Relationship between Baldwin II and IV of the Crusades? asks about determining the relationship of two kings in Jerusalem based on their names.

Is this on - or off-topic for this site?

5 Answers 5


I don't believe this is on-topic because:

  1. It doesn't meet the criteria at https://genealogy.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic:

If your question is about:

  • Starting your research or improving your methodology
  • Finding a source or understanding how to use it
  • Documenting or presenting what you’ve learned
  • Breaking down brick-walls in your family tree
  • Using technology to support your research

and it is not about:

  • Locating identifiable living individuals
  • Which genealogy software or website is “the best”
  • Developing genealogy software
  • Celebrity or biblical genealogy
  • General history

then you’re in the right place.

  1. There are, and are unlikely to be (other than general history texts) any sources to support answers, one way or the other. (OTOH, reading wikipedia carefully does seem to have provided an answer, albeit not supported by what most of us would have required as sources.)

  2. Our scope discussions to date have confirmed that 'general history', and 'Celebrity or biblical genealogy' are out-of-scope -- and this question is about the relationship of 2 medieval kings, based solely on their names/numbers, without any indication that the OP is related to them. (A hard relationship to prove -- however, if all Europeans and their descendants are related to Charlemagne, as is often quoted, perhaps we're all interested in this question, answers supported by sources or not?)

Most seriously -- and fundamentally -- do we want to open the door on this site to questions that can't be answered by (or at least answered supported by) reference to documents/proof? Or is our next step answering questions (via Google/Wikipedia) about the relationship between Noah, Shem and Japheth. (No offence intended to our members who share faiths in which Noah et al are real figures, but I'll always argue that -- on this site -- I need to see sourced evidence).


I would not use one poorly worded question to ban all questions on the subject of royal genealogy.

That particular question is not a good question because it displays poor research effort. The fact that it is about the topic of royal genealogy is neither here nor there.

Whether or not it is easy to research a particular era or place, due to the survival of records, is irrelevant to what questions can be asked. Would it be fair to ban nineteenth century questions from certain parts of Africa where no genealogical records were kept? Of course not. There are many good genealogical sources for very early medeival genealogy. One of my favourites is The Henry Project. Take a look at this site and you will see how genealogical principles can be applied, in the rigorous academic standards of this site, to early (and royal) genealogy.

Furthermore, the study of genealogy or family history does not require one to be researching their own ancestors. People perform research for a variety of reasons, many of which have merit. The genealogy of royal or famous people is one of those. The fact that there might be non-genealogically related aspects to the question does not mean it is not a valid genealogical question to ask here. Why do we allow DNA questions that are really more biological questions than genealogical? Because they are of interest to some (but not all) genealogists. The same is true of royal genealogy.

Finally, I advise you to search the family trees on Ancestry.com or any other major family tree site for royal figures. A search for Henry I of England, for example, returns 264,744 family trees. Just because you may or may not believe these trees, or believe that someone has no right to claim descent from this person, does not mean that there is not a valid reason for someone to ask a question about it on this site.

It's easy to paint with a broad brush and say all questions on royal genealogy are off-topic. Given the small number of questions presently asked on this site, I think a more nuanced approach would be more appropriate.

  • 1
    People can have all sorts of valid questions which are still off-topic for a particular site on Stack Exchange. This is a question about scope. Who here has the expertise to answer questions about lines of descent between 1000 - 1300? How far outside our own areas of expertise are we expected to go in order to answer someone's question? I don't mind spending an hour to write up an answer about Puerto Rico in the 1800s because the time period is the same I am working in. Why should I spend my time researching people in the 1100s when the original Q isn't willing to do the work?
    – Jan Murphy Mod
    May 14, 2015 at 22:01
  • 1
    It's kind of implicit that an "off-topic" question that is out of "scope" is not valid for this site. Just because you, nor perhaps anyone currently on the site, may not have the "expertise" to answer does not mean the question shouldn't be asked here. I for one am no expert in royal genealogy, but am willing to try to answer questions about the subject if I can. As for the last point - the site is voluntary, and no-one is asking you to answer a question that you don't feel like answering.
    – Harry V. Mod
    May 14, 2015 at 22:30
  • 1
    In my opinion, asking the relationship between two kings who are close to each other in the same line of succession is either 1) not a problem that needs to be solved because the rules and the relationships between the individuals are a matter of historical record or 2) a problem that can't be worked because the information didn't survive. If the kings actually took the throne then the problem was solved at the time (or not, in which case the invalidity was debated at the time). Also, by definition I would not include the people in the main line of descent as part of microhistory.
    – Jan Murphy Mod
    May 14, 2015 at 22:49
  • 1
    I'm not saying that particular question was great. It is a poor question not because it was off-topic, but because they had not "thoroughly searched for an answer before asking" the question (genealogy.stackexchange.com/help/how-to-ask). My answer here is in response to the question: Is royal genealogy on- or off-topic? There are good, genealogically relevant, on-topic questions about royal genealogy.
    – Harry V. Mod
    May 14, 2015 at 23:03

In this particular example I would personally say definitely not. Had PolyGeo not answered it I would have given into the close votes on it for it being off-topic.

