Friday, January 03, 2014

Quantity or quality?

Great grandpa?
Do you feel envious, or skeptical, when you read about someone who has zillions of relatives in his family tree? Or who claims to trace her illustrious forebears back to Charlemagne? (Funny, no one ever brags about being descended from Attila the Hun.) Are these people simply collecting names, harvesting them from other trees just because there might be a tenuous link?  Online family trees are great enablers in this respect, as there is endless space for adding names, and, sadly, very little on the need for valid sources.

While I’m chasing faint connections in an attempt to identify some first-name-only references in an old letter, these questions do come to mind.  I am looking at a family related only by marriage -- my great-grandmother’s in-laws from her first brief union.  This spouse was David Hammond, son of Nathaniel Hammond and the second of his three wives, Hannah Van Meter. All told, Nathaniel fathered 17 children we know of, and of course most of them married and reproduced abundantly. From various clues in the letter, written to my grandmother by her aunt, I am guessing the people she named are part of this enormous Hammond clan, most of whom lived their lives in 19th century Indiana.

 The researching involved is sort of like trying to solve a tantalizing puzzle with many equally tempting off-shoots, which means I can easily lose sight of my goal -- simply identifying the names in the letter. 

I am reminded of Stephen Leacock’s words: "Lord Ronald ... flung himself upon his horse and rode madly off in all directions.” But I do try to keep to the point. It is a fascinating family, but only one individual is connected to my line in any way.  The letter’s references are my excuse for digging further, but how does one decide where to draw the line?  

What are you views?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I, too, have this problem. If I really feel that I'm on the wrong track, then it just move on to some other area of research for a while. Better than adding the wrong person to your tree. And sometimes, after a bit of time, more info is added to whoever's archives (in my case, that's, and I'm able to confirm that the person is indeed in my tree.