Genealogists like to brag about their ancestors: how many they've identified, how many generations they've traced.
But sometimes, they get their terms confused in the telling. It's important to understand how to correctly identify relatives, and to use the words associated with genealogy correctly so everyone knows exactly what you're bragging about.
Two basic and often misused terms are "ancestor" and "descendant." An ancestor is one from whom a person descends. They are parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. I often hear people refer to them as "direct ancestors." Since there's no such thing as an "indirect ancestor," there's no need to say "direct ancestor." Just plain "ancestor" says it all.
People also incorrectly apply the term "collateral ancestor" to describe those in the family tree who they say are not "direct ancestors." This includes cousins, aunts and uncles. Although these people are relatives of different distances, they are not ancestors.
The aunts, uncles, and cousins aren't ancestors because you didn't descend from them. The people with whom you share a common ancestor but who are not in your direct line are called collateral relatives, not collateral ancestors.
So keep it simple: plain old ancestors and collateral relatives.
Ancestors often hide behind names someone butchered during the indexing process; it's a common problem. Sometimes only pure luck (or perhaps guidance from the spirit of an ancestor) leads us to discover these relatives.
Census records are among the most notorious, partly because the handwriting is often hard to decipher.
So here's a suggestion: Search by something other than the surname. This won't always work but when it does, you'll celebrate.
Try this in the search engines at Ancestry.com: Rather than doing an all-records search, from the dropdown "Search" tab at the home page, select "census and voter lists." Then narrow the search by selecting "U.S. Federal Census" on the right side of the next page.
At the third page, scroll past the search box, a little more than halfway down the page, and select a census year.
Enter only a first name and the county in which you think the person lived. You'll get a return for everyone with that given name in that county for that census year. For example, putting just "Isaac" the search box (with no surname) will net every Isaac from Isaac Barnes to Isaac Zuker. This works especially well for ancestors with unusual first names.
Another nonsurname search will work only in 1850 and later censuses and only if the person was born outside the United States. You also must have an idea of the census year when the person lived. In the search engine, ignore the request for names and dates of birth. Enter a country into the place of birth (for example, Africa or Ireland) and county, state of 1850 residence (for example Bucks County, Pa).
The site will return all the individuals who fall into the parameters you set. For example, anyone living in 1850, born in Africa, and living in Bucks County, Pa.
Give it a try - it just might net you an illusive relative.
You wouldn't know it from the weather, but genealogists are beginning to think fall with the revival of monthly meetings for a variety of local groups. Here are some of the first to announce upcoming meetings.
Confederates. Tampa Chapter 113 of the United Daughters of the Confederacy will meet at 10:45 a.m. Sept. 11 at the Columbia Restaurant, 2117 E. Seventh Ave., Ybor City. Hans Kirsch will talk about troop logistics during the Civil War. Anyone interested in becoming a member of this group may call Bobbie at (813) 251-1502.
Jewish. "American Passage: The History of Ellis Island" will be the topic for the 2 p.m. Sept. 12 meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Tampa Bay. The group meets at 14041 Icot Blvd., Clearwater.
Anyone with questions about the group or the meeting may call Sally Israel at (727) 343-1652.