If the questioner had put it in context of I have traced my ancestry back to these two individuals and am trying to resolve a particular issue.. then maybe if they would have better explained their understanding of their relationships vs. "I just do not understand".

Royal / Biblical / Very Famous People Relationships are an academic exercise for Historians, people employed by Royal Families, and religious figures in my opinion and not Family History Genealogists which this forum is oriented to.

This question, as written, probably also would not stand-up to the high reference standards of 'doing your homework first' for the History.SE forum and closed it almost instantly or they might find it fun with it.. it sometimes is a wildcard. My impression is they wouldn't have closed it based on the reference to Wikipedia was only checked.. but it also comes off as almost a 'homework' question as well.

My vote would be to consider "Royal Genealogy" generally off-topic unless put in the specific context of ones own family history.

On Topic Example though: (completely random place, title, etc.. not the best question but you get the point)

I find someone with my gggg-GrandFather's name listed as a Lorde in Scotland, his name was XXXX. His grandson's name was also XXXX. How do I tell which one married the Duchess of YYYY but I have no dates for either?

  • 1
    Agree re DYOH. (But then, I'm probably known as a hardliner on the subject :)
    – user104
    May 13, 2015 at 19:04
  • 1
    And yes, I'd exclude Royal genealogy explicitly (I included it implicitly when I framed the answer "Genealogy of Royalty, Celebrities and other Famous People" to meta.genealogy.stackexchange.com/questions/1418/…, although there didn't seem to be a consensus then.
    – user104
    May 13, 2015 at 19:10
  • Another place to vote is meta.genealogy.stackexchange.com/a/1424
    – PolyGeo Mod
    May 13, 2015 at 21:52
  • 2
    I too would consider myself a hardliner on the question of DYOH. We all have our own research to do, and the time we spend attempting to answer questions here takes away time from doing our own work. (It doesn't pertain to this question, but I find it particularly annoying when I see someone whining that they tried everything in the answers already -- if they can't be bothered to write up what they've already tried, why should they expect others to do the work?)
    – Jan Murphy Mod
    May 14, 2015 at 0:12

The question used as an example is a low-quality question; if I were still an ordinary user, I would have voted to close it in any case. The questioner consulted one reference, didn't understand what he read, and made no further research effort.

As Cole Valley Girl says in her answer, the question fails all five of the points in the 'on-topic' test. There is nothing in the question that makes the solved problem a useful case study for someone else studying their own family's history.

I would exclude all Royal genealogy as being functionally equivalent to 'celebrity genealogy'. The only exception I might make is when the question illustrates some problem (finding record groups or evaluating evidence) which is exactly the same as a problem faced by a non-famous person living in the same time and place.

In other words: make a case if you can for what practical genealogical purpose you can accomplish by trying to prove or researching the lines of descent for the Kingdom of Jerusalem which lasted from 1099 until 1291. How many people who visit this site will realistically be able to prove via the GPS that they have a connection to this time and place?

Note that the original question can be summed up as "I can't understand this Wikipedia article". He apparently hasn't consulted the other articles on Wikipedia such as the section about the succession in the main article about the Kingdom of Jerusalem, never mind any other histories or reference works -- and PolyGeo's attempt at an answer does not make reference to ANY other source or reference material -- neither authored material, or primary source material. There is nothing in this question that talks about finding primary source materials or how to evaluate those materials once you have them in hand, two of the critical tasks for anyone involved in doing genealogy.

Does this question ask about:

  • How to make a reasonably exhaustive search
  • Writing complete and accurate source citations
  • Analysis and correlation of the collected information
  • Resolution of conflicting evidence
  • How to write a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion

Perhaps you can make a weak case for point #3, but when push comes to shove, the example question still boils down to "I read one authored work and I don't understand it" which IMHO does not entail "correlation of collected evidence".

As far as I'm concerned, the whole category of royal genealogy, especially in this time period, is flypaper for low-quality questions and low-quality answers. If people want to make royal genealogy on-topic, I want to see serious questions from people who are making real research effort. Otherwise we are simply being exploited by people too lazy to do their own homework.

  • "If people want to make royal genealogy on-topic, I want to see serious questions from people who are making real research effort. Otherwise we are simply being exploited by people too lazy to do their own homework. " Exactly!
    – user104
    May 15, 2015 at 9:01
  • I think we should spend more time trying to improve and answer genealogy questions than worry about pigeonholing them. If at any time you feel "exploited" by reading a bad question, then that is a good time to use the downvote option, and move on to another question.
    – Harry V. Mod
    May 15, 2015 at 11:31

Since I answered the question that led to this Q&A I think I should provide my perspective.

