friend Anonymous (one of my most frequent commentators):
I have focused on the direct family lines in my own research for a simple reason: it results in a more manageable # of people. Though I have generally kept the names and birthdates (and sources) for siblings, my trees and summary documents leave them out. It's a difference of about 1,000 person (direct line) versus 10,000 people (siblings)... or many more if you get into the siblings' children.
I do see the value in recording everybody. But time constraints require tough choices.Does this mean when you find a family, you skip recording the children because of time constraints?
I guess my point in commenting about researching individuals as opposed to families was completely lost on this person. We all make choices based on time contraints but it is the value of those choices that is important. One saying, handed down in my family, was, "If something is worth doing, it is worth doing right." In genealogical research, is the goal to accumulate as many names as possible? Or perhaps the goal is to get as far back in time as possible? Obviously, our goals, expressed or unexpressed, determines how we view the time we spend on any project. As genealogists is our goal to "manufacture" our product as cheaply as possible? Or are we crafting museum quality products that will last forever? Is our product the disposable and biodegradable packaging or the high quality contents? Yes, time constraints require tough choices.
My point as simply as I can express it is this, families should be the goal of genealogical research. It may be emotionally satisfying to "prove" your relationship to some famous person or enable joining a genealogical society such as the Daughters of the American Revolution or the Mayflower Society, but the real value in doing genealogical research is in the families you discover. Who imposed this time contraint on you forcing you to ignore family members in favor of pushing back your "direct family." The whole idea of a direct family is based either on our artificially imposed idea of a surname family line or on an even more destructive idea that only male ancestors count. Why is your "direct line" more important than any other part of your pedigree?
In my own family, I never knew my paternal grandparents. They both died before I was born. I grew up knowing, visiting, talking to and staying with my maternal grandparents. One of the ancestors I saw most frequently was my father's mother's mother, my Great-grandmother. For reasons unknown, our family never associated closely with anyone in particular from my father's family. The two genealogists in my family were both on maternal lines. As I have written before on occasion, the amount of material transmitted to me from my family is enormous. Talk about time contraints, it takes me a whole day or more just to back up my files, which I am doing right now and the two hard drives have been running since yesterday. But given that background and many other factors, I have spent a huge amount of time on my "collateral" lines rather than just focusing on my direct lines.
Most of my research has been in correcting the errors that have accumulated over the past 150 years or so. Filling out the families is a top priority.
Focusing on families and their background, history and culture is not just more satisfying, it is also essential to discovering additional information about more remote ancestors. The most common situation I encounter in helping people with their genealogy is that they are trying to find a remote ancestor without knowing anything at all about that ancestor's descendants or family. In many cases, they have no documentation at all about the children who are the connection to the ancestor. How do they know they are researching the right person?
Let's re-evaluate our goals. We all have time constraints. Let's jointly craft museum quality research rather than throw-away, disposable research that will have to be redone in the future by someone else (like me).