Genealogy

Obsessed With Your Brick Wall?

Like most people, I have a lot of ancestors that I can research over the 4-primary branches of my family tree.  But are others of you out there like me, obsessed with your brick wall ancestors?

Whenever I read a book on genealogy, any time a new idea is brought to me as far as considering how to find people, the first thing I think of is can I use this new method to find more about Andrew?

Andrew is referencing Andrew Blair, born about 1812 in Pennsylvania and for whom I have no parents.  He just shows up in my 1850 census with his wife and 2-children and I can’t find him before or after.  His wife, Suzanna, also a brick wall, is born around 1826.  And no other Ancestry trees have anything more than I do.  Even my late cousin, Darlene, couldn’t find any parental information for Andrew or Suzanna.

Ways to Get Over the Brick Wall

There are many suggestions out there for overcoming a brick wall.  Ancestry has 7-points to do to find the answers you seek.

  1. State a clear research problem (specifying your problem succinctly)
  2. Back-up a generation and review (do you know all there is to know about their children?
  3. Use ALL the records (have you searched through all possible documents to find them?)
  4. Create a timeline (this one is pretty self explanatory)
  5. Account for inconsistencies (if records give you differing information, rationalize them)
  6. Research the FAN club (friends, associates, neighbors)
  7. Ask for help (hire a professional genealogist in the area where your ancestors lived)

FamilySearch is a bit more thorough with their suggestions for dealing with brick walls.  They have 33 points that they spread out in 7 larger areas:

Preliminaries:

  1. Start with the most likely records
  2. Go from the known to the unknown
  3. Focus on one question at a time
  4. Look for alternate spellings and nicknames
  5. Do not trust indexes
  6. Do not trust copies selected by someone else
  7. Make friends with librarians and archivists

Fundamentals:

  1. Start with a well-documented family group record
  2. Research logs – keep good research logs for each family
  3. Document and organize as you go
  4. Search worldwide indexes for your family name
  5. Look for death documents
  6. Local histories, biographies and genealogies

Advanced Research Strategies:

  1. Draw a timeline
  2. Organize, review and evaluate evidence
  3. Use forms to create new brain connections and raise questions

Expand the Number of Sources Used:

  1. Be thorough
  2. Substitute record types
  3. Use Wiki articles as a checklist
  4. Switch jurisdictions
  5. Area searches
  6. Try an exhaustive preliminary survey
  7. Search more libraries and archives

Search Records of Kin, Neighbors and Associates:

  1. Find your relatives children
  2. Research neighbors and relatives

Use Logic, Deduction, Inference, and Inspiration:

  1. Create a master research plan
  2. Correlate and integrate records of neighbors
  3. Study migration patterns
  4. Try to disprove uncertain connections
  5. Listen to your feelings

Continue Education and Follow-Up:

  1. Get an education
  2. Get help
  3. Share and collaborate

Genealogy in Time, an online magazine, wrote about 50 different ideas to tackle your impossible to find ancestors, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Search for maiden names
  2. Use middle names as first names
  3. Use naming conventions (such as the Victorian way of oldest son – father’s father, second son – mothers father, third son – father; oldest daughter – mothers mother; second daughter – father’s mother; third daughter – mother)
  4. Search by Village – sometimes searching records by a small village will have a bad transcription pop out because they are only a few pages they may be easier to tackle)
  5. Be aware of changing jurisdictions (boundaries for towns, counties, states were always changing)
  6. Schoolhouse records
  7. Electoral records
  8. Church/Synagogue records
  9. Land records
  10. Port of Entry
  11. Cemeteries – where they are buried and who they are buried near
  12. Wills
  13. Pensions
  14. Family associations that are for your last name

Lastly, that is not listed anywhere above is using DNA.  By taking a DNA test that provides you with cousin matches, you may find someone who you are related too and it could provide an answer to the question you seek.

So many ideas that you can use to try to knock down your brick wall, or at least chisel away at them a bit.  I was reading in one of the Facebook Groups I belong to today that one lady had a brick wall that lasted 35 years.  I asked her how joyful her happy dance was after finally crashing it down last year and she said she is still dancing.  I guess it puts in reality how my 4-years is really nothing.

If you have found yourself trying to find unknown ancestors and you have an idea that was extremely useful for you but not listed, please share in the comments below.  I would love to explore more ways to find Andrew and Suzanna.

 

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