Genealogy Club Gets Advice on Breaking Brick Walls

(Photo courtesy of Robson Ranch Photo Club)

To a genealogist, a brick wall in family history research is a sign of failure. Hours of devoted research result in nothing. The brick wall appears to be a dead end.

On Oct. 5 members of Robson Ranch Genealogy Club received advice from a professional genealogist on how to break through a brick wall. Thomas MacEntee spoke to the club from his home in Chicago, Ill., with part of his family tree decorating the wall behind him.

The program began a few months ago, with club members submitting cases of their brick walls. About a dozen cases were submitted, and MacEntee selected the case of Peter Murray (1818-1888), an ancestor of club member Sandi Ziegler. For more than two decades, the parents of Peter Murray have been unknown.

Although MacEntee did not break off any bricks from this brick wall, he did give techniques that he has found useful in his personal and professional research. MacEntee uses a research log to track not only the details of records found, but the records themselves when saved to his computer. The log also records searches that did not result in finding a record, so that he will not waste time in the future looking for that which does not exist.

MacEntee also talked about using the record collection catalogs at sites such as Ancestry and FamilySearch, and the importance of a timeline to help reveal facts that need to be researched.

His techniques and advice can be helpful to genealogists working on their own brick walls.