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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Rolodexing the cousins

Last night I sat down and was going to write an email to a cousin. I pulled up the name, looked at it, thought about it, and then I wasn't sure that I was actually writing to the right person after all. This is a problem I never thought I would have. So many extended family members that I can't keep them all straight!

Seriously, this is a problem I that never, in a million years, would have dreamed I would encounter.  I am an only child.  On my dad’s side I have 5 cousins.  On my mom’s side I am the only one.  Yes, they have a few more cousins than that, making my 2nd cousin numbers swell, but they are so much older than me I didn’t connect with many of them. Some I have never met. Family get togethers were always smallish.  Maybe there would 20-25 people on a good year at a reunion or grandma's house for holiday dinners.  We all knew each other, and, well, as a kid I was pretty much ignored.  Once we left Indiana, those became fewer and fewer.  Now that I am older I wish I had more close connections with my relatives, but that is just not the way it is.

Imagine my delight and joy, however, when new-to-me cousins started connecting with me.  WOHOO!  It was awesome!  Nearly a year in I am finding that I can’t keep many of them straight though.  It looks like I am going to need to sort and file my relatives so that I can at least attempt to remember who goes to which family.  Thank goodness I don’t have anyone connecting to me with more than one family… yet.

Anyone have any advice on how they keep their living relations in order?  I have thinking just a database by researching family name.  Could work.  Heck I live with a programmer, bet he could hook me up with something snazzy.

photo credit: renaissancechambara via photo pin cc


  1. Finally, someone with a small family who I can relate to - although I can top it! My mother is an only child, although she has half siblings she never knew. My dad had one brother who had two children, one of whom died almost 40 years ago. So I have one cousin! ONE! So I'm right there with you with the excitement I feel when I find one, even if they are distant.

    As far as how to organize them, I'm a long way from having to worry about that. But I'll be watching here for some ideas on how you do that.

    Have fun!!!

  2. When I figure it out I will let you know!

  3. Hi Shannon . . . distant cousin #23122 here!

    Interesting to read this post, as I was just now adding YOUR name to my growing list of what I tend to call "research cousins". The system I use is fairly simple, but it seems to do the trick in terms of being simple but able to grow as new folks are added. I use the spreadsheets in Excel, with a separate tab for each of my 16 great-great grandparents.

    Within each tab, I have the following columns:

    -Name (of the research cousin)
    -Connection (this is a big help for the issue you mentioned . . . which line of the family is this person?)
    -Other info (for example, I mention that you shared the old typed history written by Martha Rowe) (screen name/tree name)
    -Facebook (screen name)
    -Correspondence located (some are in the ancestry messages, some saved to email, some paper copies)
    -Lives in (helpful especially to know if people are located near the place where the ancestor lived)

    Not all the columns have information for every person, but I've found this to be an easy way to keep things relatively orderly.

    In cases where there are many branches among the descendants of the great-great grandparent, it is easy to organize those folks into smaller groups within each tab.

    Hoping this helps a bit!
    -Craig T.

  4. Thanks Craig, I was thinking along these lines too. Nice to know there are others out there who think like me about these little things.