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Brick wall project -- Getting Over the wall?

Everybody hits a brick wall at some point in their research. No matter what you do, you just can’t seem to get around it. Let’s start a web site feature where we try to help each other around those brick walls. Think about how we can help each other with our genealogy brick walls. One suggested approach is to assume that you are a mentor assigned to help you over this wall. Step back and look at the problem logically. What questions would you ask about where you looked, what results you found and where you should look next? Type up everything you know about each of your earliest lines in one file. Rough out a group sheet on each one and include every source for data. Be sure to separate speculation from verifiable data sources. Once you do one, use it as a template for another. More data is always being transcribed and put on the Internet, so “never say never”.

Getting another set of eyes to look at each “wall” may accomplish wonders.

Getting organized:

Step 1. List of surnames - A good way to get started is to use an ahnentafel list or pedigree chart and make a list of your surnames.
2. Prioritize your list. Every odd number on your ahnentafel list may be a new surname. Using that odd number is a good way to prioritize your list and rank each surname by which name to work first. Another way is to look at the blanks in your pedigree chart or ahnentafel list and concentrate on filling in those blanks.
3. Collect and organize what you know. Filling out a group sheet is a good way to organize what you have.
4. Submit a query on each surname. Compile a general query: your name and contact information, surname, full name, event, date and place. Anything specific that you are looking for: e.g. parents names? Arrange your generic query so that you can substitute a name, place, date, line or paragraph and reuse it for another place or surname.
5. Where to submit queries? Make a list of where to submit. Note on the list the date you submit the query and follow up date. (Typical locations are County GENWEB sites, Surname-L sites on Rootsweb, Cousinconnect and genealogy society newsletters.)
6. Follow up query submission: Check later to see if your query has been posted. Resubmit or contact the webmaster if your query does not appear within a few days. Some are automated. Some are not.
7. Round up all the usual suspects (sources). Again, make a list to check off such as: Census, cemetery listings, birth listings and SSDI. What to check and when depends so much on the time period. SSDI will only show people who died in modern times. Federal censuses only show names of children for 1850 and later. Don’t forget that later census list the place of birth of parents.
8. Visits to GENWEB, etc. sites should be documented as well. Note the date and what you look up. Some sites are updated frequently. Some are not. It may be a waste of your research time to keep going back to the same sites.
9. List the books, etc. which you use for sources. You should be doing this as a regular routine. Be sure to include revisions and reprint information and also where you found the source. The location can be vitally important when you try to verify something which you may have copied incorrectly.
10. Collect a focus list of surnames for thorough research in a particular geographic area. There is a good chance that families whose children married also had previous contact in their church, where they migrated from or in other ways. In-laws and future in-laws were likely fellow passengers on ships or followed the same migration trails.
11. Suggestions for future research: Compile a list for later efforts as you complete the other steps but stay focused to complete each step, keep records and stay organized. Continue to expand your check lists and share your results with others.
12. Before you give up, organize everything to where you can pick up where you left off whether it is the next day or ten years later. Sleep on it and look at it again with fresh eyes.

As you assemble your tools and checklists for getting “over the wall”, share them with others through our web site and don’t forget to save your computer files and back them up.

Google through that brick wall