|Breaking Down Walls, Brick by Brick: The Search for Henrietta|
You probably have one in your family tree. A great grandfather who arrived on earth via outer space. A great, great grandmother known only as wife of her husband. A child without parents. A parent without children. An immigrant without a country of origin You have exhausted the traditional avenues of research and dont know where to go next. You may even be convinced that the records documenting your ancestors existence will never be found and have abandoned your search.
You have reached a brick wall, but not necessarily a dead end. Most brick walls can be dismantled given time and perseverance. Join me in my quest to find Henrietta as we learn how to break down family history walls, brick by brick.
My personal brick wall began with a paper towel one of the brown industrial types often found in public restrooms. It was 1969, the year I was born, and my mother and great-grandmother were sitting by my grandfathers bedside in a hospital room, when my mother felt the need to ask about her family roots. In my mothers own words, All that had never seemed quite so important before on Daddys side since, after all, his people were all on this side of the Atlantic. But with her father lying in a hospital bed losing his desperate battle with cancer, the need suddenly became very real. My great-grandmother, Pattie Crisp Owens, known to her grandchildren as Mammy Pattie, shared with my mother the precious little she knew about her family that day.
With nothing handy to write on, my mother recorded the names given to her by Mammy Pattie on that brown paper towel a towel that again made an appearance 11 years later when I came home and announced I had a family tree project to do for school. The search for Henrietta MARIN began that day and has continued for over 20 years. She is a brick wall against which I have banged my head many times, and is the perfect demonstration case for the following techniques for breaking down your own brick walls.
Step One: What do you know? Write it down.
Step Two: Are you sure? Beware of false assumptions.
Step Three: What do you want to know? Where to look for answers.
Step Four: Are you an informed researcher? Counties have ancestors too.
Step Five: Still no luck? Try collateral lines.
Step Six: Not where they should be? Get creative with surname spellings.
Step Seven: Did they put down roots? Follow the land.
Step Eight: Still cant find them? Start over!
Next page > What do you know? Write it down
© 2002 Kimberly Powell
A version of this article was originally published in the October 2001 edition of Everton's Genealogical Helper