Tangential Genealogy

For this word I am reposting a blog post of mine from the GeniAus Blog in 2012.


Source:  http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/go-fly-off-at-a-tangent

In a post on Google+ recently  Kathy Reed and Susan Clark were talking about the temptation to go off on tangents when doing genealogy research.

It’s true confessions time – I am a tangential genealogist. When I told her recently that I was going to spend a few hours at our State Library one of my very interested non/genealogy friends (a rare bird) asked how I go about my research. This caused me to reflect on my practice. Now, when I am planning a trip to a distant city or repository I am the model of organisation. I refer to my research planning spreadsheet (yes I have one), work out some goals for my trip, check catalogues and, where possible, pre-order resources.

When I just have a few spare hours I practice Tangential Genealogy, so my answer to my friend was “I don’t know, I haven’t a plan.” I told her that I may start to look at a database that I can’t access from home and probably get sidetracked when I come across someone or something interesting. I may decide to look at a particular surname in my database and methodically go through the people one by one checking on facts (!) I added years ago and adding sources where applicable. My last effort with this took me as far as someone with a given name starting with C, I found something juicy so the poor D-Zs  were ditched as I set off on a chase. I may just browse the shelves in the library until I come across an unfamiliar resource (as I did last week) and thumb through its pages to see if I could find something relevant to my research (and I found a few gems). I may see a name in my database and, like I did this morning, put it into Google to see what I could find. This morning I found a treasure written in November, 2011 for someone I hadn’t researched for a few years.

While I am very serious about my family history research the bottom line is that is is my hobby. I like to have fun so, when I tire of a task or get a whiff of a scandal I may go off on a tangent.

I make no apology for being a Tangential Genealogist.

11 thoughts on “Tangential Genealogy

  1. Sometimes it’s the clues and tangents that help solve problems Jill. Being too linear can be a disadvantage and lateral thinking can be the solution….a mix of the two is good. go for it!


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  4. Oh I can so relate to this I find I am that way with all research. I am like a bower bird something catches my eye and I am off in a flash. Pulling this thread, here tugging this bit there and before I know it another day gone. Goodness only knows what treasures will be unearthed with the new Trove update. Strangely though my aged Mum does not want to know that her hero uncle turned out to be anything but constantly hospitalised for VD treatments and frequently AWOL, but who am I to judge him when he was faced with and fought the muck on Flanders Fields. After all, he was only a young man.. here I go again off on another tangent … I feel a story telling session coming on… I am now off to Flanders Fields. Thank you for the inspiration


  5. Hello Jill, thank you for the follow on my blog. I am a keen genealogist, but I have to be strict with myself as I am also working on an historical novel (loosely based on family history – very loosely as I work on the second draft). So more writing, less researching these days. Sometimes I stumble on tantalising clues and it is all I can do to stop myself following them down a burrow. So I guess I am Tangential also!

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