The needle in the haystack

As one steps back and takes in the full view of a large genealogical ancestry tree you cannot help yourself by occasionally being overwhelmed with the enormous amount of people that must be sorted through to find an adoptees birth parents.

Even armed with several genetically linked cousins, a bit of luck, and a lot of patience, it can still become a big task to take it all in and try and sort through the possibilities. On I like to switch the view, occasionally, to “list all people” in the tree. Armed with the non-identifying information of the birth mother or father I then try and search each page quickly, using the “find” feature of the individual web browser I am using. Then I will go to the next page of people and perform the same search. For instance the date someone is supposed to have been born, or a parent of his or hers was to have passed away.

Using this methodology I can then further sort the possibilities by checking their place of birth. Sometimes that is enough to take a thousand people in a tree and quickly scan about two-dozen pages for dates, names, or locations. Even I will forget the hundreds of facts in a tree and must occasionally set aside the genealogy for a good old fashion sorting of what facts have been collected so far.

What may initially may have looked like an enormous task can be quickly scanned for details you are looking for without having to focus on a tree and trying to remember which branch you scanned or looked at during our construction of the tree. It is almost worthless to do it within that view, as you can easily lose your place and track where information was skipped or not included in your review.

Always look for ways to manipulate the information and sort it quickly, rather than make your eyes spin in circles looking. Sorting out as I described before, I will stop to take note of individuals who are suspiciously close to the non-ID information I have on the adoptee. Once I have gone through everyone in a tree I will usually then go back to those suspect individuals and try and see if any more patterns emerge from our clues.

There are occasions where the clues we have are extensive enough that so many brothers or sisters of the adoptees birth mother are known. In those cases, it is almost like we are solving a riddle.

In my youth, I played strategy games with friends. One of the things I enjoyed the most was trying to follow a particular scenario of events I knew would transpire, but change up my actual strategy to trip up my friends. Complex and abstract thinking help you plan a few moves ahead and the same is no different in how one acquires knowledge or sorts out the myths from the facts.

The non-identifying information can be exaggerated or distorted to try and lure any future searcher from finding someone. If I can detect a pattern in the stretched truths, they can actually emerge as a clear path to those who may not have wanted to be found. Know that in most cases, people were relaying this information because they were in a frightening situation, typically at a very young age. The reasons may have had nothing to do with the adoptee more than it was for close relatives who may have known nothing about the pregnancy being covered up before relinquishment of a child occurred.

It may sound abstract what I am describing, but when you are in the thick of a search patterns in the chaos do emerge and show the way. Sometimes you consciously know what to do. Other times you follow your gut and it leads you toward the truth. Either way, it is good to keep your notes sharp and your failures well documented.