Unsolved Mysteries

Unsolved Mysteries

The Brick Walls

Brick walls are every historians pain in the backside, I’m sure.  What I mean by brick wall is when you get to a point in your family research where you can’t go any further.

Either you don’t have enough details to search on, or the details that you have aren’t yielding any results.  Incredibly frustrating!

The brick walls can be very time consuming and have you stuck on just one person.  It can also be very confusing when you’re trying to sort through various details and work out inaccuracies.

Common Tools

Brick Walls

Brick Walls – Copyright: zimmytws / 123RF Stock Photo

I always start my research at Ancestry.com.  What I like about this site is that you put in the few details that you know and the site automatically works it’s magic on the backend checking your details against their database.  When they find information that could be possible matches, they put a little leaf on the profile of the people that could potentially match the data they found.

In many cases, this takes out a lot of the leg work for you.  Ancestry is pretty good at providing Federal Census records, marriage records, birth and death records.  Each of these records can go a long way in helping to get many of the needed details such as correct spelling of the name, important dates, and family members.

But there’s a huge problem with doing research this way.  Ancestry.com is a very popular site for people that are curious about their genealogy.  This is great but it creates some problems at the same time.

Not pointing fingers here, but some people will accept just about every hint that Ancestry provides and save it to their tree…without verifying accuracy against the person they attach it to.   The problem with this is that many names are common names and there are, more often than not, multiple people that share the same name.

This leads to a profile that had details from multiple families…but they look like the same guy.  This can create a nightmare to sort through.  Unfortunately, I found this out the hard way.

I’ve never studied to be a historian or a researcher or anything related to genealogy.  I’m completely self taught.  I do watch some informational videos from time to time when I see something interesting out there.  But I’m pretty much learning things the hard way.  So I’ve done a lot of “undoing” on my family tree to fix some of the problems that have resulted from amateur attaching of hints.


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How to Solve Mysteries

41045764 - explosion of brick 3d wall

Brick Wall Busted! Copyright: tiero / 123RF Stock Photo

Honestly I’m so early into my research that I probably shouldn’t give much advice here just yet.  But since I’m working through a brick wall right now and have discovered some helpful tips, I’ll at least provide those.

Of course, in the future as I learn more and experience more, I’ll definitely share with the rest of you!


Tip #1:  Remove the trees.  If you’ve already gone into Ancestry.com and attached a bunch of personal trees to your own based on like names and such, go back into Ancestry.com and remove those personal trees from your people.  Trust me.  Additionally, remove any “alternate” facts that were attached to your people along with those trees.  There’s no reason a person’s birth should show up on their timeline 30 times.  As far as I’ve found, people are generally only born once…unless they’re Jesus Christ…then by all means.

Multiple Trees

Multiple Trees


Tip #2:  Follow the documentation.  While documentation still contains inaccuracies sometimes, you can usually cross reference other documents to clear it up.  Chasing a “fact” that you heard through word of mouth is often a path with no end.  Birth certificates, death certificates, marriage licenses, census records, military records all provide great details that you should always cross reference when adding information to your tree.

Tip #3:  Take out the trash.  Seriously.  If you have details saved as facts in you’re tree that you are unsure about in regards to accuracy, make note of those details and their sources, but get them off of your tree.  The reason I suggest this is that if those “facts” are inaccurate, they could potentially be blocking you from finding the real stories.  Save them somewhere else.

Multiple Births

Multiple Births


Tip #4:  Don’t Accept Face Value.  Sometimes you’ll come across a record that has the family you’re researching listed at the very top or very bottom of the document.  When this happens, check the previous and following pages to see if there are additional names associated with that family.  For example, in the case of Jacob Beyl Sr., I found that the oldest in the family was 20 years old and too young to be the father of the others listed with him.  The previous page revealed the parents.

With all of that said, I’m going to get back to busting through a brick wall now.  But of course I’ll leave with a quote for the day:

Genealogy:  Where you confuse the dead and irritate the living.

Happy wall busting!


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