I think anyone who has ever done any cousin fishing has asked or been asked the question about degree of relationship.
Are you my first cousin once removed, no maybe you are my second cousin. The waters get muddied pretty quickly. Here is a short video that will help you become confident with explaining cousin relationships.
Two of my favorite things are newly discovered cousins and old photographs.
The name dusty roots and forgotten treasures is a subtle shout out to that. Most of my roots were dusty and forgotten until I set out to dig them up.
Every day I dig, and I am constantly rewarded with the discovery of amazing historic treasures. Not monetary treasures, I will never die rich, but I have a wealth that is incomparable to a stack of cash.
Recently I hit the lotto when it comes to the family history
I connected with some cousins that I had never met before
and not only has it been wonderful to connect with this newly reconnected
branch on the family tree, I was also rewarded with being able to get copies of
many priceless photographs.
Photographs I had never seen before. Photographs of people who have some of the same features that I do. Enough photographs to help fill in the gaps of photographs on one family line to the point that I now have a photographic timeline of NINE generations!
I’m always excited to connect with relatives because it gives me the opportunity to share the family history gold I find. On those instances where I find myself on the receiving end of such wonderful bounty it feels like karma is rewarding my genealogical good deeds. I get smiled on by the karma gods of genealogy a lot.
I have really been blessed.
To accomplish this great feat of 9 photograph generations it took a lot of people to share their treasures with me. I have had distant cousins mail me packages of photocopies from the opposite side of the country. I get emails from cousins filling my inbox full of priceless photographs decades old. I get text messages from relatives as they make road trips and can visit long forgotten family cemeteries that I may never get the opportunity to visit for myself.
Often in various genealogical groups I see people that are upset that people are not sharing with them on sites such as ancestry. I have not run into that a lot. Most people are very generous with me.
These are my 4 tried and true tips for breaking the ice with
cousins and opening the door to sharing of information and photographs.
Approach newly discovered cousins with a gift of your genealogical treasure. Do you know some information that might not be common knowledge? Do you have an old photograph that you can share a copy? Can you share information about how you and the cousin are connected? Generosity often begets generosity. It is a great way to break the ice.
Be willing to let information simmer. If you send a message off to a cousin and get no response just let it go. There is no way to know what another individual has experienced. For some people family history can be a traumatic experience or information that you reveal might be shocking or confusing. Stalking an individual with repeated follow up messages will probably not make a new friend.
Show gratitude. If contact with a cousin results in nothing of use to you personally at least thank them for their time. They may not have any information for you currently but if you make a positive impression, they are more likely to recall you in the future if or when they encounter information or someone that has information.
Family photographs used to be rare and hard to copy. Today with great cell phone cameras in most pockets and handheld scanners available at affordable prices there is no reason to suggest ever taking possession of someone’s treasured original photograph. You want to irk Great Aunt Betty? Take her priceless heirloom photograph out of her site. Quietly get a copy if you can and thank her profusely for the privilege and then for goodness sake put it back exactly where and how you found it!
Do you have any tips and tricks for getting people to share
their genealogical treasures?
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I have been dedicating a great deal of my time on working on genealogy cases
for others and less on my own. I discovered genetic genealogy and I fell down a
wonderful rabbit hole of exciting new tools and uses for my love of genealogy
by happenstance I discovered the power of genetic genealogy while assisting an
individual who showed up on ancestryDNA matches. Through messaging with a
mutual cousin, I discovered this cousin was an adoptee in search of his
I love a good puzzle so I couldn’t resist jumping headlong into this challenge
took me a couple weeks to crack the mystery. It was a long and winding road
that involved not just this cousin’s adoption but also the fact that his father
was the child of an adoption like process also. Once I put together the scientific
puzzle, I discovered a newspaper article that helped fill in further pieces and
finally one of the older generation relatives revealed information that had
been a poorly kept family secret for decades.
The cousin was happy to have someone finally tell him the truth about his parentage and I was overjoyed to have assisted in bringing him that information. I had a mission.
Shortly after the conclusion of this case I sent off an inquiry to join a non-profit organization called Search Angels and have now been spending my spare time assisting adoptees or estranged individuals use DNA and genealogical research to reunite them with their ancestral heritage.
Are you the product of an adoption confused by the process of figuring out who your biological family is? Consider search angels or a similar organization to help navigate the complex analysis of genetic information. You might even get me working on your case!
When it comes to ancestors things have a way of accelerating quickly from one generation one the next. What starts as one person with two parents, becomes four grandparents, eight great grandparents, 16 great- great grandparents, and so on and so forth. At ten generations, a person has 2,046 ancestors. Each generation is twice the number of the generation that came before.
We have four basic types of blood relations: ancestors, siblings, aunts/uncles, and cousins.
Most of a person’s blood relatives are cousins. At any given time, most people will have thousands if not millions of cousins of varying degrees. First cousins, those who share the same set of grandparents will be the closest and share 12.5% of DNA. The more distant the connection, less shared DNA. Third cousins, who share a set of great-great grandparents, can expect to share less than 1% of DNA.
One thing I constantly struggle with when it comes to genealogy is determining how people are related. Even after decades of genealogy, I still use a cousin calculator for most extended relationships. The article below has a great explanation of how to calculate distant relationships.
How, exactly, are you related to the child of your great-great-grandmother’s sister’s son? We’ll explain the steps to calculating cousinhood.