Seldom is anything more frustrating in genealogy
than when you smash into a wall you can see over,
under or around, but here are a few tips to begin peering through them
& pull apart each brick to get to the other side.
1. Take a break - Work on something else for a while, when you return to it
think objectively, as if it wasn't your work.
2. Put your old notes, opinions & your memory aside - I know - it sounds nuts, but what you need to do is take a second look at each record, the original records/sources, one by one, and create new notes. You will find hints & pieces you missed before.
Create another set of notes, or color code opinions, possibilities, and "heresay".
3. Create a Timeline - include everything you have by date with place locations for children, siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, etc.
4. Be more open to the possibility of records being wrong - yup that's right, wrong - especially records recorded, well, after the person was dead and wasn't answering for themselves - say death records.
My paternal grandmother's death record is wrong & states her brother's name instead-
which reminds me, I still need to amend that.
5. Be more open minded about surname spelling - Previous to the 20th century spelling was more a matter of sound & accent than consistency.
6. First names, nicknames, etc.
Nicknames are possible , middle names were used as first names & name changes did take place. Also remember some names "go together" such as Mary/Polly; Sarah/Sally. I have an uncle who as early as 1870 started using a different first & middle name as his musical stage name, but never changed it legally.
7. Keep looking diligently & scour hidden local resources -land records, newspapers, town historical societies, libraries, etc. If you can't get there,
hire an experienced professional genealogist who specializes in that area.
8. Historical & Geographical Context- know the history & geography of the location for the time period. Town, county & state lines sometimes changed, and sometimes large groups of people from one area moved to another area together. Also know the time period you are researching. Applying early 20th century concept to an early 19th century dilemma is not going to help you.
9. Collaborate with Other Researchers or Ask a Professional -A new set of eyes may offer an angle that was missed. It's also possible there may not even be enough proof to have led you to where you think you are in the first place. If your sources are various unsourced online trees - you are in a heap of a mess!
That is not how authentic, accurate genealogical research is done.
It just isn't - damn those commercials! The reality is I'd bet 9.5 out 10 unsourced trees online are wrong,
and many old history or genealogical books contain information that is also wrong.
10. Do a name study in the location & time period where you are stuck, start eliminating possibilities by working forwards - This is an enormous amount of work - no doubt about it, but it may very well be worth it. I have a ggg grandmother who came from a town with 50 million people with the same last name..ok well that might be a slight exaggeration but ...there were lots & the name wasn't even Smith!
Sorting out the surname in the entire town became my last option...and it worked!
See next week's blog on How to do a Name Study
Live & cherish the moment while exploring the past!
Amylynne (Baker) Murphy