Determining Cousins – My Formula/Process

Determining Cousins

I was recently asked by a family member how to figure out cousins, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and so forth and what “removed” means.  What makes someone a first cousin once removed, and so forth.
First, there are many charts on the Internet that show how to figure out the relationships. I have pinned several of them to my “Genealogy – Cool stuff I find” board on Pinterest.
When I use a chart, I use Blaine T. Bettenger’s chart most often.  Not only does it show the cousin relationships, it also shows the average number of centimorgans of DNA you would expect from a particular relationship and a range matching to show relationships.  I like this one because it shows the DNA amounts for various relations. My link to it is via the DNA Testing page on DNA Relationship Data. (By the way, I’m very excited to be seeing Blaine Bettenger, Ph.D., J.D. speak at the Maine Genealogical Society’s 2016 Spring Workshop this April 23.)

My Formula/Process

I don’t think I’ve seen this method anyplace, but it is the method I use and it works really well for me.

First, determine the common ancestor two people
share. Second, count the number of generations to the common
ancestor for person number 1. (For example, it is 4 generations to my 2nd
great grandparent.) Third, count the number of generations to the same common ancestor for person number
2. (for example, 5 generations to the same
person.) Take the smaller number and subtract one. That gives
the cousin number. (for example, above person #1 is 4 generations to a
common ancestor, subtract 1.  Whoever I
share that common ancestor with is a 3rd cousin.
 Finally, take the larger generation number and
subtract the smaller number. That defines the “removed” number.  (In the
above example, the larger number was 5 generations, minus 4 generations, equals
1, or once removed.

So, if Marion (Sanford) Brown is my 2nd great grandmother and Marion (Sanford) Brown is your 3rd great grandmother, we are third cousins once removed. 
Try it a couple times and you will find it works really easy. It is how I do it and it works well for me.
So, cousins are defined by who you share a common ancestor with, removed is defined by the generational difference between you and a cousin. 
– Don Taylor
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Happy 4th birthday to me.

Today is my Blogging Anniversary. I received a post from Geneabloggers the other day about the sites that are having anniversaries that reminded me that my blog anniversary was coming up. I was startled to see them reporting that My blog started in 2011.  I thought it can’t really have been that long.  I double checked and I see I actually started the D Taylor Genealogy blog in 2012. That set me to thinking about my blog and how it has grown over the past four years.

It doesn’t seem like it has been four years to me.  That said, the growth of my blog has been amazing. That first year (2012), I was receiving 100 to 150 page views per month. In just January and February of this year, I’ve received well over 10,000 page views. It also looks like my blog following is continuing to grow.  I would like to think that it is because my content is better and I am writing more interesting things as I go along and not that there are just that many more people using the Internet.

Lisa Louise Cooke has called blogs “Cousin Bait,” and my blog has acted like “cousin bait.” Numerous times distant cousins have contacted me because of the blog, as well as my Facebook, and Twitter presence. I have received dozens of photos of my direct ancestors that I would never otherwise have received.  Some of those photos have led to additional research and new findings. Of particular interest to me was a photo of my Grandpa Dick as a young man on a basketball team in Panama in 1928. The photo proved a family story that my grandfather had been in Panama where he met my grandmother. That photo let to many other discoveries. It also has led to my adding a trip to the National Archives to my “to do” list to find out more about his activities in the Army in Panama in the late 1920s and early 1930s.  I am so grateful to cousin Beverly for the photo.

Dick Brown – on 1828 Corozal (Panama)
championship basketball team. 

On another occasion, a cousin entered her grandmother’s name in a Google Search and discovered my blog because of a post I have regarding Bert Allen Roberts. She then contacted me and facilitated a potential half-sister to contact me. I’m still waiting for DNA test results to come back, but I’m fairly certain of the connection. I am so grateful to cousin Melody for her reaching out.

I think my biggest surprise, in terms of blog statistics, is that my number one most viewed post was a 2013 post regarding a review of Family Tree Maker Mac 3.  It has had over seven times the page views as my second most read posting. It makes me think that maybe I should do more reviews. Likewise, my second most-read post was my “rant” regarding Ancestry’s decision to drop Family Tree Maker. That post also received the most comments, by far. Maybe, I should write more rants. (Then again, maybe not.)

