How to Bust Those Brick Walls

At one time or another every genealogist hits the “proverbial brick wall.” While it may seem impossible that we will find that missing piece of our puzzle, there may be ways to locate the information we desire. But, it takes work and a good deal of patience! Below are 15 tips to that may give you a fresh insight into your toughest research problems.

1. Analyze what you have – did you miss something?
2. Surround the roadblock/brick wall – have you found or done the following:
Located birth certificate
Located death certificate
Searched obituaries
Performed researched on children, siblings, and collateral lines
3. Use an old map to find the nearest cemetery, church, city.
4. Visit the cemetery (check all records: cemetery plot, inscription, church, office, and mortuary records)
5. Work backwards from a theory
6. Join E-mail lists
7. Search LDS Family History Library catalog for your ancestor’s town and nearby towns
8. Question all of your cousins and extended family members (especially those of the older
9. Oral History – write down family folklore/stories and document the source(s)
10. Keep notes of all resources consulted and methods tried
11. Explore any towns that may have your surname
12. Ask questions and be assertive – if you don’t ask you may never know!
13. Join a genealogical or historical society to network with other researchers
14. Remember that current geography does not equal historical geography (double check boundaries using old maps, gazetteers and atlases)
15. Explore “chain migration” – immigrants often formed “cluster communities” in the New

These are just a few examples of some techniques to apply to your tough research problems. If you have some extremely difficult brick walls to break through, there are two books that may be able to help you.

500 Brick Wall Solutions to Genealogy Problems; Family Chronicle. Softcover, 432 pages; $25 US and $30 CDN (includes shipping)

More Brickwall Solutions to Genealogy Problems; Family Chronicle. Softcover, 192 pages; $15 US and $18 CDN (includes shipping)

Both books are published by Family Chronicle. You can order them online at or through an order form supplied in any issue of Family Chronicle Magazine.