Kinsearching February 12, 2012




Marleta Childs
P. O. Box 6825
LUBBOCK, TX 79493-6825

     Another new addition to the QuickSheet series of reference aids by nationally known genealogist Elizabeth Shown Mills is The Historical Biographer’s Guide to Cluster Research (the FAN Principle). Drawing on her vast research experience, Mills focuses on the concept of gleaning and proving information about individuals by placing them in the context of their family, associates, and neighbors—in other words, their FAN club.

     Building on her Identity Triangulation Model (see review in Kinsearching column dated 5 February 2012), which emphasizes that identity is more than just a name, Mills advocates several questions that genealogists must ask: Who are the people in the FAN club? What did they do together? When did they have a connection? Where did this association occur? And why did these people interact? By seeking answers to these “cluster” questions, researchers are usually able to expand their range of resources for further investigation. Utilizing various associations (fellow church member, business partner, or neighboring landowner, for instance), a historical biography may be assembled even if that person left few written records.

     In one section of the four-page laminated folder, Mills poses major problems and recommends “work-arounds” to solve them. Among the obstacles she mentions are gaps in documented evidence, merged identities, direct evidence versus clues, character analyses, geohistorical frameworks (such as land ownership), legal contexts (changes over time in the meaning of words like “junior” and “senior”), and female identifications.

     Because direct evidence about an individual’s background is often lacking, a knowledge of one’s relatives, neighbors, and associates may provide clues that lead to finding answers about a person’s parentage and place of origin. Genealogists who pursue the ideas in QuickSheet: The Historical Biographer’s Guide to Cluster Research (the FAN Principle) will stand a better chance of tracing lineages back for several generations.

     To the guide's price of $8.95, buyers should add the cost for postage and handling charges. For U. S. postal mail, the cost is $4.50 for one item and $2.50 for each additional copy; for FedEx ground service, the cost is $6.00 for one copy and $2.50 for each additional item. The guide (item order 3868) may be purchased by check, money order, MasterCard, or Visa from Genealogical Publishing Company, 3600 Clipper Mill Rd., Suite 260, Baltimore, Maryland 21211-1953. For phone orders, call toll free 1-800-296-6687; fax 1-410-752-8492; website

     Since February is celebrated as Black History Month, many researchers may be interested in the article, “On-line Documentation of the African-American Experience” by Noah Lenstra. It appears on pages 10-12 of the October 2011 (vol. 39, No. 2; whole number 153) of the MAC Newsletter, published by the Midwest Archives Conference. Among the topics he discusses are universities and colleges, state and federal government, independent museums and archives, and public libraries. Interspersed throughout the text are names of numerous websites that furnish valuable data on the subject. Although most of the article stresses historical information, Lenstra mentions some resources, like AfriGeneas, which highlight family research.

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