Monday, March 9, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over Week 9

Genealogy Do-Over Week 9

Welcome to week nine of the Genealogy Do-Over. This week our topics are Conducting Cluster Research (not to be confused with conducting Collateral research) and Organizing Research Materials. I am just a tad behind with good reason, his name is Easton.  I had the pleasure of babysitting my grandson Easton this week, and he is my very own bright shiny object that wants nothing to do with family history at the moment. Perhaps in time that will change.

Conducting Cluster Research

Friends+Associates+Neighbors = F.A.N. Principle. I like this concept and the terminology. I can see where applying this method of research would help considerably in finding an elusive ancestor. I am sure I have done a "lite" version of this never realizing that there was an actual genealogical term for this type of research.

My "lite" version consisted of looking for those elusive first or maiden names of a wife and/or the wife's family, trying to figure out if a person who appeared on a census record was actually related to the ancestor I was researching or trying to determine what happened to a family member who seems to have dropped off the radar. I have had some success but I now realize that I should have gone further, asked better questions and/or added some extra steps to my process. I see now that I need to go back and re-do some of my cluster research.

My plan for conducting cluster research in the future will be as follows:

  • Extract every piece of information possible from records in my possession
  • Make a list or lists
    • Include all family members
    • Include all names listed in census, birth, marriage, death, land, wills/probate, church, passenger & newspaper records
    • Include addresses listed in census, land, wills/probate records
    • Include religion and/or ethnicity
      • Larger cities and/or communities tend to live by ethnicity and/or religious practices (ie: Irish & German ethnic groups or by religious practices such as Catholic or Jewish) 
      • Look for local religious/ethnic groups
      • Look for local cemeteries by religion or ethnicity
    • Local, regional and state records 
      • Land 
      • Wills/probabte 
      • Cemeteries 
      • Court proceedings (lawsuits, depositions, coroner's inquests)
      • Church
      • Newspapers
      • Orphanages
      • Asylums
      • Police
      • Fire
    • Notations for an occupation or occupations (occupations can change over the years)
  •  For immigrant ancestors ask the following questions
    • Who were they?
    • Where did they come from?
      • Country
      • Continent
    • Why did they leave? & Why did they come to the United States?
      • Religious persecution
      • Famine
      • War
      • Occupational opportunities
      • Educational opportunities
      • Adventure
    •  Who and/or What did they leave behind?
      • Family
      • War
      • Famine
      • Religious persecution
    • How did they get here?
      • Indentured 
      • Slavery
      • Pay their own passage
    • Where were they going after arriving?
      • Did they have family here
      • Did they have friends here
  •  Create a research journal
    • List of theories
    • List of notes
    • List any spelling variations (ie: Rueff, Roof, Ruff, Ruf, Reuff)
  •  Analyze my information, create a plan and set my goals
    • What do I have
    • What do I need
    • What elements do I want to prove (ie: familial connections, business connections, marriages etc.)
    • Where does it lead me
    • What is my next step 
  • Conclusions
    • Have I conduct a "reasonably exhaustive search"
    • Have I conduct searches at local, regional and state levels
    • Have I consider neighboring states (ie: with my Louisville families I always check across the river in Indiana and with my Grant & Kenton county families I always check in Ohio)
    • Have I proven my theory and accomplished my goal   
I hope I haven't forgotten anything or made my list too long. I am sure that as I research each individual, adjustments will need to be made based on the information I have or need. I am also sure that other questions and/or record groups will come into play as well but I believe that this is a good place to start.

Organizing Research Materials 

I will admit here and now that keeping organized is not my strong point. I try, I really do but I seem to gravitate toward organized chaos rather than organized order. I know where everything is on my desk even if it is a stack two feet high! 

How to organize our files, documents and photos has been one of the biggest topics discussed in our Facebook group for the Genealogy Do-Over. I am more tech savvy now than I was a year ago but I am still struggling with moving all of my genealogical research into a paperless environment and using technology versus my tried and true paper trails. This is more to do with me than the technology itself. I feel as if I am stuck in both places but for different reasons.

In our fearless leader's own words, "think preservation as well as access" which is actually very good advice and how I am choosing to organize my research materials. Here are the steps I am going to follow at least for now or until I can get more comfortable with going paperless.

Since my file cabinets are full of my old research that I set aside at the beginning of the Genealogy Do-Over I chose to use baskets since I am limited on shelf space at the moment. They are not very heavy and can easily fit on the top of my current bookshelf or on the floor in my office.

In my first basket you will find blank forms for pedigree charts, family group logs, cemetery logs, source summary logs, document logs, research planning logs, repository research tracker logs and online research tracker logs. The second basket is for my family (ie: parents, siblings, grandparents etc.), my third basket is for my husband's family, my fourth basket is for my ex-husband's family (my children's paternal lines) and  my fifth basket is for my daughter in law's family (Easton's maternal lines).

As of now, each of these baskets contain individual files for each main line following direct lines (ie: my Dad, his father, his grandfather and so on), pedigree charts, family group logs, document logs, cemetery logs, and up to date source summary logs. All original documents are placed in a clear polypropelene extension file (archival quality) after being scanned into my computer. Once scanned I then save it to several online storage places (ie: i-drive, Dropbox, OneNote). For now original documents are filed by surname and subdivided by type in their respective baskets.


Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 11: Identity Problems & the FAN Principle,” Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage ( : [1 March 2015]).

Copyright © Dawning Genealogy/Dawn M Kogutkiewicz 2014-2015, All rights reserved.  


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