Brickwall Solutions within Genealogy
When it comes to an end in your ancestral line, it's time to pull out the big guns (or other side of the brain) and think "outside the box." For me it is so easy to go down the familiar trail, you know: census, public records, other peoples discoveries, etc. The same old routine. When you follow a different formula, there is nothing more rewarding than to be the first person to make the connection. (Just be sure it is substantiated by one primary source or at least 3 secondary sources.)
Get out your paper and pen and list what you already know. Make a hypothesis (you can always change it later.) Look for a trail and diagram on a timeline or map. I personally use a map because I like to see where my ancestors have traveled.
Uncommon Places to Search
Don't just look at the tombstone pictures and databases. Contact the mortuary itself. The actual records sometimes asks for names and birthplace of the deceased parents. Also request for any application for the headstone or marker.
Other researchers may be looking for the same person or relatives. I've found missing birthdates, middle names I didn't know about, etc. (genforum.com, genconnect.com, familyhistory.com.) .
Passenger Lists/Naturalization Records
Don't just look where you think they arrived. I have found several people who came by way of Canada and through New Orleans.
Wills, Probate & Estate Files
Check out the siblings, children and in-laws. Also the location of property.
The American Digest System
This is the central system to all case law in the U.S. found in County Court Houses, large Universities. (Published by "The West Publishing Company")
If your ancestor was a glove maker in England, find out where the trade started and the towns where they lived. In the U.S. some directories are listed by the occupations.
You can send for the full military applications for pensions. This includes the applications that were denied. These applications include an array of family information.
Sometimes marriages are recorded in the land records. Go to the States BLM website. Recently I found a biography about an ancestor and birth/death information.
Go to the actual church or call them. If the church has been around for a long time, there is usually a Historian who may be willing to look up someone for you. In Canada, vital records were held in the Churchs until 1925.
During the Colonial period, they kept pretty good records. But something you may not know is that the Colonial records were sent home to the mother countries. Check with the National Archives there.
Institutions were for the mentally ill and those with communicable diseases like TB. Sometimes in the Census you will find your ancestor listed in an institution where the name will be at the top of the page. Otherwise try Googling institutions for the State you are looking in.
Check the enrollment of learning institutions, especially if you can't find your ancestor in a census with his family.
State/Town Biographical Indexes/Lodges.
Biographical indexes can be found on the State,
Town and Library Websites. Also, don't forget the
lodges, i.e. Catholic Knights, Elks, Lions, Masons, etc.
Many of the men belonged to a lodge.
Church Membership List
Don't skip the lists that don't show vital records,
some times they are added as a side note. Also,
knowing when a person became a member or
was dismissed is a clue of when they moved to
the area or when they left. This helps us avoid
doing needless searching.