Pre-internet "Cousin Bait" Creates 21st Century Resources
January 30, 2020
Some family historians refer to their blogs as “cousin bait.” Why? Because blogs and the information they contain leave a virtual paper trail for potential cousins to find. In all actuality there are various kinds of online cousin bait that researchers leave behind in the hopes that someone will discover our shared family history information and contact us. For example, online family trees are a form of cousin bait. Even online DNA profiles serve as a means to attract long lost family.
Those who have researched their family history prior to the advent of the Internet also left “cousin bait.” They accomplished this differently than today but it was still done with the same purpose, to find family history researchers for potential collaboration. One example of this older cousin bait is found in the page of Everton’s Genealogical Helper Magazine.
Started in 1947, at one time Everton’s was the genealogy magazine. For those of us who have been researching family history in the United States for longer than a few decades, we remember how Everton’s was a place to read how-to articles and scan postings by other genealogists hoping to network with long-lost cousins. While this kind of magazines is typically long forgotten when it ceases publication, in the case of Everton’s some parts continue to exist via the MyHeritage website.
One example of this is the Everton Pedigree and Family Group Sheets collection.
The Everton Pedigree and Family Group sheets
The Everton Pedigree and Family Group Sheets collection is “more than 3.5 million names in more than 150,000 pedigree charts and family group sheets.” MyHeritage explains that
Started during the Mar-Apr 1979 issue of Everton's Genealogical Helper, the information was originally gathered through user-generated submission via advertisement in Everton's Genealogical Helper, this collection displays the archival efforts of thousands of genealogical enthusiasts, all who are trying to connect with their relatives across time and space. The records within this collection may not be up-to-date to present day research, but they are believed to be up-to-date as of the date of reception of the individual record. All records have this date stamped on them. Many of the pedigree charts and family group sheets contain documentations and sources, although others simply cite the information collector, or the person who is sending in the material. Pedigree charts and family group sheets within this collection range in date from fourteen and fifteenth centuries (information on the charts, not the charts themselves) to the present.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. This is user submitted information so how good could it be? Point taken. Just like with online family trees, these should be used as a clue and researchers should do their own research to prove (or disprove) information provided. But even with that said, let me show you what you can find and the value of this content.
Consider this example of a Family Group Record for John Delbridge and Jane Nichols. On page two the submitter notes that some of the information for the husband and wife is from the 1870 and 1880 census for Mercer County, Pennsylvania, a marriage record, and a naturalization record. While not complete source citations they do provide clues that would need to be followed up on. But notice the sources for the children: “letter from Lena Delbridge to Richard Delbridge in possession of Florence Delbridge of St. Clairsville, OH; family records of Florence Delbridge concerning Richard; Wm Henry's birth record, marriage record, death record, and obituary; naturalization records; 1880 & 1900 censuses of Clay Co., IN; 1900 census Jefferson Co, Al; 1900 Census Belmont Co, OH.
The submitter also goes on to say that "many of the children were coal miners and moved from place to place with the availability of work." The thorough family history researcher would need to double check these sources, but what a clue they provide.
This next example, also a Family Group Record, I used in my recent free MyHeritage webinar available from Legacy Family Tree Webinars. I love this example from Harry F. Spitzer because it provides information that the submitter knew first hand.
Dad was a farmer all his life. Mom was a teacher at Star School in Bent Co., Not sure weather [sic] it was before or after she married dad. Mom died when I was very young (5 yrs old) from complications associated with cancer. Dad raised all of us kids with a lot of help from my older sisters especially Mary.
How great is that? He provides genealogically important information about his parents and siblings and then includes his own memories. Something we should all consider doing as we upload our own information onto online family trees.
I love this database because it provides us with ephemeral information from a magazine that no longer exists that we might otherwise assume wouldn’t still be available. It’s also searchable by every name, allowing us to find family members , especially women, with their nuclear family or the family they married into.
This MyHeritage database isn’t the only one that provides the ability to search Everton’s Genealogical Helper content. MyHeritage also has the Everton’s Genealogical Helper Magazine database which should also be searched. Researchers may find that someone else was looking for the same ancestor decades previously.
What Have You Found?
There are paper trails out there, and part of being a thorough researcher is knowing where to look. Unique databases on subscription websites provide us a glimpse of much more than just census or vital record information. The key is to search their catalogs carefully.
Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.
Thank you. I didn’t know Everton's was available online. I read that magazine for several years when I was a brand new genealogist. Loved every issue.
Posted by: Diane Gould Hall | January 30, 2020 at 07:49 PM
This is an Everton operation that I didn't know about, even when I was a subscriber to the Helper (1970-80s). Did the company check the collection for customers and charge for copies of the matching family group sheets that they found? I belonged to several (large and small) societies that did the same thing for their members and made contact with several real (and active!) cousins that way over the years.
Posted by: Marian | February 03, 2020 at 07:17 AM
I like the term "cousin bait" and have fortunately run across just this a few times. Two of my most enjoyed encounters involved ancestor photos on Flickr, posted by cousins. I had never seen a photo of my 3rd great grandparents or my 2nd great grandfather's sisters and brother prior to running across them with a random flickr search on their surname. You never know where you will find a pearl.
Posted by: Dawn Smith | February 04, 2020 at 11:43 AM