Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Brick Wall Strategy – Playing with Maiden Names

I’ve found a successful way of “guessing” maiden names and this technique broke through a 5 year-old brick wall. I was researching my husband’s line and took the information I was given as gospel: first mistake. So the first lesson is to check your assumptions. The maiden name we’d been using for five years yielded not one usable clue as to where this woman had come from. I was beginning to realize that something was incorrect.

My husband and I sat down and started talking about where the information had come from and why we thought the surname was Marlatt. We came to the conclusion that, in reality, we were not so sure of the information. So, while I was busy doing some given name advanced searches online, he started looking at collateral lines (siblings’ lines) for other surnames and middle names that looked like they might have been surnames in prior generations.

He also spent some time remembering who was at the dinner table at family gatherings and realized, in general, if it was a family gathering, then most of the people were, in fact, FAMILY!

The next step was to go online with alternate surnames and the original given name and a few known dates and locations but it can work without much additional information. We searched for Laura with the three alternate surnames and in less than 20 minutes had our solution: she was Laura Eckert.

How could we be sure? The records we found included the names of other family members who sat around the holiday table when my husband was a little boy. When we were young we did not always know how everyone was related, nor did we know surnames, so sometimes our research requires testing our assumptions.

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