Carol Sanderson, Editor
Charles Hansen, Technical Advisor
Newsletter Archives | E-mail
During the past year, Marian Dietrich, Earl Ross and I (Contributors to this web site), submitted a brickwall solution to the publishers of the Family Chronicle Magazine, Some of those 500 Brickwall solutions are discussed in this newsletter. Even with 500 solutions to brick walls, most have common themes, so it is a good policy to "network" and use others for input for possible information. Bulletin boards are a great way to accomplish tasks of that nature. So, here we go...
Keep an open mind; your family's tradition may be true and pay attention to the smallest piece of information. Knowing the history of the area may help you pick up on small clues. Make educated guesses, why did your ancestor move? When and where were they married?
Take classes and get involved in the social side of genealogy. When I first started I skipped all the German classes and interest groups at our local genealogy society. Why? I was sure my Danish ancestors would not marry a German. I was told by a friend that I would find a German ancestor, and sure enough my Scotch-Irish ancestors had married a German. It turned out they were related to the friend that told me I would find a German ancestor. Your local genealogical society will provide classes that you may think will not help you, but go anyway you never know what little clue you will pick up. Get involved in the genealogical society; volunteer to help, you will learn more about researching your family.
Stay abreast of the latest technology, new databases, new classes, new mail lists, new websites, etc. Technology has really changed genealogy. Where it used to take weeks to travel to a courthouse all the way across the USA; it may have posted the data online. E-Mail is so much faster than snail mail. Computers can store and retrieve data faster than before and even print your data in a book for you, or generate a website. There are online classes, and even online genealogy conferences.
Remember original documents might contain a clue you missed earlier, or they may contain errors. My mother's obit says she was born in Trenton, New Jersey, but I know I told the funeral home she was born in Trenton, Missouri.
Visit the places your ancestors lived. The feelings you get when you walk where your ancestors lived can never be described, and while you are there do some on site research. No matter how many databases come online or microfilm, there will always be records not available without going to the local library, courthouse, funeral home or cemetery.
Still have a brick wall? Probably the best clue is to study collateral lines. Few people traveled anywhere alone, families and neighbors traveled together. This suggestion takes a lot of work, but it does bring results.
The last hint is to never give up; sooner or later you will find the hole in your brick wall. Will it be a suggestion from a friend online?, at your genealogical society meeting?, a conference? or a new online database? Remember: Network, Network, Network.
Last August I had the pleasure of hearing a lecture by Dr. Thomas Jones on some strategies for getting around some of the blocks we meet while hunting ancestors. He lists six things that we can do to overcome these blocks. I will discuss these in the order in which he presented them.
First: After we have searched the logical places, we don't know where to look. Dr. Jones states that we must broaden our search using family members of the ancestor and neighbors too. The fact that we have been looking in the wrong spot or at perhaps the wrong person can be due to accidental or an intentional giving of misinformation. An example of this from my own experience is that of my grandfather, Wilfred H Chickering. I knew he had been in the Civil War but when I went to find his outfit in a fourteen volume set of Civil War Soldiers and Sailors I couldn't find him. I found out later that he enlisted with an alias. Once my cousin told me what that was, I went back and put my finger right on him.
Second: We often lend too much credibility to published sources. When I got my grandfather's birth record it said his given name was Horace. No mention of Wilfred at all. I think he just added it as he was often at odds with his Dad and didn't want to use the name Horace as that was his Dad's name too.
Third:Stopping after finding the first record that looks correct is often a mistake. Dr. Jones says you should have at least three records if possible to verify the data that you have. You néed to judge the quality of the data by looking at the person who gave the information. Sometimes misinformation is purposely given as in grandfathers' enlistment. Other times the person giving information doesn't say I dont know; but will tell something that they believe is true, such as neighbors giving information about the people next door, to the census taker.
Fourth: You may be looking for the wrong name. Some variations of names make the soundex different so be alert and check all possibilities. Prefixes can be and often were dropped. Sometime they were used interchangably by the person which would just add to the confusion. Not only can the surnames be different but the given name can be different too as in the case of Wilfred Chickering, my grandfather mentioned above.
Fifth: The ancestor could be using the mother's maiden name.This could be true if the child was illegitimate. There may be records for child support which would verify this. Some states have good records on things like this in others you may have to hunt.
Sixth: You may be looking in the wrong jurisdiction for your ancestor even though you know that he didn't move. Boundaries of towns and counties have frequently changed as their populations grew. State boundaries have changed too, although not as frequently, so look in another adjacent county or town . You may find what you are seeking. We were looking for my husbands brother's birth certificate. Family said he was born in Vermont but records weren't there. Someone suggested the next town across the state line. We found it, Then it turns out, the state line ran through the house and because the bedroom was in the other state that is where his birth was registered.
Hopefully, these reminders will help you and me to break down some of our blocks. We have seen most of these before in one form or another but it never hurts to be told again. Whatever strategy you use, try to get more than one record for that person just to corroborate the facts.