A frequent question we get asked is “Can you please help me break down this brick wall?”. Problems come in all shapes and sizes such as the person you can’t find in the usual records, the one who seems to have disappeared and the lack of information about someone.
Ways to solve such problems include analysis and logic, help from friends and relatives, creativity and, sometimes, luck! What is required is a systematic approach to improve success.
• Recording or transcription error – this is one of the most common, and frustrating, causes. Even Registrars and Enumerators made errors! Using *, wildcards or Soundex will increase the chances of finding an existing record
• Online resources – we are fortunate to live at a time when so many records are now available online. Developing one’s knowledge of the ever-increasing number of websites will help to tackle many brick walls
• Other sources – what cannot be found in census, registration or parish records, could be on gravestones, in Wills, electoral registers, newspapers or other types of record
• Knowledge – clearly, the more one knows, the easier it is to find the right information. This does not just include where to find the census or birth, marriage and death records. What other information is held at your local or national archives? Geography can play a part, including where places were and in deciphering hard-to-read place names. History can help in many ways such as what happened to the individual during the Industrial Revolution, migration and in bringing to life the times that your ancestors lived in
• Friends and relatives – this includes the army of helpful archivists and librarians who are happy to use their knowledge and expertise to point you in the right direction
Many of our clients have already found out a lot about their ancestors. What they are looking for is our expertise to help them make further progress. Find out more by watching George English, Director of Research Through People talking about Brick Walls at Who Do You Think You Are 2015.