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    Discovering Present Day "Cousins"

    An enjoyable aspect of researching and writing about your family history consists of finding present day "cousins," descendants of your ancestors. As I've delved into my various family lines, I've made the acquaintance of descendants of great aunts and uncles.

    What fun to correspond with them and even meet them in person. This enlarges the picture we may have of an ancestor and gives us more family members to share with.

    Leaving a Trail

    Whenever I've researched and corresponded with historical societies, libraries, and genealogical societies, I've included information about contacting me. This might include name, address, phone number and e-mail. I've also traced "cousins" who did this, too.

    When researching my Great Uncle William (Buffalo Bill) Mathewson who settled in Kansas Territory in the mid-1800s after growing up in New York State, I kept running across the name a name of another researcher. But when I wrote to her known addresses, I was always too late because she had moved.

    Eventually a librarian at a historical society looked up people with her same surname in the phone directory and sent me their addresses. I wrote to all three and found one was her mother-in-law! What fun finally to get in contact with this the researcher, hare information and develop a friendship.

    Another Mathewson descendant came across my name and phone number at a library in Wichita, Kansas. She called me and we became fast friends, even meeting when I visited her city.

    Placing Requests on Genealogical Sites

    Most of the genealogical sites have a place where you can sign in and leave a request for information about your ancestors. I've had "cousins" and others respond as much as a year later with information.

    Often people who simply enjoy researching will respond to your request and offer to send you information. I'd forgotten I'd placed a request for information about my Banks ancestors in Welton, Clinton County, Iowa on a site. Two years later someone living in that area responded with information I'd been searching for. He's not a "cousin" but has become a researching colleague.

    Listing Your Research Requests in Newsletters

    Some newsletters and family history magazines have places where you can list requests about family members you're searching for, or information you've found about a particular family you’re willing to share.

    Also, there are newsletters, such as those at where one can that list information or pictures you’ve come across that doesn't apply to your family but which you'd like to share with anyone connected with the unknown family. I did this recently with some old photos of my grandmother's about the Aikin, Shear, Hamlin, and Banks families on Quaker Hill in eastern New York State, USA.

    I've received requests for this information. In the midst of it I found connections between these photos and my grandmother's family and more information about the area where she grew up.

    Write Articles for Genealogical Magazines

    If you're also a writer, become involved in writing articles about some phase of your research for genealogical magazines or sites. For instance, my mentioning, in a previous e-Writers Place column, that I was researching Uncle William Mathewson and Madam Anna Bishop (who married my great grandmother's cousin), I received e-mail inquiries from "cousins" who also are searching for information about these two families.

    An article in another ezine about my Uncle George Mathewson, who died in the Civil War, resulted in responses from other Mathewson researchers. We didn't seem to be researching the same family branch, but further research might reveal otherwise.

    Enjoyment of the Search

    The enjoyment of genealogical research consists of having information pop up in unexpected places and making contact with "cousins" and other people who are willing to help and share.

    Sometimes you do reach dead ends, as we have with my husband's great grandfather, Wallace Enoch Allen, who seems to have dropped out of thin air with only a brief reference to the possibility of his father being George. But if we search long enough, we're very likely to find someone who "knows" him as well as more "cousins."

    Copyright © 2002 Mary Emma Allen

    Mary Emma Allen enjoys researching family history and writing her family stories. She will be teaching online classes on this topic in the near future. This fall she has a class scheduled at Plymouth (NH, USA) State College. Her many publications are listed on her Web site --

    The Authentic Self: Journaling Your Joys, Griefs and Everything in Between by Shery Russ

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