Welcome back to ‘Discovering Your Past’, this blog is about hitting a brick wall in your research.
So, let’s do this but first a quick story about Pete and the problems he had while working on his family tree…
Pete’s Road Block
Pete had always been interested in his family history, and he had spent countless hours researching and tracing his ancestry. He had successfully traced his family tree back several generations, but he hit a brick wall when it came to his great-great-grandfather, Joesph.
Despite his efforts, Pete couldn’t seem to find any records or information about his ancestor. He tried reviewing his notes and searching through different records, but nothing seemed to work. Pete was frustrated and ready to give up, but he knew he couldn’t let this brick wall defeat him.
Pete decided to try a new approach and expand his search beyond his usual sources. He began searching through probate records and discovered a will that belonged to his ancestor. The will contained important details about his ancestor’s life and even provided clues about his ancestors’ parents, which helped Pete break through his brick wall.
Another strategy that Pete used was networking with other researchers. He joined a genealogy group on Facebook and shared his brick wall problem. A fellow researcher in the group had information about the town where his ancestor had lived and provided Pete with a new lead. This lead helped Pete discover a new set of records that he had not explored before.
In the end, Pete’s perseverance and willingness to try new strategies paid off, and he was able to break through his brick wall. He learned that sometimes, it takes stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new things to make progress in your genealogy research.
Breaking through Genealogy Research Barriers
Hitting a brick wall in genealogy research is a common occurrence for many researchers. Whether it’s a missing ancestor or a dead end in a family line, hitting a brick wall can be frustrating and discouraging. However, it’s important to remember that it’s not always impossible to overcome these obstacles. With the right strategies, you can break through your brick wall and continue your genealogy research. Here are some strategies to consider:
Review your existing research
When you hit a brick wall, the first thing you should do is review your existing research. Look over your notes, sources, and family trees to make sure you haven’t overlooked any important details or leads. Sometimes, the missing piece of information is right in front of you, but you just need to look at it from a different perspective.
When researching your family history, hitting a brick wall can be frustrating and discouraging. You may have exhausted all your usual resources, and it can be difficult to know where to turn next. However, there are strategies you can use to overcome these obstacles and continue making progress in your genealogical research. One important strategy is to review your existing research. This means taking a step back and re-examining all the information you have collected so far. Look over your notes, sources, and family trees to make sure you haven’t overlooked any important details or leads. Sometimes, the missing piece of information is right in front of you, but you just need to look at it from a different perspective.
For example, let’s say you’re trying to find the parents of your great-great-grandfather, John Smith. You’ve searched through census records, marriage certificates, and other documents, but you can’t seem to find any information that leads you to his parents. However, upon reviewing your research, you notice that John’s death certificate lists his birthplace as a small town in a neighbouring province or state. You realize that you haven’t yet checked the records of that town, and when you do, you find a birth record for a John Smith with the same birthdate as your ancestor. This discovery leads you to a whole new branch of your family tree.
Another strategy for overcoming brick walls is to reach out to others who may have information that you don’t. This could include distant relatives, local historical societies, or even professional genealogists. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice, as other researchers may have different perspectives or access to resources that you don’t. Another helpful tip is to take a break from your research and come back to it with fresh eyes.
Sometimes, taking a step back and allowing your mind to rest can help you see things in a new light. Additionally, new records and resources may become available over time, so periodically revisiting your research can lead to new discoveries.
Expand your search
If you’re not finding anything new in your existing research, it’s time to expand your search. Look beyond your usual sources and explore new ones. This could mean looking in different records, such as probate records or military records, or searching for records in different locations. It may also be helpful to search for alternate spellings of names or to search using different variations of dates or places.
When you hit a brick wall in your genealogy research, expanding your search can be a valuable strategy. Here are some tips to help you broaden your search and find new leads:
1. Explore new record types: If you’ve been relying solely on census records, birth, marriage, and death records, it may be time to branch out into other types of records. Probate records, military records, and newspaper archives can all provide valuable information about your ancestors.
2. Look in different locations: If you’ve been searching for records in the same geographic area without success, consider looking in neighbouring counties or states. Your ancestors may have moved around more than you think, and records may exist in unexpected places.
3. Search for alternate spellings: Names can be spelled in a variety of ways, especially before standardized spelling became common. Don’t be afraid to search for variations on your ancestor’s name. Try phonetic spellings or alternate spellings based on the ethnicity or nationality of your ancestors. Use different date and place variations: If you’re not having luck with a specific date or place, try searching for variations.
4. For example, if you’ve been searching for a birth record with a specific date and location, try broadening your search to include records from a wider time frame or neighbouring locations. Utilize online databases: There are many online databases available for genealogy research, and some may have information that you haven’t found elsewhere. Consider using websites like FamilySearch, MyHeritage, or Findmypast to supplement your research.
