The Value of Collateral Lines

At the June 24, 2006 members meeting, Dr. Deborah Abbott outlined the importance of researching collateral lines (descendants from the same ancestor but not a direct line).

She recommended leaving no stone unturned – research siblings, half-siblings, aunts, uncles, in-laws, “outlaws” (ex in-laws), and others. Also check with elderly close friends of parents, as well as “play” aunts and uncles for information.

Ancestor names may appear in any number of official and unofficial documents. Check key players in the town of your forebears (such as doctors, lawyers, grocers, major property owners, etc.) -- since businesses require a variety of records, and various occupations served as administrators of property.

To tear down brick walls, you must sometimes re-think your strategy. Use all resources at your disposal. A seemingly unrelated lead may yield a larger find. For instance, if you cannot locate your ancestor on a census during a particular timeframe, he or she may be living with an in-law. If a parent’s name cannot be found on records of the ancestor you are looking for -- check the death, marriage, military (and other) records of the ancestor’s siblings. Along with oral history, home resources, interviews, census, and vital records on your direct line – also refer to city directories, newspapers, social security records, etc. on the indirect line.

Also, enter ancestor names on different Internet search engines, which at times produce different results. Keep in mind, too, that the Library of Congress has an excellent and vast photo collection.


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Last updated: August 10, 2006