Breaking Down Brick Walls

It is common to hear people say that they have hit a brick wall with their research. When I ask them what they have looked for, they usually mention they searched for their ancestor on a popular database website, but could not find anymore information.

When researching your ancestors, it is important to search many types of records in many different locations. One database may have different sources or results than another database. Even more important is to search for original records, stored at the original locations of your
ancestors. Many times the records kept on online databases are transcribed and the full information is not included. There may be important clues in the information
that was left out of the transcription.

Some great records to start with are birth, marriage, and death records. Most of these records were kept after 1900, and can be ordered from the county where your ancestor lived. By studying the original document, there may be a wealth of information that you can find including parents’ names, their birth places, name of spouse, and place of burial.

If you have already searched for these records, there are still options for you. If your ancestor served in the military, there may be pension records available. Pension records can include the name of the spouse and children, as well as marriage information and birth information. Other great resources are wills and probate records. These records usually name family members and can help identify relationships. Land records can be useful, as many times a man gave or sold land to a daughter, son or brother. Land records also may mention who owned the land before the current owner bought it, and include relationships. Church records are a great resource. Many old churches have records dating back a hundred years. They may have records that name parents or other relatives.

If you have an elusive ancestor, try searching for records by contacting the county courthouse or church. By gathering all of the documents created about your ancestor, you will be on your way to breaking down that brick wall!