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September 2014 Newsletter

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Obituaries Are Key to Finding All Your Cousins

There is more than one way to find your relatives in GenealogyBank's massive archive of Obituaries.

I've noticed that genealogists often go to the Obituaries collection when they are researching a specific relative that died in the past 40 years. They search, find them and go.

But wait—there's more.

There is another valuable approach you can take with the Obituaries that lets you find relatives even when you don't know their names—and even if you have never heard of them before!

Obituaries are handy sources for genealogists. They speak about the person, their interests and what was important to them. Many obituaries mention that the deceased had a sense of family and history. I often see obituaries that say so and so loved genealogy, and then name the ancestors that fought in the Revolutionary War, or who had come to America on the Mayflower.

Having studied this for the past 50 years, I've concluded that nearly all Americans with ancestral roots back to before 1820 that lived in upper New England (Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and probably Rhode Island) have at least one ancestor that came over on the Mayflower.

I know I do.

I have seven Mayflower ancestors (including Thomas Rogers) and I want to track down and document all of the descendants of my ancestors.

The Obituaries collection is a terrific way to do this.

Typically I will enter the name of a Mayflower passenger and the word "Mayflower" in the Include Keywords searchbox.

For example, here's a search for a reference to "Thomas Rogers" and "Mayflower."

This search pulled up a lot of accurate search results, like this one for Mary-Jane Earle Hensley.

Daily News Record (Harrisonburg, Virginia), 3 October 2012

This is a great find.

According to this obituary, not only was Mary-Jane a descendant of Thomas Rogers—but "She published a book on Thomas Rogers, Mayflower Pilgrim, in 1980."

By building on the information in her obituary I can use other newspaper articles, along with census and other records, to chain backwards on the family tree to Thomas Rogers. This way I can extend and complete our family history and document each person as I go from person to person in the tree.

You can do this with other clues in an obituary.

Did the family come from a very small town? Search on that town's name.

Do you share a Revolutionary War ancestor or other famous relative? Search on that person's name.

Build on those clues and rely on GenealogyBank's Obituaries to accurately document your family tree.