N E H G S
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Survey Results for Work with Ancestral Lineages and Pedigrees
This December 2011 survey was intentionally brief and focused, producing four principal findings from a representative group of both professional and non-professional genealogists and family historians. These findings cover (1) openness to an alternative ancestral numbering system, (2) benefits considered most important, (3) importance of software available, and (4) software programs used or recommended most often. These findings are first summarized below and followed by a review of survey participants’ relevant experiences.
Concerning work with ancestral lineages and pedigree numbering systems, the survey consisted of nine multiple-choice questions, and responses to all of these are summarized below. Voluntary access to the survey was open for one month through both the NEHGS online article and the Ancestral Lines website, as well as in response to invitations emailed to a list of qualified professionals and private genealogists.
Adopting a Numbering System:
1. Approximately two-thirds – 68% – of survey participants overall indicated “Yes,” and 93% indicated “Yes” or “Maybe” in answer to the question, “Are you generally open to using a numbering system for ancestral Lines and Generations upon occasion, primarily as an alternative to an Ahnentafel, provided it is adequately documented and freely available?” In the same survey, expanded for 2011-12, among participants who handled client assignments, a similar two-thirds – 67% – indicated “Yes” to this question, and 87% indicated “Yes” or “Maybe.”
2. The following benefits were considered the most important by participants in adopting another ancestral numbering system. Survey participants selected these benefits from a “randomly” ordered list of 18 plus write-in for each respondent.
3. 65% of respondents answered “Important” or “Somewhat important,” with another 29% answering “Very important” or “Essential,” to the question, “How important would it be to you and your clients or audiences to have any new ancestral numbering system incorporated into one or more generally available genealogical software programs?”
4. The following genealogical or charting software programs were selected by participants as those most often used or recommend, especially for working with ancestral pedigrees or Ahnentafels: (a) Family Tree Maker (Ancestry.com), (b) RootsMagic, (c) Legacy Family Tree, (d) Personal Ancestral File (PAF), (e) The Master Genealogist, (f) Ancestry Family Tree (AFT), (g) Heritage Family Tree, (h) Brother's Keeper. [Five percent or more of survey participants selected these programs from a “randomly” ordered list of 24 plus write-in for each respondent, although others also were selected.]
A. Participants’ averaged 22 years of experience “significantly engaged in family history or genealogy,” with 36% of respondents being in the range of 16-25 years. The full range of experience was from “fewer than five” (7%) to “more than 40” years (10%).
B. Nearly all survey participants reported they had engaged in their own lineage or family research over the past several years, with 36% having had client assignments. 45% had been instructors or speakers.
C. Just over one-half of the participants reported that 30 to 50 percent of their activities or engagements over the past several years had included working with some form of ancestral pedigree or Ahnentafel. Approximately one-quarter of respondents reported more than this amount of experience, and the remaining one-quarter reported less.
D. When working with ancestral pedigrees or lineages, approximately one-half of participants indicated that in 75% or more of projects, they or their clients or audiences used the term ancestral "LINE.”
E. Just over one-half of survey participants indicated that in 75% or more of projects, they or their clients or audiences used the term ancestral "GENERATION” when working with ancestral pedigrees or lineages.
Only a few participants added comments, and these were generally complimentary -- so much so that to reproduce them here would probably appear unrepresentative. The following three were clear and concisely to their points:
"I like the idea. I like the simplicity and elegance."
"Excellent. Visually clear, compatible with incomplete research, blended families, DNA, and the modern techniques. We need it!"
"I'm an Engineer who works with Military Specs for the DOD and this format is similar to how we write the specs. Its structure is easy to follow and makes sense. The system currently in Genealogy software makes no sense at all because you cannot look the assigned number in the middle of a pedigree and determine anything about that person. Thank you and please push the software companies to add this option to new versions of their software. I would upgrade my Legacy if this were available."
Your Y-DNA Work Supported by Ancestral Lines Numbering
Please check the initial Ancestral Lines article in the "full" PDF version, especially "APPENDIX C: DNA STUDIES SUPPORTED BY ANCESTRAL LINES."
As discussed there, Y-chromosome DNA (Y-DNA) studies of the all-male paternal line are the type most useful in a genealogical time frame (from a generation to perhaps 1,500 years ago). Figure C-1 of the article shows how the distinct Y-DNA and mtDNA Lines, among many others, relate to Ancestral Lines numbering. Both are prominent and easily followed, being the “outer edges” of Ancestral Lines results in a patrilineal system.
The first lineage, correlating with Y-DNA studies, can always conveniently be represented as patrilineal Line 1, and from the first ancestral Generation back is always men only (since only males have Y chromosomes). Beyond this aspect of being Line 1, the Generational numbering of Ancestral Lines proves particularly useful. Set up properly, this numbering correlates exactly with the Y-DNA testing companies’ and others’ supporting software information concerning probabilities of sharing the “Most Recent Common Ancestor” (MRCA). This is best correlated with reproductive generations, also numbered in the Ancestral Lines system, although most Y-DNA analysis programs also convert these to estimated time frames as well.
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