In May 2018 I wrote about the progress I was making on my tree.  Out of the possible 1,023 individuals of the previous ten generations of my forebears, how many, I wondered, could I name?

I discovered that I knew the names of only 22% of the possible 1,023 on my side of the family. On my husband’s side I knew the names of only 13%. From our children’s perspective the combined figure was 31%.

Two years later, in March 2020, I had made only a little progress. I was then able to name 33.6% of the combined total, about 3% more. A year later, as of today I can name 352, 8 more, 34.4% of the possible 1,023 total.

For the last six months I have been transferring my research to WikiTree, a collaborative project intended to produce a ‘singular worldwide family tree’.  (The genealogist Kitty Cooper discusses the scheme in a post of 26 April 2019). By contributing my research to WikiTree it will be there as a resource for my cousins to use now and indefinitely into the future, safe, I hope, from accidental and malicious damage.

In places there are discrepancies between my personal research tree and WikiTree. I still have 15 of my children’s 5th great grandparents to transfer from my tree to WikiTree. Transferring means revisiting my research and making sure I have citations to justify the relationships and the asserted facts. I also have names of forebears on my personal tree about whom I know nothing more than their name. These people cannot be added to WikiTree until I have more information about them.

Using the “Ancestor Explorer” app developed by Chase Ashley (, I can see a sortable list of all the ancestors of my children for up to 20 generations back and I can monitor the progress of identifying their 1,048,576 18th great grandparents and of the pedigree collapse that reduces the number of unique forebears.

As of today, on WikiTree my children have 3211 unique ancestors named and 8914 duplicate ancestors (additional lines of descent from a unique ancestor) within 20 generations. Less than three months ago, on 28 February, my children had 2459 unique ancestors and 7705 duplicate ancestors (additional lines of descent from a unique ancestor) within 20 generations; in particular, as part of my exploration of our Irish ancestry, over the last few months I have added a large number of our Irish forebears.

When looking at the 1,023 individuals of the previous ten generations of our forebears, I have only 245 recorded on WikiTree, 24% of the possible forebears.

The application DNA Painter has useful charts to present tree completeness. I exported GEDCOM files from WikiTree and my personal research tree to compare the results:

Progress on my personal research tree as at 13 May 2021 from the perspective of our children – 352 forebears of a possible 1,023 in ten generations.
Surname groups from left to right: Young, Cross, Sullivan, Dawson, Champion de Crespigny, Cudmore, Boltz, Manock
Progress on WikiTree as at 13 May 2021 from the perspective of our children – 245 forebears of a possible 1,023 in ten generations.
GenerationAncestors identified WikitreeAncestors identified Personal research treeDifferenceTree completeness WikitreeTree completeness Personal research tree
Parents2 of 22 of 2100%100%
Grandparents4 of 44 of 4100%100%
Great-Grandparents8 of 88 of 8100%100%
2nd-Great-Grandparents16 of 1616 of 16100%100%
3rd-Great-Grandparents32 of 3232 of 32100%100%
4th-Great-Grandparents45 of 6457 of 64-1270%89%
5th-Great-Grandparents55 of 12872 of 128-1743%56%
6th-Great-Grandparents43 of 25677 of 256-3417%30%
7th-Great-Grandparents39 of 51283 of 512-447.62%16%
8th-Great-Grandparents41 of 102473 of 1024-324.00%7.13%
9th-Great-Grandparents54 of 204857 of 2048-32.64%2.78%
10th-Great-Grandparents69 of 409642 of 4096271.68%1.03%
11th-Great-Grandparents96 of 819230 of 8192661.17%0.37%
12th-Great-Grandparents122 of 1638420 of 163841020.74%0.12%
13th-Great-Grandparents187 of 3276818 of 327681690.57%0.05%
14th-Great-Grandparents276 of 6553615 of 655362610.42%0.02%
15th-Great-Grandparents34 of 13107215 of 131072190.03%0.01%
16th-Great-Grandparents12 of 26214412 of 2621440.00%0.00%

A useful challenge that categorises ancestral profiles was posed earlier this year by the Dutch genealogist Yvette Hoitink. She suggests there are six levels of profile beyond ‘Unidentified’ (where not even the name is known):

  1. Name only – perhaps the forebear is named in a child’s record but no other details are known
  2. Vital statistics – know the dates but little else
  3. Occupations, residence, children, spouses – know several key points of information; know when and where they were born, married, and died, but also where they lived between those key dates and what they did for a living; know who their children were, and if they married multiple times.
  4. Property ownership, military service, religion, criminal activity – filled in more biographical details about their lives; researched in court, notarial, cadastral, church and military records, where applicable; if they owned property, how they acquired it, how they disposed of it; whether they left a last will or if they had a prenuptial agreement; for men, whether they served in the army; what religion they were and which church they attended; if they were criminals, what they did and what their sentence was.
  5. Genealogical Proof Standard – Yvette categorises this as ancestors for whom she has finished reasonably exhaustive research and has proven who their parents are; finished researching them in a wide range of records, such as newspapers, town records, and tax records; documented them according to current genealogical standards, analyzed everything properly, resolved conflicts, written up her conclusion, and met the Genealogical Proof Standard.
  6. Biography – Yvette categorises this as ancestors for whom she has not only finished the research, but has produced a biography or family story with historical context from it.

I think these stages are indeed useful in measuring progress. I have a long way to go in compiling the profiles of our forebears beyond merely recording their names and dates.

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