I’ve heard over the years about researching our ancestors’ Family, Associates and Neighbors (or FAN Club or FAN Principle, a term credited to Elizabeth Shown Mills) as a way to learn more and get past brick walls. At RootsTech, I heard a terrific talk from Drew Smith on the topic. (Another term for the FAN principle is Cluster Research.)
When I came home and decided to spend some time doing FAN research, I was initially flummoxed by the question of how I would keep track of these people. I typically document all information about my ancestors in my desktop genealogy software. (I use Reunion.) Everyone in Reunion is related by blood or marriage and is connected on the tree. (I’m at the base of the tree.) But some of these FANs aren’t family, so it didn’t make sense to me to put them into Reunion.
I googled a little and didn’t come up with definitive advice, so I decided on an organizing system for FAN research that I think will work for me. In Evernote, in my Genealogy stack, I already have follow up notebooks for different family lines. This is a way to keep me focused so that I don’t pounce on every clue that I come across. So, for example, I have a notebook called Follow Up: McEuen and when I come across a research topic or clue for a McEuen, I put it there, in an individual note. At some point, I’ll refocus my efforts on the Follow Up notebooks and until then, all this information is safe in Evernote. It gives me peace of mind.
So I figured I could do the same with FANs. I can start a series of FAN: [Surname] notebooks and when I’m doing FAN research, I can create notes within each notebook about various associates and neighbors who seem significant. When I uncover evidence about my family that I want to record in Reunion, I’ll put it there (always with a source). But when I have FAN information that doesn’t make sense to add to Reunion, I’ll keep it in Evernote. Of course, I can also add associates and neighbors to the notes section in Reunion when appropriate. And Evernote allows me to create links to notes, which I can use in Reunion notes, if I want.
As I apply the FAN principle more, I’ll see if this simple method of keeping track of them will be sufficient. My overriding principle is to keep things as easy as possible.
Please share: how do you record information on your ancestors FANs?