Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Ancestor Searching Newsletter

December, 2006
Vol. 1, # 9

Getting Past 'Brick Walls'

A 'Brick Wall' in genealogy is a dead-end that you have reached in your research. It may be a small problem or a much larger one. You may have exhausted every avenue of research and are totally frustrated and at a loss.

Before starting with the steps and suggestions that follow, create a timeline for the ancestor where your brick wall begins. List on this timeline every known fact from birth to death. Then decide what you want to find out that's missing from the timeline.

The first piece of advice in dealing with a 'brick wall' is to go back and double-check what you have already found in your research. If you are truly stuck, this first approach could yield amazing results. It's a great way of refreshing your memory on research and sources you've already worked with in the past. You may just discover other unexplored avenues of research from this procedure.

Make certain you have checked every available record source for the information you require. As you work through these resources, keep a detailed record of the source you used and what results you had so as not to waste time and effort re-checking the same material several times.

Be very FLEXIBLE with dates. Always search for several years either side of a supposed date. Ages and dates are not always reported accurately. Go back and make sure that you have allowed some flexibility in your research - perhaps you haven't searched far enough back, or too far back.

Another approach to solving these dead-ends is to work with collateral branches. If you know other sibling names, check for their records as if they were ancestors in your direct line. No siblings... cousins can offer the next-best clues. The paper trail could still lead back to the answers you seek. Many even follow what Emily Croom, author of Unpuzzling Your Past, calls "cluster genealogy". It's not just immediate or extended family.
In-laws and neighbors pursued the same paths. Look into those family records.

An excellent resource on 'brick walls' can be found in the Heritage Room Collection. 500 Brickwall Solutions to Genealogy Problems contains a multitude of true cases where the application of sound research techniques was applied to solve seemingly dead-end situations.

Whenever you have the opportunity, show your research to another person - even a person not skilled in genealogy. That person may see something in your research that you have missed or overlooked.

Are there others researching the same line? Tap into this resource - contact others researching your line whether it's by phone, regular mail or email.

Find out if they have already done this particular area of research. BEWARE, however, of possible errors by others. Ask what sources they checked to try to be sure that they have done a thorough job in their research.

Above all, maintain an open mind and NEVER GIVE UP!

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Genealogy Workshop

Fact: Most brick walls usually occur around the mid/late 1700's period of time where everything record -wise sometimes becomes more vague and online/hardcopy data is minimal.

Tip: Sometimes it is useful to help work on the brick wall puzzles of others and see what we can learn to make us sharper genealogical detectives. Also, place online NEW well written, short, but sufficiently detailed queries specifying exactly what you seek on several sites. Repeat this procedure every few weeks to the same message boards and also try posting to new and different boards to reach a wider audience.

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Genealogy News

Do you have an ancestor who was in the group of original Englishmen to settle Jamestown Virginia? Archaeologists in 2004 have unearthed human remains on the bank of the James River. You'll definitely want to read Part I of a series of online articles about the effort that has gone into the handling of the dig at the original fort site. The link to begin reading is at...

<http://content.hamptonroads.com/story.cfm?story=114989&ran=128548%20> and Part II can be reached by clicking on the link at the bottom of the first article. Just in case Part II is at...
<http://content.hamptonroads.com/story.cfm?story=115026&ran=169903%20> and Part III at...


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Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season as this is the last issue to come out before year's end.

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EDITOR'S NOTE: The November issue of this newsletter was erroneously labeled as #7 when in fact it was #8 in this volume.

Changing email addresses? Don't forget to let us know.

See You In The Heritage Room!
Richard White, Editor
Huntsville-Madison County Public Library
915 Monroe Street
Huntsville, AL 35801

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