Yesterday I reached a milestone in my family history research. I added the 10,000th person to my family tree on Ancestry.com. That number represents over twenty years of research time invested in this hobby but, I enjoyed every bit of it and I am not done yet.
This seems like a good time to answer a question that I get asked from time to time and to say something about my research philosophy.
Obviously, with 10,000 people in my tree, they can not all be my direct ancestors. That brings up the question:
"Why do you include so many distant relatives in your tree?"
Before I get into the reasons, I should say that everyone in my tree is connected somehow. There are no isolated branches or individuals, they all tie together no matter how remotely.
For example, The last person I entered (Kenneth D. Hayward) is the husband of my 2cd cousin 1x removed. That is a little distant and many family historians would not include him in their tree - but I did. Not only that but, if I find information about Kenneth's parents and siblings I will probably include that too. Those people are not directly related to me (as far as I know) but they are connected.
I have four main reasons for including so much of my extended family.
First: I hope the research I do will help other people searching for their ancestry. Using the example of the Hayward family, someone searching that line, now or in the future, might find them in my tree and learn something new to them. When I have information available to me, it just seems like a waste not to record it.
Second: I am able to connect to other family historians because they see names from my tree and reach out to me with additional information or corrections. Ancestry helps with that by showing me other people researching the same families and allowing us to contact each other.
Third: It is surprising how often extended family turns out to be connected in multiple ways. In the past, more people lived in small towns. I often see multiple generations of marriages between the same families because that is who they lived close to and knew. I have written more about this "cluster genealogy" in another post at wingingitblog.com/cluster-genealogy-can-help-grow-your-family-tree/.
Fourth: Extending the branches in my family tree help me correct errors. I know my genealogy has errors in it. I wrote more about that at wingingitblog.com/my-genealogy-is-wrong/. To go back to Kenneth Hayward, he married the granddaughter of my great-great aunt (my great grandfather's sister). If I find discrepancies between previous research on that line and what I find on the Hayward line I can possible resolve the differences and correct my data.
So, 10,000 down and many more to come. There are still a lot of ancestors to find. I will continue doing genealogy for as long as I am able!