The Brick Wall

The Brick Wall

As researchers we have all been here, the virtual Brick Wall!

We here at Shawano want to help, we have a trained staff who work very hard to help people everyday in anyway we can.

Our goal is to get you to stop beating your head against it and ask for some help. We are not miracle workers but we try to at least get you over, under or through the WALL.

Email us if you need some help and let us see if we can get you moving again.

Some of the most common errors or shortfalls are listed below:

Confused about Immigrant terminology?

Emigration is moving out from a country.
Immigration is moving into a country.
Migration is moving, usually within a country.


Spelling: Very rarely did people write their own documents. Sound out a foreign name and try and spell it without knowing the correct spelling. Here is a name I fight with pronouncing let alone spelling: Schachtschneider..... Easy for you to say if it is your name!

Even first names were commonly misspelled. Don't stop looking at a record because Emilia, was spelled Amilia, or Emil was spelled Amel. Also they may have used another FIRST name (see below). Common mistakes are not knowing the German form of something as simple as Miller, spelled Mueller in their country, Brown is Braun. Danish and Swedish records are dropped down from Johansdatter to Johnson, and sometimes a whole new surname either shortened or they took it from the farm they worked in the old country. Jen Jensen might have taken the name Jen Neilsen. Difficult to catch but if you are  true to genealogy, you can look in records of the WHOLE family and get a break through.

Penmanship: Everyone knows the story about the disappearing ink used in census records, the pencil that needed sharpening or the Priest who had to much of the Sacrificial wine on Sunday. German script carried over for many years after your people came to the USA. Study the way they made their letters. Helpful to is to read other things this person wrote to get a handle on how he made his letters. The most common errors I see people make is not knowing if the letter is H or K, L or S, even M or W. Look for other names in a document you can read to decipher the persons penmanship.

HOW many FIRST names? The old naming pattern was you had your given, and 2-3 middle names depending on the family. Some middle names were repeated over and over. Some had 4-5 names.

The foreigners would and could use them randomly and be fine in the documentations. And then do not forget the "nick name" or pet name, shortened from the first or one of your other given names. For instance Friedricke is also Ulricke. Far cry from our names now.

I once chased three brothers all had almost the same names. There was Friedrich August Herman, August Friedrich Herman and Herman Friedrich Joseph. Friedrich August used August on most documents, and August Friedrich used August, Gust or Friedrich. After chasing my tail for months trying to find out why one man was married to two women at the same time, children with different mothers and land all over the county, a DIVORCE record made it very clear, the boys were trying to pull the wool over my eyes. Why Divorce, someone had the forethought to write in all his AKA's. He had 3!!

Why are there two Caroline Marie daughters listed in the records for the same family, one got younger instead of older. As was custom to their naming patterns  where they named the children after each set of grandparents, if a child died and they had another, sometimes that child was given the same name to carry down tradition. I have seen where they had done this three times with the name Heinrich, maybe because it was the father's fathers name. Also there may be Caroline Marie Wilhelmine and Caroline Marie Augusta, one called Linie, and another Minnie. Keep your mind open to all possibilities.

Dates that are not right: If you are chasing a name and have confliction with dates, write them down and source it. Like above you may have been chasing the wrong Heinrich or Caroline, or they were written so much later in time the year was forgotten. You can see this in other people's ged-coms where they have <abt> because they did not find a definite date.

The whole family or just the parents? Rule of thumb is to record all information for the whole family as much as you can. Someday is going to come along when you lose that family in time. You know they existed because you are living proof. Maybe you are looking in the wrong place or state. Maybe sister Anna's husband passed away and big brother Joseph moved his family near to help her and her seven children out. If you did not know Anna and she married John Black, how would you know where to look?

These are just basic helps. We have more answers to more questions just ask!