So far in my family history research, I’ve focused on direct lines. Except for my own brothers, every person entered into my genealogy software (I use Reunion) is someone I’m directly descended from. I think one of the reasons for that is to try to make genealogy research less overwhelming. Lately, I’ve been thinking about how useful it would be to record brothers and sisters of direct ancestors (i.e. collateral lines). They can give valuable clues and help verify that a person being reached is the right person.
I worry a little about where I should draw the line–if I record the children of the siblings of my direct ancestors, will my family tree feel bloated? Will I feel more overwhelmed?
This came to a head this week when I learned that my grandfather’s only surviving sibling, his sister Mary, passed away at the age of 99. I was fortunate to meet Mary for the first time earlier this year. (That’s Mary, on her father’s lap at the age of four in the photo. My grandfather, Crawford, is standing at his father’s left shoulder.) She was delightful, with sparkling eyes and an easy laugh. I’m saddened by her passing.
Somehow it feels wrong that Mary’s not included in my family tree entries. I’ve decided to record siblings of my direct line as I come across them. My mother’s cousins Jerry and Judy Brown (Aunt Mary’s nephew and niece) have done a lot of genealogy research–including oral history with Mary–so adding that part of the family will be easy. I don’t know that I’ll go out of my way to research collateral lines (though who knows?), but I intend to verify and record information as I encounter it.
It seems clear to me that I shouldn’t be afraid of having too much information, as long as I apply the same standards of accuracy to my collateral lines as I do my direct lines. I don’t mind recording information–in fact, I rather enjoy it. So I’m comfortable with my decision to start including collateral lines. I’ll try not to let it overwhelm me!