Saturday, November 28, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over ~ Cycle 4, Week 9

This week we are talking about conducting cluster research and organizing research materials with documents and photos. There is a difference between collateral research and cluster research. With collateral research you are searching everyone in one family. For instance, my grandfather George Kenneth Rueff was one of seven children and in researching my grandfather I also researched each of his siblings, adding their spouses and children. With cluster research you are going to research the friends, associates and neighbors of your ancestor. This type of research is also known as the F.A.N. Principle.

Conducting Cluster Research

Up until January and the original cycle I had been doing a "lite" version of F.A.N. Principle, never realizing that there was an actual genealogical term for this type of research. My version of the F.A.N. Principle 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 realized during my preparation for writing this post in the original class 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. To help keep me on track with this project I have created "The Friends+Associates+Neighbors = F. A. N. Principle Worksheet". When printing the sheet it is all on 1 piece of paper (front/back). I hope you find it useful, please click here to see. 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 was one of the biggest topics discussed in the original cycle of the Genealogy Do-Over. I am not nearly as tech savvy as I thought I was in the original cycle and have decided working with paper is much better for me and the way that I process information.

Our leader, Thomas MacEntee is always saying, "think preservation as well as access" which is actually very good advice. For me, this is building binders for each family with tabs for each member of the family that include of my research from scanned copies of research notebooks to copies of original documents and copies of logs and worksheets. I am not comfortable going paperless right now.

Some of you may remember, that back in July I threw away 65% of my previous research. You can read that post here. It was a very liberating experience to say the least. It was also easy to do because I had not touched any of those files since the early 2000's. What I did keep was all documents that were certified and in my personal possession, if any of the documents had source citations I kept them and I kept all research notebooks from 2009 to present.  My file cabinets are gone and I have moved to pretty, functioning baskets since my genealogy room does double duty as guest room too.

I now have every thing down to 7 baskets. The first basket contains blank forms for pedigree charts (various kinds), family group sheets, cemetery logs, source summary/ online tracker logs, document logs, research planning logs, repository research tracker logs, evidence evaluation sheets and others that I find useful . 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), my fifth basket is for my daughter in law's family (which are Easton's maternal lines), the sixth basket is for biological family research and the last one is for correspondence with family members, other researchers I have exchanged information with and research repository quests and their replies.

Finally all of my original documents are placed in a clear archival quality extension file 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 in archival quality files and are in safe place where they can be grabbed up quickly in the event of an emergency.

To read my original post for week 9 you can click here.


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


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