Saturday Night Genealogy Fun
By Don Taylor
In a recent “Saturday Night Genealogy Fun,” Randy Seaver suggested we look at our surname list. My Roberts-Brown tree has 6,084 individuals. I manage the tree using Family Tree Maker 2017. A Surname Report is available under person reports. Two clicks and the report is done is less than a second. The first click was to include all individuals in my file, not just the immediate family. The second click was to sort by surname count. It doesn’t provide a total of the number of unique surnames. But, again a couple clicks do it easily. A click on Share then select export to CSV. The system asks where you want the report, you save it, then the system asks if you would like to open the Exported Report. I did and my computer launched Microsoft Excel. Entries are every other line. The last surname on the list was line 2801. Subtract 3 for the three lines of header and divide 2798 by two and I learned I have 1,399 unique surnames in my tree.
I was surprised by the some of the results.
Raidt is the surname of my son’s maternal grandfather. I have done quite a bit of research on him, but I didn’t realize it was that extensive. For my Raidt research to be number 3 was quite a shock. I should, probably, break this research into a separate project.
Even more shocking was the Krafve surname. Hildur Krafve was my step-grandmother and is the grandmother of two of my siblings. I didn’t think I researched that family much and was surprised that I have done so much research on that line. I have followed that family name through six generations. With all the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and so on, there were many names. That it rated high makes sense, but I was still surprised.
I was also surprised by Wolcott. My 5th great-grandmother was Mary Wolcott Parsons. I have tentatively followed her ancestry back seven more generations to my earliest known ancestor, back in the 1500s. But still, I had no idea that I had that many known Wolcotts.
Before I knew who my biological father was, I did a lot of research on the Roberts surname. I was looking for and following potential connections based upon Y-DNA results and other people’s trees. Most of these Roberts entries are not related to me in any meaningful way. That I have over 200 individuals with the Roberts surname didn’t surprise me.
My number one surname was Mannin and that my number 10 surname was Manning didn’t surprise me much. Mary Elizabeth Manning was my great-grandmother and I have done a lot of research in her ancestry. Her husband was Arthur Durrwood Brown. Seeing Brown, and the related surnames if Bryant and Warner, wasn’t much of a surprise either.
Sadly, my number 9 surname, “Unknown,” highlights mistakes in my tree. For a while I used “unknown” when I didn’t know an ancestor’s surname. For married women, whose maiden name don’t know, I’ve begun using their husband’s surname in brackets instead of “LNU” or “unknown.” That gives me a better idea of where they fit in the tree without needing to see all the other details of the individual. That I have 75 individuals for whom I’ve entered their surname as “unknown” suggests that I need to so some cleanup. Certainly, “unknown” could be the appropriate entry on occasion, but rarely is it the best entry. As an example, “Ann Laurie Unknown” doesn’t tell me as much as “Ann Laurie [Fannin].” As long as I remain consistent, I think I’m okay using bracketed names in an unconventional manner.
I enjoy Randy Seaver’s Saturday Night suggestions. They make you think about your family tree in different ways. In this case, looking at the surnames in this exercise reminded me that I need to be consistent in how I handle unknown surnames.