Pointless Research

Does all the research that we do have to have a specific point? Do we always have to be ‘on’ as researchers, beavering away at our own lines and families? Can we – should we – be allowed to undertake research that is just for fun?

Spoiler alert: Abso-effing-lutely we should. In the words of Blanche Devereaux: “It keeps you healthy, keeps you in shape. Keeps your buttocks firm.” Alright, so not exactly (after all, if genealogy did that, then Jazzercise would never have been invented…), but it allows us to firm up our researching muscles whilst providing our brains with some free-wheeling time to mull over strategies for solving other research blockers.

Case in point …

I was scanning some surnames in my tree a few days ago and came across several instances of Holborows marrying Worlocks. Three of them, in fact.

Ann Deborah Holborow and Robert Thomas Worlock in 1876 at the chapel in Tresham, Hawkesbury:

Mary Ann Holborow and Edwin Worlock in 1841 at Newington Bagpath:

John Holborow and Anne Worlock in 1813 at Wotton under Edge:

I couldn’t help but wonder about the likelihood of these three Worlocks being related somehow. (Of course, of course, all the Holborows are related too – Ann Deborah’s grandparents were John and Anne above, and John was the uncle of Mary Ann.) So I set about compiling their tree. For what reason? None, if I was being strict with my research time. I was doing it just for funsies. Out of sheer genealogical curiosity. Why did George Mallory climb Everest? Because it’s there. (Take that, Edmund Hillary.) And so I researched these Worlocks because they were there.

It’s not esoteric; it’s not clever: it’s fun. That has to be part of why we do this, right? Because we have to enjoy it. It can’t just be a slog and frustrating and cursing old registrars.

And what did I find? Ann and Edwin seemed to be the children of John Worlock who had married Elizabeth Phillips in Wotton under Edge in 1789. John and Elizabeth had five children altogether. Ann and Edwin, as we have seen, along with Elizabeth, George, and Robert. Robert married Elizabeth Gillman and were the parents of Robert Thomas Worlock – who married his first cousin once removed, Ann Deborah Holborow.

But my pointless research didn’t end there!

Firstly, it turns out that a daughter of Edwin and Ann married into one of the extended side shoots of the Neale family. These Neal(e) lines crop up time and again across Gloucestershire and Wiltshire in both my mother’s and father’s families and it would need an entire team of one-name studiers to unpick them all.

Secondly, I spotted a few records with Worlocks using the middle name of Phillips. Of course these had to be descended from John and Elizabeth, right? Well …

Before I get to that, a quick tangent. Last week someone posted on Reddit about wanting an AI that would trawl record databases (i.e. Ancestry, FamilySearch, FindMyPast, etc.) and find their family for them. I mean, talk about a real oh boy moment. One example why … in my search for offspring of John and Elizabeth’s son, George, I was suggested a number of records for a George Phillips Worlock. Year of birth appeared to be a few years off what I had found, but nothing that a late baptism or approximate age in a census couldn’t account for. Plus it was his mother’s maiden name, for goodness sake! Makes absolute sense and I’m sure if I were one to rely on an algorithm or AI to tabulate my family tree for me then it would be a case of simply click accept and move on. However … a baptism in 1799 shows George Phillips Worlock born to a single woman, Hannah Worlock. He didn’t seem to pass on the Phillips name to any of his children (Robert Montague, Agnus Rosana, Mary Derrett and George), but it seems likely that Hannah’s partner was a Phillips – possibly also called George. Was he related to John’s wife Elizabeth Phillips? Seems a bit of a coincidence, but who knows?! (My curiosity apparently does not extend to the Phillips!)

George (the son of John and Elizabeth, not the son of Hannah, or the son of George Phillips and his wife Hester) married twice: first to Mary Hathway, who died in 1833 after the birth of their daughter Matilda, and then to Amelia Hackey. The first marriage produced six children: Elizabeth Phillips, Mary Louisa, George Fitz, John Phillips, Harriet, and Matilda). Matilda died as an infant. The second marriage produced two more children for George: Amelia and Emma Jane, with the latter also dying as an infant. For some reason, the first marriage eluded me, despite several baptisms clearly recording the mother’s name as Mary and not Amelia, and them taking place 10 years before the marriage to Amelia. Silly boy. Luckily, George’s will in 1856 cleared everything up and solidified that all the children I had found were the father of the one George, and it wasn’t George Phillips Worlock, but plain old George Worlock.

Was any of the above pertinent to any of my researches? No, not really. Despite it not solving any items from my Mystery List, and it not pushing any of my lines further back, it does begin to add some context to these people. Robert Thomas can’t not have known he was marrying the daughter of his cousin. Did the Holborows and Worlocks socialise outside of their work spaces? They weren’t necessarily from the same village or parish yet the couples had to have met somewhere and for some reason. Did the wider family network provide that reason?

The other thing exercises like this do is allow me to practice my research and critical thinking skills – which as you can see sometimes lead me astray!! So don’t be afraid to leave the confines of research plans and have an amble through your family tree, seeing what catches your eye and takes your fancy. As Robert Frost once said:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.


  1. Yes!! I have resolved a few mysteries by “practicing” on unrelated lines. Sometimes these lines lead me to a recordset I was not familiar with. And they keep me sane when my mystery lines confound me.

    Liked by 1 person

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