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June 24, 2015
Light for My Path
Reaping a Rich Harvest through Descendancy Research
by Kathryn Grant

Because I love family history, I often find (surprise!) that conversations with others turn to this topic. From time to time, people say — either with regret or relief — that their family history is “all done,” particularly if they go back through pioneer lines or have been told they link into royalty.

If you’re in this situation, you may find new opportunities through descendancy research. This type of research is what Elder Neil L. Andersen is talking about when he advocates “finding our cousins.”

As mentioned in the last column, descendancy research starts the same way as traditional or ancestral research: you trace a line back, going from yourself to your parent, grandparent, great-grandparent, and so on.

But when you reach the early 1800s or late 1700s, you choose a couple and do a U-turn: instead of continuing back through time, you go forward, finding all the children of that couple and their spouses. Then you find all the children of those couples and their spouses. You work down through the generations until you come to the 110-year privacy period.*

Here are simple steps and tips for doing descendancy research. They’ll help you avoid common mistakes, such as doing descendancy research on a branch that isn’t really in your family.

Step 1: On one of your lines in Family Tree, choose a set of parents several generations back from you (usually between 4 and 7) to serve as the starting point.

Step 2: Verify your line from you back to that point.

This is an important step that people often skip. But it’s important for several reasons:

Some of these mistakes may lead you to people who aren’t really your relatives. So it’s worthwhile to correct these mistakes before you spend a lot of time researching a line that isn’t really yours.

Step 3: Trace the lines forward systematically.

Step 4: Enter missing names in Family Tree and clear them for temple work.

For a more complete explanation of descendancy research, see this presentation.

So if you’ve felt like you were missing out because your family history is “all done,” take another look. You may find a rich harvest through descendancy research.

*Per Church policy, we should not do temple work for those born less than 110 years ago (i.e., after today’s date in 1905) unless we are one of the closest living relatives or have permission of one of the closest living relatives — defined as an undivorced spouse, a child, a parent, or a sibling.

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