Any Gap Is an Opportunity

If there is a period of time where you are not certain where your ancestor was living or what he was doing, then you have an opportunity. Short gaps where a person is “missing” could mean military service, an out-of-state job, a short-lived marriage, a trip in search of gold, etc.

Or it could simply mean they never moved and simply didn’t leave any records for a three year time period.

But if you never look one thing is certain–you’ll never know.

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Get Away from What You Want to Prove

When analyzing a record or set of materials that does not make sense, get away from what you “want to prove” and try to think “what do these documents really say?” You may find that they do not say what you think they do. And not every record says what we want or expect it to say.

Sometimes our preconceived notions are what is getting in the way

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Spend Time On Some New People

If you think you are stuck on all your lines, work on someone else’s family for a while. The different names and locations will be a good change of pace. Learning about research in a new area may give you insight into “old ones” where you’ve worked so long that assumptions that are incorrect may have taken deep root.

It may be that when you return to your own families, you have a new perspective on them.

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How Far?

For your “brick wall” ancestor, do you know (or have any idea) how far they lived from:

  • the county seat?
  • the nearest church of their denomination?
  • the nearest place they could get supplies or transact necessary business?
  • their nearest neighbor?
  • the cemetery?
The list here is not exclusive. If you’ve got no idea of the answers to these questions, determining those answers may help you solve your problem.
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As You Go: Not Three Years Later

The ideal time to write up your genealogical conclusions, enter your information into your database, or write up and transcribe documents is as you locate them. Or reasonably close after. The information is fresh in your mind and fewer details are apt to be forgotten.

While it may be fun to keep gathering, you probably will notice more about what you’ve just found if you record and analyze it relatively close to when you located it.

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