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Genealogy HowTo
Issue: May 30, 2003

LESSON 6: Collateral line research
By Karen Clifford, AG, FUGA

A question that comes up in many research projects is: "Why work on collateral lines?"
First of all, what is a collateral line? This is a line that is not a direct relative. An example would be a great uncle or cousin. There are many reasons to gather information on a collateral line. Sometimes information on an uncle or a cousin can provide the missing piece of an otherwise confusing research puzzle. Consider the following example:

There was a grandfather of a certain family named Joshua Smith. He was born about 1802 in Kentucky. This Joshua settled in a certain county in Indiana and had several children. As research was gathered, a Joshua Smith of around the same age was found to be listed in several years of census records, in the vicinity of this county in Indiana. It was tradition in the family that Joshua's father, name unknown, had settled in this area of Indiana around the same time that Joshua had moved there.

Land and property records were searched, but the information found in these records only added to the confusion because no relationship was stated to verify that Joshua's father had deeded any property to his name. There were two men living in the area at this time that were the right age to be Joshua's father; one Nathaniel Smith and the other Phanuel Smith. But which was his father?

This particular county was what genealogists call a "burned-out county." This means that many of the records had been lost in this county due to fire or other accident. No land record, will, or death record, which might have named his children, was found for Nathaniel Smith. However, a search of the county probate records brought to light a will for Phanuel Smith naming his children as well as his nieces and nephews including Joshua Smith, "the son of my deceased brother Nathaniel Smith." In this case, by searching for information on a great uncle, the connection to the direct-line ancestor was established.

Now it would be very easy to use MyTrees.com to search for the other branch of the family, download a GEDCOM, and graft the two families together using MyTrees Online or your personal genealogy software program. The former, "non-direct" family now provided the information to extend the family for additional generations.

In case two, the Ford family had settled quite early in a parish in Louisiana. The difficulty of research on this family was due to their common surname as well as the fact that they named their children after the patriarch, John Wesley Ford. Often there were two or three John W. Fords of the same generation, living in this parish in Louisiana. To make things more confusing there were two John Fords of nearly the same age, both of whom had a wife named Mary. It would be tough discovering which John Ford was the direct-line ancestor.

The family remembered a story about an Uncle Harley, brother to their grandfather John W. Ford, who had taken off to the north during the Civil War to join the Union army. While it had very likely been upsetting to this southern family, Harley Ford's pension papers provided a goldmine of information including the names of his siblings, his parents, his birthplace and dates. This record provided enough information that the family now knew which John W. Ford belonged to them.

The act of carefully unwinding the various roots of the family tree pays great rewards. When you come to a brick wall in your research, don't forget to look at those collateral lines. "Uncle Harley" may provide the missing information you need to get over that wall and on with your research!

Article written by Karen Clifford from Genealogy Research Associates. Sponsored by MyTrees.com.

Copyright © 2011 Karen Clifford. All rights reserved.

No reproduction of this article may be used without the express written permission of the author.

Newsletters

Select Newsletter by Issue or Topic:

Genealogy HowTo
Issue: May 30, 2003

LESSON 6: Collateral line research
By Karen Clifford, AG, FUGA

A question that comes up in many research projects is: "Why work on collateral lines?"
First of all, what is a collateral line? This is a line that is not a direct relative. An example would be a great uncle or cousin. There are many reasons to gather information on a collateral line. Sometimes information on an uncle or a cousin can provide the missing piece of an otherwise confusing research puzzle. Consider the following example:

There was a grandfather of a certain family named Joshua Smith. He was born about 1802 in Kentucky. This Joshua settled in a certain county in Indiana and had several children. As research was gathered, a Joshua Smith of around the same age was found to be listed in several years of census records, in the vicinity of this county in Indiana. It was tradition in the family that Joshua's father, name unknown, had settled in this area of Indiana around the same time that Joshua had moved there.

Land and property records were searched, but the information found in these records only added to the confusion because no relationship was stated to verify that Joshua's father had deeded any property to his name. There were two men living in the area at this time that were the right age to be Joshua's father; one Nathaniel Smith and the other Phanuel Smith. But which was his father?

This particular county was what genealogists call a "burned-out county." This means that many of the records had been lost in this county due to fire or other accident. No land record, will, or death record, which might have named his children, was found for Nathaniel Smith. However, a search of the county probate records brought to light a will for Phanuel Smith naming his children as well as his nieces and nephews including Joshua Smith, "the son of my deceased brother Nathaniel Smith." In this case, by searching for information on a great uncle, the connection to the direct-line ancestor was established.

