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OneGreatFamily Guest Newsletter

July 6, 2006

Find Other Living Relatives at OneGreatFamily

In This Issue:

Find Other Living Relatives at OneGreatFamily

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. These relationships provide 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. Viewing the descendants of any ancestor is easy using Genealogy Browser™:

  1. Launch Genealogy Browser and find the desired ancestor in the pedigree (Starfield View)
  2. Select the desired ancestor within the pedigree (Starfield View) by double clicking on the box with the individual's name to put them into the selected individual box in the handprint view.
  3. Click on the descendancy icon in the toolbar OR select Starfield-Show Descendancy from the View menu within Genealogy Browser (see images below).
  4. The descendants of the selected ancestor will now appear to the left of the pedigree (Starfield View).  Navigating and viewing collateral lines in the Starfield View may be slower depending on the number of descendants shown.

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.

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Receive a Free Genealogy Book When You Sign Up Before July 9th

Get a Free Copy of the Genealogy Reference Book "Evidence!" When You Become a Member of OneGreatFamily.

Until July 9th, OneGreatFamily is offering a bonus to all guests who sign up for an annual subscription. Once you sign up, you will receive a free copy of the book Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian by Elizabeth Shown Mills. Take advantage of this special bonus offer, valued at $21.95. This offer will end July 9th.

Here is a little bit about this very informative book:

"Genealogy attracts a stunning mix of people. Hobbyists curious about their ancestry. Genetics in search of medical breakthroughs. Legal researchers gathering evidence to defend individual or ethnic rights. Anthropologists, archeologists, demographers, geographers, historians, and sociologists probing the past to better understand the present. Evidence! provides a common ground upon which all can meet, speak the same language, and share the results - reliably." Evidence!, Back Cover

What a great combo: offers you an additional unique way to advance your genealogy and Evidence! helps you understand how to research with a minimum of wasted time and funds. Subscribe today to take advantage of this bonus offer.

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Lisa Lights the Way

Federal Census Records

by Lisa South, Certified Genealogist

The following article was written in the July 7, 2005 OneGreatFamily newsletter. Since Lisa is no longer writing for us, we are featuring some of our favorite articles written by her.

In 1974, I actually had to travel from Texas to the National Archives in Washington, D.C. to gain access to the 1900 census. We used to have to search through an entire county - house by house. Now, with a few strokes on a keyboard or a quick trip to the library, you are usually able to find the census record you are interested in. Census research has come a long way and it is a great boon to the genealogist!

Federal Censuses began to be taken in the U.S. in 1790 and were taken every ten years thereafter.

The first census just listed the head of the household and some statistical information about the family (how many girls, how many boys, etc.) Each census year the statistical information became a little more definitive.

In 1850, the census takers were instructed to list every member of the household with his or her age and birthplace. Each census thereafter became a little more comprehensive. In 1880, the birthplace of each person’s parents was listed. Tragically, almost the entire 1890 census was destroyed by fire in 1921, and a few of the very early census records are missing.

By law, census data cannot be made public for 72 years. So far, the government has released all the census records through 1930, and almost all of these have been indexed.

In 1885, due to additional funds available, the government allowed each state to take an additional census if they desired; only Florida, Colorado, Nebraska, and the territories of South Dakota and New Mexico availed themselves of this opportunity.

Census extraction forms are available online or at genealogical supply stores and make the work of extraction very easy. Be sure to document everything—the exact date the census was taken, the enumeration district, etc.

Be creative as you search for a name; try every possible variant. Evaluate census records carefully. They are a secondary source since you do not know who gave the information and the records are full of errors. They are, however, a great resource for putting families together, tracing their migration pattern, finding where an ancestor lived, etc.

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One Great Genealogy Site Award is a free genealogical biography database with biographies for your genealogy research. The site also offers links to other online biography sites to help you find your ancestors and surnames. The links directory includes thousands of online biography sites. You will find links to sites with collections that contain numerous biographies in each collection. You will also find links to individual biographies as well. You can search for your ancestors by entering a name or location, or you can see a list of all genealogy biographies in the database. The free genealogy database of biographies is growing rapidly, so check it out today!

  • Visit for more information.
  • See past award recipients.
  • Recommend a Site Award recipient.

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    Managing Editor: Heather Matthews
    Contributors: Heather Matthews, Lisa South and Rob Armstrong
    Editor: Lani Hyer

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