Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Lemon Grove Researchers Group Brick Wall Ancestors

My CVGS colleague, Susi Pentico, started her own blog, called Susi's Chatty Performances on Genealogy, to document her own research and family history, and has included queries for several of her "brick wall ancestors."

Now she has started a second blog, called Ancestor Seekers by the Root Bound, for her colleagues in the Lemon Grove Library Researchers group that meets twice a month at the Lemon Grove (CA) Library. At present, there are a number of posts written by the group members, describing their research brick walls. The post titles include:

* William Wood Lawrence Union Army

* PHILIP ELLER from Germany

* WILLIS ADAM TWAY, Whom are his parents?

* Robert to Thomas DUNLAP in Pennsylvania

* How I found DAVID MC ARTHUR, my Great Great Great Grandfather

* Timothy DAVIES--Wales ** William THOMAS -- Wales

* Addie Josephine Smith -- Ohio

* Lawrence McGrath ---Nova Scotia/United States

These problems are fairly typical of many research problems that beginner and intermediate researchers have - there usually are not enough records readily available (either in family papers, a book at a local library, or in online resources) to easily solve the problem of the researcher. The solution is often found once the researcher broadens the search to include extended family and associates of their "problem ancestors," records in the Family History Library microforms, records found in local or regional genealogical and historical societies, state archives, county courthouses and town halls. In other words - "It's Not all on the Internet!" and "The Ancestors are Hiding in Places You Haven't Looked Yet!"

There are many ways to put brick wall problems like this on the Internet so that the query is found by a search engine - message boards, mailing lists, web pages, blogs, etc. Anyone that puts queries of this nature on the Internet needs to understand that search engines will only find exactly what you ask them to - so spelling of names, including the maiden name of females, and the complete names of children (including known name variations) are mandatory in order to be found in an online query. Likewise, accurate spellings of localities is necessary - use an atlas to determine the correct spelling of a town or county.

Doing a simple Google search resulted in new information when I briefly worked on two of the problems yesterday. In order to narrow searches for person's names, I typically will use a search query like ["isaac seaver" lucretia leominster] if I want to find information about Isaac Seaver, with a wife named Lucretia, that lived in Leominster, Massachusetts. Note the quote marks around "isaac seaver" - that tells the search engine to find matches with those words in that order. If the person had a middle name, then a search query like ["isaac * seaver" lucretia leominster] should be used in addition to the first one in order to catch matches that have the middle name or a middle initial. Some databases have information listed last name first, so a search query like ["seaver isaac"] might find information on Isaac Seaver also.

I'm trying to go through these problems occasionally and offer some research advice. If you have a spare 30 minutes or so, I'm sure that these researchers would appreciate any comments or advice that you may be able to offer.

I encourage my readers to add these two blogs to your blog reader list - perhaps more queries on these blogs can be answered by your experience and research abilities.

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