Ways to Solve Genealogy Problems With Cluster Research

By Diane Haddad

In anticipation of our upcoming Cluster and Collateral Research course, let’s look at some ways to solve genealogy problems with cluster research!

Studying your ancestors in the context of their community of relatives, friends, neighbors and associates is a tried-and-true way to solve family mysteries. For example:

  • If you can’t find an ancestor’s parents’ names, you might be able to identify her brother and then establish his parents.
  • Getting your ancestor confused with someone else in his town of the same name and age? Keep them straight by identifying their wives, children, siblings and neighbors.
  • Want to understand why your ancestor migrated to a particular place or took a certain job? He may have had friends in that place, or a family member helped him get the job.
  • Start by creating a family group sheet for the ancestor’s nuclear family, including each person’s name; birth, marriage and death dates and places; and spouse’s name.
  • Cluster research candidates include others who appear in your ancestors’ records: neighbors in the census, land records and city directories; ship passengers from the same place; witnesses in marriage and naturalization records; sponsors in baptismal and other religious records; survivors in obituaries; heirs, executors and guardians in probate records.
  • Next-door neighbors are sometimes separated by several pages in the census because of the route the census taker followed. As you read these pages, note other families of your ancestor’s surname or families with similar birthplace patterns or other details in common. These families may need to be on your cluster research list.
  • Also make note if your ancestors’ neighboring families reported the same birthplaces for parents and children. You need to study them: Did they migrate together? Were they related?

In the Cluster and Collateral Research Course, author and instructor Sunny Jane Morton, will show you how to get started with the cluster and collateral approach, when it’s time to use it, which records are best, and much more!

Learn more about the Cluster and Collateral Research course here.

Get Your Free Essential Genealogy Research Forms

Sign up for the Family Tree Newsletter and receive 10 research forms as a special thank you!
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

New course: Research Logs Made Easy

Learn how to use genealogy research logs in an easy, efficient way to organize your family history, set goals, conduct research, and record your results in this 1-week course starting Aug. 16.