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.

 

My Family Tree

I Took a DNA Test & Figured Out a Mystery

So for a while now I’ve been on the fence about taking a DNA test.  I became even more curious about 18 months ago when my mother-in-law got my husband one for his birthday.  It took him a while to finally take the test (I came home from an Evening of Genealogy at the library where I saw a mutual friend and Sandy advised he had better do it as it’s possible that it had an expiration date). So he did and though his tree was limited it was fascinating to see his ethnicity estimate and the DNA matches he had.

So ever since then, I’d been on a teeter-totter, half wanting to take a test and half afraid like so many others about big brother finding me (though I’m not sure exactly why). But this past Fourth of July convinced me to take a test when I went and spent the day with my mom’s side of the family at my cousin’s house and my aunt told me offhandedly “You know there is a chance that who you think is mom’s dad isn’t”.  Her reference to mom was my maternal grandmother.

Now, if you are any sort of genealogist you know what I am thinking at this point.  This person, we’ll call him hubby #2, who I have listed as my great-grandfather, because that’s what my grandmother’s birth certificate states, who I’ve spent hours researching, hoping to make sense of why he ignored her, even as an adult… may not be my great-grandfather?

The DNA Test

On this day AncestryDNA was on sale and it was the last day of the sale.  At 11:51pm I purchased my kit and just had to wait.

The following Wednesday the kit arrived in the mail.  I was ready – I came home, spit in the vial and boxed it up and by 8:30am the next day, it was at the post office being mailed.  The following Monday as my husband and I went cemetery hopping, I got the email stating that it had arrived at the testing facility, and by Friday, July 26 I had my results.

  • 84% England, Wales & Northwestern Europe
  • 12% Ireland & Scotland
  • 4% Germanic

Well, if nothing else the ethnicity estimate summed up why my skin coloring is so pasty white (I’m fair – like I was wearing a black dress and black flats the other day and you’d think I had on white tights pale).

But one over the course of the next week and a half that I figured out was missing were matches to any of hubby #2’s surnames.  So I guess what my Great-Great-Aunt Ina stated after my great-grandmother’s funeral was correct – hubby #2 wasn’t my grandmother’s dad.

But who was?

The Search is On

So a week or so passed and one evening I sat in my recliner and decided to just focus on the third cousins who make up my DNA matches and put them in the categories of my ancestors: Blair/Foster’s; Childers/Fesler’s; Ritchey/Cypher’s – you get my point.  But there was a name that kept popping up – so I decided to focus on it.

So I pulled up the 1930 census to see if there were any “V’s” living in the vicinity of my great-grandmother (her name was Mildred) as I knew she lived in the realm as I now live, an area called North Hill.  Sadly by the 1930 census, she is living with her second husband in Cuyahoga Falls (FYI – my grandmother, was born in 1929).

When I didn’t find the information I was looking for in the census, I decided to look up the “V’s” in the 1930 City Directory.  There I found a “V” who was a lawyer with an office at a main intersection in the area.  I had seen his name on a family tree of one of my “matches” and he was in my great-grandmother’s age range, but as odd as it was I saw another “V” who lived just a few blocks from where I live now listed and I decided to further investigate.

I threw this second “V” into Ancestry and found him right away.  He was 89 in 1930 and my Great-Grandmother would have been 22 – I hoped he wasn’t who I was looking for.  I looked to see if he had a son, he did, so I clicked to see some information about him, wondering if he was married or had children because they would probably be Mildred’s age (she was born in 1908 – he passed away in 1906).  When I clicked on the link to Find A Grave, I couldn’t believe my eyes, it was a photo of a tombstone of 89-year-old “V”, his son, wife, and daughter.  But was most surprising was that the daughter’s last name rang bells in my head… it was the same last name as my great-grandmother, Mildred’s, hubby #1!!!

Mildred’s divorce from hubby #1 was final on September 5, 1929. She married hubby #2 on September 29 and my grandmother was born prematurely on October 2. With all the DNA matches to the “V’s” this made total sense.  What further proved my hypothesis was the following photos.  The first is the obituary photo from the February 28, 1994 edition of the Akron Beacon Journal of hubby #1 while the other is a photo of my Grandmother I believe taken in the 1990s.

It’s the same nose and the same high cheekbones.  If hubby #1 isn’t her father, I need to find out who in his family is (but I do have matches to both “V’s and “G’s”, I just have to go up to my 4x great-grandparents on the “G” side).

Sharing the News

I was so excited when I discovered all this.  I quickly got on Facebook and shared what I found with my Aunt who began this whole mystery for me.  I was surprised she was still up at 11pm.

