Today I’m sharing five strategies for dealing with tough genealogy problems in the spirit of next week’s Genealogy Brick Wall Buster’s online workshop.
The workshop runs April 19-26 and offers Family Tree Magazine‘s best advice for overcoming research obstacles, plus the opportunity to get expert advice on your brick wall from professional researcher Lisa A. Alzo.
- The most obvious way to get to the other side of a brick wall is to go around it, so pursue parallel branches of your family tree. Research your ancestors’ siblings for clues to their parents, or if you don’t know of any siblings, follow cousins. See how this worked for helping me find my third-great-grandmother’s maiden name here.
- Bend the rules of genealogy that say to “work backward one generation at a time.” Skip a generation, identifying your ancestor’s grandparents by using what you know about his cousins or aunts and uncles; then maybe you can work forward to the missing link of his parents.
- For immigration brick walls, search passenger lists for friends and neighbors the person might have traveled with, then examine the list for your ancestor’s (possibly garbled) name. If you can’t find a town of origin, use censuses to see if his neighbors are from the same country, then study those folks. Here’s how an immigration brick wall came tumbling down for me.
- Once you’ve exhausted the census and other common sources, try less-obvious types of paperwork your ancestors might have left. Land records are one example. Is your brick-wall ancestor mentioned in school records, occupational records, meeting minutes or old manuscripts? Use your imagination, your library and online catalogs, such as FamilySearch‘s and the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections.
- Our contributing editor David A. Fryxell advises, “As Sherlock Holmes liked to lecture Dr. Watson, ‘When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.’ So consider even unlikely possibilities when confronting your brick walls: Could there have been two men by the same name in the county at that time? Might your third-great-grandfather have married his cousin? Maybe your great-grandmother remarried between censuses, thus changing her name.”
Click here to see the program for the Genealogy Brick Wall Busters workshop. After you complete your registration, you can submit your brick wall to Lisa via a form in your confirmation email.