Monday, May 17, 2021

Tips for Smashing Brick Walls

 It's been several months since I did my last post. I've had a number of lectures to write and client cases to work on. My personal genealogy research has been increasing slowly during my free time. I even made some breakthroughs in my tree including the following:

  • Confirmed the burial site of my great grandmother Tessie Freundlich and her son, Alfred Schild. 
  • Located an obituary for my great grand-aunt Rose Siegel, sister of my great grandmother Matilda Siegel. It even had a lead on one of her sisters with a married name! 
  • Located a new cousin who shared a picture of my great grandmother Tessie Freundlich, someone who I have never seen photos of.
  • Identifying some more leads on my maternal great grandfather Anton Gailunas' service on a merchant ship during WWI. 
  • Confirmed one of my 2nd great aunts died in Alberta, Canada
  • Obtained a photo of my 2nd great grandmother Eva Bodner's headstone
Here are some of my tips that I used to help accomplish the above:

  • Used the power of social media to seek out cousins. Look for potential cousins with public photos that may give you leads on the family. If you find a good lead, send a friend request and then immediately send a message introducing yourself. I personally don't like getting friend requests from random people without some type of message. 
  • If you're looking for the burial for someone, collect a list of the possible places it could be. I interviewed my grandmother and she gave me a lead that Tessie and her son were buried together in a cemetery on Long Island. The family was Jewish so that narrowed down the options. A friend on Twitter suggested a few cemeteries very close together. I had my answer in under 48 hours after calling and searching cemetery sites for their burial listings. 
  • To confirm a vital record event, look for any possibilities within a year range. If you have a good candidate and think they were a little far from home, don't completely dismiss that possibility. Many people would move in with their adult children and may relocate a far distance. Then order that record. Worst case, you know it's not them and can look at other possibilities. 
  • Going back to burials, if you find someone that you think may be related request a headstone photo request. It may give you more information. I was fortunate that someone took a picture of a someone I thought may be related and also of someone a few headstones down - it was my 2nd great grandmother! It also helps to provide the burial coordinates for anyone you're interested and other relatives nearby so a volunteer can go down the rows and get all of the photos you need. 
  • Searching newspaper records for clues, trying different variations of names. Particularly for 20th century and later, I try to collect all of the street addresses my family lived at. These addresses can be searched in newspapers and can help you tell the difference between two people of the same name.
What brickwalls have you busted recently? What are some of your favorite tips? 


  1. Life does get in the way. It happens. But, it looks like you made some incredible discoveries in the interim. =D

    I have sent friend requests to people and sent messages along the way too. On Facebook, I found several cousins who live in Switzerland. I had to use Google Translate to send a message, though, because my Italian isn't that great. Still, it worked out. I explained that I was using Google Translate. But, I swear it misses a few nuances.

    Any tips to make messages less awkward? I always feel a bit nervous sending that first message even though I've been talking to people online for ages and sending messages to DNA matches since 2017. I don't know why. But, I just feel awkward.

    As far as tips go, there's always a world tree like WikiTree which could get a cousin's attention. I wrote a blog about that on my own site.

    I haven't broken any brick walls, yet. But, I have asked cousins in Italy for help on one. AND my cousins in Switzerland did give me pics of my 2nd great-grandparents. So, that was cool. =D

  2. That's a great question. Making that first contact can seem awkward. Let me think this one over and I'll write up as a new blog post with some of my tips.