Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Cousin Book

Now that I have my DNA results back, the next step is how to work with it. Upon first receiving it, all I wanted to do is read about my ethnic diversity and then check out the cousins to see if I could find connections. When I did, my first thought was, "It's for real. It works." I am not doubting my ethnic diversity. Research has taught me that Americans are all things, but some of it was surprising. I had not connected any of my ancestors with some of the locals they originated. There was an overwhelming amount of information to take in, so the next step was to get it organized.

So, I started a "Cousin Book".  Each person I've genetically connected to, I will make a page for. First, I record their identifier. Some people use their names, others, initials, others a screen name or nickname. This will help me remember who is who when they reply back.

Then I record whether or not I've emailed them yet, and whether or not they've replied back. Some people have not connected to a family tree. Others, their trees are private. People take the test for different reasons. Some, like me, are trying to expand on their research and break down brickwalls. Others, seem to know little to nothing about their background and just wanted to know a little bit about their genetic background and nothing else.

Some people want to connect to cousins. Some don't. So you might be able to learn how you are related, and you might not.

Some are obvious from first glance. The first cousin I came to, I recognized names in the family tree right away. We are related in several different lines, although we live far apart in miles. A large group of citizens from the same little community had decided to move west together in the 1890's, most of them related. After arriving to their destination, the families continued to remain closely connected, marrying within the same little North Carolina group. I descend from those who stayed and my triple/quadruple 3rd/4th cousin descends from those who migrated, and because both sets married within the same little family groupings for a generation or two, we wound up with multiple cousin connections.

If Ancestry, which is a computer program, by the way, finds an immediate match, she pops up with a family tree, showing the connections. However, if anything is off by a number or letter, she can not make the connection. In one such case, she connected me to a person I'm actually one generation more closely connected to than she had us at. There was the patriarch, but his son this cousin and I descend from is shown as two different persons, when actually he's the same person. We had his birth year off by one year. I am not sure which of us is right, but he is the same ancestor.

The next step is to record the surnames we have in common, and then to check out the locations of ancestor origins we have in common. I have found the location to be more helpful than the names. Since I descend from the 'stayer's and my family has been here for so long, if a cousin is in say Oregon, or Iowa, or Texas, then it is the branch of their family who were born in Anson County, North Carolina or Union County, or Marlboro County, SC that we are connected by, no matter if the computer says we have that surname in common or not. 

I started different trees for different branches of my family in order to study them more in depth. The tree I connected to in my DNA test is my daughters, in which I could explore the family trees of her father, my older children's father and I haven't fleshed out my side of her tree very much yet. But it is the only one I'm actually listed in. The others start with a great, great grandparent or such. So, I might see a common surname  that I know is in my tree somewhere, but it's not showing up in the DNA connection, because I haven't gone that far down the line in my daughter's family tree.

In my cousin book, I will record any notes about possibilities. For instance, I might have a great, great grandmother with this surname, but I do not know who her parents were. This cousin has ancestors of the same surname from the same place, although they do not have my ancestor in their tree. This is the place I need to start.

It is difficult, nearly impossible, to research 20 family links at one time. I plan to start with the most plausible first, or either the most communicative cousin. Someone who is as excited as I am to make the connection and break down the wall, will be the easiest to connect to and then we can figure out how we are related.

The book will also help keep me organized, and a way to keep the information organized and keep track of it. I'll keep you posted on my discoveries.

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