Branch Out Your Tree
In the years that I have been a member of Ancestry and busy building my own family tree, I have noticed that many members only focus on their direct lines, never straying beyond their immediate family, leaving cousins, aunts and uncles out of their family history. I think this is short-sighted as many of my most significant ancestral finds have come through my cousins, aunts, uncles and their partners.
Maybe I am a little more interested in my complete family history than most, and I admit that I want to know as much about my entire family as possible, but I could never imagine not seeing what happened to the various branches of my family.
My personal family tree currently has over 12,000 family members listed, and many of the names in my tree are those of people who married into the family. It is through many of these marriages, and through different branches of my family tree that I have found some incredible people who share my bloodline, and it has helped me and others find our common ancestral ties.
It would have been easier to simply trace my family back through just my maternal and paternal lines, ignoring aunts, uncles and cousins, but to me it would leave too many unanswered questions, and too many untold stories.
By following the family lines of my aunts, uncles and cousins, I have found an extraordinary number of historical figures that are a part of my greater family tree. There have been Hollywood stars, such as Elizabeth Taylor (cousin), Humphrey Bogart (cousin), Zac Efron (cousin) and even Kevin Bacon (cousin). There have been marriages of cousins that have aligned my family with historically known families such as the Astors (cousin), Morgans (cousin), Vanderbilts (cousin), Rockefellers and several other Gilded Age families. There have also been several US Presidents (Gerald Ford, Grover Cleveland, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Herbert Humphrey) who turned out to be my paternal cousins. First Ladies are also on my tree, including my cousins Nancy Reagan and Mamie Eisenhower and Lucretia Rudolph. Another favorite cousin that I found was Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, with whom I share great grandparents through his mother.
Everyone has their own reasons for researching their family history, and one of my reasons is to find out as much about my family as possible, and to help confirm or deny many family legends as I can. Branching out your research to include your extended family can yield much information, and as I have found out, many incredible people too!