Genealogy Research

5 Great Tips About Facing Brick Walls

5 Great Tips for Facing Brick Walls

I have a number of Brick Wall ancestors. Patiently I try to crack, write on, go around, or bust through the walls. I’d love to share some amazing success stories but alas, there is nothing to report just yet. However, I hope you’ll remember these great tips from my friend at Genealogy Tip of the Day.

Can You Write on Your Brick Wall?

An excellent problem-solving technique is to write up your “problem” as if you were explaining it to someone totally unfamiliar with the time period, the family, and the location. 

I know what the Brick Wall is but can I explain it to someone else? That’s something to consider.

How Far Did They Live?

For your “brick wall” ancestor, do you know (or have any idea) how far they lived from the county seat, nearest church, cemetery or neighbor (to name a few)?

Great question. Putting things into perspective not only helps us find potential leads but also helps us understand the story that is hidden in these facts. If a relative lived 10 miles from the general store, how would that affect their lifestyle?

Get Away From What You Want to Prove

When analyzing a record or set of materials that does not make sense, get away from what you “want to prove” and try to think “what do these documents really say?” 

I do not believe I have this issue. I’m not trying to prove anything. I’m just trying to find clues for the most part. However, this is a great reminder to not try to make a document fit your theory but let the document tell you want it really recorded.

Spend Time on New People

If you think you are stuck on all your lines, work on someone else’s family for a while. The different names and locations will be a good change of pace. 

I have a number of lines that are stuck and have been so for many years. One line opened up because records came online that I hadn’t known of before. They were indexed and finally I made a connection. Working on other people is not only good to clear your head (and frustration) but it can be away of still being useful for the overall family history movement. If you can’t push your lines back, help someone else push theirs (even if they haven’t discovered their lines yet).

Was There An Unknown First Name?

 I was years into researching the family before I learned that at least two of them really had the first name of John or Johann–using that first name combined with the middle name made finding them easier.

I had a similar experience with the discovery of Philip Smith buried in Green Lawn Cemetery having the first name of Leon. He didn’t use this name often but enough to make him a difficult man to research. One document finally provided the missing link and now I know that Leon Philip Smith married Catherine Dague and fathered Andrew Nelson Smith. This is a GREAT tip.

Genealogy Tip of the Day

I share these tips from Genealogy Tip of the Day for your benefit and for mine. We can all be reminded of these new-to-us or often over looked nuggets of wisdom.

Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.

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