Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Review: The FAN Principle QuickSheet

Elizabeth Shown Mills’s _QuickSheet: The Historical Biographer’s Guide to Cluster Research (the FAN Principle)_Has it been three years since Genealogical Publishing sent me a bunch of publications for review? I apologize; if I’m going to accept publications, I need to follow through. Today, I’m reviewing Elizabeth Shown Mills’s QuickSheet: The Historical Biographer’s Guide to Cluster Research (the FAN Principle).

Elizabeth Shown Mills uses the acronym FAN to help people remember the meaning of cluster research. “To prove identity, origin, and parentage, study individuals in the context of their FAN Club: Family, Associates, and Neighbors.”

I’d always considered cluster research to be something used solely to break through brick-walls. This QuickSheet has convinced me otherwise. Genealogy—family history, if you prefer—is more than vital facts. It is understanding a person’s story in context. Where did they live throughout their life? Who did they associate with? What was the legal environment? What was their character? Only when we have this depth of understanding can we be confident that the assembled sources all refer to the same person.

On page one, Mills gives six basic questions to apply as a starting point. She reviews seven major problems and work-arounds. On page two, she gives 16 record types with extremely helpful hints on how to apply them to cluster research. Page three consists of “the Problem-solving Spiral,” with guidance on how to structure a research project. Page four gives a simple bull’s eye illustration with some general guidance.

In each of my reviews I feel obligated to say something negative, so here it is. I wasn’t certain the flow of information was the most natural. I’m pretty familiar with Mills’s teaching skills—which are exceptional—so I doubt this is the fault of the author. Authors are constrained by editors, graphic designers, layout, and the size of the subject matter. But this nit pic hardly matters; with only four pages of information, the order does not affect the value.

QuickSheet: The Historical Biographer’s Guide to Cluster Research (the FAN Principle
8.5" x 11", 4 pp., folded and laminated. 2012.
ISBN 978-0-8063-1894-3
Genealogical Publishing Company
1-800-296-6687, www.genealogical.com
$8.95 plus shipping.

Also available as a digital publication from the author. www.evidenceexplained.com

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