27 October 2020

How Do You Define Your Ultimate Genealogy Goal?

After 18 years of building my family tree, my true goal became clear last week.

That delay isn't because I'm indecisive or slow to focus. My genealogy goal appeared after a long evolution.

Many of us begin by wanting to know more about:

  • our great grandparents
  • our first immigrant ancestors
  • where our family came from
  • how our people got from there to here

Others are searching for their unknown birth parents. Or trying to prove passed-down family stories. For instance, we though my sons were the descendants of the brother of the captain of the Titanic. We shared that fact with people all the time. Then I learned Captain Smith had no brothers. It was all inexplicably wrong.

I started out wanted to know more about the 25-or-so cousins in a photo with my mom on her wedding day. After that I wanted to find my roots in Italy.

What will your ultimate genealogy goal be? My original inspiration was a large family photo. Now my purpose has evolved.
My original inspiration was a large family photo. Now my purpose has evolved.

The urge to learn about my Italian ancestors kicked into high gear when I went to Italy in 2003. When I returned to Italy in 2005, I finally met several cousins. One in particular gave me lots of details about my great grandmother and her many siblings.

But it was the Family History Center resources that opened the floodgates. I found out I could order and view microfilmed vital records at an LDS Church near me. For about 5 years, I documented the 1809–1860 records from one grandfather's town of Baselice. I published my findings online for other descendants of the town. I became an expert on last names from Baselice.

I longed to do the same research for my other grandfather's town. But my work made it too hard to visit a Family History Center anymore. (Note: The microfilm program has ended, but see what FamilySearch has available for your ancestral hometown.)

Fast-forward to 2017 when many of my ancestral Italian hometowns' records came online. No more driving 30 minutes to view poor-quality microfilm. Now amazing-quality documents were online. Clear, zoomable, downloadable. I was in heaven.

I expanded my family tree dramatically. I had the documents to show who my ancestors and their siblings married. I could follow their children and grandchildren. The documents begin in 1809, but marriage records can reach further back. They may contain the death records of the bride and groom's parents and grandparents.

Those early death records have helped me identify 6th, 7th, and 8th great grandparents. To identify Italian ancestors born in the late 1600s, without access to church records, is amazing!

But how did I decide on my ultimate genealogy goal? It started when I wrote about measuring your family tree research progress. I saw that 3 of my 8 great grandparents came from one town. Most of my roots and most of my DNA come from Colle Sannita, the birthplace of my uncommon maiden name, Iamarino.

I've only recently realized my calling. My ultimate genealogy goal. But I've been feeling it in my bones for years.
I've only recently realized my calling. My ultimate genealogy goal. But I've been feeling it in my bones for years.

I'm still eager to explore the records from my other ancestral towns. But Colle Sannita always calls out to me the loudest. I have the documents, the process, and the ability to create the single greatest, broadest, best-documented Colle Sannita family tree available.

That's my goal now. Yes, I will work on my other towns, too. But I will keep pouring my time and love into Colle Sannita. And I'm well on my way.

Our shared love of genealogy keeps us going. Finding new branches, forgotten stories, and DNA matches pulls us in different directions. Each direction is fun and has its value. But our research may also lead us somewhere unexpected.

It led me to identify so strongly with Grandpa Iamarino's hometown that I'm willing to spend all my time documenting townspeople from 300 years ago.

Having an ultimate goal can keep you focused. When you have only a little bit of time to spend on your family tree, your goal tells you how best to spend it.

For instance, I'm now working my way through the 1809 Colle Sannita marriages. I can place nearly every couple in my family tree. But I'm going further. I'm stretching them as far back as the records allow. And I'm finding and following their children.

I feel happier and more fulfilled by having this genealogy goal.

Your ultimate genealogy goal may also take a long time to evolve. Think about which parts of the process make you the happiest. Does a particular branch of your family tree speak to you the loudest? And which goal will benefit countless other researchers for a long time to come?

What will your goal be?


  1. Great to read how your research evolved.

  2. Today I finished this project!!! I reviewed every available document from the town, 1809-1942 (with gaps), and fit everyone possible into my family tree. Things went a lot faster once I quit my day job. :-)