Many genealogists are only interested in researching their direct descendancy, which stands to reason. We often begin genealogy with the hopes of locating our ancestors, and not all the other relatives involved. I also recommend researching this way in the beginning to avoid overwhelming yourself with too many names, dates, and places. However, eventually you will hit a brick wall in your research. To me, this is where genealogy gets really interesting. I love a good mystery!
One way to break through these walls is by performing cluster research. This form of research involves looking at the siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, and other relatives of your direct ancestor. There are several ways cluster research can help you.
Relatives often migrated with each other, and lived close to one another (sometimes right next door). If you are having trouble locating your ancestor, you might be able to find him living near his brother (or aunt, cousin, etc.), but his name was misspelled on a record, preventing you from finding the record previously.
Records, such as obituaries or immigration records, of extended ancestors can also help to determine if an ancestor died during a certain time period. For example, I lost track of my 2nd-great grandfather, so I traced his brothers who I knew he had always lived near. When his brothers moved to another are in the early 1900’s, and my 2nd-great grandfather did not go with them, I could assume that he had died in the three years between then and the previous census year (the last time I could find him). Sure enough, with a little research into death records during those years, I managed to find that he did indeed die a year prior to his brothers’ migration.
Another way cluster research can be useful is by increasing the chances that you will run into other genealogists researching a common ancestor. These other genealogists may have the information you are looking for, or at the very least, may be able to provide you with some hints to break down the walls yourself.
Do you perform cluster research? Why or why not?