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Rhonda's Tips: Genealogy Questions Answered
by Rhonda R. McClure

January 16, 2003
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Relationship Question?

Q: What is my relationship with my cousin's daughter? I understand that my children will be her 2nd cousins, but does that make me her uncle? Her father is my first cousin, since her father's father is my father's brother. -- Lemus

A: Yes, you are right, you and your cousin are first cousins since your fathers were siblings. Also, you have followed the cousin process correctly in that your children and his children are second cousins.

In answer to your question about your relationship to the daughter of your cousin, no you are not her uncle. When one line of descent goes longer than the other, you stop counting in cousinship and begin counting how many generations removed from the last shared generation. Fortunately this one is a simple one to do, as there is only one more generation to the daughter.

So, you and your cousin's daughter are first cousins once removed. Figure this out by determining the last generation shared by you and your first cousin and then determining that there was just one generation removed to get to the daughter.

Where to Turn for Information

Q: How does one find out about his great-grandfather when all that is known is that he came to the U.S. about 1882-1883. His name was Johnnis Kusharski and his wife was Katherine (Stuminski) they lived in Cincinnati, Ohio Toledo Ohio and in Chicago. -- Peter

A: Remember when working in genealogy that you want to work from the known to the unknown and you want to leave no stone unturned. This means you want to get all the records you can for the dates and people you can identify in the hopes that you'll find more information on those you are having trouble identifying.

Your message didn't say what records you have already tried, but the first thing you want to do is to identify when Johnnis and his wife died. Then get copies of the death certificates if they were recorded. Not all states were recording deaths in the late 1800s and early 1900s, but you mentioned cities in Ohio and Illinois, which both have excellent records. This may not give you any more than the country in which they were born, but it was hard to tell if you knew that also.

You will also want to look for the couple in all possible census records. If they lived until after 1900 you should be able to get the month and year of death, along with the date of immigration, which may support what you already know. Often, when getting new records we get frustrated because we think we already know everything that it is telling us. By persevering, though, we may find another clue or two.

For instance, by looking in each census until they died, you may learn if they were naturalized. If they were naturalized, then the naturalization records, may tell you the exact ship on which they arrived and what port they came through. It may also supply you with the date of birth and the place of birth.

Naturalization records are found on the county level before 1906 and at the national level after that. For more information on the naturalization records at the national level, you will want to visit the Immigration and Naturalization Service's Web site.

Correcting Errors Found Online

Q: I found my father's family tree online but it contains inaccurate information and does not include descendants after him. How do I make corrections and add generations after him? -- Arctichwk

A: It sounds like what you found is a home page created by a fellow genealogist. Since these pages are uploaded by the compiler of the information, neither you nor I can make changes to that site. To let the compiler know about the errors, you will need to revisit the page, and then find the home page, or the front page of that person's site. There should be a link on all of the pages of the site that take you back to the front page. On the front page you should find contact information. At the very least you should find an e-mail address. At the most you may find a complete mailing address and perhaps a phone number. You can then use this information to contact the compiler and offer to share information or mention how your information disagrees with what they have posted.

With regard to including descendants of your father, let me take a moment to caution you in adding this information. There are many people who are concerned about the invasion of privacy and the threat of identity theft. Genealogists, in their eagerness to share, sometimes don't take this into consideration and as a result sometimes share too much information. Go slowly in sharing the information on living individuals. In most cases those you are sharing with don't need it. Your connection is further back and what you share should probably stop with the last generation of those who are deceased.

How Many Files Should I Maintain?

Q: When entering a family name should each surname be a different file? For instance I enter my maiden name and finish my side, then open a new file for my spouse. -- Marion

A: In the dark ages, back when personal computers were in their infancy, genealogy programs often had limitations to the total number of individuals that could be added. As a result many genealogists who used computers early on had to make such a decision and today they still have their information in separate files. Today's computers are much more powerful and an individual genealogy file can easily hold a million names. The only limitation on today's computers is the free space available on your hard drive and most hard drives today have a lot of free space.

While you are no longer forced to split your files because of the limitations of your computer's hardware, you may still elect to do so. There is no hard and fast rule that says you can't split your database, or create separate ones for the different surnames. There are some people I know who have created one database for each of their four grandparents' surnames. Others split the information like you have, creating one database for yourself and another for your spouse.

Because today's genealogy programs do not have any serious limitations on the number of individuals and they all come with some strong features for finding specific individuals in the database, I do not recommend separate databases. Even when sharing information with a family member on one side, it is not necessary, though I think that may be the major reason that those who do have separate files have created them.

Sharing information can be done either through reports, such as in Family Tree Maker, in which you determine the individuals on the report and then use those individuals to create a new file or a GEDCOM file. Other programs use their "find individual" features to create a holding file of sorts of those individuals you want to share.

Of course, I have discovered that how we use our genealogy programs depends a lot on how comfortable we are with the computer. If you are not comfortable or the idea of having to select individuals using a report or a holding file makes you nervous, then you may want to go ahead and create the separate file for your husband's lineage. Just remember that if you are updating your file on your descendants you must do the same thing in his file, so there is a little duplication of effort when there is more than one file.

Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at

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