6 Easy Steps to Find Cousins on Ancestry

2014 12-16This is the time of year that makes us think about our family members. I’m not just talking about the live ones, although living relatives can be helpful.

Family history researchers know there is no better time than now to connect to the dead through the living.

Whether you’re enjoying your last few 2014 vacation days or you’re stranded inside because of snow, consider connecting with cousins who are related to your ancestors with these six easy steps:

Update your Member Profile

  • This is your public face on Ancestry. When prospective cousins seek you out, this is the first page in the Book of You. Was it written by e.e. cummings? You don’t have to be a Rhodes scholar, but in genealogy, attention to detail is kind of important. Do run-on sentences, lack of punctuation and spelling errors abound? Worse yet, do you have NOTHING on your profile page? As a prospective cousin, what am I to think? There is a person (gender unknown) on Ancestry that posted some AMAZING things about a direct line ancestor about which I would LOVE to talk with him/her. The member name is a code of some kind and the entire profile page is blank. If you want to connect with cousins on line, put out the welcome mat.

Keep your online trees current

  • This is a time-challenge for me too, so I empathize. There’s only so much time in the day for this hobby of ours. But in the same way your Member Profile reflects your interest in and knowledge about your family history research, your trees provide that link to others hanging on the same branch. I try to check on one or two ancestors every time I log on to Ancestry, making sure the information online matches that on Family Tree Maker. Think of your online tree as cousin bait – the fresher the bait, the better your chance of snagging a new family member.

Visit message boards

  • The genealogical world has become a tech-savvy place of late, but we do still need to connect with other people. Especially those researching the same geographic areas in which we’re interested. I got caught up in several lengthy conversations recently (as a lurker – remember those Rootsweb mailing lists?) about the connection between two countries in Western Europe and learned a few new tidbits that will come in handy later on. Browse a little when you have a moment, you may be surprised at what you find. Like this interactive map I recently acquired. Lurking can pay off in bigger and better ways too. When I recently saw another researcher interested in the same surname, in the same place and at the same time as my ancestors – I knew I had a cousin connection.

Visit the Learning Center

  • You probably already know everything about everything genealogy-related, but I found some helpful information about reading old handwriting on the Help-FAQ page of the Learning Center tab here. In the Learning Center, you can Ask the Community which connects you with other researchers and prospective cousins. Watch for mentions of geographic areas of interest and surnames that are also in your family tree. At the bottom of the page are links to “Answers others found helpful”. Check out the side bar and the box that allows you to Visit the Ancestry Learning Center.

Click on Every Shaking Leaf

  • One of my favorite cousin connections started with a shaking leaf on a collateral ancestor about whom I already knew everything. 🙂  Seriously, I didn’t learn anything new about the person with the shaking leaf, but holy cannoli!  I learned a ton about one of his collateral lines. And that lead me to a cousin with pictures. PICTURES! Don’t shake a stick at shaking leaves – at the very least, take a quick peek and see if there’s anything new.

Watermark your photographs

  • It’s possible other researchers on Ancestry find my blog address stretched across my pictures annoying, but how else can I make encourage those prospective connections to contact me? If you are interested enough to put my photos in your tree, we must be related in some way. Why else would you want those pictures? And if we’re related, however distantly, I’d really like to compare notes with you.

After all, isn’t connecting with cousins what genealogy is all about?

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