Cousin Bait and the 52 Ancestors Challenge


Bait by Laura Gilmore on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.

There are tons of reasons to blog about your ancestors. You want to remember them, sort out a research problem, share a cool find. But let’s be honest. We all hope that our post will lead us to finding new cousins. It’s what’s known as cousin bait.

Unlike the kind that you get at the local bait shop, cousin bait is a way to attract others who are researching the same lines. It’s all about getting names and information out there so that you can make those all-important cousin connections. I’m a big proponent in collaborating in genealogy. The more people working on the same research, the better off everyone is. You never know when that cousin who finds you is the one who has the family Bible or the treasure trove of photos.

Within a couple of hours of the Week 1 recap being published, two participants in the 52 Ancestors challenge found a connection with each other. Beverly Harrison at The Hopeless Hooked Genealogist saw the link to Schalene Dagutis’s article “#1 Nathaniel Tucker, Poet.” Turns out that Beverly is a descendent of this Tucker line (from one of Nathaniel’s ancestors, rather than Nathaniel himself). Schalene has more details of this connection on her blog.

Bill West’s post on Edward Colbourne netted him a new 8th cousin, once removed. Gary Scott of the “Looking Through the Lens of a Millennial Genealogist” Facebook page spotted Bill’s post and made the connection.

Not to brag, but yours truly made two connections. While going through the blogs of the participants so that I could add them to my list on Feedly, I looked at Karen Seeman’s blog “Ancestor Soup” and noticed a familiar surname – Debolt. My long-time brick wall has been my 3rd-great grandmother Matilda Debolt Skinner Crossen Brown McFillen. (Yes, she will be one of my 52 ancestors!) I contacted Karen and it turns out that we are 6th cousins, once removed. (Hi, cousin Karen!)

My other connection wasn’t a cousin, but more of an “it’s a small world” thing. I knew that my friend Shelley Ballenger Bishop of A Sense of Family is from my old stomping grounds of the east side of Columbus and that her family had Reeb’s Restaurant at the corner of Livingston Avenue and Champion Avenue. It wasn’t until I read her 52 Ancestors post “Lloyd Ballenger and Reeb’s Restaurant” that I asked my dad if he remembered any of the Ballengers. Turns out he knows Shelley’s dad Ed and remembers her grandpa Lloyd. Small world.

Dad and one of his numerous northern Pikes. You know it's a good size catch when it's bigger than one of your children.

Dad and one of his numerous northern pikes. You know it’s a good size catch when it’s bigger than one of your children.

Cousin bait. Try casting some out and see what you catch!  (And if one of your 52 Ancestors posts lands you a new cousin, let me know!)

19 thoughts on “Cousin Bait and the 52 Ancestors Challenge

  1. Schalene

    Congratulations on finding a 6th cousin once removed! I loved Shelley’s post about Reeb’s Restaurant and her grandfather. Can’t believe your Dad knew them too. It REALLY is a small world.

    Thanks for this post. It’s great reading about all the connections being made. Roll on Week #2!


  2. Karen Seeman

    We’ll have to put our heads together on the Debolt ancestry a little more – I have ADD (Ancestor Distraction Disorder) and find myself jumping around from family line to family line. When I was in ProGen I worked on the Debolt line from Daniel forward, but was quickly diverted to something else before doing much original research on his family of origin.

    Great post, BTW… I am writing my third blog post for this series, and am discovering many unexpected benefits from doing so! (Plus, I’m having fun!) :)

    1. Amy Johnson Crow Post author

      Ancestor Distraction Disorder — I am so stealing that line! As for having fun — genealogy is supposed to be fun!

      1. Karen Seeman

        I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one with that problem, Larry! :) I”ll go back to an ancestor I had been working on, and wonder, “Why did I not pursue this a little further?… Oh, THAT’S why! I got an ADD attack!”

  3. Jodi Roessler

    I have DeBolt in my maternal line! I’ve not done a lot on them, but I can take mine from Lucas County, Ohio back to Fayette County, Pennsylvania. Michael DeBolt and Catherine Shough are 4th great grandparents. Michael being the son of Michael DeBolt and Abalona Yeager. Hmmm. Will have to do a #52Ancestors piece on them…

  4. Larry Sanburg

    Nothing in the DeBolt line but a distant cousin did contact me. I was aware of him but had never contacted him. We’ll be sharing a lot of info about our respective lines.

  5. Shelley Bishop

    I can’t wait to hear what your Dad remembers about Reeb’s and my dad and grandpa, Amy! Now that my dad’s health is declining, I’m trying to gather stories from people who remember the restaurant, so I’m thrilled to make this connection. It really is a small world.

    And Karen–you hit the nail on the head with Ancestor Distraction Disorder. I get it all the time!

    1. Nancy Niehaus Hurley

      Amy, I love your idea for the 52 Ancestors Challenge! I’m coming in late, but would like to jump in here and participate. I read your recap and found many great posts that gave me ideas, even if the surnames don’t match mine. So….I’ve written my 1st post and will be doing a 2nd one in a couple of days, just so I’m up with everyone else, at least at this point. Thanks so much for inspiring us.
      My websites:

      Nancy Niehaus Hurley

    1. Amy Johnson Crow Post author

      Welcome! One thing you might want to think about… including the name of your ancestor will make it much more likely for cousins to find you. Not only through this challenge, but through people doing Google searches. Just a thought — it’s completely up to you!

  6. Helen Holshouser

    II never thought of these posts as “cousin bait” but that is so exciting to me! One of the greatest joys of being on ancestry, expecially from doing my DNA there, is connectiong with all those cousins1 I actually got to attend a family reunion last summer based on cousins I met through ancestry! If I meet some here, how cool that will be. And I suspect I just might have, although we haven’t had a chance to compare notes yet–will keep you posted! I can hardly wait to read some of the blogs of other posters here! I feel like I’ve found a treasure chest of like-hearted spirits! Thank you so much Amy, for starting this! Helen

  7. Chelsea Jones

    Started last week and got all caught up to #3 last night! :) So far I’ve written about Revolutionary soldier John Wininger, former neighbor of the Lincoln family Ignatius Strange, and a great 4 generation Carroll/Wininger/Jones photo from 1916. This is so fun – can’t wait to post and browse the other blogs each week! Thanks for the inspiration!


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