All my research of hubby #2 and his family wasn’t a total loss. In the end, he was still my great-grandmother’s second husband.  I’ve just disconnected him as the father of my grandmother and now have hubby #1 in that place (he was already listed in my program as well).

I’ll admit I was happy to find out her first husband was my grandmother’s dad. I considered my great-grandmother a strong woman for divorcing him in the late 1920s and then hubby #2 in the early 1930s because they weren’t the men she deserved.  But the thought of someone else intermingled didn’t exactly thrill me either.

My great-grandmother had reasons for divorcing hubby #1, he was apparently gambling their money away.

Hubby #1 didn’t get married a second time until 1939, 10 years after his divorce with my great-grandmother was final.  He was married to his second wife until he passed in 1984.  I like to think in those 10 years he grew up.  From the comments on his second wife’s obituary, they were both wonderful people who everyone seemed to love.  This makes me feel good.

Then again, who is going to go onto a website and say how awful someone was?  Well, at least not on an obituary site (I hope not anyhow).

What I am still puzzled about was there was a point in my grandmother’s marriage to my grandfather where he forced her to go meet her dad, hubby #2.  The entire visit he did nothing but ignore her. Not one word was said.  I’ve heard that story from different people and it’s the same.  I can’t believe he would be so mean to my grandmother.  My guess is that he knew she wasn’t his.  He noted on other documents I found that he had no children.  This is fine.  But why not just tell her when she was an adult visiting him?  Why keep quiet?  At this time what was to be gained?

My Aunt commented to me it just goes to show how much Mildred wanted out of her marriage that she didn’t want to risk hubby #1 finding out he had a child.  But it makes me wonder if everyone’s life would have changed had they known?  Maybe he would have straightened up earlier?  

Or maybe he did know?

Ninety years later, we will never know.

* I’ve used the simplistic codenames of hubby #1, hubby #2, and hubby #3 in regard to my great-grandmother’s husbands for the simple fact that hubby #1 was remarried and has a daughter.  At this time I am mulling over whether I should contact her, but since to my knowledge she is unaware I thought I’d respect her privacy, so no names.  I know she could do a search of her dad’s photo and find out, but I’m also DNA matches with her relatives so there is that chance she may find out anyhow (or who knows, maybe she is a match).  One of my matches was actually a girl I went to school with, who is semi-related to my friend’s husband and I believe she has been told (I was excited to share my story with someone interested in genealogy having no clue her hubby was related to them).  Maybe one day I’ll add the picture of the headstone that tied everything together. 

Genealogy

I’m At My First Genealogy Conference!

You know when you hit a fork in the road and realize you are all in with your genealogy journey when you go to your first genealogy conference. That is where I am at present, sitting in my hotel room, typing away after my second fun-filled day going to classes.

What Have I Learned?

I have learned things from using new software (Adobe Spark), utilizing FamilySearch in tracing my British roots, how to embrace bright shiny objects, how to prepare oneself for research trips, DNA, and lastly, overseas colonial research (which is pre-1776).

Who Have I Seen?

It’s a bit intimidating at times as I walk around the hallways of the Great Wolf Lodge and see such names as Blaine Bettinger, Lisa Louise Cooke, Thomas MacEntee, The Genealogy Guys, Lisa Alzo (I have listened to so many of her webinars on Legacy Family Tree Webinars I wish one of her lectures didn’t always fall within one I really need… goosebumps!).

Have You Ever Thought of Going?

If so, then go!  I’ll confess it makes for a long day but you don’t have to go all in as I did, which was 3-full days.  (They had workshops on Wednesday but nothing screamed – come to this workshop! I did attend a meet and greet with many of the bigger names in attendance and it was extremely informative).

You can register for 1, 2 or 3 days here at the Ohio Genealogical Society’s Conference.  Next years is scheduled already and will be taking place up in Sandusky.

Exhibitors

Do you know how many books I’ve bought?  My husband was really surprised that they had so many books on genealogy.

I laughed.

But so many great books about research.  If only they had Pennsylvania books about Bedford or Potter county – SOLD!

But it’s not just books, it’s photo scanning, and historical societies (representing Ohio counties and ones from neighboring states).  Fun stuff like mouse pads, and archival pens and a cool clicky eraser (yes, a throwback from when I was in high school or possibly a freshman in college), t-shirts, jewelry, DNA, the list goes on.

Conclusion

I’m sure I’ll go into more detail in the next week or so, and missing my family aside, I’m so happy that I came to the OGS Conference.  It made me see how many people are out there that are just like me… lovers of genealogy and so incredibly interested in finding their people.

It has been an incredibly fun 3 days, with 1 more to go.  I have learned so much and can’t wait to up my game in my research process (which it’s so apparent what I’m doing wrong – I lack focus!).

Until next time.