FAN - Friends and Neighbors - of your ancestors is a tried and true way to help uncover brick walls. It didn't dawn on me that checking out your current Friends and Neighbors can also help you connect with the past. In December, I was talking to my office mate about my genealogical plans for the holidays. She has no interest in genealogy but inherited from her grandmother all of the family heirlooms which she keeps in her garage. GASP! I almost had a heart attack when she told me she has an indentured servant record of an ancestor from the 1700's in her garage, along with civil war letters and tintype photos. The look on my face must have said it all as she immediately told me I shouldn't worry as she had "all that stuff in acid free folders and binders" in rubber totes. I mentioned no air conditioning, high humidity, bugs and rodents (hey, this is Florida and that is in everyone's neighborhood!), not to mention dust, mold and temperature extremes. She decided she would spend a few minutes over the holidays cleaning out a closet to store these family treasures.
That evening, I got a text from her with several pictures of documents and a question about how she could find out the name of a man in a photo and how he was related to her. Since I didn't get her a Christmas gift I told her I'd check it out. Three hours later I had discovered the man's name, occupation, place of birth and sad tale of his daughter who had been the clue in identifying him. Still working on how she's related to him and I suspect she isn't. My present hypothesis is that she is related to the man's daughter's husband. They had no living children so the photo may have passed to the husband's surviving family members.
Oddly, my husband's got family with the same name in the same location at the same time with the same occupation and I bet I can tie everyone together. If so, this means that my husband is distantly related to my office mate. If not, their families were definitely neighbors.
We live in the Florida. The family I'm researching lived in New York in the 1800's. My husband was born in Indiana and my office mate in Massachusetts. If she hadn't mentioned the stash of heirlooms in her garage I would have never discovered a connection. Yes, the FAN method works but not the way I expected!