same last name as you?

I’ve often wondered what the frontier is for tracing back, time-wise. I imagine there are many family trees going back to the Norman invasion. But could one reasonably expect to go much further back than that.

I remember reading somewhere that tracing back to Roman times would be right out, noone has any records spanning the Dark Ages. Is that true?

Several goals, the main one being to trace my patrilineal line back. My line of the family back to my g-grandfather has always been somewhat distant from everyone else, and I’ve found that much of what we thought to be fact was actually completely wrong. Also learned so much more than we knew originally, including relations who live only ten minutes’ drive from my parents.

I want to find out where my name came from. It is not an unusual name, but nowhere near the top of the list of common names. It is also, quite obviously, a Scots/Irish name. Problem is, I’m back to 1805, and I’m still stuck in Dorset, on the south coast of England. I’ve been trying for years to find a parish register of his birth (almost all census records indicate he was born in Dorset, too).

One census states he was born in Bristol. And that covers 2 counties (Somerset, Gloucester), as well as municipal parish records, all of which are kept separately. I’m completely stuck.

Anyways…that’s my main goal. Every few months my Dad will ask if we’re out of Dorset yet…

I’ve gotten back to about 900 A.D. AFAIK, only those of “pure” ancestry (such as Jewish folk) are able to go way back to biblical times with any accuracy.

I don’t know how far back one could go, I guess it really depends on when and where. I know you can look on and find lots of trees. I found one that lead from my g-grandmother to 1300 give or take. Another that might have conected to another great-grandparent went back about the same. That’s just insane.

I am working with one person on my given name, he has 20,000 names from one man who came from Germany. He has almost 9000 on the computer right now and he’s still putting them in and looking for more. I think that’s one of the reasons why I don’t want to try and find all the relatives, it would take years and years. I wouldn’t know when to stop.

If you know the when, the why can sometimes be determined by what was happening historically at that time. This is a good site that is constantly being updated by the folks researching ships’ manifests. I too have an immigrant that arrived here in the 1800s (I even know the year), but I’ll be damned if I can find the ship he sailed on or what the port of departure/entry was. Searching under soundex is sometimes helpful for names that may have several different spellings.

If you really want a challenge, trace your mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s mother etc

Cool. What program did you use to make that?

Much like the OP I’m mainly interested in direct ancestors and their siblings and only generally interested in the descendants of their siblings and cousins. (Finding out that there’s a major line with my surname in Texas was interesting, or that there are several African-American local politicians and teachers in Bossier City, Louisiana who are probably descended from slaves of my ancestor there was interesting, but generally I’m following the direct path).

OTOH, like most genealogists I have paths that I can trace back to Jamestown and before with almost no problem, largely courtesy of very distant relatives who did a lot of the footwork and I was able to connect into their research just by proving my gggg-grandfather (or whatever) was the fifth son of the parents of this distant relative who descended from the second son. I’ve also made some online friends who are 3rd or 5th cousins, which is a perk.
I also have lines of course that seem to have arisen from a coupling of the mist and the soil in 1815- just cannot break through that brick wall. Ironically a couple of these lines have some of the most descendants and some of the most dedicated genealogists among them- we just can’t force the gates open. There’s one ancestor that I’ve become convinced either changed his name or else a father or grandfather did, because it defies logic that there’s no paper trail before 1815 on this family (and that’s not just an attempt to romanticize or add drama- a lot of that happened, since changing your identity was as easy as moving to a place where nobody knew you, and people did this for any number of reasons [most notably problems with the law, escaping from debts, and sometimes to change race {a lot of light skinned black people, even if they were already free, quite understandably chose to “become” white or say “my grandmother was Cherokee” when they moved [and an ancestor who I have a suspicion did this in my family was a slaveowner]).

Anyway, when you get to the point that the ancestors are really just names on headstones and the occasional record, that’s when my main goal is to use genealogy as a history lesson. As I mentioned in a recent thread, knowing that my ancestor was named Robert McLachlan McNeese and was born about 1755 in Lunenburg Co., VA and died around 1840 in Delaware isn’t that interesting, but researching WHY his family probably moved to Lunenburg and the heritage of the Scots-Irish in general, their migrations and politics, finding his name on documents in the 1780s when confiscated Tory land was being disputed, or learning he was Quaker and then researching them, etc., is a fantastic way to shine light on facets of history and understand the evolution of the USA a lot better. And it’s so often that history is not what you expected (which is why I hate its simplification [e.g. “the Civil War was just about slavery and slaveowners were automatically evil”, realizing just how much more “brother against brother” the Revolutionary War was in many ways than the Civil War, the amazing frequency with which people moved in their lives [not at all uncommon for the same family to run through 5 or 6 farms in their lives, and that’s on all sides of the family], learning why Whitney’s cotton gin so changed the world [hint: cotton farming had been going on for 150 years before his machine and was doing just fine, but look up the difference in black seed/green seed cotton], the land lotteries and the very complex Indian relations, etc.).
Genealogy is your extension cord into eternity. I told a friend who doesn’t understand my fascination that it’s basically “a combination of sudoku and world history”.

What is the name? I have some good books on Celtic surnames and read the relevant Celtic languages; I might be able to help you out a bit.

I used Ages which is a pretty affordable ($20) genealogy program that I downloaded online. You can get a trial version to give it a try before you buy. I really like it, but then again, I haven’t used any other programs, so I have nothing to compare it to.

By the way - here is what I have been working on for the past couple of days, which is a history of one branch of my family based on census records (from 1860 - 1930). I got the census images from, but you have to be a paying member to see the census images. I found it fascinating going through all the old census records!

I follow the path of least resistance. Can’t get anywhere with my father’s father’s father’s family? I’ll take a break from it and do my mother’s father’s mother’s father’s mother’s family for a while. Not only does it stop me being frustrated by hitting a blank wall, it often leads me into new sources of information and helps me develop my skills further. Often finding a side branch with an unusual surname will make it easier to take back a main branch with a common surname (and all my main lines were, sadly, common as muck).

If I’d stuck to my paternal line only, I’d have hit a dead end with my great great grandfather. Thanks to what I learned doing the side branches, I’ve managed a few more generations beyond that.

Hey…! Thanks! I’ve sent you a PM.