Like @vervet I don't think Royal Genealogy should be explicitly off-topic in all cases because there will be MANY descendants of royals alive today, and many of those may be interested in their genealogy even if unaware of and very unlikely to be able to prove any royal ancestors.

Like @ColeValleyGirl I would not like to see a multiplicity of questions like the one which appears to have been asked based only on reading a Wikipedia article.

I answered this question because it looked easy, at a time when we remain short on question numbers at this site, and I thought a quick answer would help its asker to read more critically, and get us another small step towards graduation. If we were out of Beta I think we could be stricter about asking for sources (before answering) to support anything that sounds like speculative rather than serious genealogy.

I think that, at least for now, we may be best to leave questions like this one to be sorted out via downvotes and/or closing as low quality.

Perhaps having just a few questions about early Royal Genealogy and the (absence of) sources that underpin it may even be good to help some users veer away from looking for royal blood and towards more realistic genealogy.

  • 1
    I would still vote to close the example question on the grounds that it is low-quality. If people ask questions with the intellectual rigor that is expected for The Henry Project, that's a different kettle of fish entirely.
    – Jan Murphy Mod
    May 14, 2015 at 22:51
  • 1
    Another consideration is this one: trying to hook up your own genealogy to a known, famous genealogy encourages bad practice. There is a temptation to shoehorn in all the pieces to make things fit, instead of looking to see what the proper relationship is. You are not likely to be doing a reasonably exhaustive search if your goal is to reach someone else's line. The article Hillary Clinton Family Tree a Wake-Up Call for Genealogy shows how easy it is to take a wrong turn when you skip steps.
    – Jan Murphy Mod
    May 15, 2015 at 2:49
  • 1
    As we know know that we don't need to graduate out of Beta to remain in existence as a Stackexchange site, I'm bemused to see the argument (again) that we should relax our standards while we're in Beta. If we relax them now, we'll never recover them.
    – user104
    May 15, 2015 at 9:04
  • Perhaps a 'canonical' question about researching Royal genealogy with a good answer about approaches, value, pitfalls etc. would give us something to point questioners at without lowering our standards.
    – user104
    May 15, 2015 at 9:05
  • @ColeValleyGirl I would hate to be in Beta forever and am prepared for some hard work resetting the bar once we have the throughput to have graduated. In the meantime I think a bigger problem than too many poor questions is far too few questions of any standard. I like the idea of a 'canonical' question about researching Royal genealogy.
    – PolyGeo Mod
    May 15, 2015 at 9:10
  • Out of curiosity, why does being in Beta worry you?
    – user104
    May 15, 2015 at 9:11
  • @ColeValleyGirl The relatively bland branding, and the feeling that we have not yet succeeded. I've only been closely associated with two Betas and the other (GIS) graduated in not much more than 90 days (I think).
    – PolyGeo Mod
    May 15, 2015 at 9:17
  • 1
    I don't see it as a lack of success -- perhaps we should stop comparing ourselves with other very different sites and consider ourselves on our own merits instead. (Plus I'm still firmly of the opinion that lowering our standards might invite more crap that won't help us graduate anyway).
    – user104
    May 15, 2015 at 9:22
  • I think we should be very proud of what we have built, and continue to build, but when I look at how popular Genealogy & Family History is as a serious hobby, I cannot help but think we are engaging only a small part of our potential community.
    – PolyGeo Mod
    May 15, 2015 at 9:28
  • 1
    @PolyGeo, I'd be happy to see the site grow and attract more of the community out there, but only if we're offering them a real alternative to e.g. uk.answers.yahoo.com/dir/index?link=list&sid=396546034, not seeking to emulate it.
    – user104
    May 15, 2015 at 10:03
  • That really is a list of ultra low quality questions but I do take your point that there will be a risk of setting the bar too low and having it slide lower. I wish only to lower it a little at a time to see if there is a sweet spot where questions of OK quality, or quality that can be edited to OK, start to flow more freely and provide a scaffolding for good to great answers.
    – PolyGeo Mod
    May 15, 2015 at 10:34
  • 1
    @PolyGeo it's no surprise to me that tech-related sites on SE graduate faster than non-techy sites. The comparison with Yahoo Answers is spot-on. I didn't come here until I discovered that people I knew and respected were behind this site. If I invite others in turn, I don't want them to hit the front page and find it is full of rubbish.
    – Jan Murphy Mod
    May 15, 2015 at 15:19
  • @ColeValleyGirl If you can see this deleted question I hope you will see that questions that look like they belong on Yahoo! Answers are being removed.
    – PolyGeo Mod
    May 19, 2015 at 3:55

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