BREAKING DOWN GENEALOGICAL BRICKWALLS (John L. Andrews, Jr)

I.     IDENTIFY YOUR PROBLEM

A.     Gather all the information you can on the individual you are

researching.  Pay attention to details.  Don’t neglect to

document facts about age, residence, siblings, children,

spouse, neighbors, etc.

B.     Revisit each reference you have on the individual.  Recheck

each fact and date.  Did you correctly interpret each

document?  Are there “facts” that cannot be attributed to a

source?  Always check the original document.

C.     Identify where the problem lies.  Is it a problem with….age,

marriage, birthplace, death place, parents, residence,

military service, etc?

II.    TRY THESE TECHNIQUES

A.     Birth date, birthplace, or age problem?

1.  Census Records, Mortality Schedules, Cemetary

Records, State Death Certificates, City Death

Certificates, Published Obituaries, Family Bibles,

Church Records, Voter Lists, Probate Records, Equity

Records, Guardianships, Tax Records, Marriage

License, School Records, Biographical Pu-blications &

Funeral Home Records.

2.    18th and 19th Century families often had children at

two year intervals.  This can be used to estimate the

approximate birth dates of siblings.  Warning: Be sure

to consider the possibilty that some children died during

infancy.  Also, the mortality rate for women of child-

bearing age was higher during this period than today.

Consider the possibility of a 3rd marriage for the father.

B.     Death date or place of death problem?

1.  Mortality Schedules, Cemetary Records, State Death

certificates, City Death Certificates, Published

Obituaries, Family Bibles, Military Records, Church

Records, Probate Records, Equity Records,

Guardianships, Coroner’s Records, Tax Records (when

did they disappear from rolls?0, Biographial

publications & Funeral Home Records.

2.   Land and Property records sometimes hold clues as to

when an individual owned.  Identify neighbors and

survey these deeds and plats also.  Many times, buried

in the body of a deed is a chain of title that will give a

clue when an individual died and the land was

transferred to an heir or sold as part of the estate

division.

C.     Marriage problem?

1.   Vital Records, Church Records, Probate Records,

Obituaries, Census Records, Bible Records, Military

Widow’s Pension Applications, etc.

2.   Marriage settlements often recorded in the

Miscellaneous Records Series of South Carolina or in

County Deed Books.  Often times if a settlement is

recorded in a County Deed Book, it will not be indexed

in the general index to land transactions.  However,

some of the older County Deed Books have individual

indexes of all recorded documents.

3.  Equity Records often provide information on 19th

century marriages.  Warning: Most Equity Records

are not properly indexed.  Therefore; it may be necessary

to check Equity Records of many people who lived in a

particular neighborhood in order to establish a marriage.

After 1869, check the Judgement Rolls of the county you

are interested in.

4.  County Marriage Records.  Many individuals recorded

their marriages decades after the event took place.

Check county marriage records to see if this applied to

your ancestors.

5.  Some county marriages were recorded in Will Books in

the first decade of the 19th century.  Darlington and

Marion Counties are good examples of this.  In Sumter

County, early recorded marriages have been found in the

Minutes Book of the Ordinary, 1816-1835.

6.  Dower releases.  Found on many deeds.  This gives the

first name of the wife of an individual who is selling land.

In the colonial era, many of these are found in the

Miscellaneous Records of South Carolina.

D.     Parentage, children or other family member problems?

1.  Vital Records, Church Records, Census Records,

Cemetery Records, Probate Records, Bible Records,

Funeral Home Records, Obituaries, Equity Records,

County Records, Biographical Records, County

Publications, Guardianships, Military Records, etc.

E.     Residence and migration problems?

1.  Become familiar with local creeks, stream, rivers, etc.

Use period maps, geological survey maps and plats to

locate various watercourses.

2.  Gazatteers.

3.  Census records, Mortality schedules, vital records and

obituaries may give place of birth.  Don’t forget to check

the census records for each child when they become an

adult.  Remember that the 1880’s Census gives the

birthplace of each person’s parents.

4.  Become familiar with historic migration patterns.

5.  Check land records for and “exit deed” or a power of

attorney.  These may indicate migration patterns.

6.  Identify neighbors.  Many times entire neighborhoods

migrated together.

7.  Colonial migration.  Check the SC Council Journels.

Also check Revolutionary War Pension Applications.

8.  Check City Directories.

III.   WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS

A.  Identify and make contact with distant cousins.  Often these

families will have just the reference, Family Bible,

unrecorded deed, etc.  You need to break down that brick-

wall.

B.   Check genealogical publications for the area you are

researching.  Many publications publish obscure sources

that might be useful in solving your problem.

C.   Don’t rely on the index to a book on the county or region

you are researching.  Many books published in the 19th and

20th centuries have very rudimentary indexes, if any.   Take

time to scan or read the book.

D.  Check the records of the Court of General Sessions.  This

court administered the law in criminal cases.  These are

available for most counties in SC.  Records may include all

or part of the following:  Session Rolls, Sessions Journals and

Session Dockets.  Yes, your ancestor may have been in trouble

with the law.  Bastardy cases may also be found here.

E.  Check adjacent counties for information on your ancestor.

Consider the possibly of the county boundaries changing.

F.   Check the Allen County Public Library’s “Periodical Source

Index” (PERSI).  This is a comprehensive index to

thousands of genealogical publications dating from the 19th

century to the present.  This is available online (for a fee) or

can be purchased on CD-ROM.

G.   Check the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections.

Most large libraries have this available.  This may be the tool

needed to identify the location of those “lost” family papers.

H.   Use manuscript guides to major libraries and historical

societies.  Two to check from SC are the Manuscript Guide to

South Caroliniana Library and the Manuscript Guide to

Historical Society.

I.   Take that “how – to” guide to genealogical research off the

shelf and study it.  There are also many guides to research

in various states or with various ethnic groups.  Learn what

records are unique to your particular problem.

J.   Take a walk on the wild side.  Go to your local

genealogical library or archives and browse through time

period appropriate records or record group descriptions that

you have not previously checked.  Many times that “hidden”

reference can be found in a record that you would not normally

check.  Let serendipity be your guide.

 

 

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