Monday, 8 February 2021

Challenge to complete your ancestral profiles

On January 22 last, Yvette Hoitink, a professional Dutch genealogist, published a method for genealogists to judge the quality of their research. By putting it this way, it sounds a bit heavy but it is a tool that easily provides insight into the level of quantitative and qualitative data one dug up. 

To measure your own achievements, she defined seven levels of research data one can collect. These levels literally vary between 'I know nothing' (sorry Manual) and 'I know it all'. They are:

Level 0: Unidentified ancestor; the ancestor is completely unknown.
Level 1: Only the name is known; names may have been referred to in other documents (e.g. of their children). But there no BMD's (birth, marriage, death documents) available.
Level 2: Vital statistics; BMD's are available if they survived that is.
Level 3: Occupation, residence, children, spouses; this includes multiple marriages if any.
Level 4: Property ownership, military service, religion, criminal activity; biographical details.
Level 5: Genealogical proof standard; there is no doubt about their existence, extensive research has been done in every available source, there are no unresolved issues.
Level 6: Biography; this or family stories are available.

Having defined these seven levels, I'm sure your eye is drawn to the color scheme below. So let me try to explain what it stands for. Before I go into detail, it is good to know that the original scheme as designed by Yvette, differs 90 degrees from this one. In your mind, you should turn it counterclockwise to see how she meant it to be. The reason for showing it the way I did is simple. The layout of this blog does not permit the scheme to be shown horizontally and still be legible. So I gave it a 90-degree twist. The other thing you should know is that this collection of colors constitutes a pedigree chart, also known as ahnentafel. That means that generation 1 is you; generation 2 represents your parents; generation 3 their parents, etc. And the higher the figure printed in the color bar, the more data you apparently have.

By now you will have gathered that the above color scheme is my color scheme. Your scheme will look different, guaranteed!
There is another difference between the original and mine and that is the color scheme. Yvette's design in my view is a bit somber, it reminded me of Van Gogh's Potato Eaters. My colors are more like Picasso's Cubism Women Spanish. But that is a minor detail. The more important message of my chart is that there is work to be done. The first task is to try and change the many 1's and 2's into 3's. The 0's constitute a real problem. In my case, there is a woman with no known forebears. Also, I have this unknown man who fathered an illegitimate child. Apparently, the man left as his child carries the name of the mother.
However, I agree with Yvette when she says that new information is added all the time. So, if you were unable to find a certain person say 5 years ago, you stand a good chance that more information about that person is available today.

I find Yvette's spreadsheet a very useful tool to convince myself to review and update my files. If you feel that in your case hardly any data are missing, do the Hoitink test and surprise yourself! You can download the spreadsheet at Also, Yvette's evaluation of her own spreadsheet is there. There you can read how a pro looks at her own achievements.

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