Have you ever come across a collateral-line family member who is researching the same ancestor you are? Do know how it feels to find a third cousin who is about your same age and has photos of your great grandmother that you've never seen? It is eerie and exciting, but I will tell you how you can begin!
The top two web sites for sharing information are the RootsWeb and GenForum Message Boards. You read and post messages for free on both sites, but you do have to register. According to RootWeb at www.rootsweb.com, "A message board is a computerized version of the old-fashioned bulletin board. There are more than 132,000 message boards on RootsWeb.com related to surnames, localities, and other topics. By posting a message to the appropriate message board, you create a record through which other researchers can find you. If you do not find a message board covering your topic of interest, start one."
The GenForum Message Boards at http://genforum.genealogy.com/ is a site similar to a chat-room (though not done in real time), where people post and respond to messages about their common ancestors. You can enter a family name and search for a forum, or click on a letter of the alphabet and scroll down to the surname that matches the one you are trying to search. For example, my surname was Flora. You should always begin your research with the most recent names on your family tree. In my case, I knew my deceased grandfather's name was Donald Dale Flora. When you get to the genealogy site for that surname you are searching, you can narrow that search with first names. When I was unable to find anything about Donald, I tried my great grandfather, Samuel. Upon finding no one inquiring about Donald or Samuel Flora, I then tried entering my great-grandmother's name, Louisa Flora Humberd, who had married Samuel. So I searched for surname Humberd. It did not take me very long to find someone was asking about the Humberd family! When the names we were researching matched, I was able to respond to this person's inquiry!
From this process, I found my third cousins were direct descendants of Lucinda Humberd, our great-grandmother! Wow, it was so exciting! We discovered through our e-mail communications, that my great-grandmother Louisa was a sister to Maud, their grandmother! This also led to finding their aunt, who was also my aunt, and they had valuable photos to share with me!
One thing led to another, and I found out that the Flora family had founded Flora, Indiana, and our families were among the first settlers! My aunt and I became members of the First Families of Carroll County, in the Carroll County Historical Society and Museum and submitted photos and stories of our ancestors for its "First Family" Carroll County, a book which can be found in the example of Indiana's US website: http://www.rootsweb.com/~incarrol/. How excited I was to find family members to share my genealogy research! Consequently, I found that historical societies will take your discoveries and add it to their genealogy collections! They also will provide a nice certificate of your membership!
There was also new information that my new-found collateral relatives and I discovered in our communications. I had tried for years to find out more about our possible Native American ancestry. I had a letter from my grandfather, Donald Flora, stating that our common great-grandmother, Lucinda Humberd, was half Cherokee Indian. I had one piece of evidence handed down through the family that was supposedly a Cherokee lullaby. It started with "Shu Li Shu Li Shu Li O." My aunt and cousins passed the lullaby lyrics through the genealogy forum for identification.
Working together, we tried to find information in the Dawes Rolls: http://www.archives.gov/genealogy/tutorial/dawes/, which lists names for the Cherokee tribes. The trouble was that Lucinda's maiden name was Whiteman, which we felt could have been a name change from an Indian name. Therefore, we found no match to Humberd or Whiteman. We also checked the LDS FamilySearch web site at www.familysearch.org. This site is operated by the LDS Church and is valuable in many ways. It helped us find data that has been submitted by others who have located genealogy information of our ancestors and have recorded it. It is always helpful to look there first, because we never know what may have already been researched on our families. We found data verification that we were collateral relatives! Another site that has been helpful in looking for my Native American family is www.cydislist.com/native.htm, for its variety of links for research possibilities. Learning the Native American history during the time period when my ancestors lived helped my cousins and I analyze the migration pattern for our Humberd families. Although we never did get our lullaby translated, we all agreed that ancestor photos suggests Native American resemblances.
My cousins and I are still communicating to this day, even though one of us lives in Arizona, one in Indiana, and two in Florida! We have shared photos, ideas, names, and joys! We are now on our fourth generation, where otherwise, I would still be researching my third generation only! Researchers can expand their family tree by knowing how to find collateral-line relatives, and in so doing create new family bonds.