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Yudi
11-10-2013, 08:10 PM
I am of Colonial American ancestry and have been quite a bit of research on my ancestors lately. One of the biggest impediments I have found is breaching the brick walls that set in at the early 1800's, when census information peters out. Every person I've been able to trace beyond this brick wall was relatively wealthy and/or prominent in the colonial society. Does anyone have any tips for getting past this problem?

AJL
11-10-2013, 11:10 PM
If you can get them, wills and land records (usually kept at the county level) are very handy.

Baltimore1937
11-12-2013, 03:14 AM
Church records are valuable, if you can find them. I've stumbled into them several times. Church citations are sometimes seen accompanying entries at Ancestry. They are valuable in/for England, before migrating to the colonies.

geebee
11-12-2013, 08:58 AM
Don't overlook state censuses and tax rolls. You may also find birth or marriage records, often at the county seat of each county. In a few cases -- if you're lucky -- there are compiled indexes of some of this information. (Usually only for a limited number of years.)

For some of the older states (such as Pennsylvania) there are also fairly extensive archives. These can include various sorts of records and documents, even going back to the colonial period.

EDIT: I might also suggest that even if you aren't a member of any sort of colonial society -- prominent or otherwise -- you can still sometimes take advantage of them. They may have compiled indexes of their membership, including even printed family trees. (I vaguely recall seeing something like this for Ohio, for example.)

There are also various genealogically-oriented lists you might look into. Here's a possible place to start: http://www.cyndislist.com/

Yudi
11-15-2013, 06:14 AM
Thanks for the replies. Sometimes state census results, church records, etc. show up on ancestry.com, but only irregularly, at least for me. Sounds like ultimately, traveling to the locations in question is required in order to crack particularly tough nuts. Unfortunately, I live clear on the other side of the country from where most of these records are. Luckily preceding generations have done a lot of work already! I just recently got insight on a brick wall by calling up a grandparent. Most of my brick walls are too far back for living people to be of much help, though.

AJL
11-15-2013, 10:35 AM
Don't give up too easily, sometimes things are indexed in Google Books or Familysearch or elsewhere besides Ancestry.

Dave-V
11-15-2013, 07:55 PM
Many of the states have at least partial Revolutionary War records - muster rolls, pension applications, etc; if your ancestor(s) were in the US by that time. Some of those are on Ancestry but check the state agencies too.

Most of the colonial states have at least partial probate, wills, land deed, and judicial records stretching back before 1800; those are usually held in the county courthouses.

If you know what county your ancestors lived in, most of them in the former colonial states have genealogical/historical societies that could tell you what local records are available for a given time period. Or try a local library for advice. But county lines shifted and often the records are now housed in a different county (like if the original county split in two).

Many townships had newspapers even in the late 1700s; I found an ancestor's death notice in a PA newspaper from the 1790s, but that's highly dependent on what local area they were from.

I assume you're familiar with the LDS Church Family History Centers? You can get access through a local FHC to all the LDS church archives, much but not all of which is available through FamilySearch, but the other advantage is the Centers are usually staffed by experienced genealogists who can offer guidance.

And of course you're not close to the National Archives in Washington D.C., but there is a satellite branch in Seattle (http://www.archives.gov/seattle/) that looks like they combine a Pacific state focus with at least some of the federal records; don't know how much they really have related to East Coast records but it might be worth checking out.

Edit: Sorry, one more suggestion: the records of the Daughters of the American Revolution (or Sons of the American Revolution) are worth checking out. Many larger libraries carry their indexes or you can contact them directly; they may even have online search capability by now. But if someone else ever researched your same ancestors and filed a pedigree with the DAR or SAR, they'll have it. You really can't take those at face value; you have to verify the info yourself, but they might suggest what records the other researcher was able to find that might give you clues as to where to find your ancestors.

Dave

Ian B
11-16-2013, 01:13 AM
I am of Colonial American ancestry and have been quite a bit of research on my ancestors lately. One of the biggest impediments I have found is breaching the brick walls that set in at the early 1800's, when census information peters out. Every person I've been able to trace beyond this brick wall was relatively wealthy and/or prominent in the colonial society. Does anyone have any tips for getting past this problem?

I've experienced pretty much the same problem with Irish records. The problem there is accentuated by the loss of so many records during the Irish Civil War of 1922-23. Living in Australia, I have no idea how I can overcome this problem.

Dave-V
11-16-2013, 02:29 AM
I've experienced pretty much the same problem with Irish records.

Ian - Having irish ancestors as well, I absolutely agree. There are what they call "census substitutes"; like the Muster Rolls of the 1640s, the Protestant Householder's Index of 1740, the Flax Grower's list of 1796, Griffith's Valuation in the 1840s, etc, but it depends on the county as to what and how much is available.

For ancestors before the first surviving census of 1901, it helps to know both their county of origin and religion. Knowing the county will help point you to whatever sparse lists are still available, and knowing the religion will give you possibilities in the baptism, marriage and death records that may have survived, because those are still organized by major religion.

