Ideas on Breaking Through a Brick Wall


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Ideas on Breaking Through a Brick Wall

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toukokuu 29, 2008, 5:50pm

This past Tuesday I spent a frustrating day at the Delaware Public Archives (a great repository and very helpful people working there). I found an online reference to probate records for one of my great aunts. The records are housed at the DPA, so I took a day vacation and drove the 1-1/2 hours to the Archives. I found the microfilm containing the probate record, loaded up the film and cranked through the reel. I found a cover sheet listing my great aunt Josephine Carre Black. I expected to see the record on the next crank but there was no record. It just went on to the next person's record. Bummer!

I was actually trying to track down the daughter of Josephine whose name was also Josephine Black. Josephine Carre married Thomas Black in 1913. Little Josephine was born in 1916. By the 1920 Census Thomas had died the the family was living with grandma. In 1924, the older Josephine died. The 1930 Census still shows little Josephine living with her grandma. After that record I can not find a trace of little Josephine. Also, not surviving relatives that might know the history.

I am basically at a brick wall until the 1940 Census is released. Does anyone have a suggestions for breaking through this particular brick wall or just breaking brick walls in general?

toukokuu 29, 2008, 6:03pm

Do you have any idea how long she lived? Would she possibly have applied for a social security number? You could get the application then.

Anyone else?

toukokuu 30, 2008, 9:48am

Have you checked marriage records? Since Josephine was 14 in 1930, there's a good chance she would have been married before the 1940 census. I wouldn't be surprised if she didn't marry at an early age since she was orphaned. You might check at the county clerk's office (or whatever the equivalent is in Delaware) and also the local newspaper.

tammikuu 21, 2009, 6:47pm

I would highly recommend looking at newspapers from the local area for articles mentioning Josephine. Newspapers are a very underused resource for genealogical research. Many historical newspapers are available online, either through one of the paid services like or the NEHGS. Check to see if your local library has a subscription to either. I often use my library card to logon from home and peruse newspapers from many states. I have broken through lots of brick walls by using newspapers. Good luck!

tammikuu 22, 2009, 8:52am

Look for obituaries for the grandmother and investigate any names mentioned. If you can find funeral records check out all the Mr. & Mrs. John Doe’s and any unmarried individuals you cannot identify. She could be there but only listed as Mrs. John Doe (or whatever). Depending on the year of the grandmothers passing the Josephine you are looking for could have died first but she could have had children that attended.

An 18-year-old orphan in 1934? That had to be rough. My grandfather impressed on me the importance of having at least 1$ in your pocket so you did not get arrested for vagrancy. If the newspaper lists arrests I always look at them.

helmikuu 4, 2009, 8:22pm

I wanted to post an update for my search for Josephine Carre Black. Well, I found her! Since my Dad did not ever meet most of his cousins, I had trouble finding any of them. I sent a letter to a guy that I thought might be a cousin. He was. I went to his house for a visit (he is in his eighties). His daughter (my 2nd cousin) was also there. Although he did not know my Dad, he had pictures of my grandfather, pictures I had never seen before. We got talking about other relatives and I asked him if he knew what became of his cousin Josephine. Turns out she married a local man, had 3 children, and passed away in 1997. I was happy to hear she lived a long and happy life.

I guess the moral of the story is go with the basics first. Try to contact your oldest living relatives. One letter helped me fill in two branches of my family in which I had hit brick walls.

Also thanks for all the great suggestions. I followed up on most of them. Once I knew her married name I did find her SS#. Never did find a marriage record but I still have to check a couple of places. Delaware newspapers are available for the time frame of interest but they are on microfilm at only 2 libraries and neither is that close to where I live but I will get there eventually.

I'll be back with another brick wall soon.

helmikuu 5, 2009, 2:03pm

Congratulations, it is always good to hear about somebody’s brick wall coming down.

elokuu 25, 2010, 10:16pm

I broke through a brick wall last week...

When I began inquiries about my family, I rapidly hit a dead end with one great-grandfather. I could find him in the 1900 census at age 20, in the town where he remained until he died, and I had consistent information about his birth date and place, and the names of his parents, but requests for official records got the response that the records had probably been destroyed by flood or fire, if they ever existed. In 2003, I wrote a letter to my father's cousin, who was the oldest of the relatives still living in the town of interest, had known my great-grandfather, and seemed the only hope for access to anecdotes or documents. I told him what I had established so far. He replied that he knew less than I did, and "I was never interested in the past, as I couldn't alter it." With sporadic efforts over the years, I found a family in the census that seemed a plausible family of origin, and traced most of its members through 60 years, but several pieces of information didn't quite match, and some of the matches seemed too common for identification. I could spin a plausible tale to account for the discrepancies, but I couldn't be sure. I requested official records for this family also, and got a few bits that were consistent with it being the right family, and that seemed remarkably coincidental if it wasn't, but still... And there things sat.

Then out of the blue last week, my father got a phone call from his cousin's son. Who reported that his father died a few years ago, he was sorting through boxes of his father's papers, and he came across the letter that I wrote seven years ago (with an address and phone number that are no longer valid). Along with letters from other relatives and captioned photos going back to the early 1900s, exactly the sort of thing that I had wished for. And the cousin also has access to a family bible, which lists birth and death dates that precisely match the dates I had established, from cemetery records, for the family in the census. So my plausible tale has been confirmed.

