The National Institute for Genealogical Studies


The National Institute for Genealogical Studies - LEADERS IN ONLINE GENEALOGY EDUCATION

Friends, Associates and Neighbors

Your FAN Club 

FAN is an acronym that stands for Friends, Associates, and Neighbors. The “FAN Club,” coined by Elizabeth Shown Mills, represents a person’s network of people to whom they connect. You may also hear the term “cluster research,” which is essentially the same thing.


The idea behind using the FAN principle or cluster research is to identify and research the people involved with your ancestors, as those other people may have left a trail or clues that your ancestor did not. For example, you could be looking for the maiden name (and perhaps the parents and/or siblings) of a female ancestor. Studying the people in her FAN Club, as well as those in her husband’s, may provide clues or may even reveal the answer.

Oftentimes, the FAN methodology is implemented when all resources have been exhausted and there is still no answer to our research question. Instead of throwing in the towel, we turn to the people around our ancestor and explore their lives.  

Keep in mind that studying an ancestor’s associates will add more work to your plate, but the benefits are usually well worth your time and energy. With our Skill-Building: Breaking Down Brick Walls course you will learn more about applying the FAN principle to your research.  

Category: Courses
  • Lee says:

    It was helpful for me with land deeds when I found land sold to a person whose name was not familiar to me. The land was sold for a dollar. Clearly, there had to be a connection. The wife of the purchaser was an aunt of the seller. I wouldn’t have known this person was even in the family without this deed. Led me to an adoption.

    February 27, 2019 at 10:16 am

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