If you have not gotten evolved with you local society I would encourage you to do so. They can provide you with great resources, workshops, and discussion groups.
Every year JCGS (Jefferson County Genealogical Society) works on “Brick Walls”. Members submit their brick walls, then a few experienced members review and research the submitted problems. The findings along with a workshop on brick walls is presented at a regular meeting six months later.
This morning I was driving to the monthly local genealogy society meeting, hoping that there would be some specific help for me on my George Jones “brick wall”. I had submitted “Who were George Jones parents and where was he born?”
George was my 3x great grandfather. Of course I had provided them with what I knew and what I had already researched. I had been having trouble from the very start. Finding George’s first name had been my first stumbling block. I thought once I knew his name I would be able to solve it all. False optimism. That was about 20 years ago. I would like to move on to the previous generation………I have to remind myself, “baby steps”.
Today’s workshop began by walking us through some hints on approaching those brick walls.
Where to start.
- Identify your question.
- Review what is “Known” and the supporting documents.
- Prepare a time line of facts
- Layout a research plan
Try to state the problem in a single objective.
Sometimes we look at the same document and focus only on what we initially learned and miss some hint. Do not overlook friends, acquaintances, and neighbors (FAN club). Who were the witnesses at a marriage, or godparents at a christening, neighbors on the census or in deeds?
Put the information from the documentation in a timeline.
What documents are missing? What relevant documents will fill in the gaps and provide pertinent information.
- Censuses – national, state, non population, veteran, etc.
- City Directories
- Immigration, migration
- Church records, marriage, christening, etc.
- Local court records, deeds, probate, guardianships, naturalization, arrest, etc.
What was happening in this time frame: wars, epidemics, disasters, industrialization, migration, political upheaval that may have affected your family.
Where are the records kept for the, area/areas you subject lived: Parish, courthouse, estate, state, national archives, local libraries, local Historical groups, etc.
Start with the immediate family and work outward. Use a spread sheet to organize the FAN club
Follow ALL the children not just your line. Parents often show up in their adult children’s homes later in their lives, or in the same town. How many of your friends have moved to be closer to their children and grandchildren. One of my ancestors moved from Cambridge , Massachusetts to California gold country to be nearer their daughter and her family when they were in their 70’s (between 1870 & 1877)
Break it into small pieces. Do not overwhelm yourself. Concentrate on one thing at a time. if you are looking for date of death, where were they last. Where were their children in the next record. Check those areas after you have exhausted where they were last known to be located.
So now that I have heard and summarized for myself on how to work on those pesky “ brick walls” I was anxious to hear the problems the society had taken on to attempt to solve. The first three presentations were reviewed and the findings were presented, I listened but kept wondering “what did they discover for me?”. Then they came to mine. A quick summary of the question and then lots of suggestions on where I should look.
No answers? But a George Jones (19 July 1855) in the New York Herald index to marriages and deaths Vol.1 1835-1855. Something to definitely check out.
Each contributor was given a file with a report on what was done and what was found and where to go next.
This summary of their search will be great going forward. It also illustrates that fresh eyes on the subject can help you in evaluating what you may be doing, right or wrong. While they did not answer my question I have their input and suggestions to continue my own search.