The generations on either side of me link me to my past and my future. My view of family history involves revealing the roots and the branches.

Throughout this blog you will find perspectives related to the doctrines of temple and family history work from revealed revelation given to living prophets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS - Mormon).

Friday, March 27, 2015

Brick Wall Removal

Have you ever hit a genealogical "brick wall" in your research? Do you put all other research efforts on hold in order to track down the elusive ancestor? Do the records you are looking for even exist? Are you chasing after family folklore that may be too good to be true? Did the ancestor really just disappear? Or mysteriously arrive? And are you really sure that "all the records were destroyed"?

Perhaps you have really just hit a research block: a dead end, stumbling block, roadblock, or barrier to your research. Perhaps you have reached the end of what you know about where to look for records. Perhaps you are exhausted from your searching.

Many new genealogists are often afflicted with this "brick wall" disease. I believe it is not because they have truly found an "end of line" ancestor, but because they don't know which road or path to take or what resources are available. They are new in a great big maze and they have just reached a dead end or stumbling block to their knowledge.

Are you just spinning your wheels, going around in circles, looking for the same bit of information over and over in the same records you have already researched? Are you keeping a research log or notes of what you have already searched and what you did or did not find? Do you have an organized research plan? Are you distracted from the plan by other paths that take you away from your goal? Is your goal too complicated? Can you explain simply to someone else what you are looking for, where you have looked, and what you did or did not find?
Did you build your own brick wall? Did you make an incorrect assumption along the way? Or did your research find an incorrect assumption that someone else made? Are you following only one piece of evidence? Are you trying to prove a myth or fable? Are you preventing yourself from accepting a document because the ancestor's name is not spelled as you think it should be? Have you inaccurately documented something? Are you going too fast and skipping over key details? Do you understand the purpose of the record you are viewing? Are your actions blocking yourself from success?

As you attempt to recreate your ancestor's paths through life, make sure you stay on your own path and follow an organized research plan.

Here are my "R"s to Brick Wall Removal:

What do you already know? How do you know it? Do you have documentation to prove it?

Create a timeline / map to visually record what you know about your ancestor's life.

Where are the holes in the timeline? What are you really missing? Be specific.

What is the new goal? What strategies are needed to reach the goal? Do you need training on available resources or technology? What is the new plan of attack?

Get help from others who know where to find the resources you need. Join collaboration groups like Genealogy! Just Ask! 

Check for newly accessible records often. Utilize "cluster" research for every ancestor. The neighbors and siblings may have the answer to your question.

Take a break. Get some sleep. Refuel. Rebuild your energy and recommit yourself to keep going.

When you finally discover what you have been looking for and your brick wall has been removed, take time to celebrate! And then prepare yourself again to tackle your next genealogical mystery.


  1. Great points for brick wall removal, Amy! You have captured many reasons for why people on Genealogy! Just Ask! have hit a dead end! Thank you!

  2. Yes, I have to keep remembering to take more time to review what I think I know already, and detail the steps I've taken, or could take next. Excellent post. Thanks!