5. Network with other researchers: Genealogy research can be a collaborative effort. Reach out to other researchers who may be working on the same family lines as you. They may have information or insights that can help you break through your brick wall.
6. Hire a professional researcher: If you’ve exhausted all of your options and still can’t find the information you’re looking for, consider hiring a professional genealogist. They have experience and resources that may be able to help you find the missing pieces of your family puzzle. By expanding your search and trying new strategies, you can increase your chances of finding the information you need to overcome your brick wall in genealogy research.
Network with other researchers
Genealogy research is often a collaborative effort, and networking with other researchers can be a valuable resource. Join genealogy groups on social media, attend genealogy conferences or workshops, or connect with other researchers on genealogy forums. You never know who might have the missing piece of information or be able to provide a new lead.
Expanding on the point of networking with other researchers, it’s important to actively engage with the genealogy community. Ask questions, share your research findings, and offer to help others with their research. By actively participating in the community, you can build relationships with other researchers and potentially collaborate on difficult research problems.
Another way to network with other researchers is to join a local genealogy society. Many societies offer workshops, lectures, and other educational opportunities that can help you expand your research skills and connect with other researchers in your area. You can also attend society meetings and events to meet other members and learn about their research interests.
When networking with other researchers, be sure to respect their time and expertise. Be clear about what you’re looking for and provide as much information as possible about the person or family you’re researching. Remember to thank anyone who helps you with your research, and offer to reciprocate by sharing your own expertise or helping them with their research in return.
For example, let’s say you’re researching your great-grandfather and have hit a brick wall. You’ve searched all the usual records, but haven’t been able to find any information beyond his immigration record. You decide to join a genealogy group on social media and post a question about your research problem. A member of the group responds and suggests looking in naturalization records. You hadn’t considered naturalization records before, so you search and find a naturalization record that provides important information about your great-grandfather’s family. By networking with other researchers, you were able to find new leads and break through your brick wall.
Hire a professional genealogist
If you’ve exhausted all of your options and still can’t break through your brick wall, consider hiring a professional genealogist. They have the knowledge, resources, and expertise to uncover information that you may not be able to find on your own. While it can be expensive, it may be worth the investment if it helps you make a breakthrough in your research.
Expanding on the point of hiring a professional genealogist, it’s important to understand what a professional genealogist can offer and how to find the right one for your needs. A professional genealogist can provide several services, including conducting research, analyzing existing research, and providing guidance on research strategies.
They can also access specialized databases and records that may not be available to the general public. When searching for a professional genealogist, it’s important to do your research and find someone who is reputable and has a proven track record of success. Look for genealogists who are certified or accredited by recognized organizations, such as the Board for Certification of Genealogists or the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists.
It’s also important to establish clear expectations and communication with the genealogist before beginning work. Be upfront about your goals and budget, and ask for a detailed estimate of the costs and timeline for the project.
Remember, hiring a professional genealogist should be a last resort after you have exhausted all other options. However, if you do decide to hire one, it can be a valuable investment in your research and help you break through that frustrating brick wall.
Take a break
Sometimes, taking a break from your research can be helpful. This can give you a fresh perspective and help you come back to your research with renewed energy and motivation.
Take some time to pursue other interests or hobbies, and when you’re ready, come back to your research with a fresh perspective.
Taking a break from your research is important for your mental and emotional wellbeing. Genealogy research can be time-consuming and frustrating, especially when you hit a brick wall. It’s easy to become overwhelmed and burnt out when you’re constantly searching for information with little success.
Taking a break doesn’t mean you’re giving up on your research. It simply means you’re taking a step back to recharge and gain a fresh perspective. During your break, you can explore new hobbies or interests that have nothing to do with genealogy. This can help you clear your mind and give you a much-needed break from the stress of research.
When you’re ready to return to your research, start by reviewing your previous work with fresh eyes. Sometimes, taking a break can help you see your research in a new light, and you may spot something that you missed before. Additionally, consider reaching out to other researchers during your break. They may have uncovered new information that could be helpful in your search.
Remember, taking a break doesn’t mean you’re giving up on your research. It’s a natural part of the process, and it can be an essential tool for making progress in your genealogy research. So, take a step back, recharge, and come back to your research with renewed energy and motivation.
In conclusion, hitting a brick wall in genealogy research is a common occurrence, but it’s not impossible to overcome. By reviewing your existing research, expanding your search, networking with other researchers, hiring a professional genealogist, or taking a break, you can break through your brick wall and continue your genealogy research with renewed enthusiasm.
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