Hitting a research wall can be so extremely frustrating when you are wanting to discover more about your family history. I have been in this situation many times, and it can seem like you will never find the information you seek, and make you wonder if it really is out there, or if it is lost in history forever!
Here are a few tips to spur you along in meeting your research goals.
1. Review your research notes from family and what you have located from trips to the history center, microfilms, and documents you have located. Sometimes there is a piece of information in these notes and documents that you may have overlooked that can be used to help you discover more.
– An address, land records, ages, dates, name of relatives you can use to cross reference…) See if there is anything you can use to further your knowledge of your relatives so you can identify more clearly and accurately further records to aid in your research.
When you are reviewing your notes, remember to ask yourself some important questions:
* How do I know this? * What document to I have that shows this fact to be true? * Is my source reliable?
2. Ask again! Don’t be afraid to ask living family members to tell you more. Add more details to information previously given, and clarify facts and stories that you have recorded. Speaking with a family member can be so helpful to point you in a new direction.
3. Think “outside of the box” Let your research take you to destinations. Research places your ancestors used to work, access any records that may still be available, check the history center for photos or histories of businesses… ) Check newspapers archives for stories dealing with your ancestors past addresses. Research hospitals and check availability of past records that may be available to you.
4. Take a break! This can be a difficult one for many of us who LOVE the research game. It can be so break, refresh and clear your mind so you can think more clearly when you resume your searches. For some, this may mean taking a week off, and for others it can be several months, and even years. Often for me, I take a break in hopes that in a few months more records will be available on line and I can find them more easily.
5. Seek help. There are many reputable companies that provide help for those researching family history. Ancestry.com provides these services as well as many other companies that specialize in research in other countries around the world. If you enlist the help of researchers (especially outside of the US, please do your own research as much as possible first, and read reviews on each company fun, but also time consuming to search for your families history. Sometimes you need to just take a before selecting a company to work for you). I once hired a professional research services, and it was a bad experience. I was dealt with in a very unprofessional manner and was very dissatisfied with the service. I do know that there are other companies that are more professional. There are some great options out there.
6. Some information may not be available to you either at all or right now because of your circumstances. Sometimes information is lost of just plain not available to you because of your location, financial obstacles, errors in/or lack of documentation (either on your end or due to an error or when the document was created or filed, or due to damage from fires, floods…).
In situations like this where you may not know the whole story or be able to find the answers you need. Don’t be discouraged. Keep plugging away.
7. I’ll leave you with one final suggestion. Ask a fellow researcher or even myself (for free). Send them or myself what information you have and soak up the suggestions. Sometimes all you need is a new perspective or opinion. Be encouraged and encouraging to fellow researchers. This can be difficult, time consuming work that does not always result in forward progress. Help each other out!
Thanks for reading. Happy searching.