Monday, January 15, 2007

Charting cousins

What do you do when you hit a brick wall in your family history research and want to change gears? Or when you have had a successful search, solved a thorny problem, and are ready to move on?

Of course we are all supposed to have "to do" lists, and in an ideal world (or if we were perfect people), it would be no problem to simply take up the next research project.

Well, I, for one, make those lists and promptly misplace them, or take a look and find that nothing on the list appeals at the moment. So, what to do?

I have been spinning my wheels after several months of amazingly fruitful research (and the help of some wonderfully generous strangers). The subject was Elvira Kelsey Thompson, whom I discussed in my posting of September 2, 2006. The quest was completed – I even was able to visit her grave in Tehama County, a totally unexpected bonus, since I had originally lost sight of her as a ten-year-old in far-off Indiana. This led to additional questions, of course, and I am still puzzling over these – the fate of one of her sons, the parentage of her husband, etc. But after some desultory searching with few useful clues, these issues are ready to go on the back burner for a while.

So what next?

It has long been an interest of mine to trace the descendents of the farthest-back Cain ancestor I have found. Not just my direct ancestors, but all the siblings, their spouses and offspring. There is at least one published work which includes some speculation (and that is all it is) about some of the descendents, and there are a number of family trees online which inlcude Cains, but sadly I have not found any with well-documented direct links. I was almost as pleased to be able to disprove -- to my own satisfaction -- a certain claim by doing some exhaustive research, as I would have been to confirm it. (One link is still missing, so I can't put it out there for all to see just yet.)

After much floundering about, trying to develop a useful display that would show a few generations of the known (or presumed) descendents, I managed to come up with a chart that shows four levels on a single sheet of legal-size paper (8 ½ x 14"). I revised and edited until I was able to turn out a display which includes the dates (known or estimated) and places of births, marriages and deaths for these people.

They include the progenitor (top guy), his children, who of course are siblings, his grandchildren, who are first cousins, and his great-grandchildren, second cousins.

A quick glance at the second cousin set shows they were all born within the same decade or two, mostly in the same region – which means a few information resources might serve for most of them.

First I looked for gaps that could be filled with little effort. And I checked the supposedly "known" data for accuracy (some was based on my early, less-than-careful research).

My next step, I think, will be to take one family at a time and make sure I have as much as possible on each member. With nine families at this level, that should keep me busy for quite a while.

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