10 More Tips For Breaking Down Brick Walls

By | January 10, 2017

In my previous post I discussed ten tips that would help you with your family history research. Here in this post I will give you ten more tips that will help you when it comes to breaking down brick walls. Genealogy is a wonderful hobby, we can find out so much about our family as there is just so much information out there. The problem is though there are times when we cannot get past a certain point in our research because of these brick walls.

More Breaking Down Brick Walls Tips

==> Check Out My Top 10 Tips For Breaking Down Brick Walls <==

11. Get A Genealogy DNA Test

Getting a genealogy DNA test has never been easier these days. There are two options that are available to you. You can either visit a center where you can take a test, or you can purchase a DNA test and do it yourself at home.

What Is A Genealogy DNA Test?

These kinds of tests can help you to break down your brick walls. They can show you where your ancestors may have originated from. Also, there are DNA surname studies which can also help pinpoint the location of your ancestors homeland.

You may even be able to connect with distant cousins through this approach. If you are fortunate to connect with a relative then you will have the opportunity to share your family history research.

With these tests you either take a swab of the inside of your mouth or a sample of your spit is taken. Results from these can take anywhere between 6 to 8 weeks.

The three major companies that offer DNA testing are 23andMe, AncestryDNA and FamilyTreeDNA. In my opinion though the latter company is the one to go for as they offer the most testing on your DNA. Each of these though do perform different kinds of testing on your DNA. My What Is A Genealogy DNA Test article will help you chose the right company.

==> What DNA Genealogy Book Shall I Buy? <==

12. Trust Me, Your Ancestors Lied

As if errors in family trees on Ancestry.com was bad enough you also have to accept that your ancestors may have lied on official records and documents. These family trees have to be treated with a pinch of salt and not treated as gospel.

Your Ancestors Lied

It is all well and good to find these trees and put everything from them into your own tree. But, you have to verify everything that you enter.

The point is that you need to be careful when it comes to anything related to your ancestors.

For example, compare your ancestor’s age on their marriage certificate with the registration of their birth. You may or may not be surprised that sometimes people do lie about their age.

This is just one example. So please do your research and check everything that you have found out about your ancestors before you enter it into your genealogy software program.

13. Get Out There and Visit Your Ancestors Homeland

Sometimes we cannot always get all the answers that we are looking from the computer. Although it does seem that everything these days is online this cannot be further from the truth.

Visit Your Ancestors Homeland

Granted though that new information is being added to the Internet all the time. This information can mainly be found on the various genealogy search websites that are out there.

However, you must be prepared to get out there to further your research.

You can visit local libraries or major genealogy centers that are close to where your ancestors lived. These places will have records about your relatives that have yet to be put online. So it is well worth visiting them to get the information that you are after.

14. Ask The Locals

We cannot always get the information that we are after from either books or the Internet. Sometimes we need help from others. One of my tips from my previous post suggested that you asked your relatives for help for your research.

Family History Society

A useful tip that you can follow is to also ask the locals within the area that you are researching. You may wish to door knock the home of your ancestors. You may be surprised as to what information that they may know.

You could also ask local business near to where your ancestors lived. If it was a club or a social center then they may have known your relative and be able to share memories with you.

It doesn’t hurt to ask!

Bonus Tip:

Join a local history society in the area where your ancestor lived. They will have exceptional knowledge of the area and can give you details about what it was like for your ancestors in their time.

They also publish books on the local area which may prove valuable to your research. You may even find your relatives listed in one of their publications. These societies also publish parish registers and other records so it is quite possible that you will find your ancestors.

15. Check Out Historical Newspapers

You can find out a considerable amount of information from historical newspapers. Similar to sites such as Ancestry, where you can find records about your ancestors, you can also find your family within articles from yesteryear.

Historical Newspaper

Sometimes we cannot find out details regarding our ancestors from the databases that are available to us. The reasons may vary. Records may have been lost, damaged or they may not have been transcribed and uploaded to the Internet. In the latter instance we could wait or push on and find out ancestors through newspaper research.

Through researching local newspapers I have found out many pieces of information that I did not know. This resource has also helped me confirm certain facts. For example, I was able to find out the address of one of my ancestors. In the process I also read the story of how he rescued a woman from a canal.

So newspapers can help you break down brick walls. They can give you the clues that you were looking for. They can also give you interesting stories about your ancestors lives that you did not even know about.

16. Look At The Branches of Your Family Tree

It can be a pain when we cannot find our ancestor within the records. We have probably found all the other Censuses that our ancestor appeared in except for one that seems to be missing. This one Census could be the key to details that are missing from our research.

Family Tree Branches

Your ancestor may have an obscure name which has been transcribed incorrectly. Or the reason maybe that their name is all too similar. John Smith for example. However, there are other ways to find your ancestor without actually trying to find him or her.