It isn’t until I reach my 3rd most read posting that I get to a biography about an ancestor. In this case, my wife’s fourth great grandfather, William Price. Writing about ancestors’ lives and documenting my sources is what this blog is about.

Looking at the various statistics reminded me to consider, what is the purpose for the Blog.  Is it to act as “cousin bait,” or is it to get the most traffic possible so I can have some income from my affiliate links? Both of these are important, however, as I ponder its purpose, the primary reason for this blog is to act as a journal of my genealogical efforts.  The act of journaling, of expressing genealogical findings in a clear manner, helps immensely in assuring my research conclusions make sense. It provides a forum for me to assure I have my sources and that I’ve reached reasonable conclusions and that everything fits together.  If it doesn’t then it provides a means to know what is missing and what I should do to reconcile any issues.

This  blog is more for my growth and understanding than it is about writing for others.  I try to add hints and  items of interest for others. They help remind me of things I shouldn’t forget.  But, again the process of journaling makes me stronger.

If I ever write something that you think is wrong, please let me know. If you write via the comments form, I will likely publish your comments to the blog, if appropriate and not self-serving. If you respond via Facebook, I will consider your comment as communications between the two of us and private. Either way, please give me feedback, what should I focus upon, Brown, Roberts, Howell, or Darling lines.  Should I write more about Donna Montran’s vaudeville life, DNA, my various Projects, or other things? Let me know if there is something specific you would like me to write about. Also, if you have something that is appropriate for this blog and would like to submit it to me for publication, I do accept items from guest bloggers.

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The links to outside websites may be connected to an affiliate program that provides a small reward to me if you use my link and purchase from them.  My process is to write what I desire without regard to any affiliate programs. After my content is written, I look for opportunities to link to my affiliates, if appropriate.  I also may include an affiliate ad in the body of a posting on a random basis. My affiliates include the following:

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Please consider purchasing using my affiliate links. They will help me maintain my blog.  Thank you.

Hugh Ellis Roberts (1884-1908), The 1900 Census, & Family Search Duplicate Merging

Family Search Duplicate Merging

I like to control and manage my family tree information. As such, I’ve never been a fan of systems where family trees are managed by many individuals. I tend to be concerned that other individuals aren’t quite as thorough as I like to think that I am. I also like to work from sources and not rely on other individual’s family trees for anything other than “hints,” so I don’t really use other people’s family trees much.

Family Search – Family Tree – Find

I was researching Hugh Ellis Roberts and couldn’t find much information. I was having such a bad time that I decided to use Family Search Family Trees to see if I could gain any leads there. After selecting [Family Tree} [Find], entering my subject’s name and year of birth the system returned 50 different entries. Four of the first five entries were my particular Hugh Ellis Roberts. They all had the same birth year, all had the same death year and they all had the same spouse. None of the entries had any sources for their information at all. Sigh…. I decided I couldn’t let four entries for the same individual stand so I selected the one that had the most information, parents and children names, and began merging the other entries into that one. It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. I also corrected the marriage date from “Oct 1900” to “7 Oct 1900” and associated my source to that fact. There is still a problem with his being married to three different people, Clara, Clora, and Cora Dell Scott. I’ll merge those identities up when I work on Clara’s biography and decide on what I really think her name was. (Different records all are interpreted differently.) There are still other issues with the family unit on Family Search Family Trees, such as one of his sisters being duplicated, but I’ll fix it as I work on the family unit.

