When conducting genealogy research, be sure to research extended family members to find out more information regarding your ancestors or your research subjects. Given that I share common ancestors with my cousins or aunts and uncles, I am often able to locate more information regarding my own ancestry, such as where my ancestors were born, by researching my extended family members.
Identifying my 3rd Great Grandfather
Researching my extended family was particularly helpful in identifying my 3rd great grandfather. Approximately eight years ago, my grandmother informed me that my 3rd great grandfather had immigrated to Philadelphia from Russia (present day Lithuania). She also indicated that my 3rd great grandfather had multiple children who also immigrated to Philadelphia. She knew that he had a different surname than his grandson (my great-grandfather), but she did not know his name. However, she knew the married names of some of his daughters (my 3rd great aunts).
By using his daughter’s surnames, I eventually located a 1930 U.S. census that included one of my 3rd great grandfather’s daughters. In the census, the daughter was also residing with her father (my 3rd great grandfather), her mother (my 3rd great grandfather’s second wife), and her husband. By locating the 1930 U.S. census, I learned, among other things, the name of my third great grandfather, his birthplace, year of immigration, and naturalization. I was then able to locate him and more of his family members in the 1910 and 1920 U.S. censuses.
Below is a photo of some of my 3rd great grandfather’s children and spouses attending a family function in the 1960s.
Search Variety of Sources
In addition to census documents, a variety of sources regarding extended family members should be consulted. For instance, death certificates of extended family members are particularly helpful. Let’s say that you do not know the name of your second great grandfather. In addition, you are unable to locate your great grandfather’s death certificate, which would have provided his father’s name. Instead, try locating the death certificate of one of your great grandfather’s siblings. If you locate that death certificate, you should be able to find out the name of your second great grandfather.
Furthermore, search for obituaries of extended family members. As mentioned in my previous blog post, The Importance of Locating Obituaries, obituaries are a great resource for building family trees. They often identify, among other things, spouses, siblings, children, grandchildren, and maiden names.
Consider also locating your extended family members’ naturalization documents, passenger lists, social security applications, marriage records, and other genealogical records.
Thus, when working on your family tree, do not focus solely on researching your ancestors. Be sure to branch out and research your extended family members. Locate various sources regarding your extended family members, such as censuses, death certificates, and obituaries, to name a few. By doing so, your family tree will certainly grow, and you will learn more about your ancestry.