• Brick Wall Breakthroughs for Genealogy Beginners

    Brick wall busting is all about problem solving and detective work. However before you can begin to break down your brick wall you need to define exactly what the problem is.




    The top four most common causes of brick walls:

  • Unable to identify your ancestors parents
  • Trouble discovering your ancestors country of origin
  • Researching an ancestor with a common surname
  • Finding an ancestor that has disappeared from the records
  • Your brick wall may even stem from a combination of the above and that can feel like an overwhelming challenge to the genealogy beginner.  What you need are the tools and strategies to keep you from being overwhelmed and that is the first step towards solving your brick wall problem.

    Developing Your Brick Wall Search Strategy

    A good search strategy for brick walls comes down to initiating three core actions:

  • Review your data
  • Chart your information
  • Map your locations

    Review Genealogy Your Data
    Even if you have looked over your data a hundred times…do it again. The reason for implementing this strategy is to find the holes or weak points in your brick wall. For example, large time gaps between children are a big red flag; they indicate an area you need to look into more intensely.  Locating the areas where you have gaps in your information will give you leads.

    Chart Your Genealogy Research
    After you have reviewed your information, chart it. Charting your research will give you an overview that can help you analyze information and spot gaps. A records checklist is one of the best charting strategies, although there are several you can work from to help achieve your goals.

    Map Your Locations
    In addition to charting your research, another helpful search strategy is mapping. You may find that mapping your family tree will help you understand a little more about your ancestor’s lives as well as assist you in breaking down a brick wall.

    Old Maps and Genealogy

    Locating and using old maps can be a valuable resource for making a brick wall breakthrough.

    • Understanding where county boundaries existed
    • Noting border changes
    • Discovering old place names that no longer exist
    • Understanding the topography (through this you may learn how your ancestors traveled).

    All of these things will point you in new directions and help you to discover record sources you may not otherwise consider. Additionally, knowing the lay of the land back then can lead you to the governing body that holds the records today.

    Plotting Your Genealogy Research Map
    Knowing your ancestors residences, where their children were born, where their spouse was born and where their relatives lived can help fill in gaps. The best way to develop a strong concept of this is to plot a map listing all of these locations.

    Lanarkshire Map 1796

    When you have finished plotting your historic map, plot a modern one, and then compare them for missing parishes or towns as well as county border changes.

    Modern Lanarkshire Map

    Once you have all of your information charted and mapped out, you will be prepared to make a full and comprehensive search that should help you break your brick wall.

    Charting and mapping are only a few of the strategies you can use to help solve your brick wall problems. Genealogy Beginner will be bringing you more invaluable brick wall strategies very soon. For now, join us in the Ask a Genealogist forum and find more tips on charting your research.

    Image Credit: Ramona Hartley

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