AncestorNews: Brick Wall Strategies

By Nancy Hendrickson Premium

I’m frustrated. As readers of this column know, I’ve been on a tear of late, trying to break down my Hendrickson brick wall. A recent trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City yielded a few clues from journal articles (in publications such as Kentucky Ancestors and Kentucky Genealogist) as well as mentions of my family in various land records—one of which seemed to indicate a Revolutionary War-related land grant. However, I couldn’t trace the family back any further. What to do?

First, I dug out a copy of The Family Tree Resource Book for Genealogists (published by the Family Tree Magazine folks) and checked out the Kentucky records chapter. I learned that many early county records, as well as militia records from 1786, are at the Filson Library and the Kentucky State Archives. Okay—two places to check out by snail mail.

Next, I got online and tracked down the Web site for the Harrodsburg Historical Society, located in Mercer County—my family’s old digs. I discovered that the society’s genealogical committee will do on-site research for $15 an hour. According to the group’s Web site, it has a large collection of family records, original documents, and access to vital records. I’m now in the process of putting together all of my information and will be mailing it off to Harrodsburg in hope of uncovering more clues.

Another research route was DNA. You may remember my brother Mark did the 37-marker DNA test during the holidays, but so far his DNA doesn’t match any of the Hendrickson’s or Hendricks tested. Grrr! However, as more people learn about DNA testing through projects like the National Geographic Society’s Genographic project, I’m hoping the number of people in commercial databases will skyrocket. Until then . . .

I then turned my attention to the families whose members married my relatives-in my current brick-wall dilemma, the most likely target is the Moores. Using a search engine, I searched for +moore +genealogy +kentucky +mercer. I found several personal Web sites with transcribed tax lists and other early records-enough new information to keep me going until I hear back from the Harrodsburg Historical Society.

What’s the lesson here? No one line of attack will bust open those brick walls. I’d love it if I could go online, type in Hendrickson and access every bit of data ever written that pertained to my family. But until then . . . like all researchers, I have to weave back and forth from online to libraries to societies and back again online.

And, my research is always most successful when I have a research strategy. Part of that strategy, of course, is learning about available resources. In the case of the Hendrickson puzzle, I’ve researched my various avenues of attack, and now am putting each of them in motion. Of course, if these don’t pan out, I’m sure I’ll dig out even more places to search!

If you’ve conquered your brick wall, I’d like to hear how you did it. Write and let me know. Until then, here are a few sites that will help in organizing your research:

Eastern Slovakia Genealogy Research Strategies

Basic Research Strategies

Organize Your Family Heritage with Computers

4 Important things to know and do before you start a genealogy research session

Italian Genealogy Research Strategies

Online Surname Search Strategies

Preparing for a Search of Ellis Island Records

Nancy Hendrickson is a contributing editor for Family Tree Magazine. She also is a family historian, freelance writer and the author of two astronomy books. Her Web site is at E-mail her at