Sunday, September 23, 2012

What Are Friends, Associates, and Neighbors For?

A friend emailed the other day, wondering what to do with his list of names of nearby people in the census. Genealogically speaking, what are these neighbors for?

(1) They can resolve questions of identity. I have used neighbors to help establish that a common-name man in two different places was the same person.

(2) They may actually be relatives, such as in-laws.

(3) They may have come from the same previous place as the research target, but have better evidence for it.

(4) They may be the ultimate desirable neighbor: one who was affluent, talkative, gossipy, and verbose, and who left papers and diaries now held in an archive.

(Can you name more?)

But as another friend says, many people who were nearby are just nearby. "You have to kiss a lot of frogs to get one prince."

For a top-notch free tutorial on using friends, associates, and neighbors, visit Elizabeth Shown Mills's Historic Pathways web site. Scroll about halfway down the page for seven pertinent articles.

Harold Henderson, "What Are Friends, Associates, and Neighbors For?," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 23 September 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]


Cathi at Stone House Research said...

Now who would that friend be? :-)

Harold said...

Thanks for the thought, Cathi; I could not have put it that well.