When I first started to trace my family history I was not only interested in finding my ancestors, but also their siblings and their descendants. This research practice that I had picked up would help me further on with my fact finding.

When we get stuck trying to find our ancestor we could try to search for their spouse, sibling or children. For example, I was able to find one ancestor of mine by searching for one of my ancestor’s children. It turned out that my ancestor was living with his child. His name though was not transcribed from the records correctly, and so I could have missed him from my research if it were not for this useful tip.

When we begin tracing our family history sometimes we are just concerned about our paternal and maternal lines. Sometimes it is worth checking out distant relatives as they may hold the key to our research. After all, they also had some impact in the lives of our ancestors.

17. Check Out Webinars

There are many ways that we can get help from the experts and also fellow family historians. We could check out the local family history society as I have mentioned before, or find experts through social media, such as Facebook, Google Plus or Twitter.


We can also get advice by checking out what webinars are available from the people within the genealogy field. These webinars will generally follow a certain theme of research. For example, DNA testing, searching search websites or how to correctly cite our records properly.

Generally experts will feature in these video webinars. Demonstrations and examples will also appear on how to conduct your research and how you can break down brick walls that you may have encountered.

There will usually be a Question and Answer session at the end of these webinars. This will be your opportunity to put forward your problem that the expert may help you with. If they are not able to help you on the spot then you can always pass on your details by email.

18. Attend A Conference

If you don’t mind traveling and want to meet experts then you could always go to a genealogy conference. These are another great examples of getting the best advice possible whilst also mingling with your peers. At these conferences you can find out what the best strategies and techniques that the experts use themselves.

Genealogy Conference

You may also learn what recent advances there have been within genealogy. For example, you may learn that there may be new ways to test your DNA or how you can get the best from your DNA results.

These conferences are also another opportunity for you to meet fellow family historians. Not only can you learn from the experts but you can also learn a thing or two from people who have been researching their family history for years.

19. Hire A Professional Genealogist

If you have hit a brick wall in your research you may want to consider hiring a professional. After all they are qualified and have probably been researching genealogy for far longer than you have. They will know the techniques, tips, strategies, where to look for information and how to find it.

Hire A Professional Genealogist

If you are new to genealogy then you will not know the best approach to take when you encounter a brick wall. Even if you have not hit a brick wall you may also consider hiring a professional as you may not have the time to carry on your research.

You still may want to find out about your family’s history but due to time constraints you may not be able to carry on this hobby.

Either way though it is still worth considering this option.

20. Step Away From Your Research … For A Short While!

Probably my best tip to help you solve brick walls is to just take a break from it for a while. I can understand the feeling that you will experience when you just cannot think and want to break down that stubborn brick wall. No matter what it takes.

No Hope

However, sometimes the best approach is just to take a break from it for a while. You may want to take a day off from it, a week, or even a couple of months.

I have been in the same situation. I have wanted to do so much with my family history, and as you can imagine there is just so much history out there for you to find. However, it can get overwhelming at times, especially when you cannot progress any further.

Coming back to it after a good length of time can help you think clearer. You will be surprised how much easier it will be for you when you return to your research. You will find new clues to your family’s history which were probably staring you right in the face.

Final Thoughts

Over the years researching my family history I have picked up some useful tips that has helped me immensely. There are though many more tips that I could have discussed here, but that would have made this post too long of a read for you.

500 Best Genealogy Tips

Instead you could buy the 500 Best Genealogy & Family History Tips PDF file through the Legacy Family Tree Store. Written by ‘genealogy ninja’ Thomas MacEntree has amassed 500 tips that can be found over 85 packed pages. Considering that there are hundreds of tips to be found in this book it is well worth a bargain at only $5.95.

These tips have been described as a brain dump by Thomas as he has collected them over many years. You can simply use the table of contents at the start of the PDF to find your problem. Or alternatively you can search through the book.

Topics covered in this book include:

  • Research methodology and strategy
  • How to use the Internet to your advantage
  • How to you use social media for research and being secure within it
  • How to preserve your family photos, stories, anecdotes and tales
  • Backing up your genealogy data,
  • Plus much, much more!

Thank You and Please Leave A Comment

I hope you enjoyed these 10 more tips for breaking down brick walls in your genealogy research. If you think that this post will be helpful to others then please share it with friends and family using the social media buttons below.

If you have any questions or comments then please leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you.

Author: Owain

Hello, Owain here. After researching my family history for a number of years I wanted to give back to the genealogy world. So here you will find guides, tips and product reviews that will help you on your genealogy journey.

16 thoughts on “10 More Tips For Breaking Down Brick Walls

    1. Owain Post author

      That’s right. These tips can be used whether you are a professional genealogist or are just starting out with this hobby.

