Category Archives: Family History Brick Walls

Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE 2015

The world’s largest Family History show is being staged at Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre this year from the 16th to the 18th April 2015, moving to the Midlands after many  years exhibiting in London.

Tickets are on sale at:

Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE
Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE

This premier event in many a family historian’s calendar brings together all the main genealogy providers, family history societies and experts for one-to-one guidance.

There will be many talks on different facets of researching your forebears both in the SoG workshop studios as well as those on various stands in the main hall.

TheGenealogist family history talks at Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE
TheGenealogist  and S&N Genealogy family history talks on their stand at Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE

DNA techniques aim to help solve murder mystery

An interesting piece of news from the BBC reports on how scientists are investigating the murder of a man in Northampton in 1930. At the time, the man’s badly-burned body was examined and samples taken during a post-mortem examination at a pub near the crime scene in the village of Hardingstone. The perpetrator was soon caught but the body was never identified.

Decades later, a woman was investigating her family ancestry when her grandmother revealed her long-held belief that her uncle was the man burned to death in a car.The uncle, William Thomas Briggs, left his home in London for a doctor’s appointment in November 1930, but disappeared and was never seen again. “My family were convinced that William was the victim,” said Samantha Hall, whose grandmother had confided in her.

The family were put in touch with the University of Leicester and the team that successfully identified King Richard III whose bones were found under a Leicester car park in 2012.

“The scientists were able to obtain a full single male mtDNA profile from the slide to compare to the family,” a spokeswoman for the team said. The result is due to be revealed to Ms Hall shortly. There’s more details available from the BBC website.

DNA genealogy testing
DNA helps solve murder mystery from 1930


Prices of DNA tests slashed by TheGenealogist!

Latest news from TheGenealogist is they have significantly reduced the prices on their DNA tests. You can now buy a test for under £50! Some of the other more extensive tests offer savings of over £100 and £150 too.

DNA tests make ideal Christmas presents for genealogists or even for yourself. With the reduction in price, they are definitely worth having a look at to possibly help break down that break wall or find that missing ancestral link you’ve been struggling with.

There are three types of test offered by TheGenealogist to choose from:

MtDNA – Traces your maternal (Mother’s) line, this test can be taken by males and females.

YDNA – Traces your paternal (Father’s) Line and this test can only be taken by males (But you can ask a male relative to take it if you are female) as YDNA is only passed from father to son. 

Family Finder – Ideal for genealogists, this test traces both lines and gives you information on the geographic regions your ancestors are from. This test can be taken by both males and females and can show matches within approximately 5 generations. 

If you’d like to know more visit

DNA family history research testing
An ideal Christmas gift? DNA testing prices now reduced by TheGenealogist

Forthcoming Family History Fair

This Saturday (12th October) sees the annual Glamorgan Family History Society Fair. It promises to be another popular fair held in South Wales at Merthyr Tydfil Leisure Centre, Merthyr Tydfil from 10am to 4pm.

Both admisssion and car parking are free and there’s also a number of free talks available to attend. If you’d like to make it along and need more details visit the Glamorgan Family History Society website at

Glamorgan Family History Fair
Glamorgan Family History Fair on Saturday 12 October

Great online course to break down those brick walls!

English or Welsh family tree brick walls? Why not get some help?

There’s a well received beginners level course, delivered weekly to your computer to study when you want, which offers information packed, step-by-step tutorials. Provided by Nick Thorne (a.k.a. The Nosey Genealogist), it’s great for those people new to family history who would like some expert guidance on how to find their way around those potential difficulties and pitfalls that we all stumble across when researching our family history.

Also of great  benefit to those who are a bit more advanced, this course quickly takes the student on to look at the many different record sets and archives that you may not have thought to look. Places that your ancestors may be hiding in full sight.

Nick Thorne is a leading family historian (with a number of years of researching family histories behind him) and in the course there are also some contributions from Mark Bayley, Head of Online Content from

Topics covered in the 12 months include:

The census collections; The Parish records; The Parish Chest; Dade Registers; County Record offices; Nonconformist; Religious records; Clandestine marriages; City and Town Directories; Census substitutes; Apprentices; Professionals; Army ancestors; Royal Navy ancestors; RAF forebears; Merchant Navy ancestors; Illegitimacy; The Workhouse; Poor Law; Death records; Burial; Wills; Rural ancestors; Bankrupts; Black sheep; Genetics and DNA; Occupations; Maps and Charts; The National Archives; Family Search Centres; Passports; Manorial records; Old Newspapers and much more!

It costs £9.95 a month but there’s currently a special trial offer available. It’s well worth checking out at

Family History researcher
New online family history training course

Here are some of the things people are saying about this course:

“You communicate in an understandable way! Thank you for the modules that I have had so far.” P. Martin.

“I have enjoyed the time as a FHR member and thank you for your helping hand in trying to solve a problem printing out the guides.” T. M.   U.K.

“I would like to thank you for the resources, which I have received weekly, they are very interesting and informative, also a big thank you for thebrilliant customer service.” P. Beilby.

“I am finding the course very useful, even though I have been doing family history for many years.” Kind Regards, H. Stephens.


Brick walls and lost ancestors- new podcast available from the TNA

One of the latest podcasts available from The National Archives covers that all too frequent problem for family historians- hitting those genealogical brick walls. This podcast from Dave Annal provides some strategies to help you get around those brick walls and dead ends in your research.

