We all have them – those ancestors who just refuse to be found. In genealogy, we call them “brick walls.” Whether you are brand new to the family history game or you have been doing this for decades, the strategies for climbing over, going around, or breaking through those brick walls are the same.
Don’t give up! You will be able to find more information with patience and diligence than without it.
If you haven’t done so already, organize your family research. Once it is organized, you will be able to find clues and hints to climb your brick walls.
- Chart your family tree.
- Create folders or binders for different branches of your family tree.
- Create a database on your computer just for your genealogical research.
- Create a research log to help you remember what you searched and what resources you used.
- Review your previous research.
- Verify your information with primary documents.
- Cite the source for each of your documents, including what type of document it is and where you obtained it.
- Analyze your records both separately and as a group. Often when records are gathered over a period of time, new answers, perspectives or clues can be found.
- Sort out records that contradict each other, but don’t discard them. Make note of contradictions and see if you can determine why there is conflicting information.
- Share your information with other members of your family. They may have leads for you based on the research you have already done, but the information will need to be organized for someone else to understand it.
- Do not rely on internet resources alone. There are many, many documents that are not found in popular databases like Ancestry. That being said though, Ancestry continues to add new genealogical records regularly so you should always check for new information every few months.
Remember that genealogy research is a lot like detective work. You are using clues to unlock a larger story. You will occasionally follow false leads and have to retrace your steps and you may have long intervals before another promising lead develops. But don’t give up, eventually you will be able to climb that ever-so-frustrating brick wall.
When you have exhausted all the obvious possibilities, consider the less obvious.