• Genealogy Brick Walls: Look In the Unlikely Places

    Hitting a brick wall in your family tree is an extremely frustrating experience for every family tree enthusiast from the novice to the advanced.  Especially after, you have spent hours combing through all of the obvious records.  When you have already checked the church records, civil records, obituaries, newspaper archives, immigration records and census…do not give up. Just realize that it is time to pull out your shovel and start digging deeper.

    In short, after you have looked in all of the likely places the only places left to check are the unlikely ones.

    Genealogy in the Unlikely Places

    The unlikely places are usually the ones you ruled out your first time through. You may be very surprised at how much information you can find by looking in records that seemed irrelevant or illogical to your family tree research.

    Finding Ancestors in Land Records

    You have ruled this out because your ancestor did not own land, but did you know you could still find the record of a lease for a tenant farmer or rental agreement for your Great, Great Grandma’s city home.

    Your Family Tree and Depositions

    You have probably already checked the immigration records to see if your ancestors changed their name upon landing in the new country. However, did you know that many immigrants did not change their names until they were already naturalized citizens? If your ancestor decided to change their name after becoming a naturalized citizen, you would find this information in court records as depositions.

    Name changes of this type often happened because immigrants felt a foreign name made their lives more difficult in their new home. If your ancestor has pulled a disappearing act, searching depositions for name changes would be a good place to start.

    Historical Societies and Genealogy

    Your local historical society (or the local historical society where your ancestor lived) may hold the clues you have been looking for. Historical societies are notorious for holding little known documents and unpublished works that are only listed within their collection.

    One Family Tree Search is Never Enough

    Newspaper archives may be something you have already checked. Nevertheless, you should try them again. Many genealogy beginners give up far too soon on this information source by stopping at a single search type. Any search of a newspaper archive should be undertaken with three search strategies.

    1. Search by Name
    2. Search by Date
    3. Search by Location

    A newspaper can hold so much information in a single issue that not all names are indexed. That is why a three-tier search is necessary.

    Although sometimes a brick wall in your genealogy research is due to records being lost in fires and wars, poor preservation and/or the records were simply not kept. The biggest problem with brick walls is that family enthusiasts either give up too soon or just don’t know where to look next.  Should you have any questions or want a little extra help tackling your brick wall, please feel welcome to post your questions to the Ask a Genealogist forum. Genealogy Beginner looks forward to hearing from you.

    Image Credit: Ramona Hartley


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