Is It Really a Brick Wall at All?

From 2018–still good reminders.

Depending upon which genealogist you ask there are either brick walls or there are not.

Sometimes you get to a “stuck place” in your research and what it’s called doesn’t really matter. There are several ways to try and get around those places, including:

  • making certain you have looked at all records
  • making certain you are aware of all records created in the location of interest
  • looking at how someone solved a similar problem
  • thinking about whether your assumptions are valid
  • writing up your problem for someone else to read
  • making certain you are not relying on someone else’s conclusions
  • making certain that what you think you know is actually correct.
  • etc.

There are other approaches, but starting with this list is a good place to begin. And…it doesn’t always matter what you call it–when you are stuck, you are stuck.

That DNA Match with an Unlinked Tree

AncestryDNA allows users to have trees that are unlinked to their DNA results. That tree may be for someone who is not biologically related to the testee or the tree may be for grandparent, grandchild or someone else. Be careful devoting too much time looking for the genealogical connection when you do not know how the principle person in the tree is related to the DNA testee.

Never too Late to Revise

Way back in 2003, I thought I had “figured out” an 1860 census entry with a few irregular entries. I even had a list of reasons why my conclusion was correct.

Flash forward to 2012. In attempting to “redo” the research, I reached a different conclusion about the 1860 census entry–one that meant I had more work to do.

Genealogical conclusions are always subject to new information, new procedures, and the potential that a misinterpretation was made along the way. Don’t be afraid to revise.

More than Just How You Say It

A Facebook meme asked “How do you pronounce the capitol of Kentucky? Louisville or Louie ville?”

The correct answer is your pronounce it “Frankfort.”

There’s several lessons there. Proofread. Do not believe everything you see on the internet. Think. Don’t assume. Do not jump to conclusions.

And geography, do not forget geography.

Do Something

Don’t put off writing up that genealogy information until you “get around to it,” “until life slows down,” or “until you have it all completely done.” Many times the ideal point in life to write up that family history never arrives and it certainly doesn’t knock on your door and announcing “I’m the perfect time to complete that family history project.”

Something is better than nothing. At the very least share those identified pictures. Someone in 100 years may treasure your incomplete project than you imagined and certain cannot treasure what you never even started.

If you’re looking to buy DNA test kits, AncestryDNA is offering some sales until this coming Father’s Day (19 June 2022). Just remind the testee that there may be some unexpected discoveries. Some people welcome those. Others do not.

What a Kid Believes

When I was probably in the second grade, I went in with my dad to a local small motor repair shop to pick up something he had dropped off. When he went to pay the bill, he asked the lady who handled the books what she had been doing lately.

“Going over to Keokuk and setting off fires was her answer.”

For the longest time, I thought she was the person responsible for setting the string of fires in the nearby river town. She was kidding, but sometimes kids do not realize that.

Was there something joked about and great aunt Myrtle, when she was a very small child, over head it and believed it?

And then repeated it to you?

Track the DNA Why

Cryptic notes about your DNA match will only confuse you later. Include details about the connection when you determine that relationship.

Your notes about a DNA match should indicate the complete relationship (if known) and how you determined that connection. If you were only able to determine part of the connection, indicate that. For example, if you determined the match descended from a specific grandchild of your 3rd great-grandparents, but you can’t determine the relationship with more precision indicate that and include how you came to that conclusion. If the notes field is not large enough for your complete analysis, put the analysis in a text document, save it, and reference it in the notes.

My preference is to include as many names in the connecting family line as possible–which means I have some cleaning up to do of my own results. These names will allow you to use the notes more effectively later.

In the illustration, I included the names of the common ancestors and the great-grandchild of those common ancestors through whom they descend. I should have included more names in the notes.

Have You Overlooked Anyone?

When I started my research, my goal was to trace my families either “across the pond” or to where they lived before they settled in Illinois. Then my focus concentrated on working through my colonial era families in the east coast of the United States.

I never really worked up the siblings of my great or great-great-grandparents. Their parents were easy to determine and, for the most part, those aunts and uncle lived and died in the two-county area where my families had lived since the 1850s. So I figured I’d do it ‘later.”

Later came around the time I got my DNA results back. Matches can be more easily analyzed when you know something on the descendants of the siblings of your great and great-great-grandparents. But it wasn’t just that. I learned of an uncle who spent 10 years in Montana and purchased federal land and served in World War I while he lived there. I discovered another uncle who actually homesteaded in Alberta, Canada, and whose sister who filed suit against her husband three times before the divorce was final.

There may be just as many stories in those ancestral siblings as there are in your ancestors. Don’t neglect them.


Heirs to an estate may be listed as coparceners and they are individuals to whom an inheritance descends jointly, typically heirs of a deceased individual.