October is one of the greatest months of the year because it means we all have an excuse to work on our genealogy!
Not that we ever have to have a reason to continue to work on our family trees, but it is a month filled with educational webinar’s, podcasts, and articles that will further our knowledge to find our ancestors.
So I hope you are all able to enjoy the month and get the most out of all the opportunities that are out there. May you break down your brick wall and move on to new ones!
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.
State a clear research problem (specifying your problem succinctly)
Back-up a generation and review (do you know all there is to know about their children?
Use ALL the records (have you searched through all possible documents to find them?)
Create a timeline (this one is pretty self explanatory)
Account for inconsistencies (if records give you differing information, rationalize them)
Research the FAN club (friends, associates, neighbors)
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:
Start with the most likely records
Go from the known to the unknown
Focus on one question at a time
Look for alternate spellings and nicknames
Do not trust indexes
Do not trust copies selected by someone else
Make friends with librarians and archivists
Start with a well-documented family group record
Research logs – keep good research logs for each family
Document and organize as you go
Search worldwide indexes for your family name
Look for death documents
Local histories, biographies and genealogies
Advanced Research Strategies:
Draw a timeline
Organize, review and evaluate evidence
Use forms to create new brain connections and raise questions
Expand the Number of Sources Used:
Substitute record types
Use Wiki articles as a checklist
Try an exhaustive preliminary survey
Search more libraries and archives
Search Records of Kin, Neighbors and Associates:
Find your relatives children
Research neighbors and relatives
Use Logic, Deduction, Inference, and Inspiration:
Create a master research plan
Correlate and integrate records of neighbors
Study migration patterns
Try to disprove uncertain connections
Listen to your feelings
Continue Education and Follow-Up:
Get an education
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:
Search for maiden names
Use middle names as first names
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)
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)
Be aware of changing jurisdictions (boundaries for towns, counties, states were always changing)
Port of Entry
Cemeteries – where they are buried and who they are buried near
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.
I’m presently taking a class on genealogy and one of the things they briefly went over in last week’s portion is mind mapping. I’ll be honest, I never really knew what mind mapping was, now I could sum it up to it being brainstorming on a piece of paper. But I decided to take a little more in-depth examination of mind mapping and how it can help you with your family history research.
What is Mind Mapping
Using the Wikipedia definition, a “mind map is a diagram used to visually organize information”. It’s hierarchal and shows relationships among the pieces of the whole. According to MindMapping.com, it’s a “highly effective way of getting information in and out of your brain” as it’s both creative and logical at the same time. Mind maps are illustrations of what you are thinking.
Which goes back to my original statement of it being like brainstorming on a piece of paper.
Characteristics of Mind Mapping
There are certain characteristics that each mind map must possess.
Each mind map has a main idea. It’s the theme of what your mind map is about.
These are the main ideas that branch off of your main idea that create connections.
These words or ideas that support or describe your main idea are summarized into keywords, no sentences allowed.
Lastly, you have less important ideas that aid in describing the keywords, and these branch off onto smaller lines, or twigs.
Creating Mind Maps
There are different ways to create mind maps. You can draw from hand (I apologize for my bad photo – somehow my paper got folded but something told me trying to re-write it wouldn’t work as I’d probably just mess it up and get totally frustrated).
Mind maps can also be made with computer software. Some of the software that you can use are the following: Coggle, Mindly, Draw.io, iMindMap, MindMup, MindMeister, Scapple, and SmartDraw to name just a few.
Using Your Mind Map
Mind mapping is a tool that helps make you a better thinker. When you come across a problem, even something that really has you stumped like a brick wall, write it down, all of it, you may just get pointed in the right direction on where to look next.
The one I did above is one of my brick walls, which actually leads to a bigger brick wall. George Washington Blair is the 4th child of my great-great-great-grandparents. I only have 1 death certificate listing my 3x-great-grandmothers name and I strongly feel that if I can find George Washington Blair’s death certificate, that maybe it will give me some insight on my 3x-great-grandparents.
A mind map isn’t going to solve your problems, but it will allow you to see your information in a logical flow and give you the opportunity to see what you still need to find, and then you can best decide where to go to seek your answers.