Diggin' up Dead People

A Genealogy Blog

Happy Thanksgiving

Hoping everyone has a great day with family and friends filled with love food and laughter!


How many ancestors can I name?

I’d like to credit Cathy Meder-Dempsey’s post, “My Ancestor Score as of Valentine’s Day 2016” at her blog Opening Doors in Brick Walls as the inspiration for my finding my Ancestor Score.


The idea of “Ancestor Score” is to calculate how many ancestors of you can identify in each generation, starting with yourself, and, in many examples, ending at 10 generations back.  Ten generations back would be 7x great grandparents.  As you go back, the number of ancestors doubles with each generation, so you have 512 7x great-grandparents!  And how far back in time is that?  On average, there are 3-4 generations per century, so 10 generations is between about 250-330 years!

The calculation of the ancestor score is pretty straightforward- it is who you know divided by how many there are.  You can see the score per generation and a total score over all ten generations.  It was a humbling experience!

Generation Relationship Possible # Identified # Percentage
1 Me- Yup I know this one, LOL 1 1 100%
2 Parents 2 2 100%
3 Grandparents 4 4 100%
4 Great-Grandparents 8 8 100%
5 2x   Great-Grandparents 16 12 75%
6 3x   Great-Grandparents 32 20 62.5%
7 4x   Great-Grandparents 64 24 37.5%
8 5x   Great-Grandparents 128 14 10.9%
9 6x   Great-Grandparents 256 3 0.01%
10 7x   Great-Grandparents 512 0 0%
Total   1023 88 0.08%

I was doing really well up through my great grandparents!  Of these great grandparents I was able to name parents for all but 2, so even in generations 5 and then 6, things were solid.

It was looking at the later generations that put things in a different light.  I have tested DNA with the 3 major genetic genealogy companies: Family Tree DNA, Ancestry DNA and 23 and me.  My personal genealogy results have been less than enlightening.  I match a ton of people that I have no idea why we match.  Furthermore, most of these contacts seem to have no clue either!  In a quest to further figure things out I’ve also uploaded my results to GedMatch. It is all a bit overwhelming!  I wondered if my paper trail genealogy contained some huge errors!

My ancestor score chart put some perspective on the situation.  My first cousins match at generation 3, second at generation 4 and so on. Sixth cousins would match at generation 8- we share 5th great grandparents. So someone who matches me at 6th cousin and I have 128 possible common ancestors and I do not know even the names of 114 of these possibilities!  Many of my matches are at the 4th-6th cousin or more distant level.  So, I can see now why I’ve had so much difficulty with reconciling my DNA matches to my known ancestors.  Although I “knew” that the reason matches seemed to be perplexing was because I just hadn’t (and likely neither had the match) gone back far enough in our ancestry- seeing it visually in the chart made that reason much clearer for me!





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New Years 2016

I’ve spent part of this first week of the new year thinking of what family history goals I am looking to pursue.  I’ve thought about the research I’ve done, where I want to look for more answers and what methods I can use to achieve my goals.

Important for me to achieve goals is to think of the how in detail.  Equally important is to give myself some semblance of accountability.  Putting them in writing here in this blog, saying what it is I hope to do is something that puts some of that accountability on me.

While I really enjoyed the 52 Ancestors challenge, and I am so grateful that it spurred me to start a blog, one of the problems I ran into was the shifting ancestor of the week format.  I tried very hard to match an ancestor to a particular weekly (very optional but my option was to use it!) theme.   This meant that one week I might be looking at an ancestor from England on my dad’s side and the next week an ancestor from Brooklyn on my mom’s side.  It was sometimes very jumpy for me to get my head around.  This year, I am thinking in terms of thirds and setting new goals in each third.  I plan to concentrate on one geographic area and family line in 4 month chunks.  If nearing the end of the period, I decide to stay on that line, make it a semi annual goal, so be it.  Of course, if something juicy falls into my lap that lies outside of my goal area I won’t ignore it…but I plan on trying to immerse myself in both the history of the area as well as my ancestors place in that area.

A couple of years ago I began to trace all the descendants of my ancestor John W Hall of Montgomery co. New York.  My first goal area is to *finish* the work I’ve begun on these lines.  (Ok so genealogy is never finished per se).  I had hoped to publish a work detailing the descendants of John, so finished for my purposes is getting this ready for publication in some form, either as an article within a genealogical journal or as a stand alone work.

As I research the people on this line, I hope to continue to blog about my ancestors.  While last year I restricted myself to posting about direct line ancestors, this year I do not plan to exclude siblings and spouses, step children and associates. While not my direct line ancestors, these people shared in and shaped the lives of my ancestors and many of their experiences were shared common experiences.  In that same vein, I do not plan to limit to a person or a couple per post as I had in last year’s posting.

New direction for a New Year!

Happy New Year!


Hello 2016!



I wish all a very Happy New Year!

May you be Strong and Healthy!

May your Happiness Grow!

May your Brick Walls come tumbling down!



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Down to the wire…

19 days left in 2015!  Admittedly, this plan of writing a post a each week did not work out as expected.  Life certainly can get in the way of the best laid plans!  I’ve not given up though.  10 posts left, 19 days…only time will tell!



In this week’s 52 Ancestors submission I linked back to a post about William Merkel. I took another look at that post, made on March 6, and I am happy to report that as of earlier this week the snow has melted! Yes, that’s right the Boston snow field was declared officially all melted on July 14, 2015. Here’s to hoping the 2015-2016 winter is NOT like its predecessor! (and please not worse!)

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Diggin’ Up Dead People is not Dead!

It’s been a while since I last posted, and may be a while longer. For those of you that have followed my blog posts – thank you. You all know- life happens and I hope to be back on track with the challenge soon!

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Happy Spring!

Well, I must admit, I’m a little disappointed that Mother Nature didn’t pull herself together for the beginning of spring.  But it is coming, and cold as it remains, the sun (when it shines) is a spring sun.  Despite the temps, the snow is receding and hopefully once its gone the crocuses will come out.  So Happy Spring to All!

In honor of Spring I’ve changed the background theme to the blog- It’s floral and I think I like it!

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