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The National Institute for Genealogical Studies - LEADERS IN ONLINE GENEALOGY EDUCATION

Who’s Your Cousin?

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Methodology - Part 1: Getting Started

Shannon Bennett, Student

I am really excited that these Methodology, Part 1 modules have started to dig into the meat and potatoes of genealogy.  In them we are introduced to sources, evidence, and types of information. Subjects that serious genealogists or family historians need to understand to succeed in their research. However, the parts I found the most interesting where the explanations of terminology found in Module 4.

Relaxing family by Vlado/courtesy of

Relaxing family by Vlado/courtesy of

Words associated with kinship, social status, and legal jargon not to mention surnames have changed over time. Confusion can result when modern viewpoints and definitions are put onto older documents, resulting in the misinterpretation of records and the assumption of associations that were in fact not correct. For instance, the word cousin. It could mean not only what we think of as a cousin, but could also mean niece, nephew, grandchild, or any degree of cousin you can think of.

Cousin relatedness can get tricky and complicated. Many people just refuse to even try to understand what all the removes are and just refer to everyone as their cousin. Which, I can really understand. However, as researchers we need to know how people fit into our charts. Thankfully there was a nice chart showing an example tree with relationships included in this course.

From Methodology, Part 1. (c) National Institute for Genealogical Studies.

From Methodology, Part 1. (c) National Institute for Genealogical Studies.

I am always on the lookout for ways to explain to my family all the cousin connections I make while researching. This chart is one that makes a lot of sense and I can apply to future discussions.

The other thing I particularly liked was the discussion on changing boundaries.  Lines on the map change frequently, sometimes around our ancestors, and it is always important to know not only when your family lived but where. To me this goes hand in hand with good research skills.

While I understand this from the point of view of Colonial America it was great to learn about changing borders in Canada. I have no Canadian ancestry that I know of, which means I have never really looked deeply into the history or geography of that country. Also, I don’t speak French.  I took German in high school and college which means I have avoided the French speaking parts of Canada entirely. However, the short lesson on French surnames actually was intriguing since it was completely new information. Someday, it may come in handy. You never know.

Two more modules left in my Methodology course, so back to my reading.  See you online!


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