You Don’t Need Every Rabbit Hole or to Find Kevin Bacon

There are times when the methodology of tracking all the friends, associates, and neighbors can be taken a bit too far. It’s always important to keep perspective in mind and to think about interactions with people in our own lives when researching those whose lifespan preceded our own.

The witness who appears on several deeds my ancestor signed? That’s someone I probably should research a little further to determine what (if any) the connection is to my ancestor. The lawyer who draws up his last will and testament or writes a few deeds for him? That’s someone whose background I should research, but I probably would not research the lawyer as closely as the repeating witness. Think about your own documents and records and how people from your life come to also appear in those records. Witnesses who appear on only one document your relative signs could have been witnesses of convenience, much like the assistant in a legal office who may have been the witness on your own will.

It’s probably not necessary for me to extensively research the 1900 landlord of the man who appears in my ancestor’s life once as a notary on a statement he makes when he naturalizes in 1935. It would make more sense to see where that notary worked and lived in the 1935 era–particularly if I do not know where the relative was living at that point in time.

Ask yourself, “what chance is there that information on this person gives me some good ‘background information’ to help me trace my relative?”

Remember genealogical research is not the same as “six degrees of separation” or the “six degrees of Kevin Bacon.”

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