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Sunday, March 31, 2019

A Step-by-Step Approach to Using Genealogical Cluster Research: Step Four

Expanding Jurisdictional Research into Cluster Research

Jurisdictional genealogical research is not easily understood. A jurisdiction is a geographic area that has a particular level of government. For example, a school district is under the jurisdiction of the school board. That same school district might also be part of a municipality, another jurisdiction. The municipality is likely in a county, which is part of a state and a nation. There are a large number of these jurisdictions, most of which overlap each other or are inclusive of each other in some way, i.e. a county is part of a state and a state contains counties. From a genealogical standpoint, all of these jurisdictions have the potential of creating records. As genealogists, we identify the jurisdictions, then we identify the records that each jurisdiction could have created and then search for the location of the records and finally, search the records.

A jurisdictional approach to genealogical research is well represented by the Catalog. We may think of the various categories in the Catalog as arbitrary, but the FamilySearch Catalog is a good analog of the jurisdictional approach to genealogical research. The Catalog is basically organized geographically by jurisdiction. See "Catalogs: The Key to Using and"

As you become familiar with searching in catalogs and the wide variety of jurisdictional records that are available, you will also begin to realize that the number of possible records is directly related to time. The huge flood of records that exist today begins to dwindle into a barely perceptible stream as we go back in time. Likewise, the expertise necessary to find and search the records due to availability, writing systems and language changes also increases dramatically as we move from the 19th to the 18th Century and beyond.

One interesting side note about jurisdictional analysis is that the various indexing systems used as finding aids seldom give the user any insight into the geographical nature of the records. For example, if you do a name search using an index of the U.S. Federal Census Records, you will get a list of suggested individuals whose names match your search, but the results list has no geographic organization. Even if you add a place name, the results will seldom give you a grouping of the places as well as the names that match. Using most indexes for searches is the antithesis of basing searches on jurisdictions. The exception, of course, is an index of the individual jurisdictions records. It is possible to find related individuals if the record set or collection is geographically limited or implies some other type of relationship. 

Cluster research moves beyond merely recognizing that different jurisdictions create different types of records. Once you understand the importance of recognizing that different sets of records are created for both overlapping and successional types of jurisdictions, you can start to recognize that other types of relationships between individuals and families can create records that are not geographically discernable. For example, an individual may belong to an international organization and have contacts scattered all over the world. Two individuals could be closely related within that international organization and yet, unless that organization is included in a set of records that are considered to be "genealogical" records, there is little chance that a genealogist who ignores cluster research would run across that organization's roster and find that two of the individuals were closely affiliated.

However, initially, cluster research uses the available geographically oriented records to discover other types of relationships. An example of a simple "cluster" is church membership. The fact that an individual or a family belongs to or attends a particular denomination forms a cluster of affiliation that can be used not only to discover the family when it moves to another location but also to track family members who are separated from the family. This type of relationship is extremely difficult to see if you limit your research to geographically oriented or even jurisdictionally oriented methodologies.

For example, the U.S. Federal Census makes no mention of any organizational affiliation. I like to remember when I researched agricultural organizations in the state of Utah. I found dozens of such organizations. Some of them were regional, but others were organized by the product or products produced. Belonging to a farm coop may not seem to be related to genealogical research but the fact that a person belonged to a particular coop could be used to show relationships between farms and farm families. However, there are agricultural schedules for the U.S. Federal Census for 1850, 1960 and 1870 but very small farms were not included. Membership in the farm coop was not limited by the size of the farm.

Where cluster research moves beyond jurisdictional research is when cluster research begins to consider individual and familial relationships that are not constrained by geography per se.

Stay tuned.

Remember: There is no Step Two in this series. Here are the previous posts.

Step One:
Step Two: missing but shows up as Step One
Step Three:

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