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Winter 2004
A Publication of the St. Louis Public Library

Vol. 4   No. 4


Help!! provides an opportunity for readers to ask for assistance with genealogical queries. We invite our readers to contribute solutions to questions featured in this section. See the Contact section for e-mail and postal addresses. Put GFH-HELP!! in the subject line.

Q: I saw the phrase "dower rights" in a land sale document for my ancestor’s land. Is that the same as a dowry?

A: No. Dower rights refer to the law which provided that a widow would receive a one-third interest in her deceased husband’s property during her lifetime. This was to protect the widow from poverty after her husband’s death. A dowry refers to all of the property a woman brought to a marriage.

fam tree copy.jpg (62818 bytes)Q: What is a collateral line? Do I need to research collateral lines?

A: A collateral line would be the extended family of your direct ancestors. Direct ancestors are parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on. Collateral ancestors are your aunts & uncles, cousins, in-laws, and their direct ancestors. Many genealogists do extensive research into their collateral lines, and it makes for a very large, impressive family tree.

In some cases, searching a collateral line will help you break through a brick wall. For instance, there is a woman in your direct line for whom you have been completely unable to find a document with her parents’ names. However, you have a census showing the woman, her husband, and another woman in the household listed as "sister-in-law." Since your ancestor’s husband is the head of household, the sister-in-law is your ancestor’s sister. Researching marriage records, obituaries, or death records for the sister might provide the names of parents of both women.

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