Tuesday’s Tip: Bust Down Brick Walls by Staying Organized

Every genealogist has run into an ancestral brick wall.  Some researchers might even say that brick walls are inevitable.

One way to bust down a brick wall is to take every piece of information you have about your brick wall and then:

  • Create a table with basic facts and sources about your brick wall ancestor/family. (I love tables!)  This will give you a visual about what you know versus the holes in your research.
  • Re-read every source document to make sure you did not miss any facts.
  • Re-evaluate the reliability of the information in the source document. When was the document created in relation to the event?  Who was the informant?  Are there motives for someone to lie or stretch the truth?

However, it isn’t enough to only know the information you have and the information you are missing.  Sometimes, you need to be the master of the time period, region, or ethnic group.  The easiest way to do this is to create a research guide for the time period, region or ethnic group you are researching.  Include in your research guide:

  • Records and record types available
  • Where can you find these records?
  • What records are destroyed?
  • Are there any record substitutions?

If you are organized, then you are more likely to reach a breakthrough!

What are your brick wall busting tips?

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5 responses to “Tuesday’s Tip: Bust Down Brick Walls by Staying Organized

  1. To me brickwalls add to the challenge AND to the interest of genealogy.

    The best thing i find is to deconstruct your information and reconstruct it. (in a nut shell, sit down with ALL the information you have about an individual/family, read it all; and ensure it is all acurately recorded in your program of choice)

    Hand write the information, if necessary – it might help you to read it properly.

    Forums are also a good help.


  2. I totally agree. It’s hard to take time to do the research guides, but if you do it will really pay off. It’s great to read your blog and get reminders of things we sometimes forget to do.

    I had not really thought of doing tables until Michael John Neill’s recent seminar. He also uses them, and now you talk about it. I might should try it out.

    Great ideas! Not sure how you do it with school and all.


  3. Pingback: Casefile Clues on Google Books « Gtownma’s Genealogy

  4. I find timelines and tables to be particularly helpful. Also, I’ve recently discovered that sitting down and writing by hand on forms instead of just entering it into my genealogy program will help me to see things I miss otherwise.
    Michelle Goodrum´s last blog post ..Wordless Wednesday – Fall In Boulder- Colorado

  5. This is so true and such good advice. Just this week I found information about an elusive ancestor. I’d had the information since 2006, and had ‘dumped’ it in my ‘to file’ papers without looking at it :(.

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