Sunday, July 12, 2015

On the Moving of Goal Posts

When I began this blog, I wasn't entirely sure what I wanted to get out of it. I knew I had some stories to tell, and I knew that researching and writing those stories would lead me to others. I knew that doing this would motivate me to try bigger things - and that is what happened!

My plan at the end of last year was to re-publish the original George Callin Family History (that links to the hard cover edition), then to gather the notes and research I had already done over the previous couple of decades and publish a revision - possibly during the summer months. Now, having devoted almost all of my efforts to getting that revision ready since March, I can see that this was too ambitious a goal.

In my head, it seemed pretty straightforward: once the hard research is done, I know I can draft up a narrative story (like the ones posted here) in a few hours. Using Ancestry and Google, I've been able to get most of the hard research done very quickly, so spending six or eight months on the revision seemed like a reasonable time budget. But that only really accounted for the number of families and individuals listed in Great Uncle George's book - which was around 350 families.

Starting just before Christmas 2014, I began "Round 1" of creating a public Ancestry tree: Callin Family History - G.W. Callin 1911. All I did for several months was enter information that I already had from George's book, and review the Ancestry record hints that popped up along the way. I finished Round 1 in March, just before our vacation to Arizona to visit my still-living family, and immediately went back to the "top" of the tree - James 1st - and started Round 2.

At the end of Round 1, I had expanded the known descendants of James to about 1100 families. Remember, I had budgeted time for about 33% of that number. And I knew from the skills I had picked up and tricks I had learned doing Round 1 that there were a lot of people that I simply hadn't found, yet. So I already know that if I'm planning to publish a fully fleshed out narrative for each family, it will take me another year or two - just to write up the families I've already found!

As of this post, I'm only just reaching the final stretch of Round 2 of my research phase, and there are more than 5,000 individuals in the tree. Many of those are NOT direct descendants of James 1, but my best guess is that about 3,500 individuals from that tree will be included in the final report.

There is a good reason for those numbers. One of the standards I decided on at the beginning this project at the beginning was that I would include the names of both parents of each spouse. To find that information, I've often had to look for the spouse's grandparents and siblings in order to figure out mothers' maiden names and piece together the origins of orphans. I'm committed to doing this, partly because it makes the eventual stories I have to tell richer and more complete, and partly to look for relationships between the "allied families" - the family groups that seem to intermarry more than once with my cousins. I also am learning just how badly our culture has mishandled the way we record the lives of our mothers, sisters, and wives, and I am determined to correct that by including as much information about the women in my book as I can find.

Obviously, there are costs involved in the standards I'm choosing to maintain. In order to push through the Round 2 research phase, I made a choice to suspend the writing I was doing in this blog. That clearly isn't enough to make my original vision for this book a reality - certainly not this summer as I had originally hoped. Probably not by the end of 2015.

So I'm moving the goal posts. Here's my new plan:

Finish the Research phase, and publish this as a slim volume - James Callin Descendant Report, 2015. I believe I can get this done by the end of the year, and I plan to put it up on as I did the Callin Family History - 1911 volume.

Starting soon (probably in the early fall), begin posting weekly stories about the families in the Descendant Report here on Mightier Acorns.

This will be useful in two ways. Most obviously, it gives me motivation to draft and edit the stories in a regular and timely manner; but it should also work as an outreach tool - as I work my way forward in time, I expect that I will be finding living relatives who will be able to help me spot errors, fix mistakes, and maybe even collect more of the kinds of stories that can't really be picked out of the records.

Doing this on a weekly schedule should also allow me to budget my time so that I can pay attention to my non-Callin ancestors. Eventually, the weekly Callin descendant posts will be ready to publish - but writing about them all will take years. I don't want to ignore everyone else while I'm doing that!

Once I know how long it is really going to take, I will begin planning a complete re-publication of the Callin Family History. I expect that future volume to include a section that captures Great Uncle George's work, my James Callin Descendant Report, all of the family-focused blog posts, and a few other ideas that I hadn't originally intended to include because I was aiming for an over-ambitious deadline of Summer 2015. (Like a roll-call of all Callin family veterans, and some sections describing the major areas where Callin descendants lived - especially central Ohio and DeKalb County, Indiana.)

If you've been one of the loyal, regular readers of this blog over the past year, I want you to know I appreciate you. I hope you'll be patient with me as I get my feet back under in July and August, and when I really get started posting again, I hope you'll spread the word - especially if we're related!

As always, I welcome questions, corrections, and encourage contributions - if you are a cousin who will turn up in this book, there are a lot of ways you can help me make it better. My Gmail address is "callintad" at - that's the best way to get in touch with me.

And even if you aren't an Ancestry member, you should be able to explore the public Callin Family History - G.W. Callin 1911 tree.

Thanks again! We'll be in touch...

1 comment:

  1. Updates: I had to revise a couple of things in this post. After putting it up, I realized I had mixed up some numbers, counting "individuals" when I meant "families". None of the numbers in this post are exact, of course, but I like to compare apples and apples whenever possible.