The 1900 Census

Because Hugh Ellis Roberts was born after the 1880 Census and he died in 1908 finding him in the 1900 Census was a must. I knew that his father died in 1887, so using his name wouldn’t help. I searched and searched and never found him. I also knew that he was married in 1900 in Illinois, so I figured he had to be in Illinois somewhere, probably in either Jefferson or Franklin County. Still no luck. Then I decided to search Illinois for people born in Illinois in 1884 with the surname “Roberts” and nothing else. I then looked closely at any individuals born in July. I found a “Heine” Roberts, living with his mother Anna and a sister Talaramer. His mother’s name was Patience Anna. Could it be? Looking closer at the entry,

I saw that Talaramer was a transcriber’s attempt to read a nearly illegible Florence. The birth year and place for Anna matched Patience Anna, the birth date matched the month, year, and place for Florence, and the birth month, year, and place all matched Hugh. Last, but not least, it was in Franklin County (which borders Jefferson County), Finally, I had found Hugh Ellis Roberts in the 1900 Census.

Hint: When looking for someone in a census, try ignoring the first names of individuals and just search for a surname with other identifying criteria.

RB-08 – Hugh Ellis Roberts

2 July 1884 – 30 August 1908

Hugh Ellis Roberts[i] was born in July 1884 in Illinois. His marriage license indicated that he was 18 when he was married in 1900; however, I think it is more likely that the 16-year-old Hugh lied about his age in order to marry without parental permissions. One on-line source indicates that he was born in Jefferson County, Illinois, however, the marriage license of his son, Bert Allen Roberts indicate that he was born in Benton (Franklin County, Illinois.[ii] According to other researchers, Hugh died on 30 August 1908.,[iii] Several of his children’s marriage licenses identify their father was deceased when they married in the 1920s, thus confirming the early death. Additionally, Hugh’s wife remarried in 1909.

He is the fourth known child of Asa Ellis Roberts (1835-1887), aged 49, and Patience Anna Marshall (1845-1919), aged 39. Asa and Patience had three other known children together, Charles Wilson, Rosa Della, and Florence Elizabeth Roberts. Asa was married previously to Cynthia Minerva Toney and that had six children so Hugh was the youngest of ten children of Asa. His six half-siblings were William, George, Margaret, Calvin, Sarah, and Monroe.

When Hugh was only three, his father, Asa Ellis Roberts, died (8 October 1887 – Spring Garden, Jefferson County, Illinois).

The 1900 census indicates that Hugh may have had a nickname of “Heine.” The 15-year-old was living with his mother, Anna, older sister Florence, and a niece, Nellie Roberts. It is unclear whose child Nellie was. The 1900 census indicates that only five of Anna’s six children were living, so it is possible that Nellie was the child of her dead child. Mother and son were farming in Barren Township.[iv]

On 7 October 1900, Hugh married Clara Dell Scott (1884-1945), daughter of Samuel Vaden Scott (1863-1931) and Amanda Jane Hale (?-1889) in Ina, Jefferson County, Illinois)[v]. They were both 16-years-old, however, they both indicated that they were 18 on the marriage registration.[vi]

A quick seven months later, Hugh and Clara had their first child.[vii]

The Children of Hugh and Clara included:

Harry Ray Roberts, born on 22 May 1900 in Franklin Co. (Franklin Co., Illinois). He married Lillie Vernea Higgins in 1922. 
Carrie Mae Roberts, born in 1901. (I have not researched her further, yet.)
Bert Allen Roberts, born on 20 September 1903 in Sesser (Franklin, Illinois), died on 1st May 1949 in Elwood (Madison County, Indiana), aged 45. He married Essie Pansy Barnes on 13 May 1922. They had 5 children: Pansy, Bert, Hugh, Helen and John.
Mabel Ilean Roberts, born on 2 June 1908 in Lena (Stephenson County, Illinois, United States), USA. She married Olan B Hart on 3 January 1925.

It appears that the Roberts family moved from Franklin County to Stephenson County between 1903 and 1908.

Several researchers indicate that Hugh died on 30 August 1908 at the age of 24. I have been unable to confirm that; however, his wife, Clara, is reported as remarried in 1909 per the 1910 Census.[viii]

Continued Research

Confirm death date. 
Determine cause of death. 
Confirm day of birth. 

[Note: I ordered a death certificate from Stephenson County Clerk & Recorder on 19 Feb 2016, which should answer all the above questions. If unsuccessful, will try again with Franklin County.]

Find Property Record for Anna’s farm ownership.


