Reverse Engineering Your Family Tree Using Collateral Lines
A family tree is a pretty basic concept to understand; two ancestors have children, their children have children, and so forth, down to the present day with you and me. Each set of children is what we refer to as a generation. Each generation adds more branches to the tree.
Your direct ancestral line comes through only one of the children of each of your ancestors. Did you ever stop to think about the descendants of the other children? Not only will you find that many other researchers connect to your same ancestors, but you may even connect to the same ancestor more than once. Depending on how many generations back the common ancestor is there may be hundreds or thousands of descendants alive today. One may be your neighbor, your friend, or even your spouse!
Another advantage to researching collateral lines is that it could result in adding more ancestors to your family tree. As you meet and collaborate with your distant cousins they may have information and stories about your ancestors.
When submitting your family tree to OneGreatFamily, make sure you include as many relationships as possible. Sibling relationships are very important to include at OneGreatFamily because relationships are the primary source of information for OneGreatFamily to be able to match your genealogy with those that have been submitted by others. Accurate dates and places for events, while important, are not as valuable as actual family relationships.
How do I reverse engineer my family tree?
Let's start with reverse engineering a smaller family tree to better understand the concept. Suppose your grandparents on your father's side had five children. Being a child to any one of the five children would make you a cousin to the children of any of the other five siblings. The concept of "reverse engineering" your family tree is to look at all of the collateral information that is available in your family tree. Start by tracing your family tree back to a common ancestor (your grandfather in this case). Now, instead of looking at your father and your family, trace the descendancy of one of his siblings.
With OneGreatFamily, you can easily "Reverse Engineer Your Family Tree" and see just who you are related to. Collateral lines often help fill gaps with your own direct ancestral line. See below for instructions on how to View an Ancestor's Descendancy.
What are the benefits of reverse engineering my family tree?
Reverse engineering your family tree allows you to find relatives that you otherwise may not have found. Families tend to migrate together, so finding a brother, sister, or cousin of your ancestor may lead to the discovery of records for YOUR direct line ancestor as well. You can also see if any of your direct line ancestors have any famous descendants by tracing the various lines of descendancy. Some of the most exciting relations that you can find are relatives that are still living today!
With OneGreatFamily, not only can you trace these lines to your distant relatives, but you can also communicate with many of them! When you find a living relative, or any ancestor for that matter, you can use the Collaboration feature to get in touch with the submitter.
For those genealogists who are dedicated to finding their direct ancestors, reverse engineering can also be particularly helpful. When you are stuck on a certain line, having data on the siblings and children of the ancestor you are looking for can aid in finding data for them.
Many people enjoy genealogy because of the stories and information they learn about their ancestors. The reverse engineering technique can increase that learning by making it possible to gain knowledge about your "very-extended" family. By knowing about your ancestor's immediate family, you can learn more about who they were.