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Digital Subscriptions > Family Tree > Family Tree February 2018 > Diaspora: Descendant tracing in the digital age

Diaspora: Descendant tracing in the digital age

Discovering distant living cousins can be a fruitful way of finding new routes to your family’s past. Seasoned researcher Donald W Davis explains why and how it can benefit your family tree

FINDING LIVING RELATIVES

New ways to research

Family historians used to work back through time. This practice is so engrained among us that to work any other way, such as from an ancestor to the present, seems revolutionary. Textbooks and guides for genealogists are mostly silent on the subject of ‘descendant tracing’ per se. The Federation of Family History Societies (FFHS) published in 2002 a then-useful 16-page monograph before the digitisation of primary sources changed how genealogy is practised. A decade later Peter Christian helpfully demystified internet genealogy as it was then. By the time the various editions of his Internet Genealogy arrived in bookshops some links to sources on the printed page were already out of date. Data sources in the digital age are evolving at a rapid pace as do your opportunities to engage with other descendants of your shared ancestors.

Why research descendants of a direct forebear

1 To determine the heirs of an unclaimed estate when the deceased left no will. Probate genealogy has been practised for centuries. In today’s digital world new doors have been opened. Viewers of the BBC’s popular Heir Hunters, now filming its 12th series, are exposed to the sometimes frantic search methods employed. A careful viewing of this programme can be instructive regarding how elusive living descendants can be located.

2 To determine why a long segment of your DNA is identical to that of a complete stranger. Genetic genealogy is growing exponentially. With databases expanding, the opportunity to find living cousins is improving significantly and will likely continue to do so in the future.

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About Family Tree

Would you like to find out those must-search sources that professional genie researchers use? We've asked a crew of top-notch family historians to share their go-to websites and records. A positively useful read, it is sure to inspire you to dig deeper and search further on your ancestor-hunting quest. Plus we've got an article packed with tried and tested advice for tracking down long-lost relations all over the globe - these new-found cousins can be an absolute boon to your research (and great fun to meet too). And we've got a delightful read which will show you how a genealogy research conundrum doesn't mean the end of your investigations, but the chance to flex your detective muscles and get better and better at tracing your family tree. Enjoy!
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