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… by the dozens but …

The Legal Genealogist has never lacked for cousins.

Having one parent from a very large and very close family — my mother was one of 12 children, 10 of whom lived to adulthood — has had me surrounded by cousins all my life.

A few older than I and a whole army of them younger, the cousins were always there — at our grandparents’ farm in Virginia in the summers, at family holiday get-togethers, at weddings and — these days — all too often at funerals.

When I got interested in genealogy, I found that I had a lot more cousins: first cousins once removed, since my mother’s parents both had siblings who had children; and second cousins… and…

Then came the DNA revolution and the whole concept of cousins exploded. Third and fourth and fifth cousins everywhere! Cottrells and Johnsons and Battleses and Joneses and…

cousins tree

In so many ways, it’s been such a joy. My cousin Thelma whose DNA helps us with our Shew and Battles lines, along with our cousin Gary. My cousin David whose DNA works with ours to inch us along in finding our Cottrell ancestors. My cousin Ken whose DNA may someday help us figure out which Johnson fathered our Mathew the shoemaker in Virginia around 1813.

It’s always seemed that there was no end to the cousins — cousins by the dozens! And being surrounded by so many cousins all my life, I’ve tended to take them for granted.

Until, all of a sudden, something happens that forces you to stop and take stock.

To stop and think and truly appreciate the cousins.

Cousins who — suddenly, it seems — are no longer with us.

That something this time around was the deadline, now extended to December 16, to transfer DNA results into MyHeritage DNA and get all the matching and tools for free.1 That led me to be scurrying around, making sure I had the necessary permissions from key cousins to be able to take advantage of the transfer opportunities.

Only to discover that some of the email addresses I have on file aren’t working any more.

And some of them will never work again.

Going back over my records, there were some I knew wouldn’t work:

• Cousin Thelma — my first cousin once removed, my grandmother’s first cousin, a member of a generation whose DNA is so amazingly valuable to all of us in our research — was lost to us in 2016.2

• Cousin Ken — grandson of a Texas Ranger captain — gone in 2017.

• Cousin Gary — whose DNA is helping us figure out our Shews — gone in 2017.

But there were others, this time around… Cousin Bobby, my mother’s first cousin but much closer to my generation in age than to hers. And the gut punch of discovering that my young cousin David — much younger than I — won’t be sharing any more discoveries with us in our Cottrell line.

So let me stop here on this family Saturday and raise a glass to all the cousins.

To those who have generously and even gleefully shared their DNA to help us all learn more about who we are and where we belong in the human family tree.

To those who preserved the memories and helped in the research.

To those who continue to work with us.

And to those whose tasks are done.

Still dozens of cousins… but a few fewer as this year draws to a close.


  1. Those who transfer in after that date can still do so for free, but some of the tools will require a subscription. See “Free DNA Uploads — Deadline Extended!,” MyHeritage Blog, posted 1 Dec 2018 ( : accessed 1 Dec 2018).
  2. See Judy G. Russell, “Sunset in Rising Sun,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 11 June 2016 ( : accessed 1 Dec 2016).
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