Genealogy Road Trip Tip 18: Friends, associates & neighbors (FANs)

Tip 18: Friends, associates and neighbors. Part of “Genealogy Road Trip Tips: Take Your Loved Ones With You” — 30 posts in 30 days for NaBloPoMo 2016.

Tracing ancestors and collateral relatives is the usual focus of a Genealogy Road Trip. But our forebears were also part of the communities where they lived, attended school, raised families and participated in civic life.

FAN stands for friends, associates or neighbors in the genealogy world. FANs of your ancestors or collateral relatives are great sources for stories and valuable information about your family members — so look them up during your genealogy road trip. By: Visit Greenwich

So it’s also a good idea to pay attention to your ancestors’ friends, neighbors and associates at your road trip destination — known among genealogists as FANs.

They may not be related to you, but their stories about your ancestor can add so much to your family history research. Here are two examples:

My mother’s sorority sister. My mom belonged to a sorority when she went to college, and she stayed in touch with her sorority sisters through the years. One of Mom’s sorority sisters was my godmother, who traveled widely with her family due to her husband’s work and eventually retired to Florida.

On a recent trip to Florida, I went on a genealogy mini-road trip with my travel partner to visit her and interview her about my parents’ college years. Out came her yearbooks and photos from her youth — including some of my mom as a 20-year-old — and I spent a wonderful afternoon listening to her stories about my mom and dad and their post-WWII undergrad experiences.

A paternal uncle’s neighbors and associates. On a genealogy road trip last year with my oldest sister (to Dolgeville, Oneida County, New York), she met some of our Uncle Dewey Charboneau’s neighbors inside the local Mason’s lodge, which was open during our visit. Dewey was our paternal grandfather’s brother and lived in Dolgeville his whole life.

Thanks to my sister’s chance encounter with Dewey’s FANs, we learned about his daily visits to the lodge after he retired; how he and a friend  used to study the stock market together and make modest investments; and how he left a generous bequest to the Masons when he died.

Dewey had also been a lodge officer, and we were shown his photo in its place of honor alongside another framed picture of his older brother, Uncle Albert, who had been a lodge officer before him.

In both cases, friends, associates and neighbors (FANs) added to the stories of my direct ancestors (my parents) and my collateral relative (my grand uncle) — and the same can happen for you.

See if there are FANs of your ancestors at your genealogy road trip desination and arrange to pay them a visit. You never know what new information you might find!

Up next, wind up your trip in style with Tip 19: Have some fun! Please stop back.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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2 thoughts on “Genealogy Road Trip Tip 18: Friends, associates & neighbors (FANs)”

  1. This reminds me of something I need to do badly, concerning a first cousin who is 87 years old now. His daughter found me (after a many years search-long story) last year but family care giving obligations interfered with my hopes of meeting him. I need to try to make that happen.

    1. You should definitely try to follow up with him. When I finally got into genealogy research, I regretted that I had not interviewed older family members when I had the chance. Even if you just speak to your cousin phone, you will be glad you did.

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