How much time should I spend researching collateral relatives—aunts, uncles, cousins—and what are the benefits of tracing them?
A. Learning more about collateral relatives can be fascinating—and might help get you through brick walls in your genealogy. As you push back in time, one generation after the next, make note of these “sideways” relatives. Even if you don’t take the time initially to enter cousins and siblings of your ancestors into a genealogy software program, file away the data and sources for future reference.
Collateral relatives can help you solve mysteries about your direct lines in part because these family tree branches often overlap more than just at birth. In past centuries, it was more common for cousins to marry. Brothers from one family might marry sisters from another, so identifying your great-great-grand-uncle’s spouse could offer clues to the marriage of his brother, your ancestor.
Beyond these marital connections, collateral relatives are an integral part of the “cluster” your family might have followed in migrating across America or immigrating here. Along with neighbors (who often married into the family, too), collateral relatives typically followed the same path as your ancestors. You’ll find them in land records, buying or claiming plots next to each other, and in census enumerations, often on the same page. So if you can’t trace an ancestor back before his settling in Georgia, for instance, see if you can find collateral relatives in places migrants to Georgia came from, such as the Carolinas, Virginia and Tennessee. If you can’t find an ancestor’s passenger list for the trip from the old country, try those cousins and siblings—your ancestor may have been on the same ship.
Where can I find vital records for ancestors in Waldoboro, Maine, in the late 1600s and early 1700s?
FamilySearch’s Family History Library, which has microfilmed records from all over the world that you can borrow through your local
FamilySearch Center (find one at <www. familysearch.org/locations>), is a good place to start. The online catalog <www.familysearch.org/catalog-search> lists several vital-records collections for Waldoboro, but none date back before 1773. More promising might be the town record books that span 1714 to 1892. There’s also a collection compiled by Marlene A. Groves of “vital records and town records 1714-1891, cemetery transcriptions and family Bible records.”
While you’re searching the catalog on Family-Search.org, you also should browse the database of Maine vital records dating from 1670 to 1907 <www.familysearch.org/search/collection/
show#uri=http:/familysearch.org/searchapi/search/collection/1803978>; note that only the 1892 to 1907 records have been indexed.
The New England Historic Genealogical Society’s American-Ancestors site <www.americanancestors.org> offers a trove of New England data for paying members. It has commissioner records (1759-1777) and vital records (1829-1892) for Lincoln County, Maine, but nothing earlier.
Subscription site Ancestry.com <ancestry.com> also has early Maine documents, from town records at the state archives <www.maine.gov/sos/arc/research/geneal.html>. Most are part of larger databases that are more complete in later years: Maine, Birth Records, 1621-1922; Maine, Marriage Records, 1705-1922; and Maine, Death Records, 1617-1922.
How can I find POW records for Confederate soldiers captured during the Civil War?
Records of Union military prisons are in the National Archives and Records Administration’s <archives.gov> Publication M598, Selected Records of the War Department Relating to Confederate Prisoners of War, 1861-1865, which is available online via subscription site Ancestry.com <ancestry.com>. The Ancestry.com Civil War Prisoner of War Records database also includes two related National Archives microfilm publications: M1871, Muster Rolls and Lists of Confederate Troops Paroled in North Carolina, and M2072, Lists of Confederates Captured at Vicksburg, Miss.,
July 4, 1863.
Two other sets of records that are part of the Archives’ Archival Research Catalog (ARC) system are Records of Confederates in Union Prisons, 1861-1865 (ARC ID 2133277) and Registers of Confederate Prisoners (ARC ID 2554642). Records of individual prisons include Camp Chase and Johnson’s Island in Ohio; Point Lookout, Md.; Camp Morton, Ind.; Fort Delaware, Del.; and Elmira, NY.
Don’t overlook a 1913 compilation by the War Department: Register of Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Who Died in Federal Prisons and Military Hospitals in the North. This is National Archives microfilm publication M918, and is also digitized on Ancestry.com.
From the March/April 2013 issue of Family Tree Magazine