Connect With Cousins

Your relatives are probably out there, just waiting to be discovered. Every day, distant cousins make connections that lead to new family lines; evidence is shared and brick walls are scaled. You can find your own cousins—and tap their knowledge of your family's past—by networking online.

Once you start working the Web to locate other genealogists in your family, you're on your way to all sorts of clues and connections. Genealogists researching different lines of the same family can help each other clarify dates, fill in missing names, and digitally share family photos and documents. Comparing notes also helps catch decades-long errors.

In particular, Internet cousins frequently have the missing link that will help you trace your female lines. I didn't have a clue about my third-great-grandmother's maiden name until an Internet cousin casually mentioned that she had Grandma's marriage record.

And while you're sharing data, don't miss the chance to turn Internet cousins into research partners. With so many ancestors and so little time, family historians need all the help we can get.

Family tree networking isn't foolproof, of course. You're certain to receive some information that's never been confirmed by original sources. And you may get e-mails from someone who wants only to grab all your data and run—or worse, pry into your personal life. But for the most part, Internet cousins are like the ones you know in real life: There are a few you avoid at family reunions; the rest are ones whose company you enjoy.

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