Thursday, June 29, 2006

Cluster Genealogy



One of our CVGS society members asked me last week about how to solve a brick wall problem for one of her family lines in the mid-1800's. The family showed up in the 1850 census in Ohio, and the parents had a New York birthplace. The surname was fairly common, with many entries in the 1840 NY census, but not for this family.

My response was to try to find the New York location by using "Cluster Genealogy" techniques. Of course, she asked me to define "cluster genealogy" and I'm not sure I did the term justice.

I found several articles on the topic, and they are all worth your time to read:

1) Rhonda McClure's article on genealogy.com. Her definition:

Cluster genealogy is a term that is not used very often because people are not practicing it as much as they used to. Cluster genealogy is the practice of branching out beyond your ancestor to research those individuals and families that were are connected to your individual. These connections may be as tight as a marriage or as loose as a witness on a land deed.


2) Kimberly Powell's article on about.com. Her introduction:

Our ancestors did not live in isolation, although we often research them as if they did. They were part of a family, with siblings, parents, aunts and uncles, cousins and other relatives. They were also part of a community, with friends, neighbors, classmates, and co-workers. This "cluster" of family, friends and neighbors can provide valuable clues to the lives of our ancestors.


3) A FEEFHS presentation by Lis Aalzo on "Cluster Genealogy." This presentation (in PDF format) shows how the author solved research problems using Cluster Genealogy techniques.

How about a book? Try this one: Emily Ann Croom, "The Sleuth Book for Genealogists: Strategies for More Successful Family History Research", Betterway Books, 2000.

There are several other books that include "Cluster Genealogy" as a chapter or topic.

Have you practiced "cluster genealogy?" Maybe without even knowing it, but read the articles and maybe even buy the book and learn how to use it effectively.

19 comments:

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Cluster genealogy is a research technique employed by genealogists to learn more about an ancestor by examining records left by the ancestor's cluster. A person's cluster consists of the extended family, friends, neighbors, and other associates such as business partners.Researching the lives of an ancestor's cluster leads to a more complete and more accurate picture of the ancestor's life.

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HappyDae said...

Hi Randy,

A fairly concise treatment with references. You should add mine to your list, too. Take a peek at the following link: http://www.shoestringgenealogy.com/article/Cluster.htm


Happy Dae

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