Genealogy Friday: 12 Tips Those Pesky Brick Walls

Breaking through the Brick Walls




We all have brick walls we want to bust through in our genealogy research.  I shared a few ways to find an elusive ancestor last week.

What are some other ways to break through those pesky brick walls?

  1. Conduct a generalized search—I had a great aunt I couldn’t find. I searched the SC death certificates using her first name and birth date.  In the keyword field I put her maiden name.  Bingo!  I found her under a married name I knew nothing about.  She died from childbirth a little over a year after marriage and this was between census records.  I was able to find a marriage record to confirm the information.
  2. Search for neighbors—have they all moved or disappeared together. For instance a large group of family and friends moved from SC to MO in the early 1820s.  Another group that stayed were ALL overlooked on the 1870 census.  Finding neighbors or other family living nearby may help you find the person you are looking for.Making it easy and accessable to read old newspapers
  3. Read through the newspaper for that time and area. You never know what information you may find.  If you can’t go there in person contact the local library or check out chronicling America.
  4. Broaden the search and check for siblings. Can you find the siblings on census records, death certificates, etc.
  5. Go back to the original sources and double check. Never take someone else’s word for information.  Check the sources.  This is one reason it is so important to document and back up ALL information.
  6. Ask for help—ask another researcher to take a look at your research and information. Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes will notice something you overlooked.  Maybe you can swap and while your friend checks your records, you can do the same for him/her.
  7. DNA testing—I have several cases of illegitimacy in our family line. No records are available on these ancestors that can lead to their father’s.  DNA testing is the only way we have to break through these walls.
  8. Check boundaries—often through the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries boundary lines would change for jurisdictions, counties or state lines. Check with the local library to inquire about a change in county lines.  Is there another county the area use to be a part of or is now a part of?DSCN4301f  Check those records.  Also, if your ancestor lived on a county or state line check both counties.  Remember for some records, your ancestor would have to ride to the state capital.  Often, they only went when necessary and would take other deeds and paperwork for other family members.  Check with the state archive for their records or the county that holds the state capital.
  9. Did your ancestor move?—search for clues your ancestor may have lived elsewhere.
  10. Check name variations—there are many misspellings on names {both surnames and given names}. Play around with the names to see what you can find.
  11. Don’t limit your search to just online records. There are a lot of records that are available offline at local libraries, courthouses, churches, etc.  Don’t forget to check these records.
  12. Think outside the box—there is often more than one way to skin a cat, but you will have to figure out other ways to find the information. Asking other genealogists for tips and suggestions is a great way to come up with new ideas.

How have you broken through brick walls?



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