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Today I’m sharing five
strategies for dealing with tough genealogy problems in the spirit of next week’s Genealogy
Brick Wall Buster’s online workshop.
The workshop runs April 19-26 and offers Family Tree Magazine‘s best advice
for overcoming research obstacles, plus the opportunity to get expert advice on your
brick wall from professional researcher Lisa A.
The most obvious way to get to the other side of a brick wall is to go around it,
so pursue parallel branches of your family tree. Research your ancestors’ siblings
for clues to their parents, or if you don’t know of any siblings, follow cousins. See
how this worked for helping me find my third-great-grandmother’s maiden name here.
Bend the rules of genealogy that say to “work backward one generation at a time.”
Skip a generation, identifying your ancestor’s grandparents by using what you know
about his cousins or aunts and uncles; then maybe you can work forward to the missing
link of his parents.
For immigration brick walls, search passenger lists for friends and neighbors the
person might have traveled with, then examine the list for your ancestor’s (possibly
garbled) name. If you can’t find a town of origin, use censuses to see if his neighbors
are from the same country, then study those folks. Here’s
how an immigration brick wall came tumbling down for me.
Once you’ve exhausted the census and other common sources, try less-obvious types
of paperwork your ancestors might have left. Land records are one example. Is your
brick-wall ancestor mentioned in school records, occupational records, meeting minutes
or old manuscripts? Use your imagination, your library and online catalogs, such as FamilySearch‘s
Our contributing editor David A. Fryxell advises, “As Sherlock Holmes liked to lecture
Dr. Watson, ‘When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable,
must be the truth.’ So consider even unlikely possibilities when confronting your
brick walls: Could there have been two men by the same name in the county at that
time? Might your third-great-grandfather have married his cousin? Maybe your great-grandmother
remarried between censuses, thus changing her name.”
here to see the program for the Genealogy Brick Wall Busters workshop. After you
complete your registration, you can submit your brick wall to Lisa via a form in your