Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Dear Randy: "How Can I Find Living Descendants with the Surname of a Historical Person?"

A Genea-Musings reader asked this question in email recently because they want to find someone descended from a War of 1812 soldier in their home town with the same surname.

1)  I had two thoughts:

* Search on,, and other online family trees for the historical person, and see if you can find information down to the present (or the generation that died before now) with that name.  But how do I sort out hundreds/thousands of names to find the ones I want?

* Search on FamilySearch Family Tree, Geni World Tree or WikiTree for descendants of the historical person. Can a Descendants Report be created?

I recalled that Puzzilla could provide a Descendants Tree for a historical person.  I looked on FamilySearch Family Tree for a Descendants Report and did not find the capability.

2)  I recalled that I could import a bare-bones family tree (names, relationships, dates, places only) of a historical person into RootsMagic from FamilySearch Family Tree.  With that tree, I could then create a Descendants list or a Descendants Report that would have names, dates and places, but no sources.  However, it would have only deceased profiles, so to find a living person in the town, I would have to search newspapers, social media, and people finders, but having the bare-bones family tree might reduce the effort of getting to the unknown living persons in the specific town.

In order to demonstrate this process, I'm going to do it with one of my tree families.

3)  Can I find current San Diego residents who are descendants of Valentine Sevier (1712-1803) who settled in Virginia?  Here is his profile (MXM6-X3V0 in FamilySearch Family Tree:

*  I noted the FS ID number MXM6-X3V because I need it to put into RootsMagic.

*  With RootsMagic open, I clicked on "File" and then "New" and saw the "Create a new RootsMagic file" and entered the new file name:

*  When I clicked on "OK" the new file opened.  It was empty.  I clicked on "File" and "FamilySearch Central" and logged into FamilySearch:

*  I clicked on the "Import" button in the top row of icons, and selected "Use FamilySearch person with this ID" and selected 0 generations of ancestors and 12 generations of descendants:

*  I clicked on the "Import" button on the screen above.  There is a message that says it may take a long time.  I started at 2:10 p.m.  Here is a screen shot 20 minutes into the import:

*  I cut the download off after 70 minutes.  There are 7734 persons in the RootsMagic family tree file, all descendants (and their spouses) of Valentine Sevier.

*  Here is the Family View for Valentine Sevier (1702-1803):

*  I can now make a Descendants Report for Valentine Sevier by clicking on "Reports" then "Narrative Report" then selecting "Descendants" and "NGSQ" on the screen below.

*  Now I have a 1107 page report for 6 generations of descendants of Valentine Sevier, with a name and place index.  I can check the town of interest and see what descendants are living in that town.

4)  Of course, this is a family tree from FamilySearch submissions, and any name, relationship, date or place may be wrong.  The names may be incomplete, some dates may be missing, the places may not be standardized, and there are no sources in this import.  However, if I find a descendant of interest, I can go into each ancestor in their line back to Valentine Sevier and check the sources given for each ancestor.  My experience in FamilySearch Family tree has been pretty good - there are many profiles with errors, but if the profile has names of parents, a birth date and place, and a spouse's information, the information between 1750 and 1940 is pretty good.  In the case of Valentine Sevier, there is a Sevier genealogy book available too from which significant information was obtained to submit to the Family Tree.

5)  In this example, I looked for a deceased Sevier descendant of Valentine Sevier in San Diego County.  I found one Sevier who died in 1949 in San Diego whose family is not in FamilySearch Family Tree.  An obituary for him might provide a wife's name, children names, etc. California birth records might provide children's names, and a people finder site might find their phone number. I could contact them if I wanted to.

6)  For my email correspondent, the tree took only 6 minutes to import, had only 474 persons, and RootsMagic created a 57 page descendants report.  I emailed it to her in 30 minutes after starting on the project.  She was thrilled!  She reviewed the report, and easily found a person with the same surname in the town of interest, and used a people finder program to get a phone number, called the number, and a daughter answered, heard her story, and confirmed the descendancy.  The town will soon have a War of 1812 memorial for their honored person who settled there early in the town's history, and the family will know more of their family history.

7)  It's amazing what genealogy/family tree management programs can do.  The above is one thing that no online tree can do at the present time as quickly and efficiently as RootsMagic does, IMHO.


The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2020, Randall J. Seaver

Please comment on this post on the website by clicking the URL above and then the "Comments" link at the bottom of each post. Share it on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest using the icons below. Or contact me by email at


tkoniuszy said...

This is such a useful tool and thinking outside the box. Thanks, Randy! Great tip.

Steve Martin said...

Great to know about this news and well define. I love to share in a groups.

must check : Fun Bikes Discount codes.