by Ruby Coleman
Genealogists use the phrase brick wall for the challenges in research. This typically describes the feeling we get when research goes no where and there seems to be no solution to continue researching in a resourceful manner.
Challenge is the key word! As a researcher, challenge yourself to find a way around or over the brickwall. Set a goal that is realistic but yet challenging. Set a realistic time period for doing the research. Resolve to remove the brickwall.
There are many ideas shared by genealogists as to how to get over the brickwall. Very seldom do we actually examine our own motives for research and the manner in which we perform genealogical research. It is easy to push difficult tasks out of the way. It is also easy to push unpleasant tasks out of the way.
Perhaps your research is becoming uncomfortable. Not only is it leading to dead ends, but the results may not be satisfactory. Learn to accept your ancestors as they were and not as you expect them to be. Nobody has a perfect lineage!
Consistency is another key word. While your research may seem like “looking for a needle in a haystack,” stay with it. Exert patience and challenge yourself to locate records. There is plenty of information to be found. Determine what is needed, such as land records, probate records, census records, a then go after them.
Focus is yet another key word. Particularly with the ease and swift retrieval of information on Internet, we expect all research to go at the same speed. If it cannot be found on Internet, why look elsewhere! Wrong! Focus on your research goal, determine which records might lead to solving a problem and then determine where those records are located. Resolve to use more than Internet in your research.
Evaluate can be added to the word list. Look at the sources you are using, the types of evidence and evaluate them in conjunction with the now known facts of your ancestry. Are there holes in the research? Are there questions that still arise? Is more proof needed? Write out your ideas and theories, study them, evaluate what you are doing.
Organization is definitely the key to overcoming obstacles in research. Keep your charts updated. Do your computer entry work as your research progresses. Document your sources and keep track of where you file or place things. Review your notes, even those taken months or years ago. Resolve to do more than just find the records.
Read, study and learn! Genealogists can never read and study enough. There is a world of information to be found. First you need to know how to find it, how to evaluate it and how to use it. Study the time period in which your ancestor lived; geography and the history are important. Include collateral lines, friends and neighbors. Your research will not develop until you realize your ancestor was a human being and not somebody stuffed away with dates and names in a computerized genealogical database.
Today we have access to many helpful and well written methodology books. In addition we can attend society meetings, share our knowledge, learn from others and also attend conferences of various sizes and in various locations. It never got any better! There is plenty to learn and plenty of help available.
Plan your research. Determine where records are located, how you will obtain or use them. What is the best approach to accomplishing the research? Make logs and lists of what you have checked and what needs to be checked. Keep track of your correspondence, queries, contacts, sources checked and the results. Make time to do it right!
Living in the 21st century, in the fast lane of cyberspace, we think research plus results should happen quickly, perhaps even overnight. There is wisdom in the old philosophy of one lineage at a time. That can be difficult to accomplish, particularly if you have several lineages in a given area. The true wisdom is to absorb your research and efforts in a family group or groups within a designated area and most importantly, stick with it.
Procrastination is the downfall of genealogical research. It is easy to put things off until another day. Who wants to write letters when you can send e-mail? Maybe the answers will be on Internet and you won't have to go to the library, to the courthouse or rent microfilm. When we meet up with the brickwall, we put the research away. Make the time to do the research now and do it properly.
If it hurts, put it away. Make time later, with a fresh approach, to challenge yourself once again. Laugh and learn from past mistakes. Resolve to get over the brickwalls.