Hampshire Genealogical Society

More research tips – ‘Brick walls’

1. When searching online, remember that ‘less is more’

  • try to enter as few details as possible on the search screen
  • try different combinations of name, age and birthplace
  • try searching using just the first name or just the surname

2. Try using wild cards to find those difficult names

  • * stands for any number of characters (including no characters)
  • ? stands for a single character

3. Avoid precise birthplaces where possible

  • people were not always consistent when it came to giving their birthplace
  • as a rule people tend to be less precise the further they are away from their birthplace

4. Think about the shape of the name

  • where names have been mistranscribed, thinking about the written ‘shape’ of the name is often more likely to produce results than considering variant spellings

5. Where possible, search for children rather than adults

  • children’s ages are more likely to be accurately recorded

6. Search for the family member with the least common first name

  • search for Herbert Smith, rather than his brother, John
  • weigh this against the increased possibility of mistranscription of less common names

7. Try to develop a ‘Critical Eye’

  • keep asking yourself, ‘How do I know that this is the right document?’
  • once you’re satisfied that it is, ask yourself what you know now that you didn’t know before

8. Always look at the actual document (or digital image/copy of it)

  • don’t rely on an index or a partial transcript – you may be missing crucial details

9. Use a variety of websites

  • if you can’t find what you’re looking for on one website, try one of the others

10. And finally … never give up!

  • if your ancestors lived in the UK, they almost certainly left a paper trail and it should be possible to track them down!


Courtesy of: Lifelines Research www.lifelinesresearch.co.uk

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