October is Family Heritage Month! Many researchers run into brick walls with their research. There are different methods we can use to break down those brick walls. One such method is finding and using your ancestor’s FAN Club.
Like you, each of your ancestors had a FAN Club. Your ancestor’s FAN Club was made of his Family and Friends, his Associates and his Neighbors. The records left by these close contemporaries of your ancestor may contain the key to breaking down your own family history brick walls.
We get a lot of genealogy questions sent to the Government & Heritage Library. Most of them are patrons asking for look ups in our books, which is very straight forward, but sometimes they are asking for help with a difficult problem, also known as a brick wall in genealogy lingo. I like to use those type of questions for blog posts in the hope they help other researchers with similar problems.
A fairly common problem is how to connect a father and child when the child is not named in his father’s will, or in some cases the father never left a will. The best suggestion I have is to look at the county court records
In early January, I received a question from a patron via email regarding information in an NCpedia article about Union Volunteer Regiments in North Carolina during the Civil War. In the article, it states that an 1863 census of the freed black population of New Bern was 8,500. The patron wanted to know if the census listed them by name and also the location. In order to find out if they listed them by name, I needed to find out where the census was located. Since this question was related to 2 other research projects I’m working on, I took a lot more time than usual to find this information. It was a 3 week journey with a lot of twists and turns and surprising finds! My intent is to use this as an example of how to follow sources back to the original.
One of the biggest brick walls to researching enslaved ancestors is finding documents that name slaves, and therefore able to pinpoint their slave holder(s). Many official documents fail to give the names of slaves. For example, with a very few exceptions, the 1850 and 1860 census slave schedule list the slave holder and the number of slaves owned by gender and age, but fail to list the names of slaves. Even in court records, wills, or estates that refer to specific slaves, they may give only age and gender without naming them. 2 new sources recently came to my attention and wanted to share them with you.