Brick Walls Hiding Your Ancestors From Your View

Do you have Brick Walls blocking your pedigree?

Genealogists talk about Brick Walls–and they sometimes share horror stories about how touch it has been to find anything at all about these ancestors.  Almost like a badge of courage, these Brick Walls can become.

So over the past two years, I began to collect the reasons why there appears to be a Brick Wall hiding your ancestors from view.  Let me share a few of these reasons with you:

  • Lack of organization–online or offline.  Your ancestor could be hidden in the stack of papers you have collected–some genealogists have boxes full.  Or buried deep in the collection of notebooks where you have copied extracts from sources you have looked at. Or combined with notes on several family members you entered into your laptop the last trip you made to a genealogy library.
  • Incomplete searches–you hunted only for the ancestors you currently know.  You have to examine people who could be parents, or siblings, or grandparents, or children overlooked.  You really need to watch for other relatives connected to your ancestors–witnesses and bondsmen, neighbors and business partners, militia fellows.  Who did your ancestors associate with–these will often be related to you.  And if you have DNA that matches a different surname–search that surname too.
  • Not enough research yet.  It is hard to fit the pieces together when you only have part of the pieces.  Land, tax, court, and probate records comprise a whole recording system to identify and attach property holdings to the right persons.  If all you have checked are the census and vital records available online, you still have data to find.
  • Overlooking evidence–obvious and hidden–in the records and sources you collect.  Do you have pictures of tombstones?  Re-examine these photos.  How big are the stones?  What color are they?  How are they positioned in the cemetery plot?  Whose stones match?  Add the names of these persons to your search list.  Re-check the census. Who in that same census district or tract comes from the same state or country?  Add these names to your search list.   Pull out the family Bible pages.  Who else is named in your family Bible?  Add these names to your search list.  These are just a few of the pieces of evidence lurking in what you already have searched.  There are thousands of others awaiting you.
  • Not sure where to look or who to look for.  Comb the records you have copied, the sources you have extracted, the lists you have copied and pasted from the internet–seek other people mentioned in those records.  Look them up.  Run the census records on them.  Anticipate the migration patterns your ancestors followed–adjoining counties and states.  If your ancestor lived on the border of anything–check over the border in other sets of records.  Read the county history where your ancestor resided–where did the other residents come from?  Check those places.  You see, with the internet now supplying us with billions of indexed images and browsable images from sources not yet indexed, you literally have access to origins of families and individuals and groups of people you did not have before.

These five reasons will get you started.  Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle

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