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:
- A famous or noteworthy sibling or parent (purely for bragging rights)
- Where there was some recorded interaction between the siblings or parents (possibly other relations) after marriage (such as living with them during the census).
- 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.