I recently bought several back issues of the NGS NewsMagazine from a fellow researcher, and have been diligently combing through them for research and record tips. I’ve run across some really good finds, too, but the topic of today’s post comes from the article “Charting Your Priorities” by Susan Zacharias (January/February/March 2007, pp. 54 – 56). In short, Zacharias offers a method of prioritizing research by listing end-of-lines (that is, the earliest known generation in every direct line) in various fonts according to their place on the pedigree chart. Your largest font size (Zacharias recommends 18 point) would correspond to your most recent (chronologically) dead end, with each step down in fonts corresponding to one generation further back in time.
I have a terrible time prioritizing my research, and continually am thrown off onto tangents away from the research problems on which I really need to focus, so I thought I would apply Zacharias’ approach to my already-compiled “brick wall” list. My earliest dead-ends are in the 6th generation from myself. Using Zacarias’ suggestion, these are the names I have listed in 18 point font on my surname list:
- Ballew, Sarah Matilda (51/11:3) 1820 Burke Co., NC – 1888 Macon Co., NC
- Calmback, Jacob Friedrick (42/7:2) born ca 1826 Switzerland
- [Davis?], Isabel (43/7:3) b. 1839 SC
- Martin, John Sr. (40/6:2) ca 1828 Ireland – aft 1900 GA
- Roberts, James R. (36/4:2) 1828 GA – 1890 Jackson Co., GA
Ok, not bad. Of the five on the list, two are immigrants, two are women whose parents I have solid leads on, and the other is a true brick wall. On to the 7th generation (16 point font):
- [–?–], [–?–] (119/15:7) 1790/1800 – ca 1834 Macon Co., NC, md. John Lowry
- [–?–], Elizabeth (83/6:7) b. aft 1800 GA, md. William Carver
- [–?–], Margaret (71/3:7) ca 1800 VA – aft 1880 Transylvania Co., NC, md. Abraham Lowe
- [–?–], Naoma (125/17:5) ca 1803 NC – ca 1876 Rabun Co., GA, md. Amos Curtis
- Anderson, Mansfield (112/14:4) 1797 SC – 1862 Macon Co., NC
- Barr, Martha (79/5:7) ca 1803 GA – 1879 (Jackson Co.?), GA
- Callahan, John (74/4:74) 1807 GA – 1874 Jackson Co., GA
- Curtis, Amos (124/17:4) 1806 Burke Co., NC – 1875 Rabun Co., GA
- Fletcher, Joseph Hial (126/17:6) b. ca 1816 NC
- Grist, Nicy (95/9:7) ca 1818 SC
- Holland, James (108/13:4) b. 1799 Montgomery Co., NC
- Hopper, Samuel (88/8:4) ca 1772 NC – 1857 Rabun Co., GA
- Lay, Nancy (75/4:7) 1810/20 – bef 1848 Jackson Co., GA
- Ledford, John (48/10:2) 1822 GA – 1893 Macon Co., NC
- Lowe, Abraham (70/3:6) 1795/1801 Burke Co., NC – aft 1880 Transylvania Co., NC
- Lowry, John (118/15:6) 1790/1800 – ca 1841 Macon Co., NC
- McKinney, Sarah (89/8:5) ca 1793 Burke Co., NC – 1842 Rabun Co., GA
- [Miles?], Margaret (117/15:5)
- Nichols, Amy (49/10:3) 1821 Rutherford Co., NC – 1911 Macon Co., NC
- Ritchie, Eli (90/8:6) 1788 Buncombe Co., NC – 1852 Rabun Co., GA
- Stratton, Susan (121/16:5) 1813 NC – 1885 Macon Co., NC
Um, uh-oh. Ok, yes, this proves my point: I do go off on tangents, usually by collecting a whole record instead of just extracting the information about my ancestors. And, to be fair, I have further generations for several of these lines, but they haven’t been proven, at least not to my satisfaction (which brings me to a pet peeve of mine: researchers who share information, but refuse to name a source).
At any rate, Zacharias’ method proved a bit cumbersome for me, especially because I had difficulty finding a good font to use (to readily distinguish between font sizes), but also because of the sheer bulk of my brick wall list (over 100 names). That being said, it was useful for me to make this list because now when I look at my end-of-lines list, I can see exactly where I need to direct my focus. I am already working intensely on many of my 6th and 7th generation ancestors (e.g. the Curtis and Hopper families), so my focus isn’t as distracted as I thought.
A few further notes: Zacharias recommends that once you can “down-grade” an entire generation (that is, once you’ve found the parents of everyone on your 18-point-font generation), you can move your focus to your next earliest, incomplete generation by re-fonting from there backwards.
The numbers in parentheses in my lists above are that ancestor’s Ahnentafel number (e.g. 134) and his or her placement on my pedigree charts (for instance, 2:5 would be chart 2, person 5). I did this so that I can go directly back to my charts to find this individual’s place in my ancestry, instead of having to hunt through all my files for such information.