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Most family history novices have the perception that "genealogy" is tracing your lineage back to some "great"-grandfather down the line. There may have been an "Aunt Martha" somewhere in their family that has traced their lineage quite a ways back, giving these novices a false sense that "their family history is done".
If we looked at our 2nd great grandparents, we would have SIXTEEN descendant collateral lines to look at. If each of the 16 couples had 5 children, there are now 80 descendant lines to begin to trace coming forward. The number of descendant lines can increase so dramatically that it can soon overwhelm our minds as to how much research there can be.
What I find most enjoyable about tracing these descendant lines to our current time, is that I have found some actual LIVING cousins, whether they be 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc cousins. These cousins may be actively searching their ancestral lines, or maybe not. These cousins may have information or photos of YOUR direct lines ancestors that they can share with you. I have been handed a rich heritage of stories and photographs by two of my great grandmothers. I love sharing information I have about their ancestors with them.
Why would I have information about their lines? Think about it for a minute. What do we do when a child is born to our family, or one of our children marries, or an uncle dies? We share photos, stories, documents, newspaper clippings, send out announcements, etc, to our living family members (cousins, parents, and even grandparents). They now have copies of these, and if they do like so many families do, they save this information. Our ancestors did exactly the same thing…saving family information. I have old newspaper clippings that my grandparents and their parents clipped out of the newspaper because it referenced a known family member. I even have the actual whole small town newspaper pages from 1898.
In the fall of 2019, I was contacted by a collateral line 4th cousin that had a copy of my 2nd great grandfather Hudson's siblings that were listed in a family bible. Talk about being ecstatic, because that "dead-end line" now just opened up. Collaboration is SO important, but how can you collaborate unless you have connected to these collateral lines? Descendancy research can open up research possibilities dramatically.
As a side note, don't forget to look into those boxes of old photos and documents that you may have inherited! Preserve your heritage and then SHARE it with your collateral line cousins. I have enjoyed the friendships that have been created with these collateral line cousins. Who knows, you may find one in Scotland that may invite you to stay with them when you go over to visit!