Sunday, June 2, 2013

Tips for Working My O'Malley Brick Wall!

One of my two brick walls is tracing my gggrandparents back to Ireland.  I know that Peter O'Malley and his wife, Julia McNally, both came from County Mayo; but I don't know which parish or townland they came from, nor have I identified their parents.  I have worked this problem for several years and have initiated lots of correspondence exploring various resources.

Peter & Julia O'Malley's Headstone in St. Fredericks
Cemetery, Manito, Illinois

In an effort to document my research, I put together  a couple of summaries that helped provide me with a good picture of my efforts.  I first took a separate three ring notebook and consolidated all by correspondence and research in one place.    Secondly, since I had initiated a lot of correspondence with parishes in Pennsylvania, trying to find marriage or baptismal records; I prepared a spread sheet of all the correspondence, listing each church, where it was located, the date I sent the correspondence, the responses to the correspondence and the contact person.  Then I created a chronological listing of all correspondence, not just with churches, regarding Peter and Julia.  Finally, I prepared a list, by type of record, of my efforts to track Peter and Julia's history.  Type of records included: Census, Passenger lists, Vital records (birth, marriage, death), probate, cemetery, Church, Newspapers, naturalization, Genealogical Societies, and Funeral homes.  I also printed out the closest DNA matches that I had for Peter's O'Malley's line.  I will discuss these DNA search efforts in more detail in a later blog.  Finally, I reviewed my Family Tree Maker (FTM) timeline on Peter, to ensure it contained all of the data I had collected.  I then printed out the timeline.

Having completed these documents, I then reviewed them with the objective of finding holes in my research.  Rather than trusting memory, I think this technique has helped me focus on the next steps in my research which will have the greatest chance of success.

I strongly urge you to attack your "brick walls" with a similar organized approach.  We all have to fight the temptation to use the reactive, shotgun approach to research--I have done it and it might "feel good"; but we are invariably going to miss those holes if we don't use a more methodical process.