The Single Biggest Reason a Genealogy Search Fails 

Brick walls are common in genealogy. And in all honesty, everyone has at least one family line that will never be solved. Not for lack of trying, but for lack of available records.A genealogy search often fails because of lack of knowledge

But for most other searches, what is the single biggest reason a genealogy search fails?

Lack of knowledge.

Five genealogy knowledge fails

1.  Type of resources

Do you know the types of records that would have been kept during your ancestor’s lifetime? For example, are you aware of inventories (in probate records) or banns (in marriage records)?

The more you research the types of records kept at any given time the better researcher you will become – and the quicker you can track down records both online and off. (See Record Categories below)

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2.  Do you know the online resources relating to your ancestor’s locale?

For example, Texas researchers can access a huge database of Texas historical information in the Encyclopedia of Texas Online. And I’ve found valuable clues in the USGS Names Database, information on Austin’s Colony,and the Republic of Texas Claims database

Every state has free resources for genealogy research. Most of us have more than one family line in the same state. If you have several families in a state, take time to dig out all of the state resources.

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3.  Have you researched the changing boundary lines of counties and states?

You may think your 1789 ancestor lived in Kentucky, but Kentucky, as a state, didn’t exist until 1792. Before that it was part of Virginia.

There are several sites that show the dates of changing boundary lines. Here are two, but if you need more, Google them. I suggest you bookmark the sites or save them to your (free) Evernote account for easy reference.

List of States by Date of Statehood

USGenWeb (you will find a list of Counties on the pages for each State; charts will also show parent counties (if applicable). Here’s a screenshot of a few Georgia counties to give you a taste of what you can find.

You can find county formation information on the USgenweb site. Search for your state of interest and you'll find county formation lists on each state page

4. Not knowing how to search available resources like Ancestry.com

On this one I’m going to refer you to my own book, the Unofficial Guide to Ancestry.com. In particular, I hope you learn how to become a power user of the Ancestry.com catalog as it’s where I begin almost all of my searches.

5. Not searching the Family History Library catalog

Did you know that you can order microfilms and microfiche online from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, to be sent to your nearest Family History Center?

You do not have to belong to the LDS church to order materials from the library or access them at a local Family History Center (I am not a member). I recently found a microfiche that I hope contains a missing link to a surname line I’m researching. I ordered the microfiche and hope to announce successful results.

Access to Library Catalog with this link.

Record Categories

At-home or personal records (can be newspaper clippings, marriage certificates, birth announcements; anything you have personal access to)

Vital records: Birth, christening, baptism, marriage, divorce, death, burial. These records can be created by a governmental entity, a church, or other type of institution

Locale: Any records that show where an ancestor lived. This can include census, city directory, or a property map.

Occupational records: Occupations can be found on census, employment records, obituaries, and military records.

Immigration: Records include ship passenger lists, ports of immigration, census, naturalization records.

Land ownership: Can be found in several places including census, plat maps, probate records.

Court records: Civil and criminal records, any type of legal transaction, court records.

Memberships: Records include organizations, clubs, churches, or any kind of cultural institution, i.e. membership in a Portuguese Fisherman’s Organization.