Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Reasonable Exhaustive Search – How Far Is Far Enough?

The Genealogical Proof Standard is used to raise genealogical research to an academic level and to make sure that whatever conclusions you draw are as near to the truth as they can get. The first step in the Genealogical Proof Standard is to conduct a reasonably exhaustive search for all information pertaining to your question.

Now, when doing research and looking for answers to certain questions, I can most certainly see the use in this. However, I am currently faced with a bit of a conundrum. I am currently in the process of writing a biography of Lodewijk Wesselo. His life was very well documented and all of this documentation was collected by another, now deceased, genealogist and donated to the CBG, where I checked it out. There were a few pieces missing, like official birth, marriage and death certificate, which I looked up, and some photographs, which I also located as far as I was able.

Yet, I know that there are some sources still untapped. I know I can request a persoonskaart, yet I also know it will tell me nothing new. In fact, this data would’ve been transferred from the official birth, marriage and death certificates, which I’ve got. There’s an archive a couple of hours from here that might have some more information about the company Lodewijk was a manager of for eight years, and the archive in Den Haag might have some information on a company he worked for briefly. These things are stones unturned.

However, if I look at the mountain of data already available to me, I know I’ve got more than enough to accurately tell his life story. I have his own words about the companies he worked for, both from letters and from his brief autobiography. There is no real need for this information, especially considering the costs and time it would take to get the information, if there is information at all. Not to mention the fact that he has 11 other brothers and sisters, who have an equal amount of information in the archive I have yet to look at. And it took me five whole days for Lodewijk!

On the other hand, I know that if Lodewijk was my direct ancestor (he wasn’t, his sister Alida Petronella was) I would go and look this information up. So maybe I’m being a bit hypocritical here. But still, I wonder, when is it exhaustive enough? Should I look up this information, if it is there, or can I let it go, knowing I have his whole life laid out in front of me already, sources and all?


  1. You do have a conundrum. I have to ask the question - how sure are you that you know everything pertinent about his life? If you're very sure, since he isn't a direct-line ancestor, if it were me, I'd let it go.

    But another angle - could there be anything in these "unturned stones" that would indirectly pertain to his sister Alida, or his parents? If this is a possibility, it might be worth looking at.

  2. Good points! Yes, I am very sure I know everything pertinent about his life and the 'unturned stones' would not, even indirectly, give any information about his sister or parents, just a little more information about himself (in areas I already have a lot).

    So, in this case, I think I'll let it go. But it are good points to keep in mind for his brothers and sisters.