Amir Dekel over at I Dream of Genea(logy) posted an interesting research question about who to include in the ever-growing tree. This is a question I myself had after I kept adding people that really had no "direct" relationship. I started to respond to Amir's post via a comment, but it's a little hard to explain in such a short amount of space. Plus, I believe in visuals, so I decided to do a post instead.
Now, when I say direct here, I don't mean direct-line. I include every last cousin I can find. What I don't include are their ancestors beyond the point where we became related. Huh? Basically, I don't bark up the "married into" family tree, unless I need to (for more information, research lead, etc.) or want to (interesting story, possible connection to other family, etc.).
So, for example, my second-great-granduncle, Edward P MULLIGAN married Sarah RALPH and had four children. I will of course travel up Edward's line, since his father is my third-great-grandfather. I will also travel down Edward's line to capture all those pesky cousins. But, I will not do anything more for Sarah since she only married into my family. I would only do this if I found that her family (or another spouse or other children) could prove useful in my research.
Sometimes this can lead to missed opportunities, as was almost the case with two of my first cousins twice removed. Clarence L ROTTMAN and Ethel ROTTMAN were brother and sister, and each married a COSTER (Alma and George respectively). Because I hadn't initially included the parents for George and Alma, I may have overlooked the fact that they shared the same parents and were indeed brother and sister. Because I had copies of documents and my sources referenced, it was easy for me to go back and make the connection.
While I suppose siblings marrying another family's siblings is somewhat common (this is not the first instance in my tree and probably not the last), I'd rather miss them initially, than to have oodles of collateral branches out there just blowing in the wind.
Originally posted @ my LiveJournal blog on 15 October 2008.