Now it would be very easy to use MyTrees.com to search for the other branch of the family, download a GEDCOM, and graft the two families together using MyTrees Online or your personal genealogy software program. The former, "non-direct" family now provided the information to extend the family for additional generations.

In case two, the Ford family had settled quite early in a parish in Louisiana. The difficulty of research on this family was due to their common surname as well as the fact that they named their children after the patriarch, John Wesley Ford. Often there were two or three John W. Fords of the same generation, living in this parish in Louisiana. To make things more confusing there were two John Fords of nearly the same age, both of whom had a wife named Mary. It would be tough discovering which John Ford was the direct-line ancestor.

The family remembered a story about an Uncle Harley, brother to their grandfather John W. Ford, who had taken off to the north during the Civil War to join the Union army. While it had very likely been upsetting to this southern family, Harley Ford's pension papers provided a goldmine of information including the names of his siblings, his parents, his birthplace and dates. This record provided enough information that the family now knew which John W. Ford belonged to them.

The act of carefully unwinding the various roots of the family tree pays great rewards. When you come to a brick wall in your research, don't forget to look at those collateral lines. "Uncle Harley" may provide the missing information you need to get over that wall and on with your research!

Article written by Karen Clifford from Genealogy Research Associates. Sponsored by MyTrees.com.

Copyright © 2011 Karen Clifford. All rights reserved.

No reproduction of this article may be used without the express written permission of the author.

Newsletters

Select Newsletter by Issue or Topic:

Genealogy HowTo
Issue: May 30, 2003

LESSON 6: Collateral line research
By Karen Clifford, AG, FUGA

A question that comes up in many research projects is: "Why work on collateral lines?"
First of all, what is a collateral line? This is a line that is not a direct relative. An example would be a great uncle or cousin. There are many reasons to gather information on a collateral line. Sometimes information on an uncle or a cousin can provide the missing piece of an otherwise confusing research puzzle. Consider the following example:

There was a grandfather of a certain family named Joshua Smith. He was born about 1802 in Kentucky. This Joshua settled in a certain county in Indiana and had several children. As research was gathered, a Joshua Smith of around the same age was found to be listed in several years of census records, in the vicinity of this county in Indiana. It was tradition in the family that Joshua's father, name unknown, had settled in this area of Indiana around the same time that Joshua had moved there.

Land and property records were searched, but the information found in these records only added to the confusion because no relationship was stated to verify that Joshua's father had deeded any property to his name. There were two men living in the area at this time that were the right age to be Joshua's father; one Nathaniel Smith and the other Phanuel Smith. But which was his father?

This particular county was what genealogists call a "burned-out county." This means that many of the records had been lost in this county due to fire or other accident. No land record, will, or death record, which might have named his children, was found for Nathaniel Smith. However, a search of the county probate records brought to light a will for Phanuel Smith naming his children as well as his nieces and nephews including Joshua Smith, "the son of my deceased brother Nathaniel Smith." In this case, by searching for information on a great uncle, the connection to the direct-line ancestor was established.

Now it would be very easy to use MyTrees.com to search for the other branch of the family, download a GEDCOM, and graft the two families together using MyTrees Online or your personal genealogy software program. The former, "non-direct" family now provided the information to extend the family for additional generations.

In case two, the Ford family had settled quite early in a parish in Louisiana. The difficulty of research on this family was due to their common surname as well as the fact that they named their children after the patriarch, John Wesley Ford. Often there were two or three John W. Fords of the same generation, living in this parish in Louisiana. To make things more confusing there were two John Fords of nearly the same age, both of whom had a wife named Mary. It would be tough discovering which John Ford was the direct-line ancestor.

The family remembered a story about an Uncle Harley, brother to their grandfather John W. Ford, who had taken off to the north during the Civil War to join the Union army. While it had very likely been upsetting to this southern family, Harley Ford's pension papers provided a goldmine of information including the names of his siblings, his parents, his birthplace and dates. This record provided enough information that the family now knew which John W. Ford belonged to them.

The act of carefully unwinding the various roots of the family tree pays great rewards. When you come to a brick wall in your research, don't forget to look at those collateral lines. "Uncle Harley" may provide the missing information you need to get over that wall and on with your research!

Article written by Karen Clifford from Genealogy Research Associates. Sponsored by MyTrees.com.

Copyright © 2011 Karen Clifford. All rights reserved.

No reproduction of this article may be used without the express written permission of the author.

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