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Solving Genealogical Brick Walls

Here's an example of one genealogical brick wall that has fallen for my family line. Brick walls are those facts in genealogical research that stump researchers and make them crazy. For the longest time, certain "facts" just don't seem to have an answer. I solved one such brick wall this past summer when I resurrected an old photo of my mom (far right) from when she was about 15 yo. She's seen standing in front of a house somewhere in our home town. We've had the photo for some time but never knew where, exactly, the photo was taken.

In 2012, while doing my research, I found the 1940 Fed Census and saw that my grandmother and my mom were living with an unrelated family. I wondered why they were there rather than on their own. The advantage of census reports is that they oftentimes give the address. I put that info on the back burner of my mind until last summer when I looked up the address on Google and was able to find the exact house at street level. I copied the house (on left) and then placed the pics side-by-side. It looked like the same structure as the one with my mom but I still wasn’t satisfied. I zoomed in and cropped the Google photo as best I could and compared them. It certainly looked like the same place: same brick columns in front of the porch, same cement caps on the one column and the step border, the address sign on the wall and the doorbell.

This in itself still wasn’t enough for me, so I went to Ancestry.com and looked up the family name in question living in the same town at that time. The family had no contact but there was a person who was researching the family name in question for someone else and had their surname in his database. I contacted him and he responded the next day. He did a little further research for me and found the woman’s married name. He then directed me to another relative from the area in question.

I then went to whitepages.com and looked up that person's married name. I called the number hoping it was her. Whenever I contact anyone, I introduce myself and explain why I'm calling. Some people are enthusiastic; others are like “ho-hum”. That's how genealogical research is sometimes. As soon as I mentioned my grandmother's surname, she excitedly said, "OH!". I could tell right away she recognized the last name. She was thrilled to hear from me. She was in her 90s. She verified that my grandmother and my mom did indeed live with her family in the 1940s from 1940 to 1945 up in the third floor attic of their home. She was about seven years older than my mom. People back then, during the war years, often rented out their rooms to boarders for added income. We talked about half an hour to forty-five minutes. I want you to think about this for a moment. My mom and her mom lived with this family, in their third floor attic for five years. They lived there during spring, summer, fall, and winter for five years. But the most important fact is that they lived there during the hot summer months! Think about that... they lived there, in their attic, during the hot summer months, and at a time when nobody yet had any air-conditioning. It was during the latter part of this time when my mom met my dad. My dad was a U.S. Marine, and that's another story in itself.

Below is the photo of my mom and the cropped Google photo side-by-side – separated by approximately seventy years… THIS is how you do genealogical research... and I just want to add: I love you mom. I wish you were still here.

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