At some point as you continue to accumulate names of ancestors, you begin to lose track of who all of these people are. This begins to get pointed out to you regularly if you put your family tree online in one of the larger databases such as MyHeritage.com or Ancestry.com. Both programs are continually suggesting that you have links with matching individuals in other users' family trees. But many times the matches are with a spouse of a distant relative and the question comes up repeatedly; who are these people?
I suppose there are those people who can remember the names of everyone in their high school class fifty years ago, but I am certainly not one of those people. I barely remember most of the names of the people I meet and have trouble remembering the names of some of my close relatives and friends. I suppose you could consider this a genealogical disability, but I am certain it does not qualify for SSDI (for those of you who are not genealogists, you know this as Social Security Disability Insurance, for those of you who are genealogists, this is the Social Security Death Index. Interesting that the Social Security Administration has an acronym that is the same for two completely different things. Sort of indicative of the state our government when there is a confusion between insurance and death). Back to the problem of remembering names.
I always figured that the main reason for having a computer was so that I didn't have to remember stuff. But it does get awkward when I forget close family member's names and the names of friends that I have known for thirty or forty years. But back to remembering names of distant relatives. You would think the solution quite simple; have a database of your family file and look up the unknown names when they pop up. Right. That works until you get into higher and theoretical math. The trouble is that some of my lines are highly convoluted.
The other day I got a whole lot of Smart Matches from MyHeritage.com for the Kartchner family. OK, so my comment was, that the family was likely in my wife's line because I had never heard of a connection with the Kartchners, who, by the way, are a prominent family in Arizona. I guess I should have realized that if they were from Arizona, they were probably related to me in some way and not related to my wife who is from Utah. So, I began looking at my lines to try and figure out where this suggested link came from.
That process turned up and interesting fact. I did not have the two lines connected. What happened was that I had a duplicate in my file that was the link between me and the Kartchners. So I merged the two individuals and voila! I had a clear link to the mainstream of the Kartchner genealogy. In fact, I had a whole line of Kartchners going back to 1788 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. So this brought up another issue; exploring your own genealogy. Somewhere over the years, I had spend considerable time researching and typing in a large number of Kartchner families. So, why didn't I remember all this? I call it CGA or Convenient Genealogical Amnesia. You really can't walk around all the time with 10,000 or so names in your head and so you conveniently forget any of them you don't see every day (or in the last five minutes).
But then, as I examined this line, there was another even more interesting question. Was I really related to the Kartchners? Notwithstanding I had a number of them in my file, how was I related, if I was?
Unfortunately, lack of familiarity with any given line in your database may create a problem. Fortunately, the genealogy programs come to your rescue. Many of them will highlight the linking individuals. In this case, I found that Marion Francetta Miller (b. 1882, d. 1968), whose mother was a Kartchner, was married to my Great-uncle Thomas William Tanner (b. 1880, d. 1965). I actually knew about these people. Their children were my father's first cousins.
But if this line was related through the spouse of one of my uncles, was I really related to these people? OK, the answer to that question is the basis for a great deal of discussion and controversy. Some would say, yes, of course. Others would say no, not at all. From a genealogical standpoint, since I actually had dealings indirectly with these people, I considered them to be relatives. But are all their ancestors my relatives? When it gets down to it, I don't really care one way or the other. As long as there is an actual connection with one of my uncles or cousins, I will include them in my genealogy.
But another question is what kind of priority will I assign to doing research on this particular branch of my family? Now that I have explored this line and realize the connection, I must admit that I will not likely put them on the top of my list of families to investigate. I have enough of a mess in my direct lines to keep me busy for the rest of my life without following the families of the spouses of my ancestors' siblings.
Of course, the question then arises as to what other surprises are lurking out their in Tanner genealogy land? Maybe I should do some more exploring.