1. You’ve run out of online records.
2. The records you need aren’t (yet) available to the public.
3. You face maiden and other name mysteries.
4. The records you need have been destroyed.
5. The specific records you need were never created in the first place.
6. The only “records” you can find are compiled genealogies.
7. You’ve run out of American records.
Failing such a breakthrough, just because you can’t find any more US records doesn’t mean answers don’t exist abroad. Give FamilySearch.org and its ever-growing collection of global online records a shot—especially those databases you can search by name rather than browse (which requires narrowing down by dates and places). In countries with databases that can be searched without knowing a specific locality, try some best guesses and see if you get lucky. Examples include the subscription site Findmypast for the British Isles, ScotlandsPeople, the Norwegian archives, the Netherlands’ Wie Was Wie (“Who Was Who”), and Denmark’s Demographic Database and Digital Danish Emigration Archives. If your ancestors left records on the other side of the Atlantic, you ought to be able to find them with perseverance and luck.
8. You’ve reached the end of written records—at least for commoners.
9. You’ve exhausted records of your noble or royal ancestors.
10. You’ve reached the “begats.”
- Can’t find an ancestor? Try looking for other relatives who lived in the same place. Their records may name your ancestors.
- Even if you discover you’re not at a “true” brick wall, it’s fine to put the problem aside for awhile. This might give you a fresh perspective—or time for new resources to come to light.
Best records for finding female ancestors
Beating an immigration brick wall
Hiring a pro for overseas research
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