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

April 26, 2001
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Are We Cousins?

Q: My name is William. My grandmother was Mary Bradford. My fiancé is Adriana, and her relatives include Constance Snow and others on the Mayflower. We know for sure both families (William Bradford, Stephen Hopkins) were on the Mayflower. Adriana bears a strong resemblance to the Bradford side of my family. A very strong resemblance. How do we find out if we are cousins? -- Will

A: It is difficult to tell from your message how much research has been accomplished to date for either yourself or your fiancé. This would be the first, and most important step, in determining a possible cousinship between yourself and your fiancé.

Based on your message, it looks like you are descended from William Bradford and your fiancé is descended from Stephen Hopkins. Or at least this is what you have been told, if you have not done the research yourself.

If you are wondering if the Bradford and Hopkins lines are connected through marriage, a search of Susan A. Roser's Mayflower Increasings did not bear this out within the first two generations for either man.

However, the lineages of most of the Mayflower passengers are extensive. Once you have established your direct lineage back to William Bradford, and your fiance's back to Stephen Hopkins, you may want to turn your attention to the other volumes by Susan A. Roser. These and Mayflower Increasings can be found on CD-ROM or with a Genealogy Library subscription through Genealogy.com. For more information, you will want to read about Mayflower Vital Records, Deeds and Wills, 1600s-1900s.

How Are We Related?

Q: What is the term for the relationship between me and my first cousin's children? Are we second cousins or first cousins once removed? And what about between my children and my first cousin' children? Thanks for your help. -- Cathryn

A: Your relationship from yourself to your first cousin's children would be first cousins once removed. Anytime the descent to two people does not end in the same number of generations, you begin to count removeds. Since there is only one generational difference between yourself and the children of your first cousin, then it is once removed.

Your children and your first cousin's children are second cousins. This is because both lines descend from the common ancestor by three generations. There are no removeds because both descents are the same number of generations.

Royal Relationship

Q: I have an ancestor, Gideon Gifford b. 1811, and have heard that the Gifford name can be traced to the time of Henry VIII. How would I go about this? -- RKi4222422

A: Henry VIII was ruler of England from 22 April 1509 to 21 April 1510. This lets you know that you have about a three hundred year span to fill in before you can begin to search for possible royal relationships at the time of Henry VIII when it comes to your Gifford line.

Gideon Gifford was born prior to the recording of civil registration in England. Much of your research will need to be accomplished through church records, as these are the only records showing births (in the form of baptisms), marriages, and deaths (in the form of burials) for the time period you are researching. In order to make use of the church records, you will first need to determine exactly where in England your Gifford line comes from. More than just the shire, you will need to know the parish. Church records for England were kept on the parish level. Determining the parish may become your biggest hurdle in your research.

Your message was not clear as to where Gideon Gifford was born. If you have not yet taken the GIFFORD line into England, that will be the first step, determining the immigrant ancestor. Depending on when the immigrant arrived, there may be numerous family history volumes that you will need to investigate before you can find the needed information as to where in England the family was from.

Once you have located the parish, you will then want to turn your attention to the parish records. If you are lucky, those records will be available on microfilm through your local Family History Center. If they have not been filmed, you may first need to determine that they exist, assuming of course, that the Giffords were members of the Church of England, as opposed to one of the nonconformist religions that were also in England in the 1600s. Nonconformist records are sometimes more difficult to find. And if your ancestors records do exist, you may either need to plan a trip to England or look into hiring a professional researcher in England.

Common Surnames

Q: Can you suggest where I should proceed.? I have only my Grandparents on both Mother's and Dad's sides of the family to start with. I have made a few attempts at researching, but have gotten nowhere. My Dad's last name is Anderson, and my Mother's last name is Smith. -- Bill

A: With the advent of the Internet, many newcomers to genealogy immediately jump out onto the Internet with anticipation. Some time later, these same individuals often find that the information they sought does not appear to exist online. This may or may not be true.

When working with common surnames, such as those you have mentioned, it is necessary to have more information about the individuals you seek. Dates of birth, marriage, and death (when appropriate) help you in narrowing down your search in the various online databases. Knowing where these events took place is crucial to finding useful sites online.

Some of your research may need to be undertaken offline as well. If you haven't done so already, you will want to request vital records for those family members you know about so that you can begin to get some of this additional identifying information. Ordering of vital records is still in many ways an offline activity, though some vital statistics offices have taken advantage of online technology through VitalRec.com.


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 rhondagen@thegenealogist.com.

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