Hints and tips for keen researchers

How can you find more cousins? Let's start by considering why you'd want to find cousins in the first place....

Without a doubt, finding living relatives who share your ancestors and are actively researching those ancestors is one of the best ways to expand your knowledge of your family tree. It's also a great way to save time and money, two commodities that are usually in short supply - after all, why duplicate what somebody else has already done? It has to be better to compare notes, exchange information, and then focus on the parts of the tree that neither of you has made headway with.

If you do have limited time to devote to genealogy, then you certainly won't want to waste a lot of time corresponding with people who later turn out to be completely unconnected. That's why I believe that the LostCousins matching system, which is virtually 100% accurate, is the way of the future.

Here are my top tips for finding cousins:

IT TAKES TWO: we can only match you with other members who share your ancestry if you have both entered the same relative - so the more relatives you enter, the greater the chances of a match with the relatives your cousins have entered.

ENTER EVERYONE: if you focus on a handful of your family lines you won't get the best results - the LostCousins system works best when we can search for cousins from all of your lines simultaneously. By all means start by entering relatives from the lines that you're currently working on, but follow up by adding the others.

COLLATERAL LINES ARE THE KEY: they may not be your direct ancestors, but they will be your cousins' ancestors. I'd recommend starting with your ancestors' brothers and sisters (probably your great-great and great-great-great aunts and uncles), then working outwards. It doesn't matter how distant the relationship seems to be - all blood relatives share your ancestry, so anyone descended from them will also.

BE GENEROUS: I get as much satisfaction from passing information to the new relatives I discover as I do from receiving information - I'm sure you will too.

KEEP IT SIMPLE: most 'lost cousins' will come from branches of the family that you don't know about - so trying to predict which relatives will be the links to your 'lost cousins' is not recommended. I enter every relative that I can find on the census - it's quicker and simpler in the long run.

CLICK THE SEARCH BUTTON: it takes just a few seconds to check every single one of your relatives against all the relatives entered by other members, even though there could be billions of comparisons involved (oh, the wonders of modern technology!).

CHECK YOUR MY COUSINS PAGE: someone could already be waiting for you in the New Contacts section! Whilst we'll always send you an email if another member wants to get in touch, emails have a habit of going astray.

DON'T GIVE UP: once you've entered your relatives we'll continue searching for your cousins as long as you retain your membership, even if you never buy a subscription!

SPREAD THE WORD: the more members we have, the cousins we'll find. So please tell others about this site - even though your friends may not be your relatives (although you never know!), they're bound to be related to some of our other members.

If you have any tips that you'd like me to pass on to LostCousins members, please send them in, and I'll feature them here, or in my newsletter.

Peter Calver
Founder - LostCousins

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Ancestry UK