Genealogy Brick Wall Busting: Step 3 – Analyze Everything

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So, now you have completed Step 1: Which is to Review Previous Research on Your Brick Wall Ancestor. You have also completed Step 2: Which is to take everything from Step 1 and rearrange it into a timeline. Now we are ready for Step 3 of the Genealogy Brick Wall Busting Process, and that is to Analyze Everything.

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This post is part three of a multi-part series on how to bust through genealogy brick walls and discover the identity and life story of even your toughest, elusive ancestor. Here are the previous installments:

Analyze Everything

Analyze everything?? You might say to me, but we already went through everything twice. And that is true, we have zoomed way into this ancestor’s life with a magnifying glass. We have reviewed everything we already know about him or her and even rearranged it to help us see it from a new perspective.

But now we need to zoom back out and look at the big picture that we have created about this ancestor. We are going to analyze everything together and look for the gaps, discrepancies, and other issues. These problems will become more clear as we look at the overall picture of our ancestor’s life that we know about.

Find the Gaps

As you look at the overall picture you have created for this brick wall ancestor during Steps 1 & 2, notice where you have gaps in your information about this person and their family members.

  • Are you missing some of the children’s birth, marriage, or death information?
  • Do you have a gap in your timeline for a period of time, maybe even an entire decade or two?
  • Perhaps you don’t have any information between when the ancestor left the old county and immigrated to the new country?

The list could go on. Look for these types of gaps in the information you have on this ancestor and their family members so far.

Write Down Your Thoughts

You may not be surprised that I am going to recommend you write down what you notice. You can make notes in the research report from Step 1, in the timeline from Step 2, or you can start a fresh document for Step 3.

Just make sure you write it down in a way that you will remember what your thoughts were. Write in a way that makes it clear that the notes are your analysis and not part of the original records.

Look for Discrepancies

Next, look for discrepancies in the data. We are not going to resolve these discrepancies in this step of the process. But we are going to note them, so we can work on sorting them out later.

  • Do you have a list of several birth locations and years for your ancestor?
  • Did you find records for their marriages in two different states at the same time?
  • Did the ancestor marry a second spouse when the first was still alive, but there is no evidence of divorce?
  • Were older children in the family born before the wife, or when she was too young to be a mother?
  • Do you have two children in the family born less than 9 months apart?
  • Was the ancestor creating documents in two locations at once, such as land deeds?

Some of these situations may be legitimate for an ancestor. But these types of discrepancies send up red flags that should be looked into. Make note of these issues.

Think Deeply, But Don’t Act… Yet!

Spend plenty of time pondering and thinking deeply about the overall picture you have of this brick wall ancestor. As you do, more ideas will come to your mind. Write down anything that stands out to you as a gap, discrepancy, or other data issue.

Don’t ACT on any of these ideas at this point in the process. But, I promise we are getting very close to making an ACTION PLAN in the next step!

Join me here again next time to see how Step 3 looks in the case study of Brick Wall Bertha. Then I will see you again in a few weeks to work on Step 4 of the Genealogy Brick Wall Busting Process!

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