At Family Tree Magazine
, we hear many of the same family tree-related questions over and over. I thought I’d answer a few of them here.
You’ll find even more FAQs (and the answers) on our Web site
. How am I related to … [insert description of relative]?A
. It depends who’s the most-recent shared ancestor between you and the relative in question, and how many generations lie between each of you and that ancestor. Find an explanation here
and a chart to help you figure it all out here
. We’ve always heard we’re related to [fill in the famous name—John Brown, Daniel Boone and Abraham Lincoln are common ones]. How do we know for sure?A
. Lots of families have stories like this, and they’re not all true. To find out about yours, carefully research your family tree using reliable sources. You’ll also need to find the family tree of the person you might be related to (link to several famous trees here
) and compare the trees to find people common to both.Q
. Why can't I find my ancestor on the Ellis Island Web site
. Ellis Island, open from 1892 through 1924, was the busiest US port of immigration, but it wasn't the only one. Cities all along the coasts received immigrants, including Boston, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Galveston, San Francisco and others. Your ancestor may have arrived at one of these ports, or before Ellis Island opened, or overland from Canada or Mexico. See a list of ports and existing records for each on the National Archives Web site
. My daughter learned she and her fiancé share an ancestor. Can they still marry?
. It’s common for spouses to share an ancestor somewhere back
in time—in fact, all states allow marriage between second or
more-distant cousins. See a summary of state laws governing cousin marriages at the National Conference of State Legislatures