Last weekâ€™s Ancestry Weekly Journal included a Weekly Planner item from Juliana about collateral relativesÂ that made me stop and think about my own collateral research. If I hadnâ€™t researched one great-grandfatherâ€™s brother, I may never have found the place they left in Scotland (Arbroath) and would have missed the death and burial place for my great-great-grandparents.
If I hadnâ€™t researched my grandfatherâ€™s siblings, I would not have known about the relatives still living in Ireland–all those collateral relatives that eventually immigrated to Boston and to Omaha. Nor would I have been visited by relatives from the Dingle Peninsula.
If I hadnâ€™t researched another great-grandmotherâ€™s siblings, I would not have received some very neat pictures, articles, and more. I would not have known that they sent coffee to their relatives in Sweden during WWII, leading me to eventually contact descendants of those relatives.
If I hadnâ€™t researched one more great-grandmotherâ€™s siblings, I would not have learned that I was researching the wrong name. They werenâ€™t Irish or English Dows, but rather a French-Canadian name, Daoust!
And that is just part of what researching the collateral lines did for me. Donâ€™t enter just the direct line folks into your Family Tree Maker software. Enter all siblings, aunts, uncles, and even their spouses.
Check for obituaries and death certificates for those collaterals–the one you miss just might have the clue to the motherâ€™s correct maiden name. Look for those obituaries in the town where they died and also in the place where they used to live or where they grew up. Check out the obituary for Leah Ritter from Cambridge City, Indiana, on 12 January 1899. (It begins at the top of the second column.) After you read it, youâ€™re going to want to adopt this family as yours!
Research all those names of gift givers in the old baby and wedding albums. That James P. Gunckle who signed the book and mystified you might turn out to be a relative whose granddaughter is also working on the family history.
As you make contact with other relatives, ask them if they have memories and contact information for other family members. Ask them if anyone has a family Bible.
Gather military records for male collateral relatives. The Civil War pension record for great-grandpaâ€™s brother may list some places of residence that you didnâ€™t know about before.
The county history listing for great-grandmaâ€™s brother-in-law may have details on his wifeâ€™s family–your great-grandmaâ€™s sister.
Check out probates for even distant cousins. Your great-great-granduncleâ€™s daughterâ€™s son may have left a will stating that $1,000.00 is to be given to the parish in Germany where his grandparentâ€™s were married–clearly naming your ancestorâ€™s parish.
The state where your grandparents were married may be one where the marriage records donâ€™t give much more information than the date, name of bride and groom, ages, and officiant. Grandpaâ€™s sister Susan may have been married in a state such as Wisconsin where many of the older marriage records give the bride and groomâ€™s parentsâ€™ names, including the maiden names of the mothers.
That 1880 U.S. census that has a family on page 23 with the same surname as your family on page 21 is reaching out to tell you to figure no longer exists for your familyâ€™s state. Maybe those folks with the same surname moved to a state that took a state census that can help fill in for that destroyed 1890 federal census (e.g., 1894 State Census of Michigan, Minnesota State Censuses of 1885 and 1895, etc.).
Still canâ€™t figure out where in Arkansas Grandpa was born? What if his brother, Grover Hanley, is in the World War I draft records at Ancestry.com? Your grandpa was too young to be included in this draft, but Grover Harrison Hanley states that he was born in Clarksville, Johnson County, Arkansas.Â Itâ€™s at least a starting point for working on your grandpa.
One of the joys of reading old newspapers is the local news (a.k.a. gossip) column. Schedule a time to go the historical society for several hours to read them. Donâ€™t just look for your own grandparents going to dances, attending a wedding shower, or going to play cards. Look for other names that might be familiar. (Were they listed in the wedding album?) Seeing that Mrs. John Griffin went to her sister Mrs. Edward Hanleyâ€™s house for a luncheon might just add more family connections. What records do their descendants have?
Is all this work really worth it? You betcha! (Yes, I am from Minnesota.) What was my bonus from working on the collateral relatives? One picture of the family home on the Dingle Peninsula, two Irish parish names, one Scottish place of origin, death and burial dates and places for great-grandparents, family in Ireland and Sweden, a copy of my third great-grandfatherâ€™s 1830-1840s journal, meeting a Danish cousin with lots of family knowledge, meeting cousins who are now friends, getting pictures galore, and thatâ€™s just a hint of what the collateral research yielded for me.
Now, itâ€™s your turn. What have you found on collateral relatives? Share your story with us hereÂ on the blog.
Paula Stuart-Warren, CG, of Eden Prairie, Minnesota, is a professional genealogist, consultant, writer, and lecturer who is frequently on the road. She coordinates the American Records Course at the annual Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy. She writes for several periodicals including â€œAncestryâ€ Magazine. Comments and additions to her columns will reach her at PaulaStuartWarren@gmail.com or via her blog www.PaulaStuartWarren.blogspot.com. She regrets that she is unable to answer individual inquiries due to the volume of requests. From time to time, comments from readers may be quoted in her writings. Your name will not be used, but your place of residence might be listed (i.e., Salina, Kansas).
Paulaâ€™s Upcoming Events
(I enjoy meeting fellow genealogists at these events so please introduce yourself as an Ancestry Weekly Journal and 24/7 Family History Circle reader. Many of you do take me up on this suggestion!)
- 3-6 September 2008, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Federation of Genealogical Societies Annual ConferenceÂ
(Ancestry.com will have a big presence in the Exhibit Hall and throughout the conference.)
- 12-13 September 2008, Tampa, Florida
Florida Genealogical Society of Tampa Fall Seminar