7 ways to break through a family tree brick wall

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01 November 2016
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Discover seven different ways to break through a family tree brick wall. Solving a genealogical mystery is where family history gets really interesting!

Discover seven different ways to break through a family tree brick wall. Solving a genealogical mystery is where family history gets really interesting! 

Once you’ve started researching your family history, you’re likely to find some of your ancestors very easily, but others will be more elusive. However, don’t give up now, because when you’re breaking through your family history brick walls this can be where family history gets really interesting. Our tips will help you gain the knowledge you need to make these intriguing new discoveries.

For more on family history for beginners, download How to Start Your Family Tree.

1. Get to know your ancestors

Spend some time looking carefully at the details that you do know, as this can help you spot family matches in unusual locations.

2. Watch out for variations

Nowadays we are very precise about our personal details (such as the spelling of our names, our birthplace and our birthdays), but our ancestors may have been much more vague. Look out for similar entries, as they could provide leads.

3. Study a map

Your ancestors may come from an area that you’re not familiar with. By looking at a map you can get to know the names of neighbouring towns and villages – which could be possible places that your ancestors moved to or from.

4. Discover your surname origins

If the trail goes cold and you’re not sure where to look for your ancestors next, research their surname origins. Many surnames originate from a specific location – and so looking in such an area could increase your chances of finding your ancestors by that name.

5. Grow your tree online

There are many online tree websites to choose from. The advantages are that many of them offer ‘tree-matching’ tools – which will link you to fellow family historians who may share your ancestors. They may already have solved the brickwall and be willing to help you.

6. Broaden your search

If you can’t find your ancestors in the parish registers, for instance, perhaps try looking in the Nonconformist registers. Or if they’re not showing up in the census records, perhaps they went overseas so search for them in the passenger lists.

7. Archives and books

The internet is a treasure-trove of information for family historians, but it doesn’t contain everything. If you can’t find the records you need online, you will need to look elsewhere. Record offices, archives and family history societies could be your next port of call.

Research advice