All too easy is it to think that you have hit a dead-end in your genealogy research, (no pun intended). But what to do? Breaking through brick wall is probably what you are thinking right? I will show you how you can get over this seemly impossible brick wall.
Why Do We Hit A Brick Wall?
The main reason why people think that they may have hit a brick wall is generally because they have only considered using one resource. And this resource of information is usually Ancestry.com.
People get bombarded by the TV adverts telling them just to enter your name and date of birth and you can easily find your ancestors and build your family tree.
Beginners to the genealogy world think that everything about their family will be on Ancestry and this is the go to place to find your ancestors.
True, it can help you in a lot of ways. You can find records of your ancestors and connect with other subscribing members that may share a common ancestor.
There are also web hints that can show you possible connections to your family. You can even get help from the forums on this genealogy search website.
But Ancestry is not the only source of material that is available to the researcher.
The two main reasons for hitting a brick wall therefore are that we don’t consider other resources and the poor research skills that are being implemented. But as we start to trace out our family’s history we obviously do not know all the different strategies and resources that are available to us. We learn all of this along the way.
Top 5 Tips To Break Down Brick Wall
As I have just mentioned people think that there is only one resource of information that is available to them. They think that they can go to this one place and get all of their family’s past quite easily. If only it was that easy for genealogists. But don’t despair there are ways that you can break down brick walls and trace your family tree further back in time.
The 5 main tips to break down a brick wall are as follows:
- Check other online sites – There are other genealogy search websites besides Ancestry that you can go to, such as FindMyPast or MyHeritage. You can also build your family tree with these sites but you have to pay a subscription. There are free options that you can use, such as FamilySearch.
- Use offline resources – Contrary to popular belief not everything is available online. Try checking out the local archives, family history society or the local library for help.
- Think like your ancestors – Your ancestors will not have acted or behaved like you and me do today. You will need to think about their circumstances and how they may have lived. Doing so may help you break down a tricky brick wall.
- Get expert help – If you are still stuck then you can always ask for help at places such as the local archives, family history society or local library. You could also enlist the help of any professional genealogist that offer their services online.
- Take a break – I have sometimes hit a brick wall myself. You can overcome these brick walls by just stepping aside from your research for a while. Coming back to your notes with a fresh pair of eyes can certainly help you see more clearly connections or the next possible plan of action.
Breaking Through Brick Walls – How It Can Be Done
Breaking down brick walls in your genealogy research is possible. The tips listed above are certainly a good way to help you overcome these dead-ends. But there are other strategies that you can use.
What are other strategies that you can implement:
- Write a family history book – After I have found and added information to my family tree I then write up all that I have discovered. This has helped me make sense of all the details that I have found and entered. I write up the story of an ancestor in chronological order. By doing so I can see what information is missing and can plan a course of action to follow next.
- Research other family members – If you are having difficulty finding information about an ancestor of yours you could try checking their children or even cousins. You maybe able to find your ancestor living with a relative in a Census. And this can throw up more details about your ancestor.
- Use other resources – When I first started genealogy I looked up censuses and certificates such as birth, death and marriage. Bur there are other records that you can use. These include for example wills and probates, electoral registers, business directories, and service records. These can be found on genealogy search websites or visiting your local archives.
- Check for transcription errors – Errors do creep in when they are being transcribed and put online. This I have seen all too often with censuses. Sometimes this can occur when the person transcribing is not familiar with the area. Also, it can be because of the census enumerators handwriting that is difficult to decipher. One simple solution is to check other family members for your ancestor, or try different spellings.
- Ask your relatives – Your relatives are an excellent source of information that may not even be online. They may also have records, documents, certificates or photographs that will be helpful for your research. Check out my Top 20 Family History Interview Questions article for further advice.
- Enlist a professional genealogist – If you are still struggling with your research you could try to contact a professional genealogist to help you. You can check online or visit your local archives who have experts available to you. These people have studied to become genealogists so they obviously know a thing or two about family history. They may also know the local area which could prove invaluable to your research.
- Understand the available resources – You will need to understand what is resources are available to you and what can be found in them. For example, women’s occupations were not listed in censuses to begin with. You could therefore try parish records or marriage certificates for this information.
So whenever you do hit a brick wall please consider whether you have used all the resources that are available to you. You will also want to understand what is contained in the resources and how to use them effectively. By doing so you will get the most from them.
What If There Is No Hope?
There may come a time though when there are no resources that are available to you. This could be due to damage to records, such as a fire that destroyed many records during the Irish Civil War.
In these times do not despair, it happens to all family historians. There comes a time though when we have to accept that we may not break down all the brick walls in our family tree.
This has been the case with me as I have not been able to track down my second great grandmother’s real father. The answer though may still be out there, so I haven’t lost all hope.
Somethings will get lost in time but it is important to record what you know now and what you have discovered. Otherwise it may get lost in time before this information gets preserved.
Hopefully you have taken inspiration from this post to get past any brick wall that you may have come across during your genealogy research. It can be both heartbreaking and frustrating. We get so far with a trail only to be met by a brick wall.
The important thing to remember though is to not give up on discovering our family’s past. Remember why you are doing this!
You are probably doing this for two reasons:
- You really want to know your ancestors and discover everything that you possibly can about them. Genealogy can be an addictive hobby. After we have discovered something about a relative we want to find out more about them. This addiction keeps us going hour after hour, even into the early hours of the morning.
- You want to preserve your family’s history for the generations to come. You have so much information around your home and within your memories. Not only can you preserve this information, and also your heirlooms, but you can take what you know and build on it. You can research new branches of your tree.
These are the two reasons which kept me going. Since I started researching my family history, now more than seven years ago, I have amassed so much information.
I am proud as to what I have discovered and put together in a book that’s I have written. I want my children and my descendants to know all about their ancestors, and I can say that I have made that possible.
Thank You and Please Leave A Comment
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