Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Top Ten Ways to Overcome The Brick Wall In Your Research

Top Ten Ways to Overcome The Brick Wall In Your Research

The recently released 2013 Third Quarter edition of Irish Roots contained an interesting article in which family historian Chris Paton offers ten tips to help break through your Irish brick walls.  Many of the tips appear quite logical; but I find that we sometimes miss the obvious in doing our research.  It helps to be reminded now and then to make sure we are exploring all possible research avenues--especially when it comes to Brick Walls.

In summary here are Chris's Tips.
Check Everything Again--Take the time to re-look at all the data you have gathered to make sure you haven't missed something.

Examine Primary Sources--If you have been working from indexes or transcripts of records, perhaps you should look at the originals, if possible, to make sure there aren't any omissions or transcription errors.

Look for Siblings--Have you tried tracing relatives of your brick wall individual.  It might help to research parallel lines in the extended family.

Overseas Records--Don't assume that your family members stayed in one place, them might have moved to Britain or other overseas locations.

Keep Returning--Most genealogy databases are constantly updating, if you have checked RootsIreland, Ancestry, FindmyPast  or other sources and found nothing, check again periodically to make sure something hasn't been added since your last search.

Visit Archives--Remember, everything isn't on line.  You need to visit local archives, family history societies, libraries and other relevant repositories.  

Land Records--"Revaluation or cancellation books following Griffith's Valuation, showing changes in ownership, are online at PRONI, for the 1860s to 1930 for Northern Ireland, whilst the Republic's are accessible at the Valuation Office in Dublin"   

Think Laterally--You must explore the obvious and most likely; but if that fails, start thinking laterally.  Explore the "what ifs".  If you can't find the death record in Ireland, "what if" he died somewhere else?

Become A Better Genie--We can never get enough knowledge, so constantly be reading genealogy magazines, books and exploring new research resources.  I would add attending genealogy presentations at your local societies and on line Webinars. 

Fresh Perspectives--"Two heads are better than one."  Discuss the problem with fellow genealogists in the many different forums than are available to you. You might also consider hiring a reputable professional genealogist.  

I think this last tip is particularly important.  We often get so immersed in trying to break through our Brick Walls that we need to step back and take a more detached view.  Discussing the problem with other genealogists is a good way to do that.

"Genealogist Chris Paton is the author of several books, including Tracing Your Irish Family History on the Internet.  A member of PRONI's User Forum and a tutor for the University of Strathclyde postgraduate programme in Genealogical Studies, he also regularly blogs genealogy news at"