My name is Kevin O’Brien. My Wife, Lisa, and I designed the 200-Year Challenge to help other people jump into the world of tracking down their Ancestors because of how much fun we’ve had with it.
Lisa started researching our family history on Ancestry.com and she would share nugget after nugget of incredibly interesting stories about both sides of our family. Lisa is an Aussie raised in Sydney and I’m Irish raised in California.
One evening Lisa announced, very excitedly, that my Great Grandmother was born in Sydney in the 1800's, and that my Great-Great Grandfather was buried there.
At 57-years old, to find out that I’m actually 1/8 Aussie was a really fun surprise for me, and I have been hooked on genealogy ever since!
Here's How The 200-Year Challenge Got Started
The 200-Year Challenge came to life as I was designing the big chart.
The big chart started off as a simple surprise for Lisa when I noticed how much she was flipping between a dozen or so hand-drawn charts trying to keep track of "who-belongs-with-who" on each branch of our family tree. We both love researching, but she definitely takes it a few notches higher and is the official record keeper in our family.
The Big-3 Research Websites (Ancestry, FamilySearch and MyHeritage) are magical in how easy they make it to search for our Direct Ancestors, but we can only see 30 or so people at a time on our computer screen, which makes it difficult to follow after a few generations (hence, the need for hand-drawn line extensions).
The Big-3 also didn't have a "recipe" for working on our family tree - just a "here's the billions of bits of data - have fun!" approach.
In trying to be a Useful Husband, I thought I would buy Lisa a fill-in-the-blanks Family Tree Chart that could save her from making up the custom line-extensions for each branch of our family.
It would also give her the framework - the beginning, middle and end to her project, which would be very satisfying to her to know how much she's accomplished - and how much further she had to go to complete her goal.
"Great idea", I thought, "I'll order one and surprise her with it for Mother's Day".
As I checked online on Amazon, Etsy and Target, I found dozens of Family Tree Charts, but nothing that would work for our needs - the charts were much too small or too confusing.
"No worries", I thought to myself,
"I can design one for her"
Not so easy, as it turns out. Six-months and dozens of revisions later I finally finished the design. That became the 7-Generation Chart.
Along the way, I figured out that Lisa could also use a journal of some sort to add more details about each of our Direct Ancestors. So I designed a Journal to do just that. She would use this journal to save her time when she was verifying info on a person she was researching.
As I put all of this together, I thought of my original search for a chart like this on Amazon, Etsy and Target ... which started me down the path of figuring out a way to share this with others. "Why hasn't someone done this already?" I thought "everyone that's working on their family tree would love to be able to have a tool like this".
The 200-Year Challenge is about Setting Goals
I love setting goals and Lisa loves setting goals.
There is a great sense of achievement when you finish.
The big chart I designed covered 200 years of our family, so that would
become our goal - naming all of our Direct Ancestors for the last 200-years.
This would become "The 200-Year Challenge"
The 200-Year Challenge was born
So there you have it - we put the 200-Year Challenge out to the world as a way to share some of the fun we've had in researching our own family tree over the last few years.
We'd print up and share some of our cool, new charts and Journals with everyone.
We would also share some of the other tools that we've discovered while doing our own research, so we put together a "Top-10 List Of The Most Useful Tools and Services For Working On Your Family Tree".
The charts, the Journal and the Top-10 List would be a big help for people who are just starting out - so we named the package "The $25 Family Tree Starter Kit".
The $25 Family Tree Starter Kit is like a recipe book that shows you exactly what you need to do to complete your own 200-Year Challenge.
The goal of The 200-Year Challenge website, charts, Journal and Top-10 List is to fast-track your research by eliminating most of the confusion and sharing the best tools and services.
We hope this helps : ))
Lisa and Kevin O'Brien
ps we are working on our own 200-Year Challenge and have identified 120 of our 124 Moms and Dads so far - it's been a lot of fun and well worth doing!