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Rhonda's Tips: Genealogy Questions Answered
by Rhonda R. McClure

June 22, 2000
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Where Did it Come From?

Q: Where on earth did this information come from? I am surprised that I found our family, as most information was misspelled or incorrect. -- Spur1964

A: Many people have found some of their family history online. Usually this data has been submitted by another researcher who somehow shares a connection further down the line. It can be a frustrating experience though when the information is inaccurate.

However, seldom are we the only person who can claim a particular lineage. Now, granted, at the present time, I am the only person who can claim my children and I was distressed to find they had been submitted to a database by someone else. However, in this world of genealogy, sharing an entire database on a disk or sharing information through letters or forms to another pretty much leaves the door to the barn wide open.

Most web pages or family trees that have been submitted to a database have information about the supplier of that information. It may require that you do a search or submit a request, but eventually you can determine who submitted the information. It then is up to you to decide whether or not to pursue the issue with the submitter.

Keeping the Costs Down

Q: I would "like" to start a family tree. What is the least expensive route to do so? I will begin with my father's side. Comment? -- Leon

A: The most inexpensive way to trace your family history is to do it yourself. However, when a person is new, they often do not know all that they can accomplish.

When new, it is a good idea to get one or two books that look at what is involved in researching family history. Many of these books can be found at local bookstores.

One of the most important aspects of researching family history is to first talk to those living relatives to see what they may remember and then to work from the known to the unknown in the research phase. The more names, dates and places you get from family members, the more you have to work with.

One way to keep down expenses is to first see what has already been done. This can be accomplished by searching on-line databases. You will also want to see what records have been microfilmed. It is often cost-effective to rent microfilms through a local Family History Center than to write and request copies from each individual courthouse or other repository.

Understanding Relationships

Q: What is the relationship of First cousin's children to each other? For instance, what is my First Cousins daughter's relationship to my son. -- John

A: Cousin relationships are sometimes difficult to figure out. This can be especially true the further back two individuals connect. For instance, if two people descend from the same grandparent, then they are first cousins. If they descend from the same 3rd great grandparent, then they are fourth cousins.

Sometimes it is easier to figure out such a relationship going backwards than it is coming forward. However, the process is still the same. This chart may make it clearer for you.

  Grandparent  
Your Parent Siblings Your Cousin's Parent
     
You 1st Cousins Your Cousin
     
Your Son 2nd Cousins Your Cousin's Son

This chart shows that your son and your first cousin's daughter are second cousins.

Related to President McKinley?

Q: I live in Belfast Northern Ireland My name is Sam McElveen. I came across your questions page purely by accident. I wonder if you could tell me how I could confirm the following: I heard from an aunt (not long before she died) that our family is possibly related to President McKinley. I have found that My grandmothers maiden name was indeed McKinley. ( She died about 1935) My mother and father have been dead for quite a number of years and I have no other (old) relatives that could help. Where would you suggest I start? -- Sam

A: Family traditions, the stories told to us from older relatives, often have a grain or two of truth. They trick is to discover the truth. And many of us have heard family stories that claim relationship or descent from a famous individual.

Searching for such a connection requires that you not only research your own lineage, but that also of the famous individual in question. Then you need to compare the two and see if there is a connection between your lineage and that of the famous person.

The good news here is that part of the work has already been done where President McKinley is concerned. The Ancestral Table for President William McKinley has been put on-line through the generosity of Gary Boyd Roberts of the New England Historic Genealogical Society. Done in an ahnentafel, or ancestor table, you can see the parents and grandparents and great grandparents and so on for President McKinley.

It will still be necessary for you to do some research looking for the names of offspring for each generation to see just where, if at all, your lineage descends. Then armed with that, you can begin to determine how you are related to President McKinley. Additional information on the family of President McKinley may be on-line. To find it, you will want to use the various search engines.


Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at rhondagen@thegenealogist.com.

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