May 11, 2021
When researching genealogy, it seems like we all sometimes run into a “little” issue—a brick wall. No matter where we look, records for a particular ancestor at a certain point in time become invisible. Now what? One method to try is called “cluster genealogy.”
Cluster genealogy involves examining records left by extended family, friends, neighbors, and other associates to learn more about one’s ancestor. Examine records of those around the ancestor to fill in the blanks. Can’t find your ancestor in a particular census? Track his siblings. Did your ancestor immigrate with friends or neighbors? Track those friends and neighbors to see if they are living close by.
Not only can you use cluster genealogy to help locate information on an ancestor, but you may inadvertently locate other information about other family members as well. For example, while using this method to track my ancestor William Bailey, Sr., I discovered information about William Bailey, Jr. I located his Civil War records and learned he was in a Confederate prison, and once released, he was on the ship Sultana when it sank. He survived. I have since learned by using this method that William Bailey, Sr., died around the time of the Civil War.
So, when your ancestor does a vanishing act, use cluster genealogy to pull a rabbit (or clue) out of your genealogy hat! Share your cluster genealogy stories with us in the comments section below.
Midwest Genealogy Center
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