Why & How to Research Descendants!

What do I mean by “Research descendants”? The traditional method of ancestor research is looking back into history to trace your families heritage by locating parents and grandparents of your known ancestors and then continuing on and on until you are unable to search back any further.

So… Why then would I have any interest in looking forward to the present time while researching my family history? The short answer is… STORIES and more information!

During my research, I have been able to learn of, meet and hear many stories from individuals who descend from the same ancestors that I do! It helps a bit that my great-great grandfather had 11 children- so I have LOTS of family to hear things from!

The most effective way I have found to get in touch with other descendants from your family tree is to talk to your family members, obtain names and phone numbers. Reach out to these people and ask to “talk family”. Offer to share what you know and ask if they can help fill in the blanks and offer more information (photos, letters, stories…) This will undoubtedly add so much to your family research! *** Also remember that often, your family will refer to individuals by their nickname or a shortened version of their name, so make sure you clarify who each individual is that they are speaking of.

Another way I have gone about finding descendants from my family tree is by using names of my great grandfather’s siblings and their spouses names (names and some birth/death dates received from family that I already know). I then plug the last name the child these people would have, dates that would be appropriate for a child born to them, and the parent’s names (using the mother’s maiden name – if I know it) into a search engine such as the MN historical society birth index, ancestry.com or familysearch.org.  Then I “scroll” through the names provided and look for matches with information I already know. If there is a match between the fathers name, mother’s maiden name, last name and approximate birth date… I do more checking into that birth.  * Please note, I do not take this as positively a match for my family unless other information I find backs it up!

After I have a “possible match”, I will then search public records, census records and death records to attempt to confirm or disprove this as a match.

A great resource to help narrow searches of descendants in your family history are obituaries. Obituaries often list a number of descendants and can help provide names, as well as provide a general idea of generations of living family.

Once you have a confirmed match for your tree, it could be helpful to reach out to that individual or family branch. I have done this several ways. I have contacted family by email, letter through the mail, by asking a mutually known family member to connect us, and also through Facebook. Another way to go about this would be to connect with another person via the messaging feature on Ancestry.com or another research site.

It can be very exciting to connect with someone you have not met regarding your family history, but keep a few things in mind…

  1. Be polite, NOT creepy! – Introduce yourself, explain how you believe you are connected with this other person. ASK, DON’T ASSUME if they would be willing to hear you out and maybe share some family stories.
  2. Do not expect them to have the same level of excitement as you do at first (or maybe ever).
  3. Know that they may have a painful past or history that they do not want to share. Be respectful of that and just leave them your contact information in case they or any other of your shared descendants would like to speak with you further.
  4. Don’t share too much right away. Be sure to share enough so they know how you are connected to them, but do not go into a great deal of information in written or verbal form until they are ready for more dialogue.
  5. If you set up a time to meet with them, make sure to bring another family member along with you so you have safety in numbers, and also so that you can share this family history experience with another family member.
  6. Do not assume you and your research are always right. It is always possible you have made a mistake in your research somewhere along the way. Maybe a family member remembered something incorrectly or didn’t divulge all the details of a story. Be open to what other individuals from your family say. Take good notes and research to find the facts.
  7. Have fun with this. Meet people and enjoy hearing and telling the history from your family! – Maybe even plan a huge “Extended Family Reunion”! Oh the things you could learn from a fun event like that!!!

 

As always, let me know if I can be of any help to you! Answering questions is free!!!

Thanks for reading. Happy searching!

 

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