So the moral of this story is similar: contact people. Also, keep chipping away at the problem. The family in the census could've been wishful thinking, but I kept collecting information, in frustratingly little bits, over a frustratingly long time, with the hope that something somewhere would either prove or disprove the connection. So now, instead of starting from scratch with my cousin's information about a few members of _my_ family, I am able to build rapidly on the information that I had already established for three generations of _that_ family.

elokuu 26, 2010, 1:43am

I have found that and go to the community forum and ask is the quickest, cheapest and most effective way of getting genealogical information.

The Australian forum is very active and there are people there who are usually able to help. I am not sure just how active the American one is but I have had some good results from there as well.

elokuu 26, 2010, 9:09am

Depends. There are surname boards and also location boards, and I've found both of them useful. I met a fourth cousin on one, and we exchanged information by email and snail mail. Some of the boards are less active though, and I have several stray people with common names and unknown places of origin, who don't seem to fit into any of the established families. I use the Ancestry census a lot -- it's well indexed, so it's possible to search for people even if the information is sketchy. And I'm fortunate that some ancestors lived in states or counties where old records have been put online.

elokuu 26, 2010, 10:18pm

#8-wonderful news for you!! Congrats on breaking through that brick wall. Its tough sometimes!

elokuu 27, 2010, 5:44am

I too have recently broken through a brick wall, trying to find a particular Edward Davies in Wales. And in the process I met up with a half-third cousin who was also researching the same family.

I use the Ancestry census as well but unfortunately anything earlier than 1841 in England is not helpful and there I find that the baptismal records give a great deal of information.

Another thing which I have found immensely helpful is to get your family tree on-line. I have been contacted by a number of cousins - even a 5th cousin - with whom I have been able to exchange information. They have googled a name on my tree and were able to email me.

elokuu 27, 2010, 8:42am

Earlier this year I broke through one wall and cracked another. I had to do a paper for a history class on how race affected a member of my family. I had been told, and I knew her, that my father's maternal grandmother was half Indian. We all know that stories of Indians in the family are exaggerated and that often families claimed Indian ancestors rather than admit to African ancestry. I am not making a value judgment, just stating that it happened.

Even knowing when and where she was born I could not find any information on her before the 1910 Federal Census but now, with the internet, I hit gold. First Google Earth showed me that the three addresses I had for her were all within 10 miles of each other, although they were all in different counties. I added two generations, her grandparents moved to south eastern Kentucky in the 1830s, about the time of the Indian Removal. It is not that cut and dried though. She was born is a small village named Travelers Rest, ten miles off of the Wilderness Trail. There is documentation that the Quakers leaving North Carolina due to persecution for their anti-slavery beliefs used the Wilderness Trail as their primary route to the "Miamis" (Indiana). What traveler rests 10 miles off the beaten path? Maybe African Americans resisting the bonds of slavery? With that question I started looking at the Underground Railroad and African American resistance to the institution of slavery. Which led me to a foot note about a court case involving, someone who I believe is one of my fathers paternal ancestors over emancipated slaves. Now that the school year has started again and Miami's libraries are open late and weekends I might get a chance to take a look at the court record and learn a little more about my ancestors.

elokuu 27, 2010, 7:08pm

TLCrawford: I just checked your profile, and coincidentally, my current region of interest is Hamilton Co OH. I've become enamored of its online probate court archives (which, yielded, among other items, a guardianship case confirming a family rumor that my great-grandfather had been an orphan). Your research sounds fascinating -- the historical context really comes to life when you're tracing the decisions made by individuals.

maaliskuu 14, 2011, 7:18pm

Speaking of Hamilton County and brick walls - My g-g-grandfather's niece, Olive Mowry, died (according to her death notice in the Cincinnati newspaper) 12 April 1841 at age 25 at her uncle's on Dickerson Hill. To the best of my knowledge, he lived at the time on what became known as Price Hill. No one seems to have ever heard of a Dickerson Hill in Hamilton County, Ohio. Any ideas?

maaliskuu 15, 2011, 8:13am

I lived in Price Hill as a small child but the only street names I recall are West Eighth and Enright Avenue. The Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library has some city directories from the 1800s online.

They were the phone books of the day with listings for both business and people. Each company that published one seemed to have a different idea of how to list everything. so you will have to study each directory a bit before you can make best use of it. There are a few things to note. Many of the directories were from before the use of street numbers, be prepared to see listings like SW corner Elm & 15th. Poor people are poorly represented. I guess that the people publishing the directories never imagined any one would ever need to find a poor person. Still, there is a lot of information in them. Often the home and work address is listed as well as occupation.

Good luck.

maaliskuu 15, 2011, 6:22pm

>15 genek: You say "no one seems to have ever heard of a Dickerson Hill." What sources have been checked? Who is no one? Have you tried the Cincinnati Historical Society? Have you checked with the history and genealogy department of the Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County? Have you tried special collections at University of Cincinnati?