Monday, March 10, 2014

Family History Hints, Part 15

It is easy to get into the habit of searching for ancestors and ignoring the other people in their lives. Elizabeth Shown Mills speaks of these folks as the FAN club (Friends, Acquaintances, Neighbors). Research for Genealogy Roadshow, and clients (or our own ancestors), includes these all important people.

From the collection of Gena Philibert-Ortega

Always check the neighbors

A lot of times, when we get stuck, we go to the neighbors for help (to feed the cat, bring in the mail, borrow a cup of sugar, take us to pick up our car at the service garage, etc.). That happens in genealogy, too. We love the neighbors. Unlike today, our ancestors often spent huge amounts of time with the neighbors. The neighbors were their cousins, siblings, parents, in-laws, or just people from the old country with whom they traveled to America.

When we get stuck in genealogy, we might go back to an earlier census, locate the neighbors, and follow them around the country, in hopes that our ancestors followed them too (and they often did). Or if a stranger is buried in the plot with an ancestor, we check that person out - it just might be Uncle Fred, whose sister was the mother we were searching for. Or possibly the person who signed as a witness of a document - whom would they get to swear to their allegiance to the United States, or that they weren’t trying to cheat the government, or that they were to be trusted to repay a loan? Why, a cousin, in-law, or other person with whom they connected.

So sometimes the length of time we spend searching is not actually spent looking for the known family, but for someone who is connected to the family in one way or another. After all, cousins have the same grandparents; second cousins have the same great-grandparents, etc., and finding one of those relatives can lead us to just the path we’ve needed from the start.

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