Dave Annal pays particular attention to getting the most out of online databases and advanced techniques such as ‘family reconstruction’. If you’d like to find out more you can listen to the podcast at the TNA website here

Dave Annal worked at the National Archives for ten years, at the Family Records Centre and at Kew. He is now a resident expert on Your Family History magazine. 

Wiltshire Family History Fair

This forthcoming Saturday (15th June) sees the Southern Family History Day run by the Wiltshire Family History Society. It’s at Wilton Community Centre, Wilton, SP2 0DG from 10am to 3.30pm and entry is free.

There will be a number of Wiltshire Family History Society books and publications as well as a selection of other suppliers. There is also a couple of free talks well worth going along to see. Jean Bunting of the Census Detectives has a talk on ‘Making sense of the Census’ at 11am and Mark Bayley from S&N Genealogy is giving a talk on ‘Breaking down those brick walls’ at 1pm.

There is free parking on site, so if you’re in the area make sure you go along! There’s more information at the Wiltshire Family History Society website

Oxfordshire DNA project

Oxfordshire Family History Society has launched a new project offering two free DNA tests to members of their society. It is open to members only who have at least 3 generations of Oxfordshire ancestors going back into the mid-19th century or earlier.

All you have to do is submit 400-600 words on why you feel a DNA test would be useful to help you discover more about your Oxfordshire family/families using DNA, including a short summary on your family and your family history ‘brick walls’. Send to before 30th May 2013. Terms and conditions apply and are available from the Editor of the Oxfordshire society.

If you are not yet a member of the family history society, but have Oxfordshire ancestors and want to enter the competition, then why not join? It’s well worth the cost of the membership to have a chance of winning a DNA test. See for membership details.

If you’d like more information in general regarding DNA testing for family history research, please use this link.

Discussing your family history with the wider community..

There’s so many free resources and help and advice online to take advantage of, it’s handy when you hit those brick walls to have other genealogists to run ideas by or to possibly find useful information that helps you break down those brick walls. One forum that offers some good advice and guidance is Roots-Forum which offers advice, discussion areas and generally all things genealogy related. Sign up and get involved here.

Breaking down those Family History Brick Walls

Strategies when your family history research hits that brick wall.

Review the Research that you have previously got together

Information that you may have found a few years ago that may include names, dates or other details that now provide clues, given new facts that you’ve since uncovered. Organising your files and reviewing your facts may uncover just the clue to move you onto the next stage.

Go back to the original source

You may have kept the names and dates from that old census record, but did you also keep track of other information that was to hand such as ‘years of marriage’ and possibly even the ‘country of parent’s origin’ if your family moved internationally? Or, perhaps, in error, you misread a name or a family relationship? Be sure to go back to those first records you kept, making complete copies and noting down all clues – they may all come in handy in later research.

Widen your search

When you’re stuck on a particular ancestor, good practise is to widen your search to other family members and neighbours. When you can’t find a birth record for your ancestor that lists his/her parents, maybe you can locate one for a brother or sister. Or, when you’ve lost a family between census years, try looking for their neighbours. You may be able to identify a migration pattern, or a wrongly mis-indexed census entry that way. Often referred to as “cluster genealogy,” this research technique can often get you past those brick walls that had proved so troublesome.

Family history photos

Question your data & verify accuracy

Many brick walls occur simply from data that is incorrect. In other words, the sources you’ve uncovered may be leading you in the wrong direction through their inaccuracy. Respondents not telling the truth on Census Forms/ Birth, Marriages and Death records was possible, as was information such as their correct age or whether married or not. Attitudes were different back then and many people felt very uncomfortable divulging true personal information. Also, published sources often contain transcription errors when being noted down. Try to find at least three records to verify any facts that you already know and then judge the quality of your data results.

Check possible name variations used

Your brick wall may just be something as simple as looking for the wrong name. Variations of last names and ancestors using middle names or even ‘nicknames’ can really complicate research, so be sure to check all manner of spelling options and possible variations. The ‘all in one’ search facility and phonetic search options on TheGenealogist helps enormously to find those people who may have used middle names or names easily misinterpreted on census documents- on TheGenealogist we can see an example of this with the records of a Benjamin Freke.

Variations in surname spelling can cause problems to the family history researcher

Search record results for Benjamin Freke on TheGenealogist

Know Your Geography

Even though you know that your ancestor lived on the same street, you may still be looking in the wrong county for your ancestor. Town and county boundaries have been subject to change over time as populations grew or council boundaries changed. Keeping up with geographical changes can help break down those brick walls!

The many boundary changes and other changes to administrative areas mean that some local advice can save you a lot of time and frustration. The South West of England, as an example, has gone through a number of administrative changes over the years- such as the abolishment of the county of Avon in 1996. This created the authorities of Bath and North East Somerset, City of Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire. To the person unfamiliar with the local area, research can become very confusing but it highlights how boundaries in the UK have changed from time to time. It is always worth getting some local guidance from a local Family History Society for example, in the first instance.

Seek out help- there’s a number of sources available!

Fresh eyes and a fresh perspective can often see beyond brick walls, so try running your theories by other researchers. Use a specialist forum like –  Post a query on a website ‘help’ forum such as  Also, check with members of the local historical or genealogical society, they can possibly offer advice and guidance. Be sure to include what you already know, as well as what you’d like to know and which tactics and methods you’ve already tried so those helping you do not waste time duplicating effort.