The Genealogy FAN Club Principle Overcomes Genealogy Brick Walls

Another brick wall…busted! We all have trouble spots in our family history research. Sometimes, we just need a little help breaking through. Here’s a tried-and-true method for using the genealogy FAN club principle to overcome brick walls in your family history research from guest author Amie Bowser Tennant. 

Creating a FAN club tips

A FAN club stands for Family, Associates, and Neighbors. Using the FAN club principle is a process in which genealogists identify a list of people (family, associates, and neighbors) that lived and associated with a given ancestor. By researching these other people, you may flesh out some new hints for your own research. Ultimately, identifying our ancestors FAN club is an effective tool for overcoming brick walls in genealogy research.

Renowned genealogist and author Elizabeth Shown Mills, coined the phrase “FAN Club” for genealogical purposes. She points out the significance of not only searching records for an ancestor’s surname, but also paying attention to documents about the ancestor’s “FAN Club” (Friends, Associates, Neighbors). Historical information, she says, is like real estate: the true value of any piece of information is unknown until it is put into community context. Learn more in Elizabeth’s “QuickSheet: The Historical Biographer’s Guide to Cluster Research (the FAN Principle).”

Step 1: “F” Stands for Family

Searching out other family members may prove helpful. Like in the case of Michael Knoop of Miami County, Ohio, I noticed there was another man in the county named Jacob Knoop. What was even more unique is both Michael and Jacob were born in New Brunswick. How unusual, I thought! Two men with the same last name, both born in New Brunswick, living in a small, farming area in Ohio! They had to be related, and they were. Jacob was Michael’s older brother.

Because I was having trouble finding when Michael had come to America, I traced Jacob instead. I located the passenger list with Jacob’s name on it and in doing so, I viewed all the passengers and found Michael, their mother, and lots of siblings!

Creating a FAN club family

Image above: Creating a FAN club with Family

In the case of Catherine Fearer Coddington, wife of James Coddington, I was having difficulty finding who her parents were. By searching for other Fearer individuals in the area, I discovered a biographical sketch on a John Fearer, Jr. Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois, Volume 2, reads:

“In 1836[,]John Fearer [Jr.] brought his family to Illinois. From Wheeling, West Va., the journey was made entirely by water. A landing on the Illinois soil was made at Hennepin. James Coddington, from near the Fearer’s old home in Maryland had already settled north of Princeton, in Bureau County, and later married John Fearer’s sister Catherine. The family found a home at Coddington’s until Mr. Fearer rented land near by.”

Catherine had a brother! With this new information, I was able to easily trace John’s father to John Fearer, Sr. of Allegany County, Maryland and finally connect Catherine to her parents through a probate record.

It’s easy to see what a powerful strategy researching the relatives of your ancestors can be!

Step 2: “A” Stands for Associates

Creating a FAN club with associates

Creating a FAN club with Associates

An associate could be a business partner, a witness on a document, a pastor, a lawyer, or the man that bailed Grandpa out of jail! Associates are often related. To create a list of associates, you might start gathering all witnesses to vital events, such as baptismal or christening records, marriage records, probate, land, and affidavits.

Were the courthouse records in your targeted area destroyed? Check the local newspapers for clues for possible associates. As an example, Jacob Trostel was a signee and vouched for Harvey D. Wattles’ tavern license. The license and names of the vouchers were listed in the newspaper, too. Eleven other men of the community appear on that petition. Later, Jacob himself petitions for a tavern license. That petition is signed by twelve men: George Filler, Conrad Slaybaugh, Lebright E. Hartzell, William G. Eicholtz, Isaac Yount, Joseph Dull, Isaac Myers, George W. Rex, Daniel Filler, William Harlan, and John Bream.

In both of these examples, relatives of Jacob Trostel had been vouchers. By tracing them, we were able to find out more about Jacob and his family.

Step 3: “N” Stands for Neighbors

Where can we find a list of our ancestors neighbors? A census, of course! When looking at a census page, we look for other people on the page with the same surname as our targeted ancestor. There’s a good chance those folks could also be related. But, your ancestor’s neighbors may also hold rich clues that can help you in your research. Many neighbors intermarried, sold land to each other, and even migrated to new locations together.

