Starting a FAN club for your Civil War ancestor 

As a family historian I’ll bet you’ve read about “cluster genealogy” or Elizabeth Shown Mills’ outstanding approach on researching your ancestor’s Friends, Associates and Neighbors. Better known as the FAN CLUB!

Mill’s own explanation of this method can be found here. Simply put, extending your research beyond your individual ancestor to the people he or she lived, worked and socialized with helps to create a more accurate picture of their life. Don’t you just love this idea?


Fan Club


The same can be said for your Civil War ancestor. Creating a FAN club or researching the “cluster” of his company may produce some valuable leads regarding your veteran. In many cases young men enlisted together as recruitment stations were set up or passed through their area. By checking the 1860 Federal Census for neighbors, the regimental roster your ancestor served in, any manuscripts left by the men of that unit, etc. you’ll be able to get a more complete view of your Civil War ancestor’s service and how it impacted his family and the area he lived.

Are you doing “cluster genealogy” or FAN CLUB research on your ancestors? How are you doing? How do you record and organize your finds? I’d love to hear how this is going for you? Share in the comments!

Family History from my great grandmother’s pen

Family history - Genealogy research

My great grandmother Mary Ellen Williams (Marshall)

Do you have some family history documents that need transcribed? I do. You know I’ve transcribed several but have a few yet to do. One of my favorites is an essay my great-grandmother wrote. I assume she was a student when this was written and was one of her weekly English compositions. There wasn’t a date on it but since she was born in 1871 I’d guess it was written in the mid to late 1880s.

As a family historian some of the contents are amazing and I’ll talk about them after you read it.

So here is a transcription of a hand written essay by Mary Ellen Williams


Rainy Days

For my part, I like rainy days, to be sure, one can’t go away from home and is not very liable to receive visits, yet there are many pleasant things which may be done on a rainy day, while if it were sunshiny, one might never think of them. In the first place, if I can get a good book to read I don’t care how it may storm outside for I am oblivious to all around me. But if I can’t get a book my next greatest pleasure is to go up to the attic and rummage among the old things there. I wish you could see some of the queer and ancient things I find. There is a spinning wheel two hundred years old which I don’t doubt has many a time buzzed in the presence of Washington for great-grandmother Williams knew him well. I’ve tried several times to spin with it and such work as I’ve made!! But it’s fun. [Read more…]

The Fourth Generation is Where the Link Breaks in Passing Down Family History

Downing Family Cemetery

I wrote this post nearly four years ago. As I reread it I thought it’s just as true today as it was when I wrote it. In fact this post has given me a little extra motivational push as I start a new year of family research. After you read it let me know what you think!


I read Marian’s Roots and Rambles blog post regarding the Marisa Tomei episode of Who Do You Think You Are, a couple of weeks ago. An observation Marian made has stayed with me in these succeeding days.

In her blog post Marian concludes, “ . . . the fourth generation is where the link breaks in families.”  She goes on to say, “It may be that events such as immigration or early death are really the factors behind these breaks. But none the less by the fourth generation family history information is either lost, forgotten or morphed into something erroneous.” [Read more…]

Here’s to a year of family history research, tearing down some brick walls and a cool new website!

Genealogy Research


Happy New Year Genealogy friends!

Did you enjoy the holidays as they whisked in and out of our lives? I sure did! That along with lots of other things going on in my life put me off the grid for awhile but it’s all been good stuff!

The big thing – I changed jobs! With training, new hours and working different days of the week, my family research and blogging had been put on hold. But I think I’ve got a handle on things now and life has returned to a somewhat regular routine. So here I am – back to blogging and getting back into research. Hurray!!

In addition, as you know since you’re here, I’ve been working on this new site. I wanted to update Genealogy Circle and I’m happy with the way it’s shaping up. Oh, they’ll be more tweaks along the way but I’m liking the new look! What do you think?

Eventually I’ll take down and point that address here. Even though I’ll leave up for awhile anything new will be posted here.

So here’s to a new year of family history research, tearing down some brick walls and a cool new website!!

Awesome sale going on at The In-Depth Genealogist!!


The holidays are coming quick and we are excited to announce that ALL of our PDFs are on sale now! If you have been putting off the purchase of your favorite In-Depth Genealogist author’s book or In-Brief guide, now is the time to make that purchase and save 25%. Issues of Going In-Depth, our digital magazine, are at the low price of just $3.75 per digital download. Don’t miss out!

Our In-Brief Research Guides include:
Researching the Forbidden by Terri O’Connell
Researching Your Jewish Ancestors by Jennifer Alford
Researching With the Dawes Rolls by Elizabeth Walker
Researching Your Civil War Ancestors by Cindy Freed



Books Include:

Bundle of Ebooks by our authors ($22.50 for all four!) This is a deal!!
A Genealogist’s Guide to the Washington DC Area by Shannon Combs-Bennett
A Genealogist’s Guide to Richmond, Virginia by Shannon Combs-Bennett
Ancestors in a Nation Divided by Cindy Freed
Digging for Ancestors: An In-Depth Guide to Land Records by Michelle Goodrum

The sale goes through the end of November, please share this post with your friends and visit the shop.