Finally finished and "published" my examination of my mother's family. It wound up being quite a project. The end result is a 30,000-plus word narrative, with about 110 illustrations to the main text, plus an accompanying CD with more than 500 supporting documents,
One of the fun discoveries is that we have a direct bloodline to British Royalty, and that William the Conqueror is my 26th great grandfather. When I started I never expected to be able to trace us back to 1000 AD and eight Kings, but that's the way it worked out.
It's very gratifying work in many ways. Among the things I included is a descendant report starting with my maternal grandparents and coming down six generations to the kids who have only just been born. Each entry has a photo and a bio in addition to the critical data, and in itself represents a fair bit of work. On the other hand (and not included in the 30,000 words) is an antecedent report which includes listings and relationships for some 850 people back to William the Conqueror's father, Robert "the Devil" of Normandy. Thanks to good software I was able to generate a report of all these people tailored for each of the 35 or so current family members, showing that person's exact relationship to everyone in the report. Each of those reports runs about 25 pages, small type, single spaced.
One of the great pleasures of doing it was the two trips we made to England and the Channel Islands to nail down the research. Family researchers are a friendly lot, and they love it when you visit their libraries, record centers, churches, etc. (especially in England) to discover where you came from. As one Brit friend said, "It's all well and good to put names in boxes, but you must come and touch the rocks as well." So true. You have to put the names in the boxes, because that represents the roadmap, but the real fun is digging up the stories and passing them along. And I found plenty of them.
Some families are sensitive about ancestors who were less than "distinguished," but we don't seem to have that problem. We all get a kick out of the "four-month pregnancies," the guy who was a tax collector but "forgot" to give the money to the King, and all the rest.
People who do family research enjoyed the two recent TV series where well-known people traced their roots. There were some neat stories. But we all laughed when the "celebrities" would walk into a library or some sort of repository and a functionary with white gloves would present them with a complete descendant report or other hunk of significant research as if they'd simply taken it down from the shelf. Naturally, these shows employed black-belt researchers to do a ton of work behind the scenes and make it look easy for the "stars." It's not easy. It's tough, slogging work, but it's lots of fun, especially if you're a storyteller at heart.
I'm taking a sabbatical before I tackle my father's family. That goes back to Germany, and may be difficult.
The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. -- George Bernard Shaw