[i] Note: Family Search ID: 93BW-B8T
[ii] Source: Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007 – Family Search (Other)
[iii] Ibid.
[iv] Source: 1900 Census; Anna Roberts, Barren Township, Franklin, Illinois, United States; citing sheet 10A, family 182.
[v] Source: Family Search (Other) – Illinois, County Marriages, 1810-1934 / Ellis Roberts & Clara Dell Scott, 1900 – Family Search (Internet)
[vi] Source: Illinois, County Marriages, 1810-1934; Ellis Roberts & Clara Dell Scott, 1900
[vii] Note: They say the first child can come anytime, the rest take nine months.
[viii] Source: 1910 Census; Indiana, Sullivan, Turman, District 0178, Hosea Adams

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Photos and Due Diligence

A case look: Photo of Essie Barnes, her parents, and her siblings?

There are very few things as exciting to find as a photograph of an ancestor.  In the best of all worlds, we would have a complete provenance for the photo.  Who took the photo, exactly when and where the photo was taken. We would also know who is in the photo and who identified the subjects of the photo. Sadly, this is the real world and we often don’t have all that information. Often genealogical photos are over a hundred years old so there is no one who can confirm who is in a photo; rather, they rely entirely on what they have been told is the subject of the photo.
I recently received a photo from a cousin and wondered what my due diligence should be as I catalog and source the photo.


“Essie, her parents and her siblings, we think.”
My first assumption is that the photo is a reasonable reproduction of the original, it hasn’t been Photoshopped or otherwise digitally manipulated. There isn’t any reason to think that is the case.  If the photo was of a family member with a celebrity or at a famous place, I might consider the possibility, but, there isn’t any conceivable reason for this photo to be fake in some way.
The photo was passed to me as “Essie, her parents, and her siblings, we think.“ Due diligence would require that I confirm that this is likely to be Essie and would validate the individuals in the photo.
Getting a new car is an exciting life event. When I purchased my last new car, I had some photos taken with me in it. I did so with the new car before that too. I think the process is an American tradition and I believe this photo documents that life event.
I am not an old car expert, but my looking at the car make me think of 1915. I first thought of a Chevrolet, but looking at photos of the windshield hinge made me consider other vehicles. A 1915 Ford Model T Touring seems to have a similar running lamp on the side and a similar windshield hinge. Photos I saw online for a 1914 Touring T had a different running lamp. The 1923 Touring T seemed to have different wheels, so I believe the photo is from 1915-1922.
Back to who is in the photo. Typically, the youngest person in a photo is the easiest to determine the age of.  In this photo, the youngest girl appears to me to be about nine or ten. Essie’s younger sister, Mabel, would have been nine years old in 1915.  Essie would have been about 12-years-old. The girl in the back appears to me to be about 12 or so. The grown-ups are obvious in the picture, that leaves the young man behind the steering wheel. At first, I thought it could be Nelson, but then was reminded that Nelson died in 1902 and the boy looks older to me. So, the boy must be Ray, would have been 20 in 1915. The photo aligns with the individuals in the family.
The 1910 Census and the 1920 Census both indicate that the Barnes family lived in Turman Township, Sullivan County, Indiana, so the photo was likely taken there. Also, Joel Barnes owned his farm so it is likely that the family had enough money to be able to afford a car.
I always identify people in a photo or image from left to right. So, I would identify the photo as:

Essie, Mabel, Marada, Joel, and Ray Barnes with a new car, c. 1915, likely taken in Turman Township, Indiana. Photo by unknown. Digital image received January 2016, via Essie’s grandchild MR* who gave her source as KS* another of Essie’s grandchildren. See file: Barnes Family in car c.1915.jpg.

Have I done due diligence in my assessment of the photograph? Is it a different vehicle than my estimate? Please, let me know if I missed anything in my assessment that I should have considered.
* Note: Initials used in place of names for living individuals.


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Genealogy Education & Training

Genealogy Training – Volunteering, Attending, Reading, Conferences, & Videos — oh my.

I was recently asked about what I do for Genealogical Training.  How do I keep up with things genealogical?  Of course, learning is an ongoing process, but the key to learning, in my opinion, it to provide an environment for learning.  I do that in several ways.