Besides looking at individuals listed on the same census page as your ancestor, remember to turn the page! Sometimes, a neighbor is not on the same page as your ancestor, but rather the pages before or after. Just because a person appears directly after your ancestor on the census rolls doesn’t necessarily mean they were neighbors. This only indicates the order in which the census taker visited the homes. You might also be able to identify close neighbors by looking at land ownership maps for the area. In this way, you can easily identify who lived near-by.

If you are having difficulty determining where your ancestors came from, researching the neighbors may give the answer. Many neighbors migrated together. Always check at least one page before your ancestor and one page after your ancestor in any given census.

Image above: A FAN Club with Neighbors

Genealogy Fan Club: Comments and More Resources

There are likely dozens of successful ways for creating a FAN club for your ancestor. We would love to hear your examples in the comments below. For even more ways to break through those genealogy brick walls, enjoy these links below.

Read our article Solve Your Genealogy Brick Walls: 3 Tips for Breaking Through!

Genealogy Gems - Family History Podcast and WebsiteEven better: Genealogy Gems Premium Members can watch Lisa’s one hour video class Brick Walls: Cold Case Investigative Techniques. In this video you’ll not only learn how to apply criminal cold case strategies to your brick walls, but you’ll also get loads of fresh and innovative ideas you can try right away. If you are not a Premium Member yet, learn more about becoming a Genealogy Gems Premium Member here.

 

Ancestry.com Search Features Get an Update

Like anyone else who sells a popular product, Ancestry.com is always tweaking little things to improve the user’s experience. They’ve been working on some updates, some of which you may have noticed on the site over the summer and some of which are rolling out gradually over the next couple of weeks:

1. A simple search form with the check-box option to match all terms exactly.

2. Search results shown grouped by category. This is great–no more scrolling through lots of results when you’re looking for specific kinds of records. This sort feature also reminds us to check categories we may be overlooking, like city directories and local histories. These first two-features are opt-in: learn how to do it here and see what it looks like below:

Ancestry simple search3. A summary box at the top of search results showing what you’ve already attached to your ancestor. The list is sorted alpha-numerically so you can see easily which records have been found and where there might be gaps (see what it looks like below). You can collapse this list if you want to give you more room to see the search results.

Ancestry consolidated list

4. A filter that removes search results similar to types you already found for that ancestor. For example, if you already have a death record for someone, the filter will remove other death records. “Smart filtering” is an optional feature, so you can still choose to see the full list. Read more about it here and see it here:

Ancestry smart filteringAncestry says they will provide plenty of feedback opportunities for these new features. Don’t be shy: tell them what you like (and what you don’t) and why!

 

 

Find Australian Ancestors and More: New and Updated Genealogy Records Online

These new and updated genealogical records span three continents and date to the Middle Ages: Australia colonial portraits, New South Wales and Queensland; millions of new U.S. marriage records, a WWI online exhibit, Liverpool church records, a Romanian digital archive, German (Bavarian) civil registers, Confederate musters (GA), PA obituaries, and a Minneapolis newspaper.

Featured this week: Australia Colonial Portraits, New South Wales and Queensland 

The State Library of South Australia announced a newly-digitized collection of more than 1,000 photographs of South Australian colonists. The original photos have been on display at the State Library. “In 2017 they have returned as facsimiles (along with new indexes and online catalogue records),” says a Facebook post. Click to explore the men’s photos or women’s photos online for free. Several people have already identified their ancestors in these collections, judged by comments on the Facebook post. Even better news: the images may be freely copied and used. The Library responded to a question about use with, “The images are well out of copyright. We just ask that you cite as appropriate.”

Subscription website Findmypast.com has posted new Australia content, too:

  • New South Wales Parish Registers, Christ Church Cathedral Newcastle.The records span the years 1804 to 1900 and will reveal the names of your ancestor’s parents,” states Findmypast. “Currently the collection holds just over 5,000 baptisms, around 2,200 marriages records, and just over 3,300 burials. Some burials have also been transcribed from newspapers and other sources.”
  • 1881 British Census, Crew and Passengers on Ships arriving in New South Wales. “Over 19,000 records….These records pertain to British and non-British passengers and crewmen arriving at Sydney from 1 January to 31 March 1881….Each record will reveal the individual’s age, status, nationality, occupation and details of their voyage.”
  • New South Wales, Closer Settlement and Returned Soldiers Transfer Files. “Over 19,000 records have been added….These land transfer records can help you determine the property dealings of your New South Wales ancestors and see if they were involved in transferring land ownership. The records also include files relating to returned servicemen from the First World War who took part in the soldier settlement scheme.”
  • Queensland School Pupil Index. “This database covers over 1.6 million names drawn from 1,022 Queensland schools,” says the collection description. “The earliest date of admission is 1864…. Schools range from large city schools with admissions in the thousands to one-teacher country schools with a total enrollment of only hundreds. Some schools have long ceased to exist; others are still functioning.”

