When I'm adding people to the family tree I tend to base the criteria as to whether they stay or eventually get themselves deleted by imagining a family gathering... perish the thought.
So if everyone dead and living were all together eating smoked salmon and cheap wine and someone said...this is my first cousin twice removed...they'd stay 'cos that's pretty simple. But if it was William the Conqueror, who is related, but in such a complex and tangled way that you couldn't drag him forcibly over to Great-Great Granny and say 'Granny...meet our William...he's my thirteenth cousin ten times removed' which he isn't...he's actually a cousin by marriage and via a tortuous route involving half brothers and sisters and all manner of folk. Using my own self-regulated rules I ought to knock him off post haste...
But I am a little teeny bit impressed by the connection so I suppose he'll have to stay...
Actually I'm in a bit of a muddle...the total number of people in my tree alone is now 12,400...and I haven't even added first cousins yet, that is the Irish side and the English side added together...the total number of people I mean. And I haven't a feckin 'clue as to where to begin printing them out and putting them in some kind of order...
There are all the little stories...one chap was killed by Indians, probably entirely his own fault...there are those who were beheaded at the behest of a King...dozens of them died in battles in both England and Ireland...there are interesting Wills and photos of remote castles perched on rocks overlooking the ocean...and I know I've written about this problem before and you've offered solutions like using a roll of stout paper and starting at the beginning and so on and I was grateful...I was honestly.
But my hand-writing is like a spider on L.S.D....even I can't always decipher it, and how on earth do I add the interesting bits...you see, it's easy to make out a family tree. There are loads of templates on-line you can print off for free...but they are tiny with little cramped spaces and not enough room to add a photo or more than a couple of dates...certainly insufficient space to include a personal story even if it was really brief.
And isn't that what it is all about...not simply gathering up names and dates...but finding out how those ancestors lived...where they lived and married and where they are buried...the way they made their living and the contents of their Wills.
There are a few Vikings lurking at the very top of this muddle...I like to know that when they stormed Dublin the Irish women practically fell at their feet because they were handsome and awfully clean. They braided their freshly washed hair and used toothbrushes and changed their clothes frequently...finding that out makes those men come alive again...and isn't that what makes researching your roots so much more interesting than a long and boring list of dates.
Much closer to our time in history is the Railway Station Master who threw himself into the local canal and drowned...and the twelve year old girl who stayed at home and made straw bonnets...the families who became destitute and ended up in the local Workhouse and were buried in unmarked graves...all those babies who didn't survive their first year led me onto a path of children's causes of death...the woman described in the census form of 1870 as 'owning a mangle' under her job description...she'd have been quite important in her village because women could take their wet washing to have it put through her mangle for a penny or so and it dried more quickly...
The chap in Norfolk whose Will stated in 1610 that his wife should receive 'the good feather mattress and two milch cows'...it was he who left his grandchildren one shilling each to buy a pair of gloves.
It's rather like being given a black and white drawing and a collection of coloured crayons...the dates...usually confirmed by records from the Parishes and from the Government...are just the bare bones...it's the small details which bring those ancestors back to life...the colouring in part if you like.
And it is the who they were which has me enthralled...from the titled people who lived in huge houses to the poor old man taken with the drink who ended up alone in a Workhouse...the servants in big London houses and the sad and lonely English wives more or less dumped by their husbands in remote, cold and draughty Irish houses where the servants didn't have a word of English...there are the Quakers and those who chose to be married by a de-frocked priest in a 'clandestine' marriage outside prison walls...we even have a vague hint of Huguenots' and certainly many Plymouth Brethren.
The English side isn't...it's mostly Irish when you get back to early Mediaeval times...with a smattering of Icelanders and I recall a Norwegian princess...
Perhaps a page or two for every interesting person...not to say they were not all interesting in their own ways ...but of those who have a deal of information, maybe that is the way to go about it.
To forget the conventional family tree carefully framed and hung in the hallway...to make up a book perhaps, with the minutiae of daily lives from times long gone.