Getting Started Again? – Take Down a Brick Wall!

Fall is in the air . . .  time to get back to family history!

How to get started or re-started?  If you are keeping ToDo lists then that is a good place to go for inspiration – or look through your Research Logs – remember to keep a research log for each couple. If you use software like RootsMagic then Research Logs are created for you in the program or you can just use a word processor or just a blank sheet of paper.

If you are brave – and you have to face them sooner or later – you could take on one of your brick walls also known as road blocks – you know, those research problems that bring finding your ancestors on that line to a complete stop!   We all have them.  Overcoming them feels great!  Running into them doesn’t feel so good!  We recommend that after you bash your head against the brick wall a few times, you put the problem aside for a while.  Perhaps you need to approach the problem from a different angle. Maybe I can find information on great Grandmother by researching her brother?  Maybe new information has become available?  FamilySearch usually adds millions of new records almost weekly.

Or you could read an article with suggestions on solving brick walls.  We just came across a new article which contained several good suggestions.  As you know we are regular readers of GenealogyInTime Magazine – a good online Canadian resource which sends us one email a week on Friday!

This article, entitled “More Great Genealogy Brick Wall Solutions”  – this is the second time they have published an article on overcoming brickwalls – suggests 21 solutions!  Several of them we found particularly interesting:

#2.  Names of women remarrying – this begins “Most marriage certificates list a woman’s family name before she was married. Do not assume this is your ancestor’s maiden name.  The marriage certificate you are looking at could be a woman’s second marriage and she may be listed by the family name of her first husband. This was incredibly common back it the days when people often died young and had to remarry quickly for economic reasons.

Always look for corroborating evidence that you are, in fact, looking at your ancestor’s maiden name. Otherwise, you may end up tracing the family tree of your ancestor’s first husband.”

#3 Maiden Names – suggests some ways to locate maiden names

#6 & 7.  Anglicized Family Names – this solution merits 2 sections in the article!  Did you know that the Quebec GenWeb project maintains a list of English surnames and their North American French equivalents? Just how does LaLiberte become Bow?

#10 Finding people missing on the census – who doesn’t love researching a census when one is available?  What a frustration when we know our ancestor should be there and we can’t find them.  Maybe these suggestions will help

#11 City Directories – these might be help if  you can’t find your ancestor on the census?  Think of directories like phone books – wait a minute, when did I last use a paper phone book?  Directories can help with locations and occupations.

#21 Searching historic small town newpapers – has a link to an article on searching historic small town newspapers put out by GenealogyInTime. 

Bonus tip from us: did you know that several historic Alberta newspapers have been digitized and are available – see Early Alberta Newspapers at  – the Alberta Heritage Digitization Project and also


“Contrary to popular belief, your ancestor’s family name was not changed by an immigration official. Official immigration records were derived from ship passenger lists. It was the responsibility of the ship’s officers to maintain the passenger list. Unlike immigration officials, many ship officers had limited understanding of foreign languages. They often wrote down the wrong family name.”  (from caption under photo on page2 of  Genealogy In Time article on more solutions on breaking down brick walls)

This article is 6 pages long, but well worth the effort to read it.  We hope you enjoy it!

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2 Responses to Getting Started Again? – Take Down a Brick Wall!

  1. Thanks for your advice on brick walls, Peter. I really appreciate your emails.

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