06 May 2010

Early Fan Club

Genealogists in the know follow Elizabeth Shown Mills's teachings. She has learned, through hard work and great insight, techniques to help with brick wall problems. One that I particularly adore is the Friends, Associates and Neighbors concept, wherein you examine not just the ancestor presenting the brick wall, but extend the search out beyond him and his family to his Friends, Associates and Neighbors (FAN). The concept of studying our Irish ancestors' neighbors, witnesses on documents, godparents and fellow church-goers is invaluable when the townland of origin proves elusive. Maybe your great-grandfather didn't leave many records, but his best buddy who he knew from the old country might have left a gold mine of information, and by researching that buddy, you will discover more about your great grandfather.

This technique works well not only with genealogy, but also in our personal lives. Recently I connected with two ladies who, 50 years ago, were my entire world. You won't find them in my genealogical papers, but my early childhood is jam-packed with memories and images about them. They were my best friends growing up. We only hung out with each other for a total of eleven years, but the impact they had on me was enormous. I moved near them when I was two and left when I was thirteen.

I think it is worthwhile to remember the impact that our FAN club has in our own lives. I was young when I played with them, and those memories get hazy and narrow in scope after 50 years! So when we chat via email, we exchange memories that one or the other of us had forgotten and it all comes flooding back. In this case, we are particularly blessed because their mother is a VERY young 83 years old. My parents are both gone and though I have two living siblings who remember things about Musket Road (named by my father, the gun collector!), I am just so tickled that my childhood second mom is still around. I hope to meet up with her this summer. I want to let her know that her constant, patient presence and supportive environment helped me feel safe and appreciated in this sometimes unwelcoming world. And I would love to hear her memories of that time.

So thanks, Maude, Joanne and Denise, for being part of my Fan Club, as I am part of yours!