Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Add Your Thoughts

Brick walls are everywhere.  No matter who you are, where you are, and how long you have been doing this thing called genealogy, you will run into them along the way.  Sharing experiences and what has helped get around, or through, or over, or under these things we call brick walls, is a way to pass on to other genealogist what we have learned.  I thought it might be useful for others who have learned methods or techniques, or tools, to share their thoughts.

The comment section of the blogs allows one to put their thoughts into words.  For those reading this post, please comment any thoughts you might have to share along this tree climbing experience that has help you face those brick walls.  Others can then respond to your thoughts or suggestions which can then expand the ideas expressed.  Let's get going...I know there are lots of folks out there with a few lumps on their genealogical heads from running into those brick walls.  Add your thoughts. 


  1. Take the long view and chip away. Most walls eventually allow passage.

    Often looking at what was happening in the community is helpful as is an exercise in Family Reconstitution, which, even if it doesn't resolve the problem, can open up other options to explore.

    Analysing an individual's timeline side by side with that of his or her community can provide clues. Consider how, apart from in censuses and registering of life events, this person might have been recorded.

    The trickiest knots to unravel are often where something has been concealed and that's where you need to unleash your inner Miss Marple. Always difficult when all the witnesses are dead, but not always insurmountable, especially if you can put your head together and sift through clues and engage in speculation with someone else researching the same family group.

  2. Thanks you have examples to share which demonstrate your suggestions?

  3. What I have found helpful is to find distant cousins and compare notes. Often an heirloom has been passed down another branch and your close relatives are oblivious to it. I am in the process of writing a family history on the Mulry family of Indianapolis, and I have been given several pictures and memories of my direct ancestors from distant Mulry cousins. Ancestry is helpful to find more distant cousins via shared trees, but do the research beyond that. It may be difficult with more common surnames, but it is still a good idea. Most cousins have been delighted that I contacted them and were more than happy to share.

  4. Yes sir...keep those cousins coming...:-)

  5. My problem is compounded by the fact that the family name was changed, but no one knows what the name was previously. Can't trace beyond 1799 in one branch. Any suggestions?

  6. Wow...what a treat...have not faced this brick wall before. Several steps come to mind: first, clearly ID the individual first taking the new surname (person, place, and time), 2) check spelling of new surname to see if phonetic problem (like French to English), 3) ID historical period to see what forces might have lead to change of surname, 4) ID associated surnames (especially wife's/husband's) and begin a cluster analysis (see prior post), 5) check to see if there are any letter's/diary/Bibles/ etc. to shed any light on surnames and background to family, 6) and then pray...:-). A DNA analysis (Y-DNA if male), mtDNA (if female) may help lead to an ethnic group which the first surname resides...The Jones Genealogist...