Brick Walls - Genealogical Conundrums
What is a Brick Wall?
Aside from the obvious answer, a "brick wall" in genealogy refers to a challenging research obstacle or dead end that genealogists and family historians encounter when trying to trace their ancestry. It's a metaphorical term indicating that researchers feel as though they've hit a wall in their search for particular ancestors or information and can't find a way around it.
Genealogy brick walls can arise due to various reasons, including:
Missing Records: Essential documents might have been destroyed, lost, or never existed in the first place.
Name Changes: Ancestors may have changed their names or had their names recorded inconsistently across different documents.
Geographical Moves: If an ancestor moved frequently or migrated to another country, tracking them can become challenging.
Non-Paternity Events: These events occur when there's a break in the biological lineage, such as through adoption, infidelity, or other circumstances, which can make DNA results and paper trails misalign.
Language Barriers: Records in a different language or from a country with unfamiliar naming customs can pose challenges.
Poorly Indexed Records: Some records may not be correctly indexed, making them hard to find even if they exist.
Lack of Technology or Access: Certain records may not be digitized, requiring on-site research, or might be in restricted archives.
Overcoming a brick wall often requires creative thinking, exploring alternative research paths, collaborating with other researchers, or sometimes just waiting for new records to become available or for DNA matches to appear.
Do I have a lot of these brick walls?
Though I have been researching the Kingshott family for years, there are still quite a few lines of research that are "floating" outside the main tree.
From my research, it is clear that all Kingshotts are related but proving this is sometimes difficult. It became especially difficult prior to the 19th century when every male was called John or William and every female was called Mary or Elizabeth. I, therefore, have a diminishing number of what I call "floating trees" that I research in the hope of one day joining them to the main tree.
That I do have brick walls can be seen as a good thing, at least from a genealogical point of view. It demonstrates that I am not simply guessing at a given relationship to show it as a fact when the evidence does not exist to prove it. If I cannot prove the link I will not show it, however frustrating that may be for me. And, believe me, it is frustrating!
An example of a current brick wall is the Kingshotte family. I can get them back to London in the 1860s but lose them there. The two older members of this elusive family just "appear" in the later census. Work is continuing to try to find out where they came from, and whether or not they are actually blood relatives, or simply a family that assumed the name.
There are also a number of other "floating trees" where people crop up in the parish registers, and I have no idea where they come from. As time goes on, I usually manage to link these people in, but sometimes I just can't seem to do it. This is usually because they are simply referred to as "John Kingshott" and could be one of several possibilities.
Errant Appearances in Documents
Here are some examples of what I am talking about. These are some occurrences of Kingshott family members, simply appearing in documents without providing information on where they fit into the tree.
This is a page from the baptismal register for St George Hanover Square in London. The third person to appear in this section of the document is the baptism of Adile, daughter of Eliza Kingshott, baptised on 19th January 1863. She was baptised from the Workhouse. So far, so good. The problem is that there is no mention anywhere of any child called Adile and I have no idea which Eliza Kingshott this could be. Indeed, at the moment, I don't even think that I have any possibilities.
What I do, therefore, is add the information that I do know to my tree. This creates what I call a "floating branch" where I can add all the information that I know, but that just sits there in the hope that more information is found that will enable me to place Eliza into the wider family. It looks quite sad on the tree, but allows me to search for documents and information without forgetting her.
[Update 2023 - I've now identified this person and added them to the wider family. That only took ten years!]
Another example is this burial register that records, on the second entry, the burial of a 10-month-old Albert Kingshott in Finchley, North London. The only problem is that I cannot find a person of that name, born around 1879, that is not already placed elsewhere in the tree with documentary evidence proving that they are not this person. So, once again, he sits alone on the tree waiting for information that will link him into the wider family.
At least with this one, I can apply for a birth certificate that would give me his parents. This is, however, an expensive exercise with each certificate costing the best part of £11. However, often, this is the only way to solve the mystery in the absence of a baptism which, in this case, doesn't appear to have occurred. [Update 2023 - I've subsequently ordered the birth certificate and fitted Albert into the tree.]
Further back in time, the amount of information available on the parish registers is often nothing more than a name.
The third example is illustrated here. This is James Kingshott born circa 1811 but who died in 1849, two years before I would have been able to retrieve his birthplace from the 1851 census. James married Caroline Woods in Godalming, Surrey, England in 1836, again, just before civil registration in the UK would have provided me with his father's name! He certainly did all he could to make things difficult for me! This is his death certificate, which doesn't really help other than to confirm his approximate birth year. Click on the image to enlarge it.
Once again, I have a number of descendants of James Kingshott, but they all prove very elusive to follow through the ages.
I usually manage to link these people eventually though!