Overcoming Brick Walls: Cluster Research

It can get very frustrating when you’ve collected lots of source documents on your ancestor but you still haven’t found what you wanted.  You’ve done everything right and still can’t find the piece of the puzzle that you want.  What do you do now?

Cluster Research: Researching the siblings, children, parents, cousins, and neighbors of your ancestors.

So begin expanding your net: gather as much information as you can on the siblings, children, parents, cousins, and the neighbors of your ancestors.  This is important because people often lived nearby, went to church together, traveled together, etc.

For example, I was stuck on my great-great grandfather for about a year.  I knew the name of his father, but I had no information at all about his mother.  I checked my great-great grandfather’s death certificate and marriage certificate with no luck.  I tried to find his mother in the census, but I wasn’t having any luck.

Then I found his father’s obituary and all the pieces fell into place.  The obituary gave me a name and a death year for this woman.  She died not long after the family immigrated to this country, which explains why I couldn’t find her in the census.  She also died while they were en route to Montana, which explains why I couldn’t find any death record for a woman with her married name.

All of these clues that did not come from the ancestor that I was researching, but from his father, led me to find the pieces to the puzzle that I was lacking.

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6 responses to “Overcoming Brick Walls: Cluster Research

  1. Very useful strategy. My great-grandfather was such a brick wall I started wondering if he were an orphan – no parents’ names on his death record. Then I ran across notes from my grandmother that mentioned sibling names – unusual names, like Ophelia. I started looking for families with those children and found them in the census, including the parents!
    .-= bibliotraveler´s last blog ..My first ARC assignment =-.

  2. You have been awarded the ANCESTOR APPROVED AWARD – please visit at Amore e Sapore di Famiglia to accept!
    Bonnie (valentinoswife)

  3. I was writing to let you know I was forwarding the Ancestors Aprroved Award. I laugh because I even double checked to make sure it wasn’t noted already, but guess I missed it. I have enjoyed your blog from the time i first started discovering genealogy blogs last summer.

    I agree with you about cluster research. I use it all the time, but still have some of my own brick walls to break through.

    Picture is at http://ancestorsiclaim.blogspot.com Like the new look, too
    .-= Kim Eisman´s last blog ..Tombstone Tuesday- John James Raley =-.

  4. Hi Elyse,

    I’ve been reading your postings and want to recognize you with the Ancestor Approved award for your great work on your genealogy blog…please stop by my blog at http://climbingmyfamilytree.blogspot.com/ to pick up the award (meaning copy the Ancestor Approved image for use on your own blog).

    As a recipient of the Ancestor Approved Award, please list ten things you have learned about any of your ancestors that has surprised, humbled, intrigued or enlightened you and then pass the award along to ten other bloggers who you feel are doing their ancestors proud.

    You’ll see my ten things and the other nine bloggers I recognized with the Ancestor Approved Award when you visit my site. I’m enjoying your genealogy journey!

  5. I was presented with the Ancestor Approved Award and am passing it on to you. You can pick it up at Conversations With My Ancestors.
    .-= Mavis´s last blog ..Surname Saturday – Pierce =-.

  6. You have been awarded the Ancestor Approved Award! Pick it up at http://www.wadinginthegenepool.com/2010/04/and-am-ancestor-approved.htmlSt

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