Your Ancestors’ Unmarried, Childless Siblings Could Be the Key


I was slow to learn. When I began genealogy, I was focused exclusively on my direct ancestors. Why would I care about anyone else? Why would anyone? After a while, and begrudgingly, I conceded that researching my ancestors’ siblings and their spouses could occasionally be helpful. Very big of me, frankly, because venturing back into the 19th century and earlier meant that I would be researching a lot more people. Families of eight to twelve children were the norm.

I grew to recognize that siblings, their spouses, and their spouses’ families could have a significant impact on my research. Repeated given names became onomastic evidence, and spouses’ surnames helped track migrations and sometimes led to the maiden names of previously unidentified mothers. But the siblings I cared about least, the siblings I usually ignored were those who never married and never had children. What, after all, was their genealogical usefulness?

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