FamilySearch has some of the better online free records regarding old Irish records; Ancestry and RootsIreland.IE have (in my opinion) the best pay sites. But many of the parish records have never been digitized.

Dave

Ian B
11-17-2013, 12:28 AM
Ian - Having irish ancestors as well, I absolutely agree. There are what they call "census substitutes"; like the Muster Rolls of the 1640s, the Protestant Householder's Index of 1740, the Flax Grower's list of 1796, Griffith's Valuation in the 1840s, etc, but it depends on the county as to what and how much is available.

For ancestors before the first surviving census of 1901, it helps to know both their county of origin and religion. Knowing the county will help point you to whatever sparse lists are still available, and knowing the religion will give you possibilities in the baptism, marriage and death records that may have survived, because those are still organized by major religion.

FamilySearch has some of the better online free records regarding old Irish records; Ancestry and RootsIreland.IE have (in my opinion) the best pay sites. But many of the parish records have never been digitized.

Dave

Thanks Dave, what I'm trying to find is things like Hearth Rolls for about the 1790's. It appears that Birth Records are lost. That's where my Family Tree stops, although I can trace the family name back to about the 10th Century.

Baltimore1937
11-17-2013, 01:57 AM
Reading between the lines, so to Speak, I think there must have been a crisis in my maternal line when Henry VIII divorced the Roman Catholic Church. There were a steady succession of knights in my line up until then. After that point they may have been down graded to freeholders and cottagers. One female (my direct line) looks to have adapted to the new world order; and here I am.

geebee
11-17-2013, 02:41 PM
One thing I would also add is that it's good to document everything. Not only what you have found where, but even what you've looked at and not found anything in (so you don't just keep going over the same ground). Of course, you have to be careful you don't dismiss something without really looking at it carefully.

And don't give up. I know from experience that you can go for a long time without finding what you're looking for, but with persistence (and, I must confess, a bit of luck) you can chip away at even the hardest of brick walls.

A case in point: I had found the 3rd great grandfather in my surname line many years ago. This was basically done through censuses, back when you had to go to a library to search the indexes, and then order the census microfilms. I also also found someone who, based on his very similar surname of Buchhammer versus my Bookhammer, plus his date and port of arrive, I thought might be the immigrant ancestor in my surname line. Unfortunately, I was not able to connect my 3rd great grandfather with this immigrant.

Meanwhile, I took my first DNA test at Ancestry, a 46 marker Y DNA test. But after a couple of years with nothing coming of it, I more or less forgot about it. But one day I got a message through Ancestry from someone I initially thought was just asking about DNA testing. It turned out, though, that what she was trying to tell me was that she thought her uncle and I might be related.

Anyway, I looked at my matches -- which I hadn't done in some time -- and lo and behold, there was a man that they said matched me on 45 of 46 markers. (It later turned out that was wrong. They'd made a mistake, and it was 46 out of 46 -- a perfect match!) This man had the same surname I do, plus he was a somewhat prominent person (he had been a lieutenant governor). His line had already been traced back to the immigrant ancestor, and upon comparing notes, it seemed pretty certain that my 3rd great grandfather was a grandson of the immigrant. I still don't know with certainty which one of five brothers was my 4th great grandfather, but I've been able to narrow it down to one of two -- with one being more likely than the other.

My point is, this came as a lucky break, yes, but because I had "cast my bread upon the waters", as it were.

Baltimore1937
04-29-2014, 10:11 AM
I've been relying on Ancestry for most of my pre-1800 leads. I'm really quite lazy, and keep putting off lengthy research though. I received a message from a genealogist recently that perked my ears up, so to speak, although I still haven't completely followed up on it. It involves a Green family line in my maternal tree. I thought I had it figured out, going back to the 2nd colonial governor of Maryland. But now it looks like another side line is where I might end up. One problem is that entries at Ancestry aren't always complete. Where there should be a William, thee is nothing. But circumstantial evidence, plus that other guy's efforts, have pointed the way. I still connect to that colonial governor, apparently, but in a different line. It's possible I have a different female way back there in the altered line, which looks like a connection to the Calverts of yore. But I have work to do to sort that out later on.

Baltimore1937
05-09-2014, 05:52 PM
I've been relying on Ancestry for most of my pre-1800 leads. I'm really quite lazy, and keep putting off lengthy research though. I received a message from a genealogist recently that perked my ears up, so to speak, although I still haven't completely followed up on it. It involves a Green family line in my maternal tree. I thought I had it figured out, going back to the 2nd colonial governor of Maryland. But now it looks like another side line is where I might end up. One problem is that entries at Ancestry aren't always complete. Where there should be a William, thee is nothing. But circumstantial evidence, plus that other guy's efforts, have pointed the way. I still connect to that colonial governor, apparently, but in a different line. It's possible I have a different female way back there in the altered line, which looks like a connection to the Calverts of yore. But I have work to do to sort that out later on.

later: I'm back to where I was. However I discovered that apparently there are two different trees where I had thought there was one larger one.