Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Lambs and the FAN Principle
One of the common problems in genealogy is finding just where your ancestor is hiding from census to census. Location is important because it determines jurisdiction and tells me where I am most likely to find the paper trails of that ancestor. I’m lucky because for many generations, all of my paternal grandmother’s family have stayed in one location—Westchester County, New York. Since they’ve lived there for so long, the names of the neighboring families have become quite familiar to me as I search page after page of land deeds and census records. It’s like finding old friends when I see those same names decade after decade.
I’ve learned to pay attention to those names and keep a FAN list. FAN stands for Family, Associates and Neighbors. Quite simply, this means that I collect the names of those people who lived near and worked with my ancestors and of those who were witnesses during land transactions, wills, and marriages.
Lately my research focus has been my Lamb family. They’ve been in Westchester County at least as far back as the American Revolution and probably further. Finding documentation for people during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is difficult enough, and then there is my Lamb family. Neighbors are important as I try to distinguish one Jacob Lamb from another Jacob Lamb. My grandmother’s grandfather was Jacob Lamb, whose father was Abraham Lamb, whose father was Jacob Lamb, whose father was Abraham Lamb. To further complicate matters, two of them married women named Catharine and another two married women whose maiden names were Lent; and they continued to reuse those names for their children. These naming traditions make it difficult to pick out my ancestor from his cousin in documents, and when the document contains just names without dates, sometimes knowing who the neighbors and witnesses are helps determine which Lamb is the subject of the document.
I have a copy of a land transaction, dated 1867, which is a crucial document because it names Jacob Lamb with his wife, Emily; so I know it is the correct Jacob Lamb, my grandmother’s grandfather. This document also stated he was a son of Abraham Lamb, deceased, and that he was the grandson of the late Jacob Lamb (the elder). It is one of the few documents I’ve found that links the three generations. Comparing the names of the neighbors and witnesses from this transaction to a second transaction helps me determine that the second document is indeed a transaction of my ancestor.
In 1807, Jacob Lamb (the elder) married Catharine Conklin, but there are two Catharine Conklins born about the same time in the same place to different sets of parents. So I’m now in the process of making that FAN list for them in the hopes of determining which Catharine Conklin married my ancestor. So keep checking back here to keep tabs on my progress.
 Elizabeth Shown Mills, Quicksheet: The Historical Biographer’s Guide to Cluster Research (The FAN Principle) (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, Co., 2012), outside panel 1, “The Principle.”