Brick Wall Strategies: Genealogy Forms & Resource Checklist

While conducting genealogical research, some family members remain elusive and difficult to find. At this month’s Genealogy Perspectives program, we watched Lisa Louise Cooke’s video “Genealogical Cold Cases: A Step By Step Process”. Here are some takeaways we found noteworthy. 

Be Organized

Organization is key to any project, but especially to historical research. One way to do this is by keeping the materials in folders, binders, or other organizational materials. Also keeping the materials well labelled with names of the family members and families along with dates and locations of when and where the items were created. Using pencils and notebooks to document notes about the paper and photographic materials in your collection is essential to long-term care of family heirlooms. 

Another approach to organizing your collection is digitally with Evernote. Evernote is freely available and helps synchronize all your notes between your devices. 

Another step discussed was using a check list and genealogy forms to make sure you’ve looked at every source available. We have created some forms to help you with your research at the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center:

Use the Special Collections Resource Checklist to keep track of where you’ve looked for information. 

The City Directory Research form can be used to track your ancestor or property owners through the years. 

The 5 Generation Ancestor Chart and Family Group Sheet are standard forms used by genealogists to organize their information. 

Stop by the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center to pick up the forms or download & print from here

Be Linear – Create a Timeline

A visual aid may be beneficial to view the information in a new way. Timelines help us to visualize information by organizing it chronologically. Lisa Louise Cooke offers some online timeline tools not offered by the genealogy software you may be currently utilizing: 

Time Glider (free or paid services)

Time Graphics (free or premium paid services)

Timeline by Knight Lab (free)

Timeline Maker (paid service and a 14-day free trial)

Be Inquisitive

Remaining curious about those stubborn family members will yield unexpected result. When researching it is okay to step back and look at family members you do know about, to go over the records you have already collected, and to look for new evidence. New evidence may be found in records and materials you have overlooked. For instance, review marriage applications, voter records, and non-population census schedules. Make lists of various record and material types so you don’t miss them and always take a second look! 

In addition to looking for new evidence, use your intuition and follow a hypothesis that keeps cropping up. A hypothesis may help to refine your search for that relative. If there is no evidence for that hypothesis, then you can make note of it and move onto the next inquiry. 

Be Relentless

Genealogical research leaves a lasting mark on those bitten by the family history bug. Don’t tire and give up! Persevere with your research even when you hit a brick wall or a cold case because you may stumble upon records, materials, and even people who may be able to help you solve the case.


(posted by Kathryn)

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