    1. Owain Post author

      Although I am not a professional I have been researching my family history for many years now. I have learned the tips, where to go to find information and how to get it.

      There are so many different areas to genealogy that people may not be aware exist or how to go about getting the information that they are after.

  1. Steve

    Great post with loads of interesting ideas for breaking through the inevitable blocks that occur in our searches. I particularly like No 20! It can be so important to step away from our problems at times – whatever they may be – and re-approach with a fresh mind. That in itself often unlocks a new route through the problem that you hadn’t seen before.

    Time is often the enemy to us all and there are some pretty time intensive suggestions in this. Hiring a professional Genealogist therefore seems to be a practical solution too. Do you know what sort of costs would that entail?

    1. Owain Post author

      It’s all to easy to get caught in the moment with genealogy. I too have found myself tracing an ancestor into the small hours. It’s important though that when this happens just to step back and come back to it when you are more awake. As I have said before it is surprising how much clearer it will be.

      To hire a professional genealogist can cost anything between a couple hundred of dollars to a few thousand. It depends on how far back you want the genealogist to go and the level of information that you want to find. The purchasing of certificates and collecting of records does add to the cost.

  2. kristine

    wonderful information I have thought about doing a search on a branch of my family that I don’t think has been done at least not in my immediate family. Unfortunately the part that I would like to find out more about is in Hungary. My grandmother was born there in 1912 and her family came to the states soon after. The only one left is my dad and he can only tell me about his grandparents and aunts that came here, so I may never be able to learn of any that may still be there or about the line before they left. But if ever I could get to Hungary I would see what I can find out.

    1. Owain Post author

      It’s always good to find out what we can from older relatives. They can save us a lot of time searching for ancestors. Also, they may tell us family stories that may not have been recorded.

  3. Craig | UK TV Services Abroad

    Hi Owain,

    I think these are top tips for breaking down brick walls in our search for our ancestors. I certainly learned something new from #11. Who would’ve thought you could do a DNA test at home? That’s nuts!

    I know how long and arduous the search for your ancestors can be so these recommendations are a good way to improve your search. I quite like the idea of hiring a professional to assist, especially if all else fails. I’m wondering how much this would cost though and is this something you offer as a service?

    I found that visiting our ancestors homeland or town and asking locals was very effective.

    1. Owain Post author

      Thanks Craig for your comments. You can do a DNA test at home but you would have to send off your sample to get the results. My What DNA Genealogy Book Shall I Buy? article can help you make sense of the results.

      Hiring a professional can cost anything from a few hundred dollars to a couple of thousands of dollars. It depends on how far back you go and the level of detail that you want researched.

      At present I am just concentrating on setting this site up and pointing people in the right direction. It is surprising just how many different areas there within the genealogy field.

  4. Furkan

    I saw the outline of Blaine T Bettinger DNA book and I think I will read it to know more about testing companies then I can decide the company. It looks like it has the latest info about these 3 companies right?

    1. Owain Post author

      Yes The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy book by Blaine T Bettinger does discuss the three major companies offering this type of research.

      As there is a decision to be made when doing DNA Genealogy it is important to know which one to go for. And so I recommend this book so you can make the right choice. Also, it discusses how to interpret the results that you will get back from these companies.

  5. ht

    This is excellent excellent information. My father did one many years ago and the result was mind blowing. We visited our home land after that and it has enriched our lives so much. We come to a deeper understanding of our heritage and grateful for what has been done.
    Thanks for this wonderful post and a great great website.

    1. Owain Post author

      You are so right ht. Finding out as much as we can about our ancestors before we visit their homeland can really make us feel appreciative of their lives. We can look around where they worked and lived, and get a sense of the atmosphere.

  6. Marlaine

    This is really interesting! I love to talk to my 92 year old grandfather about his family -as far back as he can remember. I ask him about his parents, aunts and uncles, siblings, and especially his own grandparents, what their names and occupations were, what they were like, and stuff like that. It’s my history that I’ll never have access to again once he passes away. I sometimes think I should be taking a recording device with me so I can remember it all!
    Sadly, my grandfather lost a lot of his own direct family (brothers, uncles, father) to WWII – some he never heard from again after they were taken away by the invading Germans (he lived in the Netherlands). Very sad. I wonder sometimes if I did a deep genealogy search like you write about here, if I would find some not-so-distant relations are, in fact, still living, and close by!

    1. Owain Post author

      Thanks Marlaine for your comments. I wish I had started genealogy many years ago when my grandparents were still alive. They could have told me so much about my ancestors and many stories as well.

      It is surprising when you start your journey not only the ancestors that you will uncover but the distant cousins that will surface. I have found many during my years of research. This has been very rewarding as they have been able to help me fill in the gaps. It is also a nice gesture to return the favor and give them your research that you have found out as well.


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