Saturday, March 9, 2024

Getting to Know the Neighbors


There is a concept in genealogical research known by its snappy moniker, the F.A.N. Club. Depending on whom you ask, that acronym could stand for "Family, Associates, and Neighbors" or "Friends, Associates, and Neighbors." In my ancestor's case—Mary Meriwether Gilmer and her brothers in early 1800s Georgia—apparently, that F.A.N. Club could signify both at the same time.

Yesterday, while trying to discover whatever happened to Mary's second husband, Nicholas Powers, I ran across a census record for 1840. When I saw that hint posted to Nicholas Powers' profile page on my tree at, I was pretty sure that was my ancestor's family. However, I wasn't in much of a rush to view the document, because I already knew my fourth great-grandmother's name would not appear in that listing. For that enumeration, only heads of household were listed by name. Besides that, Mary's husband Nicholas was not one of my direct ancestors; it was her first husband Warren Taliaferro who claimed that designation.

Still, I had to take a peek at that 1840 census page. Though my main purpose in looking it up was to narrow the possible date range for when Nicholas actually died, I was curious to see who else was living in the neighborhood. I guess you could say I was looking for the "N" in the F.A.N. Club for Mary and Nicholas.

Almost immediately, I spotted another name I recognized from my family tree: Hay T. Landrum. Hay's name was listed right above Nicholas Powers' entry. Not only were they neighbors in Oglethorpe County, Georgia, but they were—at least, according to my calculations—family in the same neighborhood. Hay's wife Sarah was daughter of Nicholas' wife Mary. In fact, since Nicholas was likely the only father Sarah really knew—he stepped in as step-dad only a few years after she was born—it is not surprising to discover that she and Hay named one of their sons after her step-father Nicholas Powers.

It is when I cannot find any documentation for the key points in an ancestor's life that I begin resorting to that F.A.N. Club again. In hopes that some familiar names would be repeated enough times in my ancestor's life story to lead me to the details I am missing, I trace every possible clue. There is certainly an abundance of those F.A.N. Club clues in Nicholas Powers' case, even if I haven't been able to find a will for him.

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