How far do you go?

19 Jan

As I have been trying to go through my files and tidy up my database I have run into the old question that has bugged me on and off for many years. Just how far do I go with my research?

Really what I am talking about is how much research to I do on a family that is only linked by marriage to one of my relations. One example is the family of Herbert Ebenezer BARRETT.

My 2x great-aunt Ethel Mary TROWER married Herbert Ebenezer BARRETT in 1925 and they had one child. Now I am happy researching the lives of both Ethel and Herbert and their child (and any descendants from that child), but how far do I go back the other way.

It goes without saying that I should trace the TROWER family, because that is the line that I am descended from, but what about the BARRETT family?

I can’t see any justification for going back beyond Herbert’s parents, unless there is something someone particularly wants to know, for instance if I was to make contact with a descendant of Herbert and Ethel and they asked me to find out more about the other side of the family.

Whilst I can see some justification in researching the parents and siblings of Herbert, I can’t see any point in adding all their details to my database. I could quite easily add another nine names to my family tree (two parents and seven siblings) but that is just making more work and leaving more loose ends that need tying up.

So I have decided (yes, I made a decision for once in my life!) I need to get some discipline into my tree and cut down the amount of work I have to do, so from now on I am going to include only the spouse as an actual individual in my family tree, unless there is very good reason, and the only examples I can think of are:

  1. A famous or noteworthy sibling or parent (purely for bragging rights)
  2. Where there was some recorded interaction between the siblings or parents (possibly other relations) after marriage (such as living with them during the census).
  3. Where another sibling of the spouse married another of my relations (for instance if Herbert’s sister had married one of Ethel’s brothers), where adding parents and siblings to my tree will show the relationship between the two couples clearer.

All the other information that I gather as a result of my research into the spouse of my relation (such as who his siblings were and where his parent’s lived and what they did for a living) will be recorded as a note with the spouse in my database, should I ever need to go back to it and follow it up.

By defining some ground rules and sticking to them (examples one and two above are vague enough to allow some flexibility) should reduce the amount of work and save me worrying too much about how much work I should be doing.

My questions to you are: What rules do you use when deciding who to research? Can you see any potential flaws in my rules? Let me know in the comments section below.

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3 Responses to “How far do you go?”

  1. Alex January 21, 2010 at 4:41 am #

    That’s pretty much what I do – that spouse’s family doesn’t really have any relevance to my own except in special circumstances. Perhaps if that was the longest relationship in my ancestor’s life and the spouse’s family also lived in the same village I might spend some time looking at them, but I don’t want my database getting too cluttered with extraneous individuals – it’s not a contest to collect people!

  2. John Gasson January 22, 2010 at 6:06 pm #

    I am glad I am not alone in my thinking. I just wish some of them weren’t so interesting!

  3. John Barrett June 26, 2013 at 12:46 pm #

    Two comments really – firstly, it is good to provide enough hooks so that someone can recognise a real overlaop with your own tree – sometimes the spouses descendants will share your own research interest. Secondly – Herbert Ebenezer Barrett was a brother of my grandfather, John Percival Barrett. My tree is on Genes Reunited and Ancestry.com – so you could add more than a few names if you ever wanted to! It is an interesting family line, in that Herbert’s father William Barrett was actually born William Treweeks Clatworthy, son of Ebenezer Clatwotrthy whose estate when he died in 1900 would be worth about £1 million in today’s worth. A shaggy dog story, involving William going off to Bermuda. I have a fair amount of oral history about Herbert, but not about Ethel – are you sure she was not really called Edith? See FreeBMD marriages for June 1925. Do get in touch if you can help me find the service record of Herbert Barrett. Thanks.

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