Hit a Brick Wall? These Genealogy Tips can help

Everyone hits a brick wall at some stage. I hope these genealogy tips will help you break them down.

  • It is important to cite sources where possible - it can be useful to know where you obtained information for future reference.

  • It is best to note down all information from the record - it may help in the future.

  • If you are given a possible date by another person, but cannot find the entry you are seeking, it is advisable to look a few years either side of this date.
  • Try alternative spellings of your ancestor's surname if you are unable to find their record in the indexes. You can also use the wildcard search, one method of which is to place a * after the second or third letter of the surname which will bring up many alternative spellings, such as Min*, which will bring up Minter, Minton, Mintorn etc. 

  • You can also place the * at the start of the surname, such as *inton, which will bring up Hinton, Minton, Winton etc. This also works for Christian names, by typing Ann*, this will bring up Ann, Anne, Annie etc.If you are unable to track down a birth certificate for your ancestor, try obtaining their sibling's certificate instead - this may help you to determine your ancestor's mother's maiden name.

  • Another of the genealogy tips is to look for birth dates of children if you cannot find their parent's marriage. Their children's ages may give you an approximate marriage date.

  • Your ancestor may have married more than once to a person with the same name as their previous partner - if you see children baptised to Abraham and Ann for example please be aware that Ann may not be the same wife. I have seen an example of this in that my relative Abraham Devonshire married Ann Rolls and then after she died, he married another Ann Rolls, the previous Ann's cousin - so confusing!!!!

  • If you cannot find your ancestor and their family in a census index, it does not necessarily mean that they are not on the census. Sometimes looking for a specific address rather than looking by name can yield results.

  • Another of the genealogy tips to try obtaining the certificate for the child born nearest the date of the census if you cannot find your family - this gives you another avenue to explore. Sometimes a child's baptism record gives their parent's address so try looking at that address too.

  • Don't discount wills - sometimes family members are mentioned. This is especially helpful if a child was baptised in a period where the register is missing, but you suspect you know who their father was. I have firsthand experience of this in that my ancestor Joseph Scrivener mentioned his daughter Eleanor in his will, thus proving the connection.

  • Look for indentures and deeds - they may help you establish a family connection as a pedigree is sometimes mentioned. By looking at an indenture I was able to prove Joseph Scrivener's ancestry.

  • Should there be more than one possible entry for your ancestor in a burial register, or you require more information than that noted, try looking at Monumental Inscriptions. They can sometimes give further details about your ancestor and their family than can be found in a burial register, especially in earlier years.

  • If you cannot determine your ancestor's birthplace, try looking for their discharge or enlistment paper if they were in the military - they sometimes mention an individual's birthplace.

  • If you find in the course of your research that you have relatives you are trying to trace, you could always try contacting Trace People UK, who are professional people tracers.

  • More tips can be found by going to Plusnet's How to start building your family tree online.

Broken down your own Brick Wall?

Have you broken down your own brick wall? I'd love to hear how you did it.

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