Why I’m a fan of FAN clubs

FAN is an acronym for Family/Friends Associates & Neighbours and is a concept I came across when I signed up for Amy Johnson Crow’s 31 days to Better Genealogy. The genealogist Elizabeth Shown Mills is famous for promoting this technique.

What is a FAN club?

The basic principle of a FAN club is that our ancestors were all part of communities. Just like us today, they worked and socialised with the same groups of people over a period of months and years.  These were their friends and family, their associates and their neighbours. So FAN clubs are the groups of people that your ancestors knew, interacted with on a regular basis, did business with and even married.

I love this as an approach as, while some people’s goal is to trace their family tree back as far as they can go, mine has always been to find out as much about each family grouping as I can. This means I already have a good set of information to mine.

How do you use it?

I used this technique just yesterday while trying to find information about the death of a relative, Mavis.

An internet search brought up a 2 line death notice from  Warwickshire giving a date of death and the church where the memorial service was held. This looked promising. Her name was right, the year was credible, the memorial service was held at a Methodist church and she was a regular churchgoer. However, I had no record of her living in Warwickshire so I could not be certain if this was her, or another person of the same name.  It was good information, but not good enough.

A longer internet search found me a mention of her name in a Church newsletter dated a month or two later.  The church was also Methodist but was close to the last address I had for her in Essex.  It mentioned her death as a previous member of that church and, Oh look! There was the name of her husband too.  That was good enough for me.

The FAB club information was what made the information complete enough for to me. The congregation were not part of her family, but were her regular associates. The fact that Mavis was a regular churchgoer in the Methodist church clinched it. Tying the newsletter together with the death notice meant that my Mavis and their Mavis were the same person.

Why use a FAN club?

It’s like doing a jigsaw. Fill in the pieces around the one you are looking for and you get a much better understanding of the shape of the missing information. Sometimes you will find what you are looking for as part of searching the FAN club.  If not, you then will have a much better idea of what to look for next.

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