Getting past brick walls in your genealogy (short version)
Climbing Genealogical Brick Walls
Pizza and Stump the Genealogy Expert
• Be prepared to search ALL the records of
your ancestor, ALL his kin and associates,
during ALL periods of their lives, in ALL
the jurisdictions where they lived, and ALL
• Review what you already have - see if what
you have discovered already answers
questions now that you have more
• Go back to the original sources - did you
copy ALL information from a source or
only partial data?
• Broaden your search - check collateral
relatives, neighbors. It’s called cluster
genealogy, and sometimes you see patterns
for more than one person that help with an
individual of interest.
• Question and verify - many sources contain
• Check name variations - not only can these
occur but sometimes a T is read or put for a
G or J. Really!
• Learn your boundaries - maps are important
when seeing where information is recorded.
Sometimes it is legal to record information
outside of the county where it occurred.
• Ask for help - many ways to do that.
• Maiden and middle names - what do people
use at various points in their lives?
• Where to find these? SSDI applications,
wedding records, court records, probate
• More on names: aliases, using maternal
names, shortened or translated names, ones
beginning with a vowel.
• Area searches: search an entire smaller
town, remember that addresses changes as
well as street names.
• Jurisdictions change: e.g.. Rochester
records might be in Canandaigua or
• Look in school and poorhouse records.
• Check old phone books and city directories,
church records (remembering that
congregations could divide), and election
• Border crossings and immigration - before
1924, the US-Canadian border did not have
• Did the entire family come over, or only
• Yugo-NY- CT-Yugo-Canada (Montreal and
• Death records - obits, funeral home records
funeral sign-in books, who is buried nearby
on a cemetery (married s having adjoining
• Widows do remarry
• Try searching parents
• Adoption vs. abandonment: different kinds
Remember that you are dealing with various times….
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• Create a timeline to avoid inconsistencies.
• See if retirement homes or other institutions
interviewed a resident to find someone to
pay for their care.