​It happens to all of us at some point in our research. Somebody isn't in the location we thought they lived in; there's no record of them being born or their death. Grandpa always told us we have Navajo ancestors. Interesting as I can't find them in southern Ontario. It's terribly inconvenient and horribly frustrating! It also becomes the most important thing we could ever hope to find. For some reason, the fact that we can't find what we believed we knew means there's likely something very interesting to learn, right?!
 
There are ways to try and find the information you're looking for. Sometimes it requires a lot of creative thinking and even more digging. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees that you'll find what you're looking for. There is joy in continuing to try, though.
 
Remember, whatever you do, keep track of where you look and the results. You do NOT want to revisit the same thing over and over. You probably also don't want to call the same person over and over and take up their time.
 
 Suggestions for attacking the brick wall

  • Go back and check your records again. It is surprising how often you can look at a document and still not glean every  bit of information that it offers. If you've got everything on a software program, look at the piece of paper. It could be that there wasn't anywhere to type in some of information on the document.
  •  Look at family members. Maybe you can't find your great-great grandmother but you know more about her brother. Finding out about his life can lead you to information about the family - and maybe even your gr-gr-grandma.
  • Spelling variations. It is truly wonderful how many people volunteer their time to transcribe records. Those wonderful people are not always good at reading crappy and/or old-style handwriting. Don't trust derivative[1] records. Every step away from an original or primary source is another opportunity for error. That's one reason for spelling variations. The other is that, the further you go back in history, the less important consistent spelling was. Also, you never know who was chosen to (for example) gather the census records. He may not have been such a good speller and maybe whomever he was interviewing wasn't so great at it, either.
  •  Study the region in which they lived and find out about its history. See if that area has any local history resources that you can access. Look at libraries and archives, for example. Find out what brought people to that area and what changes have occurred over the years. Boundaries may have changed over the years, and you could be looking in the wrong county, for example.
  • Genealogy associations/societies I know, I already listed it, but they are such great resources that it's worth its own spot in the list. The benefits to contacting a society or association are listed below.
  1. Local histories
  2. Local knowledge from people who have lived in the area
  3. People who are generally delighted to help
  4. Family studies
  5. Cemetery records
  6. Vital Statistics records (birth/christening, marriage, death/burial)
  7. Queries. Most societies allow a certain number of queries to be included in their publications.
  •  Photographs. This is not something I'm personally good at, but I know you can sometimes get a lot from a photo. Maybe there's a street sign or the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty. This gives you concrete proof about when and where someone was.
  • Jobs. Finding out about what your ancestor did for a living can provide a lot of information about their lives. If you're lucky, the company s/he worked for may have had their own publication. My Mom has a neighbour who used to work with my Dad's father. She had an Eatons journal with an article in it that included a reference to my grandfather. Weird but hurray, right?!?! 
 
Resources
 
A Google search for 'genealogy brick walls' yields a lot of useful sites, blogs and articles. A very few of them are listed below.

 
[1] Derivative records are created from other things. You might have a list of individuals in the cemetery or a list of obituaries found in a publication. These lists are derived from other sources of information. 

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