Family history is  very rewarding, whether it is hobby, activity, or profession. The understanding of your family you achieve and the connections you make are incomparable.  As is seen multiple times in history, great rewards rarely come without some struggle and hard times. One of the hardest barriers to overcome in family history are brick walls, or ancestors that either cannot be found or can only be partially found. Brick walls can be big enough that you feel like you will never discover that person. Here are 5 tips that will help you overcome and break down your future brick walls.

1) Be Easy on Yourself

The first thing you should do when you hit a brick wall is to be patient with yourself and to not give up. This happens to us all, whether you are a professional genealogist or someone just getting started. Running into a brick wall is more a questions of when it will happen, not if it will happen. History hasn’t been perfectly recorded by mankind, so you will run into information gaps or unclear information. When you do find yourself in this situation, just remember to be patient and, in more cases than not, you will end up finding what you need to move on.

2) Look at ALL Documentation

There are a lot of resources out there. There is bound to be a source that contains information you haven’t looked at yet. Some of these possible sources include newspapers, military records, land records, census records, marriage certificates, and religious documentation. You should check for this documentation from multiple sources because one source can have slightly different information than the others.

3) Look Outside Your Direct Family Line

Sometimes you will hit a dead end in your direct family line. It can and probably will happen. Look at your ancestor’s cousins, aunts, uncles, second-cousins…just look elsewhere! By looking outside your direct family line, you can possibly find some information on their profiles that mention your ancestor. This strategy will open more doors of information for you to be able to continue searching. Another strategy you might consider is to look up possible name variations that your ancestor might have had. Whether it be a variation on your ancestor’s first name, last name, middle name, or even a nickname. Any leads can prove to be valuable for your research.

4) Create a Family Tree

This step might seem odd compared to the other steps, but hear me out. Thinking outside the box and being creative is one way to overcome barriers. Visualizing your family tree can put your ancestry from a very broad idea to a very simple diagram. This overall view of your ancestry can help you see new connections and give you new insights that you probably hadn’t considered before.

5) Ask For Help to Break Down Your Brick Walls

If you still cannot seem to break down your brick walls, ask for help. Sometimes what you really need is someone else’s perspective. You can contact other family members, genealogy companies, go to genealogy conferences, or even consult with a genealogy professional. Any of these outside sources can and will most likely be valuable to you in your search.

Let us know what you have done to overcome your family history brick walls in the comments below!

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