Brick Wall Solutions: Using Friends, Associates, and Neighbors
You’ve exhausted census, probate, land, and other traditional sources in search of your ancestors, but you’ve hit that proverbial brick wall, familiar to all genealogical researchers. If you’re ever to solve those problems, you must expand your search to include records of Friends, Associates, and Neighbors, a technique that Elizabeth Shown Mills has coined “The FAN Club.”
Identify neighbors through census and land records. Find friends and associates in deeds, wills, court records, and family papers. Explore your ancestors’ FAN Club with the same vigor and thoroughness applied to your own family. In many circumstances, you’ll find that they are your family! The results will astound you, particularly in the search for the identities of female ancestors! Maiden names often appear among the witnesses to deeds and wills, signed by fathers and brothers in an effort to protect the wife’s dower rights. Family papers often refer to relationships with friends and neighbors, describing in great detail significant events and shared experiences not recorded anywhere else.
Go through the documents you’ve collected to date, and make a list of the individuals with other surnames. You may want to keep a tally of how many times each person is mentioned, to help you prioritize the next steps in your search.
To access New Hampshire deeds online, go to our article on “Using Land Records” to learn how to search the deeds from the convenience of your own desktop. New Hampshire Probate Records are now online at the FamilySearch website. Just scroll down and click on “New Hampshire,” and you’re on your way! Although the probate records are not yet searchable, the card indexes are in alphabetical order, making it easy to find names and case numbers. Then, you can use the case number to browse the files, which are in numerical order. Finding the case file may take some time because the case numbers do not appear on every document. But keep going forward (or backward) until you find a page that contains the number, so you can get your bearings before continuing your search. Some case files contain only a few pages, while others may have 50 or more. The search is well worth the effort!
So have fun, and let us know if you have questions. We hope you will share your successes with us here on the 1790 New Hampshire Families Blog!