Posted by Jeanie Croasmun on October 19, 2009 in Research

I can count my first cousins on one hand and still have a thumb to spare. So when author and family historian Crista Cowan told me how many living cousins she had tracked down in the course of just a handful of years, I was floored.

Crista would have needed nearly 1,000 of my hands – thumbs included.

It wasn’t just a giant family tree that Crista was trying to populate. She was gathering all of the living descendants of one of her own ancestors, a great-great-great-grandfather, for a family reunion. One very, very big family reunion.

Using a combination of Internet tools, genealogy tricks, and the kindness of relative strangers (who happened to be descendants of the same g-g-g-grandfather), Crista tracked down almost 5,000 living descendants of Samuel Milliner for the celebration of his 200th birthday last summer. Better still, Crista survived to talk about it – and to start planning another reunion for next summer.

Crista’s how-to tale is just one of the stories in the November/December issue of Ancestry magazine. You’ll also find features on how history affected courtship, spotting a child from another mother in a family tree, and the latest from columnists Myra Vanderpool Gormley, Howard Wolinsky, Megan Smolenyak Smoleyak, and more. Plus you’ll get to see what happened when we put our own family history wish-lists up for bid on Expert Connect at (hint: we’re all celebrating a bit early this year).

Ancestry magazine subscribers should start receiving the November/December issue this week. (Not a subscriber? You’ll also find individual copies in larger bookstores and on the Shop button at Or visit for articles and more information).

As always, I’d love to get your feedback on the articles we write. You can reach me via email at or become a fan of Ancestry magazine at Facebook and drop me a line there. And if there’s something you’d like to see Ancestry magazine cover in 2010, I definitely want to hear that, too.

Jeanie Croasmun

Jeanie Croasmun has been working at while futilely attempting to prove the horse thief story in her family history for over seven years. During that time, she learned enough about her family to determine that the story is likely a great work of fiction. But the search continues ...


  1. Why can’t I get onto it does not matter if I’m on my computers at home or any at the computers at the Library it will not let me on before or after I put my password in

  2. renae adams

    Wow that’s amazing!!! One day I hope I find that many cousins. Right now I stuck, but I’m not giving up!!!

  3. Roger Engelken

    I started researching my family in 1988 with some 500 family members. Now that number is 35,500 and still growing. All it takes is patient research. I’ve found first through ninth cousins, and in one line I am back sixteen generations. There are no royalty or prominent figures along the way. I just made contact with a sixth cousin in Hamburg. It’s those contacts and reading about the times and cultures that make this a motivating hobby and endeavor.

  4. Mandee

    can you give me any advice on this whole family tree thing. i dont know much about my real family but id like to which is my purpose in this whole thing. my dad was adopted at a young age and noone really will talk about his real family and i dont want to turn to him so im trying it on my own but it seems i dont know enough to find much of anything out. if you have any tips for me could you please let me know. thank you so much and good luck to you!


  5. Andy Hatchett

    Mandee Re;#5

    Finding people on post 1930 people can be difficult due to the lack of post 1930 records online. In particular, adoption records tend to be *very* hard to come by so unless you know the names of his real parents you are in for a very long, and most likely frustrating, search.

    Check the Learning Center here on Ancestry for info on tracking adoptees.

    Good Luck

  6. Andy Hatchett

    Where does it require that?

    If the person is already in your tree you simply attach them to whatever other person you want- no duplicate entries are needed.

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