Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim

Because it was grassy and wanted wear,

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I marked the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost…

…shared in a forum talk at BYU, April 4, 1961

On the morning of April 4, 1961, I joined the other thirty two students in Mr. Clark’s 6th Grade Class, and single file, we walked the three and a half blocks to the Joseph F. Smith Fieldhouse on the BYU campus, to listen to one of America’s greatest poets, Robert Frost. We sat on the old wooden bleachers on the west side of the basketball court, which had been covered with chairs and a podium for the speaker. He shared personal experiences with us and read a number of his poems, including “The Road Not Taken”. When the program was over I worked my way to the podium to shake the hand of this great man. He wrote his signature on a scrap of paper that I have stored in my box of treasures to this day.

The words of his poem have stayed with me over the years, as time and time again I have come upon my own “roads diverging in the woods”…completing an Eagle award in Scouting, choosing to go on an LDS Mission, completing a second college degree in a topic my family really wondered about – Genealogy Technology, choosing a wonderful woman to take to the House of the Lord for Eternity, and many more such roads. I’ve also taken roads “more” traveled, and have wasted weeks, months, and even years retracing steps in order to follow the right path.

The Other Road

In genealogy research many people follow the road “more” traveled, wanting the easier route to the top of the hill, and overlooking the other way because of its ‘grassy and wanting wear” nature. These genealogy travelers struggle on with difficulties, not finding their desired answers; and oft times give up the search, never returning to the less traveled road. As a professional genealogist I spend my time helping others, like the proverbial Indian tracker searching for the right trail by reading the bent twigs and footprints of long past travelers, and eventually getting my people on the correct road. My job is to help them find the right way, the less traveled road.

In such a recent genealogy search a client had struggled to find the marriage of a grandparent. Their family records included death records, obituaries, and a certificate of naturalization. Census searches, court minutes, and other research failed to identify the desired marriage record; and circumstances suggested the possibility that a marriage had not even occurred. But recognizing the broken sticks and bent grass of the trail, I recalled the importance of finding the application for naturalization (called the Petition), and that document provided the needed marriage date and place along with other family information.

Robert Frost did not look at his divergent roads in terms of right and wrong, only as different. But in the genealogy analogy our roads lead to destinations. Choosing one road over the other may result in missing vital information about our ancestors, and could take us away from our desired goal. The first road may seem more familiar because it is well traveled, like the refrain of family traditions, and the tempting byways of Internet gossip. The second route may seem difficult, but in overcoming documentary obstacles we find a course that is sure and built upon firm ground. By seeking out additional documentation on less traveled roads, we can find success. We are then able to mark the path for others to follow to our family history. Nevertheless, even with a well-marked road, the lure of fame, fortune, pride and family tradition, often lead travelers the other way, down the well-used road of popular ancestry. It has ever been the case in this life for people to seek the most traveled route, the easy way or worldly attachments by claiming kin to the famous, the rich, and royalty. When you next find divergent roads in your genealogical research, choose the road less traveled.

“…Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

James W. Petty, AG, CG is the Board-Certified and Accredited Professional Genealogist, “Climbing the Family Tree Professionally Since 1969”.  He is President of HEIRLINES Family History & Genealogy, Inc. (, the “Salt Lake City, Utah BBB Accredited Business” trusted professional genealogy research services firm, providing US and International genealogical and historical research for a world-wide clientele.

For Heirlines-Quality professional genealogy services, resources, and products including expert family tree research, LDS family history assistance, and answers to genealogy questions, please see Jim’s website and his blog Heirlines: We professionally identify and document ancestry and kinship relationships and verify and certify the family tree with Certified Family Trees and Certified Forensic Genealogy Solutions#8482;. We’re ready when you’re ready!