First of all, I volunteer at my local historical society and museum. There, I regularly answer questions from individuals who have questions regarding their genealogical searches. I have only been in Maine about a year and a half, so my volunteer work helps me really learn about the place where I am living and the ancestors of this place. I am also learning about the genealogical records available here. Not only does it help me help others but it also helps me understand what types of records are available at a historical society in general.  I am amazed at the kinds and types of materials that are possible. There are resources that I would never have thought of. By volunteering, I have the knowledge to ask other societies for specific types of materials or searches and hone in on specific possibilities.

Next, I attend my local chapter of the Maine Genealogical Society.  Every month they host a speaker who talks about various genealogical topics and I attend.  Not only does it give an hour of education it has the side benefit of meeting and conversing with individuals who actually care about my genealogical successes and brick walls as I care about theirs. Just those conversations can be motivating and inspiring.  I even gave one of the talks last summer regarding “Social Media and Genealogy.”  There is nothing that teaches you more than preparing to give a talk.

Next, I am particularly interested in genetic genealogy. There is a new Genealogical DIG (DNA Interest Group) here in Maine,  which I am now attending.  I also volunteered to help with a website for them. Not only do I learn about genetic genealogy through the meetings, I learn even more as I help with the content of the website.  And again, being able to chat with individuals with a similar interest in genetic genealogy can sometimes be inspiring. 
Next, I read. I subscribe to several magazines and the other societies I belong to send magazines focused upon their society. I also subscribe to several blogs of individuals that I know their writings will usually be interesting. Another thing I did was create a daily magazine at I am still using the free version and have the system create a Genealogical Daily.  I check it every day.  You can modify your paper to ignore some types of content and I’ve adjusted mine to eliminate some of the more flagrant sales pitches. Sure, it sometimes duplicates items I’ve already seen through my few blog subscriptions but I can quickly bypass the.  I think it is a great resource. If you are interested in seeing what I’ve done, see it at Feel free to subscribe or favorite it. If I see enough users I might try to curate the postings.

Next, I plan to attend three, day-long genealogical focused seminars or conferences this year. All are sponsored by my state Genealogical Society.  

1.   2016 Maine Genealogical Society Spring Workshop – April 23, 2016. The keynote speaker is well-known genetic genealogist Blaine Bettinger

2.   2016 Southern Maine Genealogy Conference – May 21, 2016. The keynote Speaker is D. Joshua Taylor of “Genealogy Roadshow” fame.

3.   2016 Maine Genealogical Society and Annual Meeting – September 17, 2016. The keynote Speaker is Judy Russell, JD, CG, CGL

I think between the workshop, conference and meeting, I’ll pick up many new things.

Finally, I watch a one hour video every week.  I tend to miss watching a video on weeks that I’m attending a conference but I watch one most every week.  My favorites are usually RootsTech videos.  They never have a bad video. 

My plans include about ninety hours of semi-formal training, (50 hours of videos, at least 15 hours at conferences, and 24 hours of presentation at society chapter and DIG meetings. Add another 100+ hours of volunteer service at the Historical Society and Museum supporting genealogical activities and I figure I’ll be learning all year.

How many can you check off?

þ Volunteer at local historical or genealogical society.
þ Attend your local genealogical society’s chapter meetings.
þ Attend your local genealogical DIG meetings.
þ Attend local genealogical conferences.
þ Subscribe to and read genealogical magazines.
þ Subscribe and read genealogical blogs.
þ Watch genealogical educational videos.

Important Links:

Greater Portland Chapter of the Maine Genealogical Society (Facebook)
   2016 Spring Workshop –  23 April 2016
GeneaBloggers has over 3000 genealogical blogs listed on their website. (Facebook)
Paper li and Don Taylor’s Genealogy Daily
RootsTech 2015 Video Archive (Note: RootsTech 2016 is in just a few weeks. Typically, these videos are unavailable when the new RootsTech takes place. There may be a couple weeks between when the video archive for 2015 is not available and the 2016 archive becomes available.
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