Whether it is about a law, a person, a place, source, interpretation or other question, I'm looking for context to provide a solid footing from which an expert answer can be developed.
The broader the question, the more work an answer will entail, so context should be relative. The broader the question, the more context should be provided ... and the reverse.*
I look for the context to be referenced--book and page, graphic upload, etc. Where possible, I would usually test that footing to make sure I understand the problem, understand why it is interesting, and know that it holds before I put time into developing an answer.
Louis wrote, "For example, one commenter requested lineage from poster to the person being asked about."
Perhaps you are referring to my comment here (the Jacob Fisher question)? If so, then my logic, in part:
- Fisher is a common surname. It was common in New England at the times in question, in part because there were many early immigrants of that surname. (I did establish some basis on this before posting the comment.) Without even much thought, I would assume there was more than one Jacob Fisher about New England at the time Duncan's ancestor lived there.
- The request is broad. We needed to identify both Jacob Fisher and wife, Sarah Hodges, and identify them well enough to be able to discover a relationship to both sets of parents. We were also asked to identify the children born to Jacob and Sarah.
- There is not much context to support the broad research. The question is premised on the notion that one of the children born to Jacob and Sarah (Hodges) Fisher is a Jacob Fisher, 1776-1820. Ala, Duncan is " descended from ..." and then (paraphrased) "such and such vital record shows/proves my ancestor is the son of ..." So, our answers to the question would be identifying the grandparents and aunts/uncles of one Jacob Fisher (1776-1820).
- Since the vital record referenced does not identify the parents of Jacob Fisher, 1776-1820, it begs the question, Who was he? If Jacob Fisher 1776-1820 didn't exist, then "whose" grandparents are we identifying? (Fortiter can confirm, but I suspect he spotted the potential problem right way.) Commenting to ask questions about the child/children/wife of Jacob Fisher 1775-1820 was one way of trying to get him better identified in the question itself.
Answering the question was awkward. Given what seemed a noticeable conflict/problem with the footing or context, what are we supposed to do? It's a little bit like answering a loaded question, "When was the last time you beat your wife."
The issue of whether the question was overly broad aside (we all only know what we know), it seemed Duncan had provided the context and he provided the references for his context. That seemed to warrant an answer (I assume Fortiter felt the same way), but then what question are you really supposed to answer? (The change in context changes the question.)
P.S. Duncan suggested, "when asking a question about a specific ancestor, it is best to provide all that you know, preferably directly in the question, not just link to another site."
While providing information in the faqs is a good idea, providing the references to some great example questions would be especially helpful.