Studying noble lines requires merging the study of the nuclear family with the study of the line of royalty, keeping in mind the inheritance patterns and using specific strategies to have success. Secades analyzes one family of gentility in the sixteenth and seventeenth century, using marriage records, transfers of goods, and inheritance documents to study this family.
Censuses were frequently taken of the nobility, which forms the backbone of all early nobility research, although Secades does acknowledges that the documents do not name all members of the family. This helped her realize that the familiar surname encompassed several houses, meaning she would have to use more documentation to narrow down a specific line.
Marriage between the nobility were of high importance. Location and wealth played key roles; the new spouse needed to contribute to the family (typically financially), and they had to live close enough that the family knew them. Marriage contracts were frequently drawn up to stipulate what both parties were bringing to the union. Not many have survived from such an early time period, but those that do have great information. Because the eldest son inherited the house, his marriage would be the most important to arrange, and typically have the greatest chance of being documented through such records.
Secades examined family relationships further than marriage strategies; he discusses the role of the firstborn son as heir, and the role that the rest of his siblings played as well as the options open to them. Illegitimate children, and how the family treated them are also discussed. Altogether, Secades does an excellent job giving the background knowledge necessary to conduct medieval nobility research, and know what to expect based off of inheritance documents; specifically who will be mentioned, and what they are likely to receive.