When thinking about our family tree we often think upwards. Finding additional direct line ancestors is often our goal. This is a good thing to pursue, but if your family tree is anything like mine, it can be a difficult task. I have had many family members who, for decades, have been researching my ancestors.
I also sometimes think about what my GGGG Grandfather cared about. He was interested in all of his family, not just the son or daughter from which I descend. Descendancy research can be rewarding as you find family members (aunts, uncles, cousins, etc) about whom our ancestors cared deeply. It can also provide fruitful research successes.
FamilySearch has some new tools to help in this process of finding our whole families, not just our direct line ancestors. The new descendancy view can help give a good summary of where there are opportunities to find additional ancestors, and where there are record hints to our trees.
First, view your family tree. Then select Descendancy from the tree views (towards the top on the left hand side of the tree screens). If you are viewing yourself in the main position you will have to click to expand upward. You can expand upward two generations at a time. I usually go upward four or five generations. This is often the sweet spot for the combination of indexed records and identifying areas of my tree that have not been completed.
There will be several “badges” on the right hand side of the screen. The possible options for a badge are:
1. Request ordinances – If you are LDS and the ancestor currently does not have all their ordinances completed, you will see this badge.
2. Record hints – This badge shows up if there are record hints for this family member. This descendancy view is an ideal place to quickly find all the hints for your family members. When you click on the badge it will take you to the record hints for that family member and allow you to review and attach them to that person in the family tree.
3. Research suggestions – There are a variety of suggestions you might receive. If there is a large gap between children it will let you know that a child might be missing. It might tell you that you are missing birth and death years. This area lets you know where there is missing information you may want to research.
4. Data problems – This is a wonderful addition because it lets you know when there are problems with the data in the tree. Examples are when children are born after the parent died or before they were born, or when a marriage date is before the birth of the person or after their death. This section has been particularly helpful to me in finding the problems in the tree that need correction. I have found many and have been able to make a meaningful dent in some of the data problems in my tree.
You can drill down into a person on the descendancy view by clicking on the arrow next to their name. When you do that it will show the spouse of the individual and their children. You can then click the arrow next to the children and continue to drill down. The combination of the drill down and the badges makes finding the opportunities for record hints among your cousins, aunts, and uncles quick and relatively easy.
For me, this is the beginning of a new, much easier way to find the low hanging fruit on my family tree where there are records to extend my research. I can also learn more about my extended family, where they are from, and what their lives were like. For me this has been as or more rewarding than ancestral research.
If you haven’t tried desendancy research, there is no time like the present. I am confident that you will find new family members and learn more about them and yourself in the process.