Genealogy Wise

The Genealogy & Family History Social Network

Recent discusiions on the AfriGeneas Forums have really piqued my interest on just what constitutes a Family and a Family Tree. I would like to present my take on what I'm hearing/reading.


I start from the premise that my collective genealogical data is housed in "A" database within a genealogy software program .....ex. Family Tree Maker, Roots Magic, Legacy, etc.  I input "ALL" of my information into that database. The basic connections for "ALL" individuals follows parental lines, if known, just a named mother and/or  father. Each person entered establishes only this two-generational link. This is the beginning of a Family and a Family Tree


From this basic link we then add siblings, most to that same basic link, but others may be attached to links created by multiple mates of their parents via marriage and/or other types of relationships. The 'software" will handle multiple relationships creating separate and/or blended families.


Now we have established through these links, both ancestral and descendant linked family lines to that basic unit (YOU).  Here is where one split occurs on how family/trees are said to be managed.  i.e. maternal lines vs paternal lines and many have said they manage two family's or trees, keeping them separated. I ask why? 


The WHY comes from the fact that the database mangement processes will cut, slice, dice or pull any and all combinations of how you want your family/tree(s) to be created and displayed ......  maternal. paternal,  ancestral, descendant, community, occupation, religion, etc.  or in other words any 'attribute' attached to the basic unit (YOU),  or any individual in that one single database. These special family's/trees can then be uploaded via GEDCOM to Ancestry or any other on-line Family Tree operation.


A shameless plug here... :))  The introductory welcome for a personal website of my database states "Welcome! This website was created on Dec 17 2009 and last updated on Feb 09 2010. The family trees on this site contain 19779 relatives and 586 photos" the website URL is    The website database is managed through my genealogy software package and when I have a significant amount of informational updates through additions, corrections and/or deletions I merely upload an updated GEDCOM of my entire database.. Otherwise, photos, stories and smaller tidbits of information are input and editied directly on the website.


Perhaps my quandry is simply one of terminolgy.  All family's/trees aren't created equal, or the same.  In demonstrating/displaying our ancestors and descendants through a family/tree(s) we see at least two differing views.  Our ancestor trees, or pedigree charts are one dimensional and unique to each individual. Our descendency tree(s) are multi-dimensional, but unique to the ancestor(s) we are linking to...paternal, maternal or otherwise. And a family tree is  something else :)), place yourself in an "hour glass" tree, then try any other person in your "family".... the descendants and possibly ancestors, of you and your siblings is completely different, but they are part of the same family tree.


This is probably a 'preaching to the choir" message, but I would like to hear your comments........ constructive, critical and all points in-between. :))



Thanks for taking the time to read this message.


~Art Thomas







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Replies to This Discussion

With 19,000 + in your tree, I'm definitely going to figure out how "we're in the family." I'm with you on family. Back in '83, a fellow Buffalo resident & I went to the Peace Corps. We'd never met before, though she went to grammar school with my best friend, high school with the sister of my bff, and was the step-sister of the husband of another friend! Martha & I became lifelong friends, sisters. I knew her husband was the one before she did. It was my pleasure to stand up in their wedding for Francois, as a surrogate for his paternal aunt in Tutsi tradition, just as Francois' friend Kitenge stood up for Martha. Our little Peace Corps group is family. Period. When Mart was diagnosed with brain cancer our vacations ended as we took turns visiting & helping. She fought with grace and dignity, and she fought hard. One of the memories that will be with me always was the deep and beautiful smile that came over her face when I told her that after researching I'd determined that due to marriage & divorce & another marriage, we were now step-step fourth cousins once removed. As we approach the second anniversary of her joining the ancestors, our little group will have her with us as we plan our vacation. The software program will of course determine that there is no biological connection between us, but having this part of my family in the program means they're my family in every other sense of the word. We are her sons aunts. We are her husband's sisters.

I still look forward to the day when my community tree is even half as big as yours! Sonia

Thanks for your reply... We're probably getting closer to 'family' than you think. When I met you in Ft. Wayne at the Summit and asked if you knew of a friend of mine the had relocated to the Buffalo area and had lived there for many years, you weren't sure if you knew of him. Well, I find that he joined the ancestors in Mar. of 2006 after a long battle with MS. His wife and family are still in the Buffalo area....surname Cohill. In addition, there are two other Buffalo area connections that I know of... Sanford & Worthington. For instance, Doug Worthington, a football player at Ohio State Univ. who graduated from St. Francis HS in Athol, NY. Doug's grandmother is my son-in-law's sister. Going back in time Al Cohill, Don Worthington and Jennie Sanford were all 'running buddies' of mine in our youth. So our degrees of separation are becoming fewer. What other 'communal' inter-realtionships yet to be uncovered are limitless.

Your Peace Corp relations and experiences are truly an inspiring look at why we do this kind of stuff. :))

Take Care,

Art Thomas



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