Monday, 21 May 2012

Extending Your Family Tree

When you first start your genealogical research your family tree will naturally be very limited. It will most likely include only brothers and sisters, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. As you carry out your research your family tree will grow, or even blossom! As a result, it is important to be able to keep track of all of the links between ancestors.

Your genealogical direct line extends with every past generation that you discover. Your parents and grandparents are simple enough in the way that they are displayed in your family tree, but each successive generation has the prefix "great" added to it. As you research your ancestry you might discover your great-great-great-great-great grandfather. This is obviously quite a cumbersome way of recording an ancestor, and so it is common to write great (x5) grandfather. 

If you are anything like me your main interest will be trying to find ancestors going back as far as possible. I started my ancestry research by working backwards from my father, and then my mother. It was only when I started to struggle to discover a further generation that I turned my attention towards extended family members, such as my direct ancestors' brothers and sisters. When you are using pay to view websites such as Scotland's People it can be very expensive to research these extended family members. It is much more efficient to use subscription websites, or to spend a day at the Scotland's People Centre or the National Archives.

When it comes to cousins there is a slightly confusing method of recording relations. It is well known that the children of your aunts and uncles are your first cousins. Your child, and your first cousin's child, are second cousins to each other. However, your first cousin's child is your first cousin once removed. Your first cousin's grandchild would be your first cousin twice removed, etc. When describing the cousins of your direct ancestors it is common practise to write, for example, "great-grandfather's second cousin."

Marriages and remarriages due to bereavement can add a further complication. It is quite common to find ancestors with step-siblings or half-siblings due to their parents remarrying. One thing to be wary of is that nineteenth century census returns often list children in this situation as a son-in-law or daughter-in-law. This simply means step-son or step-daughter.

When all of these factors are taken into account it can be seen that extending your family tree can be a complicated business, but I find that that is what makes it so interesting.

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