Sunday, April 16, 2017

My First Real Brick Wall

Here it is. It had come. I knew it would happen. I knew I would get to one. There is no surprise.

There is no comfort in knowing that.

I am at the point in my climb up my family tree where further progress is proving quite difficult…and I am not far up my tree at all. You may recall I grew up and spent most of my young life overseas, away from grandparents and their - and my - non-family relatives. When they all died - my parents, their siblings, and all four of my grandparents are dead - none of them had left any documentation to go on, so my search has been slow, laborious, and often frustrating.

As you have read if you have read my previous blog posts - and I hope you have...or will! - I have learned (and validated) things about my grandparents that differed significantly from what I thought I knew growing up. I learned that, contrary to my young knowledge, many of them were actually born here in the USA. In fact, not only were they born here in the United States, there is a long history of native-USA-born relatives in my tree. There is also a Canadian connection through my maternal grandmother, Nine Lillian Thompson, about which I knew nothing. I had been taught that she was a Scot!

But as I get to my second great-grandparent level, I have encountered a problem I knew existed, knew I would encounter, and hoped I would be able to resolve without too much difficulty.

Because I have no records and have many relatives with the same or similar names, differentiating among them is becoming difficult. Add to that the fact that enumerators of both United States and England census reports tend to spell one major branch of my tree, my maternal grandmother's BATTY side, as either BATTY or BATTEY. 

Not having any documentation from anyone about their past, I have been unable in some cases to validate that this person's or that person's record or document is, in fact, a relative. I wrote last time that I found a record of a relative whose name was illegible either because it had been erased, damaged by water, or for some other reason. 

As you know, I use the online resources of, Family Tree Maker, and Family Search because I do not have the resources to visit the locations and review the source documents in person, but in this one case, I doubt it would make any difference. My online sources provide high-quality reproductions; the original document would not magically have my ancestor's name appear.

So when I get to a point in my search that has many "Batty" or "Burke" names living in the same general area at the same general time, it is difficult to determine which, IF ANY, of those names is a relative. 
That is where I am now.

To make matters worse, I have validated relatives with James, John, Samuel, William, and Edward names galore, as I am sure many other Christian-based families have. In fact, I am currently evaluating one branch I found with all those names used as sons, fathers, grandsons, and grandfathers...and I have not found a connection to a known relative in my own tree. I am sure there is one, I am sure I will find it, but this brick wall is, indeed, very sturdy.

Keep in mind that is with relatively close ancestors; I really do not loo relish getting into the 5th or 6th great-grandparent level. They will all live in areas of England, Ireland, and Scotland that are very far removed from where I am now. 

My tree is growing, the branches expanding, and the leaves increasing in numbers. Not having records, documents, or oral histories has proven to make this process much more difficult than I really anticipated.

I have not even started on my maternal grandmother's Thompson Canadian side. I have no documents on her, either, and her line seems to hail from Quebec, with lots of records in French, so won't that be a fun journey! 

But that is for later...


  1. Not sure if I should extend congratulations on encountering your first brick wall or not. Perhaps it's evidence that you're officially part of the genealogy club.

    Another low-cost tip to consider: write snail mail letters to the local genealogy and historical societies in which you're researching. I've found that it can be helpful to let them know the names of folks I'm researching. Often times they have information that can help untangle the uncertainty. Sometimes it comes from resources I hadn't thought to research or ask about. Good luck with your continued research!

    1. What a wonderful suggestion! I am so glad I have a resource of experts AND those who have "been here before." It makes the journey - and the climb - so much easier. Thank you.

  2. Try not to stress to hard. Something will come along eventually to at least loosen a brick or two... I know it's a frustrating process (this has been the case for me on my father's paternal line) but I am seconding you genealogy vibes of goodness and happiness so... I look forward to reading more!

    1. I know I should not stress too hard; as an experienced former investigator, I know things are not always found easily or in plain sight. This climbing my family tree, however, is a different ball game altogether. The stress is different; it is actually (almost) enjoyable, which is why I am typing this response near midnight, while also dealing with 5 open tabs up top!

  3. The brick walls make us better genealogists. If it's always easy, you don't bother to look elsewhere. So I say, congratulations! ~ Cathy

    1. Thank you, Cathy. I know as I get deeper into my tree, the brick walls will become more plentiful and difficult. There will be many more longer nights, as there was last night! But that is the fun, right? If it was easy, I would get bored quickly.