Genealogical research can bring family members together, deepen connections, and reconnect long-lost relatives in surprising ways. Today, more people are do-it-yourself researchers than ever before, especially with access to technology that makes it easier to find records, communicate with other genealogy enthusiasts, and share information. DNA testing available to the public that began in the early 2000s added another valuable dimension to the resources available regarding genetic genealogical research.
But sometimes you can run into obstacles and might not know how to solve them. What could have started as a quest to deepen your family connections can often lead to a dead-end, or a brick wall, in your research. For example, the ancestor in question is from another country and the records are in a language you can’t read. Or, if digging into your family history is a hobby, you might not have enough time to devote to a difficult problem outside of your usual family and career obligations.
Breaking through brick walls is one of our specialties at Legacy Tree Genealogists. In our blog posts, expert researchers share strategies and research tips to help you uncover facts and clues about your ancestors. (If you haven’t already done so, you can subscribe to our blog on this page.)
In case you missed them, below are the top five blog posts of 2021 that can help you to overcome potential brick wall challenges that could be hindering the progress of your research.
Solved! When Your Relative Does Not Appear as a DNA Match
What should you do if a family member’s DNA results don’t match your own? Genealogy can be rewarding, but it can also be frustrating when you run into problems that don’t seem to make sense. This blog – one of our most popular of the year – explains how you can solve this all-too-common problem.
Many people who have taken a DNA test have experienced the discovery of NOT having a (close or distant) biological relative show up as a genetic match. While jumping to conclusions is a natural reaction, taking a step back to review the information may save you unnecessary confusion and heartache in the long run. In cases like this, it is beneficial to find additional relatives to further clarify and narrow down the connection between you and the relative in question.
How Can DNA Solve Unknown Parentage and Break Down a Brick Wall?
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges you can face when researching is the mystery of unknown parentage. In this blog, one of our researchers uses her own family tree investigation as an example to explain how DNA can be used to break down brick walls and uncover surprises in genealogical research.
With DNA, and by following a breadcrumb trail of information, revisiting old photographs, stories of distant relatives, and carefully reexamining information acquired, our researcher shows how she got past her brick wall, solved a family mystery, and found a 109-year-old great-great-aunt that she had no idea was still alive.
Searching for Sarah: Strategies for Researching Female Ancestors
Historically, the search for female ancestors has been more of a difficult process than that of their male counterparts. Women were mostly reliant on their husbands, changed their last names with marriages, and rarely owned any land or property to which there was a deed associated. The combination of these factors, along with frequently not being able to read or write, often resulted in confusion and recording errors on their records.
But a difficult process does not make it impossible. This blog provides some tips for identifying women in historical records by learning how cultural differences worldwide affect names and naming practices. It helps to analyze the facts that you know about her, and a census is always a good starting point to take you in the direction of additional clues. With that information, you can then connect her to the immediate family before marriage, bringing you closer to learning about how she might be connected to you in your family history.
Tips for Researching Ancestors Who Migrated Alone
Nineteenth-century families in the rural United States were profoundly interconnected and reliant on one another. As the American Dream swept across the nation, more people than ever ventured out further West in hopes of finding luck and prosperity. For someone to break away and go to a place where there were no relatives or connections was a gamble.
Many steps are involved in checking whether a lead is accurate and if it will take you to additional information on extended family members that have yet to be uncovered. They range from digging through official documents such as deeds, censuses, and other vital records that can contain possible clues. Considering alternate spellings of names, especially for immigrant settlers from abroad, is helpful. By looking into organizations and communities associated with specific geographical locations and cultural identities, you can uncover additional information.
Researching ancestors who migrated alone can be complex, but this blog shows how patience, broad searches, and a thorough, creative approach are often the keys to success.
Using Facebook to Research Family History
Technology and accessible information have proven to be valuable when it comes to researching family connections. In this blog, one of our researchers explains how Facebook can be used to find valuable historic information in the form of videos, photos, and information that could prove helpful. With Facebook groups focused on genealogical research, as well as pages dedicated to towns, organizations, and events, you could uncover possible leads to further research.
While there is a limit to what you can find on Facebook and other social media sites – and often the information you find may lead to more questions – it’s a helpful free resource to supplement your traditional documented research.
Answers in brick wall cases very seldom come all at once, but they can usually be solved. Often, they are the result of painstaking methodology, piecing together seemingly unrelated facts and building a case. If you find yourself stuck behind a brick wall, whether by inexperience, lack of time, or are simply wanting to have your family traditions verified, consider contacting the professionals at Legacy Tree Genealogists and letting us help you.
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