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Meet the Author
I'm Jennifer, and I'm an Occasional Genealogist... sort of. For over ten years I've been a professional genealogist. I started researching my own family nearly 30 years ago. Like many of you, I started as an Occasional Genealogist. I had to squeeze research in while in school and while working full-time. Then I got my first genealogy job and for awhile, it was genealogy all the time. Now I have two kids. I do other people's genealogy constantly but my own? Coming up with ways to do great genealogy, despite all the interruptions, is now mandatory.

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Free Genealogy Help: Cluster Research

Are you looking for free genealogy help to improve your genealogy skills?

This is one of my "mini-posts" to help you get some quick answers and then find what will really help you.

This post is for people who have a difficult research problem and need to try a different technique to make progress.
If this post doesn't help, you can find the list of all posts in this series, here.

I have a full-length post about the topic I'm highlighting but when you do an online search that leads you to it (or here) you might be looking for something slightly different. I'm trying to help you calibrate your compass in case this is NOT the topic you were looking for.

If you got here and turns out this is the wrong topic, leave a comment and let me know what genealogical help you were looking for (and if you can tell me what you searched for, that will help). I'll reply with any suggestions and also try and improve this post so the right people find it. Make sure you're signed in when you comment and click "notify me" or check back if you want a reply.

What can "cluster research" help with?

First, we now have two types of "clusters" we talk about in relation to genealogy.

One is clusters for DNA analysis (i.e. a genetic genealogy topic).
The other is a traditional research technique.

The genetic genealogy topic is often referred to as autoclustering, auto-clustering, the Leeds Method, the Collins Leeds Method, or (my own technique that isn't as well known) the 4 Buckets Technique. When the technique is not performed automatically by an app (i.e. when it is not AUTOclustering), it's hard to search for online since it gets mixed up with other genealogy clustering topics.

This mini-post is about the traditional research technique but you can learn more about auto-clustering in this post or by searching for the terms I've just told you about.

HINT: If all these terms, or most of them, were new to you and you want to take time later to learn more, consider creating an education plan for yourself or have a method for organizing this somewhat random type of information. I keep random genealogy information in Evernote.

If you're still reading you should be interested in traditional research help.

Genealogy Clusters = FANs

Cluster research is also known as FAN club research in genealogy. This post explains the why and all sorts of details if you're ready to learn more.

I want to cover why you'd develop this new skill in case you're not sure cluster research/FAN club research is what you need to learn right now.

Here are a list of potential problems you're having.

  • Are you unable to find the parents of someone?
  • Have you found the name of an ancestor but can't tell which person of that name is YOUR ancestor?
  • You've learned about all kinds of sources for genealogical information but can't find ones that mention your family?
  • You've found names of your family in a variety of sources but can't pull it all together or seem to be going down the wrong path (especially if it seems you end up chasing someone that doesn't seem to be your ancestor).

These are all problems of identity. These are not problems related to you knowing what a document is telling you.

Cluster research is usually not a topic beginners need. It would be great if you could start collecting the information you'll use for your cluster but the cluster becomes the most helpful when it's organized around a specific problem and you can't do that until you know what the problem is!

Genealogy Research and Identity

So, you may need to learn how to do cluster research because:

  • you can't tell people of the same name apart,
  • you need to come up with ideas of other records to look for,
  • you need to determine if you've found records for one or more people of a certain name, or even
  • you need to determine if someone of a different name is actually the person you're looking for.

Most of these are pretty obvious reasons why learning how to research a FAN club could help (they are all about identity, which is a major feature of cluster research). However, if you need ideas for other records to look for because you don't know what kind of records help with genealogy, you need to learn about genealogy in general, not cluster research, specifically.

This post about FAN club research discusses why cluster research helps you come up with other research to do. It'll help you learn more about this powerful technique, too.

If you have questions about the suggestions in this mini-post, leave a comment. If you were looking for something slightly different, I'd also love to hear about it so I can improve this series of "Free Genealogy Help."

Find the full list of mini-posts, here.

PS If you want to go beyond just free help, I've written a review of one of my favorite genealogy "QuickSheets" about cluster research.