Brick Walls in Genealogy

At some point in your genealogy research, you will probably run into a brick wall ancestor. No matter how many records you look at, you will not be able to get past this individual. It is frustrating, to say the least, yet something nearly all of us have gone through.

Here are some tips on breaking down your genealogy brick walls.

If you haven't done so already, try doing an internet search for the person. You may come across another researcher with the same brick wall ancestor. By combining the information you both have, you have a better chance of breaking down your brick wall. Also, you may come across someone who has already gotten past that individual.

Post queries on forums and message boards. Sometimes it helps to get your query on not only the surname board, but also variations of the surname and locational boards. Be patient. While those reading your post now may not be able to help, someone may come across it later and have the information you seek.

Review your previous genealogy research. You may have missed important information. For over a year, I struggled with finding the maiden name of my husbands great-great-grandmother. It was only after I went back to the immigration records for her husband that I realized I had missed the fact that he joined one of her brothers when he first came to the US.

Check your data for errors. When transcribing data, you may have mixed up a date or inadvertently filled in the information for the person on the line above your ancestor in the census.

Widen your view. When someone disappears from a census or seemingly appears out of thin air, they may have moved. Check surrounding areas. Keep in mind that it is possible that your ancestor did not move, but rather the area they lived in was divided. For instance, they were living in Virginia when West Virginia was carved from the state.

Look for relatives. It was not uncommon for families to live in the same area. If you can't find your ancestor, see if you can find where his parents, siblings or children were living during that time. You may be able to find your ancestor living nearby.

Look at records for siblings. It is frustrating waiting to get a document that should identify your ancestor's parents only to realize once you get it that that part is blank. Look at the death certificate for a sibling to see if it has the genealogy information you seek.


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