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No time to waste in locating living descendants who know family history

Descendants of Rev. Lafayette Franklin Vance meet in Columbia in 2005.
Descendants of Rev. Lafayette Franklin Vance meet in Columbia in 2005.
Photo by Robin Foster

In order to bridge the gap between generations, family historians need to connect with the oldest living relatives and friends.  The 1930 US Census, death records, and public directories can help them reconnect and share oral history and photos.

How to find living descendants

This clever process starts with a completed pedigree chart and family group sheets and often ends with discovering distant cousins, the family homestead, neighbors, and friends:

  1. Fill out a Pedigree Chart which will help identify the ancestors and family groups you wish to document.
  2. Choose an ancestor, and complete two Family Group Sheets with:
  • your ancestor as a parent
  • your ancestor as a child

        3.  Review both family group sheets, and list each family member who was alive in 1930.

        4.  Search the 1930 US Census for each family member, and record the places where they lived.

        5.  Search the Social Security Death Index for each of the family members on the 1930 US Census. 

        6.  Search for death certificates and obituaries for each member of the family group.

        7.  Search the US Public Records Index and for all family members for whom you could not locate a death record to see if they are still alive and listed in these public directories.

        8.  If you discover people who could be related to you, send a letter to them introducing yourself and a little information about your common ancestor.  If you find you are related, you will what to conduct an oral history interview with them.

Other local resources to check

If you are unable to connect with a relative this way, try these resources:

  • neighbors who live near the family homestead
  • local churches where your family attended or were buried
  • local libraries for genealogical resources

The process works

The photograph above represents a success story using the above process.  Three descendants of Emory Wallace Vance came together for the first time in 53 years in Columbia to visit the daughter of his brother, Frank Vance.  Each is a descendant of Lafayette Franklin Vance.  See article:  "Honor the legacy of fatherhood in Columbia area this Father's Day" .

Sometime researchers neglect the obvious in their hunt for information.  They spend a considerable amount of time combing through records and overlook distant relatives, neighbors, and friends who knew their ancestors.  Their experiences and stories remain untold.


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