Invaluable WJS Collection Now on SFA Website!

How would you like to read a letter in your own great grandfather’s or great grandmother’s handwriting and view his or her signature? You may be able to do this now that the complete William Jones Skillman Collection is on the SFA website! It still amazes me that the Reverend William Jones Skillman’s collection of his correspondence, scrapbooks, and journals has survived the several generations and 99 years since his death in 1914. “The Skillmans of America and Their Kin,” his genealogy of the first five generations of the Skillman family in America (also under the Members Only section of the SFA website), was the result of some 30 years of his correspondence and work from the 1870s through the early 1900s. That this collection was discovered three years ago in an antiques shop in Connecticut is truly miraculous.

In September of 2010, before the Skillman Family Association was conceived, the collection was purchased by Jay Edward Skillman, Michael Jeffrey Wrona, and this author, three descendants of Thomas1 Skillman with the foresight to preserve it for posterity. Once it was digitized for the members of the SFA, it was donated in the name of the Skillman Family Association to the Archives & Special Collections Section of the Alexander Library at Rutgers University, but SFA members can view the entire collection under the Members Only section of the SFA website. For more on the collection and its donation to the Alexander Library, see the SFA Blog dated 28 April 2013 entitled “William Jones Skillman, Rutgers Class of 1860, Returns to Campus!

After the collection was purchased, it was shipped to Michael Wrona, Supervising Librarian at the John F. Kennedy Library in Dearborn, MI. Using his extensive library experience and his certification in archival administration, Michael spent many hours of his free time organizing and cataloging the collection and preparing a finding aid, which is an index to the contents of the collection. The collection was then shipped to Jay Skillman in Middlesex, NJ, who spent many hours of his free time expanding the finding aid and photographing and digitizing the numerous documents in the collection. It was Jay who then presented the collection to the Alexander Library.

All members of the Association, both present and future, owe a huge debt of gratitude to Michael and Jay for their extensive work on the collection and to Ken Skillman, our Webmaster, for his time and effort in posting the collection on our website. As members of the Skillman Family Association, we are truly fortunate to be able to view every document in this wonderful collection online without having to travel to the Alexander Library in New Brunswick, NJ. In my opinion, this access alone is well worth the price of our annual dues. Be sure to start with the Finding Aid, which will help you identify items pertaining to your own ancestors. You will note on page 4 that Jay Skillman has added his tips on some of the most interesting items in the collection. They will give you an insight to William Jones Skillman and the frustrations he faced in compiling his genealogy of our family. So take advantage of the time and hard work of your cousins and spend some of your time with the William Jones Skillman Collection. You are likely to be well rewarded!

John E. Skillman III

Understanding Cousin Relationships

Classification of cousins is often misunderstood by non-genealogists. All cousins share a common ancestor, often called the Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA). First cousins share common grandparents. Second cousins share common great grandparents. Third cousins share common 2nd great grandparents, and so forth. Skillmans in America who have to date tested their Y-chromosome DNA are all descended from common 6th great grandparents, making all of us 7th cousins.

The son or daughter of your aunt and uncle is your first cousin because you share a common set of grandparents. But what about a child of your first cousin? Most people think that child is their second cousin, but that is not correct. That child is still a first cousin, but “once removed” by the generational difference. So that child is a first cousin, once removed. If that child then had a child of his or her own, you and the younger child would then be first cousins, twice removed, because there are two generations difference between you and the younger child. Your child and your first cousin’s child would be second cousins, because they share common great grandparents.

First Cousins
first cousins

Second Cousins
second cousins

First Cousins Once Removed
first cousins once removed

First Cousins Twice Removed
first cousins twice removed

Most genealogical software today has a ‘relationship finder,” in which you can compare any two people in your database and determine how they are related. Nevertheless, a basic understanding of the principles of relationships will make it easy to assess the degrees and removals in the relationships between cousins. At least you now know that your first cousin’s child is not your second cousin.

John E. Skillman III