Europe – Digital image archive

Just shy of a half million images from the cultural heritage digital archive Europeana are now part of the new Creative Commons (CC) search database. Now it’s even easier to discover and share images about an ancestor’s life–and to identify images you can re-use without copyright restriction.

“A tool for discovery, collaboration and re-use, CC Search enables users to search a variety of open repositories through a single interface to find content in the commons,” explains a Europeana blog post. “The new beta version of the project, which was released in early February, includes simple, one-click attribution, making it easier to credit the source of any image. CC Search beta also provides social features, allowing users to create, share, and save lists as well as adding tags and favorites to the objects in the commons….These records can all be used for commercial purposes, and are also open for modifications, adaption, or to be built upon. Click here to learn more about WWI and other genealogy-friendly content at Europeana.

England – Liverpool

Ancestry.com has updated its collections of Church of England parish records for Liverpool, England. These databases include baptisms, confirmations, marriages/banns and burials, along with a combined database of older baptisms, marriages and burials dating to 1659.

Germany (Bavaria) – Vital Records

Ancestry.com has published a new collection of Freilassing, Germany, Births, Marriages, and Deaths, 1876-1985. “This collection contains civil registry records from Bavaria,” states the collection landing page. “It includes births covering the years 1876-1899, marriages from 1876 to 1932, and death records for the years 1876-1985. Freilassing is a community in Berchtesgadener Land, Bavaria. It is situated immediately on the German border with Austria and is adjacent to the city of Salzburg. Until 1923, Freilassing was called ‘Salzburghofen’ and this is the name given in many of the records.”

Romania – Digital Archive

Thousands of documents from medieval Romania have been digitized and published online at Arhiva Medievala a Romanie. It’s the first collection of its kind for the country, says an article at Romania-Insider.com. Because of the age and content of these documents, they likely don’t have direct genealogical research value for most people. But anyone with Romanian roots might enjoy getting a sense of the country’s deep history.

United States: WWI, Millions of Marriages and More 

A new online exhibit from the Library of Congress can help you better picture your U.S. ancestors’ experiences during and after World War I. “‘Echoes of the Great War: American Experiences of World War I‘ examines the upheaval of world war as Americans confronted it— both at home and abroad,” states the webpage. “The exhibition considers the debates and struggles that surrounded U.S. engagement; explores U.S. military and home front mobilization and the immensity of industrialized warfare; and touches on the war’s effects, as an international peace settlement was negotiated, national borders were redrawn, and soldiers returned to reintegrate into American society.”

Also in the U.S.: Findmypast has added over 6.7 million records to its U.S. marriage records collection. “New additions covering 127 counties across 18 states have been added to our collection of US marriages,” states a press release. “This is the first time ever these records have been released online, providing you with brand new opportunities to expand your family tree.” The 18 states with new records are Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia.

More from across the U.S.:

  • Georgia: Confederate Muster Rolls. The Georgia Archives has digitized and published its collection of Confederate Muster Rolls. According to the site, “The majority of the company muster rolls in this series are from military organizations created by the State of Georgia during the Civil War for service within the state. These military organizations include the Georgia Army (1861), the Georgia State Guards (August 1863-February 1864), and the Georgia State Line (1862-1865). The Georgia Militia is referred to as Georgia State Troops.  Some units were later turned over to Confederate service. There are also nearly 250 muster rolls from Georgia Volunteer Infantry.”
  • Minnesota: Newspapers.com now hosts the entire run of The Minneapolis Star Tribune, which dates to 1867. That’s more than 54,000 issues, among which are a 1976 headliner about a teenage star in the making: Prince. (See that article here for free, just because you can).
  • Pennsylvania – Obituaries. A new collection of Beaver County, Pennsylvania obituaries (1920-1969) is now online at Ancestry.com.

2 Free Resources for Finding Australian Ancestors

 

Source for our lead image: Click here to view map of Australia

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