As we come to the close of another busy genealogy year, I began thinking about the future. It is sort of like focusing my camera as I move around trying to get a picture. As the scene changes, my view of what will happen changes also. Last night my wife and I had the opportunity to take one of our granddaughters to a school awards assembly. I had some time to think about what her genealogical future would look like. She is in middle-school and, like all my grandchildren, is rapidly growing up.
I realized that as she looks at her genealogical heritage, her great-grandparents were born in the 1920s. All of her great-grandparents are dead and she likely only has some very scattered memories of them, if she has any memories of them at all. But if she were to look at one of the online genealogy programs such as FamilySearch.org, she would see a huge number of sources already attached to all of her four-generation ancestors. Likewise, all of her great-grandparents' descendants would be equally well documented. Since each of her four grandparents have been equally as diligent in compiling their genealogy, each of them have their own four to six generations completely documented. My grandchildren's pedigrees would all show, at least eight or more totally documented generations.
In saying this, I am making an assumption that my own children's spouses have equally compiled information about their own ancestry. I suppose it is possible that there may be less information than is generally available, but in reviewing the list, I find that to be unlikely. The effect of this is that grandchildren in my family who were born in the last twenty or so years have detailed and sourced genealogical records on all their lines stretching back to the 1700s. In my own lines, the first end-of-line situation was born in 1781 and we have spent years trying to extend that line in Wales one more generation.
How many of us as genealogists would have been excited about investigating our ancestry if we had to begin in the 1700s? Especially, if the people we had to investigate had already been researched for over a hundred years?
That is, in short, the reality of having extensive online, sourced genealogical research. My own children are focusing on their spouses' family lines in some cases. As I have mentioned many times before, my genealogy immersed daughter, Amy, has an extensive website, TheAncestorFiles, that contains extensive documentary histories of a huge list of ancestors.
I fully realize that this situation is not that common, but if you think about it, a child born into the 21st Century in a developed country will have parents and ancestors for four or five generations that will likely be just as documented. Back on November 22, 2014, I wrote a blog post entitled, "Building a Pedigree from Sources - The Ultimate Challenge." World famous Blogger, Randy Seaver, took up the challenge and has written several blog posts about his experiences building a pedigree from sources in Ancestry.com. See "The Ultimate Challenge - Building a Family Tree From Sources - Post 4: Westfall Family." He has been choosing families that appear, in most cases, in the 1940 U.S. Census. In other words, people who are the great-grandparents, in some cases, of the children who are alive today. In the 1940s, my father and mother were both still single and living at home with their parents.
I have been thinking through the source challenge and, because of Randy's experience, I realize that in most cases, the people I have been dealing with are elderly, some even in a generation back in time from my own. Even though they are not young I have still had success in building a pedigree for many of them from sources in either Ancestry.com or MyHeritage.com. Because their children and grandchildren and even great-grandchildren are living, we do not have as easy access to their records, but those great-grandchildren (like my own grandchildren) are likely to be able to compile a pedigree of their family very quickly with any one of the major programs.
Again, as I indicated above, this applies to people with families in the United States and other developed countries, but I have found the same to be true in many other countries also. Essentially, our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will inherit our end-of-lines.
Think about it.