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

December 16, 1999
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

How Are We Related?

Q: I met a relative on the Internet. My great-great grandfather is her great-great-great-great grandfather. Are we cousins or what? -- Ken

A: Sometimes figuring out your relationship to another genealogist can seem like an undaunting task. Very often the connection is four or more generations back. In some cases, such as yours, there are more generations from the common ancestor to the one person than to the other.

Below is a chart that will show you your relationship to the individual on the Internet. You can create a similar chart any time you wish to figure out your relationship to another individual. There are also charts you can purchase very inexpensively from a number of vendors, especially at conferences (both local and national level) though I find this to be the easiest method.

Basically this method relies on a modified direct drop chart. Instead of having just one line dropping from the primary individual, it is actually showing the two lines of descent from that primary individual.

Common Individual (Your 2G
Grandfather and their 4G Grandfather)
Your Great
Siblings Their 3rd Great
| |
1st Cousins Their 2nd Great
| |
2nd Cousins Their 1st Great
| |
You 3rd Cousins Their
| |
1 Time Removed Their Parent
| |
2 Times Removed Them

Notice that once the chart reached you, that instead of listing cousins, it went to removals. Removals are the number of generations beyond one of the individuals that the descent continues to the other individual.

In your case, you and the cousin on the Internet are 3rd Cousins Twice Removed.

Born in Vermont

Q: My ancestors, Rollin and Fanny (Sieger) Gray settled in Boone County, IL, in 1839. Both died there in 1880. Both born in Vermont 1812-1813. I cannot locate a death record for Rollin; Fanny's gives no helpful info. How can I locate birth records for one or both? State office in Montpelier has no record for either. -- Bob

A: While Vermont is considered a part of the New England states, you will find that the vital records for Vermont are not as accurate or complete as those for Massachusetts. In fact Massachusetts is by far the best state for vital records of those states that make up New England.

From the stand point of record availability, Vermont did begin recording vital records much earlier than many of the other states that would come after it. Many of the states created after the Revolutionary War would not begin to record their vital statistics until the late 19th century or the early 20th century. So in that respect, Vermont's holdings are appreciated.

Like the other New England states they continued the tradition of recording the births, marriages and deaths at the town level (many other states have it at the county level). And usually this would require that you know the actual town of birth for a given individual. However, in the case of Vermont, they created a statewide index in 1919.

The law that created the statewide index asked for each of the town clerks to take record of their births, marriages and deaths on special cards. Also, the local cemeteries were surveyed and included in this index. However, prior to 1857, recording of vital records was not as complete as it could have been. Therefore, it is possible that the births of your Rollin and Fanny (SIEGER) GRAY were not recorded. You might want to look at the 1820 census index and see what GRAY and SIEGER families appear in the index and then investigate those families in the census. You can then turn your attention to other records, such as probate to try and locate wills that allude to Rollin and Fanny.

Additionally, keep in mind that Illinois land was being purchased as early as 1818 and it is possible that Rollin's parents and/or Fanny's purchased land early on. The online database for the Bureau of Land Management does not begin until 1820, so that if they did purchase their land prior to 1820, they will not show up in this database. You might search the Family History Library Catalog and see what land records they offer for Boone County. It could be you can pick up the trail that way.

CPA From the 1960s

Q: I am looking for information on my grandfather. The only thing I know is he was a CPA in the 60's in LA, California. His last name is (was) Page. Is there any way to find a listing of CPA's from the 60's? -- Lora

A: Your first step should be to locate city directories from that time period. His entry in the city directory is likely to include the following:

  • Name
  • Occupation
  • Address

In addition, it might also include an advertisement. I find it very interesting to look in the older city directories and see who was advertising. Every once in awhile, I am happy to find that my own ancestor was one of those with an ad. I like to copy that page to add to my folder on that given individual. It makes them a little more real.

I would also suggest that you contact the California State Library and see if they can offer you some additional resources to give you more information. State libraries are very often overlooked by those researching their family history and it shouldn't be. They strive to accumulate records and memorabilia specific to that state. They may have newspapers of use to you or other resources.

How to Handle Divorce

Q: This may be a simple question but I am confused on how to document divorces in my family tree, especially those which resulted in additional children. All of the example Family and Individual worksheets do not show this and I have not come to a conclusion on the easiest and best way to preserve this information in a logical form. -- Brian

A: If you are working with preprinted family group sheets, you will find that they offer you space for inclusion of only the primary events

  • Birth
  • Christening
  • Marriage
  • Death
  • Burial

You may not think that a christening event is a major event, but when you get back prior to civil registration (or vital records), you will find you are dealing primarily with church records. Generally these records include only the christenings for babies and children rather than their actual date of birth.

Unfortunately these forms don't include a place for divorces. So, what you normally need to do is to include the divorce information in the Notes section that these preprinted forms include. I would also suggest that you you put some type of special notation in the Marriage line itself. Perhaps a D in a different color after the place of marriage.

When there is a divorce and one or the other of the couple remarries and has additional children, the proper way to document this is to create a new family group sheet. It is important to remember that a family group sheet is a record of a single family unit. It is not intended to be a record of the father's or mother's entire life.

While this may not seem like the easiest method for tracking multiple marriages, it is in fact the most correct method. Genealogy software programs, likewise, will generate a group sheet for only one marriage, showing only the children from that father and mother.

See Rhonda's Previous Columns

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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