Genealogical Brick Walls - How to Get Through Them

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Are you stuck? We all hit a brick wall in our family history research from time to time. Here are some strategies for breaking through these walls.

1. Make a list of everything you really know.
• You will need to revisit all your associated records to do this.
• You may have missed a tiny snippet of information that could be the key to the puzzle.
• Don’t be afraid to throw out family legends.

2. Determine what it is you really need to know.
• Are you looking for the right information to help you move to the next step?

3. Where are the logical places to look for that information.
• Use guidebooks (such as the LDS resource guides available at to educate yourself on what is available.
• Check all available sources and record when you DON’T find something as well as when you do.
• Don’t assume that people are dead just because they are missing. Making sure you have exhausted all avenues before making assumptions.

4. Get creative with spellings.
• Try common misspellings or phonetic spellings.
• Try wildcard * ? searches on computerized searches (* = anything, ? = replaces one character only)

5. Try following other people.
• What about his/her siblings?
• What about their traveling companions or neighbors?
• Are there any clues in traditional naming patterns or middle names?
• Who are the witnesses to an event?
• Who are the neighbors/boarders?

6. Try following their land rather than them.
• If they are landowners follow the plot or find the same address on a census record.
Search Suggestion Tools
• Newer genealogy software has them (Legacy 6)
• Existing tools like Gensmarts
IGI Search Integration
Legacy 6, Rootsmagic 3, TMG 6 – allows users to search on ancestor in database directly from the genealogy program and it will fill in info and retrieve matches based on the information you have entered into your genealogy program. Legacy has an advantage over the other software as you can do this for all or batches of people at a time.

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