Those pesky brick walls we can be very frustrating. Wouldn’t it be great to have tools or strategies, that when you hit those “I don’t know where to go from here!” moments you have a tool to get you out of that predicament?
Research with FANs
The good news is there are strategies you can easily use to help navigate those seemingly insurmountable walls. One of those strategies is using FANs. FANs is an acronym which stands for “friends, associates, and neighbors.” You can look to your ancestor’s FANs for clues to extend your research and resolve your challenge.
It may not come as a surprise to you that we don’t live in isolation. We and our ancestors lived in a community. It may have been a very small, isolated farming community, but a community nonetheless. That community is made up of your ancestors FANs or friends, associates, and neighbors. And your ancestors, like us today, turned to our FANs for help, support, information, comradely. FANs are their in the good times and bad times. FANs celebrate the highs in our lives, mourn our losses, and support us along life’s journey.
As a result FANs often show up on our records, as they will show up in the records of your ancestors. Their names will be along side those of our ancestors, just waiting for us to take up the call to research them.
What Do You Do with a FAN?
Now that you’ve found a FAN in your ancestor’s records, follow them. Research their family tree. Who are their parents? Where did they last reside? How and when did they come to America? Who are their children? Where did they work? Did they own land? If so, where? What faith community did they subscribe to? Get to know their FANs as well as your ancestor.
I realize you may be thinking, “This isn’t my ancestor? This is a waste of time.”
That’s not really the case. Think about your own life. Do you have anything in common with your friends, associates, and neighbors? I would suspect you do. You live, work, attend school and church with them. And it is in that commonality that you find clues leading you back to your ancestor.
I’ll give you an example. I could not find the passenger records for my ancestor John Vanderstay. That said, I knew “Vanderstay” was spelled a million different ways, and it was wholly possible that no matter what variation I used, I wouldn’t find it in the passenger records databases. So I looked for John’s brother-in-law, John Gerling in the passenger records. I’m sure you can guess what happened. I found John Gerling, and three lines up on the manifest was “Johann Von de staag,” plain as day. I found my ancestor by searching for one of his FANs.
FANs can point you to your ancestors when focusing solely on your ancestor isn’t working.
If you’re interested in learning about more problem solving tools and techniques, attend the GenealogyKC 2014 Conference where I’ll be presenting, Problem Solving by Creating a Timeline.
In the meantime, get started looking for FANs by emailing me at email@example.com for my free white paper Ten Places to Find FANs..
Beth Foulk is a professional genealogy researcher and speaker. Check out her website and blog at www.genealogydecoded.com.