For years researching was all about finding direct line ancestors. Grandparents great grandparents, and great great grandparents are ancestors, and it was important to make that link back to maternal and paternal line parents. Once you are satisfied with the research of the direct line ancestors, it may be time to focus on those other relatives – collaterals.
Researching direct line ancestors is the focus of most genealogists, and these individuals are the ones who are most researched and tracked down when possible. They give us the family histories and in some cases interesting ones. If for some reason there is a difficult problem in finding ancestors then the focus is on collateral relatives or cousins, nieces, nephew, aunts, uncles, siblings, and those family members who might lead you to the ancestor. One way to remember what a collateral is think of someone related, but are not in the direct line of descent. They may have migrated together, married within the family, been a witness on a record, attended the same church, lived near one another, lived in the same household, or had spelling variations of their surnames. Collateral relatives share a common ancestor with you. Recently when researching a Meadows great grand uncle, the brother of a direct line second great grandfather John Calvin Meadows, the research lead me to another collateral a second great grand aunt – Zady Lee.
This second great grand aunt’s name kept coming up in the census records. She was living with her daughter and son-in-law and their children. The name was familiar from previous research on the Hodge and Lee paternal lines. Once, she was found in the family tree program, then her relationship to the Hodge and Lee families was clear. She was the daughter of Jordan Lee and his wife Lydia Hodge Lee. She was the mother-in-law to Asa Crayton Meadows, and the relationship was stated in the 1900 census. Research on Asa Crayton Meadows lead me to the second great grand aunt. That was a fantastic find since finding women in records after they have married has proven difficult.
So, that research lead to Zady, and while researching her the records for a Margaret Strange came up in the suggested records. Margaret was another familiar name from previous research on the Lee and Hodge families. When going back to the family tree program to look for the connection Jordan and Lydia had a daughter named Margaret; and their daughter Margaret married a Strange. If the birth month and year are correct on the 1900 censuses Zady was born July 1819 and Margaret was born July 1819 in South Carolina – they were twin sisters. Siblings are our best friends and our worst enemies, and our ancestors were no different. Apparently, these two sisters were friends because they lived in the same area near each other. They shared life, love, good times and bad times, and probably were there for each other.
The research on Zady began to move forward after getting more pertinent information such as marriage information. In addition, research for Margaret and her family will begin when Zady and her family are firmly established in the family tree.
While researching, the collateral relatives remember they are part of family. They have an important part in the family and their relationships. They are the ones that were witnesses to weddings, probates, deeds; or they shared meals with your direct line ancestors and were there when they needed them. They called on each other for support and assistance when life got rough. Our ancestors related to the folks they were related to; they turned to them in a time of need. That is what being a family is all about. Cousins are friends, neighbors and acquaintances we meet. Their nieces and nephews were like their own children, and when needed they took them in as their own. These folks are family and they are collateral relatives; and they have secrets to tell; therefore tell them.
The story of the collateral relative Zady Lee will continue. ■
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